Week 5: Start 'Em
Let me start off this week by apologizing to anyone who read my article last week and started Darren McFadden. My only hope is that you used one of my other recommendations, like Mike Sims-Walker or maybe even Kerry Collins. I promise you right here and now that I will never ever recommend any other Raiders running backs, actually I won't recommend any Raiders players whatsoever for the rest of the season. Last week we saw some new players emerge in the fantasy world, starting with James Harrison gaining 152 total yards and Mohamed Massaquoi being targeted a game high 13 times (catching 8 of them for 148 yards). Then it was Rashard Mendenhall on Sunday night going for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns in his first NFL start. With 4 more teams on bye this week and some regular fantasy starts injured, here are a few options for you to consider using in your line-up this weekend.
Awesome is all that needs to be said about David Garrard's performance last week vs. the Titans, when he passed for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns (no interceptions) and had another 38 yards rushing. So far this season Garrard is looking a lot more like his pro bowl season of 2007 when he finished with a career high 18 touchdowns (vs. only 3 interceptions). After 4 games this year Garrard has already passed for 941 yards, 5 touchdowns and only 1 interception -- not to mention 108 yards rushing (putting him on pace for a career year in that category). Garrard seems to have found a new big play weapon in Mike Sims-Walker and will look to continue his hot start vs. Seattle this coming weekend. If your QB is injured or on a bye, Garrard is the man to start.
Hightower, Wells, Hightower, Wells, that's probably what's going through the coaches' minds in Arizona. Who should get the bulk of the carries and the load out of the backfield? Making it worse for the Cardinals is that neither running back has stepped up and taken the job by the reins. Well rested after a bye week and playing at home, the Cardinals face the Houston Texans (who are giving up 165 yards per game on the ground). While neither running back has stepped forward, Hightower has definitely been the more productive back -- especially catching balls out of the backfield, where he has 20 receptions through 3 games and Wells has none. Give Hightower another chance this week and watch him produce.
No one was sure what to expect from Marshawn Lynch last week coming off his 3 game suspension, and the fact that replacement Fred Jackson started the season on fire. Lynch is too good to be kept to the side and it's only a matter of time until he gets his starting gig back. In his first game back he was eased into the offense, sharing the load with Jackson; Lynch had 13 touches to Jackson's 12. Lynch didn't run the ball well at all, but he did look good coming out of the backfield leading the Bills in receptions -- 5 for 43 yards. This week Buffalo faces the Browns, who have been giving up the most fantasy points (no matter the format you use) to running backs -- allowing an average of 155.2 yards per game and 2 touchdowns, not to mention 6.8 receptions for 56.8 yards. Time to get Lynch back into your starting line-up.
Rashard Mendenhall had one hell of a first start in the NFL. In week 3 Mendenhall was active but didn't record any stats, and leading up to week 4 there was a lot of talk about Mendenhall being in the doghouse and him not knowing the playbook. Well with Willie Parker out with the ever lingering turf toe, Mendenhall got his first start and he didn't disappoint. Mendenhall rushed the ball 29 times for 165 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and 2 touchdowns; he also caught 2 more balls for 26 yards. While Willie Parker thinks he will be back this week, it doesn't look like the Steelers will rush him back anytime soon. The Steelers have 2 easy match-ups the next 2 weeks -- the Lions and the Browns -- so look for them to give Mendenhall plenty of opportunity to show that last week wasn't a one game wonder.
As he has been for most of his career, Nate Burleson is once again starting but playing inconsistent. He put up solid numbers in weeks 1 and 3 and poor numbers in weeks 2 and 4. The fact that Seattle has been missing starting QB Matt Hasselbeck and a few of the O-Linemen hasn't helped the situation. Well here are 2 things that should help Burleson put up a good game this week: The 1st is that it looks like Matt Hasselbeck will be back under center this weekend (check back later in the week for confirmation) and the 2nd is that the Seahawks are playing Jacksonville (who are giving a league worst 282.3 yards per game through the air). Look for Burleson to bounce back from last week's stinker to put up a big game. Make sure he is in the starting line-up this weekend.