Living in the daily game world for any sport requires a lot of work with little reward for the casual player unless the stars align for one magical day. Most daily owners need to decide whether to be a grinder or a swing-for-the-fences player. One path keeps you alive for more days of action with the idea of building your bankroll slowly. The other has a donation feel while offering a pot of gold at the end of a distant rainbow.
Since the daily sites started offering the million-dollar overall prize, I’ve been trying to find my get-out-of-jail-free card. The goal is to handicap the main football slate on Sunday and invest in the best possible combination of foundation players. If my key players have success, I will be in the hunt with many teams. Each football season, I expect to be in the mix in four or five weeks.
All players listed are for the main slate of games on Sunday.
Last week, an excellent start to your team build came from one of the quarterback stacks (Patrick Mahomes/Tyreek Hill), but it ended up being a single tie to Mahomes. In addition, two of the top five running backs (Saquon Barkley and David Montgomery, the latter of whom left stats on the table due to a third-quarter injury) were listed as foundation players. Deebo Samuel and Terry McLaurin ranked in the top 10 of my core players at wide receiver. Noah Fant did his job as a value top 10 tight end.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay
In his first start in New England as an opposing quarterback, Brady left town with a win and the NFL career record for passing yards (80,560), but the Patriots’ defense held him to no passing touchdowns with the worst showing (269 yards with a 51.2 percent completion rate) of the season. He didn’t have one completion over 20 yards despite attempting 43 passes.
In his two home starts, Brady posted two elite games (379/4 and 276/5). He’s averaging 41 passes while gaining over 20 yards on 19.3 percent of his completions.
Miami has been a disaster offensively (3.6 yards per rush and 5.3 yards per pass attempt), leading to their defense being on the field for over 36 minutes in three of four matchups. The Dolphins have given up rushing scores (5) while struggling on defense over the past three contests (93 points allowed). Derek Carr (386/2) had the most success at quarterback. Overall, Miami held wideouts to 49 catches for 679 yards and three touchdowns.
Brady has plenty of experience against the Dolphins (23-12), but those 12 wins are the most by any team against him. Over this span, he passed for 8,185 yards (234 per game) with 67 touchdowns and 27 interceptions.
The Bucs' defense needs to give up points and yards for Tampa to post a winning passing score for the daily games. Miami can’t run, and Jacoby Brissett has yet to establish a deep passing game. This week, Brady looks to be a top play, but his ceiling may be limited, especially if the Bucs decide to control the lock with the run game.
Best Opposing Options: DeVante Parker ($5,400), Jaylen Waddle ($4,800), Mike Gesicki ($4,200)
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Over the past three weeks, Dallas pumped the brakes on the passing game (75 combined passes) while running the ball exceptionally well (106/603/5). They’ve scored 10 offensive touchdowns over their last 24 possessions. Prescott gained 8.8 yards per pass attempt over his last three starts, with success in his completion rate (77.3).
The Giants’ defense struggled in two games against the run (28/165/1 and 39/170/2) while holding wideouts to 10.8 yards per catch (61/659/3). However, the Saints’ wide receivers hit on five long plays (58, 21, 18, 15, 15), leading to their quarterbacks gaining 9.0 yards per pass attempt. New York’s worst showing against the quarterback came in Week 2 (Taylor Heinicke – 336 yards and two scores).
Dallas gives up plenty of passing yards (1,344 – 336 per game), and has allowed 4.9 yards per rush over its past three matchups (quarterbacks ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries).
Many daily players will be attracted to the direction of the Cowboys’ run game in Week 5, but a couple of quick scores by New York could lead to a big day for Prescott. Some pieces to the winning puzzle should come out of this matchup.
Best Opposing Options: Saquon Barkley ($7,300), Kenny Golladay ($5,900), Kadarius Toney ($4,000), John Ross ($3,400), Evan Engram ($3,200)
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
After two great fantasy games (309/5 and 431/4), Murray proved to be human over his last two starts (JAX, LAR) on the road (316/1 and 307/2). His completion rate (76.1) and yards per pass attempt (9.5) remain well above his first two seasons (65.8 and 7.0). In his two starts vs. the 49ers in 2020, he passed for only 477 yards with one passing touchdown. He made up for this shortfall with success in the run game (13/91/1 and 8/75).
San Francisco has dropped two straight games to Green Bay and Seattle, putting them in a must-win situation while expecting to start rookie quarterback Trey Lance. Their run defense allowed 89 carries to running backs for 350 yards (3.9 yards per rush) and three touchdowns, but Jalen Hurts (10/82/1) tested the 49ers with his legs. San Fran defended wide receivers well in three games (13/118/1, 6/138, and 11/109/2), but their defense gave up 91 points in their three worst matchups.
The great DeAndre Hopkins has been missing in action for two games (3/21 and 4/67) while still looking for his first game with over 100 yards receiving. A rib injury has slowed him down over the past couple of weeks, but Murray needs him to play well to beat their division rival. I expect Murray to play much better at home, and the Cardinals will pressure the 49ers’ defense in the deep passing game. A Murray/Hopkins combo may fly under the radar due to matchup and concerns with Hopkins’ health.
Best Opposing Options: Trey Sermon ($5,000), Deebo Samuel ($7,100), Brandon Aiyuk ($4,500), George Kittle ($5,600)
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
After an early touchdown to Justin Jefferson, Cousins had no answer for the Browns’ defense in Week 4. He finished with a season-low 203 yards with one touchdown. The Vikings enter this week’s matchup with concerns with Dalvin Cook’s ankle. Cousins played well at home in 2020 (2,378 combined yards with 22 touchdowns), and he beat the Seahawks for 325 yards and three scores in Week 3. In two matchups vs. the Lions last season, he passed for 625 yards with seven touchdowns.
Detroit gave up 10 touchdowns and 76 points over their first two games against the 49ers and Packers. Their pass defense (10.6 yards per pass attempt) continues to allow too many big plays (19 plays over 20 yards with four gaining 40 yards or more). Three wideouts (Deebo Samuel – 9/189/1, Davante Adams – 8/121, and Darnell Mooney – 5/125) had the most success.
The Vikings’ defense played much better over the past two games (31 points allowed), but offenses can beat them on the ground (113/542/4 – 4.8 yards per rush). The battle here falls in Minnesota’s success with the run game in the red zone (the Lions have allowed six rushing scores in four games).
For Cousins to come in, he needs Detroit to stay in the game for four quarters.
Best Opposing Options: D’Andre Swift ($6,100), Kalif Raymond ($4,800), Quintez Cephus ($4,300), Amon-Ra St. Brown ($3,500), T.J. Hockenson ($5,500)
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
The Packers and Rodgers climbed off the mat after a disappointing start to the season in New Orleans. Green Bay has only attempted 32 passes per game over this stretch despite three straight wins, leading to 764 yards and nine scores. Rodgers hasn’t passed for over 261 yards in any matchup. He ranks 19th in quarterback scoring (20.66 FPPG) while trailing Patrick Mahomes by 45.45 fantasy points.
The Bengals played better than expected vs. the run (101/374/4) over the first four weeks, with most of the damage coming to the quarterback position (21/97/1). Kirk Cousins beat Cincy for 362 yards and two scores in Week 1, and his wideouts enjoyed a big day (22/250/2).
Green Bay will be without their top cornerback (Jaire Alexander), and their defense faced three offenses (NO, DET, PIT) that struggled to pass the ball.
This matchup has the makings of a high-scoring game, and the combination of Rodgers to Davante Adams may very well be the best on the day in Week 5.
Best Opposing Options: Joe Mixon ($6,200), Ja’Marr Chase ($5,800), Tyler Boyd ($5,300), Tee Higgins ($5,000)
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Last week Cincinnati fell behind by a couple of touchdowns, giving Burrow a chance to let it loose in the passing game. He finished with a season-high in completions (25), pass attempts (32) and passing yards (348) while gaining over 20 yards on seven plays. He currently sits 18th in quarterback scoring (20.68 FPPG). The Bengals have only attempted 107 passes, but Burrow is still on pace for 4,199 passing yards and 38 touchdowns. His best days lie ahead, and Cincinnati has one of the better young receiving corps in the league.
Green Bay gave up five passing touchdowns to the Saints in Week 1 despite allowing only 151 passes, helped by a low number of attempts. Over four games, the Packers held quarterbacks to 6.5 yards per pass attempt with 10 touchdowns.
Burrow needs Green Bay to jump out to an early lead. If not, Cincy will try to slow down the clock with the run game.
Best Opposing Options: Aaron Jones ($7,900), Davante Adams ($8,200), Randall Cobb ($4,000), Robert Tonyan ($4,300)
Foundation Core Players
RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Over the past two games, the greatness of Barkley has started to shine. In that span, he’s gained 220 combined yards with three touchdowns and 11 catches while being on the field for 116 of 133 plays (87.2 percent). Despite a slow start to the season, he moved to 10th in running back scoring (15.90 FPPG) in PPR leagues. The Giants gave Barkley 40 combined touches over their past two contests.
Dallas faced only 50 rushes by running backs over the first four weeks, leading to 242 yards with no rushing touchdowns. The equalizer for Barkley comes from poor play by the Cowboys covering backs in the passing game (33/224 on 38 targets).
Not the best matchup on paper, but volume of chances and a possible correction stats game for the Cowboys’ defense gives Barkley a chance at adding more follow-through to his recent success.
RB D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
Swift let fantasy players down in Week 4 (49 combined yards and four catches). Despite the appearance of a split role with Jamaal Williams, the Lions had Swift on the field for a season-high 73 percent of their plays against the Bears. His best value continues to come in the passing game (23/199/1 – 8.7 yards per catch), but the Lions have struggled to get him in space in the run game (41/139/1 – 3.4 yards per rush). In two games against the Vikings last season, Swift gained 167 combined yards with one touchdown and six catches.
Minnesota has yet to allow a TD reception to a running back (20/143 on 22 targets), but they’ve struggled to defend backs in the run game (102/491/3).
Swift makes the most sense as an opposing piece to a Vikings’ stack, but he needs the Lions to chase on the scoreboard. His pass-catching floor helps his playability while having an explosive ceiling if Swift hits paydirt a couple of times.
RB Damien Williams, Chicago Bears
David Montgomery was on pace for an elite running back game last week, but he left in the third quarter with a knee injury. Chicago finished the game with 194 combined yards with three touchdowns and two catches from their running backs. Williams slips right into the starting role, and the Bears should have him on the field for close to 80 percent of their plays.
The Raiders have struggled in three games against the running back position (434 combined yards with six touchdowns and 17 catches). Las Vegas allows 4.9 yards per rush while playing better than expected against the quarterbacks (6.1 yards per pass attempt with nine sacks).
Justin Fields had a progression game vs. the Lions. He needs to play well in this matchup for Williams to be a viable option at running back.
WR Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
In my daily game report earlier this week, I talk about Adams' matchup against Cincinnati, plus a look at CeeDee Lamb and Mike Gesicki. Both players project to be in my perfect lineup.
WR Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert struggled to get Allen in space over the past two games (8/50/1 and 7/36 – 5.7 yards per catch), but he did see 23 targets over this span. Allen is on pace for 119 catches for 1,250 yards with four scores. I mentioned Allen's success at home over the past couple of seasons last week, but he fell short of expectations.
Cleveland held wide receivers to 45 catches for 607 yards and three touchdowns over 76 targets over the first four weeks. Tyreek Hill dominated the Browns’ defense in Week 1 (11/197/1).
I expect Allen to be a lower-percentage own in Week 5. My bet comes on his quarterback and his home resume.
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RB David Johnson, Houston Texans
Last week we saw the value of pass-catching back with a low salary in the daily space. In a chaser game, Kenneth Gainwell finished with 89 combined yards with a touchdown and six catches. He had a similar price point ($4,300) as Johnson this week. Houston had him on the field for 57 percent of their plays against the Bills. He finished with 48 combined yards with three catches.
Offenses ran the ball 99 times against the Patriots over the past three matchups, leading to 413 yards with two touchdowns.
New England should play from the lead, giving Johnson more chances on passing downs. With a score and a 5/50 type day in the passing game, he would be a value based on his salary.
WR Josh Reynolds, Tennessee Titans
In his first game with the Titans with starting snaps (78 percent), Reynolds had six catches for 59 yards on nine targets. A.J. Brown returned to practice this week, and Tennessee removed him from the injury report. With Julio Jones expected to miss another game, Reynolds assumes the WR2 role against the Jaguars.
Jacksonville allowed over 200 yards receiving to each opponent's wide receivers (13/200/1, 14/216/1, 17/238, 18/238/2). The Jaguars will game plan to slow Derrick Henry, forcing the Titans to beat them via the pass.
In my perfect lineup, I tried to avoid any gambles while riding one stud. My semi-cheat at running back allows me to pivot to Alexander Mattison from Damien Williams if Dalvin Cook ends up being a late scratch. With the extra $100 in salary, I would then upgrade to Washington’s defense.
To have success, the Packers/Bengals game must be high scoring, and Ja’Marr Chase needs an impact game to separate my team from the field. I’m hoping for bounce games for CeeDee Lamb and Keenan Allen. A.J. Brown made sense as a viable out at WR2 based on his matchup.
More Fantasy Week 5 Coverage:
- DFS Picks, Plays and Values
- Rankings & Stat Projections
- Touches, Targets, Volume & Regression Index
- QB Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
- RB Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
- WR Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
- TE Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
Senior analyst Shawn Childs is a multi-sport, high-stakes fantasy legend with lifetime earnings in the high six-figures. He has been providing in-depth, analytical break downs for years all while helping his subscribers to countless titles and winnings across season-long & DFS. An inaugural inductee of the NFBC Hall of Fame, Shawn can teach you how to prep like a champ!
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