I’m not depressed. I’m hopeful.
I’m a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. Last night was the end to the most extraordinary baseball season the Steel City has seen in over 20 years. But the end for this team, to me, is just the beginning to a great future.
This is fantasy football related how? Well, you may feel down in the dumps, perhaps losing a game by a fraction of a point or sitting 1-4 with Chris Johnson at running back. But if player schedules – the future – look promising, there’s no real reason to feel so dejected. Maybe your 1-4 start is just about to turn around. Maybe that 1-4 record is just a product of poor matchups.
Perhaps, of course, you have David Wilson, Stevan Ridley and Julio Jones. In that case, cross your fingers and toes, and pray to the fantasy football gods for less broken bones, better waiver wire pickups and smarter start/sit decisions.
Well, maybe not the last part – I’ve got that covered for you.
Andrew McCutchen: M-V-P (Solid Starts)
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
No, RGIII hasn’t been his 2012 self just yet, but has an opportunity to come back to form against a Dallas secondary that’s been torched this year. Consider this: Outside of Sam Bradford’s miserable Week 3 performance against Dallas, the secondary has allowed, 28.8, 22.6, 26.0 and 35.8 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. RGIII is a great start this week.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Griffin’s draft classmate, Andrew Luck, has nearly just as good of a matchup against a San Diego defense that’s allowed an average of two touchdown passes per game. And folks, they’ve faced teams like Houston, Tennessee and Oakland – not exactly powerhouse passing offenses.
Luck has put a nice season together thus far, ranking seventh at quarterback in standard scoring and ninth among quarterbacks in passing net expected points, a measure that shows how many real points a player has contributed towards his team’s output. Expect it to continue against the Bolts.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
I know, I know – nobody wants to start a quarterback on Thursday night. But there’s no denying that Jay Cutler is the real deal in this Marc Trestman offense, and continues to have great matchups over the next four or so weeks. It may be a Thursday game, but the Giants have given up at least two touchdowns a game, including three-touchdowns to Cam Newton and Alex Smith. Cutler’s a good start in what will probably be a sloppy game.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Murray should be slotted in your lineup every week, unless you’re in one of those five-team family leagues that I always hear about. The Washington defense, Murray’s opponent in Week 6, has been bad against the run, allowing the 31st-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Expect Murray to get close to 100 on the ground – he’s our 10th-best running back option this week.
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
I think Morris owners need to realize the kind of player Alfred is: A high-floor guy without a crazy amount of upside. And that’s fine, especially if you have an erratic RB2.
Though the Cowboys have surrendered the seventh-fewest yards to opposing runners this year, they’ve also allowed two straight 100-yard games to team running backs. The main reason the ‘Boys haven’t given up more yards on the ground is because their first three opponents ran running backs just 38 times.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos
You better know ‘Shon, because the Broncos running back is taking over fantasy football. Guys, Knowshon Moreno is the eighth-best half-point PPR running back in fake football right now, and has double-digit touches in nearly every single game. He’s here to stay as long as the Broncos are winning, which they will be.
Against Jacksonville, you couldn’t get a much better matchup. Though the Jags rank 21st against fantasy running backs this year, the Broncos are going to run a heck of a lot after Pey Pey gets his usual 17 touchdowns in the first quarter. Go for it. Go for Knowshon.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
T.Y. owners are assuming his initials stand for “Thank You” (what an overused joke), as his monster five-reception, 140-yard and two-score game last week led to a near 30-point fantasy performance. This week, the Colts get the Chargers – a squad that’s not afraid to give up a big play. Hilton’s a great WR3 for Week 6.
Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Smith continues to not find the end zone, but has at least four receptions and 85 yards in every game this season. A surprising risk-averse play, the deep ball receiver will face a Packers secondary that has given up the 24th-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts. Smith is a nice start.
Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers
Let's not be confused with Torrey, this is Smiff, not Smith. The Panthers wideout hasn’t had a game with more than six receptions this season, and the best yardage mark he’s posted was just 60 last week.
But there’s hope, fantasy footballers: The Panthers will face the Vikings this week, a team that’s struggled mightily in the secondary. They’ve allowed over 230 yards to wide receivers over their last two games, something Smith should be able to take advantage of.
Martellus Bennett, TE, Chicago Bears
The Black Unicorn has stayed fairly consistent so far this year, but hasn’t found the end zone since Week 2. Fortunately, he faces a Giants defense on Thursday that’s given up the 28th-most points to opposing tight ends. As our sixth-ranked player at the position, Bennett is a fantastic start this week.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
As I mentioned yesterday, Greg Olsen isn’t getting nearly enough love this season. Even with a bye, he’s listed as the 12th-best tight end in fantasy, and has secured the second-highest percentage of team targets at the tight end position this year. He’ll face a Minnesota defense that’s given up a tight end touchdown in all but one contest in 2013, and in that contest, surrendered six receptions for 70 yards to Heath Miller. Start him.
Russell Martin: Overlooked (Sneaky Starts)
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
It’s never entertaining, but Smith gets it done. His miserable 8.8 fantasy point performance was against a much improved Titans defense, proving that Smith may be more of a matchup play this season than anything else. But that’s fine – that just means quarterback streamers have another guy to use when looking for a signal-caller on Tuesday off the waiver wire.
This week, the boring passer faces a Raiders defense that’s allowed at least 14 fantasy points to opposing quarterback in each contest, including two 24-plus point games. Smith is a high floor, low ceiling guy, but could be just what a boom or bust team needs in Week 6.
Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
I always like to throw in a controversial quarterback into these start/sit columns, including last week’s Geno Smith play (Boom!). Let me put it this way with Henne: He’ll be taking out the trash, and he’ll be doing it for approximately three quarters. The Broncos and their 329-point spread should go up big early, giving way to a potential 50-plus attempts for the Jacksonville quarterback.
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos
As I mentioned with Moreno, the Broncos have a huge opportunity to go up big in this game, allowing for a platoon of running backs to see the field. Advantage Ronnie Hillman, who actually ranks fifth in the league according to our metrics in rushing efficiency per rush.
Willis McGahee, RB, Cleveland Browns
If you didn’t take my advice and sell Willis McGahee, you better hope he turns around a big game against a bad Lions rush defense. I think he will, which is why he’s on the list, but you’re risking valuable stock if McGahee continues to be a mediocre runner.
Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Eagles are no stranger to giving up the deep ball, and Mike Williams should enjoy that against Philadelphia on Sunday. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon may hold him back a bit, but if you need a big boom or bust starter, Williams is your man.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Remember when Hopkins was dominating everything? Well, over the last two weeks, the rookie receiver has just four catches for 50 yards. That’s it.
The Rams soft secondary should give Hopkins a little breathing room though, but like Williams, he’s a risky, high-upside play dependent upon his poor quarterback’s performance.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Reed’s slowly become RGIII’s favorite tight end weapon, and has a nice matchup against the league’s worst team defending tight ends this season. If you’re looking for a streamer, Reed could be the one to fill the gap.
Garrett Graham, TE, Houston Texans
If you need a longer-term solution at tight end, Garrett Graham could be your man. His matchup this week isn’t incredible, but he’s still listed as our 16th-best tight end option of the week. And from here on out, there’s potential for Graham to be a really nice low-end TE1 with Owen Daniels’ injury. Grab him off the wire if you’re in need of tight end help.
Justin Morneau: What Happened? (Risky Starts)
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers passer has a combined 33.5 fantasy points over the last four weeks. Tony Romo, in last week’s game alone, put up over 40. That’s the way this season has gone for Kaep owners.
It doesn’t get any better this week, either. Kaepernick faces a Cardinals defense that’s allowed just one three-touchdown performance by a quarterback (Brees), and is coming off a nice game against Cam Newton. Given the way Kaepernick’s season has gone from a pretend pigskin perspective, there’s no reason to assume that this is the game he turns things around fantasy-wise.
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
The best cure for any struggling quarterback is to play the Jaguars. That’s what Bradford did last week, and was able to post 222 yards and three scores. Can he repeat things this week? Doubtful. The Rams get the Texans, a team that’s limited opposing quarterback to under 200 yards passing in every game this season. If not for the four touchdowns thrown by Philip Rivers in Week 1, the Texans would be considered nearly unstoppable against the pass. Don’t go with Sammy boy this week.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
It’s obvious that Eli’s struggling this year, and it’s shown in fantasy football, too. The Giants passer has just one game over 16 fake points, and the majority of his contests have resulted in less than 11 fantasy points. On Thursday night, he’ll face a Chicago defense that, sure, isn’t as fantastic against the pass as we may have imagined, but one that can create turnovers, something Eli’s prone to doing. Bench him for a higher-upside play.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell should get the lion’s share of touches for Pittsburgh again, but has a tough matchup against the Jets front seven. Though the Falcons were able to score twice on them, the Jets still only allowed 64 running back rushing yards to Atlanta backs. New York has yet to give up more than 80 yards in a game to opposing runners, which doesn’t bode well with Bell and his shaky offensive line. He’s a low-end RB2 or a high-end flex play according to our algorithms this week.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals need Green-Ellis for their 1-2 running back punch, and he proved to be a consistent asset for the offense on Sunday against the Patriots. Beware though: Buffalo may look like a cake matchup for The Law Firm, but they’ve actually surrendered the fourth-lowest total to opposing running backs this year, including just one rushing touchdown. That’s why Green-Ellis may be better off on your bench: He’s not a yardage guy – he’s an end zone one.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
The disappointing season for Johnson continues, as he ranks only ahead of David Wilson in our rushing net expected points metric. Johnson is facing the Seahawks this week in Seattle, a place where the defense held the 49ers to just 13 yards rushing in Week 2. I’ll pass on CJ.8K this week.
St. Louis Rams Wide Receivers
I was pleased to have called Austin Pettis a deep play last week in this very column, but I’m not expecting the same against Houston. As noted with Bradford, the Texans haven’t allowed more than 200 yards through the air in a single game this season. Add that to the fact that St. Louis receivers hold little value to begin with, and you’ve got a classic case of benchititis.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
We warned you multiple times (here and here) to not draft Larry Fitzgerald early this season, but here you are, with Fitz, in Week 6. San Francisco’s defense has been money against wide receivers, including a game last week where they allowed just seven receptions for 81 yards to the position. If you can get a replacement, do it – Fitz isn’t anything more than a flex spot this week.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Somewhere over Dwayne Bowe, things aren’t miserable. Do you know how many games Dwayne Bowe has had with over four receptions? Zero. Do you know how many games Dwayne Bowe has had with over 60 receiving yards? Zilch. Do you know how many times you should start him, regardless of a favorable matchup? You got it.
Greg Jennings, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Jennings put together a great performance – thanks to some big plays – against Pittsburgh in London, but don’t get too excited just yet. He’ll face a Panther squad that held Larry Fitzgerald to three catches last week, and one that dominated the Giants just two weeks prior. Jennings is a mediocre WR3 to begin with, but this week, he’s a definite sit as our 48th-ranked receiver.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions
Brandon Pettigrew’s been all Brandon Pettigrew this season, and has yet to find the end zone. That’s probably going to continue against a Browns team that’s yet to give up a tight end score. Given the choices at the position, Pettigrew isn’t one I’d feel comfortable starting.
Mark Melancon: Never Again (Don't Even Bother)
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Do you still like Carson Palmer and that Arizona passing attack? If yes, you’ve got bigger problems than having Carson Palmer on your fantasy squad.
Here it is, plain and simple: Until we see something from this offense through the air, you can’t trust it – or at least the quarterback. Palmer has two games of under five fantasy points this season, and hasn’t been over 12 since Week 1. Against San Francisco? Yeah right.
Brandon Weeden, QB, Cleveland Browns
With the unfortunate Brian Hoyer injury, Brandon Weeden is now able to step in and be a mediocre quarterback again. He’s a matchup play in fantasy, and by matchup play, I mean “only play him against the Jaguars”. He’ll have some good weeks, but not against the 11th-best team versus quarterbacks.
Johnathan Franklin, RB, Green Bay Packers
This is Lacy’s team, guys. I know we all wanted Johnathan Franklin to be a thing after his Week 3 performance against the Bengals, but he saw just three carries for a single yard last week. Franklin shouldn’t be rostered in standard leagues, and shouldn’t be close to a “start” consideration versus an effective rush defense this week.
Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Pierce saw just 18 snaps last week against the Dolphins, running the ball 11 times for 46 yards. The Ravens matchup this week against the Packers is better against the pass than the run, and Ray Rice should continue to see more use than Pierce.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Detroit Lions
It was Broyles’ turn to step up to the plate with Megatron out last week, and all he gave us was two catches for 27 yards. As much upside as this Lions receiver has, it’s impossible to start him. You probably shouldn’t even own him in standard leagues, either.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
Rudolph was a decent fantasy choice in 2012 due to process of elimination – there were really no other options to throw to after Percy Harvin’s injury in the Minnesota offense. But this year, we’re seeing what happens with a few more receiving weapons (if we count Jerome Simpson’s revival). Rudolph has caught just 12 balls this year and has yet to have a game with over 42 yards receiving. One touchdown’s been scored by the red zone threat, too. He’s not someone you can trust in fantasy, let alone against a team that ranks second against the position this season in terms of fantasy points allowed.