Fantasy football: Check season-long trends, not matchups, when setting lineup

We're roughly at the quarter-pole of the NFL season, on the cusp of week five and, for fantasy purposes, I think we can start looking at season-long trends when using match-ups to decide who to start.

I'm not a big believer in only looking at match-ups – talent level of the player in question should always been the main factor – a look at match-ups could help you choose between two players in equal standing or who you can pluck for a bye-week fill-in.


It's also time to become agnostic about draft position for your players. In redraft leagues, don't hold onto someone just because you spent a high draft pick on them. That's not to say you should be giving away a player for shells and beads because they haven't produced, but if you drafted LeSean McCoy No. 1 overall and are struggling because of him so far, it's not crazy to trade him for guys who are playing better right now if it helps your team.

Time to move on from Tom Brady


I don't own any shares in the future Hall-of-Famer this year, but if I did, I think I'd be ready to jump ship.  I wouldn't outright drop him unless I've got a really shallow bench – hang onto him until he has a quality outing, then prey on a fantasy owner who sees the name brand and thinks "Brady's back" and sell him for more than he's worth.

You can't count on Brady as anything more than a high-end QB2 at best this season and against the tough Bengals defense this week, you cannot start Brady with confidence. If you own Brady and didn't draft a quality second quarterback, some potential options this week include Eli Manning (37 percent availability in Yahoo leagues) vs. Atlanta and Joe Flacco (64 percent) vs. Indianapolis.

Bishop Sankey ready to rumble

It looks like Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt is going to take the shackles off of his rookie running back Bishop Sankey, finally supplanting never-was Shonn Greene. The timing is pretty good too, with the Titans facing a couple of soft run defenses over the next month.

Sankey was most likely drafted in the early part of the middle rounds in August, so his owner in your league may have held onto him. If not and he's on your league's waiver wire as you read this, go grab him right now. I'll wait.

In limited touches, Sankey is averaging a whopping 5.7 yards a carry, and while I expect that to adjust a bit as he gets more carries, he's a back I'd much rather have going forward than any of the committee types like Chris Johnson or Chris Ivory with the Jets and the returning Ben Tate in Cleveland. I might even consider him over Doug Martin at this point, who just can't seem to regain that rookie year magic.

Starting him this week, however, is tricky, because even though Whisenhunt said Sankey is going to get more carries early on, Greene is most likely still going to draw the start,  and it's not like head coaches haven't lied to us before.

I'd prefer to start him as a Flex option this week, but I'd consider Sankey for an RB2 if say, I own Arian Foster but he's not going to play because of his lingering injury issues or if I'm otherwise rolling out a Buffalo Bills running back against a stout Lions front seven.


Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!

Coming into the season, I wasn't especially high on Reggie Bush -- another year older and it looked like Joique Bell was going to be in a 50/50 split with him. But Bell has been ineffective and now injured, and Bush is in line for all of the RB touches in Detroit this week. Buffalo's defense has actually been pretty good, especially against the run, but the Bills are actually giving up the fourth-most yardage to running backs through the air, an area in which Bush excels.  While I hope the Lions aren't using Calvin Johnson as a decoy again this week, if he's still not 100 percent, they could lean on Bush even more.

Bench Matt Ryan and start Eli Manning?

Here's something I never thought I'd write this season. But Manning has been on fire while Ryan has really struggled on the road, with 19 interceptions in his last 10 away from the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome. And the Giants aren't exactly slouches in the defensive department, especially the secondary. Ryan's hard to sit, but he still hasn't completely proven he's must-start material.

Meanwhile, Atlanta's defense might be one of the worst in the league. It sets up well for Giants offensive stalwarts like Manning, RB Rashad Jennings, WR Victor Cruz and TE Larry Donnell, who is quickly becoming a must-start at the tight position (just don't expect another 3 touchdown game anytime soon).

Have faith in Vincent Jackson


V-Jax has struggled through the start of the season, but seemed to get back on track with the Tampa Bay Bucs improbable win in Pittsburgh last week. Whether it was the ineptitude of the Steelers' defense remains to be seen, but Jackson seems to just have better chemistry with Mike Glennon. As long as Glennon is at the helm, I'd feel pretty good about Jackson as my WR2.

Should you avoid Houston's wide receivers?

Remember when everyone thought the Dallas Cowboys defense was going to be a joke? They continue to hold their own, and are actually one of the more difficult on opposing wide receivers so far this year. On the other hand, they absolutely cannot cover tight ends. So, with that in mind, I'm probably still going to start Andre Johnson or DeAndre Hopkins (who is quickly surpassing Johnson, if he hasn't already, as the top Texans wideout) as WR3 of Flex players, especially in PPR, but I'm going to temper my expectations. But, if I need a tight end flyer, Garrett Graham is an intriguing choice to strike paydirt this week.  If you play daily fantasy football, his $5,000 price tag at Fan Duel and $3,000 at Draft Kings are definitely enticing.

Give Cousins another shot, just not this week (or next)

While I wouldn't dare touch Kirk Cousins against Seattle this Sunday (don't be tempted by the fact the Seahawks are in the bottom third in points given up to quarterbacks; remember, they've faced Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning), I'm not completely giving up on him, even after his dismal four-interception performance.

Cousins is not a definite QB1, but after this week and next (at Arizona), he has a slate of plus match-ups over the next month and a half (Tennessee, at Dallas, at Minnesota, bye, Tampa Bay). He's a guy to sneak onto your roster when no one is paying attention right now.


Defensive match-ups

If you picked up San Diego's defense against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, you probably weren't disappointed, but they didn't deliver ridiculous numbers like previous Jaguars opponents. The Jags are still pretty bad, and you could probably roll with the Steelers against them last week. Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau has a pretty strong record against rookie QBs like Blake Bortles, but after the Steelers collapse against Tampa last week, I'm not feeling very confident in them.

Hopefully, you hung onto San Diego if you picked them up, as they get the Jets at home. Geno Smith is really struggling right now, and while it wouldn't be a surprise to see them turn to Mike Vick if Smith continues to struggle, I don't know that he'll be much better.

Philadelphia was a popular pickup for this week against the Rams, but the Rams are coming off their bye with plenty of time to prepare and I don't think St. Louis is as bad offensively as some people think. Still, there aren't many great streaming options this week.