FANTASY PLAYS: Matchup scares, performance illusions
There are only two NFL teams with byes this week and the Vikings and Buccaneers offenses won't hurt fantasy teams too much beyond losing standout wide receiver Mike Evans and the Minnesota defense. Be prepared to go full throttle in Week 6 with most of your best players in your starting arsenal.
FALCONS MATCHUP SCARE?
You may be tempted to bench every notable Falcon other than Julio Jones as the Falcons travel to Seattle. But as we saw with Brandon Marshall and Bilal Powell in Week 4, the Seahawks are not a total shutdown unit. Tevin Coleman has the receiving chops and versatility to attack the Seattle defense underneath and on the edges, and Devonta Freeman has the speed and tenacity to stand up to the Seahawks linebackers and may be able to finish off a scoring drive with a TD run. Atlanta has the desired personnel to match up with Seattle and compete in what could be a high-scoring affair on both sides. Matt Ryan is a Top 10 fantasy quarterback this week, so don't hesitate to start some key Falcons playmakers despite the seemingly daunting matchup. Do check the weather on gameday before you fully consider Ryan and Coleman, though. Rainy conditions are expected, although the Atlanta offense may only be adversely affected if there are strong winds.
HOPKINS, MILLER BOUNCEBACK
This appears to be the rebound week for two notable Texans who have disappointed fantasy owners so far. DeAndre Hopkins has not cracked 60 receiving yards in four of five games this year and Lamar Miller still does not have a rushing score. Hopkins should look more like his expected and projected self against the Colts' 28th-ranked pass defense. Moving the ball well enough against a team that allows 301 passing yards per game should put Miller in position to convert some short scoring opportunities. Many fantasy analysts predict his best performance so far will come this week.
ELLIOTT VS PACKERS DEFENSE
Ezekiel Eliott is the NFL's leading rusher, but the Packers have easily featured the league's best run defense so far, allowing an incredibly stingy 42.8 rushing yards per game with one score. When you consider they have faced the Lions, Giants, Jaguars and Vikings so far, who have rushing attacks ranked 23rd or lower, the Pack looks less intimidating. Not that you would bench him, but don't be worried about Elliott this week. He is going to be a major focal point of the Cowboys offense again as they try to control the clock and keep the Packers offense off the field as much as possible.
Brian Hoyer is suddenly fantasy relevant again with three consecutive outings of 300-plus passing yards and two TD passes. Rookie Jordan Howard has two consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Cameron Meredith busted out with nine catches for 120 yards and a TD last week. But before you get too excited about your Bears, keep in mind that Hoyer threw for two TDs and nine interceptions in his final six starts for the Browns in 2014 after he had apparently played well enough to earn the starting job. The Texans then moved on from him at QB this past offseason. He can implode at any time. Erratic QB play could hurt Meredith, and we need to see more from him before we start him. It's hard to not continue riding with Howard, though, as his versatility can ensure a decent floor in point-per-reception leagues.
MARIOTA VS BROWNS
The Browns' 26th-ranked pass defense has allowed an AFC-high 13 TD passes, so you may be moved to start Marcus Mariota this week. He threw three TD passes and ran for 60 yards and a score at Miami. But before you plug him in to start, keep in mind he did not throw a TD pass and was intercepted twice by Oakland's league-worst pass defense in his third game of the season. Mariota has to show us more than one good outing before we can be convinced to use him over a more proven passer based on just a friendly matchup. Ryan or Matthew Stafford would be safer over Mariota this week.
STICKING WITH GREEN
This appears to be a very trying week for A.J. Green at first glance. The Patriots are good at limiting an opponent's top offensive weapon. But you shouldn't bench your fantasy superstars in these kinds of matchups that the best players often relish, exceeding expectations in an unexpected spot. Defenses don't always win the tough matchups by default. Keep your faith in Green. He could at least pad his numbers in catch-up mode if New England dominates.
Carson Palmer returns from a concussion this week, and he is another QB you can consider over Mariota. Only the Raiders have a worse pass defense than the Jets, who have surrendered 303 passing yards per game and 12 TD passes. Palmer will get back on track this week and John Brown is an outstanding start as a third wideout.
The Giants are struggling offensively, and face Baltimore's fifth-ranked pass defense, which would seem to lead to more issues. But at home, with the determination to silence the very vocal criticism of media and fans, we could see them play better. The Ravens have allowed nine TD passes, so we could see Odell Beckham Jr. get in the end zone again, while getting more from Sterling Shepard. Bobby Rainey is also emerging as a nifty PPR option at RB.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com