Even the most successful fantasy stars are prone to a poor performance once in a while. Anticipating when someone on your roster is due for a difficult week can be the difference between a win and a loss.
Barring injury, some starters, regardless of their matchup, are too good to remove from the lineup. However, there are other players whose performance can fluctuate significantly based on their opponent.
Following is a list of three players this week that fantasy owners might want to consider moving to the bench, and three others that should remain in the starting lineup irrespective of their Week 5 foe.
Kevin Jones (Detroit Lions – running back)** – Despite his punishing touchdown run last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' top-ranked rushing defense, Jones only ran for 38 yards on 12 carries. He will face another uphill battle this weekend against the Baltimore Ravens' second-ranked rushing defense, which allows an average of 70.3 yards on the ground each game.
After rushing for more than 1,000 yards last year during his rookie season, Jones hasn't topped the 100–yard mark in three games in his sophomore campaign. Detroit's passing offense hasn't lived up to expectations yet, putting even more pressure on the Lions' running game.
Jones is a tough runner with a good burst of speed, but with Ray Lewis and Co. headed to Ford Field, fantasy owners might want to rest the former first-round pick if they have any better option on the bench.
Chris Chambers (Miami Dolphins – wide receiver) – The Miami Dolphins have been a pleasant surprise early this season, but they'll be tested this Sunday, at least offensively, in a rivalry game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Bills boast the NFL's best passing defense, led by cornerbacks Nate Clements and safeties Troy Vincent and Lawyer Milloy. Chambers, who leads the Dolphins with 154 receiving yards, will be one of Buffalo's main targets. Traditionally, Chambers hasn't done well against Buffalo, averaging only 3.5 catches and 36.5 receiving yards the last four meetings.
Playing at home following three consecutive losses, the Bills will feel a heightened sense of urgency to turn things around. That doesn't bode well for Miami, or their leading wideout, who fantasy owners should consider resting.
Pittsburgh Steelers (defense/special teams) –Even though Pittsburgh is coming off a bye week, it might be wise to give them another week off given that they face the red-hot San Diego offense on Monday night at Qualcomm Stadium.
In the last two games, San Diego has scored 86 points. Last week, they put 41 on the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in a win at Gillette Stadium.
The Steelers' defense is one of the NFL's best, but they have shown vulnerability. Going into the bye, the Patriots scored 23 points on Pittsburgh in a win at Heinz Field. Though defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's unit might fare well with extra preparation time, the chances are that San Diego still will find ways to put points on the board.
LaDainian Tomlinson (San Diego Chargers – running back)** – Tomlinson has scored a rushing touchdown in 16 consecutive games. There's a reason that streak is an NFL record. Tomlinson is surrounded by a solid cast of players, including tight end Antonio Gates, veteran wide receiver Keenan McCardell and quarterback Drew Brees. Plus, Tomlinson is used in a variety of ways that keep defenses honest.
This season, the two-time Pro Bowler has gained 450 rushing yards and scored a league-high eight rushing touchdowns. On a national stage, expect Tomlinson, one of the league's best all-around running backs, to show up in a big way, even against a stingy Pittsburgh Steelers' defense that will be keying on the T.C.U. alum.
Alge Crumpler (Atlanta Falcons – tight end) – The news Saturday that Michael Vick was downgraded from probable to questionable on the injury report isn't good news for the Atlanta Falcons as they prepare to face the New England Patriots. But don't expect there to be a major fall off in offensive production if the gifted quarterback doesn't play.
Backup Matt Schaub has proven himself capable, most recently against the Minnesota Vikings when the University of Virginia product rushed for 56 yards on four carries and threw for another 39 yards when Vick left early with a knee injury.
As a result, fantasy owners shouldn't jump the gun by benching one of the NFL's most consistent tight ends in Crumpler. The reigning Pro Bowler has caught 13 passes this year for 158 yards. Considering the depleted Patriots' defense, Crumpler could have his way this weekend, with or without No. 7.
Brandon Lloyd (San Francisco 49ers – wide receiver) – This may seem like a stretch, especially with the news that rookie quarterback Alex Smith will start the first game of his career this Sunday, but Lloyd is a viable option against the Indianapolis Colts at Monster Park.
The 49ers' leading receiver is up against the NFL's 21st-ranked pass defense, which has given up an average of 222.8 passing yards per game. If San Francisco falls behind early, which is likely to happen with the Colts' high-powered offense matching up with the 49ers' last-ranked scoring defense, than the home team will be forced to throw the ball.
Lloyd has proven to be a legitimate threat this year with 17 catches for 326 yards and three touchdowns. He has surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark in two games and averages a team-high 19.2 yards per catch. Expect him to be heavily involved in the game plan this weekend.