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Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Gridiron Challenge: Week 5 preview

By Jim McCormick
Special to ESPN.com

Just as investors were getting wise to the game, the presence of the bye week went and crashed the market. After a steady three-week spike in median scoring, we witnessed a precipitous drop in production, slipping from 128 points in Week 3 to 98 this past weekend. It seems the combination of the bye-week element and some decidedly down outings from widely-owned and highly-priced commodities, such as Chris Johnson and Randy Moss, led to the marked deflation in average production.

For the Gridiron Challenge manager, a tougher and leaner market should be seen as an advantage, as the margins you can create in point production and investment dividends can separate you from the pack. The advantage begins with not only targeting some of the savvier buys but considering some of the looming byes. In Drew Brees, one of my key endorsements this week, you can invest at a shrewd price relative to the market for arms without sacrificing coveted production and potential. More importantly, Brees isn't just a sound Week 5 investment, he's an enduring one, as his bye isn't until Week 10, which could accrue you abundant points and financial freedom going forward. The takeaway, I suppose, is that while we are conditioned to shop for each week individually, seeking to maximize returns at every position, it makes sense to peer into a player's coming weeks, as it might sway your decision process.

Bull Market

Investments that should bear out as the season progresses

Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (6.7 price tag): Why not just endorse Peyton Manning while we're at it, but really, while Brees seems like an obvious call his price point is well below that of Manning's. With the margin you can build given Brees' late bye week, this could be a pivotal short- and long-term acquisition for your portfolio.

Shaun Hill, QB, Detroit Lions (5.9 price tag): This is an admittedly risky and frugal option to endorse a week after espousing the gourmet quarterback strategy, but it's a good example that exceptions can certainly be made when the matchup is inviting enough. Now don't get me wrong, the St. Louis Rams defense has been solid to date but consider that they have yet to face a compelling passing attack. With Hill and Calvin Johnson building a dangerous rapport, multiple touchdowns are possible.

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens (5.7 price tag): Despite the Denver Broncos defense that recently subdued elite speedster Chris Johnson, I'm high on Rice this week because I believe the Ravens' passing game is a much more respected product than Tennessee's. By this, I mean that we can expect less men in the box if Joe Flacco can capably punish the Broncos for stacking, which will lead to better lanes for Rice.

Moss, WR, Minnesota Vikings (5.8 price tag): For one, it's simply going to be exciting to be a Moss investor this week no matter what happens. More importantly, we can expect Brett Favre to want to play with his new toy, a toy he's been pining over for some time. Keep in mind that Moss hasn't enjoyed the presence of an elite running game in some time, and is an element that could help relieve some of the attention he regularly receives.

Terrell Owens, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (5.1 price tag): This selection is prompted more so by the considerable savings you can enjoy thanks to Owens' deflated pricing, as opposed to expecting his statistical renaissance from Week 4 to continue. If we covet opportunities for our fantasy commodities, Owens' steady attention from Carson Palmer should see his production and market price continue to ascend.

Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints (5.1 price tag): Unlike Owens, Colston isn't getting the looks necessary to convert opportunity into production. That said, with such a deflated price tag and a savory matchup with the undersized Arizona Cardinals secondary, he makes for a worthy gamble this week.

Indianapolis Colts Defense (4.5 price tag): If it's worth anything, I'm using the Colts defense this week. The reasoning? I simply don't buy into the Kansas City Chiefs offense and foresee a rough outing for quarterback Matt Cassel because the Colts' duo of elite ends will pressure him regularly.

Weekly Wonders

Players who face favorable matchups and come at a discount but aren't trustworthy on a weekly basis

Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams (5.5 price tag): Undeniable talent blended with poise and leadership has seen Bradford enjoy an atypically successful first trip through the NFL ringer. An inviting matchup in Detroit awaits, and it has many ingredients needed for a shootout.

Mark Clayton, WR, St. Louis Rams (5.1 price tag): See Bradford, Sam. But really, Clayton has been strangely stellar, despite his track record before his move to the Midwest.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions (4.8 price tag): With 14 receptions and 135 yards in his past two outings, Pettigrew makes for a savvy addition this week and going forward. He has proven to have chemistry with both of the Lions' signal-callers.

Jim's Week 5 Lineup

My team, "I'm a Man, I'm Forte," has scored 545 points, good for the 98.3rd percentile. You will find that this week I'm getting into my cheap kicker and defense strategy, as it allowed me to go elite in every other position.

QB: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts: 98 year-to-date points; 6.4 (locked price)/ 7.3 (market price)
QB: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: 72 points; 6.7/6.7
RB: Maurice Jones Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars: 45 points; 6.3/6.3
RB: Arian Foster, Houston Texans: 95 points; 5.4/5.8
WR: Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts: 55 points; 6.4/6.4
WR: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: 43 points; 6.0/6.0
TE: Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers: 72 points; 4.9/6.1
K: Rian Lindell, Buffalo Bills: 24 points; 3.4/3.4
DEF: Indianapolis Colts: 29 points; 4.5/4.5

Jim McCormick is fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com, as well as the producer of the Washington Post's "Behind the Helmet" series and Sirius XM's Fantasy Sports Channel. You can reach him with your questions and comments on Twitter @JMcCormickESPN.