I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The NFL is one crazy league.
Brian Hartline leads all receivers through four weeks with 455 yards, and unless your name is Biff Tannen, you didn’t see that coming. Nor did you know the Saints would be 0-4. The Browns are 0-4 too, but you didn’t need a crystal ball to predict that one.
Fantasy football is just as crazy as the real thing, and by now, you’ve realized projections mean next to nothing. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to plug in a sleeper here or there.
Still, there are some players you can’t afford to bench, especially when they are faced with favorable matchups.
Make your own decisions, but be informed. Study the rankings and matchups and make smart decisions. Because let’s face it, no one likes to lose to a guy who gets by on dumb luck. And yes, I’m speaking from experience. Thanks, Tony.
The following are my Week 5 rankings for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. If any of these guys are on your roster, find a way to get them in your lineup.
*St. Louis and Arizona players have been excluded from Week 5 rankings.
1. Robert Griffin III (vs. Atlanta)
Griffin is simply outstanding. There’s no denying his talent at this point, and there’s no reason to ever leave him on your bench again (save Washington’s bye week). RG3 is a good passer, but his biggest asset for fantasy purposes is what he can do with his legs. Look for Griffin to rush for better than 50 yards and a score against the Falcons.
Production prediction: 22-of-34, 274 yards, 52 rushing yards, three total touchdowns
2. Aaron Rodgers (at Indianapolis)
Rodgers got off to an underwhelming start this season, but he was also facing three very tough matchups. There’s nothing scary about Indianapolis’ defense, and you can expect him to perform more like he did last week against the Saints. A four-touchdown day from Rodgers should shock no one this week.
Production prediction: 28-of-40, 326 yards, three touchdowns
3. Matt Ryan (at Washington)
Ryan has been making his case for elite quarterback status this season. He’s on pace to throw for 44 touchdowns, and with Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez at his disposal, expect Ryan to continue torching opposing defenses at will. Washington has allowed 326 passing yards per game this season, but Ryan could surpass that number this week and add a few touchdowns as well.
Production prediction: 26-of-39, 314 yards, three touchdowns
4. Cam Newton (vs. Seattle)
Newton has struggled at times this season, and the Panthers are off to a 1-3 start. That said, Newton is still a quality play every week. Even against Seattle’s stout defense, Newton should put up good numbers. The Seahawks like to bring a lot of pressure with their linebackers, which will give Newton a lot of opportunities to do some damage with his legs this week.
Production prediction: 19-of-27, 268 yards, 46 rushing yards, two total touchdowns
5. Drew Brees (vs. San Diego)
Brees had his best performance of the season last week against the Packers, and he’ll continue to get better as the season progresses. New Orleans’ defense is atrocious, and the Saints will have to air it out early and often to stay competitive against the Chargers. Look for Brees to deliver for your fantasy team in a big way this week.
Production prediction: 32-of-50, 380 yards, two touchdowns
6. Eli Manning (vs. Cleveland)
Cornerback Joe Haden’s suspension has been extremely detrimental to the Browns’ pass defense this season, and he’ll miss his final game this week against the Giants. Manning has been superb most of the season, and his success will continue this week against the Browns. Manning has a lot of weapons at his disposal and should have no problem disposing of the Browns at home this week.
Production prediction: 26-of-43, 279 yards, three touchdowns
7. Michael Vick (at Pittsburgh)
Vick turned the ball over at an alarming rate in his first few games, but he seemed to settle in last week against the Giants. Even with Troy Polamalu and James Harrison likely back with the Steelers this week, Vick will have his opportunities to make some big plays. The Steelers have only forced three turnovers this season, and if Vick can take care of the football, he’s in for a big day.
Production prediction: 20-33, 237 yards, 41 rushing yards, two total touchdowns
8. Joe Flacco (at Kansas City)
He isn’t an elite quarterback yet, but Joe Flacco is on the cusp, and he’s coming off a good performance against the Browns in Week 4. With Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin both finally involved in the action, Flacco should take full advantage this week against the Chiefs. If Ray Rice can establish the running game early, Kansas City will be in a lot of trouble.
Production prediction: 26-of-39, 331 yards, two touchdowns
9. Tom Brady (vs. Denver)
Brady isn’t putting up the same gaudy stats we’ve become accustomed to, but much of that stems from New England’s desire to run the ball this season. Even so, Brady is a good play this week against the Broncos. Wes Welker has re-established himself in the offense, and with Gronkowski and a slew of other weapons at his disposal, Brady should have no problem keeping New England’s momentum rolling this week.
Production prediction: 24-of-39, 332 yards, two touchdowns
10. Peyton Manning (at New England)
Manning was very, very good last week against the Raiders, and all the worry he stirred up with his performance against the Falcons went by the wayside. Although New England’s defense picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick four times last week, it also gave up four passing touchdowns. Expect Manning to throw a couple touchdowns of his own this week en route to a big performance for you fantasy team.
Production prediction: 28-of-38, 325 yards, two touchdowns
11. Philip Rivers (at New Orleans)
Rivers isn’t the same quarterback he used to be, but this week against New Orleans, he’ll look more like Philip Rivers circa 2009. The Saints defense has been historically bad through four weeks this year. With Antonio Gates healthy again and Ryan Mathews toting the rock for the Chargers, Rivers will put on a show this week—just as every other quarterback facing the Saints has done.
Production prediction: 23-of-40, 277 yards, two touchdowns
12. Matt Schaub (at NYJ)
Schaub has thrown seven touchdowns and only one interception this season while carrying a quarterback rating of 105.3. Schaub threw four touchdowns against the Broncos in Week 3, and he could have another big game this week against the Jets, who are without superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis for the rest of the season. Schaub should have no problem dismantling the Jets this week.
Production prediction: 22-32, 247 yards, two touchdowns
1. Arian Foster (at NYJ)
Foster has been the most consistently productive running back in the league this season, and he’s also leading the NFL in carries through four weeks (103). The Jets have been gouged on the ground this year, having allowed 691 yards on 4.9 per carry through four games. Ben Tate hasn’t vultured too many carries from Foster, and there’s no reason to believe Foster won’t have a massive performance against the Jets.
Production prediction: 28 touches, 137 yards, two touchdowns
2. Ray Rice (at Kansas City)
Kansas City has allowed 4.2 yards per carry this season, but has been a little more stout against the pass. As long as Cam Cameron doesn’t abandon the run as he has been known to do at times, Rice should have a big impact against the Chiefs. Rice is always a threat in the passing game as well, and you can expect Rice to get a lot of touches this week.
Production prediction: 27 touches, 124 total yards, two touchdowns
3. Adrian Peterson (vs. Tennessee)
There’s no reason Peterson should have been able to return from his season-ending ACL/MCL injuries so quickly, but he did, and he looks like the AP of old. Tennessee is allowing 136.5 yards per game on the ground this season, which makes Peterson a great play this week. He’s still the focal point of the Vikings offense, and he should be the focal point of your fantasy team this week, too.
Production prediction: 24 touches, 117 total yards, two touchdowns
4. Maurice Jones-Drew (vs. Chicago)
Rashad Jennings has become an afterthought following his knee injury a week into the season, as Jones-Drew has reclaimed his starting role and performed admirably. MJD is the best weapon Jacksonville has on offense, and he should continue to be the team’s focal point as the season progresses. Chicago has been pretty tough against the run this year, but MoJo should see a lot of touches this week, especially in the passing game.
Production prediction: 29 touches, 119 total yards, one touchdown
5. Ryan Mathews (at New Orleans)
No team has been worse against the run this year than New Orleans, and as long as Mathews can hold onto the football, he’s in line for a big game. The Saints have allowed 186.8 yards per game and 4.9 per carry this season. Mathews should see his share of touches and will make good use of them in Week 5.
Production prediction: 21 touches, 107 total yards, one touchdown
6. Marshawn Lynch (at Carolina)
Carolina is allowing 4.9 per carry this season, while Lynch is picking up 4.6 per tote. That’s a recipe for a big game from one of the NFL’s toughest running backs. Seattle needs Lynch to set up play action for rookie Russell Wilson, and he’ll continue being Seattle’s best weapon on offense. Feel very confident starting Lynch in your league this week.
Production prediction: 24 touches, 105 total yards, one touchdown
7. LeSean McCoy (at Pittsburgh)
The Steelers haven’t been as stout against the run this season as in years past. They’ve allowed 4.3 per carry to opposing running backs and are prone to giving up big plays to running backs catching the ball out of the backfield. Shady is a dangerous dual-threat back, and as long as the Eagles utilize him effectively, he should have a very productive day against Pittsburgh.
Production prediction: 22 touches, 99 total yards, one touchdown
8. Trent Richardson (at NYG)
The Giants have been surprisingly generous to opposing running backs this season. They’ve allowed 118.3 rushing yards per game and a 4.5-yard average through four games. The Browns haven’t fully utilized Richardson this year, but he should see his workload increase from week to week. If the Browns are to score much against the Giants this week, they will need to make good use of Richardson.
Production prediction: 20 touches, 95 total yards, one touchdown
9. Alfred Morris (vs. Atlanta)
Morris has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners this season. Even more shockingly, Mike Shanahan has utilized him very effectively, and there is little threat of Morris losing his starting job if he stays healthy. Atlanta offers a very favorable matchup this week, having allowed 5.2 yards per carry through four games. Morris should top the century mark on the ground this week.
Production prediction: 23 touches, 101 yards, one touchdown
10. Matt Forte (at Jacksonville)
Forte has another juicy matchup this week against Jacksonville. He’s still not fully healthy, but looked healthy enough to gain four yards per carry against the Cowboys last Monday. He didn’t have many opportunities last week, but should see an increased workload this week against a poor Jacksonville defense. Look for Forte to be a much bigger part of the offense in Week 5.
Production prediction: 19 touches, 87 total yards, one touchdown
11. Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. Cleveland)
Bradshaw was the better running back last week against the Eagles, though Andre Brown ran hard and picked up some tough yardage. Brown will continue seeing his share of carries, but Bradshaw is still the Giants’ best option at running back. He should see plenty of work this week against the Browns. Get him in your lineup.
Production prediction: 17 touches, 85 total yards, one touchdown
12. Frank Gore (vs. Buffalo)
Buffalo is one of four teams allowing 4.9 yards per carry this season. Although Gore’s workload has been inconsistent so far this season, he should see plenty of work this week. The Niners will likely be playing from ahead against the Bills, which leaves Gore in line for 20 or more touches and a very productive week.
Production prediction: 22 touches, 107 total yards
1. A.J. Green (vs. Miami)
Green is perhaps the second-best receiver in the league, and he has a pretty good matchup this week against the Dolphins. Andy Dalton gives Green plenty of targets, and he’s made the most of them this season. There isn’t a cornerback in the league who can consistently cover Green. He’ll find the end zone this week, and plenty more the rest of the year.
Production prediction: Eight catches, 119 yards, two touchdowns
2. Victor Cruz (vs. Cleveland)
Cruz recovered from his poor performance in Week 1 and has stepped up with Hakeem Nicks out to be the Giants’ top receiving threat. The Browns will be without Joe Haden for one more week, and Cleveland has no one who can consistently cover Cruz throughout the game. Manning will look to Cruz early and often this week.
Production prediction: 10 catches, 136 yards, one touchdown
3. Brandon Marshall (at Jacksonville)
It’s time to stop worrying about Marshall. He had a couple down weeks this season, but he’s coming off a great performance against the Cowboys in Week 4. As Marshall and Jay Cutler continue to find their chemistry, the numbers will continue to improve. Jacksonville’s defense is one of the worst in the league, and the duo should have no problem putting a dent in the Jaguars.
Production prediction: Nine catches, 133 yards, one touchdown
4. Wes Welker (vs. Denver)
Welker is back in the spotlight. He flew under the radar early in the season, but is coming off a couple good performances and should continue to be one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets, especially with Aaron Hernandez still on the sidelines. Denver hasn’t been terrible against the pass this season, but the Broncos can’t cover everyone. Welker will have another quality performance this week.
Production prediction: Eight catches, 121 yards, one touchdown
5. Demaryius Thomas (at New England)
New England has allowed 282 passing yards per game this season and provides a lucrative matchup opportunity for Thomas and the Broncos. The Patriots have had their problems with the Broncos under Belichick, and this game could prove to be a shootout between two future Hall-of-Famers. Thomas is Manning’s best offensive weapon, and could have a huge game against the Pats.
Production prediction: Six catches, 107 yards, one touchdown
6. Andre Johnson (at NYJ)
The Jets defense is a mess, though not as bad as their offense. Still, New York is without Darrelle Revis for the rest of the year, and there is no one else on that roster capable of shutting down Johnson. He’s been healthy and productive this season, and he has a candy matchup this week. Get him in your lineup.
Production prediction: Seven catches 105 yards, one touchdown
7. Jordy Nelson (at Indianapolis)
Greg Jennings will miss this week’s contest against the Colts, which makes Nelson a very sexy fantasy play. The Colts defense is not a strong unit, and Nelson should see a lot of targets early in the game. Nelson has a good game last week against the Saints and should find the end zone again this week. This could be the first game Nelson breaks the yardage century mark.
Production prediction: Seven catches, 102 yards, one touchdown
8. Julio Jones (at Washington)
Washington has allowed the second-most receiving yards in the NFL this season, and Matt Ryan and the Falcons should have a big week against the Redskins. Jones has been somewhat inconsistent this year, but he’s also been nicked up. Jones will bounce back this week in a big way, and he’ll come out of Week 5 looking like the superstar wide receiver he is sure to be.
Production prediction: Seven catches, 99 yards, one touchdown
9. Torrey Smith (at Kansas City)
Smith has emerged as Joe Flacco’s favorite target and also as one of the best deep threats in the NFL. Smith has the ability to get behind any defense, and Flacco has the ability to get him the ball. The Chiefs haven’t been bad against the pass this season, but they have allowed 8.5 yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks. Smith could help increase that average in Week 5.
Production prediction: Five catches, 89 yards, one touchdown
10. Mike Wallace (vs. Philadelphia)
Philadelphia has been stingy against the pass this season, but the Eagles defense is also susceptible to the big play. Wallace is perhaps the best big-play receiver in the game, and the Steelers will likely air it out early and often this week. Wallace has hauled in three touchdowns in three games and should find the end zone against Philadelphia.
Production prediction: Six catches, 87 yards, one touchdown
11. Percy Harvin (vs. Tennessee)
Harvin is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL, and he showed it last week against the Lions. Harvin didn’t have much of an impact in the passing game, but he did return a kickoff for a touchdown. Harvin faces a good matchup against the Titans this week, and he should continue to be Christian Ponder’s favorite target in the passing game.
Production prediction: 11 catches, 110 yards
12. Roddy White (at Washington)
It’s hard to predict which of Atlanta’s top receiving threats will have the bigger game from week to week, but both White and Jones will be top fantasy options this week. Matt Ryan will have his pick of the receiving litter against the Redskins, so both of the Falcons’ top targets should see plenty of action this week.
Production prediction: Seven catches, 94 yards
1. Rob Gronkowski (vs. Denver)
Gronkowski has failed to find the end zone just one game this year, and he should have his share of red-zone targets this week against the Broncos. With the Patriots focusing more on the run this season, play action has opened up the seams for Gronk, and he should continue to see his yardage totals steadily increase as the season progresses. Gronkowski will have a big game in Week 5.
Production prediction: Six catches, 107 yards, one touchdowns
2. Jimmy Graham (vs. San Diego)
As long as Drew Brees is airing out the football at a record pace, Graham will be a major fantasy asset. He’s scored three touchdowns in four games this season and stands to find the end zone again this week. This game should be a shootout, and although Brees has looked to Marques Colston more and more late in games, Graham will remain his top red-zone target.
Production prediction: Five catches, 86 yards, one touchdown
3. Vernon Davis (vs. Buffalo)
Davis hasn’t hauled in many passes this year, but he’s made the most of his opportunities. Davis has 15 catches on the year, and four of them have gone for touchdowns. He has at least one catch of 20 yards or more in each game this season, and he might have more than one against the Bills. Look for Davis to post his best yardage total of the season and haul in a touchdown in Week 5.
Production prediction: Five catches, 82 yards, one touchdown
4. Tony Gonzalez (at Washington)
Gonzo seems to perform best when he’s on my bench, but I can’t risk not playing him another week. The Ageless Wonder has looked as good this year as any tight end in the league, and he faces a very friendly matchup this week against the Redskins. He didn’t catch a touchdown pass last week, but he should make up for it on Sunday.
Production prediction: Eight catches, 81 yards, one touchdown
5. Fred Davis (vs. Atlanta)
Davis has just one red-zone catch this season, but Washington has been relying heavily on RG3 and Alfred Morris close to the goal line. As teams begin to key in on Washington’s running game in the red zone, the targets for Davis should increase. Davis has 160 receiving yards in the last two weeks and should produce a solid fantasy performance against the Falcons.
Production prediction: Six catches, 76 yards, one touchdown
6. Heath Miller (vs. Philadelphia)
Todd Haley’s new offense seems to have breathed new life into Miller. He’s always been one of Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite targets on third down, and he’s also seeing plenty of targets in the red zone this season. Miller has four touchdown catches in three games this season, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t continue hauling in touchdowns for the Steelers.
Production prediction: Seven catches, 68 yards, one touchdown
7. Martellus Bennett (vs. Cleveland)
Last week’s game against the Browns was Bennett’s first such game without a touchdown catch this season. With Hakeem Nicks still injured, Bennett is one of Eli Manning’s best options to stretch the middle of the field. The Browns have been putrid against the pass this year, having allowed nine passing touchdowns to opponents through four games.
Production prediction: Four catches, 68 yards, one touchdown
8. Kyle Rudolph (vs. Tennessee)
It took me singing his praises last week for Rudolph to have a bad game, but don’t expect the same result this week. Rudolph is still one of Christian Ponder’s favorite targets, and he will continue to get a lot of looks in the red zone. Tennessee’s defense has left much to be desired, and Rudolph will continue his impressive season this week at home against the Titans.
Production prediction: Five catches, 59 yards, one touchdown
9. Jermaine Gresham (vs. Miami)
It’s time for Gresham to have a larger impact in Cincinnati’s passing game, and his breakout performance could come this week against the Dolphins. Andy Dalton has looked Gresham’s way more the last two weeks, as the pair connected 10 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. Look for Dalton to gain confidence in Gresham more and more each week, starting this week against Miami.
Production prediction: Six catches, 57 yards, one touchdown
10. Jermichael Finley (at Indianapolis)
Finley has been another disappointing top tight end pick this season, and his case of the drops has been maddening for his owners. Despite his ineffectiveness this year, Finley should still be one of Aaron Rodgers’ top targets this week against the Colts. Greg Jennings is sidelined, and Rodgers will look Finley’s way plenty, especially in the red zone.
Production prediction: Four catches, 52 yards, one touchdown
11. Antonio Gates (at New Orleans)
Gates has been disappointing this season, likely due to his presence in my starting lineup. Superstition aside, Gates’ ribs should be fully healed by this point, and he has a mouth-watering matchup this week against the Saints. Week 5 could be the perfect time for Gates to have a breakout performance and remind fantasy owners why he was again a top tight end pick this year.
Production prediction: Eight catches, 97 yards
12. Dennis Pitta (at Kansas City)
Pitta is coming off a catch-less performance last week against the Browns, but should bounce back this week against the Chiefs. He had 18 catches and two touchdowns in the Ravens’ first three games, and with Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin finding their place in the offense, the middle of the field should open up for Pitta as the season progresses. Expect a bounce-back performance in Week 5.
Production prediction: Six catches, 89 yards