Sit and start is relative and league dependent, so consider some of these suggestions more “fliers” and “fades” (note that some are targeted for DFS).
Good luck with your Week 5 lineups.
Start: Jamison Crowder, Cordarrelle Patterson/Mike Davis
Elijah Moore’s expected return is a bit of an unknown factor, but Crowder immediately commanded nine targets (and scored) during his return last week and should continue to work out of the slot in New York. The Falcons are a moderate pass-funnel team that’s allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to receivers this year.
Patterson is somehow the No. 2 fantasy back per game in PPR leagues this year, so excuse me if this is Captain Obvious. His usage suggests that type of production is unsustainable, but both Patterson and Mike Davis look to be in smash spots this week facing a Jets defense that’s been a highly favorable matchup for RBs this season. Moreover, Calvin Ridley didn’t make the trip to London, so C-Patt and Davis should be major parts of Atlanta’s game plan.
THIS is the week Kyle Pitts finally blows up too.
Miami Dolphins @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Start: DeVante Parker/Jaylen Waddle
Start in DFS: Leonard Fournette ($18)
While Jacoby Brissett at QB isn’t ideal, the Bucs remain the NFL’s biggest pass-funnel defense by a wide margin, which is a huge reason why the Bucs have allowed the most fantasy points to receivers this season. Miami will have no chance of any rushing success, not to mention Will Fuller and three of Tampa Bay’s top corners are all out this week. So, Parker (who quietly ranks top-15 in air yards) and Waddle are both strong fantasy starts in this game.
Fournette had 20 carries and ran the third-most routes among running backs last week. He’s been unlucky with zero touchdowns on the year but really benefits from Gio Bernard spraining his ACL. He’s acting as the three-down back on a Bucs team favored by double-digits at home against a Dolphins defense that’s been gashed for the second-most fantasy points by running backs, and forced to start a quarterback who’s gotten 4.9 YPA this season.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Carolina Panthers
Sit: Miles Sanders, Sam Darnold
Sanders has just nine carries over the last two weeks and is losing high-value touches to Kenneth Gainwell. He gets a Carolina defense that’s yielded the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season.
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Darnold has been a top-five fantasy QB this year but faces Philadelphia’s No. 1 run-funnel defense this week. He’s not a horrible fantasy start but should be considered more of a top-15 QB this week. And consider Chuba Hubbard a top-15 RB if Christian McCaffrey sits again.
New Orleans Saints @ Washington Football Team
Sit: All Saints but Alvin Kamara
Start in DFS: Washington D/ST ($10)
New Orleans gets a struggling Washington defense but one capable of playing much better. With a suddenly conservative quarterback who’s yet to throw more than 23 times in a game while spreading targets around, it’s hard to start any Saints player in fantasy leagues right now other than Kamara (who’s coming off the first game of his career without a target).
Washington ranks last in EPA in pass defense, so it makes sense their disappointing defense comes at a big discount ($10) in DFS. But this is a D/ST that was drafted top-five one month ago, and while they no doubt benefitted from an easy schedule last year, Washington has faced a much tougher one to open 2021. This week their defense is the minimum despite getting a dome team at home. The Saints are dealing with a bunch of injuries on their offensive line with LT Terron Armstead and center Erik McCoy both sidelined, and Jameis Winston has averaged 119.5 passing yards (5.6 YPA) while taking seven sacks over two road games this season.
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Start: A.J. Brown, Laviska Shenault
If active I’m starting Brown, who may very well end up playing at less than 100% perpetually. This week he gets a Jacksonville defense that ranks last in pass defense DVOA with Julio Jones likely sidelined.
Shenault is going to remain in the slot (with Tavon Austin starting outside) but should see more targets (and hopefully more air yards) with DJ Chark out for the season. Shenault gets a Tennessee secondary that’s allowed the second-most fantasy points to receivers this season.
Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings
Sit: Jamaal Williams
Start: Alexander Mattison
Williams has seen just five targets over the last three weeks, and the Lions are 9.5-point underdogs in Minnesota. Williams is also dealing with a hip injury, and Detroit will be missing starters Penei Sewell, Frank Ragnow, and Taylor Decker along its offensive line.
Dalvin Cook may play this week but shouldn’t see his usual workload while battling a sprained ankle he aggravated last week. Minnesota is near double-digit favorites at home against a winless Lions team that’s allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs this season. This matchup is a lot different from last week’s against a stout Cleveland front. Mattison is a top-five fantasy start this week if Cook sits and a decent flex flier even if Cook plays.
Denver Broncos @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sit: Javonte Williams/Melvin Gordon
Start: Steelers D/ST
Williams and Gordon split snaps 50/50 last week and get a Pittsburgh defense that’s allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season. They’re also likely upset, returning home on a three-game losing streak. Denver’s backs aren’t horrible flex options given the RB landscape, but they are in a true committee in a tough matchup and possibly with Drew Lock as their QB.
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Pittsburgh’s defense has underperformed this season but has faced a tough schedule and is different with a healthy T.J. Watt (and at home). Sunday they face a Denver team that’s battling numerous injuries along its offensive line and may be starting Drew Lock at QB.
Green Bay Packers @ Cincinnati Bengals
Start in DFS: Davante Adams ($33)
Start: Joe Burrow
Adams has seen 29 targets over the last two weeks yet is coming off a quiet game. It seems like a fluke he’s scored just once after recording 18 touchdowns over 14 games last season, although admittedly he’s seen three fewer red-zone targets this year combined than during the NFC Championship Game alone. Adams should see a ton of targets in Week 5 facing a Bengals defense that’s been stingy against the run.
Burrow’s fantasy stats have suffered thanks to volume this year, but the Bengals have historically ramped up their pass rate in games Joe Mixon is out. Burrow has gotten an impressive 9.2 YPA (it’s no fluke he’s thrown multiple TDs in every game despite averaging just 26.8 passes) during his return from knee surgery, as his path to stardom has been accelerated. The sophomore quarterback has faced a mostly tough schedule and should get Tee Higgins back with GB missing corner Jaire Alexander, so Burrow is set for a huge game (leading to an upset).
New England Patriots @ Houston Texans
Start: Damien Harris
Sit: Brandin Cooks
Harris struggled rushing last week, but every back does against the Bucs. He also quietly ran the most routes of his career with James White out, and he gets a run-funnel Houston defense that ranks No. 8 against the pass and No. 31 versus the run in DVOA. New England may be missing up to four offensive linemen, which admittedly isn’t ideal, but they remain big favorites over a struggling Texans team still starting Davis Mills at QB.
Cooks easily ranks No. 1 in WOPR this season, so he’s certainly not the worst flex play, but this is a week to use alternatives if you have them. Davis Mills has been a real problem (the bottom-five in completion percentage above expectation are Ben Roethlisberger and then four rookies), and he gets a Patriots defense that’s allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to receivers and one known for shutting down the opponents’ best player; Cooks qualifies by a mile for Houston.
Chicago Bears @ Las Vegas Raiders
Start in DFS: Justin Fields ($20)
Start: Henry Ruggs
A friendly matchup helped, but Fields looked much better throwing downfield last week. He faces a Raiders defense that’s allowed the second-most rushing yards to quarterbacks this season, and Bill Lazor taking over play-calling duties is absolutely huge, making Fields a strong DFS option (at the minimum). I also have Damien Williams as a top-15 RB this week with David Montgomery out.
The Raiders are throwing aggressively and get a Bears defense that’s allowed fourth-most fantasy points to receivers this season. Josh Jacobs and Peyton Barber (out) are both banged up, while Kenyan Drake has been seemingly benched, so Derek Carr should continue to throw frequently. Ruggs ranks top-10 in air yards this season.
Cleveland Browns @ Los Angeles Chargers
Start Kareem Hunt
Start: Jared Cook
I’d argue Hunt’s ECR of RB16 is too high given his projected volume, but he’s a fine start regardless in a matchup with one of the league’s premier run-funnel defenses. Moreover, Baker Mayfield is playing through a torn labrum (non-throwing), and Odell Beckham Jr. gets a Chargers defense that’s been one of the stingiest against fantasy receivers.
Cook ranks top-10 in targets among tight ends and will continue to benefit from having a star QB throwing to him. Cleveland sports the No. 1 run defense in DVOA, so expect LA to do almost all its offensive damage Sunday through the air.
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
Start: Daniel Jones, Dalton Schultz
Jones is breaking out in Year 3, getting 8.2 YPA against a relatively tough schedule and despite a bunch of injuries to the Giants’ receivers (and having Evan Engram as his tight end). Dimes also has the third-most rushing yards among quarterbacks and this week gets a pass-funnel Dallas defense that’s allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Jones has scored more fantasy points this season than Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Justin Herbert and Dak Prescott, yet his ECR is a puzzling QB14 this week. He’s a top-seven QB on my board in a Week 5 matchup that projects to have one of the fastest paces of the slate.
Schultz has taken advantage of Blake Jarwin’s slower recovery from surgery and Michael Gallup’s absence, suddenly ranking No. 4 among fantasy tight ends after a couple of big weeks. And there’s room for even more should Dallas stop running so much over expectation. Kellen Moore has impressed calling plays this season, and Schultz looks like a must-start moving forward at a weak position.
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals
Start: Trey Lance, Maxx Williams
This is obviously moot should Jimmy Garoppolo start, but Lance would become awfully intriguing should the rookie get the call in Week 5. His accuracy was shaky last week, but Lance easily has the most fantasy points per dropback this year and a ton of rushing upside. With more starter reps in practice and a game-plan centered on him, Lance should be treated as top-10 fantasy QB right away if starting.
Williams has emerged as Arizona’s clear TE1 on a team with the current MVP favorite at quarterback (and a banged-up Chase Edmonds). The Cardinals also have the second-highest neutral pass rate and get a San Francisco defense that’s battling injuries in its secondary.
Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs
Start: Emmanuel Sanders
Sit: Mecole Hardman
Sanders ranks top-15 in air yards and is playing for a pass-happy Buffalo team against a KC pass defense that ranks last in DVOA. Sunday night’s game has a massive total (56.5 points), helping make Sanders a strong fantasy start.
Kansas City enters favored despite having the NFL’s No. 32 ranked defense in DVOA and facing the No. 1 ranked Bills’ defense. Patrick Mahomes is that good. His superpowers do not extend to making Hardman fantasy relevant, however, even with Sammy Watkins gone (and especially not against a Buffalo defense that’s yielded the fewest fantasy points to receivers this season).
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens
Start: Michael Pittman, Latavius Murray
Pittman ranks top-15 in WOPR, one spot behind Stefon Diggs, so few receivers are seeing a greater (weighted) opportunity this season. With five targets inside the 10-yard line over the last three weeks, Pittman’s zero touchdowns feel especially unlucky and are sure to regress soon. With Nyheim Hines also questionable to play Monday night and facing a pass-funnel Baltimore defense, I have Pittman ranked as a top-20 fantasy WR this week.
Murray ranked top-15 in snap share among all backs last week after no Baltimore RB saw more than 50% of the snaps the week before, as late reports suggesting he’d take over as the team’s lead runner proved true. Murray saw zero targets and will lose some goal-line scores to Lamar Jackson, but he’s now a solid fantasy RB2 as Baltimore’s feature back.
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