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Breaking the Huddle – Week 5

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From our very first football game as a toddler, to the day we are buried with our championship trophies, our goal is to building a starting lineup capable of destroying our upcoming opponents. Now entering Week 5, there is a plethora of information flying at us daily, including injuries, bye weeks and defensive matchups. Here are the major factors aiding us in these gut wrenching decisions.

FRIDAY’S INJURY REPORT

The single most important factor calculated into our starting lineup is injury. Anything from concussions to turf toe can cause a player to miss playing time (get it, head to toe!). Even a teammate's injury can influence a player’s productivity (just ask Jordon Cameron). The only pseudo-reliable piece of insight available to the common man is the Friday Practice Report.

“PROBABLE/FULL PARTICIPATION in PRACTICE”

These are the list of guys suffering from the aches and pains that accompany any gladiator sport. However, all signs point to them playing in the upcoming game. The Week 5 list includes Eric Decker, Jamaal Charles, Martellus Bennett, Eddie Lacy, Jermichael Finley and Terrelle Pryor (mentioned below). Start each of these players as needed.

“OUT and DOUBTFUL”

When a player is listed as out or doubtful, this means he will not take the field, thus equaling zero fantasy points (it’s a simple equation really). Players who should be pulled from our lineup immediately include Santonio Holmes, Ahmad Bradshaw, Lance Moore, Miles Austin, Mark Ingram, James Starks and Darren McFadden. Already on the buster train, Stevan Ridley has been ruled out for the upcoming matchup with Cincinnati. LeGarrette Blount suddenly has low-end RB2 status.

Game Time Decision (GTD)

The nastiest four words in fantasy football are running back by committee (curse you Mike Shanahan). Her ugly twin sister is game time decision (GTD). Any player who is listed as questionable/limited is considered a GTD. This is coach speak for “maybe he’ll play, maybe he won’t.” Our job is trying to predict which coaches are lying, and who could be missing come Sunday. After playing last week, Vernon Davis is still being listed as limited/questionable. Many are sweeping this under the rug, but that tag gives me the chills. I’m sitting Davis for the likes of Martellus Bennett , Antonio Gates and possibly Jermichael Finley . Andre Johnson also played last week. In a huge game against San Francisco, I expect him to be on the field. Unless you have superior options (DeSean Jackson, James Jones ), it’s best to ride with Johnson. Watching last week’s game against New England, it’s obvious Roddy White isn’t 100 percent. In years past he had no problems separating from defenders. Now he’s finding little room to work, forcing Matt Ryan to squeeze the ball into tight windows. I want him to prove it before he can crack my starting lineup. Kenbrell Thompkins, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and 12 other Patriots found themselves listed as GTD. Typical Bill Belichick smoke screens. While Thompkins is a lineup lock, both Gronkowski and Amendola are nearly impossible to decipher. Sorry to say, but our determination is completely reliant on the Inactive Report (seen below). Calvin Johnson has struggled through some minor knee issues. He was listed as questionable/limited, but this smells like a Jim Schwartz lame attempt to mess with the Green Bay Packers. Johnson looks like all systems go. Ryan Mathews magically showed up with a hamstring injury on Friday. Any other player and I wouldn’t view this as a concern. But given Mathews’ history, Danny Woodhead suddenly has high-end RB3 status. Brandon Marshall is another player who has been on the field for every week, but showing obvious pain. He’s a near lineup lock, but temper your expectations in a plus-matchup with New Orleans. I don’t ever start a player who didn't practice all week. That’s you, Cecil Shorts. Stephen Hill has found himself in fantasy lineups of late. Despite the favorable matchup against Atlanta, and the loss of Santonio Holmes , it doesn’t appear he’ll be ready. Keep Hill on your bench.

BYE WEEKS

I’m sure all of us have already mapped out our byes. But if you’ve just come back from the moon, the four teams who are not playing this week are Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington. Feel free to remove these players now.

DEFENSIVE MATCHUPS

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Terrelle Pryor has been declared 100-percent clear of his Week 3 concussion. Now facing the 32nd-ranked San Diego defense, Pryor has low-end QB1 value. He’s an excellent bye week replacement. Facing the Vince Wilfork-less New England Patriots, Giovani Bernard owners should be salivating. My arch nemesis all season has been David Wilson. Like a spring ready to pop, I don’t want to miss the ride. With my RB1 Alfred Morris on bye, I’m starting Wilson this week facing the 22nd-ranked Philadelphia rush defense. Identical to the Dallas Cowboys, the Baltimore Ravens have become infamous for neglecting the running game. And like the Cowboys, the next week they lean heavy on the running game. In turn, Ray Rice is a solid RB2. Minus Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece , Rashad Jennings will carry the load for Oakland. Based on the number of forecasted touches, Jennings does have upside. Just note he is more of a high-end RB3 facing the fifth-ranked Chargers defense, who have not allowed a rushing touchdown this season. This week Maurice Jones-Drew is playing the league’s worst rush defense in the St. Louis Rams. It’s now or never. I’m also willing to ride Tavon Austin . The Rams want to get their No. 1 pick into the rotation, and facing the 19th-ranked Jaguars is the perfect opportunity. He has mid-to-upper WR3 status. I keep reading that Alshon Jeffery’s Week 4 performance should be downgraded because most of his production came in junk time. Facing New Orleans this week, the entire second half could be junk time. With Brandon Marshall less than 100 percent, I’m starting Jeffery as a mid-WR3 and Martellus Bennett as a mid-TE1.

Buyer Beware

I don’t like calling players “sits” or “starts” because it’s completely dependent on your options. For example, Chris Johnson facing Kansas City is a brutal matchup. However, with four teams on bye, and numerous running back injuries, Johnson is nearly impossible to sit; just be advised. I rode Dwayne Bowe last week and it paid off in a plus-matchup. However, this week Bowe falls back to being a lower-WR3 facing the sixth-ranked Titans. Not fully healthy and facing the No. 3 Houston tight end defense, Vernon Davis is on my bench. Just saying. You’re never sitting him, but be forewarned Trent Richardson facing the Seattle defense is brutal. I can’t name the last team to have a goal line carry against the stiff Seattle front seven. I was excited to get Daryl Richardson into my lineup this week against a porous Jacksonville rush defense. But the Rams are rumored to be playing some of the younger guys in what looks to be a lost season. I’m sitting Richardson. Rashard Mendenhall was chastised last week by coach Bruce Arians. With Andre Ellington picking up steam, Mendenhall is now a low-end RB3. Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers are going against the No. 1 ranked New York Jets defense. I don’t think so. I was shocked to find the Arizona Cardinals are now the No. 2 ranked rush defense. Subsequently, DeAngelo Williams falls to a mid-RB3. While some stats are inflated by matchups, the Baltimore Ravens rush defense is not. Lamar Miller will find it tough sledding. I also see Miller as a mid/lower RB3. The Seattle Sahawks come into this week sixth against quarterbacks. Already a low-end QB1 in fantasy leagues, Andrew Luck is a very tough start. Hopefully you have better options. In related news, Reggie Wayne is being called a sit facing the No. 1 ranked Seattle pass defense. Like any big time players facing a rough matchup, you must have solid options to pull the trigger (can you tell I’m betting the under?).

EASY LIKE SUNDAY MORNING

Finally, every Sunday morning we have two crucial factors before marching into battle - the Weather Report and the Inactive Report.

The Weather Report

Last week, not a single game was impacted by adverse weather. After all we’re past the summer thundershowers and still short of the snow season. However, rain and wind are still a factor to consider before submitting our starting lineups. As stated, I’m going to give the same advice - make sure to check the wind speed and the Doppler Radar of the city in question on game day. If wind exceeds 12 mph, start to downgrade players accordingly. If a “significant” moisture cell, (red, yellow or dark green) is headed toward an NFL stadium, downgrade your player(s) accordingly, emphasizing our quarterbacks and wide receivers. As of 2 a.m. on Oct. 5, only two cities are forecasted to experience poor weather - Cincinnati (vs. New England) and Tennessee (vs. Kansas City). Keep an eye on each of these stadiums Sunday Morning.

INACTIVE REPORT

“While our weekly wrap up started with the Injury Report, it will always end with the Inactive Report. Released 15 minutes before kickoff, any player listed on the Inactive Report will not see the field, a guaranteed zero fantasy points. Even if your entire team appears primed and ready to roll, always, always check the inactive report. Make this mistake once and you’ll know what I’m talking about.”

As always, when it comes to setting your starting lineup, trust your gut. No writer can know your team better than you. Good luck and we’ll see you on the flip side.