Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes. Anybody can tell you to start the Deshaun Watsons, Austin Ekelers, and Chris Godwins of the world. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m looking deeper at legitimate mostly-borderline candidates who owners may truly be contemplating using in lineups.
Start of the Week: Matt Ryan at Texans: Ryan comes into Week 5 as the overall QB7 with 25% of the season in the books. But he’s coming off an empty 397 yards on 53 attempts last week against the Titans in an embarrassing home loss. Weeks 1-3, Ryan tossed multiple touchdowns with 300-plus yards in all three starts. The Falcons lead the league in pass attempts and pass-play percentage (72.37%), so no matter the game script, Ryan has been paying off as a weekly fantasy start. The Texans are 11th in pass-defense DVOA and 12th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks but have faced the sixth-most pass attempts. However, their schedule hasn’t exactly been littered with premier offenses. Houston has faced Kyle Allen and Gardner Minshew, along with the molasses-slow Chargers in Week 3 and Saints in Week 1. Drew Brees is the only one with a top-12 week. Both the Falcons (No. 5) and Texans (No. 13) are in the top half of the league in offensive pace. In a week with very few good-looking games from a pace and points lens, this one stands out. The 49-point total is the third-highest on the board. The Texans’ cornerback trio of Johnathan Joseph, Bradley Roby, and Lonnie Johnson all have negative coverage grades at Pro Football Focus. Julio Jones should light up this defense.
Andy Dalton vs. Cardinals: Dalton enters Sunday as the overall QB19 after a round of disastrous performances following his impressive Week 1 in Seattle. The latest was a miserable 171 scoreless yards and one interception across 37 attempts (4.62 YPA) against the Steelers this past Monday night. Dalton is fourth in the league in pass attempts and sixth in yards but has just five touchdowns to four picks. Sunday’s opponent, Kyler Murray is third in attempts. Murray has absorbed a league-high 20 sacks, and Dalton is right on his heels with 19 after taking eight in Week 4. We know this game is likely to feature plenty of plays, as both clubs are top 12 in offensive pace. And the Cardinals are 28th in opponent plays per game. At the very least, we should see high volume. Efficiency is a whole other question, however, but the volume is enough to chase Dalton as a fantasy streaming option. The Cardinals are 30th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 31st in touchdown passes surrendered while failing to record an interception. Kyle Allen hung four touchdowns on Arizona en route to the QB6 day in Week 3. Lamar Jackson was the QB2 in Week 2 after Matthew Stafford put up the QB4 afternoon in the opener. Russell Wilson completed over 78% of his throws last week in Arizona but tossed just one score as the QB17. Dalton’s supporting cast is a concern following the loss of John Ross (collarbone, I.R.) and continued absence of A.J. Green (ankle), but the Cardinals have shown no ability to contain any opponent. Tyler Boyd should feast inside, while Auden Tate has a distinct size advantage as a red-zone threat. We already know the Cardinals can’t defend tight ends, and Joe Mixon will also be a dual-threat out of the backfield. The 47.5-point total for Cardinals-Bengals is the week’s fourth-highest. Cincy’s implied total of 25.25 is seventh-best.
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Jacoby Brissett at Chiefs: Quietly, Brissett is fantasy’s QB10 with a quarter of the season in the books. He has multiple touchdown passes in all four starts and has seen his pass attempts climb each week from 27 > 28 > 37 > 46. Ideally for the Colts, Brissett wouldn’t throw the ball the 46 times he did last week in a home loss to the Raiders, but this spot against the Chiefs sets up as a likely similar comeback mode-driven one. Kansas City is a whopping 11-point favorite, and this game features, by far, the highest total of Week 5 at 56 points. The Chiefs field a plus defense, but teams fall behind them so often that quarterbacks typically have to throw it when chasing points. The Chiefs are 25th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and are fresh off surrendering the QB6 day to Matthew Stafford in Week 4. Lamar Jackson and the Jaguars’ duo of Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew also have top-10 weeks versus Kansas City. The Chiefs are 24th in opponent plays per game and play at the fourth-quickest offensive pace, leading to more possessions for the opposition. T.Y. Hilton (quad) returned to a limited practice Thursday. If he can suit up Sunday night, it will be an even bigger boost to Brissett’s stock after Hilton missed Week 4. Indy’s offensive line is No. 7 in adjusted sack rate, so Brissett has had plenty of clean pockets. Brissett doesn’t feel comfortable, but he’s an appetizing streamer.
Jameis Winston at Saints: This was a toss-up between Winston and Kyler Murray. But I’m going with the quarterback who is playing better right now, with a better offensive line and supporting cast, who is also playing in a friendly dome environment. Murray has the dual-threat skill set facing a worse defense, but his offensive line is putrid and Arizona just lost Christian Kirk (ankle) to injury. Winston absolutely unloaded on the Rams last Sunday in an upset 55-40 victory, posting 385 yards and four touchdowns en route to the QB1 afternoon. Winston is now the overall QB9 after a shaky start to the year. This isn’t the Bucs-Saints high-paced, light-up-the-scoreboard matchups we’ve been used to, mainly because the Saints are playing ball-control offense at a molasses-slow pace (30th) with game manager Teddy Bridgewater under center. The Saints are still 31st in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 26th in pass-defense DVOA despite their strong Week 4 showing against Dak Prescott. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin form arguably the highest-ceiling receiver duo in the NFL. This game’s 46.5-point total is the sixth-highest on the board. Winston is squarely in the QB1 crosshairs.
Daniel Jones vs. Vikings: Jones hung the overall QB2 day on the Bucs in his NFL debut two weeks back but followed it up with the QB17 afternoon last week in a letdown against the Redskins. The rookie tossed a pair of ugly picks, but the Giants dominated Washington and had no reason to push the tempo. Minnesota presents a much stiffer test than either Tampa or Washington posed, as the Vikings are 10th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 16th in pass-defense DVOA. Jones at least gets Golden Tate back from suspension to give him a full complement of pass-game assets, joining Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. Attacking Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith on top of the Vikings’ pass rushers isn’t something I’d actively be looking to do for fantasy purposes in a game with a 43.5-point total, the fourth-lowest of Week 5. The Giants’ implied team total of 19 is better than only four other teams.
Philip Rivers vs. Broncos: Rivers and the Chargers took a bit to get rolling in Miami last week, but the 38-year-old still finished with 301 yards and two scores as the QB9 for Week 4. Rivers is the QB11 on the season and has been more than fine as a locked-in weekly top-12 play. This is Rivers’ least appetizing draw to date, however. The Broncos and Chargers are both top-five in opponent plays per game while the Chargers play at the second-slowest offensive pace. Those two together screams of a low-volume passing day on both sides of the ball. Further, the Bolts are heavy 6.5-point home favorites getting Melvin Gordon back from his holdout. The Chargers may just choose to stick the ball in the bellies of Gordon and Austin Ekeler, while Rivers flirts with 20-25 attempts. He would need to produce a lofty touchdown rate to pay off as a one-QB league start. The Broncos are No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, facing the third-fewest attempts. This game’s 44.5-point total is on the lower side of things for Week 5.
Baker Mayfield at 49ers: Mayfield is coming off his best game of the first four weeks of the season after throwing for 342 yards and one score in an upset road win over the Ravens. He still finished as just the QB14 and is the QB23 on the season. The Browns now get to travel all the way across the country to face a 49ers team well rested off their bye. San Francisco is No. 2 in pass-defense DVOA and No. 9 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Niners put the clamps on Jameis Winston in Week 1 before having no issues with Andy Dalton and Mason Rudolph their other two contests. This will be a bigger test than the Bengals and Steelers, but it’s not like the Browns have been firing on all cylinders. The Browns play at the league’s fifth-slowest pace while the Niners are No. 7 in opponent plays per game. Jarvis Landry is in the concussion protocol and didn’t practice Thursday, and David Njoku remains out with a broken wrist. Rashard Higgins hasn’t been healthy since Week 1. Cleveland is leaning heavily on Nick Chubb right now, and he’s probably this offense’s best bet to neutralize a stellar pass rush that should eat up the Browns’ offensive line. Mayfield has yet to toss multiple scores in a game.