The 2013 NFL season is already into Week 6, and certain fantasy football dilemmas should define the latest in the perpetual deliberation fantasy owners endure on a constant basis.
Three scenarios stand out in particular with regard to players who seem to be on the cusp of stardom, but are either facing difficult matchups or are not yet proven enough to trust.
In this edition of start 'em, sit 'em, we will focus on situations in which the players are worth the risk thanks to their upside and need for their real teams to rely on them in the game plan.
These aren't necessarily options to count on in the long-term, but for this week, they're risky but rewarding starters.
Can Terrelle Pryor Perform vs. Tough Chiefs Defense?
The former top-flight high school recruit out of Jeannette, Pa., did not quite fulfill his potential at Ohio State and was quiet for much of his first two years in the NFL.
Pryor apparently never knew how to throw a football until working with quarterback guru Tom House on his throwing motion this offseason.
The strides have been evident this season, and Pryor had his best game yet as a passer in completing 18-of-23 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns in a critical AFC West win over the San Diego Chargers.
Universal praise showered Pryor—and rightfully so:
Great to see @TerrellePryor chip away at all the skeptics! Keep doing your thing.— Jay Crawford (@jaycrawfordespn) October 7, 2013
Bill Polian on ESPN's NFL Insiders on Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor: "He's improved more than any player I've seen."— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 7, 2013
The game is not too big for Terrelle Pryor.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) October 7, 2013
RT @nfldraftscout: The game is not too big for Terrelle Pryor ... Can take the punishment too. And can throw well on the run.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) October 7, 2013
Week 6 presents a difficult challenge, though, because the Raiders travel to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the undefeated Chiefs and are 10-point underdogs, according to Topbet.
Kansas City leads the league with 21 sacks, but are 21st against the run. The unit has proved capable of containing a dynamic QB such as the Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick, but that was partly due to the uptempo offense the Eagles deploy flaming out too fast.
Pryor is more imposing than Vick at 6'4" and 233 pounds, and he's showing more innate accuracy as a passer now that his throwing motion is squared away.
Not only is Pryor going to continue proving past critics wrong—he will key the upset special of the weekend.
Projections: 18-of-30 for 285 yards passing, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 12 carries, 90 yards, 2 TDs
Will Trent Richardson Live Up To the Hype?
You know, that whole "tanking the season" thing the Cleveland Browns were alleged to have pulled in trading Richardson away doesn't seem to hold much merit these days.
Both the Indianapolis Colts and Browns are 3-0 since the Richardson trade, but Indy hasn't gotten much of a return on its investment of a 2014 first-round pick.
B/R's Mike Freeman criticized the Browns, who have struggled to run the ball sans Richardson, but would the team be able to even with him?
Good thing the Browns can rely on Trent Richardson when the passing game fails. Oh wait...— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) October 4, 2013
Before the Colts' 34-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday, ESPN Stats & Info brought up a necessary point with regard to Richardson since his arrival:
Trent Richardson: 2.9 yards per rush since joining Colts; rest of Colts have averaged 6.8 yards per rush in that time— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 4, 2013
Who is the most reliable long-term fantasy option?
That's not reflective of a No. 3 overall pick who has his year's top overall choice in QB Andrew Luck to complement him. In Week 5, Richardson was a non-factor, carrying 18 times for 56 yards.
Richardson is picking up a new offense, though, and should be in for a prime-time breakthrough on Monday night against the Chargers, whose defense ranks 27th in yards allowed per game.
The Colts' attack should be balanced, with a healthy dose of Richardson to keep the ball away from Philip Rivers and the Chargers' explosive passing offense.
Pump the brakes on labeling Richardson as a legitimate No. 1 back moving forward, but he will put up those types of numbers in Week 6.
Projections: 25 carries, 130 yards, 2 TDs; 4 receptions, 30 yards
Is Alshon Jeffery For Real?
Jeffery had 218 yards on 10 receptions and a touchdown in the Chicago Bears' 26-18 loss in Week 5 against the New Orleans Saints, proving he's well on his way to being a premier receiver in his second season.
On Monday, Pro Football Focus pointed out just how efficient Jeffery was against a stout Saints defense:
Alshon Jeffery averaged a massive 6.06 yards per route he ran yesterday. That's the highest single game figure of the season. #Bears— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 7, 2013
It's no wonder that Marshall feels his teammate could be the best receiver of all time, per CSNChicago.com's Scott Krinch:
I've always said this guy could be the best to ever do it...He's probably going to shatter all the Bears' records by the time he's done at the receiver position. That's one of the only positives from our offense today.
New Orleans still has the 12th-ranked pass defense in the NFL after getting shredded mostly by the combination of Cutler and Jeffery, and the Bears face an even more favorable matchup this week.
The New York Giants come to Soldier Field on Thursday night, reeling on a 0-5 start to the season and with a defense that's generated just five sacks all season.
Giving Cutler that type of time in the pocket is dangerous, and it should produce a second consecutive monster performance from Jeffery.
Projections: 8 receptions, 140 yards, TD