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Here we are, it's week 5 of the NFL and Fantasy Football seasons. Bye weeks are starting to impact lineups, some first-round picks are starting to look like major busts (looking at you C.J. Anderson) and it's time to regroup, re-calibrate and ready our rosters for the remainder of this jaunt.
It's time to cut weight on some disappointments, scour the waiver wire for long-term help and start working the trade phones like Rick Spielman near the end of the first round of the NFL draft.
(Ownership percentages are from Yahoo! leagues.)
Sam Bradford - Eagles (67%)
The first three weeks of the 2015 season were nothing like anyone envisioned for Chip Kelly and his supposed high-flying Eagles. Chip handpicked "his" players, sent out the ones that weren't and his master plan was expected to commence on opening weekend. It hasn't happened. The Eagles are 1-3, prized free-agent RB DeMarco Murray is peeved and their other new addition, QB Sam Bradford has had trouble getting used to his new surroundings and offense.. Luckily for anyone invested in the Eagles passing attack, week 4 against the Washington R-Words was a glimmer of hope. Bradford amassed 270 yards and 3 touchdowns on the day and showed much more of a willingness to go deep. According to his Offensive Coordinator he may be turning a corner and getting more comfortable, letting it fly a little bit. This week he'll get the Saints at home, who allow 258 YPG (yards per game) via the pass and just allowed a Dez Bryant-less Brandon Weeden to notch 246/1 on them.
Jay Cutler - Bears (31%)
Cutler returned to the Bears starting lineup last week after missing some time with a hamstring injury. He put up 281 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 (signature) interception against the Oakland Raiders beatable secondary. There seems to be hope he could get top target Alshon Jeffery back this week as well, and if he does indeed have him at his services, I like him this week. Week 5 opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs are 28th in the NFL giving up 295 YPG. There is always risk in starting Cutler, if you're penalized for INT's, he's never not a decent bet at one or two, and the game is at Arrowhead Stadium in KC but if you're in a bid or need a QB streamer, 200-250 and 1-2 TD's are within reach here.
Justin Forsett - Ravens (99%)
On the surface it may seem silly to have him in this column, but after the first three weeks of the season, Forsett was looking like a bust. Averaging only 13 carries and 41 yards per game, owners were rightfully worried. On top of that, Lorenzo Taliaferro was vulturing goal-line work. Forsett busted out in a big way week four against the Steelers, doubling his carries average to 27 and compiling 150 yards on the ground (featuring some nice long-gainers.) Facing a Cleveland Browns rush defense hemorrhaging over 141 yards per contest, you should feel confident about Forsett this week (and moving forward.)
Dion Lewis - Patriots (79%)
Owning a Patriots Running Back can be an emotional roller-coaster. First you had to figure out over the past couple years who to start between Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. Then Brandon Bolden entered the conversation. And who can forget last year's 201 yard, four TD game by Jonas Gray, you dropping solid FAAB $ or your high priority waiver claim only for him to barely be heard from again. Bill friggin Belichick, yo. Fumbles have been the death blow to RB's steering Belichick's rushing ship. Lewis did have a couple fumbles early on this year, which was the true litmus test regarding his trust with the head coach, but he's stuck with him. Dion has rewarded the Patriots trust (and fantasy owners) with just over 108 YPG (rushing and receiving) and 2 TD's thus far. As another vote of confidence, the Pats gave Lewis a contract extension this morning. LeGarrette Blount will always lurk in the weeds, but usage early and into games shows that if the Patriots are "in it" and the game's competitive then #NionDion should be the guy. This week he faces the Dallas Cowboys, who are top 10 against the run but in the bottom third against the pass. This nugget on the Cowboys against RB pass-catchers is very encouraging given Dion's usage.
Jordan Matthews - Eagles (99%)
Matthews splashed onto the scene last year as WR Jeremy Maclin's rookie running mate, notching 872 yards and 8 TD's with a sometimes-erratic Nick Foles at the helm. Maclin is now in Kansas City and the buzz for Matthews was substantial coming into this year. Matthew's hasn't had his "Oh, it's lit" game yet but he is seeing 9.5 targets per game, and as I mentioned earlier, the Eagles pass game seems to be starting to gel and take flight. The Saints are in the bottom third of pass defense, giving up just under 260 YPG, and I look for Eagles QB Sam Bradford to keep looking for Matthews to the tune of 70-100 yards and a potential TD.
Mike Evans - Buccaneers (98%)
As I warned last week, Evans had a rough game against the Panthers. Seeing a lot of stud CB Josh Norman the Bucs young wideout saw eight targets but harnessed only three for 32 yards. You've now ridden out the Evans storm of the hammy injury and 13 (standard) points over three games and now it's time to start getting some return on your investment. He's still soaked up 26 targets over the last two weeks and has a much friendlier tilt vs the Jaguars secondary this week. The Jags are 26th against the pass and just let thrust-into-the-lineup-and-dusty Matt Hasselbeck to put 282 yards on them. All of these targets are going to start becoming lucrative and I think Evans is money this week.
Antonio Gates - Chargers (76%)
Philip Rivers has his favorite friend back. An unbreakable bond and over 10,000 yards through the last decade can now reform. Gates was popped for PED's this summer and has served his four game suspension. He says he's refreshed and "rebooted" to go out and prove himself again. That's good to hear from the 35 year old All-Pro. Going back and looking at last year, Gates totaled 69 catches, 821 yards and 12 TD's. He's somewhat TD dependent but when he's scoring .75 a game then we're in business. Always a redzone threat, look for the Gates to open and watch the Rivers flow his way against the leaky Steelers defense on Monday night.
Owen Daniels - Broncos (62%)
Tyler Eifert, Crockett Gilmore, Gary Barnidge and now Martellus Bennett are a long line of Tight Ends who have destroyed the Oakland Raiders pass defense to start this 2015 season. Bennett was able to post an 11/83/1 line last week. This brings the yearly total to 388 yards and six touchdowns given up by the Raiders to TE's alone! Owen will be the perfect test case to see if this is going to continue to be a thing or not. Daniels hasn't lit the world on fire, seeing just over five targets a week and hasn't surpassed 30 receiving yards yet. He does have two TD's over the last two weeks. This is purely a mouthwatering-matchup play. Broncos QB Peyton Manning was clued in on the Raiders deficiencies against TE's (like he didn't already know..) and thanked a reporter for that tip. Greg Olsen and Jordan Cameron are on a bye this week, so this is the ONLY time in life I'd advocate for you to "OD."
Derek Carr - Raiders (54%)
Carr has had a better season than anyone expected going in, both in real-life and in fantasy. He's currently QB 16 in Yahoo! ranks and that's after missing most of week one's game due to injury. Last week was set up to be a big game for Carr and the Raiders passing offense vs the Bears but it was a minor letdown as he only passed for 196 yards. He did toss two TD's though, so the day was salvaged. This week Carr gets the Broncos D that just wreaked havoc on our Vikings offensive line and seven deadly sacks on Teddy Bridgewater. The "Fab Five" of OLB Demarcus Ware, OLB (and pro thruster) Von Miller, CB Aqib Talib, CB Chris Harris and S TJ Ward will give Carr (and the Raiders offense) trouble all day long. I don't reccommend starting or streaming DC this week. He's also got a BYE following this week as well, so if you need another QB to start in the next week or two you may want to drop Carr now for someone with attractive opponents.
Latavius Murray - Raiders (98%)
As referenced in Carr's section the Raiders have a tall task facing the Broncos scary defense this week. Murray has been a great value thus far. Likely drafted as an RB2, Murray is currently the 11th ranked back in standard leagues. He'd be ranked higher if he were able to take advantage of a nice matchup against the Bears run defense last week, which had been shredded through the early part of this season. Murray also had two big turnovers (one returned for a score) and a shoulder ding that put him in the sidelines for a bit. You're still in a good spot if you drafted LM, but against the Broncos D (and a rush defense giving up only 90 YPG) keep your expectations in check.
Ameer Abdullah - Lions (92%)
Abdullah was the apple of many eyes during the preseason, getting the ball in space and carving up defenses. Through four games that same electricity hasn't shown up as the AA battery is averaging just under 50 total yards (rushing and receiving) per game. This could come back to bite me because the Cards just gave up 146 yards to Rams rookie phenom RB Todd Gurley, but the defense has been very solid up until last week. They've only given up 1 TD on the ground so far this year and are coming off a 24-22 loss to the Rams so you know they'll be fired up. Like Murray, I think Abdullah is an asset moving forward but I'm not daydreaming of dominance this week for him.
Amari Cooper - Raiders (98%)
Cooper and QB Derek Carr have looked like an early version of Colts Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison in the first quarter of this season. Well, that's a stretch, but they've been a dynamic duo regardless. I knew Cooper was polished coming out of Alabama but I didn't think he'd be this good this fast. Currently WR17 in standard leagues, congrats if you drafted him (likely as your WR2/3 too.) Cooper, along with his Silver and Black companions are facing the Broncos in week five. AC is likely to draw one of (or a combo) of Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. That won't be fun for him. Only one WR has scored on Denver (Mike Wallace last week!) It's tough to sit Cooper, and the Vikings were able to pass some last week but if you drafted deep at WR and another option has an inviting matchup you have to think about making the swap.
Gary Barnidge - Browns (43%)
Good ol' Gary has been sort of a revelation the last two weeks. Barnidge has been the apple of Josh McCown's eye of late, totaling 12 catches, 180 yards and two TD's over that span. It's hard to deem whether a player like Barnidge, a relative unknown up to this point, is a budding factor for the Browns or if he's just had the best games of his career already this season. This week I don't envision the hype train to keep rolling against the Baltimore Ravens. They've been absurdly stingy versus the Tight End position specifically, limiting Mychal Rivera, Tyler Eifert, Owen Daniels and Heath Miller to twenty one yards COMBINED. I'm not partying in "The Barn" this week.
Coby Fleener - Colts (26%)
You may have gotten a real nice one week streamer last week in Fleener, with 83 yards and a TD, but his TE running-mate Dwayne Allen has been back at practice this week and is listed as probable for tonight's battle versus the Texans. Any time both have played, trying to pick which one will be productive has proven to be a highly futile task. Flee from Fleener this week.
Jameis Winston - Buccaneers (22%)
If you look at the stats for Winston so far, there's some good: averaging 241 YPG and 1.5 TD's. And there's lots of bad: he's thrown seven picks through four weeks, including four last week. Winston is like Cutler on steroids. If you're in a league that doesn't kill you for INT's, or are in need of a streamer in a deeper (12-14 team league) Jameis may be be an option this week versus the Jaguars. The Jags are 26th facing the pass, giving up over 278 YPG and Winston has Mike Evans back at his disposal. If you roll the dice on Jameis, just don't watch on TV, he could be a garbage time All-Star this week.
Alex Smith - Chiefs (32%)
When you put players in your lineup you want to feel good about it. Putting Alex Smith in never feels good, but this week if you've got Cam Newton on a bye, or are an Andrew Luck owner then Smith could be a streamer for you this week. Smith faces the Bears who's pass defense has given up the seventh most points to QB's so far this season (in Yahoo! leagues.) Smith has recently built a strong rapport with free agent addition WR Jeremy Maclin and is averaging 338 yards passing the last two weeks. He only has one TD to show for it, but he's also a good bet for 1-3 leg points as well. Like I said, you won't feel great doing it, but using Smith this week could be a nice band-aid for your team.
Anthony "Boobie" Dixon - Bills (10%)
We may be down to the third string Running Back for the Bills this week. LeSean McCoy is taking his time to heal from his nagging injuries and waiver wire wunderkind Karlos Williams suffered a concussion last week and hasn't practiced yet this week. You may have to search for "Boobie" Dixon to find him depending on your league site, but if you're in an RB squeeze, the Boob could be a cheap/sneaky add and start if you've got someone on a bye, injured or facing a daunting matchup. Dixon is a between-the-tackles plodder, and the opponent isn't a cakewalk (Titans) but if Williams is out Dixon should get the lions share of the carries for Buffalo. Keep an eye on his status though, as it appears he too has an ailment this week, Boom Herron would handle much of the load if he's out so this situation could be a bit muddy.
Martavis Bryant - Steelers (83%)
Bryant and Gates have been the two most common bench stashes of the early going so far this year. Luckily for those owners both are back this week! The 6'5'' Bryant exploded on the scene last year, insterted into the lineup after week six and put up 549 yards and 8 (!) TD's. A deep threat with the height to go up and get it, Bryant meshes well with the skill set of current Steelers starting QB Mike Vick and his strong arm. The Chargers are tenth in the league, giving up just 225 YPG through the air but you could do worse throwing Bryant in as your WR3 on Monday night.
Kamar Aiken - Ravens (14%)
As I mentioned in the previous article, the Ravens are a bit depleted at Wide Receiver. Still without rookie Breshad Perriman they also lost top dog Steve Smith last week to a back injury and he'll miss this week's game versus the Browns. Thrust into a more prominent role, Aiken took advantage of more targets (7) and churned them into five catches for 77 yards and a score. Aiken, who has bounced around on practice squads until this present chance to shine should be the favorite for targets again from QB Joe Flacco. The Browns are in the bottom third when it comes to passing yards ceded, and Aiken is a bit of a gamble but the targets should be there for some success.
The Purple Play
The Vikings are on their bye this week, licking their wounds from a hard fought loss versus the Denver Broncos so if you have any of them in your lineup TAKE THEM OUT RIGHT NOW.
With that said, if you watched the game, you saw the tantalizing debut of WR Stefon Diggs. Six catches for 87 yards in his first game action, against the fearsome Broncos defense, in Denver. Once Charles Johnson and Jarius Wright are healthy, targets may be hard to come by (especially with Teddy Bridgewater not throwing an absurd amount of passes anyway) but if you're in a deep league (14+) or a Dynasty league I'd totally Digg it if you added Stefon just to see where things go from here.
Sneaky Snags and Slick Strategery
Ronnie Hillman - Broncos (64%)
Based on the ownership percentage, Hillman is still available in 36% percent of leagues. Unless you're in an eight team league, that's 36% too many. C.J. Anderson was a baller to finish last season (once Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman coincidentally, got injured.) Anderson was handed the keys to the workhorse job, but he's been uber-pedestrian with 117 yards through 4 games. As we witnessed last week, Hillman is getting more work, and he's producing. You remember this run. The coach wants to get him more involved. Any time an RB is elevated to 50/50 timeshare status with the opportunity to be "the guy" moving forward, they're a must own. Run for the hill, man.
Brandon LaFell - Patriots (28%)
This is another one to potentially stash on the end of your bench. LaFell went on the PUP list at the beginning of the year with a left foot injury and at the time was expected to be eligible to return for week seven. There hasn't been much from the Patriots since as far as rehab or a timetable update so we can assume at this point that he's still on track. Tom Brady loves throwing to Gronk, and loves throwing to Edelman, but beyond those two there isn't much of an outside threat. The 6'3'' LaFell can be that, and showed that last year accumulating 953 yards and scoring seven times. The Pats already had their bye, so that's nice and if you've got the room or an easy drop, you could could have yourself a very nice WR3 for "free" in a couple weeks.
Ahmad Bradshaw - FA (4%)
This one is 100% speculative, but Colts beat writers said that the team was hosting Bradshaw and may sign him for some depth at RB. Frank Gore has been alright so far, but he's been awful at the charity stripe, coughing it up twice inside the five yard line. Backup Josh Robinson has had his own fumble issues. The Colts have had a very rocky start to their season and may just be looking for a familiar face who actually performed very well for them last year before succumbing to injury. Bradshaw was mainly operating as a pass-down back, with some between the tackle work, but was so efficient at it and had a nose for the endzone (eight scores in ten games) that he was RB2-worthy. If they do indeed sign him, RB-needy squads should take note, especially in PPR leagues.
- It's starting to get to the point in the season where you kind of know what you've got, and what you need to get. It's also time when owners start to panic. If you've got a plethora at one position (three starter-quality Running Backs, or 5 starter-quality Wide Receivers) comb through the teams in your league that are 1-3 and 0-4. Odds are they're hurting at a certain skill position. Use your surplus to address their need while acquiring one of your needs from them. It's easy in trades to single out players you want ("I want Julio Jones!") but you really should set up trade proposals thinking of what your opponent NEEDS. Your third RB could net you a needed WR2 for your team. Get to scouting..
Track of the Week
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Thanks for reading!