On Sunday morning, fantasy owners will inevitably struggle through decisions of which similarly priced players to start. Let fantasy expert Ricky Sanders guide you through five difficult decisions many will be dealing with heading into Week 5:
QB – Tom Brady/Ben Roethlisberger – The public’s perception that “angry Tom Brady” exists certainly is going to boast his ownership percentage this weekend but, personally, I prefer statistics. Since 2016, the Patriots have been listed as 10.5-plus point favorites 34 times and Brady has averaged 24.23 fantasy points in those contests. Outside of the split, Brady has averaged 24.1 fantasy points so the difference is nominal. On paper, Brady’s matchup looks absolutely juicy because the likes of Ryan Tannehill and Kirk Cousins have lit up the Browns for three TDs each over the past two weeks. On the other hand, Ben Roethlisberger is coming off his fifth career five-plus TD game last week which ties him for fifth most in NFL history. Amazingly, all five of those games have come at home and six of his seven best fantasy outputs last season came at home. There is something about playing in Heinz Field that just works for Roethlisberger, so instead of questioning it, fantasy owners should just accept the fact and use it to their advantage. The Jets secondary has allowed the sixth most fantasy points to opposing QBs and now Darrelle Revis will miss Sunday’s contest. Both are in fantastic spots but Roethlisberger’s matchup is better on paper and he’s playing at home. Those simple facts deem him the slightly better play and the one to use in cash games.
RB – Jordan Howard/Jerick McKinnon – Going cheap at RB this week, especially in cash games, is the preferred play due to the plethora of expensive receivers in ideal spots to succeed. Also, there are a fair amount of cheap backs that are locked in as their team’s bell cow for way too cheap. With that sort of the value at the position, rosters essentially construct themselves. The only question is which of the cheap backs is in a better position: Jordan Howard or Jerick McKinnon? In Week 4, Howard played 91-percent of his team’s snaps while McKinnon played 62-percent. This led to Howard touching the ball 26 times compared to McKinnon’s 21 but McKinnon edged him out in fantasy points due to his TD. In fact, McKinnon received a whopping four red zone touches which was his downside heading into the week. Most believed Matt Asiata was their designated red zone back but that did not prove to be true (even though he scored as well). If McKinnon is going to see a healthy amount of red zone touches, then he is basically Howard for cheaper (since Howard receives almost all of the Bears’ backfield touches). At $2,400 cheaper, McKinnon is one of the best bargains on the entire slate and slightly edges out Howard in terms of fantasy allure this week.
WR – Jordy Nelson/Brandon Marshall – One of the toughest decision of the day is which receiver to spend up for other than Antonio Brown in cash games. This is incredibly hard for a multitude of reasons. Over the course of Jordy Nelson’s career, his team has been favored by 7.5-plus in 48.5-plus point over/unders on eight occasions during the Aaron Rodgers era. In those games, Nelson has averaged a whopping 6.38 receptions (RECs), 22.55 fantasy points and 1.12 TDs compared to just 3.7 RECs, 11.98 fantasy points and 0.44 TDs out of the split. Meanwhile, Brandon Marshall’s numbers have remained remarkably consistent whether his team has been listed as a big underdog (twice) or not. The matchup is quite favorable against a Steelers defense that has allowed the most passing yards. Since they have held opponents to just five receiving TDs, they rank in the middle of fantasy points allowed to both opposing QBs and WRs. Marshall is the prime red zone target for the Jets now with Eric Decker sitting due to an ongoing shoulder issue. Both Nelson and Marshall are in excellent spots to succeed but it’s hard to ignore those aforementioned Nelson splits. If the salary is available, pay up for the Packers’ number one options who has already scored four TDs in his first three games.
WR – Antonio Brown/Odell Beckham Jr. – How does one choose between a Lamborghini and a Porsche? Well, it’s not easy but there’s a clear answer this week: exposure to the Steelers passing game is absolutely necessary in cash games. Sure, Odell Beckham Jr. is playable once again in a matchup against a banged up Packers secondary. Not only are they missing their top corner (Sam Shields) but they have allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing WRs. Beckham’s numbers through four games this year (22 RECs, 304 receiving yards) are nearly identical to last year (24 RECs, 307 receiving yards) so there really is nothing to worry about. However, Antonio Brown is the cream of the crop at the receiver both for the season and this week. Prior to the Darrelle Revis injury, Pro Football Focus listed his individual advantage as the third greatest of the week. Now, Brown is going to be matched up against a backup of some sort and the Jets have allowed the sixth most passing yards (including eight passing TDs). To this point, only Mike Evans has been targeted more on a per-game basis than Brown and we already know Roethlisberger loves playing at home. Ideally, rostering both is the move, but Brown is an easy choice if only using one.
TE – Martellus Bennett/Zach Ertz – On Friday, Martellus Bennett looked like the “nuts” (poker term meaning “the absolute best”) play at the TE position with Rob Gronkowski still dealing with a hamstring injury. Unfortunately, the situation became a bit more muddled on Saturday when CBS’ Jason La Canfora reported Gronkowski will have an expanded role in Week 5. Clearly Tom Brady has been able to sustain two TEs in the past (Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez) but the probability of success decreases if the targets are being split amongst two players at the same position (i.e. Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle). In this case, both Gronkowski and Bennett are superior talents but there are still only so many targets to go around. During Zach Ertz’s absence, Trey Burton emerged as a pass-catching option at the position but likely not enough to eat into his targets now that he is back and 100-percent. Furthermore, Ertz faces just about the best matchup an opposing TE could ask for as the Lions have allowed 18 TDs to the position over their last 20 games. Both are cheap and possess intriguing ceilings but Ertz’s floor is much higher. Combine the safety of using him with his $400 cheaper price tag and Ertz is clearly the superior play of the two.