Thumbs Up of the Week: Jalen Hurts (v TB)
Unless he was paired with another high-end QB1 like Tom Brady, anyone with Hurts likely has him set-in-stone for their lineup every week, but I’ll still list him here for any doubters. Dating back to last year, Hurts has finished as a top-12 fantasy option in every appearance as the starter (excluding the Week 17 “benching” for Nate Sudfeld), and he’s only a dozen points behind Brady as the overall QB1 through five weeks. Tampa Bay has been very vulnerable against the pass, and there should also be running lanes for Hurts on Thursday night. He’s a top-five option.
Thumbs Up: Taylor Heinicke (v KC)
Heinicke struggled last week in a loss to New Orleans, but it was a tough spot versus an opportunistic group, and Sunday should be a much easier draw with the Chiefs fielding an historically bad defense through five games. I wouldn’t say Washington will pull off the upset—and not having Curtis Samuel (groin) or Logan Thomas (hamstring) hurts—but Heinicke gets a shot over the next two weeks to prove he should remain the starter by going toe-to-toe with Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. Consider him a borderline QB1.
Thumbs Up: Ben Roethlisberger (v SEA)
I guess Roethlisberger’s arm talent is just fine following a season-high 10.1 yards per attempt in last week’s win over Denver, and the highlights were a 50-yard deep ball to Diontae Johnson and an 18-yard strike to Chase Claypool (both touchdowns). Before last week, I said Sunday Night Football versus Seattle was a lookahead spot where you might be able to feel confident using Big Ben, and the strong outing in Week 5 solidifies that belief.
Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (v CIN)
The lack of weapons on the perimeter will continue to limit Goff’s upside, but he’s averaged 39.2 pass attempts per game with a very respectable 7:3 touchdown-interception ratio, and Cincinnati has allowed 318+ passing yards in three-of-five games. Detroit could have a difficult time stopping all the weapons for the Bengals, so we’ll see if Goff if forced into more throwing as the Lions hope to finally get in the win column.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Ryan Tannehill (v BUF)
Tennessee’s passing attack has been a major disappointment to date, and although injuries are playing a factor, Tannehill has only surpassed 14.6 fantasy points twice through five weeks. A matchup against the red-hot Bills probably won’t be the cure for the Titans’ woes through the air, and Tannehill might need a rushing score to live up to QB1 expectations that we had for him entering the year. Wait until a probable shootout versus the Chiefs in Week 7 to get Tannehill in your lineup.
Thumbs Down: Daniel Jones (v LAR)
Jones’ worrisome concussion from last week puts him in doubt for Sunday, but if he plays, it will be difficult to trust the 24-year-old against a rested Rams team and without many of his top playmakers. Despite playing very well so far this season, Jones has only one multi-score game, and no Saquon Barkley (ankle) or Kenny Golladay (knee) really limits the upside. Even with bye weeks beginning, I have Jones outside the top 24 at quarterback.
Thumbs Down: Justin Fields (v GB)
The Bears have had success with Fields operating a low-volume passing attack, but I highly doubt they’ll be able to win that way this week with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers coming to Soldier Field. Maybe the need for increased aggressiveness on offense will lead to a big fantasy day—I’m just worried about taking a risk to find out, so Fields is barely a top-20 option in Week 6.
Thumbs Down: Derek Carr (@ DEN)
One of the main reasons to believe in Carr as a top-15 fantasy option was the fact that he was operating Jon Gruden’s complex offense at a high level, but that’s now over, and it’s fair to wonder if the group will struggle for the rest of 2021. In recent years, Carr has seemed to run hot-or-cold versus Denver, and I wouldn’t anticipate a big game from him on the road.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Joe Mixon (@ DET)
A clutch, eight-yard touchdown saved Mixon’s day last week in limited work, but simply being active and barely contributing would have boded well for this week and beyond—so fantasy owners should feel comfortable about playing the star runner against Detroit. Other than a surprising performance versus Baltimore running backs in Week 3, the Lions have allowed fantasy point totals of 27.9, 42.4, 37.3, and 25.0 to the position; encouraging practice reports would be reason to move Mixon back into the top ten.
Thumbs Up: Darrel Williams (@ WAS)
Jerick McKinnon will see increased playing time, too, but Williams is going to be a trusted, three-down option for Kansas City with Clyde Edwards-Helaire (knee) on injured reserve, and he can be a plug-and-play RB2. The Chiefs will need to rely more on the running games if opponents continue to show light boxes, and Williams’ status as the lead back with a projected short-yardage role gives him a high floor.
Thumbs Up: Latavius Murray (v LAC)
Baltimore continues to throw more than anticipated this season, but it’s a great sign that Murray played 49% of the team’s offensive snaps on Monday night with the Ravens trailing throughout. I’d expect Los Angeles will have their sights set on stopping Lamar Jackson, which should open the door for Murray to have some rushing lanes against a defense that has shown susceptibility to ground attacks. Latavius is a low-end RB2 for me.
Thumbs Up: Sony Michel (@ NYG)
Run defense was supposed to be a strength for the Giants in 2021, but they’ve allowed 138.4 rushing yards per game (sixth worst in the NFL) and 4.7 yards per carry (fifth worst), so there might be opportunity for Michel to have another strong game behind Darrell Henderson. It’s very encouraging that Michel was trusted for a goal-line touch in a close divisional game last week—showing he’s not in the doghouse after losing a fumble two weeks ago.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Miles Sanders (v TB)
Sanders played a season-high 75% of the offensive snaps last week, but even playing 100% of the snaps might not be enough to return RB2 value versus the stingy front of the Bucs. It’s difficult to trust someone with zero touchdowns this year—and only nine rushing scores in 33 career games—to fall into the end zone, so I have Sanders as my RB39 for this week.
Thumbs Down: Devontae Booker (v LAR)
I have Booker almost ten spots higher than Sanders as a quality FLEX option in place of Saquon Barkley—but expectations should maybe be contained. For the season, the veteran is averaging 2.8 yards per carry, and he’ll be banking on volume and/or a short score this week against a Los Angeles team that could jump out to an early lead and not look back. Last week, the Rams limited Seattle running backs to 59 scoreless yards on 20 attempts.
Thumbs Down: Mark Ingram (@ IND)
Getting back into the double-digits in carries for the first time since Week 2 wasn’t enough for Ingram to pay dividends as a fantasy start, and the 85-yard, one-touchdown performance in the opener looks more and more like a mirage as the weeks pass. Indy played hard on Monday night, and Darius Leonard won’t let a heartbreaking loss change that; Ingram can be safely dropped, and David Johnson (snap percentages of 57% and 53% over the past two weeks) is the preferred option in Houston’s backfield.
Thumbs Down: Alex Collins (@ PIT)
Volume was there for Collins last Thursday night (17 touches), but it took a couple of late receptions to save fantasy owners from a disastrous outing, and volume alone wouldn’t be enough to start him confidently against Pittsburgh if Chris Carson (neck) is unable to return. Should be draw another start, Collins will probably be at least a dozen spots lower than where I have Carson currently ranked (RB15).
Thumbs Up of the Week: Chris Godwin (@ PHI)
Godwin is obviously a must-start in all formats, but he’s here because a monster game feels like it could be coming on Thursday night. While Antonio Brown and Mike Evans seemed to have all the fun versus Miami, it was Godwin that led the team with 11 targets—which he turned into a solid seven receptions for 70 yards. The Eagles are often lost in coverage, and Godwin could be the beneficiary this week with Rob Gronkowski (ribs) out again. He’s a top-five play for me.
Thumbs Up: A.J. Brown (v BUF)
It’s rare to have a wide receiver as a “Thumbs Up” option with his quarterback being a “Thumbs Down” option, but there is enough concern about Brown to highlight him. As stated on this week’s episode of The Fantasy Consigliere Podcast, I could see Brown slipping a tackle and taking a short pass to the house with defenders preoccupied by Derrick Henry, and he’s too talented of a player to bench after getting through last week’s game healthy. Buy low while you can, and that will remain true even if Brown doesn’t come through on Monday night.
Thumbs Up: Emmanuel Sanders (@ TEN)
Through five games with the Bills, Sanders has 19 receptions, 322 receiving yards, four receiving touchdowns, 17.0 yards per reception, and 10.4 yards per target—making defenses pay for diverted too much attention to Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. One of these games will undoubtedly be a Diggs blowup when he goes for 35+ fantasy points, but until that happens, Sanders should continue to be played as a high-upside FLEX with two multi-score games already this season.
Thumbs Up: Nelson Agholor (v DAL)
Agholor hasn’t had a big game since the opener (5/72/1), but I’m giving him another shot for a matchup versus Dallas. For as good as the Cowboys have been defensively, they still allow quite a bit of production through the air (200+ yards to opposing wideouts in four-of-five games), and I think Josh McDaniels would be wise to find ways to get Agholor targets in single coverage. He’s at least worth consideration as a cheap option in DFS lineups.
Others: Eagles WRs (v TB)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Tyler Lockett (@ PIT)
The chemistry between Russell Wilson and Lockett is special, so no matter how well Geno Smith plays off the bench, it’s difficult to imagine the usual production is replicated over the next few weeks for the dynamic receiver. Already a volatile option to being with, Lockett may need a busted coverage to have one of those high-ceiling games, and Pittsburgh will be focused as they hope to build momentum following last week’s win over Denver. Lockett is outside my top 25 at the position.
Thumbs Down: Odell Beckham Jr. (v ARI)
Beckham Jr. catching two passes (on three targets) for 20 scoreless yards in a 47-42 game is not a good sign for his rest-of-season outlook, and an impressive debut hasn’t been followed up by much production over the past two games. Fantasy owners might feel better about seeing Baker Mayfield on the same page with OBJ before being confidence in using him in lineups, and Jarvis Landry (knee) is nearing a return to potentially lower the stock even more.
Thumbs Down: Cole Beasley (@ TEN)
It’s not accurate to call Beasley a non-factor this season considering he caught 23-of-30 targets over the Bills’ first three games, but it’s been quiet since then, and now he’ll face a Tennessee team that has limited him to 12 receptions for 90 scoreless yards in three matchups with 60% of the snaps played (one such game in each of the past three years). I’d prefer playing an upside target like James Washington or Jalen Reagor.
Thumbs Down: Bryan Edwards (@ DEN)
Edwards was having a quiet season despite a full-time role when Jon Gruden was running the show, and as previously stated, I’m now much less confident in the Las Vegas offense. Similar to the aforementioned Odell Beckham Jr., it might be a good idea to see a big game rather than counting on one happening out of nowhere.
Others: Terrace Marshall Jr. (v MIN), K.J. Osborn (@ CAR)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Hunter Henry (v DAL)
Henry becoming more of a factor as a pass-catcher—despite his lowest number of snaps in back-to-back games—is evidence of New England’s coaching staff gaining comfortability regarding the current collection of talent on offense, and the former Charger has caught a touchdown in both games this month. Dallas has allowed 20+ fantasy points to tight ends twice already this year, so Henry is a TE1 option in a plus matchup.
Thumbs Up: Ricky Seals-Jones (v KC)
The usage for Seals-Jones last week (99% playing time; eight targets) makes him the envy of almost every tight end in the league, and Taylor Heinicke will continue looking for him in a possible shootout versus the Chiefs this weekend. I’d expect J.D. McKissic gets more involved, but Seals-Jones is essentially the No. 2 option behind Terry McLaurin in the passing game, and he’s ranked as a low-end TE1.
Thumbs Up: O.J. Howard (@ PHI)
The Bucs being without Rob Gronkowski (ribs) again opens the door for Cameron Brate to get another start, but I have a feeling Howard could find the end zone on Thursday night. Good things can happen when you’re on the field in a Tom Brady-led offense, and Howard has notably played at least 59% of the snaps in two games without Gronk. It’s worth a shot for desperate owners.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Eric Ebron (v SEA)
Maybe the loss of JuJu Smith-Schuster (shoulder) may lead to some taking a chance on Ebron, but he’s totaled 37 scoreless yards on five receptions this season, and Pittsburgh’s offense shouldn’t change all that much with James Washington stepping up. Even though tight end remains thin, I’d be looking elsewhere.
Thumbs Down: C.J. Uzomah (@ DET)
Uzomah was an expected disappointment in Week 5 (and a good reminder to not overvalue recent/past production), as the floor is too low with all three of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd in the lineup. I don’t see Detroit taking away those three and Joe Mixon, so Uzomah isn’t a highly recommended play for season-long leagues or DFS action.
Thumbs Down: Tyler Conklin (@ CAR)
Playing time has remained high for Conklin, but he’s now totaled 12 receptions for 99 scoreless yards in the four games sandwiching his 7/70/1 performance. I’m still anticipating Chris Herndon to eventually become more of a factor for the Vikings (zero targets so far this season), and the offense in general is always going to be top-heavy with Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and the running backs.