Fantasy Football

Rookies own Week 5 sleeper-status

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Michael Harmon

Mike is a fantasy contributor for>>

Other Harmon rankings: RB, WR

Whenever I sit down to write about quarterbacks, I hear signal-calling in my head. By the end of the sequence and hitting the “Save” button, I have a strange desire to visit Omaha or turn left.

I truly enjoyed those two deep passes completed by Sam Bradford on Thursday night against the Cardinals, but that game did little to quench my NFL appetite. The schedule-makers did us a few favors to wipe that game from our memory in Week 5. We witness the renewal of the Manning-Brady rivalry, in addition to Vick-Roethlisberger, Rivers-Brees and Ryan-RGIII.

I believe that I was just sacked by Robert Quinn.

Let’s get inside the white lines and preview the start of the second quarter of the fantasy campaign.

Remember that the Lions, Buccaneers, Raiders and Cowboys take their much-needed Byes this week.




(Exclude Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Robert Griffin III, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning)

Eli Manning vs. CLE
Manning is averaging 330 passing yards per game through four weeks, bolstered by that 510-yard outburst against the Buccaneers in Week 2. He might just blow past that average this week against the scuffling Cleveland secondary. Remember, the Browns continue to play without cornerback Joe Haden, thereby leaving the unit susceptible to big plays. The Browns have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks (300 yards and 2.25 touchdowns per game).

The Giants continue to roll without Hakeem Nicks, who will miss his third straight game, and Ramses Barden may be sidelined because of a concussion. As a result, Domenik Hixon and Reuben Randle step into the spotlight alongside Victor Cruz and red zone beast Martellus Bennett.

Philip Rivers at NO
Rivers has been one of the most enigmatic players through the first quarter of the season. He’s averaged just 224.3 passing yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. Rivers was quieted by the Falcons in Week 3 and there was no need to pump up the stat line in Week 4 against the Chiefs.

This is the classic “get-right” game, as I discussed in this space last week. The Saints have been positively terrible defensively. New Orleans has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. They allow 276.5 passing yards and 1.75 passing touchdowns per game. Look for a bounce-back game from Malcom Floyd and the downfield passing game. Antonio Gates owners, this might be the game you’ve long been awaiting.

Andy Dalton vs. MIA
Dalton looks to keep a fantastic streak alive against the Dolphins. He’s accounted for three touchdowns in three consecutive games, effectively working the ball to established star A.J. Green and upcoming big-play threat Andrew Hawkins.

The Dolphins have surrendered 297.8 passing yards and 1.5 passing touchdowns per game. Dalton will face persistent pressure, as Miami has registered 12 sacks. However, they need to sell out to protect the secondary. Ergo, there are big plays in the offing this week.

Joe Flacco at KC
The Chiefs have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Should I drop the microphone, or would you like me to elaborate? Opposing quarterbacks have generated 216 passing yards and 2.5 passing touchdowns per game through the quarter-pole.

Flacco has been fantastic through four weeks, producing 317.3 passing yards per game with seven touchdowns against three interceptions. He passed for at least 299 yards in three of four games. Look for Flacco to rev up the offensive tempo following the 10-day layoff on the road in Kansas City.

Christian Ponder vs. TEN
So, Ponder was the sexy pick of Week 4 who left fantasy owners flat. The combination of two special teams touchdowns, great work by the defense and Adrian Peterson’s legs resulted in a downright puny stat line for Ponder (he’ll take the win). Despite his appearance on the injury list with a hip issue, Ponder rates a huge play this week against the Titans. The Titans have allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks (285 passing yards and 2.5 passing touchdowns allowed per game).

I was encouraged by the deep shots taken by Ponder to Jerome Simpson that accounted for 57 penalty yards. His ability to stretch the field will yield big dividends for Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph underneath.

Ben Roethlisberger vs. PHI
Roethlisberger has been tremendously efficient and effective through three weeks despite the lack of a running game. He averaged 301.3 passing yards and 2.7 passing touchdowns through the Steelers’ first three games. More importantly, Roethlisberger only threw one interception.

It’s not a monster spot against the Eagles this week (fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks), but I’m intrigued to see this unit coming out of the Bye. They got healthy on defense and return Rashard Mendenhall to the backfield. As a result, Roethlisberger rates a back-end QB1 play this week.

Jay Cutler at JAC
It was a slow start for Cutler and the Chicago offense against the Cowboys in Week 4. The Bears were shut out of the end zone in the first half before Cutler and Brandon Marshall made magic down the stretch. Cutler finished with 275 passing yards and two touchdowns against the then-top defense.

It’s a fantastic road spot (though the back-to-back road game is always a dangerous proposition) against the Jaguars. I know that the Jaguars rank 13th against quarterbacks. Look for the Bears to work the ground game early (the Jaguars allow 150.3 yards per game) and set up the play-action and slot looks that were employed in Week 4. Chicago fans celebrate “Happy Jay” for another week ahead of the Week 6 Bye.

Matt Schaub at NYJ
The Texans have established themselves as one of the dominant squads in 2012, as expected. Schaub and the offense have pulled the strings, effectively mixing the passing and running games as necessary while J.J. Watt and the defense dominate. Schaub has completed two-thirds of his pass attempts for 238.3 yards per game with seven touchdowns against a single interception.

The Texans will likely run wild against the Jets, just as the 49ers did last week. However, I still see Schaub taking shows downfield to Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels against the Darrelle Revis-less secondary. He’s an upper-tier QB2 this week.




Andrew Luck vs. GB
I expect Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense to load up points against the Indianapolis defense. As a result, Luck goes into deep ball mode early. He averaged 282 passing yards with five touchdowns (four interceptions) in the Colts’ first three games.

Luck absorbed five sacks through the first three weeks (Jacksonville, Minnesota and Chicago) and completed just 53.3% of his pass attempts. It may not start pretty, particularly if Clay Matthews gets into “beast mode” off of the edge, but all receptions count until the final gun sounds.

Ryan Tannehill at CIN
Tannehill passed for 431 yards in a losing effort against Arizona last week and made a waiver wire hero out of Brian Hartline. He’s yet to even out the touchdown-to-interception ratio, but Tannehill has improved through the first quarter of the season. He has quality possession-type options in Hartline (I know he’s been better) and Davone Bess, and Reggie Bush remains a potent receiver out of the backfield.

The Bengals have been ravaged by injuries defensively, thereby presenting opportunities downfield. Cincinnati has surrendered the eighth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, including a 300-yard effort by Brandon Weeden of the Browns.

Alex Smith vs. BUF
The last time that I put Smith on the board for a big play, he left me flat. I was then inundated with angry calls and messages. I thirst for such derision, so I proudly present Smith again in this spot against the Bills.

Following last week’s meltdown against Tom Brady and the Patriots, the Bills have surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. I don’t put Smith in the Brady category, of course, but the same formula employed by the Patriots should work here. The 49ers will run amok with Gore, Hunter (and maybe Jacobs), thereby presenting play-action opportunities downfield.




Cam Newton vs. SEA
You’re going to start Newton. I have him ranked as a low-QB1, and I suspect that your backup came late if you dove into the mix for Newton. I just caution that you’ll be anticipating a lesser performance than that which you’ve become accustomed to from Newton. The Seahawks have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks and positively shut down Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers.

Michael Vick at PIT
Vick limped off the field late in Week 4 against the Giants, but he’s expect to be ready for the “Battle for Pennsylvania” against the Steelers. Vick has averaged 286.5 passing yards and 32.5 rushing yards per game. Of course, the tale of his early season record would not be complete without pointing out his nine turnovers.

He pays a visit to a Pittsburgh squad that got healthy during the Bye week. Troy Polamalu and James Harrison return to the fray after lengthy absences. Though the Steelers surrendered six touchdown passes through the first three weeks, opposing quarterbacks averaged 190.3 passing yards. Look for Dick LeBeau to get creative with his blitz packages and disrupt the timing of the Philadelphia offense. He’s no better than a high-QB2 for me this week.

Ryan Fitzpatrick at SF
I can’t imagine that Fitzpatrick stands at the top of your start list for Week 5, but injuries, ineffectiveness and Bye weeks make for strange bedfellows. You may also be taken in by Fitzpatrick’s fast start, as he’s produced 12 touchdowns through four weeks.

I certainly don’t expect the ineptitude and blooper reel that circulated this week with the label “San Francisco – New York Jets.” The Bills offense boasts better and more accomplished skill position players. However, it is a stingy San Francisco defense that performed brilliantly against the vaunted Green Bay and Detroit offenses. The 49ers rank 12th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.

Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Broncos, Packers, Colts, Rams, Dolphins, Vikings, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Jets, Eagles, 49ers, Redskins, Panthers, Jaguars, Ravens, Steelers, Chargers, Texans, Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck

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