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.
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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 Evansin 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