Fantasy Football Predictions
After a rough outing in the prior week, Bold Predictions was back on its game in Week 4. Matt Breida didn’t quite live up to my expectations as an RB2, but I otherwise nailed my running back predictions and finished the week as the fourth-best ranker at the position on FantasyPros. I also hit on Andy Dalton as a QB1 and Sterling Shepard as a “borderline WR1” (he was the WR9 in PPR leagues), and Larry Fitzgerald did indeed belong on fantasy benches. But the best prediction from Week 4 had to be my call for the end of the FitzMagic run, including the comment, “…with Jameis Winston returning this week from a three-game suspension, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fitzpatrick pulled from the game at some point.” For those scoring at home, Ryan Fitzpatrick was replaced by Winston in the third quarter of Tampa Bay’s loss to the Bears.
On the heels of a strong performance last week, it’s on to Week 5. The below projections are meant to highlight sleepers and lesser-owned players who could put you over the top in season-long and DFS contests, or guide you toward fading a popular fantasy option who is poised to disappoint. Questions about our bold predictions or your own weekly lineups are encouraged and appreciated via the comments section or on Twitter.
1. Russell Wilson belongs on fantasy benches this week
8-15-22-28. No, that’s not my locker combination from high school. It’s Wilson’s fantasy ranking at the quarterback position over each of the first four weeks of the season. After being drafted as one of the top 3-4 fantasy quarterbacks this summer, Wilson has generated just a single QB1 outing in 2018 and his performance is trending in the wrong direction. After managing just 172 yards passing without a score last week, Wilson draws a tough matchup on Sunday with a stout Rams defense that will have had 10-days rest since its Thursday game in Week 4. That time off is particularly critical for cornerback Marcus Peters, who has been nursing a calf injury. With Peters getting closer to full health, Los Angeles’ secondary should rebound from the 422 yards allowed to Kirk Cousins in its last game. Prior to that, the Rams had conceded an average of just 206 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks over the first three weeks of the season and allowed only two touchdown passes over that period. With a lackluster start to the season and a bad matchup, Wilson isn’t someone fantasy owners should be counting on in Week 5.
2. Chris Thompson will be an RB1 in PPR leagues
Thompson was somewhat of a question mark entering the season, as he returned from a broken leg suffered last November that required surgery. But he’s shown no ill effects from the fractured fibula and Washington coach Jay Gruden noted this week that Thompson might be better than he was before the injury. Prior to the Redskins bye in Week 4, Thompson was fourth in the NFL in receptions by a running back this season, trailing only Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, and Saquon Barkley. He leads Washington in targets and receptions and is second only to Jordan Reed in receiving yards through the team’s first three games, while also chipping in 83 yards rushing. With the Redskins 6.5-point underdogs on Monday night against New Orleans in a game with an over/under of 52.5, Alex Smith is likely to be airing it out in an attempt to keep pace with the Saints prolific offense. As one of Washington’s top pass-catchers this season, that game script should favor Thompson and propel him to RB1 status in PPR scoring formats.
3. Mohamed Sanu is a WR3 this week
Calvin Ridley is justifiably drawing a lot of fantasy attention among the Falcons receiving corp, as he has six touchdowns over the last three games. But it’s Sanu that has been second on the team behind Julio Jones in targets and receptions to start the season, including a six-catch, 111-yard performance last week. He also continues to see the field more than the rookie, playing 79% of Atlanta’s offensive snaps in Week 4 compared to 54% for Ridley. Sanu has seen at least six targets in three of the first four games of 2018 and draws a great matchup in Week 5 against Pittsburgh’s porous pass defense. The Steelers are giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season, and Sunday’s game has an incredible 58-point over/under, easily the highest of the week. With neither team likely to put up much resistance on defense, there should be plenty of fantasy goodness to go around. While Pittsburgh focuses on Jones and perhaps to a lesser degree Ridley, Sanu should continue to produce for fantasy owners.
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4. Jay Ajayi will be a fantasy bust
Returning from a back injury, Ajayi racked up a season-high 70 yards rushing last week. However, that wasn’t good enough to crack RB2 status and Ajayi remains dependent mostly on touchdowns to prop up his fantasy value, given a limited workload and lack of involvement in the passing game. In thirteen games with the Eagles including last year’s playoffs, Ajayi has eclipsed 15 carries only once, and he has just four receptions for 15 yards in 2018. Three touchdowns over the first two weeks of the season made Ajayi fantasy relevant, but in Week 5 he faces a Vikings defense that has yet to concede a rushing score to opposing running backs this year after allowing just seven such touchdowns in all of 2017. Minnesota’s 3.9 yards-per-carry allowed this season is also among the league’s best. Even with a beat up backfield that is likely to once again be without Corey Clement and Darren Sproles, Ajayi is poised for another disappointing fantasy day on Sunday.
5. Kirk Cousins is a QB1 this week
This doesn’t feel like a bold prediction, but Cousins is being ranked as just the 14th-to-17th best fantasy quarterback in a lot of places across the industry, and he’s currently being started in less than half of ESPN leagues. This despite finishing outside of the top 12 at his position just once over the first four weeks of 2018 and twice being a top-six fantasy quarterback on the young season. I guess people are scared off by the matchup against an Eagles defense that is strong up front and allows the fewest rushing yards per game in the league. But Philadelphia’s secondary has been blitzed by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Marcus Mariota in two of the last three weeks, and the Vikings’ one-two punch of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen is as good a wide receiver combo as you’ll find in the NFL. Despite the perception of a bad matchup, Cousins should be just fine in Week 5 and belongs in fantasy lineups.
6. Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be a TE1
Seferian-Jenkins hasn’t done much to warrant fantasy consideration in his first four games with Jacksonville, as he’s accumulated just 11 catches for 90 yards. But with Leonard Fournette slated to miss another game on Sunday, the Jaguars are likely to lean more heavily on Blake Bortles and the passing attack, particularly in a matchup with Kansas City’s league-leading offense. This game has an over/under of 49 points and the Chiefs have been decimated by opposing passers this season, surrendering 328.5 yards per game through the air. Kansas City is allowing the third-most receiving yards to opposing tight ends and just gave up a combined five receptions for 74 yards to the Broncos’ Jeff Heuerman and Matt LaCosse. (Who? Exactly!) There are a lot of mouthed to feed in the Jaguars receiving corp, but none are elite players and Seferian-Jenkins has shown flashes of fantasy value in the past. Given the depleted state of the tight end position right now and a favorable matchup, he’s a good bet to register TE1 numbers this week.
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7. Tyreek Hill will be a fantasy disappointment in Week 5
Hill has been the most-targeted player outside of Travis Kelce in the league’s best offense, and he brings the big-play ability that can make your fantasy week in a matter of seconds. But he’s still a guy that relies a lot on breaking a big play for his fantasy value and has managed just 105 combined receiving yards over the last two weeks while failing to find the endzone. This week, Hill draws a tough matchup with a Jacksonville defense that is holding opponents to a league-low 164.2 passing yards per game, and he didn’t do himself any favors by provoking All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey this week. Hill said on Wednesday he was looking forward to the matchup with Ramsey and that the Jaguars corner is “all right, I guess.” Jacksonville has given up only one pass play of greater than 40 yards this season and has also allowed an opposing wide receiver to catch more than five balls in a game just once in 2018. With a little extra attention from Ramsey, don’t be surprised if Hill runs his streak of underperforming fantasy outings to three games.
8. Derrick Henry is actually startable this week
That might sound like a strange thing to say about a player generally selected in the third or fourth round of fantasy drafts this summer, but Henry has been THAT bad to start the season. Through four contests, he’s failed to reach 60 yards rushing in any single game, is averaging just three yards per carry, and has yet to score a touchdown. There has been a lot of chatter in fantasy circles this week about dropping Henry outright, and he’s currently being started in just 21.8% of ESPN leagues. But I think this is finally the week for the third-year back to generate returns on his fantasy owners’ investment. Henry draws a great matchup against a Bills defense allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2018, and one that has conceded 20 rushing touchdowns in its last 14 games dating back to last season. Despite his poor performance to date, Henry actually entered the week tied for 13th in the league in carries with 54, leading a Titans running attack that rushes the ball 30 times per game, more than 18% above the league average. In a game in which they are favored on the road, Tennessee is likely to lean heavily on that running game. He will likely be a fantasy sell after this contest, but Henry should have a productive Week 5.
9. Courtland Sutton is a viable WR3/Flex play
Would you be surprised to know Sutton is leading the Broncos in receiving yards over the last two weeks? I have to admit that I was a bit shocked by that myself. But after watching Sutton on Monday Night Football a week ago, it’s clear to see he is a talented receiver that is carving out a role for himself in Denver. The rookie showed some big-play ability with a 42-yard catch down the sideline in the first half, and he drew a pass-interference penalty late in the third quarter that set up a first-and-goal and eventual go-ahead touchdown. Sutton saw just one fewer target than Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders last week and received the only redzone target for a Broncos wide receiver. He’s played at least 70% of offensive snaps in each of the last three games, and Sutton draws a nice matchup with a Jets defense allowing the fifth-most receiving yards per game to opposing wideouts this season.
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