Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 5
Someone hit my Twitter mentions on Monday saying, "Can you make me feel better about Chris Carson getting hurt?"
My response was simple: "Yes. You didn't get hurt."
Look, guys. I'm sad about my fantasy football teams, too. I drafted Dalvin Cook and Chris Carson everywhere. Sometimes on the same team. Losing them to big injuries puts that sinking feeling in your stomach. I get it.
Perspective is always good, though, too. You woke up on Tuesday in a tilt, sure, but you also woke up on Tuesday -- I hope -- with no broken limbs. You didn't roll out of bed tearing your ACL.
And your season isn't over. There are ways to make up for a lost fantasy football asset. There are ways to still win your league.
Making the right start-sit choices is one of those ways.
Start Jameis Winston (vs. New England): On the season, the Patriots have allowed 1,296 yards through the air, 11 passing touchdowns, and an 8.6 net yards per pass attempt. Those are all rank dead last in football. Every quarterback that's faced New England -- so we're talking about Alex Smith, Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson, and Cam Newton -- has thrown for at least 300 yards and a pair of scores against them. In turn, they've allowed more fantasy points to opposing passers than any other team. Winston, at home in a game with the highest over-under on the week, is a fantastic play.
Sit Philip Rivers (at New York): I usually hesitate in feeling confident about a quarterback who's traveling from the west coast to the east coast for an early game, which is what we have here with Rivers.
On top of that, the matchup isn't all that attractive. From a personnel standpoint, the Giants do have a strong defense. To be fair, so far on the year, our numbers peg them as just an average one when adjusted for strength of opponent, but they've held two of the four quarterbacks they've faced this year to under 14 fantasy points with one of those games being their lone home contest played. And the list of passers they've faced has been strong, as they've gone up against Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, and Jameis Winston.
It's a tough week for quarterbacks across the board, so maybe you're in a spot where you kind of have to play Rivers. Just know that he should be looked at more as a lower-end QB2 rather than the higher-end one he usually is.
Start Jacoby Brissett (deeper play, vs. San Francisco): It's a week of rough quarterback streamers in particular, so if you're looking for one off the wire in deeper formats, you may be struggling. With that being said, Brissett offers interesting upside in a matchup against the 49ers.
Brissett's averaging a deep ball (a pass that goes 15 or more yards down the field) on a little over 16% of his passes, which is an average rate compared to the rest of the league. But on those throws this season, he's got a 107.9 quarterback rating, which is a top-10 number at the position. San Francisco's allowed the eighth-most deep ball passes this year, so there's a chance for a big play or two in this particular contest, especially with speedster T.Y. Hilton to throw to.
Moreover, the 49ers have been a bottom-half team in terms of fantasy points against to quarterbacks, and every passer has posted at least 13 fantasy points versus them this season. There's somewhat of a floor there. But the ceiling is there, too -- in Brissett's lone plus matchup this season (Cleveland in Week 3), he was able to throw for 259 yards and a score while finding the end zone two additional times on the ground.
Starting Brissett is risky, but the payoff could be there during a week of bye weeks and bad quarterback streaming options.
Sit Blake Bortles (at Pittsburgh): Don't go chasing garbage time, guys. That's usually what fantasy owners try and do when using Bortles, and he's in a prime garbage time spot this week as he'll face the Steelers in Pittsburgh as an 8.5-point underdog. But Pittsburgh currently has a top-10 pass defense according to our numbers, and they've allowed a 4.0 net yards per attempt, which is the best in the NFL. Remember: it takes a garbage performance to create that garbage time. If you were thinking about playing Bortles given the tough matchups across the league this week, it's not worth it.
Start Aaron Jones (at Dallas): We've got to make a few assumptions for Aaron Jones this week in order for him to be a strong play. And those assumptions are simple: Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams need to be sidelined. Because when they were in Week 4, Jones ran 13 times for 49 yards and a score, gaining positive yardage on all 13 of his carries.
As of today, it looks like that could happen, but neither player is ruled out yet. And that means Jones will face a Dallas rush defense as a lead back that's allowed a top-20 PPR performance to every team they've faced this year. That includes the Giants and Cardinals.
Now, if Montgomery goes, you've got to pull back on the Jones love. If Williams is the one that's able to play, Jones makes for a decent-enough flex given he vastly outperformed him in Week 4.
The Green Bay-Dallas game has the second-highest over/under on the week, and you're associating your running back (Jones) with arguably the best quarterback in the game. Playing Jones is a no-brainer if the other two backs on the team are sidelined.
Sit Tarik Cohen (vs. Minnesota): You really may not have a choice but to play Cohen this week because the running back position is thin, and teams are on their bye.
But there are a few reasons Tarik Cohen makes for a riskier play this week. In Week 4, he ended up playing just 27% of the team's snaps while Benny Cunningham, another pass-catching back, was on the field for 24% of them. Cunningham was injured in Week 1 and didn't play in Week 2, so as he gets healthier, perhaps he digs into Cohen's receiving role a bit.
The Vikings are no joke on D, too. Two running backs have finished as top-20 ones against them this season (Ameer Abdullah and Le'Veon Bell), but it took 20-plus attempts for them to get there. There's no chance Cohen sees that type of volume. In addition to this, Minnesota's allowed just 18 running back receptions in four games (only eight teams have allowed fewer) despite facing the Steelers (Bell), Lions (Abdullah and Theo Riddick) and Saints (Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram).
We also don't know how Cohen is going to work with new starter Mitchell Trubisky, too. What's naturally kept Cohen afloat has been his receiving volume, as he's captured a 20.86% target market share in the Bears offense this season. That's the fourth-highest mark among all running backs, and a number that has the potential to change for the worse with a new signal-caller under center.
Of course, Trubisky could lock into the electric back out of the backfield and provide PPR love. That doesn't mean there's not a lot of risk in starting Cohen, though.
Start Jacquizz Rodgers (vs. New England): It's true that Doug Martin is back from his suspension this week, but the dude only started practicing with the team on Monday, and the Bucs play the Patriots on Thursday. And I don't know if you heard, but that game should feature a lot of scoring. (If you haven't heard, then that means you're skimming this article. How dare you.)
Enter Jacquizz Rodgers, who's seen 19, 5, and 16 carries in three games, capturing a strong 60.61% rushing attempt market share in the Bucs' offense.
Now, if the the Patriots do Patriot-like things and destroy Tampa Bay, Rodgers could see a lot of his work go to passing-down back Charles Sims. When the Bucs were blown out by the Vikings in Week 3, Rodgers, noted above, saw just five attempts. Sims was actually on the field for more snaps, which is the only time that's happened this year.
In a game that should see a lot of scoring, though, Rodgers makes for a logical play.
Edit: It sounds like Martin may see more volume than initially thought, so this make Rodgers and Martin both fringe options for the week. Volume is everything, and if the coaches use Martin, he's the one you'd want to play. Everything's up in the air now.
Sit Isaiah Crowell (vs. New York): I know what you're thinking, Crowell owners: the Browns could finally see a neutral game script with the Jets coming to town, which means Isaiah Crowell might be a sneaky play. In theory, that's not wrong. But he's also been pretty dreadful this season, ranking sixth-worst in Success Rate (percentage of positive expected points runs made by a running back) among the 40 backs with 30 or more carries this year.
And even with the bad game scripts that favor teammate Duke Johnson, Crowell's not playing as many snaps as we're used to seeing. He was on the field for just 34% of them in Cleveland's Week 4 loss, which is the lowest snap count he's seen since Week 8 of 2015. No thanks.
Start Wayne Gallman (deeper play, vs. Los Angeles): There's some reason to like Gallman this week if you're trying to dig deep. He played the most snaps of any Giants back in Week 4, he saw the most carries, and he was by far the most productive. Paul Perkins currently has a Success Rate of 12.50%, which is the worst rate seen by a running back with 30 or more carries over the last 18 years. Overtaking him in that backfield shouldn't be tough.
Gallman will be playing at home in New York as a favorite, which is a plus. And the Chargers haven't been fantastic against running backs this year, allowing a top-15 performance in three of their four games, including two last week alone. They've now given up the seventh-most points to the position this year.
Start DeVante Parker (vs. Tennessee): Really, the only constant in the Miami offense through their first four games has been DeVante Parker. He's seen 9, 10, and 8 targets, respectively, scoring at least 12 PPR points in each game. Considering the team's scored a combined 23 points in three games -- and 6 the last two weeks -- that's not bad.
He's got a dream matchup in Week 5, too. The Titans have allowed at least one top-12 wide receiver performance in PPR formats each week this year, and seven wide receivers have finished in the top-20 against them. No other team has allowed more than four. Given his consistent volume and reliability in this (bad) offense, he's worth a start in Week 5.
Sit Marqise Lee (at Pittsburgh): I've already noted that the Steelers have been good against the pass this year, and while they've faced easy competition, that's not entirely different this week. Marqise Lee will also see a lot of Artie Burns in this contest, who, per Pro Football Focus, has allowed 61 yards on 21 targets this season. Lee's seeing nearly 22% of Jacksonville's targets, but the matchup isn't there for him this week.
Start DeSean Jackson (vs. New England): Let's continue to pick on the Patriots' defense and talk about DeSean Jackson. Though he hasn't lit it up in fantasy football this year, Jackson's on the verge of a huge game, as he's seen nine deep ball targets this season, tying him for the 11th-most in the NFL. And he's played in only three games.
In what could be a shootout on Thursday night (have I mentioned that?), Jackson will match up against a team -- New England -- that's seen the third-most deep ball passes against this season, allowing, on average, 16.26 yards on those throws. That's the fourth-worst (or best, if you're looking it from Jackson's perspective) throughout the league.
Sit Sammy Watkins (vs. Seattle): Watkins owners have to be a little worried that the Rams have scored more points than any other team in football to start the season, yet Watkins has ranked as WR34, WR76, WR5, and WR94 in the four games played. He has just a 13.45% target market share in the offense, which is a lower share than what we've seen from players like Albert Wilson and Brandon LaFell. And now he'll go up against Seattle, who've allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts so far this year. You can sit him.
Start Devin Funchess (at Detroit): Per NFL.com's Alex Gelhar, Darius Slay has "allowed only 11 catches on 22 targets for 98 yards with 0 touchdowns, 2 picks and a 24.4 passer rating." Slay could blanket wideout Kelvin Benjamin on Sunday, which would open things up a lot for number-two wideout Devin Funchess.
It's not like a strong performance would come out of nowhere for Funchess, either. In two games without Greg Olsen this season since he's been sidelined with an injury, Funchess is averaging a target share that's north of 30% to go along with 128 yards and 2 touchdowns. Expect Cam Newton to look his way again in Week 5.
Start Austin Seferian-Jenkins (at Cleveland): ASJ has 10 targets, 9 catches, and 77 yards in his two games this season, compiling a target market share north of 18%. That's really not bad for a tight end, let alone one playing on a team that hasn't featured a tight end in forever. Let alone a tight end coming off a suspension. Let alone Austin Seferian-freaking-Jenkins.
Cleveland, though, has now allowed two number-one tight end performances this season (Jesse James in Week 1 and Tyler Kroft in Week 4) to go along with a top-four one (Benjamin Watson in Week 2). Given the lack of weapons in the Jets' offense and Seferian-Jenkins' market share, he should be able to put together a nice performance.
Sit Jason Witten (vs. Green Bay): The Packers have been decent against tight ends this year -- no tight end has ranked higher than 21st in weekly PPR scoring at the position. Much of that has to do with the fact that their corners are beatable, so quarterbacks can focus a lot of their attention on their wide receivers. That's why wide receivers are targeted at such a high rate against the Packers.
Witten started the year off hot with over 44 PPR points over the first two weeks, but we have to recognize that he faced two defenses that have the opposite problem as the Packers in the Giants and Broncos. Teams utilize their tight ends against those squads.
With just six targets over the last two games, Witten's a very risky play in Week 5 even with the high over/under in the contest.
Start Antonio Gates (deeper play, at New York): Antonio Gates has a combined 17 targets this year, which ranks 18th in the league. And he's played only 60% of the Chargers' snaps -- 28 tight ends have played a higher percentage of their team's snaps this year. That's nothing special at all.
Most who are into fantasy football know by now that you should target the Giants defense with your tight ends. They've now surrendered a tight end touchdown in each game this year, including two to two different tight ends last week against the Buccaneers. They're bad at defending the position, and that's why we're looking at Gates.
Many will look at Hunter Henry this week, though, and in a normal world, that would be logical. But not in the Chargers' world, because they've thrown Gates on the field more this year, and he's also run more routes, per Pro Football Focus (97 to 62). So he'd be my pick for this one, but don't be shocked if Henry performs well instead.
Start the New York Jets (at Cleveland): Generally, targeting a road defense isn't the best thing to do in fantasy football. Especially when that road defense is the Jets.
But they're facing a Cleveland offense that's been generous this season to opposing defenses, to say the least. On the year, defenses have ranked 6th, 2nd, 14th, and 12th in weekly scoring against the Browns, and Cleveland's thrown at least one interception while being sacked at least once in each contest. That gives the Jets a nice floor in a matchup that has a low 39-point over/under.
Sit the Houston Texans (vs. Kansas City): I don't completely mind Houston this week because they should be able to gobble up a few sacks, but they'll have trouble doing what they did last week here in Week 5 against the Chiefs. Kansas City has the second-best offense in the NFL according to our schedule-adjusted numbers, and they've only turned the ball over once. With the Texans as slight home underdogs, they're not a completely safe option.