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Next Gen Stats: Week 5 fantasy football matchups

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Now in its third season, Next Gen Stats has quickly exploded. The statistics are featured in game broadcasts, they are leveraged in countless articles, tweets, and podcasts throughout the week, and the Next Gen Stats database is free to access.

In this weekly column, we'll dive deep into Next Gen Stats' metrics and explore player and team-based matchups. The goal is simple: Next Gen provides truly unique analytical data we can use to uncover edges when making fantasy lineup decisions. Most importantly, Next Gen Stats' data coffers make us more informed viewers of the game.

Let's comb through the Week 5 slate through the lens of Next Gen Stats.

Titans at Bills (1 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: Bills' Stagnant Pass Offense vs. Titans Stout Defense

Accuracy will never be Josh Allen's calling card, but at least this season, his receivers are not doing him any favors whatsoever. Kelvin Benjamin is dead last in yards of separation at the catch point for the third-straight season and the rest of the Bills receiver corps is failing to create openings. Per Next Gen Stats, just 32 percent of Josh Allen's throws have been wide open (three or more yards of separation). That's the lowest rate in the NFL.

Now, Allen has another impossible test in Week 5. The Titans are forcing pressure at the league's highest rate (32 percent) and have 12 sacks to show for it (tied for seventh-most). Allen has absorbed a sack on an other-worldly 15 percent of his dropbacks, easily the highest rate in the NFL. The rookie signal-caller is far from a finished product, but his receivers utterly failing to create separation is causing him to hold onto the ball way too long. Right now, it's taking Allen 3.19 seconds to get the ball out of his hands' -- the slowest clip among signal-callers. Allen has all the arm talent in the world, but his supporting cast isn't supporting him.

Giants at Panthers (1 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: Christian McCaffrey vs. Giants Shoddy Front Seven

Fresh off of his Week 4 off date, Christian McCaffrey is in another eruption spot against the G-Men's shaky front seven. In their first four games, the Giants have allowed a 50 percent rush success rate (tenth-worst), they have allowed the seventh-most rushing fantasy points per attempt, and they have coughed up 24 catches to receivers out of the backfield (eighth-most, per Next Gen Stats). DT Damon Harrison is doing his part -- he leads all defensive linemen in run stuff rate (22 percent) -- but, as a whole, the Giants' rank an unimposing 19th-of-32 in stuffed runs (zero gain or loss).

McCaffrey's snap rate (85 percent, 94 percent, 100 percent) has increased in each of his games so far, while he's averaged 6.3 receptions per day when Greg Olsen (foot) is out over the last two seasons. Only Gurley, Kamara, and Elliott have a better Week 5 outlook than McCaffrey among RBs.

Dolphins at Bengals (1 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: Can Miami get after Andy Dalton?

It's come quietly, but Andy Dalton is off to the best start of his career. Through Weeks 1-4, Dalton has his second-best completion rate (65.6 percent), his second-best Passer Rating (96.0), and the best Pass TD rate (7.0%) of his career. Dalton's 299.3 YPG also smashes his previous career-high (268.3 YPG in 2013).

In a season dominated by Patrick Mahomes' accession, tons of offensive points scored, and close games -- Dalton's superb play has sort of been lost in the wash. One of the main reasons Dalton has finished as the weekly fantasy QB15, QB8, QB13, and QB9 in Weeks 1-4 is because of his success in a clean pocket. Per Next Gen Stats, Dalton's 109.2 Passer Rating, when kept clean, is tenth-best:


Without Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins have forced pressure on a measly 24.5 percent of dropbacks this season (fourth-worst rate). What's more, the Bengals have done an incredible job keeping Dalton upright, allowing pressure on just 17 percent of Dalton's snaps (best in NFL). Even though Miami has forced 9 INTs, they have allowed a healthy 7.7 YPA when the opposing QB has a clean pocket (13th-of-32). Dalton is in an excellent spot to continue his hot start in Week 5.

Ravens at Browns (1 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: Baker's First Tough Test

Through the first month of the season, the Ravens have the No. 1 ranked secondary and it's not particularly close. What's worse (for enemy QBs), is that Baltimore's defense is about to get even better. Jimmy Smith returns from his four-game suspension in Week 5, and he'll line up opposite white-hot CB Marlon Humphrey against the Browns.

So far, Baltimore has allowed the NFL's lowest Passer Rating (69.1) and just 53.8 percent of passes against them have been completed (best). Even without Jimmy Smith, Baltimore has allowed the NFL's lowest Passer Rating on throws to wide receivers (44.0). In fact, the Ravens have forced a tight window throw on 17 percent of passes this season (12th-best rate). As a result, just 34 percent of drives against Baltimore's vaunted defense have crossed mid-field -- the best rate in the league (per Rotoworld's Rich Hribar).

After playing 60 percent of the Browns Week 3 game against the Jets and getting his first start against the Raiders in Week 4, facing Baltimore's fearsome defense is certainly going to require Mayfield's most precise throws.

Packers at Lions (1 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: Is This Aaron Jones' Breakout Week?

This is the week Aaron Jones takes over the Packers starting RB job ... unless Mike McCarthy has something to say about it. Annoyingly for fantasy owners, the Packers continue to employ a three-headed running back by committee, as Jamaal Williams (40 percent snap rate) has worked over Jones (32 percent) and Ty Montgomery (27 percent) in Week 3 and 4.

However, if there were ever a week to let Aaron Jones take the proverbial keys to the backfield, this would be it. Across the opening month, the Lions have allowed 6.12 YPC (most) and 0.80 fantasy points per carry (fourth-most). Mostly without Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) in Weeks 1-4, the Lions only have one defensive lineman inside of the top-60 players in Next Gen Stats' run stuff rate (Da'Shawn Hand: 12.8 percent). As a whole, just 14 percent of all runs against Detroit have been stuffed for zero gain (or a loss), the sixth-worst rate in the NFL.

Since entering the league, Aaron Jones has been one of the most explosive and efficient RBs on the field. 43 percent of his runs have gained five or more yards (best rate among qualified RBs) while his 4.8 yards gained after a defender closes is second-best among backs, per Next Gen. He deserves a workhorse role in Green Bay.

Jaguars at Chiefs (1 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: Air Mahomes vs. Anti-Air Jags

Mahomes facing Jacksonville's vaunted secondary is a matchup made in heaven. Through the quarter-pole mark, Jacksonville has allowed just 5.8 Pass YPA (third-best) while Mahomes is ripping enemy secondaries for 8.7 YPA (fourth-best).

Defending Mahomes is proving a near-impossible task.

Jacksonville ranks fourth in pressure rate (31.4 percent) per Next Gen, but putting Mahomes under duress has not slowed him down at all this year. Mahomes' 101.1 Passer Rating when under pressure is eighth-best in the NFL, and he's even more lethal on the run. Per Next Gen, Mahomes is averaging a monster 14.4 air yards per attempt when he throws on the move -- the highest clip in the NFL. He's just ridiculous:

Stopping Mahomes within structure isn't easy, either, as he leads all quarterbacks in Passer Rating when kept clean (136.8). How the Jags' elect to cover Tyreek Hill will be interesting, considering A.J. Bouye plays press coverage (32 percent) twice as often as Jalen Ramsey (16 percent). Head coach Andy Reid uses Tyreek Hill in a variety of ways, including lining him up in the slot 36 percent of the time. Hill spends similar amounts of time out wide to the left (31 percent) and right (25 percent), almost guaranteeing that he'll see Ramsey and Bouye equally. Jacksonville certainly has the personnel to slow the Chiefs potent attack, but as we witnessed in Week 4 on Monday Night Football, you can't keep Air Mahomes down forever.

Broncos at Jets (1 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: Emmanuel Sanders vs. Jets Shaky Slot Coverage

The addition of Courtland Sutton has allowed Emmanuel Sanders to play more of a dynamic, unique role in the Broncos offense this season. Denver is a base 11-personnel team, meaning they run 3 receivers on the field over two-thirds of their offensive snaps. With Sutton and Demaryius Thomas on the boundary, Sanders runs 53 percent of his routes from the slot -- per Next Gen Stats. This heat map shows how Sanders' typical alignment is near the middle of the field:


Sanders' slot usage should expose a potential hole in the Jets coverage on Sunday. This season, the Gang Green have permitted 514 receiving yards (second-most) and 3.9 yards of separation at the catch point (second-most) to receivers out of the slot -- per Next Gen. New York's primary slot defender, Buster Skrine, is allowing a 104.0 Passer Rating when he is the nearest defender to a receiver. This spot should certainly allow Sanders to bust his mini-slump (5/38 and 5/45 receiving; last two weeks).

Falcons at Steelers (1 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: MVP Matt Ryan vs. Steelers Secondary

Matt Ryan and the Falcons high-flying offense is all the way back. Through the quarter-mark, Atlanta is fifth in yards gained per drive (38.6), over 45 percent of their drives have ended with a score (fifth-best), and the Falcons own the NFL's seventh-best red-zone offense.

Atlanta may be 1-3, but their offense is surely good enough to lead this team to 4-0. Key defensive injuries have severely impacted the team, as Deion Jones (foot), Keanu Neal (ACL), Grady Jarrett (ankle), and Ricardo Allen (Achilles) will continue to miss significant time. Still, Ryan's form is impeccable this season:

What's more, per Next Gen Stats, Ryan is completing +5.1 percent of his passes above what's expected, which is extremely close to his elite 2016 form (+7.4 percent completion rate above expectation). Ryan and Co. should have no problem ripping the Steelers secondary, either. Pittsburgh is routinely being tested over the top, allowing 10.3 air yards per pass attempt (most). In fact, the Steelers are fourth-worst in TD rate allowed (7.5 percent) and fantasy points permitted per dropback (0.55). Expect fireworks in Pittsburgh.

Raiders at Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: Battle of Two Struggling Secondaries

Albeit for two different reasons, both the Chargers and Raiders pass defenses are struggling. The Bolts are permitting 8.7 YPA (fourth-most) to opposing QBs, while Oakland is right behind them (8.2 YPA allowed; fifth-most). The issue in Oakland is simple: They just aren't affecting the passer enough. Oakland is only forcing pressure on 16 percent of dropbacks, the worst rate in the NFL. Los Angeles is still getting after the passer adequately (29% pressure rate; 14th-of-32), but their previously stout secondary is giving up a massive 114 Passer Rating to enemy wideouts. Only New Orleans (136.1) is worse.

Oakland's excuse for a dreadful defense boils down to how you feel about the Khalil Mack trade; but, the Chargers' ailment appears to be in the secondary. Granted, Joey Bosa's absence (foot) has hampered LA's explosiveness up front. Still, both left and right corners Casey Hayward (114.8 Passer Rating allowed) and Trevor Williams (136.6) have struggled to start the year. Roving rookie defensive back Derwin James has lived up his high draft capital, however, allowing the Bolts lowest catch rate (50 percent) and Passer Rating (80.7) when he's the nearest defender to a receiver.

This week, Casey Hayward will travel with Amari Cooper when they are lined up on the outside. Per Next Gen, 94 percent of Cooper's total receiving yards have come when he's split out on the boundary this season. Hayward has been slow out of the gates, but he limited Cooper to just 2 catches and 18 yards (on five targets) in their two matchups in 2017, per PFF's Jeff Ratcliffe. The Cooper Coaster may be out in full force in Week 5.

Vikings at Eagles (4:25 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: Kirk Cousins vs. Pressure

Per Next Gen, Kirk Cousins has been under pressure on 40 percent of his dropbacks to begin the season -- by far the highest rate in the NFL. In fact, Cousins has been pressured 80 times while the next closest QB in pressures faced is Andrew Luck ... with 57. The Vikes' offensive line has done a horrendous job at keeping Cousins upright, and the new-Viking has been forced to succeed under duress. Cousins' 85.5 Passer Rating under pressure is eighth-best while his +5.0 completion percentage above expectation when under duress is sixth-best. If it weren't for Cousins' production under heat, Minnesota's offense would look far different.

Now, the desperate Vikings travel east for a date with a Philly front seven that has forced pressure on 31 percent of pass plays (sixth-most). The Eagles have a ridiculous four defensive lineman inside of the top-30 (out of 155) in Next Gen's disruption rate while both of the Eagles defensive ends, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett, are top-25 in pressure rate alone. While Barnett (shoulder) is out for Week 5, the Eagles still have plenty of depth to get after the passer. Kirk Cousins will likely be running for his life again in Week 5.

However, the positive news is that the Eagles' secondary can't cover receivers. That might a problem with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs on the docket. Thus far, only the Saints (195.8) are giving up more yards per game to receivers lined up out wide than the Eagles (177.0), per Next Gen. Thielen and Diggs comprise 54 percent of Cousins' targets and 76 percent of his air yards.

Cardinals at 49ers (4:25 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: Can Josh Rosen Build Off of His Debut?

The Cardinals have yet to clear 17 points this season and they rank 31st in both passing and rushing offense, but we finally saw signs of life in Week 4 with Josh Rosen at the controls. Rosen averaged 9.2 air yards per attempt in his debut, three yards ahead of Sam Bradford's season-long average (6.2 intended air yards per throw). With a more aggressive arm, Rosen pushed the ball downfield consistently in his first pro start. It was fantastic to see:


Rosen also threw into more tight windows (23.5 percent) in Week 4 than Sam Bradford did in Weeks 1-3 (17.5 percent), leading the Cards' to season-highs in pass yards, rush yards, and third-down conversion rate. David Johnson also had his best game of the season (25 touches, 112 yards from scrimmage, 1 TD) with Rosen under center, but he still only ran two routes split out as a receiver. DJ's 2016 usage isn't coming back with Mike McCoy calling plays, but Rosen's emergence is a welcome sign for this previously stagnant offense.

Rams at Seahawks (4:25 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: How Does Seattle Slow L.A.'s Lethal Attack Without Earl Thomas?

Now down Earl Thomas (broken leg) ahead of their home date with the Rams, the Seahawks are in trouble. The Rams have three players inside of the NFL's top-20 in receiving yards while Todd Gurley (194) is third among all backs in receiving yards. Per Next Gen, the Seahawks have allowed a 55 percent success rate on throws to enemy receivers this season (seventh-highest rate) -- even though their opponents (Denver, Chicago, Dallas, Arizona) are far from lethal passing attacks. Seattle hasn't permitted a ton of counting stats, mainly because of the opponents they have faced, but they have allowed 6.9 yards per attempt on throws to receivers out of the backfield (seventh-worst clip in the NFL). Goff, Gurley, Woods, Kupp, and Cooks should shred Seattle in Week 5. Over the last two seasons, Seattle has allowed a passing score on 5.0 percent of throws when Earl Thomas is out of the lineup versus a 2.8 percent TD rate when Thomas is active.

Cowboys at Texans (8:20 p.m. ET)


Key Matchup: Dallas' Star-Less Receiver Corps vs. Texans Shaky Defense

Unsurprisingly, the Cowboys receivers are struggling to get open. With minimal investment at the position this offseason, Dallas has settled to just rotate their receivers on and off the field and allow Ezekiel Elliott -- who leads Dallas' receivers in targets and routes run -- to be the top option. The plan isn't working. Per Next Gen, Dak Prescott has the third-lowest separation (3.0 yards) at the target point and 22.4 percent of his throws have come in a tight window, the second-highest clip in the NFL:


Even though Dallas' receivers aren't separating, Dak Prescott surely has a chance to build off his best game of the season (255 yards, 2 TDs, 118.6 Passer Rating against Detroit) in Week 5. This year, Houston has allowed a massive 104.0 Passer Rating (third-worst) and the NFL's sixth-highest Passing TD rate (6.6 percent). The Cowboys passing offense will labor long-term if their stale approach remains the same, but everyone is beating up on Houston's secondary. Last year, Houston allowed the most fantasy points per dropback to enemy QBs and they are allowing the sixth-most passing points per snap in 2018.

Redskins at Saints (8:15 p.m. ET) on Monday Night Football


Key Matchup: Chris Thompson vs. Saints Leaky Front Seven

Fresh out of his Week 4 bye, pass-catching back Chris Thompson is in an eruption spot in Week 5 against New Orleans. This year, the Saints have allowed a 66.7 percent success rate (highest), an 81 percent completion rate (sixth-highest), and a 108.9 Passer Rating (sixth-highest) to receivers that have lined up out of the backfield. Checkdown machine, Alex Smith, is second among all QBs in Passer Rating (118.2) on throws to receivers out of the backfield while his 88.0 completion rate to RBs leads all signal callers. Dating back to the start of last year, Chris Thompson has scored over 15 PPR points in eight of his last 12 healthy games, and he's in a near-perfect scenario to go off once again on Monday Night Football.

-- Graham Barfield is the managing editor of fantasy football content at NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @GrahamBarfield.

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