If your fantasy team is 0-4 it is officially now time to panic. And it doesn’t matter how you got there. What matters is what you do from here. Complaining about how “If only Emmanuel Sanders had scored a touchdown,” or “If Justin Forsett hadn’t been sitting on my bench,” or “I would have beat every team in the league last week except for the one I was up against,” doesn’t help. At all. What will help is taking some chances from here on out. You have nothing to lose.
And if your fantasy team is riding high at 4-0, yeah, don’t change a thing about your starting lineup except for bye week replacements. What you should do is re-evaluate your bench to make sure the right players are there who can step up if any of your established starters get hurt. Play the waiver wire conservatively, but still play it. There’s nothing worse than sitting on your laurels and it coming back to bite you later in the season when injuries start piling up.
Regardless, this blog is all about making the smart choices, but sometimes the unconventional choices as well, because taking chances could be the difference between getting to your fantasy playoffs and cursing your team all off-season. Here’s to Setting Your Lineup…
QBs to PLAY
Alex Smith vs. Chicago – Smith has a new weapon in Jeremy Maclin, and while the connection was off and on for the first couple of weeks, Maclin has exploded during the last two, and look to keep him going here against a Chicago secondary that isn’t scaring anyone. Add in Travis Kelce and the ever dangerous receiver Jamaal Charles, and Smith could easily have a top-8 QB day.
Joe Flacco vs. Cleveland – Much has been made about the Cleveland defense not stopping the run, but they’re not so spectacular against the pass that Flacco won’t be needed. Quite the contrary. With a depleted receiver corps, the Browns will be stacking the line to take away Forsett (and co.) so Flacco will be airing it out quite a bit here. And he will have success.
Eli Manning vs. San Francisco – Yes, Manning threw his first interception of the year last week, but don’t think the floodgates are going to open wide here. That San Francisco defense is all out of sorts, they’re on the East coast, and the Giants are enjoying recent success in the passing game. It will continue here. Count on Eli this week.
QB to AVOID
Derek Carr vs. Denver – I guess I could put whichever QB plays against the Broncos here every single week. But that’s especially important this week because while Teddy Bridgewater was relatively serviceable against Denver’s D last week, he still only scored 16 standard points. Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, and Marcus Mariota, among others, will score more than that this week in fantasy.
RBs to PLAY
DeMarco Murray vs. New Orleans – This would have been an obvious play before the year began, but Murray has been less than inspirational so far this season. However, he got a bit of quality usage both in the pass game and in the rush game last week, and he will explode here. All those who stuck with him through the bad times will be rewarded heavily against a Saints front line that is porous.
T.J. Yeldon @ Tampa Bay – It’s the Tampa Bay defense, and Jacksonville has had some success against better defenses this season. Yeldon has the potential to get some great yardage while keeping the slack off of Blake Bortles in this one. Look for a big game from the rookie.
Joseph Randle vs. New England – The best way to keep Tom Brady off the field is to get the running game going. That Dallas offensive line hasn’t taken any steps back since last year, and while Randle was in the dog house at the end of week 4 don’t be alarmed. Lance Dunbar is gone for the season, and that will give Randle more touches. Don’t let his fourth quarter no-show worry you.
RB to AVOID
Rashad Jennings vs. San Francisco – This Giants running back-by-committee approach means rolling the dice every week and hoping the usage is enough for you. But Eli Manning should have a great game in this one, which means he will most likely lean on Shane Vereen while Andre Williams should get the short-yardage work. Jennings could go off for a big game, but why put your season on the line with such uncertainty?
WRs to PLAY
Jeremy Maclin vs. Chicago – You know how I feel about Alex Smith against that Bears defense, which means Maclin will be active early and often. Now that you’re no longer worried that he won’t score a touchdown (he put that little streak to rest this season already), what’s stopping you from getting him active?
Leonard Hankerson vs. Washington – That Redskins run defense is no joke, but you can pass on them, and having Julio Jones on the other side of the field takes a lot of coverage away from Hankerson. He has the potential for a huge game in this one, and I think he delivers.
Kamar Aiken vs. Cleveland – Flacco to Aiken. I know, I wouldn’t have imagined Aiken would be the number one receiving option in Baltimore, but Steve Smith is out, and who else is Flacco throwing the ball to in this one? Aiken is a great sleeper, and he could reward you greatly if you have the courage to get him active. He’s available on the waiver wire in the majority of formats.
WR to AVOID
Rueben Randle vs. San Francisco – I think this game will be the Beckham show, and when it’s not going to him the running game will be active. Randle has scored a touchdown in consecutive games, but he has been maddeningly inconsistent, so don’t go chasing points. He could easily disappoint you here because they won’t need him.
TEs to PLAY
Charles Clay @ Tennessee – Clay has been an absolute beast for a few weeks now, and I see absolutely no reason for that to stop here against a Titans defense that hasn’t done a bang-up job defending tight ends this season. Tyrod Taylor likes the big man, so look for high volume again from Clay this week.
Ladarius Green vs. Pittsburgh – Yes, Antonio Gates is back, and you can bet the Steelers have been preparing for it. He’s also chasing his 100th TD, so the consensus is that he will be a focal point of the San Diego red zone offense. I don’t buy it. Green has been great in Gates’ absence, and I think he keeps it rolling here. It’s a surprise play, but one that I think will be effective in a thin field of quality tight ends this week.
Owen Daniels @ Oakland – The Raiders have a tough time defending tight ends, and Daniels finally got his mojo going last week. If Daniels is still available on your waiver wire you should grab him and start him. He’s a definite plug-and-play this week because of the matchup.
TE to AVOID
Jason Witten vs. New England – Bill Belichick likes to take away a team’s go-to guy, so he’s been scheming all week to make sure that Witten doesn’t beat them in this matchup. I think it shows, and this is the week to avoid Witten in all formats. On a team that hasn’t been throwing the ball to its wide receivers much, the loss of Witten in this one will force the issue.
FLEX to PLAY
Todd Gurley @ Green Bay – You can run against Green Bay, so why go against the grain in this one? Gurley has already proven he’s got the chops to play at a high level, so don’t second-guess it. Count on him for more than 75 yards on the ground and at least one touchdown.
Dion Lewis @ Dallas – I don’t usually say to go with any of New England’s running backs because I never know which one is going to be reliable, but Lewis has proven versatile, which makes him more valuable than Blount. While Blount will be useful in the short yardage situations, I don’t know if that will be necessary in this one as I expect New England to be up big for most of the contest.
Pierre Garcon @ Atlanta – Just as with the previous game, I expect this one to be a case of the Redskins chasing points. That means airing it out, and Garcon is the only really deep threat they have with DeSean Jackson out again for this one. Get him active.
FLEX to AVOID
Carlos Hyde @ NY Giants – That Giants run defense hasn’t been touted this season, but they haven’t been bad. Add to that the possibility of the Giants getting up early on that poor San Francisco defense, and this game will be about Colin Kaepernick, not about Carlos Hyde.
K to PLAY
Cairo Santos vs. Chicago
Chandler Catanzaro @ Detroit
Connor Barth vs. Jacksonville
K to AVOID
Dustin Hopkins @ Atlanta
D/STs to PLAY
NY Giants vs. 49ers
Atlanta vs. Redskins
Cincinnati vs. Seahawks
D/ST to AVOID
St. Louis @ Packers