Football can be strange sometimes. On the one hand, there’s so much free agency, combine, draft and training camp coverage from February to August that it almost feels like there’s no offseason at all. On the other hand, the actual games fly by. It seems like opening kickoff was only yesterday, yet we’re already 25 percent of the way through the fantasy football schedule.
With that in mind, it’s time to adjust. When your top picks struggle in the first week or two, life goes on. There’s still room to exercise some patience at that point, and the upside is worth waiting for. But a month in, you need to be ready to make tough moves where necessary. Tom Brady looked like Peter Brady against the Chiefs on Monday Night Football, while Cam Newton managed just seven yards on the ground in a blowout loss to the Ravens. At the moment, he’s on pace for 132 rushing yards this year — not exactly ideal for a guy who has never put up less than 585 in a season and generates much of his value as a QB who can, um, run. Do you drop these guys? No. But you can’t really feel comfortable starting them either — unless your only other options are Raiders or something.
Then again, if you’ve cruised through the first four weeks, now’s your chance to buy low on underperforming stars that are frustrating other owners. LeSean McCoy hasn’t been able to get anything going behind the Eagles’ banged up offensive line, and Eddie Lacy has looked nothing like a top tier running back so far. Shady is just too talented to be kept down for long though, and even Lacy could be worth a deal if you can scoop him up at a nice discount.
Of course, the quickest path to fantasy success is to find the strong players that are facing weak opposition and cash in. With that in mind, here are the Money Matchups for Week 5…
B: Aaron Rodgers, GB (v MIN). To be fair, Minnesota’s pass defense hasn’t been all that bad (No. 17 in the NFL). And linebacker Anthony Barr could be a legitimate Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. But Aaron Rodgers is clearly heating up, as evidenced by his four touchdown performance against the Bears last week. Randall Cobb looks good, Jordy Nelson looks great and Eddie Lacy looks a little lost at the moment. That means the Packers are once again leaning heavily on Rodgers, who thrives in that role. He also has a 26:4 TD:INT ratio over 12 career games against the Vikings.
Honorable Mention: Philip Rivers, SD (v NYJ). With the Chargers struggling to run the ball last week, Rivers took over. He’s quietly the No. 2 scorer among all quarterbacks to this point, and he may have just gotten Keenan Allen back on track as well. Meanwhile, the Jets can slow the run but have been abysmal against the pass. Plus, New York (read: Geno Smith) has been coughing the ball up lately, putting opposing QBs in a good spot for quick points.
RB: Le’Veon Bell, PIT (@ JAX). Oh, the Jaguars. They’re such a nice team. If you want to run on them, they’re not going to stand in your way. They’ve already allowed 522 yards and four scores on the ground this season, and now they face the No. 2 rusher in the NFL. If you re-drafted right now, Bell would absolutely be one of the first players off the board. And the Steelers will rely on him as they look to bounce back from whatever happened to them against Tampa Bay. To be fair, Jacksonville committed everything to stopping the run last week against the Chargers, and was able to stifle Donald Brown. But Brown isn’t Bell.
Honorable Mention: DeMarco Murray, DAL (v HOU). So many questions could be answered in the battle of Texas this weekend. Is Dallas actually good? Will J.J. Watt catch more touchdown passes this season than Jason Witten? It’s all so confusing. One thing is certain though: DeMarco Murray is on an absolute tear right now. The Cowboys seem to have finally figured out that putting the ball in his hands gives them the best chance to win, and he’s responded by amassing 534 rushing yards against some pretty respectable defenses. That puts him on pace to break Eric Dickerson’s all-time single season rushing mark of 2,105 yards so yeah, I’d trot him out there this weekend.
WR/TE : Antonio Brown, PIT (@ JAX). It almost seems unfair to just pick on the Jaguars like this. Then again, you want to win, don’t you? Remember how I said they committed to slowing down Donald Brown last week? Well that resulted in them allowing 377 yards and three scores through the air. In all, Jacksonville’s pass defense has now given up an NFL-worst 1,283 yards and a mind-numbing 11 TDs. And Antonio Brown — who hasn’t totaled less than five catches in a game since 2012 — is somehow open all the time anyway, no matter who he’s playing.
Honorable Mention: Vincent Jackson, TB (@ NO). Jackson can be maddeningly inconsistent at times. And he hasn’t gone over 51 receiving yards in a game yet this season. So if you’re in any leagues with me, please stop reading this and go drop him right now. Because most of those numbers were with Josh McGown under center. With Mike Glennon throwing the ball, Jackson was targeted 10 times in Week 4. And he put up some huge performances a year ago in games Glennon started. On top of all that, Mike Evans is likely out this week and the Saints have stopped exactly zero receivers so far this season.
D/ST: Seattle Seahawks (@ WAS). Seattle’s defense has actually been relatively quiet in terms of fantasy production this year. Much of that hinges on forcing turnovers and registering sacks though, and the Seahawks have faced Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning so far — not exactly mediocre quarterbacks. Now they get Kirk Cousins on Monday Night Football. Could be a nice way to wrap up the weekend.
Honorable Mention: Detroit Lions (v BUF). We’ll resist the urge to pile on Jacksonville and take yet another Steeler here. Instead, we’ll go kind of deep. You may have a better option, but a lot of the top defenses are facing decent competition this week. If you’re looking for a possible spot-start off the waiver wire, the Lions have 10 sacks already and now face Kyle Orton.
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