We are somehow already through four weeks of the NFL season, and of course there is plenty to discuss in fantasy football.
Each Tuesday and Saturday during the season, ESPN fantasy analyst Eric Moody will ask our NFL Nation reporters the most pressing questions heading into the weekend and what to make of the fallout after games are played. Who is primed for a big performance, who is impacted by injuries, what roles might change? Here’s what our crew had to say about some of the biggest storylines heading into the weekend of Week 5.
What can we anticipate from Jonathan Taylor in his season debut, considering his role, performance expectations and impact on the Indianapolis Colts‘ running game?
How will Jonathan Taylor’s potential return impact Zack Moss?
Field Yates wouldn’t play Zack Moss but would start Jonathan Taylor against the Titans this week.
The Colts won’t feel pressure to overutilize him. He hasn’t played since last December, and the Colts have enjoyed some rushing success with veteran Zack Moss carrying the load the past three weeks. But the Colts insist Taylor is ready to contribute and could be rotated in to spell Moss. Taylor hasn’t been a part of offensive meetings until recently, so there might be some concern there. But coach Shane Steichen isn’t worried. “He did a good job running the football [in practice], seeing the holes,” Steichen said. “Shoot, he’s a veteran player. He’s played a lot of football and he looked good.” — Stephen Holder
How do you expect 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey to perform Sunday night against the formidable Cowboys defense, and what key factors will determine his success in this matchup?
The Cowboys did a good job against McCaffrey in the playoffs last year, limiting him to 57 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown. But San Francisco seemed to figure some things out in the second half of that game, when McCaffrey had five carries for 27 yards. Fast forward to now, and McCaffrey is rolling and the Cowboys struggled to stop the run against a lesser Arizona team. The thing about McCaffrey is it’s hard to completely shut him down because he can beat you in so many ways. It’s hard to imagine he will be held down in similar fashion in this one, even if he doesn’t have the big numbers he’s had each of the first four weeks. — Nick Wagoner
What should we expect from Cooper Kupp‘s potential return and its impact on the Los Angeles Rams‘ passing attack?
Rams head coach Sean McVay said he doesn’t anticipate Kupp being on a snap count but that the team will “see how it goes” on Sunday. McVay also said Kupp looks like himself on the field and that he’s seeing good things between the receiver and quarterback Matthew Stafford “with a lot of their nonverbal communication.” Kupp’s return will likely mean fewer targets for rookie sensation Puka Nacua, but don’t expect Stafford and McVay to forget about him just because Kupp is back. Kupp’s return could also open up Tutu Atwell down the field. — Sarah Barshop
What adjustments or strategies should Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals offense implement to get things going against the Cardinals?
Getting the ball to Joe Mixon in either the run or pass game could help the Bengals. Mixon had a couple of explosive runs early against Tennessee. He also had moments as a receiver the first two weeks of the year but has had just two combined catches over his last two games. Calling fewer RPOs and having more designed runs could ease the pressure on Burrow, keep the Bengals on offense for longer and also make things easier on the defense. — Ben Baby
How has De’Von Achane‘s recent performance affected the Miami Dolphins‘ running back hierarchy, and what potential changes or challenges could Jeff Wilson’s return introduce to the team’s running back rotation?
How does De’Von Achane’s impact affect Raheem Mostert
Field Yates breaks down the Dolphins’ backfield with De’Von Achane and Raheem Mostert.
Ultimately, the Dolphins’ backfield is a meritocracy, and as long as Achane looks like the team’s best running back, his workload will reflect that. Now, one bad game is not enough to bury Raheem Mostert, but a pair of fumbles against Buffalo paved a way for the rookie to record his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game. Jeff Wilson Jr.‘s return should not eat into Achane’s workload between the twenties, but he could very well operate as Miami’s goal-line back — meaning a handful of vulture touchdowns. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
How do the Green Bay Packers plan to address their running game struggles following the disappointing performance last week against the Lions?
More touches. Aaron Jones needs the football, and it sounds like they’re planning to give it to him. He was on a restricted rep count last week after returning from his Week 1 hamstring injury and was basically a nonfactor. When asked what was missing from the running game, Jones said: “A little bit of everything.” That included left guard Elgton Jenkins, who missed the last two games because of a knee injury but is expected back this week. — Rob Demovsky
Isiah Pacheco currently leads the Kansas City Chiefs in rushing and is their primary target in the passing game out of the backfield. Is this trend likely to persist, or can we expect Jerick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire to gradually become more involved in third-down situations?
The roles for the Chiefs’ three backs have become fairly well defined. Pacheco is the regular featured back and will get the most playing time and touches in most games. McKinnon plays a lot on third downs and in other passing situations. Edwards-Helaire gets the occasional series. Don’t look for these roles to change much unless the Chiefs get their hand forced by an injury to one or more of their backs. The Chiefs, at least so far, are pleased with the results of the playing rotation. — Adam Teicher
As Breece Hall returns to Empower Field at Mile High with no apparent playing-time restrictions following his ACL injury there last year, what factors will shape his role and performance with the New York Jets in upcoming games, and how might it affect the team’s overall offensive strategy?
Hall, no longer on a play restriction, should see an uptick in carries, but it won’t be a full-blown workload. Dalvin Cook and Michael Carter (the Jets’ third-down back) will continue to get pieces of the pie. Hall has averaged only eight rushes per game, but that’s because the Jets haven’t been able to sustain drives. If they can do that, and get the run game going, Hall should get up to 15 attempts or so. — Rich Cimini