Headline of the Game: Nick Foles vs. Tom Brady — Is Foles ready to elevate his game and the Bears’ offense?
The last time Foles and Brady faced off was Super Bowl LII, and Foles put together one of the best postseason performances of all time. Foles’ two best games came at the most important time back in 2017, as he was outstanding in the NFC Championship and in the Super Bowl to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a title.
It’s now Big Nick's team in Chicago, and the hope is that he can find more of those high-end games to elevate a solid roster capable of competing in the NFC. Two weeks ago, we saw the wide range of Foles' game, as he had three big-time throws in relief of Mitchell Trubisky, including an outstanding game-winner under pressure.
Foles has been all over the place since taking over, ranking in the top 10 in both big-time throw percentage and turnover-worthy play percentage. It’s that type of volatility that led the Eagles to a Super Bowl, but it also led to Foles posting five of the 10 worst games for the Eagles during his time as the team's starter.
The Bears are banking on Foles’ downfield aggression to get the most out of wide receivers Allen Robinson II, Anthony Miller and rookie speedster Darnell Mooney. The elements are there to create an explosive passing game, but it’s on Foles to push the ball down the field. He hasn’t posted a game grade above 80.0 since his 93.8 grade in the 2017 NFC Championship and his 92.3 grade in the 2017 Super Bowl. The high-end games are in there, but it’s time for Foles to show why both the Jaguars and now the Bears have believed in his ability to elevate their passing games.
It’s another tough matchup for David Montgomery against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense that has allowed the second-fewest rushing yards to running backs this season. However, Montgomery should be able to salvage fantasy production because of his involvement in the passing game.
He took a massive jump in routes run, going from under 20 per game during the first three weeks to 35 in Week 4, which ranked second on the team to only Allen Robinson. Montgomery actually totaled four targets (one negated by penalty), which would have been a season-high.
Tom Brady has been the seventh-most successful fantasy quarterback this season despite constantly missing one of his elite receivers. He will face his toughest challenge of the season against this Bears defense. They’ve allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Chicago has done well defensively thanks to their pass rush led by Khalil Mack and having few weaknesses in their secondary.
If they have a weakness, it’s Buster Skrine at slot cornerback. He’s allowed 166 receiving yards from the slot, which is fourth-most for all slot cornerbacks. If Chris Godwin is ready to return, he could have a big game. If not, it might be a rough night for the Buccaneers passing offense.
It has been a one-sided affair in the betting market, with the opening 3-point line rising half a point higher than the preseason number. This wasn’t enough to satisfy the market, which has pushed out to 5.5 on 73% of the tickets. This is in contrast to the cash percentage, which sides with the home dog.
Foles never looked comfortable in his first official start of 2020, and he'll be entering this contest with just a 65.4 passing grade. Meanwhile, the Bears' defense is in the bottom third of the league, according to our opponent-adjusted grades.
The total is tied for the lowest number of Week 5, despite Tampa Bay going over in three of four games. The market movement has been counter to the initial cash and ticket percentage, which both lean heavily on the over. PFF Greenline finds no discernible edge, but some more movement could quickly open up value opportunities.
Headline of the Game: Josh Allen is playing at an All-Pro level — and he's still getting better
On the one hand, you could argue PFF is late to the party on Josh Allen. On the other hand, as a player-evaluation site that watches and grades every snap from every player, we have just held back the praise until he was actually playing at a level that matched the hype.
Allen's Week 4 performance earned the highest single-game PFF grade he has ever had, but he has also opened the 2020 season with three of the best four games of his career. He has improved every week of the young season.
Allen has 11 big-time throws, tied for fourth in the league through the first month of action. And though he has still made mistakes, his adjusted completion rate has jumped to 82.1%, third in the NFL and more than 10 percentage points higher than any previous season. Allen is now throwing to a stable of receivers that can separate with ease, and in Stefon Diggs, he now has a player who can reliably win contested catches when needed. Diggs has seven of those so far this season, ranking first in the NFL.
As if the talent of the playmakers wasn’t enough, Allen and the Bills‘ offense is also being helped by one of the best playcallers and systems in the league, which is scheming players open and making Allen’s throws easier even when he doesn’t need it. All of this has led to an offense that has been one of the most potent in the league so far, and it poses an extremely tough challenge for the Titans, even if they hadn’t been navigating a COVID crisis.
After the Bills’ defense looked strong across two layups versus the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins (5.3 average yards per play allowed), they’ve been exposed over the past two weeks against the Los Angeles Rams and Las Vegas Raiders.
The Bills have allowed the third-highest average yards per play (6.4), which is the same as the Dallas Cowboys. There should be points plentiful in this game, as the Titans’ defense ranks second-to-last in average yards per play (6.4), so I like the skill position players for the Titans in this spot.
Jonnu Smith should thrive versus the Bills — they’ve allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends over the past two weeks. I also think that if A.J. Brown returns as expected, he could be in line for a solid outing with the chance that Adam Humphries remains on the COVID-19/reserve list.
Brown would see more time out of the slot in place of Humphries, which would put him in a great spot versus the Bills, who have been poor in defending the middle of the field. That further bolsters Smith as a great play because he has played 46% of his snaps from the slot this season.
The Titans have an average defense, so you are definitely starting Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Tennessee’s biggest weakness is in stopping the run, which is good news for Devin Singletary. Singletary has been RB18 so far, in part thanks to Zack Moss missing time. Even if Moss returns this week, the Bills would likely ease him back from his injury.
Singletary has 14 avoided tackles, which is tied for sixth-most among running backs. The Titans have racked up just over five missed tackles in the run game per game — eighth-most in the league. The number of Titans players and coaches that have Covid-19 just increases the Bills’ chances of having a lead late — that would result in even more carries for Singletary. He remains someone to keep in starting lineups as long as his matchups are good and Moss isn’t taking much of his time.
The betting market is waiting with bated breath for a line to drop on this matchup. The preseason line had the Bills as slight favorites, but PFF's predictive models lean towards the Titans in an even matchup. Both teams are in the top 10 of our Elo rankings, with both teams' offensive and defensive units being in the top half of the league by our opponent-adjusted metrics.
Josh Allen is looking like the dark horse MVP candidate that everyone thought Ryan Tannehill would be. The way this Bills passing offense is playing makes them an intriguing bet at a plus number when we do finally see a market release. Monitor PFF Greenline throughout the week to discover which side of this bet is the profitable play.
Headline of the Game: The Disappointment Bowl. Somebody needs to take the opportunity to rescue some respect.
The Houston Texans are now 0-4 and without a head coach or a general manager, and the Miami Dolphins own their upcoming first- and second-round draft picks thanks to trades orchestrated by the recently departed Bill O’Brien. In short, this team has nothing to look forward to, and the only positives can come from turning things around this season after a brutal opening month.
Deshaun Watson hasn’t looked comfortable all season after the trade of his No. 1 target, DeAndre Hopkins. The lack of Hopkins may manifest itself most when things break down on the play, but you can see the lack of certainty and comfort even when Watson is in rhythm within the structure of the offense.
Five different passers have a PFF grade above 90.0 when they are throwing in rhythm this season, but Watson is currently at 84.6 down in 13th place. Trading away Hopkins and replacing him with a stable of speedy receivers wasn’t a bad idea in a vacuum, and the target share has equalized significantly this season so far. Seven different Texans have seen double-digit targets through four games, but none has more than 23. The end result is less than the sum of its parts at the moment.
Watson is not the only disappointment in Houston, and their other superstar, veteran pass-rusher J.J. Watt, is currently having his slowest start to a season since he entered the league. Watt has a PFF grade of just 69.5 and a pass-rushing grade of 58.7, good enough to rank just 75th among edge rushers.
For the Jacksonville Jaguars, quarterback Gardner Minshew began the season looking to prove that he could not only keep the Jaguars out of the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes but also prove they didn’t need him. After the past couple of games, it looks likely that he is capable only of half of that goal, and he needs a good game to take steps toward the second part.
The Houston Texans fired Bill O’Brien this week in hopes of making improvements on an offense that over the first four weeks ranked 24th in EPA/play and 23rd in offensive scoring.
Lucky for them, it comes at a great time versus a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that over the past two weeks has allowed the second-most rushing yards (343) and an average of 24 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.
Jaguars' first-round rookie pick C.J. Henderson also left the game on Sunday with a shoulder injury. If he is unavailable, seventh-round rookie Chris Claybrooks will slide in as one of the team’s starting DBs.
Don’t be fooled by the ten10th-fewest fantasy points per game allowed to wide receivers — start Will Fuller V. In the games when Fuller has been 100% healthy this season, he has commanded a 26% target share.
The return of Duke Johnson Jr. cut into David Johnson’s usage in Week 4. David went from running 30-plus routes per game to just 15 in Week 4. His percentage of the team’s carries also fell from 75% to 62%. You will still start David Johnson this week, but he is much more in the RB2 range with Duke back in the fold even in a plus-matchup.
That’s because under a defensive-minded head coach and positive game script, there could be a reversal in play calling in favor of the running game. So far this season, the Texans rank third in the NFL in pass play percentage (71%), but the Jaguars have allowed the sixth-most rushing attempts to running backs this season.
Also consider Duke an under-the-radar fantasy add this week. Remember it was O’Brien who made the trade for David, so there’s no telling how loyal Romeo Crennel will be to feeding him.
Houston’s defense hasn’t been great this season and has been particularly poor against running backs. This is in part due to them losing every game, so teams have had running backs run more against Houston than any other team. This should add up for great things out of James Robinson.
Robinson is the seventh-highest graded running back on the season. He has the second-most receiving yards for backs despite not having the third-down or two-minute drill role. The only concern for Robinson will be if Houston gets a big lead early against the Jaguars’ defense. If that happens, then Robinson would be splitting playing time with Chris Thompson.
The betting market wants nothing to do with the Texans at this point, pushing the preseason number of -9.5 down to an opening-week number of -7. This wasn’t all of the line movement, however, as the market currently dropped the touchdown spread, which is now sitting between -6.5 and -6.
The cash and ticket percentages have been evenly split, with most big bettors looking at the moneyline for the Jaguars. This appears to be the correct approach after the line movement off 7, as we haven’t seen a significant adjustment to the moneyline odds.
The total has shootout written all over it, but given that this is the year 2020, it is tied for the third-highest total of the weekend. Bettors have sided slightly with the under. Our predictive model doesn’t necessarily agree with that lean, as any further movement down could open up value.
Headline of the Game: Joe Burrow is off to a great start, but the Bengals must do a better job of protecting him.
While things were slightly better last week, no quarterback has faced more pressured dropbacks than Joe Burrow through four weeks, and his 36.9% pressure rate is the eighth-highest in the league. It won’t get any easier this week against the Ravens and their aggressive scheme that has blitzed 47.2% of the time, second-highest in the NFL.
It’s another test for a Bengals offensive line that has the third-lowest pass-blocking grade (59.5) in the league, and it's yet another challenge for Burrow, who ranks ninth among quarterbacks with a 79.9 overall grade. While the stat sheet hasn’t matched Burrow’s level of play, the rookie has impressed with his accuracy and decision-making, all while being forced to play under extreme pressure from opposing defenses.
This week, the Ravens will send linebackers and safeties from all angles, and it will be on Burrow to find open receivers among the confusion while ensuring that the offensive line has the proper protection calls. The Bengals use “empty” sets more than any team in the league, and that’s where Burrow must shine against Baltimore’s defensive chess game. Keep an eye on rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins, too, who has earned over seven targets per game over the last three weeks. Higgins' connection with Burrow is crucial for the future of Cincinnati’s passing attack.
No team has allowed more rushing yards after contact than the Cincinnati Bengals in 2020. Enter in Gus “The Bus” Edwards, who leads the NFL in yards after contact per attempt (4.44) and ranks third in PFF rushing grade (83.1) among running backs with at least 20 rushing attempts this season.
Edwards led the Baltimore Ravens in both carries (nine) and snap percentage (40%) in Week 4, further muddying this backfield situation. He is also viewed by the coaches as the “closer,” which means that any time the Ravens get up on a team, it will be Edwards down the stretch.
The Ravens are heavy favorites in this contest, so we could see Edwards used often in clean-up duty.
Joe Mixon is coming off a fantasy performance that was better than his previous three games put together, but this week he is facing the Ravens — a team he’s historically had a lot of trouble with. Of his four career games in which he averaged 1.3 yards per carry or less, three were against Baltimore. The Ravens defense is better this year than last season in part thanks to L.J. Fort having a career year so far against the run, as well as the addition of Calais Campbell.
If anyone in this offense will have a big game, it will be Tee Higgins or A.J. Green. Tyler Boyd will be stuck with Marlon Humphrey all game, but the Ravens haven’t been as good with their outside cornerbacks. Marcus Peters is among the 19 cornerbacks with at least 200 receiving yards allowed on the season. Anthony Averett took over the other starting cornerback job last week but allowed 91 yards to Washington. Cincinnati will need to be throwing a lot to keep up with Baltimore, so both receivers should see plenty of targets.
Joe Burrow — the Cover King — faces the most difficult test of his young NFL career. Bettors have flocked to the Bengals, pushing this preseason line 3.5 points down to an opening -13. It sits between -13.5 and -12.5, depending on the book. The cash is heavily skewed towards the Bengals on both the spread and moneyline, but smaller bettors appear to be looking toward the heavy favorite.
Our predictive models seem to suggest that this might be a mistake and are leaning Bengals, though not at a percentage high enough to overcome the vig. It is a longshot bet, but the Bengals moneyline is close to a break-even bet, given the available number. This is another situation to monitor as we head into kickoff.
The total has moved in the opposite direction of the cash and ticket, dropping 1 point since the open. Baltimore hasn’t touched the efficiency numbers they had in 2019, with their rushing unit barely above negative EPA per attempt. Any line movement could also open up value on the total, which sits slightly below a positive value play at the current number.
Headline of the Game: Can Carolina’s defensive improvement survive a test against a veteran quarterback?
The Panthers have vastly improved over the past couple of weeks, with their stable of young talent on defense turning things around and looking much better than people were anticipating. However, this has come against poor offensive lines and young quarterbacks who don’t have the experience and savvy of longtime NFL veterans. Tom Brady and the Bucs showed that things could be dramatically different back in Week 2, and now Carolina gets to be tested against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons to show if things have turned around or if they just benefitted from a drop in competition.
The good news is that Ryan isn’t playing nearly as well as Tom Brady this season. His overall PFF grade is just 69.6, 17th in the NFL, and it pales in comparison to Brady’s 90.1 mark. The receiving threat in Julio Jones and a breakout star in Calvin Ridley may be every bit as potent as the Bucs talented WR corps, but the man delivering the passes isn’t anywhere near his best in 2020. Ryan has a PFF grade of just 45.0 when pressured this season, completing only 44.2% of his passes for 4.8 yards per attempt despite throwing 14.8 yards downfield on average, one of the deeper figures in the league.
Up front, the Falcons' offensive line hasn’t been a strength and is arguably the source of a lot of their woes on offense. Their interior is currently the third-worst graded unit in the league, behind the Chargers and the Cardinals, who each suffered at the hands of the Panthers defense.
The Panthers' Derrick Brown had back-to-back games with PFF grades under 40.0 in his first two outings as a pro, but since then — after going against poor offensive lines — he has been a top-five interior lineman and a real wrecking machine in the run game. Atlanta is in disarray right now, but they have the veteran experience to cause problems for Carolina’s defense … if they can get out of their own way.
It’s time to sell Todd Gurley. In Week 4, Gurley mustered just 57 yards on 16 carries (3.6 yards per attempt) but salvaged his fantasy day on the back of two touchdown scores. He was again a non-factor in the passing game (one catch for six yards) and failed to command all the touches inside the 10-yard line versus Brian Hill (four versus two).
His PFF rushing grade ranks 32nd out of 36 running backs with at least 30 carries, and even the favorable upcoming schedule might not help if the Falcons find themselves trailing because of their terrible defense.
If you have Gurley, you are going to start him versus the Carolina Panthers, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to the running back position. But as we saw last week with Kenyan Drake, Gurley is far from a lock to produce. He’s an easy fade in DFS and a prime sell-high candidate on the back of a two-touchdown game and favorable “on paper” matchup.
Every team that has faced the Falcons has put up one if not two 90-plus yard wide receivers. Robby Anderson should benefit the most against the Atlanta secondary. As a team, the Falcons have a relatively good coverage grade, but most of their good players in coverage are in the middle of the defense. Anderson has been one of the best late-round draft picks from August. He’s WR9 after four weeks, in large part thanks to 28 catches — tied for fourth-most at the position.
This game should also be an opportunity for D.J. Moore to turn his season around. His 32 targets on the season are good for top-10. But he’s 31st in fantasy points among wide receivers. Both WRs should see plenty of targets, and Anderson has shown he can take advantage of those situations this year. Hopefully Moore can show it this week, too.
These two teams have flipped in the division race, with the Falcons the clear favorite to finish last in the NFC South. It has been a disastrous start to 2020 for the Falcons, who may not have Julio Jones available for an unspecified time frame. This spread has completely backtracked since the preseason, surprising no one. The initial movement this week is also significant, as we crossed the key number -3 after the Falcons' Monday night debacle.
Our Elo rankings have these teams separated by six places, but both still sit in the bottom half of the league. The Falcons' 23rd-ranked defense has given up the fifth-most EPA per pass attempt this season while the Panthers' passing unit is middle of the pack in this same metric.
The total has moved down after opening at 55, with more movement to the downside expected. Our predictive models are taking a wait-and-see approach, with value opportunities available the further it drops.
Headline of the Game: Can Derek Carr be aggressive and hang in a shootout with the Chiefs?
The New England Patriots showed that the Chiefs' offense could be stymied and slowed, and they have the best game plan of anybody in the league to do it, but they also have the requisite horses on defense that the Raiders don’t.
Even if Las Vegas had a coaching seminar from Bill Belicheck during the week, accompanied full instructions on how to get it done, they can’t come close to the execution given the gulf in talent between the two sides on that side of the ball. So the Raiders need to prepare for a shootout.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs live for those games — it’s where they are most comfortable. Mahomes has already had 25 games — including the playoffs — where he has had to drop back and pass 40 or more times. Of those games, eight have earned a PFF grade above 80.0.
Derek Carr, in contrast, has 44 such games in his career but has topped a PFF grade of 80.0 just five times — and he's never been better than 87.3. He has been without his first-round receiver Henry Ruggs III for the past couple of weeks due to injury, and Ruggs is the speedster that is supposed to change how Carr attacks the field. Perhaps more importantly, Ruggs is also the guy who affects the defense on every snap he out there because of his speed, regardless of whether he is targeted or not.
Ruggs being on the field gives the Raiders a chance to score on chunk plays and avoid a situation where Carr has to put the ball in the air 40-plus times in a game, which is when he typically struggles. While the Chiefs are happy with that kind of game, the Raiders need a different plan to hang in a high-scoring shootout.
Second-year wide receiver Mecole Hardman has now put in back-to-back weeks with four receptions and touchdown scores. The production has been encouraging, but it was his usage over Demarcus Robinson in Week 4 that really caught my attention.
Hardman ran more routes and played more offensive snaps than Robinson for the first time all season. And even though his total routes run over the past two weeks (39) is nothing to go crazy for, it’s his team-leading target rate on routes run (26%) that makes Hardman someone I am hopeful for moving forward.
Last season, Hardman had his coming-out-party versus the Las Vegas Raiders (4-61-1). The Raiders have seen only seven deep pass attempts this season (20-plus yards) — lowest in the league.
In 2019, Patrick Mahomes averaged 7.5 deep pass attempts against the Raiders in the two games he played them.
The Chiefs defense has been great at one thing; stopping wide receivers. They’ve allowed the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season. That isn’t terrible news for fantasy owners because the top Raiders receivers either won’t play due to injury, or will be coming back from injury and probably won’t be worth starting anyway.
Kansas City will be heavy favorites in this game, so Las Vegas will need to pass anyway. This might be another bad game for Josh Jacobs as other receiving backs have started to see more playing time. It should mean plenty of opportunities for Darren Waller. He had 163 yards over two performances against them last year.
Bettors are piling onto the Chiefs, who are printed on 56% of tickets but 66% of the cash. The market continues to move in their direction, with a two-touchdown spread possible by game time. This could open up some opportunity, but nothing currently exists from a Greenline perspective.
Only five games in the past 10 years closed with a total higher than this opening — 59 was met with heavy resistance from the betting market, dropping down to 56.5. There have been some over bettors at the new number, with 63% of the cash and 76% of tickets on that side.
Both defenses sit in the bottom sixth of our opponent-adjusted defensive rankings, while the Chiefs have been under in their last three games. Our predictive models offer guidance on what direction to lean in this market.
Headline of the Game: Can the New York Jets slow down Arizona’s newfound strength – the receivers?
The trade for DeAndre Hopkins was a transformative one for this Cardinals offense, not just because it gave them the No. 1 receiver they were so desperately craving, but because of the trickle-down effect having that guy has on the rest of the group.
Hopkins has already caught 39 passes in four weeks, racking up 397 yards and catching 84.8% of the passes thrown his way. He has been an elite threat, but that has allowed other receivers to settle into a situational role better suited for their limited skill sets.
Andy Isabella leads the group in receiving touchdowns with two from the slot, averaging 14.6 yards per catch and yielding a passer rating of 115.4 when targeted as the team starts to discover the ways he can be a threat as a vertical slot weapon. Larry Fitzgerald is no longer force-fed screens just to try and get the ball in his hands, and he has become just a steady possession receiver, catching 77.8% of the passes thrown his way with no drops. His role, given his decline, is a small one, but there remain few safer places to go with the football.
Christian Kirk and KeeSean Johnson are still finding their niche within this offense, but with Kyler Murray providing a spectrum of danger all by himself at quarterback, the Cardinals can present a difficult group to match up with.
The New York Jets are struggling in most places, and that is also true against the pass. They are currently allowing 7.7 yards per pass attempt, 19th in the league, and while cornerback Pierre Desir scored a pick-six and had another interception against a turnover machine in the form of Brett Rypien on Thursday night, he was also lit up for eight catches on nine targets for 134 yards and two touchdowns.
Le’Veon Bell is expected to make his return to the lineup for the Jets in Week 5, and I think his passing game usage alone will warrant sliding him back into starting fantasy lineups. Kalen Ballage saw 10 targets in his absence over the past three weeks, and the Cardinals’ defense is far from one to avoid for running backs.
They’ve allowed the ninth-most fantasy points and the third-most receiving yards to running backs. Sam Darnold is expected to miss this game, so Joe Flacco will get the start, but I think the quarterback change wouldn’t hurt Bell’s prospects in the passing game.
The Jets have allowed plenty of fantasy points to running backs this year and not as many to quarterbacks. That is in large part due to teams beating the Jets and running against them more as games go on. By PFF grade, the Jets’ run defense has been above average, while their coverage has been in the bottom five.
If this game can remain close, then Kyler Murray should be able to have a lot of dropbacks and make the most of them. When that happens, DeAndre Hopkins remains his only reliable target for fantasy purposes. If Arizona pulls away with a big lead, then there’s a chance Kenyan Drake can get enough carries to put up decent numbers.
Bettors are buying into the New York Jets for the second consecutive week, despite the less-than-impressive performance on Thursday night. It sits as a touchdown spread for the Cardinals, who were a trendy betting favorite before dropping their past two games.
The total has held to 47 since the open, with a skewed percentage of cash and tickets on the over. Betting opportunities are the only reason to tune into this less-than-marquee matchup, but our predictive models have identified quite a bit of value on the current numbers.
Headline of the Game: Carson Wentz has the lowest passing grade in the league, and the Steelers have pressured quarterbacks at a higher rate than any other team
The Eagles have had a disappointing start to the season at 1-2-1, but they somehow sit atop the NFC East standings. That won’t last long if QB Carson Wentz continues to play as he has through four weeks, as he currently boasts the lowest passing grade in the league at 43.5. While Wentz showed some toughness and made big throws in a comeback win Sunday against the 49ers, the Eagles have little hope unless that passing grade improves.
It won't get any easier this week against a Steelers defensive front that is attacking offenses at a historically good level. Through three games, Pittsburgh has a massive lead in both blitz percentage (52.2%) and pressure percentage (50.0%), with the pressure percentage being the key to victory for the Steelers this week. Wentz has a passer rating of just 28.0 when pressured, and we could see similar results given the war of attrition the Eagles are fighting on both the offensive line and with their skill position players.
Pittsburgh is led by defensive player of the year candidate T.J. Watt, who has steadily improved each season in the league and has the No. 3 pass-rush grade (90.6) this season. He’s averaged six pressures per game so far, as his ability to win one-on-one matchups just makes the Steelers’ blitz-happy approach all the more dangerous. Keep an eye on where the blitzes are coming from and how Wentz handles it, as there will be a handful of key plays under pressure that could determine this one.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had ample time to prepare for a showdown with the Eagles, and I expect their offense to play well. JuJu Smith-Schuster has the best matchup in the slot versus Nickell Robey-Coleman, who has allowed the league’s third-highest passer rating (137.5) from cornerbacks covering from the slot.
Diontae Johnson will draw the much tougher matchup versus Darius Slay who has been a massive upgrade for the Philadelphia Eagles secondary, but that is far from a reason to bench Johnson. He is just too involved in the offense to leave on the pine even against a tough cornerback.
The Eagles got their first win of the season last week but will have trouble against this Steelers defense. The one player fantasy owners have been able to count on this season is Miles Sanders, but he’s the player Pittsburgh is most prepared to stop. The Steelers have tackled halfbacks for a loss on 27.5% of carries — the best rate in the league — and held halfbacks to two yards or less on two-thirds of runs, which also leads the league.
What makes matters worse is the injuries the Eagles have had to their offensive line. They’ve held up OK in pass protection, but their run block grade as a team is 51.8, which is third-lowest in the league. Most fantasy owners don’t have the luxury of benching Sanders, but if you have a viable alternative, it’s worth considering.
The Eagles are a tough team to project after coming off the biggest moneyline upset of the 2020 season. Bettors don’t seem to be buying in, as this line has stayed locked to the opening-week number of -7. It is hard not to overreact to a one-week outlier performance, but our Elo rankings have this matchup closer than most would expect.
The cash and ticket percentages side heavily with the home favorite on both the spread and moneyline. Our predictive models find value on both, with the question being, are we with or against the market?
A 47-point opening total proved to be too much, as this line has dropped 3 points and is now tied for the lowest number in Week 5. The cash and ticket percentages are flipped with a heavy percentage of cash on the under and a similar percentage of tickets on the over. This helps explain the total movement. Both offenses sit in the bottom fourth of our opponent-adjusted offensive grades, but is that enough to find value on this low number?
Headline of the Game: The Washington Football Team are still trying to figure out what they have in Dwayne Haskins, but the supporting cast does not make it any easier
Washington has not been shy about putting Haskins on notice that he needs to play better, as his 47.2 overall grade ranks dead last among starters. However, the Football Team entered the season with our 29th-ranked wide receiver unit and the 32nd-ranked tight end unit, and not much has changed from those preseason projections. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin has been the only viable threat for two straight years, and he’s doing his part with an 82.5 receiving grade that ranks seventh in the league. Beyond McLaurin, no other wide receiver or tight end has earned a receiving grade above 62.9, and that is an issue when trying to evaluate Haskins.
Washington must find more playmakers offensively, and the one player to keep an eye on is running back Antonio Gibson. He’s the only other position player with a reasonable receiving grade, emerging with a 73.2 mark on 12 targets. Gibson has also been the most efficient runner for Washington, as he leads the team with a 77.6 rushing grade and has forced 11 missed tackles on just 44 carries. Gibson’s emergence is encouraging, but there’s a clear offseason need for Washington to add more explosiveness to its offense.
For Haskins, there’s still plenty that he can control, such as an uncatchable pass rate of 24.3% — the fourth-worst rate in the NFL — but a lack of viable weapons outside of McLaurin does cloud the evaluation for a quarterback who likely needs near-pristine conditions to succeed. It will be another difficult test going against a Rams coverage unit that has the No. 10 mark in the league and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey on the other side.
After facing tough matchup after tough matchup, Antonio Gibson finally lands in a favorable spot in Week 5. Each starting running back the Rams have faced this season has scored at least double-digit fantasy points, and Gibson has established himself as the clear go-to running back in the Washington offense.
In Week 4, the rookie running back saw 59% of the team’s carries and, most importantly, three carries inside the 5-yard line. Gibson also saw plenty of pass work in garbage time (four catches, 82 receiving yards). Should the Washington Football Team predictably fall behind as heavy underdogs, Gibson should get fed in the passing game like last week.
Washington has a losing record but has stayed competitive in games thanks to a top-five team coverage grade. While the cornerbacks have been doing a great job at stopping wide receivers, the rest of the defense hasn’t been as good at stopping tight ends. Tyler Higbee could be in store for a big game because of this.
Four different tight ends have caught touchdowns against Washington’s defense. Higbee has three touchdowns this year, which is tied for third-most among tight ends. The only problem is that Higbee has had only 14 targets, which is tied for 23rd. It would make sense to get Higbee more targets. If they don’t against Washington, then there is definitely reason to be concerned about him the rest of the season.
This spread has been on a trip to start the week. After opening at 9.5, it dropped to the preseason number of 7. This caused a little bounce, with markets still correcting to an efficient price of either 7.5 or 8. The cash and ticket percentages signal heavy action from big bettors on the Football Team. Most public bettors are backing the road favorite.
Dwayne Haskins is one of only three quarterbacks with a higher percentage of negatively graded throws compared to positively graded throws. Washington is also one of only five teams with negative expected points added on pass attempts.
The total has dropped half a point since the open on 51% of the cash and 77% of the ticket percentages. There could be some value opening up if we continue to see some line movement, but at the current numbers, this is a game to avoid from both a betting and viewing standpoint.
Headline of the Game: The Dolphins still have problems along the offensive line, and even a banged-up 49ers defensive front can take advantage
The Miami Dolphins had the worst-ranked offensive line coming into the season, and that didn’t change after our Week 3 rankings. Rookie left tackle Austin Jackson’s 52.0 pass-blocking grade ranks just 74th out of 79 qualifying tackles, while right tackle Jesse Davis isn’t much better at 57.9, good for 60th. Guards Solomon Kindley and Ereck Flowers have fared better in pass protection, but they rank 74th and 76th, respectively, in run-blocking grade, so not much is going right for the Dolphins up front.
The lack of development along the offensive line is likely a part of the reason why we haven’t seen rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to this point, and it has also contributed to current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick having the second-lowest time to attempt in the league (2.24 seconds). That number is useful in showing how Fitzpatrick’s quick release has saved the offensive line from giving up far more than the 38 pressures it has allowed through four games.
Meanwhile, the 49ers came into the year with the fourth-ranked defensive line, but they’ve been banged up over the first few weeks. Even without star edge defender Nick Bosa, there’s plenty of talent up front for the 49ers to take advantage of Miami. Arik Armstead is having another strong season and is fresh off an eight-pressure game against the Eagles last week. Veteran Kerry Hyder ranks second on the team with 16 pressures on just 110 rushes, and Dion Jordan adds depth as a solid pass-rusher.
On the interior, rookie Javon Kinlaw has been solid, while 2019 undrafted free agent Kevin Givens is the secret superstar of the group with a 71.9 pass-rush grade and seven pressures on just 67 rushes. Miami must show some kind of improvement up front, and once they do, Dolphins fans may get their first look at Tua.
Deebo Samuel was pretty involved coming back from his injury in Week 4 despite playing just 34% of the snaps. He had three targets for 35 yards and added one rushing attempt for 10 yards.
After another week, he should play more and could do some real damage against the Miami Dolphins, who have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to the wide receiver position this season.
You can be sure that Kyle Shanahan will find ways to get the ball in the hands of both Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk considering the Dolphins have allowed the third-highest YAC per reception average (6.2) this season. They rank fourth-worst in total YAC allowed and dead-last in missed tackles over the past two weeks.
The 49ers have had several injuries on defense, but despite the injuries they’ve remained a top-six defense in PFF grade. They’ve been top 11 in fewest fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. They’ve been great at stopping running backs, with just two backs above 50 yards and none above 70, with only one rushing touchdown allowed to halfbacks. Similarly, they’ve been elite at stopping tight ends — no tight end has managed 35 yards or a TD against them.
This means the typical borderline fantasy starters for the Dolphins should all be on your bench this week. The only player worth considering is DeVante Parker. His receiving yards and catches have increased each week. He should see plenty of targets while the Dolphins try to keep up with the 49ers on the scoreboard.
Check PFF Greenline for updates and advice as soon as this line is posted.
Headline of the Game: The Cowboys’ defense needs to give some kind of support to an offense that has put up plenty of points early in the season
With the Cowboys and Giants entering this game at 1-3 and 0-4, respectively, you would think they have work to do to get back into contention for the division title. Well, you would have thought wrong. The Eagles currently lead the NFC East at 1-2-1.
Dallas should still be sizable favorites to end the season atop the NFC East, though. You have to feel more confident in Dak Prescott’s play than that of any other quarterback in the division right now, and each of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb could conceivably be a No. 1 option on another team. The news that La’el Collins will miss the remainder of the 2020 season is a tough blow to an offensive line that has had to mix and match early on, but the Cowboys simply have too much firepower on offense to keep stringing together losses.
A big part of the Cowboys' disappointing start to the season has been their inability to buy a stop on defense. Only the Detroit Lions and the Houston Texans rank worse than the Cowboys this season in terms of expected points added allowed per play. Rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs leads the team with 277 passing yards allowed into his coverage, and Jaylon Smith has earned just a 41.7 overall grade through four weeks.
Luckily for the Cowboys, this is a spot where they should be able to get right defensively. The Giants have been a more efficient offense than only the New York Jets through the early stages of the 2020 season, and they provide an opportunity for Dallas’ defense to get back on track. Even in the NFC East, the Cowboys are going to have to start winning at some point.
As Michael Gallup continues to disappoint, he should be placed firmly on the bench this week in what projects to be a tough WR/CB matchup versus James Bradberry on the outside — he’s PFF’s second-highest graded cornerback (83.0) entering Week 5.
The Giants have seen just four passing plays of 20 or more yards targeted to outside wide receivers (8.9%) this season and the fifth-fewest percentage of total deep throws (7.8%) by their opponents.
Gallup’s fifth-ranked target share on the Dallas Cowboys this season (11%) means he is averaging just five targets per game — that’s just not enough to justify him in this spot when the Cowboys could easily unleash Ezekiel Elliott on the ground. The Giants have faced the sixth-highest run rate this season (45.4%).
The Cowboys as a team have a 43.6 coverage grade, which is third-lowest among all teams. This had led to a lot of receiving yards allowed. The Giants have lost a number of players with injury who could take advantage of the Cowboys defense, but they still have a few players who could have big games.
Evan Engram has only been TE21 on the season despite being drafted as a top-10 tight end. It’s not for a lack of targets, as his 29 are third-most. His 4.5 yards per target are third-lowest among those with double-digit targets. Dallas has allowed at least 45 receiving yards to each team's tight end, including allowing touchdowns to three different tight ends. This could be a good week to start Engram. They have also allowed five different wide receivers to see more than 80 yards. All five have stronger reputations than Darius Slayton, but he also has the potential for a lot of targets.
This NFC East showdown has lost some of its appeal after slower than expected starts for both teams. The betting market is leaning toward the Giants, who have dropped 1.5 points through the key number 10 since the open. The cash and ticket percentages are all on the Cowboys, but something is driving this market lower. Dallas is 0-4 against the spread to start the season, which apparently isn’t bad enough to scare off bettors yet.
The Giants are dead-last in our Elo rankings, making them tough to back this weekend. Our predictive models have a strong lean on the spread, but further market movement could throw this idea out.
Dallas has gone over their past three game totals, with no line movement indicating this understanding is already baked into the market. The cash and ticket percentages are once again all on the over, with an even higher percentage of cash indicating the preference of bigger bettors. Our predictive models find some value on this total, which also provides a strong signal for fantasy and DFS considerations.
Headline of the Game: The absence of Cam Newton highlights that there isn’t a ton of talent on New England’s offense
The news that Newton had tested positive for COVID-19 sent a shockwave through the NFL landscape this past week, and though the Patriots were ultimately able to play their game against the Kansas City Chiefs after a brief postponement, Newton wasn’t the only player who didn’t show up for the Patriots’ offense. New England had a lower expected points added per play mark than any other team in the NFL in Week 4, and backup quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham combined to complete 54% of their passes with 5.4 yards per attempt.
No one knew exactly what to expect when the Patriots signed Cam Newton this offseason, but he gave the Patriots a viable offense through the first three weeks with his play as both a passer and as a runner. The Patriots had a top-10 offense by both expected points added per play and yards per play coming into the week. Newton’s unique skill set allows them to be more diverse offensively, which puts more stress on opposing defenses.
His absence this past week highlighted the fact that New England still has one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL. Damiere Byrd, Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry and Ryan Izzo are the only four wide receivers or tight ends to run 50 or more routes, and Edelman is the only member of that group who can be consistently counted on to create separation. It’s hard to even fully rely on him after he dropped two more passes in Week 4. Edelman now leads the NFL with five dropped passes this season and leads all receivers with 66 since 2013.
New England’s hopes of being a contender in the AFC rely on getting a healthy Cam Newton back because the offense we saw in Week 4 isn’t getting the job done. That’s true even against a Denver defense that has seen injury after injury in 2020.
Damien Harris is sure to be a popular addition off the waiver wire this week after his 100-yard rushing performance on Monday night versus the Kansas City Chiefs. But we need to keep things in perspective before you put him in starting lineups.
His matchup was super favorable in Week 4 against a bad Chiefs run defense that was without Chris Jones. The Denver Broncos present a much tougher challenge. Denver has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season.
It’s also important to note that Harris strictly took over the Sony Michel role in this offense, ergo he sees the early-down touches and is a zero in the passing game. Rex Burkhead and James White are still going to be involved moving forward. For Week 5, he lands in RB3/FLEX territory.
Harris has a good chance of finding the end zone in what should be a run-heavy game for the Patriots as 11-point favorites at home, but don’t overlook that he saw only one red-zone snap on Monday night. His price on DraftKings might look juicy at just $4,300, but with no work in the passing game his ceiling is limited unless he can score multiple rushing touchdowns. The Broncos have allowed just one rushing touchdown to an opposing running back this season.
Second-year tight end Noah Fant has been the highlight of the Broncos offense this season both from a fantasy football perspective and in real life. He’s one of six tight ends with 200 yards on the season. Of those six, he’s one of three with two touchdowns. He has avoided four tackles, which is tied for the most among tight ends. Unfortunately, he is likely going to miss this week. His replacement will be Jake Butt, who could be a good play some weeks if Fant misses extended time.
The only problem for Butt this week is that stopping tight ends has been the Patriots’ greatest strength. The only tight end with more than 30 receiving yards against the New England defense has been future Hall of Famer Travis Kelce. Darren Waller was held to nine yards, while Greg Olsen and Will Dissly were also held to single-digit receiving yards. Because of this, the Broncos wide receivers will see most of the targets. Popular waiver wire addition Tim Patrick could be a good start, while first round-rookie Jerry Jeudy also will have the opportunity for a lot of targets.
Check PFF Greenline for updates and advice as soon as this line is posted.
Headline of the game: The Browns’ recent improvements on offense will be tested by the best defense in the NFL through four weeks
It looked like we might get the same Browns offense that disappointed last season after a Week 1 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Over the past three weeks, though, Cleveland has looked to get into a rhythm under first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski. The team's 0.22 expected points added per play since Week 2 trail only the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers, and its run game has taken off with an average of 5.9 yards per run play over the past three weeks — second to only the Ravens and nearly a full yard over the third-place Packers. The Colts’ defense should provide the Browns with their toughest test since Baltimore in Week 1, however.
Indianapolis has quietly been the best defense in the NFL through the first four weeks of the season. The unit ranks first in both yards allowed per play (4.4) and expected points allowed per play (-0.14) this season, and two offseason additions have made a major impact. Both DeForest Buckner (90.7 PFF grade) and Xavier Rhodes (82.0 PFF grade) have ranked among the top players at their respective positions through the first quarter of the season.
It will be interesting to see how both the Browns’ offense and the Colts’ defense fare in this matchup as both teams look to extend their winning streaks to four.
The Browns have PFF’S highest-graded run-blocking unit (84.8) through four weeks, and that gives them the sixth-best edge when it comes to their OL/DL matchup.
The Browns have been in several high-scoring games, giving up plenty of passing yards. Eight different defenders have already allowed over 100 receiving yards. For outside cornerbacks this isn’t too surprising, but Cleveland also has three of the 33 linebackers who have allowed over 100 yards as well as two of the 23 safeties.
The Colts’ inside receivers are the ones who can take advantage the most. Zach Pascal has been the Colts’ primary slot receiver. He led the Colts in targets last week and is available in several leagues. At tight end, Trey Burton returned from injured reserve last week and had the second-most targets for Indianapolis. He is also available and should be a waiver wire target.
Two surprising teams to start the 2020 season face off in a matchup with possible implications in the AFC playoff picture. These two teams are back to back in our Elo rankings, and each offense sits in the top half of the league in our opponent-adjusted rankings. The discrepancy is in the Browns' 25th-ranked defense compared to the Colts' sixth-ranked unit.
The preseason line had the Browns as slight favorites, but the opening number this week crossed the 0 to make the Colts 2.5-point road favorites. The market has bounced between 1 to 2.5, with books not forming a consensus on the correct spread yet. Our predictive models offer some value depending on the number available, so monitoring PFF Greenline will be helpful to gauge this situation.
Headline of the game: It’s hard to see Minnesota’s defense offering much resistance to Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ passing attack
Wilson has never received an MVP vote in his career, but this is surely the year that is going to change. He has started out the season on fire, coming in as PFF’s second-highest graded quarterback, behind only Aaron Rodgers. His traditional passing numbers — 102-of-136 for 1,282 yards, 16 (!) touchdowns and two interceptions — are better than any other quarterback in the league to this point.
The thing that really concerns you about this matchup if you’re Minnesota is where Wilson likes to attack defenses. Of his 136 passes this season, 79 have gone outside the numbers (third-highest rate in the NFL). He’s going to look outside to guys such as D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and David Moore on most of his attempts, and that helps to mitigate the biggest strength of this Vikings’ pass defense — the safety tandem of Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris.
The pressure for Minnesota shifts to a young cornerback group consisting of Holton Hill, Mike Hughes (if he is able to return from a neck injury) and two rookies in Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney. Dantzler currently leads that group with a 62.8 coverage grade this season, but all have had their share of struggles to start the year. They could be in store for a rough day against what looks to be the best downfield passing attack in the NFL right now.
Olsen now has back-to-back games with at least five receptions and at least six targets for the Seattle Seahawks. Rostering a tight end who has Wilson at quarterback is never a bad option, especially considering Olsen’s next matchup is favorable versus a bad Minnesota Vikings defense.
Their defense this season ranks 31st in yards per attempt (11.1) versus targets to the tight end and has allowed an average of 67 receiving yards to the position so far.
Seattle has allowed six different receivers to catch at least 70 receiving yards from their outside receiving snaps alone. Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson will each see at least some snaps from the slot but primarily play outside. Over the past two weeks since Jefferson has become a starter, both players have been top-10 fantasy receivers.
Both wide receivers definitely are must-starts. This matchup isn’t as favorable for Dalvin Cook. Seattle held all every back to 60 or fewer yards. Only two backs have more than 10 attempts against them — Cook most certainly will be the third. Still, don’t expect a big game out of him.
The preseason line failed to predict the early-season performance for both teams in this matchup. That -3.5 number quickly became -9.5 on the open this week, but bettors have been backing the Vikings ever since. The spread has moved to a more respectable -7, with significant cash and tickets on the Seahawks.
Bettors may have learned their lesson last week to not fade the Seahawks, as they are now 4-0 against the spread to start the season. Green Bay is the only other team at 4-0 against the spread, which makes it easy to label both as the most impressive squads so far this season.
The total has held to the opening print, with a slight lean to the over on the cash and ticket percentages. We need some line movement to open up value, but opportunity could easily exist if things start to change as we head toward Sunday night.
Headline of the game: Drew Brees looks to string together strong performances after a rough start to the 2020 season
Through the first three weeks of the season, Brees threw the ball just 5.1 yards downfield on average — over a full yard shorter than any other quarterback in the NFL — and looked like a shell of his former self. Even though a decline in arm strength had been noticeable in recent seasons, Brees had been able to work around that and put up PFF grades north of 90.0 thanks to the timing and accuracy he has in this Saints offense. That wasn’t the case early this year, as Brees failed to top a 65.0 passing grade in three consecutive games.
It’s safe to say his 89.4 overall grade against the Detroit Lions in Week 4 was a sight for sore eyes. The most promising part of Brees’ performance in that game was his success throwing down the field. On passes 10 or more yards downfield, he completed nine of 13 attempts for 174 yards, a touchdown and three big-time throws. Brees had just two big-time throws in the previous three weeks combined.
The Saints are going to need that version of their star quarterback moving forward if they want to keep pace with the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers in the NFC, given how Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers have started the year.
You might think that Latavius Murray could be a legitimate RB3/FLEX option this week, but the matchup says otherwise. The Los Angeles Chargers are the one team this season that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown to an opposing running back — had it not been for two scores for Murray in Week 4, his stat-line would have been exactly the same as it was the three weeks prior; underwhelming to say the least.
Alvin Kamara just ran badly on his four carries inside the 10-yard line, converting only one into a touchdown. Give credit to Murray for converting both his carries into TDs, but with Kamara dominating the carries inside the 10-yard line from a season-long look (11 vs. six), I’m much more likely to bet on Kamara converting those touches in Week 5.
The Los Angeles Chargers overall also present a much tougher challenge against running backs than the lonely Lions. They’ve allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to the RB position.
The Chargers have been very limited in terms of offensive weapons. Mike Williams missed last week with an injury while Austin Ekeler suffered an injury that will force him to miss the foreseeable future. Hunter Henry is one of the few good options left for their offense — this could be a big game out of him.
He’s been TE13 so far and 245 receiving yards are tied for second-most on the season for tight ends. Henry’s only problem is that he hasn’t found the end zone yet. He’s had two end zone targets and two additional red zone targets, but all four have fallen incomplete. The Saints have allowed five different tight ends to score touchdowns from four different teams. This is a good week for Henry to find his first touchdown of the season.
The Chargers have looked impressive taking on the fourth-most difficult schedule to start the season. Justin Herbert has been playing at a quality level, posting a PFF passing grade that sits just one point behind Drew Brees.
This spread had a preseason number of -9.5, which dropped two points on this week's open. The cash and ticket percentages indicate heavy action on the Chargers from big bettors, as they have received 72% of the cash percentage. Our predictive models are close but don’t have quite enough value to bet the spread or moneyline.
The opening total was 52, with markets unable to reach a consensus on how low to drop yet. The Chargers' defense isn’t grading near the level most expected, as they sit 11th in our opponent-adjusted defensive rankings. If Brees is officially not washed, we could see some value open up on the over if the number drops further.