Editor’s note: The players listed below are NFL stars who were drafted in virtually every Yahoo Fantasy league. That said, this column is NOT an endorsement to bench them in Week 5. You’re in control of your roster; every league size and shape is different. What we are trying to explain is that expectations should be lowered this week compared to usual for some of the NFL’s biggest stars.
Aside from examining this week’s matchups, this can also serve as a reminder not to overreact if one of your high draft picks disappoints in Week 5.
Williams was a top-10 fantasy back last week with D’Andre Swift out, but his performance was greatly influenced by one 50-yard touchdown run. Williams otherwise saw just 48 percent of the snaps and remained totally ignored as a receiver. He leads the NFL with six rushing touchdowns this season and will see increased carries again Sunday with Swift still sidelined, so Williams should remain in fantasy lineups. Yet, you should expect more of a flex-type of production in this matchup, as opposed to what we saw last week.
That lack of targets will be felt this week, however, with the game script not as favorable. The Lions are road underdogs against a New England team likely to slow the pace down even more than usual while starting a fourth-round rookie at quarterback. The Patriots have allowed 5.1 YPC yet the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season. Jared Goff has been far better than expected, but he’ll be playing outdoors for the first time this season Sunday in a game that’s going to feature a lot of Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris chewing up the clock.
Johnson is due for regression with so little production (he’s been the WR44 in 0.5 PPR leagues) despite ranking top-12 in targets and target share, but it’s unlikely to happen this week against a stout Buffalo defense. In fact, Mitch Trubisky in fewer games has outscored all fantasy quarterbacks combined when facing the Bills this season (including Lamar Jackson last week). As a result, Buffalo has limited wide receivers to the fifth-fewest fantasy points this year.
A new quarterback in Pittsburgh may help, but it could just as easily lead to fewer targets for Johnson. Kenny Pickett preferred fellow rookie George Pickens after taking over last week, and while it’s obviously a small sample, don’t be surprised if the talented Pickens battles Johnson as Pittsburgh’s top WR moving forward. Johnson can stay in fantasy lineups with the Steelers likely forced to throw heavily Sunday as two-touchdown underdogs, but Pittsburgh’s upcoming schedule does him no favors; three of its next four opponents rank top-five in EPA/pass.
Kirk gets to return home Sunday, where Trevor Lawrence has performed much better throughout his early career. But his matchup isn’t necessarily as favorable as it may appear, as Jacksonville should rely heavily on running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne while facing a Texans defense allowing the most fantasy points to RBs. A suffocating Jacksonville defense should also have its way with Davis Mills, who’s gotten an ugly 5.5 YPA with a 5:11 TD:INT ratio and six fumbles over eight career road games, limiting the number of Lawrence pass attempts.
Moreover, Kirk has run 74% of his routes from the slot this season, and this week he gets a slot corner who’s been dominant in 2022. Desmond King has the NFL’s lowest percentage of routes in which he’s been targeted (7%) while also allowing the second-fewest fantasy points (0.11) per pass route.
McCaffrey is playing through a thigh injury, scored half his fantasy stats last week during Carolina’s final drive in garbage time and now gets the worst matchup possible.
The 49ers defense ranks first in DVOA while allowing the fewest points per game (11.5), YPC (2.9) and yards per play (3.8) in the NFL. In fact, San Francisco is allowing a half-yard less per play than the 1985 Bears and 2000 Ravens.
The 49ers have also yielded the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs, and McCaffrey has to deal with easily the worst quarterback play in the league. While SF sports the third-slowest Pace in neutral situations, the Panthers are on pace to run the fewest number of plays over the past 20 years. Carolina is also the only team yet to total 300 yards in a game this season and has the lowest implied team total (16 points) this week.
In the biggest mismatch of Week 5 featuring a Carolina offense that ranks last in EPA/play versus San Francisco’s defense that ranks first in EPA/play, CMC has his work cut out for him.