Disclaimer ... Before you start reading, please understand that we are not in the business of stating the obvious and wasting your time (or ours), so you won't be reading here why you need to start Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson or any other top-tier players. We're here to help you make a decision on players you are on the fence about.
We have some heavy hitters on byes this week with Detroit, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Oakland all out of action. With quality players unavailable and injuries mounting up as they always do, here are five to start and five to sit as you get ready for Week 5.
Get 'em active ...
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals (vs. MIA)
Current own/start %: 92/39
I'd start him over: Ryan Fitzpatrick (at SF), Ben Roethlisberger (vs. PHI), Michael Vick (at PIT)
The Red Rifle is absolutely on fire right now with three straight games with three total touchdowns and at least 25 Fantasy points. During that span, Dalton has been a Top 12 quarterback in every single week and has been Top 6 at the position twice. In his three-game breakout, the Rifle has completed 70 percent of his passes and has thrown for 890 yards (10 yards per attempt) and eight touchdowns while adding a score on the ground to boot. He has arguably the best receiver in the NFL in A.J. Green and is piloting an offense that has to rely on the pass to move the ball. This week he gets a great matchup with the Dolphins, who have allowed at least 300 yards passing in three straight games while surrendering an average of 334.3 yards and 1.67 touchdowns passing per game during that span. Yep, the murderer's row of Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kolb lit up this overmatched secondary, so this week look for the Red Rifle to stay guns-a-blazing, making him a great start.
Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals (at STL)
Current own/start %: 92/45
I'd start him over: Fred Jackson (at SF), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (vs. MIA), Chris Johnson (at MIN)
The only time we have seen Ryan Williams show any signs of life was in Week 3, as he rushed for 83 yards on 13 carries against the Eagles. With the Beanie Wells injury, Williams was the hot pickup for Week 4, but was a must sit against the awesome Dolphins run defense. Now we will get the chance to use Williams in our starting lineups as he faces the Rams in a Thursday night delight for Week 5. The Rams are allowing 135.2 yards rushing per game (seventh most) and 1.5 rushing touchdowns per game (second most) on 4.7 yards per carry (also seventh most). Every starting running back who has faced them has produced at least eight Fantasy points and three runners have produced at least 12 points. Both Kevin Smith and Marshawn Lynch have posted 20 points against the Rams, who are surrendering 19.5 points per game to opposing running backs this year, 11th most in the league. Last year in St. Louis, Beanie Wells ran for a career high 228 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. Williams won't do that, but he is a good bet to set his own career high this week, making him a solid No. 2 running back for your teams.
Other RBs with favorable matchups: Ryan Mathews (at NO), Frank Gore (vs. BUF), Matt Forte/Michael Bush (at JAC), Jamaal Charles (vs. BAL), Michael Turner (at WAS), Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. CLE), Alfred Morris (vs. ATL), Cedric Benson (at IND), Jackie Battle (at NO), Ben Tate (at NYJ), Kendall Hunter (vs. BUF)
Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers (at NO)
Current own/start %: 100/73
I'd start him over: Steve Smith (vs. SEA), Steve Johnson (at SF), Dwayne Bowe (at BAL)
After a fast start to his 2012 season, Floyd has cooled off considerably with just five catches for 75 yards in his last two games combined. Nothing gets a receiver back on track faster than a matchup with the Saints, who enter Week 5 having allowed six wide receiver touchdowns this year, fourth most in the league. For the season, the Saints have allowed three receiver groups to top 22 points and they are giving up 28.5 points per game, fourth most in the NFL. The Saints gave Pierre Garcon the best quarter of the year and in Week 4 they allowed a league high four wide receiver scores as Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings both found the end zone for the first time this season. The Chargers only threw the ball 23 times last week in their blowout win over the Chiefs, but this week they will have to put it in the air a ton to match fire with fire. No opposing No. 1 receiver has been held under seven points against the Saints this year and the opposing top target has a 75 percent consistency rate and is averaging a healthy 12 points per game. The opposing top receiver has scored or topped 100 yards receiving against the Saints in eight of the last 10 games, so Floyd makes for a great play for you on Sunday night.
Brian Hartline, WR, Dolphins (at CIN)
Current own/start %: 78/41
I'd start him over: Michael Crabtree (vs. BUF), Anquan Boldin (vs. KC), Jeremy Maclin (at PIT)
Right now Brian Hartline is third in the NFL with 48 targets and has 25 catches (eighth most) for a league high 455 yards receiving. Hartline is one of only 10 receivers to see at least eight targets in every game this year and he already has two games of 100 yards receiving, including his career best 253 yards last week. Hartline is no doubt the hot waiver pickup in your league this week and with plenty of quality receivers on a bye in Week 5, he is absolutely worth a start against the Cincinnati Bengals. Take away the Jacksonville game, because we all know they can't throw the ball, and the Bengals have allowed two opposing top targets to score on them this year and they have given up an average of 22 points per game to the position. Hartline has produced in two of his four games this year and is certainly worth a start this week, as he has clearly developed into the go to guy for Ryan Tannehill. Last week, Hartline was the target on 19 of Tannehill's 41 pass attempts and you can expect him to be busy this week because Andy Dalton and the red hot Bengals will be putting points on the board. I'm not all in on Hartline just yet, but as a Bye Week Broski, I love him in your lineups for Week 5.
Other WRs with favorable matchups: Julio Jones/Roddy White (at WAS), Domenik Hixon/Hakeem Nicks (vs. CLE), Eric Decker/Demaryius Thomas (at NE), Lance Moore (vs. SD), Donnie Avery (vs. GB), Andrew Hawkins (vs. MIA), Davone Bess (at CIN), Brandon Lloyd/Wes Welker (vs. DEN), Antonio Brown (vs. PHI), DeSean Jackson (at PIT), Kenny Britt/Nate Washington (at MIN), Torrey Smith (at KC), Jerome Simpson (vs. TEN)
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings (vs. TEN)
Current own/start %: 82/51
I'd start him over: Martellus Bennett (vs. CLE), Brent Celek (at PIT), Jermichael Finley (at IND)
Many of our early season darling tight ends like Martellus Bennett, Dennis Pitta and Kyle Rudolph all abandoned us in Week 4 as the trio actually combined for no Fantasy points. Yep, we all scored as many points as those three combined last week, but while all should bounce back, the one I want in my lineup this week is Rudolph. There is only one team in the NFL giving up a 100 percent consistency rate (60 yards receiving or a touchdown) through five weeks to opposing tight ends and that team is the Titans. The Titans have allowed league highs in both tight end touchdowns with six (no other team has allowed more than four) and Fantasy points per game to the position at an absurd 17.25. Rudolph struggled against Detroit as the Vikings only attempted 26 passes and the stud tight end saw only five targets. Look for him to get back on track this week against the Titans and I expect he will make it four out of five with at least 60 yards or a touchdown this Sunday. Rudolph's next touchdown catch will set a new career high and I think the Titans are the perfect opponent to make it happen.
Ride the pine ...
Michael Vick, QB, Eagles (at PHI)
Current own/start %: 99/56
I'd rather start: Philip Rivers (at NO), Andy Dalton (vs. MIA), Peyton Manning (at NE)
Vick has only been a Top 12 quarterback once this year and only Peyton Manning (back in Week 1) has finished as a starter against the Steelers second ranked pass defense, which is allowing just 200 yards passing per game. The Steelers are coming off of a bye week and that is bad news for Vick as the Steelers have not allowed more than 10 points in a game following their bye since 2007. The Steelers hope to have James Harrison back for Week 5, which could help them generate the kind of pressure they need to slow down Vick, who enters the game with a knee contusion. When you consider that Vick has accounted for five total touchdowns and nine turnovers things could be tough this week on the road, where Vick has really struggled. In his two road games, Vick is averaging less than six yards per attempt and has just two total touchdowns and six turnovers. Vick has not been a Top 12 quarterback on the road and is averaging just 12.5 points per game away from home in 2012 for what has been a stagnant offense. In fact, the Eagles have a grand total of 22 points on the road this year in their two games against the Browns and Cardinals. Given that the Steelers have had two weeks to plan for what should be a tough slugfest on the road for the Eagles, I would be nervous about starting Vick in Week 5.
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans (at NYJ)
Current own/start %: 98/46
I'd rather start: Joe Flacco (at KC), Andrew Luck (vs. GB), Andy Dalton (vs. MIA)
When you are not in the Top 20 in pass attempts per game or passing yards per game, it is tough to be counted on as a weekly Fantasy play. It is no wonder then that outside of his four touchdown barrage in Week 3 against the Broncos, Matt Schaub has not been a Top 12 Fantasy quarterback in 2012. So yes, even though he has six touchdowns in his last two games, I am sitting Schaub against the Revis-less New York Jets. The Jets have allowed a league high seven rushing touchdowns thus far and they are one of the worst offensive teams in the NFL. Their ineptitude on offense and their inability to stop the rush are major reasons why they have allowed only five passing scores all year and only one quarterback has topped 200 yards passing or produced 20 Fantasy points. This game smells like a blowout win to me for the Texans and Schaub could easily turn in a stat line like he did last week against Tennessee when he threw the ball just 28 times and had 202 yards with two scores. Is that solid production? Absolutely, but with guys chucking the ball all over the place, I'd rather take a higher-upside choice for my team in Week 5.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, CIN (vs. MIA)
Current own/start %: 100/80
I'd rather start: Ryan Williams (at STL), Steven Jackson (vs. ARI), Jackie Battle (at NO)
Who is the No. 1 run defense in the NFL? The answer is the Dolphins, who are allowing a league low 56.8 yards per game on the ground. They are ceding just 2.4 yards per carry, also best in the NFL, and no one has a run of longer than 14 yards against this defense. When you consider that no running back has run for 80 yards or averaged more than 3.0 yards per carry against this defense, it seems very impressive. When you add in the fact that only one runner has topped 50 yards against them despite facing Arian Foster, Darren McFadden, Shonn Greene and Ryan Williams (well the first two are impressive) and you get the picture: this is not a run defense to trifle with. The Law Firm enters Week 5 in a bit of a slump as is averaging just 65 yards rushing per game over the last three weeks despite taking 21.3 carries per game. His 3.04 yards per carry average during that span does not bode well for Green-Ellis this week against the 'Fins when you consider that it was all he could muster against the defenses of Cleveland, Washington and Jacksonville. This will be his toughest test this year and I am going to sit him down in Week 5 against the league's best run defense.
Fred Jackson/C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills (at SF)
Current own/start %: 98/48 ... 99/27
I'd rather start: Michael Turner (at WAS), Alfred Morris (vs. ATL), Stevan Ridley (vs. DEN)
If Miami is the league's toughest run defense, then the San Francisco 49ers are not far behind. This year, the 49ers have not allowed a single runner to reach 100 yards rushing or score a single touchdown against them. Running backs are averaging a league low 7.0 Fantasy points per week against the 49ers and only one runner has even topped six points against them. That runner was Adrian Peterson, who needed 27 touches to get to 10 Fantasy points in Week 3. With Jackson and Spiller splitting carries and injuries on the offensive line, they will really have their work cut out for them against the 49ers. After all, neither topped seven points against the Patriots last week and this will be a much tougher matchup. Keep in mind that only one running back has produced 100 yards rushing against the 49ers in their last 44 games and only they have allowed only two running back rushing scores in their last 22 games. With only two runners above 80 yards (AP and Marshawn Lynch) in the last 22 games as well, I'd take my chances elsewhere for Week 5. If I had to play one of these two runners, I would go with Jackson, who had 50 yards receiving last week against the Pats, but ideally I'd play Ryan Mathews and Jackie Battle and sit both Bills.
Steve Johnson, WR, Bills (at SF)
Current own/start %: 100/80
I'd rather start: Danny Amendola (vs. ARI), James Jones (at IND), Donnie Avery (vs. GB) Clearly I am not all that high on the Bills offense travelling to San Francisco for Week 5 and really, I think tight end Scott Chandler is the best play on the squad. The 49ers have allowed five passing scores this year and four of them have gone to tight ends, while only one has been caught by a wide receiver, which is the second-lowest total in the league. That's why I think touchdown Steve Johnson is likely to just be Steve Johnson this week, which, based on his yardage totals thus far, means he should be kept on the bench. Through four games, Johnson has caught only 15 of his 36 targets (41.7 percent) for 195 yards and three scores. He is averaging less than 50 yards receiving per game and has a season high of just 61 yards. Johnson is producing only 5.4 yards per target and if it were not for his touchdowns, Johnson would be averaging just 4.5 points per week. That's not a risk I am willing to take against a 49ers defense that has kept Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young, Santonio Holmes and Percy Harvin out of the end zone so far in 2012. His touchdowns have been covering up his warts early in 2012, which the Pats exposed last week. I think it will be two tough weeks in a row for Johnson against the Niners, so I am benching him on my teams.
Good luck this week!