1:00PM ET Games
Oakland @ Houston
Owners that had the cojones to pick Arian Foster in fantasy drafts (and secure Ben Tate as mid-round insurance) when a bad hamstring was torpedoing Foster's stock in late August should pat themselves on the back. A healthy Foster burned an annually run-tough Steelers defense for eight gains of five-plus yards on his first 12 touches in Week 4, unloading with his usual acceleration and speed to go the distance. Foster busted a Troy Polamalu tackle on a second-quarter 18-yard explosion, showing incredible balance to stay upright after being hit behind the line. The icing on the cake was a 42-yard touchdown early in the fourth, with Foster hammering a cutback lane on a play that demonstrated why he's a superior, more dangerous runner than Tate. Understandably, Foster petered out late, managing a two-yard average on his final eight touches in a game that saw him receive 33 -- Foster's most since Week 17 of last season. The damage was already done, and coach Gary Kubiak confirmed this week that the Texans will "lean on" Foster with Andre Johnson (hamstring) out indefinitely. Oakland ranks 29th against the run and dead last in yards-per-rushing attempt allowed (5.91). Foster is the No. 1 running back in fantasy football again.
Even with Tate (groin) and Derrick Ward (ankle) iffy for Week 5, Houston is returning to a ground-and-pound offensive approach that could easily result in 30 more touches for Foster. Owners need to cling tightly to Tate, as Foster may remain susceptible to setbacks on monster workloads. ... Matt Schaub's start-ability outside of two-QB leagues is shaky at best without Andre Johnson. Only Wes Welker and Mike Thomas have commanded a higher percentage of their team's pass targets than Johnson. Ranked 14th in quarterback scoring, Schaub is a fantasy reserve. ... Jacoby Jones will take Andre's place at X receiver, lining up most often against right cornerbacks. This means he should avoid Raiders top CB Stanford Routt for the majority of Sunday's game. Jones will square off primarily with rookie Chimdi Chekwa, giving him an edge on Kevin Walter if you're dying to start a Texans wideout. ... The main beneficiary of Johnson's absence is likely to be Owen Daniels. Daniels has scored in three straight games, is the Texans' most reliable pass catcher left, and will be a solid bet to lead Houston in targets on Sunday. ... Perhaps the Texans will game plan to get TE/FB James Casey re-involved after he followed up his 137-total yard Week 3 "breakout" with a one-catch, eight-yard Week 4. But that's just guesswork.
Darrius Heyward-Bey's 115-yard Week 4 against New England will in all likelihood prove a mirage. The Pats have been torched by the pass, anyway, and the last time DHB had a 100-yard game he went catch-less in his next two. ... Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips confirmed this week that the Texans are using Johnathan Joseph to shadow No. 1 wideouts. “He’s the guy we put on the other team’s best receiver every week,” Phillips said. “(Mike) Wallace is a heck of a receiver. We knew that, so we put Joseph on him.” Wallace was held to 77 scoreless yards in Week 4, 60 Minutes' lowest output in his last nine games. It remains to be seen whom the Texans will deem Oakland's No. 1 wideout. Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford are candidates for Joseph's coverage. ... Houston is a legit top-10 team against the pass, racking up the fifth most sacks in football and allowing bottom-ten numbers in completion rate (55.6), yards per attempt (6.35), and passing scores (5 in 4 games). Ranked 17th in fantasy scoring at his position, Jason Campbell is a low-end QB2. ... Darren McFadden leads the NFL in rushing and all running backs in fantasy points. The Texans have been far more susceptible to the run than the pass, giving up 4.94 yards a carry.
Score Prediction: Texans 27, Raiders 23
Philadelphia @ Buffalo
The Eagles' run defense is an unfixable disaster, and long-term injuries to hulking DT Antonio Dixon (triceps) and top DE Trent Cole (calf strain) are nails in the coffin. Philly is small and slow at linebacker, which causes major problems behind DL coach Jim Washburn's Wide-9 scheme. Washburn's approach spreads the front four thin, sacrificing gap control for up-field pass rush. Linebackers must get off and elude blocks on run plays, but the Eagles' are engulfed snap in, snap out. It's not an exaggeration to call Cole and Dixon the team's top two run stuffers, either. Fred Jackson is off to a hot start, and there's every reason to think he'll keep it up against a Philadelphia defense that was dismantled for 254 yards and a touchdown by the 49ers' struggling backfield in Week 4. ... The Bengals rank No. 1 in defense and effectively slowed down the pace of last week's game against Buffalo. Ryan Fitzpatrick finished with year-lows in completion rate (58.8), passing yards (199), and touchdowns (0). Philly's aggressive defense will likely bring heavy pressure against a Bills offense without LT Demetrius Bell (shoulder), but Fitz can counter with a quick release and gunslinger's mentality. The Eagles have allowed a league-high 10 TD passes through four games and NFC-high 106.7 QB rating against. On paper at least, it's still a plus matchup for Fitzpatrick.
David Nelson has been a favorite in this space because he is a physical, every-down slot receiver playing in the NFL's truest spread. His skill set and position are natural fits for Fitzpatrick's popgun arm. Nelson let down owners with a two-catch, 18-yard Week 4, as the Bills tried attacking the edges of Cincinnati's defense as opposed to the middle. Nelson played 53-of-57 snaps (93%), but saw just three targets in Fitzpatrick's worst game of the season. This week, Nelson will match up often with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who's covering the slot for the first time in his career. No one could be blamed for benching Nelson after last Sunday's clunker, but he has a favorable matchup. Rather than take five-step drops and target deep threat Donald Jones downfield, Fitz will need to get rid of the football quickly against an Eagles defense that leads the NFL in sacks (15). Stevie Johnson, at flanker, and Nelson, inside, are Buffalo's top possession receivers. ... The Eagles notoriously struggle against tight ends, but Scott Chandler remains a part-time player whose yardage totals have dropped every week this season. He needs a touchdown to matter.
Michael Vick got his season on track in Week 4, playing all four quarters and racking up 30.1 standard-league fantasy points against San Francisco, which quietly fields one of the NFL's top defenses. Buffalo lacks edge pass rushers to capitalize on LT Jason Peters' (hamstring) absence, as well as outside linebackers with enough speed to keep Vick contained in the pocket. The Bills rank 24th against the pass and dead last in sacks (4). Last week was just the start of Vick's forthcoming tear. ... Seemingly bereft of confidence, Bills RCB Leodis McKelvin has been a turnstile for big passing plays this season. Jeremy Maclin lines up most often against right corners. Clearly 100 percent, Maclin is on pace for a career-high 104 receptions. ... DeSean Jackson got off the snide with a 171-yard explosion in Week 4, and it could've been even bigger had D-Jax not dropped a wide-open, would-be 40-yard bomb in the first quarter. Promisingly, Vick kept throwing to him for the rest of the game, and Jackson's nine targets were his most since Week 1. He should remain a staple in fantasy lineups going forward.
The Bills rank 25th against the run and are surrendering 4.89 yards per carry, which is going to be problematic for them with No. 2 fantasy back LeSean McCoy on the slate. The Eagles resisted running against San Francisco's immovable front seven last week, and McCoy showed his fantasy "floor" with 11.2 standard-league points. Shady's passing-game dominance rescues him even in down weeks, however, and this won't be one of those. I can’t find a statistical category in which McCoy isn’t on pace to shatter his previous career high. ... Brent Celek is so irrelevant that he has fewer receiving yards on the season than his backup, Clay Harbor. ... Backup slot receiver Steve Smith's snap count has now fallen in three straight games, going from 19 plays in Week 2 to 14 in Week 3 and 10 last week. Smith needs at least one Eagles wideout injury to make an impact, and maybe two. ... First-string slot receiver Jason Avant has yet to find the end zone and is on pace for under 700 yards. It should say something that Avant’s 684-yard pace would be his best ever.
Score Prediction: Eagles 30, Bills 28
Seattle @ NY Giants
Eli Manning has overcome a dreadful August and season opener to go on a tear in his last three games. Favorable matchups have certainly helped, but they continue this week. Eli has completed 66.7% of his passes since Week 1, with eight touchdowns compared to two picks and a sterling 8.58 yards-per-attempt average. Seattle's defense stuffs the run but struggles against the pass, so consider Manning a rock-solid bye-week QB1. ... It was only a matter of time. Finally over a swollen knee, Hakeem Nicks blasted Arizona's secondary for 10 catches, 162 yards, and a TD in Week 4, narrowly missing out on two more scores. Nicks squares off with right cornerbacks most often, so he projects to see quite a bit of Seahawks RCB Brandon Browner in this game. A weekly whipping boy for pass games, Browner served up catch after catch to Julio Jones in Week 4 and will now see an even more talented receiver in coverage. Per Pro Football Focus, Browner has allowed 24-of-29 passes (82.8%) to be completed against him this year, for 342 yards (11.8 YPA).
OC Kevin Gilbride assured Thursday that Mario Manningham remains a starter, but the Giants may continue to have a quick hook. Mario was yanked from two-wide sets for Victor Cruz in the first half of Week 4, and the pair finished with similar snap counts. Cruz was far more productive, hauling in 6-of-9 targets for 98 yards. Running incorrect routes and failing to secure his first four targets, Manningham caught one pass for 10 yards. Cruz is getting more balls and outplaying Manningham, and it isn't realistic to say there's a noticeable talent gap between the two. They're both dicey WR3s. Cruz wins the Done-For-Me-Lately tiebreaker. ... Yards-per-carry averages allowed by Seattle to opposing feature backs this year: Michael Turner -- 2.69; Alfonso Smith (subbing for Beanie Wells) -- 3.18; Rashard Mendenhall -- 3.47; Frank Gore -- 2.68. They're at 2.96 combined. The Seahawks stifle run games with a wide-bodied, powerful front four, creating a poor matchup for "big back" Brandon Jacobs. Ahmad Bradshaw has a significant edge in elusiveness, and he's also averaging 17.5 touches a game to Jacobs' 10.5. A sprained MCL and missed practice time make this one a no-brainer: Jacobs isn't a Week 5 fantasy option. Bradshaw could get the rock 30 times.
Tarvaris Jackson posted a career-high 319 yards in Week 4, throwing three touchdown passes and finally seeming comfortable in the pocket against a lifeless Falcons pass rush that hasn't registered a solitary sack since Week 1. T-Jack will have a much tougher go of it on the road versus LE Jason Pierre-Paul (18-sack pace) and RE Osi Umenyiora, who sacked Kevin Kolb twice last week and forced a fumble in his 2011 debut. Jackson is a two-QB league option at best. ... For as many defensive back injuries as the G-Men have suffered, you wouldn't think they'd be allowing the fewest touchdown passes in the NFC. New York has made do with Corey Webster and an improving Aaron Ross on the corners, supplemented by one of the league's better pass rushes. This is still a quality defense. The Giants haven't allowed an opposing No. 1 receiver to find the end zone yet this season, holding them to an average of five catches for 58.3 yards. Sidney Rice is easy to double team out of Seattle's offense because there are no alternative threats, particularly with Big Mike Williams (concussion) set to be inactive. Rice is a risky WR3. ... Marshawn Lynch is averaging a career-low 3.07 yards per carry and 13.3 touches per game.
Score Prediction: Giants 23, Seahawks 14