(Player Rankings based on Top 26 QBs, 50 RBs, 75 WRs & 30 TEs)
New Orleans Saints (3-1)
Opponent Defensive Ranks
Carolina Rush Defense – 2011: Yards Allowed/Game 31st (143.8 Yds/Gm) - TDs Allowed T-22nd (4)
Carolina Pass Defense – 2011: Yards Allowed/Game 6th (203 Yds/Gm) – TDs Allowed T-10th (5)
New Orleans Offensive Cast
Drew Brees (QB Week 5 Ranking: #6) 2011 Season: 120/174 – for 1,410 Yards & 10 TDs
At first glance, this may look like an easy game for Brees to pile on the fantasy numbers for your team, but it’s not. In fact, though Brees has averaged 258 yards a game against Carolina during his career, he’s only thrown for 12 TDs in those 10 games. Opposing teams have thrown the ball the least amount of times against the Panthers this season because frankly, their rush D is a sieve, and the Saints will be no different. Brees may come away with some decent stats, but not enough to rank him in the top five.
Mark Ingram (RB Week 5 Ranking: #23) 2011 Season: 53 Carries for 184 Yards & 1 TD || 4 Recs for 0 Yards & 0 TDs
New Orleans is going to run the ball and run it often this Sunday. No ifs, ands or buts about it. I know it’s weird to hear seeing how they’ve not only attempted the most passes in the league this year, but also have the second-highest completion percentage as well. That said, after missing out on home-field advantage in the playoffs last season, the Saints are all about wins this year and the way to beat the Panthers is to run the hell out of the ball and keep it out of Cam Newton’s hands. Ingram will be a large part of that game-plan this Sunday and should produce nicely with the opportunity.
Pierre Thomas (RB Week 5 Ranking: #33) 2011 Season: 27 Carries for 136 Yards & 0 TDs || 11 Recs for 109 Yards & 0 TDs
Pierre should get somewhere around 10 touches out of the backfield again this weekend, but that’s likely not enough for him to make much a fantasy difference.
Darren Sproles (RB Week 5 Ranking: #20) 2011 Season: 15 Carries for 134 Yards & 1 TD || 26 Recs for 224 Yards & 1 TD
Sproles is just the type of little jitterbug Carolina and their 31st ranked rush defense hates to face. Scratch that. Sproles is the type of jitterbug EVERY TEAM hates to face as there is really no way in the world to game-plan against him. Not only is he as unpredictable as it gets with the ball in his hands, but being on the Saints, you also have no idea when he’ll get the ball due to their spread-it-around offense. Darren has been outstanding in all formats every week of the season, a trend that doesn’t look to change in Week 5.
Marques Colston (WR Week 5 Ranking: #31) 2011 Season: 7 Recs for 89 Yards & 0 TDs
It may be tempting to put him back in your lineup now that he seems to be fully healthy, but against a Carolina team that the Saints will likely run against all day long, I wouldn't expect very good fantasy stats…or even too much playing time, for that matter. Brees may give him some action just to get his feet back under him, but Marques is more of a WR3/flex play this week than his normal WR2.
Lance Moore (WR Week 5 Ranking: #23) 2011 Season: 15 Recs for 144 Yards & 1 TD
Carolina’s pass D is ranked near the top for one reason—their rush D is awful! The Saints will look to exploit that this weekend but will need to pass at least a little bit to keep the Panthers on their toes. I can definitely see a bunch of play-action slants coming to Moore over the middle this Sunday with the likelihood he makes at least one big play at some point.
Robert Meachem (WR Week 5 Ranking: #40) 2011 Season: 18 Recs for 190 Yards & 3 TDs
Meachem has actually looked pretty darn good this season, but with the Saints likely to run this week and Marques Colston back in the lineup, my feeling is that Meach isn’t much more than a flex play this weekend.
Devery Henderson (WR Week 5 Ranking: #63) 2011 Season: 12 Recs for 265 Yards & 2 TDs
Devery will thrill fantasy owners every once in awhile, which he’s done already twice this season, but he’s really more of a shot in the dark than a consistent threat. With Colston back, Henderson returns to merely an after-thought in this offense.
Jimmy Graham (TE Week 5 Ranking: #1) 2011 Season: 24 Recs for 367 Yards & 3 TDs
Jimmy Graham played basketball in college, just like Antonio Gates did, and it looks like he’s starting to play football like him now as well. Last week at Jacksonville, Graham saw 14 balls thrown his way and caught TEN of them for 132 yards and a touchdown. That’s just plain ridiculousness. Brees obviously loves the guy and will continue to throw him the ball like crazy as long as the Saints are winning. I expect Jimmy to put up another top-flight game again this weekend.
Carolina Panthers (1-3)
Opponent Defensive Ranks
New Orleans Rush Defense – 2011: Yards Allowed/Game 9th (94.0 Yds/Gm) - TDs Allowed T-8th (2)
New Orleans Pass Defense – 2011: Yards Allowed/Game 19th (254 Yds/Gm) – TDs Allowed T-24th (8)
Carolina Offensive Cast
Cam Newton (QB Week 5 Ranking: #3) 2011 Season: 97/163 – for 1,386 Yards & 5 TDs || 33 Carries for 133 Yards & 4 TDs
I can’t believe I am ranking a rookie QB in the top five this week, but Newton has proven to be a gamer and is without question one of the best athletes ever to work under center in this league. I truly thought the Bears would be able to contain him with their speed and Cover-2 defensive scheme, but clearly, I was wrong. I’ve underestimated his ability up until this point but I will not do so again. New Orleans has allowed a lot of fantasy action to opposing QBs this year and in a game where Carolina will likely be playing catch-up ball, Newton has the potential to do some serious damage.
DeAngelo Williams (RB Week 5 Ranking: #25) 2011 Season: 37 Carries for 143 Yards & 0 TDs || 7 Recs for 46 Yards & 0 TDs
DeAngelo was paid too much money to be playing as poorly as he was through the first few weeks, so he finally got it going against the Bears in Week 4. Could his 10-carry, 82-yard performance be the spark that sets him back on fire? We’ll see, as the Panthers have to realize sooner or later that they can’t depend on rookie Cam Newton to rush the ball eight times and throw it 40 times a game the rest of the season. Since his 2008 breakout campaign, DeAngelo has had incredible success against them averaging 120 yards (on 6.2 YPC) and one TD in four games. He could be worth a shot this Sunday.
Jonathan Stewart (RB Week 5 Ranking: #28) 2011 Season: 31 Carries for 142 Yards & 0 TDs || 17 Recs for 173 Yards & 0 TDs
Just when you think you know the situation between these two Carolina backs, they go and switch it up on you. Stewart was clearly working towards a more prominent role in the offense over the first few weeks of the season, but now that Williams stepped up his game a bit last weekend, who knows? They’ll probably split snaps as usual and sap each other’s fantasy potential, but this dual could also bring out the best in each of them as it did in 2008 and make them both fantasy starters. Use him as a flex this week on the chance he plays angry.
Steve Smith (WR Week 5 Ranking: #5) 2011 Season: 24 Recs for 530 Yards & 2 TDs
Steve Smith is playing like he’s 18 years old again. He’s faster than ever, hitting defenders as hard as he ever has, and he’s getting open pretty much at will. If the Saints try to double Smitty this weekend, they’ll find out the hard way what Cam Newton can do, but I suspect they’ve already watched enough tape to know they can’t do that. Smith will beat this weak Saints pass D deep at least once in this one and give fantasy owners WR1 numbers once again.
Brandon LaFell (WR Week 5 Ranking: #70) 2011 Season: 12 Recs for 161 Yards & 1 TD
LaFell is getting better, but not good enough to get into fantasy lineups yet as he’s only good for three or four catches a week.
Legedu Naanee (WR Week 5 Ranking: #NR) 2011 Season: 8 Recs for 75 Yards & 0 TDs
If LaFell can’t start for you, you really think Naanee can?
Greg Olsen (TE Week 5 Ranking: #7) 2011 Season: 17 Recs for 219 Yards & 2 TDs
Olsen is averaging almost seven targets a game, so you know Cam Newton realizes just how useful and valuable he is. I expect Carolina to turn to the pass quite a bit again this week against the high-flying Saints and with New Orleans giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, Olsen could be in for his best game of the season.
Jeremy Shockey (TE Week 5 Ranking: #24) 2011 Season: 11 Recs for 178 Yards & 0 TDs
Shockey has been playing well this season, but he’s being used as more of a blocker in this offense and can’t be depended on for more than a few catches a game.