In “Start or Sit,” we make a call on players who merit strong starting consideration — and players who might be best on the bench. However, owners should tailor their own lineup strategy to their roster constraints, league rules and other relevant factors.
Here’s our Week Five rundown:
Dolphins WR Brian Hartline (at Cincinnati) — Here's a waiver-wire pickup who can be plugged into the lineup in Week Five. I would have recommended Hartline even if he wasn't coming off a franchise-record 253 receiving yards a week ago; the Bengals' pass defense is vulnerable, and it's hard to recommend sitting any club's go-to guy against Cincinnati right now.
Bears RB Matt Forté (at Jacksonville) — Forté very well could improve in his second game back from an ankle injury. The Jaguars have allowed 150.3 rushing yards per game, and Forté could be quite busy if the Bears get an early lead. I'm also high on Bears backup RB Michael Bush, who's a perfectly acceptable RB or "flex" starter in bigger leagues.
Bears RB Alshon Jeffery (at Jacksonville) — Why do I like Jeffery? The Jaguars had no answers for Bengals WR A.J. Green in Week Four. Do they work to take away the Bears' Brandon Marshall in Week Five? Hard to say. But in bigger leagues that start three wideouts, I'd be willing to roll the dice with Jeffery this week. The Bears will be able to run the ball. Perhaps Jeffery receives a downfield look or two off play-action.
Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (at New Orleans) — Mathews owners have to be frustrated by Jackie Battle's surprisingly big role in the offense. Nevertheless, it's time to press on with Mathews in the lineup. The Saints are allowing a league-worst 186.8 rushing yards per game, and they have had problems against the pass, too. The matchup is simply too favorable to bench Mathews out of frustration.
Vikings WR Jerome Simpson (vs. Tennessee) — Colleague Eric Edholm believes the Vikings will look to take some field-stretching shots against the Titans, whose pass defense has struggled this season. Simpson's 27-yard reception was the club's longest offensive play in Minnesota's 20-13 win at Detroit Sunday. He also drew defensive pass interference penalties of 31 and 26 yards against Lions CB Bill Bentley.
Patriots RB Brandon Bolden (vs. Denver) — If you're heavily depending upon Stevan Ridley, here's to hoping you have picked up Bolden as insurance. However, Bolden's not a recommended Week Five start. The Broncos are allowing a mere 3.4 yards per carry, and Ridley figures to keep getting the majority of the carries. One other note: Patriots reserve RB Danny Woodhead had some success in limited work vs. Denver a season ago, gaining 6.4 yards per touch and scoring a TD in the regular-season win vs. the Broncos. It wouldn't be a surprise if he got some work, too. In short, how many carries will there be to go around for the backs behind Ridley? It could be a week-to-week proposition.
Steelers running backs (vs. Philadelphia) — It's hard to forecast Rashard Mendenhall's workload in his first game back after an ACL injury suffered at the end of the 2011 regular season. Moreover, neither Jonathan Dwyer nor Isaac Redman did much with their opportunities when Mendenahll was out of the lineup. The Eagles are solid vs. the run, allowing just 91.5 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. I might let Week Five play out before getting Mendenhall back into your fantasy lineup.
Titans wide receivers (at Minnesota) — Kenny Britt remains bothered by an ankle injury. Nate Washington has had two productive games and two underwhelming ones. Rookie Kendall Wright is talented but still a little inconsistent. The Vikings are allowing a mere 5.85 yards per pass this season, one of the NFL's best averages. It wouldn't surprise me if a Titans wideout reached the endzone at Minnesota, but none towers above the rest as a must-start this week.
Eagles QB Michael Vick (at Pittsburgh) — If Vick is far-and-away your best QB option, he's certainly worth starting, considering his playmaking ability. However, the Steelers will be fresh off the bye, and I would expect their pass rush to perk up. This would help the secondary, making matters all the more challenging for Philadelphia's offense.