Week 5 will mark the first NFL games into the month of October and as such, owners need to start watching the weather reports to ensure that the weather doesn’t adversely affect their fantasy team. Remember that inclement weather typically means more running the football and shorter games. That usually means that your cornerbacks, pass rushers and coverage linebackers will not see the opportunity that they normally do. Players with games in Pittsburgh, New England, Baltimore etc. should be watched a little closer to ensure that points can be maximized. Week 5 features only two bye weeks; Miami and Oakland so owners that have been riding the Jelani Jenkins wave were not only disappointed by his poor stat output against the Raiders but also need to find another option this week.
Another week, another bunch hit-and-miss plays. Jameel McClain’s day was hampered by the Redskins getting blown out early in their game. Washington was forced to abandon the run but 3 and outs as well as turnovers limited the tackle opportunity. Tahir Whitehead and DeAndre Levy were the bright spots of the week scoring 12 and 11 total tackles respectively against the Jets. The Jets are shaping up to be a prime matchup to exploit if you are looking for tackle opportunity off of the run and short pass. Jon Bostic was decent if unspectacular with 4 total tackles as was Jamari Lattimore with 6 total tackles. Lattimore gets the run happy Vikings in week 5 on Thursday night so stick with him another game if you can. Sean Spence scored 3 tackles but remains an option in the upcoming weeks as well. Previous sneaky play recommendation LB Josh Mauga was solid against the Patriots on Monday Night Football with 7 total tackles.
Kavell Conner SDC LB – ILB 3-4
Manti Te’o is out of multiple weeks due to a fractured foot he suffered prior to the Charger’s week 4 game against the Jaguars. Kavell Conner replaced the former Irish linebacker in the starting lineup alongside Donald Butler and performed well with 6 total tackles. San Diego hosts the New York Jets in week 5. LB2s in run support have averaged over 15 points a game against the Jets so far this year. In addition, the Jets have averaged 31 rushing attempts per game. Give the former Colt a look in tackle heavy leagues as the opportunity will be there.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Prince Shembo ATL LB – ILB 3-4
Atlanta’s defense has not been great this year. They aren’t generating pressure, coverage has been weak and most glaring, the run support has been awful. The fantasy slant sees tackle opportunity and it has been there. Paul Worrilow has more combined tackles through 4 weeks than anyone else in the NFL not named Luke Kuechly. Through the first two weeks, Worrilow’s running mate at ILB Joplo Bartu had respectable numbers himself with 19 combined tackles. However, his performance was deemed poor in terms of NFL defense and he has subsequently been replaced by 4th round rookie Prince Shembo. Shembo’s outing against the Vikings in week 4 was solid, logging 8 total tackles all in run support. The former Irish LB is a bigger presence at the point of attack and also has some pass rushing chops as well. He carries some playing time risk given the upheaval in Atlanta’s defense but someone needs to log snaps and he stands to improve over time.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Justin Houston/Tamba Hali KCC LB – OLB 3-4
Philadelphia proved in week 4 that Colin Kaepernick can be sacked as the San Francisco signal-caller hit the turf 4 times in week 4, 3 of which came from the outside linebackers. With Kansas City coming off of a monster win on Monday Night Football against the Patriots, expect the Chiefs to give the reeling 49ers their best shot in week 5. Hali and Houston are liable to be owned in big play leagues but in balanced or shallow leagues, you might see one of the pass-rushers available. I really like either of them as a spot start with good potential for a splash play.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Mid LB3
Avery Williamson TEN LB – ILB 3-4
Avery Williamson is another rookie who is getting a shot at meaningful snaps in the wake of an underperforming defense. The 5th round rookie out of Kentucky replaces Zaviar Gooden at inside linebacker for the struggling Titans. What is promising about the rookie’s usage in week 4 against the Colts is that he was used early and often and stayed on the field on third down more than you’d expect. He’s got risk on him but he’s a great wait-and-see player for deep leaguers or desperate squads looking for a boost in tackle heavy scoring. Make no mistake though, Wesley Woodyard is still top dog in this defense unless his health comes into question.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Dane Fletcher TBB LB – With Mason Foster out, former Patriot Dane Fletcher has manned the inside for the Bucs and has done a solid job there. Tampa Bay gets the 1-3 New Orleans Saints in week 5 in New Orleans. Expect the Saints to pull out all the stops to get a win here. I think that the Bucs defense should have some excellent opportunity to put up some fantasy points.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Week 4 saw a handful of guys breakout for owners who were waiting for that performance all year. Michael Johnson busted out with 2 sacks of Ben Roethlisberger and 5 total tackles. Sheldon Richardson logged 8 total tackles and a sack against the Lions and Mathias Kiwanuka finally converted his high snap counts into a solid game posting 4 total tackles and a sack against the Redskins. Hopefully you didn’t have those players on your bench for those games. 29 DLs had at least one half sack in week 4 which is up from week 3 despite there being less games played.
It was a tough week for the free agent report as all three DL recommendations were less than stellar. Corey Peters and the Atlanta defense in general did not get to Teddy Bridgewater at all and the interior line of the Vikings prevented him from making any plays in the running game as well. Jonathan Hankins didn’t see the field very much as the Redskins were too busy turning the ball over and not completing passes. Steve McClendon logged 3 total tackles as the best option of the week but was disappointing to owners who expected a better showing from the Steelers’ defense.
Cedric Thornton/Fletcher Cox PHI DT/DE – DT/DE 3-4
Sack-hunting is a difficult game to play, especially when you lose matchups over it. Chasing tackles might be the safer, high floor play rather than the risky, high ceiling play that chasing splash plays can be. Cox and Thornton on the Eagles’ defensive line are space eaters that swallow up would be between-the-tackles runners and as such, put up solid tackle numbers. Cox has 16 total tackles through week 4 and Thornton has 17. Tackles aren’t flashy but can keep you from getting a zero at a position. Cox is the better play due to his penchant for splash plays now and again but also carries a larger likelihood of being owned already.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to Mid DL3
Vince Wilfork NEP DT – DT 4-3
I am recommending a defensive lineman from the AFC East but it’s not Derrick Shelby of Miami despite him getting 2 sacks in week 4. Shelby is fool’s gold, heading into a bye with a low snap count percentage and a trip back to the bench when Dion Jordan comes back from suspension. Let someone else buy on him. Instead, I’d focus on a guy like Vince Wilfork whose snap counts are increasing as he gets healthier after an Achilles’ injury last season. The former Hurricane is still as steady as it comes for nose tackle production and comes by splash plays more than most at his position. With the Patriots struggling and facing one of the last undefeated teams in the league in Cincinnati in week 5, I’m gambling on the veteran tackle to get more than his fair share of tackle opportunity against the run.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Low-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Athyba Rubin CLE DE – With the rested Cleveland Browns facing Charlie Whitehurst and the Tennessee Titans in week 5, I think that conditions are ripe for a big game from the Browns’ defensive line. The Titans have given up a sack and 10 or more points to a defensive end in 3 out of 4 games this year. Rubin has been silent this year but isn’t that far removed from being a dominant force for Cleveland. If you are gambling in week 5, Rubin is someone I’d look to for a spark.
Defensive Back Plays
Week 5 is a week that scares me a bit for those looking to stream an option into their starting lineup. A few games that should good may not necessarily mean huge throwing numbers but for the purposes of taking a shot, here are my guesses for shootout potential. CHI@CAR, ARI@DEN, ATL@NYG and maybe CIN@NEP if New England can figure out their protections.
Week 4 was not bad for the IDP Free Agent report. Sam Shields was the top scorer out of last week’s recommendations logging 3 solo tackles, 3 PDs and an INT against the Bears. It’s worth mentioning that 5 defensive backs for the Packers scored in double digits. The Bears are shaping up to be a matchup to exploit. Danny McCray did not see the field as Ryan Mundy and Chris Conte were both able to suit up after injuries in week 3. Mundy had a rock solid game, logging 8 solo tackles. Kendrick Lewis and Robert Blanton were not exciting but adequate with 6 and 7 total tackles respectively. Nate Allen was not the safety to exploit against San Francisco as he scored only 4 solo tackles whereas fellow Eagle safety Malcolm Jenkins racked up 7 total tackles and a pick six.
Josh Norman/Antoine Cason CAR CB – CB 4-3
I really like the matchup here with Chicago coming to town. There has been an average of 60 fantasy points scored by all defensive backs playing Chicago through 4 weeks including over 80 against Green Bay in week 4. You might remember Josh Norman as a member of the rookie rule of CBs in 2012. He scored over 70 combined tackles as a rookie starter for Carolina. After a year in a reserve role, he is now starting in place of former starter Melvin White who has been benched. Josh Norman can tackle but he is not the best tackle on the team for corners. Former Charger Antoine Cason takes that honor. Both make great plays going up against Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Quintin Demps NYG FS – FS 4-3
Former DB1 Stevie Brown had been benched in favour of Quintin Demps in the Giants’ defensive backfield prior to New York’s week 4 matchup against the Redskins. The former Eagle logged 7 total tackles and an INT in a blowout win. The Giants safety positions are usually spots of reliable production so Demps is worth owning as long as he owns the job. In the short-term, Demps and Giants have a great IDP matchup in the Falcons in week 5 and the Eagles in week 6. But those owners looking to start him in those games need to ensure he is available. Demps crushed Redskins TE Niles Paul in their game and put him out of the game with a concussion with a hit to the helmet. On further review, the hit looks cleaner than in full speed but it was flagged nonetheless in the game. I doubt that Demps misses a game over it but it is worth monitoring.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Brandon Meriweather WAS S – SS 3-4
Every year I recommend Meriweather as a solid in-the-box safety and he delivers, but yet every year, he is underdrafted because he is hurt, suspended or both. This year is no different. Brandon Meriweather is a prototypical box safety that is going to put up tackle numbers for your fantasy. The reeling Redskins also get the Seattle Seahawks coming off of a bye in week 5. This one might be a bloodbath and if so, Meriweather will surely be called upon in run support. Start him with confidence this week.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB1 to Low-end DB2
Tyrann Mathieu ARI CB/S – CB/FS 3-4
I’m calling a bit of a shot here that this game is the coming out party for the Honey Badger after returning from his knee injury last year. The second year pro out of LSU has been eased in slowly partly to help him gain confidence but partly because Tony Jefferson has played so well in his absence. The Cardinals get the Broncos in week 5 and I think that Mathieu will be thrust into a big role attempting to slow the advance of the Broncos offense. Jefferson slides into a linebacker spot in nickel packages which the Cardinals should be in for the majority of the game so Mathieu shouldn’t give up too many snaps to him. Mathieu logged 6 solo tackles against the 49ers in week 3; I expect him to equal or surpass those numbers on Sunday.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Captain Munnerlyn/Xavier Rhodes MIN CB – Rhodes and Munnerlyn each played all defensive snaps except one against the Falcons in week 4. Rhodes responded with 5 total tackles and 4 PDs whereas Munnerlyn logged 6 solo tackles. With Green Bay in town in week 5, I expect similar work for both corners.