Week 5 Rankings & Game Flowbotics
Wow, last week was a beating. I finished 79th in accuracy over at FantasyPros, leaving me in 58th place overall after four weeks. It’s too bad kicker accuracy doesn’t count toward the overall, because I’m crushing those rankings (as usual). All in all, though, I’m not sweating my slow start just yet. Each slate dumps a pile of new information in our laps, then we (hopefully) learn, adapt, and improve as the NFL season plays out. Hopefully, the improvements I’m looking for will be reflected in my Week 5 rankings below. As usual, the rankings were informed by the Game Flowbotics spreadsheet:
In addition to floundering rankings in Week 4, I made some pretty bad picks. In fact, two of my duds were posted in last week’s rankings article. I took Dallas (-2.5) on the road against New Orleans, and I took the over in that game (47 points). My feel for the matchup just wasn’t quite there, but at least I saw and referenced the argument against my picks in the article. Dallas simply hadn’t been challenged by a legitimate opponent through the first three weeks, and the Saints surprised them in the Superdome.
I chose to believe the Cowboys’ success wasn’t simple a product of their schedule because there were other indications that they had made a leap. Primarily, the play-calling from offensive coordinator Kellen Moore gave us a lot to be excited about. Unfortunately, the offensive tendencies we say from Dallas in the first three weeks didn’t carry over into Week 4. The play-action just wasn’t there. Factor in Michael Gallup’s absence, Tyron Smith’s in-game injury, plus a hostile road environment, and I’m not surprised New Orleans pulled the upset. I could have painted the picture of that game either way. It’s fitting that my version was nowhere close to reality. This is a fantasy football website after all.
If you’ve read this far, you’ll have to keep scrolling to find my Week 5 rankings. For the space between, I’m going to pluck a couple matchups from this week’s slate that, in my mind, could go either way. And while there will almost always be competing narratives when analyzing a football matchup (especially where there’s a point spread in the mix), I find it best not to dwell too long on all the potential minutiae. Paralysis by analysis is the real deal, so find an explanation or line of reasoning that makes the most sense to you and go with it. Let’s dig into the matchups.
JAC at CAR (-3.5), 41-point Over/Under
Forgive the lack of a better expression, but the “chalky” angle here is to look at how Carolina’s fifth-ranked defense shut down Deshaun Watson and assume a similar smothering will be applied to the Jags’ rookie quarterback, Gardner Minshew. But I lean toward fading the public perception as I gear up for Jacksonville to make this game competitive. I guess it should come as no surprise, though. In case you haven’t been paying attention, TwoQBs.com is ground zero for Gardner Minshew propaganda. The dude has shattered expectations every step along his weird NFL journey, completing 69.4% of his passes with a rating of 106.94 and a 7-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. And unlike Watson, who is perpetually running for his life behind Adjusted Sack Rate’s 31st-ranked offensive line, Minshew has quality blockers in front of him. It remains to be seen how well Jacksonville’s seventh-ranked O-line by Adjusted Sack Rate can hold up to Carolina’s top-ranked pass rush, but this isn’t a Lloyd Christmas situation. The Jaguars should be able to hold their own at times, and that gives me optimism for their chances to beat the spread.
What about the other side of the ball? Kyle Allen (another replacement quarterback) has been a pleasant surprise, similar to Minshew, but his zero-touchdown Week 4 effort proved he’s not a world beater. Still, it’s tough to argue against Allen this week because the Jacksonville defense hasn’t lived up to their formidable reputation. They rank 31st in defensive DVOA, 24th vs. the pass and 32nd against the run. Looking at those splits, it’s fair to expect a huge dose of Christian McCaffrey (same as it ever was, jam him into your DFS lineups), while Allen assumes the role of “game manager.” But game managers still make mistakes, evidenced by Allen’s three fumbles last week. The 3.5-point spread is a stay-away, but I’m counting on Jacksonville to capitalize on Carolina’s mistakes, disrupt the expected game flow, and push this contest over 41 points. Thanks for stopping by the Church of Gardner Minshew, please take a flyer.
ATL at HOU (-5), 49-point Over/Under
I went a little overboard on the first matchup, so I’ll keep this one brief. Are the Falcons truly as bad as they’ve looked so far? All signs point to yes, but beware of recency bias. The Titans have a way of making all their opponents look lackluster. And while the Houston pass rush has played well (11th in Adjusted Sack Rate), their secondary is pretty banged up. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and company could bounce back. Meanwhile, Houston seems to play down to their competition every week. Based on the defense they’re facing, this would figure to be a slumpbuster matchup, but even if the Texans cruise to a win, the threat of a backdoor cover looms large. I was expecting a line of Houston -3 or -4, so I’m taking Atlanta and the points.
We’ll see how it all plays out. Here are my weekly rankings: