Play Matty Ice, bench Blount vs. 49ers
The 2011 NFL season is at the quarter pole, so the Position vs. Fantasy Defensive Points Allowed tool is becoming clearer all the time. Heck, it told you to start Jason Campbell last week, and he threw for 344 yards! Aren’t geeky numbers great?
Please keep in mind that the players listed below are mostly meant to be borderline guys, who need reasons for you to play or bench them. You won’t see a recommendation to start Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson, because you should always start Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson. Make sense? Good.
Note: The points referenced below are from FOXSports.com standard leagues.
Week 5 Byes: Ravens, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Rams, Redskins
Stay away: Matt Hasselbeck (vs. Steelers)
Hasselbeck has been a top-10 fantasy quarterback this season, with eight touchdown passes and an average of 288 yards per game. However, the Steelers’ D has allowed just 12.6 fantasy points per game (FPPG) to opposing quarterbacks (third-best in the league), as well as a league-low 168.5 passing yards per game. You can probably find a better QB option this week.
• As the clamor gets louder in Denver for Tim Tebow, fantasy owners know that there are worse backups to have than Kyle Orton. Unfortunately, the Broncos are about to visit the Chargers, who rank 11th in FPPG allowed to opposing QBs (16.3), and have given up just 208 yards passing per game (fourth in the league). I don’t hate Orton this week, but I’d only start him if I had to.
Play, play, play: Matt Ryan (vs. Packers)
Ryan is currently the 14th-ranked fantasy QB in FOXSports.com leagues, and he gets a Sunday night home matchup against the Packers, whose ineptitude against the pass (27.1 FPPG to opposing quarterbacks) has been prodigious. Roddy White, Julio Jones and company should have plenty of space to get open, making this game a shootout.
• Did you see how awful Mark Sanchez was last week? So did I, but he wasn’t playing against the Patriots, who rank 29th in FPPG allowed to opposing quarterbacks (25.4) and have given up 377 passing yards per game. If ever “The Sanchize” was a good matchup play, it’s this week.
• The vaunted Eagles’ defense has allowed 10 touchdowns through the air this season, and ranks 25th in FPPG allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Buffalo’s underrated Ryan Fitzpatrick is in a nice spot against them in Week 5.
Stay away: LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers (at 49ers)
After a slow start that included only five carries in Week 1, Blount has worked his way up to the 18th spot in the FOXSports.com fantasy running back rankings. However, through four games, there is no denying the effectiveness of the 49ers’ top-ranked run defense, which has allowed just 8.8 FPPG and less than three yards per carry to opposing running backs. If you have other backfield options, you might want to let Blount sit this one out.
• The Chargers’ defense is in the top 10 against opposing fantasy backs. While Willis McGahee has been solid for the Broncos so far, this isn’t a great matchup, and there’s always a chance that head coach John Fox could exhume the remains of Knowshon Moreno to share carries at some point.
Play, play, play: Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, Saints (at Panthers)
The Panthers – who have already lost starting linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis for the season – have been getting shredded by opposing running backs, giving up 23.9 FPPG and 139.8 rushing yards per game. The Saints’ backfield trio has been a tricky one for fantasy owners to decipher, as the team has been spreading the work around – Ingram has 57 touches, with 41 for Sproles and 38 for Thomas. All are in a good spot against the Carolina Newtons, with even Thomas worthy of a start if you have someone on a bye.
• The Colts rank 25th in FPPG allowed to opposing running backs (21.9), largely because they’ve given up five touchdowns on the ground. Thomas Jones has been sharing the Chiefs’ workload with Dexter McCluster since Jamaal Charles’ season-ending injury. He hasn’t been productive so far, but the Colts could be just what the doctor ordered.
• Rookie Stevan Ridley announced himself as a weapon in the Patriots’ offense with a 10-carry, 97-yard performance against the Raiders in Week 4. The Jets haven’t been very good against the run, ranking 27th with 22.5 FPPG and five touchdowns allowed to opposing running backs, and seem likely to give Ridley room to run this week. He’s a solid RB3/flex option in most leagues.
Stay away: Nate Washington, Titans (at Steelers)
Washington was in this spot last week before catching two passes for 62 yards on just four targets against the Browns. The Steelers have been stingy against opposing wideouts so far, allowing a league-low 9.9 FPPG and one measly touchdown reception. Washington will be a good WR3 option in many weeks, but not this one.
• Beware of the Lions! Motown’s undefeated team ranks 11th in FPPG and a solid 139 yards per game allowed to opposing wide receivers. Johnny Knox leads the Bears’ receivers in receptions and yards, but you don’t want to start him this week.
• The feisty Jaguars’ defense ranks fifth in FPPG allowed to opposing wide receivers. Bengals’ rookie A.J. Green has been terrific so far, but you should consider benching him if you have some strong reserves.
• How bold are you? Bold enough to play the Revis Island matchup game by benching Deion Branch or even (gasp!) Wes Welker? I wouldn’t do it, but the Jets have allowed a league-low 26 completions to opposing wide receivers. The early word is that Revis will probably shadow Welker.
Play, play, play: Santonio Holmes, Jets (at Patriots)
To repeat, the Pats’ defense hasn’t shown the ability to stop anyone, and they’re comfortably the worst defense against wide receivers (32.3 FPPG). Holmes’ stats have been inconsistent this season, but if you’ve been getting frustrated with him, now is the wrong time to look for other options.
• Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams has started to work his way back into his fantasy owners’ good graces with two consecutive five-catch games. In the 49ers this week, Williams faces a defense that has been great against the run but very shaky against the pass (27.9 FPPG to opposing wide receivers, 29th in the league). Williams is too good not to bust out soon, and this could be the week.
• Are you ready to take a flier on Michael Crabtree, who finally had a good game last week with five receptions for 68 yards? The Bucs rank 25th with 26.4 FPPG per game allowed to opposing wideouts, giving up more than 200 receiving yards per game to them so far. Crabtree was limited in Wednesday’s practice due to a foot injury, but if he’s active, he’s a nice Week 5 sleeper.
Stay away: Vernon Davis, 49ers (vs. Buccaneers)
If we were solely picking players based on their opponents, Houston’s Owen Daniels would be in this spot, as the Raiders have been terrific against opposing tight ends. However, with Daniels projecting as the Texans’ best receiving option in the absence of Andre Johnson, let’s give Davis a tepid “sit” recommendation. The Bucs have let opposing tight ends catch just 15 passes, and though Davis has picked up his production over the last two games, Crabtree’s emergence could diminish his looks.
• Randy McMichael has been a decent fill-In for Antonio Gates in San Diego, catching seven passes in his last two games. However, the Broncos have allowed just 4.5 FPPG to opposing tight ends. If you’ve been using McMichael as a Gates replacement, it’s time to find a replacement for the replacement.
Play, play, play: Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (vs. Bears)
The Bears have given up four touchdowns to opposing tight ends already, which is why they’re at the bottom of the barrel in FPPG allowed to them (14.2). You might not need any additional reasons to start Pettigrew, who’s among the leaders at his position with 22 catches and 240 receiving yards. But if you did, the Bears are it.
• Jermaine Gresham has 16 receptions and a couple of touchdowns already, and is becoming a fine security blanket for rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. This week, Gresham and Dalton face the Jaguars, who have given up a league-high 31 receptions to opposing tight ends already. Unless you have an elite tight end on your roster, Gresham is a solid starting option.
• Did you know that Arizona’s Todd Heap has caught 10 passes over his last two games? The Vikings haven’t allowed any touchdowns to tight ends this season, but they’ve given up some big numbers otherwise (30 receptions, 281 yards). Heap could put up some decent numbers against the Vikes, and is an interesting play in deep leagues. Owners of Jason Witten and Fred Davis (both on byes) might want to grab Heap.