This is Week 5, and things are coming to a head quickly.
Trades are flying around fantasy league homepages as owners scurry to fill the holes that bye weeks and injuries have left on their roster.
It's like the hurried process of getting plywood up on your windows just prior to a tornado or hurricane coming through.
You can tell yourself you've done what you can to prepare, but a storm is still coming.
It takes a 7-6 record to make the fantasy playoffs in most leagues, and some of you may not have too many more games to concede before being eliminated.
This is your breakdown.
Please note that these are my matchup rankings.
These are not my weekly rankings, as those will not be final until Thursday Night Football kicks off.
These are matchup rankings for most and/or least favorable defensive teams to opposing fantasy players by position. I use this system as a tie-breaker tool for players that project closely to one another when making my weekly player rankings.
My comments here are regarding expected beneficiaries of the good matchups and fantasy victims of the bad ones.
The matchup rankings are derived via a simple algorithm fraught with difficult variables. These include traditional fantasy points against metrics, but also averaged, weighted variables added for defensive personnel grouping grades obtained via individual player scouting research.
Each position gets assigned the coverage unit they will face, player by player, and the average of those scores are then used as a variable along with traditional fantasy points/against.
The reason being, "Fantasy points allowed" to a position on its own does not account for outliers, or differences in strength of schedule and/or positional opponents faced. Basically, it doesn't predict the unpredictable, which the NFL often is from week to week.
Top 4 RB Matchups of NFL Week 5
1) Seattle Seahawks RBs vs. Carolina Panthers
Michael Turner was criminally underrated coming into 2012 fantasy drafts, but the fact is he runs like a roly-poly at this point.
I am foaming at the mouth to see what Marshawn Lynch is capable of doing against this Swiss cheese Panthers front that Turner made look like children in Week 4. I told you in this column last week about Turner, as well as mentioning that Jacquizz Rodgers would serve as serviceable option against the Panthers.
Lynch is my No. 1 RB of Week 5, and if I am desperate at the flex position due to byes, I take a long look at Robert Turbin as a spot play. I do not like Turbin as much as I liked Rodgers last week, though, as I do not believe the Seahawks will get out to an early lead.
2) San Diego Chargers RBs vs. New Orleans Saints
Ryan Mathews owners have to be wondering what on Earth is going on. Jackie Battle?
Ryan Mathews is "healthy," yet still, it was Jackie Battle in Week 4 who saw 43 percent of snaps while Mathews only saw 33 percent.
Battle also racked up the two touchdowns that Mathews owners thought would be theirs when drafting him in late August. This is hardly the level of involvement that many expected out of the RB that Chargers head coach Norv Turner publicly promised (as usual) to get 300 touches on the season.
I see this being the week that Mathews gets back on the map before he gets injured and screws his owners yet again. You didn't hold onto Mathews through the preseason injury this long to sit him now—not against a dream matchup.
I would recommend picking up Battle in 12-team leagues in which he is available, however. It is only a matter of time before Mathews is limited, and we have now seen where the fantasy production goes in 2012 when this occurs.
3) Houston Texans RBs vs. New York Jets
Everyone always has a smile on their face when inserting Arian Foster into their starting lineup, but this week calls for extra cheer.
The New York Jets are a team that has been missing assignments along the defensive line and causing massive lanes for opposing runners. Ben Tate owners should recognize that Tate, thus far in his career, has been a better away-game than home-game player.
Tate has also been very off-and-on with fantasy production, despite tallying a 1,000-yard season in 2011, simply because he is not a major TD scorer.
Everything lines up this week for lots of Ben Tate garbage-time action as Houston heads to play a reeling Jets squad that opened as nine-point underdogs at home. Get both Texans backs in your lineups this week.
4) Minnesota Vikings RBs vs. Tennessee Titans
Adrian Peterson is amazing. He may be the first to prove the "two-year ACL rule" regarding RBs coming off reconstructive surgery to be a theory rather than a law.
He's always in your lineup. Toby Gerhart is a low-end flex option with an extremely low fantasy floor but relatively good upside, especially in the event of a big Minnesota lead.
Worst 4 RB Matchups of Week 5
1) Buffalo Bills RBs at San Francisco 49ers
Like this whole Buffalo Bills backfield conundrum wasn't bad enough for fantasy owners to begin with:
- C.J. Spiller, when Fred Jackson was hurt in two separate seasons, has looked like the best back in the league behind a great run-blocking line.
- When Jackson and Spiller are both healthy, head coach Chan Gailey obviously prefers Jackson as the primary runner for some reason.
- Neither are healthy.
Jackson seems healthier, though. For this week, it doesn't matter. This is a horrible matchup in which you hope Steve Johnson will get tripped up right at the goal line. Even then, you'll have to sweat which back runs in for the 1st-and-goal set.
Lots of trade offers went out this week from Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller owners. I am buying low on both of them and currently value Jackson a small bit more than Spiller. I do not like either runner this week, though.
2) Tennessee Titans RBs at Minnesota Vikings
Chris Johnson finally ran like he was an NFL running back on Sunday against a very stiff defense. Johnson says he'll be as good as his offensive line allows him to be, which to me means one thing:
Chris Johnson will be as good as the start he gets out to. Before he starts pouting and deciding that his lack of discipline and heart in the face of adversity are anyone's fault but his.
You have to start him after the breakout performance last week, but I'd be worried. And something tells me you are.
3) Carolina Panthers RBs vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks are a nightmare matchup across the board, but many will find themselves in the unenviable position of having to start either DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart.
I would downgrade expectations for both, but it seems like the back-and-forth nature of their productivity would indicate that we are due for a game plan that features Stewart once he is fully healthy.
It's hard to love either against this Seattle front, though. I am selling high on DeAngelo Williams like crazy this week.
4) New England Patriots RBs vs. Denver Broncos
The Austin Chronicle and RosterWatch on ESPN Radio had Mike Loyko reporting live from Patriots training camp this August.
He would constantly harp on three things during his call-in appearances:
- Stevan Ridley will be the guy this season.
- Aaron Hernandez will be Tom Brady's No. 1 option.
- Bill Belichick seems to really love Brandon Bolden.
Bolden is now the No. 2 runner in an offense that will have plenty of opportunities for scoring productivity.
Will there be typical, unnerving "Patriot Games" at the RB position? Of course. There is something to see here, however. I see Bolden holding some real value down the stretch, but I don't love either Patriots runner this week.
Top 4 WR Matchups of NFL Week 5
1) San Diego Chargers WRs at New Orleans Saints
It may be about time to drop Robert Meachem. This is the week we'll see.
I expect big things from Malcom Floyd as usual. Meachem is coming back to New Orleans, though. From speaking to Saints players at training camp in August, I know how respected "Meach" was as a member of their team.
These are the kinds of games that pay off for fantasy owners. Don't think that Norv Turner doesn't know of this connection.
2) Atlanta Falcons WRs at Washington Redskins
What a stinker from Julio Jones in Week 4. A three-point, near-goose egg and a big lump of coal in fantasy stockings everywhere.
Based on two years of statistics, Roddy White is the most reliable WR in fantasy football. He showed why Sunday against Carolina.
I love both WRs this week against a Redskins secondary that apparently even Raheem Morris can't help. I see Julio Jones having a big game via a few bigger, lower-percentage plays, while Roddy White should rack up points steadily all over the field.
3) Cleveland Browns WRs at New York Giants
If you are looking at waiver-wire pickups at WR, look for a secondary that is banged up and hopefully bad to begin with.
Then, hope they are facing a team whose WRs are not widely rostered. All these things fit in this case. The only thing that doesn't is the pass rush. The pass rush basically throws all these hopeful projections of sleeper glory down the toilet.
If you are desperate, look at Jordan Norwood. He's getting targeted like crazy, and it could be a game that calls for getting the ball out right off to the quick-hitch route on hot reads.
4) New York Giants WRs vs. Cleveland Browns
Hakeem Nicks is looking like he may be a major liability for fantasy owners moving forward. For this reason, I am trying to acquire him in every league I can in return for non-starting bench players on my roster.
With the bye weeks occurring, I have seen Nicks traded for a package of Ben Tate and Denarius Moore—two bench players from the team that won the trade and landed Nicks, who will surely serve him well down the stretch.
Week 5 is the last week sans Joe Haden in Cleveland, and Victor Cruz will have a top-five sort of day. I love Domenik Hixon this week as a flex play and believe he represents a higher upside option than Ramses Barden or Rueben Randle.
Barden is worth a peek as a low-end WR3 while Nicks is out, especially given the matchup.
Worst 4 WR Matchups of Week 5
1) New York Jets WRs vs. Houston Texans
Don't expect any breakout stars to replace Santonio Holmes in Week 5.
Chaz Schilens finally entered the starting lineup last week, and it is up to either rookie Stephen Hill or Jeremy Kerley to fill the remaining void. Schilens has never stayed healthy in his entire career, and I don't see him starting to now.
We've seen Hill and Kerley both put in position to produce, and both have succeeded in these roles. Moving forward in the short term, I like Kerley a small bit better than Hill but don't trust either completely.
I generally don't trust anything connected to Mark Sanchez's arm. I hate this matchup for all Jets WRs.
2) Arizona Cardinals WRs at St. Louis Rams
Michael Floyd and, more notably, Andre Roberts, are beginning to emerge as legitimate fantasy options moving forward.
The Cardinals are a 4-0 with a blue-collar coach and nasty defense. I don't count any weapon out on this sort of squad. It is Week 5, and we need to re-adjust our focus. The Cardinals were a laughing stock in the preseason, but look at them now.
Larry Fitzgerald is a player that will have to be started every week on most rosters, and usually the No. 2 opposing WR has the most trouble against the Rams.
I am rolling confidently with Larry Fitzgerald as a high-upside WR2 this week and avoiding any others, even given the recent Andre Roberts craze. I am attempting to roster Roberts in every league he is available, but I'm not starting him this week.
3) Washington Redskins WRs vs. Atlanta Falcons
Pierre Garcon is a continuing injury concern even when cleared to play, and I wouldn't even trust him in this matchup when healthy.
Even without Brent Grimes, watching the Falcons secondary on coaches' film has been like reading a textbook.
4) Carolina Panthers WRs vs. Seattle Seahawks
Steve Smith is seeming like the only game in town recently, even with Brandon LaFell showing all sorts of promise through the preseason and into the beginning of 2012.
This is a horrible matchup across the board, and while I expect the Panthers to win this game, I am downgrading every skill-position player in my rankings.
Top 4 QB Matchups of NFL Week 5
1) Philip Rivers at New Orleans Saints
Philip Rivers faces the top fantasy matchup for QBs for the second straight week after having a top-10 performance Sunday vs. the very sorry Chiefs.
While I don't trust Rivers completely, this is his best matchup possible. You have to expect Drew Brees will want to put some points up in the dome in an effort to avoid an 0-5 start. Especially against the Chargers and Philip Rivers: are you kidding me?
Both teams will throw the ball around, and frankly, it's a lot easier to do so on the Saints than it is the Chargers currently. Brees is the better QB, though, and I expect a big day in the face of a tough matchup. I like Rivers for a big day because he has an easy matchup.
2) Joe Flacco at Kansas City Chiefs
Flacco has been a very reliable option this season for many winning teams who elected to stock up on talent other than QB early in their fantasy drafts.
Over four weeks, Flacco has only delivered one true stinker at Philadelphia for around nine fantasy points in standard leagues. Otherwise, it's been right around 20 points a game with one near-30-pointer vs. New England in Week 3.
It is a fast-paced new offense that will surely vertically take advantage of the attention the opposition will have to pay to Ray Rice at the line of scrimmage. I love Flacco this week. Keep rolling him out.
3) Christian Ponder vs. Tennessee Titans
Ponder has had two relatively big games this season and two bed-wetters. The main issue is, his best game was against San Francisco.
He did nothing stat-wise against Jacksonville or Detroit, much lesser opponents. It gives me the idea that Ponder's fantasy output may not be as matchup-oriented as it is scheme-oriented.
I like him this week, however, and it is technically a great matchup on paper. Any time you go on the road cross-division, you revert to a bit of a guarded approach, the same you would take (even at home) to an early opponent like the 49ers.
This sort of game plan tends to favor high-percentage, high-volume throws that rack up yards and a running game that lubes up defenses for garbage-time QB rushing production late.
4) Matt Ryan at Washington Redskins
If you own Matt Ryan, you're starting him, and it should be a great week. The only QBs I would take ahead of Ryan currently for the rest of the season are Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
Worst 4 QB Matchups of NFL Week 5
1) Mark Sanchez vs. Houston Texans
I expect to see a few more No. 15 Tim Tebow jerseys interspersed through the crowd at MetLife this week than usual.
What a nightmare to have to face San Francisco and now Houston if you are Mark Sanchez. Dustin Keller has been nowhere to be found, and now Santonio Holmes has been lost for the season to a Lisfranc injury. Needless to say, avoid at all costs.
2) Ben Roethlisberger vs. Philadelphia Eagles
I projected Big Ben was a top-five QB in Week 3 against the Raiders, and he came through big.
This is not the Raiders. Heath Miller, who has been a reliable cog and steady fantasy option himself, will have to stay in to chip block.
Roethlisberger does have signature escapability when the pocket collapses, and if he can roll out, he is generally capable of getting downfield to Wallace or Brown. Don't expect a Week 3 repeat, though.
3) Blaine Gabbert vs. Chicago Bears
You would never start him anyway.
4) Sam Bradford vs. Arizona Cardinals
I would rather start Tim Tebow. He's unowned and might score on a fake punt.
Top 4 TE Matchups of NFL Week
1) Minnesota Vikings TEs vs. Tennessee Titans
Kyle Rudolph has a great matchup against the Titans. Owners noticed a sharp decrease in Rudolph's production with the return of Jerome Simpson from suspension in Week 4.
I am moving forward with caution regarding Rudolph for the long term, but in the short term, I love this matchup. TEs have feasted on the Titans defense, and their coverage personnel in the linebacking corps is extremely suspect.
2) Baltimore Ravens TEs at Kansas City Chiefs
Another waiver-wire wonder who disappointed owners in Week 4 with a Thursday night goose egg to start their fantasy week.
It's like spilling gasoline on your shoes on the way to a job interview. There is no way you can win. Despite that, I like Dennis Pitta for a bounce back this week.
3) Seattle Seahawks TEs at Carolina Panthers
Anthony McCoy would be the player to start, but we are starting to tread in pretty shady fantasy territory at that point just to play the matchup.
4) Denver Broncos TEs at New England Patriots
Bill Belichick wins football games by taking away your best weapons like he did to the Bills running game and Stevie Johnson last week. In this scenario, Scott Chandler flourished.
I could see a similar scenario occurring at Gillette with the Broncos TEs. Joel Dreessen represents a solid bye-week fill-in for Week 5, as Jacob Tamme is likely owned.
Worst 4 TE Matchups of NFL Week 5
1) Pittsburgh Steelers TEs vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Heath Miller is going to have to help inside unless the Steelers can keep the Eagles honest with a run game.
This is hard to predict, as we will just be getting our first glimpse of Rashard Mendenhall on Sunday.
Given the matchup and the lack of data to go on regarding the state of the Steelers run game, I am exploring other options this week, but I'm certainly not dropping Miller.
2) New York Giants TEs vs. Cleveland Browns
Martellus Bennett with another tough matchup. I proposed last week that in an offense missing Hakeem Nicks, perhaps a TE threat such as Bennett may be matchup-proof, but it turns out he was shut down by the Eagles.
It's obvious that Eli Manning does look for Bennett, though. He is a top-10 TE for the rest of the season, but I'm downgrading expectations this week.
3) Carolina Panthers TEs vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have been tough on opposing TEs, but the fact is they have been tough on every position. Greg Olsen consistently leads the Panthers in targets and is a threat to score every game, but he's going into a rough matchup here.
4) Arizona Cardinals TEs at St. Louis Rams
Thank goodness you're not starting one.