It is hard to believe that for everyone but the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers, the season is already 25% over. The reality of the NFL is that you cannot win the Super Bowl in September, but you can play yourself out of playoff contention. Nobody has been more disappointing than the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants. Those teams are perennial playoff contenders that are a combined (0-8). The only team to make the playoffs after starting the season (0-4) was the 1992 San Diego Chargers. They would close the season with a 11-1 record to win the AFC West.
I hope that your team is not (0-4), but if you are looking for some good players to play this week, here are some good options to start and sit if you want to earn a win this week.
Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy – I typically do not like going with players coming off injury, but there are a number of reasons why Lacy is a good exception. First, his concussion was back in Week 2; he sat Week 3 and had a bye in Week 4. He is already a full participant at practice and looks good to start this week. Second, the Packers are banged up at running back. RB James Starks is not likely to play this week and FB John Kuhn has a hamstring injury. That means that Lacy should see the bulk of the carries with fellow rookie RB Johnathan Franklin spelling him. Third, the Lions are 30th against fantasy running backs, so it is a great matchup. Finally, the Packers are running the ball well, after going 45 games without a 100-yard rusher; they have gone back-to-back games with one.
The Detroit Lions have not won in Green Bay since 1991 and that is not likely to change this week as they are coming off a tough home win against the Chicago Bears, while the Packers had the benefit of a bye week. I like the Packers to have the lead in this game and they will need Lacy to help control the clock. He should have RB2 value with good upside in this matchup.
Players to Start
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Maurice Jones-Drew – I still think he has something left in the tank, but his situation is a disaster. First, the Jaguars are on pace to score only 12 offensive touchdowns, which would be the lowest in league history. Second, their defense is horrible too, so they never have a lead. That has him on pace for 228 carries, 552 yards and four touchdowns. The good news is that the St. Louis Rams are the worst fantasy running back defense in the NFL. If he is going to hit RB2 value, this is the week. I would play him and try to sell high if he has a good game. You may even be able to trade him to someone before this game who has a starting running back on bye.
Buffalo Bills WR Robert Woods – I do not think fellow Bills WR Steve Johnson is going to play big this week. According to Football Outsiders, the Browns are the second best defense in the NFL at stopping the WR1 position, thanks to CB Joe Haden. However, they are 16th against the WR2 position and 23rd against the WR3 position. Woods is coming off his best game of the season with four receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown and he has looked good in every game but Week 3 against the Jets. I think he is a sneaky WR3 in this matchup and a great bye-week or injury fill-in.
New York Giants WR Hakeem Nicks – He was held without a catch in Week 3 and he responded with as many drops (three) as receptions in a loss at Kansas City. The New York Giants line is making it impossible for the Giants to pass the ball and the skill position players are compounding the problem with poor execution. The good news is that no one gives up more points to fantasy receivers than the Eagles, so Nicks is a great candidate for a breakout game. I would then try to sell high, as the Giants offensive line is going to hold him back all season.
New York Giants QB Eli Manning – The fact I even have to put him in this article shows how far he has fallen this year. Part of it has been his bad decision making, but it is hard to make good decisions when the offensive line cannot block anyone. The Eagles have allowed the fourth most points to fantasy quarterbacks, I think he has finally found a defense that is bad enough to let him put up a solid game.
Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer – Hoyer keeps on putting up good numbers and plays a Bills D that is ranked 24th against fantasy receivers this year. Hoyer is a great QB2 this week and a solid bye-week starter.
St. Louis Rams TE Jared Cook – Cook is a TE1 talent stuck with a quarterback that is not able to make players better around him. I hope that changes this week against a Jaguars D that is 24th against fantasy tight ends. I would look for Cook to rebound and he may be a good sell high candidate after this week. Rams QB Sam Bradford is going to stunt his value the entire season.
Sit of the Week
Denver Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno – Given that there are a number of elite fantasy running backs on bye this week (Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins RB Alfred Morris and Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin), many of you may not have the option to sit Moreno. However, even though Dallas is ranked 17th against fantasy running backs, they are third in fewest yards allowed rushing. That number is skewed by three receiving touchdowns they have given up to running backs, two of which went to San Diego Chargers RB Danny Woodhead.
Moreno has been a good runner to start the season, tallying 46 rushes for 238 yards and three rushing touchdowns. However, he has not been a big part of their passing game with only eight receptions for 80 yards and no touchdowns. I think he is going to have a poor showing this week in a bad matchup. I would start all the Broncos receivers and tight ends, but I would look elsewhere at running back, if possible.
Players to Sit
Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams – The matchup is not very good for Williams this week, the Cardinals just held Doug Martin to 27 rushes for 45 yards. They are the second ranked fantasy running back defense in the NFL. I would sell Williams having an impact fantasy game.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe – Bowe just does not see enough targets in the Kansas City offense to thrive most weeks and he plays a Titans secondary that allows the seventh fewest points to receivers. He is a good bet to struggle this week against Tennessee.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts – The matchup looks good, as the St. Louis Rams are the 26th ranked fantasy wide receiver defense. The problem is that QB Blaine Gabbert is still playing and WR Justin Blackmon is returning from suspension. Shorts is not an awful play, but you should have other receivers to play this week and I would consider them until we see how the targets are going to be split on the worst offense in the NFL.
Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck – The Seahawks have the sixth ranked fantasy quarterback defense and CB Richard Sherman should be able to contain WR Reggie Wayne this week. I think Luck will have a decent outing, but he is a QB2 this week in a tough matchup.
San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick – The Texans defense has allowed the fourth fewest points to quarterbacks. Their offense that has put them in bad situations early in the season, but in terms of yardage, this is the best defense in the NFL. Kaepernick always is an enticing fantasy option because of his rushing ability, but I am selling him having a big game against the Texans D.
New York Giants TE Brandon Myers – It is a great matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, but the Giants offensive line is so bad right now, that Myers has been more blocker than receiver in recent weeks. I would look for that trend to continue and for Myers to be a dicey TE2 option this week.