Week 5 Start 'Em Sit 'Em: Smart Matchup Plays, Sleepers and More
Week 4 is in the books, and we're getting a good sense of who we can depend on and who we can't.
There's still some confusion naturally, as teams are finally finding their footing and a few losing theirs—I'm looking at you, Tampa Bay.
That said, by now you know pretty much who is worth having in your lineup, although there are always questions—especially as we now have bye weeks to contend with.
Here's a review of what we called last week.
After you look at that, we've got a whole other set of players for you to look at.
Jay Cutler: 317 yards, 2 Tds, 3 INTs (could have been a push depending on INT penalties)
C.J. Spiller: 77 yards rushing
Demaryius Thomas: 9 catches for 86 yards, 2 Tds
Sam Bradford: 202 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Matt Schaub: 355 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs (could have been a push depending on INT penalties)
Le'Veon Bell: 57 yards, 2 TDs (those two touchdowns were the difference)
Antonio Brown: 12 catches for 88 yards (looks better in a point-per-reception league for sure)
Start: Jordan Cameron vs. Buffalo Bills
I've been called out for passing on Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron the first three weeks of the season—rightfully so, which is why he tops the list this week.
Cameron has scored in three of his four games (and did so three times in Week 3), has three games with over 90 yards and is averaging just under 11 targets a game.
And it doesn't seem to matter who is throwing the ball. He was pretty productive with Brandon Weeden and never lost a step as the team transitioned to Brian Hoyer.
The Buffalo Bills, his Week 5 opponent, haven't been easy on tight ends, but they also haven't exactly faced elite tight ends.
Jordan will be a productive player both for the Browns and his fantasy teams.
Sit: Brandon Myers vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Honestly, this is a game that should get the New York Giants healthy or at least on the path to it.
That won't make a difference for tight end Brandon Myers.
As Eli Manning has struggled, so has the entire offense and Myers is no exception. The problem is he lacks the relationship and chemistry that Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz have. When Manning gets his groove back—which will happen—he's not looking for Myers.
Even against the Eagles, who have a pretty bad defense, he's not a safe start. Keep him on your bench.
Start: Matt Stafford vs. Green Bay Packers
Matt Stafford has continued to put up great numbers this season, utilizing not just Calvin Johnson but new weapons like Reggie Bush.
While the Packers might walk away with the game, the secondary and defense are going to have their hands full with the weapons Stafford has. So expect a very good game from Stafford.
The biggest concern you have with Stafford is the interceptions, which have come at about a clip of once a game.
That said, it's rare that an interception will really hurt you, and it's unlikely he's going to throw multiple picks, so that concern is far outbalanced by the upside.
Sit: Sam Bradford vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
This is a very tempting matchup and frankly one I circled as a perfect time to play Bradford way back in the early summer.
Yeah, that's not something to feel good about right now.
After a strong first two games, Bradford has been average at best.
Normally you might write off those two games by pointing out how well the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys play, but neither of those defenses are exactly performing up to specs.
And Jacksonville isn't a tragedy on defense against the pass this year. Ranked 11th against the pass by NFL.com, they have allowed nine touchdowns (tied for fourth in the NFL) but have generated eight sacks so far this season.
Meanwhile, the Rams offensive line has allowed 11 sacks—right in the middle of the pack.
More than anything else, Bradford just hasn't looked all that good the last few weeks. He is making poor decisions and not taking advantage of plays he should be able to succeed with.
That just spells trouble for fantasy GMs even against a good matchup like the Jaguars.
Start: Darren Sproles vs. Chicago Bears
True, Darren Sproles isn't going to get you a ton of between-the-tackles yards, but he will still get you tons of yards anyway.
His 114 receiving yards against the Miami Dolphins was his highest total of the season, which might give you pause. After all, he hasn't been lighting up fantasy scoreboards so far.
That said, last week saw the Chicago Bears get absolutely torched by Reggie Bush—a very similar back to Sproles. While Sproles isn't quite as good between the tackles as Bush has become, his ability to get to the edge can hurt the Bears just like Bush did.
Add to it that the Chicago linebackers struggled in coverage last week against the Lions, and you can imagine Sproles and Drew Brees seeing a lot of opportunity when they check the film out this week.
While normally not a "must have" in your lineup this year, Sproles is definitely in that category this coming week.
Sit: Maurice Jones-Drew vs. St. Louis Rams
It's a heck of a statement on the mercurial nature of fantasy football that you can legitimately say Bilal Powell might be a better start this week than Maurice Jones-Drew.
It's close, but when you look at the way both backs are running, you just end up trusting Bilal Powell more.
Jones-Drew has actually performed better against the more solid defenses the team has seen than against the "powder puff" matchups.
His single touchdown was against the stout Seattle defense, and the only other time he topped 40 yards was against Kansas City.
And if that seems like damning with faint praise, you now know how bad it's been.
The Rams have been an up-and-down defensive matchup for running backs, but that doesn't make this a good matchup for MJD—and that's more on him and the Jaguars than anything else.
Jones-Drew can't get traction and is dealing with some significantly stacked fronts. The Rams are desperate for a win right now coming off of three straight losses and know the only way the Jaguars can hang with them is with a good game by Jones-Drew.
Expect them to key in on him and for him to continue his lack of production.
Start: Reggie Bush vs. Green Bay Packers
I say start Reggie Bush to point out that he is not only a sure start each week—he is a No. 1 fantasy running back. If you took Bush at his average draft position of about the No. 27 player off the board, you got him in the third round.
All of which is to say that, despite a matchup which isn't great, Bush is a must-play every week and a No. 1 running back from here to the end of the season.
He can run between the tackles, he can catch the ball—he can do it all.
Sit: Hakeem Nicks vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Hakeem Nicks and Eli Manning are just not on the same page.
Yes, he got nine targets last week, but all that did was highlight the disconnect.
While Nicks seemed to have better luck on the shorter passes, he and Manning were off the mark frequently against Kansas City.
Even when Manning hits him in the hands—as he did early in the game—the ball is hitting the ground far too often.
Meanwhile, Victor Cruz is catching almost everything thrown his way for big gains.
So while the Eagles defense is bad, there's a good chance that even if Manning is throwing a lot, Cruz is his guy, and Nicks will continue to be left by the wayside.
Start: Robert Woods vs. Cleveland Browns
Here's a sneaky play for the weekend.
With Stevie Johnson likely to draw coverage from cornerback Joe Haden, rookie Robert Woods will probably see a lot of attention from EJ Manuel.
Woods has begun to prove to Manuel that he is a trusted pair of hands who can make good adjustments on badly thrown balls and come down with contested catches as well.
On top of that, according to ESPN.com, last weekend Woods played more offensive snaps than Johnson for the second straight week in a row.
So while Manuel will definitely get the ball to Johnson, the real action will be across the field and on the short underneath routes.
Woods should be a solid No. 3 receiver or a flex play for formats which have just two starting receiver spots. As Johnson has been banged up and struggling, Woods is starting to flourish.
Sit: Steve Smith vs. Arizona Cardinals
It's been a rough year so far for veteran Steve Smith.
After two straight 1,000-yard seasons with Cam Newton as quarterback, Smith is suffering through a horrible stretch where he has scored one touchdown and has yet to total more than 60 yards receiving.
The Carolina offense just isn't playing well for the most part, and Smith is certainly taking a beating along with it.
This week he'll see a lot of Patrick Peterson, and the Arizona corner will make his life just as miserable as it was the prior three weeks.
The last two seasons had Smith as a solid No. 2 receiver with some upside.
Now he's barely a No. 4—you could actually make a case that he's barely worthy of a roster spot.
You hang onto him because you believe the Panthers can turn things around. But you can't have him in your lineup while you wait and certainly not this week.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.