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 vs. Oakland Raiders: How good has Ryan been this season? Well, Drew Brees is the lone player in the league to score more fantasy points. This week, the Boston College product faces a Raiders defense that has given up nine touchdown passes and the second-most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers. I'd start Ryan over every quarterback in Week 6.
Peyton Manning at San Diego Chargers (Mon.): Outside of his 7.54-point blunder against the Falcons in Week 2, Manning has scored 20-plus fantasy points in every game this season. What's more, he has thrown for a combined 683 yards and six scores in his last two starts. This week he faces the Chargers in what figures to be a shootout, so keep the veteran active.
Andrew Luck at New York Jets: This isn't a good matchup on paper, as the Jets field one of the better defenses against the pass. That's because most teams run on them, leaving the passing game as a second option. The Colts don't have an explosive ground attack, though, and Luck has been on serious fire with 19-plus fantasy points in each of his last three games.
Kevin Kolb vs. Buffalo Bills: Kolb was trampled by the St. Louis Rams last week, but he had averaged almost 18.3 fantasy points in his three previous games. A free agent in close to 90 percent of NFL.com leagues, Kolb has a brilliant matchup at home against the Bills in Week 6. No team has allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks, so Kolb should fly high.
Sleeper alert - Christian Ponder at Washington Redskins: Need a quarterback this week? Take a look at Ponder. Sure, he has been a bit inconsistent this season, but it's tough not to salivate over this week's matchup against the Redskins. Their defense has given up 12 touchdown strikes and the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers in 2012.
Quarterbacks - Sit of the week
Tony Romo at Baltimore Ravens: Romo, oh Romo, wherefore art thou Romo? The 30th-ranked quarterback in the league based on fantasy points, he's been an absolute poison potion for his owners this season. He's not likely to break the spell against the Ravens, who have allowed just two touchdown passes and the fifth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Joe Flacco vs. Dallas Cowboys: Typically, I would tell fantasy owners to start Flacco on his home field. After all, he's averaged 279 yards with 11 total touchdowns in his last five games at M&T Bank Stadium. However, he's a risk against the Cowboys. Their improved defense has allowed an average of just 12.22 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks.
Carson Palmer at Atlanta Falcons: Palmer had a fast start to the season, scoring 17-plus fantasy points in his first three contests. His last stat line was unimpressive, however, and this week's contest against the Falcons is not an attractive one. Atlanta's defense has surrendered an average of fewer than 14 fantasy points to opposing signal-callers.
Ryan Fitzpatrick at Arizona Cardinals: Is the Fitz-magic over? After a fast start to the 2012 campaign, he was held to a meager 3.14 fantasy points in last week's loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Next on the schedule is a road game in Arizona against a Cardinals defense that has given up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks after five weeks.
Owners beware - Matthew Stafford at Philadelphia Eagles: Fantasy owners worried about Stafford can't be too thrilled with this week's road matchup against the Eagles, who have allowed an average of just 11 fantasy points per game to opposing signal-callers. So if you have a viable replacement with a nice matchup, sitting Stafford is worth considering.
Running backs - Start of the week
Trent Richardson vs. Cincinnati Bengals: The top rookie running back in fantasy football, Richardson's breakout performance came earlier this season against, you guessed it, the Bengals. The Alabama product went for over 140 total yards and found the end zone twice, scoring 26.50 fantasy points in the process. He's a must-start runner in all leagues this week.
Michael Turner vs. Oakland Raiders: Reports of Turner's demise were greatly exaggerated, and I was one of the fantasy analysts to who doubted him. But after five weeks, he's 12th in fantasy points among running backs. He should be active in most leagues against the Raiders, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to runners. Turner also thrives at home.
Reggie Bush vs. St. Louis Rams: The Rams held Ryan Williams and the Cardinals runners to minimal stats last week, but that team can't run the ball to save it's life. On the flip side, Bush has become a solid option for fantasy owners and the centerpiece of the Dolphins offense. Expect him to post a nice stat line against this average St. Louis run defense.
Willis McGahee at San Diego Chargers: Surprisingly, McGahee rans in the top 15 in fantasy points among runners. This week he faces the Chargers, a team he has posted good totals against in the past. In fact, McGahee rushed for 100-plus yards in two games against them last season. The Bolts have also allowed four runners to score double-digit fantasy points in 2012.
Sleeper alert - BenJarvus Green-Ellis at Browns: The Law Firm has been a disappointment this season, but I would still start him against the Browns. Cleveland fields one of the worst run defenses in the entire league, and Green-Ellis figures to see plenty of work with Bernard Scott out for the season. Consider him a nice No. 2 runner or flex option this weekend.
Running backs - Sit of the week
Steven Jackson at Miami Dolphins: Did you know that 30 running backs, including backup Brandon Bolden, have more fantasy points than Jackson this season? He's become a shell of his former statistical self, and this week's road matchup against the Dolphins is anything but favorable. Miami has allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to runners in 2012.
Ahmad Bradshaw at San Francisco 49ers: Bench Bradshaw? He had 200 rushing yards and a touchdown last week! Well, last week he didn't face the 49ers. No team has allowed fewer fantasy points to running backs, and no player at the position has scored a touchdown against them in 2012. If are forced to start Bradshaw, don't expect much in terms of numbers.
Fred Jackson in Arizona Cardinals: Jackson, one of the top-scoring running backs in fantasy football last season, has failed to make an impact in 2012. In fact, the veteran has scored a combined 9.30 fantasy points in his last two games. He's also losing carries to C.J. Spiller, and this weekend's matchup against the Cardinals is anything but favorable.
Alex Green at Houston Texans: Green is the favorite to start in place of Cedric Benson, but Packers coach Mike McCarthy will go with the hot hand between Green and James Starks. That makes this backfield a risk, and that's without the prospect of facing the Texans. Their defense has surrendered the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
Owners beware - Stevan Ridley at Seattle Seahawks: Ridley has been a statistical monster in 2012, ranking fifth in fantasy points among running backs on NFL.com. So while it is tough to sit him during the bye weeks, keep in mind that the L.S.U. product has to face a Seahawks defense that has allowed an average of just 9.02 fantasy points per game to runners.
Wide receivers - Start of the week
Demaryius Thomas at San Diego Chargers (Mon.): Thomas has emerged into a major threat for Peyton Manning, catching 30 passes for 513 yards while posting 100-plus yards in each of his last two contests. The Chargers have surrendered the ninth-most fantasy points to wide receivers, so look for the Georgia Tech product to shine in what could be a high-scoring affair.
Reggie Wayne at New York Jets: If you're in a PPR league, Wayne has been an absolute beast. Overall, he ranks in the top 10 in fantasy points among wideouts and has had no fewer than six receptions in any game to this point. So despite what looks like a tough matchup against Jets CB Antonio Cromartie, Wayne still need to be active in fantasy leagues this week.
Dwayne Bowe at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It looks like the Chiefs are going with Brady Quinn over the injured Matt Cassel, so Bowe won't have his top quarterback throwing him the football this weekend. Still, it's tough to pass on a matchup against the Buccaneers, who have allowed the second-most yards and the third-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts in 2012.
Andre Roberts vs. Buffalo Bills: Larry Fitzgerald and Roberts both have a terrific matchup this week, playing against a Bills defense that has allowed 10 touchdowns and the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts in 2012. Fitzgerald, while inconsistent in the stat sheets, is a must-start. Roberts, who has four touchdowns, is a nice bye-week replacement.
Sleeper alert - Andrew Hawkins at Cleveland Browns: Hawkins is a playmaker, which he proved in Week 2 when he posted 56 yards and one touchdown in a win over the Browns. With CB Joe Haden back in the mix, Hawkins should see 10-15 targets from Andy Dalton against a Browns defense that has surrendered 10 touchdowns and the second-most fantasy points to wideouts.
Wide receivers - Sit of the week
Vincent Jackson vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Jackson has been inconsistent at best, alternating good and bad stat lines in his first four games of the season. This week he faces the Chiefs, who have been tough on wide receivers in recent weeks. In fact, Kansas City has given up fewer than 14 fantasy points to opposing wideouts in three of their last four games.
Jordy Nelson at Houston Texans: Remember last season when Nelson scored 15 touchdowns? That was nice, but this is 2012 and the Kansas State product isn't even in the top 30 in fantasy points at his position. If that weren't enough to scare you, then consider that this week's opponent, the Texans, have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers.
Brandon Lloyd at Seattle Seahawks: I'm not going to tell you to sit players like Tom Brady, Wes Welker or Rob Gronkowski, but you need to keep in mind that the Seahawks defense is wicked on their home field. Just ask Aaron Rodgers. This unit is tough across the board, so Lloyd and his teammates could find it difficult to post attractive stat lines this week.
Jeremy Maclin vs. Detroit Lions: Maclin had a hot start to the season, but he scored more points in Week 1 (15.60) than he's had in his last three games combined (12.90). That's not an attractive stat, and this week's matchup against the Lions isn't so hot either. Detroit has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to wideouts, so Maclin could struggle.
Owners beware - Torrey Smith vs. Dallas Cowboys: Smith has had a hot start to the season, recording 56.30 fantasy points on the strength of 370 yards and three touchdowns. And while I wouldn't bench him unless I had a legitimate alternative, keep in mind that the Cowboys have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to wideouts. Expect a defensive battle.
Tight ends - Start of the week
Tony Gonzalez vs. Oakland Raiders: Did you draft Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates to be your No. 1 tight end and snag Gonzalez in the middle to late rounds? Well guess what? Gonzalez should be your starter, and there's no question about it. He's found the statistical fountain of youth, and a matchup against the Raiders makes him a must-start.
Owens Daniels vs. Green Bay Packers: Daniels, who is still a free agent in tons of NFL.com leagues, has scored a touchdown in three straight games and is third in fantasy points among tight ends. This week he faces the Packers, who have allowed an average of close to nine fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends in 2012. I'd ride Daniels while he's hot.
Brent Celek vs. Detroit Lions: Since he put up 157 yards versus the Baltimore Ravens, Celek has a combined 102 yards and an average of 5.4 fantasy points in his last three games. But based on this week's matchup against the Lions, he's still a viable fantasy option. Detroit's defense has given up an average of more than 10 fantasy points per game to tight ends.
Fred Davis vs. Minnesota Vikings: Davis has been much more involved in the passing game in recent weeks, posting at least 54 yards in three straight games. This week he goes up against the Vikings, who have allowed four touchdowns and the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. That makes Davis an attractive option during the bye-week madness.
Sleeper alert - Kyle Rudolph at Washington Redskins: Rudolph has a pedestrian 169 yards (20 tight ends have more), but he's still one of the top 10 players at his position because of his four touchdowns. A popular red-zone target for Christian Ponder, he's a very nice option against a Redskins defense that's allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends.
Tight ends - Sit of the week
Jermichael Finley at Houston Texans: Finley has not lived up to expectations, ranking just 19th in fantasy points among tight ends. While he's still tough to bench during the bye weeks, keep in mind that the Texans have allowed just 201 yards to opposing tight ends. Finley, who is also dealing with a bum shoulder, needs to be benched even if he is active this week.
Brandon Pettigrew at Philadelphia Eagles: Unless you're in a PPR league, Pettigrew's level of production (or lack there of) has been tough to take in fantasy land. In fact, he's just 17th in fantasy points among tight ends in standard leagues while averaging around 55 yards per game. The Eagles have been tough on tight ends, so Pettigrew isn't an attractive option.
Martellus Bennett at San Francisco 49ers: Bennett started the season with touchdowns in three straight games, but he's scored a combined 3.20 fantasy points in his last two. The veteran is also dealing with a knee ailment that could keep him from seeing a full complement of snaps against a tough 49ers defense. He's someone to avoid if he's active in this NFC battle.
Jacob Tamme at San Diego Chargers (Mon.): Tamme, a popular preseason sleeper, has failed to meet expectations with just 23.50 fantasy points through five games. With Joel Dreessen seeing more red-zone targets and a matchup against the Chargers up next, it's tough to start Tamme. Their defense has given up an average of just 6.16 fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Owners beware - Scott Chandler at Arizona Cardinals: Chandler, who has scored four touchdowns this season, has more fantasy points than Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Finley after the first five weeks. Still, he does nothing for fantasy owners unless he finds the end zone. With a tough matchup against the Cardinals next, Chandler is someone to avoid starting this week.
Kickers - Start of the week
Jason Hanson at Philadelphia Eagles: Hanson, who made his first field-goal conversion at the NFL level way back in 1992, has had a solid start to the season with an average of over 11 fantasy points per game. His success should continue against the Eagles, who have given up 12 field goals and an average of close to 10 fantasy points per game to opposing kickers in 2012.
Matt Bryant vs. Oakland Raiders: A solid kicker for much of his later career, Bryant ranks eighth in fantasy points at his position this season and should continue to shine against the Raiders. After four games, Oakland's defense has given up nine field-goal conversions and the third-most fantasy points to opposing kickers. Consider Bryant a must-start in most formats.
Blair Walsh at Washington Redskins: Walsh, the third-best kicker in fantasy land based on points, is curiously still a free agent in most leagues on NFL.com. That should change sooner rather than later, especially if he makes good on what is a very nice matchup against the Redskins. This unit has allowed close to 10 fantasy points per game to opposing kickers this season.
Sleeper alert - Connor Barth vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Believe it or not, but Barth has scored 10 or more fantasy points in three of his four games this season and is averaging a solid 10 points per contest. Couple that with a great matchup this week against the Chiefs, who have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to kickers, and you see why Barth is such a nice sleeper.
Kickers - Sit of the week
Lawrence Tynes at San Francisco 49ers: Tynes, the second-best kicker in fantasy football based on points, has been a pleasant surprise for owners this season. I would beware of starting him this week, though, as the Niners have been tough on opposing kickers. In fact, this unit has given up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position after the first five weeks.
Mason Crosby at Houston Texans: Crosby is high on the list of kickers who have been huge disappointments, ranking 27th in fantasy points at the position. Oddly, he's still owned in more than 90 percent of NFL.com leagues. Hopefully owners will get hip to him this week, as he goes up against a Texans defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to kickers.
Matt Prater at San Diego Chargers (Mon.): Prater had a two-week stretch where he scored 28 fantasy points earlier this season. In his other three games, the veteran has recorded a combined 11 points. It's that level of inconsistent production that makes Prater tough to start. The fact that he faces a tough Chargers defense doesn't make Prater more attractive, either.
Owners beware - Sebastian Janikowski at Atlanta Falcons: One of the first kickers taken in most fantasy drafts, Janikowski hasn't lived up to expectations with just 31 points in four games. His fortunes won't improve against the Falcons, who have given up the fewest fantasy points to kickers of any team in the National Football League. Keep Sea Bass on the fantasy sidelines.
Defense - Start of the week
Ravens defense vs. Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo is turning the football over too much, and his offensive line isn't protecting him. That's a bad combination for the Cowboys but a good one for the Ravens, who should post some great fantasy totals against them in Week 6. Defenses have combined to score the third-most fantasy points when facing the Boyd from Big D in 2012.
Steelers defense at Tennessee Titans (Thurs.): The Steelers defense has not been a good fantasy option this season, and that's an understatement. In fact, this unit is just 27th in points at the position. I still like them this week against the Titans, though, as defenses facing Matt Hasselbeck's crew have averaged the sixth-most fantasy points. Get them in your lineup.
Dolphins defense vs. St. Louis Rams: The Fins have one of the more underrated defenses in fantasy land, and this week's matchup against the Rams makes it more valuable. Opposing defenses facing Sam Bradford and crew have averaged the ninth-most fantasy points this season, so don't be afraid to add and start Miami in what could turn into a defensive battle.
Sleeper alert - Rams defense at Miami Dolphins: The Rams defense is for real, and that was evident last week when it posted a tremendous 18 fantasy points in a win over the Arizona Cardinals. This week, coach Jeff Fisher's crew goes up against a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill and a pass attack with no reliable options. Looks for the Rams to have a nice weekend.
Defense - Sit of the week
Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans: The Packers defense has been inconsistent this season, so sitting this unit when the matchup is tough makes sense. That's the case this weekend, as Green Bay travels to Houston to face a Texans offense that has been tough to score fantasy points against. In fact, defenses have put up the third-fewest fantasy points against them.
Jets defense vs. Indianapolis Colts: The Men in Green posted double-digit fantasy points in two of their first three games, but the loss of CB Darrelle Revis has cost them a ton of value. In fact, this unit has a combined nine fantasy points in its last two games. With rookie superstar Andrew Luck coming to town, I'd keep the Jets on the fantasy sidelines this week.
Chargers defense vs. Denver Broncos (Mon.): Peyton Manning has been on fire in recent weeks, making it tough for fantasy defenses to find much success in the stat sheets. In fact, defensive units facing the Broncos have combined to score the eighth-fewest fantasy points in the league. That's bad news for the Chargers in a potential shootout on Monday Night Football.
Owners beware - Seahawks defense vs. New England Patriots: The Seahawks defense is so tough at home, so I wouldn't be shocked if the Patriots don't score a ton of points in this contest. Still, defensive teams have combined to score the fewest fantasy points when facing Tom Brady and his offensive crew. If you do start the Hawks, don't expect a huge statistical output.