The NFL Handbook – Week 5

I really don’t understand the NFL’s bye week format.

It’s Week 5, and the Falcons, Broncos, Saints, and Redskins will be sitting this one out. Nice. Football is a physical game, and I’m sure the players need the rest. However, the Panthers, Colts, Jets, and 49ers won’t see their bye week until Week 11 and given football’s physical nature, having an intermission after 10 games seems exponentially more advantageous than having one after 4.

Specifically, for playoff bound teams.

Sure, there are arguments to be made for an early bye being more beneficial, and there’s the whole finishing with the best record thing – which rewards the top 2 teams from each conference with a week off on Wild Card weekend – but, why not just give everyone the same bye week?

I’m sure the answer to that question is monetarily rooted, but the NFL is expected to generate $14 billion in revenue in 2017. Every other major American sport has a built in “bye week” around the midway point of the season (a.k.a. the All-Star break). Couldn’t the NFL employ a similar approach and have each team play 8 games, followed by a bye week, then finish out the season?

Not only does it seem like the most logical approach, but it would also make our lives markedly simpler as fantasy owners. Instead, for the next few weeks we’ll have to deal with a roster full of guys who aren’t playing (but we can’t drop) while throwing together makeshift lineups and hoping for the best.

The fun starts now, but I’m here to help.

I’ve analyzed the data for each of the 14 NFL games on tap in Week 5, and have compiled this handbook to help you identify which match-ups to target in your fantasy leagues (should you find yourself with multiple starters on bye like myself), and have also laid out my game predictions should you find yourself in Vegas this weekend.

For the fantasy portion, I’ve broken each team’s fantasy relevant players into four categories:

  1. Ballers –  Either the you just aren’t benching, or the ones with favorable match-ups.
  2. Under the Radar – Guys who you may not start typically, but have a good opportunity to produce. Good for dfs (DraftKings, Fanduel, etc.) as they should have low ownership.
  3. Temper Expectations – Proceed with caution. May be players you’d normally start, or guys who’ve been playing well, but might not put up the numbers needed to justify a start this week.
  4. Bums – It’s a good idea to just avoid these guys in your lineups.

Complete Week 5 Player Rankings

For the betting side, I used the opening spread and over/under totals from sportsinsights.com. A lot of the lines have moved in reaction to the money, injuries, etc., but picking and choosing which current odds to use felt a bit too arbitrary. If you have any questions regarding the updated odds, feel free to comment, shoot me an email: leonard@maximizeyourodds.com, or hit me up on Twitter: @maxingyourodds

New England Patriots (2-2, 1-3 ATS) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1, 1-2 ATS)

Spread: NE -4

O/U: 54

Through 4 weeks, the Pats are 2-2, allowing 32 points per game, and are tied for 2nd in the AFC East with the Jets. Yes, you read that right; the Jets – who happen to play Cleveland this week. Oh, and lest we forget, the Dolphins take on the (possibly) Mariota-less Titans Sunday.

Translation: there’s a pretty damn good chance that New England will finish the week at the bottom of this division. Find me someone who saw that coming, and I’ll show you a liar. Or, a drug addict.

And, the Bucs? Well, on paper they’re contenders. But, they’ve been without several key guys on the defensive side of the ball, and it’s still too early to get a real gauge on their legitimacy. They didn’t play Week 1 due to Irma, played the Bears in Week 2 (who just benched their “starting” QB), and frankly, it’s just hard to trust them.

There are two things I trust fully, however:

  1. This game will be competitive.
  2. There will be points. Lots of points.
FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
NE 26.61 (32nd) 22.63 (31st) 28.85 (30th) 10.80 (28th) 1.00 (3rd) 9.75 (23rd)
TB 22.11 (30th) 14.90 (6th) 30.53 (32nd) 5.97 (6th) 3.33 (8th) 5.00 (3rd)

Now listen, any time you give up 40 fantasy points to a single RB, your numbers are going to be a wee bit inflated. So, let’s remove the Pats week 1 performance for a second – Kareem Hunt is on astronaut status. In weeks 2-4, the Patriots have allowed just 83.3 rushing yards per game and 4.17 yards per carry to opposing RBs. In fact, Jonathan Stewart‘s 68 yards last week were the most they’ve allowed since Hunt’s explosion, and not a single back has found the end zone.

Don’t let the 22.63 fantasy points per game allowed to RBs – 2nd most – fool you into thinking it’s some uber friendly matchup to target.

It’s not.

However, the case can be made that Doug Martin will be fresh in his 2017 debut, and when you consider that the Pats have allowed 71.5 receiving yards per game to opposing backs (61.33 minus Hunt), Martin should have plenty of value on a short week with 4 teams on bye.

I rest my case. Pretty solid one too, I must add.

The Bucs run d is pretty straight itself. Yes, Dalvin Cook *single tear shed* put up 97 yards on them in Week 2, but it only took him 27 carries to get there. Health is a concern, though. TB might have caught a break last week – as they faced arguably the worst running game in the league – but if Kwon Alexander and/or Lavonte David can’t go this week, there’s no reason to fade the Pats backs.

Especially Gillislee, given his TD potential.

Now this last paragraph should go without saying, but if you have any part of either team’s passing attack on your fantasy rosters, consider yourself blessed, and plug them in. Winston put up more fantasy points than all but 5 QBs in Week 4 against the Giants overly hyped but respectable secondary, and Brady is arguably the greatest of all time. Hell, if you can find a way to get their pets, neighbors, family members, or anyone who’s at most two degrees separated… Play them as well.

Neither team has defended the pass well, and it hasn’t been a product of matchups, mother nature, diet, or anything other than them being lousy. Again, there will be points. But, the Pats don’t (and won’t) lose two straight.

Patriots 31 – Buccaneers 27

Ballers: Tom Brady, Mike Gillislee, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Jameis Winston, Doug Martin, Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate

Under the Radar: James White (PPR), O.J. Howard

Temper Expectations: On seeing defense

Bums: Patriots DST, Buccaneers DST

Los Angeles Chargers (0-4, 0-3-1 ATS) at New York Giants (0-4, 2-2 ATS)

Spread: NYG -3

O/U: 43.5

Coming into the season, the Giants were figured by many to be among the NFC’s elite while the Chargers were a trendy pick to make some noise out west. Well, we’re through four weeks and these teams have a combined 8 losses and 0 wins.

Talk about disappointment.

Now, I’ve never been a big fan of the whole a team is what their record indicates ideology. To me, there’s only one way to truly evaluate teams, and it’s simple; watch games. Based on what I’ve seen, neither team is as bad as their 0-4 record suggests. Are they good? Nope, but they’re not terrible either.

3 of the 4 Chargers losses, and 2 of the 4 for New York, have come by 3 points or less. Now, the good teams tend to find ways to win the close games, and the bad teams find ways to lose them. But, the really wack teams? The winless type teams? Well, they’re not likely to have a puncher’s chance in the 4th. So, the fact that these two have competed, and put themselves in position to win a few of these games, leads me to believe they’re better than their 0-4 records suggest.

A few flags go the other way (or don’t get thrown), and/or a few bad bounces go good, and we could be looking at a pair of 2-2 teams here. But, we’re not, and the good thing is someone has to win.

I hope.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
LAC 16.49 (18th) 20.30 (23rd) 22.25 (22nd) 5.15 (8th) 5.00 (12th) 11.25 (30th)
NYG 17.51 (25th) 17.60 (16th) 15.38 (5th) 14.73 (32nd) 7.25 (19th) 9.75 (23rd)

Although their fantasy numbers say otherwise, neither of these teams have given up many yards through the air. The Giants 224.5 passing yards allowed per game are the 11th fewest in the league, the Chargers 211.5 ranks 9th, and it’s not like they’ve been facing scrubs (Prescott, Stafford, Smith…). All in all, there have been 8 QBs who’ve tried their luck against these defenses, only Jameis Winston threw for more than 275 yards (332 – Week 4 vs. NYG). The best thing going for Manning and Rivers in this one is that the Giants have a whopping 0 interceptions on the season, while the Chargers are running away with the race with an impressive 1.

At least you shouldn’t have to worry about losing points.

Now, of the 224.5 passing yards allowed per game by this Giants defense, 77.25 of them have gone to the tight end position. The Giants are the worst team at defending the TE in nearly every category, and have allowed more fantasy points to the position than any other team. Too bad the Chargers can’t figure out how they want to use their TEs:

Opp Rec Yds Yds/Rec TD Tar Fantasy Pts PPR
Week 1
Antonio Gates DEN 2 17 8.5 3 1.7 3.7
Week 2
Hunter Henry MIA 7 80 11.43 7 8 15
Antonio Gates MIA 2 11 5.50 1 4 7.1 9.1
Sean McGrath MIA 1 10 10.00 1 1 2
Week 3
Antonio Gates KC 2 30 15.00 5 3 5
Week 4
Antonio Gates PHI 3 18 6.00 5 1.8 4.8
Hunter Henry PHI 2 16 8.00 1 3 7.6 9.6

… Gates has been the most consistent, but yeah, draw straws.

Conversely, the Chargers Achilles’ heel has been the ground game, and they’ve allowed a RB to hit 100+ yards in 3-straight games. Lucky for them, the Giants have the league’s 2nd worst rushing offense through 4 weeks, and Gallman’s 42 against the Bucs Sunday represents the most production of any of their backs this season.

Gallman should definitely see more touches as the season progresses, and given the matchup, he could make a very nice DFS play this week if either Perkins or Darkwa can’t go. But chances are, they’ll both suit up, and we’ll be left wondering what if as they plod aimlessly into the line.

Chargers 20 – Giants 24

Ballers: Melvin Gordon, Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, Odell Beckham Jr.

Under the Radar: Wayne Gallman, Sterling Shepard

Temper Expectations: Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Eli Manning, Orleans DarkwaEvan Engram

Bums: Tyrell Williams, Brandon Marshall

Buffalo Bills (3-1, 4-0 ATS) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-3, 2-2 ATS)

Spread: CIN -1

O/U: 38.5

After not throwing a single TD over the first 2 weeks, Any Dalton has now tossed 6 over the last 2. Putting him ahead of Ryan, Palmer, Newton, and Flacco on the season.

He went from 0 to 100 real quick.

Now, it could be said that the change at offensive coordinator has provided the much needed boost to this Cincinnati offense. It could also be said that the past 2 week’s results are the product of matchups. I believe it’s the latter, but no matter which way you choose to view it, this offense will be tested Sunday as the league’s #1 defense comes to town.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
BUF 9.34 (2nd) 15.10 (8th) 15.40 (6th) 4.60 (6th) 5.50 (15th) 8.25 (17th)
CIN 13.92 (9th) 14.90 (7th) 17.10 (10th) 3.90 (5th) 10.00 (29th) 6.25 (6th)

Both of these offenses rank in the Bottom-3 in points per game, and both defenses rank in the Top-3 in points allowed per game.

First team to 10 wins, and I won’t waste any more of your time.

You can play the kickers, and both defenses with a reasonable level of confidence (I prefer the Bills), but outside of that, your pushing your luck.

Bills 17 – Bengals 16

Ballers: Bills DST, Bengals DST

Under the Radar: Giovani Bernard

Temper Expectations: Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoyCharles Clay, A.J. Green

Bums: Andre Holmes, Zay Jones, Andy Dalton, Jeremy Hill, Joe Mixon, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Kroft

New York Jets (2-2, 2-2 ATS) at Cleveland Browns (0-4, 1-3 ATS)

Spread: CLE -1

O/U: 39.5

You could’ve bet me any amount of money, hell probably even my wife, that a Week 5 matchup between the Chargers and Giants would feature two 0-4 teams, while the Jets and Browns wouldn’t.

Thankfully, you didn’t make that bet.

The Jets have rattled off back-to-back wins, and head into Cleveland flying high. On the Browns side? Well, they’re 0-4. But, at least it’s looking like they’ll have Myles Garrett this week.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
NYJ 15.27 (14th) 22.05 (30th) 21.90 (21st) 4.80 (7th) 8.50 (23rd) 4.75 (2nd)
CLE 21.60 (29th) 17.48 (14th) 18.83 (12th) 12.30 (31st) 12.25 (31st) 5.75 (5th)

Unless you’re in an oceanically deep (or 2-QB) league you’re not considering Josh McCown or DeShone Kizer, but if you play daily fantasy or have a QB on bye, they might not be the worst options this week. No, neither guy has been a reliable fantasy (or real life) starter, but they’ve both had their moments. In Week 1, Kizer finished as the #8 fantasy QB, McCown finished 13th in Week 2, and Kizer put up a 2nd Top-15 performance in Week 3 finishing 12th.

Yes, the Jets defense has actually been decent against the pass (allowing an average of just 203.5 yards per game), but they’ve also allowed an average of 21.25 rushing yards per game to opposing QBs (4th most). Kizer’s 97 rushing yards on the season are tied for the 5th most among QBs, and are more than RBs like Matt Forte, Christian McCaffrey, and Adrian Peterson have individually on the season.

Just in case you were wondering.

True, there’s really only one Deshaun that truly matters at this point, but the other one should do enough to justify a start this week. Especially if he keeps up this trend of rushing for a TD every other week.

On the flip side, McCown really hasn’t been asked to do much outside of manage the game. From that standpoint, he’s been largely effective. He’s completed over 70% of his passes, and has a 1.00 TD/INT ratio which leaves a lot to be desired, but hey, at least it’s positive. What’s to like then?

Well, the Browns have allowed 9 TD passes on the season, more than all but 2 teams, and have been terrible against opposing TEs. Over 20% of McCown’s passes have targeted his TEs over the past 2 weeks, so you have to figure he should be able to exploit this weakness and put up some decent numbers.

I don’t believe either guy’s ceiling is higher than the roof, but they should find themselves ranked around the mid teens based on matchups, and byes.

Now let’s rewind back to the preseason for a second when all of the buzz was on Isaiah Crowell. I can’t lie, I thought he’d have a solid season myself. Well, he has 134 rushing yards through 4 weeks (6 backs have rushed for more yards in a single game this season), and sits 45th among fantasy RBs.

Ouch.

However, the Jets d has been off and on against the run, has allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to the RB position, and this game script could result in more carries for Crowell than he’s seen in recent weeks. No, I’m not expecting a huge day, but his floor should be relatively high. They’ve also allowed 3 (including McCoy’s 49 in Week 1) RBs to hit 50 yards receiving making Duke Johnson a solid PPR play this week.

Low key, this game should be entertaining to watch, and highly competitive. I’ll take the Browns simply because New York Jets and 3-game win streak just don’t go together.

Jets 17 – Browns 21

Ballers: Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Under the Radar: Josh McCown, Robby Anderson, DeShone Kizer, Duke Johnson (PPR), Isaiah Crowell, Rashard Higgins, Jets DST

Temper Expectations: Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire, Jermaine KearseRicardo Louis

Bums: David Njoku, Seth Devalve

Carolina Panthers (3-1, 2-2 ATS) at Detroit Lions (3-1, 3-1 ATS)

Spread: DET -3

O/U: 43.5

In a week full of fodder, this game should be a classic… If you like good football, that is. I just wish they were healthy.

The Lions injury report looks like a scroll and they could be without 3 starters, while the Panthers are already without Greg Olsen, Kurt Coleman and could also play this one without the services of Ryan Kalil and Daryl Worley.

We’ll call it a push. And, a tie seems fair considering these two defenses have been nearly identical through 2 weeks:

(Per Pro Football Reference)

Passing Rushing
Tm Pts Yds Yds/Play TO Yds TD Int NY/A Att Yds TD Y/A
Carolina 70 1128 4.9 2 779 5 1 5.4 84 349 2 4.2
Detroit 70 1290 5.4 11 945 4 7 6.1 86 345 3 4.0

Crazy…

Here’s how they match up from the fantasy perspective:

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE
CAR 13.75 (8th) 14.25 (4th) 20.60 (18th) 3.85 (4th)
DET 10.74 (4th) 17.13 (13th) 19.55 (15th) 5.95 (9th)

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering if the Lions have allowed just 1 more rushing TD but 4 less rushing yards, what the hell is causing the variance in fantasy points allowed to the RB position?

Well, there’s the 3 fumbles by RBs that the Lions have forced/recovered to the 0 from Carolina. And, the Lions are giving up about 60 yards per game through the air to RBs (6th most), while that number is 45 for the Panthers. I see you McCaffrey owners, but it’s also worth noting that the Lions have yet to allow a receiving TD to an opposing RB.

One other matchup of note, is the Lions secondary vs. #1 receivers. Fitzgerald put up 6 for 74 in Week 1, 7 for 91 from Jones in Week 3, and last week Diggs caught 5 for 98 (they faced a less than 100% OBJ in Week 2).

None of them recorded a TD.

So, Benjamin should put up yards based on volume alone, but it wouldn’t be wise to expect a monster game. If the Panthers score through the air, it’ll likely be Funchess or Shepard, making them both potential laden, yet risky DFS plays.

On the Lions side, well surely they watched film of the last 2 weeks as Bress and Brady combined to put up 527 yards and 5 TDs on this defense while completing over 70% of their passes. Stafford, Tate, and Jones should be just fine in this one considering Coleman is out, and Worley might not go. But, with a gimpy ankle for Abdullah, and a tough matchup for Ebron, that’s about as far as it goes.

All told, the Lions are at home, and given Cam’s propensity to throw the ball to the guys rocking a different color jersey than his, I think the Lions come away with the W.

Panthers 16 – Lions 24

Ballers: Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, Lions DST

Under the Radar: Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard, Marvin Jones Jr.

Temper Expectations: Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Stewart, Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers DST, Ameer Abdullah

Bums: Eric Ebron

San Francisco 49ers (0-4, 3-1 ATS) at Indianapolis Colts (1-3, 2-2 ATS)

Spread: IND -1.5

O/U: 43

0-4 49ers, 1-3 Colts… Remember that mention of fodder?

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
SF 17.11 (21st) 21.00 (26th) 24.20 (27th) 1.93 (1st) 7.75 (21st) 11.00 (29th)
IND 19.95 (28th) 21.08 (27th) 23.35 (24th) 9.05 (25th) 16.00 (32nd) 9.75 (23rd)

As my impatient daughter tells me when I’m stuck behind seven cars at a light, “Green means go, daddy!”

What she’s too young to understand is that I can’t just magically go through the cars in front of me simply because the light is green. To her, it’s green, and I should be able to go. Period. Well, the same principle loosely applies here. Green might not necessarily mean go, and here’s why:

  1. Brian Hoyer has thrown an interception in each of his 4 games this season. The Colts defense 6 interceptions over the past 3 weeks.
  2. The 49ers woeful points per game average against the RB position is largely due to Gurley’s 32.9 point performance in Week 3. Their defense is allowing just 3.55 yards per carry (11th fewest), and a good chunk of the damage by opposing RBs has come through the air – they’ve allowed the 5th most receiving yards per game to the position. Frank Gore has just 5 receptions through 4 games.
  3. The Colts have not allowed a single back to rush for more than 52 yards.
  4. The Colts have also held 16 of 18 receivers to less than 75 yards. Only Cooper Kupp (76 – Week 1), and J.J. Nelson (120 – Week 2) have put up more than 75 on this d.
  5. 8 of the 10 TEs the Colts have faced have put up less than 40 yards, but the 2 TDs they’ve allowed to the position put them tied for the 5th most. Don’t go picking up/streaming Kittle based on this “favorable” matchup unless you want about 4 fantasy points:
TE vs. IND Team Rec Yds TD Fantasy Pts PPR
Gerald Everett LAR 1 39 3.9 4.9
Tyler Higbee LAR 2 17 1.7 3.7
Derek Carrier LAR 1 12 1.2 2.2
Ifeanyi Momah ARI 1 46 4.6 5.6
Troy Niklas ARI 1 16 1.6 2.6
David Njoku CLE 2 12 1 7.2 9.2
Seth Devalve CLE 2 29 2.9 4.9
Randall Telfer CLE 1 4 0.4 1.4
Jimmy Graham SEA 4 61 6.1 10.1
Luke Willson SEA 1 6 1 6.6 7.6

Overall, the Colts defense is terrible statistically. However, when broken down individually, they’ve been effective in preventing huge fantasy numbers. It’s kinda like being stung by one bee. Yeah, it kinda hurts, but nothing too major. Get stung by 75 of those jokers at once though, and see how you fare.

That was a terrible analogy.

Anyway, the 49ers have allowed 3 receivers to surpass 100 yards receiving over the past 2 weeks. T.Y. Hilton is going to have himself a ballgame, and the Colts should win come away with the W.

49ers 20 – Colts 23

Ballers: Carlos Hyde, T.Y. Hilton

Under the Radar: Trent Taylor, Jacoby Brissett

Temper Expectations: Brian Hoyer, Pierre Garcon, Aldrick Robinson, Frank Gore, Donte Moncrief

Bums: Marquise GoodwinGeorge Kittle, Kamar Aiken

Tennessee Titans (2-2, 2-2 ATS) at Miami Dolphins (1-2, 1-2 ATS)

Spread: TEN -3

O/U: 43.5

The Dolphins were just shut out by by the Saints altruistic defense, and the Titans could be without Marcus Mariota. No exaggeration, this game has the potential to be the worst offensive game we see this season.

I really have no idea what’s going on with this Dolphins offense, but I do know that the Titans defense is significantly worse than that of the Saints. Tennessee has allowed back-to-back QBs to throw 4 TDs (both put up over 30 fantasy points), 11 passing TDs on the season (tied with NE for the most), and has given up 31.5 points per game (3rd most).

If the Dolphins don’t ball out this week, they should just dismantle the franchise. However, my gut tells me we’ll see the Wild West gunslinger version of Jay Cutler show up on Sunday.

There’s really no other option.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
TEN 23.81 (31st) 20.45 (25th) 29.75 (31st) 7.05 (18th) 4.50 (10th) 11.25 (30th)
MIA 16.97 (21st) 17.57 (15th) 21.43 (19th) 7.53 (20th) 9.67 (27th) 7.00 (11th)

You have to start all of your Dolphins and hope for the best, given the matchup. But, until we get word on Mariota’s status, there’s really not much to say for Tennessee. Mariota didn’t play in the 2nd half Sunday, the Titans had 7 drives without him, and they compiled an impressive 24 yards over those 7 drives (the Texans had 20 POINTS in the 4th quarter alone), had 3 punts, 3 turnovers, and scored a whole zero points.

Granted, they were down 16 at the half, and ran the ball just 6 times over the final 2 quarters, so you have to figure their offense was handicapped. Nonetheless, 24 yards?

Let’s just pray Mariota is good to go.

Titans 10 – Dolphins 21

Ballers: Delanie Walker, Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry (PPR), DeVante Parker

Under the Radar: Jay Cutler, Kenny Stills

Temper Expectations: Derrick Henry, DeMarco Murray, Rishard MatthewsJulius Thomas

Bums: Eric Decker

Arizona Cardinals (2-2, 0-4 ATS) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-1, 2-2 ATS)

Spread: PHI -6

O/U: 45.5

Another week, another opportunity to bash this Cardinals excuse for a good football team. I won’t, though. I’m tired of writing about it.

But, don’t get it twisted, they’re bad.

Meanwhile, the Eagles are 3-1, and look poised to reach the playoffs for the 1st time since 2013. Especially, if they can get healthy in the secondary.

Now, I’m no ornithologist (Google it), but I do know that cardinals are relatively small birds that eat seeds, while eagles are large birds of prey with the bald eagle being the national animal of the US. And, that should tell you everything you need to know about this game.

Just in case it doesn’t though…

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
ARI 16.63 (20th) 14.35 (5th) 24.30 (28th) 3.65 (3rd) 8.75 (25th) 9.25 (20th)
PHI 17.32 (24th) 15.28 (10th) 26.68 (29th) 8.45 (23rd) 4.25 (9th) 6.75 (8th)

Ok, so here’s the thing with this Cardinals team: they beat the teams that they’re supposed to beat, and lose to the good teams. Their defense looks good against Brissett and Hoyer, but gets annihilated by Prescott and Stafford. I said I wouldn’t bash them, so I’ll stand by my word. Suffice it to say, Philly is not one of the teams that they’re supposed to beat.

There is hope, though.

About 25% of Wentz’s passes this season have targeted Zach Ertz. The Cards have yet to allow a TE to score on them this season, and are allowing the 5th fewest yards per game to the position. Now Ertz faced what seemed to be a tough matchup last week, still put up 81 yards., and is a must start at this point.

However, with him likely to not put up the numbers we’ve grown accustomed to, Peterson on Jeffery, and the 2.98 yards per carry Arizona has allowed to opposing RBs, you have to like their odds at slowing down this Eagles offense.

Notice that says slowing, not shutting.

On the flip side, Carson Palmer has thrown more passes to the other team than all but 2 QBs this season. He’s also been sacked 17 times, more than any other QB this season. And lastly, in case you needed more, his 59% completion rate ranks 29th among qualified QBs; better than just Hoyer, Bortles, and Kizer.

But, at the same time, his 1,282 passing yards are 2nd to only Tom Brady. Funny how that works.

In any case, he’s attempted more passes than every other QB in the NFL, and David Johnson won’t be back until December-ish. He’ll continue to put up yards in bunches this week against a banged up Eagles secondary, and seeing how Philly has just 3 interceptions on the year, Palmer could be in for a nice fantasy day.

Needless to say, you’ll want the Brown brothers (though not brothers), and Fitzgerald in your lineups. J.J. Nelson saw just 25 snaps in Week 4, and appears to be the odd man out now that everyone is healthy, otherwise I’d suggest him too.

Call me crazy, hypocritical, or anything in between, but my gut tells me the Cards find a way to win this game. Defensively, they should be able to limit Blount/Smallwood, Ertz, and Jeffrey and I think Palmer plays well enough to pull off the upset.

I’d gladly take the 6.5.

Cardinals 23 – Eagles 21

Ballers: Larry Fitzgerald

Under the Radar: Carson Palmer, Jaron Brown, John Brown, LeGarrette Blount, Nelson Agholor

Temper Expectations: Andre Ellington, Chris Johnson, Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz

Bums: J.J. NelsonJermaine Gresham, Wendell Smallwood, Torrey Smith

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2, 2-2 ATS) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1, 2-2 ATS)

Spread: PIT -8.5

O/U: 44.5

I really can’t stand this Jaguars team. They come out Week 1, and embarrass the Texans. Then, get embarrassed by the Titans in Week 2. They turn around, and dominate the Ravens in Week 3. Only to lose to the hapless Jets in Week 4.

They’re like that chameleon paint that was hot back in the early ’00’s. You look over and see a dope red Corvette, then look back and it’s some wack shade of yellow that no one’s eyes should ever have to witness.

Kinda like their helmets. Just make them all the way black, graphite, whatever the hell that color is in the front.

Please, and thank you.

While I’m on helmets, has anyone else noticed that the Buccaneers logo is ridiculously large on theirs? I’m mean, damn. It’s a nice logo and all. But, why so big?

Anyway, back to the game at hand. The Steelers, while 3-1, have been predominantly inconsistent themselves. They snuck out of Cleveland with a W in Week 1, but probably should’ve lost. They did in fact lose to the tragic Bears in Week 3. And, offensively, they just haven’t looked as prolific as one might expect.

That said, I hope the Dr. Jekyll version of these teams show up Sunday, because if so, this game will be incredible.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
JAX 7.98 (1st) 22.03 (29th) 10.03 (1st) 10.10 (27th) 1.75 (5th) 7.25 (12th)
PIT 10.28 (3rd) 18.08 (18th) 11.08 (2nd) 6.63 (13th) 5.25 (13th) 3.75 (1st)

Yes, I think we all realize that these are two of the best defenses in the league, but what you probably didn’t realize is that this Jags offense has permitted the 5th fewest fantasy points to opposing DSTs.

I damn sure didn’t.

The much maligned Blake Bortles has just 3 interceptions on the season, and has been sacked just 3 times; fewer than any other QB. This Jags offense is also averaging the 5th most points per game of any team at 27.25 per. Granted, they’re averaging 21.67 points per game against teams not named the Ravens, but that’s still right about the league average. And, this is without their leading WR Allen Robinson.

Now no, I’m not suggesting that Jacksonville is going to come out and hang 35 on the board, but seeing that the Steelers have faced a rookie making his debut, Case Keenum, Mike Glennon, and a less than 100% Joe Flacco, their defensive numbers may be a bit inflated. It’s not unfathomable to see this Jags offense be productive.

That conversation begins and ends with Leonard Fournette, and Pittsburgh has allowed 4.78 yards per carry to opposing backs; 6th most of any defense.

The Jaguars have been even worse against the run, however. Allowing nearly 6 yards per carry, and nearly 150 yards per game to opposing backs, there’s not a much better matchup that you could ask for. Especially when you consider that Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire just combined for 263 yards and 2 TDs against this Jags d. Can you imagine what Le’Veon Bell is going to do on Sunday?!

Oh, boy (And, don’t try to justify it by saying they were jet lagged either. Although, the majority of those yards came on like 2 plays).

Now, if you’ve been starting Allen Hurns or Marqise Lee, again I’m sorry. But, please don’t this week. For one, neither has put up fantasy relevant numbers. And for two, the Steelers haven’t allowed a single receiver to put up more than 55 yards against them.

I know, I know, I kinda hinted at Bortles being ok earlier, but I also said the conversation began and ended with Fournette. It’s best to just avoid this passing game at all costs this week.

And honestly, outside of Antonio Brown, that statement applies to the Steelers as well.

This one should be a good, hard-hitting, throwback style game that’s run heavy, and dominated by the defenses. And for the record, all 4 of Pittsburgh’s games this season have gone under the total.

Jags 13 – Steelers 20

Ballers: Leonard Fournette, Jaguars DST, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Steelers DST

Under the Radar: Jesse James

Temper Expectations: Ben Roethlisberger, Blake Bortles, Marcedes Lewis

Bums: Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster

Baltimore Ravens (2-2, 2-2 ATS) at Oakland Raiders (2-2, 2-2 ATS)

Spread: PK

O/U: 40

Let the E.J. Manuel era begin in Oakland! 8 words no Raider fan wanted to hear coming into the season. But, in all honesty, he can’t be much worse than Joe Flacco has been.

Maybe it’s his back, maybe it’s his offensive line, maybe it’s the fact that he’s played the Bengals, Jags, and Steelers… Whatever the case, Flacco’s 6 interceptions are 2nd to only DeShone Kizer, his 65 QB rating is 2nd to last (better than only DeShone Kizer), and his 150.3 passing yards per game rank last among QBs who still have a starting job.

Thankfully, the Raiders d isn’t quite on the level of the 3 I just mentioned, but outside of Kirk Cousins‘ Monday night outburst, they’ve done a good job in containing the opposition’s passing attacks.

He’s not quite out the woods yet.

Manuel will have his work cut out for him as well as the Ravens lead the NFL in interceptions with 9.

Hey, remember how I said the Dolphins/Titans game could potentially be the worst offensive display we see this season? Well, this won’t be too far off.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
BAL 10.98 (5th) 21.30 (28th) 15.03 (4th) 11.78 (29th) 10.00 (29th) 6.75 (8th)
OAK 18.16 (27th) 17.70 (17th) 16.43 (7th) 8.53 (24th) 5.25 (13th) 9.75 (23rd)

Bruh, I thought you said Oakland had done a good job in containing the opposition’s passing attacks? You consider the 6th most fantasy points allowed to QBs good?

Nope, but as I harped on last week, fantasy points per game can be a deceiving data point. In Week 1, Mariota ran for a TD against the Raiders d, without those 6 points, he finishes the day with a pedestrian 12.84 fantasy points. Flacco has rushed for 15 TDs (in the regular season) over his 9 years in the league. That’s a rushing TD in about 11% of his games played; odds are he’s not about to get you those 6 points. Week 2, McCown put up about 15 fantasy points, throwing for just 166 yards but 2 TDs. Last week, Siemian threw for just 179 yards and a TD – about 11 fantasy points.

Cousins’ performance was an outlier.

On to the running game, because discussing the Ravens passing game is depressing. Last week, I also mentioned Alex Collins‘ recent performance, and suggested he’d be a good streamer/DFS play. And, for the 2nd week in a row, he rushed for exactly 82 yards on 9 carries. What are the odds?! Problem is, he’s still not seeing the field enough. True, his 17 offensive snaps were more than the 11 that Terrance West saw. But, Buck Allen saw 40 as the Ravens ran the ball just 15 times.

Hopefully, the Ravens can remain competitive long enough to get this run game going, and give Collins a full workload. It’ll only help Flacco, and I seriously can’t be the only one who’s noticed Collins’ 8.24 yards per carry this season.

Y’all wanna win? Put Colly in!

Same for the Raiders. Manuel has been in the league 4 full seasons now and hasn’t really done much to prove he’s a reliable signal caller. So, given the circumstances (and the matchup), Marshawn Lynch needs to see about 50 carries on Sunday. He shouldn’t have enough energy to dance by the time this one is all said and done.

Jared Cook is probably another Raider who’ll see plenty of action as 4 of Manuel’s 17 passes last week were thrown his direction and Baltimore has been susceptible to TEs all season.

Outside of that, I’m not touching this Raiders offense until they prove otherwise. Oakland is depressing too. You don’t deserve this much negativity in your life. Flip a coin to decide the winner, but it won’t go over the total. That, I can assure you.

Ravens 10 – Raiders 14

Ballers: Marshawn Lynch, Jared Cook, Raiders DST, Ravens DST

Under the Radar: Alex Collins, Ben Watson

Temper Expectations: Javorious Allen

Bums: Literally everyone else

Seattle Seahawks (2-2, 1-3 ATS) at Los Angeles Rams (3-1, 2-2 ATS)

Spread: LAR -1

O/U: 46

I used to hoop against my pops and older cousins 1-on-1 back in the day, and at first, it was a foregone conclusion. They’d bust my ass every time, and talk a gang of smack while doing so. But, as the years went on, and I got better, stronger, and faster the games became closer and closer, to the point that I finally was able to do the trash talking.

And, it felt amazing.

Los Angeles has won 3 of the last 5 matchups against Seattle, but haven’t claimed a NFC West title since 2003. Having won 8 of the last 13 division titles, the Seahawks have been a bit like the bully big brother. But, the little brother Rams have been improving, getting stronger, and getting closer and closer to finally knocking the ‘Hawks off the throne.

Could this be the year that it all comes together?

I surely hope so, because in my hate of the week, I’m tired of these Seahawks “fans” and the entire team to be honest. They’ve reached that level of cockiness where they can’t lose. So, if they’re getting beat, they’re not actually getting beat, it’s the refs fault. Or, the other team cheated, and knows their plays. Or, it’s the injury report… Always whining about something.

And, the fans? Half of them think Matt Hasselbeck is just some bald guy on ESPN and have no idea who Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy, or Ricky Watters are; let alone Shaun Alexander. The vast majority of these neon “volt” whatever the hell it’s called green donning jerseys can kick rocks with no shoes on.

Ok, I feel better now.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
SEA 11.95 (7th) 18.65 (19th) 16.60 (8th) 6.43 (12th) 3.00 (7th) 9.25 (20th)
LAR 16.00 (16th) 27.73 (32nd) 19.08 (13th) 6.70 (14th) -1.00 (1st) 6.75 (8th)

As I’ve mentioned in weeks passed, the kryptonite for this Seattle defense has been: 1. the run game, and 2. road games. Through four weeks, Todd Gurley has been (arguably) the best RB in the league, and this game is being played at the Coliseum.

Check, and check.

Need some data? I got you.

The Seahawks 5.12 yards per carry allowed to opposing RBs is the 4th most in the league, and the 114 yards they’ve allowed per game is the 5th highest number to opposing backs. They’ve also allowed a rushing TD in all but one game (Week 2 which Carlos Hyde dropped 124 yards rushing on them).

And the road part? Since 2014, Seattle is 21-5 at home during the regular season… They’re 13-12-1 on the road over that same time frame. In fact, they’ve lost 4 of the last 5 to the Rams on the road, with their last W coming in St. Louis back in 2013.

The bad news? QBs are averaging just 198 passing yards against them. Fewer than all but 3 teams. Jared Goff has passed every test thus far in 2017, but this will be his biggest yet.

More bad news? The Seahawks have discovered a semblance of a running game, and just unleashed J.D. McKissic, who might just be Kareem Hunt of the West. Yes, Prosise is set to return this week, and Rawls shouldn’t be too far behind, but if you can spare the roster spot, you may want to stash McKissic just in case.

Anyway, back to the point. The Rams have been one of the few teams who are actually worse than the Seahawks at slowing down the opposition’s running attack, so Eddie Lacy (who finally looked good) could present a problem for this Rams d.

Wilson too, as Prescott’s mobility was a key factor in his performance against them last week. And, Russ is just as (if not more) mobile with the feets.

In a statement game for both the team, and 1st year coach Sean McVay, I like the Rams in this one. I’m not quite ready to believe in Lacy after one solid outing, the Rams have the strengths to capitalize on Seattle’s shortcomings, and frankly, Seattle just hasn’t been that good. The torch might not be officially passed just yet, but in due time.

Seahawks 21 – Rams 23

Ballers: Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Todd Gurley

Under the Radar: J.D. McKissic (assuming Rawls, and Prosise can’t go – it’s looking like they will though)

Temper Expectations: Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Paul Richardson, Jimmy Graham, Seahawks DST, Cooper Kupp, Sammy Watkins

Bums: Jared Goff, Tyler Lockett, Robert Woods, Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee

Green Bay Packers (3-1, 2-2 ATS) at Dallas Cowboys (2-2, 2-2 ATS)

Spread: DAL -2.5

O/U: 53.5

These two have played 3 times since, but anyone else immediately flash back to the Dez Bryant “catch”? I think that will forever be synonymous with Packers/Cowboys. Forget the history, forget the Super Bowls, it’s the “catch” that’s etched in my brain.

The Cowboys window of opportunity might have slammed shut with the words “… did not maintain possession of the football.”. They’re dropping like flies, the Zeke uncertainty has reached the point of annoyance, and offensively they just appear disheveled.

But as of today, Zeke is playing. And, while his numbers have returned to a human level this season, the Cowboys chances this season will likely hinge on the decision.

The judge in this case should hold a LeBron-like TV special.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
GB 11.05 (6th) 20.35 (24th) 18.45 (11th) 2.65 (2nd) 8.25 (22nd) 7.75 (14th)
DAL 17.29 (23rd) 20.23 (22nd) 23.05 (23rd) 6.28 (11th) 4.75 (11th) 9.75 (23rd)

You might have noticed, but if not, Aaron Rodgers is good at playing football. Over the past 3 weeks, the Cowboys have allowed 811 yards and 8 TDs with only 1 interception against 3 QBs who aren’t anywhere near Rodgers status. Over that same time, they’ve allowed 2 RBs to put up over 100 yards, 3 TDs to opposing backs, and 31.3 points per game.

Yeah, the Packers offense should cruise.

Defensively, the Packers have been mostly impressive, and should have DT Mike Daniels and CB Davon House back this week… I feel like this game is already over.

Packers 34 – Cowboys 16

Ballers: Aaron Rodgers, Ty Montgomery (if he’s cleared), Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Ezekiel Elliott

Under the Radar: Jamaal Williams (if Montgomery doesn’t play), Cole Beasley

Temper Expectations: Davante Adams, Martellus Bennett, Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten

Kansas City Chiefs (4-0, 4-0 ATS) @ Houston Texans (2-2, 3-1 ATS)

Spread: PK

O/U: 47

You ever hear a song, like it, but then hear it so many times over the next few months that you begin to hate it? Or see a movie, like it, but then hear everyone and their mother raving about it to the point where you’re like, “Eh, it’s aite”?

Well, I have a feeling that’s where we’re heading with Deshaun Watson.

So, instead of beating a dead horse, the guy is good at playing football. The fact that this game opened as a pick ’em, tells you everything you need to know about his ability, and I’m really looking forward to watching a bunch of created video game characters run around chasing a ball made out of pigskin on Sunday.

This game. Will be. Gold. Fantasy. Football. Gold.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
KC 14.90 (11th) 15.35 (11th) 20.48 (17th) 7.00 (17th) 1.25 (4th) 7.50 (13th)
HOU 16.02 (17th) 12.63 (3rd) 19.43 (14th) 6.98 (16th) 8.75 (25th) 6.50 (7th)

Obligatory fantasy rankings.

Listen, the Chiefs defense is good, but you’re starting Watson and Hopkins. The Texans run d has been solid, but you’re starting Kareem Hunt. Smith, Kelce, Hill? Start, start, start.

Fantasy. Football. Gold.

Texans pull off the upset too.

Chiefs 27 – Texans 31

Ballers: Alex Smith, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins

Under the Radar: Chris Conley, Ryan Griffin

Temper Expectations: Albert Wilson, Lamar Miller, Will Fuller

Bums: Chiefs DST, Texans DST

Minnesota Vikings (2-2, 2-2 ATS) at Chicago Bears (1-3, 2-2 ATS)

Spread:

O/U:

I saw Trubisky in college; wasn’t all that impressed. Apparently he balled out in the preseason; didn’t see it. I can tell you this though, he can’t be any worse than Mike Glennon.

Now no, Glennon isn’t the worst QB known to man. The guy is in the NFL; he’s one of the greatest athletes in the world. However, the Bears offense looked lifeless with him at the helm, and at a minimum, Trubisky should bring some energy to this offense.

Unfortunately, he’ll be making his NFL debut against one of the toughest defenses the league has to offer. He’s kinda like the new kid at school who has to prove his toughness, so he finds the biggest dude in the hall and punches him in the gut.

Interested to see how that works out for him.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
MIN 14.19 (10th) 10.98 (2nd) 23.63 (25th) 8.20 (22nd) 2.75 (6th) 10.25 (28th)
CHI 16.32 (18th) 16.03 (12th) 23.75 (26th) 7.33 (19th) 9.75 (28th) 8.75 (19th)

Although the Bears have allowed just 8 sacks on the season (11th fewest), the Vikings d has put up 11 (tied for 9th). You have to figure their ears will be pinned back, and they’ll bring a variety of looks to frazzle the rookie. Now, Minnesota has just 3 interceptions on the season, but this is a talented secondary, so Trubisky will definitely have his work cut out for him.

But, it’s not all bad.

The Vikings have allowed the 11th most fantasy points to opposing TEs, and the 52 yards per game they’ve given up to the position is slightly below the league average. He should be able to find Zach Miller on some easy throws early, which could bode well for his confidence as the game progresses.

That’s really the only positive. Don’t be fooled by the 23.6 points per game to WRs, it’s a mirage. The whole synergy concept: the creation of the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts or something like that. Here’s a look at how the individual parts have fared against Minnesota:

WR Team Rec Yds TD Fantasy Pts PPR
Ted Ginn Jr. NO 4 53 5.8 9.8
Tommylee Lewis NO 2 52 5.2 7.2
Michael Thomas NO 5 45 4.5 9.5
Brandon Coleman NO 2 13 1.3 3.3
Martavis Bryant PIT 3 91 1 15.8 18.8
JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT 3 16 1 7.6 10.6
Antonio Brown PIT 5 62 6.2 11.2
Eli Rogers PIT 4 43 4.3 8.3
DeSean Jackson TB 4 84 1 14.4 18.4
Adam Humphries TB 6 68 6.8 12.8
Mike Evans TB 7 67 6.7 13.7
Chris Godwin TB 3 44 4.4 7.4
Bernard Reedy TB 1 6 0.9 1.9
Marvin Jones DET 2 42 4.2 6.2
T.J. Jones DET 3 33 3.3 6.3
Golden Tate DET 3 29 3.1 6.1

… And, that’s against the likes of Brees, Roethlisberger, Winston, and Stafford.

The Vikings still haven’t announced their starting QB, and will be without Dalvin Cook, but it really shouldn’t matter in this one. Even if Trubisky is the 2nd coming of Dan Marino.

Vikings 20 – Bears 14

Ballers: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Vikings DST

Under the Radar: Zach Miller

Temper Expectations: Jordan Howard, Kendall Wright, Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon, Kyle Rudolph

Bums: Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Deonte Thompson, Josh Bellamy, Markus Wheaton

As always, thanks for reading! Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with the latest fantasy/betting advice, and follow @maxingyourodds on Twitter for daily insights.

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