Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward redraft leagues but can also be used for setting DFS lineups, as these are the players I’ll likely be filling out my cash lineups with on Sunday. As is the case each week, I’m ignoring the Thursday night game.
Start of the Week: Philip Rivers vs. Steelers: Rivers is coming off easily his best game of the season, a 358-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Browns. Another leaky AFC North pass defense comes to town Monday night. The Steelers have cleaned things up a bit since Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick went off against them in Weeks 1 and 2, but this back end remains one to stream against. Ross Cockrell has been a nice find at cornerback, but Antwon Blake and William Gay are still the every-down starters. As a team, the Steelers field a bottom-six pass defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Rivers may be without both Malcom Floyd (concussion) and Stevie Johnson (hamstring), but the return of Antonio Gates from suspension will help offset the loss of Johnson. The Chargers have a very respectable team total of 24.25 points as three-point favorites.
Eli Manning vs. 49ers: Manning has picked up right where he left off last season. He just threw his first interception of the year last week against the Bills and has seven touchdowns with Odell Beckham yet to have a signature, overall WR1 game. This may be the week for Beckham. And Manning will obviously benefit. The 49ers are traveling cross-country as 6.5-point underdogs. San Francisco’s pass defense held firm in a home game with Aaron Rodgers in Week 4. However, the 49ers’ back end has proven to be Swiss cheese on the road. Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer each had their best games of the young season in home dates with San Francisco, combining to complete 41-of-59 passes (69.5 percent) for 680 yards (11.53 YPA), five touchdowns, and one interception. Look for most of the Giants’ production to come via the pass.
Sam Bradford vs. Saints: No other quarterback has been as hot and cold as Bradford. He was dreadful in the first half of last week’s loss to the Redskins before firing off three touchdown passes with a couple long ones to Riley Cooper and Miles Austin. Bradford had another touchdown to Zach Ertz called back on a penalty. He now gets a Saints pass defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Bradford and the Eagles are also at home. New Orleans is allowing 9.77 YPA and has yet to pick off a pass. Brandon Browner has been Pro Football Focus’ worst cover corner through a quarter of the season. Jairus Byrd and Keenan Lewis are back, but that’s not enough to move off Bradford in a tasty home matchup with a projected team total of 27 points.
Marcus Mariota vs. Bills: When looking at the Week 5 slate for the first time early Tuesday morning, Mariota immediately jumped off the screen at quarterback. And Rich Hribar threw out some great Mariota stats in his Week 5 Worksheet on Wednesday. Here’s a snippet: “Mariota ranks third in passing points per attempt, behind only Aaron Rodgers and Andy Dalton. Every quarterback to face Buffalo so far has attempted at 35 passes.” It’s very difficult to run the ball against the Bills. Don’t expect much from the Titans’ collection of backfield misfits. With coach Rex Ryan’s unit stacking up well against the run, opposing offenses are using sheer volume to rack up production through the air. Buffalo has faced the most pass attempts (192) and allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks despite being third in the league with six interceptions. Being that this game is in Tennessee, Mariota is an option to seriously consider, even with a team total of 19.5 points.
Alex Smith vs. Bears: Rivers, Manning, and Smith might be my three favorite quarterbacks of the week. A trio of wily veterans, Smith possibly has the best matchup of the bunch. The Bears’ struggles against the pass are well documented. They got shredded by Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer in Weeks 1 and 2 before bending but not breaking Weeks 3 and 4 versus Russell Wilson and Derek Carr. Make no mistake, Smith is more Wilson or Carr than Rodgers or Palmer, but at least Smith is playing at home. Chicago has allowed the second-most touchdown passes in the league with 10 and starts Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter at cornerback. Both have received extremely poor coverage marks from PFF. Jeremy Maclin should eat them alive. The Chiefs have a juicy 27.5-point team total.
Peyton Manning at Raiders: At the season’s quarter pole, Manning is on pace for a 10-year low 3,847 passing yards, career-worst 24 touchdowns, and 14-year high 20 interceptions. We saw what happened when everyone was quick to write off Tom Brady early last season, but Manning is looking like a shell of his former self at 39 years old. He’s averaging a career-worst 6.3 YPA and is on pace to absorb a career-high 40 sacks. Normally, we wouldn’t think twice about starting Manning against the Raiders. But 2015 hasn’t qualified as “normal” for Peyton. The Raiders have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and field an awful secondary. It’s just hard to trust this Denver offensive line to protect Manning and give his ducks enough time to leave his hand. Oakland’s edge-rushing duo of Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith rivals Denver’s Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. The Broncos are unlikely to find much success running the ball, so the receivers are going to have to make plays after the catch. This sets up as a potential letdown spot for the 4-0 Broncos.
Russell Wilson at Bengals: The only way sitting Wilson is doable is if you own any of Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, or Alex Smith noted above. Without a capable streaming option, Wilson is a must start simply because of his rushing floor. But this isn’t a great matchup for either offense. Both offenses are extremely run-heavy and prefer to control the clock, which translates to fewer possessions for the opposition. The Bengals are allowing just 7.26 YPA to quarterbacks, and both Adam Jones and Leon Hall are having strong to-date seasons in coverage. Wilson’s weapons are lacking, as Cincinnati can really concentrate on stopping Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin and not get hurt. Wilson is averaging just 1.25 passing touchdowns per game and has yet to score as a runner.
Derek Carr vs. Broncos: Carr disappointed last week with just 196 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick last week against the Bears. Things get a whole lot tougher for fantasy’s QB14. The Broncos have a lethal pass rush, get LE Derek Wolfe back from suspension this week, and field the league’s No. 1 secondary. Denver is allowing the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks by a wide margin. Passers are averaging 6.01 YPA with a 2:6 TD:INT ratio. The Broncos will likely stick Aqib Talib to Amari Cooper, leaving fellow elite corners Chris Harris and Bradley Roby to work against Michael Crabtree and the Raiders’ lesser receivers like Seth Roberts. This game could be a defensive struggle.
Matthew Stafford vs. Cardinals: Nobody should seriously be considering starting Stafford after his first four weeks, and Week 5 doesn’t bring anything easier to the table for Detroit. The Cardinals are allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks and are second in the league with seven interceptions. Stafford is averaging a five-year low 6.2 YPA and on pace to throw a career-worst 20 interceptions and five-year-low 20 touchdowns. Defenses are bottling up Calvin Johnson, and the Lions’ secondary options aren’t making any plays. Detroit also can’t run the ball at all. The Lions are home underdogs with a team total of 20.75 points against Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
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