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Brandon Todd/Carolina Panthers

Week 5 Fantasy: “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Daniel Jones (@ DAL)

Jones has had a rough start to the year, but it was expected due to a brutal schedule, and things get easier starting this week against a Dallas defense that has been historically bad over the past three games. Don’t listen to those giving him the 2018/2019 Josh Allen treatment based on box scores; Jones has shown flashes, provides dual-threat upside, and will likely have to score points this week. Those hurting at the position can stream the second-year quarterback as a high-end QB2.


Thumbs Up: Justin Herbert (@ NO)

Joe Burrow rightfully drew headlines for becoming the first rookie in NFL history to have three straight games with 300+ passing yards, but Hebert was close (311, 330, 290), and last week was probably his best game to date. Even if cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore (hamstring) and Janoris Jenkins (shoulder) return for New Orleans on Monday night, Herbert should stay hot and—like Daniel Jones—can provide an added boost as a runner.


Thumbs Up: Ben Roethlisberger (v PHI)

The early bye seems to be putting Roethlisberger off the radar as a QB1 option for Week 5, but he’s thrown for multiple touchdowns passes in all three games to start the year, and the Eagles are a great matchup despite allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Look for the combination of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Chase Claypool, and Eric Ebron to all be involved against a mix-and-match secondary for Philadelphia.


Thumbs Up: Tom Brady (@ CHI)

Including a 217-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 2 that Bruce Arians explicitly faulted the receivers for, Brady is on pace for 4,488 yards and 44 touchdowns this season, and I’m not sure there’s a matchup where he should be viewed as anything less than a QB1. Plus, while he obviously has no personal animosity towards Nick Foles, you better believe Brady will use Super Bowl LII as motivation on Thursday night. Taking on the Bears at Soldier Field won’t be easy, but I have TB12 as a top-ten play.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Joe Burrow (@ BAL)

Burrow has been phenomenal for Cincinnati to start his career, but now is the time to take him out of lineups ahead of a road matchup versus the Ravens. Outside of a 40-point explosion for Patrick Mahomes, Baltimore has allowed just 14.5 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks—and that number is boosted by a rushing score for Dwayne Haskins last week. Unless ground production is there for Burrow (which is possible), I doubt he lives up to his top-15 consensus ranking.


Thumbs Down: Ryan Tannehill (v BUF)

The Titans were on the ropes against Minnesota in their last game until they started feeding Derrick Henry in the second half, and I think having the early bye week could lead to them realizing they need to feature their offensive centerpiece for 60 minutes. There are several other potential streamers that have a cupcake matchup this week, so it might be wise to avoid Tannehill against a stingy Buffalo secondary.


Thumbs Down: Derek Carr (@ KC)

Carr is somewhat quietly putting up solid passing numbers this season, but the Chiefs have been a definite challenge for him throughout his career, and Steve Spagnuolo’s defense looks better than ever in 2020. If rookies Henry Ruggs III (hamstring) and Bryan Edwards (ankle) remain out, Carr probably doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with Patrick Mahomes on the road, and it’s worth noting that Kansas City has held him to 201.7 yards per game with a 2:6 touchdown-interception ratio over their past three meetings.


Thumbs Down: Carson Wentz (@ PIT)

A rushing touchdown in every game since the opener is keeping Wentz afloat, but I’m not sure how much longer fantasy owners can count on that. This week, the Steelers are rested and determined to begin their 13-game stretch into January, so the lack of weapons for the Eagles could really be exposed on the road. I have Wentz outside the top 20 at quarterback, and he will carry a single-digit-point floor against the opportunistic Pittsburgh defense.


Running back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Joshua Kelley (@ NO)

Kelley has seen just 17 combined carries over the past two weeks, but he’s now the lead back for Los Angeles with Austin Ekeler (hamstring) out, and his talent as a player should make him at least a weekly RB2. Aside from the early-down carries, the Chargers may also give Kelley (seven receptions for 84 yards on seven targets) a good chunk of receiving work on Monday night, and there should be scoring opportunities for a possible shootout. The rookie needs to be picked up wherever he’s available.


Thumbs Up: Le’Veon Bell (v ARI)

It’s still unclear if Bell (hamstring) will be back this week, but that’s apparently the plan, and I would think he’ll receive a healthy workload as the Jets try to turn their season around. Last week, the Cardinals allowed 111 total yards and a score to Mike Davis, and they rank in the bottom half of the league in terms of rushing yards per game allowed (124.5) and yards per carry allowed (4.5). Consider Bell a low-end RB2 if he’s back in Week 5.


Thumbs Up: Damien Harris (v DEN)

Harris immediately took control of the New England backfield in his season debut (17 carries for 100 yards), and there is zero reason to believe they will suddenly go away from him this week. Although the Broncos will be a tougher matchup, Harris showed impressive burst/power as a one-cut runner, and the Patriots will have a much better chance to play from ahead in Foxborough. Fantasy owners should be able to count on Harris as a strong FLEX with upside.


Thumbs Up: Devonta Freeman (@ DAL)

The Cowboys won’t be as bad defending the run as they were against the Browns, but Freeman is getting a plus matchup while looking to solidify the lead role in New York, and it’s highly unlikely that Dallas turns things completely around in seven days. More importantly, I thought Freeman looked good on 15 touches in Week 4, and an easier overall matchup should lead to increased scoring opportunities for the Giants.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Kenyan Drake (@ NYJ)

A breakout game for Drake is bound to happen just when the bandwagon is empty, but the same seemed true last week, and he simply can’t be trusted as even a low-end RB1. Furthermore, Chase Edmonds deserves more playing time with just 16 carries on the year, and the Jets probably won’t be a pushover opponent with Gregg Williams still getting his guys to play hard (maybe a little too hard) on defense. You might not have a suitable replacement, but Drake is a low-floor RB2 option.


Thumbs Down: Melvin Gordon (@ NE)

Gordon would be in better position to put up numbers if the Broncos were playing with a full hand, but Courtland Sutton (knee, season), Noah Fant (ankle), and K.J. Hamler (hamstring) all being out will allow the Pats to send more resources to stop the run, and Denver’s starter projects to now split carries with Phillip Lindsay. Maybe he will finally have a big week as a pass-catcher, but Gordon has yet to record 15+ receiving yards in a game this season.


Thumbs Down: Myles Gaskin (@ SF)

He handled 27 touches in Miami’s win over the Jaguars, but Gaskin had a more realistic workload last week (13 touches for 62 yards), and that’s the range we can expect moving forward. The 49ers have allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing runners and just limited Miles Sanders to 46 yards on 13 carries; there are options with more upside like Damien Harris or Devonta Freeman.


Thumbs Down: Rams RBs (@ WAS)

Trying to figure out the backfield for Los Angeles through four games is more difficult than fully grasping the plot of Tenet, and now Cam Akers returning essentially gives all three of him, Darrell Henderson, and Malcolm Brown an equal chance of 15 carries or five carries. Washington’s defensive line can cause some problems in the trenches, so it might be best to avoid this backfield altogether until if/when someone clearly emerges.


Wide receiver 


Thumbs Up of the Week: A.J. Brown (v BUF)

I know Ryan Tannehill was a “Thumbs Down” option, but Brown is listed here because fantasy owners—unless they are stacked at the position—shouldn’t waste any time getting him back in lineups. While Tre’Davious White will obviously be a challenge, Brown has the size/speed to create chunk plays against anyone, and he was a couple of missed throws/reads away from a monster game in the opener. The matchup is the only thing keeping Brown outside the top 15 in his hopeful return.


Thumbs Up: Darius Slayton (@ DAL)

Slayton has been quiet since his 6/102/2 explosion in Week 1, but as previously stated, the schedule really lightens up starting this week against the Cowboys, and points will be scored on Sunday if the past three weeks for Dallas have been any indication. I also think Golden Tate should have a quality game, though Slayton is the preferred play with a higher ceiling and touchdown potential. Get him in lineups as an upside WR2/FLEX.


Thumbs Up: D.J. Moore (@ ATL)

I wasn’t high on Moore entering the season because of the offensive changes in Carolina, but the general panic has set in too quickly, and he is primed for a huge game this week against an Atlanta defense that is basically turning guys loose through the secondary due to frequent miscommunications. Last season, Moore had 81+ yards in both matchups versus Dan Quinn’s defense, so look for him to pay dividends in Week 5.


Thumbs Up: Russell Gage (v CAR)

At this point, it would be a surprise if Julio Jones (hamstring) played this week after a setback on Monday night, which elevates Gage to the No. 2 receiver role behind Calvin Ridley. Just three targets in back-to-back games might be a concern for some, but the first was due to a concussion, and Gage ended up playing 67% of the team’s offensive snaps in Week 4. I think he’s firmly on the FLEX radar in all formats as the Falcons try to get their first win of the year.


Others: Deebo Samuel (v MIA), Sammy Watkins (v LV)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Will Fuller (v JAX)

The health of C.J. Henderson (shoulder) needs to be monitored, but Jacksonville’s first-round pick has the speed and cover ability to stick with Fuller, and Houston’s top wideout has historically struggled against the Jags with 48.5 yards per game and zero touchdowns in four matchups (all of which he played over 80% of the team’s offensive snaps in). We know the floor is low for Fuller with a zero-target performance already in 2020, and I’d view him as more of a low-end, volatile WR2 than top-15 option this week.


Thumbs Down: Diontae Johnson (v PHI)

Johnson started off hot this year with 23 targets over his first two games, but he projects to draw quite a bit of coverage from Darius Slay on the outside this week, and I don’t see Big Ben peppering him with looks if that’s the case. So far this season, top perimeter receivers Terry McLaurin (5/61), Robert Woods (2/14), A.J. Green (5/36), and Brandon Aiyuk (2/18) have all been held in check by Slay, and JuJu Smith-Schuster will probably escape his coverage in the slot—leaving Johnson to contend with the former All-Pro corner.


Thumbs Down: Brandon Aiyuk (v MIA)

A rushing touchdown saved Aiyuk last week for those who rolled with him against the Eagles, but he gets another stay-away matchup in Week 5 as Byron Jones (groin) nears a return to team up with Xavien Howard at cornerback. The rookie has been held to 21 or fewer receiving yards in two-of-three games to begin his career, and San Francisco getting healthy on offense may lower his floor in the short term. Aiyuk is my WR43 for Week 5.


Thumbs Down: Bengals WRs (@ BAL)

Again, the Ravens are a stout secondary despite the production they allowed to Kansas City skewing the numbers, and Joe Burrow might finally struggle this week—which would obviously mean sub-par games for the Cincinnati wideouts. Tyler Boyd is the guy most would want to start, but he was held to 72 scoreless yards in two matchups last season, and A.J. Green is nearly impossible to trust right now. Look elsewhere if possible.


Others: Jerry Jeudy (@ NE), Preston Williams (@ SF)


Tight end


Thumbs Up of the Week: Dalton Schultz (v NYG)

The Cowboys are going to at least re-enter the atmosphere at some point, but fantasy owners might as well stay aboard the ship while they can, and Schultz looks like a consistent factor with 17 receptions (on 24 targets) for 208 yards and two touchdowns over the past three games. New York—like everyone else—will have their hands full trying to stop Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb, so Schultz should see plenty of favorable coverage on Sunday. I have him as a borderline TE1/TE2.


Thumbs Up: Ian Thomas (@ ATL)

Although a two-yard touchdown last week has been the only notable production from Thomas in 2020, he’s played the majority of offensive snaps for Carolina, and bigger days should be ahead. This week, the Panthers-Falcons will probably be a shootout, and everyone knows what Robert Tonyan did on Monday night with three touchdowns against Dan Quinn’s defense. Thomas is worth streaming as a TE2 option.


Thumbs Up: Eric Ebron (v PHI)

The Eagles continue to be ripped by opposing tight ends after allowing George Kittle to catch all 15 of his targets for 183 yards and a score last Sunday night, and they’ve now allowed 17.7 fantasy points per game to the position at the season’s quarter mark. Ebron has seen his targets and production both go up every game, and he could easily set new highs with Pittsburgh in Week 5.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Chris Herndon (v ARI)

Herndon has been invisible for the Jets, and if he didn’t produce when a chunk of the passing attack was injured, I doubt he will suddenly become a huge factor as everyone gets healthy. Dating back to his rookie season, Herndon has combined for 13 receptions and 89 scoreless yards over his past six appearances. We need to see something before feeling good about him in lineups.


Thumbs Down: Jack Doyle (@ CLE)

All of them will have a meaningful role, but the Colts having a three-man committee at tight end undoubtedly hurts Doyle, who already had a capped ceiling when he was clearly the main option for Indy. Even a great matchup against the Browns is tough to buy in for, and I would rather take a risk with Mo Alie-Cox due to the higher touchdown upside.


Thumbs Down: Irv Smith Jr. (@ SEA)

Smith Jr. has somehow been even more invisible than the aforementioned Chris Herndon, and preseason expectations simply haven’t come to fruition with two receptions on the season—including none in each of the past two games. A matchup against a Seattle defense that limited him to six scoreless yards last year (on 85% playing time; compared to 65% or below in every game this season) doesn’t appear to be a turnaround spot.


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