Thumbs Up of the Week: Ben Roethlisberger (v ATL)
Since the costly season opener that knocked out star defenders Keanu Neal and Deion Jones for the year and multiple weeks, respectively, Atlanta has allowed a whopping 31.0 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, including at least 335 passing yards and three touchdowns in every game. A full-blown shootout is exactly what Pittsburgh needs to get on track offensively, and that’s probably what they’ll get on Sunday against a secondary that’s missing both starting safeties, especially with a white-hot Matt Ryan on the other side of the field. Big Ben needs to get everyone involved after locking onto Antonio Brown in the team’s disappointing loss to the Ravens, but he is my No. 1 quarterback play of the week.
Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (@ SEA)
Last week’s 465-yard, five-touchdown game against the Vikings might end up being the quarterback performance of the year, and Jared Goff should be as confident as ever heading into a tough environment to face the Seahawks. Last season in Seattle, the 23-year-old threw for just 120 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, but it was a short day in a 42-7 victory, and the Legion of Boom is now the Legion of Whom following Earl Thomas’ season-ending leg injury. With an extra few days to prepare, Sean McVay should have a flawless game plan this Sunday; Goff is a midrange QB1 for Week 5, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be a top-five option the rest of the way. As I’ve said before, this is basically Goff’s second year after a lost rookie season, so his potential is being unlocked before our eyes with unbelievable accuracy to all levels of the field.
Thumbs Up: Alex Smith (@ NO)
Alex Smith has put up modest fantasy numbers to start his Redskins career, but while it’s a very small sample size, he is actually on pace to set a career-high in passing yards (4,042 in 2017), and the fantasy success should come as the season progresses. This week, Smith will get a Saints defense that has already allowed 41 points to Ryan Fitzpatrick and 39 points to Matt Ryan over the first month of the season, and teams have had much more success attacking New Orleans through the air (worst in the league in YPA allowed) than on the ground (best in the league in YPC allowed). Plus, Washington will have to put up points against Drew Brees, and Smith is bound to do damage as a runner soon enough with 20 or fewer yards and no scores in all three games this year. He’s an excellent streaming option.
Thumbs Up: Derek Carr (@ LAC)
If you looked at just his yardage totals from Week 1 to Week 4 (303, 288, 345, 437), it would probably be safe to assume that Derek Carr was an elite QB1 option. However, he’s struggled with interceptions (seven in four games), and only had two touchdowns over the first three weeks of the season, which included tough matchups against the Rams and Broncos. Now, the schedule softens up considerably as the calendar turns, starting this weekend against the Chargers, who have allowed multiple touchdown passes in three-of-four games to start the season. I think Carr is being overlooked as a potential QB1 option that should have things begin to slow down for him with more experience/comfort in Jon Gruden’s complex system, and the Raiders will likely have to score to get a huge win over the Chargers in the AFC West.
Others: Matthew Stafford (v GB), Marcus Mariota (@ BUF)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Patrick Mahomes (v JAX)
Before anyone goes crazy, I still think Patrick Mahomes is a low-end QB1 for Week 5, but Jacksonville will be his toughest test yet, and there are reasons to hold expectations in check. First of all, the Chiefs could be without Sammy Watkins (hamstring, though he did practice today), which would be a significant loss as an all-around receiver to demand the attention of Jalen Ramsey and/or A.J. Bouye. Also, the Broncos were able to put some tape out on how to slow down Kansas City’s offense before Mahomes’ playmaking simply took over in their comeback win on Monday night, and the brash Jacksonville defenders are going to want to prove that “Showtime” isn’t unbeatable. Playing at home will help, but those who paired Mahomes with an another signal-caller in fantasy drafts over the summer might be wise to keep him on the bench if possible.
Thumbs Down: Kirk Cousins (@ PHI)
Last week, Cousins outperformed expectations with 30 fantasy points against Los Angeles in what ended up turning into a shootout, but I’m not sure we can expect a repeat performance in Philadelphia. Unlike the Rams, who are dependent on their interior stars getting pressure, the Eagles have several players across the rotating defensive line that can potentially wreck the game with a sub-par offensive line trying to protect Cousins. And in both meetings against Philly last season, the former Redskins quarterback absorbed four sacks behind a top-tier offensive line, so we could see him get hit early and often behind one of the worst groups in the league. He remains a top-15 option due to his weapons combined with the problems on the backend for the Eagles, but I’d rather roll with a “Thumbs Ups” over Cousins in Week 5.
Thumbs Down: Blake Bortles (@ KC)
He gets a home-run matchup and is coming off a great game against the Jets, but Blake Bortles simply remains too inconsistent for me to feel confident in him as a recommended fantasy option. Through four weeks, Bortles has thrown for 375+ yards and multiple scores in two games, but less than 180 yards and just one total touchdown in his two other starts. Also, after seeing how Kansas City tackled—or didn’t tackle—on Monday night, this will probably be a run-heavy game plan for Jacksonville, even with Leonard Fournette (hamstring) already ruled out. While some have Bortles as a legitimate top-five option this week, I wouldn’t trust him as anything more than a low-end, volatile QB2.
Thumbs Down: Baker Mayfield (v BAL)
Baker Mayfield wasn’t swallowed up by the Blake Hole in his first career NFL start, as he played with poise and made some big-time throws. However, the No. 1 overall pick showed he’s still a rookie with four turnovers against a defense that had just one takeaway entering Week 4, and now he will face the stingy, opportunistic secondary of the Ravens. Besides two scorching quarters of football by Andy Dalton last month, Baltimore has allowed basically nothing to opposing passing attacks, and they will get top cornerback Jimmy Smith back from his four-game suspension this weekend. It might be best to wait for the cupcake stretch starting in Week 7 (@ TB, @ PIT, v KC, v ATL) to insert Baker into fantasy lineups.
Others: Ryan Tannehill (@ CIN), Josh Rosen (@ SF)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Sony Michel (v IND)
A repeat “Thumbs Up of the Week” due to him still being undervalued after a 25-carry, 112-yard performance, Sony Michel should be started in all leagues as an RB1 option for Thursday night’s matchup against the Colts. The first-round pick is going to be fed in a game that New England should handle at home, and Indianapolis will likely be without star rookie linebacker Darius Leonard (ankle), who has taken the league by storm with 54 tackles and 4.0 sacks through four games. Furthermore, the Colts are a young team that’s coming off an overtime loss in which they played 86 defensive snaps to face the Patriots on a short week. Michel could put up a 30-spot in primetime.
Thumbs Up: T.J. Yeldon (@ KC)
It sounds like Leonard Fournette (hamstring) is going to miss at least two games after a setback in Sunday’s win, so T.J. Yeldon—the RB12 in standard leagues through four weeks—should continue handling 15+ touches per game. He is in a blowup spot on Sunday against a Chiefs defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing runners, and Kansas City has looked even worse than the numbers suggest with awful tackling so far this year. I have Yeldon as a borderline RB1/RB2 option for a game that Jacksonville will want to control by keeping the ball in their hands and Andy Reid’s explosive offense on the sidelines. I’ve always thought the Alabama product could thrive in a featured role as basically Le’Veon Bell lite, so we’ll see if he comes through for fantasy owners against the Chiefs.
Thumbs Up: Joe Mixon (v MIA)
Giovani Bernard has played well over the past two weeks with Joe Mixon (knee) out, but there will be no doubt about who the featured back in Cincinnati is when the 22-year-old gets cleared. Mixon looked like an emerging superstar in Week 1 and Week 2 with a combined 44 touches for 236 yards and one touchdown, and half of that came playing injured against Baltimore’s stout defense. Should he be cleared for Sunday’s matchup with the Dolphins (and it’s looking that way), Mixon would be an immediate RB1/RB2 against a defense that just allowed 40 fantasy points to New England’s backfield combination of Sony Michel and James White. Plus, unlike concerns about Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook with soft-tissue injuries having an in-game setback, you would think Mixon isn’t in danger of re-aggravating anything.
Thumbs Up: Tevin Coleman (@ PIT)
It was very disappointing to see Tevin Coleman held in check against the Saints and Bengals after a 107-yard rushing day against Carolina in his first start of the season, but even with Devonta Freeman returning, I wouldn’t be discouraged as a Coleman owner. Atlanta seemed to get away from scheming the 25-year-old the ball in space for whatever reason, but getting Freeman back to handle more of the early-down work could allow them to get Coleman into a more defined role as a dynamic, heavily-involved change-of-pace option. And in a game that fantasy owners should target (current over/under of 57 is the highest so far this season), Coleman has enough big-play potential to remain a high-upside RB2 against the Steelers.
Others: Kenyan Drake (@ CIN), Nyheim Hines (@ NE)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Carlos Hyde (v BAL)
While Carlos Hyde has been a very productive fantasy asset through four games, I would undoubtedly sell high if possible. The veteran has scored five touchdowns, but he’s averaged just 3.4 yards per carry, and everyone besides the Browns seem to know that Nick Chubb—who has averaged 14.6 yards per carry and scored twice on ten attempts—is the team’s best runner. This week, whether or not he operates as the workhorse again, Hyde gets a tough matchup with the Ravens coming to town, and eventually, short touchdowns won’t be enough to keep his fantasy value afloat. Consider Cleveland’s starter a low-end RB2/FLEX.
Thumbs Down: Dalvin Cook (@ PHI)
I had Dalvin Cook as a “Thumbs Down” and a risky RB2 play last week, but it turns out even that was too high for the second-year back after he rushed just ten times for 20 yards against the Rams. He gets some extra days to rest up for a playoff rematch against the Eagles, but Cook doesn’t sound very confident in his health, so we could get a repeat of last week, especially if Minnesota decides to air it out 50+ times for the third week in a row. Against a defense that’s allowing just 2.6 yards per carry, Minnesota’s starter is shaky FLEX with a zero-point floor heading into a formidable road matchup.
Thumbs Down: Alex Collins (@ CLE)
Alex Collins didn’t do himself or fantasy owners any favors by losing a fumble on a goal-line carry in Sunday night’s win over the Ravens, which only adds to the overall unpredictability from both a real-life and fantasy perspective in the league this year. The Irish-dancing running back was already relinquishing a lot of short-yardage work to Javorius Allen, so now he really needs to dig himself out of a hole to be the trusted, every-week RB2 option he was drafted as. Collins has yet to crack 4.0 yards per carry in a game this season, and he needs to be downgraded to FLEX territory.
Thumbs Down: Jay Ajayi (v MIN)
I’m not sure it will lead to a victory for the Vikings, but if there’s something they can and should do better than they did in their NFC Championship Game loss to the Eagles, it’s stop the run. Jay Ajayi had 18 carries for 73 yards in Philly’s 38-7 win last season, but he doesn’t crack the top 20 at the position for me in Week 6 because a) Minnesota has a few extra days to rest up for a crucial game, and b) Wendell Smallwood probably has earned more work after 15 carries for 95 yards and one touchdown over the past two weeks, which could turn the backfield into a full-blown, four-way committee with Corey Clement (quad) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) both potentially returning. I would be surprised if the Vikings didn’t come out with added determination to at least make things difficult on Philadelphia’s offensive line.
Others: Adrian Peterson (@ NO), Jamaal Williams (@ DET)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Julian Edelman (v IND)
Thursday night will be our first look at Julian Edelman since Super Bowl LI, and I have no doubt that a guy who predicates much of him game on toughness and chemistry with his quarterback is going to be ready to make an immediate impact. He’s now entering his age-32 season and is coming off a torn ACL, but Edelman was never reliant on speed or athleticism, and he is in the midst of an incredible stretch of 11 games (including playoffs) with at least five receptions and 73 yards. I don’t think Tom Brady will waste any time looking for Edelman after a slow start to the season. He is an immediate low-end WR2/FLEX option in standard leagues with a boost in PPR formats. For what it’s worth, Edelman has averaged 9.5 targets per game over his past four meetings with Indy.
Thumbs Up: Calvin Ridley (@ PIT)
Calvin Ridley’s zero-catch effort in the opener seems like a long, lone time ago, as over the past three games, he’s gone for lines of 4/64/1, 7/146/3, and 4/54/2, which is exactly what Atlanta’s offense needed for things to open up for everyone else. The 23-year-old has a great chance to stay hot in what’s almost certainly going to be a shootout this weekend, and the Steelers’ struggling secondary is vulnerable to the deep ball as we saw in Week 4 with John Brown catching three passes for 116 yards and a score. Being held in check in any given week is possible on a loaded offense, but Ridley looks like a promising WR2/FLEX option.
Thumbs Up: Jordy Nelson (@ LAC)
After a career-low 9.1 yards per reception in 2017, Jordy Nelson has seen his downfield prowess return under Jon Gruden, as he’s averaging 17.1 yards per reception at the season’s quarter-mark. Also, Jordy remains an elite red-zone threat that is showing more chemistry with Derek Carr every week, including coming up clutch against the Browns with a touchdown and the game-tying two-point conversion in a 45-42 overtime victory. This week, he could take advantage of a Chargers secondary that’s been very suspect, and plenty of looks are expected to be schemed in Nelson’s direction with Casey Hayward likely to shadow Amari Cooper.
Thumbs Up: Jamison Crowder (@ NO)
It’s been a low-volume start for Jamison Crowder through three games with Alex Smith under center, but I think we could see some chunk plays on Monday Night Football against the Saints. No one has allowed more yards per attempt than New Orleans, and Crowder should get plenty of opportunities to take advantage of shaky coverage with reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore (though he’s not having a great season so far) likely staying on the outside. I would consider the 25-year-old a quality FLEX for Week 6.
Others: Tyler Boyd (v MIA), Dede Westbrook (@ KC)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Tyreek Hill (v JAX)
He’s almost been quiet for too long to not break one on Sunday, but Tyreek Hill is sure to draw the attention of Jacksonville’s boastful defense, and the fact that he’s been contained over the past two weeks could cause the Jaguars coaching staff to make sure everyone knows that stopping “Cheetah” is a priority. All it takes is one play in single coverage to be worth starting Hill, but I think the defense will force everyone else to beat them, particularly on downfield passes. The explosive receiver is a WR2 for me this week.
Thumbs Down: Will Fuller (v DAL)
Will Fuller has been phenomenal with Deshaun Watson under center over the past two years, and after missing the opener, the former Notre Dame star has gone for lines of 8/113/1, 5/101/1, and 4/49/1 to start his sophomore campaign. This week could be his toughest matchup yet, though, as the Cowboys have the pass rushers on the edge to complete wreck Houston’s offensive game plan. More importantly, Fuller is in danger of being a decoy after tweaking his hamstring late in last week’s win, so I would consider him a risky FLEX rather than a high-upside WR2.
Thumbs Down: Doug Baldwin (v LAR)
Seattle’s No. 1 receiver made his season debut in Week 4, but I didn’t see anything to feel confident about Doug Baldwin returning to his WR1/WR2 ways. By his own accord, the 30-year-old isn’t going to be 100% at any point this year due to his knee injury, and he might not be able to overcome a matchup with Marcus Peters (who has shadowed receivers into the slot at times under Wade Phillips) at less than full health. Plus, the Seahawks have had a low-volume passing attack in general, leaving Baldwin on the FLEX radar for this matchup.
Thumbs Down: Broncos WRs (@ NYJ)
In particular, I’m talking about Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas because of their projected matchups with New York’s cornerback group. Sanders will probably draw the coverage of Morris Claibourne and Buster Skrine for the most part, while Thomas will likely face off with Trumaine Johnson, who has struggled in New York, but has the size to frustrate the big-bodied receiver. I could see Denver coming out sluggish on a short week after a disappointing loss, so Sanders and DT are both just decent FLEX options. [Update: Johnson has been ruled out for Week 5, so I think Thomas gets a slight upgrade in all formats]
Others: Quincy Enunwa (v DEN), Kenny Stills (@ CIN)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Rob Gronkowski (v IND)
The Patriots have their superstar tight end listed as questionable with an ankle injury for Thursday night’s game against the Colts, but if he plays, Gronkowski is the No. 1 option at the position with unmatched upside despite three quiet weeks in a row (and ESPN MNF broadcaster Booger McFarland being adamant that Travis Kelce is the best in the league). Defenses will be forced to respect the receiving corps a lot more with Julian Edelman in the slot and Chris Hogan kicking back outside, so Gronk will hopefully get more space down the seam and over the middle.
Thumbs Up: David Njoku (v BAL)
There are players that I will keep rolling with because I know they are more talented than their numbers suggest thus far—Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Chris Hogan, etc.—, and David Njoku is one of them. The second-year tight end has yet to get involved in the downfield capacity that I’d like, but he caught five passes for 52 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders, and I think Baker Mayfield will look to him often in Week 6 to avoid the loaded cornerback group on the outside. Consider Njoku a top-eight option against Baltimore.
Thumbs Up: Austin Hooper (@ PIT)
As I’ve alluded to, I want basically anyone I can get my hands on for this weekend’s Falcons-Steelers game. Austin Hooper has been held in check besides a 5/59/1 line in Week 2, but Pittsburgh is allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, including lines of 7/109/2, 9/106/1, and 10/99 over the past three weeks. The 23-year-old is the top streaming option for October’s first full slate of games.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Tyler Kroft (v MIA)
When he was forced into a starting role last season, Tyler Kroft became a respectable weekly option, finishing the year with 42 receptions for 404 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2018, though, Cincinnati might be going with more of a split between Kroft and C.J. Uzomah to replace Tyler Eifert (ankle), so it might be best to have a wait-and-see approach when it comes to Kroft as a streamer.
Thumbs Down: Ricky Seals-Jones (@ SF)
The 49ers have surprisingly allowed a tight end to find the end zone in each of their first four games, but I’m not convinced that they won’t turn things around with Reuben Foster, Malcolm Smith, and Fred Warner at linebacker. Ricky Seals-Jones is a borderline top-15 option, but he has a low floor with Josh Rosen under center for his first career road start.
Thumbs Down: Dallas Goedert (v MIN)
Minnesota wasn’t good at all in pass coverage last month, but most of their issues came on downfield throws and combination routes. Dallas Goedert has predominantly been limited to underneath work, so he probably needs an end-zone target to be worth starting behind Zach Ertz in Week 6. Even at a shallow position, I’d look elsewhere.