Week 5 Primer: Analyzing All 14 Games (Fantasy Football)
Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants
Line: NYG by 4.0
After playing a road game while at home (really, the Eagles had more fans in L.A. than the Chargers did), the 0-4 Chargers are headed out to New York to play the 0-4 Giants. Both of these teams have major flaws, though the Giants defense matches up well with the Chargers strengths in their wide receiver corps. The Chargers have still yet to allow a team to score more than 26 points, while the Giants haven’t allowed a team more than 27 points. This is likely to be a struggle for points on both ends, but it would appear the Giants have the better defense at this point in time.
QBs: It’s not been a wise idea to start a quarterback against the Giants in recent memory, as Jameis Winston was the first quarterback to throw for three touchdowns against them since Week 15 of 2015. Considering Rivers’ lack of rushing ability (lets be real, it’s non-existent), it’s going to be extremely difficult for him to reach QB1 territory in this game. The Chargers have done a much better job protecting Rivers this year, as he’s only been sacked six times through four games, and the Giants haven’t generated much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. With all of these factors, Rivers isn’t as bad of a start as you’d initially think, but he’s only starter-worthy in 2QB formats. Eli Manning played his best game of the season last week, and it comes as no coincidence that it came against a defense that was missing three of its top starters. The Chargers should be able to get through with their pass-rush against Eli Manning, as they’ve gotten after Carson Wentz, Alex Smith, and Trevor Siemian this year, quarterbacks with much more mobility and better offensive lines than that of Manning. Not that you’d ever trust Manning in a standard league, but he’s not even a top 15 option this week.
RBs: It appears that Melvin Gordon may be more hurt than the Chargers are initially letting on, because he looked awful against the Eagles in Week 4, totaling just 22 yards on 10 carries. Gordon has never been the type to have a high yards per carry, but he’s also now failed to reach 25 yards rushing in two of four games. The Giants have shown a weakness on the ground through four games, now allowing each team to total at least 99 rushing yards. A large part of that is because opponents are averaging over 27 carries per game against them. As of now, we must start Gordon if he’s on the field in a good matchup, but also keep our high expectations at bay – he’s a solid risk/reward RB2 in this matchup. You cannot play any other Chargers running back if he’s active. The Giants were almost forced to go with rookie Wayne Gallman last week due to injuries, but it may have been a blessing in disguise, as he looked like someone who wanted to create yardage on his own. Paul Perkins hurt his ribs in this contest and isn’t creating any yards, which means he’ll lose his job when the offensive line performs poorly (they always do). Gallman can’t be too enticing, though, because of that offensive line and how bad they look. Now he did catch a pass that went for six last week, so there’s hope that they’ll involve him in the passing game. The Chargers have been a stomping ground for opposing running backs, so maybe this game gives Gallman confidence. He can be started as an RB3 against a defense that has allowed at least 119 rushing yards in every game this season, just know that he comes with some risk. There isn’t another Giants running back worth considering in fantasy leagues, unless they tell us that someone else is starting over Gallman, which, knowing the Giants, is very possible. Sigh.
WRs: As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the Giants match up well with the Chargers wide receivers, as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will cover Keenan Allen, and Janoris Jenkins will split duty covering Tyrell Williams. The question is who gets Eli Apple in coverage the most, as he’s already allowed four touchdowns in his coverage. It would be a mixture of Williams and Travis Benjamin, because it’s doubtful that they’d shadow Williams with Jenkins. Because of that, both Williams and Benjamin are in play as high-upside options, though nothing more than a WR4 with the risk associated. Allen is going to fall in the high-end WR3 category, because as someone who’s not a massive red zone target, it’ll be harder for him to overcome tough matchups on a consistent basis. Still, you start him because of his high projected target share. The Giants said Odell Beckham is going to be just fine, but if you’ve seen that picture of him catching a ball last week, you have to be worried about his finger. The Chargers have their top cornerback in Casey Hayward, but the loss of Jason Verrett looms large in a matchup like this. We need to pay attention to Beckham’s health as the game approaches, but if he’s playing, you have to play him. It’s likely a week to avoid him in DFS, though. Brandon Marshall has looked better the last two weeks, though he’s nothing more than a role player who is a WR4 in fantasy leagues. Sterling Shepard is having the impact that most probably though Marshall would through four weeks, as he leads the team with 254 yards through four games. His matchup with Desmond King is probably the best of the bunch – King has allowed 10 catches for 130 yards on just 12 targets in coverage. He wouldn’t be playing as a starter if not for the Verrett injury. Consider Shepard a solid WR4 with some upside.
TEs: If there was any clarity on which Chargers tight end would see the majority of targets this week, I’d be all-in on them. Still, you do want to pick one because the Giants cannot defend tight ends. Through four weeks, the tight end position has seen 35 targets against the Giants, which has produced a massive 27 catches for 302 yards and five touchdowns. This is even worse than last year where they allowed the fourth-most yardage to tight ends, but just four touchdowns on the year. Hunter Henry is definitely the one with the most upside, as he can rack up yardage, as well as touchdowns, whereas Antonio Gates is a touchdown-or-bust player at this stage in his career. Henry played a season-high 61 percent of snaps in Week 4, so maybe we’re seeing a change of the guard? He comes with plenty of risk, but what tight end doesn’t? Play Henry as your TE1 in season-long leagues and target him in DFS tournament lineups. Gates is fine for a desperation option, but he needs to score. Evan Engram is trying to singlehandedly remove the stereotype that rookie tight ends can’t produce, as he now has 200 yards and a touchdown through four weeks, enough to be fantasy football’s No. 7 tight end. The Chargers have yet to allow a touchdown to opposing tight ends this year on 19 targets and they may need Engram to help block more than normal this week with the amount of pressure the Chargers bring. Consider him just a high-end TE2 in this matchup who’ll likely have better days ahead.
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals
Line: CIN by 3.5
What a difference a couple weeks can make, eh? The firing of Ken Zampese as the offensive coordinator has done wonders for this offense, though it’s also coincided with a few great matchups. The Bengals have apparently made it a point to target A.J. Green a bit more, as he has been targeted 20 times on Andy Dalton‘s 57 pass attempts, a massive 35 percent target share. The Bills have shown some resilience this year, winning three of their first four games, including wins over the Broncos and Falcons. Needless to say, it’s kind of a shock to see the Bengals as the clear favorite here. The fact that the Bills just lost their No. 1 wide receiver Jordan Matthews for a month may have an effect on that.
QBs: This game has one of the lower totals of the week at just 39 points, including an implied team total for the Bills of just 17.8 points. That’s not ideal when talking about your starting fantasy quarterback. Granted, Taylor has a solid floor with his legs, but it hurts not having a legitimate receiver to throw to, outside of Charles Clay. The Bengals have kept tight ends in check this season as well, meaning it’ll be even tougher on him. The Bengals did allow Deshaun Watson to scamper for a long touchdown run against them back in Week 2, so there’s hope for him, though that was without their best linebacker, Vontaze Burfict, on the field. Taylor is just a QB2 in this game. Andy Dalton has had quite the bounce-back against the Packers and Browns, but the Bills have been much tougher on opposing quarterbacks. Through four weeks, they have allowed a combined one passing touchdown to the combination of Josh McCown, Cam Newton, Trevor Siemian, and Matt Ryan. They also held each of them to less than 260 yards passing. Dalton has been hot, but this game isn’t one to target. He’s just a low-end QB2 in this game.
RBs: Since his outburst in Week 1 when he finished with 159 total yards, LeSean McCoy hasn’t quite lived up to his price tag from fantasy drafts. He’s actually still yet to find the end zone on a team that is 3-1, which isn’t a great sign for his future projections. The Bengals are rock-solid up front and have yet to allow a team of running backs to average more than 3.78 yards per carry and they’ve actually gotten better every week. With that being said, McCoy needs to be played as an RB1 because he’s going to be targeted a ton in the passing game. His 23 targets are the ninth-most in the league among running backs through four weeks, but the loss of Jordan Matthews frees up even more of them. Over the last two weeks, Ty Montgomery and Duke Johnson have combined for 17 receptions and 62 yards against the Bengals. Don’t play Mike Tolbert in fantasy football. Joe Mixon now has 42 touches in two games since Bill Lazor has taken over, but he hasn’t run away with the job like some thought he would. He’s averaged just 2.6 yards per carry on the season, which is actually worse than that of Jeremy Hill‘s the last two years, an argument people have used to get him to the bench. Mixon is oozing with talent, but his patience doesn’t work behind this offensive line that is one of the worst in football. They need to involve him more in the passing game to provide RB2 numbers consistently, but that won’t happen as long as Giovani Bernard keeps taking passes to the house like he did against the Browns last week. Consider Mixon a low-end RB2 with the amount of work he’s getting under Lazor, but he may not have the upside we all thought he might. Bernard is just an RB4 in PPR formats, but one that you can use if you have bye week issues. The Bills have allowed over 40 yards per game through the air to opposing running backs, including 65 to Tevin Coleman last week. Jeremy Hill is off the fantasy radar.
WRs: It’s been a nightmare start to the season for Zay Jones, who now has just 57 yards on 17 targets. By comparison, Johnny Holton of the Raiders caught one pass this weekend and already has more yardage than Jones. Still, he’s going to see an increased target share going forward, but in this matchup, it’s not enough. The combination of Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick have shut down perimeter wide receivers and it’s unlikely that the Bills go three-wide very often. Jones is still just a WR4/5 option, even with Matthews out of the lineup. Andre Holmes has produced more than Jones, but with just eight targets though four games, he’s not to be considered. A.J. Green is always going to be in your lineup and you’re not going to allow rookie Tre’Davious White or newly-acquired E.J. Gaines scare you off of him. In fact, Gaines is dealing with a shoulder issue that caused him to leave the game versus the Falcons. Green is a must-play WR1 in this matchup. Brandon LaFell isn’t worth rostering in fantasy leagues unless Green misses time, and John Ross can’t get on the field. There isn’t another Bengals receiver to play.
TEs: Charles Clay actually saw his target share go up in Week 4 and now sits just over 25 percent. With Matthews shelved, that number isn’t going to go down. The issue in relying on him so much in this matchup is that the Bengals have allowed just 94 yards to tight ends through four weeks. It may be a lack of talent against them, though, because they were brutal against tight ends last year, allowing more than 72 yards per game to them, and their defensive scheme didn’t change this offseason. You have to keep Clay in lineups with the target potential he has, despite the tough matchup. Tyler Kroft has done a great job filling in for Tyler Eifert and will be in the streamer conversation when Eifert is out. This week isn’t a great matchup to target because of the limited number of touchdowns the Bills have allowed this year (one passing). He’s still in the TE2 conversation due to lack of options in the passing game, but he’s not a sneaky start like he was last week.
Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions
Line: DET by 3.0
When you play against Drew Brees and Tom Brady in back-to-back weeks, your overall numbers aren’t going to look ideal. The Panthers had allowed just six points in the first two games combined before those two shredded their defense. The Lions have been a bit up-and-down as they’ve dealt with an injury to middle linebacker Jarrad Davis, who has now missed the last two weeks. The Panthers defense will likely be without starting safety Kurt Coleman and cornerback Daryl Worley this week, while the Lions are likely to get Davis back, but will be down a different linebacker Paul Worrilow for a few weeks. This game taking place in Detroit definitely gives a slight edge to the Lions and oddsmakers agree, as three points is typically what you get for being a home team.
QBs: There are a lot of people who are automatically going to assume Cam Newton is back to being a fantasy superstar, but should you be one of them? In games against the Patriots, quarterbacks have averaged 335 passing yards and 2.8 touchdowns per game. Those same quarterbacks in all of their other games have combined to average 212 passing yards and 1.4 touchdowns, so maybe there’s something to that matchup? Expect Newton to come back down to earth in this game, as the Lions have held each quarterback they’ve played to less than 14 fantasy points. They’ve yet to play a mobile quarterback like Newton, but the fact that they’ve allowed just four passing touchdowns through four weeks is an accomplishment against quarterbacks including Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, and Matt Ryan. Newton’s rushing prowess will always keep him in the QB2 territory, but don’t expect a repeat of Week 4. The hot start for Matthew Stafford has calmed down over the last few weeks throwing just one touchdown over the last two weeks combined. The Panthers did allow five touchdowns over the last two weeks to two teams (Saints, Patriots) that spread the ball around similar to the way Stafford does in the Lions offense. Because of that, it’s not a matchup to necessarily avoid, but he doesn’t offer tournament winning upside in this matchup or anything, and isn’t “safe” enough for cash games. He’s smack dab in the middle of the QB2 conversation, but this isn’t as bad of a matchup that some think.
RBs: The Panthers weren’t lying when they said that Jonathan Stewart was going to be heavily involved in the offense this year, as he’s now averaging 15.5 touches per game just one year after averaging 17.4 touches without Christian McCaffrey on the team. It’s not much of a dip, but Stewart hasn’t exactly been good to this point, averaging just 3.9 yards per carry without a touchdown on 59 carries. It doesn’t help that they lost their center Ryan Kalil to a multi-week injury. The Lions have allowed a rushing score in three of their four games, so there is hope, though not enough to move Stewart into must-play territory. Continue to look at him as a touchdown-dependent RB3 option. McCaffrey has been a disappointment, there I said it, since nobody else wants to. For a guy who was drafted in the top-10, his contributions have been more of a specialty player than a game-changer. Did you know that Stewart has scored more fantasy points this year, despite not having scored a rushing touchdown? The Panthers seem determined to give McCaffrey every chance to succeed with 13.3 touches per game, so keep trotting him out there in hopes that the top-10 pick comes out, but it’s officially time to dial back expectations for the undersized running back. He’s just an RB2/3 in fantasy leagues, though it does help that he’ll be on turf this week and that the Lions have allowed five different running backs to amass 27 or more receiving yards through four games. Ameer Abdullah had been disappointing up until last week, but when you’re continually getting 15-plus touches per game with his explosiveness, good things are bound to happen. Still, the offensive line isn’t helping his cause and the Panthers are one of the better run-stopping teams in the league. Trot Abdullah out there as an RB3 this week, but don’t expect too much against a team that has yet to allow a running back more than 56 rushing yards or 10 standard fantasy points. Theo Riddick is averaging just seven touches per game thus far and has just nine touches over the last two weeks combined. The Lions clearly want Abdullah to be “the guy,” which essentially makes Riddick a very risky flex play, even in PPR leagues, though they’ll likely need to move the ball through the air a bit more in this contest.
WRs: It appears that Kelvin Benjamin is healthy after playing almost all the snaps against the Patriots, but gets to come back in a matchup against Lions shadow cornerback Darius Slay this week. Benjamin is a massive target to cover at 6-5, 240 pounds, so you can never rule out a touchdown, but Slay has decent size and has already intercepted two passes this season, while allowing just 6.3 yards per target in coverage. Benjamin is more of a WR3 this week than the WR2 you likely drafted him as. Devin Funchess finally had the game we’d hoped at the start of the season, but we must remember that it was against the Patriots, who have allowed 11 passing touchdowns through four games. At the same time, Funchess now has 25 targets in three games since Greg Olsen went down, putting him squarely in the WR3/4 conversation, especially while Benjamin is shadowed by Slay. He’ll see Nevin Lawson a majority of the time, a 5-10 cornerback who allowed five touchdowns on 68 targets in coverage last year. Funchess comes with risk because of a streaky Newton, but he’s an excellent bye week filler. The Panthers are rotating at WR3, so avoid all other options until we see some consistency. Golden Tate had a very quiet game in Week 4, but he could bounce back in a big way against the Panthers. With Daryl Worley out for the Panthers last week, both Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola were able to dominate the underneath routes, combining for 11/102/2 on 16 targets. The week before, the Panthers allowed slot wide receiver Brandon Coleman to find the end zone. Tate has been up and down thus far, but I’d put him back in your lineup as a WR2 this week and expect solid results. Marvin Jones has seen some really good cornerbacks through four weeks, though the Panthers don’t have that shadow cornerback he’s been used to seeing. Jones has been targeted down the field quite often with an average target 17.8 yards down the field. This will lead to inconsistent results, but can also lead to big weeks. This matchup better suits Tate’s skillset, but Jones always has that big play upside making him a WR4. Kenny Golladay missed last week, so you don’t want to go there with a No. 3 wide receiver who may not be 100 percent.
TEs: With Greg Olsen out, we haven’t seen a dramatic increase in usage for Ed Dickson, as he’s seen just five targets despite the increased pass attempts. The Lions are a team to typically target with tight ends, but you don’t want to play someone like him in any format. It seems like Eric Ebron is getting the cold shoulder in the offense this year, as he now has less than 30 yards in three of four games. If you were to take out the matchup against the Giants (who are brutal against TEs), Ebron has just six catches for 45 yards and no touchdowns. It also doesn’t help that he played a season-low 31 of 70 snaps in Week 4. Add in that the Panthers have been solid against tight ends this year and you have yourself a bench player.
Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins
Line: TEN by 1.0
After the way the Dolphins offense has looked the last few weeks, it’s surprising to see them as just a one-point underdog, even if they are at home. They’ve mustered up six points over the last two weeks against the Jets and Saints defenses, two of the lighter challenges they’ll face all season. The Titans present another opportunity to get going, as they’ve allowed at least 26 points to three of their four opponents, including 57 to the Texans last week. The key to this game is whether or not Marcus Mariota plays, and as head coach Mike Mularkey say said, he needs to practice in order to play. Whatever the case, the Titans are going to have a very run-heavy approach in this game.
QBs: Fortunately, this is a game with an early start time, because it seems like the Marcus Mariota decision can come down to Sunday morning. Even if Mariota starts this week, it’s hard to insert him into lineups with any confidence, as the majority of his fantasy points have come with his legs, which is what is injured. Seriously though, he has 29.6 fantasy points via rushing and 43.7 fantasy points from his arm, not a great ratio. The Dolphins have allowed just four passing touchdowns through three games despite playing against Philip Rivers and Drew Brees, so it’s not the most ideal matchup. You should prepare to start someone else this week. It’s been a nightmare scenario for those in 2QB leagues who added Jay Cutler, as he’s been awful in two prime matchups. The odd part is that he’s completed a career-high 67 percent of his passes to this point, but nothing that’s led to points. This is another matchup to exploit for most quarterbacks, and despite what he’s done to you the last few weeks, he’s back on the QB2 radar with some upside. They’ve allowed a league-high 11 passing touchdowns, including eight in the last two weeks to Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. They also stop the run very well, so the air will be one of their only ways to move the ball. It’s never easy trusting Cutler, but he’s in a great spot to succeed against a pass-rush that is nearly non-existent.
RBs: What is the most amount of carries that the Titans can give their running backs legally? I kid, but that’s how I feel about what the Titans gameplan should be this week. The lone problem is that the Dolphins have been extremely good at stopping the run through three games. Keep in mind that they’ve played the Chargers, Jets, and Saints run games, which aren’t exactly the Titans, but it’s still impressive to see them allow just 3.29 yards per carry with two touchdowns. Still, jam DeMarco Murray into your lineups as an RB1 and Derrick Henry into your lineup as an RB3/flex option. They are likely to run the ball 30-plus times this week. Murray also has the added benefit of being involved in the passing game, which is where both Melvin Gordon (7 catches, 65 yards) and Alvin Kamara (10 catches, 71 yards, touchdown) scored a majority of their fantasy points against this defense. It’s not a good time to own Jay Ajayi in fantasy leagues, as he’s now totaled just 62 yards on 23 carries against the Jets and Saints defenses over the last two weeks. His knee may be a bigger problem than they’re letting on, as he played 94 percent of the snaps in Week 2, but then saw that number dip to just 57 percent over the last two weeks. Against the Titans, who own one of the best run defenses in football, he’s just a low-end RB2. They have held every opponent to less than four yards per carry, and the area where they allow the most production, the receiving game, Ajayi isn’t very involved in. He’s going to need to see more than the six targets he’s gotten in the first three games in order to succeed in this matchup. Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake aren’t seeing enough work to consider, though Williams has a great matchup on paper.
WRs: It’s unlikely that Corey Davis will be ready to return this game, as the Titans have ruled him out early in both the last two weeks. After maybe rushing him back in Week 1, the Titans are likely to take their time with their franchise player. Rishard Matthews has clearly been the No. 1 option in his absence, seeing 18 targets, though it really hurts his potential with Mariota dinged up. The Dolphins have really struggled against opposing No. 1 wide receivers, allowing Keenan Allen 9/100/0, Robby Anderson 3/95/1, and then Michael Thomas 8/89/1. The only issue is Mariota and whether or not he plays. If he does, consider Matthews an upside WR4. If Matt Cassel is forced to start, I wouldn’t want to play any of the Titans pass catchers. The Eric Decker signing looks really bad right now, as he’s a non-factor in much of anything. On 20 targets, he’s produced just 104 scoreless yards, while rookie Taywan Taylor has played a fraction of the snaps, but has totaled 93 total yards on just nine touches. Decker is off the fantasy radar and belongs on waiver wires. Taylor isn’t seeing enough work to be considered yet, but could be down the road. Despite the struggles of the Dolphins offense, Devante Parker has produced solid numbers, as he is the No. 17 wide receiver on a point per game basis. Going against the Titans who have allowed a top-12 wide receiver in every single week, this could be his breakout performance. Parker needs to be in lineups as a WR2 this week and makes for a solid DFS option against the combination of Adoree Jackson and Brice McCain, who have really struggled in coverage. Even Jarvis Landry‘s matchup isn’t bad against Logan Ryan, who was burnt in coverage against the Dolphins last year while with the Patriots. In that game, he allowed 6/66/0 on just seven targets. It’s tough to like Landry too much when Parker has such a great matchup, but Landry should still be in fantasy lineups as a WR3. If you’re playing DFS, Kenny Stills isn’t a bad pivot play off Parker, who will likely be highly-owned. He’s just a WR5 in season-long leagues, but we’ve seen Stills score in games like this before.
TEs: Despite missing practice time last week, Delanie Walker was still heavily involved in Week 4 seeing seven targets, though it didn’t amount to a big game or anything. Everyone receives a downgrade if Mariota sits, including Walker, though he did remain competent in the two games that Cassel played last year. The Dolphins aren’t a bad matchup for tight ends, either, as they’ve been targeted 25 times, but turned those targets into 18/166/1. If Mariota is on the field, Walker needs to be in lineups, but if Cassel is, you may want to at least evaluate your other options available. The Dolphins have not used Julius Thomas much in the passing game, and rightfully so, as he moves like he’s an old man who’s suffered quite a few knee injuries. His 12 targets through three games are minimal at the position and it’s hard to trust him as even a touchdown option with how few of points the Dolphins are scoring. He belongs on waiver wires.