Week 6 Vantage Points

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Week 6 Vantage Points

Welcome to Vantage Points, a column I will be writing weekly during the NFL season as a window into every game of the week. With access limited more than ever this year and with no preseason games for us to put our own eyes on, I have the utmost respect for sportswriters covering the NFL on a daily basis, giving us a window into what these teams might look like and where their strengths and weaknesses — beyond the obvious — lie.

The purpose of this column is to highlight the work of those writers, but to also turn some of their observations into actionable fantasy advice. The goal isn’t just to highlight obvious angles, but perhaps some of the lower-end ones that could lead to fantasy advantages. I’m also taking advantage of watching press conferences and reading transcripts from coaches and players, as well as using the NFL’s Next Gen Stats info to look for fantasy-relevant angles. I’ll also cover notable injuries.

I will publish this column twice weekly — on Wednesdays to preview the Thursday night game (except for this week, of course), and on Fridays to preview the Sunday slate.

All times are Eastern.

Chicago at Carolina (Sun, 1 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Bears…

I don’t think anyone would argue that QB Nick Foles was great last week against the Bucs. But he did enough to win against a tough opponent, and that’s why he is the clear better option to handle the offense than Mitchell Trubisky.

Beat writer Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune writes that one throw really distills why — a beautiful 17-yard throw to RB David Montgomery on a wheel route to set up Chicago’s game-winning field goal. It’s the kind of throw that earns trust from coaches and teammates… because Foles himself needs to trust players to make plays. It was similar to his game-winner to Anthony Miller in the Bears’ improbable comeback victory against the Falcons a week earlier.

Both throws came against the blitz. “If you go back and watch both those plays, he was under distress,” passing game coordinator Dave Ragone said. “He had someone in his face early and was about to get hit. Both of those throws were trust-belief throws that he made that were game-changers. And both [throws], you could argue, won the football game.”

Foles could be under distress a little more — the Bears have to replace LG James Daniels, out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. According to the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs, the Bears will look in-house to either Alex Bars (who replaced Daniels against Tampa) or Rashaad Coward to fill the void. But as Biggs notes, the injury isn’t just a problem for Foles, because the Bears’ run game — which has produced just 63 yards on 30 carries the last two games — has really struggled.

We’ll see if it was just facing some good run defenses (especially Tampa) that held the Bears back. Carolina’s 133.4 rush YPG is the 8th-worst in the NFL, and the Panthers ceded a monster game to Todd Gurley last week. They had to put DT Kawann Short (shoulder) on season-ending IR this week. We really need Montgomery to shine in Week 6.

Montgomery is getting the usage that only true bell cows can dream of — since Tarik Cohen went down, Montgomery has played 98-of-102 RB snaps (96%), run 54-of-57 RB routes (95%), and seen all 14 RB targets for the Bears. And the Panthers have allowed 43 completions to RBs (tied for the most), and a 28% target share to RBs (second-most). It’s set up for Montgomery to absolutely blow up in this game.

By the way, WR Allen Robinson has gone over 90 yards in all three games Foles has played this season. It’s the first time he’s gone over 90 yards in three consecutive games in his career. So Foles is clearly a fantastic development for ARob, who was my single favorite third-round target this year.

What They’re Saying About the Panthers…

One reason for optimism with this Panthers’ offense that fantasy players might not have expected is the play of the offensive line, which hasn’t given up a sack in two consecutive games. That’s the first time that’s happened since 2011, as the Charlotte Observer’s Alaina Getzenberg points out. She credits the return of LT Russell Okung from a groin injury as a catalyst. Against Atlanta, the Panthers had their first fully healthy game up front (in addition to Okung, LG Chris Reed spent three weeks on the COVID list).

But Getzenberg also notes how OC Joe Brady’s scheme — designed on getting the ball out quickly — helps both the line and QB Teddy Bridgewater. As she points out, Teddy’s average time to throw of 2.55 seconds is 6th-lowest in the NFL, per NextGenStats, and the receivers are getting open well enough for the strategy to work.

Brady has Teddy playing to his strengths. Check out what NGS has to say about him — Bridgewater is averaging the 5th-lowest air yards per attempt in the NFL, the 4th-lowest pressure rate in the NFL, and the 2nd-lowest percentage of tight-window throws. He’s throwing accurately and quickly to wide-open receivers. That’s a hell of a way to have success. However, the Bears are allowing the 4th-lowest passer rating on short throws (under 10 air yards) this year — 85.1.

Bridgewater talked this week about getting the ball into the hands of WR Curtis Samuel more, because he’s been great on third downs. According to The Athletic’s Joseph Person, Samuel is tied for the NFL lead with 8 third-down catches over the last three games. Coach Matt Rhule said Samuel has earned his respect because “he does the dirty jobs” like blocking in the run game. Samuel, though, has been limited in practice this week with a knee injury.

Don’t expect the Panthers to have RB Christian McCaffrey this week — he wasn’t practicing on Wednesday, so his 21-day window to return from IR hasn’t begun. That could mean the Panthers expect him to be out multiple weeks more, even though he’s currently eligible to return at any time. It’s Mike Davis time still, and Davis has been an elite RB1 for fantasy. Davis has also acknowledged he’ll be playing pissed off this week because it’s a revenge game, as Person noted in the piece linked above.

Dolan’s Takeaways

I think Robinson — the NFL’s target leader — is a WR1 with Foles in there. Remember the Panthers have had top CB Donte Jackson dealing with a toe injury, as well. Montgomery is an RB1 by usage, and I think he finally produces like one this week.

Anderson is a WR2 at worst with Bridgewater. He should be in your lineup every week. As for Davis, I’m actually buying the revenge angle. I think you can justify playing both RBs from this game for DFS purposes.

Cincinnati at Indianapolis (Sun, 1 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Bengals…

The Bengals had a rough go of it against the Ravens last week, scoring just 3 points. The biggest takeaway was the utter disappearance of WR AJ Green, who has been trending downward all season and left the action with a hamstring injury.

But was it just the hamstring injury? Green’s effort has been abysmal, and you have to wonder if he simply wants out. That’s what Paul Dehner of The Athletic is thinking, but there likely isn’t going to be much of a market for Green and his salary.

Green talked to reporters on Thursday after having four days to simmer down, and he essentially took the company line. He said he doesn’t want to get traded, nor is he blaming coach Zac Taylor or QB Joe Burrow for his lack of production so far. It’s not hard to see why Green would be emotional given all he’s been through the last couple of years, but the fact remains he isn’t a useful fantasy player right now.

What They’re Saying About the Colts…

Obviously, you have to keep an eye on the Colts’ COVID status for this game following multiple people within the organization testing positive on Friday. Upon retesting, those positive tests were determined to be false positives, but obviously every precaution will be taken here.

If the Colts aren’t going to get RB Jonathan Taylor going in a big way this week, when will they? QB Philip Rivers is coming off a poor game, to say the least, and the Bengals give up the NFL’s third-most rushing yards, at 159.0 per game.

Moreover, Cincy continues to be utterly decimated at defensive tackle. While Geno Atkins (shoulder) returned from injury last week, they had to put DT Mike Daniels (elbow) and DE Sam Hubbard (elbow) on IR, and during last week’s loss to the Ravens, DJ Reader went down with a season-ending quadriceps injury. This is the game the Colts should use to get Taylor his first true breakout performance as a rookie.

Part of the problem, you might assume, is that Rivers has been pressured quite a bit more the last couple of weeks. You would be right about that — according to Next Gen Stats, Rivers has been pressured on 31.3% of dropbacks the last two weeks, after facing pressure on just 13.8% of dropbacks over the first three weeks of the season (3rd-lowest rate in NFL). So he is getting pressured more.

However, it’s been his performance without pressure — just a 56.8% completion and 5.9 YPA — that has really been Rivers’ problem the last couple of weeks. He simply isn’t playing well in the last two games. The Bengals don’t have a formidable pass rush by any stretch, but Rivers is not throwing the ball well at all, and the Bengals’ 5 interceptions when not pressuring the QB are the most in the league.

Here’s a thought, but maybe the Colts should involve TE Mo Alie-Cox more. Alie-Cox has caught 2 of Rivers’ 4 TDs this year, and leads all TEs with 3.4 yards per route run (PFF). The problem? He’s run just 16 routes the last two games with Jack Doyle (29 routes) and Trey Burton (35 routes) healthy. Of course, that’s not a factor this week with Alie-Cox (knee) out this week.

Dolan’s Takeaways

I’d be dropping Green if I can’t find a taker for him on his name value alone. Maybe if you think things hit a boiling point last week and he’ll turn it around you can see how he looks this week, but it just doesn’t appear that things are going to end positively for him.

This has to be the week the Colts get Taylor going. I’m not trying to suggest that he’s looked like Zeke Elliott out there, but Rivers struggled last week and coach Frank Reich seems to have no idea how to work in the personnel with this passing game. I think Taylor should break out this week given all of Cincy’s injuries on the defensive line.

Detroit at Jacksonville (Sun, 1 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Lions…

The Lions are one of those teams with whom you wonder what they did to the football gods. Even coming off a bye, the Lions might not be completely healthy — starting C Frank Ragnow had a groin injury that popped up in practice on Wednesday.

Lions RB Adrian Peterson did not practice on Thursday with a non-COVID related illness. He was back in the building on Friday, so it appears he’ll be on track to play against the Jags’ poor run defense.

The Jaguars’ defense is going to get a boost, though, with rookie CB CJ Henderson (shoulder) practicing in full this week. It will be fun to watch him go toe-to-toe with WR Kenny Golladay.

The Jaguars are listing pass rusher Josh Allen (knee) questionable for this game.

What They’re Saying About the Jaguars…

This might not be the best week for QB Gardner Minshew. Not only are WRs DJ Chark (ankle) and Laviska Shenault (hamstring) banged up, but he’s going against a Lions defense that plays the NFL’s highest rate of man coverage (61%).

According to SIS, Minshew has struggled mightily against man coverage in his career, averaging just a 49% completion rate and 5.8 yards per attempt, vs. 69% and an 8.0 YPA against zone coverage. YIkes. You can bet Matt Patricia will know that.

It looks like Minshew will have Shenault, who returned to practice on Thursday, but Chark seems more unlikely to play. The Jaguars also didn’t have TE Tyler Eifert at practice on Thursday with a neck injury, so we’ll probably see more of James O’Shaughnessy, who had been splitting time with Eifert recently. For what it’s worth, Chark, and Eifert are listed as questionable. Shenault doesn’t have a gameday designation. The Lions likely won’t have CB Desmond Trufant (hamstring).

Meanwhile, RB James Robinson has seen 13 of his 15 targets against zone coverage this year. So it might not be a great week for him in the passing game either. The Jags also could be getting RB Devine Ozigbo (hamstring) back from IR in the coming weeks.

Dolan’s Takeaways

I’m curious to see if the Lions self-scouted over their bye and try to get rookie RB D’Andre Swift more involved going forward, especially in the passing game. Still, this is a good matchup for Peterson and he’s a high-end FLEX play. Obviously, I’m playing Golladay even with Henderson in there.

For Jacksonville, Shenault and WR Keelan Cole have a good matchup with the Lions, though Minshew’s struggles with man coverage give me some pause. Minshew is a mediocre streamer this week as we try to weigh his struggles with man coverage against the Lions’ struggles to slow down opposing offenses overall.

Robinson remains a low-end RB1, though it’ll be interesting to see if Ozigbo has a role if and when he’s healthy.

Atlanta at Minnesota (Sun, 1 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Falcons…

Obviously, the Falcons’ status for this game is up in the air if they continue to have more positive COVID tests. DT Marlon Davidson tested positive early this week, and an assistant coach tested positive on Thursday, leading to Atlanta shutting down its facility. Tests came back clean on Friday, so the game is on unless more tests come back positive. Just keep an eye on it.

The Falcons are in their first game of the post-Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff era. But unlike Bill O’Brien’s firing in Houston, I don’t get the impression that a burden has been lifted from the Falcons players’ shoulders. By all accounts, Quinn was a beloved players’ coach who just happened to hit his head on the ceiling of where this team could go. Check out S Ricardo Allen’s comments here in this Atlanta Journal-Constitution story if you want a picture into how Quinn’s players felt about him.

Though Quinn’s failings on the defensive side of the football are probably the main reason he got fired, let’s note that QB Matt Ryan is in the midst of a poor season. His current 63.2% completion would be his worst since 2011. His 7.2 YPA would be his worst since 2013. His 90.2 passer rating would be his worst since 2015. His 294.4 YPG and 1.4 passing TD per game would be his worst since 2017. Of course, the hamstring injury to Julio Jones isn’t helping matters — Ryan threw for 450 yards in Week 1 with a healthy Julio, but is at just 255.5 YPG since Week 2, when Julio aggravated the injury. Still, it’s not hard to see that Ryan doesn’t look good on tape.

While Julio doesn’t have a gameday designation for this week, which means he’s going to play, it still should be a monster game for WR Calvin Ridley. The Vikings’ 9 TD surrendered to WRs is tied for the most in the NFL with Dallas, and both DK Metcalf and Davante Adams scored twice on Minnesota.

One thing I wanted to get into here. If you’ve been reading Vantage Points religiously this year, you’ll know that I typically have at least one link to a story by ESPN’s Vaughn McClure in this section. He was the most reliable and detailed Falcons beat writer, so his work was important to this column. Vaughn passed away suddenly at the age of 48 this week, and I’ve taken the time to read a lot of the tributes to him on social media. He was clearly a special person and a great reporter. I’ve only talked to him in a professional setting — on SiriusXM Radio — but I regret I didn’t know him better. I’ll miss his work, but more importantly, a lot of his colleagues will miss a dear friend.

What They’re Saying About the Vikings…

Presuming this game is played, RB Dalvin Cook (adductor strain) will not suit up for Minnesota, which means “The Federalist” Alexander Mattison will be in every DFS lineup known to man. The Vikings have their bye in Week 7, which helps make the decision to sit Cook even easier. For what it’s worth, the Falcons had their season-best performance last week in passing yards allowed (203), but their worst in rush yards allowed (166) against Carolina.

Though I’ve already established that Dan Quinn is a coach who had a ton of respect from his players, it’s hard not to realize that his poor defensive performances were probably the reason he lost his job this week. In eulogizing Quinn’s tenure, The Athletic’s Tori McElhaney put it bluntly: “A large part of the story hinges on the collapses, miscommunications and under-performances of the defense. Before the Carolina game, Atlanta’s defense ranked 31st in the league in points and total yards allowed per game. It wasn’t forcing many turnovers either. Through five games, the defense has forced only five turnovers. Three of those came against Dallas in Week 2, and Dallas still came back from a 29-10 deficit to win.”

I don’t think Atlanta’s defense will be good overnight, but maybe there is some improvement under interim HC Raheem Morris. Atlanta currently ranks 31st in YPG defensively, and tied for 31st in scoring defense. Everything suggests this should be a fantastic spot for Minnesota’s offense.

Dolan’s Takeaways

I know some fantasy players have justifiably run out of patience with Ryan, but with Julio and Ridley back in there this week, I’d be willing to give him another shot against a struggling Minnesota defense. If he can’t get it done this week and you haven’t cut bait already, I expect you won’t hesitate in Week 7. As for Julio, if you have him, you gotta just suck it up and play him, even if the hamstring gives you the willies.

It’s Mattison week. Everybody on planet Earth (and potentially beyond) will be starting him.

Denver at New England (Sun, 1 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Broncos…

The Broncos were expected to get RB Phillip Lindsay back from turf toe last week, and it was going to be interesting to see what the rotation between him and Melvin Gordon might look like.

Well, Gordon threw a wrench into that story by getting arrested and charged with DUI on Tuesday night. According to beat man Mike Klis, Gordon will be arraigned on November 13 — the Broncos have to travel the next day to play the Raiders in Vegas — but one would have to believe coach Vic Fangio is pissed off by this. Stay tuned for potential discipline for Gordon, as Fangio said on Wednesday. Gordon was practicing on Thursday, but we still have to monitor his status, especially since he was sent home with an illness and didn’t practice on Friday.

The Broncos are probably going to get QB Drew Lock from his shoulder injury this week — their unexpected bye because of the Patriots’ COVID situation has allowed him to get back to practicing in full. Barring a setback, he’ll be Denver’s starting QB. Lock could also get TE Noah Fant (ankle) back, though Fangio called him “truly questionable” on Friday.

If Fant is back, it’ll be fascinating to see how the Patriots choose to defend him. Bill Belichick has always had fantastic success taking out big-time TEs — the Raiders’ Darren Waller caught just 2 passes in Week 3, as Belichick wanted Derek Carr to have to beat him elsewhere. Things will be more difficult for New England to use specialty coverage on a TE if top CB Stephon Gilmore (COVID) can’t play, but Belichick has always been an elite schemer when it comes to eliminating dangerous TEs, including putting corners like Gilmore or JC Jackson. Gilmore returned to practice Thursday, so he’s trending in the right direction.

The Broncos won’t have WR KJ Hamler (hamstring) this week, by the way.

What They’re Saying About the Patriots…

BIG DISCLAIMER HERE! THE PATRIOTS CANCELED PRACTICE ON FRIDAY FOLLOWING A POSITIVE COVID-19 TEST. SO THIS GAME IS IN DANGER OF NOT BEING PLAYED AS SCHEDULED — AND BOTH THE BRONCOS AND PATS HAD THEIR BYES LAST WEEK.

The Patriots’ unexpected bye following multiple players testing positive for COVID-19 is going to have a pretty significant benefit for them — they’re expecting to get QB Cam Newton back from the COVID list, putting him on track to start against Drew Lock.

Next Gen Stats wonders whether Denver’s poor pass rush — which has pressured opposing QBs on just 19.9% of dropbacks (third-lowest in the NFL). But Newton has been virtually the same QB when not under pressure (89.8 QB rating) as when he is under pressure (89.6). And despite their pass rush not being particularly good this year without Von Miller, the Broncos are allowing just 6.1 YPA when not generating pressure, third-best in the NFL.

One thing I’d like to see is New England committing to RB Damien Harris. Harris’ 17 carries in Week 4 were the most in a game by any Patriot RB besides Sony Michel in the last two seasons (despite trailing Kansas City for more than 55 minutes). Harris’ 5.9 YPC in Week 4 were the highest by a Patriots player with 15+ carries in a game in the last two seasons, as well. It’ll be interesting to see if Harris has more success with a QB like Newton to open things up for the run game — he did those things in Week 4 with Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham in there.

Dolan’s Takeaways

The Gordon situation is bizarre — it doesn’t appear the Broncos will be disciplining him just yet, but his Friday illness throws an entire other wrench into the equation. My personal takeaway is I’m ranking Lindsay higher this week.

Fant is a low-end starter TE if he plays. If he doesn’t, more targets should be filtered to Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick, but they’ll also get more attention from Gilmore and company.

For the Pats — assuming the game is played, of course — Newton is a QB1 and I’m willing to use Harris as an RB2.

Washington at NY Giants (Sun, 1 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Football Team…

It appears that Washington will be starting QB Kyle Allen this week, despite Alex Smith’s amazing return to action. Allen injured his non-throwing shoulder when inviting contact from a defender on a run to the sidelines.

Allen’s run had some mixed reactions in Washington. OC Scott Turner, frankly, was pissed. “He doesn’t need to be doing that,” Turner said, adding that the play was “selfish.”

Meanwhile, head coach Ron Rivera likely understands Turner’s perspective on his starting QB, but couldn’t help but love the competitiveness. Rivera conceded, though, that "sometimes discretion is the better part of valor." What Allen’s play did show us, though, is the reason we kind of like him for fantasy, at least when it comes to someone like WR Terry McLaurin — he’s going to take shots and isn’t going to play overly conservative football.

Allen and the Team could be getting a big boost this week. Pro-Bowl G Brandon Scherff (MCL) has been on IR since Week 2, but he’s returned to practice in full and is looking like he should be good to play this weekend.

What They’re Saying About the Giants…

Giant QB Daniel Jones has been in a bad spot this year — it’s not great for a turnover-prone QB to be playing behind a bad offensive line on a team that doesn’t have a ton of weapons and needs to score points to make up for its poor secondary.

This is a particularly bad matchup for Danny Dimes. The Giants have allowed a 43.9% pressure rate on his dropbacks this year, per Next Gen Stats. That’s by far the worst in the NFL (no other team is above 35%). Meanwhile, Washington has managed to rank 6th in the NFL in sacks (15) while blitzing at the 9th-lowest rate in the league. Washington has the most sacks of any team that blitzes on under 25% of dropbacks.

The Giants are listing WR Darius Slayton as questionable with a foot injury, though coach Joe Judge said on Friday that he expects Slayton to play.

Dolan’s Takeaways

McLaurin is in your lineup, though he’s likely to catch a James Bradberry shadow. Bradberry remains one of the NFL’s most underrated CBs. The return of Scherff to the lineup really helps Antonio Gibson and this run game. He’s an RB2 with target hound JD McKissic a prayer FLEX if you need one.

The only Giants I’m anywhere close to comfortable playing are Slayton (as a WR3, given he’s banged up) and RB Devonta Freeman. You can take a shot on TE Evan Engram too. He had just 2 targets last week, but had a TD called back on a fake punt because of an illegal shift.

Baltimore at Philadelphia (Sun, 1 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Ravens…

It’s hard to imagine a better matchup for Raven TE Mark Andrews this week. This is an Eagle defense that surrendered 3 TD to Tyler Higbee and allowed George Kittle to catch all 15 of his targets this year. The main culprit? The atrocious LB Nate Gerry, who has been a favorite whipping boy for Eagles fans this year.

According to PFF, Gerry has been targeted 23 times this year. He’s surrendered 23 receptions for 267 yards and 4 TD. He is an uniquely awful player, and the Ravens’ run-heavy offense with a high-end receiving TE is a uniquely awful matchup for him.

Also keep an eye on the status of top CB Darius Slay (concussion), as his absence would lead to a massive upgrade for WR Marquise Brown. Slay returned to practice on a limited basis on Thursday and is on track to play.

The Bengals limited QB Lamar Jackson to just 3 yards rushing last week with what coach John Harbaugh called a “true college 4-3” with the Bengals utilizing their base personnel, but you have to wonder if the Eagles can even try that given their linebacker situation. Keep in mind that the Bengals’ players acknowledged after the game that Jackson (knee) looked dinged up, but he’s been healthy enough to practice this week, so ostensibly the Eagles are getting a “better” version of Jackson.

The area where Jackson has struggled most this year is throwing down the field, especially the last two weeks. According to Next Gen Stats, Jackson has completed just 34.8% of his passes of 10 or more air yards the last two weeks. That’s for a 74.7 QB rating, after a rating of 132.7 the first three games. Is the knee bothering him?

Still, if you want to get a picture of how teams might be slowing down the Ravens’ offensive attack, that piece by Ted Nguyen linked above is a recommended read.

Ultimately, though, it’s pretty amazing that people in Baltimore are wondering what’s wrong with the Ravens. It’s true their offense hasn’t looked great, but check out this tidbit from NFL Research: the Ravens have averaged 29.8 points per game and allowed 15.2 points per game this season. Since the 1970 merger, six teams have averaged at least 28 points per game and allowed fewer than 16 points per game for a full season. All 6 — the 1971 Cowboys, 1984 49ers, 1985 Bears, 1991 Team, 1996 Packers, and 1999 Rams — won the Super Bowl that season. So the Ravens are sure as hell as dangerous as we all thought they were, and if the offense gets in gear, watch out.

What They’re Saying About the Eagles…

It probably tells you about where this Eagles team is that a nine-point loss to Pittsburgh was probably its most encouraging performance of the year, but QB Carson Wentz played very well (I don’t think either of his two INTs last week were his fault), and he had a receiver develop into someone he looks like he can trust.

WR Travis Fulgham a big “X” kind of receiver who made consistent contested catches, attacked the ball last week in a way that an Eagle WR hasn’t since Alshon Jeffery in 2017. With Jeffery (foot) out this week (and DeSean Jackson out as well), I don’t know how Philly can take Fulgham out of the lineup — he essentially is doing what they drafted JJ Arcega-Whiteside to do in terms of contested catches. Even when those two receivers return — if they return — Fulgham has to be in there.

As for Wentz, he sure doesn’t believe Fulgham is a fluke. Wentz is a QB who trusts his receivers to make plays, and we saw what happened the first month of the season when Wentz didn’t have that trust with anyone on the perimeter. Fulgham has history on his side, too. Fulgham is one of four players since 1970 with 10 or more receptions and 150 or more receiving yards in one of his first five career games — and the first since some guy named Anquan Boldin in Week 1 of 2003. And the fact that the Eagles used Fulgham everywhere suggests he’s picked up the offense beautifully.

Wentz’s struggles this year have been analyzed to the point of overanalysis, but he really started to show signs of peak Wentz in Week 5. He’s been awful under pressure this year, but in his toughest matchup of the season against the Steelers, he was fantastic. According to Next Gen Stats, Wentz was 9/15 for 153 yards with a TD under pressure from Pittsburgh. He was blitzed on 37.5% of his dropbacks… and the Ravens blitz at the highest rate (47.1%) in the NFL. Wentz, of course, will not have RT Lane Johnson (ankle) this week. He once again has the NFL’s most decimated supporting cast. He also won’t have RG Matt Pryor (illness) this week, though Pryor has been the line’s weak link. Veteran Jamon Brown will start, and probably could keep the job.

Wentz’s trust in Fulgham was probably a huge reason for that, because one of the biggest talking points in Philly has been TE Zach Ertz’s struggles. Despite all Philly’s injuries at WR and TE, Ertz has just 15 receiving yards the last two weeks, and our Greg Cosell has noted he’s struggled to get off man coverage. Ertz said this week that he and Wentz — normally one of the most reliable relationships in the NFL — have been getting some extra work in.

The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia did a phenomenal breakdown of Ertz’s struggles. When targeted this year, Ertz is being targeted at a similar depth and with a similar degree of separation as in basically every year of Wentz’s career. But his catch rate (57.1%) and YAC (1.7 per catch) is way down. He’s had a couple of drops, and Wentz’s accuracy has been poor this year. But he’s also being targeted on a lower number of his routes, and that perhaps speaks to Cosell’s notion that he isn’t getting open as frequently, even if he creates good separation when he does get open.

Eagles GM Howie Roseman was playing some serious 4D chess when he drafted QB Jalen Hurts in the second round of April’s NFL Draft. He knew a matchup with the Ravens was on the schedule this year, and the most Hurts has contributed to Philly was in practice this week to help them prepare for Lamar Jackson.

Dolan’s Takeaways

I think this is an utterly massive game for Jackson and Andrews. I expect the Eagles’ LB corps and DC Jim Schwartz will be further embarrassed in this game. Schwartz doesn’t do much in the way of disguise, and Greg Roman will exploit the hell out of that.

This is a brutal matchup for Wentz and his young offensive line — as our Greg Cosell points out, the Ravens and Steelers are both great defenses, but the Ravens do much more in terms of disguising their fronts, which could be hugely problematic for Philadelphia starting an inexperienced rugby player (Jordan Mailata) at left tackle and a rookie (Jack Driscoll) at right tackle.

I’m comfortable playing Fulgham, however — Wentz clearly trusts him. The rest of the Eagle receiving corps is a debacle, but I figure most folks just have to kind of suck it up with Ertz and keep hoping the big game is coming.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (Sun, 1 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Browns…

With QB Baker Mayfield (ribs) dinged up and still not throwing the ball at a particularly high level overall, the Browns have utilized their elite run game to buoy their 4-1 start. But this is going to be a tough matchup to keep that going.

According to SIS, Cleveland’s 33 explosive runs are the most in the NFL, while Pittsburgh’s 6 explosive runs allowed are second-fewest in the NFL to Tampa’s 3. Pittsburgh surrendered one of those explosive runs last week, when Philly’s Miles Sanders scored a 74-yard TD. But Sanders gained just 6 yards on his other 10 carries in the game.

Browns RB Kareem Hunt has a positive run on 53% of his carries this year, which leads the NFL among RBs with 60 or more carries. Pittsburgh’s run defense has surrendered a positive run on 25% of plays, the lowest rate in the NFL. Teams are running on Pittsburgh on just 29% of plays, the lowest rate in the NFL. Cleveland is the only team in the NFL running the ball on half or more of its plays. So the numbers bear this out as a pretty bad matchup for Cleveland. He’s also dealing with a minor thigh injury this week.

Browns WR Odell Beckham did not practice on Thursday after coach Kevin Stefanski sent him home with an illness. Stefanski told reporters it was precautionary because of the times we live in now, which is understandable. It’s also notable because Jarvis Landry has missed multiple practices this week with rib and hip injuries — he took a massive shot against the Colts last week and was in pain for a while, though he returned to action. Landry is one of the toughest players in the NFL, so I’d expect him to try to play through the injury, but it’s certainly something that needs to be pointed out.

By the way, I thought this piece from The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly was interesting, on Pittsburgh’s defensive struggles (relative, of course). He suggests that communication — and not a lack of talent — is hurting matters. It was a reasonable conclusion, so maybe the Browns will try to take advantage by airing it out this week.

What They’re Saying About the Steelers…

As was the case last week against Philadelphia, the story in this game will be if QB Ben Roethlisberger can get the ball out quickly enough to avoid the pressure, most notably from DE Myles Garrett. The numbers suggest “yes.”

According to Next Gen Stats, Garrett leads the NFL with 28 QB pressures in 2020. But Roethlisberger’s 2.37 seconds average time to throw is the fastest in the NFL this season, and he also ranks 1st in completion percentage (68.4), yards per pass attempt (12.9), and passer rating (146.3) when under pressure in 2020.

Obviously, we’re going to see if rookie WR Chase Claypool’s big game last week will mean an increased role going forward. If so, will it be at the expense of the snakebitten Diontae Johnson? Johnson, who returned from a concussion to play Philly last week, left early in the game with a back injury suffered on a punt return. He’s out this week, and if Claypool can continue to perform well, Johnson may have to earn snaps going forward.

The Browns are down two safeties this week — Ronnie Harrison (concussion) and Karl Joseph (hamstring). They’ve struggled at that position all year, with Andrew Sendejo consistently getting destroyed. With Joseph (more of a box safety) out, that’s good news for TE Eric Ebron and RB James Conner. Further helping Conner would DT Larry Ogunjobi missing with a groin injury (he’s questionable).

Dolan’s Takeaways

While I’m not using the dinged-up Mayfield this week, I am using Hunt, OBJ, and perhaps Landry (as a low-end WR3). I think Cleveland will have to put up points in this one.

It’s all systems go for Pittsburgh — with Johnson out, Claypool is on the WR2 radar this week, and Roethlisberger is an excellent QB start.

Houston at Tennessee (Sun, 1 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Texans…

It’ll take some time before we see if this is a trend under playcaller Tim Kelly without Bill O’Brien in town, but there was a distinct shift in offensive approach in Houston last week, as our Graham Barfield points out.

QB Deshaun Watson set season-highs in play-action rate (29%) and air yards per attempt (11.1) in Houston’s win over Jacksonville. O'Brien was using play-action 16% of the time (third-lowest). This obviously helped the breakout game for Brandin Cooks, who was held catchless in BOB’s final game with the Texans. Of course, Our Greg Cosell said Watson was awful on play action in the game, completing just 3 passes. But there was a different approach.

I’m always hesitant to look back on opponent history to draw a conclusion, but it usually is a little more predictive against divisional opponents. Watson’s 72.6% completion, 10 passing TD, and 114.1 QB rating against the Titans are all his highest numbers against any opponent (minimum two starts).

For those dumpster-diving at TE, Darren Fells will be an option again if Jordan Akins (ankle, concussion) can’t play again. Fells scored last week; Akins is a game-time decision, according to coach Romeo Crennel. The matchup gets tougher this week for Houston with Titan DL Jeffery Simmons coming off the COVID list.

What They’re Saying About the Titans…

Titan WR AJ Brown came back from a bone bruise in Week 5, and picked up right where he left off, posting a 7/82/1 line against Buffalo. Over his last eight games, Brown is averaging 90.8 receiving YPG — only Chris Godwin, DeAndre Hopkins, and Calvin Ridley have averaged more yards over than span. Brown went over 100 yards in both of his games against the Texans last year. He sat out practice on Thursday, but you have to wonder if the Titans are just taking it easy with him as they ease him back into the lineup. WR Corey Davis, by the way, is one of only two Titans left on the COVID list.

The Titans are having success throwing the ball despite RB Derrick Henry not really getting going in the way we would expect him to. According to Next Gen Stats, Henry led RBs with 314 rush yards over expectation (RYOE) in 2019, but ranks 2nd to last in the same category this season (-61 RYOE in 2020, only Kenyan Drake with -71 RYOE is worse). Still, the Texans have allowed three different RBs to go over 100 yards rushing against them this year (Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Dalvin Cook, James Conner), the only team to do so. And with LB Benardrick McKinney (shoulder) going on season-ending IR, a bad run defense is going to get worse.

Even with Henry’s relative struggles, QB Ryan Tannehill has been fantastic on play action (as our Greg Cosell has told us for literally years, you don’t need to run effectively to set up play action). Tannehill has used play action on 34.1% of dropbacks (5th-most in the NFL) and has the NFL’s 6th-best passer rating on such throws (126.3). The Texans have allowed 75% of play-action passes to be completed against them this year, 3rd-highest in the league.

Dolan’s Takeaways

Watson is a QB1, with Will Fuller a WR2 and Cooks a WR3. I’m OK streaming Fells if Akins is out.

I think this is an absolutely massive week for Henry, who I expect will go over 100 yards with a TD in this game. Brown and Tannehill should also be in lineups.

NY Jets at Miami (Sun, 4:05 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Jets…

Joe Flacco will get his second consecutive start for the injured Sam Darnold (shoulder) this week. So there’s that.

Obviously, the biggest news of the week was the release of Le’Veon Bell, who was never happy with the Jets, except perhaps the moment he signed the dotted line. Current GM Joe Douglas didn’t negotiate the deal, and coach Adam Gase obviously never wanted him. We can rehash how bad a decision, how bad a fit, etc. all we want, but people want to know what the Jets will be doing going forward.

According to Gase, whose word is worth about as much as spit, the Jets will be increasing the role of rookie La’Mical Perine. Of course, if Bell got cut for being disgruntled, we can’t ignore that Perine is also mildly annoyed with his situation, to put it lightly. He liked a tweet earlier this week about not being able to grow when he isn’t in the rotation. Bell’s Twitter antics didn’t exactly put him in Gase’s good graces, but who knows if Gase will react the same with Perine.

The Jets’ run game should get a boost with the Dolphins having to put DT Davon Godchaux (torn biceps) on IR this week. They also have LB Kyle Van Noy (groin) questionable this week.

Oh, the Jets talked about Gase potentially ceding playcalling duties to an assistant. That will not happen, per Gase.

Really, the one guy you can play here is WR Jamison Crowder, who is a true rose that grew from concrete with this fleabag team. For what it’s worth, it looks like Breshad Perriman (ankle) will be back this week.

What They’re Saying About the Dolphins…

It’s a Dolphins revenge game against Adam Gase! I thought this quote from WR DeVante Parker on Gase was hilarious: “My time with him was pretty good. [There was] that little situation that happened but that’s in the past.” I presume Parker was referring to this — Gase was once frustrated with Parker’s injury recovery and made him a scratch in October of 2018. I was shocked the Dolphins didn’t trade Parker at that point. They’re likely very glad they didn’t. And the players in Miami are obviously thrilled they have Brian Flores at coach.

The focus for reporters this week at Flores’ press conferences was the Dolphins’ run game. Veteran Jordan Howard was a healthy scratch last week, while Miami reportedly had significant interest in Le’Veon Bell. Howard, Myles Gaskin, and Matt Breida are collectively averaging 2.8 YPC. Of course, that’s bogged down by Howard averaging under 1.0 YPC — Gaskin is at 3.9 and Breida at 3.7.

I think we’ve ran it effectively in some instances, but we can be better overall,” Flores said. No kidding.

Dolan’s Takeaways

The only Jet I am considering this week is Crowder, who is basically a WR2 because of volume. I’ll be keeping an eye on Perine.

For Miami, Parker wants his revenge, and the Jets stink. I’m considering him a WR2, with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick a viable streamer. Gaskin is an RB2 and Breida a prayer FLEX.

Green Bay at Tampa Bay (Sun, 4:25 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Packers…

The Buccaneers, like the Packers, play a lot of zone. At 69.9%, they play it more than all but seven teams in the NFL. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is absolutely torching zone coverage, per SIS — he leads the league with 10.6 YPA against zone.

Expect Rodgers to be throwing a bunch in this one, because Tampa’s run defense is elite. Per SIS, opposing RBs are averaging just 0.4 yards before contact against the Bucs, which is by far the lowest number in the NFL — the Broncos are second at 1.1. It’s a tough go of it for Aaron Jones, so hopefully he can make up for it with some work in the passing game. By the way, Jones is trying to become the first Packer in the Super Bowl era with a TD in each of the first five games of the season.

The Packers’ passing game is expected to get a boost from WR Davante Adams (hamstring), who returned to practice this week. They also activated youngster Equanimeous St. Brown (knee) off of IR. St. Brown has been kind of the forgotten man here, but with Allen Lazard (core muscle) out for a long time, he can push Marquez Valdes-Scantling for some playing time here. With the level Rodgers is currently playing at, we’ve got to keep an eye on all his receivers. WR coach Jason Vrable said he was excited to get “EQ” back.

The breakout star for the Packers, of course, has be TE Robert Tonyan, a talented player who had 3 TD against Atlanta the last time the Packers played. But Tonyan hasn’t come out of nowhere — he’s a player Rodgers has long been fond of. One thing I learned this week from Ryan Wood of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is that Tonyan was injured last year similarly to the injury that’s currently sidelining Lazard, and he wasn’t able to get to 100% until this year. I’d expect Rodgers to continue filtering “Big Bob” targets.

Anyway, Rodgers against Buccaneer DC Todd Bowles will be appointment viewing. The Bucs blitz on 40.8% of dropbacks this year, according to Next Gen Stats. Rodgers is getting blitzed on 35.9% of his dropbacks, 5th-most in the NFL… but he’s burning the blitz to the tune of a 118.4 QB rating. So why do defenses keep blitzing him? Because he’s putting up a 134.0 rating when not blitzed. It’s a vintage Rodgers season, his late-career revival.

What They’re Saying About the Buccaneers…

The Packers have struggled on the back end for much of this season — according to SIS, despite playing zone more than all but one team in the NFL so far this year, the Packers have allowed a 112.6 QB rating in zone coverage, which is the third-worst mark in the NFL thus far.

That’s good news for WR Mike Evans, who has seen a 22% target rate against zone vs. just 16% against man. And last season, Chris Godwin was SIS’ most valuable receiver in zone coverage. Godwin, of course, is up in the air with a hamstring injury. Evans (ankle) looked like he was hobbled against the Bears last Thursday, so hopefully the “mini-bye” helped both receivers out. Godwin seems to have a better chance to go than Evans at this point. The Bucs may also face a healthier Packer secondary — CB Kevin King (quad) returned to practice on Friday.

By the way, QB Tom Brady is certainly playing in Bruce Arians’ offense. According to Next Gen Stats, Brady has thrown a deep pass (20 or more air yards) on 14.8% of passes this year, 3rd-most in the NFL (Aaron Rodgers is #1 at 20.1%). Brady is 11/29 with 14.2 YPA on deep balls…. Rodgers is 11/28 with 15.3 YPA. So Tommy still has some juice in that arm!

When throwing downfield and outside the numbers, Brady’s most likely target is Evans, who aligns out wide on 69.1% of his snaps (Next Gen Stats). When he’s out there, he’s likely to catch a lot of coverage from CB Jaire Alexander, who held Calvin Ridley catchless in Week 4. According to PFF, Alexander is the highest-graded CB from a wide alignment this season.

In the backfield, the Bucs are expected to get LeSean McCoy back from an ankle injury, while Leonard Fournette is likely much healthier than last week, when he was an emergency active with his own ankle injury. Longtime beat man Rick Stroud said the Bucs really like McCoy in the passing game, where Ronald Jones has continued to struggle. Coach Bruce Arians said McCoy will play — Fournette is a game-time decision.

Dolan’s Takeaways

Start ‘em all for Green Bay. Jones’ matchup is problematic, but he can get it done in the passing game. Adams is a WR1, and TONYAN is definitely a TE1 this week. Keep an eye on MVS and EQ.

For Tampa, I love Brady with whatever receivers he has this week, though Evans catches a downgrade given his status and the potential of an Alexander shadow. Jones is an RB2, though I expect McCoy will be used heavily in the passing game.

LA Rams at San Francisco (Sun, 8:20 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Rams…

I wish we could get TE Tyler Higbee’s role broken down to us from coach Sean McVay, because I’m pretty sure if I were told before the season that he’d play 82.9% of the offensive snaps in LA through five games (to just 43.3% for Gerald Everett), I’d be expecting him to have an absolutely massive season.

Instead, Higbee just isn’t running routes — per PFF, his 85 routes are tied for 30th among TEs with Kyle Rudolph. He’s run just 20 more routes than CJ Uzomah, who played in two games for Cincinnati.

What They’re Saying About the 49ers…

I didn’t know how the 49ers would justify taking Jerick McKinnon off the field given how spectacular he was in Raheem Mostert’s absence, but with Mostert back in the fold against the Dolphins in Week 5, McKinnon had just 5 opportunities to Mostert’s 14. Coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday that he thought Mostert “might have been the best player on the field” for the Niners.

Translation: the Niners love Mostert, and he’s gonna play a ton going forward. It just sucks for McKinnon, though perhaps that was overall just a “burn the tape” kind of game for San Francisco.

The Niners are going to start QB Jimmy Garoppolo this week — he was awful last week, but our Greg Cosell said it was evident Garoppolo’s injured ankle was preventing him from planting and driving the ball. Shanahan said he’s leaving his options open this week, while making it pretty clear that he pulled Garoppolo last week because of the injury.

“[The high ankle] makes it hard for you to play at your best, by no means, but does that mean that you can't play? Lots of guys go out there and they have things that prohibit them from being their best, but if you can play, you still have to go out there and perform,” Shanahan said. “[If it] looks like he gives us the best chance to win, then I won't hesitate. If it looks like it hurts in the game and it's prohibited him, then we'll [pull him] again.”

The Rams suffered a defensive loss this week, with rookie S Jordan Fuller (shoulder) landing on IR. Fuller was a 6th-round pick, but played every snap against Washington last week. Obviously, this is good news for TE George Kittle.

Dolan’s Takeaways

Higbee is flat out benchable right now. His usage has been a huge problem.

Aside from Kittle, I’d prefer to stay away from this 49ers passing game. In the backfield, Mostert is an RB2, and as much as I hate to say it, McKinnon should be on benches. I really thought he’d continue to get the ball. Maybe he will, if the Niners can keep their offense on schedule.

Kansas City at Buffalo (Mon, 5 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Chiefs…

There’s very little to complain about when it comes to the Chiefs, but the big one has been the performance — or lack thereof — of RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire at the goal line. On the season, CEH has 7 rushes from inside the five-yard line, but has lost 3 yards on those carries and hasn’t scored. It has CEH backers worried that he will lose that role, and I understand it.

But as PFF’s Ian Hartitz shows here, maybe CEH is just running into really bad luck there — and it’s worth pointing out that 6 of those 7 carries came in his first career game against the Texans. I’m not going to freak out just yet, but man, it’d be nice to see CEH break through with a multi-TD game soon here.

Of course, the signing of Le’Veon Bell is going to send panic waves to CEH owners, and that’s beyond fair. I just think I need to point out that our Greg Cosell doesn’t think much of Bell as a runner anymore — he called him “sluggish” on our Matchup Points livestream. But where Bell can contribute is in the passing game and on third downs as a protector, so CEH really needs those TDs to hit his ceiling. Still, Bell won’t play this week because of COVID protocols — the Chiefs are hoping he can practice by next Wednesday. It’d be a hell of a time for CEH to have a monster game, wouldn’t it?

It’s a massive game for TE Travis Kelce (isn’t it always?). The Bills have allowed 39 receptions & 418 receiving yards to tight ends in 2020 (both most in the NFL). They surrendered 2 TD to Jonnu Smith last week.

As good as Josh Allen has been, he’s been kind of covering up one of the bigger stories for Buffalo this year. What the hell is wrong with the defense? Here is a 2019 and 2020 side-by-side comparison.

Stat20192020
YPG298.3 (3rd)371.8 (17th)
PPG16.2 (2nd)28.4 (21st)
3rd Down Conversions35.8% (7th)50.9% (30th)
Red Zone Scoring %76.7% (1st)95.2% (27th)

It appears to me that it all stems from that third-down percentage — the Bills simply aren’t getting off the field. Unfortunately for them, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have converted 51.52% of third downs, 3rd-best in the NFL.

And per Next Gen Stats, one of the reasons the Bills have been so bad on third downs is likely their struggles getting the blitz home. Their 125.5 QB rating allowed on blitzes is 3rd-highest in the NFL… while Mahomes’ 132.7 rating against the blitz is 3rd-best among QBs. It’s not good that Buffalo’s 40.6% blitz rate is 3rd-highest in the league with these numbers.

Things will obviously get better for Buffalo if top CB Tre’Davious White, who missed last week’s game against Tennessee with a back injury, can play. He returned to practice this week. The Bills have allowed a 100.1 QB rating with White on the field, and a 116.7 rating with him off it.

What They’re Saying About the Bills…

While Bills QB Josh Allen might not be producing as a runner as much as we have expected this year, he’s certainly using his legs to his advantage — according to Next Gen Stats, Allen has 126.3 passer rating on throws while on the run, second to only Jared Goff in the league.

And in 2020, Allen and Patrick Mahomes are tied with 5 TD passes while on the run. That leads the NFL.

However, some Allen skeptics might point to his game against the Titans in Week 5 as a return of the less efficient, more mistake-prone 2019 version of Allen. What was the big difference? Pressure. It wasn’t just that Allen was under pressure, but mostly how he was under pressure. According to Next Gen Stats, Allen was actually under pressure a little bit less in Week 5 (23.8% of dropbacks) than in Weeks 1-4 (24.8%).

However, the Titans generated their pressure without blitzing. They blitzed on just 4.8% of Allen’s dropbacks — Allen had been blitzed on 31.2% of his dropbacks in Weeks 1-4 and had been burning the blitz. Kansas City DC Steve Spagnuolo is a Jim Johnson disciple — he has the Chiefs blitzing on 39.2% of dropbacks this year, 6th-most in the NFL. Will that change after he watches the tape of Allen against the Titans’ four-man rush?

Of course, Allen will get a big boost with his supporting cast if WR John Brown (calf) can play in Week 6. Both Brown and RB Zack Moss (toe) missed Week 5, but were back practicing in full this week. It’s not looking good for TE Dawson Knox (calf), however.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Chiefs’ big-play-preventing defense can get back on track. I noted in last week’s column that Kansas City had done an amazing job preventing big plays in the passing game, and I sure as hell didn’t expect Derek Carr to be the guy to break that trend. Carr completed 4 passes of 20 or more air yards last week, which doubled up the total KC had allowed through four games. Those 4 completions totaled 219 yards — KC had allowed just 95 yards on such throws through the first four games combined, according to Next Gen Stats. Stefon Diggs has to be licking his chops after watching that tape.

Dolan’s Takeaways

Start ‘em all for the Chiefs — you can also consider Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson with Sammy Watkins (hamstring) out.

Same with Buffalo — however, with Moss back, I’m downgrading RB Devin Singletary to just a FLEX play. He hasn’t been great

Arizona at Dallas (Sun, 8:15 PM)

What They’re Saying About the Cardinals…

Obviously, the Dak Prescott situation has overshadowed the fact that Dallas’ awful defense nearly blew a game against the inept Giant offense last week. By scoring, Dallas is on pace to be the worst defense in history — 36.0 PPG would be the worst in the Super Bowl era (35.8 PPG by the 1966 Giants is currently the worst). You can be damn sure that Arizona QB Kyler Murray is looking forward to a faceoff with Dallas.

According to Next Gen Stats, the big-armed Murray has been effective targeting receivers outside the numbers this season, especially WR DeAndre Hopkins, to whom Murray is 28/32 for 359 yards and TD when throwing outside the numbers. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have allowed the NFL’s highest passer rating on throws outside the numbers (131.3). Hopkins and Christian Kirk could absolutely feast in this game.

Hopkins has also been getting open more down the field — according to NGS, he’s created three or more yards of separation on 47.4% of his targets 10 or more yards downfield. That’s way up from 31.1% a season ago. Of course, Murray might just be a little more conservative throwing the ball to Hopkins in those situations than Deshaun Watson was (15.8% into tight windows, as opposed to 29.5% last year).

What They’re Saying About the Cowboys…

The one thing Cowboy QB Dak Prescott was doing well before his injury was navigating a lot of pressure — with all the injuries the Cowboys have had on the offensive line, they were surrendering pressure on 34.1% of dropbacks (2nd-most in the NFL).

That’s bad news for new starting QB Andy Dalton. According to Next Gen Stats, Dalton is 20th of 33 qualified QBs with a 66.0 passer rating under pressure since 2016. This matchup is a little bit easier for him this week than most, though, as Arizona pass rusher Chandler Jones is out for the season with a torn right biceps.

Prior to the awful Dak Prescott injury, the story for the Cowboys this season — by far — was the atrocious defense. According to NFL Network’s Jane Slater, that defense could be getting some good news. LB Leighton Vander Esch (collarbone) could get some padded work in practice this week, which means he could be ready to return soon. It seems a little fast for a player who has dealt with so many injuries in his career, but the Cowboys sure as hell need him.

Dolan’s Takeaways

Fire ‘em all up for Arizona. This Dallas defense blows. LVE coming back, however, would hurt the already struggling RB Kenyan Drake.

I’m in on Dalton as a QB1 this week, with all his receivers viable. I definitely believe the Cowboys will be leaning more on RB Ezekiel Elliott, who I think could approach 30 touches this week.

Joe Dolan, a professional in the fantasy football industry for over a decade, is the managing editor of Fantasy Points. He specializes in balancing analytics and unique observation with his personality and conversational tone in his writing, podcasting, and radio work.

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