The Bills and Browns will face one another on Thursday night, and fantasy owners are forced to commit to players from both teams as the weekend approaches. Each squad is sporting a 2-2 record, so only one will walk away from Week 5 with a winning one. For many fantasy owners, the implications are just as important. Let's take a look at who you can plug into your lineup and who you should avoid for the week.
E.J. Manuel: The Browns have been average in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, but the Browns have played against mostly average fantasy quarterbacks. Manuel will likely see mediocre output and shouldn't be considered more than a QB2 in most formats. There's still some upside to be realized from Manuel, but it's hard to believe that he will have a career performance against the Browns stout defense.
Running backs: Buffalo's backfield is limping into Thursday night. C.J. Spiller is dealing with an ankle injury and will be a game-time decision. He was limited in practice on Wednesday. Spiller only has 230 rushing yards, 29 receiving yards and no touchdowns on the season. Even if Spiller continues to trend upwards in fantasy football, it's hard to imagine he'll be a big factor on a short week. The Bills depth chart doesn't look too much better with Fred Jackson's mild MCL sprain. He'll likely play on Thursday but, again, a short week should be a cause for concern with owners. Consider Jackson a low-end flex play unless Spiller sits this one out.
Wide receivers: Stevie Johnson will likely play despite a nagging hamstring injury. He's a WR3 at best when considering both the injury and the fact that cornerback Joe Haden will be setting his sights on Johnson. Haden held A.J. Green to 51 yards in Week 4, so Johnson isn't exactly an appealing start this week. Look for Robert Woods to continue his rise in fantasy football with Haden's attention on Johnson. The rookie wide receiver is coming off an 80-yard performance against the Ravens along with a touchdown. He's a risky WR3 start that could be worth swinging for the fences on in deeper leagues.
Tight ends: Scott Chandler hasn't been much of a factor in the Bills passing game as Manuel works through his raw rookie campaign. There should be better options available.
Defense/ Special teams: Since Brian Hoyer took over at quarterback for the Browns in Week 3, Cleveland hasn't allowed too much to fantasy defenses. However, Minnesota saw some production with turnovers, and it's hard to imagine the Browns sustaining their success consistently. The Bills aren't remotely a top-10 start in Week 5, but they could put up respectable numbers if the Browns come crashing back down to earth on a short week.
Brian Hoyer: Hoyer has been churning out respectable fantasy numbers since he took over starting duties in Cleveland. It's difficult to trust Hoyer will continue putting up number consistently, but he's certainly worth a start in two-quarterback leagues. He's a borderline start in 12-team leagues for fantasy owners dealing with bye weeks. It is a bit unnerving that the Bills intercepted Joe Flacco five times on Sunday. However, Flacco still saw a lot of yards in the air as the Bills deal with a depleted secondary. Hoyer was able to take advantage of the Bengals secondary that was missing Leon Hall and Reggie Nelson. Expect more "solid" numbers for Hoyer in Week 5.
Running backs: Willis McGahee has been in wait-and-see mode on a lot of owners' benches the past few weeks. He's still a risky start as he continues to get into game-day shape both mentally and physically. With how thin the running back position has been this season, you could do worse than start McGahee in your flex. It only takes a goal line carry or two for him to reward owners. Chris Ogbonnaya seems to be a bit more spry than McGahee, but he only saw five carries behind McGahee in Week 4. Bobby Rainey rounds out the backfield shuffle left behind when Trent Richardson was traded; he isn't seeing enough work to deserve a start Thursday night.
Wide receivers: Josh Gordon will continue to see the majority of WR production in Cleveland. He's a strong WR2 against a Bills secondary that has allowed an average of 277 yards per game in the air. Davone Bess may see some production in PPR leagues with twelve teams or more, but it's likely the Bills secondary will make it easy enough for Hoyer to get enough work out of Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron.
Tight ends: Cameron continues to be a must-start fantasy tight end. He's a PPR goldmine and is currently the second best fantasy tight end in most formats. Continue starting Cameron with confidence against a Bills team that's mediocre in points allowed to tight ends.
Defense/ Special teams: The Browns have now seen two consecutive strong fantasy performances. They are a borderline top-10 start against Manuel, who has three interceptions and three fumbles in four games. Look for the Browns to capitalize on the rookie's growing pains as he deals with a short week on the road.