Baltimore @ Miami
Daniel Thomas was a team killer in last Monday night's blowout loss to the Saints, repeatedly getting dumped on short-yardage runs and managing five yards on four carries. The Dolphins abandoned the run despite Lamar Miller's early-game dominance, putting their fate on the back of a quarterback who has a chance to be great but simply isn't ready to go toe to toe with Drew Brees. On the year, Thomas is averaging 2.80 YPC. Miller is at 4.56 YPC, and 5.85 with two touchdowns over his last three games. Perhaps Miller created separation from Thomas, or perhaps he didn't. But there is no doubt any longer that the Fins should be riding Miller and not their 2011 second-round bust. View Miller as a low-end RB2/flex against Baltimore's stout run defense, which has limited the Broncos, Browns, Texans, and Bills to 427 yards and one score on 121 carries (3.53 YPC). Thomas is waiver-wire fodder. ... Ryan Tannehill isn't quite ready for primetime, evidenced by his four-turnover unraveling at the Superdome. He's 20th in fantasy quarterback scoring and a two-QB-league play only against a Baltimore defense that has allowed one passing touchdown since Week 1. A long-range concern for Tannehill is his pass protection. He's on pace to absorb 72 sacks, four shy of David Carr's NFL record 76 (2003). The Ravens are fifth overall in Pro Football Focus' pass-rush metrics and tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks (13).
Tannehill's target distribution: Brian Hartline 32, Brandon Gibson and Mike Wallace 28, Charles Clay 25, Miller 9, Rishard Matthews 6, Thomas 4. ... Forget Wallace's two drops against the Saints for a minute. The fact that he's being targeted only as much as Gibson tells you the Fins aren't using him as a classic go-to, No. 1 receiver. They've only done that in one game; Week 2 at Indianapolis when OC Mike Sherman force fed Wallace after he complained publicly about his role. Otherwise, Wallace has been more decoy than playmaker. I'd like him better against Ravens outside CBs Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham if Wallace were playing better. He's not performing on the field, or being heavily targeted. He's a risky WR3. ... The Ravens have shown some signs of stingy tight end defense since benching Michael Huff for rookie Matt Elam. They held Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham to 29 combined yards on nine catches in Week 3, and in Week 4 Scott Chandler managed 28 yards against Baltimore. This isn't a great matchup for Clay, but he could still rack up receptions underneath and pay dividends as a back-end TE1. He's eighth in tight end scoring up to this point. ... Hartline plays hard and gets favorable coverage due to Wallace's presence, but on the field he's just a guy. He's a mid-range to low-end starting No. 2 NFL receiver. So because Hartline is a limited on-field player, he's more likely to underperform in the box score. Hartline is a dicey WR3 now and will remain that way for the rest of the season.
Much has been made of Baltimore's Week 4 abandonment of the run. Veteran fantasy players know this is actually a common NFL occurrence when teams fall behind big on the scoreboard. The Ravens trailed the Bills 20-7 at halftime and called just two second-half run plays. Although his to-date scoring has been a major disappointment, Ray Rice's fantasy value did not change last week. He's still a borderline RB1/2 against a Dolphins defense surrendering the ninth highest YPC average (4.24) in football. Coach John Harbaugh indicated this week the Ravens will make every attempt to reestablish the run in Week 5. Because it lacks viable possession receivers, Baltimore must have a run-game foundation to sustain offense. This isn't breaking news. The coaching staff knows it. Expect 20-plus touches for Rice at Miami. ... Bernard Pierce has resumed "big back" change-of-pace duties with Rice's hip back to full strength and will likely receive 7-12 touches per game moving forward. Though still valuable in the event of further Rice injury, Pierce would be a weak Week 5 flex play. ... Joe Flacco's target distribution this season: Torrey Smith 42, Dallas Clark 29, Marlon Brown 23, Brandon Stokley 16, Rice 15, Vonta Leach 10, Tandon Doss and Ed Dickson 9.
Just 26th in fantasy quarterback points, Flacco is a low-end QB2 against the Fins. Likely getting back star LE Cameron Wake (knee), Miami boasts top-notch up-front pass rush and the Ravens are breaking in brand-new LT Eugene Monroe. Baltimore will have trouble keeping Flacco's pocket clean. ... Beyond Rice, Smith is the Ravens' lone every-week fantasy starter. Smith is on pace for 1,740 yards on 84 catches, shattering his previous career highs of 855 and 50. Kudos to those who identified Smith as a pre-season breakout candidate. He's going to meet that expectation. ... The Dolphins are vulnerable everywhere in the secondary besides left cornerback, where Brent Grimes has flashed shutdown cover skills. Smith and Brown frequently flip-flop sides and Grimes is not utilized to shadow opposing top receivers, so both Baltimore wideouts will play snaps against him. Although Brown has scored a touchdown in 3-of-4 games, he is battling a hamstring tweak and in some danger of losing snaps to Jacoby Jones, assuming Jones returns from his MCL sprain. This isn't the week to play Brown. ... The Dolphins are allowing the most fantasy points in the league to tight ends, but Ravens TEs are awfully hard to trust. 34-year-old Clark is a half-decade removed from his prime and hasn't cleared 50 yards since Week 1. Purely in terms of pass catching, Dickson has been the worst tight end in football through four games.
Score Prediction: Ravens 20, Dolphins 17
New Orleans @ Chicago
I was surprised to see the over-under on Saints-Bears at just 48.5 points. I think this game has pass-happy shootout potential, and would eyeball sleepers here. ... The old Jay Cutler returned in last week's loss to Detroit, committing four turnovers in a 40-32 loss. He's still on pace for career bests in TDs (32) and completion rate (64.2), and a six-year high in passing yardage (4,040). The Saints' shockingly stout pass defense makes Cutler a boom-or-bust Week 5 option. New Orleans ranks fifth against the pass, third in picks (7), and third in QB rating allowed (65.1). ... Cutler's target distribution: Brandon Marshall 42, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett 32, Matt Forte 26, Earl Bennett 10, Michael Bush 2. ... It's a great time to buy low on Marshall, capitalizing on his owners' anxiety. He's going to be just fine. Marshall hasn't scored a touchdown in two straight weeks, but ranks ninth in the NFL in targets and has a cakewalk upcoming schedule. After this potentially high-scoring affair, Chicago faces the Giants, Redskins, Packers, and Lions over its next four games. ... With Marshall taking a brief backseat, Jeffery has come on the past two games, seemingly bypassing Martellus as the Bears' No. 2 pass-game option. Jeffery has 19 targets over that span and is coming off a 5-107-1 line in Detroit. The Saints move their corners around under first-year coordinator Rob Ryan, so it's tough to say which receiver will face whom. I like Jeffery as a WR3 gamble because I think this game could produce lots of scoring.
Martellus rebounded from his Week 3 clunker in Pittsburgh (2-10) to secure 8-of-12 targets for 90 yards against the Lions. I like Jeffery to out-produce him the rest of the way, but Bennett is right back in the TE1 mix and a quality starter versus New Orleans. The Saints coughed up a 6-42-1 line to Dolphins H-back Charles Clay last Monday night. ... The No. 4 overall fantasy back behind only Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and LeSean McCoy, Forte is arguably playing the best football of his career under new coach Marc Trestman. He's on pace for 1,920 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns. Supposed goal-line vulture Bush played just two snaps last week. Whereas Ryan's defense has been stingy versus the pass, it is exploitable on the ground. The Saints rank 22nd against the run and are shelling out the highest yards-per-carry average in the game (5.48).
Julius Peppers is playing well again, but otherwise Chicago's defense continues to be a major disappointment in terms of pass rush. They're 30th in sacks (6) and 29th in Pro Football Focus' team pass-rush metrics. Three-technique DT Henry Melton's ACL tear could haunt this defense the rest of the way. ... Give Drew Brees a clean pocket and he'll pick you apart every time. After a slightly slow start to the season, Brees has completed 59-of-85 passes (69.4%) for 755 yards (8.9 YPA) and a 7:1 TD-to-INT ratio over his last two games, rushing for an eighth touchdown. He is on fire. ... Jimmy Graham isn't just the No. 1 overall fantasy tight end. He's the No. 2 scorer among non-quarterbacks, trailing Adrian Peterson by one point. The Bears' defense has allowed the second most receptions in football to tight ends (28). ... With top CB Charles Tillman (groin, knee) continuing to play at significantly less than 100%, the Bears have struggled to contain opposing No. 1 receivers. Stat lines against them so far: A.J. Green 9-162-2; Antonio Brown 9-196-2; Greg Jennings 5-84; Calvin Johnson 4-44-1. Marques Colston is coming off his best game of the season (7-96) and is on pace for 1,192 yards, which would be the second most of his career.
Brees' 2013 targets: Graham 42, Colston 29, Darren Sproles 28, Pierre Thomas 21, Kenny Stills 14, Lance Moore 11, Ben Watson 7, Robert Meachem 4, Nick Toon 2. ... Last Monday night, the Dolphins applied bracket coverage to Graham. Sproles proceeded to gash them for 142 yards and two scores, reminding everyone that he is an every-week RB2 regardless of scoring format. He's now the No. 12 non-PPR fantasy back. ... Thomas has been a bust with Mark Ingram (toe) ailing, losing clock-killing carries to UDFA Khiry Robinson against Miami and managing 105 combined yards on 26 touches the past two games. Thomas hasn't found pay dirt yet this year. He's a shaky flex against Chicago's No. 15 run defense. ... Despite Moore's Week 4 absence due to a wrist injury, rookie Stills played a season-low 50.7% of the offensive snaps, essentially sharing time with Toon and seeing six targets. Toon, Watson, and Meachem combined for five targets against the Fins. Although they all play in a high-scoring, passing-based offense, Stills, Toon, and the rest are complementary players without big enough roles for fantasy reliability.
Score Prediction: Bears 30, Saints 28
Philadelphia @ NY Giants
David Wilson's run defense schedule from Weeks 5-16: vs. PHI (26th), @ CHI (15th), vs. MIN (13th), @ PHI (26th), vs. OAK (21st), vs. GB (8th), vs. DAL (3rd), @ WAS (31st), @ SD (25th), vs. SEA (18th), @ DET (20th). So far, the Giants have faced the run defenses of Denver (1st), Dallas (3rd), Carolina (7th), and Kansas City (24th). Wilson remains a risky flex, but he's got arguably the most favorable rest-of-season schedule among NFL backs. ... The Giants waived passing-down back Da'Rel Scott this week. Scott's release was not surprising because he was ineffective, but has fantasy implications because he was playing 48.6% of the snaps. Meanwhile, Wilson played a season-high 29 snaps in Week 4 against the Chiefs and pass blocked effectively for the third straight week, per Pro Football Focus' game charts. Wilson hasn't fumbled since the opener, and has quietly strung together 95 yards on his last 17 carries (5.59 YPC). If his role continues to grow and the Giants become even a remotely competitive team, Wilson has fantasy-team-carrying talent. ... Although Tom Coughlin hinted at a Wilson-Brandon Jacobs "one-two punch" this week, Jacobs' role has been evaporating each week under playcaller Kevin Gilbride. Since playing 14 snaps in Week 2, Jacobs has turned in snap counts of six and five, and had one carry in the loss to K.C. He is out of gas. ... Eli Manning's target distribution through one month: Victor Cruz 43, Brandon Myers 26, Hakeem Nicks 25, Rueben Randle 23, Scott 17, Wilson 5.
The No. 1 overall fantasy receiver, Cruz is dominating targets not only because the Giants are frequently playing from behind, but because Eli is so often under pressure and Cruz is his go-to hot read. Eagles DC Billy Davis will likely blitz Manning heavily, which would be good news for Cruz. ... Nicks is struggling both physically and mentally. He can't run like he used to, and in Week 4 failed to secure three catchable passes. The good news is Nicks still saw nine targets, has a plus Week 5 matchup, and the G-Men figure to design plays for him against the Eagles because they need Nicks if they're going to turn their season around. Expect Nicks to square off regularly Sunday with Eagles RCB Cary Williams, who got beaten to a pulp in Baltimore last year and currently ranks 68th of 101 qualifiers in PFF's coverage ratings. ... An early-season tease, Myers' production has dropped in three straight weeks and he bottomed out with a catch-less game in Week 4, despite playing 56-of-64 snaps (87.5%). I wonder if the Giants will begin scaling back Myers' role because he's getting blown up as a blocker. He blocked poorly in Oakland last year, as well. ... I really, really like Randle's talent, but he has been maddeningly inconsistent with stat lines of 5-101, 3-14, 2-40, and 1-7 through one month. Randle is worth a bye-week fill-in WR3 look just because his matchup is so attractive, but his box-score results are far from dependable.
Besides his own O-Line and well-below-average defense, the primary obstacle standing in the way of Wilson's long-awaited breakout game is an Eagles team that ranks No. 2 in total offense, No. 1 in rushing, and No. 11 in passing. When teams grab big leads, opposing run games are often rendered non-factors. The Eagles have the firepower to grab just that. ... The No. 3 overall fantasy back behind only Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy squares off with a Giants defense that ranks 28th against the run and has had trouble defending offenses with dual-threat quarterbacks. In Week 3, DeAngelo Williams, Cam Newton, and Mike Tolbert pummeled the G-Men for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 39 combined carries (4.62 YPC). In his two 2012 meetings with Robert Griffin III, Giants DC Perry Fewell's unit coughed up 405 yards on 58 runs (6.98 YPC) to RG3 and Alfred Morris. On Sunday, Giants run-plugging DT Cullen Jenkins may not play due to a right Achilles' and knee injury, and NT Linval Joseph (knee/ankle) has been ruled out. Fire up McCoy and No. 4 overall fantasy quarterback Michael Vick. ... Vick's target distribution in the season's first month: DeSean Jackson 37, Jason Avant 22, Riley Cooper 18, Brent Celek 15, McCoy 11, Zach Ertz 8, Bryce Brown 4, Chris Polk 2.
Although Jackson has had two slow weeks along with the rest of Philly's passing attack, the target leader on an offensive juggernaut remains an every-week WR2. The Giants' No. 19 pass defense has surrendered a league-most ten passing scores and is tied for last in sacks (4). G-Men CBs Corey Webster (groin), Aaron Ross (back), and Jayron Hosley (hamstring) will all be inactive. Passing success shouldn't be difficult to come by for the Eagles. ... In back-to-back weeks, the Chiefs and Broncos have used bracket zones to stifle D-Jax, showing no respect for the other Eagles pass catchers by leaving them in strict man coverage. Defensive coordinators place no value on Philly's pass-game alternatives, and nor should fantasy owners. ... Perhaps the league's least effective No. 2 wideout, Cooper is on pace for 32 catches and 372 scoreless yards. He's dropped two of his 19 targets. ... Celek's pace stats are 28-524-4. Simply not a big part of Chip Kelly's passing attack, Celek is waiver-wire material. ... Coming off a one-catch, seven-yard game, 30-year-old possession receiver Avant lacks any semblance of upside. ... Polk is a player to watch. For a brief period in training camp, he was running ahead of Brown as the Eagles' No. 2 back behind McCoy. Polk broke off 52 yards and a score on five touches in last week's loss to Denver. Brown did total 60 yards on ten touches and remains the preferred Shady handcuff.
Score Prediction: Giants 24, Eagles 21