As we look ahead to Week 5, we welcome Bye weeks back to the mix. OK, we don't necessarily welcome Bye weeks unless our favorite team has been bruised and battered early on, but we need to acknowledge and accept them. That line smacks of something out of a first-year psychology textbook, but it's true nonetheless.
Fortunately, owners are not losing a ton of fantasy starters in this week's set of Byes. The Twitter-verse joins fantasyland in mourning the idle statuses of Tony Romo and his receivers. We'll miss Ray Rice, Peyton Hillis (it's getting interesting in Cleveland), Brandon Marshall, Steven Jackson and Joe Flacco. I'll miss yelling "Sexy Rexy" in either/or questions on the Sunday morning radio show. And, I'll miss rolling my Dungeons & Dragons 12-sided dice when pondering Mike Shanahan's backfield.
We've got bigger issues to discuss.
Is there a new song intro for Monday's game in Detroit? Will it be Bob Seger singing "Like a Rock" to celebrate Detroit? Would he go to "Turn The Page?" Too soon?
Why did it take us nearly one month to bring up Brett Favre's name?
Why are people practically given away seats to the Vikings-Cardinals matchup?
You can go and see this game for about $10 if you chase down seats on the secondary ticket sites. That's a pretty good bargain to cheer on two of the game's top stars and celebrate their fantasy heroics in person.
Anyway, I feel like I'm drifting into a late-night episode of "SOAP." (YouTube this dated reference). Let's get back on the field.
Exclusions: Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford
It only took four starts, but Cam Newton also makes the list.
Week 5 Heroes
Matt Ryan, ATL vs. GB: It's been an interesting, uneven opening to the 2011 season for Ryan. He passed for 195 yards with four touchdowns in the Week 2 win over the Eagles. In Ryan's other three starts, he's passed for at least 291 yards, but has generated a total of two touchdowns.
Owners who have been awaiting a monster game from Ryan and his passing attack are going to get their dreams fulfilled on Sunday night. The Packers have dominated on the ground (a product of team's playing catch-up, to some degree). However, Green Bay ranks 31st in pass defense (336 yards and 2.25 touchdowns per game). All signs point to a shootout in Atlanta. Enjoy the fireworks
Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF vs. PHI: I jumped off of the neckbeard bandwagon in Week 4 when the Bills visited Cincinnati. I sprinted to catch up with the masses as soon as the final gun sounded.
Fitzpatrick is a strong play this week at home this week against the Eagles. Fred Jackson will get things rolling on the ground, thereby affording Fitzpatrick to get the ball downfield. The porous run defense disguises the deficiencies in the secondary. Don't buy the 217.8 passing yards per game count. Look to the 10 passing touchdowns allowed.
Eli Manning, NYG vs. SEA: Owners were diving off of Eli Manning in a hurry following that rough Week 1 effort against the Redskins. Manning responded in grand fashion with three consecutive strong starts. In the past three weeks, Manning has tossed eight touchdown passes against two turnovers.
Manning takes on a Seattle defense that ranks well statistically through four weeks. The Seahawks rank 16th in terms of passing yardage, but have ceded only three touchdown passes to date. Of course, without a pass rush (five sacks) and few turnovers (two interceptions), that line can shift in a hurry. Manning pushes them down a few pegs on Sunday in a big home tilt.
Mark Sanchez, NYJ at NE: If you watched Sunday's debacle against the Ravens, you're probably questioning my sanity. Sanchez was absolutely awful against Baltimore, completing 11-of-35 pass attempts for 119 yards with four turnovers.
I'll put him back in the plus column this week against the sieve-like New England pass defense that moves forward without linebacker Jerod Mayo, who sustained a knee injury against the Raiders. The Patriots have surrendered 368.8 passing yards and 1.75 passing touchdowns per game. Tom Brady gets things rolling against the second-ranked Jets pass defense (Good luck, Mr. Cromartie.). Sanchez hooks up with Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes to try and keep pace.
Josh Freeman, TB at SF: Freeman has yet to produce a breakthrough statistical game. He passed for 287 yards in Week 4 against Indianapolis with a touchdown pass, 27 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. It should be noted, for those that didn't watch, that Freeman had a long touchdown pass to Arrelious Benn taken off of the board when Benn was ruled to have stepped out of bounds before making the reception.
Freeman is on the board for a stronger, more consistent option here against the San Francisco pass defense (27th in the NFL at 284 passing yards and 1.75 passing touchdowns allowed per game). Mike Williams hasn't burst through for a big game just yet, but Preston Parker and Arrelious Benn are capable complements and long-distance threats.
Kevin Kolb, ARI at MIN: Kolb didn't have much to show for his effort against the Giants statistically in Week 4 (237 yards with two turnovers), but he did move the ball and set up Chris Wells' touchdown romps.
I'm moderately concerned about the Cardinals' inability to hold back Jared Allen and the Minnesota pass rush. Arizona has surrendered 12 sacks. The Vikings have logged 12 of them. Still, I'm looking for the Cardinals to push downfield against this Minnesota secondary that has allowed 286.3 passing yards and 1.5 passing touchdowns per game.
Jay Cutler, CHI at DET: Can he avoid Ndamukong Suh? That's the question fantasy owners facing a Bye week or injury are asking this week.
Cutler only passed for 102 yards with an interception against the Panthers in what appeared to be a glorious spot. Who could have thought that Mike Martz would call run after run after run? Cutler had averaged 286 passing yards in the Bears' first three games. He'll be gunning to keep pace with Matthew Stafford on Monday night.
Andy Dalton, CIN at JAC: Dalton has played in the shadow of Cam Newton's hot start, but the rookie from TCU performed nicely during the first quarter of the season. He passed for 298 yards with a touchdown, two interceptions and a rushing touchdown in last week's upset win over Buffalo and blew up in a loss to Denver in Week 2 (332 yards with two touchdowns).
Dalton has two fantastic options at the ready in A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham. Green is already well on his way to becoming a star, and Gresham is building off of a strong rookie campaign. The Jaguars allow 228.8 passing yards and 1.5 passing touchdowns per game. Jacksonville has generated just six sacks through four games.
Week 5 Ninja Alerts
Donovan McNabb, MIN vs. ARI: McNabb's name doesn't leap from the page, but he's worth a look-see in the sea of injury and Bye week voids (we lament the absence of Rex Grossman). McNabb has averaged 214 passing yards in his past three games and has found Percy Harvin more consistently.
Kyle Orton, DEN vs. SD: Celebrate the neckbeard! At some point, the Broncos may change course and get into the Tim Tebow debate. I'm not so sure that it happens anytime soon. The Packers dominated the Broncos in Week 4, but Denver lost its first two games by a combined six points to Oakland and Tennessee (its lone win was a two-point home win over Cincinnati).
Orton has averaged 236.2 passing yards with two touchdowns and two turnovers per game. He may drive you mad, but Orton keeps firing downfield with Brandon Lloyd and Eric Decker.
Alex Smith, SF vs. TB: I'm riding the fact that Smith's yardage total has increased in three straight weeks. OK, I'm really looking at the fact that there's a balance to this unit now and that Michael Crabtree responded to the smelling salts (he caught five passes on nine targets for 68 yards in Week 4). Smith passed for 291 yards with two touchdowns and played efficient, error-free ball against the Eagles (who at this point are not what we thought they were). He's got a solid home date here, mixing things up with his tight ends, the aforementioned Crabtree and his pass-catching running backs. Tampa Bay can get after it on the defensive line with Adrian Clayborn, so Smith's ability to maintain his composure will be paramount.
Bye weeks and injuries make for strange bedfellows, so go long.
Week 5 Flop Alerts
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT vs. TEN: Roethlisberger practiced Thursday and will reportedly start Sunday's tilt against the stingy Tennessee pass defense. The Titans travel to Pittsburgh tied for seventh in the NFL, allowing 212 yards and one touchdown per game. Safety Chris Hope underwent surgery to repair a broken arm, but Jordan Babineaux is a capable backup. I'm fearful that Roethlisberger's foot injury precludes him from extending plays as he is wont to do. Start him with caution.
Would I be shocked to see him pass for 275 and multiple touchdowns in a "get right" game? No, I wouldn't. Given what we've seen through four weeks and playing behind an injured and heretofore ineffective offensive line and dealing with his own injury, I certainly can't expect heroics.
Matt Cassel, KC at IND: I went back and forth for quite some time on Cassel before he finally settled below the line. He's played better since the second half of the Week 3 game against San Diego. Cassel passed for 176 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in that contest before leading the Chiefs to a victory in Week 4 over Minnesota while passing for 260 yards and a touchdown (he added 20 rushing yards).
Despite the advances of the passing game and resurgence of Steve Breaston (seven receptions in the past two weeks), I'm tapping out against the Colts (257.3 yards and one touchdown allowed per game). Owners may look to slide him in for an injured starter or as a Bye week option, but I'm not anticipating fireworks.
Matt Hasselbeck, TEN at PIT: Hasselbeck posted a fantastic opening quarter to the 2011 season. He averaged 288 passing yards and two touchdowns per game, including a resounding road win in Week 4 against the Browns without Kenny Britt (220 yards and three touchdowns).
Hasselbeck faces an interesting test this week on the road in Pittsburgh, a defense still seeking its identity after getting run over by Arian Foster in Week 4. The Steelers have allowed a league-low average of 157.5 passing yards and one passing touchdown per game. I'm intrigued to see how the defensive line responds in Week 5 against Chris Johnson, who notched his first 100-yard game of the season last week. If the Steelers commit extra bodies to thwart the run, Jared Cook has the size and speed to generate a mismatch downfield. Still, Hasselbeck rates no better than a mid-QB2 for this week.
Matt Schaub, HOU vs. OAK: Schaub remains a QB1 in the rankings, but something doesn't quite "feel" right about this one. The Raiders have ceded nearly 275 net passing yards and two passing touchdowns per game. The loss of Andre Johnson still leaves me reticent to snap Schaub the ball this week. Jacoby Jones has been an inconsistent target for several seasons, and Kevin Walter was targeted just once last week against the Steelers (even with Johnson missing a good chunk of that game). Owen Daniels is the lone steady, trusted option in this passing attack (James Casey?).