With a quarter of the NFL season now behind us, we all have a firm grasp of the direction our teams are headed. For those of you who are going in the wrong direction and need a little bit of help, each sleeper named in this article can help turn things around.
Whether it was bad drafting, injuries taking their toll or bye weeks coming to fruition, everyone has a hole or two on their team. That’s where these guys come in. They’re not meant to become crucial parts of your team going forward, but rather brief, one-week plugs to cover up those holes.
Am I going to guarantee that every one of these guys has a big week? Of course not. But based on the numbers, situation and matchup, I’m fairly confident with each player on the list.
If you’re in need of a quick fix this week, keep reading and you might find it. As always, though, your team will only go as far as you take it. Don’t feel obligated to start anyone just because they’re here. If you find other matches that seem more appealing, roll with your gut. I’m here to help, not manage your team.
So without further ado, here are the 10 best fantasy sleepers of Week 5.
Eli Manning, New York Giants, Quarterback
It has to stop, right? At some point, something has to give, doesn’t it?
Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, just a few years removed from earning the “You can’t have elite without Eli” catchphrase. This season he’s been anything but that.
I can understand if you’ve lost all hope in him. A six touchdown-to-nine interception ratio is horrific, not to mention his paltry completion percentage, 56.3 percent. But he’s playing the Philadelphia Eagles. And ladies and gentlemen, that’s all I need to know.
Manning will throw the ball a lot this week, and much like his brother did last week, he will find his receivers. The Eagles defense really is that bad, currently giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. That’s a trend I see continuing.
If you still have him stashed somewhere on your bench, it would be prudent to bust him out this week. We’ve seen Eli be this bad before, and we’ve also seen him rebound from terrible games. I don’t see any scenario where he doesn’t throw for at least 350 yards and two touchdowns, and I’m being cautious with those predictions.
He’ll have a top-10 fantasy week, maybe even top-five. For at least this week, Eli will look like the guy in the video above. All hail the Eagles defense, the givers of fantasy points.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams, Quarterback
Yes, I know, Sam Bradford looked awful last week. A lot of quarterbacks do playing against the San Francisco 49ers defense. He’s not playing them this week, though. He’s playing the worst team we’ve seen in years, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If the Jaguars defense has any redeeming qualities, I ask you, please point them out. They can’t defend the pass, they can’t defend the run, and they can’t put pressure on the quarterback. I’m about a week away from just automatically inserting whichever starting quarterback plays this team.
Let’s put it this way: If Tim Tebow walked on to the Rams half an hour before the game, I’d start him.
The Jaguars are giving up the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. As bad as that number already is, it would be much, much worse if teams actually played their starters in the fourth quarter and threw the ball.
The beauty of it all? The St. Louis Rams are nearly as bad. Bradford will probably be on the field and throwing the ball the entire game.
Believe it or not, the 49ers game aside, Bradford hasn’t been that bad of a fantasy play this season. He had 25 points in Week 1, 33 in Week 2 and 15 in Week 3. I see another plus-20-point performance in him this week. If you’re in need of a quarterback this week, Bradford is as good of a fill-in as you’ll find.
Isaiah Pead, St. Louis Rams, Running Back
OK, lets just get this out of the way: Isaiah Pead is playing the Jaguars. As you saw in the last slide, I’m not particularly high on that defense.
With Daryl Richardson tweeting that he will not be the starter this week, via Anwar S. Richardson of Yahoo! Sports, his carries will likely go to Pead. With the Jaguars giving up the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs this week, he’s a low-end flex play for me, especially if you have a certain crucial member of your team on a bye this week (i.e. Adrian Peterson).
Will he be a world-beater? Probably not. But as we all know, running back options are scarce, and sometimes you just have get the most out of a bad situation. Opportunity generally yields results, and when those opportunities are coming against the defensive sieve that is the Jaguars, the results could be pleasantly surprising.
If you’re in a bind this week, go with Pead. The upside here is actually pretty enticing.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets, Running Back
Even with reports that Chris Ivory has begun practicing this week after injuring his hamstring in Week 3, per Jack Choros of SB Nation, Bilal Powell has been the better back this year and should retain the starting duties even if Ivory returns.
The Atlanta Falcons qualify as a league-average run defense, giving up the 14th-most fantasy points per game to running backs this season. The New York Jets know that if they have any hopes of staying in the game, they’re going to have to pound the ball on the ground and try to keep the ball out of Matt Ryan’s hands.
Powell should have plenty of touches this week, and his 4.4 yards per carry prove that he can do something with those carries. His numbers the past three weeks have been impressive, putting up 13, 15.8 and 10.8, respectively. I see him crossing the 10-point benchmark again this week.
He’s a decent RB2 for me this week and a great flex option if you have a good stable of backs. If he manages to reach the end zone, the numbers could be staggering.
Rashad Jennings, Oakland Raiders, Running Back
When Darren McFadden exited the game last week with a hamstring injury, Rashad Jennings actually came in and provided a decent stat line. He put up 11.6 fantasy points, and that was without finding the end zone.
With McFadden expected to miss the game against the San Diego Chargers this week, according to Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride, Jennings should receive plenty of touches this week. It all comes down to what he will do with them.
With news that Terrelle Pryor will likely start the game on Sunday, via Chad Bertrand of Yahoo! Sports, I like the chances of Jennings having a big week a lot more. Young quarterbacks tend to rely on their running backs as safety valves in the passing game, and Jennings has shown that he is an adequate pass-catcher out of the backfield.
Jennings isn’t a shoo-in starter by any means, but if you’re in need of a viable flex play, he’s your guy. He’ll get plenty of touches and is always a threat to bust out a big play.
Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders, Wide Receiver
It’s been feast or famine for Denarius Moore this year, as he’s had games of 10.3 and 18.4 points this year, but also put up a goose egg against—gulp—the Jaguars in Week 2 and just 6.6 against another defensive pushover, the Washington Redskins.
That being said, this is a good matchup for him, as the San Diego Chargers have given up the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. The return of Pryor is also a plus for him because of the tendency of the young quarterback to air it out deep. As one of the fastest receivers in the league, I expect Moore to come down with a few of those.
Sometimes you just have to take a risk and roll the dice. Is it a possible that Moore puts up another flat performance? Well, yeah. But he has huge upside and the big-game potential is oozing out of this one. Division games tend to bring out the best in players, and I expect nothing less out of Moore this week.
He’s a solid WR3 for me this week and a great flex play. He’s a guy who can get you all of the points you need on just one play, and though a fair amount of risk comes with this start, fantasy championships are often won on risks like this.
James Jones, Green Bay Packers, Wide Receiver
After giving his fantasy owners exactly zero points in Week 1, James Jones proceeded to score 15.8 and 9.4 in the ensuing two weeks. Now, coming off of a Week 3 bye, Jones should be poised to put up some big numbers.
While the Detroit Lions secondary has been above average this year, allowing the 17th-most fantasy points per game this season, they could be extremely undermanned, according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk:
With an NFC North showdown looming on Sunday in Green Bay, three starters in Detroit’s secondary were held out of practice today: cornerback Chris Houston with a hamstring injury, safety Glover Quin with an ankle injury and safety Louis Delmas with a knee injury.
That’s great news for Jones and the rest of the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t need help picking a secondary apart, but he might have gotten some anyways this week. With this being a divisional game that features two quarterbacks who love to sling it around, I expect big numbers all across the board.
He’s an easy WR2 for me this week and could put up WR1 numbers if Rodgers finds him enough times. He should be started in all formats.
Chris Givens, St. Louis Rams, Wide Receiver
Bradford is on the list. Pead is on the list. We might as well complete the trinity and throw Chris Givens in there, too!
It’s not that I like picking on the Jaguars. I really don’t. And on the surface, they haven’t been terrible when guarding receivers this year, checking in at right around league average, 16th overall. But we all know that’s just a mirage, that number a product of teams running the ball the entire fourth quarter.
Givens hasn’t been anything special this year, cracking the 10-point benchmark just once in Week 2. I think he’s due, though, and Bradford was looking for him last week, targeting him six times overall.
Givens has big-play ability, a speedster on the outside who likes to stretch the field. Like Moore, all it takes is one big play hitting for him, like in the video above, to justify his spot. I like the matchup, I like that Bradford was looking for him last week, and I feel comfortable with him as a strong flex option this week.
If you need some receiver help this week, he’s a go.
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins, Tight End
Charles Clay saved a lot of fantasy owners last week, with his garbage-time touchdown giving his overall numbers a nice little boost. I see him having another strong performance this week.
He’s proven to Ryan Tannehill that he’s as reliable of a receiving option as anyone, hauling in all six of the balls thrown his way last week. While the Ravens still boast a strong defense, guarding the tight end has proven to be a weakness, giving up the 12th-most fantasy points in the league.
With Kyle Rudolph on his bye week, many owners will be looking for a replacement this week. Clay won’t disappoint. He’ll put up TE1 numbers this week and maybe even for the rest of the season as well.
Atlanta Falcons Defense
The numbers for Geno Smith this season haven’t been pretty. He’s averaging two interceptions per game, eight total, and he’s been sacked a whopping 14 times. He’s also put the ball on the ground three times, giving him a total of 11 turnovers. And the kicker? He’ll be without his top two receivers this week, Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill.
He’s also catching the wrong team at the worst possible time. While the Atlanta Falcons came into the season with Super Bowl aspirations, they’ve started the season at 1-3 and are in desperate need of a victory. Their defense is in for a big week.
Smith and the Jets are currently giving up the fifth-most points to opposing defenses this season, and I expect that trend to continue. Smith will continue to experience the growing pains of being a rookie, and the turnovers will be plentiful in this one.
I see Atlanta being a top-five defense this week and wouldn’t be surprised if they equaled their overall season total of 20 points. Smith just doesn’t have enough weapons on offense to do much of anything.
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