Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is the ultimate look at weekly matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy team. Sleeper alert features a player who's under the radar and could produce good numbers. Owners beware features a player who's a regular fantasy starter but could fail to meet expectations. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.
Start of the week
Tony Romo at Patriots: Romo has not had what you would call a strong start to the 2011 season, but this is not the time to lose faith. In fact, owners should start him against a Patriots defense that has surrendered the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Also, keep in mind that Romo will have one of his top targets in the pass attack, Miles Austin, back at his disposal for this important contest.
Quarterbacks - start 'em
Cam Newton at Falcons: Outside of his Week 3 matchup against the Jaguars that included torrential downpours, Newton has scored 12 touchdowns and has averaged close to 30 fantasy points per game. That's an amazing accomplishment for a rookie, both on the field and in fantasy land. I'd ride him while he's white hot against the Falcons, who have allowed an average of 18.91 fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Eli Manning vs. Bills:Fantasy owners don't have Peyton Manning to use as a No. 1 quarterback this season, but his brother has been surprisingly successful in the stat sheets. On pace for a career-best 4,755 yards and 38 total touchdowns, owners would be wise to keep Manning active against the Bills. Their defense has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks after five weeks.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Jaguars: It was nice to see Roethlisberger put up a huge stat line against the Titans, who had been tough against opposing quarterbacks in their previous four games. Next on the schedule is a date with the Jaguars, who have an improved run defense but still surrendered an average of close to 15 fantasy points per game to signal-callers. He's a viable option in all leagues.
Mark Sanchez vs. Dolphins: If you're in a league with 12-plus teams and need a quarterback, Sanchez is worth a roll of the dice. Outside of what was a disastrous start against the Ravens in Week 4, the USC product has scored no fewer than 15 fantasy points in his starts. The Dolphins have given up the second-most fantasy points to signal-callers, so Sanchez has a favorable matchup on the slate.
Sleeper alert - Colt McCoy at Raiders: McCoy has averaged a respectable 15 fantasy points per game this season, and a matchup against the Raiders makes him a legitimate starting option if you need a quarterback. The Silver & Black have given up an average of 20.17 fantasy points per game to opposing field generals in 2011, so don't overlook McCoy if you need help at the position in this AFC contest.
Quarterbacks - sit 'em
Ryan Fitzpatrick at Giants: Is Fitzpatrick starting to slow down? After putting up great totals in his first three games, the Harvard graduate has averaged a meager 9.44 fantasy points over his last two starts. His next game is a roadie in New York, where he'll face a Giants defense that has allowed an average of just 13.39 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Start Fitzpatrick with caution.
Matt Ryan vs. Panthers: What has happened to Ryan this season? Even against what was a porous Packers pass defense last week, the Boston College product still couldn't put up a nice stat line for fantasy leaguers. This week's game against the Panthers isn't terrible -- their defense has allowed an average of 14.06 fantasy points to quarterbacks -- but it's hard to trust Ryan in fantasy leagues.
Jay Cutler vs. Vikings: Since Week 1, Cutler has averaged a meager 11.67 fantasy points on NFL.com. He's also just 19th in points at the quarterback position. Up next is an NFC North contest against the Vikings, who will no doubt put a ton of pressure on Cutler and his dreadful offensive line. Until the Vanderbilt product starts to show some signs of fantasy life, it's best to keep him sidelined.
Alex Smith at Lions: Don't look now, but Smith is starting to put together some nice fantasy numbers. Over the last two weeks, he's recorded a combined 36.34 fantasy points on the strength of his five touchdowns and no interceptions. Unfortunately, this week he faces a Lions defense that's allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks -- that makes Smith a less attractive option.
Sam Bradford at Packers: Bradford was a viable sleeper heading into the 2011 season, but injuries and a mediocre offensive line have put a serious dent into his fantasy value. In fact, he's a meager 30th among quarterbacks in fantasy points. So despite the fact that this week's matchup against the Packers is favorable on paper, it's tough to commit to Bradford as your starting quarterback.
Owners beware - Matt Schaub at Ravens: Schaub scored an impressive 20.64 fantasy points last week, but he threw two interceptions and compiled a lot of his numbers in desperation mode as the Texans tried to erase a deficit. This week he faces the Ravens, who have allowed the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2011. That makes Schaub someone to bench, especially with Andre Johnson out.
Running backs - start 'em
Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Bills: Bradshaw put up a mediocre 10.50 fantasy points in a loss to the Seahawks last week, but he'll rebound on the stat sheets against the Bills. Over the first five weeks, their defense has given up an average of 18.58 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. And with Brandon Jacobs still at less than 100 percent, Bradshaw should be the bell cow once again.
Peyton Hillis at Raiders: Is the Madden curse at work again? In three games, Hillis has averaged 3.6 yards per carry and is now losing some work to Montario Hardesty. Still, it's hard not to like the big Arkansas product this week against the Raiders -- their defense has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. He's a viable No. 2 back, despite the struggles.
Daniel Thomas at Jets (Mon.): Assuming Thomas (hamstring) returns to action this week, he's a terrific No. 2 fantasy back or flex starter against the Jets. The Men in Green have been gashed by opposing running backs all season, allowing an average of close to 24 fantasy points per game to the position. So if the rookie out of Kansas State looks like a go, he's a great start on Monday night.
Cedric Benson vs. Colts: It looks like Benson will avoid suspension for at least another week, and that's good news if he's on your fantasy football team. The Texas product has a promising matchup against the Colts, who have given up the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2011. Consider him a No. 2 runner or flex starter in most leagues, especially during a bye week.
Ryan Torain vs. Eagles: It's impossible to predict who will see the lion's share of the carries for coach Mike Shanahan week to week, but Torain was a beast in the team's last game and looks like the favorite to start in Week 6. That makes him an attractive option against the Eagles, who have surrendered more fantasy points to running backs than any other team in the entire league.
Sleeper alert - James Starks vs. Rams: The backfield situation in Green Bay is a headache for fantasy leaguers, but Starks has seen more touches than Ryan Grant to this point and looks like the better back. He's a viable flex starter against the Rams, who field the NFL's worst run defense and have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs after five weeks.
Running backs - sit 'em
Rashard Mendenhall vs. Jaguars: One of the biggest disappointments in fantasy football this season, Mendenhall is dealing with a hamstring ailment that could limit his workload in Week 6. The matchup against the Jaguars isn't favorable, either, as their defense has allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. That makes Mendenhall an even riskier option.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Cowboys: Green-Ellis is coming off his best fantasy game of the season, scoring a spectacular 26.90 fantasy points in a win over the Jets. So while it will be tough to bench him, be aware that this week's matchup against the Cowboys isn't a favorable one. Dallas has surrendered the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs, so the Law Firm could fail in Week 6.
Shonn Greene vs. Dolphins (Mon.): Like Green-Ellis, Greene had his best stat line of the season in Week 5 with 83 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots. But one good performance isn't enough to trust him as more than a potential flex starter against the Dolphins. The Fins are a respectable 14th against the run and have surrendered just two touchdowns on the ground to this point.
DeAngelo Williams at Falcons: Williams scored an impressive 17.50 fantasy points against the Saints last week, but 12.90 of those points came on one run -- a 69-yard touchdown scamper in the second quarter. That might make fantasy owners feel safer about starting him against the Falcons, but I still think Williams is a risk. Bench him if you have more reliable alternatives.
Earnest Graham vs. Saints:LeGarrette Blount is dealing with a left knee injury and could be limited or out altogether against the Saints. In the event that Graham is the featured back for the Buccaneers, it's going to be tough to trust him as more than a flex starter against a New Orleans defense that's allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
Owners beware - Jahvid Best vs. 49ers: Best absolutely exploded against the Bears last week, ripping them for 163 rushing yards and 23.20 fantasy points. But can he produce even half that number of points against the 49ers? The stats say no -- the Niners have allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs this season, giving up a mere 9.38 per game on average in 2011.
Wide receivers - start 'em
Steve Smith at Falcons: Remember when Smith's value was all but dead and buried? Well, the veteran has been resurrected with Newton at the helm of the Panthers offense. Outside of Week 3, he's posted no fewer than 13.60 fantasy points on NFL.com. Smith should remain active against the Falcons, who have surrendeed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts.
A.J. Green vs. Colts: Despite being a rookie with a first-year quarterback throwing him the football, Green has still recorded the 10th-most fantasy points at his position. His success should continue against the Colts, who have injury issues in their defensive backfield and have surrendered an average of close to 27 fantasy points per game to wide receivers in 2011.
Santonio Holmes vs. Dolphins (Mon.): Holmes has been brutal this season, and that's an understatement. After the first five weeks, a total of 36 wideouts have scored more fantasy points. With that said, he did post a season-best 12 points against the Patriots last week. With a matchup against a vulnerable Dolphins defense up next, Holmes should remain active this week.
Dez Bryant at Patriots:Fantasy owners who have either Miles Austin or Bryant need to get them active this week against the Patriots. Believe it or not, but no defense has surrendered more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than coach Bill Belichick's crew in 2011. In what could turn into a serious shootout at Gillette Stadium, look for Bryant to be a superstar.
Jordy Nelson vs. Rams: Nelson was held in check last week, catching just three passes despite a favorable matchup against the Falcons. But with six teams on a bye and good wideouts at a premium, you should continue to roll with Nelson against the Rams. Their defense has struggled against the pass, allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
Sleeper alert - Victor Cruz vs. Bills: Cruz has come out of nowhere to become a legitimate starter in fantasy land. Over the last three weeks, he has recorded a combined 53.2 fantasy points on NFL.com. The Bills have given up an average of 26.50 fantasy points per game to wide receivers -- that's the ninth-most in the league -- so I'd ride Cruz for another week.
Wide receivers - sit 'em
Reggie Wayne at Bengals: It's not a surprise to see Wayne's numbers suffering in the absence of Manning, but he's been particularly unproductive over the last three weeks with a combined 16 fantasy points. While it is still tough to bench him during the bye weeks, keep in mind that the Bengals have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers in 2011.
Santana Moss vs. Eagles: There is a lot going wrong with the Eagles, but it hasn't been due to the effectiveness of CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Over the last four weeks, the opponent's No. 1 wideout has averaged a meager 5.12 fantasy points -- and that includes studs like Roddy White, Hakeem Nicks and Steve Johnson. Don't be shocked if Moss is the next victim of Asomugha.
Percy Harvin at Bears: The decision to put Harvin in the sit 'em portion of this column is less about the matchup in Chicago and more about the total ineffectiveness of the Vikings pass attack. Despite the fact that he is their No. 1 wideout, Harvin has averaged an awful 36.6 receiving yards per game. He's no more than a No. 3 fantasy option, and a weak one at that.
Mike Thomas at Steelers: Thomas has been one of the most targeted wide receivers in the league this season, ranking tied for fourth in that category over the first five weeks. Unfortunately, his targets haven't turned into fantasy points -- he's an unimpressive 41st among wide receivers on NFL.com. Keep him on the sidelines against the Steelers this weekend.
Mike Williams vs. Saints: As we predicted in the preseason, Williams is in the middle of a terrible sophomore slump. He's an awful 67th in fantasy points among wideouts and is currently on pace to finish the season with a mere 585 yards. The Saints haven't been great in terms of allowing fantasy points to wide receivers, but you just can't trust Williams now.
Owners beware - Brandon Marshall at Jets (Mon.):Chad Henne is out for the season, leaving Matt Moore to start for the Dolphins this week. As if that weren't enough to hurt Marshall's value, he'll also have to go up against Jets CB Darrelle Revis this Monday night. So while it's hard to bench a player like Marshall, don't be shocked if he has a tough week.
Tight ends - start 'em
Vernon Davis at Lions: Admit it, you were a little worried about Davis when he got off to such a slow start. But over the last three weeks, he's reeled off a combined 198 yards and three touchdowns. This week he'll go up against the Lions, who have surrendered an average of close to 10 fantasy points per game to tight ends. That makes Davis a must-start.
Dustin Keller vs. Dolphins (Mon.): Keller has cooled off after a hot start, scoring a combined 1.90 fantasy points over his last two games. But if there's an elixir for what ails him, it's a matchup against the Dolphins. After five weeks, only the Bears have given up more fantasy points to tight ends -- that alone makes Keller worth a start this week.
Aaron Hernandez vs. Cowboys: Hernandez returned to action last week against the Jets, catching a respectable five passes for 56 yards on nine targets from superstar Tom Brady. This week's matchup against the Cowboys is favorable for both Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, as the Pokes have given up the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Sleeper alert - Heath Miller vs. Jaguars: If you're in desperate need of a tight end this week, give Miller a shot. The veteran scored 10.60 fantasy points last week, catching his first touchdown pass of the season in a win over the Titans. Next up is a date with the Jaguars, who have given up the third-most fantasy points to tight ends this season.
Tight ends - sit 'em
Dallas Clark at Bengals: What do Kellen Davis, Daniel Fells and Delaine Walker all have in common? First, you're not starting them on your fantasy team. And second, all three have more fantasy points than Clark. The loss of Manning has devastated his value to the point where he's barely even rosterable. At this point, Clark needs to be benched,.
Kellen Winslow vs. Saints: Winslow has had an unspectacular start to the 2011 season, scoring a combined 21.70 fantasy points in his first five games. What's more disturbing is that he hasn't even scored a single touchdown. The Saints have given up more than their share of fantasy points to tight ends, but Winslow is tough to trust in fantasy land.
Ed Dickson vs. Texans: Dickson, who is back on the fantasy radar after Baltimore's bye week, has a tough matchup this weekend against the Texans -- their defense has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to the opponent's tight end spot. So even though Dickson has starting value in deep leagues during the bye week, he's no lock to find success.
Owners beware - Greg Olsen at Falcons: It's going to be tough to bench Olsen, who is sixth in fantasy points at his position on NFL.com. But keep these factors in mind -- he's averaged just 35.5 yards over the last two weeks, and the Falcons have surrendered the seventh-fewest fantasy points (and just one touchdown) to tight ends during the season.
Kickers - start 'em
Mason Crosby vs. Rams: One of the top kickers in fantasy land, Crosby is coming off a huge stat line with 15 fantasy points in a win over the Falcons. Next on the schedule is a date with the Rams, who will be more like lambs against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers explosive offense. Look for Crosby to shine in a game that could be a serious blowout.
Stephen Gostkowski vs. Cowboys: Gostkowski has had a respectable start to the season, ranking 10th in fantasy points among kickers on NFL.com. He should increase that rank against the Cowboys, however, as the Pokes have given up the second-most fantasy points to kickers in 2011. In a contest that could be a real shootout, look for Gostkowski to produce.
Robbie Gould vs. Vikings: Gould ranks 12th in fantasy points among kickers, so he's a borderline starter in most leagues. However, this week's matchup against the Vikings makes him a nice option across the board. The Purple People Eaters have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing kickers in 2011, so Gould is well worth a look as a starter.
Sleeper alert - Olindo Mare at Falcons: If you're looking to add a kicker off the waiver wire for a spot start, give Mare a shot against the Falcons. After five weeks, the Dirty Birds have surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing kickers. In a game that should have more than it's share of points, Mare is worth a roll of the dice.
Kickers - sit 'em
Josh Brown at Packers: The Packers defense seems to be getting its groove back after a slow start, so Bradford and the Rams could find it tough to move the football at Lambeau Field. Also, keep in mind that the Packers have allowed an average of fewer than seven fantasy points per game to opposing kickers this season. That makes Brown a real risk.
Adam Vinatieri at Bengals: The Colts are moving the football much more effectively with Curtis Painter under center, but Vinatieri is still just 17th in fantasy points among kickers in 2011. This week against the Bengals, who are first in total defense (no, that's not a misprint), Vinatieri could see limited opportunities to score fantasy points.
Josh Scobee at Steelers: Scobee is a streaky fantasy kicker, scoring a combined 18 fantasy points over the last three weeks -- that includes an eight-point performance against the Bengals. This week he goes up against the Steelers, who have surrendered the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing kickers. Keep Scobee on the fantasy sidelines.
Owners beware - Alex Henery at Redskins: A rookie out of Nebraska, Henery ranks a respectable 13th in fantasy points among kickers in 2011. He's a risk this week, however, as the Eagles face a Redskins defense that has allowed an average of fewer than seven fantasy points per game to kicker. Henery also hasn't made a kick over 38 yards this season.
Defenses - start 'em
Packers defense vs. Rams: The Rams offense has struggled terribly, so you'd be hard pressed to find a defense with a better fantasy matchup than the Packers. Bradford's offensive line has struggled to protect him, and the boys from Green Bay will no doubt look to put a ton of pressure on him throughout the contest. The Packers are a must-start option.
Steelers defense vs. Jaguars It's been a bad season for the Steelers defense, but it looked much improved last week and is now a viable starting option against the Jaguars. With rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert under center, opposing defenses are scoring a ton of fantasy points against them. In a home game for the Steelers, this is a solid choice.
Bills defense at Giants: Believe it or not, but the Bills rank fifth in fantasy points among defenses after the first five weeks. And here's another little nugget -- opposing defenses facing the Giants have scored the eighth-most fantasy points to this point in the season. That all makes the Bills defense well worth starting in all leagues.
Sleeper alert - Bengals defense vs. Colts: I mentioned this earlier, but it's worth repeating -- the Bengals have the top-rated defense in the National Football League. Sounds weird, right? These cats have also been a top-10 fantasy defense, and playing a home game against Painter and the Colts makes this unit well worth a start.
Defenses - sit 'em
Cowboys defense at Patriots: If there is one thing we've learned over the last few years, it's that you don't want to play a defense against Tom Brady and the Patriots. Defenses facing this elite offense have scored an average of just three fantasy points per game this season, so the Cowboys defense is not in a position to find fantasy success.
Texans defense at Ravens: The loss of DE/LB Mario Williams is not only going to make life easier for the Texans' opponents moving ahead, but it also has a negative effect on the value of their defense. Enter the Ravens, who have a major advantage coming off a bye and playing on their home field. Look for an alternate option if one is available.
Giants defense vs. Bills: The Giants are a top-10 fantasy defense this season, but don't be shocked if this unit isn't as productive against the Bills. Opposing defenses have averaged the fewest fantasy points per game when facing Fitzpatrick and the Bills, so Big Blue could put up a disappointing stat line in this battle of New York teams.
Owners beware - 49ers defense at Lions: The Niners have scored more fantasy points than any other defense in the league after five weeks, so it's going to be tough to bench them. But keep this in mind -- defenses facing the Lions and their tremendous offense have scored the third-fewest fantasy points this season. That makes the Niners a risk.