The 2017 NFL season is starting to find its form. All teams but the Miami Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played 25 percent of their schedule, and that's enough to draw legitimate conclusions about several key fantasy football aspects.
The first one is quite a shocker: Play any decent quarterback who is competing against the New England Patriots.
The defending Super Bowl champions are giving up a league-worst 32 points per game, and they allowed Carolina's Cam Newton to regain his footing and some of his ego as he threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns in Week 4.
If the battered Newton can riddle the Patriots secondary, what can Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston do on a short week?
The Bucs host the Patriots Thursday night, and while head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are capable of coming up with a solution to their defensive problems, it is likely to take some time for that to happen.
Secondly, have the Houston Texans found the answer to the offensive woes that have plagued them for years?
It sure looks like rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is the answer after throwing for 283 yards and four TDs against the Tennessee Titans, but the NFL is a prove-it-to-me business, and he will have to do it again this week against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
Week 5 cheat sheet and rankings
Top 10 quarterbacks
1. Tom Brady, New England at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay at Dallas
3. Russell Wilson, Seattle at L.A. Rams
4. Dak Prescott, Dallas vs. Green Bay
5. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay vs. New England
6. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia vs. Arizona
7. Jared Goff, L.A. Rams vs. Seattle
8. Deshaun Watson, Houston vs. Kansas City
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville
10. Matthew Stafford, Detroit vs. Carolina
While the Patriots are not off to the start that nearly all observers expected for them, Tom Brady is once again a major fantasy factor. The worse the opposing defense, the better his passing numbers should be because the Patriots will have to win high-scoring contests. Brady has thrown for 1,399 yards and 10 touchdowns in four starts. Look for him to throw for 325 yards and three TDs against the Bucs.
Aaron Rodgers had a strong game against the Chicago Bears in Week 3, but he always torments that team. Now he must confront the Dallas Cowboys on their home turf, and it will be a more difficult assignment. However, Rodgers is the most accurate passer in the league, and he has thrown for 1,146 yards and 10 TDs. He should reach 300 yards and two TDs against the Cowboys.
Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense came alive in Week 4 against the Colts. While Indianapolis does not have a high-level defense, the Seahawks turned it up a couple of notches and we expect them to remain at a high level for several weeks. Wilson has thrown for 1,024 yards with seven touchdowns and he has also run for two more scores, and he should be good for 290 yards and two scores against the Rams.
Top 10 running backs
1. Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville
2. Todd Gurley, L.A. Rams vs. Seattle
3. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City at Houston
4. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas vs. Green Bay
5. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville at Pittsburgh
6. LeSean McCoy, Buffalo at Cincinnati
7. Carlos Hyde, San Francisco at Indianapolis
8. DeMarco Murray, Tennessee at Miami
9. Jay Ajayi, Miami vs. Tennessee
10 Lamar Miller, Houston vs. Kansas City
Bell is almost certainly the best all-around running back in the league, and after dominating the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4 with 144 yards and two touchdowns, he is about to hit his stride. Bell should pick up from where he left off and be good for 150 rushing yards and two more scores.
Gurley is a much-improved player in 2017, and he has displayed explosive speed through the first four games of the season. The second-year back has 362 yards and four TDs on the ground, and he has also added four more scores as a receiver. The Rams will give the Seahawks a battle, and Gurley will have 80 yards rushing, 40 yards receiving and a touchdown in each category.
Hunt is writing a brilliant story as the Chiefs' go-to rookie running back. He rushed for 101 yards on 21 carries after a slow start against the Washington Redskins in Week 4. Hunt has 502 rushing yards and four TDs, and he has added two more scores as a receiver. Look for Hunt to rush for 100 yards and a TD against the Texans.
Classic Jameis. And a beautiful catch. Winston escapes pressure and finds @MikeEvans13_ near the goal line! #NYGvsTB https://t.co/aqgyxWN7Xw2017-10-1 21:31:27
Top 10 wide receivers
1. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay vs. New England
2. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville
3. Chris Hogan, New England at Tampa Bay
4. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants vs. Los Angeles Chargers
5. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay at Dallas
6. Dez Bryant, Dallas vs. Green Bay
7. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants
8. A.J. Green, Cincinnati vs. Buffalo
9. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston vs. Kansas City
10. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City at Houston
Evans is a hungry receiver and he should be prepared for a huge game against a New England secondary that has made a ton of mistakes to this point and is not close to figuring things out. Evans has the size, strength and skill to put huge numbers on the board. Look for Evans to have 125 receiving yards and two TDs.
Brown is unstoppable when he gets going, and a good argument can be made that he has not reached his stride yet. While he has caught 30 passes for 388 yards, only one of those receptions has been for a touchdown. It's likely that he will have 12 or more before the end of the season. Brown will torch the Jaguars for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Hogan has become one of Brady's favorite receivers and the Patriots should have an excellent opportunity to score multiple touchdowns against Tampa Bay Thursday night. Hogan has caught 15 passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns, and he will have 95 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Bucs.
Philadelphia Pride @Phila_Pride
Zach Ertz is on track for 1,300 receiving yards this season. Do you consider him a top TE in the NFL? https://t.co/kgRIoAEN2Q2017-10-2 18:18:40
Top 10 tight ends
1. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia vs. Arizona
2. Rob Gronkowski, New England at Tampa Bay
3. Travis Kelce, Kansas City at Houston
4. Jason Witten, Dallas vs. Green Bay
5. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota at Chicago
6. Charles Clay, Buffalo at Cincinnati
7. Jack Doyle, Indianapolis vs. San Francisco
8. Martellus Bennett, Green Bay at Dallas
9. Luke Willson, Seattle at L.A. Rams
10. Hunter Henry, L.A. Chargers at N.Y. Giants
Ertz has a gift for getting open and he will fight for the ball. Quarterback Carson Wentz is going to look for him on key third-down plays, and Ertz should have plenty of openings against the Cardinals. Look for Ertz to reach 100 yards and catch two TD passes.
Gronkowski was one of the Patriots' biggest bright spots in the loss to the Panthers as he caught four passes for 80 yards, including a 43-yard reception. The Bucs will have to double-team him, and that's not likely because the Pats have fine receivers in Hogan and Brandin Cooks who can take advantage of that situation. Gronk finishes with 100 receiving yards and a TD reception.
Kelce's exuberance is a double-edged sword for the Chiefs because he can make big plays in traffic and then get penalized for celebrating his success too graphically. He needs to come up big against Houston's powerful defense. Look for Kelce to have 80 receiving yards and a TD.
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Deshaun Watson is the 3rd rookie QB with 3 pass TD & 1 rush TD in a game in the last 15 seasons (Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota). https://t.co/eWtCfiuU142017-10-1 19:00:52
QB Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
RB Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings
RB Wayne Gallman, New York Giants
WR Will Fuller, Houston Texans
WR A.J. Derby, Denver Broncos
TE Tyler Croft, Cincinnati Bengals
Watson is well on his way toward turning the Texans into a powerhouse of a team. He has adapted quickly to the NFL after a brilliant college career, and if he can stay healthy, there's no reason he won't become an every-week player in your fantasy lineup.
Murray gets his opportunity as a result of the season-ending ACL injury suffered by brilliant rookie Dalvin Cook in Minnesota.
Fuller has explosive speed and many expected him to become a star right away in Houston, but the Texans did not have a quarterback who could take advantage of his skills. That has changed dramatically with Watson in the lineup.
Croft gives beleaguered Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton a tough receiver who can make catches in traffic and keep drives alive.