Over the past two weeks, Giants receiver Victor Cruz has been a popular pickup in fantasy football leagues.
With Mario Manningham out in Week 3, Cruz took advantage of the opportunity to start by scoring two touchdowns on his three receptions for 110 yards. Granted, the 74-yard score had as much to do with the poor tackling by Eagles defenders as it had to do with his ability to run after the catch.
As a fantasy owner, however, you'll take 110 yards and two touchdowns any way you can get them.
In Week 4, Manningham returned from a concussion, but he struggled with a 10-yard performance on one reception. Meanwhile, Cruz had another solid game: six receptions for 98 yards.
It appeared to the outside world that quarterback Eli Manning and Manningham were not on the same page as it was Cruz that was on the field in most of the second half two-receiver sets instead of Manningham. However, the team's offensive coordinator praised Manningham.
Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said of Manningham (via ESPN New York), "Yeah, [Manningham's still the starter]. He had a good game. That was really his best game. He had nothing to show for it production-wise, but he ran a lot of good routes, got himself open. Just because of the coverage or what have you, the ball went the other way. But really that was his best game."
If the Giants—who are nearly double-digit favorites against the Seahawks—establish an early lead, they may run the ball much more than they throw it. But if I had to start Manningham or Cruz, I'd still go with Manningham this week.
Depending on what happens today, that may change. For now, I'd stick with Manningham, who is inside my top 25 fantasy wide receivers this week.
That said, Cruz still has fantasy value, and the team had three productive receivers in Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith and Manningham when Smith was on the team and healthy. I can see a similar situation with Cruz, Nicks and Manningham.
Here are some of the players worth starting in fantasy leagues in Week 5:
QB - Matt Ryan, Falcons (vs. GB): In three of his four games this season, Ryan has thrown for 291 yards or more. Ryan, who has played much better at home (21-2 career record) than on the road, gets a Packers defense that has allowed the second-most passing yards this season. Ryan has thrown 42 pass attempts in three of four games, and tonight's game is likely to be a shootout as we know the Packers can score points in bunches.
RB - Darren Sproles, Saints (at CAR): Sproles is averaging less than four carries per game (15 carries in four weeks), but he has developed into a must-start in both point-per-reception (PPR) and standard scoring formats. Sproles, who is on pace for 100 receptions this season, has 358 yards from scrimmage and has scored three touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving and one return).
RB - Shonn Greene, Jets (at NE): Once bitten, twice shy? Greene has appeared on this side of the list before, only to disappoint. Greene has yet to rush for 60 yards in any game and is averaging only 3.1 yards per carry this season. While the Patriots are much worse against the pass than the run, they have allowed 4.8 yards per carry and the Jets say they will be more committed to the run this week. Greene is just inside my top 20 running backs for Week 5.
WR - Julio Jones, Falcons (vs. GB): As teams focus on stopping Roddy White, it is impossible for opponents to double both White and Jones, and Jones is taking advantage. Not only is he leading the Falcons in receiving yards, but Jones is on pace for 96 receptions and 1,368 yards. He has back-to-back 100-yard games, and has at least five receptions and 70 yards in all games except against the Eagles.
WR - Eric Decker, Broncos (vs. SD): Although the Chargers rank fifth in the NFL against the pass, Decker has 20 receptions for 270 yards and four touchdowns in four games. He has had 48 yards or more in every game, and has two multi-touchdown games. Only nine receivers (ten players) have more targets than Decker (37).
WR - Jordy Nelson, Packers (at ATL): The one obvious drawback is the number of talented pass-catchers in the Packers offense that can take targets away from Nelson, the team's No. 2 receiver (or third-best option if you include tight end Jermichael Finley). That said, Nelson has more than 75 receiving yards and a touchdown in three of four games. On a fast track against the 24th-ranked pass defense, Nelson should have another strong performance.
TE - Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (at JAX): Gresham has quietly put up three solid performances (50-plus yards) in four games. This week, Gresham has a favorable matchup against the Jaguars, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, and have allowed two tight ends to finish with 100-plus receiving yards.
Here are some of the players worth sitting in fantasy leagues in Week 5:
QB - Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (vs. TEN): While Big Ben is expected to play, he is dealing with a sprained foot, which will limit his mobility. In addition, his offensive line is one of the worst in the league. To make matters worse, the Titans rank first in the NFL in scoring defense (14.0 points per game allowed). The stars are not exactly aligned for Roethlisberger to have a big performance this week.
RB - DeAngelo Williams, Panthers (vs. NO): Williams had the best game of his season last week when he rushed for 82 yards on 10 carries. As badly as Williams has struggled in the first three games of the season, I'm not sure I'm ready to buy into him yet. Against the Saints—who are one of the best teams in the NFL—it wouldn't be surprising if the Panthers fall behind early and rely on their passing game more. If that's the case, Jonathan Stewart—who already has 17 receptions—would be on the field more on passing downs than Williams.
RB - Isaac Redman/Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (vs. TEN): As mentioned above, the Titans have the league's top-ranked scoring defense so the matchup is not ideal for any part of the Steelers' offense. That said, Mendenhall, who was listed as "questionable" on the injury report, is a game-time decision (updated: ruled out per ESPN). If he does play, it takes carries away from Redman, who would otherwise be in line for a big workload if Mendenhall can't go. While Mendenhall has traditionally been the team's workhorse, one would expect that the workload is split more evenly if he plays due to the health of his hamstring.
WR - Robert Meachem, Saints (at CAR): Meachem, who scored a touchdown in the first three games, is off to a solid start: 18 receptions for 190 yards and three touchdowns. With Marques Colston and Lance Moore healthy again, and Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles getting a lot of targets as well, Meachem's targets will likely diminish. Or at least the consistency of the targets will diminish as Drew Brees throws to the open guy regardless of who that is.
WR - Mike Thomas, Jaguars (vs CIN): Thomas is an underrated receiver in the league, and it's good to see that he got a three-year extension with the Jaguars. That said, he has a tough matchup against Bengals cornerback Leon Hall in Week 5. The Bengals actually have the league's top-ranked defense (275.5 yards per game allowed).
WR - Nate Burleson, Lions (vs CHI): Over the past three games, rookie Titus Young has been more productive than Burleson. During that span, Young (20) has more targets than Burleson (15). Burleson has only four receptions for 28 yards in the last two games combined. This week, I have Young ranked ahead of Burleson in my receiver rankings.
TE - Dallas Clark, Colts (vs KC): Perhaps the guy that misses Peyton Manning more than anyone else is Clark. Through four games, Clark has yet to have five receptions or 50 yards in a game. Even when he scored a touchdown in Week 2, he failed to reach double-digit fantasy points.
Last night, we updated our Week 5 fantasy football rankings at TheTipDrill.com, our fantasy section. In addition, our free fantasy football contest for Week 5 is open to all, but registration will close at 12:59 p.m. ET today.
Good luck in your Week 5 matchup(s)!