NFL Week 5 Preview: Fantasy football advice, betting tips and matchups to watch

2T02HY2 Washington Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) in action during the NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Bet Commanders-Bears over 44.5: The Commanders took the Eagles to overtime in Week 4, while the Bears looked good (until they didn't) in Denver. The struggling defenses make this a reachable total, and these teams have six combined overs this season.

Terry McLaurin breakout game? Sam Howell is starting to find his talented threat on the outside, with the duo putting up their best game last week.

• Get ahead of the game: PFF's Best Bets Tool uses PFF data to uncover the biggest edges in the betting market. Click here to see the best bets for this week.

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

WR:CB Matchup Chart

Chicago Bears vs. Washington Commanders (-6)

Matchup to watch: Bears TE Cole Kmet vs. Commanders S Kamren Curl

While the Bears offense hasn’t looked cohesive up to this point, Justin Fields has started to connect with Kmet. This past week, they combined for 85 yards and a pair of scores, good for an 84.4 receiving grade for the fourth-year tight end. Curl will be tasked with disrupting that flow this week, having played well in coverage. The Commanders safety has earned a 72.9 coverage grade through four weeks. 

Fantasy breakout: Commanders WR Terry McLaurin

Sam Howell is starting to find his talented threat on the outside, with the duo putting up their best game last week. They connected on a pair of plays over 15 yards, capitalizing on McLaurin’s big-play ability. This week, McLaurin takes on a Bears secondary that is dealing with injuries to key pieces — Jaylon Johnson (hamstring) and Eddie Jackson (foot) — leaving rookie corners Tyrique Stevenson (53.2 coverage grade) and Terell Smith (54.0) in significant roles. Howell should be seeing plenty of separation when he looks McLaurin’s way.

Favorite bet: Over 44.5

Both of these defenses have struggled to stop opposing offenses from filling up the scoreboard, as both teams are allowing over 30 points per game. These teams have started to find some footing on offense, too: The Commanders took the Eagles to overtime in Week 4, while the Bears looked good (until they didn't) in Denver. The struggling defenses make this a reachable total, and these teams have six combined overs this season.

PFF's Best Bets Tool uses PFF data to uncover the biggest edges in the betting market. Click here to see the best bets for this game.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills (-5.5)

Matchup to watch: Jaguars Edge Josh Allen vs. Bills LT Dion Dawkins

Josh Allen vs. Josh Allen is always a topic when these teams meet, but it's the matchup with Dawkins that everyone should watch. Allen had the best pass-rushing day of his season in Week 4, netting three sacks and a 21.4% pass-rush win rate to finish with a 91.0 pass-rush grade. Dawkins has allowed no more than two pressures in any game this season, with his 80.2 pass-blocking a top-15 mark among tackles.

Fantasy fade: Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence

This week, Lawrence faces a Bills defense firing on all cylinders. The Bills lead the league in several defense metrics, including interceptions (8), coverage sacks and forced throwaways (17) and the fewest open targets allowed (57). Needless to say, separation will be hard to come by for the Jags receiving corps in this one.

Favorite bet: Bills -5.5

The Jags are playing their second game in a row in the UK, and the talk of their advantage there will find its way into the narrative. Granted, they are 2-1 against the spread in the U.K. since drafting Lawrence, but the Bills are a different beast. After Week 1, Buffalo slammed the gas pedal on both sides of the ball, averaging 41 points per game while allowing just 11 points per game. The Bills don’t just cover spreads — they demolish them. They boast a league-leading +16.5 point differential against the spread.

Tennessee Titans (-1.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts

Matchup to watch: Titans LG Peter Skoronski vs. Colts DI Grover Stewart

Skoronski (appendix) is slated to return this week after missing the last three games. He was an adept run-blocker in his debut, earning a positive grade on 25% of his snaps. But he will have his hands against Stewart, who has been fantastic at tracking down ball carriers in the backfield, totaling the most tackles for loss or no gain at the position (6).

Fantasy breakout: Colts QB Anthony Richardson

Richardson has experienced growing pains, but this week is an excellent opportunity for him to make strides. The Titans have struggled against the pass this season, but they have looked particularly vulnerable on the road. Derek Carr and Deshaun Watson both managed their best passing days of the season when they hosted the Titans. Richardson may not reach the 300-yard mark, but he should be in for a big day.

Favorite bet: Colts +1.5

This line opened with the Colts as slight favorites but quickly saw them swing to home dogs. Jonathan Taylor returned to practice this week, and while there is contention between him and the franchise, the possibility of their best player returning to the lineup is encouraging.

Houston Texans vs. Atlanta Falcons (-2)

Matchup to watch: Falcons Interior OL vs. Houston Interior DL

It’s a big week to showcase running games around the league, and while this isn’t a player vs. player matchup, it does feature a sizable mismatch between interior units. The Falcons haven’t quite put up the ground production they’ve become accustomed to, but this will be a “get right” game for them. Drew Dalman (87.8 run-blocking grade) and Chris Lindstrom (82.3) will be tasked with moving Sheldon Rankins (29.6 run-defense grade) and Maliek Collins (27.7), who have struggled mightily against the run.

Fantasy breakout: Falcons RB Bijan Robinson

Riding off the analysis above, Robinson should be poised for a big day on the ground. The Texans' struggles against the run aren’t limited to the interior, as they have had issues at all levels of the defense. They rank last in team run-defense grade (34.6) and 31st in expected points added (EPA) allowed per rush. Houston’s grading distribution on run snaps is troubling, as they’ve earned a negative grade on over 70% of plays.

Favorite bet: Texans +2

The Falcons should be able to get the running game going here, but the Texans have proved that they can keep games close and occasionally maintain leads. The Texans are coming off two of their best wins in years after taking down the Jags and Steelers by multiple scores. On the other hand, the Falcons have been largely ineffective on offense in recent weeks, scoring 7 or less in their last two. While those came on the road, the Falcons look to have more questions beyond the run game.

PFF’s fantasy football rankings are expertly crafted by Nathan Jahnke, one of the most accurate fantasy analysts in the industry. Click here to see his full Week 5 rankings.

Carolina Panthers vs. Detroit Lions (-10)

Matchup to watch: Panthers Edge Brian Burns vs. Lions RT Penei Sewell

Sewell has been one of the most consistent pass-blockers in the NFL since stepping into the league, and now he’s off to the best start of his young career. In four games, he’s allowed just three pressures and earned an 82.6 pass-blocking grade. Carolina’s pass rush has struggled to generate pressure — just 55, the fewest in the NFL this season — and could use a boost from Burns.

Fantasy breakout: Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown

It's not as much a breakout as an affirmation of St. Brown’s incoming monster week. The dynamic threat is amid another great season, and he faces a favorable matchup in Week 5. Per PFF's WR/CB matchup tool, St. Brown has the highest matchup rating of any receiver in the league this week. Carolina’s defense may allow the sixth-fewest fantasy points to receivers, but they haven’t managed to grade well. Donte Jackson (53.5 coverage grade) and C.J. Henderson (52.0) will have their hands full on the outside.

Favorite bet: Over 44.5

Carolina is the biggest question in this game total, considering how well Detroit has played on both sides of the ball this year. The Panthers defense is allowing over 30 points per game on the road this season, and the Lions offense looks poised to take advantage of that. Offensively, the Panthers face questions of production, scoring just over 13 points per game with Bryce Young under center. Detroit will certainly do the heavy lifting with this total, and in the end, Carolina’s limited production should be just enough to surpass a reasonable total like 44.5.

Baltimore Ravens (-4) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Matchup to watch: Steelers Edge Alex Highsmith vs. Ravens LT Ronnie Stanley

Stanley is projected to return to the lineup this week, a week after Patrick Mekari’s rough outing against Myles Garrett in which he allowed a 20% pressure rate. The left tackle has been a fantastic pass-blocker in his career, grading above 82.0 in five seasons.

Fantasy fade: Steelers WR George Pickens

The league’s top-graded coverage unit (89.9) is projected to get even stronger this week, with Marlon Humphrey set to return to the lineup. That’s an unfortunate draw for Pickens, who has had mixed results this season. Last season, contested catches were his strength, as he hauled in 62.5% of his contested targets. This year, he hasn’t been so fortunate, going 0-for-9 so far. That won’t bode well against a corner with play strength like Humphrey.

Favorite bet: Under 38

Injuries have seemed to mar this divisional matchup in recent years, and they may affect this one, too. As mentioned, the Ravens are returning key players to the lineup after some time off the field, but questions remain of how quickly they will get reacclimated. The Steelers are dealing with their own injury issues under center, as Kenny Pickett‘s knee injury will leave Mitchell Trubisky as their potential starter. These teams generally trend toward unders — five of their last six resulting as such — but injuries make this even more likely.

New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots (-1)

Matchup to watch: Patriots CB J.C. Jackson vs. Saints WR Chris Olave

The Pats wasted no time filling the void left in their secondary after Christian Gonzalez (shoulder) went down for the year, acquiring J.C. Jackson from the Chargers. Having played in this system for four seasons — the best of his career — Jackson should contribute immediately. In his return, he draws a tough matchup with Olave, who boats an 80.0-plus PFF grade through four weeks. Unfortunately, questions about Derek Carr’s (shoulder) health could impact this one, but otherwise, it will be one to watch.

Fantasy fade: Patriots RBs

Surprising to no one, the Pats backfield continues to be a difficult read in 2023. Rhamondre Stevenson continues to outpace Ezekiel Elliott in carries (60 to 34), while the latter has been more efficient (2.7 YPC to 4.1 YPC). Yet, Stevenson is far more effective in the passing game, keeping him on the field more. And now take that read and project it against a defense like the Saints. New Orleans has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to backs this season, largely due to the spectacular play of Demario Davis (90.3 PFF grade) in the middle.

Favorite bet: Under 40

Both franchises face difficult questions surrounding their quarterback situation and offense in general. The Pats were forced to sit Mac Jones in the second half this past week, while Carr’s shoulder injury has already been touched on. On the other hand, the defenses have provided these teams with a sense of identity, each slotting into the top half of the league in the PFF power ranking. The trends confirm this: these teams have gone over in just 36% of their games since 2022.

PFF’s WR/CB Matchup Chart is a fantasy football tool you can use to help set the best lineups. You can toggle between showing the Matchup Advantage column against all projected coverage or the individual defenders.

New York Giants vs. Miami Dolphins (-11)

Matchup to watch: Giants DI Dexter Lawrence vs. Dolphins C Connor Williams

The lone bright spot on this Giants defense this season has been Lawrence, who has earned league-leading grades in both facets. He’s graded out as the third-best interior defender (91.1) and ranks well above any other Giants defender. The Dolphins are hopeful to see the return of Williams, who has earned an 80.0 PFF grade to start the season. 

Fantasy breakout: Dolphins WR Jaylen Waddle

Waddle will be far too much to handle for the NFL's sixth-lowest graded coverage unit (58.4). The Giants blitz has often put their secondary into a tough position, resulting in several big plays. They’ve allowed receptions of over 15 yards on nearly 17% of their pass plays, which doesn’t bode well against Waddle, who has at least two in every game this year.

Favorite bet: Dolphins Over 30.5

Considering the questions surrounding the Giants offense, 48.5 for the game total seems a touch high. But a team total of 30.5 is perfectly doable for Miami. The Dolphins are putting up 37.5 points per game, the most in the NFL, and while they may have stumbled against the Bills, the Giants aren’t operating on Buffalo's level defensively.

Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5) vs. Los Angeles Rams

Matchup to watch: Rams DI Aaron Donald vs. Eagles RG Sua Opeta

The future Hall of Famer is dominating as usual. This past week, he accumulated 12 pass-rush wins, giving him a 25.7% win rate on the year, on pace for the best mark of his career. Unfortunately for the Eagles, it appears they will be without Cam Jurgens and will be tasking Opeta (55.7 offensive grade) with slowing down Donald.

Fantasy fade: Rams QB Matthew Stafford

While the Rams offense has played above expectation early this year, this matchup doesn’t bode well for L.A. The offensive line has been a problem this year, having allowed the sixth-most pressures (65). That’s a death sentence against a rush like Philly’s, which racked up 32 pressures against Washington. Against pressure, Stafford has a 40.4% completion rate and just a 50.9 passing grade.

Favorite bet: Rams Under 23.5

This Rams offense seems to fall apart if the line can’t function, with Stafford’s metrics plummeting. They’ve struggled with scoring output this season when pressured, scoring under 24 against teams that produce above 10 pressures. Needless to say, the Eagles can put that up in an average half behind guys like Jalen Carter and Josh Sweat.

Cincinnati Bengals (-3) vs. Arizona Cardinals

Matchup to watch: Cardinals HB James Conner vs. Bengals Front-7

James Conner has been the driving force behind the Cards' offensive success this season. His 82.1 rushing grade ranks sixth in the NFL, and he has forced 16 missed tackles. That should prove a difficult task for a Bengals defense that has struggled to stop the run and secure tackles. Cincy’s 51.6 run-defense grade ranks in the bottom third of the league, while their 29 missed tackles are the second-most.

Fantasy breakout: Bengals HB Joe Mixon

Understandably, Joe Burrow’s (calf) injury has put this offense out of rhythm, and an added focus on the run game may help to alleviate that. Mixon (71.4 rush grade) has put up respectable numbers, each week surpassing 55 yards on the ground. The Cardinals defense presents an opportunity for the Bengals to test that philosophy shift, as Arizona possesses the 25th-ranked run defense (52.1) and allows the third-most fantasy points to backs.

Favorite bet: Cardinals +3

While everyone is confused as to why the Bengals look as underwhelming as they have, it's far more perplexing why oddsmakers continue to lay points with them — especially on the road. Just last week, they fell to 0-4 against the spread after dropping a 2.5-point line in Tennessee. On the other hand, the Cardinals continue to overachieve despite their shortcomings, holding a 3-1 record against the spread. The Bengals have 6 total points on the road this season. The Cards average 28 at home.

PFF's Best Bets Tool uses PFF data to uncover the biggest edges in the betting market. Click here to see the best bets for this game.

New York Jets vs. Denver Broncos (-1.5)

Matchup to watch: Broncos WR Marvin Mims Jr. vs. Jets CB D.J. Reed

Mims, one of the highest-graded rookies this season, has burst onto the scene as the next lethal deep threat to give defenses fits. His 6.21 yards per route run is the best in the league, though he's seen just 11 targets. This week, he draws D.J. Reed, the underrated piece across from Sauce Gardner. While Reed has played well so far, earning a 74.0 coverage grade, he has been susceptible to downfield passes, having allowed a 15-plus-yard catch in three of four games this season.

Fantasy breakout: Jets RB Breece Hall

Nothing has gone right for Denver defensively this season, but the team has looked incredibly porous against the run. They rank near the bottom of the league in several categories, ranging from yards per carry (5.6) to touchdowns allowed (7), but the most alarming of which is their missed tackle numbers (40), which is over 11 more than the next worst team. That presents a big opportunity for a guy like Hall, who has managed 6.5 yards per carry, with 94.3% of his yardage coming after contact.

Favorite bet: Over 43.5

The Jets managed to put together a quality game last week against Kansas City while taking steps offensively. Denver’s defense hasn’t given much indication that they can slow down even struggling offenses right now. If the Jets can reach into the 20-plus point range, this game total should be very attainable.

Kansas City Chiefs (-4) vs. Minnesota Vikings

Matchup to watch: Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Chiefs CB Trent McDuffie

Jefferson is on pace to become the only receiver in the PFF era to earn a 90.0-plus receiving grade in each of his first four seasons. While McDuffie has earned an excellent 87.2 coverage grade to start the year, this will be his toughest task yet. Expect them to do some battling down the field, with Jefferson leading the NFL in plays over 15 yards (16), which McDuffie has allowed just two of this season.

Fantasy fade: Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes

It's not so much a fade as a “maybe not his best outing” type of matchup. The Vikings defense is the most blitz-heavy unit in the league, and they play decent coverage behind it. Typically, that’s a non-issue for Mahomes, who is usually excellent vs. the blitz, but he's grading in the 60s against the blitz so far. Granted, he has been the least-blitzed passer in the league so far. This game will be a good test of that measure against increased blitz volume.

Favorite bet: Over 52.5

PFF Greenline rarely leans over with game totals that reach as high as this one, but here, the model projects into 53. Pair that with the fact that 95% of money and 94% of tickets also fall on the over, and the consensus seems to be on the over. Understandable verdict when two talent-rich offenses like these meet, both of which stand in the top-six in the PFF power ranking.

Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers (-3.5)

Matchup to watch: Cowboys Edge Micah Parsons vs. 49ers LT Trent Williams

Admittedly, this matchup is probably wishful thinking, as this battle won’t take place often, given how much Parsons moves along the front and stunts. But it will be must-see TV when they do line up across from one another. Williams, a perennial All-Pro, holds the league’s best grade at tackle (88.8), while Parsons is still proving to be nearly unblockable, with a 25.7% pass-rush win rate that ranks fifth in the NFL.

Fantasy fade: 49ers QB Brock Purdy

PFF's Steve Palazzolo made a great point during the PFF NFL Week 5 Preview show, highlighting Purdy’s turnover luck this season when looking at his turnover-worthy plays. While Purdy hasn't thrown an interception this season, he has a 3.8% turnover-worthy play rate, the ninth-highest in the league. The Dallas defense is very opportunistic, with seven picks — and two more that were dropped — in just four games. If Purdy misses a read and throws to an underneath defender or fails to check his protection, this could be a long day for the young passer.

Favorite bet: SF -3.5

It’s hard to go against the Niners right now, as they look far and away like the best team in the NFC. Granted, to this point San Fran hasn’t faced a difficult schedule by any means, but they’ve managed to outclass their competition by a wide margin, with a 16.75 average margin of victory. While the Cowboys have had similar success, they are coming off a 28-16 road loss to the Cardinals, a team the Niners just beat by nearly three scores.

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Green Bay Packers (-1) vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Matchup to watch: Raiders Edge Maxx Crosby vs. Packers RT Zach Tom

Crosby, the owner of PFF’s single-season pressures record, is off to another fantastic start. Through four games, Crosby has tallied 30 pressures, the most in the league, putting himself on pace to break his own record. That could pose a problem for Zach Tom, who was playing well this year before sustaining a knee injury during Week 3. He returned this past week but struggled to slow down the Lions, allowing six pressures. If Tom’s knee hinders him moving forward, he will be in trouble here.

Fantasy fade: Packers HB Aaron Jones

While the Raiders don't present a stout matchup against the run, it’s hard to trust Jones' prospects within this Packers offense right now. Jones is dealing with a hamstring issue that seemed to linger into his return this past week, but without a solid allotment of touches, there’s no way to know how much it is affecting him. Additionally, the workload split between Jones and A.J. Dillon looks to be reaching equilibrium in 2023. 

Favorite bet: Under 44.5

The Raiders offense is the big piece that will prevent this total from reaching over territory. Vegas has failed to reach 20 points in every game this season and matched up against a fairly solid unit like the Packers, doesn’t look like a bounce-back opportunity. Pair that with the fact the Packers have averaged just 20.6 points per game in their last three, and signs point to points being difficult to come by.


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