1:00 PM ET Games
NY Jets @ Cleveland
Team Totals: Jets 19.75, Browns 19.75
Due in part to teammate ineptness – e.g. Kenny Britt – and his own on-field flaws, DeShone Kizer has been an extreme high-variance fantasy producer four starts in. In chronological order, Kizer’s weekly finishes are QB10 > QB32 > QB13 > QB32, with both of his high-end results tied to rushing TDs. Kizer also leads the NFL in interceptions (8) and turnovers (9). As a streamer and/or two-quarterback-league play, you simply have to know what you’re getting into. Kizer looks great at times, and like the league’s worst quarterback at most others. His outlook is more intriguing than usual this week because the Jets play man-coverage defense and invite quarterback rushing attempts, while Kizer is playing at home in a sneaky bad-team potential shootout. … Isaiah Crowell’s usage is tied to game flow, but it is nonetheless concerning his weekly touch totals are descending (19 > 10 > 14 > 8) amid sustained ineffectiveness. Crowell has averaged 3.78 yards per carry with four touchdowns over his last 16 games. This is a now-or-never matchup against the Jets, who’ve yielded the NFL’s fourth-most fantasy points to running backs. … Duke Johnson has emerged as Kizer’s favorite target, leading the Browns in catches (9, 6) in consecutive weeks while out-snapping Crowell in two of the past three. The Jets have given up the NFL’s ninth-most catches (25) and tenth-most receiving yards (223) to enemy backs, keeping Johnson in play as a PPR flex.
Kizer’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Johnson 26; Kenny Britt 23; Ricardo Louis 20; Rashard Higgins 17; Seth DeValve 15; David Njoku 11; Crowell 8; Kasen Williams 6. … From a pass-catcher standpoint, it’s tough to know where to look for sleepers when tailback-receiver hybrid Johnson leads the Browns in targets. … Britt single-handedly ended seemingly countless Week 4 drives with drops, penalties, and mental mistakes, and coach Hue Jackson conceded after the game Britt would be released if not for Cleveland’s multitude of wide receiver injuries. Mercifully, knee and groin injuries threaten to keep Britt out of this week’s game. … Njoku (51%) out-snapped DeValve (49%) for the first time in Week 4, although they continue to rotate and cancel out each other’s fantasy relevance. It is frustrating the Browns refuse to play them together, especially when their wideouts are so bad. … Slot man Higgins has hurt the team since his seven-catch, 95-yard tease in Week 2 against Baltimore. In two games since, he’s caught 2-of-10 targets for ten yards. … 4.43 speedster Louis is worth some Hail Mary discussion with rising target totals over the past three weeks (2 > 6 > 9). Louis played a season-high 86% of the Browns’ Week 4 offensive snaps, catching five balls for 64 yards. With Jets top CB Morris Claiborne likelier to chase Britt, Louis should draw the easier matchup against either Darryl Roberts or Juston Burris.
Josh McCown enters this Week 5 “revenge game” with to-date fantasy finishes of QB23 > QB13 > QB23 > QB31. Matching up with the Browns gives McCown a real chance at spiked results after Cleveland allowed season-best games to Joe Flacco (QB15), Jacoby Brissett (QB5), and Andy Dalton (QB3) in Weeks 2-4, showing major pass-funnel tendencies by containing running games but getting blown to pieces by aerial attacks. The matchup makes McCown a locked-in two-quarterback-league play and underrated 14- or 16-team-league streamer. … Even without stud NT Danny Shelton last week, Cleveland shut down Joe Mixon and through four games has held enemy backs to a combined 100/308/3.08/2 rushing line. Bilal Powell remains a volume-driven RB2 after operating as the Jets’ clear Week 4 lead back in Matt Forte’s (turf toe) absence with season highs in touches (25) and snaps (66%). Powell’s 75-yard TD run was fluky because the Jaguars’ defense figured he was tackled after Powell fell flat on his face after emerging from the pile, but he turned 24 touches into 115 total yards even if you leave out that run. … Rookie Elijah McGuire also broke out against the Jags, handling 12 touches on a 27% playing-time clip and totaling 131 yards with a score, including a perfectly-blocked inside-zone run McGuire took 69 yards to the house. This week’s matchup is more difficult, but what projects as a balanced game script should allow McGuire to again flirt with double-digit touches, giving him deeper-league flex appeal.
McCown’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson 24; Powell and Jeremy Kerley 13; Austin Seferian-Jenkins 10; Forte 8; ArDarius Stewart 6; McGuire 4. … Either Anderson or Kearse will probably have a useful Week 5 fantasy game, but your guess is as good as mine regarding who it’ll be. The Browns have been flamed by No. 1 wideouts A.J. Green (5/63/1), T.Y. Hilton (7/153/1), Antonio Brown (11/182/0), and Jeremy Maclin (4/31/1). If forced to choose from the Jets’ top-two wide receivers, my pick would be Anderson for his superior big-play ability and slight target lead (12 to 10) on Kearse over the past two weeks. … Since returning from suspension two games ago, Seferian-Jenkins has logged 77% of the Jets’ offensive snaps and equaled Kearse in targets. The Browns’ defense got torched by Jesse James in Week 1 (6/41/2), Ravens tight ends in Week 2 (13/121/0), and Bengals tight ends in Week 4 (7/79/2). Seferian-Jenkins is arguably the premier tight end streamer on the board this week.
Score Prediction: Browns 24, Jets 21
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Carolina @ Detroit
Team Totals: Lions 22.5, Panthers 20.5
Panthers-Lions is a battle between 3-1 teams I’ve struggled to get a feel for. I bet the over on Carolina’s pre-season Win Total, yet have been underwhelmed by their on-field play. I bet the under on Detroit and have mixed feelings. For Week 5 in particular, getting a handle on Matthew Stafford’s outlook is just as difficult. To-date weekly quarterback finishes against the Panthers’ defense are QB28 (Brian Hoyer) > QB25 (Tyrod Taylor) > QB14 (Drew Brees) > QB10 (Tom Brady), all below-expectation marks. Stafford has managed QB20 > QB18 > QB22 results over his last three starts. While I’m not sure I would fade Stafford in favor of streamers like Jacoby Brissett (vs. SF) or Josh McCown (@ CLE), I do believe we’re at a point where that is a question worth asking. … Albeit in unlikely circumstances on the road against the Vikings in Week 4, Ameer Abdullah finally had a breakthrough game with 109 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on a season-high 23 touches. Abdullah has been frustrating to say the least, but he does offer a weekly floor of 17 touches based on first-month results. Carolina, of course, has played run-tough defense by limiting enemy running backs to a combined 71/270/3.80/2 rushing line while allowing the NFL’s fifth-fewest fantasy points to the position. Ultimately, Abdullah is a volume-driven RB2/flex option. … Theo Riddick may need an Abdullah injury to become a usable fantasy commodity. Riddick has logged single-digit touches in 3-of-4 games and has just 113 total yards on the season.
Stafford’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Golden Tate 32; Riddick 21; Eric Ebron 19; Marvin Jones 18; Kenny Golladay 15; T.J. Jones 12; Abdullah 11. … Tate has been a surprisingly up-and-down fantasy asset through four weeks, especially for a player whose calling card is consistency. Nevertheless, Tate’s Week 5 matchup is attractive against a Carolina defense that give up an 11-yard TD to Saints slot WR Brandon Coleman in Week 3 and 6/42/1 to Danny Amendola in Week 4. Even with Golladay (hamstring) on the shelf last week, Tate ran 73% of his routes in the slot. … The Panthers have still been most vulnerable to perimeter wideouts, namely Michael Thomas (7/87/1), Pierre Garcon (6/81/0), Chris Hogan (5/60/1), and Ted Ginn (2/44/1). I haven’t been bullish on Marvin Jones in any game so far, but I think his outlook is elevated in this matchup. … Held below 50 yards in all four games, Ebron established a season low in snap rate (44%) in last week’s win over the Vikings. Equipped with speedy linebackers who close quickly on the middle of the field, Carolina stymied 49ers tight ends in Week 1 (5/27/0), Charles Clay (3/23/0) in Week 2, Coby Fleener (1/21/0) in Week 3, and Rob Gronkowski (4/80/0) in Week 4. The Panthers’ loss of FS Kurt Coleman (knee) is a concern for their defense, but I’m skeptical it will help Ebron bust his slump.
Even after his overall QB2 result against New England, I have a hard time viewing Cam Newton as more than a high-volatility fantasy bet against a Lions defense that has yielded lowly finishes of QB21 (Carson Palmer), QB23 (Eli Manning), QB21 (Matt Ryan), and QB24 (Case Keenum), with none landing inside the top 20. The Patriots’ defense is bad enough that Newton’s Week 4 has a real chance to prove a fluke. Last week marked Cam’s first top-15 week since last November. … The Lions’ run defense was already struggling before losing WLB Paul Worrilow (MCL), surrendering a combined 49/239/4.88/2 rushing line to enemy backs in Weeks 3-4. Detroit has also given up the NFL’s 10th-most catches (24) and seventh-most receiving yards (238) to the position. I’m still not sure why Christian McCaffrey creeped into the second round of season-long drafts by the end of August, but he makes for a reasonable RB2/flex play in Detroit. Due to his pass-catching role, McCaffrey remains a far more desirable PPR than non-PPR asset. McCaffrey has just one touch inside the ten-yard line, losing two yards on the play. … Jonathan Stewart also stands to benefit if Carolina’s defense plays to its ceiling. Stewart hasn’t exceeded 15 touches in a game since Week 1, however, and his lack of receiving work renders Stewart a touchdown-or-bust flex option.
Cam’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: McCaffrey 29; Devin Funchess 25; Kelvin Benjamin 19; Ed Dickson 8; Stewart 6; Curtis Samuel 5; Russell Shepard 4; Fozzy Whittaker 3. … In two games since Greg Olsen broke his foot, Funchess’ snap rates have jumped from 75% to 96%, his routes run per game have gone from 32.5 to 36.0, and his per-game target averages spiked from 4.0 to 9.5. Funchess also leads Carolina in red-zone targets (4). Should Lions top CB Darius Slay give Benjamin trouble, Funchess would stand to benefit on the opposite side. … No. 1 wideouts to face Slay’s Lions so far are Stefon Diggs (5/98/0), Julio Jones (7/91/0), ankle-hobbled Odell Beckham (4/36/0), and Larry Fitzgerald (6/74/0). The matchup isn’t overly imposing for Benjamin, who has topped 75 yards in two straight healthy games and should continue to be fired up as a WR2/3. … The Lions haven’t been the tight end sieve they were last year, so far holding Kyle Rudolph (2/34/0), Austin Hooper (1/9/0), Evan Engram (4/49/1), and Jermaine Gresham (3/15/0) all below 50 yards. Dickson will only be worth streaming in especially favorable matchups.
Score Prediction: Lions 23, Panthers 21
San Francisco @ Indianapolis
Team Totals: Colts 23, 49ers 21.5
49ers-Colts offers sneaky bad-team shootout potential with pass-funnel defenses on both sides. Not only is Carlos Hyde (hip) banged up to the extent that he played a season-low 69% of the 49ers’ Week 4 snaps and ceded a season-high 10 touches to No. 2 back Matt Breida, the Colts’ run-defense stoutness has been sustained by holding enemy backs to a combined 90/333/3.70/4 rushing line. Chuck Pagano’s unit has surrendered QB14, QB12, QB13, QB5 results to Jared Goff, Carson Palmer, DeShone Kizer, and Russell Wilson while allowing a league-high 26 completions of 20-plus yards and ranking 26th in sacks (9). Despite his to-date struggles, Brian Hoyer offers two-quarterback-league viability in this cupcake draw indoors, and has desperation streamer appeal in 14- and 16-team leagues. … Even with slightly more limitations than usual, Hyde logged a robust 21 touches in last week’s loss to Arizona and enters Week 5 averaging 20.5 touches for 102.3 total yards per game. Indianapolis has done well to limit rushing efficiency, but the Colts have still allowed the NFL’s seventh-most fantasy points to running backs. On pace for 68 catches, Hyde is tracking to shatter his career high of 27. At worst, he is an every-week RB2.
Hoyer’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Pierre Garcon 33; Hyde 22; Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor 19; Aldrick Robinson 18; George Kittle 14; Breida 9; Kyle Juszczyk 8. … This is a potential breakthrough game for Garcon, who runs 68% of his routes at slot and left corners, whereas Vontae Davis played all right corner in his Week 4 return from a preseason groin injury. Davis struggled much as he did when trying to play through a groin injury last season, giving Seattle’s wideouts an inordinate amount of cushion, and allowing 101 yards on six targets according to PFF’s charts. … If Goodwin (concussion) can’t go against the Colts, Robinson will come into play as a dart-throw WR3/flex option in this plum draw. Although Robinson managed an underwhelming 3/52/0 receiving line in last week’s loss to Arizona, he drew a team-high 12 targets and played 87% of the 49ers’ offensive snaps. As Goodwin simply hasn’t been getting the job done, this could be an opportunity for Robinson to seize the starting role opposite Garcon should he capitalize. … The Colts surrendered 4/89/0 on six targets to Rams tight ends in Week 1, 2/62/0 on three targets to Cardinals tight ends in Week 2, 5/45/1 to Browns tight ends in Week 3, and 5/66/1 to Seahawks tight ends last week. Kittle played 89% of the Niners’ Week 4 snaps, ran a season-high 44 pass routes, and is worth Hail Mary streamer discussion based on matchup and opportunity.
Back from a brutally unfavorable Week 4 matchup in Seattle, Jacoby Brissett returns home to Lucas Oil Stadium where he posted top-five fantasy quarterback stats last time out (vs. CLE), and now draws a 49ers defense against which no enemy signal caller has finished worse than the QB17, including back-to-back top-14 weeks by Jared Goff and Carson Palmer, who each topped 290 passing yards. The Niners have faced/allowed a league-high 21 rushing attempts by quarterbacks, while Brissett is averaging 4.7 scrambles for 23 yards per start with two rushing TDs, raising his floor and ceiling. On a one-for-one basis in this game, I would rather stream Brissett than Hoyer. … The 49ers have limited enemy backs to a combined 105/373/3.55/2 rushing line, giving Frank Gore a tough Week 5 matchup in an offense that has struggled mightily to run the ball. The Colts rank dead last in the NFC in yards per carry (3.0) and 25th in the league in rushing yards per game (85.2) despite Brissett’s dual threat, which boosts their counting stats. Averaging just 58.8 total yards per game, Gore is a volume-based and ultimately touchdown-or-bust flex play. Gore (2) has also been out-carried by both Robert Turbin (3) and Marlon Mack (3) inside the ten-yard line, lowering Gore’s scoring probability. He’s a low-floor, low-upside fantasy commodity.
Brissett’s Weeks 2-4 target distribution: T.Y. Hilton 21; Jack Doyle 20; Kamar Aiken 15; Donte Moncrief 14; Gore 6; Turbin 3; Mack 1. … The Niners gave up three season-best wide receiver games in the past two weeks to Robert Woods (6/108/0), Sammy Watkins (6/106/2), and Jaron Brown (8/105/0). Hilton has been held below 60 yards in 3-of-4 starts, but he is always better on the Lucas Oil track indoors, and nothing about San Francisco’s secondary is worrisome. … Hilton is the lone Colts wideout to reach 60 yards in a game this season, and he’s done so once. Moncrief’s stats in Brissett’s starts are 2/18/0, 2/44/0, and 3/30/1. Aiken’s are 3/31/0, 1/9/0, and 1/4/0. … The Niners contained Greg Olsen in Week 1 (2/18/0), Jimmy Graham in Week 2 (1/1/0), Rams tight ends in Week 3 (2/21/0), and Jermaine Gresham (2/12/0) in Week 4. Nursing a concussion, Doyle will be a fringe streamer if he plays.
Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Colts 23
Tennessee @ Miami
Team Totals: Titans 22.75, Dolphins 20.25
Despite a favorable Weeks 2-4 schedule against the Saints, Jets, and Chargers, Jay Cutler emerged with QB17, QB26, and QB30 results and is up to 11 straight games of fewer than 260 passing yards with just two multi-touchdown performances in that stretch. Simply not a good fantasy quarterback, Cutler is difficult to trust outside of two-quarterback leagues even against the Titans, whom Derek Carr (QB7), Russell Wilson (QB2), and Deshaun Watson (QB1) all flamed in the opening month. Blake Bortles’ QB25 finish in Week 2 against Tennessee is probably the range in which we should expect Cutler to land at this point. If Cutler’s play continues on his Weeks 3-4 track, the Dolphins are going to have to give serious consideration to inserting Matt Moore, even though coach Adam Gase shot down that idea in post-Week 4 press conferences. With all of this said, I've decided to have some matchup-driven DFS tournament exposure to Cutler this week. … Tennessee’s stout defensive front limited enemy running backs to a combined 98/347/3.43/2 rushing line in Weeks 1-4 and poses a less-than-ideal Week 5 matchup for Jay Ajayi, whose snap rates plummeted in the last two games (52%, 62%) due to negative script. As Ajayi is being used as essentially an early-down back only, his number of routes run has also dipped weekly (33 > 17 > 16). The good news is Miami should experience better script at home facing hamstrung Marcus Mariota or Matt Cassel. Albeit a major disappointment so far, Ajayi remains a volume-based, low-end RB1.
Cutler’s Weeks 2-4 target distribution: Jarvis Landry 33; DeVante Parker 27; Kenny Stills 18; Julius Thomas 12; Ajayi 6; Kenyan Drake 5. … The Titans bleed wide receiver production, having yielded stat lines of 10/107/1 (DeAndre Hopkins), 10/105/1 (Doug Baldwin), 6/83/0 (Michael Crabtree), 6/82/1 (Allen Hurns), 7/76/0 (Marqise Lee), 5/62/1 (Amari Cooper), and 2/30/1 (Paul Richardson). They’ve been dusted badly by slot and perimeter receivers alike, playing nicely into Landry and Parker’s hands. (This is one reason we can perhaps keep a light on for Cutler despite his atrocious to-date play.) Running nearly 80% of his routes outside, Parker has breakthrough potential against Titans RCB Brice McCain and rookie LCB Adoree Jackson, who both have bottom-30 coverage grades among 110 qualified corners at Pro Football Focus. … Landry plays 68% of his snaps in the slot, similar to Baldwin and Hurns listed above. Averaging 11 targets per game, Landry should be a high-floor WR2 play in this cupcake matchup. Landry has scored just four TDs over his last 25 games, so perhaps he is “due" for an end-zone trip. … If Stills is going to pop up for a big week, it would be more probable to occur in a matchup like this, although we could have said the same for Stills against the Saints last week. Nevertheless, Tennessee has allowed the NFL’s eighth-most 20-plus-yard completions and Stills ranks second on the Dolphins in 20-plus-yard targets (6) behind only Parker (9). … Thomas’ target totals three games in are 3 > 5 > 4. He’s just a touchdown-or-bust streamer for Week 5.
The Titans are a tough team to analyze because their quarterback situation may come down to a game-time decision. For this column, we’ll assume Marcus Mariota (hamstring) starts after he practiced in some capacity each day this week. Mariota would likely have limited mobility, concerning since Mariota has gone ten games without reaching 300 passing yards and has thrown for 300 yards just once in his last 25 starts. A disappointment thus far, Mariota’s weekly finishes are QB6 > QB18 > QB24 > QB16. I’m streaming guys like Jacoby Brissett over him this week. … Last week’s loss to Houston got so lopsided so early that we gleaned zero concrete takeaways on Tennessee’s backfield distribution. We do know DeMarco Murray is averaging 12 touches per game to Derrick Henry’s 10, and coach Mike Mularkey has indicated a near-even timeshare is the new norm. Murray is a low-floor RB2 option and Henry a risky flex against a Miami defense that has held enemy backs to a combined 66/214/3.24/2 rushing line.
Mariota’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Rishard Matthews 29; Delanie Walker 23; Eric Decker 19; Corey Davis 13; Murray, Jonnu Smith, Taywan Taylor 6; Henry 1. … This is a “revenge game” for Matthews against the same Dolphins team that refused to play him for the first four years of his career, then let him walk for a below-market free agent deal to Tennessee. Miami’s secondary is among the worst in the league, notably yielding big games to Keenan Allen (9/100/0), Robby Anderson (3/95/1), and Michael Thomas (8/89/1). If Mariota indeed starts, Matthews needs to be played in season-long leagues and considered seriously in DFS tournaments. … Decker has finished below 50 yards in every game this year. He’s in prove-it mode for the foreseeable future until he puts something substantial in a box score. … Walker is an entirely Mariota-dependent fantasy play. Over the past three seasons, Walker is scoreless with a 61-yard average in Mariota’s five missed games.
Score Prediction: Dolphins 24, Titans 20
Buffalo @ Cincinnati
Team Totals: Bengals 21, Bills 18
Bills-Bengals projects as a sluggish, fantasy-unfriendly affair with Week 5’s second-lowest game total (39.0). Even after back-to-back multi-touchdown performances and last week’s overall QB3 result, Andy Dalton is tough to trust versus a Bills defense that has surrendered quarterback finishes of QB25 (Matt Ryan), QB27 (Trevor Siemian), QB21 (Cam Newton), and QB23 (Josh McCown) while yielding a league-low 13.5 points per game. Even if improvement on his atrocious Weeks 1-2 was always inevitable, Dalton is just a two-quarterback-league option against the shutdown Bills, who have allowed one touchdown pass through four games. … Joe Mixon’s Week 4 production wasn’t there, but the requisite usage was. He tallied backfield highs in touches (21) and snaps (48%) for the second straight week, but Jeremy Hill remained frustratingly involved with 26 yards on seven touches, and Giovani Bernard turned his lowly six touches into 79 yards and a score. While Mixon’s per-play efficiency left much to be desired in last week’s road-game win over Cleveland, I’m sticking with Mixon as an RB2 in this home date with Buffalo. Showing signs of a run-funnel defense, the Bills gave up a combined 45/230/5.11/2 rushing line to Broncos and Falcons backs in their last two games. I sympathize with any frustration associated with Mixon, but the usage, matchup, and home-favorite boxes are all checked for a bounce-back Week 5.
Dalton’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: A.J. Green 38; Brandon LaFell 17; Bernard and Tyler Kroft 12; Mixon 11; Tyler Boyd 7; Alex Erickson 6. … The Bills’ zone defense has had a limiting effect on enemy wideouts, giving up just one game of 80-plus yards to the position (Demaryius Thomas, 6/98/0) four games in. Thomas, Kelvin Benjamin (6/77/0), Emmanuel Sanders (7/75/0), Devin Funchess (4/68/0), Jermaine Kearse (7/59/0), and Bennie Fowler (4/55/0) all reached or exceeded expectations against Buffalo in Weeks 1-3, however, before Julio Jones (hip) and Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) suffered game-ending injuries in last week’s upset. Based on to-date data, we should expect a solid game but not a high-upside one from Green. I’m obviously still starting him in all season-long leagues and sprinkling him into DFS lineups. … LaFell has been held to 30 yards or fewer in four straight weeks to begin the season. … Kroft’s two-touchdown Week 4 breakout speaks more to the Browns’ burnable defense than Kroft’s going-forward outlook. The Bills checked Jets tight ends in Week 1 (5/59/0), Panthers tight ends in Week 2 (3/36/0), Broncos tight ends in Week 3 (4/23/0), and Falcons tight ends in Week 4 (8/71/0).
Tyrod Taylor’s home-away splits were stark in 2016 and have spilled over into this year. Taylor has thrown just 6-of-22 touchdown passes (27%) on the road since the beginning of last season, and this year Taylor has recorded weekly finishes of QB9 and QB17 at The Ralph compared to QB27 and QB17 in away games. The good news is Week 5 opponent Cincinnati has allowed a league-high 100 rushing yards to enemy quarterbacks, while Taylor ranks first at his position in rushing attempts (31) and third in rushing yards (118). Still, Tyrod is tough to back as more than a two-quarterback-league starter and low-end streamer away from Buffalo against a Bengals defense yielding the NFL’s tenth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks and third-fewest passing yards per game (164.8). … Stymied on the ground in three straight games, LeSean McCoy draws another difficult test versus a Bengals run defense that got back WLB Vontaze Burfict last week and has limited enemy running backs to a 96/332/3.46/2 rushing line on the season. Since gashing the Jets for 159 total yards in Week 1, McCoy has averaged just 73.3 total yards per game and 2.30 yards per carry. McCoy remains an every-week RB1 based on talent and locked-in volume, but it’s fair to say first-year OC Rick Dennison’s new zone-based running scheme is off to a slow start.
Taylor’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Charles Clay 25: McCoy 23; Zay Jones 17; Jordan Matthews 13; Andre Holmes 8; Kaelin Clay 4; Mike Tolbert 3. … Clay enters Week 5 with the NFL’s eighth-most targets, fifth-most catches (18), third-most yards (227), and second-most touchdowns (2) among tight ends. He is a legitimate every-week TE1. For matchup purposes, it is notable the Bengals gave up a combined 5/64/1 receiving line to Packers tight ends in Week 3, but have otherwise shut down the position. Still, slot man Matthews’ (thumb) loss should free up targets in the middle of the field for Clay to continue to eat. … Jones’ Weeks 1-4 target totals were 4 > 6 > 2 > 5 with zero games of 25 yards. Even in Matthews’ absence, Jones can be left on season-long waiver wires. Holmes will start opposite Jones going forward.
Score Prediction: Bengals 20, Bills 17
LA Chargers @ NY Giants
Team Totals: Giants 24, Chargers 21
In a battle of 0-4 teams, the Giants host the cross-country-traveling Chargers in a 1pm ET game where L.A. is at a distinct time-zone disadvantage in addition to facing significant on-field matchup concerns. The Giants have allowed just 17.9 points per game at home since the beginning of the 2016 season, while New York has the necessary coverage mavens to slow Bolts top wideouts Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams in CBs Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Philip Rivers has been a top-12 fantasy quarterback in three of his first four games, but he also has 28 turnovers over his last 16 starts. I like the Giants’ fantasy D/ST as a Week 5 streamer. … Melvin Gordon handled his usual snap rate (74%) in last week’s loss to the Eagles, but his 11 touches were a season low, and the coaching staff’s decision to mix in Branden Oliver and Austin Ekeler more than usual suggests they were seeking a spark. Ekeler delivered on his lone carry, scoring from 35 yards out for the Bolts’ longest run play of the year. Battling an ongoing knee injury, Gordon is averaging an anemic 3.11 yards per carry with just one 15-yard run among 54 attempts. The Giants have played sub-par run defense by surrendering 4.50 yards per carry to enemy running backs, but they’ve allowed the NFL’s third-fewest receiving yards (94) and a league-low 12 receptions to the position. Until Gordon shows he is healthy enough to resume handling big workloads and producing at enhanced efficiency, we need to downgrade him to a risky fantasy RB2. My gut says Gordon is a sell-while-you-still-can commodity in season-long leagues, ideally targeting a slow-starting wideout like Julio Jones or Dez Bryant.
Rivers’ Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Keenan Allen 40; Tyrell Williams 24; Travis Benjamin 20; Gordon 19; Antonio Gates 17; Hunter Henry 10; Oliver 8; Ekeler 5. … Running 55% of his routes inside, Allen will have his hands full with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who played a pivotal role in containing Cole Beasley (3/32/0), Golden Tate (4/25/0), and Nelson Agholor (2/20/0) in Weeks 1-3 before Bucs slot WR Adam Humphries dropped a 6/70/0 line on the G-Men last week. Allen’s matchup doesn’t stand out, but his volume is bankable, and he is one of the NFL’s hardest receivers to cover. He has at least nine targets in all four games. … The Eagles busted Williams’ three-game slump last week, allowing Williams to get far behind their defense for a 75-yard TD en route to a season-best 5/115/1 receiving line. Williams moves around enough to sporadically avoid Janoris Jenkins and draw struggling RCB Eli Apple on a healthy dose of plays, but this matchup isn’t nearly as favorable as last week’s. Williams is a boom-bust WR3. … If the Giants don’t use Jenkins to shadow and play the Bolts straight up, Benjamin projects to run the most routes at Apple. Benjamin, of course, if far from trustworthy. He is a WR4 dart throw with weekly target counts of 4 > 3 > 8 > 2 and one 50-yard game in four. … The Giants have been dusted by Jason Witten (7/59/1), Eric Ebron (5/42/1), Zach Ertz (8/55/1), O.J. Howard (2/63/1), and Cameron Brate (4/80/1). There isn’t a better matchup for tight ends, but figuring out which Bolts tight end will capitalize is a weekly conundrum. My bet is on Henry, who ran a season-high 25 routes in last week’s loss. Gates is entirely touchdown-or-bust with zero games above 30 yards.
Widely left for dead after the first two games – including by me – Eli Manning has been resurrected in the Giants’ up-tempo, quick-out passing game with Odell Beckham at full strength. Manning has turned in back-to-back top-ten fantasy QB finishes in a pass-first attack, averaging 48 attempts per game over the past two weeks. A run-funnel defense that has limited enemy passing games but is highly vulnerable on the ground, the Chargers contained Carson Wentz (QB16), Alex Smith (QB22), and Jay Cutler (QB19) in Weeks 2-4. The run-deficient Giants seem unlikely to change their pass-oriented approach based on L.A.’s defensive strengths and weaknesses, however, keeping Manning on the fantasy-starter fringe. As long as Beckham is healthy, he is capable of elevating teammates, and Eli in particular. … With Paul Perkins (ribs) and Orleans Darkwa (back) banged up, rookie Wayne Gallman looks like the favorite for Giants backfield touches after parlaying 11 carries and two catches into 50 yards and a score in last week’s loss to Tampa Bay, logging 39% of the snaps. Shane Vereen played only 28% of New York’s Week 4 downs, logging six touches. Vereen has yet to reach double-digit touches in a game this year. Gallman is a flex play with upside for more against a porous Chargers run defense that is allowing 5.36 yards per carry to opposing running backs and got pummeled for 214 rushing yards by the Eagles last week.
Manning’s Weeks 2-4 target distribution with Odell Beckham playing: OBJ 33; Brandon Marshall 26; Evan Engram 25; Sterling Shepard 19; Vereen 7; Perkins 6; Gallman 2. … No. 1 wideouts to face the Bolts the past three weeks are Alshon Jeffery (3/29/1), Tyreek Hill (5/77/1), DeVante Parker (4/85/0). Top CB Casey Hayward won his battles against Jeffery in last week’s Eagles-Chargers game, but didn’t shadow him for four quarters. Last season, Beckham scored seven of his ten touchdowns at home. … The Bolts put clamps on Julius Thomas (3/26/0) and Travis Kelce (1/1/0) in Weeks 2-3 before Zach Ertz stung them for 5/81/0 on eight targets last week. Engram has earned every-week TE1 treatment by ranking second among tight ends in targets (30), third in catches (19), and fifth in yards (200). The Giants’ fast-paced, ball-out-quick, pass-based approach perfectly suits Engram’s game. … Despite continued inefficiency, Marshall has stayed PPR relevant with consecutive double-digit-target games as the G-Men try to feed him run-after-catch opportunities. It’s worth noting Chargers RCB Trevor Williams has been excellent in place of Jason Verrett (knee, I.R.). As long as the Giants keep throwing at high-volume clips, Marshall can be a weekly WR3/flex factor. … Shepard has reached 60 yards once in four games this season and just four times in 20 career games. Shepard will likely pop up for another solid week at some point, but it won’t be easy to see coming. He’s taken the biggest hit from Marshall and Engram’s offseason additions.
Score Prediction: Giants 24, Chargers 20
Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh
Team Totals: Steelers 26.5, Jaguars 18.5
This game sets up as a Le’Veon Bell smash spot with Pittsburgh favored by more than a touchdown at home and facing a run-funnel Jags team that ranks No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA but dead last against the run and has yielded a league-high 5.82 yards per carry to enemy backs, but a league-low 147.0 passing yards per game. Even at his high DFS price, Bell is worth paying up for in cash games for his massive floor-ceiling combination. Slow to start after his camp holdout, Bell’s yards-per-touch averages are trending up weekly (3.62 > 2.94 > 4.67 > 4.77), suggesting he’s beginning to hit a groove. … James Conner carries no standalone value, but I think Conner is worth stashing at the end of 12- and 14-team-league benches as a probable RB1 were Bell to miss time. Le’Veon is going to be worked hard – he logged 39 touches in last week’s win at Baltimore – and that usage ups his injury risk. Conner only handled four carries last week, but his 23-yard run occurred early in the game and is the longest run by a Steelers back this year. … Ben Roethlisberger’s home-away splits are always worth considering because they’re proven to have predictive value – his lone top-12 finish this year came in the Steelers’ lone home game – but this matchup is tough enough to give us Week 5 home-game pause. Tom Savage/Deshaun Watson (QB28), Marcus Mariota (QB18), Joe Flacco (QB36), and Josh McCown (QB31) have all been stymied by the Jaguars, who have the requisite defensive personnel to match up to Pittsburgh’s dynamic pass catchers. Usually an elite QB1 play at home, I’m downgrading Big Ben to a top 10-14 option instead.
Roethlisberger’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Antonio Brown 45; Bell and Martavis Bryant 23; Jesse James 20; JuJu Smith-Schuster 14; Eli Rogers 11. … Top receivers to face Jacksonville so far are Robby Anderson (3/59/0), DeAndre Hopkins (7/55/1), Rishard Matthews (3/43/0), Eric Decker (3/32/0), Jermaine Kearse (4/17/0), Jeremy Maclin (1/8/0), Mike Wallace (1/6/0). No individual pass catcher has reached 65 yards against the Jags, and no enemy wideout has reached 60. Brown remains an obvious every-week WR1 in season-long leagues. He is a contrarian DFS tournament play. … Based on size and where they normally align, I expect Brown to draw more of RCB A.J. Bouye with LCB Jalen Ramsey on Bryant. Both are legitimate shutdown corners, but Ramsey has been slightly stingier than Bouye this year. Held under 50 yards in 3-of-4 games, Bryant’s matchup and to-date production suggest he should be downgraded to a WR4/flex option. … Smith-Schuster has passed Rogers in the slot, last week logging a 71% snap rate while Rogers was a healthy scratch, and parlaying four targets into 3/47/1 receiving. With Aaron Colvin also dominating at slot corner, however, the Jags haven’t exactly been vulnerable inside, as Decker, Maclin, Jeremy Kerley (5/37/0), and Bruce Ellington (0/0) can attest. … The Jags have given up the NFL’s ninth-most catches (21) and tenth-most yards (223) to tight ends, keeping James in play as a low-end streamer. Still, James would almost certainly need to score a touchdown to pay off.
Being a touchdown-plus road dog is never optimal for a running back, but game script has yet to hinder Leonard Fournette’s production. He has logged at least 16 touches in all four games and hit pay dirt in each, and Week 5 opponent Pittsburgh’s run defense has fallen short of expectations by permitting a combined 50/300/6.0/2 rushing line to Ravens and Bears backs over the past two weeks. Devoutly committed to the run, the Jags enter Week 5 ranked first in the NFL in rushing attempts (138) and 22nd in pass attempts (123). And I believe Jacksonville’s defense is good enough to keep this game closer than the spread suggests. … Blake Bortles’ Week 3 four-touchdown outburst in London looks like an anomaly, seeing as he’s failed to finish inside the top-20 fantasy quarterbacks in each of his other three games. His volume significantly reduced by the Jaguars’ run-first ways, Bortles is merely a low-end two-QB-league dart and worth attacking with streamer D/STs. Steelers DC Keith Butler’s defense has allowed the NFL’s second-fewest points (14.8) and yards per game (267.0) and ranks second in the league in sacks (15).
Bortles’ Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Marqise Lee 26; Allen Hurns 24; Fournette 17; Keelan Cole 15; Marcedes Lewis 13; Chris Ivory 11. … The Steelers have allowed the NFL’s second-fewest catches (35) and yards (339) to enemy receivers, while no Jags wideout is averaging more than 6.5 targets per game. No individual pass catcher has reached 60 yards against Pittsburgh. I think this is a full-fade situation for Jags receivers. Hurns does lead the team in red-zone targets (7) and targets inside the ten (3) and is the best weekly bet to score. … Lewis scored three TDs in Bortles’ fluke four-score London game. In his other three games combined, Lewis has caught 0-of-8 targets.
Score Prediction: Steelers 20, Jaguars 17
Arizona @ Philadelphia
Team Totals: Eagles 26, Cardinals 19
Now second in the NFL in passing yards (1,282) behind only Tom Brady (1,399), Carson Palmer heads to Philly for his third cross-country 1pm ET game in the first five weeks. The bad news is Palmer and Arizona’s offense as a unit were error prone enough in their Weeks 1-2 1pm ET games that rumors circulated Palmer was “washed.” The good news is Week 5 opponent Philadelphia is playing pass-funnel defense, giving up three straight top-12 fantasy weeks to Alex Smith, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers. And the Cardinals are an inherent pass-funnel offense anyway due to their inability to run the football. This may not entirely make logical sense, but I like Palmer and the Eagles’ D/ST as Week 5 streamers. The Cardinals have allowed league highs in quarterback hits (43) and sacks (17), and Palmer has shown signs of becoming shell shocked in the pocket behind swinging-gate pass protection. Palmer has absorbed six sacks in back-to-back games. … Andre Ellington’s target counts have risen each game (3 > 5 > 8 > 14) to the extent that he’s now a usable PPR flex option. Ellington caught a touchdown pass from Palmer along the left side of the end zone in last week’s win over the 49ers, only for it to be confusingly ruled incomplete. Averaging 2.59 yards per carry, Chris Johnson likely isn’t running anywhere against an Eagles defense that held enemy backs to a 56/222/3.96/3 rushing line in Weeks 1-4. Ellington has led Arizona’s backfield in snaps in two straight weeks (60%, 53%), running pass routes on 94% of his plays.
Palmer’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Larry Fitzgerald 41; Ellington 30; Jaron Brown 29; J.J. Nelson 20; John Brown and Jermaine Gresham 16; Johnson 5. … The Eagles were rinsed by slot receivers Sterling Shepard (7/133/1) and Keenan Allen (5/138/0) in Weeks 3-4. 67% slot man Fitzgerald enters Week 5 ranked third in the NFL in targets (41) and catches (26), top 15 in receiving yards (276), and first in red-zone targets (10). … Jaron Brown is now the Cardinals’ unofficial No. 2 wideout, as John Brown’s Week 4 return severely curbed Nelson’s playing time (28%) while Jaron (95%) emerged unscathed. Jaron plays 81% of his snaps outside, where he will encounter weekly burn victims LCB Jalen Mills and rookie RCB Rasul Douglas. Averaging 9.7 targets over his last three games, Jaron is a volume- and matchup-driven WR3/flex play. … Nelson will remain a real-life threat for big plays, but his playing-time reduction pushes his floor too low for fantasy comfort. … John Brown was a 63% player in his Week 4 return from a two-week quadriceps injury, turning seven targets into a 3/47/0 receiving line and scoring a fantastic toe-tapping TD where he clearly got both feet down but was ruled out of bounds on the field, and coach Bruce Arians declined to challenge. John’s health is an ongoing concern, and box-score consistency seems unlikely. But “Smokey” is at least worth discussion with big-play potential in this cupcake draw.
After opening the season with consecutive top-five fantasy games, Carson Wentz slumped to QB24 and QB16 results in Weeks 3-4. I’m leaving the light on for Wentz because this Arizona defense may soon become a pass-funnel unit. DC James Bettcher’s group struggles badly at No. 2 corner, while losing pass rusher Markus Golden (ACL) is a major blow. Even before Golden’s injury, Arizona yielded top-12 fantasy weeks to Matthew Stafford (QB2) and Dak Prescott (QB12), facing Jacoby Brissett and Brian Hoyer in their other two games. Still, with Patrick Peterson likely to erase Alshon Jeffery, Wentz is just a fringe Week 5 play. … Playing shutdown run defense as usual, the Cardinals held enemy backs to a 93/277/2.98/2 rushing line in the first month, also allowing the NFL’s seventh-fewest receiving yards (117) to the position. With Wendell Smallwood (knee) not expected to play, however, LeGarrette Blount's raised volume projection as a home-favorite running back significantly increases his appeal and makes Blount a sneaky DFS correlation play with the Eagles' D/ST. Blount led the Eagles in Week 4 touches (17) and should push for 20-plus versus Arizona. Rookie Corey Clement stayed involved with ten carries on 25% of the downs in last week's win over the Chargers. Kenjon Barner is a candidate to handle some of Smallwood's passing-down leftovers.
Wentz’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Zach Ertz 36; Alshon Jeffery 34; Torrey Smith 19; Nelson Agholor 18; Smallwood 11; Blount 3. … Patrick Peterson has traveled with Marvin Jones (2/37/1), T.Y. Hilton (4/49/0), Dez Bryant (2/12/1), and Pierre Garcon (4/36/0), and there is every reason to believe he will stick to Alshon on nearly every Week 5 snap. … Jeffery was indeed shadowed by Chargers CB Casey Hayward last week. Ertz stepped up for a team-high 5/81/0 receiving line on eight targets. Arizona has contained Eric Ebron (2/9/0), Jason Witten (1/3/0), and George Kittle (2/35/0), although Jack Doyle dumped an 8/79/0 receiving line on them in Week 2. Regardless of matchups, Ertz is not a smart fade. He has an otherworldly 114/1,380/6 receiving pace over his last eight games and leads all NFL tight ends in targets (36) and catches (26). … Smith is never easy to trust, but he should see elevated usage in this game as Alshon battles Peterson. PFF has charged Cardinals No. 2 CB Justin Bethel with the seventh-most yards allowed (253) among 110 qualified cornerbacks, in addition to three TDs in four games. … Slot man Agholor is in a similar boat, lacking reliability but worthy of more matchup-driven discussion than usual this week. Like Smith, Agholor has cleared 60 yards just once in four games. Also like Smith, Agholor figures to draw more targets than usual against gambling Cardinals slot CB Tyrann Mathieu.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 24, Eagles 23
4:05 PM ET Games
Seattle @ LA Rams
Team Totals: Rams 23.5, Seahawks 22.5
In chronological order, Russell Wilson’s fantasy quarterback finishes by week are QB24 > QB16 > QB2 > QB5, making Wilson the fourth-highest-scoring fantasy passer in the season’s first month. In Week 5, Wilson takes on a Rams defense allowing the NFL’s fifth-most points (26.2) and sixth-most yards (367.8) per game while surrendering consecutive top-eight results to Brian Hoyer and Dak Prescott. As we’ve noted repeatedly in this space, Wilson’s floor is typically lowered on the road with enhanced volatility. I think Wilson is most astutely approached as a boom-bust fantasy bet in this spot, albeit still a surefire top-ten play at his position. … Even against a struggling Rams run defense, I’m throwing up my hands with regard to Seattle’s post-Chris Carson backfield and considering this a wait-and-see week. Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, and J.D. McKissic are all in the mix for snaps, and none is a safe bet to reach double-digit touches. If forced to choose from this foursome, I would probably take Rawls based on post-Week 4 coaching-staff commentary. The Rams have allowed the NFL’s most fantasy points to running backs, including a 4.96 yards-per-carry average and league-high seven all-purpose touchdowns.
Wilson’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Doug Baldwin 31; Jimmy Graham 26; Paul Richardson 22; Tyler Lockett 20; Prosise 11; Luke Willson 9; Amara Darboh 7; McKissic 1. … The Seahawks took it easy on Baldwin (groin) in last week’s demolition of the Colts, limiting him to 68% of the snaps and four targets in a game where he simply wasn’t worth pushing in the second half. It is perhaps worth noting that the Rams have been stingy versus slot men Cole Beasley (3/17/0), Trent Taylor (3/32/1), Jamison Crowder (4/47/0), and Kamar Aiken (1/3/0), although those receivers haven’t quite lit up any other defenses, either. I’m sticking with Baldwin as a high-upside WR2 further removed from his Week 3 groin strain. … In Weeks 1-4 order, Lockett’s weekly snap rates are 53% > 74% > 90% > 74%, and he is coming off a season-high 91 yards from scrimmage in last week’s win over the Colts. Lockett and Richardson are both viable WR3/flex options against the Rams, who have yielded the NFL’s fifth-most completions of 20-plus yards (14). Richardson leads the Seahawks in 20-plus-yard targets (5), Baldwin and Graham are tied for second (4), and Lockett is a close third (3). … The Rams have contained Jack Doyle (2/41/0), Jordan Reed (6/48/0), 49ers tight ends (2/9/1), and Jason Witten (1/9/0), and from that standpoint do not pose a standout matchup for Graham. Nevertheless, Graham has turned in back-to-back 60-plus-yard games and should continue to experience improved health as he distances himself from a Week 2 ankle injury.
After facing the Colts, Redskins, 49ers, and Cowboys in the first month, Jared Goff draws his toughest to-date challenge against a Seahawks defense that has checked Aaron Rodgers (QB13), Brian Hoyer (QB33), Marcus Mariota (QB15), and Jacoby Brissett (QB27) while ranking top ten in pass-defense DVOA. Seattle has shown run-funnel tendencies by shutting down passing games but ranking 30th in run-defense DVOA while yielding a combined 89/456/5.12/3 rushing line to running backs. I’ve liked Goff as a matchup-based streamer to this point, but I am bailing on him this week. … This game sets up far better for Todd Gurley as a home-favorite running back facing an underachieving run defense whose DFS ownership is certain to be depressed because the public fears Seattle. Gurley leads the NFC in yards from scrimmage (596) and the entire NFL in touchdowns (7) and enters Week 5 averaging an otherworldly 26.5 touches per game. On similar usage last year, David Johnson tagged a better Seahawks defense for total-yardage/touchdown counts of 171/0 and 136/3. No one should have any fear about teeing up Gurley. He'll be one of my highest-owned DFS running back plays this week.
Goff’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Gurley 25; Robert Woods 22; Cooper Kupp 21; Sammy Watkins 16; Tyler Higbee 13; Gerald Everett 7; Tavon Austin 5. … Only three receivers have cleared 50 yards against Seattle: Rishard Matthews (6/87/1), Randall Cobb (9/85/0), and Jordy Nelson (7/79/1). Eric Decker (4/49/0), Davante Adams (3/47/0), Donte Moncrief (3/30/1), T.Y. Hilton (3/30/0), Pierre Garcon (3/26/0), and Marquise Goodwin (3/26/0) have all fallen short. One of the reasons I’m down on Goff this week is because none of his pass catchers are noticeably set up for success. Watkins has been held below 60 yards in 3-of-4 games, settling in as a low-floor WR4/flex. Watkins does project to run the most routes (49%) at Seahawks rookie RCB Shaq Griffin. … Woods has also finished below 60 yards in 3-of-4 weeks and runs a team-high 57% of his routes at left corners, where Richard Sherman logs 95% of his plays. … Kupp looks like the best Week 5 fantasy bet among Rams receivers. Kupp runs 61% of his routes inside, where slot CB Jeremy Lane is nursing a hip/groin injury. Kupp leads the Rams in red-zone targets (5) and targets inside the ten (3), giving him the best chance to hit pay dirt. … The Seahawks contained Martellus Bennett (3/43/0) in Week 1, 49ers tight ends (3/19/0) in Week 2, Delanie Walker (4/31/0) in Week 3, and Colts tight ends (6/59/0) in Week 4. I’m avoiding the Higbee-Everett rotation.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 27, Rams 24
Baltimore @ Oakland
Team Totals: Raiders 20.75, Ravens 18.25
Joe Flacco heads to Oakland with fantasy finishes of QB26, QB15, QB36, QB26 on his 2017 resume to face a leaky Raiders pass defense that ranks 28th in DVOA with the NFL’s fourth-highest passer rating allowed (108.4). Unfortunately, Flacco has shown minimal ability to exploit even the league’s weakest defenses. He managed 298 yards and one passing score on a whopping 54 attempts versus Oakland last Week 4 and has reached 300 yards in four of his last 21 games with only six multi-touchdown efforts in that span. The matchup indicates Flacco warrants streamer conversation, but his recent performance in both small and larger sample sizes suggests otherwise. In desperate cases and/or DFS tournaments, the Raiders’ D/ST is stream-able against Flacco, who has thrown at least one interception in ten straight games and has six in four games this year. … Buck Allen remained Baltimore’s Week 4 backfield leader in snaps (58%) and targets (6), but the Ravens have reduced his carry total in every game (21 > 14 > 8 > 2). Allen is just a passing-game back and low-end PPR flex option. … Alex Collins has outplayed Terrance West in decisive fashion with a sterling 8.2 YPC average to West’s 3.3 clip, although Collins lost a Week 4 fumble and failed to reach double-digit touches in any of the first four games. The Ravens’ early-down-grinder role looks like a situation to avoid in Week 5 lineup decisions. Despite growing usage, Collins has yet to catch a pass as a Raven. He was targeted twice in last week’s loss, securing neither with one drop.
Flacco’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Jeremy Maclin 20; Allen and Mike Wallace 19; Ben Watson 18; Breshad Perriman 13; Nick Boyle 9; Michael Campanaro 8; Maxx Williams 5; West 4; Collins 2. … The Raiders have been gashed by Vernon Davis (5/58/1), Delanie Walker (7/76/0), and AJ Derby (4/75/1). This is a great spot to stream Watson, who leads the Ravens in targets (17) over their last three games. … Maclin has been a source of frustration to this point, falling below 60 yards in all four weeks. He was saved by Weeks 1 and 2 touchdowns, but has been almost invisible in two games since. Just a WR4/flex option until he shows more, 69% slot man Maclin will take on Raiders slot CB T.J. Carrie, who checked Eric Decker (3/10/0), Jeremy Kerley (3/14/0), Jamison Crowder (6/52/0), and Bennie Fowler (2/35/0) in Weeks 1-4. … Particularly in LCB David Amerson’s (concussion) absence, the Raiders look vulnerable on the perimeter. Wallace is coming off his season-best game (6/55/1), but he is still very difficult to trust after managing single-digit yards in each of the first three weeks. On a one-for-one basis, I would still rather play Maclin than Wallace. … Perriman has one reception for six yards over the last three games.
Whether the Raiders go through with it is up to coach Jack Del Rio and OC Todd Downing, who have made a concerted effort to limit 31-year-old Marshawn Lynch’s usage to this point. But sans Derek Carr, there is little doubt Oakland’s optimal offensive approach is to saddle up Lynch behind their high-priced offensive line and ride Beast Mode against the Ravens, who are traveling cross country with a run defense that has sagged without DT Brandon Williams’ (foot), surrendering a combined 83/380/4.56/3 rushing line to enemy backs with Williams shelved the past three weeks. Lynch is a risky Week 5 fantasy start with descending touch totals of 19 > 13 > 7 > 9, but Lynch should be the focal point of Oakland’s E.J. Manuel-quarterbacked offense. … You’re on your own trusting Raiders pass catchers with Manuel at the controls. Manuel is a career 58.5% passer with a 6.4 YPA who narrowly beat out Connor Cook for the Raiders’ backup job in training camp. On Sunday, Manuel will face a Ravens defense that ranks No. 2 in DVOA and has surrendered league lows in completion rate (54.4) and passer rating (63.1).
Score Prediction: Raiders 20, Ravens 17
4:25 PM ET Game
Green Bay @ Dallas
Team Totals: Cowboys 26.5, Packers 25.5
The Cowboys dominated the first two quarters of last week’s loss to the Rams, heading to halftime up by eight points as Ezekiel Elliott parlayed 16 touches into 97 yards and two TDs. Dallas was outscored 19-6 the rest of the way; Zeke managed nine second-half touches, and the Cowboys put themselves in constant third-and-long situations, failing to convert. This is an opportunity for OC Scott Linehan to learn from his Week 4 mistake by pounding Elliott against a Green Bay run defense that ranks 19th in DVOA and has given up five all-purpose touchdowns to enemy backs in the past three weeks. Including January’s playoffs, Elliott dropped total-yardage amounts of 174 and 123 in last year’s two meetings with Packers DC Dom Capers. … A top-12 fantasy passer in all four weeks coming off a top-eight finish against the Rams, Dak Prescott is a high-floor, high-ceiling Week 5 play in this probable shootout against Green Bay, which ranks 15th in pass-defense DVOA through four games. Prescott shredded Capers’ unit for total-yardage/touchdown counts of 253/3 and 315/3 in last year’s two Packers games. Prescott is a cash-game DFS play. And because Elliott’s passing-game usage has risen so much – he’s on pace for 76 targets after drawing just 39 all last year – Prescott and Elliott remain playable in the same DFS lineups.
Prescott’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Dez Bryant 40; Jason Witten 28; Terrance Williams 22; Cole Beasley 20; Elliott 19; Brice Butler 9. … A.J. Green (10/111/1) and Julio Jones (5/108/0) both dropped season-best games on the Packers, whom Bryant slaughtered for 9/132/2 last January. Although Dez’s inefficiency has frustrated – his 40% catch rate would be the lowest of his career – it is forgivable after facing Janoris Jenkins, Denver, Patrick Peterson, and Trumaine Johnson in the first month. The Packers don’t have any cover men in their league. … Slot men Mohamed Sanu (5/85/0) and Kendall Wright (4/51/1) have had solid games against the Packers, but Beasley simply hasn’t done enough in a large sample for fantasy confidence. He hasn’t reached 50 yards since last Thanksgiving and, including the playoffs, has gone 11 straight games without a touchdown. … Williams and Butler essentially cancel each other out as fantasy possibilities. Williams (63%) plays more snaps than Butler (32%), but Butler is a superior playmaker when in the game. All non-Dez Cowboys wideouts are low-floor shots in the dark. … Green Bay has checked Jimmy Graham (3/8/0), Austin Hooper (2/7/0), Tyler Kroft (3/28/0), and Zach Miller (2/45/0). Although Witten has struggled in back-to-back weeks and this matchup doesn’t stand out, I wouldn’t sleep on Witten as a low-end TE1 in this potential shootout. Witten dropped 6/59/1 on the Packers last January and ranks second on the Cowboys in red-zone targets (5) behind Dez (7).
Back from a long week after his four-score Thursday night demolition of the Bears, Aaron Rodgers draws a Cowboys defense that has allowed the NFL’s fourth-most touchdown passes (8) and fifth-most pass plays of 20-plus yards (14) while yielding three straight top-15 fantasy weeks to Trevor Siemian (QB3), Carson Palmer (QB11), and Jared Goff (QB15). Including playoffs, Rodgers has thrown for 300-plus yards and/or multiple TDs in nine straight games. He is always one of the highest-floor and highest-ceiling quarterback options on the board, and this is a near-pristine matchup. … Ty Montgomery is apparently trying to play through “multiple” fractured ribs, Jamaal Williams appears to have recovered from his Thursday night knee injury with a long week of rest, and Aaron Jones may have earned more usage after turning 13 carries into 49 yards and a touchdown off the bench in last week’s win over the Bears. Barring a change in status for one of the Packers’ backs, this is a high-risk fantasy situation that would ideally be avoided in fantasy-lineup decisions. Green Bay’s backfield distribution is entirely up in the air, and that uncertainty gives Rodgers extreme upside in terms of projected pass volume.
The Packers’ to-date target distribution is unreliable due to injuries. The one constant is Jordy Nelson, who has scored 19 TDs over his last 20 games and is on pace for his third straight WR2 overall finish in non-PPR scoring despite missing all but seven snaps in Week 2 with a “charley horse.” Nelson’s ceiling is immense in the highest-totaled game on the Sunday-Monday slate. … Dating back to January’s playoffs, Randall Cobb has totaled 60 yards and/or hit pay dirt in six straight games. Cobb runs 85% of his routes inside, where Dallas has been blowtorched by Cooper Kupp (5/60/1), Larry Fitzgerald (13/149/1), and Sterling Shepard (7/44/0). … The Cowboys’ tight end coverage has barely been tested by the Cardinals, Rams, Broncos, and Giants’ tight end units, yet Dallas has still allowed the NFL’s 15th-most receptions (18) to the position. Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli’s zone scheme is historically vulnerable to tight ends, last year allowing league highs in catches (120) and yards (1,206) to TEs. In a “revenge game” with a high-scoring total, Martellus Bennett is likely to go overlooked and underrated based on his slow results-oriented start. Forward-thinking fantasy leaguers should note Bennett ranks fifth among NFL tight ends in targets, eighth in catches (17), and second on the Packers behind Nelson in targets inside the ten-yard line (3). For lack of a better term, Bennett is “due.” … Davante Adams’ availability will come down to his ability to pass concussion-protocol tests. When in the lineup, Adams has been a boom-bust WR2 play.
Score Prediction: Packers 30, Cowboys 27
DFS Players: Packers at Cowboys is the RotoGrinders Matchup of the Week. Some of RotoGrinders' top NFL minds break down this game from every angle and help prepare you to set winning lineups this weekend in daily fantasy football.
Sunday Night Football
Kansas City @ Houston
Team Totals: Chiefs 23.5, Texans 22.5
Fantasy’s overall QB3 since taking over as the Texans’ starter three weeks ago, Deshaun Watson draws a road-tripping, short-week Chiefs defense that has quietly allowed the NFL’s sixth-most passing yards (992) and second-most rushing yards (93) to quarterbacks, a function of DC Bob Sutton’s man-coverage scheme which requires cover men to run downfield and turn their backs to the offense on pass plays. Both Carson Wentz and Kirk Cousins have posted top-12 fantasy weeks against the Chiefs, and both set season highs in rushing yards in those games. Watson is a superior runner to both, currently leading all quarterbacks in rushing yards (148). The Chiefs are showing pass-funnel tendencies, setting up Watson for another high-ceiling week. … Vulnerable in run defense last season, Kansas City solidified its front by signing NT Bennie Logan away from Philadelphia, and through four games has limited enemy backs to a combined 87/327/3.76/4 rushing line and the NFL’s second-fewest receiving yards (93). Still, Watson’s scrambling threat and hyper efficiency have a real chance to continue to elevate Houston’s offense to a point where Lamar Miller can become matchup proof. On the season thus far, Miller has shown a 15-touch floor and 23-touch ceiling. Miller’s outlook seemed bleak just two weeks ago when D’Onta Foreman began cutting into his carries, but Houston’s entire offensive outlook has been enhanced. … Foreman has double-digit touches in three straight games and should be owned in all 12- and 14-team leagues with some standalone value and league-winning potential if something goes wrong with Miller.
Watson’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: DeAndre Hopkins 44; Bruce Ellington 12; Ryan Griffin 11; Lamar Miller 10; Stephen Anderson 9; Braxton Miller 8; Will Fuller 6; Foreman 3. … Watson’s connection with Hopkins is eerily similar to his collegiate rapport with Mike Williams, relentlessly attacking defenses on back shoulders and out-breaking routes along the sideline. Hopkins has at least seven catches in all four games, and he runs 70% of his routes away from stationary Chiefs LCB Marcus Peters’ side of the field. For the foreseeable future, we need to have weekly exposure to Watson-Hopkins DFS stacks. (They play the Browns next week!) … Fuller returned from his collarbone injury and was a near-full-time player in last week’s win over Tennessee, logging six targets on 80% of the snaps and catching two red-zone TDs. Fuller ran a team-high 47% of his routes on Peters’ side, and his skill set doesn’t exactly portend a red-zone dominator. Nevertheless, the stock of every Texans offensive player has been elevated by Watson’s rapid emergence, and Fuller is among them. He’ll be a high-variance WR3/flex going forward. … The Eric Berry-less Chiefs gave up 6/107 to Eagles tight ends in Week 2, then limited Chargers tight ends to 2/30/0 in Week 3, then were ransacked for 5/110/0 by Redskins tight ends last Monday night. Griffin played 96% of Houston’s Week 4 snaps, has drawn target counts of 6 and 5 the past two weeks, and is worth streamer discussion versus K.C.
Alex Smith enters Week 5 with QB1, QB10, QB21, QB6 weekly finishes to face a Texans defense that has yielded just one top-15 quarterback result (Tom Brady) while allowing the NFL’s fifth-fewest yards per game (291.5). It is perhaps worth noting Smith has faced Houston three times over the past two years, including playoffs, and emerged with total-yardage/touchdown results of 188/0, 217/1, 258/3. I can’t fault anyone for riding the Smith wave after his hot first month in what has so far been a hyper-efficient Chiefs offense, but in this particular week I view him as more of a top 12-15 option than the top 5-8 scorer Smith has been so far. … Even without ILB Brian Cushing (suspension), Houston’s run defense has stayed stout by holding enemy backs to a combined 89/299/3.36/1 rushing line and NFL-low 86 receiving yards one month in. After facing the Patriots, Eagles, Chargers, and Redskins in Weeks 1-4, this projects as Kareem Hunt’s toughest to-date test on the road against one of the league’s top defensive fronts. Hunt, of course, leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage (659) – by 63 yards – while averaging 20.3 touches per game. He’s an elite season-long RB1 start and pay-up-to-be-contrarian DFS play.
Smith’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Tyreek Hill 28; Travis Kelce 26; Albert Wilson 16; Hunt and Chris Conley 13; Charcandrick West 8. … Hill has been a weekly roller coaster with two big games (7/133/1, 5/77/1) and two sluggish ones (4/43/0, 5/35/0), but his ceiling keeps him in every-week WR2 territory as a player whose floor potential we’re just going to have to live with each game. Hill is averaging nearly seven touches per game and is always a threat to go the distance. It is perhaps notable that Hill’s two big games came on the road, and he is back on the road in Houston. … The only other fantasy-viable pass catcher in Kansas City is Kelce, whose receiving lines against the Texans over the past two years are 5/34/0, 8/128/0, 6/106/2. Even though Houston is perennially tough on tight ends, supremely-talented Kelce has gotten the better of this matchup more often than not. To date, tight ends to face the Texans are Delanie Walker (3/51/0), Rob Gronkowski (8/89/1), Tyler Eifert (3/42/0), and Marcedes Lewis (0/0).
Score Prediction: Texans 24, Chiefs 23
Monday Night Football
Minnesota @ Chicago
Team Totals: Vikings 21.5, Bears 18.5
Mercifully scrapping the Mike Glennon experiment after four weeks, the Bears will turn to Mitchell Trubisky against a Vikings defense that has yielded one fantasy quarterback finish above QB16 despite an opening-month gauntlet of Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Jameis Winston, and Matthew Stafford. The Vikings have allowed just 2-of-20 enemy passers to reach 300 yards since the start of 2016, and Trubisky will debut with the NFL’s worst receiver corps. I’m still keeping the light on for Trubisky as an immediate two-quarterback-league play based in large part on his athleticism. He possesses plus speed (4.67), was a legitimate scrambling threat in college, and the Bears proactively put his mobility to use on boots and rollouts all preseason, where Trubisky rushed five times for 48 yards and was hyper efficient as a passer with a 67.9% completion rate, three touchdowns, and no turnovers. … As mobile quarterbacks can elevate their teams’ running games by causing hesitation and even freeze amongst front-seven defenders and/or by simply adding a new offensive dimension defenses must account for, Trubisky’s insertion bodes positively for Jordan Howard, who shook off a turbulent Weeks 1-2 to amass 20-plus touches in consecutive weeks, and now has an 11-day layoff to overcome any lingering issues from his early-season shoulder injury. The Vikings, of course, have been nails against the run, limiting enemy backs to a combined 83/269/3.24/1 rushing line and the NFL’s fifth-fewest receiving yards (110). Howard is a volume-driven, borderline RB1. … After tallying touch totals of 13 > 15 > 16 in Weeks 1-3, Tarik Cohen was surprisingly minimized in the Bears’ game plan in last Thursday night’s loss to Green Bay, managing 48 scoreless yards on a season-low ten touches and playing only 26% of the snaps. A primary reason was increased involvement for perennial troll Benny Cunningham, who returned from his high ankle sprain to nearly equal Cohen’s playing time (24%) and swipe 11 passing-down snaps.
Trubisky’s preseason touchdowns went to Cunningham, now-free agent Victor Cruz, and Bears practice-squad WR Tanner Gentry. At least among players presently on the 53-man roster, we have no tangible evidence of a “rapport” between Trubisky and any particular Bears pass catcher. … Zach Miller is my best bet for a productive Monday nighter against the Vikings, who yielded 5/54/1 to Coby Fleener in Week 1, 6/50/1 to Bears tight ends in Week 3, and 7/82/0 to Lions tight ends in Week 4. Albeit with Glennon quarterbacking, Miller ranks second on the Bears in targets (20) and first in targets inside the ten-yard line (2). … Slot men to face the Vikings in the first month were Golden Tate (3/29/0), Adam Humphries (6/68/0), Eli Rogers/JuJu Smith-Schuster (7/59/1), and Brandon Coleman/Tommylee Lewis (4/65/0). I’m approaching Kendall Wright as a low-floor, relatively low-ceiling WR4/flex option here.
The Vikings are a difficult team to analyze because we don’t know their starting quarterback. For the sake of a writeup, I’ll assume it’s Case Keenum. Even in two-QB leagues, I’m fading Keenum at Soldier Field after another brutal outing in Week 4. … Latavius Murray was the Vikings’ lead back following Dalvin Cook’s ACL tear, logging 19 snaps post-Cook injury to Jerick McKinnon’s six and nine touches to McKinnon’s two. This is a wait-and-see week for Minnesota's backfield. Chicago has played lights-out run defense, limiting enemy backs to a 90/325/3.61/4 rushing line and the NFL’s fourth-fewest receiving yards (96). … Keenum’s Weeks 2-4 target distribution: Stefon Diggs 24; Adam Thielen 22; Kyle Rudolph 12; Jerick McKinnon 9; Jarius Wright 5; Murray 2. … The good news for Diggs is Chicago has been shredded by No. 1 WRs in three straight games, namely Antonio Brown (10/110/1), Mike Evans (7/93/1), and Jordy Nelson (4/75/2). The bad news is Diggs’ quarterback is Keenum, who completed two passes for 27 yards to Diggs the last time they played together in a road game. Diggs is best viewed as a volatile WR2/3. … Same goes for slot man Thielen, whose floor does look higher than Diggs’ with five catches in all three of Keenum’s starts. … Rudolph has dudded each game this season to the extent that he simply can’t be trusted until he puts something into a box score. I do think there’s a chance Cook’s injury could benefit Rudolph if the Vikings’ run games goes in the gutter and OC Pat Shurmur becomes compelled to have Rudolph block less and run short, higher-percentage routes more.
Score Prediction: Bears 21, Vikings 20