For the most part, Week 5 simply boiled down to who had the right stars.
Nobody should have given any thought to benching the likes of Deshaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Jones, Michael Thomas, or Amari Cooper last week. While Will Fuller proved the ultimate wild card, many matchups swung on the backs of those must-start studs.
I’d like to pretend I deceived my opponent into sitting DJ Chark via last week’s column, but I’m not smart enough to execute an evil scheme. Now that Jacksonville’s breakout wide receiver has earned enough trust to play every week, don’t expect to see him in this column anytime soon. The following players, on the other hand, all come with some reasonable doubt. Let’s determine who should start and sit with a helping hand from the Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR), taken on Tuesday night from half-PPR scoring.
Start: Dak Prescott (DAL) at NYJ: QB8 ECR
Prescott followed his first scoreless game of 2019 with three picks against Green Bay. The Jets, meanwhile, limited Carson Wentz to 189 passing yards and one touchdown in a 31-6 loss. Gang Green has coughed up just five passing scores all season, so some managers may overthink themselves into sitting Prescott. Don’t do that. He’s attempted at least 30 passes in every game, including a trio of double-digit wins to open the 2019 campaign. During that stretch, he trailed Patrick Mahomes by 1.2 points for QB1 honors. It was also, of course, when Prescott had Tyron Smith protecting his blindside. Start Prescott with confidence if his star left tackle returns from a high-ankle sprain. Otherwise, it’s a dicier decision.
Sit: Jameis Winston (TB) vs. CAR (London): QB12 ECR
Winston doesn’t offer much in the way of reliability. He’s gone for 380 and 385 passing yards against the Giants and Rams, respectively, but settled for 194, 208, and 204 in the other three games. Gamers will at least take Week 5’s boring line, as it came with two touchdowns and no picks. There’s more downside with his pocket in danger of eroding. He’s already gotten sacked 18 times, and the Panthers have procured an NFC-high 20. Despite Gardner Minshew feasting in a losing effort, Carolina still ranks fourth in passing defense and third in opposing yards per pass attempt (6.0). Winston managed to go a paltry 16-of-25 for 208 yards and a score in Week 2’s 20-14 win, so don’t expect a ceiling game in London.
Start: Carlos Hyde (HOU) at KC: RB27 ECR
A showdown between the Chiefs and Texans unsurprisingly carries Week 6’s highest over-under line by a noticeable margin. While Kansas City is favored at home, a win is far from certain after narrowly besting the Lions before falling to the Colts. This contest presents a major opportunity for Hyde, who has established a decent floor with more than 7.5 points (half-PPR) in each game. He hasn’t shown much upside, however, with five catches in as many games to go along with 14.6 carries and 62 rushing yards per contest. Facing a defense relinquishing 5.3 runs per carry nevertheless gives the 29-year-old a chance at reaching triple-digit rushing yards for the first time since September 17, 2017. He should also add to his 10 red-zone handoffs in a high-scoring affair, making Hyde a worthwhile flex play at Arrowhead.
Sit: Jordan Howard (PHI) at MIN: RB25
The timing of this call is certainly curious. In the midst of a scorching heater, Howard has banked five touchdowns in the last three games. He’s received a dozen red-zone handoffs in the process for an Eagles offense slowly finding its rhythm. This is still likely a hot streak rather than the rise of a set-and-forget runner. Far from a bell-cow, Howard has played in just one-third of Philadelphia’s snaps this season. He’s averaging 11.8 touches per game, only exceeding 13 in Week 4’s breakout against a Green Bay unit giving up the third-most fantasy points to the position. The Vikings, meanwhile, have allowed 3.6 yards per carry and one rushing touchdown. They’re also favored at home, a concern since Howard totaled 63 yards in the Eagles’ two losses. He’s a reasonable flex play in hopes of extending his touchdown streak to four games, but Howard won’t hold his own otherwise.
Start: Terry McLaurin (WAS) at MIA: WR30 ECR
When I hosted a Reddit AMA on Tuesday night, a lot of people asked about McLaurin’s value in light of Washington firing head coach Jay Gruden without a clear starting quarterback. The honest, but not too helpful answer: We’ll see. In a rough matchup, maybe it’d be prudent to watch from the sidelines. Not against the Dolphins. Only the Buccaneers have permitted more passing yards per game, but nobody fares worse than Miami’s 10.3 yards surrendered per pass attempt. The rookie hasn’t needed strong quarterback play to deposit 308 receiving yards and three touchdowns in four contests, amassing at least seven targets and 50 yards each time. His only bout without finding pay dirt came against the Patriots, who haven’t yielded a single passing score all season. McLaurin should be the top target for whoever starts under center for Washington in an opportune matchup.
Sit: Emmanuel Sanders (DEN) vs. TEN: WR34 ECR
It’s amazing that Sanders recovered from a torn Achilles suffered last December in time to start the season. It’s amazing that he’s opened 2019 with three huge games. Just as he reset the goalposts to loftier expectations, the 32-year-old has faltered (10 yards in Week 3, nine in Week 5) in two of Denver’s last three contests. Given the league’s overflowing wealth of wide receivers, it’s not worth risking another vanishing act. A showdown with Tennessee poses Week 6’s lowest over-under line. While Sanders hasn’t needed shootouts to thrive, a 23-17 game would certainly put his volume in jeopardy. Watching Joe Flacco engineer 20 throws to 29 handoffs last Sunday won’t inspire much confidence in the passing game either, especially since Courtland Sutton has supplanted his veteran teammate as Denver’s top receiver.
Start: Greg Olsen (CAR) at TB (London): TE6 ECR
Olsen has followed a riveting start with five yards in Week 4 and none last Sunday. Stay the course. The 34-year-old gets a rematch with the Buccaneers, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends after the Cardinals. Olsen factored in heavily to those troubles by catching six of nine targets for 110 yards in Week 2’s victory. While that was with Cam Newton at the helm, he then collected two touchdowns from Kyle Allen the following game. He’s still the TE8 despite two abysmal duds, so good luck finding someone worth starting instead of Olsen.
Sit: Jimmy Graham (GB) vs. DET: TE8 ECR
Despite facing Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce in their last two games, the Lions are one of five teams yet to permit a touchdown to a tight end. They’ve relinquished four passing scores in as many games with the NFL’s second-lowest opposing completion rate (55.4%). Given Graham’s habit of vanishing entirely, it was somewhat encouraging to see him follow a season-high 61 yards with 41 against the Cowboys. Yet even with Davante Adams sidelined, he received just three targets. Graham still has too much bust potential to trust as more than a de facto starter. With Darren Waller on a bye and Evan Engram potentially out, this comes with a massive caveat. There probably aren’t a dozen better options, but I’d rather roll the dice on Gerald Everett.