It’s hard to believe, but Week 5 of the 2017 NFL season is underway which can only mean one thing: Bye week drama.
Teams on a bye week during Week 5 are the following: Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins. That’s a lot of teams with legitimate fantasy starters that will be left on the bench this week.
Without the likes of Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Mark Ingram, Emmanuel Sanders and more, fantasy owners will be tested this week as they maneuver around the waiver-wire and make multiple lineup changes.
Here, we’ll take a look at a few backup running backs who will step into the spotlight this week and some players who should be left on the bench where they belong. Don’t let bye weeks and injuries distract you from another win this week. Check out this week’s “Boom or Bust” prospects below:
Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings
With Dalvin Cook out for the season with an ACL injury, someone will be getting the carries out of Minnesota’s backfield. And that somebody is Latavius Murray.
Latavius Murray took over as the top back after Dalvin Cook’s injury, making him a prime option for fantasy owners https://t.co/fuWeuRdHgc— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 2, 2017
Murray has proven to be a capable back in the NFL, rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2015 and another 788 yards in 2016, averaging 4.0 yards per carry in both seasons. Although he’s averaging just 2.7 yards per carry this season, keep in mind that he’s only had 14 touches through four games and that’s not nearly enough carries to properly judge his performance off of.
It’s fair to say that Murray won’t replicate the success that Cook was having for the Vikings before his season ended, but fantasy owners don’t need to flashy plays - they just need the production. Murray could be the bell-cow for Minnesota moving forward, even with Jerick McKinnon practicing in full this week.
But for the short term, know that Murray will be getting those goal line touches and running in between the tackles this week against the Chicago Bears.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders
The man who replaced Latavius Murray in Oakland is also expected to have a big game this weekend. Marshawn Lynch may not have looked like his old “Beast Mode” self in recent weeks as the Raiders have struggled running and passing the ball.
With Derek Carr out for what looks to be anywhere from 2-6 weeks, you might consider benching Lynch since the Raiders won’t be as good on offense. But Carr’s absence is exactly the reason why Lynch’s value goes up this week.
The Raiders will have to rely on a run-heavy gameplan, an ideology that fits perfectly with Lynch. If you’re in a PPR league, expect Lynch to touch the ball about 20 times on Sunday, which will be easy points before factoring in any yards or touchdowns he might get as well.
Averaging 3.4 yards per carry through four games this season, Lynch and his fantasy owners are in dire need of a breakout game. Rushing for a combined 30 yards in the past two weeks won’t cut it much longer for one of the league’s most powerful backs.
Going up against the Baltimore Ravens defense, which has surrendered 428 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns to opposing running backs, all signs are pointing up for the former Seattle Seahawk.
Be ready to slot Lynch as a No. 1 back this week. He’s ready to go off.
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets
In a week littered with injuries and bye weeks to some of the top running backs in the league, it’s difficult to spot a No. 1 caliber fantasy option who will be playing this weekend. But because of these unfortunate injuries, opportunities arise for second-string players, like the aforementioned Murray, to step into a bell-cow role.
Enter Bilal Powell.
The New York Jets running back will benefit from Matt Forte’s absence this weekend when the Jets take on the Cleveland Browns, a defense that ranks 14th in most fantasy points allowed to opposing backs this season.
Last week, Powell went on a tear against the Jacksonville Jaguars, rushing for 163 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries as Jets and fantasy owners soon forget all about Forte’s absence.
Projected to score 10.82 points in standard Yahoo leagues and 28.09 points in PPR leagues, expect Powell to crush those projections with a big performance against the Browns, where he is likely to find the end zone in what should be a comfortable win for the Jets.
Tarik Cohen, RB, Chicago Bears
After an electrifying Week 1 debut that saw Tarik Cohen burst onto the scene for the Chicago Bears, the rookie running back has come back to Earth in recent weeks, leaving fantasy owners pulling their hair out.
There’s no question Cohen is a dangerous player when he has the ball in his hands, especially in the passing game. But how much can fantasy owners rely on Cohen in third down situations, when he hasn’t gotten more than 12 carries out of the backfield in any game this season?
I'm no football coach but giving Tarik Cohen only two carries seems like a bad idea— Nick Kostos (@TheKostos) September 29, 2017
Jordan Howard is still the best running back to own in Chicago’s backfield, and at this point Cohen isn’t worth more than a handcuff that can play in the FLEX during a starter’s bye week.
Playing against a staunch Minnesota Vikings defense that has allowed the third-fewest points to opposing running backs this season, it’s hard to imagine Howard or Cohen having much success this week.
Cohen is averaging an impressive 6.0 yards per carry through four games, but he’s only been given 30 carries total. Until he receives a higher percentage of snaps for Chicago, he’s too risky to play. Leave Cohen on the bench or play him in the FLEX only if necessary.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
For all the noise (good and bad) surrounding Joe Mixon coming out of college, he hasn’t been very productive thus far into his rookie season for the Cincinnati Bengals.
To be fair, the Bengals are bad. Really bad. Their offensive line can’t pass or run block, leaving Mixon getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage far too often. In PPR leagues, the argument can be made to play him regardless if he averages more than three yards per carry. In the past two weeks, Mixon has established himself as the lead back for the Bengals with 35 carries combined in both games.
Bengals final HB snap count:— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) October 1, 2017
Joe Mixon 31
Giovani Bernard 21
Jeremy Hill 12
Out of 64
But in standard leagues, touches don’t count as points, meaning that fantasy owners have to rely on actual production. Against the Browns, Mixon could only muster 29 yards on 17 carries, a 1.7 yards per carry. On the season, Mixon has mustered up 136 rushing yards on 2.6 yards per carry.
Because of the dysfunction surrounding Cincinnati’s offensive, Mixon is unplayable at this moment, especially when you consider that he’s going up against the Buffalo Bills, who’ve allowed the eighth-fewest points to opposing running backs this season.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
After starting out the season with a 292 yard, four touchdown performance against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, Matthew Stafford has cooled off significantly in the past two weeks. And Week 5 won’t be any different.
Coming off a rough performance against the Vikings, throwing for 209 yards on 19-of-31 passing with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions, Stafford didn’t bring much to the table for his fantasy owners in Week 4.
With the exception of Week 1, Stafford has thrown for 595 yards and three touchdowns in three games. That’s an average of 198.3 passing yards and one touchdown per game; not good enough to remain a starter in fantasy leagues.
Since hanging 27.08 fantasy points on the Cardinals in Week 1, here is Matthew Stafford's output:— Alex Gelhar (@AlexGelhar) October 3, 2017
While there aren’t many options left on the waiver-wire at the quarterback position, there are some players that are projected to have a better Week 5 than Stafford.
With Stafford and the Detroit lions going up against the Carolina Panthers, who have allowed the seventh-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks this season, leave Stafford on the bench until he proves himself with a solid performance.
If you’re desperate for a quarterback this weekend, look no further than Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who could have a field day against the San Francisco 49ers defense that has given up the sixth-most points to opposing quarterbacks this season.
All stats and projections are courtesy of Yahoo Sports.
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