Drew Brees won’t be extending his NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass since the Saints aren’t playing in Week 6. The Bears, Panthers and Jaguars are also off, meaning fantasy owners will have to do without the services of Cam Newton, Jay Cutler, Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham and others.
These offensive stars aside, the biggest loss felt this week might end up being by those who have the Bears DST on their roster. By far the highest scoring DST in fantasy football, the Monsters of the Midway have scored five defensive touchdowns in the last three weeks. Regardless, unless you want to run the risk of fielding an illegal lineup or are willing to accept getting no points from your DST this week, Bears owners will need to find a fill in, and the same goes for the other aforementioned players.
Athlon Sports is here to help you make all of those important lineup decisions for your Yahoo!, NFL.com or ESPN fantasy football league with our weekly Start and Sit suggestions. Keep in mind these are merely our suggestions as the ultimate decision comes down to you, the owner.
Bye week teams: Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville, New Orleans
Sneaky Start of the Week
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets vs. Indianapolis
How sneaky is this? Going with a running back that is averaging less than three yards per carry and is coming off of a 26-yard effort on Monday night? Yes, Greene and the Jets as a team have had all sorts of trouble running the ball so far, despite head coach Rex Ryan’s insistence that they would return to their “ground and pound” ways.
The Jets are averaging 83 yards per game on the ground and only 3.2 yards per carry. They have only one rushing touchdown (by Greene), and the longest run from scrimmage is 22 yards and it belongs to backup quarterback Tim Tebow. Put it all together and it’s more like the Jets’ rushing attack has been grounded rather than pounding the opposition.
However, in Greene’s and the Jets’ defense, they have had to play some of the tougher rush defenses in the league. Four of the Jets’ first five opponents – Houston, Miami, Pittsburgh and San Francisco – rank among the top 11 in rush defense. Against these four teams, Greene has rushed for a grand total of 123 yards on 49 carries (2.5 ypc).
The Jets’ other opponent has been Buffalo, who they destroyed 48-28 in Week 1, and against whom Greene rushed for 94 yards on 27 carries (3.5 ypc) and also scored his lone touchdown of the season. Not incredible numbers, granted, but far better than his other games. This week should present another opportunity for Greene to do some damage as Indianapolis is currently ranked 22nd in rush defense, giving up an average of 135.8 yards per game and 4.7 yards per attempt.
Ryan has voiced his support of Greene to the media, but Greene also knows that he needs to start producing or he will begin to cede some carries to backup Bilal Powell and possibly Tebow as well. So between the matchup and increasing pressure on him to perform, the timing just feels right for Greene to make his owners proud, at least those who have stuck with them to this point.
Surprise Sit of the Week
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington vs. Minnesota
Griffin took a nasty hit last week against Atlanta as Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon undoubtedly made an impression on the rookie quarterback, and I’m not just talking about the stitches RGIII needed after the blow. Griffin suffered a concussion, which immediately put his playing status for this week up in the air.
Griffin has returned to practice, but has yet to be cleared for contact (as of Thursday) and will still have to pass a battery of tests before his playing status is determined. So in some ways this Sit designation is health-related, as there’s a chance he may not be on the field Sunday against Minnesota.
That said, even if he does play against the Vikings, I am still saying it’s probably best to leave him on your bench, and this declaration is more about the Minnesota defense than it is RGIII. The Vikings’ defense has been pretty solid thus far - No. 7 against the run and No. 15 against the pass. They’ve done a good job of pressuring the quarterback (14 sacks) and have allowed only six touchdown passes in five games.
Griffin has been everything advertised to this point, as he’s No. 6 among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring, but a closer look at his numbers reveal something rather telling. Griffin has as many rushing touchdowns as he does passing, four apiece. While his versatility and ability to make plays with his legs are part of the reason he’s so deadly and been so productive, it’s also why he’s recovering from a concussion that could keep him out this week.
Understandably, Griffin, who is just five games into his NFL career, still has much to learn about pocket awareness and decision-making. More importantly, he has a lot to learn when it comes to protecting himself and his body when he does scramble out of the pocket and take off down field.
Should Griffin play, my thinking is that a combination of two things will occur: his coaches order him to not try and be a hero every time he feels the pocket collapsing, and the Vikings won’t let him out of their grasp and make plays with his legs. As talented as RGIII is, he is not an experienced or polished enough passer in the NFL to do a lot of damage with just his arm. Because of the lingering concussion, RGIII is a one-dimensional weapon this week. And as it stands right now, I don’t think he’s good enough using only his arm, to count on for your fantasy team.
Philip Rivers (SD) vs. Denver (Monday)
Prior to last week’s game in New Orleans, Rivers was averaging less than 225 yards passing per game. Contrast that to the last two seasons in which he averaged nearly 300 yards (291.7) per contest. So needless to say, Rivers owners were happy to see him break out for 354 yards passing in the loss to the Saints. The other good news is that to this point, Rivers has done a much better job of taking care of the ball. He has just six total turnovers (5 INTs, 1 fumble) compared to eight touchdown passes in his first five games. Rivers also is more than familiar with this week’s opponent, Denver, who the Chargers host on Monday night. In 13 career games against his AFC West rivals, he has thrown 20 touchdowns versus just seven interceptions.
Kevin Kolb (ARI) vs. Buffalo
Kolb has yet to really light it up, averaging 243.8 yards passing in four games as Arizona’s starter with six touchdowns and two interceptions. However, this could be his best chance yet as he’s facing a Buffalo defense that has been absolutely shredded – try 1,201 yards and 97 points – in its last two games. What’s more, the Bills are allowing the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. This includes 26.6 points to Mark Sanchez and 23.5 to Matt Cassel, who are currently ranked 31st and 32nd respectively in passer rating. I’m not sure opportunity could knock any louder.
Brandon Weeden (CLE) vs. Cincinnati
Weeden may be the 33rd-ranked passer in the league right now, but he’s also showing signs of progress. He was huge in helping the Browns jump out to an early lead on the road against the defending Super Bowl champs. And even though the Giants came back and won the game fairly easily, Weeden finished with decent stats – 22-of-35, 291 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. This week, Weeden finally gets to face someone for a second time as the Browns and Bengals get together again. The Bengals won the first meeting back in Week 2, but Weeden did his part, as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 322 yards, two scores and no interceptions in the best outing of his rookie season. Considering the improvement of the Browns’ rushing attack behind fellow first-round pick Trent Richardson and that he’ll be playing at home, there’s really no reason to not expect Weeden to post similar, if not better, numbers this time around.
Matthew Stafford (DET) at Philadelphia
Through the first four games of last season, Stafford had already thrown 11 touchdown passes compared to just three interceptions. This season those numbers have completely reversed, as the Lions’ gunslinger has tossed only three touchdown passes to go with four interceptions. For whatever reason, the Lions’ offense has been out of sync to start the season, but the team was off last week giving the unit plenty of time to work out the kinks, right? Perhaps, but I still wouldn’t expect Stafford and company to go off this week in Philadelphia. The Eagles are allowing only 209 yards passing per game and are giving up an average of 13.2 fantasy points per contest to opposing quarterbacks.
Carson Palmer (OAK) at Atlanta
Like Stafford, Palmer and the Raiders also were off last week. While the break allowed injured players the chance to recover and the team had more practice time to get everyone on the same page with rookie head coach Dennis Allen and his staff, the schedule-makers didn’t really do the Raiders any favor coming out of it. The west coast team has the pleasure of making the cross-country trip to take on an undefeated Atlanta team on its home turf. The Falcons’ defense is No. 9 in the league against the pass, as the unit has surrendered just five touchdown passes, while picking off nine, including three Peyton Manning passes in the first quarter in Week 2.
Brady Quinn (KC) at Tampa Bay
Yes, Tampa Bay is allowing a league-worst 345 yards passing per game, but that’s largely because Eli Manning hung 510 on them in Week 2. Take out that game and the average drops to 303 yards per game. But also let’s not kid ourselves here, Quinn is not anywhere near the quarterback that Manning is, not to mention that he will be making his first start since 2009. There’s absolutely no reason to try and be sneaky or clever here. Just walk away and move on.
Trent Richardson (CLE) vs. Cincinnati
Richardson is still in search of his first breakthrough performance in his rookie season, and there’s a chance it could happen this week. Not only will he be playing in front of the home crowd, but he gets the Bengals, who are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. This also is the same team he posted his first and only 100-yard game against thus far, picking up 109 on just 19 carries (5.7 ypc) in Week 2. Can anyone say repeat?
DeMarco Murray (DAL) at Baltimore
The Cowboys have had plenty of time to digest their disappointing 34-18 Week 4 loss to Chicago. First and foremost on the team’s to do list during the bye was probably how to fix the running game. After posting 131 yards rushing against the Giants in Week 1, Murray has accumulated a total of 106 yards on the ground in the three games since. Besides being well rested, Murray has the benefit of going against Baltimore and its 22nd-ranked rush defense. The Ravens are allowing 118.4 yards per game on the ground and are coming off of Jamaal Charles gouging them for 140 last week. Not saying Murray will get that many, but I do think he will be able to his share of damage, which also will help stabilize Tony Romo and the passing game.
C.J. Spiller (BUF) at Arizona
After injuring his shoulder in Week 3 against Cleveland, everyone was expecting Spiller to miss at least one game, if not more. Everyone that is, except Spiller himself, who returned to the field that next week and has proceeded to produce a grand total of 62 yards of total offense in the past two games. Some of this has to do with the simultaneous return of opening-week starter Fred Jackson, as well as the Bills match-ups with New England and San Francisco. To put it mildly, the Bills’ defense has been lit up two straight weeks, and the carnage caused by the Patriots’ and 49ers’ offenses did not help the production of the Bills’ offense, even if it resulted in more possessions. That said, I think this week’s game in Arizona will not follow the same script, and I also think that since he appears to be completely recovered from the shoulder injury, Spiller, and not Jackson, will get the majority of the touches. This will allow him to look more like the player that led the NFL in rushing after the first two weeks of the season, compared to the one that’s been out there these past three weeks.
Alfred Morris (WAS) vs. Minnesota
First, let’s give credit where credit is due. Morris, the Redskins’ sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic, is fourth in the NFL in rushing (491 yards), is averaging nearly five yards per carry and is No. 6 in fantasy scoring for his position. Unfortunately, his next opponent, Minnesota, could care less. The Vikings are seventh in the league in rushing defense and have allowed a grand total of one touchdown on the ground. Combine that with the Redskins’ quarterback situation heading into Sunday’s game (see above), and you may want to consider letting Morris sit this one out.
Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) at San Francisco
There’s no backfield controversy with the Giants, not after Bradshaw ran over and through the Browns for 200 yards last week. But while his starting job may be secure, don’t expect a repeat performance in San Francisco this week. The 49ers have allowed only one running back (Adrian Peterson) to rush for more than 53 yards this season and have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. The Giants relied heavily on Eli Manning and his arm to beat the 49ers in last season’s NFC Championship Game, and I’m expecting a similar game plan this Sunday as well.
Steven Jackson (STL) at Miami
Miami is No. 1 in the NFL in rushing defense, as they have allowed a total of 307 yards rushing in its first five games. That is only 36 yards less than what Jackson himself has accumulated thus far, which is an average of 54.2 yards per game. Considering the Rams completed a total of seven passes last week against Arizona, and are now without the services of their top wide receiver (Danny Amendola), I’m not expecting either of these numbers – what the Dolphins are allowing or what Jackson is getting – to change that much.
Andre Johnson (HOU) vs. Green Bay
Johnson started out strong with eight catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Since then he’s caught nine passes for 164 yards and one other score. Johnson’s getting good yardage – he’s averaging 16.6 yards per reception – he’s just not catching a bunch of passes. He has been dealing with a groin issue, but it hasn’t kept him from playing and doesn’t appear to be serious. Green Bay is allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and I have a feeling that AJ may break out this Sunday against the Packers.
Michael Crabtree (SF) vs. New York Giants
With the exception of his Week 4 performance against the Jets, Crabtree has caught at least six passes in every game. Last week against Buffalo he grabbed six for 113 yards and his first touchdown of the season. The Giants are allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, including eight touchdown catches already. The 49ers are showing trust in Alex Smith by letting him throw the ball more, and I think this trend continues Sunday.
Jeremy Kerley (NYJ) vs. Indianapolis
Houston has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, an average of 20 per game. On Monday night, Kerley caught five passes against the Jets for 94 yards or 11.9 points. That’s the second-most yards the Texans have allowed to a receiver (Eric Decker had 136 in Week 3) and it was the fourth-most fantasy points (17.6, also to Decker, is the most). This week the Jets get Indianapolis, who is allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts. I think the Jets’ offense will be able to do a little more this week against the Colts than have been the previous few weeks. And part of the reason will be due to the new Sanchez-to-Kerley connection.
Brandon Lloyd (NE) at Seattle
Lloyd is more of a deep threat than Wes Welker or any of the other Patriot wide receivers. When Brady is content to attack a team with quick reads, underneath stuff and timing routes, like he did last week against Denver, Lloyd has a tendency to disappear from the game plan. That’s why he had just three catches for 34 yards against the Broncos. It’s not going to get any easier for Brady, Lloyd and the Pats this week in Seattle either, as the Seahawks’ defensive pressure and aggressive secondary will take the deeper routes, and therefore Lloyd, away for a second straight week.
Torrey Smith (BAL) vs. Dallas
As talented and dangerous as Smith is, he’s still learning how to play his position. Case in point, Smith has struggled against press coverage, which is what Kansas City primarily used against him last week. Smith had a hard time getting free, which is part of the reason why he had just three catches for 38 yards. There’s no reason to think Dallas won’t follow the same game plan this Sunday. What’s more, the Cowboys have allowed the fewest catches (38) and yards (515) to opposing wide receivers thus far, along with just two touchdowns.
Brian Hartline (MIA) vs. St. Louis
Hartline is leading the NFL in receiving yards, averaging more than 102 per game. The Rams have allowed just one touchdown catch by a wide receiver and only two receivers have gone for more than 71 yards against their defense. Their names are Calvin Johnson (111) and Larry Fitzgerald (92). Hartline is not Johnson or Fitzgerald and he has a rookie quarterback throwing to him. Any questions?
Kyle Rudolph (MIN) at Washington
Rudolph caught only four passes for 23 yards last week against Tennessee, but one of those resulted in a touchdown, his fourth of the season. Washington is tied with New England for giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. I also think that Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder, who threw his first two interceptions last week, may look to his sure-handed tight end a little more than usual.
Dustin Keller (NYJ) vs. Indianapolis
Keller hasn’t played since Week 1, sitting out the past four games with a hamstring injury. He is expected to return this week against Indianapolis and, other than Keller, no one is happier than Mark Sanchez. With Santonio Holmes already out for the season with a foot injury, Keller is far and away Sanchez’ favorite and most trusted target. Sanchez needs a productive game passing, and I fully expect him to look to Keller early and often to try and accomplish that.
Aaron Hernandez (NE) at Seattle
Hernandez has not played since injuring his ankle in Week 2, but he returned to practice this week and could be back out there Sunday in Seattle. The Patriots haven’t really missed Hernandez in terms of offensive production as Wes Welker, Stevan Ridley and others have picked up the slack. Even though the Patriots are in for a tough test against the Seahawks on their home field, I don’t think they “need” Hernandez. So even if he is able to return to the field, I don’t think he gets enough snaps to make much of an impact this week.
Jermichael Finley (GB) at Houston
Finley has scored just one touchdown, and that came in Week 1. He’s averaged less than four catches since collecting seven in the opener against San Francisco. Last week he had just three catches for 11 yards against Indianapolis and also suffered a minor shoulder injury. He is hoping to play on Sunday in Houston, but considering the Texans’ defense and his recent production, I would not have high expectations for Finley this week.
Miami vs. St. Louis
The Dolphins’ defense is ranked No. 18 overall, but they are No. 1 against the run. While they have been more susceptible to the pass (281.8 yards per game), this week they are facing the Rams, who are averaging the second-fewest yards through the air in the league. The Rams have also had issues protecting the quarterback, which plays into the Dolphins’ hands (15 sacks). Also, don’t forget that the Rams won’t have leading receiver Danny Amendola for this game (and many to follow), and quarterback Sam Bradford completed a total of seven passes last week against Arizona.
Tampa Bay vs. Kansas City
The Buccaneers have given up a league-worst 345 yards passing per game, but this week’s quarterback won’t be Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Tony Romo or Robert Griffin III. No, it