Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 5
Week 4 had a little bit of craziness for every position. Deshaun Watson and Cam Newton were your two top fantasy quarterbacks. Bilal Powell was a top-five running back. Devin Funchess, Tyrell Williams and Will Fuller were stud receivers, and Tyler Kroft paced all tight ends in fantasy production.
If we’ve learned anything, it’s that making the right choice between borderline calls can be the difference in winning or losing your fantasy matchup. So let’s take our usual look at some borderline options and have some fun in this week’s start/sit!
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT v. JAC): ECR of 12
You had me at Heinz Field. In between complaining about pretty much all of his wide receivers, Roethlisberger has quietly been authoring a pretty dreadful 2017 campaign, ranking as the 20th-best quarterback in fantasy and averaging just 6.84 yards per attempt. And he gets the Jaguars this weekend, who have allowed just 6.2 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks per game and are bolstered by a solid pass rush and two elite cornerbacks in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. But he’s a start this week both because Jacksonville’s solid rating is built largely on the backs of facing Tom Savage, Joe Flacco, and Josh McCown, and because this is home Roethlisberger. No, I can’t explain why Big Ben is so much better at home than on the road, but I also can’t explain why my daughter legitimately believes that I work with talking animals even though she’s been to my office and knows it’s boring. So, despite the lack of a reasonable explanation, some things are just true. Home Ben can defeat all comers, and after all the discord of the last few weeks, I think Ben comes out firing in this one.
Eli Manning (NYG v. LAC): ECR of 11
It hasn’t been all that pretty to watch, but Manning has resurrected his fantasy season over his last two games, throwing for 654 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions, and adding a rushing touchdown to boot. The Giants’ offensive line is . . . offensive (I’ll be here all week, tip your waiters), but Odell Beckham’s presence is enough to open up the playbook a bit and Manning hasn’t been sacked in his last two games. Now that Wayne Gallman should get most of the looks in the backfield, the Giants may even have the semblance of a running game, which could open things up even more. The Chargers are middle of the road against opposing quarterbacks, but Manning is doing enough that he should be able to finish as a QB1 in this one.
Tyrod Taylor (BUF at CIN): ECR of 16
Taylor and the Bills have been a nice surprise this season, but the quarterback has been much better at home so far than on the road (four touchdowns at home, just one on the road, 437 yards passing at home, 307 on the road). The Bengals have allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and the return of Vontaze Burfict has made the entire defense stronger. In Cincinnati, with a chance to get back into relevance, the Bengals will likely make life tough on Taylor and company.
Andy Dalton (CIN v. BUF): ECR of 15
I don’t hate Dalton here by any means, but after two big games in a row, owners might be tempted to forego a more reliable option to stream the Cincinnati quarterback. The Bills have allowed ONE passing touchdown through four games – ONE, and that includes games against Cam Newton, Trevor Siemian, and Matt Ryan. They allow the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and it’s time to give their defense credit. The over/under on this game is 39 points, meaning Las Vegas expects it to be a low scoring affair. It would be hard to be excited about either quarterback.
Isaiah Crowell (CLE v. NYJ): ECR of 23
Ugh, sorry, just got nauseous a bit. I know, Crowell has been absolutely awful this year and has been both out-snapped and out-played by Duke Johnson. Crowell is on the verge of being cut in many fantasy leagues, and I can’t strenuously argue against it. But this can’t be how Cleveland wants to use their run game – falling behind early and simply abandoning it – and this week against the Jets, there’s a good chance they won’t have to. The Jets aren’t exactly a high-octane offense, and it’s a reasonable bet that the score will be fairly close all game. That should allow Cleveland to stick with a more traditional run game, which should mean plenty of carries for Crowell. This is really the last stand for the running back, but, and I say this while taking a deep sigh, he makes a decent play here.
Latavius Murray (MIN at CHI): ECR of 25
Murray is not a special talent, but he’s pretty much the only ballgame in town for the Vikings after Dalvin Cook tore his ACL and with Jerick McKinnon battling an ankle injury. The Bears have allowed a rushing touchdown to a running back in every game this season, and Murray is nothing if not a capable goal-line back, as he had 12 rushing touchdowns last season. Minnesota is likely to be playing with a lead here in Mitchell Trubisky’s first game of the season, which should mean a steady diet of carries for Murray. He’s a fine play in this one.
Jonathan Stewart (CAR at DET): ECR of 26
Stewart has been very . . . Stewart-ish this season, averaging 3.9 yards per carry and getting between 12 and 18 carries each game of the season. But he has yet to score a rushing touchdown and, although he does have a touchdown reception somehow, has just three catches on the year. The Lions are middle of the road in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs, but they struggle more against pass-catching backs, as they’ve allowed the seventh-most receiving yards to the position. That sets up better for Christian McCaffrey, rather than Stewart, and absent a touchdown, it seems unlikely that Stewart will provide all that much fantasy value.
LeGarrette Blount (PHI v. ARI): ECR of 21
Blount has been excellent lately, and he’s now averaging 5.9 yards per carry on the season. But Doug Pederson has made it clear that he wants Blount around the 12-carry mark, and unless he’s suddenly turned into an elite running back (spoiler alert – he hasn’t), then he’s basically going to need a touchdown most weeks to be fantasy relevant. The Cardinals have allowed only two rushing touchdowns to running backs and are holding opposing backs to less than three yards per carry. The game doesn’t set up particularly well for him to score a touchdown and, as such, he may not be in line for a big day.
Danny Amendola (NE at TB): ECR of 33
Amendola’s ability to be a fantasy asset is really just about his health. Particularly without Julian Edelman, Amendola’s role as the slot receiver almost ensures upwards of five targets from Tom Brady, and that almost assuredly translates to solid fantasy numbers. That’s especially true against the Bucs, who give up the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Amendola should see a healthy dose of Robert McClain here, which is a matchup that Amendola should easily dominate. There is always a risk that Amendola plays a few snaps and gets lifted, but he should be in line for a big game here if he can avoid an injury.
John Brown (ARI at PHI): ECR of 38
Frankly, I was tempted to just put “J. Brown” in the heading and speak equally about John and Jaron, but I’ll pass. (Note: I watched Little Giants with my son this weekend and I strongly suggest that the Cardinals switch to nicknames on their jerseys to avoid all this J. Brown confusion – but I digress). Brown was on a limited snap count on Sunday against the 49ers, but caught three passes for 47 yards, drew a game-changing pass interference penalty in overtime, and may have actually come up with the game-winning touchdown despite the review! I don’t know if Jalen Mills or Rasul Douglas will be lined up against Brown this weekend, but it doesn’t matter much. Both have been fantasy gold for opposing wide receivers, and are a big reason why the Eagles allow the third-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Assuming that Brown did not have any setbacks this past weekend with his quadriceps, he’s a strong play here.
Alshon Jeffery (PHI v. ARI): ECR of 20
Jeffery was in the sit column last week based on his matchup with Casey Hayward, and though Hayward limited him significantly, he managed to catch three passes for 29 yards with a touchdown, which did not come on Hayward’s coverage. Similar reasoning applies to put Jeffery in the sit column this week, as he’ll be matched up with Patrick Peterson, who usually shadows a team’s opposing No. 1 wide receiver. Peterson has done well to limit Marvin Jones, T.Y. Hilton, Dez Bryant, and Pierre Garcon through the first four games, and should limit Jeffery some here. Carson Wentz has shown he can put up plenty of points avoiding Jeffery, and it’s a good bet that he’ll look to Zach Ertz and the other Eagles receivers early and often.
Tyrell Williams (LAC at NYG): ECR of 28
Williams was in the start portion of this article last week and had a great day against the Eagles, catching five of six targets for 115 yards and a touchdown. But now he has to travel cross-country to go against an incredibly tough Giants defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Whether it’s Janoris Jenkins or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who has Williams in coverage, the receiver has a tough draw, and isn’t a great play in Week 5.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (NYJ v. CLE): ECR of 14
If you think I’m going to miss perhaps the only opportunity to write about a Jets player in the start portion of this article, you’ve got another thing coming. In the two games since returning from his suspension, ASJ has nine receptions on 10 targets for 77 yards, and is being targeted on about a fifth of his pass routes. He now gets a Cleveland defense that has allowed a league-leading 30 receptions to opposing tight ends, and has allowed the second-most fantasy points to the position. Josh McCown should continue to look for Seferian-Jenkins early and often, and he should provide a solid floor with a fairly high ceiling if he can find the end zone.
Martellus Bennett (GB at DAL): ECR of 11
Eventually, all those targets for Bennett are going to mean something, but it certainly hasn’t happened yet. Despite seeing 28 targets on the season, Bennett has just 17 catches for 141 yards. The Cowboys have allowed just one touchdown to opposing tight ends, and with Green Bay looking like it might be close to full strength on offense with each of Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, and Jamaal Williams, it’s difficult to trust Bennett, despite the likely shootout.