One of the more surprising stories so far from the 2016 National Football League regular season is the fact that the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals are 1-3. Both teams were supposed to be NFC superpowers heading into the year, but have been extremely inconsistent to start the season.
The Cardinals find themselves in almost a must win situation this evening when they play in San Francisco against the 49ers. Due to the fact the Cardinals will be without veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, the franchise will be relying on backup Drew Stanton instead. Stanton has been ineffective so far in a relief role as he has only completed five of 15 passes for 48 yards and two interceptions.
The Panthers meanwhile face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week and could be without star quarterback Cam Newton, who like Palmer, is suffering from a concussion. Like Arizona, the Panthers have an experienced backup in Derek Anderson. He might be worth considering this week for fantasy purposes. The Buccaneers have given up 128 points, the second most in the NFL. The issue with starting Anderson however is that Carolina does not play until Monday night and the Panthers may wait until game time before deciding on their starting quarterback.
Week five will also see the return of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Without Brady, the Patriots went 3-1, but were completely inept offensively last week against Buffalo in a 16-0 loss at home. It will be interesting to see what the Patriots offense looks like because star tight end Rob Gronkowski is dealing with a hamstring injury and running back LeGarrette Blount is dealing with a hip injury. However don’t forget the Patriots offense significantly improves with Brady at the helm, and the fantasy stats for the Patriots’ healthy receivers of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and tight end Martellus Bennett should improve as a result.
The two most intriguing matchups take place in Minnesota and Denver. The 4-0 Vikings will be hosting the 3-1 Houston Texans and the 4-0 Broncos will be hosting the 3-1 Atlanta Falcons. Expect Minnesota to beat Houston in a very low scoring game. It will be interesting to see how much the Texans miss defensive end J.J. Watt, who is out for the year with a back injury.
In Denver, the Broncos might be without Trevor Siemian, who is questionable with a shoulder injury. Either way, the Falcons have looked excellent offensively so far this season. It will be interesting to see how well Matt Ryan will do against a Broncos defense among the very best in the NFL.
Two other teams I like in week five are Cincinnati and San Diego. The Cowboys and Raiders are both playing at home, but I like the way Philip Rivers plays more than Derek Carr and the Bengals have the edge over a Cowboys team that has had a soft schedule to date.
My three projected fantasy studs of the week are Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson of the Green Bay Packers, and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Rodgers should feast on the New York Giants defense. He may be forced to pass the ball a lot because the Packers secondary is poor and a lot of points from both sides are expected. Bell made his regular season debut with the Steelers last week (suspended three games to start the year for missing multiple offseason drug tests) and had 18 carries for 144 yards in a 43-14 Steelers win over Kansas City. The Steelers play the New York Jets this week.