The crisp bite in the air. The crunch of leaves under shoes. The crack of football pads. The return of TV shows. And the omnipresence of "pumpkin spice" everything at your local grocery store.
Yes, folks, fall is officially upon us and I for one am pumped. It's arguably the best season of the year, especially since it tends to signal even better football games on the horizon. I think we can safely say many NFL teams used that first month of the season as a sort of identity quest, testing out new norms and coming to grips with reality. As we embark on the next quarter of the NFL season, hopefully, our fantasy projections can improve as these teams even out and more data comes into the fold. I'll try to get us off on the right foot in my matchups preview below. One note before we take the plunge, bye weeks are here as well. Four BIG offenses are on a week of rest here, and lineups will have to be adjusted as a result.
As always, this is where I go game-by-game and player-by-player for every Week 5 contest. Those looking for quick-hitting start/sit/flex/stream analysis will find that listed for the main players for every team. Below that, I do my best to preview the game with additional insight, stats, and analysis to contextualize my recommendations.
Now, enough blathering on. We've got lineups to set and matchups to explore. Time to dive in.
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Monday)
UPDATE: NFL Network's Stacey Dales reported Sam Bradford is likely to start, which elevates this whole offense. I've adjusted the recommendations above. Sam Bradford returned to practice on Thursday, which gives him a shot at starting on Monday night. For the sake of this article, though, we'll operate under the assumption that Case Keenum will be under center. Aside from his Week 3 explosion (369 yards, three touchdowns), Keenum has completed 53.7 percent of his passes for 386 yards with no touchdowns. He's too volatile to start, especially on the road against a sneakily good Bears defense. Latavius Murray was the next man up for the Vikings after Dalvin Cook tore his ACL last week, and that figures to be the case again this week. he played 18 snaps to Jerick McKinnon's 10 and saw nine opportunities to McKinnon's four. Murray lacks Cook's explosiveness and elusiveness but should receive the volume to fill in as a bootleg RB2. McKinnon is a very risky start this week, though he should be added off waivers. Even if Keenum is under center and struggles again, we're starting Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. They've endured a quarterback change and still rank first and third in the NFL in receiving yards. They're good at this whole football thing. Kyle Rudolph simply isn't being used enough to be trusted in fantasy. He's averaging just 3.75 targets and 27 yards per game. The Vikings defense is one of the best in the league and will be welcoming Mitchell Trubisky to the NFL in his first career start. Get them if you can.
Mitchell Trubisky is getting his first NFL start against one of the league's best defenses. This could be a great thing for the Bears' overall outlook, but don't get crazy and start Trubisky this week. Jordan Howard will have had extra time to rest his shoulder and is back in the RB1 discussion. Tarik Cohen had 10 touches last week but wasn't used as much, perhaps because the Packers built a big lead. His big-play ability and role in the passing game make him a worthwhile flex play. The Bears wide receivers get a big nah wave for the week, but it'll be worth watching if Trubisky develops eyes for any of them and starts funneling targets to them. Zach Miller a decent tight end play in PPR, though there is some risk in the event Trubisky favors a different option in the pass attack. Defenses facing Case Keenum thus far have finished as the DEF4, DEF30, and DEF7 in weekly fantasy scoring. The Bears at home are a pretty solid streaming option, but if Sam Bradford gets the start their ceiling lowers.
New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:25 p.m. ET on CBS (Thursday)
Over his last three games, Tom Brady is averaging 9.5 yards per attempt, 377.3 passing yards per game with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. Mike Gillislee has turned into a fantasy nightmare after a dream start to the season. As Matt Harmon pointed out on Monday's podcast, Gillislee offers absolutely nothing in the passing game, and with New England's defense struggling so much, his touchdown upside continues to decline as they're forced to take to the air. I'd sit him this week and wait to play him in a game the Patriots are more likely to control. James White saw 11 targets last week as the Patriots used the short passing game as a substitute for an actual rushing attack. PPR players could roll out White again this week. The Bucs allowed a receiving touchdown to Wayne Gallman last week and were dinged for five catches and 72 yards by Dalvin Cook the week prior. The Brandin Cooks roller coaster is roaring on as usual. There were hopes landing in New England (and Julian Edelman's injury) would turn Cooks into a more consistent fantasy option. Yeah, about that. Cooks remains a volatile week-to-week play, with a massive ceiling and frightening floor. Chris Hogan leads the Patriots with eight red-zone targets and three touchdowns and is tied for third in the entire NFL with four targets inside the 10-yard line. He's a solid flex play with weekly touchdown upside. With Rob Gronkowski unlikely to play, you'll need to find a tight end replacement. All other PAtriots players receive an uptick in expected volume but the touchdown ceiling for the offense goes down. If you haven't dropped the Patriots defense yet, feel free to do so this week. They've allowed the most yardage and second-most points through four games.
Every quarterback to face the Patriots this year has thrown for 300-plus yards and Jameis Winston is a good bet to make it five in a row. He's thrown for 300-plus yards in back-to-back weeks against far superior defenses (Vikings, Giants), and gets the added benefit of playing at home. He's a top-12 start this week for sure. Doug Martin is back and falls right into an excellent matchup. If you've held onto him this long, it'll be hard not to plug him into your lineups. He took first-team reps at practice, but there have been reports that Jacquizz Rodgers could still factor into the mix on the short week. For what it's worth, I'm rolling with Martin in the few leagues where he's on my team. The Patriots allow 5.4 yards per carry thus far and 105 rushing yards per game to opposing backs through four weeks. Mike Evans should be locked into starting lineups, especially since his volume (29.6 percent of the team targets) hasn't suffered from the arrival of DeSean Jackson. Speaking of Jackson, he disappointed last week with a 2-20-0 line on six targets, and through three games Adam Humphries has more catches (14) and yards (156) on the same number of targets (20). Of course, these are two very different receivers, with Humphries operating from the slot, but Jackson's opening month hasn't been stellar in Tampa. I'd be confident starting him this week, though, as the Patriots defense has been a cure-all for ailing offenses. Plus, they've allowed the most touchdowns (four) and the fifth-highest catch rate (44 percent) on deep passes this year (20-plus air yards). Jackson could be set for a massive outing, while those in a pinch could give Humphries a look (especially in PPR). Even though O.J. Howard caught a deep touchdown last week, Cameron Brate is still the Bucs tight end to trust. He's running more routes, is receiving more targets (13 to eight), and trails only Mike Evans in red-zone looks on the Bucs (three to five). The Bucs defense is still banged up and has to play an on-fire Tom Brady. Look elsewhere for a starting unit.
New York Jets at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET on FOX
Aside from Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Jets passing offense remains one to avoid in fantasy. Since Week 1, no Jets pass-catcher has received more than seven targets in a game, as Josh McCown is doing well to spread the ball around. That's great for the Jets, but terrible for fantasy, though desperate streamers could give McCown a go. The Browns have been absolutely ripped apart through the air the last two weeks. ASJ is in steaming consideration as he's seen 10 targets in his first two games back from suspension, catching nine of them for 77 yards. More importantly, he gets the Browns this week, a team that has allowed TE1, TE10, and TE2 performances through four games. With Matt Forte (toe) out, Bilal Powell will be in the RB2/flex range after a solid performance last week (21 carries, 163 rushing yards, touchdown, four catches, 27 yards). Of course, his 75-yard touchdown run really should have been called back, but it was good to see Powell produce on some volume. Powell was used on 45 offensive plays to Elijah McGuire's 19, so flexing the rookie could be dicey if he doesn't hit on a big play again. The Jets defense would be a better streaming option if they were at home, but DeShone Kizer has been sacked 11 times and committed nine turnovers through four games.
Our initial optimism for the Browns offense has disappeared into a sinkhole of epic proportions. DeShone Kizer can make plays but is far too inconsistent to trust as a fantasy option. The loss of Corey Coleman has created a massive domino effect in the passing game as well, rendering all of the remaining wideouts -- Kenny Britt, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis -- useless from a fantasy perspective. The tight ends are promising young prospects, but with Seth DeValve and David Njoku splitting snaps and targets pretty much right down the middle (138 to 126, and 18 to 12) they are too volatile to trust on a weekly basis. Isaiah Crowell is verging on droppable at this point, as he's averaging 2.9 yards per carry on 26 attempts with just eight targets to his name through four games (and no touchdowns). Crowell's struggles have slowly opened up more opportunities for Duke Johnson, who sneakily leads the teams in targets (28). Johnson's workload could continue to expand moving forward, while his natural abilities have already helped him find the end zone twice and account for 22.3 percent of the team's total yardage on just 31 touches. He's a low-end flex play with upside if this backfield split shifts even more. Myles Garrett coming back for the Browns could be a boon for their defense, but I'd wait before hopping on board with them as a streaming candidate.
Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. ET on FOX
Apologies to Cam Newton. Here I was recommending we sit him until he shows us he's still hiding that old Superman logo under his shoulder pads, and then he goes out and dominates against the Patriots. I don't think that was just "Patriots defense" either, as Newton ran hard and completed some nice deep throws. Detroit's passing defense is allowing the 12th-most yards per game (255) but has been strong overall with a 4-7 TD-INT ratio. If Newton can avoid mistakes, he should be able to produce. With the passing attack picking up the slack in Week 4, the running backs disappointed. Christian McCaffrey still led the way in playing time (76 percent to 44) but lost targets (three) and a touchdown to Fozzy Whittaker. This could be a big game for Run CMC, though, as the Lions allow six catches and nearly 60 receiving yards per game to opposing backs, both near the bottom of the league. Jonathan Stewart remains a risky flex play, needing a touchdown to really pay off. He's had 40-plus yards in every game thus far and averages around 15 touches per game, but he's scored only once (Week 1). Kelvin Benjamin bounced back quickly from his knee injury, while Devin Funchess stepped up in a big way (though he suffered an injury of his own). Benjamin is the safer start of the two against the Lions surprisingly frisky secondary (59.3 percent catch rate, 151.3 yards per game allowed to opposing wideouts), though he could go toe-to-toe with Darius Slay, who's done some shadowing in 2017. On the year, he's allowed just 16 catches on 28 targets for 153 yards, with zero touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 42.7 passer rating. I'd still trot him out in season-long leagues for his touchdown upside, though. Funchess has slid into the No. 2 spot now with Greg Olsen sidelined (19 targets the last two weeks) and will be worth a look in the flex, especially if Slay shadows Benjamin. Ed Dickson nearly matched his season-long target total in Week 4, but still isn't really in the mix for fantasy. The Lions offense isn't as frightening as the Patriots, but I'd sit the Panthers defense on the road here if you can.
While Matthew Stafford came out of the gates hot (27.08 fantasy points in Week 1), he's slowed down significantly with 13.18, 16.46, and 10.06 point outings since. Yes, he's played the Giants and Vikings in that span, two top-notch defenses, but that's a worrisome trend as he gears up to face a Panthers defense that can be dominant. The Panthers allowed six total points in Weeks 1 and 2 but were then gashed by the Saints and Patriots for a combined 64 points. I'd go back to the well once more with Stafford, and if he can't get it done at home it'll officially be time to adjust expectations. Ameer Abdullah had a great game in Week 4 (94 rush yards, TD, 15 rec yards), racking up over 100 total yards for just the second time in his career. It's encouraging that he saw 72 percent of the backfield opportunities, though, after seeing 59, 53, and 58 percent over the first three weeks. The myths of him losing goal-line work are also overexaggerated, as he has the only two attempts inside the 5-yard line for Detroit thus far, though the team has skewed pass-heavy approaching the goal line with seven passes vs. three runs inside the 10. He'll be a flex play this week. No team has conceded more targets (45) or receptions (35) to opposing running backs than the Panthers. They've limited running backs on those receptions, though, allowing just 194 yards (5.5 per catch). Theo Riddick lost passing game work to Abdullah last week, but could be back in the mix as a low-end PPR flex given the bye weeks. Four separate players on the Lions tied for the team lead last week with five targets, while two others saw four. That really took the air out of the passing game for Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. The Panthers boast a nice tandem of young corners backs, which might dampen Jones' outlook, though Tate should be able to eat over the middle of the field. Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan combined for seven catches, 58 yards and a touchdown from the slot last week. The Eric Ebron breakout dream may be dead yet again. He was out-targeted by Darren Fells last week, and Fells has nearly matched Ebron's year-long yardage total (87 to 51) despite seeing 12 fewer targets. The Lions defense has been opportunistic thus far, and there's no reason to turn away from them now. We've only seen Cam Newton look like his old self for one week, and there's a chance he could sputter again on the road here.
San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. ET on FOX
It might be tempting to stream Brian Hoyer against a Colts pass defense giving up the fourth-most passing yards per game (296.8), but they've allowed just six passing touchdowns while intercepting six passes. Plus, Hoyer is traveling east for an early game and is piloting an offense that has scored a touchdown in only one game so far this year. Carlos Hyde (oblique) played through his injury last week, managing 16 carries for 68 yards and five catches for 27 yards. Kyle Shanahan said Hyde would be in a similar boat this week, so monitor his status up to kickoff. If he can't go, Matt Breida looks like the next man up as he saw a season-high nine carries last week helping to spell Hyde. The Colts defense has been tough on opposing backs, though, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry and a grand total of 129 receiving yards through four weeks. Pierre Garcon was shut down by Patrick Peterson last week, but could bounce back here. The Colts top corner, Vontae Davis, primarily plays on one side of the field. The rest of this group isn't really worth spending more digital ink on.
There certainly is a case to stream Jacoby Brissett this week, as he's at home facing a 49ers defense that has allowed a passing touchdown in every game so far as well as 649 passing yards over the last two weeks. A word of caution, though, as Brissett struggled mightily under pressure last week, and on the season the 49ers defense has the third-highest pressure rate (51 percent) per Next Gen Stats. Narratives collide for Frank Gore this week as he not only faces his old team but is four yards shy of passing Eric Dickerson (a former Colt, albeit briefly) for seventh on the all-time rushing list. He's been dominating the backfield touches the last few weeks, with nearly 70 percent coming his way. The 49ers are allowing just 3.6 yards per carry on the ground though thanks to their tough front seven, so Gore's upside remains capped as a low-end flex play. Donte Moncrief caught a touchdown last week, but only saw three targets so I wouldn't get hyped about chasing that. There's a chance his target totals jump up with Jack Doyle (concussion) ruled out, but so far Kamar Aiken has out-targeted Moncrief 15-14 in Brissett's three starts. T.Y. Hilton remains the best play here thanks to his big-play ability and target share with Brissett under center (23.3 percent since Week 2). Desperate streamers could pick up the Colts, as I've done in a few spots. Brian Hoyer has been sacked 13 times in four games to go along with five turnovers, and one of his top playmakers (Carlos Hyde) is battling through an injury.
Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET on CBS
With Matt Cassel likely starting under center for the Titans in Week 5, the fantasy value of this whole squad goes down the drain. Since 2015 the Titans average 10 fewer points per game when Mariota is out of the lineup. Over Cassel's last three significant appearances (last week and two in 2016), he's completed 55 percent of his passes for 295 yards with two touchdowns, four interceptions, and seven sacks. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry are both a bit banged up and will be sharing work in an offense led by Matt Cassel. Do. Not. Want. Eric Decker continues to see nowhere near the amount of targets we want in a starting fantasy wide receiver. If there's one sliver of hope in this offense, it's Rishard Matthews, who sneakily has seen 31.7 percent of Cassel's targets in his three main games since 2016. In Cassel's lone start last year, Matthews went for 9-114-1 on 13 targets in a win over the Texans. With Corey Davis out again, Matthews could get pummeled with targets, especially if the Miami offense finally gets going and actually scores some points against a subpar defense. Same goes for Delanie Walker, as he's seen 28 percent of Cassel's targets in that span. It makes sense for the backup quarterback to feed familiar targets, so if there are players to "trust" (and I use that word lightly) in this offense for Week 5, they are Matthews and Walker.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The big question for Week 5 is if anyone will risk being fooled a third time by Jay Cutler in what is a FANTASTIC matchup. The Titans pass defense allows 318 yards per game with eight touchdowns and just one takeaway over the last two weeks. It's a dangerous, risky gambit starting Cutler this week, but those hurting for a quarterback could do worse than Smokin' Jay. Jay Ajayi has disappointed in back-to-back weeks, but those issues can likely be pinned on the overall offensive struggles more than Ajayi playing poorly. Perhaps the team turns the keys of the offense back over to him in the hopes of jump-starting the unit. The Titans are fresh off a game where they gave up 186 total yards and two scores to Houston's backs. Jarvis Landry is only usable in PPR formats at this point. Despite the Dolphins' struggles, DeVante Parker has at least offered a solid floor, even in standard formats. In PPR his worst finish is WR28, while in standard it's WR34. His ceiling remains massive, too, as Cutler's primary deep ball target (41.56 percent of his targeted air yards, the second-highest percentage in the league). With this offense sputtering, Kenny Stills needs to be relegated to the bench. The Dolphins disappointed the last time I listed them as a streamer (Week 3 at Jets, five points), but if Matt Cassel starts you have to like the Dolphins' chances at home. Cassel threw two picks and took two sacks on 18 offensive plays last week!
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET on CBS
With numerous quarterbacks injured or in bad matchups, Tyrod Taylor is on the streaming radar this week. Historically, he's struggled on the road fantasy-wise, but the Bengals defense could afford him some opportunities to produce. Their stats look much better than they should, as they faced a limited Joe Flacco in Week 1 and a struggling DeShone Kizer in Week 4. Those weeks between saw Deshaun Watson (in his first career start) and Aaron Rodgers produce solid numbers and fantasy totals. Taylor ranks third in rushing yards among QBs, while no team has given up more yards to the position than the Bengals (100), and all of those yards have come in the past three weeks. This is the first time in LeSean McCoy's career where he hasn't scored a touchdown in his first four games of the season. That's partially because Mike Tolbert has more attempts than him (three to two) inside the 5-yard line. The Bengals have been stout against the run (3.5 yards per carry, two total touchdowns allowed) but McCoy's volume is impossible to ignore. Speaking of volume, Charles Clay owns 25.3 percent of the total team targets and is now a weekly start. He's graduated from the streaming category. Somebody queue the Vitamin C! The Bills defense remains one of the league's best, and even though they're on the road (again) Andy Dalton has been sacked at least three times in every game (14 total) and committed a turnover in two of four contests (six total).
The Bills defense has absolutely smothered opposing passers this year, with six interceptions to one touchdown allowed through four weeks and an average of just 229 yards per game. Dalton is turning his season around after a horrific start, but don't risk playing him this week. Joe Mixon has taken over this backfield from an opportunity standpoint since Week 3 (60.9 percent of the targets/carries), but he's only been on the field for 52 percent of the offensive snaps (Giovani Bernard - 27, Jeremy Hill - 21). He's a flex option thanks to volume, but his upside will be limited in what figures to be a low-scoring game. Bernard found the end zone in back-to-back weeks, but six carries and six targets in that span is not a workload that inspires confidence he can make it three in a row. A.J. Green owns 31 percent of Dalton's targets and a whopping 41.9 percent of his targeted air yards (most in the league). He's a must-start every week. Tyler Kroft has played 90 percent of the snaps since Tyler Eifert was forced to the bench with numerous injuries. His target total jumped from four to seven, and he saw two red-zone targets in Week 4, turning both into scores. He's a dicey stream against a Bills team that hasn't allowed a tight end touchdown yet to go along with 46 yards per game. If his usage stays elevated this week, he'll be an even more attractive starter going forward. The Bengals defense is at home and has multiple sacks in three straight games, while Tyrod Taylor has been sacked two-plus times in every game. They're a low-end streaming unit.
San Diego Chargers at New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Philip Rivers has had an up-and-down start to the year, failing to cross the 20-point threshold once in four games. Now he must travel to face an elite Giants defense that has allowed just one top-10/20-plus point performance all season. If you can find a better streamer, I'd recommend it. Melvin Gordon battled through a knee injury last week and as a result saw his lowest touch total (11) of the young season. He's off the injury report now, though and if there's a silver lining for his outlook it's that the Giants currently rank 31st in Football Outsiders' run-defense DVOA, and have allowed three separate rushers to average 5-plus yards per carry in the last two weeks. Gordon's average for the season is a paltry 3.1, so this could be a get-right game for the former Badger. Keenan Allen has target totals of 10, 10, nine, and 11 this year, and should avoid Janoris Jenkins some by traveling all around the field and into the slot. He's a locked-in WR1. Well, one week after saying to sit Tyrell Williams, he went and threw a 75-yard touchdown in my face. He's out-snapping Travis Benjamin by a fairly wide margin (92 percent to 65), though both are nothing more than boom-or-bust flex plays. On the road against the Giants, the "bust" side feels more likely. Not sure if you've heard, but the Giants are abysmal at covering tight ends. On the season they've allowed five separate top-10 fantasy finishes from the position in just four weeks. That puts both Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates on the streaming radar, though their usage has been so spotty this year it's tough to feel great about either. Gates has the slight edge in playing time (59 percent to 54) and targets (17 to 10), but Henry has more yards (96 to 76). After getting sacked eight times in Weeks 1 and 2, Eli Manning has been taken down zero times the last two weeks. The Chargers' defense's best asset is its pass rush, and Manning's quick passing can neutralize that.
It should surprise no one that Eli Manning's fantasy output has jumped sharply with a healthier Odell Beckham Jr. in the lineup, but the Giants' increased focus on quick throws has helped, as well. He managed a combined 18.26 fantasy points in Weeks 1-2, he's notched 22.64 and 27.72 in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively. The Chargers defense looks intimidating on paper but can be exploited. At home, Manning is worth a look as a streamer. Paul Perkins is officially out, but I'm still not enthused with Wayne Gallman as a starting option. This backfield isn't getting good blocking or making plays on its own, though Gallman did provide a little juice last week. With four good teams on bye, he could be a low-end RB2/flex. Only fools sit Odell Beckham. Brandon Marshall has turned 21 targets over the past two weeks into 14 receptions, 112 yards and no scores. He's a fringe WR4 in PPR formats. Sterling Shepard, on the other hand, could be a sneaky flex play. The Chargers allow the eighth-most yards (242) and the most touchdowns (four) to receivers from the slot, where Shepard has lined up on 78 percent of his snaps. Evan Engram has quietly been one of the most consistent PPR tight ends, posting 8.4-plus points in every game this year. Despite being a good overall defense, the Giants have scored just 13 fantasy points this year. There are better options to stream.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Blake Bortles has yet to throw for more than 250 yards in a game this season, and four of his seven touchdowns came in that flukey Marcedes Lewis-game in London. He remains an unstartable option in fantasy. Leonard Fournette, on the other hand, remains a must-start in fantasy. He currently accounts for 31.3 percent of the Jaguars offensive yardage, and 40 percent of their touchdowns. Marqise Lee (ribs) missed practice earlier this week and could be a long-shot to play, or limited if he does. This could force more volume to Allen Hurns, who also might have a negative, pass-heavy game script working in his favor if the Steelers build a lead at home. While the Jaguars pass rush remains one of the best in the league, it's risky banking on that production versus a Pittsburgh offense that always plays better at home.
Typically, we want to start Ben Roethlisberger at home, where he averages roughly 7.5 more fantasy points than on the road since 2010. However, Big Ben has struggled so far in 2016, and a home date with the Jaguars dynamic secondary certainly isn't what the doctor ordered. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye might be the best tandem in the league, and Ramsey is allowing an absurdly low 50.8 passer rating and 2.5 yards per target when quarterbacks throw at him this year. I'd strongly consider sitting Roethlisberger if there's a better option available on waivers, especially since the Steelers could look to exploit the Jaguars run defense. The Jags allow the second-most rushing yards per game (148.5) and are dead last in Football Outsiders' run-defense DVOA. That's great news for Le'Veon Bell, who handled 39 (!) touches last week. You're starting Antonio Brown, but lower expectations against these Jaguars cornerbacks. Brown is a versatile player who moves all over the field, though, and should draw his fair share of favorable matchups. I know Matt Franciscovich wrote up Martavis Bryant as a buy-low option, but I'm going to need to see it before I believe it with this Big Ben to Bryant connection before I keep slotting him into my lineups. With the Jaguars boasting two stellar outside cornerbacks, Jesse James could be used heavily in the middle of the field to move the chains. He's a low-end streamer, though, given his diminishing target totals this season (eight to five to four to three). Blake Bortles is coming to town so there's always a chance for a big defensive outing, making the Steelers a solid streaming option.
Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET on FOX
Starting Carson Palmer in fantasy is the emotional equivalent of watching an inexperienced loved one ride a unicycle across a high-wire, but fortunately for fantasy managers (and our fictitious, daredevil loved ones), he's had success the last three weeks. He could provide his best outing yet in Week 5 against a banged-up defense that has allowed 713 passing yards and five touchdowns combined over the last two weeks. He's a solid streamer. It might be tempting to chase Andre Ellington's impressive nine-catch, 86-yard performance, but 30 of those yards and three of those catches came in the overtime, hurry-up drive. He's a low-end flex in PPR formats, but standard owners might want to pass. Chris Johnson isn't really even rosterable right now while averaging 2.6 yards per carry on a pass-first team. Despite his fluctuating target totals (13, six, 15, seven) Larry Fitzgerald needs to remain locked into starting lineups. Jaron Brown is putting together a fantastic start to the season, as his production has nearly matched Fitz's over the past three weeks. He actually leads the team in targets since Week 2 and is a solid WR3 starter. John Brown remains on the injury report with his quad issue, but if he starts he's worth a shot in the flex. He played 62 percent of the snaps in Week 4 and saw seven targets, one of which was damn close to being a touchdown. The Cardinals defense just lost one of their top pass-rushers, Markus Golden, to a torn ACL, making them an even less attractive starting option.
This Cardinals defense is not the same intimidating unit from a few years back and can be beaten through the air. Both Matthew Stafford and Dak Prescott posted top-10 fantasy weeks against the birds, which puts Carson Wentz in a nice spot to do the same. Wendell Smallwood popped up on the injury report with a knee ailment, so that will need to be monitored, but if healthy both he and LeGarrette Blount make fine flex/RB2 plays. They saw 16 and 17 opportunities in Week 4, respectively. If Smallwood doesn't play, Corey Clement is a name to circle on the waiver wire. I'm sitting Alshon Jeffery this week, as he's only seen double-digit targets once in four weeks and will draw coverage from Patrick Peterson. While you might think this could lead to more chances for Torrey Smith or Nelson Agholor, both are far too volatile to risk trusting in fantasy this week. The one pass-catcher in this offense we can trust is Zach Ertz. Through four weeks, Ertz leads all tight ends in targets (36), receptions (26), receiving yards (326) and first-down receptions (17). He never leaves your lineup. Carson Palmer has been sacked 16 times the last three weeks and has thrown at least one interception in three of four games. The Eagles defense is a great play this week.
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m. ET on CBS
Surprisingly, after a disastrous start to the season behind a leaky offensive line, Russell Wilson sits as the QB3 in fantasy at the close of the season's first quarter. He's balling out again and this offense as a whole looks set to turn the corner. We should confidently fire up all parts of this passing offense against a Rams secondary and defense as a whole that leads in points scored against. Doug Baldwin didn't practice on Wednesday with his groin issue, but played last week and should be started again, assuming he starts. Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson are both fine flex plays, with 22 and 20 targets on the year, respectively. Jimmy Graham missed practice with an ankle injury but played through it last week. He's seen 17 targets over the last two games, catching 11 of them for 133 yards. The Rams have been pulverized more in the ground game, where they've allowed a league-high six rushing touchdowns to go along with 140 yards per game to opposing backs. However, this is a risky spot to trust any Seattle backs. Pete Carroll said that Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy will "take the load" but that gives us zero indication of their usage will be split. Rawls was a healthy scratch last week while Lacy looked pretty good running the football, but again, that could easily flip. I'd avoid starting these two (and J.D. McKissic) for at least a week until we can see how everything shakes out in this new Chris Carson-less backfield. The Seahawks defense bounced back against the Colts, but I'd be hesitant to use them on the road against the Rams potent offense.
The Seahawks defense, while not perfect, has still done pretty well defending the pass, as they're one of just four teams allowing under 200 passing yards per game. Jared Goff's been a fine streamer thus far, with at least one touchdown pass in every game (five combined over his last two) and 250-plus yards in three of four contests. With four starting-caliber quarterbacks on byes this week, Goff's certainly in the mix as a low-end streamer at home. Todd Gurley needs to be locked into starting lineups each and every week, and his upside is huge in this game against Seattle's surprisingly weak run defense. They're allowing 114 yards per game to opposing backs at a 5.1 yards per carry clip. Sammy Watkins has never played the Seahawks in his career, so we don't have much to draw on as to how he fares against their secondary. All of the Rams pass-catchers are volatile plays in Sean McVay's offense, but those chasing a high ceiling could risk it with Watkins. Cooper Kupp might be the safest play of the bunch, as slot receivers and players who work the middle of the field have typically performed well against Seattle. Robert Woods popped off for 108 yards in Week 3, but has under 55 yards receiving in every other game, with two sub-20 yards performances. We're not starting these tight ends until a leader emerges from the group, and I'd avoid the Rams defense playing against a red-hot Seahawks offense.
Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m. ET on CBS
Originally, this game figured to be a marquee matchup between potential AFC powerhouses. Now? It's a battle of sadness between two injured, struggling offenses. Matt Franciscovich dropped this heater into our team slack chat Thursday: Joe Flacco averages 4.45 fantasy points per game against teams that aren't the Cleveland Browns this year. And he only scored 14.58 against the Browns. There's no reason to have Flacco on a fantasy roster, much less consider starting him. Many were quick to bury Javorius Allen (and me for recommending him) last week after he saw just two carries against the Steelers. While Alex Collins looked good on his few runs, he fumbled and played only 17 snaps to Allen's 40. I'd recommend avoiding these backs if you can, but of the two Allen remains the better play. He's tied for second on the team with 19 targets. Don't chase Mike Wallace's performance from last week. On the year he has just nine catches on 19 targets for 76 yards and one score. He, Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman aren't startable options. Benjamin Watson can be streamed, but his outlook is less sunny after he played fewer snaps than Nick Boyle in Week 4. Neither team is expected to score many points in this game, which already makes the Ravens a great start. Then you add in EJ Manuel as the starter, and it's all systems go.
The Raiders offense was sputtering even before Derek Carr injured his back. As a result, I'm off this whole group for the most part. Marshawn Lynch is playing limited snaps (41 percent on the season), and while the Ravens have been routinely beaten by running backs this year (fifth-most total yards allowed, 680), I can't trust BeastMode. Amari Cooper is battling himself at the moment while Michael Crabtree is trying to play through a chest injury. Neither inspires much confidence for fantasy purposes with Manuel under center. Manuel targeted Cooks four times (including on a touchdown Cook dropped), so he's perhaps the one player to stream from this bunch. The Baltimore defense remains a talented unit though, so if you want to avoid this group altogether I won't blame you (I am). Joe Flacco is second in the NFL in interceptions (six) and has been sacked eight times in the last three games. The Raiders defense at home will be a fine streamer.
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX
Aaron Rodgers is tied for the league lead with 10 touchdowns and has this passing attack humming. He should absolutely carve up the Dallas secondary, much like he did in the divisional round of the playoffs last year (355 yards, 2 TD, INT). Ty Montgomery (ribs) and Jamaal Williams (knee) both left the game last week, paving the way for fifth-round rookie Aaron Jones to lead the way with a solid 13-49-1 line. And because we can't have nice things in fantasy, it looks like Williams will play this week, clouding the outlook of what could have been a big spot for Jones. Reading the tea leaves, I still feel the best about Jones as a low-end RB2 or flex play, but be sure to follow reports on Sunday to get the clearest picture of what could happen here. Montgomery is doubtful and will likely be out. Jordy Nelson leads the NFL in touchdown receptions (five) and is Rodgers' favorite target. Randall Cobb looks like the fantasy stud we knew from a few years ago and leads the team in receptions with 19. If Davante Adams (concussion) plays, he's a fine start. This game should be one of the highest scoring of the week and we want as many pieces of the Packers passing game in our lineups as possible. That includes Martellus Bennett, who has seen 28 targets through four weeks. This is his second-straight revenge game, and for what it's worth Rodgers said publicly he wants to get Bennett going earlier.
Much like with the Packers, the stars on the Cowboys offense all need to be started. Dak, Dez and Zeke should be close to weekly lineup locks, but this week, in particular, could be a big one for them. In two games against the Packers as a rookie, Prescott threw for 549 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. Ezekiel Elliott totaled 157 and 125 rushing yards in their two meetups last season. Those desperate for a streaming play with the bye weeks hitting could start Brice Butler. He's averaging 25 yards per reception and has scored two touchdowns on nine targets. A blow-up game could be coming soon, perhaps against the Packers still suspect secondary. Jason Witten has disappeared the last two weeks (six targets, two catches, 12 yards), but could bounce back against the Pack. Their fantasy defense looks great on paper against tight ends, but the position has only been targeted 19 times in four games, tied for the fifth-fewest in the league. While Dallas' defense has overperformed expectations thanks to dynamic pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, 99 out of 100 times it's a terrible idea to start fantasy defenses against Aaron Rodgers-led offenses (no that's not a real statistic but you get my drift).
Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC
Alex Smith has three top-10 fantasy performances in the first four weeks, and currently, sits as the overall QB2. He's piloting the NFL's third-best scoring offense and is a strong start against an injury-ravaged Houston secondary. Only four players in the Super Bowl era have started their career with four consecutive 100-plus scrimmage yards, and Kareem Hunt is one of them. You were starting him anyway, but that was a fun stat I wanted to share. Tyreek Hill leads the Chiefs wide receivers in targets (28), catches (21), receiving yards (288) and touchdowns (two). His production has been a big up-and-down (two games over 15 points, two under five) but he's a weekly start. Same goes for Travis Kelce, who already has two 100-yard games to his name in 2017 after leading the position in that category last year (with six). Deshaun Watson has the Texans' offensive arrow firmly pointed upward, but the Chiefs defense remains a stout unit and is worth starting against the rookie.
Deshaun Watson is taking the NFL and fantasy world by storm after leading the Texans to 90 points over the last two weeks. The Chiefs allow the ninth-most passing yards per game in the league, and Watson should be able to move the ball on them. There's no reason to turn away from one of the hottest fantasy players in the game this week. Lamar Miller lost more work to D'Onta Foreman last week, but thanks to the whole offense rising up around Watson, he was far more efficient (and found the end zone twice). DeAndre Hopkins ranks near the top of the league in percentage of team targets (first), receptions (first), receiving yards (fourth), and air yards (fifth). Will Fuller returned to action in a big way last week, and is a boom-or-bust flex option. He was targeted on numerous deep shots and in the red zone as well. His return hurts Bruce Ellington's value, but I wouldn't drop the veteran just yet. Ryan Griffin has 11 targets over the last two games and is a decent streaming option. While the Texans defense has scored nine-plus points in three straight games, I'd sit them against the Chiefs. Defenses have averaged just 3.5 fantasy points per game against Andy Reid's offense this year.