With the Week 5 games on the horizon, let’s take a look at each relevant player’s fantasy prospects this week. Remember not to start any Bears, Saints, Packers, or Chargers this week!
Who to start: Joe Flacco
Cincy is ranked 26th in passing defense. The immortal Derek Anderson, in his first game as a starter in over a year, tore them for 269 yards passing and 2 TDs, one of them rushing. Baltimore suddenly has an offense, ranking 5th in rushing (146.5 ypg) and 6th in passing (267 ypg).
Others to start: Carson Palmer, Ray Rice, Chad Ochocinco, Derrick Mason, Willis McGahee, Bal Def
Baltimore has a reputation of a good defense, but for years now, they’ve struggled against the pass. Right now, they are 23rd against aerial attacks and have up the third-most passing plays of 20+ yards.
Others to consider: Andre Caldwell, Laveranues Coles, Mark Clayton
Caldwell has made the most of his catches as he splits WR2 duties with Coles.
Who to bench: Cedric Benson
This would be tough to do, as he’s performed as a top-12 RB this season. But, Baltimore has shut all four opponents’ RBs: Larry Johnson (20 yards), Darren Sproles (26), Jerome Harrison (52) and Fred Taylor (25). They have given up the fewest total rushing yards of all teams, even less than teams that have played less games. Research other options.
Others to bench: Chris Henry, Cin Def
Give up on Henry — it was preseason hype.
Who to start: Terrell Owens
You can say what you want about Owens, but at least he performs. He’s an emotional guy who has been stymied most of this season. Player history and a soft matchup suggest start him with confidence this week as a WR3.
Others to start: Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Buf Def
Cleveland is 31st against the run. Buffalo, while 27th against the rush and 21st against the pass, is a viable waiver pick-up against a bad offense with four other good defenses on bye.
Others to consider: Mohamed Massaquoi, Derek Anderson, Jerome Harrison, Trent Edwards, Lee Evans
A porous Cleveland defense will likely force the Browns to play keep-up. The problem is they just traded away their best WR, Braylon Edwards. Massaquoi comes off an 8-catch, 148 yard performance, but will now likely be matched up on the opposing teams CB1. With a group of other WRs rotating in at WR2, don’t be surprised by a poor performance by Massaquoi and Anderson. With hyped rookie James Davis on IR and Jamal Lewis likely not playing much, if at all, the game-breaking Harrison likely gets the majority of carries. Should they need to abandon the run, Harrison can still pitch in as a good option out of the backfield. Normally, I’d bench Evans, but enough good WRs are on bye to make me actually consider starting him.
Who to bench: Jamal Lewis
We all “knew” this would be the year J-Lew lost his starting spot. He’s questionable this week and hasn’t played in two weeks.
Others to bench: Cle Def
Who to start: Chris Cooley
The Panthers are in the top-10 in fantasy points given up to TEs. Say what you want about the Redskins offense, and the turmoil in DC, but Campbell looks to Cooley, who knows how to find the weak spots in defenses. Last week, he hauled in five catches for 65 yards and a TD.
Others to start: Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams
Portis has bone spurs in his ankles, but didn’t practice all last week and still played. He is a weak RB2, though. With Moss, we know the routine — he blows up for a cluster of games, during which he gets half his yardage and TDs. The good news: 252 yards and 2TDs the last 2 games.
Others to consider: Was Def, Jake Delhomme, Car Def, Dante Rosario
Not exactly a headliner, but Washington’s defense is in the bottom 3rd in points given up to QBs. This week, they get Jake Delhomme. With that said, the Redskins have played the Rams, Lions and Bucs. Their ranking likely has been skewed. Delhomme, after a Week 1 stinker, has performed better against two lesser defenses — 308 yards and a TD against the Falcons, 220 and a TD against the Boys. A week off to prepare for a mediocre defense could make Delhomme a viable bye filler. Rosario is coming of a two-game total of 89 yards and 2 TDs. Additionally, Coach Fox has talked of featuring him the rest of the year. With a number of TEs struggling and on bye, Rosario is worthy of consideration.
Who to bench: Jason Campbell
Campbell managed to lose a fumble and throw two interceptions against one of the worst defenses in the league. Imagine what he’ll do for an encore, facing a prideful, more lethal defense coming off the bye?
Others to bench: Johnathan Stewart
He’s totaled under 100 yards in three games and now is questionable due to an Achilles injury.
Who to start: Rashard Mendenhall
Mendenhall stepped in for an injured Willie Parker and faced a fractured Chargers defensive line missing Pro Bowler DT Jamal Williams. He tore them apart with 191 yards total yards and 2 TDs. This week, he faces another weak defensive team (Detroit ranks 18th against the run) and gets the grand majority of his team’s carries with Parker again out.
Others to start: Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, Calvin Johnson
Others to consider: Melwelde Moore, Mike Wallace, Bryant Johnson, Matthew Stafford/Daunte Culpepper, Brandon Pettigrew, Kevin Smith
Moore gets third-down carries and is often used near the goal-line because of his multi-functionality; he threw a TD from in-close last week. Mike Wallace has been off-and-on this year and has supplanted Limas Sweed as Pittsburgh’s #3 WR. Bryant Johnson has 4 receptions for 73 yards and TD two weeks ago and could warrant consideration facing a team weak against the pass. Culpepper will likely start and deserves consideration in two-QB leagues. Pettigrew faces a defense tied for 5th-most in fantasy points given up to TEs. Last week, Kevin Smith, while dealing with a shoulder injury, turned 19 carries into 30 yards and two TDs. This week, he faces a stout run defense while still dealing with the injury.
Who to bench: Willie Parker
He was declared out by mid-Saturday with the same turf toe injury. Even when he comes back, he may not recover the starting gig.
Others to bench: Pitt Def
A near-blasphemous idea: bench Pittsburgh’s defense?!?! Hear me out — they’ve been without their defensive heart (S Troy Polamalu) for three weeks now. In that span, they’ve given up 17 points to Chicago, 23 to Cincinnati and 28 to San Diego. More concerning is how they did this; they allowed the Bengals to drive down the field to score the game-winning TD one week, then let the Chargers rally back with 28 unanswered points. That horrid stretch for a team that prides itself for its defense has them actually ranked as the lowest ranked defense in a number of my leagues. With defenses like Washington, Carolina, Buffalo and Jacksonville facing impotent and/or turnover-prone offenses and likely still on the waiver wire, pick up one till Polamalu gets back.
Who to start: Tashard Choice
Listing Choice as the headliner is quite a surprise, I know. But here’s why: while this game won’t be as easy as people might think, Dallas will likely have the ball and the lead late and will need to pound out the clock. While Marion Barber might start, despite his quad injury, Choice is healthier and they could let Barber heal (Dallas has a bye next week) should this become a blowout. Dallas RBs have produced over 750 combined offensive yards and five TDs this season, so there’s enough production here for both.
Others to start: Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Matt Cassel
Others to consider: Sam Hurd, Dwayne Bowe, Mark Bradley, Sean Ryan
Late in the game against Denver, Dallas had the ball in the red zone. On the last two plays of the drive, Hurd was matched up against Bailey. Bailey is no longer the elite CB of the league, but he’s still one of the best. On both plays, Romo threw (some would say “forced”) the ball to Hurd, despite Bailey’s presence. Considering the reported lack of confidence Romo has in his other WRs, that’s a significant piece of information. Bowe has been struggling with a hamstring injury and missed a game two weeks ago. Mark Bradley is the speed component in KC’s offense and gets to face a Dallas defense that has given up the 8th-most passes of 20 yards or more. Due to KC’s struggles at WR, TE Sean Ryan leads his team with 11 receptions.
Who to bench: Larry Johnson
It’s not 2005 any more. Let it go. For the stat-lovers: LJ averages 2.6 y/c. Kansas City will be forced to give up the run and Johnson adds nothing as a receiver out of the backfield.
Others to bench: Roy Williams, Felix Jones
Williams and Jones were both declared out for Sunday’s game mid-Saturday. Neither even traveled with the team.
Who to start: Brandon Jacobs
With Eli Manning dealing with an injury, the Giants should pound the ball on the 26th-ranked run defense.
Others to start: Steve Smith, NYG Def
Don’t let Manning’s injury (or the fact he’ll likely be covered by Nnamdi Asomugha) lead you to bench Smith, who’s the top-scoring fantasy WR in a number of leagues. Meanwhile, the Giants’ defense will likely key in on Russell as he attempts to keep Oakland in the game.
Others to consider: Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw
The Giants took Nicks in the first round. An early injury sidelined him and gave time for Manningham to shine. Nicks played last week and reeled in a 54-yard TD. Reports that the Giants want to get Nicks more involved with the offense combine with Manning’s injury and the fact that Manningham might not get many looks in a blowout to make him bench-worthy. Bradshaw could get major PT in the 2nd half.
Who to bench: Michael Bush, Justin Fargas, JaMarcus Russell, Oak Def
Did I miss an Oakland player or defensive unit somehwere? This is a turd of a franchise and even good players (Bush) could be on your waivers.
Wildcards: Eli Manning (Q)
Manning is dealing with plantar fascitis in his right heel. It’s considered a very painful injury. If he can’t go (recent reports say he likely will), David Carr starts in his place.
Who to start: Phi Def
With a week off, Philly’s defense will be rested and prepared to tee off on Josh Johnson, beginning his second start of his career and held to 104 yards passing by the Redskins.
Others to start: Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Brian Westbrook, Donovan McNabb, DeSean Jackson, Brian Westbrook
Kevin Curtis has been hampered all season with a knee injury and will not play. Maclin will start in his place. McCoy and Westbrook will split carries against the 30th-ranked run-defending Bucs.
Others to consider: Carnell Williams, Antonio Bryant
Bucs coaches have declared they want to get Williams more involved. However, an offense with few weapons and a green QB could allow the Eagles to focus on Cadillac. One of the other Bucs weapons, Bryant is listed as questionable as recovers from his knee surgery, but he’s expected to play.
Who to bench: Derrick Ward
Ward had already taken a backseat to Williams.
Others to bench: Kevin Kolb, TB Def
Who to start: Adrian Peterson
Best RB in the league against the 24th-ranked run-defending Rams
Others to start: Brett Favre, Visanthe Shiancoe, Min Def
Others to consider: Chester Taylor, Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian, Donnie Avery
This will likely be a blowout. Taylor may get a significant number of carries to save Peterson. Rice has turned into a red-zone favorite of Favre’s, while Berrian is recovering from his hamstring issues of the preseason and hauled in six passes for 75 yards with a TD last week. This will likely be a blowout, and a late TD reception by Avery will salvage his day. Don’t automatically start him, but don’t bench him out of hand, either.
Who to bench: Steven Jackson
It’s tough to bench Jackson, about as tough to start him. The Williams Wall will shut him down in the running game, while the lack of other offensive weapons in the air (and the fact Boller is the one who has to get him the ball) will severely limit him in the passing game. Even with the byes for other players, heavily investigate other options.
Others to bench: StL Def
Who to start: Matt Ryan
There are few headliners for this game, as the Niners defense will be a stiff challenge for the Falcons, and the Atl defense (ranked 30th in overall yardage) will face an underpowered SF offense missing its best weapon, Frank Gore. Coming off the bye, Ryan and the Falcons need to regain their offensive form from last year, when they ranked 14th in yards/game. This year, they are 20th after three games.
Others to start: Michael Turner, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Shaun Hill, Vernon Davis
Michael Turner has had problems with 3-4 defenses like the 49ers. On top of that, San Francisco ranks 4th overall in rushing yardage allowed. Roddy White, meanwhile, has been nearly shut out by his own offense, with 15 catches, 119 yards and a TD through three games. Shaun Hill has 4 TDs in the last 4 games and makes a viable bye-week filler. Davis leads the Niners in receptions, receiving yardage and receiving TDs.
Others to consider: Michael Jenkins, Josh Morgan, Isaac Bruce, Glen Coffee, SF Def
Jenkins is the Falcons’ other starting WR facing the 10th-ranked pass defense in the 49ers. Morgan and Bruce deserve consideration, though San Fran would prefer to pound the ball with Coffee. For that strategy to work, Coffee must average better than the 2.6y/c (49 for 128 yards) he has since Gore left the Minnesota game.
Who to bench: Jerious Norwood
Since suffering a concussion in Week 2, Norwood hasn’t played. He’s only a flex option at best, though PPR leagues should consider him when Atl plays 3-4 teams.
Who to start: Matt Schaub
The Cardinals are 30th in passing-yardage defense. The only note of caution: the Cards are coming off the bye and have 8 sacks in only 3 games.
Others to start: Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Steve Slaton, Owen Daniels, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin
Coming off the bye, Warner faces the 9th best pass defense. Rather daunting, till you look at the conservative/impotent offenses they’ve faced: NYJ, Ten, Jax, Oak. A better stat on the Texans’ weakness against the pass: they’re tied for 23rd in yards given up per pass completion.
Others to consider: Tim Hightower, Chris Wells
Wells was drafted in the first round this year and was expected to quickly take the starting role. However, early fumbling issues combined with a variety of other preseason issues to keep Hightower as the starter. However, Hightower himself fumbled twice last game, losing one of them.
Who to bench: Ari Def
A pressure-based defense coming off a bye is appealing- until you realized they’re playing one of the most potent offenses in the league.
Others to bench: Hou Def
Who to start: Tom Brady
On paper, this might be an undesirable matchup, especially with Brady working his way back from surgery. Temper your expectations.
Others to start: Randy Moss, NE Def, Brandon Marshall, Knowshon Moreno
Moreno will get the start with Buckhalter out for possibly the next game as well.
Others to consider: Sammy Morris, Laurence Maroney, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Kevin Faulk, Den Def, Kyle Orton
With Fred Taylor out, the RB duties are expected to be divvied up according to how the RBs are listed above. While Denver is one of the top defenses in the league, this will be their toughest test of the year. Proceed with caution.
Who to bench: Fred Taylor
Taylor had surgery this week and there have been statements that he won’t be put on IR.
Others to bench: Eddie Royal, Correll Buckhalter
Park Royal till he shows something. Buckhalter sprained his left ankle and is out.
Wildcards: Wes Welker (Q), Julian Edelman
Welker is listed as questionable with the same knee injury that kept him out of two games earlier this year. Edelman would likely get he start in his place.
Who to start: Maurice Jones-Drew
No, he’s not injured — David Garrard abused the Titans through the air and had little need for MJD.
Others to start: David Garrard, Mike Sims-Walker, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Nate Burleson
Garrard and MSW will likely turn this into a blowout. Housh has been dealing with back issues, but seemed to turn it around with 8 receptions for 108 yards. Burleson can turn in a good day with one deep strike.
Others to consider: Torry Holt, Julius Jones, Jax Def
Holt has been extremely unexciting, but a juicy matchup against the 16-ranked pass defense gives hope. Jacksonville is playing well defensively, relegating Jones to a flex option.
Who to bench: Matt Hasselbeck
Hass will likely be back, but a decimated offensive line likely won’t give him much time to get the ball to his playmakers.
Others to bench: Sea Def
Who to start: Peyton Manning
Not that you were benching Manning anyway, but he’s the beneficiary of a fantastic matchup against the terrible Tennessee secondary.
Others to start: Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, Chris Johnson
The rest of the key members of the Indy passing game should also have a field day. Johnson is an every-week starter.
Others to consider: Donald Brown, Austin Collie, Nate Washington, Kenny Britt, Indy D
Joseph Addai is injured and has been limited in practice, which could lead to more carries for Brown. Usually, this would make him an easy start, but not against Tennessee, who’s rush defense is as tough as its pass defense is soft. Collie could have a big day if Peyton looks for him again. Washington is a threat to score a TD every week (has one in each of his last three games).
Who to bench: Joseph Addai
Add together the opponent and the injury, and you’re safer going with another option this week.
Others to bench: Kerry Collins, LenDale White, Justin Gage, Ten D
Who to start: Ronnie Brown
Brown is at his best when he’s getting a lot of carries, and with the team going against the stout pass defense of the Jets, look for that to be the game plan.
Others to start: Dustin Keller
The Dolphins give up a lot of points to the TE, and with new receiver Edwards still green in the offense and Cotchery banged up, Keller is a must-start this week.
Others to consider: Mark Sanchez, Ricky Williams, Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Jerricho Cotchery, Jets D
The Sanchize is a decent fill-in if you have one of the great QBs that are on a bye. With the receivers hurt and new, the Jets may lean on the running game even more than usual, which would make both RBs good options. Miami QB Chad Henne is making just his second start, so the Jets D will look to exploit his inexperience
Who to bench: Braylon Edwards
Don’t even think about it. While he could step right in an become a fantasy force in his first week with New York, it’s not very likely.
Others to bench: Chad Henne, Ted Ginn, Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano, Miami D
The only Miami players worth starting are the running backs. Do you really want to start a guy that might be matched up with lock-down CB Dwight Lowery?
Kevin Pina is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Kevin in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Kareighuis.
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