Although it may seem like there is plenty of time left in the 2013 NFL campaign, Week 5 represents the surpassing of the first third of the season in most fantasy leagues. That means time is already running short when it comes to turning things around after a poor start, so Week 5 could be pivotal for many fantasy owners.
The fact that four teams are on the bye certainly complicates things, especially since they all have useful fantasy players that would normally be in the lineup. Playing without a guy like Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson or Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III certainly isn't ideal, but there are some decent contingency plans to turn to.
Here is a closer look at the best and worst fantasy lineup options to consider as Week 5 promises to loom large moving forward.
Start: Eli Manning (NYG)
The New York Giants have been awful this season, and quarterback Eli Manning has been pathetic in his own right outside of Week 1. Manning has two touchdowns and seven interceptions over the past three weeks, and he has burned owners who decided to wait on taking a signal-caller.
There is reason for optimism this week, though, as Manning has an ideal matchup on tap.
New York will host the Philadelphia Eagles in what feels like a must-win matchup, so the G-Men have to be motivated. Also, the Eagles happen to have one of the worst defenses in football, as they are allowing 325 passing yards and 34.5 points per game.
Philly was destroyed by the Denver Broncos in Week 4, and while Eli is no Peyton, he should have little trouble moving the ball this week.
Week 5 Fantasy Projection: 337 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception
Sit: Andrew Luck (IND)
For as good as the Indianapolis Colts have looked this season, it hasn't really translated into fantasy success for quarterback Andrew Luck.
While Luck has thrown just two interceptions this season, his passing attempts are way down now that Indy is employing a power running game with Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. That has led to just five passing touchdowns on the season and two games with less than 200 passing yards.
Luck is certainly capable of carving up average defenses, but he'll face arguably the league's best in the form of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Seattle is allowing just over 191 passing yards per game and has picked off opposing passers seven times, so Luck will have to be wary. The Seahawks can be run on, as evidenced by the fact that they have given up 109 rushing per contest, though, so look for the Colts to turn to Richardson early and often.
Week 5 Fantasy Projection: 203 passing yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, 25 rushing yards
Start: Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC)
There are plenty of reasons why the Jacksonville Jaguars are the worst team in the league, and the play of running back Maurice Jones-Drew may be chief among them.
Although the Jags have really struggled in recent years, they have always been able to lean on MJD. That hasn't been in the case in 2013, though, as he hasn't broken 45 rushing yards in a game, has scored one time and is averaging a pedestrian 2.4 yards per carry.
It's understandable if his owners are fed up, but this week represents a golden opportunity to snap out of it. The Jaguars will take on the St. Louis Rams, who have been gashed on the ground by the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys in recent weeks.
The true key for Jacksonville is not falling behind early so they can establish the run, and since the Jaguars figure to at least keep it competitive for a little while, Jones-Drew should have his best game of the season.
Week 5 Fantasy Projection: 94 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, two receptions for 22 yards
Sit: Jacquizz Rodgers (ATL)
While Jacquizz Rodgers has filled in admirably at running back for the Atlanta Falcons over the past couple weeks, his potential is certainly capped in Week 5. Rodgers has seen an increase in touches due to the hamstring injury Steven Jackson is currently dealing with, and according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, a source expects Jackson to be out yet again this week. Even so, Rodgers isn't an ideal option.
From a pass-catching perspective Rodgers is very effective, but it's hard to trust him outside of point-per-reception leagues. Rodgers was only given seven carries against the New England Patriots last week, and he'll have to deal with the stout run defense of the New York Jets in Week 5. Gang Green is allowing just over 79 yards per game on the ground, so there won't be much room for Rodgers to operate.
Week 5 Fantasy Projection: 27 rushing yards, four receptions for 36 yards
Start: Josh Gordon (CLE)
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon made an instant impact upon returning from a suspension in Week 3 as he reeled in 10 passes for 146 yards and a score against the Minnesota Vikings. He was a bit quieter in Week 4 with four catches for 71 yards, but he continued to flash his big-play ability.
Gordon seems to have an excellent rapport with quarterback Brian Hoyer, and there is no reason why that shouldn't continue on Thursday night.
Although the Buffalo Bills' banged-up secondary made some big plays against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4, wide receiver Torrey Smith still had a huge game. Gordon could do something similar this week.
According to BuffaloBills.com, defensive backs Stephon Gilmore, Ron Brooks, Leodis McKelvin and Aaron Williams were all either limited or didn't participate in practice on Tuesday, so the Bills could be ripe for the picking.
Week 5 Fantasy Projection: Seven receptions for 114 yards and one touchdown
Sit: Stevie Johnson (BUF)
Sticking with the Thursday-night theme, Bills receiver Stevie Johnson's prospects aren't quite as good as Gordon's.
For starters, Johnson is coming off an awful performance, as he caught one pass for a loss of a yard against Baltimore. He had been rookie quarterback EJ Manuel's favorite target by far prior to Week 4, but with Manuel starting to link up with fellow rookie Robert Woods, Johnson's targets may remain down for the foreseeable future.
Even more importantly, though, Johnson will have to contend with Browns shutdown corner Joe Haden. Cincinnati Bengals stud receiver A.J. Green couldn't get anything going against Haden last week as he is one of the best cover guys in the business. With Haden conceivably shadowing him all game long, Johnson won't be in line for a productive night.
Week 5 Fantasy Projection: Three receptions for 28 yards
Start: Brandon Pettigrew (DET)
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew finally became a relevant fantasy commodity once again last week. With just five catches for 38 yards through Detroit's first three games, most fantasy owners had probably given up on him. Quarterback Matthew Stafford looked in his direction often in Week 4, however, as he reeled in seven receptions for 54 yards.
While Lions receiver Nate Burleson hasn't been ruled out for the season, he is out for the time being with a broken arm, according to Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. That means Stafford doesn't have many options outside of Calvin Johnson. Pettigrew has reemerged, though, and there is reason to believe that he'll put up solid numbers in a potential shootout against a Green Bay Packers team that is allowing 311 passing yards per game.
Week 5 Fantasy Projection: Eight receptions for 75 yards and one touchdown
Sit: Garrett Graham (HOU)
One of the most surprising revelations at the tight end position this season has been the play of Garrett Graham.
While Owen Daniels is the Houston Texans' No. 1 option at tight end, Graham has still been a serviceable fantasy play due to the fact that he has caught a touchdown in three of Houston's four games this season. Quarterback Matt Schaub loves to look for his tight ends in the red zone, and Graham has been a major beneficiary of that.
Although he did have 69 receiving yards against a tough Seattle Seahawks defense last week, Graham had just 57 total receiving yards in Houston's first three games, so almost all of his value derives from hitting pay dirt. With the Texans facing a San Francisco 49ers defense that is allowing less than 191 passing yards per game this weekend, Graham is best off being left on the bench.
Week 5 Fantasy Projection: Two receptions for 19 yards
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