Week 5 Fantasy Football Matchups

To prepare you as best we can for your week of Fantasy Football, we've devised this series of previews for each NFL game. We'll give you a taste of what to expect, then rank each significant Fantasy contributor on a scale from 0-5 logos (with five logos suggesting can't-miss; a player or unit without any logos suggests you probably shouldn't start him under any circumstances). The rankings take the matchup into account, but injuries and other significant factors also contribute.

Washington Redskins at Carolina Panthers
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Bank of America Stadium
Clinton Portis had 25 carries last week and wasn't on the Redskins' injury report like he normally is at the start of the work week, so signs point to him being fine. That's great because he should flourish against a Panthers run defense that's thin at defensive tackle. Save for a resurgence by veteran big man Hollis Thomas, Portis should get his numbers, and the Redskins should ride him as long as they can. Chris Cooley should be Jason Campbell's best option here as tight ends have done well against the Panthers' weak safeties. The Panthers haven't run as much as they did last year, and several players have talked about running more. Look for them to come off the bus running against the Redskins. Not only does that cater to Washington's weakness, but it also takes some pressure off of Jake Delhomme and plays to the strength of the Panthers' offense. Look for a big day from DeAngelo Williams. The one guy I don't like a lot is Steve Smith, who had battled the Redskins a few times in his career and has never done exceptionally well (no 100-yard games, one TD). The Redskins' secondary is solid and should have a simple plan for covering Smith.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Jason Campbell QB Jake Delhomme
Clinton Portis RB DeAngelo Williams
Ladell Betts   RB Jonathan Stewart
Santana Moss WR Steve Smith
Antwaan Randle El   WR Muhsin Muhammad
Chris Cooley TE Dante Rosario
Shaun Suisham K John Kasay
Redskins DST Panthers
Dallas Cowboys at Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Arrowhead Stadium
Like others in the league, the Cowboys have a reeling quarterback and are in need of a win against a beatable opponent. So like others, expect the Cowboys to run the football a lot. Marion Barber should be fine, as should Tashard Choice, and that one-two punch should give the Cowboys a chance to dictate the action early on. Romo is expected to also lean on tight end Jason Witten after critics panned him for missing him late against Denver last week. Plus the Chiefs aren't strong against opposing tight ends, and the Cowboys will be without Roy Williams. Chiefs head coach Todd Haley directed the Cardinals to a win over the Cowboys last season, and he did it with passing. Expect Haley to operate that way again, using Matt Cassel's arm to connect downfield with Dwayne Bowe and in the short area with Larry Johnson and tight end Sean Ryan. Others will contribute too thanks to the Cowboys' porous pass defense. Expect the Chiefs to go after strong safety Pat Watkins, who is expected to start in place of injured Gerald Sensabaugh. That could make Ryan a very, very sneaky Fantasy play this week. It would not be a surprise to see Kansas City grab their first win of the year here.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Tony Romo QB Matt Cassel
Marion Barber RB Larry Johnson
Tashard Choice RB Jamaal Charles
Patrick Crayton WR Dwayne Bowe
Miles Austin WR Mark Bradley
Jason Witten TE Sean Ryan
Nick Folk K Ryan Succop
Cowboys DST Chiefs
Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Ford Field
Seeing Rashard Mendenhall steamroll the Chargers' run defense was good. Now let's see if he can be equally successful against another weak run defense in the Lions. He should, but he might not get off on the right foot as the Steelers might opt to throw more than run here. Remember, most of Mendenhall's carries came after Pittsburgh had an early lead last week, and his touchdowns were set up by pass plays. We might see a repeat here, which still means Mendenhall will be useful. Ben Roethlisberger should be able to attack the Lions' secondary here as well, so this could be a good week to start both Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward with confidence. For the Lions, it seems like Daunte Culpepper will be in charge, and he'll dictate a safe plan of attack. Lots of dump-offs and screens to Kevin Smith, lots of short-area passing to his tight ends, and if Calvin Johnson plays, the occasional deep ball to him. Culpepper is definitely prone to a turnover or two, so keep that in mind. It's going to be hard to trust any Lions this week, but Smith and Johnson still deserve some consideration.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Ben Roethlisberger QB Daunte Culpepper
Rashard Mendenhall RB Kevin Smith
Mewelde Moore RB Maurice Morris
Santonio Holmes WR Calvin Johnson
Hines Ward WR Bryant Johnson
Mike Wallace WR Dennis Northcutt
Heath Miller TE Brandon Pettigrew
Jeff Reed K Jason Hanson
Steelers DST Lions
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, 1:00 pm, M&T Bank Stadium
We wrote off the Bengals in their matchup against the Steelers but they found a way to win. As tempted as we might be to do it again after a close game against the Browns, the reality is that the Bengals should hang around with the Ravens for a while thanks to their passing game. Cedric Benson is banged up -- he missed some practice this week with a hip injury -- and it might have contributed to his so-so play last week. It might also limit him this week against a really good Ravens run defense. Expect Carson Palmer to take the lead and lean on his receivers like he did in Week 3 against the Steelers. That might make Andre Caldwell and Laveranues Coles decent options this week, at least in PPR formats, as they and Chad Ochocinco should be regular targets for Palmer. By using the pass, the Bengals can negate some of the Ravens' defensive strengths and challenge their secondary. As for the Ravens' offense, they should be able to have their way here with the Bengals. Cincinnati's pass defense has taken a nosedive while Joe Flacco has kept playing good football. The Bengals should struggle to put pressure on Flacco, giving him time to hit targets downfield. Once a lead is built, the run will be utilized to grind down Cincy. Pretty much anyone with a Raven on his helmet is a good Fantasy option this week.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Carson Palmer QB Joe Flacco
Cedric Benson RB Willis McGahee
Bernard Scott   RB Ray Rice
Chad Ochocinco WR Derrick Mason
Andre Caldwell WR Mark Clayton
Laveranues Coles WR Kelley Washington
Daniel Coats   TE Todd Heap
Shayne Graham K Steven Hauschka
Bengals DST Ravens
Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Ralph Wilson Stadium
The Browns might have traded away Braylon Edwards, but they still should fire off passes against a banged-up Bills secondary. The Dolphins didn't take advantage of Buffalo's secondary last week, but they were starting a young passer for the first time. Derek Anderson is no rookie, and he loves to throw downfield. Expect him to test the Bills' secondary, even if it's with Mohamed Massaquoi, Mike Furrey, Josh Cribbs and Chansi Stuckey. By the way, Stuckey could be a decent fixture for this offense sooner than later since he's worked with Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll previously. Expect the Browns to use the pass more than the run, possibly out of necessity. It also appears that Jamal Lewis might be ready to play in this game, but the Browns should still find Jerome Harrison as an attractive option both as a runner and a receiver. The Bills' offense has been really ugly of late, and a lot of that is due to poor decision making by quarterback Trent Edwards. The Browns are terrible against the run and the Bills should lean on their backs to carry the load and let Edwards gain some confidence without being forced to throw 35-plus times. Expect a solid outing from Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. That might tick off Terrell Owens, but right now the Bills need wins, not positive press about their one-year receiver rental. Of course, Owens might still get some stats, along with Lee Evans, since the Browns' secondary is nothing special.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Derek Anderson QB Trent Edwards
Jerome Harrison RB Marshawn Lynch
Jamal Lewis RB Fred Jackson
Mohamed Massaquoi WR Terrell Owens
Mike Furrey WR Lee Evans
Steve Heiden TE Derek Fine
Billy Cundiff K Rian Lindell
Browns DST Bills
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Lincoln Financial Field
Can't feel good about any Bucs here against a rested Eagles defense at home. Expect Tampa Bay to use bootleg packages to maximize Josh Johnson's ability to pass, but there isn't a single good matchup for any Bucs here. Cadillac Williams should get stuffed, Antonio Bryant should get blanketed and Kellen Winslow should be neutralized. It's the opposite outlook for the Eagles, who will get Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook back. Expect Westbrook to get involved early as the Bucs stink against the run. McNabb should also follow in the footsteps of backup Kevin Kolb and throw often to tight end Brent Celek, giving him the chance to be a factor that will not only produce yards but also stretch out the Buccaneers' defense. DeSean Jackson should also be a decent option, and if the Eagles build a big lead, LeSean McCoy might land some garbage-time yards.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Josh Johnson   QB Donovan McNabb
Cadillac Williams RB Brian Westbrook
Earnest Graham   RB LeSean McCoy
Antonio Bryant WR DeSean Jackson
Michael Clayton   WR Kevin Curtis
Kellen Winslow TE Brent Celek
Mike Nugent   K David Akers
Buccaneers   DST Eagles
Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Edward Jones Dome
If the Rams were a little better on both sides of the ball, this would be considered a trap game for the Vikings. But coming off an emotional Monday night win, they should be just fine against a wounded and ineffective Rams team. Adrian Peterson should be the primary weapon here for Minnesota as the Rams will have their hands full with him. Brett Favre can then play off of Peterson with play-action and gain some yardage that way. Expect Favre's pass attempts to be limited, but even he should fire off a couple of touchdowns. St. Louis is awful against big-play receivers -- hello, Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin. The Rams' offense has an awful matchup here. Their only useful weapon is Steven Jackson and he'll see eight in the box on every play. Don't expect a big game from him. Once the Rams become one-dimensional, it will be elementary as the Vikings will bring the blitz and feast on Kyle Boller. St. Louis might struggle to put up points in this one.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Brett Favre QB Kyle Boller
Adrian Peterson RB Steven Jackson
Chester Taylor RB Kenneth Darby
Bernard Berrian WR Donnie Avery
Percy Harvin WR Keenan Burton
Visanthe Shiancoe TE Randy McMichael
Ryan Longwell K Josh Brown
Vikings DST Rams
Oakland Raiders at N.Y. Giants
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Giants Stadium
I really can't offer any explanation for the Raiders' offense. If I were coaching, I'd utilize both Michael Bush and Justin Fargas as receiving threats, add tight end Tony Stewart to the mix and use a hurry-up offense to keep the Giants off-balance. Then, I'd take a couple of shots downfield with Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey. I'd throw in flea-flickers and the Wildcat. I wouldn't run the ball much at all. But, that's probably not what the Raiders have in mind -- instead they'll probably hammer away with the run and then have JaMarcus Russell try mid-range passes that end up going high, wide, short, or into the hands of Giants defenders. I'm not convinced that the Raiders should even make the trip -- they might score as many points if they just stay home. The Giants should be able to run the offense as they please, primarily running the ball with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Eli Manning might throw for touchdowns, but his yardage should be fairly minimal, and that could mean less-than-ideal totals for Steve Smith and Mario Manningham. That goes double if David Carr starts or sees playing time. We do know that whomever passes for the Giants will be well protected against a Raiders pass rush that had no sacks against a solid Broncos O-line two weeks ago (four sacks last week, but they were at Houston). Really, only New York's running backs are solid options, but Smith and Manningham could have some chances to score if Manning plays.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
JaMarcus Russell   QB Eli Manning
Michael Bush RB Brandon Jacobs
Justin Fargas RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Louis Murphy   WR Steve Smith
Darrius Heyward-Bey   WR Mario Manningham
Tony Stewart   TE Darcy Johnson
Sebastian Janikowski   K Lawrence Tynes
Raiders   DST Giants
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, 4:05 pm, Candlestick Park
What looked like an easy game at the beginning of the year has become a nightmare matchup for the Falcons to have coming off their bye. San Francisco is one of two teams yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season, and they're one of two teams in the Top 10 in pass defense that's been thrown on more than 150 times this year. Pick your poison, Matt Ryan. The 49ers will key in on Michael Turner, so look for him to stumble while the Falcons take to the air. They might even come out throwing to set up the run later since it's probably the only chance they have to move the chains. Roddy White has a chance to put up some numbers if he lines up across from Niners corner Shawntae Spencer, but Tony Gonzalez might have a hard time posting numbers against strong safety Michael Lewis, who has improved in pass coverage (no touchdowns for tight ends vs. the 49ers this season). If the Falcons win, it will be because of Matt Ryan. The 49ers will battle back with what they've been doing: Running the ball and using the pass off of it. Atlanta has struggled vs. running backs since losing rookie defensive tackle Peria Jerry, so this isn't too tough of a matchup for Glen Coffee. Furthermore, because Vernon Davis has become such a threat, it's doubtful that the Falcons will put more than seven defenders in the box against him. The Niners might need to do a little more offensively than they have to win; Josh Morgan might build on his good Week 4 and could be worth adding to rosters as a flier reserve.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Matt Ryan QB Shaun Hill
Michael Turner RB Glen Coffee
Jerious Norwood RB Michael Robinson
Roddy White WR Josh Morgan
Michael Jenkins WR Isaac Bruce
Tony Gonzalez TE Vernon Davis
Jason Elam K Joe Nedney
Falcons DST 49ers
Houston Texans at Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, 4:15 pm, University of Phoenix Stadium
All signs point to a shootout, which is great for Fantasy Football. The Cardinals are at home, rested and effective against the run. Plus they're more of a 3-4 defense than anything else, so it could be a long week for Steve Slaton. The Texans know this, and they also know that Arizona is ranked 30th against the pass. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what Matt Schaub will do: Throw deep. All of Houston's receivers should play well -- including tight end Owen Daniels -- as the Cardinals have struggled against tight ends in their last two games. Jacoby Jones may also be a factor. Now, Arizona sees that Houston is terrible against the run -- will they ignore their strength (the passing game) and lean on Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells to eat the clock, keep the Texans off the field and move the chains? Considering that the Cardinals really need this game, they just might. Of course, Houston's secondary isn't anything special either, so if they opt to throw with Kurt Warner, chances are they'll be just fine. Expect Warner to focus on whichever receiver draws Texans cornerback Fred Bennett in coverage. Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston all have potential to play very well.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Matt Schaub QB Kurt Warner
Steve Slaton RB Tim Hightower
Ryan Moats   RB Beanie Wells
Andre Johnson WR Larry Fitzgerald
Kevin Walter WR Anquan Boldin
Jacoby Jones WR Steve Breaston
Owen Daniels TE Stephen Spach
Kris Brown K Neil Rackers
Texans DST Cardinals
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Invesco Field at Mile High
If the Patriots are like us, they'll recognize that running the ball should be the more effective way to move the chains. They've done a nice job tying up the game clock in recent weeks, so the combination running back unit they have mixed in with short-area passing to Wes Welker and dump-offs to the runners (Kevin Faulk) should be a good formula. Randy Moss' history against Champ Bailey isn't very strong, and the Pats will probably look for ways to move Moss around before the snap and get him away from Bailey, who has been playing very well. The Broncos will have an identity crisis in this one: Head coach Josh McDaniels runs the offense and is the former offensive coordinator for the Patriots. While he knows the Patriots' defense well, he also knows that Bill Belichick knows his tendencies and play-calling rhythms. The Broncos might be best served working behind their big offensive line and giving a chunk of the work to Knowshon Moreno. New England's run defense was gashed by the Ravens last week, but they didn't run as much as expected and lost. Perhaps the Broncos will use the same kind of offensive philosophy the Patriots will try and run the ball a lot and pass short instead of long. It might make for more of a chess match than a football game, and with not a ton of scoring or big passing plays.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Tom Brady QB Kyle Orton
Sammy Morris RB Knowshon Moreno
Kevin Faulk RB LaMont Jordan
Randy Moss WR Brandon Marshall
Wes Welker WR Jabar Gaffney
Benjamin Watson TE Daniel Graham
Stephen Gostkowski K Matt Prater
Patriots DST Broncos
Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Qwest Field
Jacksonville's offense has come alive, but playing in noisy Seattle will be a huge test for them. Seattle's run defense is worse than your typical 21st-ranked team: They've been run on just 97 times through four weeks and are giving up 5.1 yards per carry. That's music to Maurice Jones-Drew's ears; expect him to see a lot of work rushing and receiving as the Seahawks will not be able to contain him. The Jaguars can use play-action off of that and hit Mike Sims-Walker downfield. Seattle seems particularly bad against the deep ball, so Sims-Walker and rookie Mike Thomas might be able to make a few plays to help pad David Garrard's numbers. Seattle's quarterback situation is up in the air, but it doesn't matter who's back there as the Jaguars are terrible against the pass. The secret is simply to throw to the opposite side of Rashean Mathis, where rookie Derek Cox is manning the field. T.J. Houshmandzadeh was a great chain-mover last week against a Cover-2 defense, but the Jaguars have moved to the 3-4, so the Seahawks might use outside speedsters like Nate Burleson and Deion Branch this week. John Carlson and Houshmandzadeh might get looks near the end zone, especially if Matt Hasselbeck is quarterbacking the team.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
David Garrard QB Matt Hasselbeck
Maurice Jones-Drew RB Julius Jones
Rashad Jennings RB Edgerrin James
Mike Sims-Walker WR Nate Burleson
Torry Holt WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Marcedes Lewis TE John Carlson
Josh Scobee K Olindo Mare
Jaguars DST Seahawks
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
Sunday, 8:20 pm, LP Field
What a tailor-made matchup for the Colts: Tennessee is very strong against the run -- they're the only Top-10 ranked run defense that's faced the run over 100 times this season (113 attempts) and are still averaging just 2.8 rush yards against. However, Tennessee is awful against the pass -- dead last in the league to be exact. Peyton Manning should have another 300-yard game with several touchdowns. Reggie Wayne's recent history against the Titans has been bad, but forget it because Tennessee's secondary has been a huge disappointment this year, partially because their pass rush has not helped them out. Should be a strong week for Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, and even Donald Brown could get into the act late to grind down the clock. Do not expect big things from Joseph Addai considering the Tennessee run defense. The Titans' offense has all the right reasons to go back to their run game. They need a win, and they won with their run game last season; they face a team stellar vs. the pass and bad against the run; and their best offensive weapon is Chris Johnson. Look for him to see a lot of work and get some runs in to burn the Colts. LenDale White can't be trusted until the coaches start to trust him more with the ball. Tennessee's passing game has had some stars and they might have to pass out of desperation in spite of Indy's crafty secondary. Options like Nate Washington and Kenny Britt aren't necessarily bad here as No. 3 WR/bye-week replacements.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Peyton Manning QB Kerry Collins
Joseph Addai RB Chris Johnson
Donald Brown RB LenDale White
Reggie Wayne WR Nate Washington
Pierre Garcon WR Kenny Britt
Austin Collie WR Justin Gage
Dallas Clark TE Bo Scaife
Adam Vinatieri K Rob Bironas
Colts DST Titans
N.Y. Jets at Miami Dolphins
Monday, 8:30 pm, Land Shark Stadium
This will be a huge test for Jets rookie passer Mark Sanchez. The Dolphins' pass defense has not done well, but they've gone up against Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers to start the year. They were much better against a timid Trent Edwards last week. Sanchez has two things going for him: The addition of Braylon Edwards, which forces Miami to re-think their plan of attack, and the shame of a Week 4 loss on his hands. We'll see what he's made of as he'll have to rebound to give the Jets a chance. Miami's run defense is excellent, so much of the playcalling will fall onto Sanchez's shoulders -- look for him to really try to loosen up the Dolphins defense with a spread-the-ball approach to Jerricho Cotchery, Edwards, Dustin Keller and even his running backs (Leon Washington has been a Dolphins killer over his short career). As for Edwards, expect modest totals as he's just beginning to understand the Jets' offense. He'll be a solid decoy for much of this game. The Dolphins might be forced to also pass the ball since the Jets will load up to slow down Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. This could be bad news for the Dolphins since Chad Henne will only be making his second start and not only faces a tough Jets pass rush but one that will get back outside linebacker Calvin Pace from a four-game suspension. He might have a little rust, but he should be effective. The pass rush will hurt Henne's ability to throw it deep as he'll have to make quick short passes. The Jets should be all over this and come up with some turnovers.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Mark Sanchez QB Chad Henne
Thomas Jones RB Ronnie Brown
Leon Washington RB Ricky Williams
Jerricho Cotchery WR Davone Bess
Braylon Edwards WR Ted Ginn, Jr.
Dustin Keller TE Anthony Fasano
Jay Feely K Dan Carpenter
Jets DST Dolphins
Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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