Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 5: Jay Cutler, Alex Smith and What to Do Under Center
Remember your draft, when the guy picking before you in the first round took Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees, allowing the running back you wanted but never thought you could get to fall into your lap?
Admit it, you chuckled a bit, especially since you had no intention of taking a QB until later in the draft.
Well, chuckles, it turns out that having an elite QB in fantasy is just as important, if not more important as having a big-time stud RB is—especially with the NFL evolving into the pass-happy league that we bear witness to on a weekly basis.
However, those elite quarterbacks are few and far between, and if you have one (you know who they are), I'm not going to waste time telling you to start them. You know that already, and if you don't, well, there may be an opening in one of my leagues for you after all.
For many fantasy owners, deciding who to start under center is a weekly debate, one filled with staring at stats of opposing defenses, scouring injury reports for signs of weakness in a secondary and the like.
So for those of us who are dealing with that struggle, allow me to help steer you in the right direction with our latest Start 'Em and Sit 'Em for Week 5: The Quarterback Edition.
Start 'Em: Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings vs. Tennessee Titans
I know what you're saying: Someone told me to start Ponder last week and he laid an egg against the Detroit Lions, throwing for a meager 111 yards and never finding the end zone.
But he's facing a Tennessee Titans defense that has allowed every quarterback they've faced throw for multiple touchdowns in every game thus far—a defense that has allows opposing quarterbacks to throw for 285 yards per game, 27th in the NFL.
There aren't many times you'll see me recommend Ponder, but this is one of them.
Sit 'Em: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills vs. San Francisco 49ers
Yes, Fitzpatrick leads the NFL with 12 passing touchdowns and has been a top five fantasy quarterback so far, regardless of your scoring system.
However, he's about to go head-to-head with a nasty group of defenders known as the 49ers defense, who have allowed only five touchdowns through the air.
With Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller still banged up and the Bills' chances of establishing the run questionable at best, Fitzpatrick is going to have a difficult time not only finding open passing lanes, but staying upright, as the 49ers can—and will—get to the quarterback with their pass rush.
Start 'Em: Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans vs. Minnesota Vikings
No, this isn't 2006 and Matt Hasselbeck isn't a QB in the prime of his career.
While the Vikings rank 14th against the pass, allowing 228.2 yards per game and only five touchdowns on the season through the air, their secondary is banged up.
Both starting corner Antoine Winfield and starting strong safety Mistral Raymond are questionable for this week's game, and the Vikings did allow Matthew Stafford to throw for 319 yards before knocking him out of the game last week.
Hasselbeck isn't the best option around, but if you had a better one then you wouldn't be reading this, would you?
Sit 'Em: Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
This has less to do with Jay Cutler and more to do with the team the Bears are playing, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
We all know that Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert is, ahem, challenged by the position, struggling to portray a mediocre NFL quarterback most weeks. Against a ferocious Bears defense, Gabbert is going to turn the ball over, and the Bears figure to get out early in this one.
Once they do, expect a heavy dose of Matt Forte, Michael Bush, and anyone else the Bears can find who wants a carry. Jacksonville ranks 30th against the run, allowing 150.2 yards per game to opposing running backs.
Cutler simply isn't going to be asked to do much besides hand the ball off, and that does nothing to help your fantasy prospects for the upcoming week.
Start 'Em: Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins vs. Cincinnati Bengals
I'm not predicting Tannehill to throw for 400 yards again, but there's no reason that he couldn't replicate the numbers that Brandon Weeden put up against the Bengals in Week 2: 26-of-37 for 322 yards and a touchdown.
The Bengals, who rank 16th against the pass, allowing 234.6 passing yards per game, have a banged up secondary. Three of their best corners—Leon Hall, Nate Clements and Jason Allen—are all dealing with injuries and remain questionable for tomorrow's games.
Tannehill is a talented player, and he could be taking the next step in his development before our eyes.
He's a worthy selection as your starter this week, especially if you're scrambling for someone due to being in bye-week purgatory.
Sit 'Em: Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers vs. Buffalo Bills
Like Cutler, this has more to do with the matchup than the QB himself, though Smith isn't a great weekly fantasy starter by any means.
I said this earlier in a preview piece I did for this game, but it's worth repeating here.
Buffalo allowed the combination of Brandon Boldin and Stevan Ridley to carry the ball 38 times for 243 yards and three touchdowns last week.
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