Finalizing your weekly fantasy football lineup can be a real bummer, especially when you hear different things about the same guys. I remember a week ago I read in one spot that Chris Ivory had a great matchup against the Dolphins run defense (correct) and then elsewhere someone said it was a bad matchup (wrong). Different rankings and perspectives can change things, but in our weekly Fantasy Versus column, we strip it down and look at it as a pure player vs. player comparison.
We won’t touch on every single lineup problem, but we’ll tackle some of the more popular issues and even if you’re not facing that exact issue, you’ll at least get our thoughts on each player and where they fall in line in fantasy football in week five. Got more fantasy questions? Just catch us on Twitter or Facebook. For now, we’ll deal with a few specific matchup showdowns at the main positions for the week:
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
Dalton has been ablaze and Cutler is, well, Cutler. But in week five The Red Rifle could get clogged up by the Seattle Seahawks, who have allowed 10 points combined (3 true offensive points) in their last two games. Granted, those games have been in the comfort of their own home, but they suddenly seem stingy as balls and with the menacing Kam Chancellor back, they’re obviously to be feared – and at least respected. Dalton is again at home and he hasn’t given much cause pause through four weeks, but if you’re looking for a reason to take a break from him, you have it.
On the other side there is the forever enigma that is Jay Cutler, who has actually been a lot better than you think this year. He was pretty average in week one but against a good Arizona defense he put up 120 yards and a touchdown on 8-of-9 throwing in hardly a full half before leaving with a bum hammy. Then last week he went all clutch in a win over the Raiders, while also rewarding his faithful fantasy owners with about 20 fantasy points (280 pass yds and 2 TDs). He’s good for a turnover or two and he’s on the road against a surely pissed off Chiefs defense, but there’s no denying he looks pretty good. This is also a crazy awesome matchup for him by the numbers, as KC has been getting torched through the air all season long. If he gets Alshon Jeffery back this week, I mean, geez. I like Cutler more than Dalton this week. There, I said it.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Sam Bradford, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Alex Smith is a solid top-15 options this week. He’s at home against a bottom-10 Bears pass defense when it comes to fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. He’s also put up some quality yardage and has weapons around him that can make plays for him. Bradford does, too, and it’s highly possible we finally saw him shake the rust off for good last week. Even if that’s not the case, Bradford is at home against a Saints defense that is giving up the second most fantasy points to quarterbacks right now. I’m not sure there is anything to support that changing in a huge game for both teams. Bradford should have a good shot at 300+ yards and 2-3 scores. I like Smith for his yardage, too, but his TDs have been much harder to come by, which helps give Bradford the edge.
Michael Vick, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders
Vick was held back in his first start in place of an injured Big Ben, and it was obvious. He also missed some easy throws and took two awful sacks, but Antonio Brown also dropped a 30+ yard score that was extremely catchable. Had that gone down, Vick would have had 16+ fantasy points and heading into week five you might not have so many questions about using him. He also gets Martavis Bryant back this week and if the Steelers are smart, they’ll let him loose and let him do his thing. That could still end badly on the road, where they’ll go up against a Chargers pass defense which has given up the 8th fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Carr has been fun to watch and on the surface he’d normally be the easy call here. He’s also at home and has some solid weapons around him, while he’s also done a solid job putting up at least 14 fantasy points in three straight weeks. He didn’t torched the Bears as we’d have hoped last week, of course, so there’s a decent chance we saw some vulnerability there. That’s bad news this week, as he’s entrenched in a massive AFC West clash with a very good Broncos defense. More specifically, Denver is #1 against quarterbacks with just over 7 fantasy points allowed per game. That’s disgusting. I like Carr and even love him in positive matchups, but this isn’t the week to test the rugged waters with him. Vick offers some tangible upside and Bryant returning makes him the easy pick.
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos vs. Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Two scat-backs with capped roles, but which one can you trust in week five? It’s easy to see that Gio has been the better weekly play so far this year, but things are very much falling into Hillman’s favor this week. Not only is Hillman fresh off of an impressive week four performance, but he also gets a Raiders run defense that is just middle of the pack on the year. Bernard, meanwhile, gets the Seahawks, who rank second against the position in terms of fantasy points allowed. I think both have upside as versatile weapons in PPR leagues, plus Bernard could be on the field a good amount if the Bengals are down. But Hillman goes in with more upside and is the pick this week.
Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers vs. Chris Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
I’m not entirely sure how the Steelers are doing it, but they’re 3rd against fantasy running backs in points allowed on the season. That can’t be ignored, nor can the fact that Gordon hasn’t had a true breakout game on the year and still hasn’t scored. He has a good role and that big game is inching closer, but with his o-line banged up it’s tough to bank on it being this week. It is worth noting, of course, that the Steelers got carved up something awful a week ago by Justin Forsett. Their saving grace? They haven’t allowed a rushing score all year. It’s not overly likely this is the matchup where Gordon gets his first paydirt appearance.
While Gordon’s matchup is somewhat sketchy at least in the scoring department, Johnson’s week five upside may also be capped. He’s going up against a Lions run defense that has been just OK, but they’ve given up some huge games (Adrian Peterson, anyone) and have allowed four rushing scores on the year. This is also a road game and Johnson will probably have Andre Ellington stealing some touches. From a role perspective, I’m leaning toward Gordon, while Forsett’s breakout game last week was highly encouraging.
Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers vs. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Two guys trending in totally different directions here, as Carlos Hyde has done a free fall ever since his killer week one game. Since then he hasn’t even topped 10 fantasy points in a game. I still think he’s highly capable, but Colin Kaepernick isn’t and it’s killing San Francisco’s running game. He suddenly is going to put it all together in week five on the road against the Giants? That’s a tough sell.
On the other side is the Muscle Hamster, who finally busted out with a nice 100-yard, 1 TD game last week. He won’t be immune to some duds as we saw through the first three weeks, but Martin absolutely can still ball and the Bucs’ only path to success is riding him as much as possible. He’s got the better matchup on paper this week, as he takes on the 6th worst defense (Jags) against fantasy running backs. His matchup and upside give him the edge over Hyde this week.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
This is a tricky one, since Maclin is coming off two awesome games and Matthews has regressed a bit after a strong start. I think that path continues for the most part this week, as the Bears aren’t very good against the pass and haven’t done a great job against opposing team’s top receivers. Matthews faces a bad Saints defense but their passing game struggles have actually largely come against tight ends, so that skews his matchup a bit. I’m going with the red hot Maclin this week.
James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers vs. Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jones is the safe choice here, as he’s in a great offense, has really paid off in every single week this year and is also at home. The downside is he can’t score every week (didn’t score last week) and he gets a pretty rough matchup against a feisty Rams defense in week five. More specifically, St. Louis is 5th against fantasy wide receivers on the year and has allowed just one touchdown through the air, overall. They went into Arizona and stifled the Cardinals last week, so they’re to be feared.
Robinson, to me, is pretty safe and also carries the upside between these two guys this week. Even in would-be down weeks the past two games, he still had four catches and solid yardage (68 and 80). I think he gets a score this week and you can expect a similar 4-5 catches and 65-80 yards. He could do more damage that that, too, but even a conservative estimate should have him shaping up as the better play over Jones.
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders vs. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cooper had a mouth watering matchup last week and didn’t exactly take full advantage. Still, his weak games are pretty good, as he still scored and returned value for the third week in a row. This week could be tougher for him to accomplish that, as he’ll be draped by Aqib Talib all day. He’s at home and can probably still come out OK, but the Broncos are the top pass defense against fantasy receivers so this is potentially a very bad week to use him.
Last week we saw Vincent Jackson catch 10 balls and really overall just go crazy. I think we’re going to see a lot of that on a regular basis or the Bucs, but who does it between V-Jax and Evans will definitely rotate. The week before Jackson was pretty quiet as Evans hauled in 7 balls for over 100 yards. I like Evans a lot this week, while his matchup against the Jags is neither enticing or scary. Evans is especially a strong value on daily fantasy football sites, but he’s an elite option that hasn’t gone off yet. This week feels like the week he does.
Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans vs. Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills
Tight end is a nightmare if you have to take it to the waiver wire, so feel good if you’re in a spot where you have to decide between guys like Walker and Clay on a weekly basis. Delanie Walker has been pretty solid in the two games he’s played and really both of these guys are in for solid targets on a regular basis because both of their quarterbacks – Marcus Mariota and Tyrod Taylor – are inexperienced and will check down a bit. Both also have some red-zone upside, but it probably comes down to matchup this week. The edge then goes to Walker, even though the Titans give up a slightly better average. The Bills have played one more game, though, and the overall production they’ve allowed across the board favors Walker. Their pass defense in general has been awful, too, whether they get burned early or give up a ton of yardage late.
Martellus Bennett, TE, Chicago Bears vs. Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
Let’s jump it up a level, where you’re in an even better situation but need to choose between two tight ends who can border on elite status. That was certainly the case for Bennett last week, as he hauled in a ridiculous 11 catches and a touchdown. I actually am digging Eifert more in this showdown, though. For one, Bennett’s crazy game came against the worst defense against tight ends (Raiders) who had been and still are giving up over 20 fantasy points per game (cue the Owen Daniels adds!). Eifert, on the other hand, got blanked in week three and last week was just OK with three catches and 69 yards. He’s too good to be so meh for a third straight game, though, while his matchup is also better on paper (Seahawks just middle of the pack against TEs). Kansas City, on the other hand, is at home and ranks 10th against tight ends this year. I like Eifert to have a solid game this week with Seattle looking to stop Cincy’s running game and A.J. Green first.