NFL Week 5 Predictions: Projecting Best, Worst Sunday Performances
Welcome to Week 5, our first big bye week with Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Washington and Tampa Bay players resting on your fantasy benches. That was your reminder to get them out of your lineups.
With so many teams on a bye, paying attention to matchups becomes key to victory on your fantasy squad. Which players will have the best and worst days at their positions this week?
Click through to find out.
*These predictions are based on offensive skill players who are expected to start or garner a significant amount of game action. You wouldn't expect a fourth-string receiver to have a good game—those predictions are implied.
Statistics and rankings courtesy of Pro Football Reference.
Best at Quarterback
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Last week was brutal for the Eagles as they couldn't catch their breath in the Mile High Stadium air. The albuterol is on its way in the form of the Giants defense.
Alright, so that was a terrible analogy, but not nearly as bad as New York's pass defense. The Giants are tied for worst with 10 touchdowns allowed via the forward pass. This is a great week for Vick to rebound.
Prediction: 275 passing yards, 2 touchdowns; 65 rushing yards, 1 touchdown
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
To put it simply, Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the game. Combine that with the fact that Detroit boasts a bottom-10 pass defense, and we have a recipe for daytime fireworks in Green Bay this weekend.
Prediction: 375 passing yards, 4 touchdowns; 15 rushing yards
Eli Manning, New York Giants
This has been a nightmare season for Eli Manning. The Giants are 0-4 and the offense is sputtering. But they aren't alone in this dreamscape.
The Eagles are just one game better, and the offense has steadily fallen off since it put on a show on Monday Night Football in Week 1. A large part of their 1-3 malaise is a horrific pass defense that was second-worst in the league heading into Week 5.
If Manning can't right the offensive ship against that atrocious defense, all hope will be lost for the Giants. Expect him to right the ship.
Prediction: 325 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
It hasn't been easy being cheesy in Wisconsin for Matthew Stafford over the years. He has only passed for multiple touchdowns once, a meaningless Week 17 game that saw Matt Flynn throw for six and catapult his career into fraudulence.
So what makes things different this year? Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, that's what. Stafford finally has a legitimate running game to worry the Packers defense, and both can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Combine that with the Packers giving up over 300 passing yards and two passing touchdowns per game this season, and Stafford might actually get in some work during a meaningful game in Green Bay, for once.
Prediction: 350 passing yards, 2 touchdowns; 15 rushing yards
Worst at Quarterback
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
The good news for Andrew Luck is that he gets the Seahawks at home, where their defense cannot feed off the 12th Man. The bad news is that Seattle's defense is still pretty good.
Matt Schaub got off to a hot start against them last week, but Seattle recovered and shut him down in the second half. Luck isn't quite as seasoned as Schaub, and the Seahawks will find plenty of ways to rattle and confuse the second-year quarterback.
Prediction: 250 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions; 25 rushing yards
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
To date, Alex Smith has faced the Jaguars, Cowboys, Eagles and Giants. They rank 13th, 28th, 31st and 21st against the pass, respectively.
The game is on the road against what is forecasted to be a wet day, and the Titans rank 12th against the pass. Smith doesn't usually have "implosion" games a la Eli Manning, but the confluence of pass-hampering factors today will be tough on his production.
Prediction: 225 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception; 35 rushing yards
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
The Dolphins have been pretty good against quarterbacks not named Drew Brees this season.
Defensive end Cameron Wake could be back to terrorize Flacco, and newly minted Raven Eugene Monroe might be a bit too new to the offense to help much. Also, that Dolphins secondary doesn't feature Justin Rogers.
Prediction: 275 passing yards, 1 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
Best at Running Back
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
The Saints have had a surprisingly good defense this season, especially given how horrific that unit was in 2012. Getting head coach Sean Payton back and signing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan have worked wonders.
But opposing defenses have been able to run the ball on them. They were ranked 11th against the run heading into this week, and Matt Forte is fifth in yards from scrimmage at his position.
Prediction: 95 rushing yards, 1 touchdown; 5 receptions, 55 yards
Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
The Packers haven't been terrible against the run, but that's partially because they have been so bad against the pass. But they have given up three touchdowns, and they seemed to have trouble against dynamic Cincinnati rookie Giovani Bernard.
Here comes Reggie Bush.
Prediction: 75 rushing yards; 5 receptions, 75 yards, 1 touchdown
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
The Human Joystick gets to play his game against a defense that gave up two long touchdown runs to Knowshon Flipping Moreno two weeks ago.
The Giants were actually one spot worse than the Eagles against the run heading into Week 5, and McCoy is pretty good.
Prediction: 125 rushing yards, 1 touchdown; 3 receptions, 50 receiving yards
David Wilson, New York Giants
This is the week. Promise.
David Wilson has been rendered useless thus far this season thanks to a pair of fumbles that sent him right back to the Tom Coughlin doghouse in Week 1. Things were so bad that New York re-signed Brandon Jacobs off the street.
Da'Rel Scott was the biggest thorn in Wilson's side over the past several weeks, but he was cut somewhat surprisingly after starting last week.
That means more playing time for Wilson—unless you think Jacobs and his 1.0-yards-per-carry average will get himself 15 carries—and it couldn't have come at a better time.
On top of being terrible against the pass, the Eagles were sixth worst against the run heading into Week 5 this season.
Prediction: 140 rushing yards, 1 touchdown; 2 receptions, 20 receiving yards
Worst at Running Back
DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
Not only are the Cardinals the fourth-best defense against the run, but they have given up just one rushing touchdown on the season.
DeAngelo Williams is quietly on pace for 1,500-plus rushing yards. That pace will take a hit this weekend, and it looks like his touchdown dry spell will continue.
Prediction: 55 rushing yards; 2 receptions, 15 receiving yards
Rashard Mendenhall, Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals might have a great rush defense, but the Panthers aren't far behind. They have allowed the fewest rushing yards in the league thus far, though that's only through three games, whereas most other teams have played four or five.
Even so, they are giving up the ninth-fewest yards per carry at 3.7 and just one touchdown. Rashard Mendenhall might be fighting for his job with rookie Andre Ellington right now, and this game might be a fatal blow.
Prediction: 35 rushing yards
Best at Wide Receiver
Victor Cruz, New York Giants
All those not nice things that were said about the Eagles pass defense in the "Best at Quarterback" slide can be applied here.
Victor Cruz is a rich man's DeSean Jackson at this point. He is going to have a nice day.
Prediction: 8 receptions, 110 yards, 1 touchdown
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
The Packers let Anquan Boldin go nuts against them in Week 1. Pierre Garcon had an excellent Week 2 performance in Green Bay.
Matthew Stafford is better than Dalton, and the Lions have a bevy of weapons to take the focus off Calvin Johnson.
Prediction: 8 receptions, 145 yards, 1 touchdown
Correction: Johnson has been ruled out.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
Much as it is with the Broncos, forecasting which Packers receiver is going to have a big game is a bit of a craps game. Jordy Nelson, however, has been the most reliably productive of the group.
Nelson has caught 18 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns through three games this season. The Lions haven't been as bad against the pass this season, but they still rank in the bottom 10. Aaron Rodgers isn't exactly Christian Ponder or Carson Palmer, either.
Prediction: 6 receptions, 95 yards, 1 touchdown
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
Giants cornerback Aaron Ross was put on injured reserve this week. That's a big blow to an already-impoverished Giants pass defense.
No word on how many times DeSean Jackson has licked his chops this week.
Prediction: 6 receptions, 125 yards, 2 touchdowns
Worst at Wide Receiver
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
Two words: Richard Sherman.
Granted, Cecil Shorts had the same issue two weeks ago and wound up with over 100 yards, but garbage time started early in that game. This figures to be a closer matchup with the Seahawks playing a 3-1 Colts team on the road.
Prediction: 3 receptions, 40 yards
Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans
It has been a nice run for Nate Washington over the past couple of weeks. He went for 105 and 131 receiving yards over the past two weeks, respectively. He snagged two touchdowns against the Jets, to boot.
But this week, the Chiefs are in town. This is the same Chiefs team that is second best against the pass this season, and the Titans are relying on Ryan Fitzpatrick to carry the load while Jake Locker recovers from a hip injury.
This is all not to mention Washington is competing with Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, and a returning Kenny Britt for targets this week.
Prediction: 4 receptions, 45 yards
Best at Tight End
Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers
The Lions are going to have such a tough time dealing with receivers Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb and running backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin that Jermichael Finley is going to get loose this week, his first back from a concussion.
Prediction: 5 receptions, 95 yards, 1 touchdown
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
Prediction: 7 receptions, 105 yards, 1 touchdown
Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
It seemed like Jared Cook was finally going to realize that potential we have all been hearing about over the years after his Week 1 outburst against the Cardinals.
He has tallied just 99 yards since that 141-yard performance, crashing back to Earth like a Stage 1 rocket. So why will he get back to the promised land this week?
Simple—the Jaguars are in town.
Prediction: 6 receptions, 85 yards, 1 touchdown
Worst at Tight End
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
One of the bigger surprises at tight end this season has been the performance of Charles Clay, who took over for Dustin Keller after the latter suffered a gruesome knee injury in the preseason.
Few expected Clay to be a big producer, but he is currently the second-leading receiver on the Dolphins. This week, he gets the Ravens, who have tightened up their defense against tight ends since Julius Thomas went nuts in Week 1.
Baltimore hasn't given up a touchdown to a starting tight end since then, and Owen Daniels and Scott Chandler have combined for 57 receiving yards against the Ravens the past two weeks.
Prediction: 4 receptions, 40 yards
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
The Seahawks have allowed one touchdown to opposing tight ends this season, to Houston's No. 2, Garrett Graham, last week.
The last time Coby Fleener had a bad matchup—against the 49ers in Week 2—he caught two passes for 13 yards. He should have a better week than that, but not by much.
Prediction: 3 receptions, 35 yards