2020 Fantasy Football Week 5 Exploitable Matchups: Where to turn for an advantage?

With a healthy dash of context, it could be helpful — actionable, even — to know how a defense is being attacked.

Are opposing offenses peppering the middle of the field against a certain defense, leading to a glut of tight end opportunity? Are wide receivers having their way against a defense, commanding a massive target share? Are running backs seeing plenty of dump off opportunities against a particular defense?

These are questions I’ll address in this space during the regular season, examining which positions are seeing the most opportunity against a certain defense in an exercise that might serve as the tiebreaker in your weekly agonizing start-sit decisions.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="With every passing week, our understanding of how offenses are going after defenses should improve. Context will be key, as a bunch of targets to&nbsp;Travis Kelce&nbsp;doesn’t mean&nbsp;Tyler Eifert&nbsp;is going to see the same kind of opportunity against the same defense. If only it were that easy.» data-reactid=»23″>With every passing week, our understanding of how offenses are going after defenses should improve. Context will be key, as a bunch of targets to Travis Kelce doesn’t mean Tyler Eifert is going to see the same kind of opportunity against the same defense. If only it were that easy.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="These numbers are&nbsp;compiled weekly&nbsp;by my lovely&nbsp;Living The Stream&nbsp;co-host, JJ Zachariason.» data-reactid=»24″>These numbers are compiled weekly by my lovely Living The Stream co-host, JJ Zachariason.

Running Back

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="David Montgomery (Bears) vs. Buccaneers» data-reactid=»28″>David Montgomery (Bears) vs. Buccaneers

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="You might rightfully hedge on Montgomery this week. The Bears are 5.5 point underdogs against a tough Tampa defense that’s seen the sixth fewest rushes attempted against them in 2020. It makes sense: opponents are rarely in position to run against the Bucs, who have the third best point differential (+28) in the NFC. And Monty, of course, has seen limited opportunity when Chicago faces negative game script.&nbsp;» data-reactid=»29″>You might rightfully hedge on Montgomery this week. The Bears are 5.5 point underdogs against a tough Tampa defense that’s seen the sixth fewest rushes attempted against them in 2020. It makes sense: opponents are rarely in position to run against the Bucs, who have the third best point differential (+28) in the NFC. And Monty, of course, has seen limited opportunity when Chicago faces negative game script. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Consider Montgomery’s Week 4 usage before you slide him over to your bench for another running back or flex option. Without Tarik Cohen — out for the year with an ACL injury — we saw Montgomery get six targets last week against the Colts, or 17 percent of the team’s target share. Then there’s this: he ran the most pass routes (35) of any running back in the league last week. Montgomery in the first three weeks of the season had run just 48 routes. Cohen, meanwhile, ran 54 routes in the first three games.&nbsp;» data-reactid=»30″>Consider Montgomery’s Week 4 usage before you slide him over to your bench for another running back or flex option. Without Tarik Cohen — out for the year with an ACL injury — we saw Montgomery get six targets last week against the Colts, or 17 percent of the team’s target share. Then there’s this: he ran the most pass routes (35) of any running back in the league last week. Montgomery in the first three weeks of the season had run just 48 routes. Cohen, meanwhile, ran 54 routes in the first three games. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="If Montgomery hangs on to the passing down role — or at least most of said role — it should pay off Thursday against Tampa. Almost 29 percent of targets against the Bucs this season have gone to running backs, the third highest rate in the NFL. It’s not just Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey who saw lots of targets against the Bucs this season. Mike Davis, subbing in for an injured McCaffrey, got eight targets against Tampa; Denver running backs, led by Melvin Gordon, saw nine targets in Week 3; and Chargers backs got eight targets last week (and that was with pass catching dynamo Austin Ekeler missing most of the game with a hamstring injury).&nbsp;» data-reactid=»31″>If Montgomery hangs on to the passing down role — or at least most of said role — it should pay off Thursday against Tampa. Almost 29 percent of targets against the Bucs this season have gone to running backs, the third highest rate in the NFL. It’s not just Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey who saw lots of targets against the Bucs this season. Mike Davis, subbing in for an injured McCaffrey, got eight targets against Tampa; Denver running backs, led by Melvin Gordon, saw nine targets in Week 3; and Chargers backs got eight targets last week (and that was with pass catching dynamo Austin Ekeler missing most of the game with a hamstring injury). 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Wideouts and tight ends aren’t seeing all that much opportunity against the Bucs, while opponents have had success against two Tampa linebackers who have struggled in coverage: Levonte David has allowed 11 catches for 65 yards on 15 targets, and Devin White has given up 19 grabs, 214 yards, and a touchdown on 25 targets. Only two linebackers have given up more receptions than White through Week 4.&nbsp;» data-reactid=»32″>Wideouts and tight ends aren’t seeing all that much opportunity against the Bucs, while opponents have had success against two Tampa linebackers who have struggled in coverage: Levonte David has allowed 11 catches for 65 yards on 15 targets, and Devin White has given up 19 grabs, 214 yards, and a touchdown on 25 targets. Only two linebackers have given up more receptions than White through Week 4. 

Probably the Bears will be forced into a pass-heavy game script this week — a script that should fuel Montgomery’s PPR upside in a game where he should see coverage from David and White. 

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 04: Chicago Bears Running Back David Montgomery (32) avoids the tackle by Indianapolis Colts Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (27) during the NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears on October 4, 2020 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 04: Chicago Bears Running Back David Montgomery (32) avoids the tackle by Indianapolis Colts Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (27) during the NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears on October 4, 2020 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Bears Running Back David Montgomery got more work in the passing game in Week 4, which could be a sign of things to come. (Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wide Receiver 

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Damiere Byrd (NE) vs. Broncos» data-reactid=»46″>Damiere Byrd (NE) vs. Broncos

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Byrd has quietly collected 22 targets over his past three games, outpacing all other Patriots receivers, including the stone-handed Julian Edelman. Against the Chiefs in Week 4, Byrd ran more routes (41) than any other Patriot. He tied for the team lead in routes (31) the previous week against the Raiders. Against Seattle in Week 2, Byrd again led the team in routes.&nbsp;» data-reactid=»47″>Byrd has quietly collected 22 targets over his past three games, outpacing all other Patriots receivers, including the stone-handed Julian Edelman. Against the Chiefs in Week 4, Byrd ran more routes (41) than any other Patriot. He tied for the team lead in routes (31) the previous week against the Raiders. Against Seattle in Week 2, Byrd again led the team in routes. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Brian Hoyer, who might start Week 5 against Denver after Jarrett Stidham was stunningly awful in relief of Hoyer in Week 4, targeted Byrd eight times before he was benched. Byrd, who had five catches for 80 yards against the Chiefs, accounted for 26 percent of New England’s targets against KC. The likelihood that the Patriots will attack the Broncos via the run if they grab an early lead puts a cap on Byrd’s upside, but the matchup is objectively a good one.&nbsp;» data-reactid=»52″>Brian Hoyer, who might start Week 5 against Denver after Jarrett Stidham was stunningly awful in relief of Hoyer in Week 4, targeted Byrd eight times before he was benched. Byrd, who had five catches for 80 yards against the Chiefs, accounted for 26 percent of New England’s targets against KC. The likelihood that the Patriots will attack the Broncos via the run if they grab an early lead puts a cap on Byrd’s upside, but the matchup is objectively a good one. 

Wide receivers have been targeted 63.16 percent of the time against Denver through four weeks. That comes out to 25.25 targets per game for wideouts against the Broncos. Only the Seahawks and their horrid secondary has allowed more targets to receivers this season. Somehow, some way, Jets wideouts combined for 32 targets (and 18 receptions) against the Broncos. Let that wash over you. Byrd has operated mostly on the outside this season — not a bad place to be for wideouts against Denver. In Week 1, Corey Davis caught seven balls for 101 yards against Denver; Diontae Johnson caught eight of 13 targets for 92 yards in Week 2; and just last week, and all-time great Jeff Smith caught seven of nine targets for 81 yards against the Broncos. 

Byrd’s upside — along the the upside of every New England pass catcher — is limited this week thanks to the Patriots’ quarterback situation and what’s likely to be a run-heavy plan. Byrd should still be a more-than-viable start in deeper 12-team formats. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Editor’s Note:&nbsp;Unlock the brand new League Sync! Keep track of all your Yahoo! teams in one place and use our Trade Analyzer, Free Agent Finder, Lineup Adviser and custom projections to make all the right roster decisions!&nbsp;&nbsp;Get all of our Season Tools, League Sync AND DFS Tools for as low as&nbsp;$7.99/month!» data-reactid=»55″>Editor’s Note: Unlock the brand new League Sync! Keep track of all your Yahoo! teams in one place and use our Trade Analyzer, Free Agent Finder, Lineup Adviser and custom projections to make all the right roster decisions!  Get all of our Season Tools, League Sync AND DFS Tools for as low as $7.99/month!

Tight End

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Ian Thomas (Panthers) at Falcons» data-reactid=»57″>Ian Thomas (Panthers) at Falcons

We all saw Robert Tonyan torch the Falcons for six receptions, 98 yards, and three — three! — touchdowns on Monday night. Tonyan, who hadn’t been used much at all in the Green Bay offense headed into Week 4, was a superb streaming candidate because the Atlanta defense is so generous to tight ends. This week, Ian Thomas gets a shot at the Falcons. 

Is it easy touting a tight end two weeks removed from a big, fat zero? It is not. Thomas saw encouraging Week 4 usage though, running 25 pass routes and catching two of his five targets — one for a touchdown. Fellow Panthers tight end Chris Manhertz, who remains the team’s primary blocking tight end, ran 19 routes and saw a single target. Consider it a downside warning that Thomas had seen a mere four targets in his first three games of 2020. His Week 5 matchup, however, couldn’t be better. 

Tight ends have seen 23.46 percent of the targets (the league’s seventh highest rate) against the Falcons this season, accounting for an average of 9.75 targets per content. Tight ends have done quite a bit with that opportunity: Seahawks tight ends in Week 1 combined for seven catches on seven targets, while Dallas tight ends caught 11 of 13 targets for 122 yards in Week 2. The Falcons defense was the youth elixir for Jimmy Graham in Week 3, when the lumbering veteran was targeted ten times and ended up with two scores. Then there was Tonyan’s blowup performance on Monday night. 

Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones has been ripped by pass catchers this season — including Graham a couple weeks ago — allowing 13 receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets. Falcons safety Keanu Neal, who sometimes covers tight ends, hasn’t been any better than Jones, giving up 10 catches for 136 yards on 12 targets this year. 

It’ll be a good game environment for Thomas this week, as the Falcons-Panthers game has an over/under of 51 points, the fourth highest of the week.

Carolina’s offense isn’t one that will force feed Thomas, even in a fantastic matchup. But he’s a good candidate for a touchdown against Atlanta, and that’s all we can ask for from our streaming tight ends. He’s currently rostered in just 8% of Yahoo leagues.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="C.D. Carter is co-host&nbsp;of Living The Stream, owner of DraftDayConsultants.com&nbsp;and author of fantasy football books, including How To Think Like A Fantasy Football Winner.&nbsp;He can be found on Twitter&nbsp;@cdcarter13.&nbsp;He never logs off.» data-reactid=»64″>C.D. Carter is co-host of Living The Stream, owner of DraftDayConsultants.com and author of fantasy football books, including How To Think Like A Fantasy Football Winner. He can be found on Twitter @cdcarter13. He never logs off.

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