Aside from routinely tracking the NFL's official injury list, here are five helpful tips to work through when crafting your final Week 5 lineups:
1. Play your superstars...and let the fantasy gods sort out the rest
Let's detail two quarterbacks for today's mini-lecture:
On paper, Alex Smith (vs. Buffalo) has a better matchup than Panthers QB Cam Newton (vs. Seattle).
But this is no excuse to suddenly lose your mind and bench a top-six quarterback from the preseason (along with Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning)...on the notion of a fleeting gut feeling.
Or have you already forgotten that Newton racked up 30 fantasy points last week against the Falcons?
Bottom line: There's a reason why you invested a Round 1 or 2 draft pick on Newton (1,180 total yards, seven TD) back in August. You had Cam targeted for 15 starts from Weeks 1-16 (minus Carolina's Week 6 bye).
Here's one last thing to consider:
The number of times Alex Smith posted outings of 350 total yards and/or three TDs since 2008: two.
The number of times Cam Newton posted outings of 350 total yards and/or three TDs since 2011: eight.
2. There are only three acceptable reasons for executing a pre-kickoff trade on Sunday
a. The deal fortifies that weekend's starting lineup.
b. The deal addresses last-minute or emergency changes with injury situations.
c. Owner A (stacked roster) takes full advantage of Owner B (depleted roster), smartly sacrificing bench depth or fringe starters for a score that benefits Week 6 and beyond.
3. When in doubt with standard-scoring leagues, go running back. The reverse holds true for PPRs
On most NFL Sundays, a starting fantasy back will accrue more points than a starting wide receiver (of comparable skill level) in standard-scoring leagues, based on the likelihood of more touches (carries/receptions) and more goal-line or red-zone opportunities.
In turn, on most NFL Sundays with points-per-reception leagues, a targets-driven receiver will accrue more fantasy points than a running back (of comparable skill level), based on the likelihood of more receiving targets.
The regular exceptions involve superb pass-catching backs like Darren Sproles, LeSean McCoy, Darren McFadden, Trent Richardson and Ray Rice—the king of all PPR warriors.
Verdict: The above five should be automatic starters in PPR leagues, regardless of opponent.
4. Don't be distracted by the starting lineup of your Week 5 opponent
In 10 years of playing fantasy football, spanning 80-plus leagues, I have never made a regular-season lineup decision based on an opponent's starting corps.
Simply put, it doesn't make sense to conduct hours and hours of weekly research...and then start Ben Roethlisberger over Eli Manning, on the short-sighted rationale of the opposition starting Mike Wallace.
There is one notable exception here. Say you have Robert Griffin III and Peyton Manning at quarterback—a highly plausible scenario in 12-team leagues.
Even though Griffin has more seasonal fantasy points and home-field advantage for Week 5 (against Atlanta), Peyton would still be the no-brainer choice at quarterback...if your opponent starts a two-play combination of Broncos receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and/or tight end Jacob Tamme.
For situations like that, it's wise to hedge your bets on Manning against the Patriots.
5. Consult the NFL Weather Map before stamping out lineups
As the NFL calendar turns to October, fantasy owners can no longer assume that every outdoors game will include warm temperatures, dry conditions and gentle trade breezes.
With heavy rains, some quarterbacks have trouble throwing wet balls, just like some tailbacks and receivers don't like running on slick or muddy playing surfaces.
These ancillary factors can tip the scales when making hard choices at key fantasy slots.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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