Note: Sleeper alert focuses on players who aren't considered regular starters but have favorable matchups and could produce at a high level. Owners beware focuses on prominent players with unfavorable matchups who could fail to meet statistical expectations.
Start of the week
Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia: Westbrook has missed time with an abdominal tear, but he has practiced without limitations this week and will start against the New York Jets. That's tremendous news for fantasy football owners, as the Men in Green have been brutal on defense. The Jets, who are ranked 25th overall against the run, have allowed an average of 33 points and 123 rushing yards per game at home. Westbrook, who will also see a number of chances as a receiver out of the backfield, should have a solid stat line.
Quarterbacks: Start 'em
Kurt Warner, Arizona: Here's a stat that's hard to believe, but nonetheless true: Warner has more fantasy points thus far in standard formats than Vince Young, Steve McNair and Drew Brees. That's incredible because Warner hasn't started a game this season. Now that he's the head man with Matt Leinart out for the season, the former Super Bowl MVP has to be considered a top-10 fantasy quarterback. He should be active this week against Carolina, which ranks 24th in pass defense and has surrendered an average of 255.0 passing yards per game on the road.
Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle: Hasselbeck will be without his top two wide receivers -- Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett -- but the veteran quarterback is still a nice option as he'll face a New Orleans defense that has surrendered an average of 36.0 points and 265.5 passing yards per game on the road. Furthermore, three of the four quarterbacks the Saints have faced have thrown for at least two touchdowns. The lone exception was David Carr, and he missed time with a back ailment. Even without his top weapons, Hasselbeck should still produce.
Sleeper alert: Cleo Lemon at Cleveland.
Quarterbacks: Sit 'em
Matt Schaub, Houston: Schaub has done well for a quarterback who's without his top threat, but this week he'll be hard pressed to produce against a stout Jacksonville defense. The Jaguars are close to impenetrable at home, as they've allowed an average of 10.0 points and an unreal 117.0 passing yards per game. That doesn't bode well for Schaub, who will be without Andre Johnson for at least another contest. Here's another reason to sit Schaub: Just one of four quarterbacks (Jay Cutler) to face the Jags has scored more than nine fantasy points.
Jeff Garcia, Tampa Bay: Garcia ranks in the top 25 overall in fantasy points but this week's matchup against Tennessee makes him a real risk. The Titans have improved on defense quite a bit; they're ranked 10th against the pass, third against the run and fourth overall. What's more, home quarterbacks have averaged a mere 7.5 fantasy points against Jeff Fisher's crew. The Titans have also allowed a mere 12.0 points per game on the road, so it could be difficult for Garcia and the Buccaneers offense to muster points in this inter-conference battle.
Owners beware: Vince Young at Tampa Bay.
Running backs: Start 'em
Larry Johnson, Kansas City: Johnson has been the season's biggest disappointment, but this should be the week he breaks out and makes some noise. The former fantasy superstar faces his easiest matchup of the season, as the Chiefs host a Cincinnati team with a dreadful defense. The Bengals rank 29th against the run and have allowed an average of 37.5 points and 164.0 rushing yards per game on the road. They've also surrendered 100-yard performances to three of the four No. 1 running backs they've faced this season, so Johnson should make a significant impact.
Sleeper alert: Jason Wright vs. Miami.
Running backs: Sit 'em
Cedric Benson, Chicago: Benson was considered a breakout candidate in the preseason, but his statistical projections are less than impressive. Based on his current totals, Benson would finish with 969 rushing yards (3.0 YPC) and more fumbles (10) than touchdowns (6). Aside from his lack of production, Benson's matchup against Minnesota is anything but favorable. The Vikes haven't surrendered a rushing touchdown and rank first in the NFL in run defense. They've also allowed an average of just 53.0 rushing yards per game on the road, all of which makes Benson a risk.
Julius Jones, Dallas: The Cowboys are a perfect 5-0 headed into this weekend's Duel in Dallas against New England, but Jones has not seen the statistical benefits of his team's success. He's on pace to finish with 694 rushing yards -- that's almost 400 fewer than he had last season -- and he continues to lose work to Marion Barber. His fortunes won't change against the Patriots, who rank fifth in rushing defense, have allowed one rushing touchdown and a mere 58.5 rushing yards per game on the road. Barber is a viable fantasy choice, but Jones should be reserved.
More running backs with unfavorable matchups: DeShaun Foster at Arizona, Earnest Graham vs. Tennessee, Ahman Green at Jacksonville, Thomas Jones vs. Philadelphia, Brian Leonard at Baltimore.
Owners beware: Laurence Maroney at Dallas.
Wide receivers: Start 'em
Braylon Edwards, Cleveland: The trend of third-year wide receivers that post monster numbers has not held water with the likes of Reggie Brown or Mark Clayton, but it does live on through Edwards. He has been a solid threat in the Cleveland offense and he's on pace to post career numbers across the board. He should build on those totals this week against Miami, which has allowed an average of close to 215 receiving yards per game on the road. The Browns should put some points on the scoreboard, so look for Edwards to have another solid stat line.
Chris Chambers, Miami: Chambers has been in a two-week drought, but with a favorable matchup and six teams on a bye, he's still an attractive option for owners. This week Chambers heads to Cleveland to face the Browns, who rank 31st against the pass and have allowed an NFL-high 15 receiving touchdowns. They've also surrendered an average of over 255 receiving yards per game at home, and 12 of the 15 receiving touchdowns they've allowed have come on their field. Even with Cleo Lemon under center, Chambers is still a viable No. 3 fantasy wideout.
Sleeper alert: Bobby Engram vs. New Orleans.
Wide receivers: Sit 'em
Marques Colston, New Orleans: Much like most of his Saints teammates, Colston has been a serious detriment to fantasy teams one season removed from a solid 2006 performance. While he's on pace for 88 receptions, Colston has averaged just 9.8 yards per catch and will fail to post 900 yards based on his current numbers. While it's hard to sit him with six teams on a bye, owners should be aware that Colston could fail to post solid numbers against a Seattle defense that ranks eighth in total defense and has surrendered one receiving touchdown on their home field.
Laveranues Coles, N.Y. Jets: Rather than tell owners to sit players they'll never use like Glenn Holt or Troy Williamson in heavy bye weeks, I'd rather warn them about a viable fantasy starter that has a tough opponent on the slate. That description fits Coles, who has been a touchdown machine for the Jets but could struggle this week against Philadelphia. The Eagles have allowed an average of 16.0 points and 170.1 receiving yards per game on the road, and it looks like they'll have CB Lito Sheppard back from an injured knee. That could all equate to a hard afternoon for Coles.
More wide receivers with unfavorable matchups: Patrick Crayton vs. New England, André Davis at Jacksonville, Joey Galloway vs. Tennessee, T.J. Houshmandzadeh at Kansas City, Jerry Porter at San Diego.
Owners beware: Donald Driver vs. Washington.
Tight ends: Start 'em
Alge Crumpler, Atlanta: Crumpler made some negative comments this week about his team's offensive attack, so he should be motivated to make some noise in front of a national television audience against the New York Giants. The G-Men have played better on defense in recent weeks, but they still rank 20th in the NFL against the pass and have allowed touchdown catches to four different tight ends. The Giants have also allowed 24 catches to tight ends after five weeks, so look for the Falcons to utilize Crumpler, who is their most reliable option in the pass attack.
Chris Cooley, Washington: Cooley has just 10 catches after four contests, but three of those receptions have been touchdowns. An obvious red-zone option for Jason Campbell, Cooley should be well in the mix for the Redskins when they head to Lambeau Field to face the Packers. Green Bay, despite their 4-1 record, has not been formidable against the pass, ranking 23rd overall and allowing eight receiving touchdowns. The Pack has also allowed 27 receptions for 330 yards and two touchdowns to tight ends in the past four weeks, and that bodes well for Cooley's potential stat line.
Sleeper alert: Greg Olsen vs. Minnesota.
Tight ends: Sit 'em
Randy McMichael, St. Louis: McMichael had his first nice stat line of the season last week with 45 yards and a touchdown against Arizona, but he'll struggle to produce in consecutive weeks based on a road battle in Baltimore. The Ravens have not fielded a terrific pass defense, but tight ends have not had much success against them. Aside from Kellen Winslow's 96-yard performance, tight ends have combined for three catches, 22 yards and no touchdowns against Baltimore. Unless you're in desperate need, McMichael should be on the fantasy sidelines.
Alex Smith, Tampa Bay: Smith was a hot name on the waiver wire among tight ends this week after his two-touchdown performance against Indianapolis, but he'll fail to duplicate such success against Tennessee. The Titans defense has turned out to be one of the better units in the NFL, and it's been especially stingy on the road against the pass. In fact, they've allowed an average of 151.5 receiving yards and no receiving touchdowns away from home. Those numbers don't bode well for Smith, who should not be considered a viable fantasy option in most formats.
More tight end with unfavorable matchups: Chris Baker vs. Philadelphia, Eric Johnson at Seattle, Donald Lee vs. Washington, Bo Scaife at Tampa Bay.
Owners beware: Owen Daniels at Jacksonville.
Kickers: Start 'em
Nate Kaeding, San Diego: Kaeding had a slow start to the season with just four fantasy points in his first two weeks of action, but he has bounced back to produce a solid 31 points over his past three starts. He should continue to produce nice totals against Oakland, which has surrendered eight field-goal conversions in four contests. The Chargers should be able to score some points behind LaDainian Tomlinson and an offense that totaled 41 points in Denver last week, so Kaeding should see more than his share of opportunities in a contest that will determine first place in the AFC West.
Neil Rackers, Arizona: Rackers has re-emerged into one of the better kickers in fantasy football this season. While he has missed four of 13 field goals overall, he still ranks fifth at the position in fantasy points with 50 after five weeks. He should build on those numbers this week against Carolina, which has allowed 10 field-goal conversions and 10 extra points in their five games. The Cardinals offense should be able to move the football with Kurt Warner under center, so look for Rackers to have at least a few chances to score in this NFC contest.
Sleeper alert: Phil Dawson vs. Miami.
Kickers: Sit 'em
Kris Brown, Houston: Brown was a hero for countless fantasy owners last week, as he converted on three field goals from 50-plus yards, five field goals overall and scored an unbelievable 23 fantasy points in a win over Miami. However, it has been revealed that he is dealing with an injured foot that could cause some problems against this week's opponent, Jacksonville. If that doesn't make Brown enough of a risk, consider that the Jaguars have surrendered a league-low 10.5 points per game at home, as well as a league-low two field-goal conversions overall this season.
Olindo Mare, New Orleans: Much like Brown, Mare is at less than 100 percent health headed into Week 6. While he did return to practice late in the week, Mare's ailment and lack of production makes him far less than attractive. The former Miami Dolphins kicker has made just three of his seven field-goal attempts, and his longest conversion is from a miniscule 34 yards. Another reason to avoid Mare is this week's opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, who have surrendered an average of just 13.5 points per game and three field-goal conversions at home this season.
Owners beware: Sebastian Janikowski at San Diego.
Defenses: Start 'em
N.Y. Giants defense: The Giants have scored an incredible 51 fantasy points over the past two weeks, and now they'll head to Atlanta to face a Falcons offense that averages a mere 13.8 points per game and has surrendered 18 sacks of their quarterbacks. As a result, the G-Men should be active in most leagues.
San Diego defense: The Chargers scored 23 fantasy points in last week's win over Denver, and they could duplicate that total against an Oakland team that has surrendered 10 sacks in four games and could be without it's most potent offensive weapon, LaMont Jordan. Look for the Bolts to shock the silver and black.
More defenses with favorable matchups: Baltimore defense vs. St. Louis, Chicago defense vs, Minnesota, Philadelphia defense at N.Y. Jets, Seattle defense vs. New Orleans.
Sleeper alert: Arizona defense vs. Carolina.
Defenses: Sit 'em
Carolina defense: The Panthers defense has averaged a mere 6.7 fantasy points over the past four weeks, and Arizona's once questionable offensive line has allowed a mere five sacks this season. What's more, the return of Kurt Warner should equate to more points for the Cardinals offense.
Miami defense: The Dolphins defense has been a serious disappointment for owners this season with just 25 fantasy points in standard formats, and its struggles could continue this week against a Cleveland offense that has averaged close to 30 points per game on their home turf.
More defenses with unfavorable matchups: Atlanta defense vs. N.Y. Giants, Carolina defense at Arizona, Houston defense at Jacksonville, Kansas City defense vs. Cincinnati.
Owners beware: Dallas defense vs. New England.