Every week, there are certain fantasy studs who you simply have to start no matter what. Tom Brady, Arian Foster and Roddy White fall into that category, to name a few.
There are also a good number of players you should probably sit each week as well. But then, there are those players whom you have no idea whether to start or sit.
Here are a few not-so-obvious guys at each major fantasy position who you might not know what to do with, but for whom the stats and other information dictate one way or the other:
Start 'em: Quarterback
Joe Flacco (at Kansas City)
Flacco has now made my top-10 quarterbacks for three weeks in a row, something I never would have guessed would happen at this time last season. His control of the no-huddle offense has been outstanding thus far and I expect it to only get better as the year goes on.
This week he’ll face a Chiefs defense that has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and even though they’ve improved a bit with cornerback Brandon Flowers back in the lineup, they’re still tied for the most passing touchdowns allowed this season with 10.
Flacco’s only other time facing this team was back in Week 1 of 2009 when he put up two career-firsts by throwing for 307 yards and three touchdowns.
Andy Dalton (vs. Miami)
Dalton has put up three straight games with 24 or more fantasy points and has been one of the bigger surprises of the young fantasy season.
This week he’ll take on a Miami team that has allowed three 300-yard games in a row by Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kolb. In my estimation, Dalton is the best of the bunch and should be primed for a nice game.
Considering the strength of the Dolphins' run defense, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Bengals quarterback toss up 40 passes and maybe even sneak into the top five for the week.
Philip Rivers (at New Orleans, Sunday night)
With Gates having a bit of a down season and without a steady wide receiver to throw to on a consistent basis, Rivers' fantasy numbers have suffered immensely.
In real life, he’s led the Chargers to a 2-0 record on the road and 3-1 overall, but unless you’re a big San Diego fan, that doesn’t mean much to his owners.
That being said, this is the best chance he’ll have to turn it around, as he's going up against a Saints defense that gives it up as much through the air as on the ground.
With Drew Brees gunning for yet another passing record, I’m expecting a bit of a shootout this Sunday night, so there should be a bunch of fantasy points to be had here by Rivers.
Other QBs with QB1 Potential
- Andrew Luck (vs. Green Bay)
- Christian Ponder (vs. Tennessee)
- Matt Hasselbeck (at Minnesota)
- Ryan Tannehill (at Cincinnati)
- Brandon Weeden (at New York Giants)
- Russell Wilson (at Carolina)
Start 'em: Running Back
Reggie Bush (at Cincinnati)
Bush played through a lot of pain last weekend at Arizona, so you have to give him credit for sucking it up and getting out on the field when he was needed.
This week he’ll have an easier time running the ball against an inferior Bengals run defense than he did last week, and is set up for some really nice stats.
The Bengals have allowed more than five yards per carry to running backs thus far, while Bush dons a 5.6 yards per carry average so far himself (5.1 YPC in 2011). The Bengals have ALSO allowed the second-most yards receiving to running backs this season, which is obviously another big strength to Bush’s game.
Add it all up and it looks like the Dolphins running back should end up with top-five fantasy stats this week.
Trent Richardson (at New York Giants)
Richardson hasn’t put up the rushing yardage his fantasy owners were hoping for yet, but if you ever watched him play back at Alabama, you’ll recall what a monstrous touchdown machine he was.
Luckily for his owners, that part of his game DID transfer over to the NFL, as he’s currently tied for second in the league with four total touchdowns (Arian Foster has five).
On paper, the Giants don’t look so bad defending the run until you look a little closer and see that they’ve allowed two 100-yard rushers thus far and rookie Doug Martin’s lone touchdown of the season.
Trent’s going to be used plenty this Sunday, both in and out of the backfield, and after putting up over 100 total yards and a touchdown against Baltimore last week, you know he has a ton of confidence to ride upon.
Ryan Mathews (at New Orleans, Sunday night)
The Chargers have to realize that if they want to make some serious noise in the playoffs this season, the better/more talented/more explosive back (Mathews) has to be more involved in their offense.
Besides, whenever a fantasy running back needs a little pick-me-up, the best thing for him is to go up against a Swiss-cheese defense to get him going again.
The Saints did it for Jamaal Charles two weeks ago and should do it again for Mathews this weekend.
Jamaal Charles (vs. Baltimore)
Charles had another nice game for the Chiefs last weekend totaling 115 yards (92 rushing) and two touchdowns in their loss to the Chargers.
You can tell he has his confidence back now as well, as he’s hitting holes hard without dancing too much and not shying away from contact. With his blazing speed and overall skill set, the sky’s the limit for The Ostrich.
Right now he sits eight yards behind Marshawn Lynch for the league lead in rushing yards with 415 and will have every opportunity to add to his total, with Peyton Hillis looking to be out again this weekend.
Baltimore is still a hard-nosed defense, but they’ve slowed down a bit as well and are only in the middle of the pack as far as fantasy points allowed are concerned.
If the Chiefs are smart and give him 20 or so touches, Charles can do some real damage in this one.
Matt Forte (at Jacksonville)
Forte has the skills to be one of the best all-around backs in the NFL, but he needs to be healthy to get enough touches to do so.
Forte returned from his sprained ankle earlier than expected last Monday night and got 14 touches (13 carries) despite rolling his ankle on the first play of the game. Forte, however, must be just fine if he was able to play the rest of the game, so I’m not too worried about his playing time this Sunday.
Jacksonville has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points and the third-most rushing yards to running backs so far this season, so look for Forte to have a real nice all-around game and possibly break off a TD run of over 20 yards.
Other RBs with RB1 Potential:
- Stevan Ridley (vs. Denver)
- Willis McGahee (at New England)
- Darren Sproles (vs. San Diego, Sunday night)
- Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. Cleveland)
- Jackie Battle (at New Orleans, Sunday night)
- Cedric Benson (at Indianapolis)
- Michael Bush (at Jacksonville)
- Kendall Hunter (vs. Buffalo)
- Jacquizz Rodgers (at Washington)
- Pierre Thomas (vs. San Diego, Sunday night)
Start 'em: Wide Receiver
Percy Harvin (vs. Tennessee)
The Detroit Lions came out to say a couple of days ago that their whole defensive scheme was set up to shut down Percy Harvin. You have to hand it to them as they did very well in accomplishing their goal, yet Percy STILL took back the opening kickoff for a touchdown on them…which unfortunately for fantasy owners were pretty much the only points he scored on the day.
The good news is that with the Titans on tap this weekend, there’s absolutely zero chance something like that happens again.
Not only is Tennessee terrible against the pass, but they can’t stop the run either, so no matter how the Vikings plan on getting Percy the ball this weekend, he’s more than likely going to do something special with it.
I’m expecting a real nice game here with at least eight catches, 120 total yards and a touchdown.
Jordy Nelson (at Indianapolis)
So Nelson finally had a game worth writing home about, but was it simply because he was playing against a terrible Saints defense? Was it because Greg Jennings was in the game for a little while to draw attention away from him? Or was it because he and Aaron Rodgers are finally back on the same page?
I’m going to say it was a mixture of all three, but luckily for Nelson and his fantasy owners, the Colts secondary isn’t much better than the Saints.
However, Greg Jennings won’t be suiting up for at least this week, so Nelson may see an extra body on him from time to time. Still, Jordy should be able to come through with a couple of lengthy catches, as the Colts are prone to giving up the big play.
This could be the breakout game we’ve been waiting for from Nelson.
Torrey Smith (at Kansas City)
Torrey is on a nice little run right now with 12 catches on 20 targets for 224 yards and three touchdowns over the last two games.
The sudden death of his younger brother may have something to do with his heightened level play, but he’s also a much better receiver in his second year and has gained the trust of Joe Flacco because of it.
The Chiefs defense has given up the fewest receptions per game to wideouts thus far, but they’ve also allowed the fifth-highest yards per attempt, which plays right into Torrey’s strength.
Smith’s 20.8 yards per catch ranks second in the league and may even improve with cornerback Brandon Flowers still a bit banged up.
Malcom Floyd (at New Orleans, Sunday night)
Floyd started the season off hot putting up double-digit fantasy points in his first two games, but has slowed of late catching just five balls for 75 yards in his last two combined.
This could be the game he gets back on track, however, with the Saints allowing the fourth-most fantasy points and touchdowns to wide receivers on the year.
New Orleans may be 0-4 right now, but a fantasy-happy shootout could be on the horizon this Sunday night with both teams averaging 25 or more points a game.
Other WRs with WR1 Potential:
- Pierre Garcon (vs. Atlanta)
- James Jones (at Indianapolis)
- Nate Washington (at Minnesota)
- Andrew Hawkins (vs. Miami)
- Domenik Hixon (vs. Cleveland)
- Kendall Wright (at Minnesota)
- Donnie Avery (vs. Green Bay)
- Greg Little (at New York Giants)
- Doug Baldwin (at Carolina)
- Randall Cobb (at Indianapolis)
- Brandon Stokley (at New England)
- Devery Henderson (vs. San Diego, Sunday night)
- Eddie Royal (at New Orleans, Sunday night)
Start 'em: Tight End
Tony Gonzalez (at Washington)
Coincidentally, not only was Week 4 the first week in which Tony Gonzalez was held out of the end zone, but it was also the first game that the Redskins were able to keep a tight end from scoring a touchdown against them as well.
Let’s call it an anomaly as I believe Gonzo gets back into the promised land again this weekend.
Washington can’t cover anyone worth a lick out there and won’t be able to contain the league leader in receptions for tight ends.
Kyle Rudolph (vs. Tennessee)
The Tennessee Titans top the league in points allowed per game this year at 37.75, with 34 being the fewest they’ve given up in any of their four games.
Tight ends have specifically caused the most damage against them, catching a whopping 34 passes for 360 yards and six touchdowns so far, so Rudolph should at least be targeted quite a bit in this one.
Besides, the Minnesota coaching staff should be looking to use Kyle’s skills more in the passing game from here on out, so a breakout game could be in the offing this week.
Dennis Pitta (at Kansas City)
So Pitta had his first real stinker of a game last week against the Browns, but you can’t really expect a non-elite tight end to do well for your fantasy team every week.
Besides, Cleveland has been good against tight ends for awhile now, so I’m really not that surprised by the goose egg.
The Chiefs are a more fantasy-generous team for tight ends, so Pitta should be able to pick his game up in Week 5.
He’s still a relatively significant cog to the Ravens' no-huddle offense, so I expect the targets and catches to be back to where they were the first few weeks.
Greg Olsen (vs. Seattle)
It seems Cam Newton has found himself a new favorite target this season, as Greg Olsen has been thrown at six more times than Steve Smith through the team’s first four games.
Olsen has done well with the attention, too, putting up three games with six or more receptions while also just grabbing his first touchdown of the year last weekend.
The Panthers' use of Olsen as more of a wide receiver in their offense is a beautiful thing for fantasy owners due to the constant matchup problems it creates for opposing defenses.
Seattle can be stingy against the pass, but Olsen might see double-digit targets with Smith and Brandon LaFell being locked down on the outside, so the opportunity to score big will be there.
Other TEs with TE1 Potential:
- Brent Celek (at Pittsburgh)
- Scott Chandler (at San Francisco)
- Owen Daniels (@ New York Jets, Monday night)
- Jared Cook (at Minnesota)
- Jacob Tamme (at New England)
- Fred Davis (vs. Atlanta)
- Dwayne Allen (vs. Green Bay)
- Marcedes Lewis (vs. Chicago)
Sit 'em: Quarterback
Cam Newton (vs. Seattle)
Michael Vick (at Pittsburgh)
Ryan Fitzpatrick (at San Francisco)
- Jake Locker (at Minnesota) – Out – Shoulder; unknown how long he’ll be out, but it might be a couple of weeks.
Sit 'em: Running Back
Chris Johnson (at Minnesota)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (vs. Miami)
Fred Jackson/C.J. Spiller (at San Francisco)
Rashard Mendenhall (vs. Philadelphia)
Shonn Greene (vs. Houston, Monday night)
- Ben Tate (at New York Jets, Monday night) – Questionable – Toe; hasn’t practiced all week but could play with the extra day of rest before Monday night.
- Peyton Hillis (vs. Baltimore) – Out – Ankle.
- Dallas – DeMarco Murray/Felix Jones
- Detroit – Mikel Leshoure/Joique Bell/Kevin Smith
- Oakland – Darren McFadden/Mike Goodson/Taiwan Jones/Marcel Reece
- Tampa Bay – Doug Martin/LeGarrette Blount
Sit 'Em: Wide Receiver
Dwayne Bowe (vs. Baltimore)
Stevie Johnson (at San Francisco)
Jeremy Maclin (at Pittsburgh)
Brian Hartline (at Cincinnati)
Brandon LaFell (vs. Seattle)
Jeremy Kerley/Chaz Schilens (vs. Houston, Monday night)
- Greg Jennings (at Indianapolis) – Out – Groin; could miss a couple of weeks.
- Hakeem Nicks (at Philadelphia, Sunday night) – Out – Knee/Foot; the swelling in the knee is down and the foot isn’t too bad anymore. Could be back in Week 6.
- Kenny Britt (at Minnesota) – Questionable – Ankle; missed practice all week, but could be back for the Titans' Thursday night game in Week 6.
- Lance Moore (vs. San Diego, Sunday night) – Out – Hamstring; missed practice all week but has a bye in Week 6 to rest it up.
- Ramses Barden (vs. Cleveland) – Out — Concussion.
- Julian Edelman (vs. Denver) – Out – Hand; the Patriots haven’t said anything but it looks like it could be broken.
- Laurent Robinson (vs. Chicago) – Out – Concussion.
- Stephen Hill (vs. Houston. Monday night) – Doubtful — Hamstring.
- Mohamed Massaquoi/Travis Benjamin (at New York Giants) – Doubtful – Hamstring/Hamstring
- Dallas – Dez Bryant/Miles Austin/Kevin Ogletree
- Detroit – Calvin Johnson/Nate Burleson/Titus Young
- Oakland – Denarius Moore/Darrius Heyward-Bey/Derek Hagan/Rod Streater
- Tampa Bay – Vincent Jackson/Mike Williams
Sit 'em: Tight End
Martellus Bennett (vs. Cleveland)
Jermichael Finley (at Indianapolis)
Coby Fleener (vs. Green Bay)
- Dustin Keller (vs. Houston, Monday night) – Questionable – Hamstring; didn’t practice all week and unlikely to play on Monday night.
- Aaron Hernandez (at Buffalo) – Questionable – Ankle; could be back as early as Week 6.
- Dallas – Jason Witten
- Detroit – Brandon Pettigrew/Tony Scheffler
- Oakland – Brandon Myers
- Tampa Bay – Dallas Clark/Luke Stocker
NFL injury report here.
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