1:00PM ET Games
Seattle @ Indianapolis
The Seahawks are playing defense differently on the road than at home in a trend that dates back to last year. In two 2013 road contests, Seattle has permitted 242 yards on 55 carries (4.40 YPC) to opposing tailbacks. The Seahawks have stymied enemy runners for 59 yards on 33 runs (1.79 YPC) at CenturyLink Field. Trent Richardson has been running with overt caution as he continues to familiarize with his new blockers, but is buoying his value with goal-line plunges and breaking tackles at a league-best rate, per Pro Football Focus' Elusive Rating. This projects as an above-average fantasy matchup after Arian Foster and Ben Tate tagged Seattle for 216 total yards and a touchdown in Week 4. View T-Rich as a high-end RB2 with a strong chance to score. ... Ahmad Bradshaw is out indefinitely and considering neck surgery, leaving change-up duties to Donald Brown. Although Brown broke off a well-blocked 50-yard run in last week's win over Jacksonville, he managed five touches and 13 snaps. Brown is not a real threat to Richardson's workload. ... Andrew Luck's target distribution through one month: Reggie Wayne 33, T.Y. Hilton 30, Darrius Heyward-Bey 20, Coby Fleener 18, Bradshaw 8, T-Rich 4, Brown 3.
Indy's offense is run oriented and more likely to have rushing than passing success Sunday. The Seahawks are playing top-four pass defense with a 3:7 TD-to-INT ratio against and allowing the lowest passer rating in football (60.7). They're No. 2 in PFF's pass-rush metrics with SLB/DE Bruce Irvin back from suspension this week. View No. 7 fantasy quarterback Luck as a lower-end QB1. Unless the Seahawks throttle the Colts' defense with points, I wouldn't be so sure Luck exceeds 30 pass attempts in this game. ... Seattle was playing stingy tight end coverage before serving up a combined 11-141-1 line to Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham last week. Seventh in fantasy scoring among tight ends the past three weeks, Fleener is a viable TE1 in Week 5. ... 29 of Wayne's team-high 33 targets have come over the middle or against right cornerbacks, which means he'll see slot CB Walter Thurmond III and RCB Brandon Browner on most of Sunday's snaps. On the perimeter, Hilton and Heyward-Bey will have their hands full with Browner and shutdown LCB Richard Sherman. The Seahawks do not move Sherman off his left corner island. Continue to view Wayne as an every-week WR2. ... Heyward-Bey is playing good football -- he hasn't dropped a pass since the opener and is kicking tail as a run blocker -- but DHB is not a fantasy option against the Seahawks. ... Playing limited snaps in a run-first offense, Hilton has paid off as a fantasy start in just 1-of-4 games thus far. He's a boom-or-bust WR3/flex play.
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Russell Wilson is in a similar quandary to Luck, though to a far more painful degree for fantasy owners. The Seahawks rank last in the league in pass attempts per game, and Wilson is only on pace for 35 more rushing yards than his rookie year. The Seahawks are 4-0, so don't expect their formula to change. An incredibly disappointing 21st in fantasy quarterback scoring, Wilson is a QB2 until further notice. The Colts rank No. 7 against the pass and are tied for seventh in sacks (13). No team has yielded fewer passing TDs (2) through four games. ... Whereas Seattle's run-first philosophy hurts Wilson's fantasy value, it's translated to top-five production from Marshawn Lynch despite a three-year low in YPC average (3.90) and minimal passing-game involvement. The Seahawks are second in the NFL in rushing attempts and Lynch is No. 4 in carries. View Lynch as a high-end RB1 against Indy's middling run defense. The Colts rank 16th in rushing yardage allowed and are permitting the 11th highest yards-per-carry average (4.23) among NFL defenses. They're also without critical run defenders SS LaRon Landry (ankle) and DE Ricky Jean-Francois. ... Wilson's target distribution on the year: Golden Tate 22, Sidney Rice 20, Doug Baldwin 15, Zach Miller 14, Lynch 9, Luke Willson 6, Jermaine Kearse and Robert Turbin 4.
The lack of passing volume has had an obvious impact on Seattle pass catchers. Not one of them has even approached fantasy consistency, and team target leader Tate is on pace for 700 scoreless yards. Tate is a bottom-barrel WR3 play against Indy's surprisingly stout pass defense. ... Rice's stat lines through four weeks: 2-35, 1-13, 5-79-2, 1-11. With essentially no reason to think things will get better, I'd rather let someone else deal with that. ... Miller scored two fluky red-zone touchdowns in Week 3, and otherwise has six catches for 71 yards on the season. Now battling a bum hamstring, Miller is a fantasy TE3 against a Colts defense that has yet to allow a tight end touchdown this year. ... Baldwin is a very effective real-life slot receiver, but he plays limited snaps and has cleared 60 yards in just one of his last 15 games. He gets a difficult Week 5 draw against red-hot Colts slot CB Darius Butler. ... I write it in this space every week and will continue to: Lynch owners need to have Christine Michael rostered. The Seahawks view Robert Turbin as a change-of-pace and passing-down specialist only, and Michael would be the carries favorite if Lynch went down. Including the playoffs, Lynch has 358 carries since last September 30. I'm not saying Lynch will break down, I'm saying you need to be prepared if he does. Michael is your preparation.
Score Prediction: Colts 23, Seahawks 20
New England @ Cincinnati
Entering the season, facing Cincy's defense was supposed to be an unwelcome chore. It hasn't been so far. LE Carlos Dunlap has disappointed as a pass rusher following a $40 million offseason extension, and the Bengals are tied for 24th in sacks one year after ranking third. RE Michael Johnson (concussion) is in danger of missing Sunday's game. This may not be a plus matchup for Tom Brady but isn't imposing, either, based on to-date performance. ... The Bengals were without DBs Leon Hall, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Reggie Nelson due to a rash of hamstring injuries in last week's loss to Cleveland. Nelson will return against the Pats, but top corner Hall remains out. It’s a good matchup for New England pass catchers. ... Brady's target distribution on the year: Julian Edelman 43, Kenbrell Thompkins 39, Aaron Dobson 23, Danny Amendola 14, Brandon Bolden 7, Josh Boyce 6. ... Coming off a seven-catch, 118-yard effort in Atlanta, Edelman is solidified as a fantasy WR2/3 and will remain an every-down receiver even with Amendola (groin) tentatively due back. With Amendola in the Week 1 lineup, Edelman played 84-of-95 snaps (88.4%) and saw nine targets, securing seven for 79 yards and two touchdowns. It isn't crazy to think Edelman could actually benefit from Amendola's attention-commanding presence. ... Thompkins has become an increasingly frequent target of Brady on end-zone fades, scoring three touchdowns over his last two games. He's getting better every week. Consider Thompkins an every-week WR3 until further notice. He'll see a lot of RCB Pacman Jones on Sunday, and Pacman has been Cincinnati's weakest secondary link. … Assuming Amendola is indeed active – we won’t know for sure until Sunday morning – he’ll be a plug-and-play starter in all leagues.
Dobson is New England's inferior rookie wideout to Thompkins, securing just 11 of his 23 targets for 118 yards (10.7 YPR). Dobson's lone touchdown came on a blown coverage in Week 2 against the Jets. Listed as questionable with a neck injury, Dobson will lose snaps to Amendola if he plays, and is fantasy bench fodder. ... The Pats are less likely to generate ball movement on the ground than via the pass game. The Bengals have held enemy tailbacks to a sub-pedestrian 348 yards on 92 runs (3.78 YPC), and New England's backfield has devolved into a three-man timeshare. Although he remains the lead runner in terms of snaps and touches, Stevan Ridley has lost 34 early-season carries to hammer back LeGarrette Blount, who scored a 47-yard TD on a wide-open gap run in last Sunday's win over the Falcons. Blount's surprisingly voluminous involvement has been the single-greatest drain on Ridley's value, not Bolden's pass-game role. Until Ridley regains a stranglehold on carries -- which may not happen because the 4-0 Pats may not fix what isn’t broken -- Ridley can only be viewed as a weekly flex. ... Blount's standalone value remains scant, particularly in a difficult matchup like this. Averaging just 8.5 touches per game -- all carries -- Blount is a runner who needs a ton of room to operate. He’s unlikely to get it at Cincinnati. ... While Bolden plays a lot of snaps because he's New England's go-to back in three- and four-wide packages, he's not getting the ball enough for more than desperate flex consideration. Bolden had eight touches in Week 3, and seven in Week 4. Since being benched in the opener for fumbling, Ridley has not put the ball on the ground and is handling 13.7 touches a game. Ridley is no longer an RB2, but he's still the best fantasy running back bet in Foxboro.
Friday Update: Ridley (thigh/knee) has been ruled out for Week 5. In addition, Brandon Bolden was spotted limping in the Patriots' locker room this week after aggravating a recurring knee injury in last Sunday night's win over Atlanta. LeGarrette Blount is a limited player with no passing-game value, but he has a chance to carry the ball 16-plus times behind one of the league's top run-blocking lines. He's worth serious consideration as a Week 5 plug-and-play flex.
A changing of the guard took place in Cincy's backfield two weeks ago. Over the last two games, Giovani Bernard has played 80 snaps to BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 41, seeing 30 touches to Law Firm's 16. Bernard is averaging 4.59 yards per carry, Green-Ellis 2.73. Helping Gio's Week 5 cause is Pats NT Vince Wilfork's Achilles' tear, which will have a ripple effect on New England's run defense. Lock in Bernard as an RB2/flex for the foreseeable future. ... Green-Ellis, on the other hand, will hurt you any given week he doesn't score a goal-line touchdown. And he's not even getting all of those chances anymore. Each of Bernard's two rushing scores this season have come inside the ten-yard line. Upside seekers can cut the cord on Green-Ellis. Also favoring Bernard in Week 5 is the Patriots' suspect linebacker coverage out in the flats. They've given up 21 receptions for 178 yards to opposing running backs through four games. ... The Bengals have a Super Bowl-caliber offense outside of quarterback play. Becoming a bigger liability every game, Andy Dalton played hesitantly in last week's loss to the Browns, struggling to move the offense and committing two turnovers while failing to lead a touchdown drive. Dalton was completely ineffective as Joe Haden all but erased A.J. Green. The Pats can follow Browns DC Ray Horton's blueprint by attempting to take away Green with Aqib Talib. Dalton is just a two-QB-league shot in the dark at this point.
Enemy No. 1 receiver stats versus New England through four games: Julio Jones 6-108; Vincent Jackson, 3-34; Santonio Holmes 3-51; Stevie Johnson 3-39-1. Talib did not allow a single Week 4 catch to Jones; Julio got almost all of his production against RCB Alfonzo Dennard. Green owners should hope for the same, because Talib is playing lights out. He's Pro Football Focus' No. 2 overall cover corner at the season's quarter pole. ... Dalton's Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Green 50, Jermaine Gresham and Mohamed Sanu 24, Tyler Eifert 17, Bernard 15, Marvin Jones 10, Green-Ellis 2. ... A huge disappointment in both real life and fantasy, Sanu could not capitalize on Haden's Week 4 blanket coverage of Green, and is on pace for 584 yards without a touchdown. Obviously limited skill wise, Sanu is a WR5. ... The Bengals' tight end situation is a recipe for fantasy failure, even after Tony Gonzalez's 12-149-2 Sunday night demolition of Patriots linebackers and safeties. Gresham is averaging 45 scoreless yards per game. Eifert also has yet to find pay dirt and is averaging under 40 yards. Combine them and you'd have a fantasy TE1. As Eifert and Gresham are separate entities, neither is more than a low-ceiling week-to-week TE2.
Score Prediction: Patriots 24, Bengals 20
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Detroit @ Green Bay
Matthew Stafford is fifth in fantasy quarterback scoring and has taken just three sacks among 159 dropbacks. At 1.9%, it's the best sack rate in the NFL and half of his 3.8 sack percentage from 2012. Stafford is a locked-in every-week QB1 entering Sunday's likely shootout at Lambeau. The Packers allow the second-highest YPA (9.0) in football with an 8:2 TD-to-INT ratio against. The matchup is a passer's delight. ... Like the rest of the league, Packers DC Dom Capers can't figure out how to contain Calvin Johnson. Mega's last three stat lines against Capers' defense: 11-244-1, 5-143-1, 10-118. ... Reggie Bush is back at USC in the Lions' wide-open, space-creating offense. He's averaging 5.29 yards per carry and 145 total yards per start, despite leaving one early with a minor knee injury. Johnson and Bush work off one another and make each other better as two incredibly dynamic, game-changing weapons for whom defenses must account. If we could re-draft fantasy rosters today, you could argue Bush as a top-five overall pick regardless of PPR or standard scoring. ... With Bush restored to full health in Week 4, Joique Bell touched the football 11 times in the Lions' win over Chicago, generating 42 total yards with a lost fumble. Bell remains an ideal lottery-ticket stash due to Bush's durability woes, but he's a weak flex option. Bell just won't play or get the football a lot when Bush is all systems go. And Bush is all systems go in Week 5.
Stafford's targets since Nate Burleson fractured his arm prior to Week 4: Megatron 10, Brandon Pettigrew 7, Bush 6, Bell and Kris Durham 4, Tony Scheffler 2, Ryan Broyles and Theo Riddick 1. ... Pettigrew is a plodding presence with stone tablets for hands, but he's coming off a rare efficient game (seven targets, seven grabs, 54 yards) and Green Bay has had some problems defending tight ends. Enemy TE stats against the Pack so far: Vernon Davis 6-98-2; Jordan Reed/Fred Davis/Logan Paulsen 6-34-1; Jermaine Gresham/Tyler Eifert 5-34. Pettigrew is just a bye-week filler, but you could do worse in a crunch. ... Durham and Pat Edwards (ankle) are the complementary role players across from Megatron. Durham played a lot of Week 4 snaps, but neither is a viable WR3/flex. ... Broyles was among last week's biggest fantasy disappointments. Despite playing 43-of-67 snaps (64.2%) and running 22 pass routes, Broyles commanded one target and didn't catch it. That target-to-playing time ratio looks awfully fluky. In this projected high-scoring affair, I wouldn't be opposed to trotting Broyles back out as a desperation WR3. He will likely play more snaps and is a virtual lock to see more footballs then he did against Chicago.
This game's over-under is 53.5 points, the third-highest of Week 5 behind only Eagles-Giants and Broncos-Cowboys. At 1-2, the Packers are approaching must-win territory and will have had 14 days to not only get healthy, but prepare for this critical division game following a Week 4 bye. ... Meanwhile, the Lions got banged up in the secondary in last week's win over the Bears. Top CB Chris Houston suffered a right hamstring injury, and coach Jim Schwartz has been coy about his Week 5 availability. He's listed as questionable and hardly practiced this week. 33-year-old RCB Rashean Mathis only lasted nine snaps against Chicago before a "head" injury ended his day. Aaron Rodgers should carve up this defense with so much study time and the bevy of matchup issues in Detroit's back half. ... Eddie Lacy is back from his pre-bye concussion and figures to form a one-two punch with fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin. The Lions are playing strong pass defense, but their run defense is vulnerable and always will be due to Schwartz's gap-inviting Wide 9 scheme. Detroit ranks 20th versus the run, has allowed five rushing scores through four games, and is silver plattering 5.21 yards per carry -- the fifth-highest average in football. Lacy is a plug-and-play RB2 in this matchup. ... After a slow preseason and camp, Franklin touched up the Bengals for 103 yards on 13 runs (7.92 YPC) and caught three balls for 23 yards prior to the bye. Franklin did lose a fumble, however, and is likely to be no more than a change-of-pace back until James Starks (knee) returns.
Rodgers' target distribution entering Week 5: Randall Cobb 33, Jordy Nelson 23, James Jones 22, Jermichael Finley 16, Andrew Quarless 8, Starks 6, Franklin 3, Lacy 2. ... Finley has bounced back from a Week 3 concussion to square off with a Lions defense that coughed up an 8-90 line to Martellus Bennett last week. Redskins TEs tagged Detroit for a combined 9-101 number the week before. ... Rodgers' most heavily targeted receiver, Cobb is the No. 7 wideout in fantasy points per game and a legit WR1 against the Lions' battered back end. Cobb's two 2012 stat lines against Detroit: 7-102, 9-74-1. Slot CB Bill Bentley is really struggling, and Cobb should eat him up inside. ... No. 4 in per-game wideout scoring, Nelson will be the primary beneficiary if Houston (hamstring) is inactive or hobbled, because they play the majority of their snaps on the same side. Houston and/or rookie backup CB Darius Slay could get their lunch money stolen by Nelson. ... Rodgers has made an obvious effort to re-involve Jones since his Week 1 goose egg, targeting him 20 times the past two games. I still think Jones is a risky WR3 and pretty much always will be because he's Rodgers' No. 4 passing-game option. He's a boom-or-bust fantasy play. The matchup is right for Jones to pay dividends, however, and the game's high-scoring potential certainly helps.
Score Prediction: Packers 30, Lions 27