The Week 5 edition of Thursday Night Football serves as a good example for what fantasy football owners face in start ’em, sit ’em decisions this week.
The Indianapolis Colts travel to Houston to take on the Texans, and though questions linger around both visiting quarterback Andrew Luck and running back Arian Foster of the hosts, there are some other questions with not-so-obvious answers hovering over Week 5 as a whole after a wild opening month with tough matchups on the way.
Below, let’s swing the tide back in the favor of owners by breaking down some of the toughest start ’em, sit ’em decisions of the week.
Start: Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. NO)
It’s been a trying year for those who rolled the dice on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford.
Bradford didn’t break the 20-point barrier this season until last week in Washington, where he threw for three scores (matching his total from the prior three weeks) and totaled 23 points.
Thanks to a matchup with the New Orleans Saints, this should be the start of a trend, not an anomaly. The Saints have allowed the second most points to quarterbacks on average this year, allowing two to score 25 or more points.
While the Eagles have been a major disappointment thus far from a fantasy standpoint, Bradford’s matchup means owners should feel confident.
Sit: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (at CIN)
With Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks advertised as a fantasy quarterback capable of scoring through the air or on the ground, 99.8 percent of owners own him.
The problem? Wilson has yet to rush for a score, and he’s thrown multiple touchdowns in just one contest this year—the lone time he’s surpassed the 20-point mark.
Things figure to get worse before they improve. Wilson hits the road for an encounter with the Cincinnati Bengals on a short week. It’s a unit that has allowed a high of 20 points to quarterbacks so far, and that total took 49 attempts.
Seattle will want to run on the road against a tough opponent, meaning Wilson doesn’t have a ton of value this weekend.
Start: Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders (vs. DEN)
Owners have every right to be down on Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray.
After scoring 14 and 20 points in the week prior, Murray went out last week, turned the ball over and watched as others around him scored as he finished Week 4 with just three points.
For coach Jack Del Rio, though, Murray’s woes won’t see him ride the pine, as Pro Football Talk captured:
It’s good news for owners as Murray heads into a matchup with the Denver Broncos. The defense has allowed four touchdowns to backs over its last three games and a minimum of 15 points in each.
With Murray assured snaps, he’ll produce against the unit.
Sit: Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers (vs. PIT)
For one reason or another, the San Diego Chargers continue to shy away from the idea of giving talented rookie back Melvin Gordon the majority of the work out of the backfield.
Gordon turned 12 carries into just three points last week, while the coaching staff gave Danny Woodhead eight opportunities. On paper, it was a prime breakout chance for the rookie too given the encounter with the struggling Cleveland Browns.
The outlook is quite different ahead of Week 5. Even if the coaching staff had a change of heart on usage rates, the Pittsburgh Steelers have surrendered the third-fewest points to fantasy backs this year and have yet to give up a score.
Gordon should have a breakout game this season, but it won’t happen this week.
Start: Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans (vs. BUF)
Owned in 77.8 percent of leagues, Tennessee Titans wideout Kendall Wright doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
Wright has one dud of a performance to his name this year with a one-point showing in Week 2, but it’s bookended by 16-point showings. Through three games, Wright has 13 catches and two scores.
Part of the reason Wright looks like such a viable play is because of the quick start by rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. This week, much of it centers on a clash against the Buffalo Bills, as Mario Williams and Co. allow the third most points to wideouts on average and have allowed a minimum of 22 points each contest with seven touchdowns total.
As the offense’s No. 1 target, Wright figures to be the latest to post a major line against the unit.
Sit: Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders (vs. DEN)
Whereas Murray figures to get in on the action thanks to his every-down capabilities, owners would be best to shy away from Oakland rookie wideout Amari Cooper.
Cooper has two touchdowns this year and trips to double digits in each of his last three outings. The problem this week, though, is Denver’s secondary. The unit has allowed just two sets of wideouts to reach double digits and surrendered just one touchdown to the position over four games.
While Cooper will be at home, he’s one to avoid this week. The Denver rush flusters quarterbacks into mistakes or dump-offs, which is good for Murray, not Cooper.
Cooper has yet to free himself of matchup-based play status, so he needs to ride the pine until he proves otherwise.
Start: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys (vs. NE)
Bad news for Jason Witten owners: Brandon Weeden remains the starter at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
Good news: It doesn’t figure to matter against the New England Patriots.
While dealing with injuries, Witten hasn’t scored or reached double digits over his last three games. New England’s defense against the position continues to head in the other direction, having allowed seven and 10 points with two touchdowns before the team’s Week 4 bye.
Dallas will throw a ton against New England to keep up, so Witten will post a major day.
Sit: Gary Barnidge, Cleveland Browns (at BAL)
It was fun while it lasted.
Gary Barnidge came out of nowhere over the past two weeks, leaving his blocking role to score 16 and 13 points with two scores in the process.
While proof the 30-year-old veteran can produce, it’s not enough of a sample size to convince anyone to start him against the Baltimore Ravens. The defense has allowed just eight catches and a single point to tight ends through four games.
Barnidge has huge upside as a waiver-wire add, but he needs to sit on the bench this week.
All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as is points-against info and ownership stats as of Oct. 7. Statistics courtesy of ESPN. Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers, New York Jets on bye.
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