We’re into the second quarter of the NFL season this week, and fantasy start/sit decisions get either much easier or much harder in Week Five depending on how your roster happens to be set up.
There are four teams resting this week, and all have fantasy-relevant players – the New Orleans Saints in particular, but also the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Seattle Seahawks.
That makes for a brutal logjam at tight end, as all three of those teams have a valuable asset at a notoriously shallow position: Travis Kelce is always worth starting, Julius Thomas is a threat to score every week, and Jimmy Graham is making what currently looks like the greatest recovery from a torn patellar tendon in NFL history.
For how to fix that and other fantasy start/sit dilemmas, look no further than these suggestions for all four of the main offensive positions in fantasy, with one player you want in your starting lineup and one you probably don’t…
Start this QB: Derek Carr
The San Diego Chargers have hit the self-destruct button. They’ve carried a lead into the two-minute warning every week, yet they’re 1-3. They are the only team in the NFL to lose a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, and they’ve done it twice.
Of course, that means they’ve been able to put up points in the first place in order to have a lead to squander, no mean feat given the usual Chargers injury curse (or maybe, just maybe, the annual reminder the team needs better medical/sports science personnel) is very much in full effect on the offensive side of the ball. That ensures teams have to throw on the Bolts to get those gift-wrapped wins.
Or, of course, they could just dominate them from start to finish. That’s overdue, based on last season, and it will be made that much easier now Jason Verrett is out. The shutdown corner, who’s not played a full season since his junior year at TCU in 2012, is reported to have been playing through a knee injury and has been placed on IR.
Sit this QB: Dak Prescott
There’s actually plenty of good QB options this week, despite the bye.
Prescott isn’t one of them. Being at home isn’t a great advantage for the Dallas Cowboys, and the Cincinnati Bengals are both defensively competent and coming off a Thursday game with the extra rest that entails.
With that said, the real problem for the rookie is that Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, and Doug Free could all be missing, and the first two of those are absolutely pivotal to the offensive functioning of America’s Team. Even if they’re present, they might be limited.
In short, don’t expect Prescott to pack a punch in this one.
Start this RB: Terrance West
The Ravens backfield fog has cleared. Justin Forsett is gone, Buck Allen started as a healthy scratch, and so West – the latest former Cleveland Brown to relearn to play football after moving to another team – is the clear lead dog unless and until he’s usurped by the returning-from-injury Kenneth Dixon.
He had over 80% of the RB touches for Baltimore last week, and Dixon will only have a modest role this time around.
Clear lead backs like that are absolute must-start in bye weeks almost regardless of matchup, and a home game with Washington is definitely not a bad matchup.
Sit this RB: Tevin Coleman
This has nothing to do with Coleman being stuck in a messy committee with, and probably behind, Devonta Freeman; there’s plenty enough work in that Atlanta Falcons backfield to make both fantasy starters in many a week.
This has nothing to do with the Falcons’ brutal matchup with the Denver Broncos. Or at least, it wouldn’t have anything to do with that if the two were meeting at the soon-to-be-extinct Georgia Dome.
But they’re not, they’re meeting at Mile High, and in those two words are what this has everything to do with.
Coleman has the sickle cell trait, which is a genetic condition that occurs when an individual has one but not both of the genes responsible for sickle cell disease – which is also known as sickle cell anaemia, as it leads to a constant shortage of red blood cells due to how the ones that do exist, with their titular sickle shape, die quickly.
The sickle cell trait on its own isn’t usually a major problem – in fact, there have been plenty of NFL players with it – but intense activity can sometimes cause serious health issues from cell deformation, and that risk is greatly heightened at altitude where the air has less oxygen.
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark famously suffered just such a complication in Denver in 2007, and almost lost his life. Coleman, who left a preseason hot-weather practice session early as a precaution, has already stated he is aware of the risk. Don’t be surprised if either he or coach Dan Quinn decide it’s not worth it.
Start this WR: Alshon Jeffery
It’s hard to trust this guy, I know. He’s been outscored every week by what’s left of Eddie Royal. You might be tempted to sit him.
Don’t even think about it.
For a start, Kevin White has gone on IR. The 2015 first-rounder, who leads the team in targets through four weeks, has an ankle injury; many of his looks will likely be funneled towards Jeffery, who himself has had his perennial minor injuries slowing him down.
As if that weren’t enough, though it was, the Chicago Bears get a Week 5 clash with the Indianapolis Colts. “Wait, they played at Wembley last week?” I hear you cry. “Why don’t they get a bye?” Apparently they volunteered for it because they didn’t want such an early bye – a valid claim – but with the NFL continuing to test out, little by little, the viability of a London franchise, a team playing directly after a transatlantic trek was surely inevitable.
It’s never happened before, teams have played badly enough the week before a Wembley game, and playing directly after has not happened before for a reason.
Besides, the Colts currently look bad enough when they’re not recovering from jet lag…
Sit this WR: Will Fuller V
Fuller has had an electric start to the season, but much of it has been dependent on big chunk plays. He relies on his speed to get open and is vulnerable to drops, making him a boom-or-bust fantasy option in the mould of DeSean Jackson.
A matchup against the Minnesota Vikings has bust written all over it. The 4-0 Vikings up front will deny Brock Osweiler the time to let any of those downfield plays develop.
Start this TE: Zach Ertz
It’s always scary to start players straight off a significant injury, but this week it is all too difficult not to.
Considering that Ertz has the benefit of facing the Detroit Lions – who have already allowed no fewer than six touchdowns to TEs this year – it becomes almost impossible.
The specifics of his injury (a displaced rib, absences from which can be extended out of caution because playing without complete healing can lead to scary internal damage) and the presence of last week’s bye for his Philadelphia Eagles suggest he will be truly ready to go this Sunday. Lock him in.
Sit this TE: Jacob Tamme
Tamme has been inexplicably busy this year, which might tempt some into streaming him in a week of paddling-pool depth at the tight end position.
Don’t. He’s playing the Broncos, so his best shot at fantasy relevance is being the only receiver Matt Ryan has the time to register the presence of before Von Miller hits him.