Start and Sit: Week 5
As of Thursday morning, no Week 5 games have been cancelled or postponed. But with that threat looming as Titans players continue to test positive for Covid, the Packers and Lions on their scheduled bye, and the Monday night game in New Orleans a threat to move to a neutral site in Indianapolis because of Hurricane Delta, there are a lot of considerations to weigh in making your lineup decisions. Hopefully, I can help. There are a number of flex-range players at every position who enjoy plus matchups this week in games that as of now seem unaffected by the crazy world around us. With consideration of factors such as home versus road and defensive opponents, you should be able to build an excellent lineup even if some rugs are pulled out from under all of us this weekend.
The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven) -- home and road and dome and outside -- the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.
You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.
|Best Week 5 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
A good matchup has meant something a little different to No. 1 fantasy quarterback Dak Prescott this season. He is just eighth at the position with 8.4 yards per attempt and 24th with 0.62 touchdowns per attempt, but his 201 pass attempts are 24 ahead of Joe Burrow in second place. The culprit for that disparity is game script. The Cowboys have fallen behind by 20, 15, and 27 points in the third quarter or earlier in their last three games, forcing the team to go pass-heavy to try to catch up. Our projections adjust for possible game scripts based on teams' relative DVOA rates -- the bigger a team's advantage, the more it will likely run and the less it will likely pass. As such, it follows the typical pattern that the Seahawks (23.9% DVOA, sixth) and Browns (2.5%, 12th) boosted the Cowboys' (-3.2%, 16th) pass play totals, and their Week 5 opponent, the Giants (-32.4%, 32nd) could be poised to break the streak. That may not matter since the Cowboys will be at home in the dome where Prescott has averaged 3.3 more fantasy points than on the road since 2017 and since the Giants increase passing touchdowns by 7% and decrease interceptions by 43% per attempt. Prescott is my top projected quarterback this week with those boosts, but he lands at "just" 39.4 projected attempts, the same number as his true-talent projection, well below his 54.0 average from the last three weeks, and third for this week behind Burrow (40.3) at the Ravens and Matt Ryan (40.2) versus the Panthers.
The other top-five matchup gainers are much easier to explain. Daniel Jones is across the field from Prescott and so enjoys the dome and a Cowboys defense that is a top-five booster of passing yards and touchdowns per attempt at 10% and 89%, respectively. He makes sense as part of a game stack hoping that the Cowboys can keep playing their absurd shootouts. Teddy Bridgewater is in a dome in Atlanta and draws a Falcons defense that is a less surprising top-five increaser of passing yards (10%) and touchdowns (61%) per attempt. Deshaun Watson is at home where he has averaged 2.2 more fantasy points per game than on the road since 2017. He nearly pulled out of his and the Texans' funk last week with what would have been a three-touchdown game had Will Fuller secured a catch on a near-touchdown to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. And on the other side, Gardner Minshew likely catches the Texans at the right time having just fired their coach Bill O'Brien and already a top-10 increaser of touchdowns per attempt (18%) and the No. 1 decreaser of interceptions per attempt (95%).
|Worst Week 5 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
Tom Brady was undeterred by the absence of Chris Godwin last week, throwing for five touchdowns in what looked like a mildly poor matchup against the Chargers -- although one that played easier since the forecasted heavier rains never materialized. Even assuming Godwin will be out again this week with the team playing tonight, Brady has vaulted into my top-10 at the position in true talent. However, he falls sharply from there to 17th at the position for a transparently worse matchup on the road in Chicago. He hasn't been in Tampa for very long, but Brady has averaged 1.7 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road since 2017. Meanwhile, the Bears are a top-five pass defense both by DVOA (-7.8%) and by their typical decreasing of completion percentage (16%), yards per attempt (14%), and touchdowns per attempt (69%).
I expect most fantasy fans would read the 49ers, Colts, and Ravens as bad matchups for Ryan Fitzpatrick, Baker Mayfield, and Joe Burrow. At least I would expect that of Football Outsiders readers who know that the Colts are the No. 1 overall defense (-25.7% DVOA) and No. 2 pass defense (-22.4%) this season. But Derek Carr is in a sneakier bad spot for his likely fantasy production this week. Like Brady, Carr is in a new home environment this year but has over the longer period performed worse on the road -- his 4.8-point home/road split is the third-biggest of the current starters. And while the Chiefs' overall excellence would on its own drive increased passing for their opponents -- following a similar logic as I explained for Prescott -- the Chiefs have a much stronger pass defense (-27.4% DVOA, first) than run defense (3.1%, 27th). The disparity motivates a typical 5% decrease in pass plays and 10% increase in run plays for their opponents. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are a top-six decreaser of passer completion rate (11%), yards per attempt (9%), and touchdowns per attempt (43%) and top-three increaser of passer interceptions (74%) and fumbles (115%). Whatever the health of the team's receivers, I would avoid Carr and the Raiders' passing game this week.
|Best Week 5 Matchups - Running Backs|
It's probably more shocking to see Clyde Edwards-Helaire still as my sixth true-talent running back than to see him jump five spots from there to first for me this week at home facing a Raiders defense that is the No. 1 booster of rushing yards (25%) and touchdowns (146%) per attempt. That dissonance is a result of our projections' reliance on opportunity-adjusted touchdowns in projecting rushing touchdowns. Edwards-Helaire has just one rushing score but is third at the position with 4.1 opportunity-adjusted touchdowns. He has taken six carries inside the 5-yard line and another three between the 6- and 10-yard lines. That may sound to you like Edwards-Helaire is a bad goal-line back, but the broader research suggests disparities between actual scores and opportunity-adjusted ones tend to be matters of luck, not skill. And since the Chiefs are such an explosive offense, I expect Edwards-Helaire to score regularly over the rest of this season, likely starting this week.
Jerick McKinnon's top-10 true-talent and third-place context-adjusted rankings this week assume that normal starter Raheem Mostert will miss another game with his knee injuries. That isn't a given since Mostert returned to a limited practice on Wednesday, although head coach Kyle Shanahan expressed a pessimism that he would play on Sunday. But whichever of McKinnon or Mostert is the team's lead back should benefit from a home matchup against the Dolphins, a top-five booster of touchdowns per carry (86%) and yards (30%) and touchdowns per target (117%) for running backs.
The Panthers did not allow a rushing touchdown on Sunday for the first time since Week 3, 2019, and this was their first game in that window with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short. Is that a coincidence? It may be. The Cardinals are a bottom-10 run-blocking team with 3.93 adjusted line yards, and Kenyan Drake's inability to score likely had as much to do with the game script -- the Cardinals trailed by two touchdowns in the first quarter -- holding him to 13 carries as it did with his inefficiency on the ground. I'm still going to trust the 1.7-point boost we're projected for Todd Gurley this week against his division rivals. Unlike Drake, Gurley has already scored four times this season and is sixth at the position with 3.7 opportunity-adjusted rushing touchdowns. If anyone should take advantage of the Panthers' projected 142% boost to rushing scores per carry, it's him. And if he can't, it may be time to reassess how plus of a matchup the new-look Panthers are for opposing running backs.
|Worst Week 5 Matchups - Running Backs|
Even with the Vikings floundering, Dalvin Cook has maintained his top-five pace of fantasy scoring. He's still top-five in true talent for me, but this week, he falls a bit to seventh at the position traveling to face Seattle. So far this season, the Seahawks have been the reverse Chiefs with an 18.9% DVOA pass defense (29th) and -29.2% DVOA run defense (sixth). They are the No. 3 increaser of opponent pass plays but No. 1 decreaser of opponent run plays and No. 2 decreaser of yards per carry. Cook is always a decent bet to salvage his poor fantasy days with touchdowns, but this matchup looks more like the Packers and Colts ones in Weeks 1 and 2 that limited him to 12 and 14 carries for 50 and 63 yards than the Titans and Texans ones the last two weeks that bumped him to 22 and 27 carries and 181 and 130 yards.
Last week, Joe Mixon took full advantage of his matchup with the Jaguars that boost run plays by 11%, rushing touchdowns by 9% per attempt, and receiving touchdowns by 99% for running backs. But this week, he's on the other end of the spectrum on the road against a Ravens defense that cuts run plays by 11%, yards per carry by 7%, and touchdowns per carry by 72%, a top-five rate in football. He falls just outside of the RB1 class at 13th at the position for me this week. Without Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt should land in that range most weeks, but this week, he falls to 17th facing the aforementioned No. 1 defensive DVOA Colts team. Not to be outdone by their pass defense, the Colts run defense is fifth with a -30.8% DVOA, and they cut run plays by 19%, yards per carry by 11%, and touchdowns per carry by 66%.
|Best Week 5 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
DK Metcalf feels like the Seahawks' No. 1 receiver, but his five-target shortfall to teammate Tyler Lockett and top-six-at-the-position 16.6-yard average depth of target paint him as more of a deep threat. With Russell Wilson at quarterback, I'm not sure it matters -- Wilson is one of just six quarterbacks to throw an accurate pass on 50% or more of his attempts of 20-plus air yards since the start of 2019. And facing a Vikings team that is a top-seven booster of completion rate, yards per target, and touchdowns per target to both No. 1 and deep receivers, it definitely shouldn't matter. Metcalf jumps to fifth for me this week with the matchup, and he isn't far from a top-10 true-talent standing.
Speaking of deeper targets, Darius Slayton may be the biggest Giants winner of the team's road start in Dallas this week. Beyond their propensity to increase their own and their opponents' total pass plays, the Cowboys are top-seven boosters of deep yards per target (61%) and touchdowns per target (94%). That's enough to jump Slayton to 26th in my receiver rankings this week and makes him a flex play.
Calvin Ridley and Robby Anderson are likely no-brainer every-week starts. But the former showed how important matchups can be for even top-10 receivers when he drew the respect of shadow coverage from Jaire Alexander, saw just five targets, and did not have a catch. But where the Packers cut No. 1 receiver target share by 24% with their shutdown corner, the Panthers are a 20% boon, and Ridley is back in my top five for the week assuming health. Anderson isn't too far behind at 12th at the position, either. He enjoys likely target boosts on the road in a dome and faces a Falcons defense that doesn't care whether Anderson or DJ Moore is the Panthers No. 1 receiver. They are a top-eight booster of yards per target to both No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts.
|Worst Week 5 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
Hopefully Ridley will be at full speed this week because most of the elite receivers have difficult matchups. Those start with both Mike Evans and Allen Robinson facing each other tonight. Even casual fans are away of the Bears' defensive excellence, but they may not realize that the Bucs best them in both pass defense DVOA (-10.4%, fourth, vs. -7.8%, fifth) and overall DVOA (-24.1%, second, vs. -10.6%, seventh). And both defenses are top-seven cutters of No. 1 receiver completion rate, yards per target, and touchdowns per target. Heavy target volumes keep Evens and Robinson in the WR1 discussion, but they are well back from their typical top-five status.
Terry McLaurin vaults to sixth in my true-talent receiver rankings this week on the strength of his fifth-best 27.3% target share at the position and what I subjectively think should be a major upgrade at quarterback in Kyle Allen. Unfortunately, he may not be able to celebrate that ascension with an excellent fantasy performance. The Rams are the No. 1 decreaser of No. 1 wideout yards per target (33%) and also cut their touchdown rates by 45%.
|Best Week 5 Matchups - Tight Ends|
The Eagles seem comfortable in allowing linebacker to be their defensive weakness, and while that has not hurt their overall defensive quality (-0.5% DVOA. 14th), it makes it difficult for them to defend tight ends. George Kittle can go off against any defense, but he really went off against the Eagles last week with 15 catches, 183 yards, and a touchdown. But it's not just him. Second-tier fantasy tight end Tyler Higbee had three touchdowns against the team in Week 2. We project the Eagles as a top-five booster of tight end completion percentage, yards per target, and touchdowns per target. And noted touchdown-scorer Eric Ebron seems well-equipped to advantage of that weakness. He jumps from 16th to 11th at the position for me this week.
Higbee, Evan Engram, and Hunter Henry enjoy lesser plus matchups this week, but at least in full-season fantasy formats, they are every-week starts. For players who need a deeper option as a bye-week or injury fill-in, Darren Fells looks like a strong choice. His home start against a Jaguars defense that increases tight end yards and touchdowns per target by 13% and 65% jumps him from 26th to 22nd this week. And both of those rankings are likely to increase if tight end teammate Jordan Akins has to miss a game after suffering a concussion last week.
|Worst Week 5 Matchups - Tight Ends|
Kittle never drops too far in my rankings, but if you are surprised by his fourth-place standing this week, consider the discrepancy in that explained Eagles matchup and his one against Miami this week -- the Dolphins are a top-five decreaser of tight end touchdown rate. Playing in San Francisco, the 49ers have a decent chance of controlling the game with a run-focused approach like they used to blow out the Jets in Week 2 with just 202 passing yards. And the same could be true for Mark Andrews at home against the Bengals, another inferior opponent that dramatically cuts tight end touchdown rate.
Mike Gesicki, Austin Hooper, and Zach Ertz see their rankings drop from their easier-to-understand difficult defensive matchups. Despite their many injuries, the 49ers have continued to limit their opposing tight ends. Last year, they finished second in allowing -33.4% DVOA to the position. This year, they are first at -65.6%. And the Colts (-33.4%, sixth) and Steelers (-23.3%, eighth) aren't too far behind. You can't bench Ertz in your full-season leagues, but Gesicki falls to 13th for me at the position this week.
|Best Week 5 Matchups - Kickers|
Domes and injured and porous defenses should be fantasy boons for kickers Wil Lutz, Ka'imi Fairbairn, Greg Zuerlein, and Graham Gano this week. Lutz and Zuerlein may not need those boosts as top-five true-talent kickers, but the other two certainly do. Fairbairn has attempted just one field goal in two road games against the Chiefs and Steelers this season but has six tries as home against the Ravens and Vikings. A Jaguars opponent that is top-10 as a 16% booster of short field goal attempts should continue that home cooking. And Dallas will be the first bad defense Gano and his Giants have faced. The Steelers, Bears, 49ers, and Rams are all top-half DVOA defenses, and while those can sometimes lead to increased field goal opportunities when offenses fail to convert in the red zone, the Cowboys boost short attempts by 18% as well.
|Worst Week 5 Matchups - Kickers|
Most of the worst kicker matchups in Week 5 are for players who wouldn't be in most fantasy lineups in any case. The two most likely to be are Robbie Gould of the 49ers and Rodrigo Blankenship of the Colts. For them, their opposing Dolphins and Browns are a little to easy to score touchdowns against. Both defenses are top-five decreasers of both short and long field goal attempts, adjustments that drop Gould and Blankenship precipitously from normal top-10 options to outside of the top-20 at the position this week.
|Best Week 5 Matchups - Defenses|
Many of the best quality defenses also enjoy tremendous fantasy matchups this week. Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow has been able to avoid interceptions this season, but he's still second at the position with 15 sacks. Expect a handful for the Ravens defense this week and likely even more for the Steelers against an injury-decimated Eagles offensive line. They boost sacks by 15% and tackles for losses by 24%, and the Steelers themselves are the No. 4 increaser of interceptions per pass attempt (70%).
My one reservation might be the Patriots defense, which jumps from seventh to second this week but will likely be without defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore, who tested positive for Covid on Wednesday. Still, I don't think it's fair to be overly pessimistic for their fantasy prospects at home against Brett Rypien in his second-ever start. Rypien threw three interceptions in his debut and will still have to contend with an excellent secondary with players such as J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and Devin and Jason McCourty.
|Worst Week 5 Matchups - Defenses|
You might be tempted to try the Saints defense against their opposing rookie passer. But Justin Herbert has looked poised beyond his years in three starts this season and strikes me as a bad opponent to face for fantasy defenses in general and especially the Saints, who are the No. 2 booster of passing touchdowns per attempt (73%). And while I generally have more confidence in the Bears than that, they belong on benches even at home this week facing Tom Brady. Brady has thrown some pick-sixes of late, but his Bucs are a top-10 decreaser of sacks and tackles for losses per pass attempt. That nets out as a neutral adjustment, but that makes the Bears a relatively poor choice with so many top defenses in clear plus matchups.