- • Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
• Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
• Best-selling author of “Fantasy Life”
Week 5 of the 2020 NFL season sees another Tennessee Titans game in jeopardy, this time with the Buffalo Bills. The pandemic also has touched the New England Patriots. Fantasy football managers are diligently checking the Reserve/COVID-19 list and scrambling to the waiver wire and to change their lineups. It’s a season unlike any other, but Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate will remain a constant with his best advice.
Saturday will be the 60th anniversary of George Carlin’s first appearance on TV. He and his then-comedy partner, Jack Burns, appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jack Paar” that night, jump-starting a legendary career in comedy that would span many decades.
It saddens me to think there are some younger readers who might not be aware of Carlin or the genius of his subversive and influential comedy. Hundreds of TV appearances, including with many different hosts of “The Tonight Show” through the years; 18 comedy albums, including four that went “gold,” which means sales of at least 500,000, an unreal number to think about for a comedy album; and 10 Grammy nominations with four wins.
Carlin did 14 HBO specials, including the legendary “Carlin at Carnegie” (my personal favorite), garnering five Emmy nominations. He appeared in movies (shoutout to Rufus in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”), wrote books (four in all, over two million sold, multiple years on The New York Times Best Sellers list) and performed close to 100 shows each year to sold-out crowds everywhere.
More than the numbers, he was an iconic and thought-provoking comedic voice who influenced many of the comedians people enjoy today.
He was also my first boss.
I’ve written about George before, but a Twitter thread this summer sparked the idea. A Twitter user named Dave Schilling asked in a thread: “Who is the person everyone has a GREAT story about? Who’s, like, the nicest?” The thread got a ton of responses, including from someone named Mark McConville, who tweeted, “There is a really lovely story that @MatthewBerryTMR has told about George Carlin. I think about it a lot.” And then he linked to a fantasy baseball (!) column I wrote in June 2008 (!!) about George.
George is special to me, so I can’t tell you how pleased I was that Mark remembered reading that story and that it had stayed with him. So thank you for the kind words and tagging me there, Mark. Given that I told the story 12 years ago in a column about a different sport, I thought this anniversary was a good excuse to bring a version of it back and add more to it.
I went to college at Syracuse University (Go Cuse!) to study writing for electronic media (TV, radio and film in those days), and as soon as I got a degree I moved out to Los Angeles to try to make it in show business. And the first showbiz job I got was being George Carlin’s assistant.
To be specific, I was the stage PA (production assistant) for “The George Carlin Show,” a 1994 sitcom that ran on Fox, so technically I was the assistant to George and the rest of the cast. But George was the star and, you know, his name was in the title, so it was made clear to me by my bosses that my primary and even my secondary duty was taking care of George and anything he needed, any time he needed it.
I answered the stage phone for him (George didn’t have a cell phone back then). I got meals for him. I would drive scripts to his house, and then I would drive George’s handwritten notes on scripts (George preferred to write things out longhand, and if he used email back then I never saw it) and bring them back to the writers room, among many other various tasks, all of them with the sole purpose of making George’s life easier.
I absolutely loved working for him.
As kind and gentle a guy as you’d ever want to meet, someone if you didn’t know who he was you’d never guess was a living legend. The exact opposite of his on-stage persona, he was always positive, not angry. Soft-spoken and unassuming, he was the first guy on the set every morning and the last guy to leave.
And maybe because I spent a lot of time with him every day, or more likely just because he was an awesome human and that’s just how he was, he seemed to take a unique interest in me. He would ask about me, my life, my ambitions and even ask my opinion of jokes or notes he had on scripts when I would pick them up. (Not surprisingly they were always great, and I would say so, which took pressure off. What the hell would I ever tell Carlin about comedy?)
That first year, one of my best friends from while up and his then-girlfriend (now his wife) came out to visit me in Los Angeles. Now, I’m a grunt, right? Seriously, I am the lowest rung of the ladder on this show. As low as you can get. But, of course, I wanted to show off my “big Hollywood career” to my friend. So I wanted to bring them to a taping of the show. Usually George had a few errands he needed me to handle after filming, so I go to George that afternoon. I ask if he could tell me whatever he needed me to do after the show now so I could take care of it before the show because I had some guests coming to the show that night and wanted to show them around the set afterward. He says sure, gave me a few small things to handle and that’s that.
OK, so now it’s after the show, and we are walking around the stage, looking at the sets and cameras. I’m trying to act like I know what I am talking about when suddenly George comes up to me.
“Matthew, are these your friends from back home?”
“Uh, yeah … uh, Sean and Cindy, George Carlin. George, Sean and Cindy.”
George has a big smile, extends his hands and gives them the big sell. “You know, we couldn’t do the show without Matthew. I consult with him every day. He’s a rising star here and only going to get bigger. We all love him.”
Again, I’m a grunt. Last guy listed on the call sheet. But you wouldn’t know it from George. “Seriously (he waves to the set), none of this happens without Matthew,” George says to my friends. He then hands them each a signed copy of the script from that night’s episode and motions them to come close. “Come on, let’s take a picture.”
George then asks what else they’ve done since they’ve been in L.A. and how they met and does what George does, which is makes them feel special and unique.
And as George leaves my friends are floating on air, smiling wide and looking at me much more impressed than they were 10 minutes ago.
The next day I thank George and tell him how incredibly cool and kind that was. “Look, first, you’re a good kid and you work your ass off. But more importantly, Matthew, it’s my pleasure. You ever need me to take pictures or do anything like that again, just let me know. Always bring me that stuff.”
I was like, “Really?” One of my jobs every week was to distribute all the scripts, albums and memorabilia he had to sign every week for charities, etc. I saw firsthand how many people wanted a picture with him. He would be on his way to a meeting, to his car to leave for the day, hell, to the bathroom, and it was a constant stream of folks wanting autographs and pictures. But he always stopped, chatted and took the picture. I mentioned this. To which he replied with something I have never forgotten.
“I always do it. No matter what. Look, it’s 30 seconds out of my life. And now those people had a good experience. And the next time my name comes up, for the rest of their lives, they’ll say, ‘Yeah, I met Carlin once. He was nice.’ I’d much rather that than a lifetime of ‘Yeah, I bought all that guy’s albums and then he wouldn’t even sign my hat. That guy was a jerk.’ Thirty seconds of my time for a lifetime fan? I’ll make the deal every time.”
Not that I am anywhere near the same universe as George, but thanks to the popularity of both fantasy football and ESPN, there are definitely people who recognize me when I am out and about. And whenever someone comes up to me and wants a picture, a trash-talk video for their league or just to talk about their team, I always do it, no matter what.
Now, you’ll get further with me if you’re polite. Or at least wait until we are away from the urinal at the public bathroom. Or at the very least, don’t shove a phone in my face without asking or push my kid aside, both of which have happened multiple times. But yeah, if you ever see me out and about, please come up and say hey.
At the end of the year, George did two things for me. One, he wrote me a great recommendation letter for the Warner Brothers Writers’ Workshop; I ended up getting accepted a year later and got my first sitcom writing job out of that.
But what meant even more to me was he asked me to come to his office. He thanked me for all my hard work, and he gave me a poster. The poster headline reads: “An Incomplete List of Impolite Words.”
One of Carlin’s most famous routines was “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” And this poster was one of the many offshoots of that routine. A constant theme in Carlin’s comedy was language, how phrases often don’t make sense (“What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?”) and most prominently, the absurdity that any words could be offensive or hurtful or obscene. Words are just words, he would argue. It’s the context of those words that’s key. The motivation and intent behind what someone says. The idea that one word was bad while another was safe was absurd to him. He would give an example.
“Tonight, my wife and I are walking the dog.”
Fine, right? Harmless sentence.
But, George would say, what if I said it like this? And with that, he would use a leering, “bragging-to-the-guys” kind of voice that is unmistakably Carlin: “Oh yeah,” he’d say with a knowing wink, “Tonight my wife and I are … walking the dog.” If words could wiggle their eyebrows, it’s exactly what they’d be doing. But they can’t. Words are just words. It’s all about context, tone, intonation. Language.
As George gave me the poster, he told me that while the routine on the poster was meant to evoke laughter, it was also about making people think about words and language and communication in a different way. He encouraged me to challenge conventional thought, of being unafraid to speak your opinion, of it being OK to sometimes piss people off. When people get angry, he told me, it means you’re probably doing something right.
Now listen, at the end of the day I talk about fake football while wearing makeup for a living, so let’s properly frame this, but I’ve tried to, in my own dumb little way, live up to George’s ideals. To try and push the envelope of what it means to be a fantasy analyst. I’ve been told not to write long stories at the top of every column, to just do football and no nonsense on the podcast, and that no one wants a show with a wild, bearded tattoo guy and a bunch of puppets. That I write too long, that I rank all wrong, that I must be smoking a bong. But I’ve kept on, doing my thing, doing it my way, while trying to be nice to people along the way.
Things I learned from George.
Things I learned not from George’s words, but from George’s actions.
I think of George often and miss him. Sixty years ago this Saturday, the nation got to see him for the first time. The world was a better place with him in it. And I’m certainly a better person for being lucky enough to have gotten to work for him.
Let’s get to it.
Quarterbacks I Love in Week 5
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans, vs. Jaguars
You know how you’ll be at a party and there’s one obnoxious person there making everyone uncomfortable? But you don’t say anything because you assume that person is friends with someone there. And then the person leaves and you’re like, “Ugh, thank goodness.” And everyone else is like, “Wait, you too? I thought he was your friend!” “No, I thought he was yours!” And then all the tension leaves the room and everyone left just has a big awesome party? You ever experience something like that? I have. Just asking for no particular reason. Watson, who always has a high floor (one of only four QBs with at least 250 passing yards in every game this season), should reach his ceiling this week at home against the Jags. Jacksonville allows the third-most passing yards per attempt and coughs up a touchdown on passing attempts at the eighth-highest rate in NFL.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, vs. Eagles
Carlin had his seven words you can never say on television, but if he had seven rules for fantasy football one of them would be start Big Ben after a bye. Averaging more than 20 fantasy points per game off a bye over his past five, Ben has multiple TD passes in all three games this season and is expected to get Diontae Johnson back this week. Philly’s defensive numbers are skewed by two games against Dwayne Haskins Jr. and the Nick Mullens/C.J. Beathard experience, but in the games against Jared Goff and Joe Burrow, the Birds allowed both QBs to score more than 20 points. Overall, the Eagles are allowing 25 completions per game this season (ninth most) and since 2018, when completing 25-plus passes (13 occurrences), Roethlisberger averages 331.6 passing yards. I have Ben inside my top eight for the week.
Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers, at Falcons
They are playing the Falcons. There. That’s my analysis. Fine, you really need more? They are allowing a league-high 32.5 FPPG to quarterbacks this year. You don’t really need more do you? Fine. Even if the Falcons somehow manage to not get lit up through the air this week — and that’s unlikely (they’ve given up the most passing touchdowns this season and the second-most passing yards) — Bridgewater can still produce. He has 25-plus rushing yards in two games this year. That running ability gives him a nice floor Sunday, while Atlanta’s pass defense should construct a beautiful fantasy ceiling to match. In a game with one of the highest over/unders on the slate, this is a game to target.
Others receiving votes
Very quietly Gardner Minshew II is a top-12 fantasy QB through the first four weeks of the season and that includes the awful Thursday night game in which everything that could go wrong, did. In what should be a high-scoring game with the Texans, Minshew has streamer appeal and is available in about half of ESPN leagues. … Three games into a young career and Justin Herbert has been outstanding, averaging 310 passing yards per game. He could easily improve that average Monday night on ESPN against a Saints team that has allowed every quarterback it has faced this season to exceed 20 fantasy points. … OK, so Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t go off against the Seattle defense last week quite as expected, and yet he still threw for 315 yards and put up 21.3 fantasy points. Yes, what was once the Legion of Doom is now the Legion of Boy, There Sure Is A Lot Of ROOM To Throw To Receivers! (Hey, the quality of nickname is equal to the quality of the defense.) Quarterbacks facing Seattle this season are averaging 50 attempts and 401 passing yards per game. So Kirk Cousins is a viable bye week fill-in.
Quarterbacks I Hate in Week 5
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at Bears
Do I think it’s risky to put Brady on the Hate list after he threw five touchdowns? I do. Do I think it’s risky to put Brady on the “hate” list for a Thursday night game knowing lots of people read this column on Friday and if Brady goes off I’ll look even dumber than normal? I do. But do I think it’s risky to play Tom Brady in fantasy on a short week with a decimated receiving corps facing a Bears defense that has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season? I do, as well. It’s that Chicago D that tips the scales for me. The Bears have allowed a touchdown on an NFL-low 2.0% of pass attempts this year, and three of the four quarterbacks they’ve faced this year have scored fewer than 12 fantasy points. In a game with the second-lowest over/under on the Week 5 slate, I have Brady outside my top 10 for the week.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles, at Steelers
Yes, Wentz helped the Eagles to the first win of their season last week, but he still didn’t look all that good doing it. In fact, he has just two total passing touchdowns in his past three games and is 32nd among all qualified quarterbacks in yards per attempt. His fantasy value has been bailed out by a couple of long rushing touchdowns, but that’s not anything I’d want to count on. I expect Wentz to struggle with a once-again depleted pass-catching corps against a rested Pittsburgh defense that leads the league in blitz rate and pressure rate.
Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders, at Chiefs
Carr said last week after Vegas dropped its second game in a row that he is “sick of losing.” Unfortunately, the Raiders now play the undefeated, defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on the road. And while Carr put up a solid 20.4 fantasy points last week, it will be much harder to do it versus a Chiefs defense that is top five this season in completion percentage against, passing touchdowns allowed and passing yards allowed. Also, in 12 career games against Andy Reid’s Chiefs, Carr has posted fewer than 15 fantasy points in 10 of them. If you’re sick of losing in fantasy, keep Carr away from your lineups in Week 5.
Running Backs I Love in Week 5
Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks, vs. Vikings
One of the things Carlin delighted in was pointing out the flawed logic of idiots. Like all the people, who, year after year, pass on Carson. I bang the drum for him every year, every year he goes way too late, every year he winds up a draft-day bargain. Drafted in the fourth and fifth round on ESPN for much of the summer as a RB outside the top 15, Carson is RB5 on the year so far (IN PPR HE SAID WITH AUTHORITY) and, you know, no big deal, has at least 19 fantasy points in three of his four games this season. Continuing to develop as a pass-catcher with three or more receptions in every game so far, Carson now gets a struggling and beat-up Vikings defense that has allowed the fifth-most rushing yards to running backs this season. Giddy up.
Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns, vs. Colts
Hunt doesn’t have a great matchup this week against one of the NFL’s top defenses. What he does have is the RB1 job in a run-heavy Browns offense due to Nick Chubb’s injury. Considering Hunt is RB7 already on the year, and that he averages 21.0 FPPG in his career when he gets 15-plus touches, he’s on the Love list for me regardless of the defense he’s facing. Even with Chubb there, Hunt was top five among running backs in red zone carries this year. Now, with no Chubb (and Indy’s defense potentially missing linebackers Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke for this one), Hunt is an easy top-10 play this week and a top-5ish fantasy back as long Chubb is out.
Antonio Gibson, Washington, vs. Rams
It was expected Gibson would eventually take over the Washington RB1 job and, well … it’s officially happening. A season-high 17 touches last week, Gibson has scored in three in a row thanks to multiple red zone touches in each game. Switching to Kyle Allen helps Gibson. Remember, Christian McCaffrey accounted for a whopping 29% of Kyle Allen’s completions last year, and Allen had an 82.1% completion rate when targeting RBs last year, the third-best rate in the NFL. By the way, even with the superhuman named Aaron Donald out there, the Rams have allowed 4.8 yards per carry to running backs and the fifth-most yards per reception to RBs this year.
James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars, at Texans
Remember when Chris Thompson, Ryquell Armstead and/or Devine Ozigbo were going to be a thing? Me either. Robinson has been one of the best stories in the NFL this year and deservedly so. Averaging more than 18 touches a game, a three-down back who is not reliant on game script, Robinson will keep the good times rolling Sunday. Houston’s defense is third worst in rushing scores allowed to opposing running backs and in yards per carry allowed. And no team in the NFL gives up more rushing yards per game than the 162.8 yards per game the Texans allow.
Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills, at Titans
Tennessee has allowed 15-plus points and a touchdown to a running back in every game so far this season. Even worse, the Titans have allowed a league-high 5.9 yards per carry to running backs. This is more great news for those of you who avoided the preseason Zack Moss hype and drafted Singletary, who has played 87% of snaps the past two weeks. He’s the clear RB1 in Buffalo … and a high-end RB2 for me in Week 5.
Others receiving votes
Kenyan Drake is RB35 on the season; Chase Edmonds is RB36, just 0.2 fantasy points behind. Edmonds outscored his teammate in Week 4 and has actually seen 77% of Arizona’s backfield targets on the season. This week Arizona gets the Jets, who have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to RBs this season. I like Edmonds as Flex play in Week 5 and, if you have bench space, as a speculative add off the waiver wire should he pull a Kenyan Drake 2019 and eventually push past the guy I had as No. 2 on my preseason “Chicken” players (guys I was nervous about).
Running Backs I Hate in Week 5
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles, at Steelers
The last time Sanders played at Heinz Field, he had 124 total yards on just 17 touches in a 51-6 win. Of course, that was against Pitt in college. The going should be a bit tougher on Sunday against a Steelers defense that is allowing a league-low 2.3 years per carry to running backs this season. “Ah, but Sanders can still get some cheap fantasy points catching the ball.” Probably not, my friend. The Steelers allow the second-lowest completion percentage to running backs. You still have to start him, but I would lower expectations here. Love Sanders against Pitt, Hate him against Pittsburgh.
Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers, at Saints
Kelley’s recent dip in production isn’t the biggest concern about him. Not that his 9.5 total fantasy points over the past two weeks is by any means good. It’s that he lost a fumble in both games. Rookies + fumbles + angry coaches usually = the bench. Need proof? Kelley played just five more snaps than Justin Jackson did from the second quarter on last week. Not great! Add into the equation that the Saints are allowing just 3.6 yards per carry to running backs this season and Kelley — yes, even with Austin Ekeler out — is a risky Week 5 play.
David Montgomery, Chicago Bears, vs. Buccaneers
You’ve heard of the Unstoppable Force vs. The Immovable Object? An epic battle. This is the decidedly less-epic Stoppable Force vs. The Immovable Object. Who wins that battle? Probably the fantasy manager without Montgomery in his lineup. Look, Montgomery is easily stoppable regardless of opponent, posting fewer than 11 fantasy points in three of four games this season, while that Bucs front seven has allowed opposing RBs to move just 2.4 yards per carry. Now, he did run 35 pass routes and get six targets last week, so there’s a chance an increased passing-game role in Tarik Cohen’s absence will get his fantasy value to where you feel comfortable starting him, but I want to see it before I commit.
Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets, vs. Cardinals
Hey, welcome back, Le’Veon Bell! And welcome back to the Hate List, too. Jets running backs rank 31st in yards per rush before first contact this season. Jets RBs also have just eight red zone carries on the entire season. With Joe Flacco under center and a beat-up pass-catching corps, it’s hard to get excited about Bell getting a lot of scoring opportunities. Volume might save him here, and there’s always a chance he falls into the end zone, but he’s gonna need the help of Adam Gase to get there, and he just isn’t the player who can single-handedly improve any of that anymore.
Pass-catchers I Love in Week 5
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings, at Seahawks
Seattle has allowed the most receptions, yards and fantasy points to wide receivers this season and the second-highest catch rate to perimeter wide receivers.
Pop quiz time!
1) What position does Adam Thielen play?
A: Wide receiver
2) Is Adam Thielen a perimeter wide receiver?
A: Yes, 80% of his routes are run on the perimeter.
B: No, I think he punts.
3) Is Adam Thielen on the Week 5 Love list?
B: I’m gonna need more clues.
Answer key: 1) A; 2) A; 3) A.
DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks, vs. Vikings
An obvious name? Yeah, but I’m the highest on him among all ESPN rankers and I’m the only one who has him above Tyler Lockett, so I think it’s allowed. I also am kind of surprised I’m alone on DK over Tyler island. Despite being Seattle’s big-play threat, Metcalf has been the team’s most consistent receiver with 12 or more fantasy points in every game and 17-plus in three of four. He also has multiple deep receptions in three out of his four games. Meanwhile, Lockett has just one game with more than 17 points, and he followed that with a 4.9-point stinker last week. You have to like Metcalf’s consistency, and you have to love his chance to go off Sunday against a Vikings defense that is bottom three in the NFL in receptions, yards and catch rate allowed on deep passes.
Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers, at Falcons
Speaking of consistency from a deep threat, Anderson also has 17-plus points in three of four games this year with at least one red-zone target in every game. Probably the free-agent move that got the least amount of attention in the offseason, we all should have paid more attention to Anderson reuniting with his college coach. His 25.6% target share not only leads the Panthers but is also ninth highest in the NFL. And you’re not gonna believe it, but I have some stats that show Atlanta is bad against the deep ball. Super weird because they are also (checks notes) bad at everything else. Anyways, the Falcons are bottom three in both deep receptions and deep touchdowns allowed so no need to get too deep on this one: Gimme some Robby Anderson this week.
Will Fuller V, Houston Texans, vs Jaguars
Part of what got Bill O’Brien fired in Houston was the DeAndre Hopkins trade. And for good reason. But Fuller has actually done admirably in Hopkins’ absence. In Fuller’s three healthy games so far, he has two in which he has scored a touchdown. He also has two 100-yard games. And now he has a favorable matchup against a Jags secondary that allows the seventh-highest catch rate to opposing WRs. Much has been made of Houston’s protection issues, but here’s a positive: Jacksonville creates pressure at the seventh-lowest rate in the NFL. Well, when Watson is NOT under pressure this year, Will Fuller has 46.3% of the Texans’ WR points.
Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens, vs. Bengals
The concern about Brown entering the season was that he might not get enough volume. In 2019, he had only four games with six or more targets. Through the first four games of this season, he has at least six targets in all of them. The volume is there, but the production has been down. I think that changes this week. The Bengals allow the third-highest catch rate to wide receivers and 14.1 yards per reception on perimeter throws. The previous two legit WR1s the Bengals faced — DJ Chark Jr. and Odell Beckham Jr. — both put up nice fantasy numbers against them, too. Your chance to buy low on Brown ends Sunday.
Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans, vs. Bills
The Breakout Fantasy Season of Jonnu Smith was halted a bit last week with an unscheduled bye (and as of this writing their game this week is still not 100% guaranteed). So let this be a reminder: So far this season, Smith is fifth among tight ends in target share, third in red zone target share and tied with Travis Kelce as TE2 in FPPG. With Corey Davis and Adam Humphries both currently on the COVID-19 list, I expect Smith to pick up where he left off this week as a huge part of the Titans’ attack against Buffalo. The Bills have allowed the most receiving yards to tight ends this season and the third-most catches to tight ends.
Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers, at Saints
I write this while knocking on wood and with all of my fingers crossed, but Henry has stayed healthy so far this season and has done exactly what we all thought he’d do if he stayed healthy: produce. In fact, he’s third among tight ends in receiving yards. The only thing that has held him back from a fantasy perspective is that he has yet to crack the end zone. This week he gets a Saints defense that has shown a lot of cracks, including the second-most catches, third-most yards and a touchdown to a tight end in every game so far this season.
Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers, vs. Eagles
Roethlisberger and Ebron are getting more comfortable with each other every week, as the new Steelers tight end’s targets and catches have increased each game. Big Ben should look for his biggest target early and often against an Eagles defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to tight ends this season and has yielded a league-worst 86% catch rate to the position.
Others receiving votes
This week’s biggest beneficiary of that horrid Cowboys defense? Other than everyone who hates the Cowboys and likes to laugh? It might just be Darius Slayton. Dallas is worst in the league in — well, among many other things — touchdown passes allowed to wide receivers and deep touchdown passes allowed. … Jamison Crowder has played in only two games this season, but he has been a top-20 wide receiver in both. He has a chance to do it again against an Arizona defense that struggles against the slot. … Deebo Samuel caught all three of his targets in his return game last week. If he’s a bigger part of the game plan this week, he could be the latest receiver to go off against the Dolphins. … Laviska Shenault Jr. has double-digit fantasy points in three of his four games this season, and he also has at least one carry in every game of the season. Don’t be surprised if he gets more run against that dreadful Texans run D. … Dallas’ defense is so bad it might even let Evan Engram go off. Engram is third among all tight ends in targets this year, but he’s not reeling many of them in. That could easily end against the Cowboys. I have Engram as a top-10 play this week. … My Football Team has allowed touchdowns to tight ends in three of four games this year and five TE touchdowns overall. An end zone catch this week would go a long way to ease the frustrations of Tyler Higbee managers.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 5
DJ Chark Jr, Jacksonville Jaguars, at Texans
Houston is allowing the fifth-fewest passing yards per game this season, and teams facing Houston average a league-low 28.5 pass attempts per game. “Isn’t that because it’s so easy to run the ball down their throat?” Yes, partly. It’s also because they have Bradley Roby, who is likely to give Chark shadow coverage in this one. I have Chark outside my top 20 this week.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts, at Browns
Signing Philip Rivers was supposed to take Indianapolis’ passing game to a new level. Hilton has found a new level, it just happens to be a few levels below where he used to perform. Hilton is averaging just 3.3 catches and 40.5 yards per game. He also hasn’t cracked more than five targets in a game since Week 1 and has only two red zone targets all season. None of that is likely to change versus Cleveland, which allows the fourth-lowest catch rate to wide receivers on the season. No issue if you want or need to drop him, either.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, at Ravens
Chark, Hilton, Green … OK, yeah. If you are a wide receiver with initials for your first name NOT named DK Metcalf, I think you’re going to have a bad week. Or in Green’s case: a continuation of a bad year. On 34 targets this season, Green has almost an impossibly low 119 yards. On the balls he has reeled in, he’s averaging just 8.5 yards per reception and, over the past two weeks, Tee Higgins is averaging more routes run and more targets than Green. The Bengals are moving into the future with their young guys, which means it’s time to move Green onto your bench.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, vs. Broncos
Was Edelman just a product of Tom Brady? I don’t know. What I do know is that he has just five catches for 58 yards over his past two games and no touchdowns on the season. If this game is even played (as of this writing that’s in doubt), there’s also a chance Cam Newton misses this game as well. Take away Edelman’s Week 2 performance against the lowly Seahawks pass D and he has been under 11 fantasy points in every other game. His TD drought isn’t likely to end this week either, as Denver has allowed just one touchdown to the slot so far this season.
Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins, at 49ers
Gesicki has disappointed so far this season (just one catch in each of the past two games), and there’s little reason to believe it will come to an end in Week 5. San Francisco allows just 7.5 yards per reception to tight ends on the season, and they’ve yet to let a TE find the end zone.
Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, can only imagine what George Carlin would think of 2020. I miss him very much.
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