1:00PM ET Games
Chicago @ Carolina
A league-average NFL defense allows roughly 350 total yards per game. Over their last two games, the Panthers have allowed 908 yards, including offensive point totals of 38 and 30 to Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Until RE Greg Hardy (suspension) returns and/or WLB Thomas Davis (hip, leg) demonstrates he is 100% healthy, Carolina's defense can't be feared for fantasy matchup purposes. Panthers LE Charles Johnson will try to play through a hip flexor injury. ... Shake off last week's second-half brain fart against the Packers and fire up Jay Cutler as a top-shelf Week 4 QB1. Through one month, Cutler is on pace for 40 touchdown passes and 4,024 yards. He's also supplemented his box scores with 68 rushing yards over Chicago's last three games. While managing just one sack, Carolina has been torched by Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco for 44-of-61 passing (72.1%) for 523 yards and a 5:0 TD-to-INT ratio the past two weeks. ... Cutler's Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Martellus Bennett 37; Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery 32; Matt Forte 30; Santonio Holmes 10; Josh Morgan 6. ... The Panthers have been stingy against tight ends -- 25th in fantasy points allowed to the position -- but Bennett is solidified as an every-week starter as Chicago's target leader. Capitalizing on an increased receiving role and earning Cutler's trust, Bennett is running pass routes on 61.3% of his snaps, and being targeted on 14.9%. Last year, Bennett only ran routes on 56.7% of his plays and was targeted 9.7% of the time.
Jeffery has 169 total yards and a TD the past two weeks and is a locked-in WR1 with Marshall still fighting a sprained ankle. The Panthers have benched their biggest corner, 6-foot-1, 206-pound Melvin White, enhancing the Bears' ability to create mismatches. Jeffery is 6-foot-3, 216 and Marshall is 6-foot-4 1/2, 229. ... I realize Marshall's yardage has disappointed in back-to-back weeks, but he plays slot receiver in Chicago's three-wide package and will do battle there with rookie Bene Benwikere, who is Carolina's smallest corner (5'11/195). Whenever Marshall dresses for games, you start him. Marshall played 88% of the Bears' Week 4 snaps and practiced in full all this week. ... Back from an early-season groin injury, Morgan ran ahead of Holmes in last Sunday's loss to the Packers. The Bears have given Morgan slot-receiver snaps while using Holmes almost strictly at "X." So if Marshall ever missed a game, Chicago would figure to use a two-man rotation opposite Jeffery. ... The Panthers' defense has imploded against the run. After limiting Bucs and Lions tailbacks to 83 scoreless yards on 30 carries (2.77 YPC) in Weeks 1-2, Carolina was gutted for 389 yards and three touchdowns on 60 carries (6.48 YPC) by Le'Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, Justin Forsett, and Lorenzo Taliaferro in Weeks 3-4. Quietly coming off his season-best game, look for another big effort from Matt Forte, whose buy-low window is about to slam shut. ... I was down on rookie Ka'Deem Carey after the preseason, but he generated 72 yards on 14 carries (5.14 YPC) off the bench last week while gaining exactly half of his yardage after contact, per PFF. Among handcuffs, Carey has one of the smoothest paths to an every-down back job in the event of a Forte injury. Consider stashing him.
Carolina's offensive line was manhandled by Ravens defenders Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Elvis Dumervil, and Pernell McPhee in last week's loss, but Chicago's defense isn't nearly as fearsome. I like the over on Vegas' conservative 45.5-point projection for Bears-Panthers. I also like Cam Newton's chances at a rebound week. Although his fantasy production has been mediocre to this point, Newton is quietly enjoying his finest season as a pure passer and should have a mostly-clean pocket against Chicago's sub-par pass rush, which generated little-to-no heat on Aaron Rodgers in Week 4. Newton is much more low-end QB1 than the top-five quarterback he finished as in his first three NFL seasons, but he's a solid Week 5 play. ... Cam's target distribution on the year: Kelvin Benjamin 25; Greg Olsen 19; Jason Avant 16; Jerricho Cotchery 11; Philly Brown 10; Jonathan Stewart 4; Brenton Bersin 3. ... One month in, powerful rookie wideout Benjamin is on pace for 84 catches, 1,316 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Opposing No. 1 receiver stat lines against the Bears the past three weeks are 7-82-1 (Michael Crabtree), 10-108-2 (Jordy Nelson), and 7-81-1 (Jeremy Kerley). ... After missing Week 3 with a hamstring injury, Cotchery returned to make two impressive downfield catches in last week's loss to Baltimore, finishing with a 5-80 line on seven targets. He would be a low-upside roll of the dice against Chicago. Look for Benjamin to tangle with impressive Bears rookie RCB Kyle Fuller for most of this game, while Cotchery takes on savvy veteran LCB Tim Jennings.
The Bears haven't given up much fantasy production to tight ends, but they haven't faced many good ones. They played Scott Chandler in Week 1, before Vernon Davis left Week 2 with an ankle injury. They've played Jeff Cumberland and Richard Rodgers the past two weeks. Expect a rebound game for Olsen following last week's season lows in catches (2) and yards (30). Olsen is still the No. 8 overall tight end in fantasy. ... Depleted by injuries, the Panthers' backfield has been reduced to UDFA Darrin Reaves, passing-game specialist Fozzy Whittaker, and street free agent Chris Ogbonnaya. I suspect Carolina signed Ogbonnaya because he can pass block, an area in which Reaves struggled in last week's loss to Baltimore. I do think Reaves will lead the committee in carries. In Weeks 1-4, Chicago allowed 49ers, Bills, Jets, and Packers tailbacks to combine for 376 yards on 83 runs (4.53 YPC). The Bears have yielded three rushing TDs in four games. Reaves ran with too much hesitation last week and comes with an awful lot of risk, but he is worth flex consideration in this plus matchup. At his March Pro Day, Reaves ran 4.54 at 5-foot-7, 209 with explosive vertical (39.5") and broad jumps (10'3").
Score Prediction: Bears 27, Panthers 24
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Cleveland @ Tennessee
The Browns come off their bye rested and settled at quarterback after Brian Hoyer solidified the job by completing 64.2% of his passes and avoiding turnovers in Cleveland's first three games. Week 5 sets up as another opportunity for Cleveland to ride its rushing attack and utilize Hoyer as a low-volume game manager. In Weeks 2-4, Cowboys, Bengals, and Colts tailbacks pounded the Titans for 424 yards and five TDs on 105 carries (4.04 YPC). Trent Richardson (20-47) torpedoed the per-carry average, but the point remains: Tennessee's defense is vulnerable to the run. Hoyer is a low-ceiling play in two-QB leagues. ... Ben Tate practiced every day this week and will retake lead back duties for Cleveland. Had Tate stayed healthy to this point -- something he's obviously long struggled to do -- I think we'd be discussing him as an RB1 right now. Ripping off over 30 rushing attempts per game, the Browns have earned a top-five PFF run-blocking grade, shredding opponents in OC Kyle Shanahan's zone scheme. Lock in Tate as an upside RB2 and ride him as long as his body cooperates. ... Isaiah Crowell is Cleveland's best tailback talent and must be stashed in all leagues, but the Browns' lack of trust in Crowell in the passing game bodes poorly for his chances of overtaking Tate, short of another injury. The undrafted rookie has been inconsistent in blitz pickup and has just one passing-game target. For as long as Tate stays upright, Crowell is more likely to be a hammerback change of pace. Terrance West is better in pass protection, likely one of the reasons he played ahead of Crowell to this point.
Now behind both Tate and Crowell, downgrade West to an RB5. He's droppable in 10- and most 12-team leagues. ... Hoyer's Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Andrew Hawkins 32; Miles Austin 20; Taylor Gabriel 12; Jordan Cameron and Travis Benjamin 8; Gary Barnidge 6; West and Jim Dray 4; Crowell 1. ... Coming off a bye, this is the healthiest Cameron (shoulder) will probably be all season. He played a robust 85% of Cleveland's offensive snaps in Week 3 -- before the open date -- and I'd expect Cameron to be in that same range this week. Tennessee allows the 11th most fantasy points to tight ends. ... Even with Cameron back healthy, Hawkins was a pre-bye target monster against the Ravens, seeing a team-high ten looks and converting seven for 87 yards. Hawkins is a solid WR3 in PPR against a Titans team that is pondering moving Blidi Wreh-Wilson to slot corner, with Coty Sensabaugh kicking outside. Hawkins runs all over the formation and could capitalize on Tennessee’s back-end shuffling. At 5’7/180, Hawkins is always a poor bet for touchdowns, limiting his standard-league appeal. ... Austin projects to run most of his routes into Titans top corner Jason McCourty's coverage. Although Austin has scored a red-zone touchdown in back-to-back games, I expect his looks to begin going in Cameron's direction as soon as this week.
Before beleaguered Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt promised impressive rookie Bishop Sankey's reps would increase this week due to "improved footwork," Sankey's usage was already on the rise. The first running back selected in May's draft, Sankey averaged 7.5 snaps per game in Weeks 1-2 but 25.5 in Weeks 3-4, over his last two outings parlaying 16 runs into 95 yards (5.94 YPC) and a touchdown, on top of three receptions for 34 yards. The Titans gave Sankey a goal-line carry in last week's loss to Indianapolis, which he executed from two yards out. His participation on passing downs has spiked, as well. Sankey is a high-upside Week 5 flex play against a shaky Browns run defense. In Weeks 1-3, Cleveland was tagged by Saints, Steelers, and Ravens tailbacks for a combined 413 yards and four touchdowns on 79 carries (5.23 YPC). ... While Sankey's playing time has risen, plodder early-down back Shonn Greene's has dropped. After handling 15 carries on Opening Day, Greene has averaged six per game since. Feel free to cut Greene in all 12-team leagues. ... Dexter McCluster's snap rates are 67%, 28%, and 18% over the past three weeks. He has no business being rostered in 12- or 14-team leagues.
Jake Locker returns from his sprained wrist against the Browns. Although Cleveland has played sub-par pass defense, Locker's play warrants treatment as no more than a two-QB-league prayer. Locker is 35-of-68 passing (51.5%) for 419 yards (6.16 YPA) with a 1:4 TD-to-INT ratio over his last two games. ... Locker's target distribution on the season: Delanie Walker 25; Kendall Wright 22; Justin Hunter 21; Nate Washington 15; McCluster 5; Taylor Thompson 4; Sankey 1. ... In addition to Locker's erratic passing and his own inability to secure footballs, Hunter will have to deal with Browns top CB Joe Haden's coverage on Sunday. It's not a great recipe for Hunter's long-awaited breakout game. ... The lone reliable fantasy start in Tennessee's pass-catching corps, Walker ranks third among all NFL tight ends in targets (32), fourth in catches (22), second in yards (317), and fourth in touchdowns (3). He's the No. 1 option in Whisenhunt's passing game. ... Just a low-ceiling WR3 option at this point, slot man Wright's stat lines in Locker's last two starts were 3-31-0 and 5-44-0. A high-percentage route runner but always a weak bet for touchdowns, Wright is a better play in PPR than standard leagues.
Score Prediction: Browns 20, Titans 17
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St. Louis @ Philadelphia
The Rams return from their open date fielding the NFL's most disappointing defense. Despite its ballyhooed front four, St. Louis has one sack as a team through three games, and opponents are completing 73.9% of their passes against DC Gregg Williams' group. Shake off Nick Foles' scoreless Week 4 game and fire him up against the Rams. Clearly lacking faith in his running game, Eagles coach Chip Kelly dialed up consecutive pass plays at the 49ers' one-yard line with under two minutes left in last week's defeat, while trailing by five points. Foles ranks second in the NFL in pass attempts, and it isn't by accident. He'll be a gunslinger for the foreseeable future. ... Foles' Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Jeremy Maclin 47; Riley Cooper 25; Jordan Matthews 24; Darren Sproles 21; Zach Ertz 20; LeSean McCoy 11; Brent Celek 7. ... Second in the NFL in targets behind only Jordy Nelson, Maclin has earned WR1 distinction. At the season's quarter point, he's on pace for 80 receptions, 1,412 yards, and 12 touchdowns. There is nothing intimidating about St. Louis' secondary. ... I'm not sure any receiver has dropped more would-be touchdown passes than Cooper this year. He seemingly does it every week. The Eagles have still shown no signs of reducing Cooper’s usage. In spite of Cooper's inefficiency, you could do worse than a 6-foot-3, 223-pound receiver in a plus matchup as a dart throw. ... Matthews' weekly snap rates are 66%, 49%, 64%, and 65%. So his role seems pretty locked in. Matthews' 17 targets the past two weeks are promising enough to keep him in the WR3 discussion.
Ertz's snap rates are 61%, 77%, 51%, and 72%. His Week 5 matchup is tougher than any of Philly's wideouts. One year after allowing the fewest fantasy points in football to tight ends, the Rams held Kyle Rudolph to 16 yards in Week 1, Brandon Myers to 33 in Week 2, and Jason Witten to 49 scoreless yards on four receptions in Week 3. Lean away from Ertz if you have a clearly-superior option, but I still think he's a decent bet to score at home against a weak Rams pass defense. ... Sproles was a point-scoring monster in the Eagles' first two games. Over the past two, the 31-year-old has been held to 56 total yards on eight touches with a lost fumble. Sproles is shaping up as a boom-or-bust week-to-week flex option. ... Rumors of a lingering turf toe injury adversely affecting McCoy's effectiveness may or may not have been confirmed by Kelly's aforementioned Week 4 playcalling with the game on the line. Exacerbated by the Eagles' depleted offensive line, McCoy has been a fantasy bust through four weeks. If Shady is going to get on track, however, this is the week. Difference-making run blocker RT Lane Johnson is back from suspension, and visiting St. Louis has been lit up by opposing ground games. In their first three games, the Rams coughed up 465 yards and four rushing TDs on 91 carries (5.11 YPC).
Rams coach Jeff Fisher named Austin Davis his starting quarterback coming off the open date after Davis earned the job by completing 72.3% of his passes with an impressive 8.04 YPA and 3:3 TD-to-INT ratio in Weeks 1-3. Quarterback performances against the Eagles' porous pass defense have tricked some observers into hasty overreactions, such as last week's pre-Thursday night Kirk Cousins Hall of Fame induction. Davis is worth a serious look as a Week 5 streamer and is a plug-and-play two-quarterback league starter. In Weeks 1-4, Philly was shredded by Cousins, Chad Henne, Andrew Luck, and Colin Kaepernick for a combined 91-of-155 passing, 1,083 yards, and a 10:3 TD-to-INT ratio. The Eagles don't rush the passer effectively and their secondary is well below average. ... Davis' target distribution through two and a half games: Jared Cook 19; Brian Quick 17; Lance Kendricks 14; Kenny Britt 9; Benny Cunningham and Austin Pettis 8; Zac Stacy 7; Chris Givens 6; Tavon Austin 3. ... Cook is worth a look for TE1 streamers. The Eagles have allowed the 12th most receptions to tight ends (20) and Cook was Davis' go-to guy in St. Louis' last game, parlaying a team-high nine targets into seven catches for 75 yards against Dallas. Philly remains without coverage maven linebacker Mychal Kendricks (calf), so the matchup is favorable for athletic if oft-enigmatic Cook.
While Quick has played 81% of the snaps over St. Louis' last two games, the Rams have used a committee opposite him. Britt has played 63% of the downs, Pettis 36%. Situational deep threat Givens has been in the game 22% of the time. Stedman Bailey returned from his early-season suspension in Week 3 to play 13% of the snaps. Austin did not play against Dallas, but is expected back from his knee injury this week. Beyond Cook and Quick, St. Louis' pass-catching corps is a fantasy wasteland. ... Currently a top-20 overall receiver in fantasy points per game, Quick has a mouth-watering matchup. Quick runs most of his pass routes at right cornerbacks, where Eagles RCB Cary Williams roams. A big-play turnstile, Williams is Pro Football Focus' No. 93 cornerback among 100 qualifiers. PFF has charted Williams as having allowed 65.5% of the 29 passes thrown into his coverage to be completed for 266 yards (9.17 YPA), two touchdowns, and no interceptions. View Quick as a high-ceiling WR3 in a game where the Rams may have to throw often to keep up. ... The Eagles were playing respectable run defense until they ran into Frank Gore last week. Angry Frank pasted Philadelphia for 119 yards on 24 carries (4.96 YPC) with a 55-yard touchdown reception as the cherry on top. Stacy runs in a similar manner to Gore, attacking holes with purpose and abandon. Stacy owners have to hope the Rams scrapped their ill-advised "RBBC" during the Week 4 bye, after inexplicably giving Cunningham and UDFA Trey Watts carries at their bellcow back's expense in Week 3 against the Cowboys. That decision contributed to Dallas' come-from-behind win. Stacy's YPC is up from last year, and he's averaging 16 touches per game, a number that deserves to rise. He's a quality RB2 play in Week 5.
Score Prediction: Eagles 30, Rams 21
Atlanta @ NY Giants
I discussed this offseason how the Giants' plan for Eli Manning was similar to the Chargers' 2013 approach with Philip Rivers. Implement a quick-hitting passing-game pace to get the ball out of Eli's hands, establish rhythm, and let him control games at the line of scrimmage. The revised offense would also minimize protection flaws. I didn't know whether it would work, but it is. Over his last three games, Eli is 75-of-106 passing (70.8%) for 811 yards (7.65 YPA) with an 8:3 TD-to-INT ratio and a ninth score on a scramble. Now facing a talent-deficient Falcons defense that got lit up by Teddy Bridgewater's quick-hitting Vikings passing game last week, Manning has earned legitimate QB1 treatment. In the three games where they have not faced Josh McCown, the Falcons have allowed over 300 passing yards in each and registered zero sacks. ... Eli's Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Victor Cruz 32; Larry Donnell 31; Rueben Randle 30; Rashad Jennings 11; Preston Parker 11; Andre Williams and Daniel Fells 6. ... Although Atlanta has a talented cornerback duo in LCB Desmond Trufant and RCB Robert Alford, a stark lack of pass rush keeps DC Mike Nolan's group vulnerable to big games by enemy receivers. They've coughed up notable stat lines of 5-110 (Marques Colston), 3-84-1 (Mohamed Sanu), 7-77-1 (Brandin Cooks), and 8-132 (Jarius Wright) through one month. Cruz plays the role most similar to those four wideouts, working in the middle of the field. After a terrifying start to the season, Cruz has 11 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown the past two weeks. He's reemerged as an every-week WR2.
As the Falcons primarily get flamed by inside-the-numbers receivers, this is a tougher matchup for Randle, who will move in and out of Trufant and Alford's coverage. The Giants' overall anticipated pass-game success keeps Randle in the upside WR3 conversation. Randle ranks ninth among all NFL wideouts in targets (27) over the past three weeks, and 11th in catches (17). He was literally inches from two touchdowns in last week's thumping of the Redskins. Expect defenses to begin sending more red-zone attention at Donnell, freeing up Roob for scoring chances. ... Donnell is the No. 4 fantasy tight end through the season's first month. Only Jimmy Graham and Martellus Bennett have more catches, and only Julius Thomas has more TDs. The Falcons have allowed the NFL's seventh most receptions (21) to tight ends. Donnell's matchup is improved by the Falcons' loss of SS William Moore (shoulder), one of Atlanta's few decent players on defense. ... Assuming Odell Beckham (hamstring) makes his NFL debut, look for the rookie to be eased in, rotating with third receiver Preston Parker. Beckham has barely practiced with Eli since May's draft. Longer term in ex-Packers assistant Ben McAdoo's Giants offense, Beckham projects as the Greg Jennings to Cruz's Randall Cobb, Randle's Jordy Nelson, and Donnell's Jermichael Finley. ... McAdoo upped rookie Andre Williams' usage last Thursday night as the G-Men played on a short week. They're now on a long week, so expect Rashad Jennings to resume full-time work. Atlanta has allowed a league-high eight rushing TDs to enemy tailbacks, on top of 121 carries for 541 yards (4.47 YPC).
Vegas has installed Falcons-Giants with this week's highest over-under at 50.5 points. As New York's on-the-come offense will likely pour points on Atlanta's barely-there defense, Matt Ryan figures to be forced into an aggressive response. An every-week fantasy starter, Ryan currently ranks second in the NFL in both touchdown passes (10) and passing yards (1,263). ... Ryan's Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Julio Jones 41; Roddy White 29; Harry Douglas 17; Devin Hester 15; Levine Toilolo 13; Devonta Freeman 9; Jacquizz Rodgers 7; Steven Jackson 6; Antone Smith 5. ... Julio has at least 80-plus yards and/or a touchdown in nine straight games. Through four weeks, Jones' pace stats are 116-1,788-12. It doesn't really matter that New York has solid cornerbacks in LCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and RCB Prince Amukamara. Jones is the No. 4 overall fantasy wideout. ... The Giants have shown a willingness to flip flop DRC and Amukamara depending on opponent, so it's hard to say which corner will match up with Julio or Roddy. We do know White is coming off a 14-target game and has hit pay dirt in two of his three 2014 appearances. He's an every-week WR2. ... Averaging 17 yards per game, Toilolo is safe to drop across the board for higher-upside TE2 stashes like Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Clay Harbor.
Benefiting from more playing time due to Roddy and Douglas' Weeks 3-4 inactivity, sub-package receiver Hester has managed receiving lines of 1-2, 1-25, and 5-70-1 the past three weeks. He did score a Week 3 rushing touchdown. Hester should be ignored in standard leagues, but has some value in return-yardage formats. ... I avoid receivers dealing with hamstring problems whenever possible. A hamstring injury shelved Douglas in last week's loss to Minnesota. He needs to demonstrate on-field health to become a viable option again. ... Since the season started, Atlanta has lost LT Sam Baker, C Joe Hawley, and RT Lamar Holmes to year-ending I.R. It remains to be seen how the Falcons' offensive line depletion will affect their passing game, but I fully expect the impact to be felt immediately on the ground. With MLB Jon Beason (toe) returning for the Giants, S-Jax is a low-end and ultimately undesirable flex play. In Beason's two appearances this year, the Giants have held opponents to 200 yards on 58 runs (3.45 YPC). In two games without Beason, New York has surrendered 205 yards on 42 carries (4.88 YPC). ... Antone Smith is a really fun player to watch -- his acceleration and run strength jump off the screen -- but he's playing nine snaps per game. If you start Smith, you risk a goose egg. ... Quizz Rodgers plays 24 snaps per game, but averages under six touches as a moderately effective change-of-pace back. He isn't worth rostering. ... Nor is fourth-round rookie Freeman, whom the Falcons mysteriously insist on playing at far-more-effective Smith's expense. Freeman struggles in pass protection and is averaging 2.33 YPC on 15 carries.
Friday Update: The Falcons have ruled out Douglas (hamstring), meaning Hester will be their third receiver against the Giants. Atlanta will also be without LG Justin Blalock, who has a back injury. As alluded to above, the Falcons' offensive line is severely depleted. Playing at home, the Giants' fantasy defense is worth serious consideration as a Week 5 streamer.
Score Prediction: Giants 28, Falcons 21
Tampa Bay @ New Orleans
After an embarrassing Week 4 road loss to Dallas, the Saints travel back to the Superdome for a cake matchup with Lovie Smith's oft-pulverized defense. In Weeks 1-4, Derek Anderson, Austin Davis, Matt Ryan, and Ben Roethlisberger combined to complete 96-of-127 passes (75.6%) for 1,065 yards (8.4 YPA) and an 8:0 TD-to-INT ratio against Tampa Bay. Although he's been a steady producer and ranks eighth in fantasy quarterback scoring on the year, Drew Brees has not had a blowup game yet this season. Here's betting this'll be it. ... Brees' Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Jimmy Graham 42; Brandin Cooks 30; Marques Colston 24; Pierre Thomas 15; Kenny Stills 12; Robert Meachem 9; Travaris Cadet 7; Mark Ingram and Ben Watson 5; Khiry Robinson 4; Joe Morgan 3; Josh Hill 2. ... The Brees-Graham FanDuel stack is always in play when the Saints are at home. It certainly can't hurt that Tampa Bay has allowed the third most receptions (27) in football to tight ends. In Smith's Tampa 2, enemy tight ends are literally often allowed to run uncovered over the middle and up the seam. Heath Miller shredded it for 10-85-1 in Week 4. ... Aside from his Week 2 goose egg where Browns coach Mike Pettine's defense sold out to stop New Orleans' wideouts, Colston is averaging eight targets per game with stat lines of 5-110, 2-25-1, and 5-50. The Cooks addition has rendered Colston more WR3 than WR2, but he's a good bet for a productive game against the Bucs' leaky defensive backs.
Stills has the toughest Week 5 matchup among Saints skill players. He'll run most of his pass patterns against stationary Bucs LCB Alterraun Verner while Cooks and Colston deal with liability RCB Johnthan Banks and size-, speed-deficient slot corner Leonard Johnson in addition to linebackers and safeties. ... The Vegas prognosticators expect New Orleans to douse Tampa Bay in points, assigning this game a lofty 48.5-point over-under but installing the Saints as 10-point favorites. Although Cooks was a bit hit-or-miss in the season's first month, I'd want Brees' second most heavily-targeted player in my lineup this week ... The Bucs have held Rams, Falcons, Panthers, and Steelers tailbacks to a combined 399 yards on 112 runs (3.56 YPC). Confirming their run defense is legit, particularly with DT Gerald McCoy (hand) back, Tampa limited Le'Veon Bell to 63 scoreless yards on 19 carries (3.32 YPC) in last week's win. Khiry Robinson's matchup is difficult, but he remains flex worthy as a good bet to hit pay dirt in an offense that's a virtual lock to generate scoring opportunities. ... The Saints' increased usage of Travaris Cadet in last week's loss to the Cowboys was a bit concerning for Thomas' going-forward outlook. Perhaps it was nothing, or perhaps it was something, but Cadet played 20 downs to Thomas' 23 and even out-touched him seven to four. Cadet caught all six of his targets for 59 yards. We'll reevaluate this situation after Week 5. Robinson is the lone Saints back in whom I'd invest a fantasy start this week.
It's been awhile since Doug Martin was a good running back. He's become entirely ineffective in pass protection, and over his last 16 games has managed 1,165 yards with six touchdowns on 315 carries (3.70 YPC). That's a pretty solid sample size of mediocrity, and his YPC average dips to 3.37 over his last eight games. Martin has 49 yards on 23 carries (2.13 YPC) this year. After underwhelming in last week's win over Pittsburgh, Martin can be treated as no better than a low-end RB2 against New Orleans in a game Tampa Bay could fall behind in quickly and get blown out. ... Leave out Bobby Rainey's Week 2 game against St. Louis' sieve-ish run defense and his 2014 rushing stats stand at 55 yards on 19 runs (2.89 YPC) with three lost fumbles. It wouldn't entirely surprise me if the Bucs' backfield devolved back into an RBBC this week, but Rainey simply hasn't earned flex consideration so long as Martin is healthy. ... Mike Glennon got the Bucs their first win against the Steelers, but his performance was uneven and ultimately average. The positive takeaways were Glennon's willingness to throw the ball downfield and outside the numbers, something Josh McCown resisted the first three weeks. The matchup and this game's relatively high-scoring projection do make Glennon an attractive two-quarterback-league play. The Saints have been shredded by Dallas, Minnesota, Cleveland, and Atlanta quarterbacks for 272.5 passing yards per game and a combined 7:0 TD-to-INT ratio. Rob Ryan's defense has crumbled.
Glennon's target distribution through two 2014 appearances: Vincent Jackson 15; Mike Evans 13; Louis Murphy 11; Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Rainey 7; Brandon Myers 4; Russell Shepard and Luke Stocker 2; Robert Herron 1. ... Seferian-Jenkins is my favorite Week 5 tight end streamer. Back from an early-season foot injury, "ASJ" played 71-of-71 snaps against the Steelers, collected seven targets, and now should benefit from an increased passing-game role with Evans (groin) sidelined 2-3 weeks. A special athlete at 6-foot-5 1/2, 265 with a reported 4.56 forty time and 37 1/2-inch vertical, Seferian-Jenkins scored 21 touchdowns in three college seasons, hitting pay dirt in all but four of his final 15 college games. In a matchup where game flow should work to the advantage of Tampa Bay's passing game, ASJ should be a frequent red-zone target for Glennon. ... V-Jax saw 10 targets in Glennon's first start and caught a game-winning touchdown with seven seconds left. Expect Saints top CB Keenan Lewis to be attached to Jackson throughout this game, but he's a high-end WR3 option with WR1 upside. ... Resist chasing last week's points with Murphy, who finished Week 4 with 99 yards on six catches five days after being signed off the street. Murphy does figure to start in place of Evans, but is on his fourth NFL team in six seasons. At best, he'll be the Buccaneers' No. 3 offensive option behind the running backs and Jackson. He might be fourth behind ASJ, or even fifth if trusty No. 2 tight end Myers gets more usage.
Score Prediction: Saints 34, Buccaneers 23
Houston @ Dallas
The Texans and Cowboys have similar run-heavy formulas and neither team can stop the run. This game sets up as low scoring in my opinion, so I was a little surprised to see Vegas assign it a 46.5-point over-under. I like the under. ... I also really like DeMarco Murray. On the Fantasy Insiders show I do every Friday afternoon, @DavisMattek suggested last week that Murray should be the starting point in every daily league lineup. Be it tournament or cash games, I think you almost have to begin that way. Houston has coughed up 474 yards and three touchdowns on 94 runs (5.04 YPC) to enemy tailbacks. ... Although Lance Dunbar would be a factor -- particularly in PPR leagues -- it seems pretty clear that Joseph Randle is Murray's primary handcuff. With Dallas' starter on pace for an absurd 396 carries with a frightening injury history, Randle should be stashed wherever possible. Randle is far from a premier talent, but he looks significantly improved from his rookie year and would run behind one of the NFL's top offensive lines if Murray went down. ... Terrance Williams is a classic sell-high following his two-score game in last week's win over New Orleans. Just barely averaging five targets and 45 yards per game, Williams is a low-volume role player temporarily living on an unsustainable scoring rate. Bail while his stock is peaking.
Tony Romo had a good Week 4 game against a bad Saints defense. Although he is physically improving, nothing about the way Romo is being utilized suggests he's suddenly a legitimate fantasy QB1. 19th in the NFL in pass attempts, Romo's role in Dallas' offense has been scaled back with Murray taking on increased responsibilities. This isn't a particularly good matchup for Romo, taking on a Texans defense with a 5:4 TD-to-INT ratio against, J.J. Watt up front, and getting solid cornerback play from LCB Johnathan Joseph and RCB/slot corner Kareem Jackson. Romo remains a low-end QB1 and, ideally, matchup-based streamer. ... Romo's Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Dez Bryant 33; Jason Witten 23; Williams 21; Murray 11; Cole Beasley 10; Dunbar 7; Gavin Escobar and Devin Street 4. ... 32-year-old Witten has turned in scoreless stat lines of 2-14, 4-32, 4-49 and 5-61 through four weeks. Although the sense may be that Witten's box scores are trending in the right direction, he's also taken on more blocking assignments in Dallas' new run-based offense. Per PFF, Witten has blocked on 57% of his 2014 snaps. He blocked on just 43% of his snaps last season. The Texans are 23rd in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. ... Dez's targets are down a bit due to the Cowboys' revised offensive approach, but he's still on pace for 92 catches, 1,164 yards, and 12 touchdowns. As Williams' red-zone usage begins to inevitably regress, look for Bryant's to improve. He's a top-shelf WR1 every week.
The Texans' backfield has become a week-to-week fantasy nightmare. Arian Foster (hamstring) is already racking up game-time decisions. He was active in Week 4, but utilized as a timeshare back. While Foster played a season-low 39 downs, rookie Alfred Blue handled 33. This week's matchup is cake -- the Cowboys have served up 405 yards on 73 combined carries (5.55 YPC) to enemy tailbacks this season -- but there is next to no clarity on health and roles in Houston's running game. You're entirely on your own trying to start either of these guys in fantasy. ... The Cowboys have been able to mask and compensate for their talent-less defense by playing keepaway with Murray, but they aren't a worrisome matchup for opposing passing attacks by any means. In Weeks 1-4, Colin Kaepernick, Austin Davis, Jake Locker, and Drew Brees combined to complete 96-of-143 passes (67.1%) against Dallas for 1,102 yards (7.71 YPA) and an 8:5 TD-to-INT ratio. Again, that's with Locker's atrocious Week 2 game included. Ryan Fitzpatrick should be in two-quarterback-league lineups, and I'm not opposed to at least considering him as desperation QB1 streamer. He won't get many better matchups all year.
FitzMagic's Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Andre Johnson 34; DeAndre Hopkins 25; Foster 15; Garrett Graham 12; Damaris Johnson 9; Blue 4. ... Although he’s yet to hit pay dirt, Johnson is on pace for 88 receptions and 1,048 yards through one month. Johnson is a good bet to score his first touchdown against a Cowboys defense forcing usual slot CB Orlando Scandrick to play right cornerback on base downs and inserting journeyman Sterling Moore at RCB in sub-packages. Johnson runs most of his routes at right corners. ... Hopkins has been far more efficient than Johnson despite limited targeting, which could lead to more usage going forward. With at least a touchdown and/or 100 receiving yards in every game to open this season, Hopkins is a fantasy WR2 until proven otherwise. Keep in mind Hopkins is just barely 22 years old, more than a year younger than Kelvin Benjamin. His arrow is screaming upward. ... If Graham is ever going to have a productive fantasy box score, this is the week. Unable to cover anyone at linebacker and safety, Dallas has allowed league highs in catches (37), touchdowns (6), and receiving yards (395) to tight ends. Graham's upside is always affected adversely by his limited athleticism, but he's worth a look for TE1 streamers based on matchup and opportunity.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 24, Texans 20
Buffalo @ Detroit
Perhaps Kyle Orton gives Buffalo a better chance to deliver passes accurately to receivers, but his insertion over E.J. Manuel won't change the Bills' offensive formula. The organization simply believes Orton is more capable of taking care of the football. 32 years old in November, Orton is now on his fifth NFL team. He's completed 58.5% of his career throws -- worse, in fact, than Manuel's 58.6% -- with an 83:59 TD-to-INT ratio. He's worth grabbing in two-quarterback leagues, but shouldn't be started against Detroit's No. 2 pass defense. Through four games, rookie DC Teryl Austin's Lions have stifled Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Eli Manning, and Geno Smith to a combined 72-of-127 passing (56.7%) for 815 yards (6.42 YPA), four touchdowns and three picks with eight sacks taken. Detroit’s fantasy defense is a recommended play. ... Manuel didn't help, but Sammy Watkins deserves plenty of blame for his inconsistent to-date production. Inefficient and unreliable in fantasy, Watkins has dropped three passes en route to weekly stat lines of 3-31-0, 8-117-1, 2-19-0, and 4-30-1. Watkins does rank 17th among wideouts in fantasy points the past three weeks. He's a serviceable if volatile WR3 play in this difficult matchup. ... Third receiver Mike Williams ripped off an 80-yard touchdown catch in last Sunday's loss to Houston, but is averaging four targets per game and playing only 55% of Buffalo's offensive snaps. Avoid chasing last week's points.
It still wouldn't surprise me if, eventually, Williams begins cutting into "starter" Robert Woods' playing time. Theoretically a sure-handed possession target, Woods has an anemic 43% catch rate with two drops, managing 119 scoreless yards among 29 targets. There is little doubt Williams offers more playmaking and touchdown-scoring ability. Woods has 41 yards on 23 targets over his last three games. Some of that is on Manuel, but the conversion rate is incredibly poor. ... Game flow should work in Fred Jackson's favor this week, as the Lions seem likely to have offensive success while defending the Bills' offense stoutly. We've already established that Jackson plays more than C.J. Spiller when Buffalo is behind in games. Minus lynchpin MLB Stephen Tulloch (ACL), Detroit's previously stout run defense sprung leaks in last week's win over the Jets, serving up 128 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries (5.57 YPC) to Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson. CJ?K busted a ten-game drought of long touchdown runs, breaking a 35-yard score in the fourth quarter. ... Although I expect Jackson to lead the Bills' backfield in Week 5 snaps, Spiller remains a weekly lock for 13-18 touches and Johnson's long TD could be construed as a positive sign for Buffalo's homerun hitter. Spiller is a high-upside RB2 against the Lions. His season-long outlook is a bit more concerning. Per PFF's @Pat_Thorman, Spiller has just 22 perimeter runs compared to 30 between the tackles. He's averaging 5.2 YPC outside and 3.1 YPC inside. The Bills have continued to struggle to maximize their most dynamic weapon.
Buffalo's 25th-ranked pass defense is more vulnerable than its top-three run defense. Theoretically, at least, this game sets up well for Matthew Stafford to fire off pass attempts and rack up yards, particularly with top inside runner Joique Bell (concussion) not expected to play. The Bills pose a more difficult matchup than that pass-defense ranking suggests -- they're sixth in the NFL in sacks with a 6:5 TD-to-INT ratio against -- but sheer volume should be on Stafford's side. Running more than ever under new OC Joe Lombardi, Stafford is quietly on pace for a career high in scrambles (68) and currently ranks fifth among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring. Rare is the week Stafford isn't at least a mid-range QB1. ... Stafford's Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Calvin Johnson 37; Golden Tate 31; Reggie Bush 23; Bell 15; Eric Ebron 12; Jeremy Ross 8; Joseph Fauria 6; Brandon Pettigrew 4. ... Megatron's Week 4 decoy usage was frustrating as he played through an ankle injury. Keep in mind Johnson was similarly used as a decoy in Week 6 of last season, battling a knee injury. He rebounded in Week 7 for a 9-155-2 stat line against the Bengals. You can never leave his week-winning ceiling on your bench. ... The healthiest member of Detroit's wideout corps, Tate is on pace for 96 receptions and 1,268 yards through his first four games as a Lion. He's a WR2 in PPR leagues and a strong WR3 in standard scoring. Even when Calvin is 100%, Tate is Stafford's No. 2 option. That's a nice role to have.
Friday Update: Lions coach Jim Caldwell openly admitted following Friday's practice that Calvin Johnson might need a week off for his ankle to heal. Megatron practiced on a limited basis, but the Lions ostensibly weren't encouraged by the progress he's made. Stafford would get a downgrade without his most dominant receiver, while last week's game suggests Tate would ascend to the No. 1 option in OC Joe Lombardi's passing attack. Ebron would become No. 2, in theory, and it wouldn't suprise me if Reggie Bush wound up with 7-10 targets against Buffalo if Johnson did not play.
With Fauria (ankle) still on the mend, first-round pick Ebron will get at least one more week as Detroit's primary pass-catching tight end. Ebron played a season-high 34 snaps in the role last week, converting four targets into a 3-34-1 stat line. It would not surprise me at all if Ebron played around 40 snaps this week and his target total jumped to six or seven. He's essentially the Lions' No. 3 receiver. Buffalo has allowed the fourth most catches in the league to tight ends (24) and the 13th most yards (213). Ebron remains an upside TE1 streamer. ... Playing shutdown run defense under new DC Jim Schwartz, the Bills have limited enemy running backs to 255 yards on 87 carries (2.93 YPC). Buffalo hasn't allowed a single rushing TD on the season. The on-the-ground matchup is daunting for Bush, but he'll have the Lions' backfield all to himself with Bell (concussion) and Theo Riddick (hamstring) not expected to play. Even in tough matchups, Bush is impossible to sit when he's positioned to handle 16-22 touches. And that's the case this week. Back on the Ford Field turf, I can't imagine benching him.
Friday Update: Upgrading Bush's Week 5 matchup is the expected absence of difference-making Bills DT Kyle Williams, who missed practice all week with a knee injury. Williams is Pro Football Focus' top-graded defensive tackle through four weeks, ahead of more well-known DTs like Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, and Dontari Poe.
Score Prediction: Lions 23, Bills 14
Baltimore @ Indianapolis
The Ravens survived the loss of LT Eugene Monroe (knee scope) in last week's drubbing of Carolina as UDFA James Hurst stepped up for a respectable day in pass protection. The Colts' pass rush is significantly less formidable than the Panthers', so logic suggests this could be another productive day at the office for Joe Flacco & Co. ... The clear-cut focal point of new OC Gary Kubiak's passing attack, Steve Smith Sr. has turned in stat lines of 7-118-1, 6-71, 5-101, and 7-139-2 through four weeks, averaging over ten targets per game. Kubiak moves Smith Sr. around frequently enough that he won't spend all of Week 5 in stout Colts RCB Vontae Davis' coverage. On pace for 100 receptions, Smith has earned every-week WR2 treatment. He's produced like a legitimate WR1 to this point. Flacco noticeably trusts Smith Sr. to make plays with the ball in the air. ... Flacco's target distribution through three games: Smith Sr. 41; Torrey Smith 21; Justin Forsett 19; Owen Daniels 17; Jacoby Jones 10; Kyle Juszczyk 6; Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown 5. ... In Week 4, Brown and Daniels essentially shared the role vacated by Dennis Pitta (hip, I.R.), with both delivering critical chain-moving receptions over the middle. Although Indianapolis has allowed the fourth most fantasy points to tight ends, I think there are better TE1 streamers out there than Daniels. Daniels is playing 83% of the Ravens' offensive snaps, but he's essentially a catch-and-fall guy at this stage of his career. He will likely pay off as a Week 5 fantasy start if and only if he scores a red-zone TD.
Torrey whipped Carolina's secondary deep up the seam for 29 yards last week and caught a 24-yard TD bullet, but continues to run low-percentage routes and is being utilized as a situational deep threat while Steve Sr. is fed the rock. Torrey plays on both sides of the formation, so he'll deal with Davis in addition to Colts liability LCB Greg Toler. It's not a terrible matchup, but Torrey has settled in as a boom-or-bust WR3. He's on pace for career lows in every statistical category. ... Ravens-Colts has a 48.5-point over-under, tied for second highest of Week 5. Flacco still isn't a realistic QB1, but he's a quality two-quarterback-league start. ... Forsett surged ahead in Baltimore's backfield last week, establishing a hot hand early. Kubiak rode the 29-year-old journeyman to a season-high 17 touches. With at least a dozen touches in every game so far this season, Forsett has the most stable role among Ravens backs. He's a viable flex play in non-PPR leagues against the Colts, and a borderline RB2 in PPR. ... After running with purpose and power in the Ravens' Week 3 win over the Browns, Taliaferro took a step back against the Panthers. His final stats look respectable (15-58-1), but "Zo" ran with hesitation and much of his damage was done in garbage time. It was a disappointing effort for game watchers. He's an RBBC back until further notice and a shaky flex play against the Colts' No. 11 run defense. Baltimore's rushing attack does benefit from Indy's loss of SS LaRon Landry (suspension). The Colts are allowing 4.36 yards per carry with four rushing TDs permitted through four games. ... Despite being active, Pierce didn't play a down against Carolina. He's just an RB5 stash in 12- and 14-team leagues.
After teeing off on the Eagles, Jaguars, and Titans the past three weeks, No. 1 overall fantasy quarterback Andrew Luck gets his toughest to-date matchup against a Ravens defense that has limited enemy passers to just three touchdown passes through four games. Baltimore's peripheral pass-defense stats suggest it is vulnerable in the air, however, serving up eight yards per pass attempt with only one interception and four sacks through one month. I'd probably balk at starting Luck on FanDuel, but he's a top-flight QB1 every week in re-draft leagues. ... Also working in Luck's favor is the Colts' likely inability to run the football effectively on the Ravens. Keyed by DROY candidate ILB C.J. Mosley, Baltimore has limited enemy tailbacks to 285 yards on 79 carries (3.61 YPC). Indianapolis will be without impressive rookie LG Jack Mewhort (ankle). Perhaps there never is one, but this is a particularly bad week to bet on Trent Richardson. ... The way the Colts utilize Ahmad Bradshaw makes him less vulnerable to stout defensive front sevens. He plays extensively in the passing game and gets sprung into space on running back-friendly play calls. OC Pep Hamilton is smartly intent on not overworking Bradshaw -- limiting him to 12 touches per game -- but he'll be Indy's best means of moving the chains out of the backfield in this matchup. Fantasy's No. 4 overall running back scorer, Bradshaw is an every-week starter.
Luck's Weeks 1-4 target distribution: T.Y. Hilton 37; Reggie Wayne 33; Coby Fleener 19; Hakeem Nicks 18; Bradshaw 16; Dwayne Allen 15; T-Rich 14; Donte Moncrief 9; Jack Doyle 6. ... Wayne shredded the Titans for 7-119-1 last week on eight targets, but I don't really see that as a sign of things to come. Turning 36 in November, Wayne is no longer a big-play threat and requires volume to stack yards. The TD was Wayne's first of the season, and just his second since last September. Wayne is a high-end WR3 against smallish Ravens slot CB Asa Jackson (5'10/191), but coming off a game like last week's creates a good opportunity to sell Wayne high. ... Although he is always a threat to burn defenders deep, Hilton has a tougher matchup against stout Ravens outside CBs Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb. Still, Hilton's big-play potential and consistent targeting makes him an every-week fixture in fantasy lineups. He's seen double-digit targets in 3-of-4 games and is on pace for 88 receptions and 1,164 yards. ... Baltimore has allowed the fewest fantasy points in the league to tight ends, which doesn't bode well for lightly targeted Allen or inefficient Fleener. Fleener is on pace for a 40-436-8 stat line. Allen's pace is 44-580-12. Both are ideally TE2s. If forced to choose between the two, I'll continue to bet on superior football player Allen. ... Only playing 60.6% of the Colts' offensive snaps and averaging an anemic 7.8 yards per reception, Nicks is safe to drop in 14-team leagues.
Score Prediction: Colts 24, Ravens 21
Pittsburgh @ Jacksonville
Ben Roethlisberger enters Week 5 on fire, having completed 72.9% of his throws the past two weeks with a 5:0 TD-to-INT ratio and 117 QB rating. Although Steelers OC Todd Haley is commonly a media whipping boy -- probably because he doesn't kiss ass -- his offense is high percentage and incredibly quarterback friendly. It can't hurt that Pittsburgh's offensive line has earned a top-nine combined pass-blocking grade from PFF. Speaking of quarterback friendly, Big Ben's matchup is as favorable as it gets. Andrew Luck, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, Robert Griffin III, and Philip Rivers combined to wax the Jags for 1,552 all-purpose yards and 11 TDs in the first four games. That's an absurd average of 388 total yards and 2.75 touchdowns per game. Jacksonville has a league-worst 11:1 TD-to-INT ratio against. Roethlisberger is a sneaky top-shelf QB1 play. ... Big Ben's target distribution in Weeks 1-4: Antonio Brown 39; Heath Miller 27; Markus Wheaton 26; Le'Veon Bell 23; Justin Brown 14; LeGarrette Blount and Dri Archer 2. ... Brown is the perfect type of receiver to shred the Jaguars' Cover 3 underneath and over the middle, sort of like how Keenan Allen (10-135) did last week. Brown entered Week 5 as the No. 1 wideout in all of fantasy -- nearly ten points ahead of runner-up Jordy Nelson. ... Quietly seventh among tight ends in targets, fifth in catches (21), and tenth in yards (197), Miller is a locked-in TE1 against a Jaguars defense coughing up the second most receptions (28) and yards (323), and fourth most touchdowns (4) to tight ends.
The No. 4 option in Pittsburgh's offense behind Brown, Miller, and Bell, Wheaton has managed stat lines of 5-38, 4-35, and 4-57 the past three weeks. He hasn't scored a touchdown on the year. If 4.4-flat speedster Wheaton is ever going to deliver a blowup game, this should be the week. The Jaguars have allowed a league-high 24 pass plays of 20-plus yards. ... "Dammit" Donald Brown was a fantasy bust in last week's meeting with the Jaguars, but expect different results for No. 2 overall fantasy back Le'Veon Bell, who ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards (378), second among all running backs in receptions (19), and third in receiving yards (192). Even in down rushing weeks, Bell will light up opponents in the passing game. Despite Brown's Week 4 clunker, the Jaguars still have the NFL's 25th-ranked run defense and are allowing one rushing touchdown per game. Only DeMarco Murray (vs. HOU) is a better Week 5 fantasy running back play than Le'Veon. ... Just a breather back behind Bell, Blount would need unforeseeable garbage-time runs to pay off as a Week 5 flex option. Blount's Weeks 1-4 snap rates were 8%, 13%, 26%, and 15%. He has four or fewer carries in three of Pittsburgh's first four games.
The Jaguars scored 27 points in ten quarters of Chad Henne. They've scored 31 points in six quarters of Blake Bortles. Although I expected more from Bortles as an intermediate and deep thrower in his first NFL start, the rookie seemed a bit hamstrung by OC Jedd Fisch's conservative playcalling, which largely consisted of pass plays around the line of scrimmage. Expect the playbook to loosen up in a home game against Pittsburgh's pass rush- and coverage-bereft defense. Over their last three games, the Steelers have allowed Bucs, Panthers, and Ravens quarterbacks to complete 71-of-112 passes (63.4%) for 798 yards (7.13 YPA) and a 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio while absorbing only four sacks. It's a plus matchup for Bortles, whose athleticism should cause problems for Ryan Shazier-less Pittsburgh. I like Bortles as a QB1 streamer. ... Toby Gerhart ripped off a ten-yard carry on the first play from scrimmage in last week's loss to San Diego, but lost a fumble at the end of the run and was reduced to timeshare duties the rest of the way. Until Gerhart separates himself from Denard Robinson, expect the two to form a near-even RBBC. Gerhart is the superior inside runner, while Robinson theoretically offers a big-play threat. Both are flex options against Pittsburgh, with Gerhart as the better fantasy gamble as the favorite for goal-line carries. The good news is both have favorable matchups. The Steelers have coughed up 402 yards and three touchdowns on 83 carries (4.84 YPC) to enemy tailbacks.
Bortles' Weeks 3-4 target distribution: Allen Robinson 15; Cecil Shorts 12; Allen Hurns and Clay Harbor 8; Denard Robinson 4; Jordan Todman and Mike Brown 3; Gerhart 2. ... With Shorts (hamstring) back on the shelf, Robinson, Hurns, and Harbor should be target monsters against the Steelers. With Marqise Lee (hamstring) also out, Brown or perhaps slot man Ace Sanders, whose four-game suspension is up, will be the Jaguars' third receiver. ... Playing in his first game of the season, Harbor was a huge part of Fisch's Week 4 game plan, securing a team-high eight targets for 69 yards. Pittsburgh allows the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends. I prefer Austin Seferian-Jenkins to Harbor this week, personally, but the latter is squarely in the Week 5 streamer mix. ... It's hard to hang fantasy hats on wide-open deep bombs due to busted coverage, but Hurns caught another one last week in San Diego for a 44-yard gain. The undrafted rookie is best suited as a situational deep threat, but is worth a look for WR3 desperados. He'll play virtually every snap against Pittsburgh, running perimeter pass routes against struggling LCB Cortez Allen and usual slot corner William Gay, who's replacing RCB Ike Taylor (broken forearm). It's a good matchup on paper. ... Bortles target leader Robinson is the best fantasy bet in the Jaguars' wideout corps, despite a slow Week 4 game (5-38-0) where his receptions consisted of bubble screens, drags, and a fluky fourth-quarter deflection. I'm still waiting for Robinson to make a big play downfield in a non-garbage-time setting, however. He's a boom-or-bust WR3.
Score Prediction: Steelers 27, Jaguars 23
4:05PM ET Game
Arizona @ Denver
The Broncos return from their Week 4 bye to face a pass-rush-deficient Cardinals defense that to this point has played above its head thanks in large part to DC Todd Bowles' creative blitzes. Arizona ranks 28th in PFF's combined pass-rush metrics and has one sack in three games. No quarterback in football is better at diagnosing blitzes pre-snap than Peyton Manning, who had a full open date to study Bowles' scheme. I expect some fireworks from Denver's passing attack this week. ... Manning's Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Emmanuel Sanders 33; Demaryius Thomas 27; Julius Thomas 17; Wes Welker 9; Montee Ball 8; Andre Caldwell 6; Jacob Tamme 4. ... Welker's return from suspension in Denver's last game had no negative effect on Sanders, and may have actually helped. Playing 96% of the Broncos' offensive snaps, Sanders set season highs in targets (15), catches (11), and yards (149). As Cardinals outside CBs Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie are big but not particularly quick in short areas, Sanders arguably poses their most frightening mismatch in Denver's pass-catching corps. ... Expect Peyton to make it a post-bye point to get Demaryius going. On pace for three-year lows in catches, yards, and touchdowns, Demaryius is an ideal buy-low candidate following a slow start where he simply didn't play good football, enduring mental lapses and dropping three balls. Even if Demaryius has another relatively quiet game against Arizona's plus-sized corners, he will remain a recommended buy-low entering Week 5.
The league's leakiest defense to tight ends a year ago, Arizona served up a combined 8-105 Opening Day stat line to Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green, before Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells dropped an 8-82-1 number on them in Week 2. They avoided Vernon Davis (ankle) in Week 3, but pose a plus matchup for Orange Julius, who's already scored five touchdowns through three games. Since taking over as Denver's starting tight end in Week 1 last year, Julius has hit pay dirt in 76.5% of his regular season games (13 of 17). ... Welker went 6-60 on nine targets in his '14 debut two weeks ago against Seattle. He played 63% of the snaps. Until we see more evidence of Welker's usage with Sanders in Denver, I'm viewing the 33-year-old slot receiver as a solid WR3 in PPR and borderline WR3 in standard leagues. ... In Weeks 1-3, Arizona's top-four run defense held Giants, Chargers, and 49ers tailbacks to 142 yards on 55 runs (2.58 YPC). The Cardinals have given up two red-zone rushing touchdowns, which is where Ball owners can hang their hat. He's a poor bet to top 60 yards on the ground. ... Denver's backup running back job remains fluid. C.J. Anderson held the role in Weeks 1-2, but played only three snaps in the Broncos' Week 3 loss to Seattle. Ronnie Hillman played 14 downs, but was stuffed for gains of zero and two yards on his two carries. If forced to choose a handcuff for Ball, my pick would be superior inside runner Anderson. But it would probably be a rotation if Ball got hurt.
Through two games as Arizona's fill-in starter, Drew Stanton has completed 32-of-62 passes (51.6%) for 411 yards (6.63 YPA), and a 2:0 TD-to-INT ratio. As Peyton seems likely to dump points on Arizona's to-date overachieving defense, I expect Stanton to fire off a lot of pass attempts in this game. Two-quarterback-league owners may see that as an opportunity for box-score production. I prefer to start the Broncos' fantasy defense, which is fresh off a bye and ready to hit its stride with back-to-back plus matchups. Denver plays the Jets next. ... Despite the severe quarterback downgrade from Carson Palmer (shoulder) to Stanton, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians hasn't stopped trying to push the ball vertically. In Week 3 -- before Arizona's bye -- PFF charted Stanton with 13 attempts of 20-plus yards downfield, four more than any quarterback in the league in a week where every NFL team played. In two starts, Stanton has thrown 19 passes of 20-plus yards. For comparison, Eli Manning has thrown 14 passes of 20-plus yards in four games. ... The point of all that is to show that Michael Floyd will still have opportunities to make plays with the ball in the air with Stanton at quarterback, even if the overall efficiency of Arizona's passing attack has taken a nosedive. Floyd's Week 5 outlook is more worrisome from a matchup standpoint, however. Aqib Talib patrols the perimeter in Denver's defense, which is where Floyd runs his routes. And Broncos RCB Chris Harris has been even better than Talib this season. I'm starting Floyd in two leagues this week and hoping for a big play and/or a touchdown. I'm holding my breath.
Stanton's Weeks 2-3 target distribution: Larry Fitzgerald 17; Floyd 15; John Brown 10; Andre Ellington 7; John Carlson 6; Ted Ginn 3; Troy Niklas and Robert Hughes 1. ... Fitzgerald's stat lines in Stanton's two starts are 6-51-0 and 3-34-0. Fitz is just a WR3 option until we see his production pick up, but he at least has a better Week 5 matchup than Floyd. Fitzgerald runs frequent slot routes, where the Broncos use up-and-down rookie Bradley Roby. It's conceivable that Arians will dial up a lot of plays to specifically test that matchup. ... Brown's stat lines in Stanton's two starts are 3-28-0 and 4-52-2. The third-round rookie is averaging five targets per game. Brown has 4.34 speed and serious big-play potential, but I don't see him as remotely trustworthy as the Stanton-quarterbacked Cardinals' No. 4 offensive option behind Fitz, Floyd, and Ellington. ... Most of Ellington's fantasy value is derived from his receiving ability, but his rushing matchup is still worth exploring. Through three games, Denver's defense has limited enemy tailbacks to 215 yards on 63 carries (3.41 YPC). Ellington is an every-week RB2 in PPR leagues, but more of a high-end flex play in standard settings. He'll remain that way until he starts showing some ability to score touchdowns, something the Cardinals' coaching staff has prevented Ellington from doing by consistently removing him in goal-to-go situations. With Jalen Parmele and Jonathan Dwyer gone from Arizona, my guess is Stepfan Taylor will now fill the short-yardage-back role.
Score Prediction: Broncos 31, Cardinals 17
4:25PM ET Games
Kansas City @ San Francisco
The Chiefs travel to San Francisco playing on a short week and coming off an emotional Monday night win over New England. It's a good opportunity for the 49ers to saddle up their run game. Although game flow prevented the Patriots from cobbling together any semblance of a rushing attack against them last week, the Chiefs remain vulnerable on the ground, having permitted opposing running backs to tally 422 yards on 79 carries (5.34 YPC) since losing ILB Derrick Johnson to a torn Achilles' tendon in Week 1. This is a really good matchup for No. 13 overall fantasy running back Frank Gore, who is coming off his best game of the season. ... It wouldn't surprise me if Carlos Hyde got a few more carries than usual against the Chiefs, but through four weeks he's averaging under seven touches and 20 snaps per game. Gore is averaging 46.3 snaps and 15.5 touches. Gore is a high-end RB2 in this plus matchup. Hyde has settled in as a touchdown-dependent and ultimately undesirable flex play. ... Before Tom Brady's full-on implosion in Week 4, Kansas City's defense permitted a 6:0 TD-to-INT ratio combined to Jake Locker, Ryan Tannehill, and Peyton Manning in the season's first three weeks. The Chiefs can bring pressure with their talented outside linebackers and NT Dontari Poe, but are vulnerable throughout the secondary. Colin Kaepernick's inconsistency renders him a fantasy roller coaster, but this is an above-average matchup. Kaepernick is currently fantasy's No. 9 quarterback.
Kap's Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Michael Crabtree 32; Anquan Boldin 28; Stevie Johnson 17; Brandon Lloyd 10; Vernon Davis 9; Derek Carrier 8; Hyde 5; Gore 4; Vance McDonald 2. ... The Chiefs have coughed up four touchdowns to tight ends through four games and will again be without SS Eric Berry (high ankle sprain). Unfortunately, San Francisco's tight end situation lacks clarity. Davis (back) is missing practice. McDonald (knee) has resumed practicing on a limited basis. With both Davis and McDonald out in Week 3, Carrier managed 1-23 on two targets. ... Crabtree is an every-week WR2/3, but has the toughest on-paper matchup in San Francisco's pass-catching corps. He runs most of his routes at right cornerbacks, where Chiefs RCB Sean Smith has been a top-five cover corner in Pro Football Focus' grades. ... Although he hasn't scored a touchdown yet, Boldin is on pace for 84 receptions and 924 yards. He's a low-ceiling WR3 in PPR and a high-end WR4 in standard leagues. Boldin does have a more production-friendly matchup than Crabtree, doing battle with struggling slot CB Chris Owens and LCB Marcus Cooper. ... The 49ers have leaned on Johnson more when Davis has missed time. With only two teams on bye, here's guessing you can find a better Week 5 option.
On a two-game roll after a painfully slow start, Alex Smith heads back to the place where his late-blooming career began. Over the past two weeks, Smith has diced up the Dolphins and Patriots -- two formidable pass defenses -- for 39-of-51 passing (76.5%), 434 yards (8.51 YPA), six touchdowns, and no interceptions. Smith is in the mix as a Week 5 streamer and should be viewed as a high-end two-quarterback-league play. Nick Foles played poorly against the 49ers last week, but their pass defense is unimposing. They've allowed seven passing TDs through four games and only have five sacks as a team. They're a bottom-nine defense in PFF's combined pass-rush grades. The Niners will also be without top CB Tramaine Brock (toe) for at least one more week. ... Smith's target distribution through four games: Travis Kelce and Donnie Avery 24; Dwayne Bowe 17; Anthony Fasano and Knile Davis 13; Junior Hemingway 9; Jamaal Charles 8; A.J. Jenkins 4. ... Kansas City's target leader over the past three weeks, Kelce's snap rates have grown from 35% in Kansas City's first two games to 59% over the past two. Despite ranking 40th among NFL tight ends in snaps played, Kelce currently ranks seventh in fantasy scoring at his position. I'm fading Kelce on FanDuel due to Patrick Willis' shutdown tight end coverage this week, but using him in re-draft leagues. The Chiefs are involving Kelce heavily on bubble screens, seam routes, and red-zone plays. He's an every-week TE1 with an arrow pointing up.
Avery (groin) will miss Week 5, which may get Hemingway, Frankie Hammond, or Jenkins more run. Jenkins is expected to get the nominal start. There isn't much substantive fantasy impact. ... Bowe put himself back in the WR3 discussion by giving Darrelle Revis fits on Monday night, en route to a 5-81 first half against New England. Unfortunately, Bowe did nothing in the final two frames. He'll run most of his Week 5 routes at LCB Perrish Cox, who's easily been San Francisco's top corner through the season's first month. ... Charles showed us everything we wanted to see in last week's win over the Patriots. He made sharp cuts, played extensively in the passing game, and the Chiefs were comfortable featuring Charles in scoring position, where he caught two touchdown passes on quick hitters and punched in a two-yard goal-line plunge. If I were to rank running backs from a rest-of-season perspective, I'd place Charles second behind only Le'Veon Bell. Charles also gets a Week 5 lift with the return of RT Donald Stephenson from suspension. Stephenson's return will send journeyman fill-in Ryan Harris back to the sideline. ... Davis contributed 119 total yards off the bench against New England, but keep in mind it was Charles' first week back from a high ankle sprain, and Davis' expanded role may have been specific to that game. The Chiefs are highly unlikely to have nearly as much rushing success in San Francisco as they did versus the Pats. Over its last three games, San Francisco has limited opposing tailbacks to 106 scoreless yards on 43 carries (2.47 YPC). Davis is a weak flex option.
Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Chiefs 20
NY Jets @ San Diego
The Vegas prognosticators aren't real optimistic about this game producing many points, assigning Jets-Chargers a week-low 43.5-point over-under. They're particularly pessimistic about New York as a 6.5-point dog, which means OC Marty Mornhinweg's offense is expected to score 19 points. Traveling cross country to face San Diego, the Jets could be in for a long day. ... Although Rex Ryan endorsed Geno Smith as the Jets' starter at Monday's press conference, quarterbacks in Geno's situation are at risk of an in-game benching until they produce a job-solidifying game. Sputtering Smith has committed seven turnovers through four weeks and failed to move the offense consistently in last week's loss to Detroit. San Diego's sub-par pass defense keeps Geno in the low-end two-QB-league conversation. In Weeks 1-4, Carson Palmer, Russell Wilson, E.J. Manuel, and Blake Bortles combined to tag the Chargers for 93-of-138 passing (67.4%), 997 yards (7.22 YPA), and a 6:2 TD-to-INT ratio, to go with 71 rushing yards. ... Geno's Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Jeremy Kerley 27; Eric Decker 24; Jeff Cumberland and Jace Amaro 14; Chris Johnson 12; Chris Ivory 11; David Nelson 10; Greg Salas 9; Bilal Powell 5. ... Working against Smith is Decker’s latest hamstring setback, suffered in practice this week. Kerley is left as the favorite for receptions in New York’s pass-catching corps. Kerley is never an exciting fantasy bet, but he could rack up grabs in this talent-barren offense.
With Nelson suffering a “severe” low ankle sprain last week versus Detroit, Salas played in three-wide sets and delivered receptions of 28 and 32 yards. A possession receiver, Salas is worth a look in especially deep leagues this week. ... Second-round rookie Amaro turned in his best box score of the season in last week's defeat (5-58), but is still only playing 35% of the Jets' offensive snaps. He's not a viable streamer yet. San Diego is 21st in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. ... Through four games, Ivory has gained 273 yards with two touchdowns on 50 carries (5.46 YPC), catching 7-of-11 targets for 71 yards. CJ?K has gained 167 yards with one score on 41 runs (4.07 YPC). He's caught 8-of-12 targets for 40 yards. Both Jets backs are high-risk, relatively low-upside flex options at San Diego. The Chargers' upstart run defense held Arizona, Seattle, Buffalo, and Jacksonville tailbacks to 241 yards on 65 carries (3.71 YPC) in Weeks 1-4. If forced to choose between New York's ball carriers, I would go with Ivory because he is the superior player.
Deservedly generating quarter-pole NFL MVP talk, Philip Rivers should tee off on New York's undermanned secondary. Over the last three weeks, Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, and Matthew Stafford have combined to convert 72-of-114 throws (63.2%) for 864 yards (7.58 YPA) and a 7:0 TD-to-INT ratio against the Jets. As Rex Ryan's defense shuts down the run but is highly vulnerable to the pass, this home-game matchup sets up nicely for fantasy's No. 3 overall quarterback. ... Rivers' Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Eddie Royal 29; Keenan Allen 28; Antonio Gates 23; Donald Brown 16; Malcom Floyd 15; Ladarius Green 8; Branden Oliver 4. ... Allen put on a route-running clinic in last week's win over Jacksonville, racking up first downs at the short and intermediate levels. OC Frank Reich has begun scheming Allen and Royal the rock to compensate for San Diego's ineffective rushing attack. Although theoretical Jets top corner Dee Milliner (ankle, quad) is due back this week, Milliner's name has been bigger than his game through 14 career appearances. ... The Jets have surrendered notable wideout stat lines of 9-209-1 (Jordy Nelson), 8-105 (Alshon Jeffery), 5-39-2 (Randall Cobb), 5-46-1 (Rod Streater), 3-34-1 (James Jones), 8-116 (Golden Tate), and 2-65-1 (Jeremy Ross) in a four-game stretch. I expect Royal's usage to dwindle once Green gets healthy, but he's worth riding while he's hot. Green's hamstring injury has forced San Diego to use more three-receiver sets, upping Royal's workload. He played a season-high 76% of San Diego's offensive snaps in Week 4.
Floyd's stat lines through four weeks: 4-50-1, 0-0, 2-98-0, 3-39-1. On pace for 36 catches, 748 yards, and eight touchdowns -- reasonable benchmarks for the 33-year-old role player -- Floyd is a weekly crapshoot WR3. He's dependent on big plays. ... A fantasy roller coaster, Gates will do battle Sunday with a Jets defense allowing the 15th most fantasy points to tight ends. He's settling in on the TE1 fringe. ... Green's role was already disappointing before his hamstring pull. He was active for San Diego's Week 4 win over Jacksonville, but didn't play a down. Green remains a TE2 stash until things change. ... With 81 scoreless yards on 41 carries (1.98 YPC) through two games as the Chargers' de-facto lead running back, Brown has been a fantasy bust and now gets his toughest matchup to date. In Weeks 1-4, the Jets held Eddie Lacy to 13-43-0, Maurice Jones-Drew/Darren McFadden to 13-26-0, Matt Forte to 13-33-0, and Reggie Bush/Joique Bell to 20-78-0, "good" for a combined 3.05 YPC average without a solitary touchdown. Perhaps Brown will salvage his Week 5 fantasy game with a goal-line plunge or receiving work, but it also wouldn't surprise me to see UDFA Oliver in an increased role. A screen and swing pass maven, Sprolesian rookie Oliver's snaps jumped from six in Week 3 to 19 in Week 4. He parlayed 13 touches into 56 yards. Oliver is on the flex radar in deeper PPR leagues. ... The Chargers' putrid run game is a reminder to keep Ryan Mathews (knee) stashed. When healthy, Mathews will be a good bet for 16-22 carries a game and goal-line work.
Score Prediction: Chargers 27, Jets 17
Sunday Night Football
Cincinnati @ New England
Monday night's loss to Kansas City provided Bengals OC Hue Jackson with an intriguing blueprint on how to defeat the Patriots. Now playing on a short week, New England was dismantled for 199 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries (5.85 YPC) by Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis. Charles added two touchdowns on red-zone passes. Look for Giovani Bernard to fill the Charles role in Foxboro while Hill mimics Davis. I like Gio as a borderline RB1 and Hill as an exciting flex option. ... It's fair to wonder how long Bernard will stay on his 358-touch pace with Hill on course for just 150. Over his last seven games, Bernard has 305 yards on 106 carries (2.88 YPC). Bernard is saving his fantasy value with goal-line scores and his PPR value with catches, but he's getting outplayed by Hill on the ground. This season, Bernard is averaging 3.36 YPC to Hill's 5.08. Hill has also caught both of his passing-game targets and graded out perfectly on his nine pass-blocking opportunities, per Pro Football Focus. Hill's playing time is going to rise. It's just a matter of when and to what extent. ... Although Andy Dalton has played very effectively on the field in Jackson's offense, the preseason game-manager fears are being realized. Dalton has fired off just 46 attempts over his last two games and ranks a lowly 30th in per-game quarterback scoring, behind the likes of Austin Davis and Brian Hoyer. On the road against a run-vulnerable opponent, this game wouldn't appear to set up well for Dalton's leash to be loosened. Expect another high-percentage performance, but with limited volume. He's a two-quarterback-league play.
Dalton's Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Bernard 19; A.J. Green 18; Mohamed Sanu 17; Brandon Tate 10; Jermaine Gresham 9; Dane Sanzenbacher 4; Hill 2. ... Despite the offseason signing of Darrelle Revis, the two No. 1-caliber receivers New England has faced (Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe) have dropped stat lines of 7-81-1 and 5-81 on the Pats, having plenty of success against Revis. Back from a bye to rest his toe injury, Green should be confidently locked into fantasy lineups. ... Initially expected back from his fractured foot in Week 5, Marvin Jones sprained his ankle in practice this week and now appears likely to be inactive. On the field, Sanu has held down the fort admirably in Jones' absence, but is a low-ceiling WR4 in fantasy leagues. When Jones finally returns, it's conceivable the two will rotate snaps in two-receiver sets. I'm taking a wait-and-see approach on the Bengals' complementary receivers. ... Simply not a big part of OC Hue Jackson's passing attack, Gresham failed to exceed five targets in any of Cincinnati's first three games, and topped out at 25 yards. PFF has Gresham blocking on 62% of his snaps. Gresham only blocked on 55% of his 2013 snaps, and 50.5% in 2012. Despite early-season injuries to Green, Jones, and Tyler Eifert, Gresham is being phased out and used as a sixth offensive lineman.
You can hide your eyes and pretend or you can see that Tom Brady is a problem. Reacting to pressure that isn't there, Brady is frenetic and inaccurate, and forcing far too many passes in 5-foot-10, 195-pound Julian Edelman's direction. On tape and statistically, Brady is a liability by every measure. A Week 5 date with Cincinnati should inspire zero confidence that a rebound is imminent. In Weeks 1-3, the Bengals held Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Jake Locker to 76-of-140 passing (54.3%) for 761 yards (5.44 YPA) and a 2:6 TD-to-INT ratio, with seven sacks taken. Brady is officially a low-end two-quarterback-league play. If he struggles again, I think the Pats should give serious consideration to inserting impressive rookie Jimmy Garoppolo. ... Brady's Weeks 1-4 target distribution: Edelman 35; Rob Gronkowski 25; Brandon LaFell 22; Shane Vereen 21; Kenbrell Thompkins 11; Danny Amendola 6; Tim Wright and Stevan Ridley 4; Brandon Bolden 3. ... A combination of double teams and Brady's lost ability to make quick decisions has limited Gronk's catch and yardage totals, not his diminished speed. He's still scored in 3-of-4 games and remains an every-week fantasy starter. Gronkowski's playing time continues to rise. After playing 43% of the Patriots' downs in Weeks 1-2, his Weeks 3 and 4 snap rates were 58% and 62%, respectively. For matchup purposes, it's worth noting Cincinnati has allowed the fifth most receptions in football to tight ends (22) despite an early-season bye.
Edelman is an every-week fantasy starter despite Brady's struggles, but don't be entirely shocked if he strings together another slow game. Keyed by slot CB Leon Hall's shutdown between-the-numbers coverage, Cincinnati has held enemy slot receivers Harry Douglas (4-38-0) and Kendall Wright (5-44-0) in check over its last two games. Edelman does play outside enough to get some opportunities against RCB Pacman Jones and LCB Terence Newman, but this is a difficult matchup. ... The Patriots' outside receivers continue to be a weekly crapshoot. Thompkins and Dobson were both inactive for Week 4. LaFell had a big game against the Chiefs, but got much of his production in garbage time and produced stat lines of 0-0, 0-0, and 4-46 in New England's first three games. With poor quarterback play and an uncertain role, LaFell is not remotely a trustworthy fantasy starter. ... Amendola is now averaging under two targets per game and should've been dropped from 14-team-league rosters weeks ago. ... The Bengals are more vulnerable on the ground than in the air -- they're allowing 5.07 yards per carry -- but OC Josh McDaniels has been willing to abandon the run at the drop of a hat, which really hurts Ridley. His carry totals through four games are 8, 25, 19, and 5. ... Vereen is at least a somewhat stable flex option with 11-plus touches in three of the Patriots' first four games. He's on pace for 112 carries and 56 catches, and offers high-end RB2 upside in PPR leagues.
Score Prediction: Bengals 24, Patriots 20
Monday Night Football
Seattle @ Washington
After compiling a 5:1 TD-to-INT ratio in Weeks 2-3 while eliciting national overreactions against the putrid Jaguars and Eagles defenses, Kirk Cousins tanked on Week 4 Thursday Night Football, committing five turnovers in a home game against the Giants. Perhaps most troubling, three of Cousins' four interceptions were thrown from a clean pocket. I didn't think the bottom would fall out on Cousins so fast, but I did know his historical tendency was to get worse the more he plays. It's been a recurring theme throughout his brief NFL career, and Cousins' decision making has been problematic going back to Michigan State. Just a streamer option going forward, Cousins is a low-end two-quarterback-league play against the Seahawks' imposing pass defense, which is as rested as it'll be all season coming off a bye. ... Cousins' target distribution since Robert Griffin III's Week 2 injury: Pierre Garcon 26; Niles Paul 23; Andre Roberts 16; DeSean Jackson 15; Ryan Grant 9; Roy Helu 8; Darrel Young and Logan Paulsen 5; Alfred Morris 3. ... Garcon will run most of his pass patterns against Seahawks RCB Byron Maxwell in this game, while Jackson faces off with LCB Richard Sherman. It really isn't a good setup for either Washington wideout, but I'd take my chances with Garcon before D-Jax. Considering the matchup and Cousins' most recent performance, Garcon and Jackson are shaky WR3 options.
Tight end is a quagmire on Washington's side. Jordan Reed is coming off a severe hamstring strain or tear. Paul suffered a scary Week 4 concussion. Paulsen is a blocker. Until we get role and health clarity, it's a fantasy situation to avoid. ... Negative game flow is always a concern for Alfred Morris -- and Russell Wilson dumping points on Jim Haslett's toothless defense is a real possibility -- but I'd find it difficult to bench Washington's best means of ball movement on Monday night. If Jay Gruden is smart, he'll keep riding Morris even if the Redskins fall behind. Unfortunately, Seattle's 2013 run defense was actually better on the road than at home, limiting opponents to 4.2 yards per carry at CenturyLink Field versus 3.7 elsewhere. This year, the Seahawks are allowing 2.8 YPC in road games and 2.7 YPC at home. So it's a very difficult matchup for Morris. Explore alternatives, but only if you have really, really good ones. ... Annually one of the top handcuffs in football, Helu is playing 37% of the Redskins’ snaps and has turned 15 carries into 80 yards (5.3 YPC) with a touchdown. He has ten receptions for 159 yards. There is some chance Helu will end up playing more than Morris on Monday night based on the mismatch of Seattle's offense versus Washington's defense. If you're willing to bet on game flow, Helu is worth a look as a desperation flex play in PPR leagues. He's also worth stashing in 14-team leagues as a likely every-down back if Morris went down.
The Skins hilariously ranked "No. 1 in the NFL in defense" after facing Chad Henne and Ryan Fitzpatrick in their first two games. In two weeks since, Haslett's defense has been skewered by Nick Foles and Eli Manning for a combined 55-of-80 passing (68.8%) for 625 yards (7.81 YPA), a 7:1 TD-to-INT ratio, and one sack absorbed. Eli added a rushing touchdown against Washington last week and should've had a fifth passing score if not for a blown review by the refs, costing Rueben Randle a TD. The Redskins have 11 sacks as a team. 10 came against Henne, and they have one in their other three games. Russell Wilson is squarely in play as a FanDuel start and is a top-shelf QB1 in re-draft leagues. ... Wilson's Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Percy Harvin 17; Doug Baldwin 16; Jermaine Kearse and Marshawn Lynch 10; Zach Miller and Bryan Walters 7; Ricardo Lockette 5; Robert Turbin 3; Luke Willson 1. ... Although Harvin's target totals have underwhelmed, he's averaging seven touches per game and consistently being schemed into space by OC Darrell Bevell. This is a potential blowup spot for Harvin. DeAngelo Hall-less Washington is terrible throughout the secondary and none of the Redskins' linebackers can cover Harvin.
Lightly targeted and lacking Harvin's explosiveness and run-game role, Baldwin and Kearse are crapshoot WR3s I tend to avoid most weeks. Because neither typically delivers many yards, they are essentially touchdown dependent. Considering the opponent, however, one of them will probably have a nice box score. I just don't pretend to know who it will be. More footballs are thrown in Baldwin's direction. Kearse is better in the red zone. ... Athletic sophomore TE Willson is worth a look for week-to-week streamers. Miller's ankle surgery will sideline him for at least the next two weeks, likely increasing Willson's usage. The Redskins incredibly coughed up four TDs to Giants tight ends in Week 4. Willson ran 4.51 with a 38-inch vertical and 10-foot-2 broad jump at his 2013 Pro Day. Those are wicked numbers for a 6-foot-5, 251-pound tight end. ... Washington held Arian Foster, Toby Gerhart, LeSean McCoy, and Rashad Jennings to 188 yards on 62 carries (3.03 YPC) in Weeks 1-4. They've allowed two rushing scores, one to Eli and the second to rookie backup RB Andre Williams in last Thursday night's blowout loss to the Giants. This isn't a great matchup on paper for Lynch, but it also projects as a game Seattle should control, allowing Beast Mode to pile up rushing attempts and scoring-position opportunities. There are only four running backs I'd take over Lynch from a rest-of-season standpoint: Le'Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, and DeMarco Murray.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 31, Redskins 20