As we head into week 6 of the NFL, this is a big swing week for teams. If you are 2-3 or 3-2, you are likely middle of the pack in your league. In one league I’m in 9 of the 10 teams are either 3-2 or 2-3. If you’re 2-3 and get a win, you stay right in the thick of things. If drop to 2-4 it can be a 2 game swing from the teams ahead of you with more weeks of byes ahead. Similarly if you are 3-2 and fall to 3-3 you slide back into the pack, whereas if you win and get to 4-2 you are feeling a bit better about your playoff chances and have a chance to distance yourself from competing teams.
Regardless, a lot of top players will be out this week including Maurice Jones-Drew, Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall. Those are all big shoes to fill, so our goal here is to give you an idea of some options. As always you are also welcome to ask specific lineup questions in the comments section below and we will respond with some advice. Just remember that it is most important to go with your gut and make your own calls after taking in the information and advice.
Andy Dalton: He broke his string of 25+ point performances last week in Miami. The fantasy community seems to be reacting strongly and I’m not sure I understand why. Dalton faces the Browns this week, and even though they are getting Joe Haden back they might be missing several other key starters. They lost D’Qwell Jackson, Ahtyba Rubin, Dimitri Patterson against the Giants and it’s not clear if any of them will be available for the game this week. Those are 3 of the Browns top 5 players on defense, with rookies backing them up. Basically, I’m playing all my Bengals this week.
Kevin Kolb: I really wanted to go with Christian Ponder here, but I didn’t want to go two straight weeks with the same QBs here (though for the record I do like Ponder this week). The reality is that I, among many others, were wrong about Buffalo’s defense this year. I really thought they had made their defensive line the best in football and had added enough pieces in the secondary to be a very good unit this year. Instead they are getting gashed on the ground and diced through the air. We already know the Cards have almost no rushing game, so they have to pass. Andre Roberts is making himself relevant, and Larry Fitzgerald is a beast even with double coverage.
Rashard Mendenhall: Mendenhall came back and performed amazingly well against a good Philadelphia defense with limited touches. He proved very quickly that he is the only real candidate the Steelers have at running back and he should take over a full workload soon. I don’t think that will be this week, but against a Titans defense he should at least be able to duplicate what he did last week on limited touches.
Willis McGahee: He seems to be alternating weeks that he is useful. I don’t think there’s actually anything to that, but if you’re superstitious there you go. The fact is though that San Diego is in the bottom half of rushing defenses and Peyton is keeping defenses honest. I’d expect 70-80 yards and a touchdown at least out of Willis this week.
Michael Turner: I can’t believe I just endorsed starting him…. I still stand by my preseason bust prediction, and maybe he falls off a cliff at some point. It is still early in the season and his legs are fresh-ish.
Kendall Wright: I’ve been on the Wright bandwagon from before the draft that he would be the top rookie WR this season. The switch to Matt Hasselbeck has benefited Wright as he has gotten a good amount of targets the last two games. He can beat you on short, intermediate or deep routes, and having Kenny Britt healthier actually helps to take attention away from Wright. Plus the Steelers will be without Polomalu once again.
Julio Jones: How the heck is Julio Jones the 25th WR this week in ESPN’s projections?! How is Nate Burleson ranked ahead of him?! That is insane. Absolutely insane. Maybe it’s because he’s combined for 5 receptions and 44 yards in two home games? Now that’s an overreaction. Start! Start! Start!
Andre Roberts: See Kolb, Kevin. Fitzgerald will draw all of the Bills mediocre defensive attention.
Bye Week Bonus: I also really like Andrew Hawkins this week to torch Buster Skrine who is just horrible in coverage.
Heath Miller: Miller has 4 TDs this year. The Titans are the worst in the league against TEs. Another headscratcher as to why he’s only projected for 3 points by ESPN.
Antonio Gates: Gates has been so bad this year that I can list him here because he’s no longer an obvious start. This week he gets a weak Denver defense that has struggled against TEs. If he can’t come up with a decent game, owners can hit the panic button.
Cardinals D/ST: The Bills are splitting time between 2 banged-up RBs. Could Fitzpatrick follow last year’s trend of a fast start followed by a cliff? Last week he only managed 126 yards and an interception….
Tom Brady: Can you really sit Brady? I don’t know. Probably not unless you are blessed with 2 top-10 QBs. I will say this, Seattle has handled Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Tony Romo already this year and the game will be in Seattle. Don’t expect miracles.
Carson Palmer: On a week with two top QBs out, it’s very possible some owners are looking at Palmer as a bye week filler. I’m saying you shouldn’t. Atlanta has made much better quarterbacks look bad this season already. Again we’re also looking at a tough away crowd to deal with. He might be looking a little like this by the end of the game….
Ahmad Bradshaw: How do you bench a guy that is coming off of a 200 yard rushing game? We’re about to see the difference between the Browns rushing defense and the 49ers rushing defense. Let me give you a preview…. Think Grand Canyon.
Stevan Ridley: I am slowly becoming a Ridley fan, and he has found a way to produce even with other RBs eating into his total. But, this week they face a tough defense and if he doesn’t get it going early I could easily see Belichick turning to Woodhead, Bolden or even Vereen. This could be a very low scoring game.
Mikel Leshoure: The Eagles defense returns to stuffing the running game this week. Leshoure is the one who suffers in that return.
Denarius Moore: He has routinely underperformed his projections this season and is facing a tough matchup against Atlanta.
Nate Burleson: Again, I just don’t get the projections here. The Eagles have a very good defense and Burleson has only had one useful game this season. In that game he only managed 69 yards on 10 receptions and a touchdown really is what made the day.
Brian Hartline: The NFL’s leader in receiving yards should garner a lot of attention against a feisty Rams defense. Finnegan will be all over Hartline in more ways than one this week. (Hey, not that way…. get your mind out of the gutter. Jeez….)
Vernon Davis: Davis has feasted on an easy schedule so far. None of the teams he has faced is better than 19th against TEs so far this season. This week’s opponent, the Giants, have done a pretty good job in that department. This will be a prove it game for both though. Are the defenses Davis has faced so bad because of Davis? Have the Giants been so good against TEs because they haven’t faced a noteworthy TE other than Jason Witten (who was dealing with his spleen issue when they met)?
Martellus Bennett: Bennett suffered a knee injury against the Browns that is concerning even himself. It looks like he will be able to play, which may lead some owners to roll with him. But, maybe they should take a look at his usage against the Browns after the injury. While he played, most of his post-injury snaps were on running plays where the knee doesn’t bother him as much. If he’s playing, he might not be going out on routes much.
Bengals D/ST: This game might be a shootout. Trent Richardson tore them apart in the last meeting.
That’s it everyone, hit me up on twitter (@ask2guys) for any questions you might have for this week!
Last Week’s Results: Season Totals in Parentheses.
Starts: 5-6, .454 (26-29, .472)
Christian Ponder: 21pts = W, Andy Dalton: 13pts = L, Jackie Battle: 1pt = L, Ryan Matthews: 19pts = W, Cedric Benson: 4pts = L, Domenik Hixon: 5pts = L, Eric Decker: 8pts = L, Malcom Floyd: 10pts = W, Kyle Rudolph: 8pts = W, Fred Davis: 5pts = L, Vikings D/ST: 11pts = W
Sits: 9-2, .818 (39-16, .709)
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 3pts = W, Michael Vick: 16pts = L, BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 1pt = W, Shonn Greene: 3pts = W, Jackson/Spiller: 2pts/2pts = W, Steve Smith: 4pts = W, Pierre Garcon: 2pts = W, Steve Johnson: 3pts = W, Jermichael Finley: 1pt = W, Greg Olsen: 3pts = W, Bengals D/ST: 9pts = L
With last week’s 14-8 mark, my season total stands at 65-45 (.590).