1:00 PM ET Games
Tennessee @ Buffalo
Team Totals: Titans 22, Bills 17
Watch the tape. There wasn’t a worse individual player performance on a pro football field than Josh Allen’s at Lambeau last week. Green Bay’s D/ST was a predictable fantasy week winner, and the Titans now make for a compelling streamer after tallying the NFL’s seventh-most sacks (12) and fourth-most QB hits (29) in Weeks 1-4 with a dynamic pass-rush corps of DT Jurrell Casey and OLBs Harold Landry, Brian Orakpo, and Derrick Morgan. Continued wild swings in Allen’s week-to-week play should be expected after the rookie committed five turnovers in his initial 14 NFL quarters and took sacks on 14.9% of his dropbacks, most in the league by more than three percentage points. … Tennessee’s defense has failed to limit ground-game efficiency, yielding a combined 78/382/0 (4.90 YPC) rushing line to enemy backs in Weeks 2-4. Buffalo’s inability to play functional offense is a much bigger obstacle for LeSean McCoy, whose touch counts are 8 > 13 > 8 on a team that has scored 3 and 0 points in each of Shady’s two full games played. Returning home from a two-game road trip does increase Buffalo’s odds of keeping this game tighter for McCoy to benefit from balanced to run-friendly game script. Still, McCoy will be a risky RB2/flex option for the foreseeable future. … Just one Bills player has topped 40 receiving yards through three Allen starts, and none has reached 70. Kelvin Benjamin has pathetically managed 92 yards and one touchdown on 21 targets (4.38 YPT). Charles Clay is scoreless in 15 straight games and listed as questionable with hip and shoulder injuries.
Marcus Mariota took a huge step forward in his recovery from a debilitating throwing-elbow injury in last week’s comeback win over Philadelphia, hitting Corey Davis on 28- and 51-yard deep balls, topping 300 passing yards for the first time in 12 games, and tacking on a 10/46/1 rushing line to finish as Week 4’s fantasy QB7. Decimated in the secondary – playmaking FS Micah Hyde (groin) was the latest to go down – Buffalo has surrendered an 8:2 TD-to-INT ratio and the league’s eighth-highest completion rate (69.4%). There are no guarantees Mariota’s arm is out of the woods, however, and this is a potential letdown spot traveling to Buffalo after last week’s upset win at home. Mariota is still more of a two-quarterback-league start. … At 11 > 18 > 18 > 10 for Derrick Henry and 21 > 15 > 12 > 13 for Dion Lewis, touch counts in Tennessee’s backfield have been a weekly roller coaster. Henry has been unplayable with an average of one target per game and zero TDs. Lewis’ passing-game usage has been sporadic and game-script dependent. Nevertheless, this game sets up for both backs to break out against the NFL’s worst team. Henry’s primary problem has come in the touchdown column, where Buffalo has allowed a league-high seven TDs to running backs. Sean McDermott’s club has also given up the league’s ninth-most receiving yards to backs (230). Henry is an underrated RB2/flex play. Lewis is a PPR-specific flex.
Mariota’s 2018 target distribution: Corey Davis 26; Lewis 14; Taywan Taylor 13; Tajae Sharpe 6; Henry 4; Jonnu Smith and Darius Jennings 3. … In last Sunday’s plus matchup against the Eagles’ beleaguered cornerbacks – specifically weekly burn victim LCB Jalen Mills – Davis finally flashed his ceiling with a mammoth 9/161/1 receiving line, including the game-winning TD. Davis enters Week 5 ranked 13th in the NFL in Air Yards (419) on a robust ten targets per game. Purely from a usage standpoint, Davis’ deployment has been similar to Julio Jones under first-year OC Matt LaFleur, who worked on Atlanta’s 2015-2016 offensive staffs. Davis can expect shadow coverage from Bills LCB Tre’Davious White on perimeter routes, although Davis is moving around the formation often and has made 8 of his 22 catches on slot targets (36%). White plays in the slot 1% of the time. … Taylor’s post-Rishard Matthews upward trend continued in last week’s win, logging season highs in snaps (63%), routes run (36), targets (9), and production (7/77/0) as Tennessee’s No. 2 outside receiver opposite Davis. Sharpe mixed in for three targets on 44% of the downs, and slot man Williams played 43%. The Titans’ lone true vertical speedster, Taylor is a WR4/5 stash with upside once this still-work-in-progress offense hits high gear. … Smith has yet to carve out a meaningful passing-game role despite playing 96% of Tennessee’s offensive snaps since Delanie Walker (ankle) went on I.R. All three of Mariota’s targets to Smith have fallen incomplete. Smith remains a Dynasty stash, not a TE1 streamer.
Score Prediction: Titans 17, Bills 16
Miami @ Cincinnati
Team Totals: Bengals 27, Dolphins 21.5
Andy Dalton should experience a squeaky-clean Week 5 pocket against the Dolphins, who rank 30th in sacks (6) and 28th in QB hits (19) and are missing three of their top-four defensive ends in Cameron Wake (knee), William Hayes (ACL), and Andre Branch (MCL). The Fins also cut DT Jordan Phillips, who has played the third-most snaps on Miami’s interior defensive line. Armed with A.J. Green, third-year breakout WR Tyler Boyd, and returning Joe Mixon (knee), Dalton has been a high-floor, high-ceiling producer with four straight top-15 fantasy results and two in the top eight. … As Giovani Bernard (knee) has been ruled out, Mixon is slated for workhorse usage against Miami, which has yielded a modest 108/416/4 (3.85 YPC) rushing line but the NFL’s fourth-most receiving yards (269) to enemy backs. Mixon logged 22 touches in consecutive games before going down. The Bengals showed limited trust in third-string RB Mark Walton during Mixon’s absence, giving the fourth-round pick seven touches in two games. Walton managed nine yards on five carries in last week’s win over Atlanta. Facing a depleted Dolphins front with minimal backfield competition, Mixon should be immediately teed up as a fringe RB1/2.
Dalton’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Boyd 36; Green 33; Bernard 21; Tyler Eifert 19; John Ross 15; Mixon and C.J. Uzomah 8; Tyler Kroft 5; Walton and Josh Malone 4. … Boyd is a cinch WR2 play versus Miami, where fellow slot WRs Jordy Nelson (6/173/1) and Quincy Enunwa (7/92/0) ate in two of the last three weeks. As Eifert (leg) is out for the year, and Ross (groin) and Bernard (knee) are out this week, Boyd and Green are set up to carry Cincinnati’s passing attack. The Dolphins are also without No. 2 CB Bobby McCain (knee). … Green will likely get the Xavien Howard shadow treatment, but that’s not especially imposing considering their lopsided history. Green famously “Mossed” Howard for a 10/173/1 stat line in their 2016 meeting, and Howard got torched for touchdowns by Cordarrelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett last week. … Uzomah out-snapped Kroft 70% to 27% in last week’s win over Atlanta, while Uzomah’s route total on the season is 72 to Kroft’s 25. Uzomah is the preferred fantasy pickup against a Dolphins defense that ranks 13th in catches (20) and 14th in yards allowed (226) to tight ends … Malone will likely replace Ross in three-receiver packages opposite Green with Boyd in the slot. Malone has been silent this year, but he played ahead of Ross in 2017 and drew Marvin Jones comparisons last offseason. Malone ran 4.4-flat at 6-foot-3, 208 coming out of Tennessee last year.
Although the Bengals have yielded top-12 fantasy results to all four quarterbacks faced, Ryan Tannehill is an undesirable Week 5 streamer with fewer than 30 pass attempts in 4-of-4 starts on a slow-paced Dolphins offense that is running the league’s second-fewest plays per game (50.0). The Dolphins lost LG Josh Sitton (shoulder) to I.R. after Week 1 and C Daniel Kilgore to a torn triceps last week, worrisome ahead of this date with Bengals DT Geno Atkins. The Dolphins started the season 3-0 mainly because they faced the league’s softest schedule in Weeks 1-3. They got boat raced 38-7 in Foxboro last week, and this game doesn’t set up much better. … Even with Bengals WLB Vontaze Burfict back from suspension, this is an unimposing matchup for Kenyan Drake after Cincinnati surrendered a generous 88/391/1 (4.44 YPC) rushing line and the NFL’s 12th-most receiving yards to running backs in September. Adam Gase’s backfield usage is growing stranger by the week, however, utilizing Frank Gore ahead of Drake in crunch time and garbage time, and barely using Drake at all in the last two games. In chronological order, Drake’s weekly touch counts are 17 > 15 > 7 > 4 compared to 9 > 10 > 6 > 13 for Gore. Until Gase commits to using him more, Drake will remain a low-floor flex option regardless of matchups.
Tannehill’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson 17; Danny Amendola 16; Jakeem Grant 15; Drake 14; Mike Gesicki 7; AJ Derby and DeVante Parker 3; Gore 2. … Cincinnati does not pose a worrisome matchup for wideouts, having surrendered receiving lines of 9/173/0 (Julio Jones), 6/111/0 (Mohamed Sanu), 4/92/1 (John Brown), 4/67/1 (Devin Funchess), 8/59/0 (Ryan Grant), 4/54/2 (Calvin Ridley), and 5/46/1 (T.Y. Hilton). Instable target projections are the problem here. Albeit highly volatile, Stills is always the best fantasy bet because he plays the most snaps in Miami’s receiver corps and is tied for the team lead in targets. Stills’ 329 Air Yards are over 100 more than anyone else on the Dolphins. … Amendola gets the second-most playing time, but his weekly target counts are 6 > 4 > 3 > 3 without a 50-yard game or a touchdown. … Grant’s big-play potential is undeniable, but he has no shot at reliability averaging 14.5 routes run per game. … Wilson is the second-best fantasy bet tied with Stills for the team lead in targets and ranked second in Air Yards (193), but he has cleared 40 yards in 1-of-4 games. … Gesicki played a season-high 84% of Miami’s Week 4 offensive snaps with Derby (foot) on the shelf, yet the rookie tight end still hasn’t seen more than three targets in a game.
Score Prediction: Bengals 27, Dolphins 17
Baltimore @ Cleveland
Team Totals: Ravens 24.5, Browns 21.5
Baker Mayfield admirably fought through a whopping nine drops by would-be pass catchers, Cleveland’s sudden defensive collapse, and his own four turnovers in last week’s overtime loss at Oakland, still managing to move the ball consistently in a QB20 fantasy finish. He’ll get a tougher Week 5 test versus a Ravens defense that gets back top CB Jimmy Smith after holding Pittsburgh’s previously-on-fire offense to a solitary touchdown drive at Heinz Field last week. To-date quarterback results allowed by Baltimore are QB22 (Ben Roethlisberger) > QB31 (Case Keenum) > QB8 (Andy Dalton) > QB33 (Nathan Peterman-Josh Allen). Mayfield is a back-end two-quarterback-league play. … Carlos Hyde enters Week 5 on pace for a career high 348 touches with weekly snap rates that have climbed in each game (53% > 58% > 58% > 61%). As Hyde is averaging a career-low 3.43 yards per carry and ranks 29th among 38 qualified running backs in Football Outsiders’ rushing Success Rate, however, fantasy owners must begin sweating increased usage for rookie Nick Chubb, who broke off 63- and 41-yard touchdown sprints against the Raiders. Nevertheless, Hyde’s consistent volume locks him in as an every-week RB2 until something changes. Chubb hasn’t so much as touched the ball in the red zone, while Hyde leads the NFL in carries inside the five (9). Hyde’s matchup is imposing versus Baltimore, which got back difference-making run stoppers MLB C.J. Mosley (knee) and NT Michael Pierce (foot) in Week 4 and has held enemy running backs to a combined 75/271/1 (3.61 YPC) rushing line and the NFL’s third-fewest receiving yards (81).
Mayfield’s 2018 target distribution: Jarvis Landry 19; Antonio Callaway 14; David Njoku 9; Duke Johnson and Rashard Higgins 8; Darren Fells 2; Hyde 2. … Landry runs 72% of his routes in the slot, where PFF has charged Ravens slot CB Tavon Young with completions allowed on 10-of-13 targets for 131 yards and two TDs. As Hyde is unlikely to churn out sustaining runs against Baltimore’s front, Landry projects as Cleveland’s best means of moving the chains. … Callaway was Mayfield’s main dropped-pass culprit at Oakland, letting three balls bounce off his hands and fumbling a punt after a similarly mistake-filled Week 3. Callaway’s big-play potential is undeniable – he flamed Raiders CB Gareon Conley for a 59-yard gain to set up Hyde’s one-yard score last week – but coaches have said the miscues will begin costing him snaps. Callaway is a boom-bust WR4/flex play against Baltimore’s stout perimeter corners, infused by Smith’s return. … The best place to attack the Ravens’ defense is in the middle of the field, where they’ve allowed the NFL’s tenth-most catches to tight ends (20), including a perfect 6/85/0 stat line on six targets to Steelers TEs last Sunday night. Njoku led Cleveland in Week 4 catches (5), ranks top ten among tight ends in Air Yards (191), and is a viable low-end TE1 in this above-par draw. Promisingly, Njoku checked in as Week 5’s No. 2 buy-low tight end in Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Air Yards model.
Joe Flacco visits Cleveland having accounted for multiple touchdowns in eight of his last nine starts with weekly fantasy results of QB10 (Bills) > QB12 (Bengals) > QB20 (Broncos) > QB12 (Steelers), showing a limited ceiling but mostly-solid floor. Although the upstart Browns defense equaled its takeaway total (13) from the entire 2017 season in the third quarter of last week’s loss to Oakland, DC Gregg Williams’ unit wound up getting shredded by previously-struggling Derek Carr for 437 yards and four TDs, good for Carr’s season-best QB4 finish. As just three of Carr’s 35 completions and 363 of his yards came on passes thrown within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage, Carr’s performance is not necessarily repeatable by a Ravens passing game that counts on deep threat John Brown for its heavy lifting. Among pass catchers with at least ten targets, Brown’s 22.1-yard Average Depth of Target (aDOT) ranks highest in the league. Back on the road after last Sunday night’s emotional primetime win over Pittsburgh, this is a potential letdown spot for Baltimore’s offense. … Alex Collins was benched for almost the entire second quarter against the Steelers after losing his second goal-line fumble of the year. All told, Collins has fumbled six times – losing four – across 288 touches as a Raven. Collins and Javorius Allen finished Week 4 with 12 touches apiece in what is likely to remain a near-even RBBC. Cleveland offers a mediocre matchup after yielding a moderate 109/444/4 (4.07 YPC) rushing line and the NFL’s 13th-most receiving yards (196) to running backs in Weeks 1-4. Collins is a high-risk flex option, especially after reporters observed him getting around gingerly due to a knee injury in Friday's practice. Allen remains the favorite for targets and scoring-position work and is an underrated RB2/flex.
Flacco’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Michael Crabtree 34; John Brown 30; Willie Snead 26; Allen 19; Nick Boyle 16; Mark Andrews 13; Maxx Williams 12; Collins 10. … Brown put on yet another show in Week 4’s upset win, torching Joe Haden for an early 33-yard score before catching a play-action bomb for 71 yards deep down the middle. Brown doesn’t even lead the Ravens in raw targets, but his 662 Air Yards rank third in the NFL, and his five end-zone targets are by-far most on the team. An every-week WR2, Brown’s Week 5 matchup is upgraded by Cleveland’s loss of RCB Terrance Mitchell (wrist). … Even with four more targets, Crabtree’s Air Yards (334) are roughly half as many as Brown’s, and his scoring-position role hasn’t materialized with just two red-zone targets and one inside the ten. Flacco overthrew Crabtree on a would-be 44-yard TD in last week’s first half, overestimating what’s left of the declining possession receiver’s speed. Crabtree is a humdrum WR4/flex with low yardage and touchdown ceilings. … Albeit for 56 scoreless yards, Snead caught six more balls at Pittsburgh and has a superior seasonal receiving line (18/198/1) to Crabtree’s (18/184/1). Snead is a PPR-specific WR4/flex. … Although first-round pick Hayden Hurst (foot) is slated for his debut, he figures to return in a rotation after Williams was among Baltimore’s most-critical pass catchers in last Sunday night’s win at Heinz Field, and Boyle is valued as a blocker. With very few exceptions, tight-end committees are fantasy situations to avoid.
Score Prediction: Ravens 21, Browns 20
Green Bay @ Detroit
Team Totals: Packers 25.5, Lions 25.5
Matthew Stafford returns to Ford Field with weekly fantasy results of QB24 (Jets), QB9 (49ers), QB14 (Patriots), and QB16 (Cowboys) to face a Packers defense that’s yielded QB18 (Mitchell Trubisky), QB4 (Kirk Cousins), QB16 (Alex Smith), and QB30 (Josh Allen) finishes. Positive indicators include this game’s domed environment and 51-point total, fourth highest of the week. Even as Stafford has failed to produce at QB1 levels one month in, he should be approached as a high-floor Week 5 play. … OC Jim Bob Cooter’s refusal to commit to Kerryon Johnson as Detroit’s featured runner carried on in last week’s loss to Dallas, as the rookie back managed ten touches on a three-week low in playing time (37%). Theo Riddick (5, 46%) was the backfield snaps leader, while black-hole LeGarrette Blount’s (7, 26%) yards-per-carry average dipped to 2.71 with a 29% Success Rate. Averaging 7.20 YPC with a 55% Success Rate, Johnson showed overwhelming power on last week’s eight-yard touchdown run, lowering the boom on Cowboys S Jeff Heath en route to pay dirt. Cooter is shooting his own offense in the foot by playing Blount, whose one dimensionality telegraphs to defenses that run plays are coming. Until we see tangible change in this backfield distribution, Johnson will remain a risky flex play. Johnson does draw a gorgeous Week 5 matchup against Green Bay’s Muhammad Wilkerson-less defensive front, which has permitted a combined 73/348/2 (4.77 YPC) rushing line to enemy backs.
Stafford’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Golden Tate 44; Kenny Golladay 32; Marvin Jones 29; Riddick 27; Johnson 13; Luke Willson 7. … Green Bay has played musical chairs at slot corner, shuttling rookies Josh Jackson and Jaire Alexander in and out of the lineup after getting roasted by slot WRs Adam Thielen (12/131/1 on 13 targets) and Jamison Crowder (4/39/1 on 4 targets) in Weeks 2-3. Top 12 in the NFL in targets, catches (28), and receiving yards (389), Tate is an upside WR2. …Yet to be tested by many big-time outside receivers, the Packers have been so injury plagued at boundary corner that GM Brian Gutekunst was forced to sign Bashaud Breeland off the street. Against Buffalo’s sorry passing game, DC Mike Pettine could get away with starting rookie LCB Jackson and 35-year-old RCB Tramon Williams last week. This is a far more imposing draw against Golladay and Jones, who are both coming off relatively slow games as Stafford attempted a season-low 30 passes in Detroit’s loss to Dallas. Both Lions outside wideouts still rank top ten in the league in Air Yards, and Jones is top six in targets inside the ten (5). Golladay and Jones remain confident WR2s.
Perhaps finally over his knee and hamstring injuries, Aaron Rodgers showed nimble scrambling ability with a season-high 31 rushing yards in Green Bay’s shutout of Buffalo and used his feet to evade duress, taking just four hits among 42 dropbacks. Rodgers has yet to demonstrate week-winning fantasy upside at less than 100%, but big box scores are inevitable for this era’s most-talented quarterback. Rodgers’ yardage/touchdown/interception counts in his last two trips to Ford Field are 300/4/0 > 273/3/1, while this game’s shootout potential lifts Rodgers’ QB1 stock. … Albeit slight, Aaron Jones took a deserved lead in Green Bay’s Week 4 backfield with position-group highs in touches (12) and snaps (38%). Jamaal Williams (11, 37%) got the “start” but continued to plod, while Ty Montgomery (7, 26%) remained the third wheel. Perhaps just as importantly, Jones shined in pass protection after struggling there all last year. It is rational to expect another increase in Jones’ Week 5 usage as a means to attack Detroit’s Charmin-soft front; Matt Patricia’s club has been destroyed for a 102/624/3 (6.12 YPC) rushing line by running backs while allowing the NFL’s 12th-most receiving yards (201) to the position. Jones’ workload remains unreliable, but he is an upside flex option. Williams and Montgomery are mere bench stashes. Note that Jones has one catch or fewer in 12-of-14 NFL games and has never reached 20 receiving yards.
Rodgers’ Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Davante Adams 43: Geronimo Allison 29; Randall Cobb 27; Jimmy Graham 25; Montgomery 15; Williams 9; Lance Kendricks and Marquez Valdes-Scantling 5; Jones 2. … Adams can anticipate Darius Slay’s shadow coverage, although Adams overcame Weeks 2-3 draws with Xavier Rhodes and Tre’Davious White for 8/64/1 and 8/81/0 receiving lines. An every-week WR1 regardless of cornerback matchups, Adams ranks seventh in the NFL in red-zone targets (8). After Cobb and Allison combined for five drops in Weeks 3-4, Rodgers publicly emphasized in last Sunday’s post-game press conference that Adams and Graham deserve the ball more. … The Lions have cleaned up their tight end coverage under Patricia, allowing the NFL’s 11th-fewest yards (168) to the position while notably stymieing Rob Gronkowski (4/51/0) and George Kittle (2/22/0). With Cobb (hamstring) ruled out and Allison (concussion/hamstring) on the doubtful side of questionable, the hope is Graham will see increased targets while Slay’s coverage funnels more action in Graham’s direction. Sixth among tight ends in Air Yards (243) and eighth in catches (16), Graham is a mid-range to low-end TE1. … With Cobb inactive last week, explosive rookie Valdes-Scantling took over in the slot but drew just one target. Fellow rookie J’Mon Moore played over Equanimeous St. Brown as Green Bay’s No. 4 and figures to enter three-receiver sets if Allison sits.
Score Prediction: Lions 28, Packers 24
Jacksonville @ Kansas City
Team Totals: Chiefs 26, Jaguars 23
In Pat Mahomes’ worst game as the Chiefs’ starter, he accomplished the following feats: 1) Snapped the Broncos’ streak of not allowing a 300-plus-yard passer in 38 straight games. 2) Scored his first career rushing touchdown. 3) Committed zero turnovers. 4) Completed a pass that went for a first down left handed. 5) Orchestrated a fourth-quarter comeback victory on the road versus a division opponent. 6) Improved to 5-0 lifetime as the Chiefs’ starter, including four road wins. 7) Finished as Week 4’s QB11, giving Mahomes four straight top-12 fantasy finishes. Yes, Jacksonville’s defense is good. No, that is not enough reason to fade Mahomes, whose ability to make genuinely indefensible throws outside of the pocket solidifies him as a matchup-proof QB1. … As the Broncos played last Monday night’s game in grave fear of allowing deep balls, Vance Joseph’s team resorted to shell-coverage zone looks and begged the Chiefs to run. That Kareem Hunt did en route to a season-best 19/121/1 rushing line along with year highs in targets (5), catches (3), and receiving yards (54). Hunt’s 25 routes run were also his most of the year, perhaps foreshadowing a surge in receiving usage after Hunt was conspicuously absent from Kansas City’s passing game in the first three weeks. As the Jaguars have stymied enemy backs for an 80/289/1 (3.61 YPC) rushing line, Hunt’s passing-game participation is critical to his Week 5 fantasy outlook. Highly athletic at linebacker, the Jags are 20th in receiving yards allowed to running backs (154).
Mahomes’ Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Travis Kelce 38; Tyreek Hill 32; Sammy Watkins 24; Chris Conley 12; Hunt 7; Demetrius Harris 6; Demarcus Robinson 5. … Watkins pulled his hamstring in the first quarter of Monday night's win in Denver and did not return. Now on a short week, Watkins was limited in practice each day and listed as questionable. Even if Watkins is active, he would be a high-risk WR4/flex option facing the NFL's best secondary at less than 100%. ... If Watkins does sit, his absence would narrow the Chiefs’ target competition with Kelce and Hill clearly atop the heap. There is no way to spin this as a plus matchup for either, though; Jacksonville has yielded the NFL’s fourth-fewest yards to tight ends (135) and third fewest to wideouts (444). Kelce and Hill are volume- and talent-based fantasy bets. … Week 4 usage suggested Robinson is Watkins’ direct backup with season highs in playing time (58%) and targets (3) following Watkins’ exit. Situational slot man De’Anthony Thomas played just 12% of Kansas City’s offensive snaps. If Watkins sits, a preferable sleeper is Conley, who played 95% of the Week 4 downs with year highs in routes run (52) and targets (6). As Conley lines up inside on 62% of his plays, it is notable that fellow slot WRs Quincy Enunwa (4/66/0), Sterling Shepard (5/48/0), and Chris Hogan (3/42/2) have shown at least some ability to produce against the Jags, whose secondary is strongest at outside corner.
The Leonard Fournette-less Jaguars must again embrace Blake Bortles as their offensive centerpiece, which historically has led to an emphasis on spread looks that allow OC Nathaniel Hackett to creatively scheme. In Fournette’s five career missed games, Bortles’ yards/TD/INT totals are 376/4/1 > 326/3/0 > 259/1/0 > 330/1/0 > 155/0/0 with a 4-1 record. Although his pass attempts rise by just one per game, Bortles has averaged 65.4 more passing yards and 0.53 more passing scores when Fournette sits. Bortles now catches a porous Chiefs defense in a potential letdown spot on a short week after its emotional Monday night win over division-rival Denver. Kansas City has long been vulnerable to quarterback scrambles in DC Bob Sutton’s man-cover scheme, and Bortles’ 132 rushing yards rank third to Deshaun Watson (161) and Cam Newton (136) at their position. Albeit in boom-bust fashion, this is an exciting spot for Bortles as a matchup-based streamer and DFS play. … Not only has Sutton’s defense been rocked by enemy backs for a combined 76/421/4 (5.54 YPC) rushing line, Kansas City has yielded a league-high 385 receiving yards to the position. T.J. Yeldon’s touch counts in Fournette’s five missed games are 13 > 12 > 11 > 13 > 11, and Yeldon logged 21 touches after Fournette’s Week 4 exit versus the Jets. Also Jacksonville’s team leader in both red-zone targets (3) and targets inside the ten (2), Yeldon offers upside RB2/flex appeal in this optimal draw. Tantalizing tease Corey Grant touched the ball just three times last week, and his corresponding touch counts are 10 > 7 > 10 > 4 > 7 when Fournette sits.
Bortles’ Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Dede Westbrook 28; Keelan Cole 24; Yeldon and Donte Moncrief 22; Austin Seferian-Jenkins 19; Grant 12; D.J. Chark 6. … The Chiefs’ secondary is burnable deep, having yielded an NFL-high 20 completions of 20-plus yards. In addition to raw targets, Westbrook leads the Jags in 20-plus-yard receptions (6), overall catches (21), and receiving yards (294), and the entire NFL in yards after catch on slot routes (156). Although Cole got more preseason fantasy hype, Westbrook is Jacksonville’s most-talented receiver as a decorated prospect who won the 2016 Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top wideout and finished fourth in Heisman voting. As Fournette left last week’s game early, Westbrook dropped a thundering 9/130/0 bomb on the Jets’ secondary with 13 targets. Fellow interior WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster (13/121/1) and Keenan Allen (8/108/1) throttled this same Chiefs defense. … Cole’s career stat lines in Fournette’s missed games are 5/40/0 > 7/116/1 > 7/186/1 > 3/47/0 > 2/64/0. With more Air Yards (192) on the season than Westbrook (166), Cole is an upside WR3 play against Kansas City’s leaky backend. … Moncrief finally broke out of his shell in last week’s 5/109/1 effort versus the Jets, maintaining a commanding team lead in Air Yards (296) but continuing to frustrate with his instability and unreliability. Moncrief is always a volatile WR4/flex option. … Seferian-Jenkins (2/24/0) got outproduced by teammate TE James O’Shaughnessy against Gang Green. Entirely touchdown or bust, ASJ now draws a Chiefs defense that allowed one tight-end TD in the first month.
Score Prediction: Jaguars 28, Chiefs 27
Denver @ NY Jets
Team Totals: Broncos 21.5, Jets 21.5
Desperate for a win after three straight losses as coach Todd Bowles’ job hangs in the balance, the Jets return from a two-game road trip to host a Broncos team traveling cross country on a short week for a 1pm ET game following last Monday night’s meltdown against Kansas City. Sam Darnold is a quality two-quarterback-league starter against Denver’s pass-funnel defense, which gave up fantasy results of QB7 (Russell Wilson), QB21 (Derek Carr), QB20 (Joe Flacco), and QB11 (Patrick Mahomes) in Weeks 1-4 while permitting the NFL’s 11th-highest completion rate (67.3%) and yards-per-attempt average (7.8). Despite Von Miller’s at-times dominant presence, the Broncos rank a disappointing 19th in sacks (10) and 17th in quarterback hits (24). … Conceding rushing production to Kareem Hunt (19/121/1) was part of Denver’s Week 4 game plan as Vance Joseph’s club sold out to prevent Mahomes deep balls. The Broncos played top-three run defense in the season’s first three weeks. As the Jets experienced sustained negative script in last week’s blowout loss to Jacksonville, Isaiah Crowell was a non-factor with five touches on a season-low 36% playing-time clip, while Bilal Powell (12, 64%) played the vast majority of the game. This matchup projects for more-balanced to positive script, reverting Crowell into the touchdown-dependent RB2/flex discussion. Powell is a low-ceiling flex option with weekly touch counts of 13 > 10 > 14 > 12.
Darnold’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Quincy Enunwa 37; Robby Anderson 16; Powell and Terrelle Pryor 15; Jermaine Kearse 13; Crowell and Chris Herndon 7; Jordan Leggett 5; Neal Sterling 3. … Enunwa has the toughest on-paper matchup in Gang Green’s pass-catcher corps as a 69% slot receiver facing shutdown slot CB Chris Harris. Slot WRs to face Denver so far are Tyler Lockett (3/59/1), Seth Roberts (3/43/1), Willie Snead (3/39/0), and Chris Conley (4/13/0). Still, the Broncos play enough zone coverage that Enunwa should avoid Harris on over half of his routes, and Enunwa’s volume is more important than his cornerback draw. Enunwa has led Gang Green in targets all four weeks, ranks 13th in the NFL in red-zone targets (6), and popped in Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Air Yards model as Week 5’s No. 2 buy-low wideout. Enunwa would have topped 100 yards against the Jags if not for a holding flag that cost him 39 yards. … Denver’s secondary has shown big-play vulnerability by yielding the NFL’s fourth-most completions of 20-plus yards (19). Although he has yet to clear 50 yards in a game, Anderson is the Jets’ best bet to capitalize after logging season highs in targets (6) and Air Yards (93) in last week’s loss to Jacksonville. Still, Anderson’s to-date lack of production renders him a boom-bust WR4. … Dealing with a groin injury and ostensibly benched, Pryor played just two snaps last week. … Kearse is averaging 19 yards per game. … The Broncos get creamed by tight ends weekly, but the Jets have yet to settle on a go-to tight end.
Early returns on Denver’s Case Keenum Experiment have been poor, amplified by Keenum’s overthrow of Demaryius Thomas on last week’s would-be game-winning score. Keenum has gone three straight games without a touchdown pass, ranks second in the NFL in interceptions (6), and enters Week 5 with the league’s worst passer rating on throws inside the pocket (66.4). Keenum also has the NFL’s third-lowest passer rating when blitzed (60.1), and Bowles’ defense blitzes at the third-highest rate (35.4%) in football. Should Keenum’s struggles continue, it’s fair to wonder if the Broncos would give preseason star Chad Kelly a look. … Ejected from Week 3 for throwing a punch, Phillip Lindsay returned to lead Denver’s Week 4 backfield in touches (14) and playing time (40%) and even punched in his first-career goal-line TD. Although Royce Freeman (6’0/229) looks the part of prototypical short-yardage pounder, Lindsay (5’7/184) has only one fewer carry inside the ten-yard line, and they each have two attempts inside the five. Freeman played just 27% of the Broncos’ Week 4 offensive snaps and has single-digit touches in two of the last three games. He is an entirely touchdown-or-bust flex option against a stout Jets defense that has held enemy backs to 90/312/4 (3.47 YPC) rushing. Lindsay is a preferable RB2/flex.
Keenum’s Weeks 1-4 targets: Demaryius Thomas 33; Emmanuel Sanders 30; Courtland Sutton 20; Jeff Heuerman 15; Devontae Booker 11; Lindsay 8; Freeman and Matt LaCosse 2. … Sanders draws Denver’s top pass-catcher matchup after fellow slot WRs Dede Westbrook (9/130/0), Jarvis Landry (8/103/0), Golden Tate (7/79/1), and Danny Amendola/Albert Wilson (7/69/1) all ate against Gang Green’s slot coverage in September. 12 of Sanders’ 24 receptions have come in the slot. Last week, Blake Bortles carved the Jets’ underneath coverage with just 2-of-29 completions traveling further than 15 yards in the air. … Held to 70 yards or fewer in 14 of his last 15 games, Thomas has the lowest aDOT (8.6) in Denver’s three-receiver set and has devolved into a largely touchdown-or-bust WR2/3. The Jets have allowed the NFL’s sixth-fewest passing scores (5). Demaryius does get a matchup boost from LCB Trumaine Johnson's (quad) absence. … Although Sutton has just eight catches on the season, he leads the Broncos in Air Yards (322) and has continually come within inches of big games. Sutton is going to end up on a DFS tournament-winning team at some point. … Heuerman took over as the Broncos’ full-time tight end in Jake Butt’s (ACL) Week 4 absence, playing a career-high 88% of the snaps, tying Sanders and Thomas for the team lead in targets (7), and leading Denver in receiving yards (57). Heuerman is quietly tied with Demaryius in both red-zone targets and targets inside the ten and should be added in all tight end-premium leagues. The Jets have allowed the league’s third-fewest yards to tight ends (130), although David Njoku is the best one they’ve faced.
Score Prediction: Jets 23, Broncos 17
Atlanta @ Pittsburgh
Team Totals: Steelers 30.5, Falcons 27.5
This sets up as a high-flying shootout between desperate one-win teams with by-far Week 5’s highest total. Atlanta’s reeling defense reshuffled its Week 4 secondary with Desmond Trufant replacing Brian Poole in the slot, Poole moving to strong safety, RCB Robert Alford shadowing A.J. Green, and second-round rookie Isaiah Oliver taking over as a starting corner. Second-year fifth-round pick Damontae Kazee is now starting at free safety. It’s safe to say the Falcons’ personnel changes didn’t work; Dan Quinn’s defense got torched by Andy Dalton for 350 all-purpose yards and three TDs, while Atlanta allowed its third straight top-ten fantasy quarterback finish following Drew Brees (QB1) and Cam Newton (QB7). We can commence worrying about Ben Roethlisberger if he doesn’t blow up this spot. … As Le’Veon Bell reportedly plans to rejoin the Steelers during their Week 7 bye, James Conner gets two more games to make his case for a role when Bell returns. A running back’s easiest path to fantasy production versus Atlanta is always via the pass; Quinn’s defense is on pace to allow the NFL’s fourth-most catches to Conner’s position for the fourth straight year, while only the Cardinals and Bills have yielded more rushing TDs to backs. Eighth among running backs in targets, Conner should stay locked into lineups as a low-end RB1. The Falcons are also without difference-maker DT Grady Jarrett (ankle), and Atlanta has allowed a full yard per carry more without Jarrett on the field over the past two years.
Big Ben’s Weeks 1-4 targets: Antonio Brown 53; JuJu Smith-Schuster 49; Conner 24; Vance McDonald 15; Ryan Switzer 13; Jesse James 12; James Washington 11. … This is a blowup spot for Brown facing a road-tripping Falcons team on red alert for secondary miscommunications playing musical chairs at safety and cornerback. Top five in the NFL in Air Yards (544) and targets, Brown is set up for a true week-winning game. … The Falcons’ reeling defensive backfield coughed up seven touchdowns to wide receivers in the last three weeks. Slot WRs Tyler Boyd (11/100/0), Jarius Wright (5/62/1), and Nelson Agholor (8/33/0) produced at or above expectation against Atlanta in the opening month. Smith-Schuster ranks second in the NFL in red-zone targets (13) and plays over 80% of his snaps inside, making JuJu an ideal candidate to exploit the Falcons’ interior-defense deficiencies. … Washington has so far held onto Pittsburgh’s No. 3 receiver job, although Switzer is making a run. Washington’s Weeks 2-4 target totals were 5 > 2 > 4 versus Switzer’s 2 > 3 > 7, and Switzer is coming off season highs in catches (7) and playing time (33%) in last week’s loss to Baltimore. Both are dart-throw WR4/flex types in this probable high-scoring affair. Washington offers superior big-play potential and Switzer more high-volume PPR appeal. … Despite losing a back-breaking fumble that led to a Ravens touchdown, the Steelers stuck with McDonald as their main Week 4 tight end. McDonald played a season-high 63% of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps, running 32 routes to James’ season-low 13 and continuing to show elite run-after-catch ability. Despite ranking 46th among tight ends in 2018 snaps played (106), McDonald is No. 3 in yards after the catch (156). With both of their starting safeties on I.R., the Falcons yielded 6/88/0 receiving on seven targets to Saints TEs in Week 3, then gave up a perfect 5/44/1 stat line on five targets to Bengals TEs last week.
Engineering an offense that has topped 30 points in three straight games as it compensates for myriad defensive losses, Matt Ryan logged QB5 (Carolina), QB2 (New Orleans), and QB8 (Cincinnati) fantasy results in Weeks 2-4 with a combined 12:1 TD-to-INT ratio, 78% completion rate, and 10.4 yards per attempt. Steelers DC Keith Butler’s mistake-prone defense yielded QB6 (Tyrod Taylor), QB1 (Patrick Mahomes), QB4 (Ryan Fitzpatrick), and QB12 (Joe Flacco) finishes in September. Beyond playing on the road, Ryan checks virtually every box as a high-floor, high-ceiling QB1 play. … Stopping rushing attacks has been the strength of Pittsburgh’s pathetic defense, limiting enemy backs to an 81/286/1 (3.53 YPC) rushing line with the league’s second-fewest receiving yards (75) allowed to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman’s position. Freeman’s knee-ligament woes have lingered for nearly a full-calendar year, and OC Steve Sarkisian utilized Freeman and Coleman on a near-equal Week 1 basis prior to Freeman’s PCL/MCL aggravation. Coleman is the preferred flex play. This is a wait-and-see week regarding Freeman’s health.
Ryan’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Julio Jones 46; Mohamed Sanu 24; Calvin Ridley 21; Austin Hooper 15; Tevin Coleman 12; Ito Smith 8. … Shockingly prone to backend busts since last year’s Ryan Shazier injury, the Steelers have permitted the NFL’s sixth-most 20-plus-yard completions (18) and an AFC-high 12 touchdown passes. Somehow on pace for a league-record 2,008 yards without a single TD, Julio is the perfect player to exploit these weaknesses with an NFL-high 713 Air Yards and the league’s fourth-most 20-plus-yard catches. Only Brandin Cooks (9), DeAndre Hopkins (9), and Tyreek Hill (8) have more 20-plus-yard grabs. … Ridley can stay hot at Pittsburgh, which has coughed up wideout lines of 6/137/1 (Mike Evans), 3/116/1 (John Brown), 7/106/0 (Jarvis Landry), 6/100/0 (Sammy Watkins), 5/90/1 (Hill), and 5/74/1 (Chris Godwin). Ridley leads Atlanta in red-zone targets (5) and ranks second behind Jones in Air Yards (284). … Coming off his highest yardage total as a Falcon (6/111/0), Sanu is a shootout-game dart throw against a Steelers defense expected to get back stingy slot CB Mike Hilton (elbow). Last week marked Sanu’s third-career 100-yard game across 91 NFL appearances. … Hooper ranks a lowly 23rd in Air Yards (99) and 19th in targets among tight ends, but this matchup boosts his outlook as a touchdown-or-bust streamer. An utter mess in safety and linebacker coverage, the Steelers got drilled by Travis Kelce in Week 2 (7/109/2), Bucs tight ends in Week 3 (9/106/1), and Ravens tight ends (10/99/0 last week.
Score Prediction: Steelers 35, Falcons 34
NY Giants @ Carolina
Team Totals: Panthers 25, Giants 21
The Panthers return from their Week 4 bye to host a reeling 1-3 Giants team that was fortunate to allow 33 points at home last week due to New Orleans’ continuous first-half red-zone stalls and Ben Watson’s dropped touchdown. New York’s pass rush remained nonexistent and now ranks dead last in sacks (5) and 28th in quarterback hits (19), convenient since Carolina’s offensive line has struggled to keep Cam Newton clean. Playing more man coverage under first-year DC James Bettcher, the Giants have also yielded a league-high 150 rushing yards to quarterbacks. This is a blowup spot for Newton, who is on pace for a career-high 149 carries in his first season under OC Norv Turner. … Steamrolled for 23/142/3 (6.17 YPC) rushing by Saints backs in Week 4, Bettcher’s defense has allowed 130-plus rushing yards in 3-of-4 games. Carolina’s offensive line strength is run blocking, where the Panthers rank No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards after blowing gaping holes in the middle of Cincinnati’s defense in its pre-bye win. Christian McCaffrey’s yards-per-carry average has spiked to 5.89 after last year’s 3.72 clip, while the G-Men have given up at least five catches to running backs in all four games. The Panthers’ offensive line is further upgraded by RG Trai Turner’s return from a two-game concussion.
Newton’s 2018 target distribution: McCaffrey 26; Devin Funchess 21; Torrey Smith 15; Jarius Wright 13; Ian Thomas 10; D.J. Moore 4; C.J. Anderson 3. … Funchess’ last five stat lines in games missed by Greg Olsen (foot) are 7/77/0 > 4/60/1 > 5/92/2 > 5/86/0 > 4/67/1, locking him in as an every-week WR2. PFF has charged Giants top CB Janoris Jenkins with completions allowed on 20-of-26 targets (77%) for 277 yards (10.7 YPA) and a touchdown. Leading Carolina in Air Yards (278), red-zone targets (4), and targets inside the ten (2), Funchess (6’4/232) also has a distinct size advantage on Jenkins (5’10/193). … Moore played a season-high 49% of the Panthers’ Week 3 snaps before last week’s bye gave Norv’s staff extra time to increase their first-round pick’s involvement. Smith has a measly 67 yards to show for his 15 targets (4.5 YPT), while Wright is a low-volume slot receiver. Moore is not a fantasy option yet, but he is worth stashing after Ron Rivera publicly promised him more playing time. … The Giants have been shredded by tight ends in consecutive games, coughing up 5/115/0 to Houston’s TE unit in Week 3 and 4/86/0 to Saints TEs last Sunday. Thomas’ Weeks 2-3 snap rates were 94% and 78%, and his three red-zone targets rank second on the team behind Funchess. Thomas is in play as a matchup-based streamer.
Eli Manning resumed fearfully dinking and dunking in last week’s loss, attempting just 3-of-41 throws 20-plus yards downfield and completing none despite facing New Orleans’ barren pass rush. The Giants have now gone 37 games without scoring 30 points. Eli has completed over 75% of his attempts in three straight weeks, but he hasn’t finished as a top-12 fantasy passer in a game this year. Even against an exploitable Panthers pass defense, Manning is a low-ceiling QB2. … Although Saquon Barkley managed a season-low 16 touches against the Saints, the rookie phenom cleared 100 yards from scrimmage for the fourth straight game and now draws his softest to-date matchup against a Panthers defense that got throttled by enemy running backs for a 53/288/2 (5.43 YPC) rushing line in Weeks 1-3. After Monday’s film session, coach Pat Shurmur admitted publicly he should have given Barkley more Week 4 carries. Game script and matchup proof, Barkley ranks second in the NFL at his position in catches (27).
Eli’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Odell Beckham 45; Sterling Shepard 29; Barkley 35; Evan Engram 13; Rhett Ellison 11; Wayne Gallman 7; Cody Latimer 5. … As Engram’s (MCL) absence narrowed the Giants’ passing-game distribution, Shepard predictably capitalized to catch 10-of-10 targets against the Saints. Fellow slot WRs Tyler Boyd (6/132/1) and Cole Beasley (7/73/0) both produced above expectation versus Carolina in Weeks 1 and 3. Shepard will remain an every-week WR2 until Engram returns. … Shut down by Marshon Lattimore for -4 yards on five first-half targets in Week 4, Beckham did well to finish with 60 scoreless yards in New York’s 33-15 loss. Beckham’s yards per reception are tight end-like at 10.7, while he has yet record an individual gain longer than 30 yards. Despite OBJ’s sluggish, scoreless start, we can continue to hang our hats on his elite usage; Beckham ranks top ten in the league in both Air Yards (431) and targets, and he popped as Week 5’s No. 1 buy-low target in Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Air Yards model. Panthers shadow CB James Bradberry is a much leakier foe than Lattimore.
Score Prediction: Panthers 40, Giants 20
4:05 PM ET Game
Oakland @ LA Chargers
Team Totals: Chargers 29, Raiders 24
This is a smash spot for the Chargers against a visiting Raiders team coming off its first win of the Jon Gruden era with an improving offense to enhance shootout potential but a barely-there defense that has allowed an AFC-high 123 points, including last week’s 42 to the Browns in Baker Mayfield’s first NFL start. Still ranked dead last in both sacks (5) and quarterback hits (15), the Raiders should provide Philip Rivers with a squeaky-clean Week 5 pocket. Rivers has a 15:2 TD-to-INT ratio over his last six games with multiple touchdown passes in five straight. … Enjoying the most-efficient season of his career, Melvin Gordon put on a tackle-breaking clinic in last week’s win over San Francisco and has caught at least six passes in 3-of-4 games. Highlighted by Nick Chubb’s two monster Week 4 touchdown runs, Oakland’s defense has been obliterated on the ground for an 84/478/4 (5.69 YPC) rushing line by enemy backs. The slow-and-plodding nature of Raiders DC Paul Guenther’s unit showed up on each of Chubb’s long scores. … Austin Ekeler is squarely in play as a Week 5 flex starter in this run-friendly matchup with projected positive script, which should allow the Chargers to keep both backs heavily involved. Ekeler has double-digit touches in 3-of-4 games, and his 4.43 jets should cause fits for Oakland’s slow defense. Ekeler dusted 49ers SPARQ freak linebacker Fred Warner for a 22-yard receiving TD in last week’s win.
Rivers’ Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Keenan Allen 36; Gordon 34; Mike Williams 18; Tyrell Williams 16; Ekeler and Antonio Gates 14; Virgil Green 8; Travis Benjamin 6. … Held scoreless and below 70 yards in three straight weeks, this is a breakout spot for Allen against Oakland’s slot coverage, where Emmanuel Sanders (4/96/0), Albert Wilson (2/74/1), Cooper Kupp (5/59/1), and Jarvis Landry (4/34/1) have all delivered usable-or-better results. Allen also checks in as Week 5’s No. 5 buy-low wide receiver in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model. … Unable to rush the passer, the Raiders give enemy quarterbacks time to scan and wide receivers time to get open deep. They’ve allowed the NFL’s fourth-most 20-plus-yard completions (19) and third most of 40-plus (4) while using four-man rotations at safety and cornerback that cause backend miscommunications as all the DBs shuttle in and out. With Benjamin (foot) back on the shelf, Mike and Tyrell offer matchup-based intrigue in a shallower target distribution. Mike is the preferred play with a team-high 301 Air Yards and 3 red-zone targets to Tyrell’s 1. … Gates needed an end-zone coverage bust to finally find pay dirt in last week’s win over San Francisco, somehow getting left wide open in the right corner of the end zone. Lightly targeted and playing fewer than half of the Chargers’ offensive snaps, Gates will be a touchdown-or-bust streamer for the foreseeable future.
The Raiders’ passing offense showed steady Weeks 1-3 improvement before last week’s eruption, where Derek Carr relentlessly torched an underrated Browns defense that previously shut down Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. Badly missing RE Joey Bosa (foot) and now without coverage-specialist WLB Kyzir White (knee), the Bolts were flamed by Patrick Mahomes (QB4) and Jared Goff (QB6) in Weeks 1 and 3 before yielding 298 yards and two touchdowns at 8.1 yards per attempt to 49ers backup C.J. Beathard last week. On an upward trajectory in Jon Gruden’s first-year scheme, Carr has played himself back into streaming discussion in this potentially high-scoring affair. … Enemy running backs clocked the Chargers for a combined 55/252/2 (4.58 YPC) rushing line in Weeks 2-4, while DC Gus Bradley’s defense has permitted the league’s seventh-most receiving yards to backs (236). Fresh off his largest rushing-yardage output since November of 2014 (20/130/0), Marshawn Lynch enters Week 5 with touch counts of 20 > 22 > 23 in his last three games. Lynch showed he has ample speed left in the tank against the Browns, turning a pitch play into a 52-yard foot race in the second half. And his best to-date game as a Raider would have been even bigger had officials not prematurely blown their whistles on a would-be 69-yard touchdown run as Beast Mode freed himself from a pile. Lynch has earned legit RB1 treatment.
Carr’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Jared Cook 35; Amari Cooper 30; Jordy Nelson 24; Jalen Richard 23; Martavis Bryant 16; Lynch 13; Seth Roberts 8. … Third among NFL tight ends in targets, second in catches (26), first in yards (370), seventh in Air Yards (239), first in red-zone targets (8), and first in targets inside the ten (7), Cook has finally broken out at age 31 as a certified usage monster. Cook is an elite TE1 play against a Chargers defense that got gashed by George Kittle (6/125/1) last week and lost top coverage LB Kyzir White (knee) along the way. … Plus sized at cornerback, the Chargers’ secondary has struggled most with speed-demon wideouts Tyreek Hill (7/169/2) and Brandin Cooks (7/90/0). Cooper is Oakland’s best version of that with 4.42 speed coming out of Alabama and an average of 3.8 yards of separation at target (Next Gen Stats), highest in the NFL among wide receivers with at least 30 targets. … Jordy shook off a painfully slow Weeks 1-2 start to draw eight targets in back-to-back games, delivering 6/173/1 and 5/48/1 receiving lines against the Dolphins and Browns. He’s run 51% of his routes in the slot over the last two weeks. Nelson is a respectable WR3/flex play in this potential shootout. … Martavis got wide open behind Cleveland’s defense for a would-be touchdown bomb in the first half of last week’s win, only to drop it. He dropped a quick screen later in the game. Bryant does deserve credit for an impact downfield block on Lynch’s 52-yard burst. Bryant remains a high-variance deep-league dart throw.
Score Prediction: Chargers 30, Raiders 27
4:25 PM ET Games
Minnesota @ Philadelphia
Team Totals: Eagles 24.5, Vikings 21.5
Still getting in sync after Nick Foles quarterbacked the offense for eight games dating back to last season and the playoffs, and Carson Wentz missed the 2018 preseason plus Weeks 1-2, the Eagles return home following last week’s meltdown loss in Tennessee to face a Vikings defense that has allowed 29 or more points in four of its last five road games. Mike Zimmer’s team sorely misses top pass rusher RE Everson Griffen (personal), while Minnesota’s secondary has looked lethargic and disorganized on tape and will be without LCB Trae Waynes (concussion) in Philly. Wentz improved from Week 3’s QB22 fantasy finish (Colts) for last week’s QB13 mark, even as Nelson Agholor dropped three balls and pass protection let Wentz down, yielding four sacks and 11 hits to the Titans’ red-hot pass rush. With Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) back and rolling, however, Wentz is on the positive side of the QB1/2 fringe after Minnesota coughed up Week 3’s QB6 result to Josh Allen and last week’s QB2 finish to Jared Goff. … The Eagles’ likely inability to generate Week 5 rushing success could enhance Wentz’s volume. Coming off extra rest after their Thursday night shootout loss to the Rams, the Vikings have held enemy backs to an 89/346/0 (3.89 YPC) rushing line as one of just three remaining teams yet to allow a rushing touchdown to a running back. Zimmer’s defense has also allowed the NFL’s fifth-fewest running back catches (14). Despite playing through a small fracture in his back, Jay Ajayi did impress on season highs in snaps (51%) and touches (18) at Nashville but is purely a volume-based RB2/flex play. Ajayi was backed up by Wendell Smallwood (8 touches) as Corey Clement (quad) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) continued to nurse soft-tissue injuries. Josh Adams played only one snap.
Wentz’s Weeks 3-4 targets: Zach Ertz 24; Nelson Agholor 17; Smallwood 10; Alshon Jeffery and Dallas Goedert 9; Jordan Matthews 5; Clement, Ajayi, and Josh Perkins 4. … Ertz has double-digit targets in 4-of-4 games and ranks third among NFL tight ends in red-zone targets (7), making him a prime positive-touchdown-regression candidate with zero end-zone trips so far. Jimmy Graham (6/95/0), George Kittle (5/90/0), and Buffalo’s barely-there tight end corps (3/44/1) all produced above expectation against the Vikings. … The Vikings did not shadow Jeffery with Xavier Rhodes in January’s NFC title game, although Jeffery did beat Rhodes three times for 27 yards among his 5/85/2 stat line. Over the last three games, PFF charged Rhodes with catches allowed on 15-of-20 targets for 144 yards and a score. Jeffery played 83% of Philly’s offensive snaps in his Week 4 debut, dropped 8/105/1 receiving on the Titans, and should be locked into lineups as a WR2. … I read in a few places that Agholor struggled the last two weeks because he moved outside. That isn’t the case; Agholor’s slot-route rate went up from 55% in Weeks 1-2 to 70% in Weeks 3-4. He struggled because he only drew five targets in Week 3, dropped three passes in Week 4, and got lost in Titans slot CB Logan Ryan’s sticky coverage. Minnesota’s slot defense is much weaker, as Week 4 opponent Cooper Kupp (9/162/2) can attest. Agholor has still drawn double-digit targets in 3-of-4 games and popped in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model as this week’s No. 3 buy-low receiver. I’m sticking with Agholor as an upside WR3. … In Jeffery’s return, Goedert’s playing time slipped from 67% to 41% with just two targets. … Matthews made his lone Week 4 catch count for a 56-yard TD, but his target totals are 2 and 3 in two appearances. Career slot WR Matthews – not Agholor – is being stretched thin on the outside, where Matthews is running 83% of his routes.
The long week after last Thursday night’s loss to the Rams was especially key for Minnesota’s offensive line, where LT Riley Reiff and RT Rashod Hill have battled debilitating foot injuries and C Pat Elflein has just one start under his belt after offseason shoulder and ankle surgeries. As the Vikings’ running game has been nonexistent and the Eagles’ run defense is the best in the league, this sets up as a high-volume passing week for Kirk Cousins, who has finished as a top-12 QB1 in 3-of-4 starts with two top-six results. In Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB6) and Marcus Mariota (QB7), two of the last three quarterbacks to face the Eagles were highly productive despite Philadelphia’s vaunted pass rush. DC Jim Schwartz’s defense badly misses FS Rodney McLeod (MCL), will be without DE Derek Barnett (shoulder), and has been vulnerable to wide receivers for years. The Vikings’ greatest offensive strength is wide receiver play. … With Dalvin Cook (hamstring) ailing, Latavius Murray struggling, and UDFAs Mike Boone and Roc Thomas threatening for work, the Vikings’ backfield is best avoided in Week 5 fantasy decisions. Minnesota is the NFL’s lone remaining team yet to score a rushing touchdown, while Schwartz’s immovable defensive front has held enemy backs to a putrid 60/160/1 (2.67 YPC) rushing line.
Cousins’ Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Adam Thielen 56; Stefon Diggs 44; Kyle Rudolph 22; Laquon Treadwell 21; Cook 12; C.J. Ham 10; Murray 9; Aldrick Robinson 3. … As the Eagles lead the league in quarterback hits (36) and Cousins has been pressured at the NFL’s third-highest rate (42%), it is notable that Thielen has drawn a team-high 14 under-pressure targets. Second in the league in both catches (40) and receiving yards (473), Thielen is a no-brainer WR1 play each week. … Julio Jones (10/169/0), Corey Davis (9/161/1), DeSean Jackson (4/129/1), Mike Evans (10/83/1), Taywan Taylor (7/77/0), Chris Godwin (5/56/1), and Ryan Grant (3/35/1) have all produced at or above expectation against Philadelphia. This is a blowup spot for Diggs, who runs a team-high 42% of his routes at left cornerbacks. Eagles LCB Jalen Mills was the primary whipping boy for Davis, Jackson, Godwin, and Jones in Weeks 1-4. … Athletic at linebacker with intelligent safety play, the Eagles never offer a plus matchup for tight ends. Only six teams have allowed fewer yards to tight ends than Philadelphia (160). Nevertheless, Rudolph brings to the table every-week touchdown upside and has six-plus targets in three straight games. He’s a passable low-end TE1. … Longtime Cousins pal Robinson ran just six Week 4 routes and drew only two targets, but he turned both into scores. Robinson deserves to begin pushing Treadwell for third-receiver snaps.
Score Prediction: Eagles 28, Vikings 27
Arizona @ San Francisco
Team Totals: 49ers 22, Cardinals 18
Although he continued to absorb thunderous blows against the Chargers last week, C.J. Beathard moved the offense better than expected in San Francisco’s 29-27 loss. One of Beathard’s two picks came on a brutal drop by second-string TE Garrett Celek. Coach Kyle Shanahan designed a ball-out-quick offense that limited the box-score damage to one sack, but the hits Beathard took were so hard he needed a brief fourth-quarter breather in favor of Nick Mullens. This week, LT Joe Staley, C Weston Richburg, and RT Mike McGlinchey are all questionable with knee injuries against a Cardinals defense whose strength is pass rush, ranking top 12 in sacks (10) and QB hits (24). Beathard is a two-quarterback-league bright spot, but little more. … Matt Breida toughed out shoulder and knee injuries for a team-high 12 touches on a season-high 63% playing-time clip against the Bolts. Alfred Morris (5, 23%) took a considerable backseat, while FB Kyle Juszczyk stayed active in the passing game. Week 5 sets up nicely for Breida against a Cardinals defense that has yielded the NFL’s most fantasy points to running backs while facing 140 rushing attempts – most in the league by 20 – due to their offense’s inability to possess the ball. Arizona’s seven rushing TDs allowed are also an NFL high. Breida’s snap rates (39% > 43% > 63%) and pass routes run (12 > 17 > 22) climbed steadily in Weeks 2-4.
Beathard’s Week 4 target distribution: George Kittle 8; Pierre Garcon 7; Marquise Goodwin and Kendrick Bourne 4; Breida, Juszczyk, Morris, and Trent Taylor 3. … After Kittle failed to reach 30 yards in 4-of-4 games with Beathard last year, the college teammates rekindled their bond in Kittle’s 6/125/1 explosion, highlighted by an 82-yard TD on a wide-open seam ball after which Kittle outraced the entire Chargers secondary to the house. Kittle’s 125 yards were the most by a 49ers tight end in a single game since Vernon Davis in 2013. The only notable tight ends Arizona has faced are Trey Burton (4/55/0) and Jordan Reed (4/48/1). Kittle is likely to stay volatile along with his quarterback play, but he can maintain TE1 viability if last week’s usage holds. He led the 49ers in targets and ranked eighth among tight ends in Week 4 Air Yards (62). … Goodwin is battling thigh and hamstring injuries and has long struggled to pay off at less than 100%. … Garcon runs a team-high 48% of his routes at left cornerbacks, where Patrick Peterson has played nearly 60% of the time. Garcon is scoreless in 15 straight games. Maybe he’s due.
Despite facing pressure on a league-high 50% of his dropbacks, Josh Rosen gave the Cardinals’ offense a semblance of competence in his Week 4 debut start, executing tight-window throws Sam Bradford would never so much as attempt while losing two deep balls to drops by Christian Kirk and J.J. Nelson, plus a first-quarter 27-yard TD to Chad Williams on replay review. Rosen is far from a standalone fantasy option, but his ability to sustain drives where Bradford failed gives David Johnson owners hope since D.J. set season highs in touches (25), total yards (112), and snaps played (55) after averaging just 38 snaps per game in Weeks 1-3. Johnson was catch-less until deep in the second half, however, and Cardinals coaches continued to pull him on third-down plays over pass-protection concerns. We’ve said this for a month, but funneling Johnson targets must be a Week 5 priority against a 49ers defense that has surrendered the NFL’s second-most catches (35) and fourth-most receiving yards (269) to running backs. On the ground, San Francisco has held enemy backs to an unexciting 85/337/2 (3.96 YPC) rushing line.
Rosen’s 2018 target distribution: Christian Kirk 8; Larry Fitzgerald 7; Chad Williams 5; Johnson and Ricky Seals-Jones 4. … Kirk failed to build on his promising Week 3, managing 4/28/0 receiving in last week’s loss to Seattle. A rookie wideout playing with a rookie quarterback, Kirk is going to remain a low-floor shot in the dark until he proves he isn’t. … After leading the Cardinals in targets (7) and Air Yards (78) in Rosen’s first start, Fitzgerald draws a 49ers defense that struggled to slow fellow slot WRs Golden Tate (7/109/0), Adam Thielen (6/102/0), and Keenan Allen (7/63/0). Albeit risky with minimal production to date and ongoing hamstring woes, Fitzgerald is a passable WR3 play in this plus draw. … Williams had a 27-yard TD from Rosen overturned in last week's first quarter. Later in the game, Rosen successfully found Williams for a 22-yard score after evading a sack. It went in the books as Williams’ only catch. Until the Cards show capability of producing passing-game volume – Rosen threw for just 180 yards on 15 completions versus Seattle – complementary pass catchers will be very tough to trust. … Seals-Jones’ 55 Air Yards ranked second on the team in Week 4, and he delivered 31- and 21-yard gains while running routes on 26 of Rosen’s 28 dropbacks. RSJ has a goose-egg floor, but he offers matchup-based streamer appeal against a 49ers defense allowing the NFL’s eighth-most fantasy points to tight ends.
Score Prediction: 49ers 20, Cardinals 17
LA Rams @ Seattle
Team Totals: Rams 28.5, Seahawks 21.5
Improved to 2-2 following last week’s 20-17 win in Arizona, the Seahawks return to The Clink to host an undefeated Rams team PFF has credited with generating pressure on a league-high 41.5% of opposing dropbacks. It’s an unsettling matchup for Seattle’s offensive line, which has permitted the NFL’s third-most sacks (16) and tenth-most QB hits (29). Russell Wilson’s scrambling is also way down, on pace for 44 rushing attempts after his previous career low was 72 in 2016, when Wilson was confined to the pocket by debilitating lower-leg injuries. If Wilson’s rushing shortage holds, his weekly floor and ceiling will take severe hits. Wilson has gone three straight games without finishing as a top-16 fantasy quarterback. His Week 5 shining lights are this game’s shootout potential and playing at home after opening the season with 3-of-4 games on the road. … The Rams do not play imposing run defense, having yielded a 67/292/2 (4.36 YPC) rushing line and the NFL’s fifth-most catches (29) to enemy backs. After Chris Carson carried Seattle’s Week 3 offense and Mike Davis followed suit in Carson’s Week 4 absence, however, coach Pete Carroll promised to use a Carson-Davis committee with first-round waste Rashaad Penny focusing on kick returns. Combined, Seahawks running backs are averaging 29 touches per game this year. Dropping off three for game-script concerns against the juggernaut Rams, we can project Carson and Davis for 13 touches apiece as dicey flex plays.
Wilson’s Week 4 targets: Doug Baldwin 7; Tyler Lockett 6; Davis 4; Brandon Marshall 3; David Moore and Nick Vannett 2. … Baldwin wasn’t needed for heavy lifting in last week’s return as Seattle beat Arizona with only 160 passing yards. His usage was strong, though; Baldwin played 76% of the offensive snaps, led the team in targets and Air Yards (66), and ran 81% of his routes inside. The Rams had no answers for fellow slot WR Adam Thielen (8/135/1) in Week 4, while Baldwin can expect spiked usage as Seattle tries to keep pace with football’s highest-scoring team. … Lockett still ran 64% of his Week 4 routes in the slot as the Seahawks incorporated more four-wide packages after losing TE Will Dissly to a torn patellar tendon eight snaps into the game. Wilson’s clear No. 2 pass option, Lockett should maintain WR3/flex viability against Aqib Talib-less Los Angeles. Playing through a calf strain, Rams LCB Marcus Peters was torched for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets (15.6 YPA) in the last two weeks. … Marshall fell behind Moore on the Week 4 depth chart, logging a season-low 36% of Seattle’s snaps compared to Moore’s season-high 65% playing-time clip. Brown dipped to 23% and now looks like the Seahawks’ No. 5 receiver. A 2017 seventh-round pick out of small-school East Central (OK), Moore ran 4.43 at 6-foot-1, 219 at his Pro Day and made numerous highlight-reel contested catches with the first-team offense this preseason. … Vannett took over as Seattle’s full-time tight end after Dissly’s injury, logging season highs in snaps (82%) and routes run (26). He would be a matchup-based streamer against the Rams, who have allowed the NFL’s fourth-most catches (25) and fifth-most yards (328) to tight ends.
The Seahawks couldn’t have chosen worse timing to lose All-World FS Earl Thomas (tibia) than ahead of Week 5 versus the Rams, who have scored 33-plus points in 4-of-4 games and dropped a 42-7 hammer at The Clink last Week 15. Following their Thursday night shootout win over the Vikings, Sean McVay’s team had three extra days to rest and game plan for this crucial division showdown. The Rams look every bit opponent proof with Jared Goff taking a step forward in year two of McVay’s scheme, leading the NFC in touchdown passes (11) and passing yards (1,406) on a league-best 10.5 yards per attempt. Playing the Rams will shock Seattle’s system after facing Josh Rosen, Dak Prescott, Mitchell Trubisky, and Case Keenum in Weeks 1-4. … Todd Gurley visits Seattle with touch counts of 26 > 22 > 28 > 21 behind an offensive line Football Outsiders’ metrics rate No. 2 in run blocking behind Carolina. Run-defense matchups matter not for Gurley, as last week’s 156-total-yard performance against Minnesota’s stout front showed. Ezekiel Elliott tagged the Seahawks for 138 yards from scrimmage in Week 3, and David Johnson awoke for a season-high 112 total yards with a touchdown versus Pete Carroll’s team last week.
Goff’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Robert Woods 34; Brandin Cooks 33; Cooper Kupp 32; Gurley 20; Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee 5. … Woods leads the NFL’s highest-scoring offense in targets and Air Yards (417) and has 80-plus receiving yards in three straight games. He is an every-week WR2 with WR1 upside regardless of matchups. … Cooks leads the Rams in catches (26) and yards per catch (17.4) and ranks third in the NFL in receiving yards (452). He is also top ten in red-zone targets (7). As McVay aggressively moves his wideouts around to keep them away from stingy perimeter cornerback coverage, Woods runs 34% of his routes in the slot, and Cooks plays inside 28% of the time. … Primary slot man Kupp only scored five touchdowns as a rookie despite finishing third in the NFL in red-zone targets. Positive-TD regression is smashing him in the mouth, hitting pay dirt four times in four games. Third in the league in targets inside the ten this year (6), Kupp won’t stop making end-zone visits anytime soon.
Score Prediction: Rams 30, Seahawks 24
Sunday Night Football
Dallas @ Houston
Team Totals: Texans 24, Cowboys 21
Deshaun Watson returns home after consecutive QB10 (Titans), QB10 (Giants), and QB5 (Colts) fantasy results to face an underrated Dallas defense that ranks third in the NFL in sacks (14) and yielded zero top-12 quarterback finishes in Weeks 1-4. The Cowboys faced Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Matthew Stafford, so those were no small feats. While Watson is a fade-matchup, bet-on-talent QB1, Dallas’ D/ST is squarely in play against a Houston offense that has given up the league’s second-most sacks (17) and an NFL-high 45 QB hits. Based on film study, coach Bill O’Brien attributed just two of last week’s seven sacks allowed to the Texans’ offensive line, pinning the other five on Watson. … Although O’Brien chalked it up to a chest injury, it stood out that Alfred Blue played over Lamar Miller in crunch time of last week’s overtime win at Indianapolis. Blue did not perform particularly well, but he set season highs in touches (13), snaps (47%), routes run (22), and targets (3) while Miller managed corresponding year lows (14, 54%, 21, 0) across the board. Even as the Cowboys are missing key run pluggers WLB Sean Lee (hamstring), NT Antwaun Woods (calf), and DT Maliek Collins (knee), Miller’s ineffectiveness threatens his RB2/flex start-ability. Miller is averaging 4.00 yards per carry or fewer for the third straight season and ranks 34th among 38 qualified backs in rushing Success Rate. O'Brien revealed Friday that Miller will be a game-time decision, and Miller himself was noncommittal. If Miller can't play, Blue would be set up for 20-plus touches as a three-point home favorite against a depleted Dallas front.
Watson’s Weeks 1-4 target distribution: DeAndre Hopkins 44; Will Fuller 25; Keke Coutee 15; Ryan Griffin 11; Miller 10; Jordan Akins 8; Jordan Thomas 7; Blue 4. … Only Corey Davis (33%) has drawn a higher percentage of his team’s targets than Hopkins (32%), and that massive workload combined with Hopkins’ special talent lock him in as an every-week WR1. But this is a low-key difficult matchup against Dallas’ plus-sized boundary duo of RCB Byron Jones (6’1/199) and LCB Chidobe Awuzie (6’0/202), who tag teamed to stymie perimeter WRs Kenny Golladay (4/74/0), Marvin Jones (3/56/0), Odell Beckham (4/51/0), Devin Funchess (3/41/0), and Brandon Marshall (2/30/0) in September. While Hopkins leads the NFL in 20-plus-yard catches (9), the Cowboys have allowed the league’s third-fewest completions of 20-plus yards (9). … Smaller, quicker interior WRs Golden Tate (8/132/2) and Tyler Lockett (4/77/1) gave Dallas’ secondary more fits the last two weeks, and the Texans found one in the fourth round of this year’s draft. A huge part of Houston’s Week 4 game plan even before Fuller (hamstring) exited, Coutee turned pop passes and manufactured touches into an 11/109/0 eruption on a team-high 15 targets against the Colts. With no other Texans complementary pass catchers stepping up, Coutee is suddenly a locked-and-loaded WR3 play with WR2 upside if Fuller sits. ... Fuller practiced on a limited basis all week and told reporters Friday he plans to play. Fuller would be a high-risk WR3 option if active as a speed-based receiver nursing a hamstring injury that has lingered since late in camp and was aggravated in last week's win.
Albeit not yet threats to his availability, Ezekiel Elliott’s ankle sprain and knee bursitis are reminders to stash Rod Smith on season-long benches. Zeke enters Week 5 on pace for a career-high 60 receptions after totaling a career-high 240 yards from scrimmage in last week’s win over Detroit and grabbing the NFL rushing lead by 88 yards over runner-up Todd Gurley. The Texans have limited enemy backs to a 96/346/1 (3.60 YPC) rushing line but have allowed the league’s 12th-most catches (25) and an NFL-high three receiving scores to the position. Elliott is always a matchup-proof RB1. … The Texans’ beleaguered secondary lost rising-star FS Andre Hal to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in June, LCB Kevin Johnson (concussions) to I.R. in Week 1, and $34 million slot CB Aaron Colvin to a severe ankle injury last week. With the sole exception of Blaine Gabbert (QB31), 3-of-4 quarterbacks to face Houston have logged QB13 results or better, including Deshaun Watson (QB5), Tom Brady (QB8), and Eli Manning’s (QB13) season-best fantasy games. This is a now-or-never matchup for Dak Prescott, who happens to be coming off his best 2018 finish (QB18). … On a run-dominant team finally featuring Elliott in the passing game, it’s fair to question whether any Cowboys receiver or tight end is capable of big fantasy weeks. Prescott’s 255 passing yards in last week’s win were his most in seven games, yet Cole Beasley was Dallas’ most-productive none-Zeke pass catcher with 53 scoreless yards on five targets. Blocking TE Geoff Swaim might be the best bet. He’s turned in back-to-back stat lines of 5/47/0 and 3/39/1 on 7 and 5 targets and ranks No. 14 among NFL tight ends in routes run. Enemy TEs have caught 19-of-25 (76%) targets for 253 yards (10.1 YPA) and three TDs against Houston.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 21, Texans 20
Monday Night Football
Washington @ New Orleans
Team Totals: Saints 29.5, Redskins 23.5
Mark Ingram returns from suspension favored at home against a Redskins team that got thrashed by enemy running backs for a 52/250/2 (4.81 YPC) rushing line in Weeks 1-3 and plays run-funnel defense with an emphasis on stopping the pass over ground games. Ingram looked quick and powerful on preseason tape and is an immediate RB2 play on a projection of 10-14 touches. … Alvin Kamara has more than earned feature-back treatment, however, and the Saints began transitioning him into that role down last year’s stretch. Kamara out-touched Ingram 15.6 to 14.2 per game and out-carried him 7 to 1 inside the ten-yard line over New Orleans’ final five games. Whereas the Saints’ surprisingly stout 2017 defense benefited Ingram as a ground-and-pound runner, New Orleans’ defensive mean reversion favors Kamara as a superior pass-catching and comeback-mode back. Only five NFL teams are allowing more running back receptions per game than Washington (7.3). … The Redskins’ pass defense is no pushover, having held Aaron Rodgers (QB12), Andrew Luck (QB27), and Sam Bradford (QB32) to below-expectation fantasy results prior to Washington’s Week 4 bye. Drew Brees remains a quarterback to bet on and not against, particularly at the Superdome in a game with the second-highest total (53) on the Week 5 slate.
Brees’ Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Kamara 47; Michael Thomas 44; Ted Ginn 22; Ben Watson 18; Josh Hill 6; Cameron Meredith and Austin Carr 5; Tre’Quan Smith 4. … Whereas Josh Norman only aligns on the left side of the Redskins’ defense, Thomas stays in constant motion and has drawn 36% of his 2018 targets in the slot. Thomas had his slowest to-date game (4/47/0) in last week’s win over the man-coverage Giants after ripping the zone-based Falcons (10/129/0) and Buccaneers (16/180/1) apart. Washington is one of the NFL’s zone-heaviest teams. … Watson’s Weeks 2-4 playing time fell into deep descent (82% > 57% > 53%), and he was out-produced by Hill 3/63/0 to 1/23/0 in a Week 4 game where both saw three targets and Hill played more snaps (61%) for the second straight week. Watson did not help himself by dropping a would-be seven-yard TD against the Giants. This is shaping up as an even tight end timeshare. … In two appearances, Meredith has logged snap rates of 43% > 31% with corresponding target counts of 1 > 4. Albeit not a season-long-league fantasy option yet, Meredith is worth stashing in 14- and 16-team leagues with usage likely to steadily rise. … Smith’s snap rates with Meredith playing are 33% > 37% on target totals of 0 > 2. Meredith and Smith could both see slight Monday night usage bumps in Ginn's (knee) absence. As a lid-lifting burner, Smith's skill set is a superior one-for-one replacement in Ginn's role.
Fully rested after their Week 4 bye, the Skins visit the NFL’s version of Coors Field for a likely shootout. In September, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, Matt Ryan, and Eli Manning combined to go 100-of-134 passing (74.6%) for 1,244 yards and an 11:1 TD-to-INT ratio against New Orleans, which should give Alex Smith a clean pocket with the NFL’s fourth-fewest QB hits (18) and 12th-fewest sacks (9). The Saints play pass-funnel defense, permitting a minuscule 2.96 yards per carry to running backs but the highest yards per pass attempt (9.6) in the league. … This is a risky spot for Adrian Peterson, who has missed practice time with an ankle injury and could get scripted out of Monday night’s game if Washington falls behind. It’s also conceivable that Jay Gruden’s staff game plans to feature Peterson to control the pace of this potential track meet and keep Brees off the field. Either way, Peterson is an entirely boom-bust RB2 play. He’s boomed twice in three games and busted in between. … As Washington is a near-touchdown underdog, Chris Thompson is the safer backfield bet based on projected game flow after leading the Skins in targets in two of their first three games and pacing the team in red-zone targets (3) on the year. Thompson has run 79 routes to Peterson’s 27 and will dominate snaps if the Skins have to chase points.
Smith’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Thompson 23; Jordan Reed 20; Paul Richardson 14; Josh Doctson 13; Jamison Crowder 12; Peterson 6; Vernon Davis 4. … Reed’s snap rates were on a steady incline (52% > 54% > 66%) leading into Washington’s Week 4 bye with a touchdown and/or 50-plus yards in all three games. Now fully rested after the off week, Reed offers eruption potential in this probable high-scoring affair. Reed also popped as Week 5’s No. 1 buy-low tight end in Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Air Yards model. … Doctson has battled Achilles’ injuries since entering the NFL and missed practice time with a heel injury this week. Doctson was droppable weeks ago in season-long leagues. … If Doctson can’t play, Richardson would become even likelier to draw Marshon Lattimore’s shadow coverage. Lattimore held Odell Beckham to -4(!) yards on five targets in last week’s first half, and PFF has charged the Saints’ top corner with just 38 yards per game and zero TDs allowed since getting dusted by Mike Evans in Week 1. Richardson still has zero red-zone targets. … Crowder came alive (4/39/1) in Washington’s Week 3 win over Green Bay, although he needed to catch all four of his targets to get there and ranks fourth on the Skins in Air Yards (82). Crowder is still tied for team lead in red-zone targets (3) and targets inside the ten (1), and he has a plus Week 5 draw. Badly missing slot CB Patrick Robinson (leg, I.R.), the Saints got torn up by fellow slot WRs Sterling Shepard (10/77/1) and Mohamed Sanu (4/36/1) in Weeks 3-4. Doctson’s injury and the bye gave Gruden’s staff an opportunity to game plan to increase Crowder’s involvement.
Score Prediction: Saints 28, Redskins 20