Fantasy Football: Week 5 Startability Index

Sometimes, ok, most of the time, even I don’t know what’s really happening in fantasyland this season.  Misuse of players, random emerging quarterbacks and phantom timetables for return from injury can all make fantasy feel like a wasteland of confusion. At least this year’s version.  But wait, don’t leave me because I promise to do my darndest to wade through the malaise and offer you the best fantasy advice possible.

Let’s get right to Week 5’s Startability Index. Al players (and defensive teams) listed are either reader requests or those I perceive as bubble options. As always, use the comment section for further Staratability requests or any form of fantasy questions.

Just a reminder: Washington, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Tampa are all on byes.


Jay Cutler vs. New Orleans (6-): Despite his worst actual game of the season, last week proved to be Cutler’s finest fantasy performance. (Thank goodness for garbage time!). Still, the Saints defense is going to be in is face all afternoon and Bears fans know what that means: Bad decisions. Bad throws into coverage.

Brian Hoyer at Cleveland (7): Hoyer is averaging 300 yards and 2.5 touchdowns in two starts. The Bills have allowed back-to-back 300-yard games by Joe Flacco and Geno Smith. Sign me up!

Cam Newton at Arizona (8+): As a Top 10 fantasy quarterback, Newton has already solidified himself as a no. 1 option for most owners.  He has a nice opportunity for a big week–The Cards have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw 266 passing yards per game.

Alex Smith at Tennessee (6+): Smith is never going to be Peyton Manning but he remains a steady option who will never blow up a la Jay Cutler. The Titans present a tough matchup but I’d still expect the usual 250 yards/ 2 TD performance out of Smith.

Running Backs

Chris Johnson vs. Kansas City (5+): Johnson disappointed owners last week with 21 yards on 15 carries. With Jake Locker out, the Titans will rely on Johnson even more than usual. Unfortunately the Chiefs have not surrounded more to 55 yards to any running back not named LeSean McCoy.

Ray Rice at Miami (6+): The good news is John Harbaugh said Ray Rice would be featured more starting this week. And the team backed that up by trading for Jags LT Eugene Monroe. Then there’s the part where you play the actual game. Miami is a Top 10 defense and it’s hard to believe Rice will bust out just because Harbaugh says so. Still, he remains an elite talent who, if everyone is telling he truth, could actually have a nice day.

Daryl Richardson vs., Jacksonville (3+): The opponent doesn’t really matter here. Richardson has looked like a dud all season, rushing for just 2.7 yards per carry. There have been little signs of explosiveness. Look elsewhere if you can.

Trent Richardson vs. Seattle (5): While Richardson’s yardage numbers have been ho-hum; he has scored in each of the last two games. Seattle, however, has only allowed two rushing touchdowns on the season.  This one could go either way.

Danny Woodhead at Oakland (6-): Woodhead busted out with two scores last week. Even without them he remains a solid options with all-purpose production generally in the 70-90 yard range.

Wide Receivers

Justin Blackmon at St. Louis (4+): Blackmon is such a talent but I hate the notion of starting him on his first week back from suspension– too many ifs and you have to rely on some accuracy from Blaine Gabbert. Also, the Rams run defense is terrible but the pass defense hasn’t allowed a 100-yard receiver in the last couple of games. Bottom line: Jacksonville is averaging 7.75 points a game. Hard to see where Blackmon’s points will come from.

Denarius Moore vs. San Diego (6): Terrelle Pryor is back and that’s good news for Moore owners. Both of Moore’s touchdowns on the season came via Pryor, and his presence alone makes Oakland’s offense more dynamic. Meanwhile, San Diego is near the bottom of the league in passing defense, yielding 312 passing yards per game.

Hakeem Nicks vs. Philadelphia (5+): After two games that garnered a total of 33 yards. Nicks isn’t inspiring a lot of confidence at the moment. But he does have a nice matchup against the Eagles who have surrounded nine touchdowns to receivers this year.

Steve Smith at Arizona (5-): Despite an adequate number of targets, Smith isn’t bringing it this year. No games with over 52 yards and only one touchdown. Things won’t get easier Sunday when Patrick Peterson is a little too close for comfort.

Mike Wallace vs. Baltimore (4): At some point you can only sustain a couple of 22-yard performances before you show your “star” receiver the bench. That time has come for Wallace; the targets, 5-8 a game, are there but the conversions are not.

Tight Ends

Charles Clay vs. Baltimore (8): Clay, who most fans had not heard of two months ago, is currently the sixth most productive fantasy tight end. He comes off a nice 6 catch, 1 TD performance. Expect similar production as Miami reboots their offense and Baltimore is tight end friendly – they have already given up two monster performances to Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron.  Note: Clay’s SI score assumes he is filling a TE role. His number would be lower as a flex.

Vernon Davis vs. Houston (6+):  Much like last year, the 49ers offense is bipolar. Heavy usage of Davis one week. Complete focus on Gore the next. The Texans are leading he league in passing defense, and fittingly have held most opposing tight ends to minimal days. But Davis is such an exceptional athlete (in the Jimmy Graham mold) that he could overcome any secondary.

Zach Sudfeld at Cincinnati (2): Sudfeld has quickly gone from Studfeld to Dudfeld. Last week the once promising fantasy tight end only played eight snaps. Tom Brady has found other options, rendering Sudfeld useless for fantasy purposes.

Team Defenses

Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Jets (8): Geno Smith has yet to throw for more touchdowns than interceptions in any game. Need I say more?

New Orleans Saints at Chicago (7): Jay Cutler meltdowns happen frequently but typically not two weeks in a row. The Saints, while much improved, are still waiting for that first defensive touchdown.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Houston (6): This is where I have a rare disagreement with Pat Fitzmaurice who has the 49ers as no. 1 in his power rankings this week.  The Niners are giving up 109.2 rushing yards a game and have allowed a league-high six rushing touchdowns. Arian Foster comes off a 100-yard performance and with the Niners banged up and missing Aldon Smith he has a good chance to do so again.

Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City (6+): The Titans are currently the no. 4 fantasy defense and a safe play any week at this point.  But the Chiefs have only coughed up three turnovers on the season and are leading the league in turnover ratio with +7. Still, this has all the making of a low scoring game that will help owners with a points allowed threshold.