I went to Starbucks the other day and ordered my typical iced coffee. As I walked to the crowded area where everyone waits for their drink (I hate that area. It’s always so awkward.), I couldn’t help but pick up the words “Peyton Manning” coming from one of the baristas.
On the job, they were talking about fantasy football. The one guy said he had C.J. Spiller, and mentioned that he was killing his fantasy team. (For the record, one single player isn’t killing your fantasy team.) He – I think his name was Pat – then went on to say that he was going to drop Spiller because he wasn’t performing well, noting that he was planning on picking up Fred Jackson to replace him.
“No!” I screamed in the awkward area.
Every eye that was waiting for coffee was pointed at me. I stood there, not knowing what to say: Was I going to be creepy and admit to listening in on a fantasy football conversation, or would I just pretend I got a text from a family member saying my childhood pet cat – who doesn’t even exist – just died?
I did neither, because the third barista – we’ll call her God – yelled to mention my drink was done. I walked away, iced coffee in hand, knowing I had escaped a potential self-esteem disaster.
C.J. Spiller is on someone’s waiver wire week because I wasn’t able to help that barista. But hopefully I’ll be able to help you.
Shawn Hunter: Trustworthy (Solid Starts)
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Oakland Raiders
Pryor’s become a staple for these start/sit columns, but for good reason. Owned in just 26 percent of ESPN leagues (probably a little higher in active ones), Pryor has double-digit fantasy totals in his only three games played, including a 19.8- and 20.8-point game.
As I’ve noted many times here, he’s not just doing it with his legs: He ranks in the upper half in terms of passing efficiency according to our advanced metrics. This week against San Diego, a team that ranks dead last against fantasy quarterbacks, he’s a great start.
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
This 2013 version of Philip Rivers is for real, people. Not only is he the fourth-best fantasy quarterback to date, but he’s posted 23 or more fantasy points in three of his first four games. He gets Oakland this week, an obvious good matchup, and follows it up with Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Washington. Don’t expect him to slow down just yet.
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
We all hate what the Rams are doing offensively, but you can’t deny the matchup. The Jags rank 26th against fantasy signal-callers, and rank 25th in adjusted defenses passing net expected points per play. In other words, on a per play basis, the Jags are giving up more point (real ones) through the air than most NFL teams.
Bradford’s hard to trust, but when you face Jacksonville, you become hard to not trust.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
The rookie is back from a concussion that sidelined him against Washington and Cincinnati, and he gets a juicy matchup against the Lions. Detroit can give up the big play, and they’ve allowed rushing touchdowns in each of their first four games. The rushing yardage hasn’t been there against the Lions, but that’s because teams aren’t running the ball enough on them, losing early in contests. We expect him to put up RB2 numbers this week.
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers
Though the Raiders only gave up 34 yards in Week 2, it was also to the mostly Maurice Jones-Drew-less Jaguars. Over the last two weeks, the Raiders have surrendered 278 yards and two scores to opposing running backs. Mathews hasn’t been great, but he hasn’t been awful either. Typically a flex play, he’s got a shot at RB2 status against the Raiders.
Also, don’t look past Danny Woodhead in any league format. Though he’s only seen 19 carries this season, Woodhead has averaged almost seven receptions over his last three games, incluing two receiving scores in last week’s contest against the Cowboys. He’s become, once again, a great PPR play, and even has value in non-PPR leagues.
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
As I noted in my 15 Transactions article this week, it’s time to buy the Giants offense. Not because they’re playing well (they’re not), but because they have an incredibly soft schedule approaching.
Clearly Victor Cruz is a guy that should usually be slipped into your lineup, but this is just a reminder. Hakeem Nicks is a good play this week too against an Eagles team that seems to not like playing defense.
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns
Playing someone on Thursday night is always a risk, but Josh Gordon’s matchup tonight is potentially the best you could ask for. The Bills depleted secondary was just smoked by Torrey Smith last week (a “start” in this column), and the defense has now surrendered 584 yards and four touchdowns to opposing wide receivers over the last two weeks. Start Gordon. Start him hard.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
Olsen’s been somewhat of a disappointment this year, but continues to have a high floor in the Panthers offense. He’ll see an Arizona defense that’s given up four tight end touchdowns this year, and double-digit receptions to the Rams and the Jimmy Grahams. He’s a great play for Week 5.
Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos
Thomas is a great example of why volume isn’t the reason tight ends are surging in today’s NFL. He’s only seen 24 targets so far this year, but ranks fourth in tight end points (Thanks, Peyton). Against Dallas, however, Thomas has a good chance to see some more love, as the Cowboys have given up 33 receptions to tight ends so far this season.
Henry Rowengartner: Give Him a Shot (Sneaky Plays)
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again: Eli is one of the least predictable passers in the game today. On paper, the 21st-ranked fantasy quarterback has a fantastic matchup against one of the league-worst secondaries. That’s why he’s on this list.
Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets
The rookie passer may be missing two of his wide receivers on Monday night, as Santonio Holmes is listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury, and Stephen Hill is marked as questionable with a concussion. However, if you’re in a deep league, Geno has a matchup that not only could bring garbage time points, but early-game points, too. The Falcons rank 25th against fantasy quarterbacks this season, and although Geno has struggled, he’s struggled against stout defenses in New England and Tennessee. The Falcons aren’t as strong.
Willis McGahee, RB, Cleveland Browns
The 314-year-old running back saw 15 carries against a good Bengals front seven last week, rushing for 46 yards. He was close to a score as well.
This week – tonight – McGahee will go up against a Buffalo defense that was great against the Ravens at home last week, but did surrender 168 yards to the Jets and 162 yards to the Patriots in two of their first three weeks. He’s a deep play, but McGahee could have a nice Thursday night.
David Wilson, RB, New York Giants
This is the week. This is the week David Wilson stops being polite, and starts getting real.
The Giants let go of running back Da’Rel Scott earlier in the week, paving a path for David Wilson to see more snaps, especially on third down. Brandon Jacobs is – as I like to say – about as useful as the D-Pad on a Nintendo 64 controller, so I’d expected Wilson to be much more involved in the offense. If you can still buy low, go for it. This could be where Wilson turns things around.
Austin Pettis, WR, St. Louis Rams
Though Jacksonville ranks 16th against opposing fantasy receivers, much of that has to do with the fact that teams are running the ball down their throats in the second half, eliminating the passing game. The reason I have Pettis here is because he currently leads the Rams in targets, ahead of rookie Tavon Austin.
The Rams offensive weapons are going to be difficult to predict each week, so this move should only be made out of desperation. However, keep Pettis on your radar because, as we’ve seen, he’s slowly looking like Sam Bradford’s favorite option.
Jeremy Kerley, WR, New York Jets
Again, if those Jets receivers miss time this week, Kerley will have an opportunity to be Geno’s top option against the Falcons. Kerley had a solid four-reception game for 65 yards against the Titans last week, and I’d expect that to be his floor if those guys miss the game.
Denarius Moore and Rod Streater, WR, Oakland Raiders
The Chargers secondary, as I noted, is bad. They rank 28th against wide receivers this year, and have given up five touchdowns to them over the last three games. Moore and Streater should get a lot of looks, and both could have nice games late Sunday.
Kellen Winslow, TE, New York Jets
Three Jets in the “deep plays” group? That’s what happens when you’ve got a team full of moderate talent being led by a rookie quarterback I suppose.
Winslow’s an interesting play this week due to process of elimination. Again, Holmes and Hill will more than likely miss their game, so Winslow could see an uptick in his usual targets. If you’re desperate for a tight end, you could lean on our 16th-ranked one for Week 5.
Defense to Start: St. Louis Rams (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)
Gallon of Milk Challenge: Not Worth It (Risky Starts)
Luck is fantasy football’s eighth-best quarterback, but it’s not because of his passing metrics; he has two rushing touchdowns and 126 rushing yards through four games. That’s something that will be tough to project each week.
This week, Luck gets a Seattle defense that’s allowed just three passing touchdowns all season long. Three. Bench Luck this week, in favor of a lot of options, too.
Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans
The quarterback that did perform well against Seattle last week was Matt Schaub, and he’s now got three games with over 18 fantasy points. Against San Francisco, however, Schaub is a risky play, especially when you consider how well the 49ers defense played against the Rams last week.
Atlanta Running Backs
Jacquizz Rodgers has 118 yards on 25 carries since Steven Jackson’s injury, and Jason Snelling has captured over 20 fantasy points the last two weeks. The problem is that when they’re close to the end zone, they’re not running the ball. And against the best rush defense in the league, neither guy is worthwhile to start in Week 5.
St. Louis Running Backs
It could be Zac Stacy’s turn to fill the starting role for the Rams this week, but the running back position isn’t the only problem for St. Louis this year. The offensive line has created zero holes for these guys to run through, making it a fantasy football nightmare. Stay away.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Green-Ellis carried the ball just six times against the Browns last week compared to Gio Bernard’s 10 attempts, and now has just 142 yards on the season. The Law Firm ranks sixth-to-last in terms of rushing efficiency according to numberFire’s metrics, and of the backs with 50 or more touches, only C.J. Spiller and Chris Johnson have been worse. The matchup isn’t great for him this week, either.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
If you’re in a shallow league, Reggie Wayne could be considered here too. Seattle’s secondary, as descbribed with Andrew Luck, is tremendous. Hilton’s been quite mediocre this season, with only one big game coming against Miami in Week 2. He’s an easy bench this week.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Doesn’t it seem like when players performing poorly do well, we over exaggerate what they actually did? Dwayne Bowe’s been bad this year from a production standpoint thanks to Andy Reid’s conservative offense. And all of a sudden, after a four-reception game with a touchdown, everyone wants some of Dwayne Bowe.
He has 13 receptions this season, folks. 13. Julian Edelman hit that mark in Week 2 alone. You can’t consistently trust Bowe yet, especially a much improved Tennessee defense in Week 5.
Marlon Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Brown scored last week against the Bills, and now has made his fantasy living off getting in the end zone. This week, however, he gets the task of going up against a defense that has yet to allow a wide receiver score this season in Miami. There should be better options outside of Brown.
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
There’s no need to bench Davis if you don’t have anything better – tight ends can be quite volatile – but I’m not a fan of his matchup this week against the Texans. Houston has surrendered a total of eight tight end receptions all season long. Eight. If not for a touchdown to Delanie Walker in Week 2, they’d be tops against tight ends in the league. Bench him if there are nice streaming options out on your waiver wire.
The Girl from The Ring: Stay Away (Don’t Even Bother)
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Palmer ranks 28th among fantasy quarterbacks, and will face the sixth-best defense in pretend pigskin against signal-callers this week. He shouldn’t be trusted as a starter to begin with, let alone against the Panthers.
If you think Mike Goodson being back in the Jets offense is a game changer, think again. Rex Ryan said yesterday that Goodson still isn’t in football shape, and Goodson may not even dress for Monday night’s game. He’s not even worth a deep bench stash in your leagues. Bilal Powell is doing just fine.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Detroit Lions
The opportunity seems to be there, but Broyles isn’t stepping up when he needs to most. He was targeted just once last week in the Lions win, even though he played 43 snaps. Until we see something, he can’t be trusted.
Earl Bennett, WR, Chicago Bears
You may be fooled by his two touchdowns over his last two games, and perhaps you think this was bound to happen because he used to be roommates with his quarterback, Jay Cutler, in college. But stop. Earl Bennett isn’t a predictable fantasy option, and still shouldn’t be owned in standard leagues.
Defense to Sit: Houston Texans (vs. San Francisco 49ers)
For any other start or sit questions, visit numberFire’s Questions section and take a look at our weekly rankings.