Week 5 Start 'Em Sit 'Em: Running Back Edition

Alex Joseph@alex_brosephAnalyst IOctober 7, 2011

Week 5 Start 'Em Sit 'Em: Running Back Edition

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    We're heading into Week 5, folks. Do you know what that means? If you guessed, "It's officially time for the Eagles to stop playing around with people," then you might be right.

    But what it really means is that this is the first week that directly affects fantasy football: the first week with byes.

    This is the week that you really have to buckle down and get smart with your roster decisions. Some of your best players aren't going to be at your disposal, so you have to make tough choices with who to play and who to acquire.

    I will go over three free agents that you should still be able to pick up today or tomorrow in order to help your roster, as well as go over guys you should already have on your roster and whether or not you should start 'em or sit 'em.

    With Ray Rice, Peyton Hillis, Felix Jones, Stephen Jackson and Tim Hightower on their bye week, who are going to be the running backs to step up and score big in the fantasy world?

    Read on and find out!

Start 'Em: Free Agents Still Available

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    Dexter McCluster (Kansas City Chiefs):

    With star RB Jamaal Charles out for the season, McCluster has been projected each week to do big things. Each week, McCluster has done very, very little.

    This week, the Chiefs travel to Indianapolis to play the winless Colts. This is starting to feel like a bit of a joke, but THIS could be the week that McCluster breaks out. The Colts just gave up a ton of yards to LeGarrette Blount; their defense is banged up and they're playing a short week.

    McCluster will hopefully see more touches this week, both in the backfield and in the passing game.

    Stevan Ridley (New England Patriots):

    Ridley broke out last week against Oakland, as he rushed the ball 10 times for 97 yards and one touchdown. He outperformed "The Law Firm," even though BenJarvus Green-Ellis had his best week of the season thus far: 16 carries for 75 yards and one touchdown.

    Ridley is just a more dynamic running back than Green-Ellis, and it's only a matter of time before he starts seeing more and more touches.

    He's going up against a stingy Jets defense this week, but the Patriots relentless offense has to find it somewhere, right? If the Jets do a good job of bottling up Welker, Ridley could become a nice option out of the backfield.

    Isaac Redman (Pittsburgh Steelers):

    With starting RB Rashard Mendenhall possibly out for this weekend's matchup against the Tennessee Titans, Redman looks like one of the best free-agent pickups of the week.

    Redman, who has one touchdown this season, has shown great bursts of speed and strong running ability. He ran the ball six times for 40 yards last week against the Texans, and he is projected to have a strong game this week (ESPN has him at 11 projected points).

    All of this relies on the health of Mendenhall. If Mendenhall suits up for the game, Redman and his fantasy owners could be out of luck.

    He is the biggest Week 5 fantasy (running back) sleeper, though.

Arian Foster (Houston Texans): Start 'Em!

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    Week 5 Opponent: Oakland Raiders

    Projected Fantasy Points (ESPN): 26

    Arian Foster came back in a big way last week. He carried the ball 30 times for 155 yards and one touchdown against a normally-stingy Pittsburgh Steelers defense.

    This week, Foster is the highest-projected fantasy player with 26 points, as he faces an Oakland Raiders defense that is No. 29 overall in opponent rushing yards.

    Last week, the Raiders gave up 183 rushing yards to a pass-heavy Patriots team. With star WR Andre Johnson out, the Texans will have to establish a running game this week.

    The only risky part about using Foster this week is the fact that he hasn't played in two consecutive games this year due to injury, so we don't necessarily know how he's going to handle it.

    After being put through a full game of contact, Foster is likely sore and maybe a little beat up. How he performs this week could be a sign of how Foster will perform for the rest of the season.

    Personally, I think he's going to have a big game. Start 'em!

LeGarrette Blount (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Sit 'Em!

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    Week 5 Opponent: San Francisco 49ers

    Projected Fantasy Points (ESPN): 11

    LeGarrette Blount had a big game last week against the Indianapolis Colts, running the ball 25 times for 127 yards and one touchdown.

    After two weeks of 20-plus carries, it seems like Blount is finally becoming an integral part of the Buccaneers offense. The first two weeks definitely had me worried, though. It seemed as if the Buccaneers were satisfied with just throwing the ball.

    To be fair, that was mainly for comeback purposes, but Blount has definitely solidified himself as a valuable piece of their offense and a valuable fantasy running back.

    Blount will look to continue his recent success as he heads to San Francisco to take on the surprising 3-1 49ers.

    Now, I'm no psychic, but I can definitely see Blount taking a major step back this week against a solid run defense. The 49ers rank fourth in the NFL in run defense, allowing just 74 yards per game. Last week, they held Eagles RB LeSean McCoy to just 18 yards on the ground.

    Blount will likely still get around 20 carries, but I would imagine he doesn't gain more than 65 yards.

    Go with somebody else this week if you have the chance.

Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers): Start 'Em!

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    Week 5 Opponent: New Orleans Saints

    Projected Fantasy Points (ESPN): 8 

    After three weeks of being almost non-existent, Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams finally decided to come alive in Week 4.

    Williams finished the game with 82 yards on 10 carries. Those 82 yards should be a good sign of things to come for Williams' owners, but Stewart has been the Carolina running back to own so far this season.

    Stewart has been more consistent in the running game and he's a big asset to the passing game, something that Williams doesn't get involved in too often.

    With rookie QB Cam Newton throwing the ball all over opposing defenses, Stewart has been the safest fantasy play, and he will continue being that from week to week. This week is no exception.

    The Saints are going to score...a lot. This will make it difficult for the Panthers to establish a running game. Once again, Newton will be forced to throw quite a bit.

    This already makes Stewart a better option than Williams, and if Newton can get his team in the red zone, Stewart will be more likely to get the goal-line carries.

    Sit Williams, start Stewart.

Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars): Sit 'Em!

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    Week 5 Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

    Projected Fantasy Points (ESPN): 9

    Seeing only nine points projected for Maurice Jones-Drew is very disheartening, to say the least.

    Jones-Drew has had a decent fantasy season so far, as he is averaging 12 points per week. However, he finished with just eight points last week after he received a season-low 11 carries.

    Is this a trend that could become more popular for Jones-Drew and the Jaguars? Hopefully not. Jones-Drew is the best player on the roster, and to under-utilize him is a travesty.

    Last week against the Saints, rookie QB Blaine Gabbert threw the ball 42 times. He only connected on 16 of those passes. It's logical to say that Gabbert had to throw so many times because the Jaguars were playing from behind, but Jones-Drew was averaging 7.6 yards per carry last week.

    How does he not get used more? He isn't even being used in the passing game this season, and he has always been a good receiving running back.

    Something weird is going on, and I don't care for it much. Until Jones-Drew gets the carries and targets he deserves, and with Gabbert still adjusting to the offense, I'm going to try to find a better fantasy option.

    Especially this week against a good defense like Cincinnati. It could get ugly.

    Sit 'em!

LaDanian Tomlinson (New York Jets): Start 'Em!

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    Week 5 Opponent: New England Patriots

    Projected Fantasy Points (ESPN): 6 

    Normally, Shonn Greene would be the guy to start if we're talking about Jets running backs, but I really like LaDainian Tomlinson this week.

    Even though Tomlinson has only had one relevant fantasy week, he has a very favorable matchup against the New England Patriots.

    The Patriots have a terrible pass defense. In fact, it's so terrible, they are statistically the worst pass defense in the NFL, allowing 368.8 passing yards per game.

    If there's one thing that Tomlinson can still do really well, it's catch the ball out of the backfield and make people miss. This season, Tomlinson has 13 catches for 200 yards and one touchdown.

    The Patriots have already allowed 39 completions out of the backfield through four games. This bodes well for Tomlinson, and he is a definite sleeper this week.

    Start 'em in the flex!

Beanie Wells (Arizona Cardinals): Sit 'Em!

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    Week 5 Opponent: Minnesota Vikings

    Projected Fantasy Points (ESPN):14

    I think it's safe to say that Beanie Wells is healthy. After missing Week 3, Wells was listed as questionable leading up to last week's game against the New York Giants.

    If you played it safe and sat him, you're probably kicking yourself right now. Wells finished the game with 138 rushing yards and three touchdowns. That performance was good enough to rack up 31 fantasy points.

    After a week like that, you have to play him again in hopes that he continues his hot streak, right?


    Wells needs to be sat this week (if you have another option). He will be going up against a Minnesota Vikings defense that ranks fifth in opponent rushing yards allowed (76.3).

    While this defense may not be as strong as Vikings' defenses in years past, they still have a more than solid defensive line anchored by DE Jared Allen.

    Allen is going to be blowing up the Cardinals' offensive line this week and getting into the backfield. It will be hard for Wells to establish any sort of momentum this week.

    Look for Wells to have a below-average game, and the Vikings to earn their first win of the season.