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Inside the Matchup
Week 5
10/4/17; Updated 10/6

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | Jake Gordon



NE @ TB | SF @IND | KC @ HOU | JAX @ PIT

BUF @ CIN | NYJ @ CLE | CAR @ DET | MIN @ CHI

SEA @ LAR | BAL @ OAK | LAC @ NYG | TEN @ MIA

ARI @ PHI | GB @ DAL


Notes:
- ITM for all games will be available on Friday.
- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Patriots @ Buccaneers - (Gordon)

Passing Game Thoughts: Nobody should be surprised to see the preseason’s top two rated fantasy quarterbacks leading the NFL in touchdown passes (ten apiece) through the first four weeks. However, it is the leaky Patriots defense that gives Brady’s weekly projections a higher floor than his competition. Only two teams have given up more fantasy points to opposing QBs through four weeks than the Bucs (TEN and NE) so expect a strong outing from the passing game. Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan are obvious green lights but I’d want anyone getting regular targets in this offense in my starting lineup for Week 5. Even if Brady spreads the balls around, there should be plenty of passing offense to make a PPR-only guy like Danny Amendola viable in all formats this weekend. Rob Gronkowski is a very tough match up for a team struggling to normal receivers so look for him to “rebound” nicely following his four-catch 80-yard performance against the Panthers. Phillip Dorsett is about the only guy fantasy owners shouldn’t plug in this week. He’s healthy and starting to get some snaps but he is more valuable as depth to the Patriots than to fantasy managers at this point in the season.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: Mike Gillisee is proving to be a riskier starting option than his owners thought he would be after scoring three touchdowns in Week 1. He simply doesn’t fit the offense as well once the emphasis of the offense becomes less about ball control and more about putting up points quickly and efficiently. Gillislee is coming off his first game of the year with a YPC over four so he isn’t playing himself out of fantasy points. However, his owners need to weigh the risks of starting a guy who will see a dozen touches and may not get as many red zone carries as you’d hope from a quality offense. James White is becoming another multi-purpose fantasy running back offering a high floor with low ceiling each week. Like Danny Woodhead in season’s past or Tevin Coleman a year ago, and even New Orleans rookie Alvin Kamara this year, White is gobbling up all-purpose yards as a swiss army knife for an offense that will continue to need his skills as they get in and out of shootouts. Tampa has been average against receiving running backs on the year, but the likelihood for a back and forth, high scoring affair give White enough upside to not only use as a PPR RB2 but also as a flex in standard leagues. Despite getting the start in Week 1, Rex Burkhead has not been a factor in the rushing attack. He’s been dealing with injuries and isn’t likely to get a ton of work on a short week against Tampa Bay.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady
RB2: Mike Gillislee
WR2: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan
TE1: Rob Gronkowski
Flex: Danny Amendola, James White
Bench: Phillip Dorsett, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis

Passing Game Thoughts: Week 5 offers fantasy owners plenty of hope as the Bucs passing game faces off against the friendliest pass defenses for fantasy quarterbacks and receivers. Jamies Winston has gotten better in every game this season-in terms of fantasy points scored. He has gone over 300 passing yards in two of his three games and looks like a solid bet to hit the mark again. New England has given up 11 passing touchdowns on the year. A mark that is not only tied for most in the NFL, but more than any single quarterback has thrown for this season (see Tom Brady above). Get your swashbucklers into the lineup and enjoy watching an offense prove it is on the upswing with a more balanced attack behind Mike Evans. Speaking of Winston’s favorite receiver, #13 is averaging double digit targets and playing in a favorable match up so he’s an early favorite to be a top five fantasy WR in Week 5.

Cameron Brate has picked up right where he left off last season. Over the past two weeks he has scored twice on eight receptions for 113 receiving yards. I could see the Bucs trying to get O.J. Howard involved near the goal to keep the Pats guessing but Brate remains the better choice for fantasy lineups. By the time the curtain drops on the opening game of the week, DeSean Jackson could have Bucs and Pats fans alike recalling the days of Joey Galloway streaking down the sideline. This might be the last week Adam Humphries remains available in deeper leagues. He’s buried on the depth chart but the offense’s increased scoring opportunities have allowed the third receiver to amass twelve receptions on 17 targets over the past two weeks. He’s a flex option in deep pools for Week 5 and affordable depth to add with bye weeks around the corner.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: The plot thickens in the Bucs backfield this weekend. Jacquizz Rodgers time in the spotlight will fade now that Doug Martin has returned from his suspension. There are plenty of unknowns regarding Martin’s ability to lead the rushing attack but fantasy owners need to have faith that his talent and fresh legs will make him a top 25 fantasy RB in Week 5. Rodgers should shift over from the starting gig to an all-around backup that might include some work in passing situations. The coaching staff could opt to keep Charles Sims in that role and render Rodgers almost useless as a fantasy asset moving forward. The uncertainty comes at an inopportune time because the Patriots are giving up the NFL’s second most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Doug Martin owners are more than eager to get him into the lineup but it’s a crapshoot figuring out whether to start anyone else.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jameis Winston
RB2: Doug Martin
WR1: Mike Evans
WR2: DeSean Jackson
TE1: Cameron Brate
Flex: Adam Humphries, Jacquizz Rodgers
Bench: O.J. Howard, Charles Sims

Prediction: Buccaneers 33, Patriots 28 ^ Top

49ers @ Colts - (Gordon)

Passing Game Thoughts: This game will be a battle of third downs as each team has struggled to defend and convert on the game’s most important down. The 49ers enter Week 5 having only converted 18 of 60 third downs but their Week 5 opponent is yielding a 46-percent conversion rate after four games. That should translate into better luck for Brian Hoyer. I’m not sure it will be quite enough to trust starting Hoyer considering he has thrown an interception in every game played this season and has gone without a touchdown pass in three games already. However, I might plug Pierre Garcon into the lineup and cross my fingers that he can help Hoyer out of his touchdown rut. He should be getting a lot of targets in this offense and he has seen at least eight in three of four games to make him the best bet for fantasy owners looking to invest in the 49ers passing attack this week. There is a huge drop off after Garcon so Marquise Goodwin (concussion) and the rest of the gang are extremely risky options in the deepest leagues.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: Carlos Hyde should be better than he has been fantasy-wise but the above-mentioned struggles on third downs have prevented him from being a true workhorse RB1. He’s not only a solid start heading into his clash with the Colts but he makes for an attractive trade target. Seattle’s Chris Carson and Eddie Lacy went over 90 yards rushing against the Colts a week ago and neither back is as talented as Hyde. The poor threat of a legit passing attack will always make the sledding tough for Hyde, but his volume of work this week will vault him into RB1 territory. Matt Brieda is only getting a handful of carries and finds himself a non-starter as a handcuff only player for Week 5.

Value Meter:
QB2: Brian Hoyer
RB1: Carlos Hyde
WR1: Pierre Garcon
Bench: Everyone else

Passing Game Thoughts: The Andrew Luck dilemma continues for another week (or two) but the good news is that he has returned to practice and his return date is approaching. For Week 5 purposes, Indy’s passing attack will be led by Jacoby Brissett in their third home game of the year. The good news for fantasy owners is that the team has moved the ball better with Brissett under center than Scott Tolzien. The bad news is that the Colts haven’t attempted more than 29 passes since Week 2 and Brissett’s completion percentage has been below 56-percent in two of his three games started. Limited opportunities and limited execution translate into limited fantasy value-including this week. San Francisco is viewed as a favorable match up for the Colts’ pass defense considering they have given up the fifth most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. Unfortunately, I’m not a big believer in a team that has essentially run a “wait for Andrew Luck” style offense in recent weeks. If you are going to roll the dice on one of Indy’s finest receiving options there is only one choice worth considering. T.Y. Hilton has at least six targets in the three games Brissett has started but he isn’t a lock to net you more than four or five points in standard leagues. TE Jack Doyle has been in concussion protocol this week. He may be cleared for Sunday’s game; however, the low upside of the current Colts offense and injury risk should have his owners searching for an alternative in Week 5.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: The running game isn’t much better than the passing game. The Colts are averaging the fewest first downs per game in the NFL right now (15/g) and there isn’t any reason to think they will have a change of fortune against the Niners this week. Despite the sputtering offense, Frank Gore has been about as good as advertised under realistic preseason projections. His owners can count on about 12-15 touches per game with about 50-70 total yards. That’s not stellar but it has some value at a position that just saw several players go down with injury in the past couple of weeks. He won’t be worth using as a flex this week but he remains a good but not great option to fill in if your other horses are out with a bye week. Robert Turbin got his first touchdown of the year last week on the road. His single game high for carries this season is only six so let him hang out on the waiver wire another week.

Value Meter:
WR3: T.Y. Hilton
RB2: Frank Gore
Bench: Everyone else

Prediction: 49ers 22, Colts 16 ^ Top

Chiefs @ Texans - (Gordon)

Passing Game Thoughts: Kansas City is getting the job done in the Win column and that typically makes for happy fantasy owners. Alex Smith has quietly been a top 3 starting fantasy QB and the community is starting to give him a longer look. He’s completing an incredible 76-percent of his passes and enters the second month of the year without a single INT. Adding to his wonderful stat line to open 2017 is his running game. After rushing for more than 15 yards in a game 13 times during the 2015 regular season, Smith hit that mark only twice a year ago. He’s already logged two such games this season so don’t overlook his scrambling ability to pad his fantasy floor this week. Travis Kelce’s huge Week 4 (7 receptions, 111 yards and 1 touchdown) make him the third highest scoring TE coming into this week’s slate of games. The must-start TE was held in check when these teams met last season but the Chiefs are playing so efficiently right now it’s unwise to bet against them regardless of match up. Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley and Albert Wilson are all contributing to Smith’s success but only Hill can take any single touch to the house. The immense ceiling almost makes him a must start as a WR3/Flex in standard leagues and a solid WR2 for the PPR crowd.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: When Charcandrick West and a slew of third stringers are the only realistic alternatives to threaten for carries, the lead dog in the ground game is going to get plenty of work. Rookie Kareem Hunt now has 68 rushes on the year his 13 receptions give him an average of 20 touches per game. That’s fantasy gold for a RB these days. Even better than the fact he is being fed the ball is his production. The Houston defense is giving up less than 100 yards on the ground this year and they will certainly be gearing up for Hunt. That just means it will be more of the same for the rookie as he uses his volume and an opportunistic offense to keep his fantasy owners smiling this week with another solid outing.

Value Meter:
QB1: Alex Smith
RB1: Kareem Hunt
WR3: Tyreek Hill
TE1: Travis Kelce
Bench: Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, Charcandrick West

Passing Game Thoughts: DeShaun Watson’s performance last week topped all other fantasy quarterbacks. In doing so, his fantasy value has vaulted from being a borderline ownable asset to flirting with the “weekly starter” label. Houston’s young quarterback has added a rushing element to the pocket and fantasy owners have reaped the benefits. Not only is Watson accumulating chunks of fantasy points via rushing yards, but his two rushing touchdowns in three games only give optimistic fantasy managers more confidence in starting him heading into this week’s matchup with Kansas City. He has yet to show that he can hang against a quality defense and isn’t likely to play turnover free against the Chiefs secondary. I remain skeptical that he is more than a matchup based backup for the fake game this season (though I’m buying in dynasty) but that’s a tough opinion to have consider how well he has played.

Whether or not Watson is a legit QB1 this week depends in part on how well DeAndre Hopkins can continue his return to glory. There is still plenty of room for more touchdowns, but the targets and catch rate are back in line where they should be for a player of his talent. Even if Watson doesn’t have a big game stat wise, the floor for Hopkins might be at its highest we’ve seen in the last couple of years so keep him locked in as a WR2. Will Fuller’s return was a dandy as his speed pairs nicely with Watson’s natural ability to make big plays. KC will likely try to push Watson out of the pocket and then contain his scrambling to prevent the long pass but I like Fuller’s chances of getting at least one big play to salvage his day as a useful WR3. TE Ryan Griffin will get another start with C.J. Fiedorowicz on the IR with a concussion. You could do worse than grabbing a starting tight end playing in an offense led by a rookie but he’s still a TE2 for this matchup.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: A week after I called out Lamar Miller for not getting it into the end zone he promptly scored on the ground and through the air. The improved offense (thank you Watson) has helped Miller to round into what fantasy managers expected last season a year later. Miller’s steady workload of about 20 touches per game keeps him amongst the true workhorse running backs in the NFL so if the offense can maintain their momentum Miller has a chance to return low end RB1 production. Facing Kansas City will be a better test of his true value going forward since he won’t be playing the Titans every week. If you buy into Watson then Miller should move up into high end RB2 territory but for the less optimistic types like myself, Miller makes for a low end RB2 for Week 5. D’Onte Foreman is getting some work behind Miller but there is very limited upside.

Value Meter:
QB1: Deshaun Watson
RB1: Lamar Miller
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins
TE2: Ryan Griffin
Flex: Will Fuller
Bench: DíOnta Foreman

Prediction: Chiefs 23, Texans 13 ^ Top

Jaguars @ Steelers - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Through the first four games of the season, Blake Bortles has averaged more fantasy points per game (18.6) than Derek Carr, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, and his opposition for this week, Ben Roethlisberger. The ranking of these quarterbacks is an indictment to just how poorly Big Ben, Carr, and Dalton have played, but a closer examination of the stats reveals that Bortles’ per-game fantasy point average is buoyed by a fluke 30-point game against the Ravens in London. In his other three games of the year, including a Week 2 matchup against a Titans team that has allowed 11 passing touchdowns in four games, Bortles has thrown just one passing touchdown, while completing well under 60% of his passes.

Bortles will find it difficult to move the ball in the air against a Pittsburgh team that has allowed the second-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks, including an impressive Week 2 26-9 win over the Vikings in which Case Keenum managed just 167 passing yards and zero touchdowns. The Steelers are a difficult team to play at home, especially after an impressive 26-9 win on the road against Joe Flacco and the Ravens.

Rookie linebacker T.J. Watt’s return from injury last week was a shot in the arm for the defensive front, with Watt recording four tackles, including one for a loss. His presence will be critical for a Steelers unit that may find it difficult to put pressure on Bortles, as the Jags have allowed the fewest sacks in the first quarter of the season.

Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee (ribs) continue to vie for the No.1 WR role in the offense after the season-ending knee injury to Allen Robinson. Lee appeared to be first in line for the job with his 7/76/0 line on 12 targets Week 2 against Tennessee but has since come back down to earth with six catches on ten targets in his last two games combined. Allen Hurns has been the more valuable fantasy asset with touchdowns in two of his last three games, but his lack of consistent targets (4,7,3,10 this season) makes him a risky play in a tough matchup.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: In the season of the rookie, Leonard Fournette as quietly been outstanding as Kareem Hunt continues to get the majority of attention. The former LSU Tiger has scored a touchdown in each of his first four NFL games, despite averaging a pedestrian 3.5 yards per carry on 81 attempts.

The way to beat the Steelers is on the ground, especially if you have a subpar quarterback like Blake Bortles and a power running game led by Fournette and Chris Ivory. The Vikings, Bears, and Ravens all had success moving the ball on the ground against Pittsburgh, with the lowly Browns as the only team to struggle in that area against the Steelers this season.

Value Meter:
QB2: Blake Bortles (High-End)
RB1: Leonard Fournette (Mid-Range)
WR3: Allen Hurns (High-End)
WR3: Marqise Lee (Low-End)
TE2: Marcedes Lewis (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Ben Roethlisberger has yet to throw for more than three touchdowns or 300 yards in a game, as the Pittsburgh passing offense continues to struggle. No other quarterback in the league can boast having a top 10 offensive line and two consensus top 10 fantasy skill position players, yet Big Ben continues to not get it done. Perhaps age and a multitude of injuries are catching up with the veteran quarterback.

Although he has averaged just over ten-more fantasy points at home than on the road over the past four seasons, his matchup this week against the Jaguars is not exactly a cake walk, as Jacksonville has allowed the fewest points to opposing quarterbacks this season. Antonio Brown will still get his targets and is a must-start in all formats, but owners may be a bit disappointed in the final stat line if he is shadowed by Jalen Ramsay. If you drafted Matavis Bryant, you are undoubtedly aware of his history of scoring touchdowns at home vs. away, making him a nice third wide receiver or flex play.

As good as Jacksonville has been at stopping the pass, they have been equally as poor at stopping the run. Through four games, no other team has allowed more yards to opposing running backs. Even the lowly Jets torched the Jaguars last week with 256 yards and two scores combined between Elijah McGuire and Bilal Powell.

This game has all the makings of a defensive struggle, with both teams looking to rely on their defenses and running games to win the game. Not exactly the type of great passing matchup Brown, Big Ben, and Bryant owners are salivating over.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: If you have any hopes of buying Le’Veon Bell for less than a king’s ransom, I suggest making an offer before this game. No other team has allowed more rushing yards this season, and only the Rams have allowed more rushing touchdowns. The Jaguars have a talented young defense, but they have proven this season that they can be beaten on the ground.

Bell’s overall stat line does not jump out off the page at you, with 324 yards and three touchdowns on 87 carries, but his 41 total touches last week were fantasy gold. If you have a dead roster spot and backup James Conner is available, it makes sense to add him should Bell’s ridiculously high usage result in an injury for Bell.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ben Roethlisberger (Mid-Range)
RB1: LeíVeon Bell (Elite)
WR1: Antonio Brown (Elite)
WR3: Martavis Bryant (High-End)
TE1: Jesse James (Low-End)

Prediction: Steelers 28, Jaguars 17 ^ Top

Bills @ Bengals - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Wide receiver Jordan Matthews will miss at least a month of action after undergoing thumb surgery on Monday, leaving quarterback Tyrod Taylor with rookie Zay Jones, and journeyman veterans Brandon Tate and Andre Holmes as his only wide receiving weapons. At 5.6 fantasy points per game, Matthews was not lighting the world on fire in his first season with the Bills. But he was the top wide receiver for Taylor, and his absence will certainly be a hit to the offense. While it is possible that Jones may receive an increase in target share, it is more likely that Taylor will rely even more heavily on tight end Charles Clay, his most effective and trusted receiving option.

The Bengals rank 25th in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks in 2017, with impressive performances against Joe Flacco, Deshaun Watson, and DeShone Kizer. Aaron Rodgers picked apart the secondary for 313 yards and three scores Week 3, otherwise, this defensive unit would be ranked No. 1 against the pass.

On a positive note, the strengths of the Buffalo pass offense fit well against the weaknesses of the Cincinnati defense, as teams have had moderate success passing to tight ends and the Bengals have allowed the sixth-most receptions to running backs.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: The Bengals have limited opposing running backs to a modest 3.45 yards per carry on 96 attempts, with Terrence West posting the top RB performance against Cinci Week 1 (80 yards and a score on 19 carries).

LeSean McCoy has been somewhat of a disappointment this season considering the draft capital required to acquire the veteran tailback. Shady has yet to score a touchdown in 2017, and his 3.2 YPC average is the lowest of his career. On a positive note, he leads his team in receptions with 21 and should be very active against a Bengals unit that can be beaten with passes out of the backfield.

Duke Johnson and Ty Montgomery each posted double-digit targets against the Bengals, which could be a similar plan of attack for offensive coordinator Rick Dennison.

Value Meter:
QB2: Tyrod Taylor (High-End)
RB1: LeSean McCoy (Low-End)
WR4: Zay Jones (High-End)
TE1: Charles Clay (Mid-Range)

Passing Game Thoughts: After a slow start to the season that included a five-turnover game at home against Baltimore, Andy Dalton has rebounded into a top 12 fantasy quarterback over the past two weeks, highlighted by a four-touchdown performance against Cleveland last Sunday.

The change at offensive coordinator has lit a spark in the Bengal offense, as Dalton is now getting the ball out much quicker than before and he is utilizing running backs in the passing game more. Third down back Giovani Bernard has helped Dalton’s fantasy numbers with a receiving touchdown in each of the past two games, and will once again be a factor in the passing game this week against a tough Buffalo defense that has allowed the fewest points in 2017.

Dalton will face arguably his toughest matchup to date, as Buffalo has allowed only one passing touchdown this season, and no opposing quarterback has managed to throw for more than 260 yards in a game. The Bills have forced three of the four quarterbacks faced this season to throw two interceptions apiece, something that has plagued Dalton at times in his career.

As always, A.J. Green is a must-start regardless of matchup due to his supreme talent and the fact that he will likely receive double-digit targets. No wide receiver has scored double-digit fantasy points this season against the Bills. However, both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders had solid yardage games against Buffalo, and Julio Jones left last week’s game early with a back injury.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: The fantasy community rejoiced when Joe Mixon took over as the lead back in from Jeremy Hill, as Mixon is the more dynamic player and he looked primed to join Fournette, Cook, and Hunt in the year of the rookie running back. 35 carries and 91 yards later, Mixon looks more like the incumbent Hill and less like the explosive tailback from Oklahoma.

Of the three running backs in the Cincinnati RBBC, Giovani Bernard has been the most efficient and highest scoring this season. Although no running back has topped the 80-yard plateau, three RB’s have logged at least four receptions against a Bills defense that has allowed the 15th most receiving yards to opposing backs.

You are starting Mixon, hoping for a touchdown in what could be an ugly, low scoring game. Bernard will likely get five catches out of the backfield, and a few change of pace carries, but all expectations should be tempered in this less than stellar matchup.

Value Meter:
QB2: Andy Dalton (High-End)
RB2: Joe Mixon (Low-End)
WR1: A.J. Green (Mid-Range)
TE2: Tyler Kroft (Low-End)
Flex: Giovani Bernard (High-End)

Prediction: Bills 17, Bengals 14 ^ Top

Jets @ Browns - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: As the 30th ranked quarterback on our Week 5 rankings, it is safe to say that very few fantasy owners will be starting journeyman veteran Josh McCown this week against the Browns. But for owners in deep two-quarterback leagues, McCown’s matchup against a Cleveland defense that has allowed the fifth-most points to opposing quarterbacks isn’t the worst option.

At 15.8 fantasy points per game through the first quarter of the season, McCown is averaging less than one point per game less than Derek Carr and has been more productive than Joe Flacco or Jay Cutler. The Browns have allowed at least one top-24 wide receiver in all four games this season, making Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse interesting deep WR options for 12 and 14 team leagues.

The Browns pass rush gets a shot in the arm this week with the return of first overall pick Myles Garrett, who missed the start of the season with a high ankle sprain. Cleveland is tied for 20th in sacks with nine, while the Jets have allowed an average of three sacks per game.

Perhaps the most attractive receiving play for the Jets is tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, as the Browns have allowed a top-5 tight end in three of their four games, with Tyler Kroft and Jessie James each scoring two touchdowns.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: Week 4 was a coming out party for rookie running back Elijah McGuire, who used the added workload from Matt Forte’s absence to rush for 93 yards on 10 carries against the Jags, including a 69-yard touchdown scamper. McGuire and Bilal Powell combined for 256 yards and two scores against a Jags team that has been surprisingly susceptible to the run.

The combo of McGuire and Powell may not have similar success against a Browns team that has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher on the year while limiting opposing backs to just over three yards per carry. Yes, the Browns are 0-4 and are on pace to once again land the first overall pick in the NFL draft. But their defense is not as bad as some may think, as evident by the fact that they have produced a league-high 50 plays that have ended with a loss of yards or no gain.

Value Meter:
QB3: Josh McCown (Low-End)
RB2: Bilal Powell (High-End)
RB3: Elijah McGuire (High-End)
WR3: Jermaine Kearse (High-End)
WR3: Robby Anderson (Low-End)
TE2: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Rookie DeShone Kizer continues to post up and down numbers befitting of a first-year quarterback learning his craft in the NFL. The former Norte Dame QB has completed less than 50% of his passes over the past three weeks, including a dreadful 118-yard performance at home to the Bengals last Sunday. Due to his limited weapons and inaccuracy throwing the ball, Kizer’s fantasy value must be buoyed by rushing touchdowns to make him worthy of a start in a two-QB league.

After starting the season with losses against the Bills and Raiders, the Jets have improved across the board defensively, including limiting opposing quarterbacks to less than 16 fantasy points in each of their two home wins.

The only reliable pass-catching option for Kizer is running back Duke Johnson who leads the team in receptions, targets, and yards. Free agent bust Kenny Britt has been hit or miss, with 8 catches for 121 yards and a score despite posting 23 targets in four games.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: Isaiah Crowell continues to be a disappointment with 134 yards on 46 attempts while failing to reach the end zone in four games this season. There have been reports of Crow asking for more touches, and head coach Hue Jackson has said multiple times that he wants to focus more on running the ball, but negative game scripts (Browns have yet to lead a game this year) have not allowed the team rely on the ground game.

Perhaps a home matchup against the Jets will finally give Jackson the ability to provide Crowell with more carries against a team that has allowed the fourth-most points this season to opposing RBs. This is without a doubt the best matchup of the season for Crowell, and if he doesn’t produce in this game, he may not be a usable asset going forward.

Duke Johnson continues to be an excellent low-end No.2 or high-end flex play, with touchdowns in each of his last two games, and 15 receptions for 128 yards. Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, and Jalen Richard all had success catching the ball out of the backfield against the Jets, making Johnson an attractive play this week.

Value Meter:
QB2: DeShone Kizer (Low-End)
RB2: Duke Johnson (Low-End)
RB3: Isaiah Crowell (High-End)
WR4: Kenny Britt (Low-End)
TE2: Seth Devalve (Low-End)

Prediction: Jets 21, Browns 10 ^ Top

Panthers @ Lions - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: After failing to throw a passing touchdown in two consecutive home games against the Bills and Saints, Cam Newton exploded for 316 yards and four total touchdowns against the Patriots last Sunday. It remains to be seen if Cam’s big game against the Pats is a sign of his return to form from offseason shoulder surgery, or just a result of the Patriots continuing to allow elite performances to opposing quarterbacks.

Newton will face his toughest road opponent of the season with a Lions defense that has held three of four opponents (Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, and Case Keenum) below 20 fantasy points, while not allowing more than two passing touchdowns in a game. Detroit's defense was historically bad last season when they allowed a completion percentage of just under 73% of passes, but they have drastically improved and are no longer a secondary to target in fantasy (61% completion rate through four games).

With Kelvin Benjamin limited with a knee injury and Greg Olsen out with a broken foot, Devin Funchess has been the most productive fantasy wide receiver for Carolina. At 8.4 points per game, Funchess is averaging more points per game than Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Julio Jones, and Dez Bryant. If Benjamin is shadowed by Darius Slay on the outside as anticipated, look for Funchess to be a primary weapon for Newton in the passing game.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: Offensive coordinator Mike Shula continues to get first-round pick Christian McCaffrey looks and carries in the offense, but his 50 touches in his first four career NFL games has resulted in a pedestrian 295 total yards and zero touchdowns. Not exactly the type of production owners were expecting from the dynamic college player from Stanford.

His backfield mate, Jonathan Stewart, has been equally disappointing as the No. 33 ranked running back with 7.8 fantasy points per game. With only one touchdown between the two players in 112 touches, it is safe to say that dynamic duo in the Panther backfield has been anything but dynamic.

Perhaps the fortunes of Stewart and McCaffrey will improve this week as the Lions are tied for third in rushing touchdowns allowed (3), with Devonta Freeman and Dalvin Cook each posting a touchdown and double-digit points against Detroit. It should be noted that all three starting linebackers for the Lions were listed on the injury report for Wednesday, with Paul Worrliow expected to miss a few weeks with a knee injury. Steve Longa was absent for personal reasons after the death of his father, and rookie Jarrad Davis was limited with a neck injury. If Davis is unable to play it will certainly improve the prospects for both Stewart and McCaffrey.

Value Meter:
QB2: Cam Newton (Mid-Range)
RB2: Christian McCaffrey (High-End)
RB3: Jonathan Stewart (High-End)
WR2: Kelvin Benjamin (High-End)
WR2: Devin Funchess (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matthew Stafford began the season white hot with six touchdown passes and one interception against the Cardinals and New York Giants. He has since cooled off dramatically from a fantasy perspective, despite leading the Lions to a victory on the road against the Vikings and a close loss at home against the Falcons on a controversial final play of the game.

Like a flame-throwing young pitcher who learns how to actually pitch later in his career instead of just throwing hard every pitch, Stafford has evolved from a gun-slinging quarterback with astronomical stats into an effective real-life QB who takes what the defense gives him while limiting mistakes. His evolution is great for Lions fans looking for the franchises’ first Super Bowl title, but he lacks the upside he possessed early in his career.

The Panthers have been excellent against average quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Tyrod Taylor, but Drew Brees and Tom Brady picked them apart over the past two games for 527 yards and five touchdowns. Stafford falls in between the range of those four QBs, and should have a solid, but not a great day on Sunday.

A critical aspect to the success of Stafford and the Lions offense will be the health of guard T.J. Lang, right tackle Rick Wagner, and center Travis Swanson. All three linemen managed limited practice on Thursday and appear as they will play, but that could change as we get closer to Sunday.

After a down day for both Marvin Jones and Golden Tate in last week’s win over Minnesota, both players should rebound this week. Four wide receivers have posted double-digit fantasy points against the Panthers, with Pierre Garcon coming just 10 yards short of the mark Week 1.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: Ameer Abdullah posted his best game of the season last week against Minnesota in what appeared to be his most difficult matchup of the year. The former Nebraska Cornhusker rushed for 94 yards on 20 carries, including an impressive touchdown run on a rare goal-line carry. His 47.5% snap share is a concern, but he ranks 10th in rushing yards and yards created while ranking eleventh in rushing attempts.

Abdullah may find it tough to duplicate last week’s performance, as the Panthers have been stout against the run, ranking 28th in fantasy points allowed. No team has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game this season, and no individual player has topped more than 56 yards in a game. LeSean McCoy managed nine carries on 12 attempts, while Mark Ingram rushed for 56 yards on 14 carries.

After last week’s performance, it will be tough to bench Abdullah, but I would be surprised to see him average 4.7 per carry.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matthew Stafford (Mid-Range)
RB2: Ameer Abdullah (Low-End)
WR2: Golden Tate (Mid-Range)
WR3: Marvin Jones (High-End)
TE2: Eric Ebron (Low-End)

Prediction: Lions 24, Panthers 21 ^ Top

Vikings @ Bears - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Last week I wrote about the pitfall of starting Case Keenum as a flyer against the Lions, as his 369-yard, three-touchdown game at home against Tampa Bay came against a Bucs team that was missing half of their secondary to injury, making his 32.3 point game fool’s gold. The journeyman QB came back crashing down to early with a 16-30, 219 and zero touchdown game against the Lions.

Aside from last week’s four-touchdown game to Aaron Rodgers, the Bears defense has been surprisingly strong despite numerous injuries to the linebacking corps. But a closer examination of their stats reveals a team that has allowed four different wide receivers to score double-digit fantasy points, highlighted by Antonio Brown (10/110/1) and Jordy Nelson (4/75/2). Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen are must-start options, especially if Sam Bradford can play. As of Thursday he has been limited in practice and looks unlikely, but there is still a shot he plays.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph continues to be an afterthought in the offense with Keenum under center, making him a risky play if Bradford is not able to go. If you take out the flukey 2/128/1 line Austin Hooper posted Week 1; the Bears have not allowed another tight end to score a touchdown or reach double digits.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: Rookie sensation Dalvin Cook will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his ACL last week against the Lions. Veteran Latavius Murray and change of pace back Jerick McKinnon will now assume the rushing duties for the Vikings. Cook would have been an excellent start this week as the bell cow back, as the Bears have allowed a rushing touchdown in all four of their games. But with the duties spread between two or possibly three running backs, and Latavius Murray admittedly still dealing with pain in his foot, predicting how the points will be dispersed is a difficult task.

Value Meter:
QB2: Case Keenum (Low-End)
RB2: Latavius Murray (Mid-Range)
RB3: Jerick McKinnon (Low-End)
WR1: Stefon Diggs (Mid-Range)
WR2: Adam Thielen (Low-End)
TE2: Kyle Rudolph (High End-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The future is now for the Bears and Mitchell Trubisky, with head coach John Fox announcing last week that the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft will make his pro debut against the Vikings on Monday Night Football. It will be a tall order for the former North Carolina Tar Heel, as making your debut before a national prime-time audience is a tough task, especially against a Mike Zimmer led-defense. Trubisky may struggle, but his mobility, arm strength, and accuracy will be an upgrade over Mike Glennon and will eventually improve the fantasy value of all the skill position players on the Vikings.

Despite facing four top 12 fantasy quarterbacks to start the season, including Drew Brees on opening night, the Vikings rank 25h in fantasy points allowed to QB’s and should feast on Trubisky and the bears on MNF.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: A change at quarterback leaves a ton of question marks for the two-headed rushing attack for the Bears. Will Trubisky lean on his RB’s in the passing game like Glennon, or will he force the ball downfield more to wide receivers, Kendall Wright and Deonte Thompson, thus reducing the number of targets of Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard? Conversely, a more potent passing attack will force defenses like Minnesota to respect the pass and not load the box, opening the door for Howard to return to his rookie form.

With so many unanswerable questions regarding how the change to Trubisky will affect the offense, it should be noted that regardless of who is under center, the running game will have an uphill battle against the No. 31 ranked defense in points allowed to RB’s. Only the Denver Broncos have allowed fewer points to opposing backs this season.

Value Meter:
QB3: Mitchell Trubisky (High-End)
RB1: Jordan Howard (Mid-Range)
RB2: Tarik Cohen (Low-End)
WR3: Kendall Wright (Low-End)
WR4: Deonte Thompson (Low-End)
TE2: Zach Miller (Low-End)

Prediction: Vikings 17, Bears 10 ^ Top

Seahawks @ Rams - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Seahawks offense was absolutely terrible in their first two games of the season, but they’ve now scored 73 total points over their past two contests. A lot of that is because Russell Wilson is finally getting things done as both a passer and as a runner. His six passing touchdowns and 668 passing yards in Weeks 3 and 4 are quite a bit higher than his career average and there’s little reason to believe that the Seahawks will suddenly stop relying on him to carry the offense. Doug Baldwin was unfortunately taken away by the Colts defense, but it’s also worth noting that he was dealing with a bit of a groin injury that slowed him down.

He’s been practicing all week and should be good to go in this contest against the Rams who themselves have allowed five passing touchdowns over their past two contests against the 49ers and Cowboys. In fact, their defense conceded 14 receptions to wide receivers in each of those two games. One thing to keep an eye on is that Jimmy Graham is becoming a significantly bigger part of the offense recently and could be an important red zone threat in this game as the Rams have given up a touchdown to a tight end in back-to-back games. Another player to keep an eye on in this one is Paul Richardson who has caught multiple passes in every game this season and may finally be turning the corner into becoming a fantasy-relevant player.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: With Chris Carson now on IR, the Seattle backfield is back to being the chaotic three-headed dumpster monster that it was when the season started. Pete Carroll has stated that the team will split the rushing workload between Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy while C.J. Prosise, who has missed quite a bit of practice this week with an ankle injury, would presumably handle the passing downs if he’s active. As of right now, this is one of the worst rushing situations in the league as the offensive line has been horrible and there’s no one who is likely to touch the ball more than a dozen or so times, thus tremendously limiting their upside. The frustrating thing is that this is arguably the best possible matchup for a running back as the Rams have been getting absolutely destroyed by opposing running games and only one of them (Dallas) has really been good in other games. Lacy is probably the best option if you absolutely have to start one of these backs, but the risk is certainly very strong. The matchup is great but the players are not great, especially if Prosise is active.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson
WR1: Doug Baldwin
TE1: Jimmy Graham
Flex: Eddie Lacy, Paul Richardson
Bench: Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Tyler Lockett

Passing Game Thoughts: The Rams offense is finally starting to click and there’s no question that Jared Goff’s improvements have played a major role in the change we’ve seen in Los Angeles. Goff has thrown for five passing touchdowns and no interceptions over his past two games, running an efficient and effective offense. What’s been difficult to predict is which of his receivers are going to show up each week. After a huge Week 3 contest, Sammy Watkins all but disappeared from the field in Week 4, catching just one pass against a very beatable Dallas defense. Meanwhile, Cooper Kupp caught five passes for 60 yards and a score but had just 17 receiving yards the week before. In fact, the only receiver who’s been very consistent in this offense has been running back Todd Gurley who has now become a bit of a PPR monster in addition to his heavy workload as a runner.

With Seattle’s secondary taking a bit of a step back so far this season, there’s reason to believe that this matchup for Goff won’t be completely terrible. He’s still extremely risky and it’d be wise to look elsewhere for more upside if you can, but Goff wouldn’t be a bad option in two-QB formats. As far as receivers go, on paper this looks like another decent matchup for Kupp who will almost exclusively run out of the slot, avoiding cornerback Richard Sherman. Watkins is a player who you could also consider as a Flex, but his floor is fairly low in this one, so be prepared to take a goose egg if things don’t go well.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: Todd Gurley was one of the most disrespected players in the league heading into this season and he’s proving that with a huge workload in this new offense, he can get back to producing RB1 numbers. His contributions in the passing game are among the best in the league and while he won’t likely approach the 80-plus catch season that he’s on pace for, it makes sense to believe that he’ll continue to catch at least a few passes per game. The other positive thing is that while the Seahawks offense has looked good in recent weeks, their offensive line could have their hands full which could lead to a low-scoring contest. That’d play right into Gurley’s hand as fantasy producer as he should be in line to touch the ball 20-plus times in this game, thus making him an RB1 even in what appears to be a difficult on-paper matchup.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jared Goff (very risky)
RB1: Todd Gurley
Flex: Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp (PPR only)
Bench: Robert Woods, Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee, Tavon Austin

Prediction: Seahawks 21, Rams 20 ^ Top

Ravens @ Raiders - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Things have gone from bad to worse in the Baltimore offense as Joe Flacco has now thrown six interceptions on the season with only four touchdowns. He’s also thrown for an average of just 150 passing yards per game against defenses that really aren’t very good. There are plenty of reasons for this disaster but one thing is for sure - this is a passing game to avoid until we see things improve. What’s unfortunate is that the Ravens do have a great matchup this week as they play against an Oakland pass defense that has not yet intercepted a pass while allowing six passing touchdowns this season. Still, the only player in this passing game who’s even worth a look at the moment is tight end Ben Watson who has at least put up respectable TE1 numbers in three straight contests. The Raiders themselves have given up touchdowns in back-to-back weeks to the position so you could do worse if you’re in a bind at tight end this week.

OAK FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
OAK FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
OAK FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
OAK FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: Another by-committee backfield situation, this time in Baltimore, has fantasy owners scratching their heads as we look toward Week 5. The Ravens head on the road to Oakland but with Buck Allen, Terrance West and Alex Collins all getting carries a week ago, there’s a lot of confusion for fantasy purposes. There’s little question that Collins was the most productive of the bunch this past week but it’s also worth noting that he was significantly out-snapped by Allen who is also the team’s pass-catching back, giving him extra value in PPR formats and thus a higher floor than the other players in this backfield. A road game across the country would normally indicate a not-so-great matchup for a struggling offense, but the Raiders themselves are in a tough spot offensively, which could mean a low-scoring game here and thus a better opportunity for the Ravens running game. Collins has been a hot pick up on waivers this week, but this is still Allen’s backfield for the time being.

Value Meter:
RB2: Javorius Allen (PPR)
TE1: Ben Watson
Bench: Joe Flacco, Alex Collins, Terrance West, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace

Passing Game Thoughts: Another struggling offense, the Raiders are not in great shape heading into this week’s contest against the Ravens as they will be without quarterback Derek Carr. The team was not putting together consistent drives even with Carr behind center so it’s hard to believe that EJ Manuel is suddenly going to turn things in the right direction. Perhaps the biggest problem has been the poor play of what has previously been a great offensive line. That doesn’t bode well for Manuel who has struggled to deal with pressure throughout his career. Obviously this negatively affects the team’s top two receiving options, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, who go from being borderline WR1’s down to just being Flex options or WR3’s, especially in what is a tough matchup against a good Baltimore secondary. Jared Cook is probably the only player in this passing game who’s more than a complete flier at his position and even he hasn’t caught more than five passes in a game yet this season.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: The Marshawn Lynch experiment has been a major failure through the first quarter of the season. Lynch has rushed for just 151 yards on the season. Worse yet, things seem to be getting worse as he’s failed to rush for even 20 yards in each of his past two games. Few fantasy owners expected Lynch to put up huge yardage but the overwhelming opinion was that he’d get into the end zone enough to satisfy fantasy owners. Unfortunately he’s only done that once so far, thus making him a huge fantasy bust. There’s some hope that the Raiders will lean heavily on Lynch due to EJ Manuel being behind center, but the Ravens defense is going to be looking for that. They’ll stack the box and should shut down Lynch. Expect a decent sized workload in this game but don’t look for a huge fantasy day.

Value Meter:
TE1: Jared Cook (low-end)
Flex: Marshawn Lynch, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree
Bench: EJ Manuel, Seth Roberts

Prediction: Raiders 20, Ravens 17 ^ Top

Chargers at Giants - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Philip Rivers is still not playing well, but he did rebound nicely for fantasy purposes from his pathetic three point effort in Week 3. Rivers lit up an ineffective Eagles secondary for 347 yards and two touchdowns while surprisingly, not turning the ball over. With the running game ineffective, Rivers had to throw to keep the Chargers in it. And throw he did – mostly to his top two targets, Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams. Allen still dominates targets over Williams as Rivers almost always looks for Allen first unless the play is downfield (more on that in a moment). Allen saw 11 targets, catching five for 138 yards. Williams only saw six targets, but was way more efficient, also catching five for 115 yards, including a 75-yard bomb for a touchdown.

Even though the Chargers lost, it is clear this passing game fares much better when Rivers focuses on Allen and Williams and not afterthoughts like Travis Benjamin and Dontrelle Inman. Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry continue to sap each other’s value. The reality is Gates just needs to go away. Henry is such an athletic specimen at the position. He has top five upside if Gates would allow it. But once again, when Father Time came to Antonio Gates on Sunday, he responded the same way he has every week for the past five years: “Not today.”

There’s always concern regarding a west coast team playing a 1:00 east coast game so it would not surprise me to see Rivers completely flop this week. With that being said, the Giants defense has been underwhelming thus far. Jameis Winston just threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns against them and the Giants are one of just four teams to not record an interception. While I think that changes this week, the matchup isn’t as daunting as it once appeared. Janoris Jenkins is unlikely to chase Allen into the slot so Williams will probably draw the Giants best cover corner.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: Melvin Gordon averaged 3.5 ypc as a rookie and 3.9 ypc as a sophomore. In his third season with the best offensive line he’s played behind (not that it is good, just that it’s better than the last two years), Gordon is averaging 3.1 ypc. We can’t blame the line entirely as Gordon ranks 31st in the league in yards created. His highest rushing total on the season is 79 yards. He’s been entirely touchdown dependent and last week, we saw what happens when he doesn’t get one. Gordon touched the ball a season low 11 times in a game that was competitive throughout. He was still on the field for 73% of the snaps however, he just wasn’t getting the ball. The Giants have struggled defending the run this season. They let Jacquizz Rodgers average 5.2 ypc last week. Regardless, Gordon simply isn’t that good of a runner and his entire career has been predicated on volume. I do think the volume returns this week and there’s no way he’s anything worse than an RB2, but the elite RB1 fantasy owners thought they were getting simply may not exist.

Value Meter:
QB1: Philip Rivers (low end with disaster potential)
RB1: Melvin Gordon (low end)
WR1: Keenan Allen (low end)
WR3: Tyrell Williams
Bench: Hunter Henry, Antonio Gates, Travis Benjamin

Passing Game Thoughts: The Giants have secretly become “Chargers east” with their knack for losing games in spectacular fashion. The problem with the Giants extends far beyond the personnel because they actually have a ton of talent. Eli Manning is still not done. He proved that again last week with his 288-yard, two-touchdown, no interception effort combined with channeling his inner Michael Vick for a 14-yard scamper into the end zone. Manning can still play and he has two incredible weapons in Odell Beckham and Evan Engram. Beckham’s sub 50% catch rate last week (seven of 15 targets caught) is less than ideal, but for fantasy purposes, that type of volume is what we want. The concerns over Brandon Marshall stealing some of Beckham’s usage were unfounded as Marshall is so completely washed, I’m not sure if he belongs in the NFL at all anymore. Engram is clearly the second best pass catcher on this team. He saw 11 targets last week and has actually been one of the more consistent TEs in a season where there are about three reliable players at the position. Engram is treated like a WR so for fantasy purposes, he’s kind of like a WR3 that you can put at the TE slot.

The Chargers secondary is not the same without Jason Verrett so Beckham and Engram should have no trouble. Sterling Shepard may even have a relevant day as well. He caught all five of his targets last week for 54 yards and is definitely someone that should be kept on benches. He really should be playing in two receiver sets ahead of Marshall (then again, Roger Lewis should be playing over Marshall as well). This game should be high scoring and a good bet for fantasy production.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: Ben McAdoo finally had his hand forced. Orleans Darkwa was inactive and Paul Perkins took a shot to the ribs, forcing him from last week’s game. McAdoo had no choice but to roll with rookie Wayne Gallman. The Clemson product is not a particularly impressive player but he certainly belongs in the NFL, which is more than I can say about Perkins. Gallman is the best they’ve got if they are not going to push Shane Vereen as their feature back (which is a reality I’ve learned to accept is never going to happen). Gallman only managed 42 yards on 11 carries, but added eight yards on two receptions and a touchdown. The 3.8 ypc Gallman averaged in his limited action is double that of Perkins.

I tentatively expect Perkins back this week, but after practicing Wednesday, he was unable to practice Thursday. If he does not return to at least a limited practice on Friday, it’s probably safe to assume he’s not going to play. If he does, we can only hope that he does not see the field at all. Gallman deserves a chance to be the guy for the Giants and fantasy owners are hoping he gets the shot as he was a hot pickup this week, especially for those people that were unable to secure Latavius Murray. The Chargers have been getting gashed on the ground, allowing the second most rushing yards in the league. The Giants still can’t block, but if Gallman can see 15 touches, he should be able to return starter worthy value.

Value Meter:
QB1: Eli Manning (low end)
WR1: Odell Beckham Jr. (high end)
TE1: Evan Engram (mid-range)
Flex: Wayne Gallman
Bench: Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard

Prediction: Giants 27, Chargers 24 ^ Top

Titans at Dolphins - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: This passing game section would be really short if Marcus Mariota were already ruled out. If Matt Cassel is starting, avoid everyone. Despite only playing half a game last week, Cassel managed to give the ball to the other team three times in relief of an injured Mariota. While Mariota’s hamstring injury does not seem overly serious given that he played through it for a bit, for a player that relies on his legs, if he’s constrained at all, it’s probably best to sit this one out, which I think is the most likely scenario. If Mariota does play, he will be at far less than 100% and likely unable to use his mobility, which is what makes him a great fantasy QB. Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker are the most important pass catchers for the Titans. They are both solid plays with Mariota, but should remain on your bench if Cassel starts.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: Fantasy owners were justifiably skittish on DeMarco Murray’s 2017 fantasy prospects knowing the beast that lurks behind him. However, it hasn’t been Derrick Henry’s fault that Murray has been a bust through a quarter of the season. Outside of one 75-yard touchdown against Seattle, Murray has averaged 3.4 ypc. That single run jumped his ypc 1.7 yards. Henry has touched the ball 40 times this season, only eight fewer times than Murray, but Murray also missed a chunk of Week 2. Murray’s volume is down and so is his efficiency. The Dolphins spent last week giving up reception after reception to Alvin Kamara. Murray is not the receiver that Kamara is, but Murray is a very capable pass catcher. He may need that ability to produce this week and could get the volume as the Titans will do everything they can to hide Cassel. Unfortunately, the touchdown upside won’t be there without Mariota. Murray has become an incredibly risky fantasy bet while Henry is still unstartable.

Value Meter:
RB2: DeMarco Murray (low end, very risky)
TE1: Delanie Walker (low end)
Flex: Rishard Matthews
Bench: Eric Decker (you can drop him), Corey Davis (hamstring), Matt Cassel, Marcus Mariota (risky start even if he plays), Derrick Henry

Passing Game Thoughts: Do you know who definitely doesn’t care about football? Jay Cutler. By now we’ve all seen the video of Cutler literally standing still with his hands on his hips while his team runs a wildcat play. That’s a microcosm of Cutler’s entire season. The ghost of Jay Cutler has essentially managed zero points against the Jets and the Saints (excluding his buzzer touchdown pass to DeVante Parker Week 3). His highest passing yardage total was 230 in Week 2 against the Chargers. He’s thrown just two touchdowns in three games and thrown two interceptions.

This is another good matchup against a team that just got walloped by Deshaun Watson, but the Dolphins just had two great matchups against the Saints and Jets and it didn’t matter. Jarvis Landry’s floor remains quite high. Six catches for 40 yards is not great, but it’s pretty much the worst you can expect from Landry. He has a double digit floor in PPR leagues. DeVante Parker has been surprisingly consistent with catch totals of four, eight, and six in his first three games, finishing between 69 and 85 yards in all of them. He’s settling in as a nice WR3 with WR2 upside. It’s hard to use the word upside with anyone associated with Cutler, but even if Cutler completes only 15 passes in a game, Parker and Landry should see most of them.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: Jay Ajayi does not look right. He does not appear to be at risk of missing any games with his seemingly endless knee issue, but if that’s not affecting him, something else is. After his 28-122 Week 1 performance, Ajayi has taken 23 carries for just 62 yards over his last two games. The Titans are coming off a week where they made Lamar Miller actually look like a real NFL running back, which is hard to do. This is a great “get right” spot for Ajayi. But, not to sound like a broken record, the Jets and Saints weren’t exactly imposing foes either. At this point, you’re starting Ajayi based on the name and the expected usage, but you have to temper expectations. He has the talent to turn it around at any moment, but I can’t help but wonder if he isn’t far more injured than he’s letting on. You can’t bench him so you just have to hope he figures it out soon.

Value Meter:
RB2: Jay Ajayi
WR2: Jarvis Landry
WR3: DeVante Parker
Bench: Jay Cutler, Julius Thomas, Kenny Stills

Prediction: Dolphins 19, Titans 11 (Titans win handily if Mariota plays) ^ Top

Cardinals at Eagles - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Playing on a short week, the Cardinals offense sputtered against the 49ers in Week 4. It was a war of field goals until the very end when Carson Palmer hit the greatest overtime player in my lifetime, the ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald, for the walkoff touchdown. Prior to that point, Palmer, despite throwing 51 times, barely even acknowledged Fitzgerald’s existence on the field. Jaron Brown saw 12 targets, Andre Ellington saw 14 targets while Fitz only saw seven. It’s surprising given that the 49ers do not have a great pass defense so it was not like they were locking down Fitz who hhad just come off a 13 catch, 149-yard game.

After looking every bit his age in Week 1, Palmer has bounced back and become a viable fantasy QB. West coast teams playing 1:00 pm east coast games is never a good spot, but facing the Eagles’ secondary has done wonders for opposing passing games. The Eagles got ripped to shreds by Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams last week with the two combining for 10 receptions for 243 yards. The matchup is a promising one for Fitzgerald and whichever other WR Palmer decides to feature this week (could be Jaron Brown, could be John Brown, could be J.J. Nelson).

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: In the absence of David Johnson, there is no running game, but rather a short passing game in lieu of a running game. Chris Johnson is reminding everyone why the Cardinals cut him in the preseason – 13 carries for 32 yards last week, which is right in line with his season average of 2.6 ypc. The only relevant Cardinals back is Andre Ellington due to his passing game involvement. Ellington only carried the ball five times last week, but he caught nine passes for 86 yards, an improvement on his already impressive five catches for 59 yards from the previous week. Ellington now has 19 receptions on the season and looks to be what we hoped Theo Riddick was going to be in Detroit. Ellington is a high floor PPR flex option that becomes an RB2 if he scores. He should be owned in all leagues and with bye weeks starting up, and is a viable starting option.

Value Meter:
QB1: Carson Palmer (low end)
WR2: Larry Fitzgerald (mid-range)
Flex: Andre Ellington, Jaron Brown, John Brown, J.J. Nelson (all three are flexes, but there will be an odd man out)
Bench: Chris Johnson, Kerwynn Williams

Passing Game Thoughts: Carson Wentz spent last week game managing, attempting just 31 passes for the second consecutive week. Zach Ertz continues to be Wentz’s top target, much to the chagrin of Alshon Jeffery owners, but Jeffery did find the end zone for the second time this season last week. The problem with Jeffrey is he’s become entirely touchdown dependent. His 12.6 yards per reception is the lowest of his career and he’s only posted one quality fantasy performance in the first quarter of the season (his 7-92-1 effort in Week 2). The touchdown last week salvaged his fantasy week, but it doesn’t erase the fact that he only caught three of six targets for 29 yards. Ertz, on the other hand, has been a TE1 every week to start the season. In a year where the state of the TE is embarrassingly poor, Ertz has been the only stable producer (Gronk failed Week 1 and Kelce failed Week 3). It’s clear he is Wentz’s favorite target and while Arizona has been stingy against the TE, they are missing some pieces at linebacker. Plus, Ertz is an athletic freak. He is one of just a handful of every week set it and forget it options at the position. A quick word on Nelson Agholor – I would say I hate to say I told you so, but I don’t hate doing it – I told you so. I will admit Agholor has shown me enough to back off my stance that he shouldn’t be in the NFL, but he is by no means a starting caliber WR either in real life or in fantasy.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: Who would’ve thought that the Eagles would be carried by their running game the week after Darren Sproles was lost for the season? Alright, it’s time for me to really eat some crow here. I have spent the last few months disparaging LeGarrette Blount and he really stuck it to me with his performance against the Chargers. In a game where waiver darling Wendell Smallwood (10-34-1) and Corey Clement (10-30-1) could not get anything going on the ground, LGB rattled off 136 yards on his 16 carries. Just to be clear, Blount did not suddenly become a talented running back or a featured back. He is still the same guy that didn’t see a carry in Week 2. However, I must admit the reality of the situation, which is that in Weeks 1, 3, and 4, Blount had either 100+ yards or a touchdown and was useful in fantasy. As much as it pains me to admit defeat, Blount is worth owning as an RB3. Smallwood has yet to practice as of Thursday. His absence would increase Blount’s value and possibly make Clement a dart throw flex play as well. Keep an eye on the injury reports, as always.

Value Meter:
QB2: Carson Wentz
WR3: Alshon Jeffery
TE1: Zach Ertz (high end)
Flex: Wendell Smallwood (if he plays), LeGarrette Blount (becomes an RB2 if Smallwood canít go)
Bench: Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, Corey Clement

Prediction: Eagles 23, Cardinals 17 ^ Top

Packers at Cowboys - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Aaron Rodgers had a very weird game last Thursday night in the Packers demolition of the Bears. Rodgers’ touchdown count has increased by exactly one every game this season, but up until Week 4, he had thrown for 300 yards in every game. He didn’t even get to 200 against the Bears. Rodgers still had a monster fantasy day because of the four touchdowns and remains a top two weekly option at the position.

Excluding the game he left in the first quarter, Jordy Nelson has scored in every game this season. He has five touchdowns in three games. His yardage totals haven’t gotten there yet as he has yet to eclipse 79 yards, but the fantasy production is there.

Randall Cobb has been a pleasant surprise as well. He also missed a game, but otherwise has 60 yards or a touchdown in every game. His role could be increased this week if Davante Adams is unable to clear the concussion protocol after Danny Trevathan committed such a heinous and unnecessary hit on Adams that I would not have been upset if he was suspended for the entire season. Amazingly, Adams “escaped” (and I use that term generously) with just a concussion. While concussions are anything but minor, the fact that Adams avoided any neck/spine injuries is incredible. Somehow, he might actually play this week. Adams has been inconsistent this season, alternating bad games with good ones based upon whether he scores. If Adams is able to go, he will be a strong play against a Cowboys defense that just got shredded by the Rams.

Nelson, Adams, and Cobb are all excellent options this week as there will be plenty of offense to go around. Martellus Bennett has been the odd man out in the Packers offense and I wouldn’t really expect that to change. He will have a big game at some point this season, but I don’t foresee him every being a trustworthy option.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: The Packers RB situation is just like the Giants, except that it will only be for one week and all their RBs aren’t terrible. What I mean is it’s a mess. Ty Montgomery broke a few ribs and Jamaal Williams twisted his knee in the Packers win over the Bears. Aaron Jones handled the majority of the RB work in their absence and was poised to be the primary back this week. That is, until both Montgomery and Williams returned to practice Wednesday. The problem is that we have no idea how injured either of them really are nor to what extent they will be used Sunday, if active.

Montgomery has been one of the league’s few three down workhorses. Despite being ineffective on the ground, Montgomery’s fantasy production has been excellent due to his pass catching acumen. He totaled reception counts of four, six, and eight through his first three games. If Montgomery plays this week, that’s probably worst case scenario for fantasy owners. I can’t imagine he will be as effective playing with multiple broken ribs. He is unlikely to see a full workload and will be at risk to exit the game after one hit in the wrong spot at any moment. He would also make it impossible to start either of the Packers rookie RBs. If the Packers do the smart thing and hold Montgomery out (which I think they will), Williams and Jones would form a committee. I anticipate one of them having a fantasy relevant day, but predicting which one will be impossible. The Packers are likely to throw a lot so avoid this backfield if you can until the injury situation clears up.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers (high end)
WR1: Jordy Nelson (high end)
WR2: Davante Adams (low end if he plays)
WR3: Randall Cobb
TE1: Martellus Bennett (such is the sad state of the TE in 2017)
Bench: Ty Montgomery (regardless of status), Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams

Passing Game Thoughts: Dak Prescott is really good at football. I know the Cowboys lost last week, but I really do believe they just lost to another really good team. Prescott now has multiple touchdowns in three consecutive games and is adding exactly three rushing attempts per game. Prescott is going to be an elite QB1 for years to come.

Unfortunately, I do not think he will take Dez Bryant with him to the top. Bryant hasn’t been an elite WR since 2014 and I see no signs of that changing. He caught five passes for 98 yards last week, but he still did not play well. His 40% catch rate is simply unacceptable. He still has the elite measurables and can go up and get it with the best of them, but he’s been remarkably inefficient for some time now (40 targets, 16 catches). Bryant is still viewed in the highest regard and you will frequently see him in the top 12 of weekly rankings however, he’s way too inconsistent and inefficient to justify it. This game will have a lot of points and Bryant should have plenty of opportunities. He could very well post a 100-yard, two-touchdown game. Obviously you’re not benching him, but I can’t endorse heading into this game thinking that Bryant can carry your WR corps.

Jason Witten has joined Cole Beasley in irrelevance. He’s caught just one pass each of the last two weeks. No one outside of the big three on this team are worth starting.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: Even taking out Ezekiel Elliott’s nine carry, eight-yard debacle against Denver, he hasn’t been as effective or as efficient as his rookie year. Zeke is averaging 4.0 ypc, but is still an elite RB1 due to his touchdown scoring and increased usage in the passing game. After catching just 32 passes in 2016, Elliott already has half that number in a quarter of the season. He remains a top three weekly play in all favorable matchups such as this one. While the Packers are only allowing 4.2 ypc to opposing rushers, they have only faced one team with a formidable running game, that being the Falcons in Week 2. Elliott should have no trouble reaching high end RB1 numbers this week.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (high end)
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott (high end)
WR2: Dez Bryant (mid-range)
Bench: Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Alfred Morris

Prediction: Cowboys 30, Packers 26 ^ Top