So, how did you like that offense on Thursday Night Football? Intrigued? Confused? Moderately repulsed? Yes, all of them. That display, and I refuse to call it anything other than an otherworldly attraction brought forth by the Evil Lords of Football as Presented by Xenu, generated a game-leading rusher of 76 yards and a winning quarterback with 141 yards. Not to bash the NFC West, but I'll believe you guys are back when you put up a better performance than that.
Luckily, that's just one of eight NFL divisions that will be playing this weekend. A lot of these games really aren't that close; you could give me a bet where only one of the Titans, Bills, or Browns could win, and I likely wouldn't take it. But the fantasy football scoreboard stops for no man. We already put up analysis about Eric Decker and Jacob Tamme's games, but there are plenty of more guys on the cut line. In an article unlikely to hit 800 Facebook likes this time (that's a challenge!), here are some names numberFire is looking at today as solid starts or must sits.
Week 5 Start/Sit - Sunday Edition
Joe Flacco - Baltimore Ravens
Week 4: 18.33 Projected Points (#7 Ranked QB)
Percent Started: 31.3%
Verdict: Start Him
You haven't heard Joe Flacco's name mentioned among the elites at quarterback this season; he's no Brady or Brees or RGIII. Perhaps it's time to change that. There are six quarterbacks who have been in the top ten fantasy QB earners in three of the first four weeks of the season: Griffin III, Ryan, Brees, Brady, Peyton, and oh yeah, that Flacco guy. With excellent games against Cincinnati, New England, and (numberFire's #10 opponent-adjusted defense) Cleveland, the ex-Fightin' Blue Hen may just be living up to his preseason proclamation that he's an elite quarterback. This week, he gets to face off against a Chiefs defense that has been particularly poor allowing scores to opposing quarterbacks. Every single QB to face Kansas City so far this year has registered at least 2 TDs, and the 10 passing TDs they have given up are the second most in the NFL behind only Washington's 11. Flacco makes an excellent replacement if you have Stafford or Romo on a bye this week (or in Romo's case, perhaps permanently).
Matt Schaub - Houston Texans
Week 4: 14.73 Projected Points (#16 Ranked QB)
Percent Started: 28.7%
Verdict: Sit Him
I had him in the "Start Him" category last Sunday, and he responded in kind with a solid, but not extraordinary, 16 point performance against the Titans. The main problem wasn't his efficiency - Schaub completed 71% of his passes and did not throw a single pick on the day - but rather his team being a little too good. Schaub threw three passes the entire fourth quarter and completed only one for three yards. If the Texans keep blowing teams out like they've managed to do the first four weeks (only one game had a margin of victory under 20), Schaub's upside may be limited. That could surely be the case this Monday, as the Texans take on a Jets team without two very important pieces: Darrelle Revis, and a competent quarterback. Houston comes into the game as an eight point favorite, and it may not even be that close. Except a large and heavy dose of Arian Foster, a medium-sized dose of Ben Tate, and a reduced portion for the man under center.
Donald Brown - Indianapolis Colts
Week 4: 13.10 Projected Points (#11 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 13.8%
Verdict: Start Him
Donald Brown has upheld the outstanding Indianapolis Colts running back tradition, established when Edgerrin James departed, of being completely and utterly useless for fantasy purposes. He has only topped 50 yards rushing once this season, and even that was a 62-yard "meh"-fest against the Jaguars, numberFire's #26 opponent-adjusted defense. He has only scored one touchdown on the year, and that was a TD of little consequence in a game the Colts ended up losing to the Bears 41-21.
So why exactly is numberFire so high on Brown for this week? For one, he has established himself as the clear #1 back in the Colts' system. Of the 64 handoffs (aka, non-Luck scrambles) the Colts have done this season, Brown has received the ball 43 times. That's good for 67% of all rushes, and with Brown fully healthy, there is no reason to expect Vick Ballard to take an even larger role than his current five carries per game. Second is Brown's increased potential to be used in the passing game. He only has one reception so far this season, but he caught at least one pass in 10 of his 12 starts last season and caught multiple passes in four (or one-third) of them. And finally, perhaps most importantly, there's always that matchup against the Cheeseheads to examine. As a whole, the Packers defense hasn't been bad - their #16 opponent-adjusted defense according to numberFire's rankings is dead average. But on the ground, they've been hit or miss. Frank Gore went off for 117 rushing yards against them in week 1, the Bush/Forte combo had over 4.0 yards per carry combined in week 2, Marshawn Lynch had 98 yards against them in week 3.
Fred Jackson - Buffalo Bills
Week 4: 9.78 Projected Points (#24 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 55.8%
Verdict: Sit Him
What to make of the Bills' running back situation? Jackson received the most carries last weekend, but he's clearly been the less effective back in Buffalo. That's easy to do when C.J. Spiller has been the most effective back in the NFL, but that still does not excuse Jackson's incredibly poor -0.61 NEP per rush so far this season on 19 attempts. The Bills could easily change that depth chart at the drop of a hat if Jackson stuggles early. There might be enough room for Jackson and Spiller both if the Bills were to play an easier run defense, but they don't even have that luxury going against numberFire's #6 opponent-adjusted defense in San Francisco. The Niners only gave up 45 rushing yards total to the Jets last week.
Antonio Brown - Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 4: 10.20 Projected Points (#13 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 39.4%
Verdict: Start Him
I feel like I'm saying this at every single week at this point: why would you ever sit Antonio Brown? Has he not proved himself at this point? I mean, all he's done is hit 70 receiving yards every single one of his games, lead the Steelers with 29 targets, and scored a touchdown in his most recent game to boot. He may not be the top-five lock like he was against the Raiders just two weeks ago, but even against a top defense like the Eagles, he should still be in every lineup. The Steelers have shown a commitment to the pass so far this season: 62% of all offensive plays are passing plays. Even though Rashard Mendenhall is coming back, I would not expect that proportion to change, as it remains only a bit above the 55% mark they put up last season. He may not have the touchdowns of Mike Wallace or Heath Miller, but numberFire's advanced analytics thinks that may change. His TD projection for this game (0.49) is higher than either Wallace (0.47) or Miller (0.35).
James Jones - Green Bay Packers
Week 4: 10.20 Projected Points (#34 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 32.4%
Verdict: Sit Him
Here is the target totals for each of the Packers' top five receivers. See if you can match the name to the target. On the receivers' side, you have Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings (playing three games), Jermichael Finley, and James Jones. On the targets side, you have 31, 27, 23, 22, and 21. And... go!
Not that easy, is it? The answer is: Nelson 31, Finley 27, Jones 23, Jennings 22, and Cobb 21. Aaron Rodgers obviously has a bevy of receivers to throw to, and you never know who is going to be the breakout guy. In the past two weeks, Jones has seemed like that guy, especially on the back of his 17 FP day against the Saints last week. But if you take a closer look, his hot streak does not seem sustainable. Only 14.6% of Rodgers' throws went Jones's way last week; his six targets were third on the team. The week before against the Seahawks, Jones was second on the team with six targets, but that only represented 15.7% of Rodgers' 38 attempts as he spread the ball around once again. Jones has a high 69.5% catch rate so far this season, but even that may be unsustainable; he has only topped 60% in two of his five Packers seasons (2008 and 2011). Even against an easier Indianapolis Colts opposing defense (#25 in numberFire's rankings), the looks are never guaranteed.