Congratulations if your team managed to survive week four unscathed. I know mine sure didn’t. All we can do is move forward to week five, where these decisions get increasingly more important now that it’s bye week season.
Readers were seriously rewarded if they followed this column’s advice last week. Andy Dalton finished as the week four QB4 despite a great week for quarterback scoring (and Marcus Mariota was well on his way to a huge day before leaving with a hamstring injury in the third quarter), DeAndre Hopkins was the WR2, Bilal Powell was the RB5, Seattle was the highest scoring defense on the slate, while Cameron Brate and Charles Clay both finished top-five in tight end scoring. I hit on five out of seven recommended sleepers/streamers too, as Deshaun Watson led all quarterbacks in scoring, Jared Goff turned in 18 points, Duke Johnson was 11th in running back scoring and Wendell Smallwood came in as a top-15 scorer at the position too.
As important it is to identify players to start, it’s just as vital to bench those landmines that can sink your lineup. Last week was a huge success too, as Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford finished outside the top-24 quarterbacks in scoring, Big Ben scored as the QB20, Amari Cooper, TY Hilton and Jeremy Maclin all finished outside the top-65 in wide receiver scoring, Marshawn Lynch finished as the RB80 on the week, and Jordan Reed and Jack Doyle both finished outside the top-27 in tight end scoring. Let’s hope for even more success as we dissect who are recommended sits and starts for our week five lineups.
Starts Record: 34/53 (64.2%)
Sits Record: 32/48 (66.7%)
Sleeper Record: 8/16 (50%)
*Note: These statistics do not include injured players or players who are essentially a wash and did not really help you or hurt you if you started them.
**Assume .5 PPR scoring for any reference to a player’s season-long ranking or in-week ranking
Start: Dak Prescott vs. Green Bay
It’s so impressive that Dak is the QB5 so far this season despite facing the Giants, Cardinals, Broncos and Rams. Dak is clearly really good at this whole football thing and has a super-steady floor after rushing for at least 24 yards in three of four games so far. Green Bay ranks fourth in points allowed to quarterbacks but this number is deceiving after facing Mike Glennon and Andy Dalton at home in consecutive weeks, while Matt Ryan was able to take his foot off the gas in an easy home win in week two. Green Bay’s corners are still very exploitable especially with number two cornerback Davon House nursing an injury and difference-maker Mike Daniels a likely game-time decision. Dak threw for three touchdowns in both of his meetings against Green Bay last season and averaged a sterling 9.1 yards per attempt in the matchup at Lambeau. This game has the second-highest over/under of the week and has shootout written all over it after the teams’ averaged combined score was 55.5 points when they played each other last year. Dak and Dez Bryant make for a really safe DFS stack this week.
Start: Carson Palmer @ Philadelphia
In a tough week for quarterback streaming, I think Palmer posts top-12 numbers. It might come as a shock to you, but Palmer is second in the league in passing yards behind only Tom Brady and he hasn’t thrown for less than 325 passing yards since week one. Philadelphia has allowed the eighth-most points to opposing quarterbacks because its secondary is the weakness of the defense, especially at cornerback. Arizona ranks dead-last in rushing yards per game behind its injury-ridden offensive line, while the strength of Philly’s defense is its front seven. It makes sense Arizona will attack Philly’s defensive weakness considering Arizona’s offensive strength is currently its wide receiver core. Palmer has thrown at least 48 passes (!) in three of four games this season and will likely have to throw a ton on the road as a 6.5 point underdog.
Other Recommended Start:
-Eli Manning vs. Los Angeles Chargers: Eli has turned things around over the last two weeks as the offense has focused on getting the ball out of his hands much quicker. LAC is not an intimidating matchup and Eli is playing at home so he’s easily a top-15 option this week.
Sit: Ben Roethlisberger vs. Jacksonville
It’s always dangerous to suggest sitting Big Ben at home where he is a notoriously stronger fantasy and real-life performer, but this is all about the matchup. Merely the QB21 this season, Roethlisberger has yet to surpass 261 passing yards and two passing touchdowns in a game this season. Jacksonville has arguably the best perimeter cornerback duo in football in Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye and has allowed league-lows in yards per attempt and quarterback points allowed. In contrast, Jacksonville is allowing the second-most rushing yards per game (148.8) and just allowed two Jets running backs to post top-12 fantasy numbers in Week Four. With Le’Veon Bell back to form and Pittsburgh’s offensive line starting to gel, it makes a ton of sense for the Steelers to try and control the game by running the ball into the weakness of the Jags defense. As of now, this game has the fourth-lowest implied point total of the week.
Sit: Tyrod Taylor at Cincinnati
Despite Buffalo’s impressive win total, Tyrod has been decidedly mediocre as a fantasy asset. His floor is always steady as the quarterback with the third-most rushing yards to date, but he’s averaging a paltry 186 passing yards per game. Even though he’s playing well from a real-life perspective, Taylor is only averaging 11.5 fantasy points per game on the road and now has to face a top-ten defense in terms of quarterback fantasy scoring. There isn’t room for a high ceiling as this game has the lowest implied point total of the week.
Other Recommended Sits:
-Matthew Stafford vs. Carolina: Stafford does play at home but he hasn’t posted more than 17 fantasy points since week one and is playing a defense that finally managed to slow down Tom Brady.
-Jacoby Brissett vs. San Fransisco: Brissett smashed in his only other home matchup against a similarly bad passing defense and he’s looked pretty competent so far. His floor is heightened by averaging 23 rushing yards per game, and also, this:
-Brian Hoyer @ Indianapolis: I think this game has sneaky shootout potential with two bad defenses going head to head. Hoyer is admittedly more of a 2QB-league/Superflex shot in the dark or a DFS punt, but Indy is allowing the highest completion percentage on throws 20+ yards down the field and has been surprisingly effective in rushing defense.
Start: Tyrell Williams @ New York Giants
Despite the seemingly tough draw on paper, this is all about the individual matchup within the game. Tyrell finally rewarded his owners last week with a great 5/115/1 line and now gets to face Giants second-year sieve Eli Apple. With Janoris Jenkins shutting down the other side of the field (where Keenan Allen will be in two-receiver sets) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie holding down the slot, opposing offenses are attacking Apple at will and finding a ton of success.
This matchup is too good to pass up and it doesn’t hurt that the Chargers are underdogs and may need to throw the ball a little extra. Here’s the icing on the cake:
Start: DeVante Parker vs. Tennessee
This was the same spot DeAndre Hopkins dominated in last week and profiles similarly for Parker. Miami had a brutal start to the season after missing Week One due to Hurricane Irma, then flying across the country to play in Los Angeles, playing an early game in New York in week three and then flying across the pond to London for week four. The Dolphins finally play at home in and though the offense has looked undeniably bad this is the perfect get-right matchup against the Titans. Tennesse has allowed the second-most points to opposing wide receivers and is fresh off allowing two top-six receiver weeks to the Texans last week. Per Rich Hribar’s excellent Rotoworld Worksheet, Tennessee has allowed a WR1 in every week, they’ve allowed the most touchdowns to opposing receivers and Parker owns over 35% of Miami’s receiving yardage. Even if you don’t trust Cutler, Parker is a solid WR2 option this week and a good tournament play in DFS.
Other Recommended Starts:
-Larry Fitzgerald @ Philadelphia: You might not realize it but Fitz is the WR9 on the season and has been a weekly column mainstay. Now he faces a defense that’s been eaten alive in the slot and completely revived the seasons of Sterling Shepard and Tyrell Williams. Fitz is fifth in targets per game this season.
-Pierre Garcon @ Indianapolis: Indy is bottom-ten in points allowed to receivers and Garcon runs 70% of his routes away from where Vontae Davis lines up. Indy has been better than expected against the run, creating a pass-funnel effect that an offensive guru like Kyle Shanahan will exploit.
-Randall Cobb @ Dallas: Cobb is averaging over 8 targets per game and is in line to get extra looks this week if Davante Adams is out or even limited. In two matchups last year, Cobb hung 7/53/1 and 7/62 on Dallas which has an even worse secondary this year after losing three starters. I wrote this whole Cobb paragraph before seeing this tweet:
Sit: Alshon Jeffery
It might seem like I’m anti-Alshon if you read every week, but I promise I’m not. He’s simply had some tough cornerback draws and gets another one this week in Patrick Peterson. Peterson has been arguably the best cover corner in football so far this year and even traveled into the slot in his matchup against Dez Bryant. Jeffery has guaranteed volume but he’s only broken 60 yards once this year, which was the only game he didn’t have to lineup against a shutdown corner. Peterson has allowed the second-fewest receiving yards in coverage this year (only 56 through four games!) despite already matching up with Dez Bryant, TY Hilton, Pierre Garcon and Marvin Jones. Alshon is nothing more than a WR3 this week.
Sit: Amari Cooper vs. Baltim0re
Cooper has been a bust so far this year and now he’ll be without quarterback Derek Carr for at least a few weeks. Not only is EJ Manuel a significant downgrade from Carr, but Baltimore has given up the fourth-fewest points to opposing receivers despite playing against AJ Green and Antonio Brown. Per Rotoworld’s Brandon Funston, Baltimore’s three starting cornerbacks all rank in the top-13 in Quarterback Rating allowed to their assignments. Unfortunately I might have to start Cooper in a season-long league due to bye-week restrictions, but I’m not expecting anything better than WR4 production.
Other Recommended Sits:
-Sammy Watkins vs. Seattle: Watkins has had one good game this year against a very porous Niners secondary and now must face off with Seattle’s stingy Legion of Boom. He’s averaging fewer targets per game than Josh Bellamy, Kamar Aiken and Brandon LaFell.
-Marquise Lee @ Pittsburgh: Lee isn’t even a top-60 fantasy receiver so far this season and now faces the second-toughest defense against wide receivers thus far. Pass.
-Aldrick Robinson @ Indianapolis: As deep as I can really get, but if Marquise Goodwin is out Robinson is the perfect way to attack Indy’s defense as a speedy vertical threat. Has followed OC Shanahan to every stop so far and saw a team-high 12 targets when Goodwin left last week.
-Jaron Brown @ Philadelphia: Quietly second on the team in targets and has a dream matchup against Jalen Mills, one of the most targeted corners in football.
-Cooper Kupp vs. Seattle: The one place Seattle’s secondary has a weakness is out of the slot, where they’ve allowed big games to Cobb, Garcon and Rishard Matthews.
Start: Duke Johnson vs. New York Jets
Johnson was a success here last week and has been surprisingly effective this year, clocking in as the RB17 on the year and the Browns leader in target market share. Now he’ll play at home against a Jets defense that’s bottom-five in points allowed to running backs. Johnson had a season-high four carries last week and is pretty clearly the best weapon in Cleveland’s offense right now. Johnson is one of seven running backs to have run over 100 routes so far this year and leads all running backs in elusive rating so far, per Pro Football Focus. He’s a solid RB2 this week.
Start: Bilal Powell @ Cleveland
Powell is the running back on the other side of the ball and was a resounding success in last week’s column after posting a career-high 190 yards from scrimmage. The below tweet was from before Powell’s RB3 finish last week.
Just as important as his yardage total was the 24 touches he received. As long as Forte is out Powell is a high-end RB2 whose receiving ability garners him game-script independent.
Sit: Ameer Abdullah vs. Carolina
Abdullah has been a mainstay of this portion of the column, and despite seeing at least 16 touches in each game he only finally made me pay last week with his first good game of the season. The Lions running back was limited in Wednesday’s practice and now faces a Carolina defense that hasn’t allowed an opposing rusher to top 56 yards on the ground despite already facing Carlos Hyde and LeSean McCoy. The Panthers enter week five allowing the 12th-fewest points to opposing running backs and even that number is slightly inflated after allowing James White to catch 10 passes last week which is not in Abdullah’s range of outcomes. This game has one of the lower implied point totals of the week (43.5). I understand starting Abdullah based on projected volume considering the current state of the running back landscape, but I’m expecting high-end RB3 numbers this week.
Sit: Joe Mixon vs. Buffalo
Mixon was a total bust as a recommended start last week and sunk plenty of DFS lineups out there. His volume seems secure and his season outlook is still fine, but it’s clear Cincinnati has serious run-blocking issues that are going to lower both Mixon’s floor and ceiling. Buffalo is top-eight in defending running backs and has played excellent defense as a whole this season. It’s nice to see Mixon is playing at home and Cincy’s offense is clearly better than it was in the first two weeks of the season, but this is still an offense missing two of its best four playmakers in Tyler Eifert and John Ross. I want to see a prove-it game from the Bengals against a good defense before I’m truly trusting anyone outside AJ Green in this offense.
Other Recommended Sits:
-Jonathan Stewart @ Detroit: Stewart is the RB33 on the season which is about in line with where he should be ranked every week. He’s a touchdown-or-bust flex option for needy owners but keep in mind he’s averaged 5.1 points per game over the last three weeks despite two ideal rushing matchups.
-Wayne Gallman vs. Los Angeles Chargers: It’s not exciting to recommend anyone from this backfield but Gallman looked like easily the most talented member and actually found some success last week in a tougher matchup. Now he plays at home against a defense that’s allowed a ton of rushing yards this year but this suggestion is tougher if Orleans Darkwa suits up.
Start: Austin Sefarian-Jenkins @ Cleveland
I would’ve loved to highlight Cameron Brate again here, but he’ll have already dusted New England’s defense by the time this is published. Cleveland has allowed a top-10 tight end performance three times already this year and just allowed Tyler Kroft to score two touchdowns. Per Rich Hribar’s excellent Rotoworld Worksheet, Cleveland has allowed the most targets to tight ends in the league and also ranks dead-last in red zone defense. ASJ has caught 10 of 11 targets thrown his way over two games and plays with Josh McCown who loves to target his tight ends.
Start: Hunter Henry @ New York Giants
Starting Henry is obviously not for the faint of heart, although he did show some life by catching a touchdown last week. He faces the Giants who have allowed five top-12 tight end scorers despite only playing four games. You’re hanging your hat on talent and matchup here but you can do worse to chase a touchdown in a week Jordan Reed, Coby Fleener and Austin Hooper are all on bye. Per Evan Silva on the Fantasy Feast: Eatin’ with Ross Tucker Podcast, Henry ran his highest number of pass routes last week.
Other Recommended Starts:
-Jesse James vs. Jacksonville: James faces a Jacksonville defense that funnels targets into the middle of the field due to its elite perimeter corners, and he’s playing at home. He is a stronger DFS touchdown-chase than a season-long start, however.
-Ben Watson @ Oakland: Saw six targets last week and now faces an Oakland defense notorious for struggling against tight ends.
Sit: Jimmy Graham @ Los Angeles Rams
Graham has been a tough nut to crack as he enters week five as the TE22 on the season. Now he’s on the road against the Rams who’ve been top-ten in shutting down tight ends this year. Seattle’s offense is notoriously better at home and divisional games tend to be very low scoring in the NFC West.
Other Recommended Sits:
-Jack Doyle vs. San Fransisco: The Niners have actually shut down tight ends so far this year and Doyle is currently in the concussion protocol.
-Eric Ebron vs. Carolina: Don’t start Eric Ebron.
Start: Philadelphia vs. Arizona
Philly has been solid thus far this year and enters week five as the overall Defense11. This is in spite of only recording ten sacks, a number I expect to rise considering how talented Philly’s front seven is. It may start as early as this week considering Arizona’s battered offensive line has allowed the most sacks and quarterback hits in the league. The Eagles are playing at home as 6.5 point favorites which is the exact kind of defense you want to target for your starting lineup. Arizona has allowed the seventh-most points to opposing defenses for fantasy purposes.
Start: Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville
Similar to above, we always want to focus on talented defenses that are favored and playing at home. Pittsburgh checks every box and also enters week five as the third-best scoring defense in fantasy football. Some owners may be scared off by the notion that Jacksonville has somehow allowed the third-fewest points to opposing defenses, but this is Blake Bortles we’re talking about and that number is certainly inflated by facing the Jets’ and Titans’ defenses. Pittsburgh is second in the league in sacks and this game has a low implied point total of 44.
Other Recommended Starts:
-Minnesota @ Chicago: Minnesota has underwhelmed as a fantasy defense and they are on the road, but I have no problem starting them against a rookie quarterback making the first start of his career.
Sit: Arizona @ Philadelphia
Despite a good fantasy brand name Arizona has just been okay as a scoring defense so far this year, clocking in as the 18th-best fantasy defense. Playing on the road as 6.5 point underdogs is not what you want to hang your hat on. Philly’s offensive line is finally playing well together and Arizona just lost its 2016 sack leader Markus Golden for the season. Not including the defenses listed above, I prefer Buffalo, the Giants and even the Jets to Arizona.
This article has been edited to correct two informational mistakes and one typo. Dak Prescott is playing at home versus Green Bay, while Philadelphia is actually the 11th-ranked defense on the season and not a quarterback. Who knew?
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Statistics courtesy of nfl.com, rotoworld.com, Yahoo!, fantasylabs.com, footballguys.com, footballoutsiders.com, and pro-football-reference.com