Heading into Week 5, San Diego's Philip Rivers ranks among the top three passers in yards (1,328) and touchdown passes (nine). The Chargers passing game is performing better than it did a year ago, even without the services of its best wide receiver, Vincent Jackson. But I believe the focus of San Diego's attack this week will be on the ground, making Rivers my STUD TO SIT for Week 5. The Raiders have allowed a league-worst 5.3 yards per carry, and have given up 162.0 rushing yards per game -- second only to Buffalo. The Chargers have a top 10 running game (132.3 yards per game), and will use this week's contest to help its young backs gain more confidence.
BREAKING NEWS: Santonio Holmes was given the green light to join his teammates on Monday. Word is, after the Jets wrap practice fellow receiver Braylon Edwards has promised to treat Holmes to a night on the town. For the sake of fantasy owners, hopefully Jerricho Cotchery will take his turn behind the wheel.
CALL ME CRAZY, but I'm going to sit Kyle Orton this week. Through four games, Denver's quarterback has the most passing yards in the NFL, and he has thrown a pair of scores in two of his last three outings. But Orton hasn't faced a pass defense as good as Baltimore's and his string of three straight 300-yard efforts is about to end. The Ravens have only given up one passing score and have allowed just 5.2 yards per attempt. When Orton faced Baltimore last year, he passed for a season-low 152 yards without a score.
For this week's SHORT ODDS, I'm predicting another failed drug test or no show for Lindsay Lohan before we flip the calendar to 2011. I'm also predicting the following No. 1 fantasy backs to reach the 100-yard plateau next week: Steven Jackson, Jamaal Charles and Maurice Jones-Drew.
Michael Vick's rib injury has pushed Kevin Kolb back to the front of the Eagles offense, giving fantasy owners reason for concern (Spencer and Heidi Pratt's relationship is more stable than Philadelphia's quarterback job these days). The Philadelphia offense has not been as productive with Kolb in the lineup, and his presence has had an adverse effect on the team's skill players. For example, DeSean Jackson had 135-plus yards and a touchdown in Weeks 2 and 3 when Vick was the team's designated starter, but had just 49 yards combined in Weeks 1 and 4 when Kolb spent time on the field.
Fantasy owners may be tempted to put Eagles players on a shelf until Kolb gets things back in order, but I believe the young passer and his targets will have an outstanding week. I say DOUBLE DOWN on Kolb and tight end Brent Celek. The Eagles' Week 5 opponent, San Francisco, has given up seven passing scores and opposing quarterbacks have completed 67.2 percent of their passes in four contests. Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez caught seven balls last week, and in each of the two prior games, the 49ers allowed opposing tight ends to catch a touchdown.
Heading into next Monday's clash between the Vikings and Jets, fantasy owners are likely to steer clear of Brett Favre. But a little BASIC MATH tells us Favre is not as bad of a play as one might think. The Jets made Chad Henne look special in Week 3 (363 yards) and presently rank 22nd in passing yards allowed; New York's well-respected defense has recorded merely average totals for sacks and interceptions. Hey, Favre fantasy owners: The water is warm, jump in.
THE BREAK ROOM: The year's most disappointing first round pick thus far.
Have any of this year's consensus first round fantasy picks provided their fantasy owners much joy? Chris Johnson is well off his goal of a 2,500-yard season, while first round-caliber receivers Andre Johnson and Randy Moss have been productive, though not prolific. Frank Gore, Michael Turner and Steven Jackson? Eh, so-so.
The top-performing first round pick, relative to his average draft position, may be Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, who has averaged 130.7 rushing yards in his three contests. Pittsburgh's Rashard Mendenhall is not far behind, in terms of first round value.
The most disappointing of them all? For me it's Baltimore's Ray Rice, who was picked anywhere from second to fifth in most leagues.
RapidDraft.com senior football writer Matt Schauf seems to agree. "Before Sunday, I'd have gone with Maurice Jones-Drew ... With a two-touchdown game behind him, though, I have to turn to Ray Rice."
Rice has yet to score a touchdown and has gained just 3.8 yards per carry. A bum knee may be the culprit; on Sunday he touched the ball just nine times (eight carries, one catch).
Will things improve for Rice owners? I'm not so sure. The Ravens play one of the most physically demanding schedules in all of football, and considering that when fantasy owners will need to rely on their top pick the most, he'll have to face some of the league's toughest defenses (Carolina in Week 11, Pittsburgh in Week 13 and Houston in Week 14).
Schauf is optimistic: "As long as his knee comes around, I certainly think the numbers will pick up, though I'd be concerned about a lower ceiling for his reception total with Anquan Boldin around."
SUCKER TRADE OF THE WEEK: Tim from California writes: "When Michael Vick became the Eagles starter, I was able to trade him for Tony Romo straight up! Now Vick is hurt and I got one of the best QB's in the game." ...
Looks like a lopsided deal now, Tim, but if Vick returns to the lineup and Dallas' offense continues to struggle, you might not feel so good about the trade later this season.
Mike Beacom is a contributing writer for FootballDiehards.com. Send him your questions and "sucker trade" entries at firstname.lastname@example.org.