Atlanta @ Washington
The 51.5-point over-under on Falcons-Skins is third highest of the Week 5 games, and I think it's on the conservative side. Both offenses do things the opposing defenses have shown they can't stop. Atlanta runs a pass-happy offense, and Washington's secondary couldn't cover a corpse. The Redskins run a ton of read-option plays, which gave the Falcons fits in last week's narrow escape from Carolina. I'd feel good about firing up skill-position players on both sides in this one. ... Matt Ryan has completed 183-of-272 passes (67.3 percent) for 2,185 yards (8.03 YPA) and a 21:2 TD-to-INT ratio over his last eight regular season games. Atlanta is 7-1. The torrid early-season pace clearly isn't a fluke; Ryan was heating up late last year, and he's now right there with Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Robert Griffin III as fantasy quarterback difference makers. If he stays healthy, I don't think Ryan will have trouble throwing 40 touchdown passes this season. ... The Week 4 touch ratio (16:10) between Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers was in line with what we expected, but Turner played seven more snaps as Atlanta dialed up power runs to gash a tissue-soft Panthers front seven. Turner came away with a monster fantasy game (13-103, 3-68-1). The receiving TD was the first of his career. Keep trotting out Turner as long as he has favorable matchups like this one, but he is going to hit a wall soon.
The Redskins have allowed a league-most five opposing wideouts to top 100 yards against them through four games. They've also served up NFL highs in touchdown passes (11) and 40-plus yard completions (6). Only the Buccaneers have permitted more 20-plus yard pass plays than Jim Haslett's group. This secondary is an absolute sieve, and Falcons OC Dirk Koetter's pass design is vertical in nature. Might wanna start Roddy White and Julio Jones. ... The box score shows eight Week 4 targets for Jones, although it sure didn't seem like that many if you watched the game. I thought it was clear early that White would be featured against Carolina, perhaps due to Jones' lacerated hand. It looked like part of the game plan; White was targeted on each of Ryan's first three throws and six of his first eight. Both of these guys can light up Haslett's defense, so it shouldn't matter in Week 5 now that Jones is fully recovered and catching passes without issue on the practice field. Tampa's Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are inferior receivers with an inferior quarterback, and they dropped respective stat lines of 4-115 and 6-100-1 on Washington last week. ... Don't look now, but Tony Gonzalez is the No. 1 fantasy tight end through one month of action. Getting open at will while White and Jones attract all the attention along the perimeter, the ageless Gonzalez is on pace for a career-high 104 catches, 1,060 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
The Falcons and Redskins are 2012 fantasy juggernauts, and they're both here to stay. Only an injury (wood knock) can derail RG3 at this point. Griffin enjoyed his best passing performance on the season in Week 4, and there is reason to believe he'll keep getting better as top wide receiver Pierre Garcon's foot heals, Fred Davis continues to get more comfortable in the revised offense, and Leonard Hankerson assumes a more consistent down-to-down role. The Falcons' No. 8 pass defense looks imposing on paper, but didn't deter Cam Newton from a 30-plus point fantasy game last week and Griffin has already flashed matchup-proof ability. There may not be a higher-upside fantasy quarterback than RG3 week to week. ... Though Garcon's Week 4 box score shows just one 20-yard catch, he played 50-of-76 snaps and is back on the WR3 radar with WR2 upside. When healthy, Garcon is the featured player in Shanahan & Son's passing game. Garcon will play a majority of his snaps against RCB Dunta Robinson in this contest, and Robinson is struggling as he has throughout his Atlanta stint. ... Hankerson's Week 4 snap count was 68-of-76, although he runs short, possession routes as a Z receiver when Garcon is healthy and does a lot of blocking. Hankerson won't be a consistent or high-scoring fantasy producer unless Garcon gets hurt again. He’ll deal with LCB Asante Samuel for most of Week 5.
Friday Update: Garcon practiced fully every day this week and is listed as probable on the injury report, meaning the Redskins believe he's a "virtual certainty" to resume normal game-day responsibilities. Garcon will be an every-down receiver against the Falcons, in a projected shootout game. It's time to get him back into your lineup as a fantasy regular.
Davis began becoming more involved in Washington's passing attack in Week 3. Griffin's target distribution since: Hankerson 18, Davis 11, Josh Morgan 8, Evan Royster and Santana Moss 7, Garcon 1. Davis has 160 yards over his past two games, but I'd still want to see more from him before starting Davis in a fantasy league. He racked up targets in Week 3 comeback mode and saw only four in Week 4. ... Moss and Morgan are rotating role players unworthy of fantasy roster spots. ... Garcon's one target is not indicative of things to come. ... The Redskins' running game is rolling, spearheaded by Griffin and system back Alfred Morris, who runs a 4.7 forty but is beloved by the coaching staff for his ball security and scheme fit. Morris owners should secure Royster as a handcuff, but the rookie has job security barring the unforeseen. On his last 51 carries, Morris has 272 yards (5.33 YPC) and two TDs. He's avoided negative runs and not fumbled once on 121 combined preseason and regular season rushing attempts. Matchups don't matter when the Shanahan's zone scheme is clicking, and it's on fire right now. Morris is approaching RB1 value.
Score Prediction: Falcons 38, Redskins 28
Miami @ Cincinnati
While the final yardage stats were probably a bit loftier than even the most optimistic Dolphins fanboy might have projected, Brian Hartline's mammoth Week 4 game didn't quite come out of the blue. Hartline roasted the Oakland secondary for 111 yards on nine receptions in Week 2 and has been the NFL's second most heavily targeted receiver over the past three weeks, behind only Dwayne Bowe. In addition to a badly blown coverage by Arizona on Hartline's 80-yard touchdown, last week's leap forward occurred because of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill's willingness to throw to Hartline in contested situations. It's a very positive development for Hartline's fantasy outlook. While Cincinnati's No. 16 pass defense is expected to get starting CBs Nate Clements (calf) and Leon Hall (hamstring) back from injury this week, I don't think their secondary was ever going to be very good. Though he lacks special physical talent, Hartline runs crisp routes, is willing to get physical in traffic, and will be a worthwhile plug-and-play WR3 with top-20 fantasy receiver upside the rest of the way. ... Tannehill's target distribution over the past three games: Hartline 40, Davone Bess 25, Anthony Fasano 18, Reggie Bush 6. ... Fasano is averaging 29 yards per game and 7.7 yards per catch. Completely devoid of playmaking ability, Fasano isn't even TE2 material.
Bess is a serviceable PPR option and coming off a career-best 123-yard game, but he hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 16 of last season and offers little to no standard-league appeal. ... One mismatch in Sunday's game Tannehill may have to worry about is rookie RT Jonathan Martin versus Bengals LE Carlos Dunlap. While Dunlap's Week 3 return from a knee injury has single-handedly sparked Cincinnati's defense, Martin has struggled mightily in pass protection in the first month. Despite his 431-yard Week 4 effort, Tannehill is a low-end QB2. ... Although it wasn't fully exposed by Maurice Jones-Drew last week because the Jaguars abandoned the run too early, the Bengals' defensive weakness is against the run. Ranked 24th in rush defense and surrendering 5.45 yards per carry to go with five rushing touchdowns allowed through four games, Cincinnati presents a favorable matchup for Reggie Bush. Playing through a knee injury, I thought Bush looked healthy last week against the Cardinals and would expect him to be more involved in the passing game this time around. Bush is the No. 9 fantasy running back on the young season.
Friday Update: Actually listed on this week's injury report with a hip ailment, Bush turned in full practices each day of the week and is listed as probable. His knee injury now in the rearview mirror, Bush resumes RB2 every-week starter status with RB1 upside.
Andy Dalton has caught fire against a string of defenses that either generate no up-front pressure or play like a college team in the secondary. Or both. In matchups with Cleveland, Washington, and Jacksonville, Dalton has completed 63-of-89 passes (70.8 percent) for 890 yards (10.0 YPA), and an 8:3 TD-to-INT ratio, also scrambling in a ninth score. He'll get a fourth straight favorable matchup against the Dolphins, who bring to the table LE Cameron Wake and little else when it comes to difference-making pass-game defenders. Miami's one-dimensional defense ranks first against the run and 30th versus the pass, tempting offenses to resort to the air to generate ball movement, and oftentimes pile up passing attempts. That's good news for fantasy quarterbacks. Dalton is worth riding while he's hot, but the jury is still very much out on his long-range fantasy impact. ... Ostensibly after watching Santonio Holmes work over teammate Richard Marshall relentlessly in Week 3, Dolphins CB Sean Smith begged Miami's coaching staff to let him shadow No. 1 receivers. He did so with moderate success against Larry Fitzgerald in Week 4, and will draw A.J. Green in coverage this week. While Smith makes plays on the ball, tackles well, and is a competitive cover guy, he's hardly a shutdown force. Green is the No. 1 wideout in all of fantasy.
Bengals in-line tight end Jermaine Gresham has yet to clear 65 yards in a game this season and has two touchdowns in his last ten. He's a low-end TE2 lacking upside. ... Slot receiver Andrew Hawkins remained a 50-percent player in Week 4 as the Bengals show no urgency to increase his snaps. While Hawkins opened the season with three straight solid fantasy efforts, consistency will be elusive because he doesn't get enough playing time. ... Armon Binns went catch-less in Week 4, as did split end rotation partner Brandon Tate. Neither of them is worthy of a fantasy roster spot. ... Long praised for his ball security, BenJarvus Green-Ellis has lost fumbles in back-to-back games and is averaging 3.05 yards per carry over his last three. He's now gone 354 playoff and regular season rushing attempts without a 20-yard run. Green-Ellis simply has no big-play ability, and needs heavy volume and goal-line scores to produce at a viable rate. He is sure to struggle against Miami's stout front seven. If you own Green-Ellis, it's time to bail on him while you still can.
Score Prediction: Bengals 23, Dolphins 17
Baltimore @ Kansas City
Joe Flacco's willingness to throw to Torrey Smith even when he's "covered" is a strong indication that Flacco believes Smith has developed into a true No. 1 receiver. Perhaps because he got the go-ahead from OC Cam Cameron following Week 2, Flacco has consistently "thrown open" Smith the past two games, en route to 12 catches, 224 yards, and three TDs on a team-high 20 targets. Smith can burn Chiefs RCB Stanford Routt when he aligns at X receiver, and LCB Brandon Flowers appeared on the Week 5 injury report after suffering a setback with his training-camp heel ailment. Smith is on fire and has a great matchup. Start him. ... What the heck happened to Chiefs SS Eric Berry? Berry looked like a future All Pro as a rookie before tearing his ACL last year and getting burnt alive in Kansas City's first four games this season. Berry's play has been a major reason for the 1-3 Chiefs' defensive struggles. He's getting turned around in pass coverage -- last week by Antonio Gates, Jackie Battle, and Eddie Royal -- and Berry's tackling has been noticeably poor on the field. Look for red-hot Flacco to attack this underachieving secondary. The Chiefs have allowed a 10:2 TD-to-INT ratio to opposing passing games. They are getting lit up.
Flacco's target distribution through four weeks: Dennis Pitta 33, Ray Rice 30, Smith and Anquan Boldin 28, Jacoby Jones 16, Ed Dickson 9. ... At this stage of Boldin's career, he's a similar player to Pitta; essentially a rocked-up tight end who does his damage over the middle. Because Boldin and Pitta operate in the same portions of the field, the tight end's production could take a hit whenever the Ravens' slot receiver experiences increased involvement in a certain game. This was the case last Thursday night, though an extreme one. Boldin was targeted a team-high 12 times, securing nine for 131 yards. The yardage total was Boldin's personal high in his last 14 games. Pitta was targeted twice and caught neither. I'd lean toward calling Pitta the better bet for production going forward, but there are certainly no guarantees. This is the risk you'll run when considering Pitta a fantasy starter. Still, this matchup with Berry is very enticing. The Chiefs have consistently used Berry to shadow tight ends. ... Kansas City ranks 20th against the run and should pose no serious challenge for Ray Rice. Rice is the No. 4 running back in all of fantasy and will have fresh legs Sunday. His last game was ten days ago.
Watch Matt Cassel play ball for an extended stretch, and you may begin to feel sorry for Dwayne Bowe. What could have been. Cassel is on pace for 40 turnovers this season. He has accounted for eight touchdowns and 15 turnovers in his last eight games. Cassel's ball location was a major issue last week against San Diego, relentlessly missing open receivers. And all three of Cassel's INTs were on him. It's not too bold to say coach Romeo Crennel may have a quick hook in this game. Brady Quinn isn't the answer, but something has to change. ... Bowe owners should still hope Cassel stays in there. Quinn's accuracy is even worse. Cassel at least knows where to go with the ball; Bowe leads the NFL in targets over the past three weeks and things come full circle when Cassel is turning it over, because Bowe gets to rack up stats in garbage time. The Ravens "play sides" at cornerback, so Bowe will square off plenty with burnable RCB Cary Williams and struggling LCB Jimmy Smith. Ravens top CB Lardarius Webb covers the slot on passing downs, where he'll deal with Dexter McCluster. ... Though not quite an every-down receiver, Jon Baldwin has passed Steve Breaston on the depth chart. Baldwin started over Breaston in Week 4, playing 55-of-75 snaps compared to Breaston's 15. Baldwin has a lot of upside and should be rostered as a WR5 in all 12-team leagues. If Bowe went down, I think Baldwin could be an every-week starter.
Fantasy owners who sold off Jamaal Charles after a slow first two games -- and there were many -- ought to be feeling a little sick to their stomachs right now. Okay, a lot sick. Charles was sensational for a second straight game in Week 4, shaking off two early fumbles before slicing and dicing through the San Diego front and back ends for 115 total yards and two touchdowns. He was the best player on the field for the final three quarters. Throw out Week 2 where Charles suffered a minor knee bruise, and he's compiled 412 yards on 66 carries (6.24 YPC). Since he's being employed as a workhorse with Peyton Hillis (ankle) still out, and Baltimore's run defense has been less than dominant in the post-Terrell Suggs era, Charles can be started as a confident RB1 in this game. ... As alluded to above, McCluster has the most difficult Week 5 matchup of any Chiefs receiver and can be dropped in the majority of fantasy leagues. He's averaging 24 total yards over his past three games. ... Tony Moeaki may take on increased blocking duties with Kevin Boss (concussion) on injured reserve. Moeaki has 17 targets on the year, securing nine.
Score Prediction: Ravens 24, Chiefs 17