Our NFL Insiders predict Week 5's biggest upsets and fantasy flops and sleepers. Plus: Should you buy the Bills or Rams as legit playoff contenders? Which 0-4 team will get its first win? And what's with the AFC South?
What's your top upset pick for Week 5?
Matt Bowen, NFL writer: Texans over Chiefs. The script shouldn't change much with quarterback Deshaun Watson and that Houston game plan. Throw the quick game, use play-pass concepts and feed the ball to DeAndre Hopkins. And the Texans can move Hopkins to multiple alignments to get the best matchups against the Chiefs secondary. But I'm also looking at Watson's ability to make off-schedule plays. That's key against an aggressive Kansas City defense. Get to the edge of the pocket, extend plays and attack the middle of the field. Paired with a Houston defensive front that can pressure Alex Smith, I like the Texans at home to knock off the NFL's only undefeated squad.
Mike Clay, NFL writer: Seahawks over Rams. This one feels dirty, but the Rams are favored by roughly a field goal. Yes, Los Angeles has been super impressive thus far, but the schedule -- Colts, Redskins, 49ers and Cowboys -- has been a walk in the park compared to what's on tap. Seattle enters this game one game behind the Rams, but its two losses were on the road in Green Bay and Tennessee. I expect the Rams to return to Earth and for Russell Wilson and Seattle's stellar defense to take back control of the NFC West this weekend.
Domonique Foxworth, The Undefeated senior writer: Carolina over Detroit. These are pretty evenly matched teams. They both have good defenses and an inconsistent offense. But the potential for Carolina's offense is higher than Detroit's. If Cam Newton and the Panthers can repeat last week's production, they'll win another tight road game.
Mina Kimes, senior writer: Packers over Cowboys. Green Bay crushed Chicago despite enduring a slew of injuries, and while the team is still missing a number of pieces, it's feasible that Mike Daniels, arguably its best player on defense, will return after the long break. Aaron Rodgers was mostly unflappable last Thursday behind his makeshift offensive line (thanks in part to guard Lane Taylor's impressive play as a stand-in tackle), and should have no problem carving up Dallas' mediocre pass defense.
Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Buccaneers over Patriots. Tampa Bay can win at home against New England on a short week, on the thinking that the Patriots won't have time to make the coaching adjustments their defense clearly needs.
Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer: Bills over Bengals. Cincinnati is going to have a tough time getting much going against Buffalo's defense, which is allowing the fewest points per game (13.5) in the NFL.
Which surprise 3-1 team are you buying as a legit contender for a playoff spot: Rams, Bills or neither?
Bowen: Buffalo. The Rams have generated more national hype due to the quick development of quarterback Jared Goff and the modern-day offense new head coach Sean McVay has installed in Los Angeles. But I like the Bills in this situation due to a much more favorable schedule and a defense that can close out games. Yes, I'm still buying the Patriots to win the AFC East, but the Bills can pair that defensive team speed with the play of Tyrod Taylor to stay in the mix for a wild-card spot.
Clay: Neither. The Rams have been impressive, but after facing the Colts, Redskins, 49ers and Cowboys defenses, I wonder how the offense will perform against an absurdly tough slate the rest of the way that includes the Jaguars, Giants, Texans, Vikings and Eagles, in addition to the Seahawks and Cardinals twice each. The Bills are a fringe team, but it won't be easy fending off New England for the division or fellow wild-card contenders like the Raiders, Broncos, Texans, Titans and Ravens.
Foxworth: Buffalo. The Bills handed both the Falcons and Broncos their only losses of this young season. Those are more impressive wins than the Rams beating the Colts, 49ers and Cowboys. The Rams' offensive improvement deserves the praise we've heaped on it. But, in my experience, a tough defense makes for a more reliable team. And that's what the Bills have. Tyrod Taylor and the Bills' offense have made the plays that they need to win, but they haven't been great. That's in part because they haven't been able to get LeSean McCoy on track. If they can figure out how to reignite that punishing and explosive running game from a year ago, the Bills will certainly be a viable contender at the end of the season.
Kimes: Buffalo. Both teams have a shot, but the Bills have a clearer path to the playoffs. They get to play the Dolphins twice as well as the Jets, Colts and Chargers. And they've found a recipe that works, with a stout defense and an efficient, turnover-averse quarterback in Tyrod Taylor.
Sando: Buffalo. Mina's reasoning makes sense, and could be why ESPN's Analytics model puts the Bills' chances near 50 percent, with the Rams' closer to 30 percent. The Rams are a bigger surprise than the Bills, at least to me. My preseason projection had them starting 2-3 and then falling off the map, which probably is not going to happen now.
Seifert: Buffalo. A defense that is holding opponents to an NFL-low 13.5 points per game provides more cover ... and more long-term stability. The Rams' defense has been gashed for 26.3 points per game (28th in the NFL), putting their own offense in an unsustainable position.
Who's your pick to be the biggest fantasy flop this weekend?
Bowen: Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers. Gordon is averaging 3.1 yards per carry and has rushed for just 168 yards through four games with only two touchdowns on the ground. Last week, he was shut down by the Eagles (22 yards on 10 carries) and now he gets a Giants unit that ranks eighth against opposing running backs, giving up an average of 20.6 fantasy points per game. Tough matchup for a player who is also playing through a knee injury.
Clay: Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles. Jeffery's career in Philly is off to a pretty good start, but he has run 86 percent of his pass routes on the perimeter. This week, that means near-exclusive shadow coverage from Patrick Peterson. Arguably the game's best cover corner, Peterson has shadowed Marvin Jones Jr., T.Y. Hilton, Dez Bryant and Pierre Garcon during Arizona's first four games. Expect him to chase Jeffery all over the field this weekend, which means Jeffery should be downgraded significantly.
Foxworth: A.J. Green, WR, Bengals. Green has scored a touchdown in each of his past two games. But this week he and Andy Dalton will face the Bills, who have allowed only one passing touchdown this season.
Kimes: Jack Doyle, TE, Colts. (Or whoever plays tight end for Indianapolis if Doyle is out.) While it seems like a no-brainer to start skill players against San Francisco, the Niners' defense has actually shut down opposing tight ends, allowing just 77 receiving yards (total) to the position this year. They've put the clamps on the likes of Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham, which bodes poorly for Doyle or his replacement.
Sando: Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs. Hunt's offensive line is banged up, which could make life tough for him on a short week against a formidable Texans front.
Seifert: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears. Howard will face a Vikings defense that ranks No. 3 in the NFL in rushing defense (71.3 yards per game). I'd expect it to sell out against the run to force rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky into uncomfortably obvious passing situations.
The 0-4 Chargers and Giants play each other in Week 5. The other winless teams -- the 49ers and Browns -- have winnable games. So which team will get its first victory?
Bowen: I'll take the Giants to get their first win of the season at home against the Chargers. Los Angeles can't run the ball, and it can't stop the run. That's a bad combination at any level of the game. Maybe this is the week the Giants establish some sense of tempo with the ground game and get an explosive play over the top from Odell Beckham Jr. to pull away from the Chargers late.
Clay: It feels sacrilegious to go against the Chargers, but I actually expect both the Giants and Browns to notch their first wins this weekend. The Chargers-Giants game should be a tight one and can certainly go either way, but the Browns should get a boost with Myles Garrett, Danny Shelton and Jamie Collins potentially back in the lineup. I have them knocking off the overachieving Jets 22-20 in the Dawg Pound.
Foxworth: The Browns are more talented than the Jets and playing at home, so they should win. As for the matchup between 2004 draft-day-trade buddies, I pick Eli Manning and the Giants over Philip Rivers and the Chargers. It'll be a close game and Eli will get knocked around, as he always does. But I expect the Giants' high-priced defensive playmakers to create some turnovers, giving their offense a short field.
Kimes: I've picked the Chargers to win every game this season, so I'm going to ride for the Giants this week (which obviously means that Los Angeles will pull out its first win). Both teams have struggled to run the ball, and both teams have struggled to defend the run; the Giants and Chargers rank, respectively, 28th and 31st in opponents' rushing yards per game. But New York finally seemed to spark something on offense in the second half against the Bucs last week, so I'll take the home team in this Sunday's garbage bowl.
Sando: Let's take the Giants at home. They've played three of their first four on the road, including the past two, which they lost by a combined five points. The Chargers have had some issues in game management that could flare up again on the road.
Seifert: To paraphrase Giants coach Ben McAdoo, I think his team will win a darn game this week. The Chargers have lost 14 of their past 17 road games. New coach. New city. Same results (so far).
Pick a fringe fantasy player who should be started in Week 5.
Bowen: Zach Miller, TE, Bears. With Mitchell Trubisky getting his first NFL start on Monday night, look for the Bears to lean heavily on play-action and movement passes to create open windows and high-percentage throws for the rookie. That means targets for Miller on middle-of-the-field throws and off-the-boot action versus a Vikings defense giving up an average of 13.8 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends (24th in the NFL).
Clay: Jaron Brown, WR, Cardinals. Who? The former undrafted free agent was targeted 12 times against the 49ers last week and has now reached double digits in the category during two of his past three games. The key stat this weekend in Philadelphia is the one that shows Brown having lined up on the perimeter on 81 percent of his routes this season. That means he'll see Eagles perimeter corners Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas all afternoon long. They rank first and sixth, respectively, among corners in fantasy points allowed this season.
Foxworth: Benjamin Watson, TE, Ravens. Watson is not going to be your top scorer, but he will get plenty of targets. When things aren't going well for Joe Flacco, he leans on his tight ends. And things haven't been going well for Joe Cool so far this season. Late in last week's loss to the Steelers, Flacco found some success connecting with Watson. I expect the quarterback to pick up where he left off with Watson to get things going early against Oakland.
Kimes: Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers. The only thing more predictable than the Chargers being down by single-digit points with a few minutes left? The Giants giving up fantasy points to tight ends. So far this season, New York's defense has allowed five touchdowns and 14.73 points per game to the position, both worst in the NFL.
Sando: J.D. McKissic, RB, Seahawks. McKissic's certainly "fringe" enough to qualify. Seahawks players have been lobbying for the "joker" running back to get playing time, and when his opportunity came in Week 4, he was dynamic in scoring two touchdowns. He'll get more chances with Chris Carson landing on injured reserve.
Seifert: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers. Jones made enough of an impression last Thursday night against the Bears -- 13 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown -- that he is a consideration regardless of the health of Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams. The Packers saw excellent instincts, especially near the goal line.
The AFC South has been downright wild through four games. What is one undeniable fact we absolutely know about that division so far?
Bowen: We know that Deshaun Watson should have been the starter from Day 1 in Houston. His dynamic ability makes this Texans offense tough to prep for and he is displaying those same high-level intangibles that we saw during his title run at Clemson: leadership, toughness and the ability to make plays in critical game situations. Yes, Watson has made some rookie mistakes, but there is no denying the energy he brings to the field in Houston.
Clay: The only thing we know for sure is that Deshaun Watson has changed the game. The Titans looked like pretty good bets to take the division during the offseason, but Watson's back-to-back impressive performances have the team right back in the thick of things. Granted, Houston has offensive line concerns, but the defense is loaded and Watson has plenty of offensive weapons at his disposal. The Jaguars' defense is terrific, but quarterback woes for them and the Colts figure to cost both a shot at the divisional crown.
Foxworth: I know that the Colts do not belong in the AFC South. I believe in the directional integrity of NFL divisions. And it is undeniable that Indiana is not a southern state. Indianapolis isn't even in the southern part of the state. Oh, and the Texans finally found a franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson.
Kimes: The Jaguars are a frustratingly inconsistent team with a maddening offense, but their defense is still earning its preseason hype. The pass defense in particular has been special, allowing a league-low 147 yards per game. While second-year cornerback Jalen Ramsey struggled a bit this Sunday, he and free-agent pickup A.J. Bouye have mostly thrived; according to Football Outsiders, Jacksonville allowed a measly 31.7 yards per game to No. 1 receivers through Week 3, giving up just 14.3 yards to No. 2 options.
Sando: It's a tie between Blake Bortles being inaccurate as a passer, Indy being completely dependent on Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota being at high risk for injuries and Houston having a formidable pass rush.
Seifert: It's still the worst division in football. None of these four teams can win a playoff game.