One quarter of the 2017 NFL fantasy season is over and done with. There is enough evidence to judge who is the real deal and who might not be. But four weeks still leaves questions; the NFL fantasy points leaderboard is full of rushers riding one or two good weeks to maintain their rankings. Who can be trusted to start in Week 5 and who should sit before they crash back to earth? Here are some thoughts.
Start this guy: Lamar Miller, HOU vs Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City brings an undefeated record and a top-ten D/ST to Houston this week. They will try to force Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson to throw and make mistakes, which means they will try to shut down the running game. So why should you start Houston’s running back?
Lamar Miller has a few things going for him. First, Kansas City has given up four touchdowns to running backs this season, tied for second-worst. Second, coach Bill O’Brien doesn’t want Kansas City teeing off on his young quarterback, so he won’t abandon the run no matter the circumstances. Finally, more than a third of Lamar Miller’s twelfth-best RB fantasy points come from his receiving stats. So even in a pass-needy game pattern, Miller brings fantasy value. He’s not likely to go off on a 30-point explosion, but he’ll finish toward the middle of the top 20 running backs.
Sit this guy: Jordan Howard, CHI vs Minnesota Vikings
Chicago has another rookie quarterback to challenge, with a slight difference. This will be Mitch Trubisky’s first professional start and Minnesota is second only to Denver in the lowest points allowed to running backs. Green Bay used the same strategy last week; only a garbage-time touchdown scamper saved Howard from a disastrous fantasy day. Green Bay is no Minnesota when it comes to defense. In fact, after their banner effort against Chicago, they still rank among the worst-third of D/STs against running backs. This could be one of those weeks to start Tarik Cohen over Howard.
Start this guy: Melvin Gordon, LAC vs New York Giants
Whether his bothersome knee injury slowed him down or Phillip Rivers’ apparent impatience with him after he dropped a pass limited opportunities, Melvin Gordon has not looked like a top-five running back. The Giants cure that problem by throwing an injured Damon Harrison on top of an already disappointing run defense. Look for a bounce-back game for the Chargers’ star rusher.
Sit all these guys: Eddie Lacy and the Seattle Sehawks committee
Chris Carson fought hard to break away from the Seattle running back committee and win a role as the premier Seahawk running back. His unfortunate injury makes it more likely that the committee will be back in full swing, rather than Pete Carroll awarding someone else a featured role. Thomas Rawls will be activated and compete with Eddie Lacy for early-down work while JD McKissic will share passing downs with CJ Prosise if he returns this week. A revitalized Russell Wilson will swipe more carries and the potential for a high-scoring game hurts the running game prospects further. It all adds up to a good week to avoid any Seattle running back.
Start this guy: Marshawn Lynch, OAK vs Baltimore Ravens
After a good-looking first game, Lynch has bottomed out in opportunities and production. But he will be dusted off and thrown back out there as the Raiders run a ton to help their substitute quarterback. It helps that Baltimore comes into town as one of the most generous defenses for running backs. Jalen Richard might be worth a play, especially in PPR leagues, as EJ Manuel plays it safe as the Raiders’ starting quarterback.
Sit this guy: LeGarrette Blount, PHI vs Arizona Cardinals
Just when it looks like the Eagles are committed to running the ball first with LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood, here come the Arizona Cardinals. The Eagles will have to keep up with the aerial attack of Carson Palmer and a gelling group of receivers. If their D/ST maintains their stinginess against running backs and get a few stops early, this could turn into a passing affair for the Eagles sooner than later. That game script plays well for Wendell Smallwood and rookie Corey Clement, but not so well for Blount.
Week 5 flash-in-the-pan prediction:
Rookie Wayne Gallman takes over the New York Giants running attack, scoring twice and accumulating 120 total yards to become the hottest waiver wire acquisition of Week 6.
Full disclosure: about Week 4
Last week, I hit on two start ‘ems and all of my sit ‘ems. The mistake was starting an anemic Jay Ajayi who finished with 54 yards in front of his family and friends in London.
We’ll top that this week. Meanwhile, if you have an NFL fantasy football question, why don’t you send it to [email protected]? We’ll answer it in our weekly NFL Fantasy Mailbag on Wednesdays.
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