Week 5: Player Upgrades
Player Upgrades is intended for fantasy football diehards. Each week when setting a lineup, a closer analysis is necessary to find out which players are destined for a great performance. Sometimes it is a favorable matchup or it can be as simple as an increased role due to an injury. Very few players are matchup-proof in this game. For every Aaron Rodgers or Ray Rice, there are a dozen players who could potentially be interchangable depending upon a number of factors.
This weekly article isolates your best options for a statistical breakout from Week 1 to Week 17. Let FFToolbox do the homework for you! Instead of scouring the waiver wire and opening up 20 tabs to compare and contrast players, let Player Upgrades be your guide. Each week, we will identify seven players (typically two QBs, two RBs, two WRs and one TE) that you should consider starting and we'll break each player down with some analysis.
Although he did very little in Week 4, make no mistake that Christian Ponder is playing very well this season. He's at his best spreading the ball around to all of his playmakers, which keeps defenses honest. In Week 5 Ponder will be tested (which is putting it nicely) by the Tennessee Titans defense. In every game, the Titans have allowed at least 202 passing yards and two passing TDs. To delve even deeper, Tennessee will also be without Jake Locker so that can only benefit Minnesota. Ponder may currently have the dreaded "game-manager" label, but the Titans' porous defensive secondary renders that point moot. How about this for a statistic? Tennessee is allowing first downs on 42.5-percent of passes, the second-worst rate in the NFL. Not only do we here at FFToolbox consider Ponder a "Player Upgrade," he's also listed in our Super Sleepers of Week 5 article; so be sure to check that out for more analysis.
Any quarterback going up against the New Orleans Saints automatically gets a bump in my book. Philip Rivers had his second-best game last week and could go off against one of the NFL's worst pass defenses. All of San Diego's playmakers are finally healthy and they have two running backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield (Ryan Mathews and Jackie Battle, respectively). The Saints have only forced two interceptions and opposing quarterbacks have a QB rating of 107.0. New Orleans only has six sacks, which should allow plenty of pocket time for Rivers. The last time he faced a pass defense this bad (Tennessee, Week 2), he passed for 284 yards and three scores in a decisive home win.
As has become customary in this column, I'm doubling down on one particular team having a strong offensive performance. Like the aforementioned Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews has a very favorable matchup against the New Orleans Saints. The reports surrounding Mathews are discussing his Week 3 fumble. Every back is going to get stripped from time to time. Mathews is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, which is in sync with his career average through two games. What makes him worth a "must-start" here is that New Orleans is allowing 186.8 rushing yards per game. Even if you disregard Jamaal Charles' huge game against the Saints, they still struggled against Alfred Morris (96 yards, 2 TDs), Carolina's two-headed rushing attack (147 total yards, 2 total TDs) and even Cedric Benson did well (106 total yards). Mathews' fantasy value has been trending down since he returned, but that won't continue after this game.
The Arizona Cardinals may be 4-0, but Ryan Williams hasn't contributed much to that. The second-year back was a sleeper this offseason, but he's barely been visible thus far. So what's promising about him? The Rams are coming off their worst run defense performance. They allowed Marshawn Lynch total 155 yards and a score. In the previous week, they played the Bears, who were without Matt Forte and were also playing behind (which severely limited their rushing game). St. Louis is allowing 4.7 yards per carry, seventh-highest in the NFL and six rushing TDs, tied for second-most. Now that Arizona's offensive line is fully healthy, Williams should have a chance to improve upon his Week 3 performance (13 carries for 83 yards, 6.4 ypc).
As long as Greg Jennings is battling his groin injury while on the sidelines, James Jones is a tremendous value addition as evidenced by his breakout Week 4 game against New Orleans (five receptions for 56 yards and two scores). Although the Packers' offense hasn't been as good or as efficient, it is not like we can collectively turn our backs on their potential to score in bunches. Now my issue with the Packers is that they have so many options, so that consistency is rare. That said, Jones is averaging six targets per game and that total can only increase with Jennings out of the picture. Green Bay takes on Indianapolis in Week 5 and even the Jacksonville Jaguars' WRs put up solid numbers against them. In the first two games of the season, Indy allowed WRs to catch 36 passes for 449 yards and three TDs. Needless to say, those are uncommon, huge totals. Jones is a must-add across all formats for Week 5.