Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall hasn’t practiced all week because of a hamstring injury and it is still unclear if he will play in Week 5. This news opens the door for backup Isaac Redman. He has been the Steelers’ most consistent runner through the first quarter of the season, averaging almost five yards per carry. If Mendenhall doesn’t play, which seems likely, Redman instantly becomes a solid fantasy play on Sunday. He has decent hands and is a very good downhill power back. Mewelde Moore, the other Pittsburgh backup, has been bothered by an ankle injury and is doubtful to play this weekend, so Redman could be all by himself in the backfield. This obviously would mean he’s a must start in all formats. The matchup against the Tennessee Titans is somewhat challenging, but given the workload that Redman could receive if Mendenhall is out is enough for me to fully endorse him on Sunday.
Look for the New York Jets’ running game to get back on track against the New Englnad Patriots. Shonn Greene has had a miserable start to the 2011 season, rushing for just 157 yards through four games, but you shouldn’t give up on him just yet. Yes, New England has arguably the best offense in the NFL, but their defense is another story. Teams have been running all over them. They’ve given up the seventh most fantasy points to running backs thus far. Jets coach Rex Ryan already stated that his team is going to run the ball a lot on Sunday. Add the fact that the Patriots stud linebacker Jerod Mayo is out with a sprained MCL, and both Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson could be in line for nice fantasy days. Greene is still the starter and will see most of the carries so he has the greater value, but T has provided a solid source of receptions and receiving yards out of the backfield for New York. He could be a sneaky flex start, while Greene is looking good as an RB2.
It looks like Ryan Mathews is finally starting to put his fantasy potential to good use in San Diego. The passing game hasn’t been spectacular for the Chargers yet, but Mathews is doing his part. He’s averaging 72 yards a game on the ground with three scores and has also chipped in with almost five catches and 64 receiving yards per game. Mathews is on pace for nearly 2,200 total yards and 12 touchdowns, which would be a monster season to say the least. Coach Norv Turner stated that he wants to start giving him of heavier workload as well, so the news is getting better and better for Mathews owners. Expect him to not keep this pace up all season, but as long as he’s healthy it’s clear that he is the back to own for the Chargers. He should be able to find some room to operate against the Broncos on Sunday, so expect another solid day at the office out of Mathews as both a runner and receiver.
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England
Ridley is a rookie running back that has jumped on the scene the last two weeks for the Patriots. Last week against the Oakland Raiders he nearly eclipsed the 100-yard mark on just 10 carries, rushing for 97 yards and an impressive touchdown. Yes, New England is a throwing offense, but coach Bill Belichick still likes to get the run game working to compliment the aerial attack, so Ridley could start to be used in deeper leagues. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still getting more carries than Ridley and has been somewhat effective, but it’s evident who the best runner is for the Patriots. He’s averaging an insane 8.2 yards per carry and though the sample size is small (18 carries) Ridley is slowly working his way to the top of the depth chart. Danny Woodhead is dealing with an ankle injury right now so Ridley should get at least 10 carries again on Sunday. The matchup is very punishing as the Jets are one of the better defenses in the league, but this is why he’s listed as a sleeper for Week 5.
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati
Gresham has built a solid rapport with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton after four games. He’s averaged four catches and 60 yards a game over the last two weeks and has two touchdowns on the season. The Bengals don’t exactly have the greatest offense around and rely heavily on the run game, but Gresham is turning into a solid tight end choice with some upside. As Dalton continues to progress in his rookie campaign so will the fantasy relevance of Gresham. He has an outstanding matchup in Week 5 against Jacksonville so if your tight end has a bye week go and grab Gresham if he’s available because the Jaguars are allowing the most fantasy points to tight ends this season. There are a lot worse moves you could make this week than taking a chance on Gresham.
Jacoby Jones, WR, Houston
Jones gets the start Sunday against the Oakland Raiders with the hamstring injury to Andre Johnson, and fantasy owners needing receiver help should give him a very long look because he could have a very nice day. Jones has been real quiet so far this season, posting just 91 yards with a return touchdown, but he should see plenty of targets on Sunday. The Texans will rely on the running game a lot now that Arian Foster is back to full health, but they still throw the ball a good amount of times and Oakland’s secondary is one of the worst in the NFL. Last year when Jones filled in for an injured Johnson he piled up 10 receptions for 185 yards in two games so he’s been in this position before and has thrived at it. Fellow wideout Kevin Walter is still a little banged up as well so Jones should be the No. 1 receiver this weekend. Jones could be a nice flex option for Week 5, especially with his punt and kickoff return abilities.
Lock of the Week
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City
Owners are getting down on Bowe for his production in 2011, but his numbers have still been solid. He’s averaging 73 receiving yards a game so far and has two trips to the end zone, meaning he’s on pace for close to 1,200 yards and eight scores. Having a repeat performance of 15 touchdowns like he had in 2010 is a tough act to follow, but owners should be patient with Bowe because it was about this time last year where he went on his incredible touchdown binge. He’s a must-start every week, even in the terrible Kansas City offense and he should give owners a big day on Sunday. Bowe should shred apart the Indianapolis Colts’ soft pass defense and put up his best fantasy game of the season. He hasn’t had more than five receptions in any of the four games this season and this should change in Week 5. Expect Bowe to surpass the 100-yard total for the third time in five games and find pay dirt at least once. The running game is dismal for the Chiefs right now and chances are they will be playing from behind even against winless Indianapolis so the targets will be plentiful for Bowe. Enjoy his output!