Week 5 has arrived, and with it bye weeks for the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Seattle Seahawks. What's a fantasy football general manager to do when his starting players have to take a seat for a week?
Play the matchups.
I can use my own team as a brief example. I have QB Tom Brady as the only quarterback on my roster since I only carry one quarterback on most of my fantasy football teams. My opponent this week is starting WR Calvin Johnson and RB Jahvid Best. In an attempt to negate the value of my opponent's starters, I added Detroit QB Shaun Hill to my roster for this week.
It is a risky play to be sure. Instead of adding a quarterback that I have projected higher in my rankings such as Sam Bradford or Bruce Gradkowski, I went with Hill because I believe the rest of my team is stronger than my opponent's team.
Of course, this strategy can backfire if Best rushes for all of the Lions touchdowns. But the trend over the last two weeks has been for Hill to fire at Calvin Johnson when possible, or dump the ball to Best. If the addition of Hill negates the impact of Johnson and Best, then I have accomplished my goal.
Granted, it's not often you find a player on the waiver wire that matches up so well against your opponent, so let's take a look at some players that may be on your waiver wire, or may be on your bench that you haven't yet used, that are good plays for Week 5.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF
After jettisoning former QB Trent Edwards to the waiver wire, and eventually to Jacksonville, the Buffalo Bills have placed all remaining hope on the arm of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick isn't special, isn't great, and really isn't very good. But he has gotten the job done, and should this week as well.
Fitzpatrick faces a Jacksonville defense ranked 30th in passing defense giving up 304 yards per game, and giving up a league high 2.25 passing touchdowns per game. Fitzpatrick managed to not turn the ball over once last week against an opportunistic Jets defense, and also added 74 rushing yards as a bonus.
Sam Bradford, STL
Bradford just goes out on Sundays and does work. It's not flashy, yet. It's not mistake free, yet. But he has gotten it done every week. Bradford is averaging 236 yards and 1.5 touchdowns every week.
In Week 5, Bradford gets to do work against the NFL's 26th worst passing defense in the Detroit Lions. The Lions are surrendering 241 yards and two touchdowns every week to opposing quarterbacks, and there's no reason to believe that Bradford won't get his on Sunday.
Carson Palmer, CIN
It's been a bumpy ride for Palmer owners this year. But if you are facing bye week issues, Palmer is a pretty decent start in Week 5 against a Tampa Bay defense that while ranked 10th in passing yards allowed, gave up three touchdowns to QB Charlie Batch and 100 receiving yards to Mike Wallace in Week 3.
David Garrard (@ BUF)
Shaun Hill (v. STL)
Kevin Kolb (@ SF)
Mike Tolbert, SD
Tolbert filled in nicely for a game and a half while Ryan Mathews recovered from his high ankle sprain suffered in Week 3. Of course, when Mathews returned in Week 4, Tolbert was still ready and waiting for opportunities, which he received. Looking forward, it is hard to see how Tolbert doesn't factor in to the Chargers running game. He is simply too good around the goal line to rest on the bench.
Tolbert and the Chargers travel to Oakland in Week 5 to face the 30th ranked rushing defense of the Raiders. Oakland got torched in Week 4 by Arian Foster and company, and this week Tolbert should have opportunities to do the same against a defense giving up 162 yards and 1.25 touchdowns per game.
Thomas Jones / Jamaal Charles, KC
The Indianapolis Colts are a pretty darn good offensive football team, but a pretty bad defensive football team. And the loss of Safety Melvin Bullitt is not going to help turn things around for a defense giving up 150 yards and 1.25 touchdowns on the ground every week.
Of course, Jones and Charles are in a very committed running back by committee situation and predicting which player will do better is better left to those with magic eight balls. But both have been instrumental in turning the Chiefs in to the league's third best rushing team, and both figure to factor in on Sunday.
Chris Wells, ARI
Wells was drastically under-utilized in Week 4 and spoke openly about his frustration following the loss to the San Diego Chargers. The only way the Arizona Cardinals can hope to stay in games this year is by pounding the football and controlling the clock. Wells is the key to that plan.
Wells faces a Saints defense that is giving up 138 yards and one touchdown per game thus far. Wells remains a risky play, but only due to coaching incompetence, not lack of talent. Wells has been dropped in leagues, so pick him up if he's available, and start him if you need to plug a hole.
Ryan Torain, WAS
Torain played well enough in Week 4 rushing for 70 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Torain isn't special, or shifty, or pretty much any other adjective you would use to describe Adrian Peterson, but he's good enough to get it done.
Torain should have plenty of opportunities to get it done in Week 5 if the Redskins defense can keep the game from being an early blowout. The Packers may have to replace both starting safeties by Sunday, decreasing the effectiveness of a rushing defense that is already giving up 118 yards on the ground every week.
Michael Bush (v. SD)
Kevin Smith (v. STL)
Fred Jackson (v. JAX)
Percy Harvin, MIN
Harvin has not performed anywhere near the expectations of owners thus far and has probably been riding the pine in many leagues as well. Now is the time to dust off that once shiny toy and put him in your starting lineup. In case you didn't hear, WR Randy Moss is now a Viking which presents many new and intriguing possibilities for Harvin's production.
Harvin does face the Jets on the road on Monday night, but surprisingly, the Jets have not been a good defense against the pass giving up 246 yards and nearly two touchdowns a week to receivers. Granted, the Vikings offense hasn't been very good either, but with the attention that Moss commands, Harvin should find plenty of open spaces through which to gallop toward the end zone.
Mark Clayton, STL
If you still haven't started Clayton, you must be stacked at the wide receiver position. Clayton has been a beast (considering you picked him up off the waiver wire) averaging 4.4 receptions, 75 yards, and .5 touchdowns per contest though four weeks.
In Week 5, Clayton takes his aerial show on the road to Detroit where the Lions are giving up 259 yards and two touchdowns every week to receivers. At this point, if you're not starting Clayton, you should consider trading him to shore up a weak spot on your roster.
Lance Moore, NO
Moore just gets it done. RB Reggie Bush has been out for two weeks, and Lance Moore has produced both weeks, and there's no reason to believe that the production ceases against a poor Arizona Cardinals secondary.
Moore didn't post a gaudy stat line in Week 4, but did score and just missed a second touchdown after fumbling at the one yard line.
Derrick Mason, BAL
While Mason had not done much to prove his fantasy value prior to Week 4, he finally came through with a six catch, 80 yard game against Pittsburgh which bodes well going in to Week 5 facing the Denver Broncos.
WR Anquan Boldin will draw coverage from top CB Champ Bailey, while Mason should prove to be the top receiving option for QB Joe Flacco. Mason's targets have been increasing every week since Week 2, and that shouldn't stop in Week 5.
Roy Williams (v. TEN)
Mario Manningham (@ HOU)
Lee Evans (v. JAX)
Brent Celek, PHI
Celek was one of the tight ends you took in your draft late because you didn't want to spend a mid round pick on a tight end. But ever since QB Mike Vick started piloting the Eagles offense, Celek has been next to worthless. It's time to celebrate the return of QB Kevin Kolb.
Kolb did not look good throwing down the field last Sunday after Vick left the game with an injury. Kolb was constantly checking down to his short and intermediate options. Care to guess where Celek excels? That's right, in the short to intermediate passing game. Celek should quickly become Kolb's security blanket and benefit while Kolb has the starting gig.
Marcedes Lewis, JAX
Lewis, frankly, is not a good option only because he'll be inconsistent week to week based on the effectiveness of QB David Garrard and the rest of the Jaguars offense. Some weeks Lewis will get eight looks, other weeks he'll get one.
But the Buffalo Bills defense has given up the second-most fantasy points to tight ends through four weeks (11.3 fpg) so Lewis looks like a good play this week in deeper leagues but keep your fingers crossed that the Jacksonville offense keeps its collective head above water.
Jeremy Shockey, NO
Shockey is owned in fewer than 50 percent of leagues and facing off in Week 5 against a Arizona Cardinals defenses that is surrendering 10.3 fantasy points per game to tight ends. Shockey has big upside in the Saints offense, but QB Drew Brees spreads the ball around like no other quarterback, so of course there is some downside to Shockey as well.
Kevin Boss (@ HOU)
That wraps up our look at reaches and sleepers in Week 5. May your domination continue, or your comeback begin.
For more fantasy football chatter and banter, you can follow Nathan on Twitter at @NathanWaddell