Adam Thielen’s worst performance of the young season? His six-catch, 102-yard outing against the 49ers in Week 1. Thielen is one of just three players to draw at least 10 targets in all four games. He’s also the first player since Randy Moss in 2007 to begin the year with four-straight 100-yard receiving efforts. He’s on pace to break Rob Moore’s single-season targets record. (Thank you to Ryan McDowell, Rich Hribar and Graham Barfield for the #ThielenFacts.)
Thielen is not just a WR1, he’s an elite WR1, in the company of Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas. Thielen’s chemistry with new quarterback Kirk Cousins has been impeccable. The duo should stay hot for Week 5 against the Eagles’ struggling secondary. Allowing the sixth-most receiver fantasy points, the Eagles have had to shoot down talk they’re preparing to bench LCB Jalen Mills. Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones haven’t been a whole lot better. No. 4 in yardage since the start of last season (1,749), Thielen is genuinely elite.
Week 5 Quarterbacks
QB Notes: Fresh off coughing up 80 points at home over the past two weeks, the Falcons are headed on the road to Pittsburgh. Although he has “just” eight touchdowns through four starts, Ben Roethlisberger’s season-low for yardage is 274. No one has tallied more yards through the air. Destroyed by injury, the Falcons’ defense will be unable to slow Big Ben in Pittsburgh. … Cam Newton has been held below 170 yards passing in 2-of-3 games but compensated in fantasy by scoring three rushing touchdowns. He is the QB7 by average points. Newton’s Week 5 opponent, the Giants, have allowed a league-worst 150 quarterback rushing yards. … Calvin Ridley’s emergence has salvaged both the Falcons’ red zone offense and Matt Ryan’s fantasy value. Four of Ridley’s six scores have originated inside the 20. Last year’s QB22 by average points, Ryan has rebounded to QB3 status so far in 2018. Allowing the second-most quarterback fantasy points, the Steelers will do everything they can to keep Ryan hot. … Facing the Vikings’ usually formidable defense in Week 4, Jared Goff had one of the best starts in NFL history. 465 yards, five touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 QB rating. With at least 354 yards in 3-of-4 starts, Goff will not be slowed by the Seahawks’ crumbling, Earl Thomas-less defense.
Everyone has been so distracted by Deshaun Watson’s touchdown regression that they have not seemed to notice he is the QB6 by average points. Watson has gone at least 300/2 in three-straight starts. His only concern for Week 5 against the Sean Lee-less Cowboys is the potential absence of Will Fuller (hamstring), though Keke Coutee’s presence would help offset the loss. … Drew Brees had a true stinker in Week 4. He will be trying to rebound at home against a Redskins defense that’s so far allowed the second-fewest quarterback fantasy points. That’s with Aaron Rodgers on the schedule. The Redskins will also be rested and prepared coming off their bye week. I’m still not betting against Brees at the Superdome. … Tom Brady was better in Week 4 but still far from flawless in the Patriots’ rout of the Dolphins. A similarly noncompetitive game could be on tap for Thursday night against the Colts, one in which Rob Gronkowski (ankle) looks like he will be limited. That’s if he plays at all. Julian Edelman (suspension) is returning. … Aaron Rodgers (knee) appeared more mobile in Week 4 but still managed just one score and a QB19 finish. To date, Rodgers has been the QB6, QB23, QB14 and QB19. Things could get worse before they get better if Geronimo Allison (concussion) and Randall Cobb (hamstring) both miss Week 5. Even Davante Adams (calf) is suddenly questionable.
QB1 Patrick Mahomes faces his stiffest test of the season in the Jaguars. Thankfully, the game is in the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium. I’m clearly hedging Mahomes’ rank, but his scrambling/ability to throw on the run could make him matchup proof even against shutdown units like the Jags. … Like the Vikings, the Eagles’ fearsome defense is off to a slow 2018 start. There’s been talk of benching starting CB Jalen Mills. It all bodes well for Kirk Cousins, who is the QB5 after shredding the Rams in Week 4. Cousins is averaging 381 yards since Week 1. … Philip Rivers has eclipsed 256 yards only once in four starts, though he is the QB11 by average points. That feels right for this week’s matchup with the Raiders’ overachieving defense. … The QB17 by average points, Matthew Stafford is the QB12 if you throw out the Lions’ wretched Week 1 against the Jets. The Packers have been fairly stout against the pass, but it should surprise no one if shootout conditions develop in Detroit’s dome, getting Stafford his typical numbers.
Blake Bortles has averaged 382 yards and posted six total touchdowns across Leonard Fournette’s two missed games. Fournette will be out again against the Chiefs’ sieve-like defense. Bortles always comes with a scary floor, but there’s QB1 overall upside for Week 5. … Alex Smith has yet to finish above QB14. If he’s ever going to do so, this will be the week. The Saints are allowing an unfathomable 9.6 yards per attempt. Vegas has the over/under at 52.5 in New Orleans. … Part of Andy Dalton’s 2018 reversion to his career norms has been his supporting cast being back to 100 percent. With Tyler Eifert (ankle) done, that is no longer the case. The continued emergence of Tyler Boyd would go a long way toward making Dalton fantasy’s best QB2. … Carson Wentz took a noticeable step forward against the Titans, turning in a QB11 day. Surprisingly allowing the seventh-most quarterback fantasy points, the Vikings are not yet living up to their defensive reputation. … Even with his Week 1 derailment factored in, Derek Carr is averaging 343 yards. He’s fourth in passing. Much like the Vikings, the roughed up Chargers aren’t producing at anywhere near their reputation on defense, allowing 8.7 yards per attempt and the ninth-most QB fantasy points.
Even after Andrew Luck’s 464-yard explosion — on 62 passes — he’s still averaging a woeful 6.05 yards per attempt. Playing on a short week in New England without T.Y. Hilton (hamstring), Luck’s comeback bus figures to stall for a game. … The QB24 by average points, Russell Wilson has finished above QB15 just once. Even after last week’s Vikings shootout, the Rams are allowing the sixth-fewest quarterback fantasy points. … Angry Joe Flacco is the QB16 so far. It’s not quite 2017 Alex Smith, but Flacco has been revived to a degree. The Browns had been tough against the pass before getting embarrassed by Derek Carr. … Hopefully Ryan Tannehill can shake off last week’s horror-show performance against a Bengals defense permitting the fifth-most quarterback fantasy points. … Coach Hue Jackson counted nine drops for Baker Mayfield’s pass catchers last week. It felt like Antonio Callaway committed over half of those, but it would be terrible news for Mayfield if Callaway’s knee injury held him out. … No matter how bad the Bills are, Buffalo is often a daunting road trip. Marcus Mariota gets a probation game after last week’s encouraging effort. … There will be weeks to stream C.J. Beathard. This is not a great one. … The same is true of Josh Rosen.
Week 5 Running Backs
RB Notes: Ezekiel Elliott has 88 more yards than any other back in football. … So how will the Saints divvy up touches between Alvin Kamara and a returning Mark Ingram? Speaking Tuesday, coach Sean Payton said “we’ll figure out the balance,” and that “it will be good for us offensively to have (Ingram) back.” Although Kamara out-touched Ingram in the second half last season, Ingram averaged 18 touches for the year with Kamara managing 13 in non-injury shortened games. Proven to be one of the very best players in the entire league, we would expect that number to flip in favor of Kamara, perhaps in perfect reverse fashion. The RB1 overall through the season’s first four weeks, Kamara remains a safe top-three option. Ingram should be treated as a low-end RB2 for the time being. … Melvin Gordon is on pace for 1,900 yards from scrimmage, while his 5.11 yards per carry is more than a yard better than his previous career high. Austin Ekeler is averaging 10 weekly touches, but the Chargers’ backfield has proven to be big enough for the two of them.
Christian McCaffrey caught 14 passes in Week 2 before setting new career highs in rushes (28) and ground yards (184) in Week 3. His summer hype was deserved. Coming off the Panthers’ bye, CMC gets the Giants’ bottom-five run defense as a seven-point home favorite. Beautiful. … Opposing McCaffrey will be Saquon Barkley, who checks in as the RB6 by average points. A cooked Eli Manning has made for some harrowing game flow, but Barkley’s usage has been predictably foolproof. … Kareem Hunt finally exploded against the Broncos. A repeat against the Jaguars will be tough, but the Jags are softer on the ground than through the air. The Jags’ elite secondary could funnel passing-game looks Hunt’s way. … Fantasy players are growing understandably impatient with James Conner, though his Week 5 setup cannot be ignored. In addition to getting manhandled on the ground, the Falcons have allowed a disastrous 42/310/1 receiving line to enemy runners. With a 57 over/under as a three-point home favorite, Conner will be hard pressed to botch this one. … Slowly showing signs of life, David Johnson finished as the RB13 in Josh Rosen’s first start. He played 92 percent of the Cardinals’ snaps. Perhaps OC Mike McCoy is emerging from his stupor.
Marshawn Lynch has cleared 20 touches in three-straight games. Jon Gruden isn’t keeping the reins on the way Jack Del Rio did in 2017. … Knocking off more rust each week, Sony Michel flirted with dominance in Week 4. He looked both slippery and powerful as he ran over the Dolphins. Colts MLB Darius Leonard will be playing on a bum ankle Thursday night. … The talk of the Browns’ backfield in Week 4 was Nick Cubb’s home runs, but Carlos Hyde still out-carried his rookie teammate 22-3. Hyde has rushed the ball at least 22 times 3-of-4 games. Even if coach Hue Jackson follows through on his pledge to get Chubb more work, Hyde’s high-end RB2 case is not yet endangered. … T.J. Yeldon has been the RB29 and RB8 in Leonard Fournette’s absences. Allowing a pathetic 5.73 yards per carry, the Chiefs have silver plattered the second-most running back fantasy points. … Jay Ajayi’s back was not an issue as he handled the ball 18 times for 81 yards against the Titans. … Devonta Freeman (knee) is finally ready to return from his three-game absence. Tevin Coleman hardly set the world alight while Freeman was sidelined, but we would expect a tighter committee than usual as Freeman gets his legs back underneath him.
Tom Brady talked up James White before he got the ball 16 times for 112/2 in Week 4. Julian Edelman’s return could take a bite out of White’s usage over the middle of the field, but with Rob Gronkowski (ankle) likely to be limited, White is still needed for Week 5. … Giovani Bernard ran hot during Joe Mixon’s two-game absence but picked up some nicks and bruises. He’s looking dicey for Week 5 with a knee issue. It makes it rather uncontroversial for the Bengals to immediately plug Mixon back in as a bell-cow. If he can suit up, Bernard will be a stronger FLEX than he was before Mixon’s surgery. … With Adrian Peterson’s (ankle) status uncertain coming off the Redskins’ bye, Chris Thompson is in a potential blow-up spot against the Saints’ sub-par defense. If Peterson plays, both players will find themselves on the RB2/3 borderline. … Dalvin Cook’s status is uncertain after he tried to return from his hamstring issue too early in Week 4. If he needs another week on the shelf, a struggling Latavius Murray will be a risky RB2 against the Eagles’ stout ground defense. … Alex Collins’ fumbling is a legitimate issue, but the Ravens have little recourse with Javorius Allen averaging an abysmal 2.38 yards per carry. Collins is still an RB2.
Lamar Miller is slowly screwing up a situation that is difficult to screw up. With 25 percent of the season in the books, Miller is the RB34 by average points. … Phillip Lindsay has out-gained Royce Freeman in every game where he has not been ejected. He’s the better overall player. Freeman’s scoring opportunities keep him in the RB3 mix. … The fantasy community is trying to will “Kerryon Johnson, RB2” into existence. We are not far off, but Johnson has touched the ball more than 13 times only once. That’s not enough. … Chris Carson will be a rankings riser if it becomes clear he’s playing. Unfortunately, coach Pete Carroll’s updates are close to worthless. … Matt Breida/Alfred Morris is the poor man’s Phillip Lindsay/Royce Freeman. Breida has out-gained Morris every game. … Aaron Rodgers has been subtweeting Mike McCarthy on Aaron Jones, who has dramatically out-produced Jamaal Williams in back-to-back games. … Frank Gore running over Kenyan Drake in garbage time against the Patriots was more alarming than either of Drake’s awful Weeks 3 and 4 box scores. … At least any time soon, it’s hard to envision a scenario where LeSean McCoy rises above FLEX status. … Nyheim Hines is the only Colts running back with any Week 5 juice.
Week 5 Receivers
WR Notes: Although he’s second in the league in targets (52), Antonio Brown is a surprising WR22 by average points. Brown did not explode in get-right matchups in the Chiefs and Bucs. He has another in the shootout-addicted Falcons. … Julio Jones is on pace to set the single-season yardage record … and score zero touchdowns. Allowing the second-most receiver fantasy points, the Steelers will at least aid Jones in his former quest. As for the latter, WR2 (!!!) by average points Calvin Ridley is tied for 23rd in red zone targets (five). Four of Ridley’s six scores have originated inside the 20. He’s a locked-in WR2/3. … The Redskins are surrendering the fourth-fewest receiver fantasy points, but you can be confident Michael Thomas will bounce back at home from last week’s four-catch effort. … DeAndre Hopkins could have three other WR1s in the lineup and he would still catch 6-of-10 targets for 118 yards and a touchdown. … Eli Manning’s struggles have Odell Beckham close to a boil. He could once again be limited to compiling against a Panthers defense that works to limit big plays. … Getting completely destroyed over the middle of the field, the Falcons won’t have an answer for JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Averaging a modest 74 yards, A.J. Green has an unpredictable matchup with Miami’s Xavien Howard, who has run hot and cold. … Even against the Jaguars, Andy Reid should find Tyreek Hill enough good matchups — hello Tyler Patmon — to get him a WR1 day. Sammy Watkins’ (hamstring) absence would be a mixed bag. A sidelined Watkins would free up targets, but also defensive attention. … The WR13 by average points, Brandin Cooks is on pace for a sparkling 1,808 yards. That is not going to happen in a receiver corps that also includes Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, but after leaving Drew Brees and Tom Brady, Cooks is set for a career year with Sean McVay. … As for Kupp and Woods, they are tough to rank on a weekly basis. Kupp is the WR6 by average points after last week’s eruption while Woods is the WR15. An offense supporting three top-18 wideouts would be 2013 Broncos territory. We will keep them there this week as the Rams head to Seattle for a date with the Seahawks’ collapsing defense. Matchups haven’t mattered either way for Jared Goff and company in 2018.
As mentioned in the lede with regards to Adam Thielen, there is little reason to fear the Eagles as a matchup for Stefon Diggs. The Birds don’t have a single corner playing well right now. … Coach Jon Gruden has smoke and mirrors’d his defense to a degree, but it is still allowing 8.2 yards per attempt as well as the fourth-most receiver fantasy points. It is thoroughly unimposing in the middle of the field. Keenan Allen is overdue for a 100-yard day. … As consistent as ever to begin 2018, Golden Tate has a plus matchup in the interior of the Packers’ defense. … Kenny Golladay is coming off his first truly quiet game of the season. It still featured 74 yards. Golladay is a weekly WR2 because there is the promise of both yards and touchdowns. He’s a multi-dimensional fantasy compiler. … Baker Mayfield’s first start was Jarvis Landry’s quietest game of 2018, but he still drew 10 targets. With David Njoku and Antonio Callaway both struggling for consistency, Landry will continue to vacuum up looks. Boom/bust — mostly bust so far — Callaway is dealing with a knee issue, but coach Hue Jackson has a “great level of optimism” that he will suit up against the Ravens.
John Brown is on pace for 1,352 yards. He might need to (slightly) up his target total to become an every-week WR2, but it is well within the range of outcomes. … Seemingly on the outs in Cincinnati last season, Tyler Boyd is suddenly the WR20 by average points. He’s gone at least 6/90 in three-straight games. He becomes that much more important for Andy Dalton with Tyler Eifert (ankle) done for the year. … Case Keenum has not thrown for a touchdown since Week 1. That’s what Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas and Courtland Sutton are dealing with. There’s a reason the Vikings never committed to Keenum last season and didn’t even think about paying him in the spring. … I wrote about Corey Davis at length on Monday. Check it out here. The gist of it: He’s the key to everything for the Titans’ offense. Last Sunday doesn’t need to be an outlier. That’s who Davis can be if Marcus Mariota will let him. … Devin Funchess was the WR46 and WR19 in Greg Olsen’s first two games on the shelf. … Alshon Jeffery will be shadowed by Xavier Rhodes. … Playing on two bum knees, Doug Baldwin caught 5-of-7 targets for 41 yards in his Week 4 return. He will not draw shadow coverage from Marcus Peters.
Amari Cooper will never log off. He will occasionally log on. … The Pats like to ease people in, but they could decide that won’t be necessary with Julian Edelman. Especially with Rob Gronkowski (ankle) looking shaky, Edelman could already be in line for 8-10 targets. He has been badly missed over the middle of the field. … If neither Geronimo Allison (concussion) nor Randall Cobb (hamstring) can get cleared, Marquez Valdes-Scantling will be the most compelling WR3 desperado of the week. If Allison gets the go-ahead, he will be in the WR24-30 range. Cobb is doubtful. … Dede Westbrook out-produced Keelan Cole last week and in almost every meaningful category for the season. He could be used as an extension of the running game with Leonard Fournette (hamstring) on the shelf. He was against the Jets. … Nelson Agholor has generated 46 yards on 17 targets since Carson Wentz returned. Not ideal. He’s been operating as a penniless man’s Jarvis Landry. … Taywan Taylor for boom. Ryan Grant to avoid bust. Zach Pascal to really get the party started. … The Pats appear likely to keep the training wheels on Josh Gordon indefinitely.
Week 5 Tight Ends
TE Notes: If Rob Gronkowski (ankle) suits up, he will be limited. If he sits, Dwayne Allen will offer zero fantasy appeal in his place. … After a 1/6/0 Week 1, Travis Kelce has 22 more yards than any other tight end over the past three weeks. He’s drawn at least 10 targets in three straight games. … Zach Ertz drew 23 targets in two games with Nick Foles and 24 in two with Carson Wentz. Even with Alshon Jeffery back for Week 4, Ertz soaked up a season-high 14 looks. He’s on pace for 1,308 yards, which would be a new career-best by 452. 1,000 yards is firmly in play. … Your leader in tight end yardage? Jared Cook, who has posted two 110-yard games. The Chargers are not an imposing Week 5 matchup. … Jordan Reed has gone at least 4/48 each time out. He played a season-best 65.5 percent of the Redskins’ snaps in Week 3 before they went on bye. Thanks to a soft slate of opposing tight ends, the Saints have been flukily stout up the seam.
George Kittle has posted at least 79 yards in 3-of-4 games. He’s averaging an eye-popping 17.6 yards per reception. Kittle is the 49ers’ de facto No. 1 receiver. … Jimmy Graham is off to a quiet start, but he could be needed more than ever in Week 5. Davante Adams (calf) is questionable, Randall Cobb (hamstring) is sidelined and Geronimo Allison (concussion) is not guaranteed to get cleared. … Two of Eric Ebron’s career 10-target games have come in the past two weeks. With the Colts decimated by injury, 10 looks will be Ebron’s floor against the Patriots’ unimpressive linebacker group. … Merely 21st in tight end targets (13), Vance McDonald is eighth in yardage (200). He will continue to get wide-open looks with opposing defenses terrified of Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Essentially all of the Falcons’ tight end stoppers are already on injured reserve. … David Njoku posted season highs in catches (five) and yards (52) in Baker Mayfield’s first start. With talk of the Browns scaling back Antonio Callaway’s workload, Njoku grows even more important.
Will Will Dissly (knee) out of the picture for the target-desperate Seahawks, Nick Vannett should be a catch-and-fall TE2 until Ed Dickson’s (groin, NFI) return. … C.J. Uzomah has made occasional noise in Tyler Eifert’s absence. A plus athlete for his 6-foot-6 frame, Uzomah could have fantasy blowups every now and then. His size will be needed in the red zone. … Antonio Gates has turned in back-to-back five-target performances. Unfortunately, that makes you a solid TE2 in 2018. … Rhett Ellison drew five targets in Evan Engram’s Week 4 absence. With Eli Manning checking down more than ever, that should not be a hard number to hit for however long Engram (knee) remains sidelined. … Jeff Heuerman caught 4-of-7 passes for 57 yards against the Chiefs. That could go down as his best game of the season, but Case Keenum will keep dumping the ball off. … Geoff Swaim is tied for 18th in tight end targets (14). The Texans are allowing the sixth most tight end fantasy points. … Hayden Hurst (foot) appears poised to finally debut.
Week 5 Kickers
Week 5 Defense/Special Teams
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