Fantasy Sunday Rundown Week Five: Start/Sit/Sleeper

Fantasy predictions, breakdowns and player analysis for the upcoming NFL games this week.


Wide receiver Chris Hogan stiff-arms a defender while playing the Miami Dolphins last season. Max Jackson|Staff Photographer

Jacob Kleinberg, Contributing Writer

We’re already past the quarter season mark, which means bye weeks and injuries are starting to take their toll on rosters around the league.  That means many fantasy owners are scrambling to find productive players on the waiver wire. Here are my recommended starts and sits for each matchup, as well as one sleeper pick for each game. Happy Sunday!


Bills at Titans

Start: Karlos Williams (RB-BUF) – It looks like Lesean McCoy could be out for an extended period of time. Coming into week five, it’s looking unlikely that he’ll suit up against the Titans. Last week, Williams was a sit candidate. He scored a touchdown late on a pass from quarterback Tyrod Taylor, but only earned 2.2 yards per rush and was mostly ineffective in the running game. This isn’t on the rookie, as the Bills were facing a Giants’ run defense that is quickly becoming one of the best in the NFL. Through three games, the Titans are allowing just about five yards per carry to opposing running backs. I expect the Bills to have a much better game on the ground this week.

Sit: Bishop Sankey (RB-TEN) – Sankey had one huge game to start the season and hasn’t done much since. The Titans’ backfield has been awful, and while the Bills’ defensive line struggled against the Giants, they’ll rebound against the Titans this week.

Sleeper: Chris Hogan (WR-BUF) – The Titans have the No. 1 pass defense in the league in terms of passing yards allowed, but that stat comes against the following quarterbacks: Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel and an injured Andrew Luck. The Bills have arguably the best offense the Titans will have seen up to this point. It doesn’t look like receiver Sammy Watkins will be healthy this weekend, so I like Chris Hogan’s potential for targets this Sunday. He caught all five targets for 43 yards against the Giants by the end of last week’s game.


Browns at Ravens

Start: Justin Forsett (RB-BAL) – Forsett looked dominant last week against the Steelers on Thursday night, piling up 150 yards on 27 carries. Cleveland is 31st in run defense in the NFL. The Ravens are short a wide receiver with Steve Smith officially out. I like Forsett for another 25 or so carries in this game, and I like his opportunity for targets in the passing game. His arrow is way up. 

Sit: Isaiah Crowell (RB-CLE) – Crowell had a decent day last week, averaging over five yards per carry and catching three passes for 62 yards, but rookie running back Duke Johnson broke out in the passing game with nine receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. It looks like Johnson would be an ideal passing-down back much like Gio Bernard or Darren Sproles. I think Crowell will take a backseat to Johnson in this game.

Sleeper: Travis Benjamin (CLE-WR) – This week I’m recommending Benjamin after being low on him for the first quarter of the season. I’m still standing by the fact that I think he’ll cool off, but the Ravens have given up the most fantasy points to wide receivers out of any team this season. The Browns will be throwing the ball down the field in this matchup.


Bears at Chiefs

Start: Jeremy Maclin (WR-KC) – I’m eating my words this week about Maclin. The Chiefs have gotten him involved in the past two weeks,  and he’s taken full advantage of his opportunities. His PPR potential is insane if his usage continues: Maclin is now on pace for 112 receptions and almost 1600 yards for the season. The Bears have a weak passing defense, so take the opportunity to start Maclin.

Sit: Martellus Bennett (TE-CHI) – He’s not a “must-sit”, because there is a lack of depth at tight end and there may not be a better option available, but I think he will struggle this week. The Chiefs are letting up the seventh fewest fantasy points to tight ends and more significantly, I think the Chiefs’ pass rush will be too much for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to handle. I’m low on Bears players in general this week.

Sleeper: I don’t know if there’s a sleeper pick in this game. The Chiefs’ offense is run almost exclusively through Travis Kelce, Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin, and again, I’m low on Bears players this week. This is a straightforward fantasy matchup.


Seahawks at Bengals

Start: Russell Wilson (QB–SEA) – Wilson may be the only solid fantasy option in this game.  His floor is low because of his incredible ability to scramble and rack up rushing yards throughout the game. His offense line is terrible though, which limits pretty much everyone else on Seattle’s offense.

Sit: Jeremy Hill (RB-CIN) – Hill came around and got owners’ three touchdowns last week, but also had a season-low nine carries. I have high hopes for Hill, but he’s not breaking out this week against a team that has allowed the second fewest fantasy points to running backs.

Sleeper: Jermaine Kearse (WR-SEA) – This is a real deep, deep, sleeper. The truth is Seattle just doesn’t throw much, and there isn’t a consistent wide receiver on the team. Kearse just seems to be the “deep threat” in that offense. He’s had games of 15.6, 13.6, and 10.4 points, but also had a donut in week two. He’s not fantasy relevant in most leagues as there are probably better options on the wire.


Rams at Packers

Start: Todd Gurley (RB-STL) – Gurley finally broke out for 146 yards against the Cardinals’ decent defensive front on Sunday. He ran like a man on fire, especially in the second half. He’ll get a softer defense in Green Bay. The Rams’ passing offense hasn’t been efficient, so you can bet they will be handing the ball off quite often this season.

Sit: James Jones (WR-GB) – This was a hard call for me to make. Jones is the No. 2 option in an Aaron Rodgers’ offense and the Packers have the home field advantage, all signs pointing to a big day for Jones. He certainly could have one, but the Rams have been allowing the fifth fewest points to fantasy receivers so far this year. Last week, they held the Cardinals’ wideouts to zero touchdowns in their own stadium. I think it’s possible that the Rams are able to limit the passing game in this matchup, at least more so than most other teams are able to.

Sleeper: Richard Rodgers (TE-GB) – I’m going with Rodgers again this week.  I think he’s a great streaming option if you need a tight end this week, or any week until Anthony Quarless returns, and he’s only owned in 31 percent of Yahoo leagues.


Jaguars at Buccaneers

Start: Allen Robinson (WR-JAX) – Robinson was shadowed by Vontae Davis last week and still had 80 yards on four receptions. More importantly, he had twelve targets even with the pro-bowl corner covering him. He’s a target monster at this point, averaging about ten targets per game. Start him confidently against a weak Buccaneers defense.

Sit: Doug Martin (RB-TB) – The Jaguars’ run defense is underrated, and while the carries have been there for Martin, he’s been wildly inconsistent and mostly ineffective. He had a big game last week against the Panthers but is also losing snaps to Charles Sims.

Sleeper: Charles Sims (RB–TB) – Sims has become one of the league’s best pass-blocking backs, and through the last two weeks he’s had 71 yards and a touchdown through the air. His targets have been steadily increasing and so has his workload.


Saints at Eagles

Start: Drew Brees (QB-NO) – The Eagles have let up an average of 276 yards per game through the air, which ranks them a bottom ten pass defense. Those numbers came against quarterbacks that included Kirk Cousins and Ryan Fitzpatrick (who both threw for more than 276 yards against them). Brees looked accurate coming off his shoulder injury and with another week to get healthy, he should be even more effective against this Swiss cheese secondary.   

Sit: Demarco Murray (RB-PHI) – It’s crazy to be writing this about a running back that had a historical season just one year ago, but Murray isn’t getting the carries. Not only that, but Philadelphia’s offense looks more effective when he’s on the bench than on the field.  He’s just not producing and at this point I don’t think he’s a safe start until he shows you otherwise.

Sleeper: Willie Snead (WR-NO) – He may not be much of a sleeper after his prime time performance on Sunday night where he caught all six of his targets for 89 yards. He’s only owned in 29 percent of Yahoo leagues, but he needs to be owned in all of them. He’s the only one getting open in that offense.


Redskins at Falcons

Start: Leonard Hankerson (WR-ATL) – Hankerson has averaged eight targets per game since week one. The Redskins aren’t too hot against the pass, and Matt Ryan is seemingly entering his prime. I think this matchup at home could lead to a 400-yard day for Ryan, and Hankerson will benefit from that nicely.

Sit: Alfred Morris (RB-WAS) – Morris has been a disappointment all season long despite being on one of the best rushing teams in the league. The backfield is just too crowded, and I think the Redskins will be playing catch up through the air for most of the game.  

Sleeper: Derrek Carrier (TE-WAS) – The Redskins love to get the ball to their tight end, and with Jordan Reed looking doubtful, backup Derek Carrier will get meaningful targets in a game in which Kirk Cousins might have to throw 40 times.


Cardinals at Lions

Start: John Brown (WR-AZ) – Brown was targeted ten times last week against a stingy Rams pass defense. He has at least five targets in each of his four games this season, but it appears that Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians want to try to get him the ball even more. The Lions’ defense let up a handful of big passing plays to the Seahawks on Monday Night Football despite Seattle’s terrible offensive line play. Some of that was Russell Wilson’s magic, but I think Palmer will find Brown deep more than once in this matchup.

Sit: Ameer Abdullah (RB-DET) – Abdullah is clearly the most talented running back in the backfield, but tough matchups and game script issues have kept him from producing. The Lions are finding themselves down early and having to throw to chase points. He isn’t getting any help from his linemen either. Arizona is another tough matchup.

Sleeper: Theo Riddick (RB-DET) – Riddick got notched five receptions against the Seahawks. He’s a dangerous weapon in the passing game. When Detroit plays teams with a tough run defense, they’ll look to him in the short passing game to control the tempo. I think he has a solid floor in PPR again this week.


Patriots at Cowboys

Start: Dion Lewis (RB–NE) – Every year, we sing the same song about the Patriots’ backfield: “Never trust a Bill Belichick running back!” Well, I’m telling you to trust Lewis. Sure, LeGarrette Blount blew up last week, but he was still out-snapped 35-28 by Lewis. Twenty-eight of his snaps came in the first half while Blount only got seven snaps during that time. Belichick is showing great trust in Lewis despite his fumbling issues early on. Very simply, Lewis can do it all. He can run between the tackles, he can pass protect, and he’s an even better threat to catch passes out of the backfield than Vereen ever was.  He’s one of Tom Brady’s premier weapons, and Brady is on fire. Start Lewis.

Sit: Joseph Randle (RB–DAL) – Randle churned out an atrocious 2.3 yards per carry against a soft defense, and then was benched in the second half in favor of Darren McFadden. Randle’s only big game came against the Falcons, but even in that game he only had 14 rushing attempts. His play and usage is becoming wildly inconsistent, and I expect Darren McFadden and Christine Michael will see their roles increase this week.

Sleeper: Cole Beasley (WR–DAL) – The Cowboys should be chasing points in New England this weekend, and with Lance Dunbar out, they’ll rely on Beasley in the short passing game. He caught all six of his targets last week for 62 yards. He’s got a very safe floor as a flex in PPR this week.


Broncos at Raiders

Start: Amari Cooper (WR-OAK) – Despite Aquib Talib being one of the best corners in the league, wide receivers have been finding success against the Broncos through the last three weeks. Last week Mike Wallace and Stefon Diggs combined for over 36 fantasy points in week four. In week three, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate combined for over 25 points. I think Cooper will continue to see a ton of targets no matter who covers him. He and Derek Carr seem to have a great chemistry building.  

Sit: Peyton Manning (QB–DEN) – The truth is that Manning is probably playing the worst football we’ve ever seen him play. He’s had a few tough matchups, but it’s clear that Manning is aging and probably a little banged up. This game is going to be close, just like all of the Broncos’ games have been, which means Manning will be throwing a lot. The Broncos also can’t get the ground game going.  On the road against the division rival Raiders, I think Manning throws more picks than he does touchdowns.

Sleeper: Roy Helu Jr. (RB–OAK) – Helu Jr. got involved in the Raiders’ offense last week after Latavious Murray had to leave with a shoulder injury. He had two receptions for 13 yards and a touchdown, along with five rushing attempts for 22 yards. Murray might find tough sledding against a stout Denver line, and Helu might get involved in the short passing game if the Raiders can’t get a rhythm going on the ground. He’s a deep sleeper. In 10-12 team leagues, he can be ignored, but in deeper leagues, he has flex potential.


49ers at Giants

Start: Rueben Randle (WR-NYG) – Randle now has a touchdown in each of his last two games, and the Giants are insistent upon keeping him involved in the passing game. Because teams focus so heavily on Odell Beckham Jr., Randle is consistently finding himself in plus one-on-one matchups. He could’ve had a second touchdown last week, but the throw from Eli Manning was picked off when Ronald Darby jumped the slant route. The targets are there for Randle, both in the redzone and across the field. He’ll produce on Sunday night.

Sit: Carlos Hyde (RB-SF) – I love Hyde’s talent, I really do. But Colin Kaepernick has failed miserably at creating any rhythm whatsoever in that offense. Additionally, because of Kaepernick’s struggles this year, teams are stacking the box to stop Hyde. The Giants are the No. 1 run defense in the NFL. I like Hyde to come on later in the season, but this game is going to be a tough one for him.

Sleeper: Dwayne Harris (WR-NYG) – Dwayne Harris caught his first touchdown as a Giant last week. He also caught all five of his targets. Harris’ production won’t be consistent, and his value plummets immediately when Victor Cruz comes back. But at home against the 49ers, I like Manning to spread the ball around quite a bit, and Harris will benefit from that.


Steelers at Chargers

Start: Martavious Bryant (WR-PIT) – He’s finally back from suspension, but Ben Roethlisberger is out.  Mike Vick looked like a decent backup against Baltimore, but I think Bryant is going to give him a boost. Vick can throw far, maybe not accurately, but Bryant is a go-up-and-get-it kind of receiver. I like Bryant in the deep passing game against the Chargers.

Sit: Melvin Gordon (RB-PIT) – Gordon has looked like a talented runner, but the Chargers have made it clear that Danny Woodhead is their trusted back in close-game situations. Both defenses in this matchup are weak. I expect a high scoring game with lots of passing on both sides, which means Woodhead will see more snaps than Gordon.

Sleeper: Michael Vick (QB-PIT) – Vick is an intriguing QB2 play this week. I think he’ll have a very decent game against a San Diego defense that’s giving up almost 30 points per game.