The amount of information you need to sift through on a weekly basis to build some competitive lineups can seem overwhelming. You’re in the right place to get through all of that information in no time, and we have another item for you to add to your arsenal. Each week, we’ll break down the best and worst rushing and passing matchups for Sunday’s main slate of games.
This will allow you to quickly zero in on the top anchors for your lineups, and we'll also point out which players you’ll want to avoid as you fill out the rest of your roster. There’s a ton of choices to examine on a weekly basis. The goal of this article is to help you narrow the field of targets down substantially.
Let’s get right to it, starting with the week’s top matchups.
Matchups to Exploit
Los Angeles Rams Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense
The surprising Los Angeles Rams welcome the Seattle Seahawks to town for a late afternoon tilt, and this one has all the earmarks of a potential statement game for the young upstarts. While the Seahawks remain the team to beat in the NFC West, the Rams have shown plenty of signs that the gap is closing rapidly. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out as the season moves along, but we have zero reason to wait on Todd Gurley’s fantasy production for another day. After a disappointing 2016 season, Gurley has come alive in the new Rams offense, and there’s nothing to suggest that a Seahawks defense that has seen better days will be able to hold him in check.
Last week, the Seahawks were able to shut down the running game of the Indianapolis Colts, but that game wound up as a laugher. If we take a gander at the prior three weeks, Ty Montgomery, Carlos Hyde, and DeMarco Murray were all able to achieve success against the Seahawks, and Gurley is in position to do the same. He’s a huge part of a Rams offense that is just scratching the surface of its potential. Gurley is averaging 31.5 touches per game, and he’s already reached the end zone seven times this season - four times on the ground, and three as the result of tosses from Jared Goff. He makes for a fine anchor for your Week 5 lineups.
Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense vs Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense
We’ve all been patiently waiting for that monster game that we’ve come to expect for Le'Veon Bell, and he delivered last week in a big way against the Baltimore Ravens. After a pretty quiet start to the season, Bell exploded to the tune of 144 rushing yards, four catches for 42 yards, and two goal-line touchdowns. While we can’t pencil in that kind of production on a weekly basis, the stars are aligning for a similarly explosive performance in Week 5.
The Pittsburgh Steelers welcome a Jacksonville Jaguars team that was just shredded by the New York Jets on the ground. For some perspective, Bilal Powell broke off a 75-yard touchdown in the first quarter, while Elijah McGuire busted out a 69-yard run for a score in the third quarter. On the day, the Jets racked up 256 rushing yards. This wasn’t an anomaly either, as the Jaguars rushing defense has proven to be a weakness for this young unit. The Jaguars have a lot of fine young talent that should eventually mesh into a solid defensive squad, but there’s still time to exploit the fact that it’s not there yet. Bell makes a ton of sense for your lineups, but he’s going to cost you due to the potential upside he brings to the table.
Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense
The Miami Dolphins have been a train wreck thus far this season, so we can understand if your brow is slightly furrowed at the moment. Jay Cutler and company have produced just six points over the last two games, and only 25 points to start the season. The broadcast job that he passed on to return to the field after Ryan Tannehill went down with a season-ending injury might look even more appealing to Cutler right about now, as he’s thrown for just 614 yards while tossing two scores and a pair of picks, all while being sacked nine times. Based on all of that, why would we like the Dolphins to come to life this week? Quite simply, it all comes down to the matchups.
The Tennessee Titans secondary could very well be the elixir that cures the Dolphins ills. Rookie phenom Deshaun Watson picked it apart last week while throwing four scores, and that came on the heels of Russell Wilson pulling the same trick in Week 3. While the Dolphins have been struggling, there’s simply too much talent there for this to be a long-term conundrum. Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker can both break out without notice, and Kenny Stills is a viable threat to pick up the slack when they’re being successfully contained. Jay Ajayi could finally kick it into gear on the ground as well against a middle of the road rushing defense, and that would further open things up for Cutler. As always, there’s risk attached to this selection, but it’s one that could prove to be quite fruitful.
Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense
Aaron Rodgers is essentially a plug and play option most weeks, and he has a particularly appealing matchup on the docket when the Green Bay Packers head south to take on the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The Cowboys did a nice job of holding Eli Manning and the New York Giants passing attack in check in Week 1, but that’s not all that impressive in hindsight when you consider the Giants early season struggles. It’s been downhill for the Cowboys ever since, as opposing signal callers have thrown for eight scores in the following three games. Trevor Siemian torched them for four scores the following week, and Carson Palmer and Jared Goff were able to toss a pair a piece over the next two games.
No slight to any of the aforementioned signal callers, but what do you suppose one of the top gunslingers in the game might be able to do? It’s an appealing thought to consider, and we can go in a couple of different directions for stacking purposes to boot. We can pay up for the services of Jordy Nelson, who has already found the end zone five times this season while breaking off three plays of 20+ yards. We could save a little money by looking in the direction of Randall Cobb, especially when we consider the fact that Larry Fitzgerald and Cooper Kupp have found some success out of the slot against the Cowboys in successive weeks. Davante Adams is questionable in the wake of the nasty hit he took in Week 4 against the Chicago Bears, so we’ll need to keep a close eye on the injury reports to further zero in on a stacking option. Regardless of which direction you head in that regard, Rodgers is one of the top quarterbacks to key in on in Week 5.
Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense vs San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense
The Indianapolis Colts have had a challenging start to the season without Andrew Luck behind center, but Jacoby Brissett has actually stepped in to do a serviceable job. That’s pretty impressive when you consider the fact that he came over in a trade after the start of the season, and it seems like he has a nice handle on the offense already. He delivered a solid performance against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3, as he tossed for one score and ran for two more. Brissett showed some flashes in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks last week as well, but the day didn’t turn out so well as the Colts got their doors blown off after halftime.
That shouldn’t be a problem this week when the San Francisco 49ers come to town. The 49ers have been victimized for seven passing scores so far, and the number of passing yards allowed is creeping up on a weekly basis. Cam Newton and Russell Wilson were held under the 200-yard threshold in the first two games of the season, but Jared Goff and Carson Palmer found some more holes in subsequent weeks, as they threw for 292 and 357 yards respectively. T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief remain the top options for stacking purposes, and they could both find some room to operate against a struggling secondary.
Matchups to Avoid
Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense
When we have a team that’s struggling on the ground heading into a matchup against a run defense that’s been stout thus far, a bunch of red flags go up. That’s especially true in this case, as the Arizona Cardinals are having a tough time making anything happen on the ground in the absence of David Johnson. The Philadelphia Eagles completely bottled up Melvin Gordon III last week, and the Cardinals aren’t bringing that kind of player to the table for this tilt. Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington are serviceable options, but an Eagles club that’s only allowing 70.8 rushing yards per game shouldn’t have much trouble mitigating the damage. You can safely look elsewhere for affordable running back options.
Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense
We highlighted the Detroit Lions running game as a unit to avoid last week, but they actually went out and produced a decent outing against a stout Minnesota Vikings rushing defense. Ameer Abdullah ran for 94 yards and a score, which is a stat line that looks all the more impressive when you consider the opponent he was facing. Alas, we’re going back to the well again, as the Lions are facing off against a Carolina Panthers club that has been tough against the run as well. No running back has produced anything noteworthy against the Panthers so far. The best back they have faced, LeSean McCoy, was held to just 43 total yards in Week 2. We’ll pass on Abdullah and company this week, but we’ll certainly be keeping him in mind for future weeks as the matchups allow.
Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense at Oakland Raiders Passing Defense
To say that Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens passing attack has had a lackluster start to the season would be an understatement. Flacco has only thrown for more than 200 yards twice, and he delivered one of the most dreadful performances you will ever see in Week 3’s blowout loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. We’ll be avoiding Flaco for the foreseeable future, and that includes this week in a tough matchup against the Oakland Raiders. Outside of Week 3 against Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, the Raiders defense has been pretty solid. The unit will need to step it up even more in the absence of Derek Carr, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t do just that against a struggling offense.
Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense
If you take a gander at the production of Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars pass catchers so far this year, there’s a huge outlier performance in Week 3 against the Ravens - and not much else. Bortles exploded to throw for four scores in his jaunt across the pond, but he’s been held in check in his three other outings. There’s nothing to suggest his fortunes will be changing this week against a tough Pittsburgh Steelers defense. The Steelers have allowed just three passing scores so far, and no signal caller has thrown for more than 235 yards against them. That’s not the kind of production we’re looking at for our lineups, so we’ll take a pass on Bortles and company this week.
Oakland Raiders Passing Offense vs Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense
As we mentioned already, Carr will be on the sidelines for the Raiders, and that doesn’t bode well for the offense as a whole. E.J. Manuel will take the reins in Carr’s absence, so we can safely temper expectations for the Raiders offense for the time being. Manuel looked decent in relief last week, but there’s a big difference between a surprise appearance and facing off against a club that’s had a week to prepare for you. While the Ravens are struggling on offense, the defense remains solid - with the notable exception of the implosion against the Jaguars. We’ll be passing on Manuel and company, as there’s plenty of other affordable signal callers in more appealing matchups to choose from this week.
Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime via email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.