Fantasy Football Rankings: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em for Week 5
One of the most frustrating players to own in fantasy football these days is Tennessee running back Chris Johnson.
If you drafted CJ2K this year, you needed to spend a (mid-to-high) first-round pick to get him.
That said, you received nearly nothing from him in the first three games of the season. In those three games, he rushed for a career-low four yards, 11 yards and 24 yards, respectively.
To make matters worse, I would venture to guess many fantasy owners put him on their benches in Week 4, especially considering his difficult matchup against the Texans. The Texans still lead the NFL in scoring defense (14.0 points per game) and total defense (273.0 yards per game).
Despite the tough matchup, Johnson had a bounce-back week with a league-high 141 rushing yards in Week 4.
This week, Johnson and the Titans face the Vikings, currently a top-eight run defense. While I wouldn't expect another big performance from Johnson, I would feel a little more comfortable starting him as an RB2.
Here are some players to consider starting in Week 5:
QB - Joe Flacco, Ravens (at KC)
No quarterback has thrown for more yards in the past two weeks than Flacco (738). In fact, Flacco became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for 350-plus yards in back-to-back games (via @Stats_NFL). On the season, Flacco trails only Drew Brees and Eli Manning in passing yards.
Although the Chiefs have allowed only 216.0 passing yards per game, a full 100 yards less than Flacco's average (317.3 YPG), they are one of only three teams to allow double-digit passing touchdowns this season.
RB - Ryan Mathews, Chargers (at NO)
Drafted by many in the top half of the first round (before his injury), Mathews has returned from his collarbone injury but has still disappointed fantasy owners. After fumbling in Week 3, the Chargers started Jackie Battle in Week 4 and now list him as their "starter" on the team's depth chart (via Chargers.com).
While coach Norv Turner is non-commital about who will start at running back, Mathews is clearly more talented—fumbling issues aside—than Battle and is the team's best all-around playmaker on offense. Against a team desperate for their first win and historically tough to beat in the dome, Turner should give his best playmaker an opportunity to exploit New Orleans' exploitable defense.
No team has allowed more rushing yards than the Saints (186.8 per game), who have given up at least 24 points in all four of their losses.
RB - Cedric Benson, Packers (at IND)
Since Week 2, Benson has 20-plus touches and exactly four receptions each week. Only six running backs have more carries than Benson (55) during that span.
The Packers are favored by a touchdown and could be playing with a lead most of the game. Against a bottom-10 rush defense, there is little reason to expect anything other than another heavy workload in a favorable matchup for Benson.
RB - Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (vs CLE)
As bad as the Browns are against the pass without cornerback Joe Haden—who is serving the final game of his four-game suspension this week—I expect Bradshaw to get a significant opportunity to finish as a solid RB2 this week.
In his first game after Andre Brown's 113-yard Week 3 performance, Bradshaw got more than 70 percent of the carries last week between the two backs: Bradshaw (13) and Brown (five).
WR - Malcom Floyd, Chargers (at NO)
Not only do the Saints have the league's worst-ranked rush defense, they also rank in the bottom 10 against the pass. In addition, they have allowed the fourth-most yards per attempt (8.7) this season.
Of all players that have at least 25 receptions since 2008, no player has a higher yards-per-reception average than Floyd (18.35). Although Floyd had a disappointing performance last week (two receptions for 23 yards), he leads the team in receiving yards (250), which puts him on pace for his first-ever 1,000-yard season.
WR - Eric Decker, Broncos (at NE)
Although Decker ranks second on the Broncos in receiving (322 yards), he trails the team's leader, Demaryius Thomas, by only three yards. In addition, Decker leads the team in receptions (24). After starting somewhat slowly, Decker has 15 receptions for 215 yards and a touchdown in his past two games combined and should be started each week with confidence.
WR - Brian Hartline, Dolphins (at CIN)
Last week, Hartline set the franchise record for receiving yards in a game with 253 yards, and he now leads the league in receiving (455 yards). While it will be virtually impossible for him to duplicate that performance, Hartline should continue to see plenty of targets and be a viable option this week and going forward.
WR - James Jones, Packers (at IND)
In most weeks, Jones should be on your bench and it's certainly possible that the inconsistent receiver disappoints fantasy owners this week. That said, Jones could/should see more opportunities with Greg Jennings already ruled out due to his groin injury.
With Jennings only playing one half during the past two weeks, Jones has five receptions and 55-plus yards in each game. He also scored two touchdowns last week. Against one of the league's weakest secondaries that will be without cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Justin King, the matchup is extremely favorable for the Packers pass-catchers.
TE - Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (vs TEN)
Although he had no fantasy points (two receptions for eight yards) last week, Rudolph has 15 receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns on the season. This week's matchup is about as good as it gets for Rudolph. Through four games this season, the Titans have allowed tight ends to haul in six touchdown receptions (or seven if you consider James Casey to be a tight end instead of a running back).
Here are some players to consider sitting in Week 5:
QB - Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (vs PHI)
Through the first-quarter of the season, the Eagles have limited opposing quarterbacks to a league-worst completion percentage of 52.4 percent. In addition, they have more interceptions (six) than passing touchdowns allowed (five).
I have Roethlisberger ranked outside of my top 12 fantasy quarterbacks as two other quarterbacks in the division are ranked higher: Flacco (10th) and Andy Dalton (12th).
RB - Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, Bills (at SF)
As a general rule, you should never get too excited when your fantasy running back has to face the 49ers defense. They currently rank sixth against the run (79.5 YPG) this year after finishing first last year (77.3 YPG). Furthermore, they have yet to allow a rushing touchdown to a running back and all running backs have averaged 3.4 yards per carry or less against them.
With both Jackson and Spiller returning from injuries last week, they combined for a total of 21 carries and split the workload 13 (Jackson) to eight (Spiller). Against a stingy defense, it's unlikely that either of the two backs get a sufficient workload to start as an RB2 in 10-team leagues.
RB - Jackie Battle, Chargers (at NO)
Starter or not in Sunday's matchup, I would prefer to start Mathews over Battle on my fantasy team. The matchup is indeed favorable for Battle (and Mathews), but it's hard to imagine Turner continuing to punish Mathews with a secondary role if the goal is to win football games.
RB - Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (vs PHI)
In his first game back from a torn ACL, Mendenhall gives the Steelers some hope when it comes to reviving a rushing attack that is currently averaging a league-low 2.6 yards per carry. If possible, I would prefer to wait a week before inserting Mendenhall into my starting lineup. The Eagles have been solid against the run this season (12th, 91.5 YPG allowed).
WR - Michael Crabtree, 49ers (vs BUF)
The 49ers continue to be a team that wins games with a run-first offense and stifling defense as only two teams throw the ball less than San Francisco. Although Crabtree has six or more receptions in three of his four games, he has yet to find the end zone.
WR - Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, Seahawks (at CAR)
The two teams that throw it less than San Francisco are the Panthers (27.8 attempts per game) and Seahawks (25.0). In addition to throwing the fewest pass attempts, the Seahawks are the only team in the league to average less than 150 passing yards per game.
On the other hand, Marshawn Lynch leads the NFL in rushing and has 20-plus carries in 11 of his past 12 games—the exception was 19 carries in Week 17 last year. Considering how bad the Panthers are against the run, I would expect Lynch to have a huge week and all those involved in the Seahawks passing game to be fantasy irrelevant except in deeper leagues.
WR - Kenny Britt, Titans (at MIN)
It looks as though Britt might miss another game as he is listed as questionable on the injury report and he did not practice this week. If he does play, there's no telling how effective he will be or how much he will play.
TE - Aaron Hernandez, Patriots (vs DEN)
Hernandez is listed as questionable on the injury report and could possibly make his return from a high-ankle sprain this week. However, it seems more likely that he will return next week. Considering the Patriots play a late game, I would play it safe if your choice comes down to Hernandez vs. a tight end that plays at 1 p.m.
Note: All injury designations and practice participation referenced above are via NFL.com's injury page.
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