Exploiting the Matchups: Week 5 Start/Sit and Streamers

Exploiting the Matchups: Week 5 Start/Sit and Streamers

This article is part of our Exploiting the Matchups series.

Check out my other Week 4 work if you haven't already. Matchups are interesting, and they definitely matter at the extremes, but detailed knowledge of player roles and usage is a far more important part of managing a fantasy team. 

Backfield Breakdown and Target Breakdown are two of the best articles you'll find on any site to keep you up to date on role changes, injuries, usage trends and more. The articles are published every Monday and Tuesday, respectively, and both include a look-ahead to Week 5 waivers in addition to all the stats and notes for the previous week and full season. 

As much as I enjoy writing this Start/Sit article and Streaming Defenses, it's the time I spend on those 'Breakdown' articles each week that really keeps me ahead of the competition in my own fantasy contests. (They're especially useful if you play DFS or dynasty or are in any deep leagues.)

Now it's time to build on that knowledge and integrate the impact of matchups, with injuries of course playing a larger and larger role as the season progresses and Steel Curtains turn into Wayfair Basics linen blends.

Unless otherwise noted, references to 'fantasy points' are based on PPR scoring with 25/10 yards per point and 4/6 points for TDs. Start % comes from Yahoo, as of Wednesday night / Thursday morning.


Quarterbacks 👍


 Trevor Lawrence (vs. HOU) — 24% started

Start Over — Kirk Cousins (vs. CHI), Carson Wentz (vs. TEN), Geno Smith (at NO)

Houston's pass defense has actually fared alright so far, but the unit still lacks proven, high-quality starters and the current outlook is less than great for the players with potential to become that. Third overall pick Derek Stingley has allowed the fourth most yards (290) among cornerbacks, and second-round rookie Jalen Pitre has the most missed tackles among safeties (13, four more than any other player), per PFF. Both have bottom-15 PFF grades among qualified players at their positions, while the team's best pass rusher (Jonathan Greenard, 9.5 sacks since the start of last year) came out of last week's game with an ankle injury and then missed practice Wednesday. Everything is falling into place for Lawrence to rebound from the four-fumble disaster in Philadelphia.


Other Good Matchups: Tom Brady (vs. ATL), Jameis Winston / Andy Dalton (vs. SEA), Ryan Tannehill (at WAS)


Running Backs 👍


AJ Dillon (vs. NYG) — 57% started

Start Over — J.K. Dobbins (vs. CIN), Jeff Wilson (at CAR)

Dillon was listed here last week and ultimately got 18 touches for 84 yards (but no TD) in a close win over New England. The thinking here is that Green Bay wins by a larger margin this week and Dillon finds the end zone, facing a Giants defense that's allowed 5.1 YPC to running backs (26th) while ranking 21st in DVOA against the run. The Giants held Khalil Herbert to 19-77-0 rushing last week even with DL Leonard Williams (knee) out of the lineup, but that was against an offense that gives opponents little to worry about with the pass. The Packers, of course, have Aaron Rodgers, forcing defenses to stay honest even when Dillon and Aaron Jones are rumbling. 


Devin Singletary (vs. BUF) — 46% started

Start Over — Damien Harris (vs. DET), Kareem Hunt (vs. LAC)

While unlikely to repeat last week's 88 percent snap share in a tight win over Baltimore, the fourth-year back has handled two-thirds or more of the non-garbage-time snaps each week this season, with Zack Moss and James Cook largely resigned to giving Singletary an occasional breather or waiting until the game gets out of hand in the fourth quarter. The Steelers haven't been nearly as bad against the run as they were last season, but their front seven is far from intimidating without T.J. Watt, and troubles in the secondary could help Buffalo's run game with both starting safeties (Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds) missing practice Wednesday due to injuries. 


Other Good Matchups: Dalvin Cook (vs. CHI), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (vs. LV), James Robinson (vs. HOU), Miles Sanders (at ARZ), Damien Harris & Rhamondre Stevenson (vs. DET), Mark Ingram (vs. SEA)


Wide Receivers 👍


Gabe Davis (vs. PIT) — 57% started

Start Over — Adam Thielen (vs. CHI), Jerry Jeudy (vs. IND), JuJu Smith-Schuster (vs. LV)

While the early returns on Davis living up to his ADP aren't promising, he should have success this week even if he fails to break through for a higher-volume role. An ankle injury has been at least partially responsible for his lack of targets (14 in three games), and that shouldn't be an issue any longer after Davis logged a full practice Wednesday for the first time since Week 1. The Steelers, meanwhile, had three of their top five defensive backs missing from practice Wednesday, with the other two also injured (but at least managing limited practices). They've already given up the sixth most fantasy points to WRs, and it'll only be more of the same this week in a road game against the high-flying Bills. This is also a great matchup for Stefon Diggs, of course, and Isaiah McKenzie should make some plays from the slot if he's able to clear concussion protocol before Sunday.


Chris Godwin (vs. ATL) — 48% started

Start Over — Diontae Johnson (at BUF), Allen Lazard (vs. NYG), DJ Moore (vs. SF)

Godwin handled 83 percent snap share in the SNF loss to Kansas City while lining up in the slot 81 percent of the time (43 of 53 snaps). He's perfectly capable of thriving on the perimeter, but the slot is exactly where we want him against an Atlanta defense that almost never moves AJ Terrell or Casey Hayward inside and has mostly been using undrafted rookie Dee Alford as the nickel/slot guy. Tom Brady should look to Godwin early and often this Sunday.


Other Good Matchups: Chris Olave (vs. SEA), Terry McLaurin (vs. TEN), Robert Woods (at WAS), DeVonta Smith (at ARZ), Tyler Boyd (at BAL)


Tight Ends 👍


Zach Ertz (vs. PHI) — 67% started

Start Over — Gerald Everett (at CLE), Tyler Higbee (vs. DAL)

This is less about the matchup and more about the reality that Ertz should be started every week, at least until DeAndre Hopkins is back from suspension for Week 11. The veteran tight end has scored double-digit PPR points in every game this year, averaging 7.8 targets, and he could see even more work this Sunday against an Eagles defense with one of the better CB groups in the league. The fortunes of the Cardinals and Eagles certainly have reversed since they completed a trade for Ertz last fall, but in this case it might work in the tight end's favor — at least from a fantasy standpoint.


Other Good Matchups: Dallas Goedert (at ARZ), David Njoku (vs. LAC), Evan Engram (vs. HOU)



Quarterbacks 👎


Matthew Stafford (vs. DAL) — 35% started

Start Instead — Aaron Rodgers (vs. NYG), Derek Carr (at KC), Kirk Cousins (vs. CHI)

The Rams may or may not get C Brian Allen (knee) back in the lineup this week, but the left side of their offensive line remains a struggle in pass protection, with LT Joe Noteboom allowing a league-high 20 pressures this year while also tying for the most sacks (five), QB hits (six) and hurries (nine) surrendered (per PFF). The gap between Noteboom and retired Andrew Whitworth has been even larger than expected, and LG David Edwards is also having a down year in pass protection, with the sixth-lowest PFF grade (33.9) among qualified guards and two sacks allowed in three games. It all spells trouble for Stafford and the struggling Rams offense against a red-hot Dallas defense led by arguably the best edge-rush duo in the league — Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence.


Other Tough Matchups: Kyler Murray (vs. PHI), Marcus Mariota (at TB), Cooper Rush (at LAR), 


Running Backs 👎


Ezekiel Elliott (at LAR) — 64% started

Start Instead — Breece Hall (vs. MIA), J.K. Dobbins (vs. CIN), Dameon Pierce (at JAX)

Elliott looks quicker this year to the naked eye, but the Cowboys' run blocking has taken a step back even as the pass protection sans Tyron Smith (IR - knee) has been a pleasant surprise. Both Zeke and Tony Pollard are averaging less yards per carry than last year, and the latter has a 13-7 advantage in targets after Elliott held a 65-46 edge last season. The Rams, meanwhile, have allowed only 3.8 YPC to running backs and have yielded a league-low 12.0 fantasy points per game to the position. 


Rashaad Penny (at NO) — 35% started

Start Instead — Jeff Wilson (at CAR), Melvin Gordon (vs. IND), Nyheim Hines (at DEN)

Not much has gone right for the Saints this year, but they still have a lot of talent on defense and once again are proving to be a tough matchup for RBs (sixth in fantasy points allowed, 10th in YPC, 13th in run defense DVOA). Between that and the potential for a shoulder injury to impact his workload, Penny looks like more of a borderline RB2 or Flex than a reliable Week 5 starter, even after exploding for 17-151-2 last week. His talent is undeniable at this point, but the poor team around him combined with a lack of receiving work (five targets in four games) means Penny will still have bust weeks.


Other Tough Matchups: Tony Pollard (at LAR), Chase Edmonds (at NYJ), Tyler Allgeier & Caleb Huntley (at TB)


Wide Receivers 👎


DJ Moore (vs. SF) — 38% started

Start Instead — Tyler Lockett (at NO), Drake London (at TB), Robert Woods (at WAS)

The 11 targets last week offer some shred of hope, but it's unlikely to come together for Moore this weekend when Baker Mayfield has to deal with one of the better pass rushing teams in the league. It's the type of matchup where Mayfield will need to make tough, accurate throws into tight windows on the perimeter, as no team covers the middle of the field better than the Niners, led by linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw and emerging-star-safety Talanoa Hufanga. With cornerbacks Charvarius Ward and Emmanuel Moseley also playing good football, there's really no area where Carolina's offense will have the advantage this Sunday. The only hope is a total no-show from the Niners, who are traveling cross-country on a short week.


Allen Robinson (vs. DAL) — 25% started

Start Instead — Tyler Boyd (at BAL), Romeo Doubs (vs. NYG), Brandon Aiyuk (at CAR)

Robinson appears washed up, but he could still have useful performances some weeks if he continues handling an every-down role... which seems highly likely given the alternatives. He'll likely run a lot of his routes against CB Trevon Diggs this week, and even if he gets open there's the matter of Stafford staying upright and looking to Robinson rather than Cooper Kupp


Other Tough Matchups: DK Metcalf (at NO), Rashod Bateman (foot) & Devin Duvernay (vs. CIN)


Tight Ends 👎


Pat Freiermuth — 43% started

Start Instead — Gerald Everett (at CLE), Dalton Schultz (at LAR)

You might think the Bills would struggle against tight ends after losing star safety Micah Hyde, but they still have more defensive talent than most teams and have now allowed the second fewest points to tight ends after shutting down Mark Andrews (2-15-0) last week. They previously made Austin Hooper and Mike Gesicki invisible, and before that Tyler Higbee needed 11 targets to get to 39 yards. Freiermuth's early season usage is extremely promising — he's even the main picture for Target Breakdown this week (the highest of honors) — but a big stat line on the road in Buffalo is asking too much. 


Other Tough Matchups: Tyler Higbee (vs. DAL)


Streaming Picks

For Shallow Leagues (40-66 percent rostered)

QB Carson Wentz (vs. TEN)

RB Raheem Mostert (at NYJ)

WR Tyler Boyd (at BAL)

WR George Pickens (at BUF)

WR Darnell Mooney (at MIN)

WR Michael Gallup (at LAR)

TE Irv Smith (vs. CHI)

K Brandon McManus (vs. IND)

K Greg Joseph (vs. CHI)

D/ST Vikings (vs. CHI)

D/ST Jaguars (vs. HOU)


For Medium-depth Leagues (16-39 percent rostered)

QB Geno Smith (at NO)

RB Mike Boone (vs. IND)

RB Mark Ingram (vs. SEA)

WR Jarvis Landry (vs. SEA)

WR DeVante Parker (vs. DET)

WR Zay Jones (vs. HOU)

TE Hayden Hurst (at BAL)

K Nick Folk (vs. DET)

D/ST Titans (at WAS)

D/ST Dolphins (at NYJ)


For Deep Leagues (0-15 percent rostered)

QB Teddy Bridgewater (at NYJ)

RB Caleb Huntley (at TB)

WR Noah Brown (at LAR)

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (vs. LAC)

TE Mo Alie-Cox (at DEN)

K Riley Patterson (vs. HOU)

K Wil Lutz (vs. SEA)

D/ST Jets (vs. MIA)


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Jerry Donabedian
Jerry was a 2018 finalist for the FSWA's Player Notes Writer of the Year and DFS Writer of the Year awards. A Baltimore native, Jerry roots for the Ravens and watches "The Wire" in his spare time.
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