You thought they were over?
Ha! They are only just beginning.
What exactly am I talking about? Bye weeks, people. Bye weeks. Last week was the first slate of byes, and fantasy owners only had to deal with two teams. This week, however, four teams are on a bye, and a handful of significant fantasy players will not be in your lineups. It’s already Week 5, and you need a win.
Let’s get to the starts and sits.
Thumbs Up; Quarterbacks
Eli Manning vs Philadelphia Eagles: You may never again hear me say this, but start all of your Giants this week. Yes, the Eagles defense is that bad. Speaking of bad, how about Eli? A 69.1 quarterback rating, just six touchdowns and 11 turnovers aren’t exactly elite numbers. However, this is the week to roll with Manning, as a very inviting Eagles secondary comes to town. This unit has allowed the most passing yards in the league this season, and is allowing the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing signal callers (27.6 per game). The Eagles struggle tackling, their corners are very suspect and their safeties are even more questionable. I see this game being a shootout featuring two defenses that can’t stop anyone. Look for Eli to sling the ball all over the place, and don’t forget, he still has two dynamite wide receivers when they are on their game.
Terrelle Pryor vs San Diego Chargers: I feel like I always have Pryor in the Thumbs Up section, but it seems as if he always has terrific matchups. This week, it doesn’t get much better. With a week off to recover from an ugly concussion, Pryor is expected to be under center once again for the Raiders, and he’ll be inside my top-10 among quarterbacks this week. Why? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because he’s averaged a solid 17.6 fantasy points per contest, and that number would be higher if Oakland wasn’t dominating the Jaguars in Week 2. And oh, by the way, the Chargers are currently allowing the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.
Sam Bradford vs Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Bradford. Over the last two games, Bradford has been sacked 11 times, and has only averaged 12 fantasy points during that span. Things should get better this week against a Jaguars defense that has only forced eight sacks on the season, and is allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Their corners will not be able to match the speed of the St. Louis receivers, and as long as the offensive line does their job, Bradford should have a major bounce back game.
Andrew Luck vs Seattle Seahawks: I was low on Luck coming into the season because I knew the volume wouldn’t be there as opposed to last year. Through four games, Luck ranks 21st in the league in attempts (128). Pep Hamilton and the new conservative style of offense may be good for the Colts, but it isn’t very exciting for Luck’s fantasy owners. This week, I don’t see how you can feel comfortable starting him against the best secondary in football. Prior to last week’s contest, the Seahawks have held their three previous opponents to less than 250 total yards per game. They are allowing the 4th-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and I see T.Y. Hilton (a smaller receiver) being blanketed by the most physical corners in the game. If you have better options than Luck this week, use them.
Ryan Tannehill vs Baltimore Ravens: Tannehill looked terrible on Monday night. He threw one touchdown, but matched it with three interceptions and a lost fumble. He now has five interceptions and six fumbles on the season, and while he struggled in New Orleans, things may not get any better against the Ravens. The Dolphins offensive line is in shambles, as Tannehill has been sacked 18 times already, more than anyone else in football. Baltimore, meanwhile, rank seventh in the league with 13 sacks. They also have allowed just six fantasy points per contest to opposing quarterbacks since Peyton Manning torched them a few Thursdays ago. It would be wise to sit Tannehill if you were considering replacing him with someone else.
Thumbs Up; Running Backs
David Wilson vs Philadelphia Eagles: With four teams on a bye and injuries around every corner, running back is pretty thin this week. That probably explains why I have Wilson so high in my rankings, but I do think he has his best game of the season against the Eagles. Like I said before, this defense is terrible, and they just recently allowed the Broncos backs of all units to rush for 140 yards against them. Also, the Giants just cut Da’Rel Scott, and while it is unclear whether or not that is a vote of confidence for Wilson, it sure can’t hurt. Wilson has played much better in his last two games, and even had a few touchdowns called back because of penalties. After seeing his most touches of the season (15) last week, prepare for Wilson to sneak into the 20-range, barring another fumble, of course.
Maurice Jones-Drew @ St. Louis Rams: C’mon, MJD. This is your time to finally break out of an ugly slump to start the season. Through four games, Jones-Drew has averaged a measly 2.4 yards per carry, and zero of his 57 carries have eclipsed 10 yards. He’s struggled, the Jaguars (obviously) struggled as a unit, but I’m not giving up just yet. His matchup this week is more than favorable, as the Rams are allowing the most fantasy points to opposing backs this season. They have allowed runners to rush for over 100 yards in back-to-back weeks, and they are allowing 23 fantasy points per contest to running backs. The running back position continues to get even uglier, so if you own MJD, I don’t see how you can bench him, especially this week.
Eddie Lacy vs Detroit Lions: The concussion isn’t an issue anymore, as head coach Mike McCarthy stated that Lacy is a “full go.” While fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin looked good in Week 3, Lacy is still going to be the workhorse among running backs, and the running back position needs him out on the field. The Lions, meanwhile are allowing the 4th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Franklin will likely get some work, especially with James Starks unlikely to play, but Lacy will get the goal line work. I think this game is going to be chock-full of fantasy goodness, and will likely be a shootout. Get Lacy back into your lineups this week.
C.J. Spiller @ Cleveland Browns: Oh, don’t mind me. I’ll just be crying myself away in the shower. Spiller has been awful thus far, and to make matters worse, he has gotten banged up in each of the last two weeks. Fred Jackson is outplaying Spiller thus far, and as one of the biggest Spiller advocates, it really pains me to watch. While I love him, I can’t recommend starting him in a shortened week, even if he does tough it out with a nagging ankle injury. The Browns defense is extremely stout, allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing backs. There is no way you can feel comfortable with Spiller in your lineup, even if he does suit up.
Stevan Ridley @ Cincinnati Bengals: Ridley has been the biggest bust of the year so far, and it doesn’t look like things are going to get much better for him. During Sunday night’s game, he did lead the team in snaps (25), but LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden each saw 18 and 23, respectively. Ridley finished the game with 13 touches, Blount nine and Bolden seven. This is a platoon, folks. Bolden will serve as the third-down back, and considering his ceiling is 15 touches in each contest, which is ugly for someone who was drafted in the second round of all drafts this summer. Considering it’s a tough matchup against the Bengals front seven, Ridley is a very risky start this week, and for the rest of the season.
Thumbs Up; Wide Receivers
Josh Gordon vs Buffalo Bills: With 28 targets in just two games, and part of an offense that has passed the ball more than anyone over the last few weeks, Gordon has the upside to post monster numbers from here on out. It starts this week against a Buffalo defense that is absolutely depleted in their secondary. Buffalo has allowed six passes of 40-plus yards this season, which is Gordon’s bread and butter. Consider that the Browns are throwing the football around 70 percent of the time, I don’t see that gameplan changing on Thursday night. Gordon will likely match up with Justin Rogers, who lacks the size and physicality to keep up with Gordon. The Bills have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts, so this is a dream matchup.
DeSean Jackson @ New York Giants: Denver game-planned to shut down Philadelphia’s only wide receiver last week, and it worked, as Jackson caught just two balls for 36 yards. Expect him to bounce back this week against a Giants defense that has allowed a league-high 10 passing touchdowns thus far. Jackson has a very good history against the Giants, and this 2013 unit is allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts thus far. Like I said before, I fully expect this game to be a high-scoring affair, and Jackson will make a few big plays downfield.
Jordy Nelson vs Detroit Lions: Speaking of shootouts, this battle between NFC North opponents should see it’s fair share of points, which bodes well for Nelson. In six career games against the Lions, Nelson has found the end zone four times, including three times during his last home game against Detroit. I think Aaron Rodgers will come out angry after losing a tough game to the Bengals in Week 3, and absolutely lights up the Detroit secondary.
T.Y. Hilton vs Seattle Seahawks: Hilton has been a major disappointment thus far, catching just 16 balls through four games, and has yet to find the end zone. I would bet my right foot that he fails to reach the end zone this week, as the smaller Hilton will see two of the most physical corners in the league in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. If he hasn’t been able to produce during favorable matchups earlier on in the season, why believe he will suddenly break out against the league’s best pass defense? I’m staying away from Hilton, and unless I don’t have a choice, I’m benching Reggie Wayne as well.
Mike Wallace vs Baltimore Ravens: I’ve never really been a big fan of Wallace’s game. He is basically a one-trick pony who hasn’t developed the best route tree. He hasn’t been able to make those big plays that owners want out of him because Tannehill has been sacked a league-leading 18 times. Wallace hasn’t been given enough time to fully run his routes. During his last eight meetings against the Ravens, Wallace has averaged a pedestrian 53 yards per contest, and has only scored one touchdown. I don’t think Wallace has a big game this week whatsoever.
Thumbs Up; Tight Ends
Julius Thomas @ Dallas Cowboys: It’s difficult to predict who will get the looks in this Denver offense, but I think Thomas is a very safe option this week. First of all, Peyton Manning is throwing him the football, so there’s that. Secondly, the Cowboys are allowing the most receptions and receiving yards to opposing tight ends, as well as the fifth-most fantasy points to the position. Thomas has seen at least four targets in every game this season, and I think he scores in this contest.
Dallas Clark @ Miami Dolphins: Clark is a sneaky good play this week if you don’t have one of the elite tight ends. Last week, he saw the most snaps since Week 1 of the season where he was targeted 12 times, and considering the matchup against the Dolphins is one of the best out there, he is worth a look. Miami has surrendered the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends through four weeks, and have allowed at least one touchdown to the position in every game this season.
Owen Daniels @ San Francisco 49ers: Daniels got off to a hot start to the season, but has cooled off over the past few games. The matchup this week is tough, as the 49ers have allowed the 9th-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Daniels is one of the first looks in the red zone for Matt Schaub, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he scored a touchdown, but only two tight ends have found the end zone against the 49ers this year. Also, Garrett Graham is very much in the mix, and with three touchdowns on the year, he will certainly get his fair share of red zone looks as well.
Brent Celek @ New York Giants: While the matchup is favorable (5th-most fantasy points to tight ends), it’s so difficult to trust Celek in fantasy land. Last week, he saw the fewest number of snaps this season, and it’s very difficult to predict how many routes he is going to run. Philadelphia also has guys like Zach Ertz and James Casey who run their own fair share of routes. Also, he may not even be the best run-blocking tight end on the roster, which could hinder his playing time. Combine all that with the fact that Michael Vick doesn’t typically target his tight ends, and there is a lot to dislike with Celek.
Thumbs Up; D/ST
Falcons defense vs New York Jets: They may be banged up and are the biggest question mark on their roster, but the Falcons defense has to be considered a top-10 option this week against the Jets. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith is on pace to turn the ball over at least 40 times, and considering he will likely be without his two best wide receivers in Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes, this offense will live and die with Bilal Powell, which bodes well for the Falcons. Opposing defense have scored an average of 13 fantasy points per contest against Geno and the Jets this season.
Eagles defense @ New York Giants: Sure, the Giants have been turning the ball over like crazy, and have only scored seven points in their last two outings, but I hardly feel comfortable starting fantasy defenses that aren’t, well… good. The Eagles are currently the 32nd-ranked overall defense, allowing 446 yards per contest. They don’t turn the ball over too much, only forcing two interceptions and three fumbles on the season. This game has shootout written all over it.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.