Fantasy Football Week 5: Versus Decision-Maker
Unless you started the Rams’ defense/special teams (which, like, nobody did), week five got off to a rather inauspicious start Thursday night from a fantasy perspective, with St. Louis slugging its way to an ugly 17-3 win over the previously-unbeaten Arizona Cardinals.
We’re also witnessing the steady and unfortunate fantasy demise of Steven Jackson, as he’s reportedly being “phased out” of the Rams’ offense, and still hasn’t scored a touchdown since last December 12th against Seattle. Danny Amendola also had to leave early due to a shoulder injury, believed to be a “sternoclavicular joint separation”, which could keep him out for up to six weeks, according to reports today.
The lone real encouraging thing about Thursday’s game was Larry Fitzgerald’s continued productivity despite the anemic nature of the Cardinals offense. He didn’t find the end zone, but he did rack up eight catches for 92 yards. Fitz has caught a whopping 25 passes with a pair of touchdowns over the last three games.
Now, on to the matchups for the rest of week five.
Christian Ponder (Vikings) vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick (Bills)
Bye week fill-ins are the name of the game here. If you have (the disappointing) Matthew Stafford or Tony Romo, you’re looking for someone to come in and start for you this week.
Ponder has been a pleasant surprise so far this season for the Vikings, as he’s thrown for four TDs and no picks while completing 68 percent of his throws. He’s not asked to do too much in an offense that relies heavily on the run, and it’s helped him minimize his mistakes.
Fitzpatrick has been the definition of high-risk/high-reward. He leads the league with 12 touchdown passes, but is also second in the league (behind only Romo) with seven interceptions.
Ponder has a highly favorable matchup this week against a Titans defense that has been ravaged so far, while Fitz goes up against San Francisco, arguably the NFL’s toughest D.
So, do you go conservative with Ponder or throw caution to the wind with Fitzpatrick? I suppose part of it depends on whether or not you’re in a desperate situation. As we’ve seen, Ponder adds an element to his game by having the ability to scramble, as we saw during the Vikings’ win over the 49ers in week three.
Fitzpatrick threw four touchdowns in the blowout loss to the Patriots last week, but also four interceptions. The upside here is that there’s a very good chance that Buffalo could be facing a big deficit early in this one, meaning they’ll have to take to the air.
I’d give the slight edge to Fitzpatrick here, just because Ponder seems like a much more likely candidate to offer a pedestrian, conservative effort.
DeAngelo Williams (Panthers) vs. Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers)
Ah, the ol’ Panther running back quandary. Jonathan Stewart is once again healthy and back in-the-mix, and we know about Cam Newton and his affinity for the tuck-and-run. So, where does that leave Williams? Unfortunately, he hasn’t gotten more than 14 carries in any game this season, and hasn’t topped 69 yards. The upside is that he’s scored twice in the last three weeks. As a former Williams owner, I feel your pain.
Mendenhall appears to finally be ready to play following his ACL injury last season, and should immediately be inserted as Pittsburgh’s primary ball-toter, considering the collective terribleness of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer in his place.
The Panthers are facing a Seattle defense that has been effective in stopping the run thus far, as are the Steelers against Philadelphia.
As much as I try, and as talented as he clearly is, I have a very difficult time talking myself into starting and having any confidence in DeAngelo Williams, so I’d take a shot here and start Mendenhall. He’s had extra time to get healthy, and the Steelers wouldn’t throw him back out there if he wasn’t ready.
Don’t expect the world from Mendy, obviously. The Steelers are much more of a pass-happy offense than they used to be. I could see a goal-line score in there for him, at least, so perhaps expect RB2/flex-type output.
Ryan Mathews (Chargers) vs. Jackie Battle (Chargers)
That sure was fun last week, wasn’t it? When Mathews was benched until late in the third and we watched helplessly as Jackie Battle (JACKIE BATTLE) snaked two scores in San Diego’s dominant win over the hapless Chiefs? Thanks for that, Norv, channeling your inner Mike Shanahan like that.
This week, don’t expect the same. Norv was clearly sending a message to Mathews following a costly late-game fumble the week prior. Battle has been a hot waiver wire pickup this week, and could still get the nod when it comes to short-yardage opportunities. That’s frustrating, of course, because nobody likes a touchdown vulture. They’re mean…like vultures, man.
But you have to be confident and go with Mathews. San Diego traded up and spent a first-round pick a few years back to get him, and, despite a rash of injuries, they’ll still be committed to him. Don’t be scared. He was even productive in his limited work last week, gaining 61 yards on his 14 carries.
Brian Hartline (Dolphins) vs. Jeremy Maclin (Eagles)
Hartline was prettay, prettay awesome last week against Pat Peterson and the Cardinals secondary, torching them for 12 catches and 253 yards with a score in Miami’s OT defeat. He’s clearly emerged as a legitimate weapon for Ryan Tannehill, after it appeared heading into the season as though the rookie was going to have to work with a bunch of spare, fringe pass-catchers.
Maclin enjoyed a productive opener against the Browns, catching seven passes for 96 yards with a TD. Since then, though, he’s been hampered by a lingering hip injury, and has caught just two passes for 30 yards in two games, including one catch for seven yards last Sunday night. However, he’s getting healthier, and faces a pretty favorable matchup against a Steeler secondary that was troubled by the Raiders’ passing attack two weeks ago. Yep, troubled. By the Raiders. Read that again.
That said, I’m going with Hartline here coming off of his huge game, if for no other reason than that he’s essentially the only option in the Dolphins’ passing game, whereas Michael Vick has several capable pass-catchers to play with, including DeSean Jackson.
Plus, it’s not like Hartline completely came out of nowhere. He had nine catches for 111 yards in week two against Oakland. Maclin should be better than he was against the Giants, but he’s also much more likely to get lost in the shuffle of the Eagles offense.
James Jones (Packers) vs. Jeremy Kerley (Jets)
The always-frustrating James Jones has actually been fairly steady so far this season for Green Bay. He’s posted two very good games (four catches, 81 yards, TD in week one, five catches, 56 yards, two TD last week), and a decent effort in week three, catching five balls for 55 yards. His stock is on the rise by virtue of Greg Jennings’ struggles with a groin injury. He’ll be out again this week against Indy.
Kerley is here in place of Santonio Holmes, who has reportedly been lost for the season after injuring his foot in the Jets’ debacle of a loss last week against the Niners. Kerley is a speedster that spends most of his time in the slot, and has made himself available to Mark Sanchez a few times this season for big plays. He’s scored two touchdowns through-the-air and has returned another for a score on a punt.
Still, though, this is the Jets’ offense we’re talking about. They scored a grand total of zero points last week against San Francisco, and it doesn’t get any easier for them this week with the Texans coming to town. Kerley will have his chances, but he’s a major risk play.
That’s why you go with Jones.
Martellus Bennett (Giants) vs. Fred Davis (Redskins)
Bennett completely disappeared against Philly, catching just one pass for two yards. Quite a disappointing effort from a guy that came out of nowhere to score a touchdown in each of the first three games of the year.
Davis has been steady and productive for RGIII, catching 11 passes for 160 yards over the last two weeks. Unfortunately, he’s still looking for his first TD of the year.
Washington has a rough matchup this week with the unbeaten Falcons, and may be best-served trying to get things going on the ground with Griffin and rookie running back Alfred Morris.
The Browns held Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta to zero catches last week, but that likely isn’t a trend. Expect Bennett to get open once again and resume his role as a regular option in the New York offense.
Bennett over Davis.
Follow us on Twitter at @NFLSoup, and me at @NFLSoupTaylor.