The FedEx Air & Ground fantasy preview is back!
In case it slipped your mind, NFL football fans have the opportunity to vote on top performers at the running back and quarterback position following every regular week of action.
The candidates at quarterback last week were Cam Newton, Deshaun Watson and Andy Dalton. At running back, Bilal Powell, Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were all featured. You can check out the Week 4 winners here and cast your vote every week.
Now, without further ado, let’s dive into some players who could have huge games in Week 5, both through the air and on the ground.
Alex Smith at Texans
You might look at Smith’s matchup against the Houston defense and think it’s an unfavorable one. But if he can evade the pass rush and get the ball out quickly, two things he’s been doing well all season, Smith should be able to thrive yet again for his fantasy owners.
The Texans will likely apply pressure with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, because that’s what they do best. Houston owns the fifth-highest blitz rate in the NFL, 33.9 percent of pass plays. Against the blitz this year, Smith is 9/10 with 184 pass yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and 158.3 pass rating. And the Kansas City quarterback’s performance under pressure (defined by Next Gen Stats as a defender being fewer than two yards from a quarterback at time of throw) this season is much improved compared to last year. He owns a 152.4 passer rating under pressure in 2017, the best mark in the league. Last year Smith had a 90.5 passer rating under pressure.
It’s also easy to forget that Smith can make things happen with his legs. He’s averaged 67 rush attempts and 345 rush yards over the last four seasons, and scored a rushing touchdown last week against the Redskins. It seems Houston’s defense is susceptible to mobile quarterbacks, too. Before he left the game with a hamstring injury, Marcus Mariota had 39 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns against them.
Smith’s success as a passer this season combined with his ability to run make him an ideal starting option this week, even in what might seem like a bad on-paper matchup on the road.
Josh McCown at Browns
Look, Josh McCown isn’t going to set the league, or the fantasy world for that matter, on fire. But it’s a nice matchup for him against the Browns. And there’s a chance we might have underrated the Jets offense coming into this season.
The wide receiver duo of Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse have contributed to McCown’s serviceable yardage totals, as he’s thrown for over 220 yards in each of his last two games, including against Jacksonville last week–the NFL’s top passing defense. Now he’ll face a Cleveland pass defense that allows the third-most fantasy points per game to signal caller, including nine passing touchdowns.
Cleveland really can make any average quarterback look like a stud. In Week 2, Joe Flacco posted a season-high 14.58 fantasy points against them. That doesn’t sound like a lot but when you consider that Flacco, one of the worst performing quarterbacks in the NFL this season, has averaged 4.45 fantasy points per game against teams that are not the Browns you can see why McCown is in a good spot. Even Jacoby Brissett lit up the Browns for 259 pass yards and three total touchdowns in Week 3.
And in a revenge game narrative this week, McCown should be able to take advantage of Cleveland’s weakness against tight ends with Austin Seferian-Jenkins who’s combined for 77 yards on nine catches the last two weeks. The Browns have allowed more receptions to tight ends (30) than any other team, and have already surrendered four touchdowns to the position through four games. So consider McCown a deep sleeper and potential value play with some upside in DFS formats for Week 5.
Marshawn Lynch vs Ravens
If Marshawn Lynch can’t put the Raiders on his back this week, it’ll be time to panic. But there’s reason to believe Lynch will go full-out Beast Mode against Baltimore. It’s a game to avoid using pretty much every single pass-catcher on both sides. EJ Manuel is starting at quarterback for Oakland, with Derek Carr out due to a back injury. Joe Flacco has been one of the worst quarterbacks of the season statistically, so this could be a ground-and-pound grinder. And who better to own it than Beast Mode?
Lynch faces a Ravens defense that has been destroyed by running backs the last two weeks. In fact, Baltimore has allowed 428 scrimmage yards and three rushing touchdowns to backs in that span. Predicting game script can be risky, but you’d have to think that Oakland will just hand the ball off to Lynch early and often. He’s totaled just 15 attempts for 30 rushing yards in his last two games, and Oakland badly needs a spark after two bad road losses. In a week where the running back position is depleted by a litany of injuries and bye weeks, Lynch could provide low-end RB1 value.
Melvin Gordon at Giants
The Chargers‘ running back has been dealing with a knee injury for a few weeks, and that could be a reason he has struggled to produce this season. Although he does have three total touchdowns through four games, he’s averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. His involvement as a pass catcher, 13 receptions for 97 yards and a score, has kept his fantasy floor afloat, but his 2.9 points in Week 4 against the Eagles left much to be desired. A game against the Giants is just what Gordon needs to get back on track.
New York is known to have a stout run defense, and they did last year allowing just 3.6 yards per carry to opposing teams and a mere 88.6 rush yards per game allowed, third-best in the NFL. But 2017 has been a different story. Since the Giants have no run game of their own, they have trouble controlling the clock. This has resulted in opposing teams dominating time of possession as New York owns the fifth-lowest ToS this year according to teamrankings.com. That’s permitted opposing teams to average 142.8 rushing yards per game against New York’s defense. In fact, they’ve allowed at least 99 rush yards to opposing backs in every game this season, and save for Ezekiel Elliott, they haven’t exactly faced top-tier backs: Jacquizz Rogers, Ameer Abdullah and the Eagles committee. The Giants have also allowed five runs of 20-plus yards this year, tied for second-most in the NFL.
With the Giants secondary likely to focus on locking up Los Angeles’ deep receiving corps, the Chargers may lean on Gordon in a week where he voiced frustration about his limited usage through the first month of the season.
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