We have now entered the bye week blues in Fantasy Football land.
Guys like Drew Brees, Maurice Jones-Drew and Cam Newton have Week 6 off, forcing owners to look for under the radar fill ins to start.
Well look no further.
It’s that time of the week where I become a fantasy critic. It’s time for this week’s “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down.”
All point totals and rankings are based on Yahoo! Fantasy Football.
Thumbs Up: Quarterbacks
Ben Roethlisberger @ Tennessee Titans (Thurs.): While Big Ben had a rather ugly game from a fantasy perspective on Sunday, there was a lot of good that transpired. Ben’s offensive line again kept him upright, not getting sacked at all. Roethlisberger continues to stay on his feet, which has to comfort fantasy owners after he was sacked 40 times in 2011. And boy is this matchup mouth-watering. Ben gets the Titans on Thursday night, who have been eviscerated by quarterbacks this year, allowing the third-most fantasy points.
Christian Ponder @ Washington Redskins: Ponder has been a pleasant surprise in fantasy land so far this year. He has thrown 6 touchdowns in his past 4 games and is getting better each week. Expect that trend to continue this week as Ponder plays the Redskins and their horrid pass defense, who have allowed the 4th most points to opposing signal-callers. Ponder is an excellent bye week fill in for this week as well as down the road.
Matt Schaub vs Green Bay Packers: If you have to start Schaub ever in fantasy, it should almost always be based on the matchups. I mean, let’s face it, Schaub and the Houston Texans aren’t the high powered, slinging offense they once were. They have transformed into a heavy ground attack based offense behind fantasy superstar Arian Foster. However, this Sunday night the Packers come into town, who have given up the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in the past two weeks. Green Bay is a very solid team when stopping the run, so Schaub may have to look to throw a significant a lot and could produce top ten quarterback numbers.
Robert Griffin III vs Minnesota Vikings: Did you see that shot he took last Sunday? I’m sure Redskins fans (and of course fantasy owners) stopped breathing for a split second. However, RG3 appears to be progressing. He passed a series of concussion tests on Monday and Tuesday and is cleared for practice for Wednesday. The rookie quarterback still needs to remain symptom-free throughout the week. Assuming he does play on Sunday, it is a very risky play. Griffin has been coming back down to earth the past few weeks, and now gets a very stingy Vikings defense that will get after him. If you have other options this week, I’d stay away from RG3.
Ryan Fitzpatrick @ Arizona Cardinals: In case you weren’t aware, Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills have been bad lately. Like really bad. The Amish Rifle has thrown 5 interceptions in the past 2 games and has looked like a mess. Next on the schedule, the Bills head to Arizona to take on a very stout Cardinals defense, who have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. At home, the Cardinals defense will get after Fitzpatrick, so we could see a few more interceptions for Fitz Magic. Or should I say, Fitz Tragic? Sigh.
Thumbs Up: Running Backs
Trent Richardson vs Cincinnati Bengals: Very quietly, Richardson has been a top 5 fantasy running back through the first 5 weeks of the season. From a fantasy perspective, he is the only appealing Cleveland Browns player. He is running extremely hard, making sharp cuts and catching a ton of balls out of the backfield. The rookie running back looks more like a veteran and is the focal point of that offense, making him a very solid high end running back number 2 down the road. Richardson faces division rival Cincinnati this week, who he torched in Week 2. He carried 19 times for 109 yards and a score, as well as 4 catches for 36 yards and a touchdown. Needless to say, Richardson is a must-start here.
Michael Turner vs Oakland Raiders: Turner salvaged a rather quiet fantasy day on Sunday with a late 13-yard touchdown. That is pretty much where he is most valuable, when he is in the end zone. He now has 4 touchdowns in the last 4 games, proving that he is the main guy at the goal line. He gets the Raiders this week, who have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
Ryan Mathews vs Denver Broncos (Mon.): The running back carousel in San Diego seems to be over. Mathews is coming off a very productive Sunday night game where he tallied 139 yards from scrimmage and a score. Head coach Norv Turner hinted that a heavy workload is in Mathews future when he stated he “expects him [Mathews] to be one of the league’s leading rushers.” He will look to have continued success this Monday night against Denver, a fairly favorable matchup for Mathews.
Ahmad Bradshaw @ San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers defense is good. Really good. In fact, they held both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller to just 53 combined rushing yards. Combined! While Bradshaw is coming off a monster 200 yard game, if there is one rule in fantasy football, it is you don’t play your running backs against the 49ers. End of discussion.
Steven Jackson @ Miami Dolphins: It seems as if I never like Jackson. But he hasn’t shown anything to make me like him. Too many backs that are far less talented than Jackson have more fantasy points this season. This week’s road test is not an easy one either, as the Dolphins have quietly been one of the best run defenses in football thus far, allowing the sixth-fewest points to runners.
Chris Johnson vs Pittsburgh Steelers (Thurs.): Well, the last time I said to bench Johnson, he exploded for 141 rushing yards against the Texans of all defenses. Still, it’s almost impossible to trust this guy, especially against a Steelers defense that is allowing the eighth-fewest fantay points to backs this year, and is getting healthier and healthier each week.
Thumbs Up: Wide Receivers
Percy Harvin @ Washington Redskins: In my opinion, Harvin is the most all-around talented offensive player in football. He can catch passes, run in between the tackles and of course, can return a kick at any time. He has been one of the best wide receivers in fantasy football thus far and will likely continue to be this week against the worst pass defense in football.
Dwayne Bowe @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I love me some Dwayne Bowe. And not just because I own him in one of my leagues (ok maybe). Bowe has been one of the most targeted receivers in football this year. He has averaged 80 receiving yards per game this season and is on pace for around 1,300 yards to finish the season. With quarterback Matt Cassel dealing with a concussion, it is very likely that backup Brady Quinn will get the start. Quinn should look to Bowe early and often against a Tampa Bay secondary that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
Andre Roberts vs Buffalo Bills: Now, obviously you are starting Larry Fitzgerald every week. But Roberts is also a very nice play this week against a horrid Bills defense (wipes tears). The Bills have given up a ridiculous 1,201 total yards in the past two games so Roberts could explode for a monster game, especially if all eyes are focused on Fitzgerald.
Stevie Johnson @ Arizona Cardinals: Have I mentioned that (and it kills me to say this) I do not like anyone from the Bills this week? Johnson is coming off back to back quiet games and has another tough matchup this week against a very good Cardinals defense. Expect Patrick Peterson, who is quickly becoming a premiere corner-back in this league, to be all over him on Sunday.
Brian Hartline vs St. Louis Rams: Hartline came back down to earth last week after the crazy 253-yard performance. He finished with just four catches for 59 yards. Next, he faces a very good and underrated pass defense in the Rams, who have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts this year. Hartline could see a lot of the physical corner Cortland Finnegan, which could give him some trouble.
Thumbs Up: Tight Ends
Owen Daniels vs Green Bay Packers: Daniels has been on an absolute tear lately. He has scored a touchdown in the past three games and is currently ranked third among tight ends in fantasy points. It appears that Daniels has become quarterback Matt Schaub’s favorite target, not Andre Johnson. While the Texans are a run-first offense, that may change this Sunday night against the Packers run defense, so Daniels could see a ton of targets.
Heath Miller @ Tennessee Titans (Thurs.): It truly upsets me that this guy hasn’t been added in a good amount of leagues. He is one of Big Ben’s favorite targets this year, and faces the Titans defense, who have been the most generous to opposing tight ends so far this year.
Martellus Bennett @ San Francisco 49ers: There has been nothing appealing about Bennett lately. He has put up back to back stinkers and is currently dealing with a hyperextended knee. Bennett did not practice on Wednesday and is a risky play this Sunday, especially against the 49ers top-notch defense.
Brandon Pettigrew @ Philadelphia Eagles: Despite being hyped up during the preseason, Pettigrew has not been very efficient at all this year. He is having some issues with dropping passes and may not have a great time this week in the City of Brotherly Love. The Eagles have totally shut down opposing tight ends this season.
Thumbs Up: D/ST
Pittsburgh Steelers defense @ Tennessee Titans (Thurs.): While the Steelers defense hasn’t been as elite as usual, keep in mind that injuries have been a big part of that. Good news is, their defensive unit is beginning to get healthier, and they have a very nice matchup on Thursday night against a Titans offense that can’t seem to get anything going as of late. I am plugging in this defense in place of the Chicago Bears (bye) and I suggest you do the same.
St. Louis Rams defense @ Miami Dolphins: Don’t look now, but the Rams defense has quietly been one of the best in football. No, seriously. They have guys who can get after the quarterback, as well as a revamped secondary. This week, they face the Dolphins who have a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill and an offense with hardly any weapons outside of Reggie Bush. I like their chances of putting up solid fantasy numbers this week.
Seattle Seahawks defense vs New England Patriots: The Seahawks defense has been one of the better ones when it comes to fantasy football. However, I look for them to slow down this week against a Patriots offense that has scored a whopping 83 points in the last two games. And oh by the way, their starting quarterback isn’t too bad either.
Green Bay Packers defense @ Houston Texans: The Packers have not been an ideal defensive option for fantasy owners this season. Consistency has been an issue, as well as giving up a ton of yardage, which they are known for. This week, I don’t like them against the Texans, who have the best running back in football, as well as solid weapons elsewhere.
Adam Pfeifer is the featured fantasy football columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.