Bye weeks have kicked in, and fantasy owners might have some tougher decisions to make in the weeks to come. From now on, I’m going to put the ranking for each player next to his name, but you can check out the full weekly rankings for the most accurate lineup advice. And to be clear, a “Thumbs Up” can be ranked below a “Thumbs Down,” as you’ll see. Let’s get to it.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Jameis Winston (v NE) | Rank: #5
After signing Stephon Gilmore this offseason, it looked like the Patriots had the league’s best secondary and cornerback trio. For whatever reason, it’s been a dreadful start for the unit, and communication issues are a big reason why. With Eric Rowe (groin) potentially out, it’s unlikely they fix things on a short week. That’s good news for Jameis Winston after torching a stout Giants defense for 332 yards and three scores. He’s a top-five option for Week 5.
Thumbs Up: Carson Palmer (@ PHI) | Rank: #10
If not for offensive line concerns, Palmer would be ranked even higher than low-end QB1 territory, but I could see Arizona having a difficult time holding up their protection in Philadelphia. Fortunately, the Eagles secondary might be the worst in the league, so Palmer should be able to find his talented collection of receivers enough to be worth a start. The 37-year-old is throwing for over 300 yards per game, and the touchdown numbers should climb soon.
Thumbs Up: Sam Bradford (@ CHI) | Rank: #11
It’s still unclear if Bradford (knee) will return this week, and since it’s a Monday night game, you should probably only plan on using him if the injury reports are positive at the end of the week. If that’s the case, Bradford is in a great spot against the Bears on MNF, and his confidence should remain high after completing nearly 85% of his passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the season opener.
Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (v SEA) | Rank: #18
Outside of one bad decision to start a potential game-winning drive in Week 2, there might not be a quarterback in the NFC that’s playing better than Jared Goff this season. The 22-year-old is near the top of the entire NFL in every passing category, including the most yards per attempt through four games. He’s on pace for 4,288 yards, 28 touchdowns, and four interceptions, and the tape backs up the numbers. Hopefully his hot start can give him momentum for a stretch of tough games, but this week against Seattle might not be as imposing as it appears. In deeper leagues or two-quarterback formats, Goff is worth a look.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Ben Roethlisberger (v JAC) | Rank: #15
He’s back at home after starting 2017 with three out of four games on the road, but Big Ben has the toughest possible matchup this Sunday, as the Jaguars are allowing just 5.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. The schedule played into Jacksonville’s hands, but Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are legitimate shutdown corners on the outside, and Roethlisberger isn’t going to test them often. Look for Pittsburgh to rely on the running game like they did in last week’s win, and we know that’s what the Jags are going to do—leading to a clock-killing, low-scoring contest.
Thumbs Down: Eli Manning (v LAC) | Rank: #17
Eli is putting up some numbers over the past couple weeks as the offensive line has somewhat solidified itself, but the visiting Chargers could change that. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram might be the NFL’s best pair of pass rushers, and Los Angeles is allowing just 211 passing yards per game to some good offensive groups. Manning is one of the most volatile quarterbacks there is, so I’d seek a more reliable option.
Thumbs Down: Andy Dalton (v BUF) | Rank: #19
The Bill Lazor offense has worked wonders for the Bengals, and after throwing for 197 yards per game, zero touchdowns, and four interceptions over the first two weeks of the season, Andy Dalton has completed about 80% of his passes for 249 yards per game, six touchdowns, and zero interceptions over the past two weeks. However, the Bills have allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season, and Dalton’s struggles this season came against top defenses. Like the aforementioned Manning, Dalton can be a little unpredictable.
Thumbs Down: Jay Cutler (v TEN) | Rank: #20
My “Thumbs Up of the Week” in Week 4, Cutler and the Dolphins really struggled over in London last Sunday. Miami gets a tremendous matchup with the Titans this week, but the same was true last week, and offensive line issues are plaguing the offense right now. I think a switch could turn on for Miami at any moment like it did in 2016, but until then, Jay Ajayi and DeVante Parker are the only guys worth starting confidently.
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Thumbs Up of the Week: Carlos Hyde (@ IND) | Rank: #6
Hyde is the clubhouse leader for “Underappreciated Player of the Year” so far in 2017, as after an offseason of questions about his starting role, he’s been the centerpiece of the offense with 4.9 yards per carry on 65 attempts. The 26-year-old is on pace for 1,284 rushing yards and has already caught 17 passes this season, and he gets a chance to improve his already impressive numbers as the 49ers face the Colts in their most winnable game yet. Hyde should get a heavy workload and needs to be in lineups as a solid RB1.
Thumbs Up: Latavius Murray (@ CHI) | Rank: #17
Any loyal reader knows that I’m a big fan of Latavius Murray, and while the circumstances are obviously unfortunate with Dalvin Cook tearing his ACL, he finally gets a chance to have a big role starting on Monday night against the Bears. Chicago has played stout run defense this season, but Minnesota should be able to play ahead against rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in his first career start. Murray was one of the premier touchdown scorers in the NFL last season, and he looks like a solid RB2 in standard leagues if he’s healthy the rest of the way.
Thumbs Up: Wayne Gallman (v LAC) | Rank: #23
College football fans should know this name. Gallman was a stud for Clemson over the past couple years, and after somehow lasting until the fourth round of the NFL Draft and not even being active for the first three games of the season, the rookie was active and handled 13 touches in last week’s loss to the Bucs. He immediately looked like the best running back on the roster and was able to rush 11 times for 42 yards while also catching a touchdown. The well-rounded Gallman could be a difference-maker if the Giants commit to him starting this week against the Chargers. I think he’s a solid FLEX play.
Thumbs Up: Thomas Rawls (@ LAR) | Rank: #24
I think I said this at some point leading up to fantasy drafts, but you should always go after good players over an open opportunity. That is true of Latavius Murray and Wayne Gallman, and Rawls also falls into that category. He’s only rushed five times for four yards in 2017, but Rawls is healthy and one season removed from averaging 5.6 yards per carry. With Chris Carson placed on IR due to a broken leg, Rawls has a chance to step in as the starter for Seattle. Eddie Lacy is there, too, but I lean towards the better player (who happens to have an open opportunity); that’s Rawls.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Marshawn Lynch (v BAL) | Rank: #26
After coming out of retirement to join the Raiders, it looked like the talent and opportunity were both there for Lynch behind an elite offensive line, but he’s getting more attention for his beanie and t-shirt than his play. “Beast” Mode has seen his yards and YPC average drop each game this season, and even without nose tackle Brandon Williams in the middle of Baltimore’s defense, they are a stingy unit. Lynch is barely a FLEX option.
Thumbs Down: Isaiah Crowell (v NYJ) | Rank: #30
Crowell doesn’t have the pedigree or talent that Lynch has, but the two are basically in the same boat this year, as Cleveland also has a strong offensive line that was supposed to lead to big numbers for their starting running back. To be frank, Crowell just isn’t that good of a player, and he’s been largely ineffective since Week 5 of 2016. Over the last 16 games, he’s rushed 183 times for 692 yards and four touchdowns. The Jets have allowed at least 123 rushing yards in three of four games, but there are no signs of Crowell being four out of five.
Thumbs Down: Theo Riddick (v CAR) | Rank: #46
Ameer Abdullah has dominated backfield work for the Lions, out-touching Riddick 75-29. As someone that doesn’t pickup chunk yardage or get goal-line carries, the pass-catching specialist is barely worth holding onto in standard leagues. Carolina allowed James White to catch 10 passes last week, but they went for just 47 yards. Also, I think Detroit is starting to realize that Abdullah is a more explosive receiver, and that realization is coming at Riddick’s expense.
Thumbs Down: Jacquizz Rodgers (v NE) | Rank: #48
The “Thumbs Down” slate for running backs is weak this week due to bye weeks and injuries, but Rodgers makes the list because of Doug Martin’s return. Martin should be active on Thursday night, and even if he doesn’t see a full workload, Rodgers isn’t worth keeping around as a backup. There’s a decent chance anyone who starts Rodgers would end up with zero fantasy points if New England is able to jump out to an early lead.
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Thumbs Up of the Week: DeVante Parker (v TEN) | Rank: #6
Here are the stat lines from top receivers against the Titans to start the season: Michael Crabtree (6/83) and Amari Cooper (5/62/1), Marqise Lee (7/76) and Allen Hurns (6/82/1), Doug Baldwin (10/105/1) and Paul Richardson (2/30/1), and DeAndre Hopkins (10/107/1) and Will Fuller (4/35/2). It’s easy to see why DeVante Parker—8/135/2?—is ranked where he’s ranked.
Thumbs Up: John Brown (@ PHI) | Rank: #19
What do you get when one of the fastest wide receivers in the league faces the slowest cornerback group in the league? That was a rhetorical question, and we’ll find out on Sunday. If Brown was dropped in any leagues, he needs to be picked up immediately, as he’s a game-breaker when on the field. Jaron Brown is also a solid option for this week.
Thumbs Up: DeSean Jackson (v NE) | Rank: #23
Another deep threat, DeSean Jackson will face the Patriots for the third time in his career, but with Mike Evans across from him, he finally won’t be the main focus at wideout for Bill Belichick’s defense. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the 30-year-old to get deep on Thursday night after all the busts in New England’s coverage to start the year.
Thumbs Up: Nelson Agholor (v ARI) | Rank: #30
Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith tweeted about going through the worst stretch of his career after Sunday’s win, and that’s a clear signal of a player lacking confidence in my opinion. Agholor fought that last year, but he’s been refocused and reborn in 2017, snatching everything that touches his hands as he looks to prove Chip Kelly made a good choice in 2015. Patrick Peterson is expected to follow Alshon Jeffery around, so Agholor will see some favorable coverage against Arizona.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Alshon Jeffery (v ARI) | Rank: #33
As just stated, Patrick Peterson is expected to cover Alshon Jeffery all game on Sunday. There might not be a worse draw for a wide receiver than Peterson, so Jeffery is severely downgraded for Week 5. I think Agholor is the better play.
Thumbs Down: Amari Cooper (v BAL) | Rank: #31
Man, has it been a rough start for Amari Cooper. The former fourth-overall pick leads the league in drops, and now he’ll be without quarterback Derek Carr in a difficult matchup. I expect him to turn it around eventually, but Cooper needs to stay out of lineups until he shows something. Over the past two weeks, he’s totaled just 15 yards and no scores.
Thumbs Down: Martavis Bryant (v JAC) | Rank: #51
He’s been making big plays with his 18.3 yards-per-catch average, but Martavis Bryant hasn’t been consistent enough to put in lineups through four weeks. He is going to take turns competing against Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye on Sunday, and if Pittsburgh going to attempt to try to hide anyone in the slot, it’s going to be Antonio Brown. Bryant doesn’t even crack the top-50 at the position for me.
Thumbs Down: Doug Baldwin (@ LAR) | Rank: #21
Baldwin has had a couple big games against the Rams, but he’s mostly been contained by them. Last year, he had just three catches for 20 yards on the road and five catches for 35 yards and a score at home. This one’s in Los Angeles, and the Seahawks have a more spread-the-wealth attack than even last year. Even with bye weeks, he’s just a FLEX option.
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Thumbs Up of the Week: Hunter Henry (@ NYG) | Rank: #2
If there’s a trend of zero targets followed by a good game, then I’m going to be completely wrong here, but the Chargers need to break that trend and make Henry a weekly contributor if they want to avoid 0-5. The Giants are allowing nearly 15 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends (worst in the league), so I’m hoping Anthony Lynn knows to get his guy involved on Sunday.
Thumbs Up: Charles Clay (@ CIN) | Rank: #4
I’ve liked Clay since last year when I thought he was underutilized, but that definitely isn’t the case this season. The versatile tight end has clearly been Tyrod Taylor’s favorite target, and he’s on pace for career highs across the board. Clay needs to be picked up and started if he’s still available.
Thumbs Up: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (@ CLE) | Rank: #10
Seferian-Jenkins hasn’t lived up to his second-round draft status, but he just turned 25 at the end of September and seems to have his head on straight. Of course, the Jets are lacking skill-position players, and they’ve wasted no time getting ASJ targets since returning from his two-game suspension. He’s a TE1 option in a great matchup.
Thumbs Up: Benjamin Watson (@ OAK) | Rank: #12
The 36-year-old Watson was able to perform in a matchup with the Browns in Week 2, catching eight passes for 91 yards, and now he’s in another good spot against the Raiders. Oakland has struggled against tight ends for the past couple years, so Watson is a solid streaming option for Week 5.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Zach Ertz (v ARI) | Rank: #6
Unless you have someone like Hunter Henry or Charles Clay, I wouldn’t recommend benching the NFL’s fifth-leading receiver, but Ertz faces his toughest competition yet on Sunday. The Cardinals have allowed just 3.0 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, including zero points to both Eric Ebron and Jason Witten. Avoid the Eagles tight end in daily fantasy lineups.
Thumbs Down: Evan Engram (v LAC) | Rank: #13
Engram is on pace for a cool 76/800/4 line as a rookie, which is no small feat at the tight end position, but the Chargers are looking to stop the first-round pick this week. Los Angeles held Travis Kelce to just one yard in Week 3, so they definitely have the personnel to stop Engram on Sunday.
Thumbs Down: Martellus Bennett (@ DAL) | Rank: #16
See any previous “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down.” Aaron Rodgers talked about getting Bennett involved more this week, but they’ve been getting him involved plenty for limited production.
Thumbs Down: Julius Thomas (v TEN) | Rank: #21
I think Thomas might be close to getting benched for Miami, so he should stay far away from fantasy lineups. The way he went up for that jump ball in the end zone was inexcusable and lazy, setting the tone for the Dolphins poor showing in London last week.
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Thumbs Up of the Week: Pittsburgh Steelers (v JAC) | Rank: #2
The Jaguars are shockingly allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing defenses, but you’d think it’s only a matter of time before Blake Bortles tosses a couple interceptions, including maybe a pick-six. Also, the Steelers are second in the league with 15 sacks through four weeks.
Thumbs Up: Philadelphia Eagles (v ARI) | Rank: #3
Philadelphia hurt fantasy owners in a good spot against the Giants a couple weeks ago at home, but New York was able to offset the pass rush with a lot of short passes; that’s not Bruce Arians way, and Carson Palmer holding onto the ball for too long could lead to sacks and fumbles for the Eagles.
Thumbs Up: Baltimore Ravens (@ OAK) | Rank: #4
While E.J. Manuel looked good in limited action last week, the Raiders are obviously a much more appealing target for opposing fantasy defenses with Derek Carr out of the lineup. With no running game to speak of for Oakland, the Ravens will force Manuel to try to beat them.
Thumbs Up: New York Jets (@ CLE) | Rank: #5
DeShone Kizer is completing 51.4% of his passes for 191 yards per game and a 3:8 touchdown-interception ratio. Todd Bowles should throw a lot of different looks at the rookie.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Houston Texans (v KC) | Rank: NR
There’s a chance Houston has a strong showing at home, but Kansas City takes care of the ball and is putting up points. I’d look elsewhere.
Thumbs Down: Seattle Seahawks (@ LAR) | Rank: #9
The Rams have the league’s highest-scoring offense with 35.5 points per game, and Seattle looks to be losing it some defensively, particularly in the secondary. They are barely a top-10 unit.
Thumbs Down: Jacksonville Jaguars (@ PIT) | Rank: #13
I think Pittsburgh will use a conservative, ball-control approach, limiting the upside for Jacksonville. I think the Jags will have a difficult time increasing their NFL-leading 18 sacks against the Steelers.
Thumbs Down: Carolina Panthers (@ DET) | Rank: #15
Matthew Stafford has been better at home than on the road, and Carolina has allowed 32.0 points per game over the past two weeks.