Start' Em, Sit 'Em for Week 5

Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is the ultimate look at the weekly NFL matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy football team. Sleeper alert features an under-the-radar player who could produce good numbers. Owners beware features a regular fantasy starter who could fail to meet expectations based on the strength of his opponent. Obvious fantasy starters like Aaron Rodgers and Arian Foster will not be featured in this column. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.

Quarterbacks - Start of the week


Matt Ryan at Washington Redskins: How good has Ryan been this season? Well, Robert Griffin III is the lone player in the entire league to score more fantasy points after four weeks. This week, the Boston College product goes up against a Redskins defense that has allowed 10 touchdown passes and the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers. Consider Ryan an absolute must start.

Start 'em


Peyton Manning at New England Patriots: Manning is back! Or at least he sure looked like it in last week's blowout win over the Oakland Raiders. Next on the schedule is a road date with the Patriots, who have allowed an average of more than 19 fantasy points to quarterbacks. In their last two games, the P-Men have surrendered a combined 48.98 fantasy points (24.49 PPG) to signal-callers.

Eli Manning vs. Cleveland Browns: Manning is on pace to record a ridiculous 5,280 yards and 28 touchdown passes based on his current totals. He should increase that rate of production against the Browns, who have struggled to stop the pass in the absence of their superstar CB Joe Haden. In fact, their defense has surrendered the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers in 2012.

Philip Rivers at New Orleans Saints: Rivers has not had a good start to the season. That's obvious if you look at the numbers, as he's 21st in fantasy points among quarterbacks after four weeks. Still, I'd give him the nod if you don't have an elite option based on this week's matchup against the Saints. Their defense has been brutal, allowing an average of 20.60 points to quarterbacks.

Sleeper alert - Andy Dalton vs. Miami Dolphins: Aaron Rodgers. Matthew Stafford. Michael Vick. Both Mannings. Those are just a few of the quarterbacks with fewer fantasy points than Dalton. The Texas Christian product has averaged well over 20 fantasy points in his last three games, so don't be afraid to start him against a Dolphins defense that ranks just 19th in total pass defense.

Quarterbacks - Sit of the week


Matt Schaub at New York Jets (Mon.): The Jets defense has become a Swiss cheese unit when it comes to stopping the run. After four weeks, the Men in Green have allowed the second-most rushing yards and the sixth-most fantasy points to runners. On the flip side, the Jets have allowed the ninth-fewest points to quarterbacks. That means a huge night for Arian Foster. Not so much for Schaub.

Sit 'em


Ryan Fitzpatrick at San Francisco 49ers: Fitzpatrick is one of the top eight quarterbacks in fantasy football based on points, but he also leads the NFL in interceptions. He could add to the latter category against the 49ers, who have allowed an average of just 15.18 fantasy points to quarterbacks. This unit also held Matthew Stafford to 12.20 points in its lone home game of the season.

Jay Cutler at Jacksonville Jaguars: Cutler is coming off a good stat line against the Dallas Cowboys, posting 17 fantasy points in a Monday night win. However, he's been inconsistent overall this season. In fact, he scored a combined 9.36 fantasy points in his previous two starts. The Jaguars have allowed just four touchdown passes in their first four games, so Cutler could post a meager line.

Matt Cassel vs. Baltimore Ravens: Cassel had a hot start to the season, scoring a combined 34.86 fantasy points against the Atlanta Falcons and Bills. Since then, he's had two forgettable performance and could soon start losing some snaps to Brady Quinn. Not good. Cassel also has a brutal matchup against the Ravens, who have allowed an average of 14.21 fantasy points to quarterbacks.

Owners beware - Ben Roethlisberger vs. Philadelphia Eagles: It's tough to bench a player like Roethlisberger during the bye weeks, and you shouldn't do it unless you have a viable alternative. Just keep in mind that the Eagles have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2012. Also, their defense has held Big Ben to under 185 passing yards in two career meetings.

Running backs - Start of the week


Ryan Mathews at New Orleans Saints: I know, I had Mathews in this spot last week. And yes, he didn't even start. But I'm not convinced the Chargers are going with Jackie Battle as their new runner. In fact, I think Mathews will have his best game of the season against the Saints. No team has allowed more fantasy points to running backs, and Mathews will be motivated to produce.

Start 'em


Frank Gore vs. Buffalo Bills: Gore has had some tremendous matchups in recent weeks, and the streak will continue against the Bills. Their defense is dreadful against the run, which was evident last week when Steven Ridley and Brandon Bolden ripped them for a combined 242 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. That makes Gore a very solid fantasy option across the board.

Reggie Bush at Cincinnati Bengals: Bush seemed to escape last week's loss to the Arizona Cardinals with no setbacks, so his knee should no longer be a problem. That's good news, as is this week's matchup in the Queen City against the Bengals. Their defense has surrendered five total touchdowns and an average of 22.20 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season.

Alfred Morris vs. Atlanta Falcons: Morris has been one of the true surprises of the 2012 fantasy football season, rushing for 376 yards and four touchdowns in his first four games. I'd keep him active as a No. 2 runner or flex starter against the Falcons, who rank a mediocre 18th in run defense and have allowed an average of close to 20 fantasy points per game to opposing runners.

Sleeper alert - Cedric Benson at Indianapolis Colts: Benson has become a bigger part of the Packers offense in recent weeks, averaging 18.3 touches and 11.5 fantasy points in his last three games. Those are attractive totals from a back who is a flex starter in most leagues. The Colts have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to backs, so Benson should post another nice stat line.

Running backs - Sit of the week


Fred Jackson at San Francisco 49ers: Rule No. 1 in the world of fantasy football running backs: If a player faces the Niners, chances are his numbers are not going to be attractive. That's the scenario this week for Jackson, who goes up against a defense that has surrendered the fewest fantasy points (7.78 PPG) to opposing runners. That's bad news for Jackson and C.J. Spiller as well.

Sit 'em


DeAngelo Williams vs. Seattle Seahawks: If we have learned anything in the last few weeks, it's that the Seahawks defense is good. Darn good. In fact, this unit has allowed just two touchdowns and the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing backs in 2012. That makes Williams, who has been inconsistent at best after four games, a major risk. The same holds true for Jonathan Stewart.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins might have just one win in their first four games, but their run defense hasn't been to blame. This unit ranks fifth in the league in stopping the run, in fact, and has surrendered an average of just 14.23 fantasy points per game to running backs. That makes the inconsistent Green-Ellis a risk as more than a simple flex option.

Rashard Mendenhall vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Mendenhall is back for the Steelers, and he should now be rostered in all fantasy leagues. That doesn't mean that he should jump right back into your starting lineup, however. This weekend's matchup against the Eagles is a tough one, as the birds from Philadelphia have surrendered the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs.

Owners beware - Chris Johnson at Minnesota Vikings: I don't want to rain on your parade, as Johnson is coming off his best statistical game of the 2012 season. And while you will likely end up starting him with the bye weeks in full swing, just keep this in mind. After four weeks, only the 49ers have given up fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs than the Vikings.

Wide receivers - Start of the week


Julio Jones at Washington Redskins: A lot of fantasy owners are worried about Jones, who had just three fantasy points last week and has been mediocre at best since the season opener. I'll preach patience, however, as Jones should put up terrific totals in Washington. The Redskins have allowed the second-most yards (1,038) and the most fantasy points to opposing wideouts in 2012.

Start 'em


Demaryius Thomas at New England Patriots: The Patriots defense has been brutal over the last two weeks, allowing a combined four touchdowns and 73.3 fantasy points to wide receivers. That's good news for Thomas, who should be in line to post a nice stat line in what could be a shootout at Gillette Stadium. Consider the Georgia Tech product a solid option across the board this week.

Jordy Nelson at Indianapolis Colts: Nelson is coming off his best fantasy week of the season, recording 93 yards, one touchdown and 15.30 fantasy points in a win over the New Orleans Saints. This week he'll face the Colts, who have surrendered the eighth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. Nelson should also see more targets if Greg Jennings (groin) is declared as inactive.

Reggie Wayne vs. Green Bay Packers The Packers have allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, but take a look at their three Sunday contests. Aside from their Thursday nighter against the Chicago Bears, this unit has given up close to 30 points per game to the position. That makes Wayne, who is seeing a ton of targets from Andrew Luck, a solid choice.

Sleeper alert - Malcom Floyd at New Orleans Saints: Floyd has had a couple of bad stat lines in a row, posting a combined 7.50 fantasy points over his last two contests. Still, I like him this weekend at the Superdome in what could turn into a real shootout with the Saints. Over the first four weeks of the season, their defense has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wideouts.

Wide receivers - Sit of the week


Antonio Brown vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Chances are you're going to start most of the wideouts I have listed in the sit 'em portion of the column, so consider them all "owners bewares." Brown, who has scored double-digit fantasy points once in his first three games, faces an Eagles defense that has given up fewer than 185 receiving yards in six of its last seven games in the Steel City.

Sit 'em


Steve Johnson at San Francisco 49ers: The Niners defense isn't just good against the run, but it's stout against the pass as well. In fact, this unit has recorded 22 interceptions in its last 11 home games and has surrendered the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers in 2012. That's bad news for Johnson, who could be hard pressed to make much of a statistical impact this week.

Pierre Garcon vs. Atlanta Falcons: Garcon, who has been dealing with a foot ailment in recent weeks, would have posted a horrid stat line last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had it not been for a recovered fumble in the end zone. Next on the schedule is a date with the Falcons, who have allowed just two touchdowns and the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.

Brian Hartline at Cincinnati Bengals: Hartline is coming off one of the greatest performances from a wide receiver, putting up 12 receptions for 253 yards and one touchdown in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals. While that makes him a hot name off the waiver wire, it doesn't make him a lock fantasy starter - the Bengals have allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to wideouts in 2012.

Owners beware - Dwayne Bowe vs. Baltimore Ravens: Much like Brown and Johnson, it's going to be tough to bench a player like Bowe. But here's a few nuggets that could have you a little worried about his prospects for Week 5. The Ravens defense has allowed just two touchdowns to wideouts in 2012, and has given up one receiving touchdown or less in each of its last 22 regular-season games.

Tight ends - Start of the week


Vernon Davis vs. Buffalo Bills: Davis is coming off his worst stat line of the season, posing 2.80 fantasy points in a win over the New York Jets. His fortunes should improve against the Bills, who have seen opposing tight ends targeted 38 times - that's the fourth-most in the league. Davis has also scored nine touchdowns in his last eight home games including the playoffs.

Start 'em


Tony Gonzalez at Washington Redskins: If you're looking for the fountain of youth, ask Gonzalez for the location. Despite his extended age, the veteran tight end continues to put up bananas numbers for the Falcons and fantasy leaguers alike. This week he faces the Redskins, who have allowed three touchdowns and the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2012.

Antonio Gates at New Orleans Saints: The Saints have allowed the fewest fantasy points to tight ends after their first four games, but this is a difficult week for the position in terms of the matchups and numbers. So in a game that could turn into a scoreboard scorcher at the Superdome, I'd still stick with Gates despite the fact that he's been mediocre at best this season.

Dennis Pitta at Kansas City Chiefs: Pitta and I scored the same number of fantasy points last week - none. But one bad stat line isn't going to scare me when he'd been so good in the previous three weeks. Furthermore, Pitta has a great matchup ahead against a Chiefs defense that has surrendered three touchdowns and the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

Sleeper alert - Kyle Rudolph vs. Tennessee Titans: Like Pitta, Rudolph did a Houdini act in the stat sheets last weekend. But once again, I'm not going to bench a player because he had one bad performance. In fact, I like Rudolph to rebound and post a nice total against the Titans. No team has allowed more receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns and fantasy points to tight ends.

Tight ends - Sit of the week


Jermichael Finley at Indianapolis Colts: Finley has not lived up to expectations, ranking a mere 18th in fantasy points among tight ends. While he's still tough to bench during the bye weeks, keep in mind that the Colts have allowed one touchdown and the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Finley has also averaged just four points in his last three contests.

Sit 'em


Scott Chandler at San Francisco 49ers: Chandler has been on fire, catching at least one touchdown pass in three of four games and ranking fifth in fantasy points among his peers. I think the law of averages catches up with him in San Francisco. While the Niners have allowed four scores to tight ends, their defense has also given up the fifth-fewest yards to the position.

Heath Miller vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Miller has been a pleasant surprise in fantasy land, scoring at least one touchdown in all three of his games. But much like Chandler, I think his recent hot streak ends this week. The Eagles have allowed the second-fewest yards and the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, so Miller could be in for a hard afternoon at Heinz Field.

Coby Fleener vs. Green Bay Packers: A preseason sleeper, Fleener has been asleep in the stat sheets in recent weeks. After posting 82 yards in his regular-season debut, Fleener has recorded a mere 16 yards over his last two games. This week's opponent, the Packers, have allowed an average of just 42.75 yards to tight ends, so Fleener's fortunes aren't very likely to change.

Owners beware - Martellus Bennett vs. Cleveland Browns: Like Miller, Bennett has been a great find for fantasy owners. He's seventh in points among tight ends and a tough player to sit in most leagues. Just keep in mind that the Browns have been tough on tight ends, allowing the fourth-fewest yards and the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position over the first four weeks.

Kickers - Start of the week


Blair Walsh vs. Tennessee Titans: We're seeing a lot of young kickers make an impact this season, and Walsh is clearly among them. The fifth-best kicker based on fantasy points after four games, the rookie has made nine of his 10 field-goal attempts and should continue to shine against the Titans. Tennessee has surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to kickers.

Start 'em


Justin Tucker at Kansas City Chiefs: Tucker ranks just behind Walsh in terms of fantasy production and is on pace for a solid 164 fantasy points on the season. A free agent in countless NFL.com leagues, the rookie is a nice option this weekend against the Chiefs. Kansas City is one of eight teams that are allowing an average of double-digit fantasy points to kickers.

Mason Crosby at Indianapolis Colts: Once considered an elite kicker, Crosby has stumbled out of the gates with just five field-goal conversions and a mere 25 fantasy points in his first four games. Still, this week's matchup against the Colts makes him a viable option. Indianapolis has given up seven field goals in three games, so look for Crosby to post a nice total.

Sleeper alert - Nick Novak at New Orleans Saints: Novak filled in for an injured Nate Kaeding last week and was impressive, scoring 13 fantasy points in a win over the Chiefs. A free agent in most fantasy leagues, he's well worth a look against the Saints in what could be a high-scoring affair. Only the Panthers have given up more fantasy points to kickers this season.

Kickers - Sit of the week


Billy Cundiff vs. Atlanta Falcons: Cundiff might rank in the top 10 in fantasy points among kickers after the first four weeks, but he's a risk based on this week's matchup against the Falcons. Atlanta has allowed just two field-goal conversions on the season, and no team has given up fewer fantasy points to opposing kickers. Cundiff has almost missed four of 10 attempts.

Sit 'em


Alex Henery at Pittsburgh Steelers: Henery has had a good start to the season, converting on eight of his first nine field-goal attempts. However, those conversions haven't equated to big fantasy production. After four weeks, he ranks just 20th in fantasy points among his peers. The Steelers have been tough on kickers, so Henery isn't someone to lean on at this point.

Nick Folk vs. Houston Texans (Mon.): Folk posted double-digit fantasy points in two of his first three games but was shut out in last week's blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Next on the slate is a Monday night contest against the Texans, who have given up just four field-goal conversions and the third-fewest fantasy points to kickers. Keep the veteran on the sidelines.

Owners beware - Matt Prater at New England Patriots: Prater has been on fire over the last two weeks, scoring a combined 28 fantasy points including 15 in last week's win over the Oakland Raiders. This week he faces the Patriots, who have been tough on kickers this season. In fact, New England has allowed an average of just 6.50 fantasy points per game to the position in 2012.

Defenses - Start of the week


Giants defense vs. Cleveland Browns: The G-Men have had a slow start to the season from a fantasy perspective, ranking a mere 20th in points among defenses on NFL.com. However, this week's home matchup against rookie Brandon Weeden and the Browns is a favorable one. Opposing defenses facing Cleveland have scored the seventh-most fantasy points in 2012, so look for the Giants to smash.

Start 'em


Texans defense at New York Jets (Mon.): Did you watch the 49ers defense rack up the fantasy points against the Jets last week? Well, the Texans are next up to feast on the Men in Green. With Mark Sanchez struggling and Santonio Holmes finished for the season, Houston's defense should have no trouble bottling up their offense while forcing more than a few turnovers in this Monday night affair.

Ravens defense at Kansas City Chiefs: The Ravens defense might not be what it once was from a fantasy standpoint, but this unit is still valuable - especially when the matchup is favorable. That's the case this weekend, as Baltimore travels to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. Opposing defenses have scored the third-most points at the position while facing Matt Cassel and his crew.

Sleeper alert - Vikings defense vs. Tennessee Titans: If you were smart enough to start the Vikings last week, well, kudos on that clever decision - Minnesota put up 23 fantasy points against the Detroit Lions. I'd keep them active or add them and start them against the Titans. Defenses facing Tennessee have scored the second-most fantasy points at the position through four weeks.

Defenses - Sit of the week


Broncos defense at New England Patriots: The Broncos defense has been anything but consistent from a fantasy perspective, and this weekend's matchup at Gillette Stadium against Tom Brady and the Patriots is anything but attractive. In fact, the opposition's defense has combined to score the fewest fantasy points when facing New England's explosive offense. Keep the Broncos stabled.

Sit 'em


Falcons defense at Washington Redskins: The Falcons defense had their worst fantasy performance of the season last week, scoring a mere four fantasy points in a win over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Next up is a date with Robert Griffin III and the Redskins, who have not been a great matchup for opposing defenses. At least for this week, keep these Dirty Birds on the pine.

Chargers defense at New Orleans Saints: Last week, the Bolts went off for an impressive 21 fantasy points in a win over the Chiefs. Keep in mind, though, that San Diego had scored a combined 16 fantasy points in their first three games of the season. Furthermore, this week's road contest against Drew Brees and the Chargers is not favorable. Look for a shootout in the bayou.

Owners beware - Jets defense vs. Houston Texans (Mon.): As if the loss of CB Darrelle Revis weren't enough to make the Jets far less attractive in fantasy football circles, now comes a matchup against the Texans at MetLife Stadium. Houston should be motivated to produce at a high level in front of a national television audience, so keep the Men in Green benched if possible.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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