The top five quarterback options for Week 5 fantasy football are littered with many of the usual suspects, but an easy home matchup puts one second-year signal-caller squarely—and still surprisingly—in the headlines.
Most of these field generals are typical no-brainers, but will be especially dominant in Sunday's action. Here is a ranking of the top five QB options as we move into the second quarter of the NFL season.
1. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons at Washington Redskins
Something has to give in this game, and the signs actually seem to point toward the first Falcons loss of the season.
While that might be bad—or unbelievable—news for Atlanta advocates, it's certainly good news for Ryan's fantasy owners. Playing from behind, the Falcons will be more inclined to throw the ball. There's no reason they shouldn't against the Redskins' 31st-ranked pass defense.
So, what will give on Atlanta's side? Its rush defense that allows just over 146 yards per game, which will be facing the dangerous duo of Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris. They are on pace to combine for over 2,000 yards rushing on the season, which is astounding even if that pace slows down.
A shortened game for Ryan will mean more shots deep to Julio Jones and Roddy White. The Redskins also don't have an answer at nickelback, which will allow Ryan to find his men in the slot.
Historically, Ryan is not nearly as intimidating on the road as he is in the Georgia Dome. As we've seen in 2012, though, this seems like a different Matty Ice.
2. Eli Manning, New York Giants vs. Cleveland Browns
Joe Haden returns a week too late to the Browns' secondary, and Manning will be able to exploit the mismatches presented by the rest of Cleveland's corners.
The absence of Hakeem Nicks hasn't destroyed Manning's production, and any concern that Ramses Barden's questionable status will do so was laid to rest last week in Philadelphia. Both Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon exceeded 100 yards receiving for New York, and Manning threw for over 300 yards.
This game is also a huge opportunity for rookie second-round pick Rueben Randle, who has struggled to work his way into the rotation thus far. His thick frame and highlight reel catching ability will provide a size mismatch against the undersized Browns defensive backs.
Manning should be able to take shots down the field, too, thanks to Cleveland's inconsistency at free safety—undrafted rookie Tashaun Gipson is splitting time with career backup Usama Young.
Both are tackling well, but those hits are usually coming after big gains. The Browns are fourth-worst in the league in yielding 286 yards per game through the air.
That should translate to a field day for Manning, no matter who he is throwing to.
3. Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers at New Orleans Saints
To put it nicely, the New Orleans defense has been putrid in 2012.
Drew Brees is playing at his typical elite level, but throwing up over 400 yards of offense and 27.5 points per game has translated to zero victories. The Saints give up more yards than anyone, and consistently blow coverages on the back end.
In the vertical passing game that Rivers thrives in, this is a nightmare matchup for the Saints' secondary.
Rivers' numbers have been skewed by a poor outing against Atlanta, but this NFC South foe will more than make up for that aberration. Ryan Mathews and Jackie Battle will be able to establish the run, setting up play-action passes for a downfield aerial assault.
There were definite signs of life from the Saints' defense against Green Bay last week. That said, they were the beneficiary of a fumble by Packers backup QB Graham Harrell on what was almost certainly going to be a touchdown drive.
The more balanced the offense, the more the Saints have struggled this season. That was evident in their opening two losses to Washington and Carolina.
Both teams had mobile quarterbacks, but Rivers presents a new, unique set of challenges with his skill set.
4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers at Indianapolis Colts
Statistically, Indy's pass defense isn't awful, but the unit hasn't faced a passing attack nearly as powerful as the one orchestrated by Rodgers.
The Colts don't have the personnel across the board to account for Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Jermichael Finley, and the increasingly utilized Randall Cobb. On top of that, Colts starting cornerback Vontae Davis is questionable with an ankle injury, according to ESPN's injury report.
Even with Greg Jennings nursing a groin injury, Rodgers and Co. should pile up huge numbers, especially with the ability to establish somewhat of a running game with Cedric Benson.
Rodgers himself has proven that he will establish his own running game if his backfield isn't getting it done, and he should have some running lanes as the Colts are scrambling to cover all of Green Bay's offensive weapons.
5. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings vs. Tennessee Titans
Against such a favorable matchup at home, the Vikings should have their most complete game of the season on offense. Ponder will lead the way the way in a balanced game plan, which will likely lean on Adrian Peterson early and use that to get the second-year QB outside the pocket to make plays with his arm and his feet.
The Titans are equally awful against the run and the pass, and give up a league-high 37.5 points per game.
Also working against them is the fact that Ponder is the only starting quarterback in the league without an interception, so he's not liable to give such a bad defense any gifts. Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph are going to create plenty of mismatches, giving Ponder easy throws to dangerous playmakers.
All four of the aforementioned Vikings will find the end zone in some capacity on Sunday, and Minnesota will continue its surprise season in pushing its record to 4-1.
As for Ponder, he will continue to establish himself as making the biggest second-year leap of the 2011 quarterback class.
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