We finally saw some things return to normal in Week 4, as a good majority of players who were expected to do well managed to accomplish the feat. The quarterback and running back positions were highlighted by a massive debut from Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and another disappointing effort from LeSean McCoy. The Eagles offensive line is in absolute shambles right now, and it’s really hard to trust McCoy going forward, as he is coming off back-to-back performances of 25 yards or less. He essentially has no room to run once he gets the ball.
Let’s look ahead to a preview of what Week 5 should bring us.
*Note – FanDuel prices in parentheses
At this point we can no longer ignore the road/home splits of Drew Brees. For the better part of two years he has put up much better stats at the Superdome. Thankfully, he is there this week against a Bucs defense that has been smacked around by the last two quarterbacks they have faced on the road -- including the 56-point drubbing from the Falcons two weeks ago. For the season, the Bucs are ranked a paltry 25th in RotoGrinders’ Defense vs. QB tool. Brees is a mainstay at the top of the QB rankings this week and should be a definite consideration as your team anchor.
The Redskins are becoming a team that you want to target quarterbacks against, as evidenced by Eli Manning's blowup game against them last Thursday. I also really like taking players coming out of their bye, as it gives them a definite advantage facing a team that will be a little more exhausted. Russell Wilson is a dynamic QB that should give the mediocre Redskins defense fits, and he isn't overly expensive either. Wilson makes a great mid-range QB play here.
With a stable of beat-up running backs and his team in dire need of a win, these are the type of games in which Cam Newton generally puts the team on his back. The Panthers will be playing at home against a defense that was shredded by Aaron Rodgers last week, and Newton’s price has dipped to a very affordable $7,600 on FanDuel this week. He’s more of a risk/reward play and is probably a better option for tournament games as opposed to cash games, but if he’s healthy I think you will see the best game of the year out of Mr. Newton this week. It’s certainly the right combination of price and matchup to be able to take that chance.
Ben Roethlisberger has been on fire over the past two weeks and the Steelers offense looks like a whole new unit. The emergence of Le'Veon Bell as a top-flight running back has opened up the passing game, and Roethlisberger has connected with Antonio Brown on four touchdown strikes over the last two weeks. Now, Big Ben gets to face a Jaguars defense that is allowing a league-worst 321 passing yards per game. The second-worst team (Denver) is allowing just 285 passing yards per game, a 36-yard gap from the Jaguars woes. Fire up Big Ben as a top shelf option this week.
The Ravens’ offensive line is earning fantastic grades from several experts so far in 2014, and it’s no surprise that their offense as a whole has been much improved because of it. The running backs are finding room to run and Joe Flacco looks as good as he did during the club’s Super Bowl run two years ago. The Ravens are re-emerging as a force in the AFC and the Flacco-to-Steve Smith combination is turning back the clock. The Ravens will have to put up some points to hang with the Colts on the road this weekend, and expect Flacco to get plenty of opportunities to chuck it. As the leader of the pack for the Ravens, Flacco is a great under-the-radar play while his price is still discounted.
While Kirk Cousins had a very successful game against the Eagles two weeks ago, it appears as though that will be the norm for teams facing the Eagles defense this year. Cousins was alarmingly bad against the Giants last week, tossing four interceptions and genuinely looking confused for much of the game. Now he steps into a matchup against the most imposing defense in the league. I wouldn’t take a chance on Cousins even in a tournament format this week.
Depending on who you ask, you will get some opinions that Tom Brady is washed up and you will get some opinions that don’t blame Brady at all for the Patriots’ current offensive struggles. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that as of now we can’t rely on him for our one-week fantasy games. With a difficult prime-time matchup against the Bengals on tap for this week, Brady becomes a fairly easy player to ignore for Week 5. There are several better options out there.
The Panthers small defensive front is going to be susceptible to the run all season, and they currently rank 27th in the league by allowing 140.8 rush yards per game. Matt Forte has had a lot of success in the past against the Panthers, and those run defenses were generally better than the one that Carolina is currently fielding. I'd be willing to predict that Forte gets in the end zone for the first time this season in Week 5.
Despite an underwhelming game last week, a matchup against the Jaguars should be just the recipe for Le’Veon Bell to continue has breakout season. The Steelers are primed to point up some points in this contest, and a heavy dose of Bell could be used in clock-killing mode in the second half. Pretty much all of the Steelers offensive weapons are in play this week, and there is nothing wrong with rostering both Roethlisberger and Bell to get a sure piece of almost any Pittsburgh offensive touchdown this week.
Last week, the Vikings rushing tandem of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon torched the Falcons for 213 combined rushing yards. The Falcons run defense is not very intimidating and is ranked dead last in RotoGrinders’ Defense vs. RB tool through four weeks. Rashad Jennings is very reasonably priced again this week and also gets a boost because he can catch a fair amount of passes out of the backfield. He's also the clear #1 for the Giants, as he is only two weeks removed from a 34-carry game. He's a great option as a RB2 at this price.
As of the time of this writing, Joique Bell has yet to practice this week. He is feeling better, but he still needs to make it through all of the league-mandated concussion testing in order to play. I would expect that to be next week as opposed to this week, but you never know. In any event, Reggie Bush figures to be the lead man for the Detroit ground attack in Week 5 and he has a decent matchup against a middling Buffalo defense. Detroit should be able to control this game at home with Kyle Orton manning the reigns for the opposition, and Bush should be in line for his biggest workload of the season. His potential volume creates opportunity at a reasonable price tag.
Darrin Reaves represents the best risk/reward play of the week giving his cheap price tag. DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert could possibly all sit this week, which would leave Reaves as the last man standing. He's an undrafted rookie out of UAB, but he held his own against a tough defense last week and should be a nice bargain play at this salary. Keep an eye on the news wires as gameday gets closer for confirmation that he will be starting.
I simply cannot trust the talented LeSean McCoy at this point. If you watched any part of the Eagles game last week, you saw that he simply had no chance. The offensive line is in complete shambles and there are no running lanes. It’s not McCoy’s fault, but he can’t be trusted as anything other than a complete tournament gamble right now, especially against an underrated front seven for the Rams. Avoid him even at a somewhat depressed price.
Clearly still hobbled by his hamstring injury, Foster had just eight carries for six yards last week, though he did manage 55 receiving yards in the Texans’ win over Buffalo. He missed practice on Wednesday and it seems a virtual lock that he won’t be at 100% come Sunday. Unfortunately, it appears as though the Texans rode him too hard with 55 carries over the first two games of the season. Despite a good matchup against Dallas, I won’t be able to risk the elevated chances of a re-aggravation even if Foster is active come Sunday.