BUFFALO BILLS – With the news that EJ Manuel is out for a few weeks, practice squad QB Thad Lewis will start this week and against a Bengals defense that just held the Patriots out of the end zone should have major issues moving the ball. Bench all members of the Buffalo passing game, but you have to continue to start CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson.
CLEVELAND BROWNS – Willis McGahee got 26 carries last week as the Browns suddenly find themselves in contention in a wide open AFC North. He reached the end zone and gets the Lions this week who rank 26th in the league against the run and have allowed five rushing TD so far through five games. To keep the high powered Lions offense off the field, expect another healthy dose of McGahee this week.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – Nice to see Pierre Thomas relevant again on the fantasy scene, reaching the end zone twice on screen passes. The Saints do it better than any team in the league, getting Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas in space to make plays. Thomas can be trusted going forward in a flex spot or as a bye week replacement.
CHICAGO BEARS – Alshon Jeffrey was talked about in last week’s column and also mentioned on the air as a breakout candidate this week against the Saints. If he isn’t owned after a 10 catch, 218 yard performance, he will be now. He saw a season high 13 targets from Jay Cutler, one of which went for a TD. He can be slotted in your second or third WR spot from here on out.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – Tom Brady was held under 200 yards and without a TD for the first time since the Truman administration. He should rebound this week at home against a Saints defense that allowed Jay Cutler to light them up, albeit in a loss. Danny Amendola with four catches on nine targets should be the #1 target next to the returning Rob Gronkowski who comes back this week for an offense that did not reach the end zone a week ago. Stevan Ridley should return also after missing last week’s contest with a thigh injury. Be careful with him, however, as the Saints have allowed just two rushing scores all year.
CINCINNATI BENGALS – Against the Bills this week, the Bengals team defense is a top five option. Thad Lewis as mentioned above will start and his inexperience should show against a stellar Bengals front four who bring pressure on what seems like every play. Both members of the running game, Giovani Bernard and Benjarvus Green Ellis, can be started with confidence against a Bills team that ranks in the bottom third against the run.
DETROIT LIONS – A surprising inactive Calvin Johnson threw the whole Lions offense out of whack on Sunday and draws a tough match-up in the Browns this week. Star cornerback Joe Haden should shadow him most of the game limiting his production, but a healthy Calvin Johnson is still obviously an every week starter. Be careful with Reggie Bush’s expectations this week as well, with the Browns a top 10 run defense allowing just 3.3 YPC through the first five games.
GREEN BAY PACKERS – Eddie Lacy got the bulk of the carries last week, almost reached 100 yards in the process but faces a Baltimore defense this week that has been stellar against the run. The Ravens have allowed just one rushing score all season long and have not had a 20+ yard run against them. He can be benched if you have better options. As for the passing game, you know they’ll be targeting a secondary that isn’t what it used to be with the losses of Ed Reed among others. Start all members of the Packers passing game.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS – Maybe Donnie Avery can be trusted going forward off of a three catch, 91 yard game. He draws a dream match-up against the Raiders this week and is a perfect bye week flex option for those that still need someone to plug in for the upcoming week. Jamaal Charles continues to be an elite option at running back and should be at the top of your target list to acquire if you have a desperate owner needing depth.
TENNESSEE TITANS – Chris Johnson is no longer an every week starter for me. The Titans don’t have much of a passing game with Ryan Fitzpatrick and coming off a 10 carry, 17 yard performance. Take away a fluke 49 yard reception to the house and you have a very pedestrian day for a guy who most expected to rebound behind a rebuilt offensive line. Not the case, and for me, I’d get whatever I could for him with Seattle, San Francisco and a bye week all on the horizon before October ends.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – Golden Tate is relevant again on the scene as the Seahawks lead receiver caught five balls for 61 yards, reached the end zone and was targeted 11 times by Russell Wilson. In a pinch, he can be started in a flex position or even as a third wideout. Russell Wilson had a nice game with over 200 passing yards, 100 rushing yards and two total TD. To me, he still is a match-up guy and not an every week starter despite the Seahawks hot start. He just doesn’t throw the ball enough for my liking, as the team threw it 31 times compared to 34 runs a week ago.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – As mentioned in last week’s column, TY Hilton was a guy to target in trades off a down week and he exploded for five long completions resulting in 140 yards on the day and two TD including a 73 yard rainbow from Andrew Luck down the sideline. Trent Richardson should receive a bump in carries the rest of the way with the news that Ahmad Bradshaw is down for the season, but Mr. Three Yards A Carry can’t be trusted as an elite option. He’s a #2 RB at best for your team in a offense that throws it much better than they run it.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – With the news that Blaine Gabbert is out this week against the Broncos, Chad Henne gets the call and you know that means a bump in targets for Cecil Shorts. The difference in his numbers with Henne under center compared to Gabbert are sizable. Justin Blackmon can also be started this week as he caught five balls for 136 yards and a TD in the loss to the Rams last week. In a game where they are a 28 point underdog at Denver, expect a lot of throwing in the second half to boost the stat lines of Blackmon and Shorts.
ST. LOUIS RAMS – Zac Stacy is probably the hot name at running back coming off a 14 carry, 78 yard performance. In comparison, Daryl Richardson had 13 carries but only amassed 48 yards in the win. Stacy is the back to own from here on out. As far as the passing game goes, Austin Pettis with two TD can be a bye week flex option but nothing more as the Rams passing game seems to be very erratic through the first five weeks.
BALTIMORE RAVENS – Ray Rice despite his 2.7 YPC last week reached the end zone twice and got to the 100 total yard mark if you factor in his six catches for 28 yards. He seems to be creeping back towards elite fantasy status and gets a match-up against a Packers team that has allowed four runs of 20+ yards this year.
MIAMI DOLPHINS – The Dolphins got ZERO going on the ground last week rushing for just 22 yards on 11 carries as they abandoned the run game early once they realized they weren’t getting any push up front. They’re on a bye this week but the following two weeks they face the Bills and Patriots, two teams that rank in the bottom third against the run. Lamar Miller can be started those weeks with confidence after the bye this Sunday.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES – Michael Vick is considered questionable with the hamstring, so if you’re a Vick owner and need a replacement for this week, Ben Roethlisberger, Terrelle Pryor and Alex Smith all can be considered suitable options to fill in. LeSean McCoy could have a rough go of it this week with potentially no Vick facing a Bucs defense that has not allowed a rushing TD all season long. Start him but be mindful in your expectations.
NEW YORK GIANTS – David Wilson is out this week, Brandon Jacobs fumbled without being touched on his way to just 37 yards total and they resigned Da’Rel Scott Tuesday to try and piece together a running game on a team that is headed towards a top five pick in next April’s draft. The passing game continues to hum despite Eli Manning’s awful start to the year. He throws on average for 250-300 yards a game but his interceptions continue to hurt his fantasy performance as well as his team’s chances of winning games. Eli shouldn’t be starting but Cruz, Randle and Nicks can be started, in that order of preference.
CAROLINA PANTHERS – Yeah, Cam Newton threw for 300 yards last week but threw three picks and was sacked seven times against a relentless Cardinals defense. He spread it around pretty good, with four guys – Greg Olsen, Ted Ginn Jr, Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell – all had either four of five catches and between 40 and 80 yards. All mediocre games for a team that came in favored off of a blowout of the Giants just two weeks earlier. Newton gets the Vikings this week who are in the bottom five in the league against the pass, so start him with confidence on the road in what amounts to a must win for both teams.
ARIZONA CARDINALS – As I said above in my Carolina write-up, the Cardinals defense had seven sacks and three picks on their way to a big day for those that started them. All members of the running game for the Cardinals should be benched as they take on the Niners and Seahawks the next two weeks. In fact, I wouldn’t start an offensive player unless his name is Larry Fitzgerald the next two weeks. I guess Michael Floyd can be a flex if you need a bye week or injury replacement, but I wouldn’t count on much from him the next few weeks.
DENVER BRONCOS – I mean, is there a reason to sit anyone right now on the most prolific offense we’ve seen through five weeks in the history of the league? The Jaguars this week are the opponent. We may see 50 for the second straight week from Denver.
DALLAS COWBOYS – Three players had over 120 yards receiving which is obviously rare even in a passing league. Going forward, not only are Dez Bryant and Jason Witten every week options but Terrence Williams (who has filled in admirably for the oft-injured Miles Austin) is now in that offense a must start, especially against a Redskins team this week who ranks almost dead last in every defensive category.
HOUSTON TEXANS – Matt Schaub is an utter disaster and is really hurting players like Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. Until he turns it around, you still have to start those two but expectations should be kept in check. Owen Daniels is out from anywhere to a month to six weeks, and his backup Garrett Graham (who scored in three of the first four games this year) should be on your radar this week if you need a TE to fill in.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS – Keenan Allen is one of the hotter names on the waiver wire this week coming off a six catch, 115 yard performance reaching the end zone once in the loss. In the next four weeks, squeeze a bye between matchups against the Colts, Jaguars and Redskins. Dream matchups the next month for Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Vincent Brown and a player you should put a claim on, Keenan Allen.
OAKLAND RAIDERS – Terrelle Pryor threw for 221 yards and two TD but still isn’t throwing deep enough for me to start at WR. Denarius Moore, however, is Pryor’s favorite target and can be started every week going forward. No member of the Raider running game including a healthy Darren McFadden should be started against the undefeated Chiefs in Kansas City this week.
NEW YORK JETS – Geno Smith and the rest of the Jets offense seems to thrive against bad defenses (Bills, Falcons, Patriots) but struggles against good ones (Titans, Bucs). He and the rest of the skill players are matchup plays only and nobody on that team is an every week starter. They do face the Steelers this week who allowed the Vikings to rack up a ton of yards two weeks ago before their bye.
ATLANTA FALCONS – Where to begin? Roddy White hurts his hamstring, adding to his littany of injuries. Julio Jones is probably out for the year with a lingering foot injury. Steven Jackson should return after the bye but his offensive line isn’t blocking anyone. The Falcons next to the Giants are the most disappointing team in the league. Going forward nobody – INCLUDING Matt Ryan – can be trusted in fantasy, except for the ageless wonder Tony Gonzalez.