Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 5: Smart Matchup Plays, Sleepers and More

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2014

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) looks foe an opening to pass during the first half of an NFL Thursday night football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)
Mark Tenally/Associated Press

There is little doubt that fantasy football has frustrated almost everyone who plays by Week 5, which means plenty of players are looking for answers. 

For proof of how frustrating fantasy football can be, look no further than this stat offered Sunday (before Jamaal Charles played Monday night) from NFL on ESPN:


Touchdowns so far this season: J.J. Watt - 2 Calvin Johnson - 2 Arian Foster - 1 Jamaal Charles - 0 Matt Forte - 0 http://t.co/AJIsojqKA5

That’s right: J.J. Watt has found the end zone more often than a number of projected fantasy superstars. Perhaps the best thing for you to do now is play the matchups each week and look for some sleepers, since superstar status hasn't worked out particularly well for some players. 

With that in mind, here is an early breakdown of some borderline players heading into Week 5.

Matchup Plays

QB Eli Manning, New York Giants

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

It would have sounded like fantasy blasphemy a couple of weeks ago to suggest starting Eli Manning, but times change quickly in the NFL.

He threw for 300 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception and ran for another touchdown against the Washington Redskins in Week 4. That interception should have been another touchdown, but it was knocked out of the wide receiver’s hands in the end zone and bounced into the defender’s arms.

Manning threw for 234 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions in Week 3 against the Houston Texans as well, and he appears to have solved the turnover problem for the time being.

The Atlanta Falcons are the perfect opponent for a suddenly resurgent Manning in Week 5. They rank 30th in the league against the pass and made Teddy Bridgewater look like an absolute star in Week 4. Atlanta also has a dominant offense that will likely put up big numbers against a Giants defense that ranks 22nd in the NFL against the pass.

A shootout is the perfect fantasy football formula for quarterbacks, which means you should look to start Manning in Week 5.

RB Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams

Scott Kane/Associated Press

Fantasy owners are undoubtedly frustrated at this point with Zac Stacy.

He was seen as a potential fantasy star (really, isn’t every starting running back at some point?), but Stacy has only 181 rushing yards and a single touchdown in three games. The best formula for a struggling running back is a porous run defense, and that is exactly what Stacy and the St. Louis Rams will go up against in Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles rank 26th in the league against the run and allowed Frank Gore to snap out of his slump with 119 rushing yards Sunday. 

The Rams will likely look to keep a strong Eagles offense (that just happened to struggle against San Francisco) off the field by establishing the run. Look for Stacy to reward fantasy owners in a favorable matchup the same way Gore did in Week 4.


RB Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings

Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

You may think Jerick McKinnon when looking for a Minnesota Vikings running back in Week 5, as he tallied a game-high 135 rushing yards against the Atlanta Falcons.

However, Matt Asiata, who runs like an absolute battering ram, is the sleeper to watch against the Green Bay Packers.

Asiata racked up 78 rushing yards and three touchdowns in Week 4 and got involved in the passing game a bit with three catches. Green Bay ranks 32nd in the league against the run, and Vikings quarterback Bridgewater is coming off an ankle injury on a short week. Minnesota could look to keep him healthy with more running plays.

The Chicago Bears struggled mightily with the running game in the first three games, and then Matt Forte racked up 122 rushing yards against the Packers. Even Ka’Deem Carey had 72 yards, and he had only two carries before Week 4.

All three of Asiata’s touchdowns Sunday came inside the 10-yard line, which is fantasy football gold. Asiata is getting the touches near the goal line and will capitalize against a vulnerable Green Bay front Thursday.

WR Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers

Don Wright/Associated Press

Markus Wheaton finished with four receptions for 57 yards in Week 4 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he's here for a specific reason. 

Yes, Antonio Brown is a fantasy stud, especially in Week 5 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Wheaton is a sleeper who gets to go against that same terrible pass defense. The Jaguars are 32nd in the NFL against the pass and are more than capable of allowing two wide receivers to put up big numbers in one game.

In Week 4, Keenan Allen had 135 receiving yards and Eddie Royal tallied 105 receiving yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars. When the Eagles played Jacksonville, Jeremy Maclin finished with 97 receiving yards and a touchdown, while Zach Ertz had 77 receiving yards and a touchdown of his own. 

Ben Roethlisberger has already thrown for more than 300 yards twice in four games this year and will look to spread the ball around to multiple receivers in this game. Wheaton will certainly benefit.

Sit ’Em

QB Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings 

Jim Mone/Associated Press

This is not about production for Bridgewater, who looked like he could save what appeared to be a disaster of a season for the Minnesota Vikings when he finished with 317 passing yards and a rushing touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons.

This is all about his ankle injury, although Will Carroll of Bleacher Report had a positive update along that front:  

Will Carroll @injuryexpert

Bridgewater's injury is a Grade I ankle sprain. Painful, but manageable in short week.

Still, Minnesota plays on Thursday in Week 5, which gives Bridgewater much less time to fully prepare and get healthy. What’s more, the Packers rank fifth in the league against the pass, and the secondary has some momentum on its side after making mincemeat of Jay Cutler with two critical interceptions in the second half. 

Bridgewater looked like someone who could develop into a safe fantasy option on a weekly basis, but we are just not ready to put that much trust in someone who is coming off an injury on a short week against a solid secondary.

QB Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

Ben Margot/Associated Press

The Eagles offense was a complete mess against the 49ers in Week 4, and it was only a close game because of three special teams and defensive touchdowns from Philadelphia.

Nick Foles finished 21-of-43 with 195 passing yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.

He said the following about the effort, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com: “We just didn’t execute, it’s as simple as that. I’m not going to break it down or anything.”

It was certainly a frustrating performance for fantasy owners, as Foles was red-hot to start the year. In fact, he missed an opportunity to join Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Drew Brees and Steve Young as the only quarterbacks to open a season with four consecutive 300-yard passing days.

Confidence may be an issue, but even if it’s not, the St. Louis Rams secondary could be for Foles.

Ben Margot/Associated Press

The Rams may be struggling in the win-loss department, but they rank third in the NFL against the pass. The secondary has been formidable even though the pass-rush hasn’t produced like many expected. This may be the game for Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald and Co. to put some pressure on Foles, who could try to force the issue after struggling against the 49ers. 

This is all about the matchup here. The Eagles will likely look to finally get LeSean McCoy going against a run defense that ranks 30th in the league, which will lead to fewer opportunities and fantasy points for Foles.

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