As we seem to say every year as the season wears on, it’s already Week 5 of the NFL season with the undefeated Arizona Cardinals traveling to take on the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night to kickoff this week’s schedule. Fantasy football owners are certainly experiencing a wide range of feelings about how their season has gone to this point, and this could be a pivotal week to either turn things around or maintain a current level of success.
As I have done each week, I will highlight players I feel have nice upside potential (“Studs”) and those I think have significant downside (“Duds”) at the four primary positions most important to fantasy owners-quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. As always, I will try to avoid the obvious every week starters, but those type of players do become worthy of consideration here.
Here are my “Studs And Duds” for Week 5.
Stud- Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Flacco threw for 356 yards with one touchdown and one interception in Week 4 against the Cleveland Browns, and he now has at least 299 passing yards in three out of four games this season including 738 total passing yards over the last two games. Now a very favorable matchup is coming in Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs, who have allowed 20.5 fantasy points (ESPN standard scoring) to opposing quarterbacks so far this season and a tied for league-high 10 passing touchdowns to the position. Flacco clearly has the reigns of a more wide-open Ravens’ offense right now, and the Baltimore defense should be able to hold down a struggling Kansas City offense and put him in even better position to succeed. He is fast becoming an upper echelon fantasy quarterback anyway, but Flacco may have the most upside at the position this week.
Dud- Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Newton went 15-for-24 for 215 yards and two touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4, and also added 86 rushing yards and a touchdown in the game. He has been somewhat of a disappointment through four games this season, with just one game with more than 253 yards passing, and things will not get any easier in Week 5 against the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks enter the week in a three-way tie for allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks (9.0 per game-ESPN scoring) this season, and it has been 18 games since they allowed a rushing touchdown to an opposing quarterback. No fantasy owner is benching Newton this week without another top tier option available, but there is some significant downside here.
Stud- Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Lynch had 20 carries for 118 yards and a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams in Week 4, and he now has at least 20 carries and 85 yards on the ground in all four games this season. Rookie Robert Turbin has seen a little bit more work over the last couple games, but Lynch is still the workhorse heading into a favorable matchup against the Carolina Panthers this week. The Panthers have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs (25.8 per game-ESPN scoring), including by far the most receptions (42) and receiving yards (355) to the position. Lynch is not a prolific pass catcher, with just seven receptions so far this season, but he is one of the only running backs around the league that is virtually guaranteed to get at least 20 carries in every game. A big workload and a nice matchup equals huge upside for Lynch in Week 5.
Dud- Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jones-Drew is coming off his worst rushing game of the season last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, with just 38 yards on 13 carries, but he was able to help his fantasy owners with five receptions for 42 yards. He only has one game with more than 80 rushing yards so far this season, and a tough matchup is coming in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears. The Bears have allowed the second fewest rushing yards (55 per game) to opposing running backs to this point in the season, though it is worth mentioning that opposing running backs have the second fewest carries (63) against them as well. Jones-Drew’s involvement in the Jaguars’ passing game helps limit his downside some, and is likely not benchable for most of his fantasy owners, but don’t expect a big rushing yard total this week.
Stud- Eric Decker, Denver Broncos
Decker had seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders, giving him 15 catches for 215 yards over the last two games heading into Week 5 against the New England Patriots. The Patriots have been generous to opposing wide receivers over their past two games, allowing 25 receptions for 493 yards and four touchdowns combined, and they have allowed at least one wide receiver touchdown in all four of their games this season. The Broncos may have to throw the ball plenty to keep up with the New England offense on Sunday afternoon, which means Decker should be in line for plenty of targets from quarterback Peyton Manning. With wide receivers like Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin on a bye this week, Decker should find his way into the starting lineup for most of his fantasy owners and he has nice upside to boot.
Dud- Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
Johnson had three receptions for 56 yards against the Tennessee Titans in Week 4, giving him eight catches over the last three games. That matches his catch total from Week 1 alone, so he is clearly trending the wrong direction ahead of what looks to be a tough matchup against the New York Jets. The Jets are of course without cornerback Darrelle Revis (torn ACL), but they still have allowed just 13 catches to opposing wide receivers over their last two games. Jets’ cornerback Antonio Cromartie definitely has the ability to challenge Johnson, and if the Texans are able to build a lead next Monday night his role may be diminished some as the game goes on. Those that drafted Johnson are not likely to consider benching him as long as he is healthy, but his upside is certainly limited in Week 5.
Stud- Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
Gonzalez failed to find the end zone for the first time this season last week against the Carolina Panthers, but he did have five catches for 51 yards and is the highest scoring tight end right now in ESPN standard leagues (44 points). He is a good bet to continue his early season momentum in Week 5 against the Washington Redskins, as the Redskins have one of the league’s worst pass defenses so far this season and have allowed 9.5 fantasy points (tied for fifth-most in the league) to opposing tight ends. Gonzalez qualifies as the best tight end Washington has faced since Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, so he should have no trouble finding room to operate on Sunday. Look for a nice catch total and at least one touchdown from the future Hall of Famer this week.
Dud- Martellus Bennett, New York Giants
Bennett caught a touchdown in each of his first three games as a Giant, but had by far his worst game of the season last week against the Philadelphia Eagles with just one catch for two yards. He may see more targets in Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns, but that may not necessarily translate into great production in what looks to be a tough matchup. The Browns held Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta without a catch in Week 4, and they rank in the top five in receptions (13) and yards (140) allowed to the position so far this season. Bennett may be the most physically gifted tight end Cleveland has faced this season, but his reputation as an underachiever and coming off a bad game in Week 4 gives him a fair amount of downside this week.
Review of Week 4 “Studs And Duds”
Stud-Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos- 30-for-38 for 338 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions
Dud- Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears- 18-for-24 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions
Stud- Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers- 21 carries for 62 yards, one touchdown; two receptions for 13 yards
Verdict- Low-End Stud
Dud-Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams- 18 carries for 55 yards; one reception for 12 yards
Stud- Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers- six receptions for 100 yards, one touchdown
Dud- Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers- three receptions for 55 yards
Stud- Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings- two receptions for eight yards
Dud-Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles- four receptions for 57 yards
Verdict: High-End Dud