Once again, this week contains several matchups featuring AFC and NFC North teams, and what promise to be some very exciting games. All 8 teams are in action in week 5, with Chicago playing the Thursday night game, condemning the New York football Giants to their 6th consecutive loss on the season.
Cutler had a good game, finishing with 20 points in standard scoring formats. Brandon Marshall’s complaining clearly paid off, as Cutler looked his way like it was last season all over again – Marshall finished with 9 catches for 87 yards and 2 TDs. Other Bears players didn’t fare so well, with Alshon Jeffery managing just 1 catch for 27 yards and 1 rush for 15. Matt Forte finished with 111 total yards, and Martellus Bennett had just 68 yards, albeit on 6 catches. Cutler and Jeffery in particular could have had bigger nights were it not for some overthrows and miscommunication, but there’s no reason to doubt that they’ll be terrific options both next week, and throughout the season.
GREEN BAY PACKERS at BALTIMORE RAVENS
As the 24th ranked QB in standard scoring, Flacco should not, at this point, be a player you are pinning your fake football hopes on. His only hopes of putting up decent numbers in this game lie with him trying to keep up with his opposing signal caller, and that seems unlikely. He should put up better numbers than last week (269 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT), but that isn’t difficult – he is our 17th ranked QB this week.
After a blistering start to the campaign, Rodgers has seen his production dip in the last two games, at least compared to his usual (otherworldly) standards. And, while he’s going against one of the better defenses in the league, there is never a reason not to play Rodgers if he’s on the field. He should see at least 275 yards and 2 TDs.
Ray Rice is healthy, and Ray Rice is the Ravens’ most important offensive player by far. If they are to have a chance to win this game, they will need to do it on the back of Rice’s skillset, much like they relied on him against the Dolphins. Per ESPN.com, Rice saw 33 touches last week, with just 41 on the season as a whole before that. Finally, it seems as though the Ravens will use Rice as they should. Expect around 100 total yards and a TD.
Lacy had a surprisingly high workload against the Lions last week, with 23 rush attempts on his return from a concussion. This bodes well for his season outlook, as he clearly has the trust of the coaching staff. This week, however, he faces the defense giving up fewest points to opposing running backs. He is best viewed as an RB3 or flex this week.
Bernard Pierce and Jonathan Franklin
With their precipitous drop in snap counts over the last couple of weeks, these two players can only be viewed as handcuffs to the bellcow backs listed above.
Smith is now the only Ravens WR worth talking about, owning, or considering putting in your fantasy lineup. He had his second consecutive game with over 100 yards, and Green Bay has been poor against the pass. 100 yards and a TD is a realistic line for him, and he is a top-10 WR this week.
Cobb had just 4 receptions for 35 yards last week, but saved his (and his fantasy owners’) blushes with a 67-yard run, emphasising what a threat he is every time he touches the ball. When Rodgers regains his regular swagger (and he WILL, make no mistake about that), Cobb will be the main beneficiary. As always, a top-10 option.
In the only game he had less than 90 yards this season, Nelson had 2 TDs. He is a high floor, high ceiling player, which is an invaluable commodity for a fantasy football team. He will have a tough game against a Ravens defense ranked 13th against opposing fantasy WRs, but he is as solid a WR2 as you will get.
Jones, on the other hand, is a much riskier play, but one that could pay off handsomely. If you are the underdog in your matchup, play him as your flex, and hope he produces like we all know he can – he is a long touchdown waiting to happen.
Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark
Dickson had his best game of the season with 2 catches for 51 yards last week. Old Man Dallas had 0 targets, and has been on the field for just over half of the Ravens’ snaps this season. It’s safe to cut bait with either of them.
There’s the Jermichael we know and really don’t love! 6 catches for just 32 yards ( 5.3 YPC) and the worst lead blocking attempt of all time. The good news is that those 6 catches came on 6 targets, and Rodgers is still looking his way. Against a Ravens defense giving up little against TEs, anything over 60 yards would be considered a success for Finley.
With 16 points in week 5, Tucker lifted himself to the 6th highest scoring kicker in fantasy. He’s as close to automatic as you’re likely to get.
After Crosby’s 5 attempts last week, he will invariably regress this week. But he has regained his status as a viable option for your fantasy team this season. From a man who was on the verge of losing his job to NFC special teams player of the week in such a short space of time, it’s been a helluva season for Crosby, and we’re delighted for him personally.
Rodgers has been shaky of late, but don’t try to be too cute with your choices. Sit any defense he plays against.
This unit has been injury ravaged all season, and has now lost “The Claymaker” Clay Mathews for a month. There’s no reason to have them in your lineup.
CINCINNATI BENGALS at Buffalo Bills
The Bills have allowed 5 TD passes this season have 7 INTs. Dalton has already thrown 5 picks this season, along with an average of 208 yards and 0 TDs over the last 2 games. Just don’t do it to yourself.
BJGE had by far his best game of the season last week, with 67 yards and a TD, and he even managed not to look absolutely awful, which is an improvement on what he’s shown so far. The coaching staff clearly still want to keep him involved, in spite of the clearly more talented back sitting behind him on the depth chart. Until then, Green-Ellis is a viable flex option in non-PPR leagues.
Although he was more efficient than Green-Ellis ( 4.7 yards per carry to BJGE’s 3.5), Bernard also lost a fumble last week. He should get around 70 yards this week, but with “The Law Firm” regaining his status as the goal-line back, Bernard’s big-score potential lies firmly in his big-play ability, which unfortunately is impossible to predict. He might have a lower floor, but his ceiling is massively higher than Green-Ellis’.
Although the Bills secondary has been impressive in taking the ball away this season, they haven’t been so good at stopping opposing WRs, either in terms of yardage or TDs. As noted in this column last week, Green is still seeing a huge number of targets, and he should be able to shake his disappointing start to the season this week. 100 yards and a TD is a fair expectation.
Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert
As with Cincy’s running back situation, their more talented rookie tight end can’t replace the steady, reliable, unexciting incumbent. And, as a result the fantasy ceiling of all of these players is capped. Neither of these players is worth more than a bye-week flyer.
Nugent hasn’t attempted more than 2 field goals in any game this season. It’s safe to move on.
The Bengals D/ST has double digit points in 3 of its 5 games this season, and now faces Jeff Tuel, who looked like one of the most incompetent players in the league at any position, never mind the most important one. A top-3 option this week.
DETROIT LIONS at CLEVELAND BROWNS
Missing his favourite target last week, Stafford was held to just 14 points. Calvin is officially a game-time decision, but indications are suggesting that he will play on Sunday. Even if he does suit up, Stafford faces a tough battle against, quietly, one of the best corner backs in the league in Joe Haden. While he is still a QB1 this week, it is very unlikely he will be one of the top performers.
After he shook off some rust early on, Weeden performed respectably for a player who has lacked any game or even practice snaps. And it had been suggested in the preseason that the new coaching regieme’s playbook would suit Weeden’s skillset. However, the fact remains that he is too erratic to be a reliable fantasy option, and will stay that way until he can prove otherwise.
Other than Stafford, Calvin’s absence last week was most keenly felt by Bush, with the Packers keying their defense in on him. While Megatron’s return, even if he’s not fully fit, will take the pressure off Bush, Cleveland’s defense is not to be sniffed at. Bush could see 100 total yards, but if he is to score, it is more likely to come on a long gain than at the goal line against the Browns’ ferocious front seven.
Since Bush’s return to health, Bell has been “relegated” to the most valuable handcuff in fantasy. His only other role would be as a bye-week flyer or in a PPR league.
McGahee ran surprisingly hard last week, though not particularly well, showing zero wiggle. He looks to have a steady workload and goal-line carries though, and is at worst a WR3 until that changes. The Lions are giving up the 3rd most TDs and fantasy points to opposing running backs.
Even if he starts, Calvin will face Joe Haden, who has successfully taken opposing team’s #1 receivers out of the game this season:
Mike Wallace – 1/15/0
Torrey Smith – 7/85/0
Greg Jennings – 3/43/0
Stevie Johnson – 2/19/0
A.J. Green – 7/51/0
It’d be VERY tough to sit Calvin if he does play, and if he starts there’s every chance he has a huge game, but consider this a warning.
Other Lions WRs
With Calvin out, the leading Lions wideout was Kris Durham (nobody else had heard of him either – but he’s one of the tallest receivers in the league) with 3 catches for 30 yards, albeit with a TD. Ryan Broyles was only on the field for 27 snaps. Kevin Ogletree might be the best option, and that is just sad. Avoid this mess.
Josh Gordon is so, so talented. He is the WR2 with the most upside in the league, and if you own him, you have to start him every week at this point. Although Weeden’s presence seems detrimental to his value, Weeden and Gordon both specialise in the downfield passing game. He will be the featured offensive weapon against a Lions team that has given up 47 receptions to wide receivers in the last 3 games. In case you can’t tell, we’re pretty high on Gordon.
Other Browns WRs
Greg Little had 3 catches for 71 yards. This was an aberration. This unit is as appealing as a bag of vomit. Avoid.
Last week, Pettigrew was utilised as an emergency option, little more. He has minimal upside, and minimal appeal as a fantasy option. He should not be played in leagues smaller than 16 teams.
While Brian Hoyer oversaw the breakout that made Cameron a household name, with Weeden in weeks 1&2 Cameron still posted almost 200 yards and a TD. He remains a top-5 TE option.
Apart from one big game in week 4, Akers has been an underwhelming fantasy option. He’s a low-end starter.
Similarly to Akers, Cundiff has only had 1 big game on the season. Perhaps Weeden’s return increases his opportunities, but again, he is a low end starter.
Apart from last week against the Packers, the Lions D/ST has been a reasonable option all season. Against the inconsistent and inaccurate Weeden, they are a top-10 option this week.
The Browns D/ST has been impressive over the last 3 weeks, posting double digit points in each. They are very effective against the run, and Calvin Johnson isn’t fully fit. BOLD PREDICTION – the Browns D/ST will be the top scoring unit this week.
Carolina Panthers at MINNESOTA VIKINGS
In all likelihood, Cassel will be the starter this week. But the Panthers and their devastating front seven are allowing the fewest points to opposing QBs. Avoid.
Rather than speculate on something as insignificant as fantasy football, we would like to extend our best wishes and most sincere condolences to Peterson and his family, in this most painful of times. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
Jennings had a huge game against the Steelers, with help from 4 missed tackles on his long TD run. The Panthers are allowing the 10th fewest points to opposing WRs, and Jennings’ QB status is in turmoil. If he gets more than 60 yards, it will be a good week for him. He remains at best a WR3.
The concerns that resonate with Jennings obviously apply here, but Simpson has slightly more value as Cassel seems to look his way more often. His value is capped at WR3 also.
Unless he scores a red zone TD, Rudolph holds little fantasy value. He managed just 6 yards on 2 catches against the lowly Steelers defense, and now goes against a Panthers defense giving up the second fewest points to tight ends. It’s painful as he was a high pick in terms of the TE position, but Rudolph has to be benched until he shows something.
As always, start Walsh. It’s that simple.
This unit is 21st in fantasy points. Although Cam Newton has been erratic, he still has the capability to ruin a defense. There will be better options on the waiver wire this week.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS at New York Jets
Big Ben, in spite of the porous offensive line in front of him, has averaged 395 yards per game over the last two weeks. Unfortunately, this is not a result of a prolific Steelers passing offense, but because the team has been playing catch-up. And against the Vikings, Roethlisberger suffered a hand injury. The bright side is that he is going against a Jets secondary that has been decimated by injury. He should put up around 250 yards and 2 TDs this week, but likely a couple of picks also.
Bell made his debut in the Steelers’ last game against the Vikings in Wembley, and game the run game a spark it has been sorely missing. He averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, but was showed much more than any other player at the position had for the team. He also had 2 TDs and 4 catches, and looks to be a featured weapon for a team looking to focus on the run game. He has a tough matchup against a Jets D giving up just 2.9 yards per carry behind arguably the best D-line in the league, but should at least somewhat compensate with volume. 100 total yards isn’t out of the question, but he will do will to score.
In spite of playing 1 game less than many other players, Brown still ranks 13th in receiving yards on the season. He has averaged over 100 yards per game, and has 2 TDs. He has taken on the role of his team’s #1 receiver, and is slowly developing into a fantasy #1 too, with 26 targets over the last 2 games. Against the injury depleted Jets secondary, he could have a big day. He is a top-15 option this week.
Sanders has been consistent this season, but unfortunately he’s only scored between 3 and 7 fantasy points. Look for that trend to continue, with 60-70 yards against the Jets.
While it’s unlikely Cotchery replicates the numbers he had against the Vikings (5 catches for 103 yards and a TD), he hasn’t had less than 50 yards in any game so far this season. He is not an upside play, but as a PPR flex he has some value.
After shaking off the rustiness in his first game back against the Bears, Miller resumed his status as Roethlisberger’s favourite target and trusted safety valve to the tune of 6 catches for 70 yards against the Vikings. The Jets have been stout against TEs so far, but Miller is a low-end TE1 this week.
Suisham hasn’t missed a field goal on the season, but also hasn’t had much opportunity. He’s not a worthy starter.
This unit STILL hasn’t forced a turnover this season, sacks are down, and they can’t tackle to stop anyone. They have been traditionally good against rookie QBs, but Geno Smith just completed 16 of 20 attempts with 3 TDs against the Falcons. Stay away.