Week 5 Starts/Sits: Bush to answer the Bell against the Bills
Compared to last week, the Week 5 bye will make but a tiny ripple in the player pool this week as the two teams sitting out, Miami and Oakland, have very little to offer (outside Lamar Miller and Mike Wallace) in terms of must-start commodities. So fantasy owners should have plenty to choose from when filling out their lineups this week. With that in mind, I offer you six players that are looking better than usual this week, and, on the flip side, six players that are looking worse than usual.
Eli Manning, NYG vs ATL – Let's all admit it, Eli and the Giants passing game looks like it is finally getting healthy thanks to the Band-Aid of OC Ben McAdoo's new fast-paced passing scheme. Over the past three weeks, only Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers have outpaced the younger Manning in fantasy points. And there's a good chance he'll move ahead of Rivers for the four-week span that will include this weekend as he hosts an Atlanta defense yielding 8.6 yards per pass attempt, the second-highest mark in the league. Count on Eli for another top 10 return on Sunday.
Reggie Bush, DET vs. BUF – This Buffalo run defense that Bush will face is no joke. The team is allowing just 2.9 YPC and is one of just three teams yet to allow a touchdown to a running back. But there's at least a couple factors to like about this matchup for Bush this week. First is that backfield partner Joique Bell is unlikely to play because of a concussion suffered in Week 4 - he's been cleared for activity but missed the entire week of practice. So Bush is a good bet to see 20-plus touches for the first time this season. You need only go back and look at what Bush has done in recent years with that kind of workload to start feeling giddily optimistic about his prospects on Sunday. And then there's the fact that the Bills have allowed the fourth-most receiving yards to running backs. And, as we all know, Bush is one of the premier receiving backs in the league.
Justin Forsett, BAL at IND – Forsett has been the one constant in the Ravens backfield this season, accruing at least 12 touches and 65 YFS in each of the team's four games. And he's actually been an active participant in the red zone, which has led to a couple of scores. This week, Forsett will face a generous Indy run defense, one that has allowed 271 receiving yards to RBs, second-most in the league. Don't be surprised if Forsett tacks 40-or-so receiving yards on to his usual 60 rushing yards en route to a double-digit fantasy point effort on Indy's indoor fast track.
Vincent Jackson, TB at NO – V-Jax has gotten off to a pretty ugly start this season, accounting for just 134 receiving yards through four games - by comparison, there have been 11 players that have picked up at least 134 receiving yards in a single game this season. But he's at least found the end zone each of the past two weeks, and he's reunited with the QB (Mike Glennon) that helped him finish as the No. 14 fantasy wideout last season. This week, look for the Bucs to air it out at New Orleans. The team goes in as a 10-point underdog, as Vegas clearly expects Drew Brees to come out at home firing away, desperate to dig his way out of a 1-3 hole. With rookie WR Mike Evans out for Tampa with a groin injury, Jackson will be the obvious go-to guy for a team that is likely to chuck it 40-plus times. And the Saints have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to the WR position, so there's clear WR1 upside for Jackson on Sunday.
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Brian Quick, STL at PHI – The Eagles have allowed three receivers to top 100 yards this season. Don't be surprised if Quick becomes the fourth on Sunday. Quick has never reached the century mark in his NFL career, though he picked up 99 yards in Week 1 against Minnesota. And he's been above 60 yards in each of his three games. Considering the Rams allow more than 28 points per game and Philly is scoring more than 30 points per game, you can expect that the Rams will be forced into a catch-up position in this contest. And as the most targeted player on the Rams, that should work out well for Quick's fantasy bottom line.
Jordan Cameron, CLE at TEN – Cameron, who has been dealing with a sprained shoulder issue for most of the season, practiced in full all week and is as healthy as he's been in a long time. The timing works out well as Cameron faces a Tennessee defense that has been generous to the tight end position, allowing a 69 percent completion rate to the position and coming off a game in which it allowed touchdowns to both Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. Look for Cameron to top 50 yards and score a TD against the Titans, something he has yet to do this season, but was able to accomplish five times in '13.
Matt Ryan, ATL at NYG – A road warrior Ryan is not. The 19 INTs in his last 10 road games does a good job of telling that story. So it's hard to be optimistic about the Falcons' signal caller this week, going in to the Meadowlands to face a Giants secondary that has tallied seven interceptions in the past two games. The G-men also boast two of the best pass-coverage DBs in the game in Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who both grade out among the top six corners in the league, thus far, according to ProFootballFocus. The setup (opponent and road game) is not conducive for a top 12 fantasy QB line for Ryan.
Ahmad Bradshaw, IND vs. BAL – Bradshaw has been a budget-priced fantasy star through the first month of the season, ranking among the top five running backs in fantasy points. But he's yet to face a defense as stingy as Baltimore - all four of his opponents to date rank among the top 12 most generous to the RB position, while the Ravens have yielded the seventh-fewest points to running backs. And a huge part of Bradshaw's fantasy success has been through the air, where he has scored all four of his touchdowns. That's been a nice boost to his fantasy line, but that's a tough place to expect consistency - as in, the odds of him scoring another aerial TD for the fourth straight game are pretty low, especially since you know the Ravens will be looking for him down close at the goal line now (and Baltimore has allowed just one RB to score via the air in its past 10 regular-season games). With this being a low upside matchup and Bradshaw clearly in a backup role behind T-Rich still (72 touches for Richardson vs. 48 for Bradshaw), this is the week I'd expect the bottom to fall out on Bradshaw.
Doug Martin, TB at NO – As I talked about in this week's Dissenting Opinions, I can't, for the life of me, figure out why my Yahoo colleagues rank Martin among the top 20 running backs this week. He's averaging 2.1 YPC on 23 carries this season, and his one touchdown was aided tremendously (as in he wouldn't have scored otherwise) by a hold from his left tackle that everyone outside of the referees saw. But, I think, a bigger issue for Martin this week will be game flow. The Bucs are a 10-point underdog. If the game follows the form that Vegas predicts, the running game is likely to be an ill-afforded luxury for Tampa Bay very early on. And considering that Martin is averaging 11 receiving yards in his past eight regular-season games, playing from behind is unlikely to serve him well in fantasy.
Rueben Randle, NYG vs. ATL – While I'm a fan of Eli Manning this week, I'm not ready to extend that love to what is his third-option in the passing game behind Victor Cruz and Larry Donnell. I find it laughable how much people always want to project big things for this guy. After an eight-catch performance in Week 4 against a Washington defense allowing the ninth-most fantasy points to the WR position and playing without CB DeAngelo Hall, some, like Michael Salfino in his latest Scouting Notebook, have proclaimed Randle a top 25 WR value the rest of the way. But he's way too inconsistent for my tastes (he has 1 TD despite ranking foruth among WRs in red zone targets with 8) and Atlanta has some talent at cornerback, including Desmond Trufant, who ranks No. 8 at the position in pass coverage, according to ProFootballFocus. I'd bet on Cruz, Donnell and, perhaps, even Rashad Jennings getting more done in the passing game this week than Randle.
Larry Fitzgerald, ARI at DEN – Other than Reggie Wayne in Week 1 (98 yards), no receiver has reached 60 yards against Denver this season. And Fitzgerald has maxed out at 51 yards as his personal best this season, that coming in Week 2 with Drew Stanton at QB. He followed that up with a mere 34 yards against San Francisco with Stanton behind center. And as he comes off the bye, Stanton is slated to be his quarterback once again. At 31 years old, it's hard not to think that Fitzgerald's days of being a lock solid top 25 wide receiver have passed him by. In his past 35 regular-season game, he's reached the 70-yard mark just 10 times. And he's been held out of the end zone in six straight. He's a back-end WR3, at best, this week.
Vernon Davis, SF vs. KC – Davis is dealing with back spasms which have kept him out of practice this week. But even if he's cleared to play on Sunday, you'll want to look elsewhere for your starting tight end this week. In addition to the back issues, VD has battled ankle and knee problems this season. He's followed up his impressive Week 1 performance (44/2) with a DNP and a combined five catches for 47 yards and no touchdowns in his other two contests. This week he faces a KC defense that has allowed four TDs to the TE position. But it has also allowed the fourth-fewest catches and fifth-fewest yards to tight ends, an impressive feat considering it has faced Julius Thomas, Rob Gronkowski and Delanie Walker, all top 10 fantasy tight ends. Basically, you have to bank on a less-than-100 percent Davis scoring a TD to have any chance of him giving you a decent fantasy ROI this week. Sure, it's possible. But I like a little more upside than that.
(Note: As a backup Sit in case Davis ends up not playing, I'll offer up Zach Ertz, my Sit from last week. He's only averaging five targets per game and is facing a Rams defense that has allowed just 3.3 catches to the TE position this season.)