NFL Week 5: Previewing the matchups

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The Post Sports Live crew debates whether the defense's impressive performance in the Redskins' win over the Oakland Raiders is a reason to be optimistic for the rest of the season.

The Post Sports Live crew debates whether the defense's impressive performance in the Redskins' win over the Oakland Raiders is a reason to be optimistic for the rest of the season.

A gaucho rides a wild horse during the annual celebration of Criolla Week in Montevideo, April 15, 2014. Throughout Easter Week, 'gauchos', the Latin American equivalent of the North American cowboy, from all over Uruguay and neighboring Argentina and Brazil will visit Montevideo to participate in the Criolla Week to win the best rider award. The competition is held from April 13 to April 20 this year. REUTERS/Andres Stapff (URUGUAY - Tags: ANIMALS SOCIETY)

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Broncos (4-0) at Cowboys (2-2)

Time, TV: 1 p.m. (FOX).

Line: DEN by 7.5.

Notable: There a bunch of good matchups this week, which I suppose will happen when the four teams on a bye (Washington, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay) are a combined 2-14. Whether Denver-Dallas turns out to be a good game depends on the Cowboys’ ability to keep up with the Broncos on the scoreboard. That seems an unlikely proposition, given the insane-in-the-membrane numbers Peyton Manning and Co. are putting up. Here’s just one: the Broncos have won 15 straight regular season games, each by at least seven points, for nearly a full season of dominance! (Ironically — or is it appropriately? Quick, someone get Alanis Morissette! — the loss which preceded Denver’s 15-game run was to New England.)

Fantasy scout: Miles Austin’s hamstrings, which cost him six games in 2011, are acting up again, causing him to miss last week’s game and leave him questionable for Sunday’s contest. Terrance Williams subbed in for Austin and did some good things, catching seven passes for 71 yards. Unfortunately, the rookie from Baylor did at least one very bad thing when he fumbled near the end zone late in the fourth quarter of the loss to San Diego. However, Dallas doesn’t have much else at wide receiver, so see if the team keeps playing Williams. If so, and if Austin continues to miss time, Williams could make for an adequate WR3.

Eagles (1-3) at Giants (0-4)

Time, TV: 1 p.m. (FOX).

Line: NYG by 2.

Notable: If you’re in the New York area, you’re probably used to hearing the words “Giants” and “disarray” in the same sentence. For instance, you might hear, “Dis array of talent on dese Giants is pitiful.” If you’re in MetLife Stadium Sunday, you will definitely hear a ton of booing if the boys in blue don’t pick it up. One would like to think that New York will play with the desperation of a team that knows this is its last shot at relevance, but it’s hard to know what to expect at this point.

Fantasy scout: LeSean McCoy owners who don’t have Bryce Brown need to pray that McCoy makes it through this game in one piece, then work hard on acquiring his handcuff. McCoy has had injury scares the past two weeks, and Brown would have RB1 value if he took over as the centerpiece of Chip Kelly’s offense.

Ravens (2-2) at Dolphins (3-1)

Time, TV: 1 p.m. (CBS).

Line: MIA by 3.

Notable: Miami’s Ryan Tannehill is the most-sacked QB in the NFL, having been dropped 18 times already, so why is Baltimore the one beefing up its offensive line? Well, for one thing, the Ravens have had their own trouble protecting Joe Flacco (12 sacks), and for another thing, they can’t run the ball, averaging a mere 2.6 yards per carry. Folks, that’s Jacksonville territory. Which is the very territory whence tackle Eugene Monroe comes to Charm City, so good luck with that.

Fantasy scout: Mike Wallace laid an egg in his Dolphins debut, then squawked about it and got fed the ball in his next start. Well, he’s been marginalized again in his past two games, but he ain’t exactly making chicken feed, which is why Wallace is a good buy-low target. He won’t be an expensive decoy in every game.

Texans (2-2) at 49ers (2-2)

Time, TV: 8:30 p.m. (NBC).

Line: SF by 6.5.

Notable: San Francisco safety Donte Whitner, who has been fined a time or two for hitting people, is legally changing his last name to “Hitner.” Something tells me that won’t quite alleviate league scrutiny of his style of play. For their part, Texans fans feel that their quarterback should replace the A in his last name with an L, and go by “Matt Schlub.” His hideous pick-six was the turning point in a loss to Seattle, so he has some making up to do with the Houston faithful.

Fantasy scout: It’s hard to say that Colin Kaepernick is a buy-low, just because there are so many solid QB options around, there’s no need to give up something of value to get good production at that spot. However, the 49ers signal-caller has scuffled a bit since Week 1, and if you can get him cheaply, better days lie ahead.

Chargers (2-2) at Raiders (1-3)

Time, TV: 11:35 p.m. (NFL Network).

Line: SD by 4.5.

Notable: How about this zany baseball postseason? One-game playoffs to get into one-game playoffs, Cleveland getting ousted early (okay, that’s par for that city’s course) and an NFL game that’ll start close to midnight EST because of a scheduling conflict with the A’s. Live from Oakland, it’s the Late Show with Darren McFadden! Let’s just hope that Chargers fans have the good sense to stay far away from a Black Hole crowd that’s been given an extra seven hours to tailgate.

Fantasy scout: Owners in .5 or full PPR leagues who need an RB2 should be working on trade offers for Danny Woodhead. Or if you’re lucky, just snag him off waivers ASAP (he’s under 65% owned in Yahoo leagues). The vertically challenged Charger is looking a lot like the Darren Sproles of the AFC this season.

Jets (2-2) at Falcons (1-3)

Time, TV: 8:30 p.m. (ESPN).

Line: ATL by 10.

Notable: Many Jets fans breathed a sigh of relief when the Pick-Six Picasso, Mark Sanchez, suffered a preseason shoulder injury that essentially handed the quarterback job to Geno Smith. Now it’s Falcons fans who are feeling like their struggling squad just caught a huge break. Atlanta is trying to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2007, and the fates have handed it Smith, who has accounted for 11 turnovers, including a ludicrous behind-the-back fumble that resulted in an opposing score. Remind you of anyone?

Fantasy scout: Mike Goodson returns to the Jets from a four-game suspension, and he is worth monitoring as he gets back into game shape. New York will probably limit his snaps for a couple of weeks, but with Chris Ivory being Chris Ivory (i.e., injured) and Bilal Powell arguably less talented, Goodson has a chance to make his way to the front of the Jets’ RB rotation.

Other games

Saints (4-0) at Bears (3-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Pick ’em.

Notable: New Orleans is undefeated, thanks to its . . . defense? That unit is currently ranked sixth in the NFL, while vaunted Chicago checks in at 20th. Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan not only has a bizarrely similar name to Browns tight end Jordan Cameron, but he’s also forcing a real argument about who’s playing better.

Fantasy scout: Sure, Alshon Jeffery racked up good numbers last week largely because the Bears were playing catch-up, but he’s been a solid part of Chicago’s offense all season, as evidenced by his targets (8, 5, 8, 11). Jeffery’s services may be needed again today, and he could be a WR4 going forward.

Patriots (4-0) at Bengals (2-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: CIN by 1.

Notable: For a guy who himself often isn’t very good company, Bill Belichick is keeping some excellent company these days. With a win today, the Patriots’ Coach would move past Chuck Noll and into fifth all-time in NFL wins at 210, trailing only Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry and Curly Lambeau.

Fantasy scout: Vince Wilfork’s season-ending injury isn’t just a big loss for the Patriots, it’s a 350-pound, interior-clogging loss. New England now figures to have much more trouble stopping the run, which could impact flex-spot decisions for owners of upcoming opponents.

Lions (3-1) at Packers (1-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: GB by 7.

Notable: Matthew Stafford just set the record for most passing yards in a QB’s first 50 games (14,069), which is a pretty neat stat when you consider that his 50th game only arrives today. Remember when the big debate before the 2009 draft was Stafford or Sanchez? Yeah, me neither.

Fantasy scout: Eddie Lacy has a delicate name but a bruising game, and his owners should be delighted to get him back in their lineups after he missed two weeks, first with a concussion, then with a bye. In light of that injury, however, his snap count remains in question.

Chiefs (4-0) at Titans (3-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: KC by 3.

Notable: KC’s ability to win this road game may depend on how well it takes the ball before it goes home. The Chiefs have thrived on turnovers (an AFC-best 12 so far), but the Titans have yet to commit a single one. Titans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, filling in for Jake Locker, is tasked with continuing that stinginess.

Fantasy scout: Just when Nate Washington was turning into a consistent asset, he loses Locker. For the next few weeks, he’ll be relying on a much weaker arm to get him the ball, but Fitzpatrick was looking for him last week and could keep Washington’s value afloat.

Seahawks (4-0) at Colts (3-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: SEA by 2.5.

Notable: It’s the first meeting between two stars of the quarterback draft class of 2012. And although Indianapolis’s Andrew Luck went first overall while Seattle’s Russell Wilson went 75th, the Colts seem to be emulating the Seahawks’ approach by asking Luck to operate a run-heavy attack.

Fantasy scout: Donald Brown just won’t go away. The underwhelming RB regained relevance after Vick Ballard’s season-ending injury, then dropped back into obscurity following the Trent Richardson trade. Now rumor has it Ahmad Bradshaw may need surgery. [Sigh . . .]

Jaguars (0-4) at Rams (1-3)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: STL by 11.5.

Notable: St. Louis has looked awful in its past two games, but there’s awful, and then there’s Jacksonville. One bit of good news for the Jags is the return from suspension of Justin Blackmon. A team this dreary needs a talented knucklehead to liven things up, a la Keyshawn on the 1-15 1996 Jets.

Fantasy scout: The Rams have a running back named Chase Reynolds. I mention this because it appears now that any RB on the St. Louis roster is a candidate to lead the team in carries for the rest of the season. This is a situation that use a little clarity, to say the very least.

Panthers (1-2) at Cardinals (2-2)

Time: 4:05 p.m.

Line: Pick ‘em.

Notable: The Giants were shellacked for their putrid performance at Carolina two weeks ago, but were the Panthers given enough credit? Coming out of its bye, Carolina can get back into the playoff race if it can continue to play well. Starting today, its next five opponents are a combined 5-15.

Fantasy scout: Andre Ellington continues to emerge as a recommended handcuff for Rashard Mendenhall owners, and a solid speculative play for others. Cards Coach Bruce Arians was none too pleased with Mendy after a poor game last week, and he may soon turn to Ellington.

 
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