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Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Early Fantasy Lineup Advice for Matchups of Week 5

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Surprise performances and shocking stumbles are all part of what makes fantasy football so enjoyable. No, it never feels good to have a star centerpiece bust in a critical week, but if every top player performed well every week, the game of fantasy just wouldn’t be as interesting.

    Of course, the game of fantasy is also more fun when you’re winning, so it’s best to avoid potential flops whenever possible. Here, we’ll try to help navigate Week 5 by examining some of the toughest matchups or situations and determining which players are worth starting and which should sit. We’ll be looking specifically at players rostered in at least 50 percent of Yahoo and/or ESPN leagues, according to FantasyPros—calling to bench a player rostered in 5 percent of leagues also isn’t very interesting.

    These picks are based on factors like projected role, past production and matchup. All picks are based on point-per-reception (PPR) scoring.

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Start ‘Em

    Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings

    Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

    Chase Edmonds, RB, Arizona Cardinals

    Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos

    Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

    Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans

    Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles


    Sit ‘Em

    Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns

    Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

    Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

    Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins

    Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears

    Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers

    Robert Tonyan, TE, Green Bay Packers

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Tough matchups aren’t the only things that can complicate fantasy decisions. Trends can affect lineups just as easily. Of course, anyone who has played fantasy football long enough has benched a player after a couple of poor performances only to see him shine as soon as it happens.

    Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is coming off of a clunker of a game. Against the Cleveland Browns, he passed for just 203 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Thirty-seven yards and the touchdown came on the game’s opening drive, and Cousins was a disaster after that.

    However, this doesn’t mean that Cousins will continue declining for the rest of the season. He threw for at least 240 yards and two touchdowns in each of the first three games and should get back on track in Week 4.

    The Browns defense seems to be coming together. The Detroit Lions defense? Not so much. It’s a middle-of-the-pack unit that has allowed the 14th-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season.

    Expect a rebound performance from Cousins this week.

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    Justin Edmonds/Associated Press

    While we’re on the topic of trends, we should discuss Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. CEH has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the past two games, which means he should have a solid floor this week against the Buffalo Bills, right?

    Well, not exactly. Edwards-Helaire took advantage of suspect Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles run defenses in Weeks 3 and 4. The Bills matchup is going to be much, much tougher. Buffalo has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs.

    Another issue is Edwards-Helaire’s workload. He has carried the ball 17 or fewer times in every game this season. He’s also had only four receptions over the past three weeks, which means that his PPR upside is limited.

    Chiefs backup Darrel Williams has had four receptions over the past two weeks and only saw four fewer carries than CEH in Week 4. There’s a real chance that we see an even split between the two backs against Buffalo. Edwards-Helaire is anything but a safe start and should be only started in the deepest of leagues.

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Chargers wideout Mike Williams was held to just one catch for 11 yards in Week 4. That stinks for Williams managers, but credit the Las Vegas Raiders for having a good early game plan. Also, recognize that L.A. didn’t do a ton of passing after building a 21-0 halftime lead.

    Williams faces a tough matchup against a Browns defense that is solid and improving—it has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers. However, Williams should see a lot more targets in a game that figures to be close.

    Cleveland’s rushing attack is far more potent than Las Vegas’, and the Chargers rank 30th in yards per rushing attempt allowed.

    Expect Williams to have a role similar to that of the first three weeks. He was targeted 12 times in the opener, 10 times in Week 2 and nine times in Week 3. He has become a favorite of second-year quarterback Justin Herbert, as evidenced by Williams’ 306 receiving yards and four touchdowns this season.

    With Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler drawing plenty of attention from Cleveland’s defense, expect several of Williams’ targets to become receptions.

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Raiders did a great job of limiting Williams in Week 4. They can do the same to Chicago Bears wideout Allen Robinson II in Week 5. Overall, Las Vegas has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts this season.

    A bigger issue, though, is that Robinson is no longer the go-to receiver he was in Chicago a year ago. That role has been snatched up by second-year wideout Darnell Mooney. While Robinson saw 13 targets over the last three weeks, Mooney saw 19 targets.

    Mooney has also surpassed Robinson as the most productive wideout on Chicago’s roster. He has 17 receptions and 226 yards, while Robinson has 13 receptions and 149 yards.

    Of the two, Mooney is the bigger deep threat and the player Chicago seems to trust most. In a matchup that isn’t ideal for either receiver, Mooney is likely to get the most opportunity.

    Of course, this is if the Bears even rely heavily on the passing game. They ran the ball 39 times against the Detroit Lions in Week 4 while passing only 17 times. Against a Raiders defense that ranks 29th in yards per carry allowed, leaning on new starting back Damien Williams seems to be the likely formula.


    *Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference. Fantasy roster info and points against via FantasyPros.

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