FANTASY PLAYS: Coates, Meredith, Mariota and chaos
While Week 5 was without major fantasy injuries - Jeremy Hill (chest), Eddie Lacy (ankle), Steve Smith (ankle), and Cody Kessler (chest/ribs) were the biggest names, and the severity of their injuries won't be known until later this week - it still had the usual chaos and confusion. Backfield situations in Minnesota and Oakland remain confusing, Odell Beckham, Jr. had just four more receiving yards (56) than Giants teammate Bobby Rainey (52), 43-year-old Adam Vinatieri is kicking 54-yard field goals, and two second-year wideouts established themselves as legitimate fantasy assets.
COATES COMES INTO HIS OWN
Pittsburgh wide receiver Sammie Coates has 50 yards in each of this season's five games. He followed up his Week 4 quasi-breakout (eight targets, six receptions, 79 yards) with a Week 5 legitimate breakout (11 targets, six catches, 139 yards, two touchdowns). And yet Coates dropped five passes in Week 5, including a sure-thing touchdown, continuing a trend that has haunted him all year. Coates is available in 33 percent of CBS leagues, 60.1 percent of ESPN leagues, and 64 percent of Yahoo leagues. He's worth an aggressive bid in all formats, especially considering his spike in production has coincided with Le'Veon Bell's return, which has likely pulled even more attention off Coates.
CAMERON MEREDITH IS NEW KEVIN WHITE
The Bears were dealt a major blow last week when Kevin White (23 targets in his last two games) was put on injured reserve. However, Cameron Meredith stepped up in his absence, with nine receptions on 12 targets for 130 yards and a touchdown. Assuming Brian Hoyer continues to start at quarterback for the Bears - he's averaged 339 passing yards in the three games he's started and has six touchdowns against zero interceptions in that span - not only are there enough passes to go around in this Dowell Loggains offense, but Hoyer seems to be going out of his way to avoid Alshon Jeffery (who hasn't gone over seven targets in a game this season), meaning a bigger piece of the pie for Meredith even when Eddie Royal returns to full health.
MARCUS MARIOTA RUNS WILD
There's going to be a lot of talk this week about proceeding cautiously with Marcus Mariota, as the Titans quarterback has only thrown the ball an average of 33 times over five games this season, and has two games without any passing touchdowns. But the counterargument is Mariota's work in the ground game Sunday, as he gained 60 yards on seven carries in Sunday's win over Miami. For a fantasy player, those 60 rushing yards are worth six points, which would have taken 150 passing yards to achieve.
Mariota has decent matchups against the Browns and Colts the next two weeks and will continue to benefit from a run game featuring a rejuvenated DeMarco Murray and talented Derrick Henry. Owned in 31.9 percent of ESPN leagues, 47 percent of Yahoo leagues, and 54 percent of CBS leagues, expect a sizable jump in ownership as Mariota enters Week 6.
- Will Fuller had 211 yards in his first two games, but has been erratic in the last three, with 31, 81, and 4 receiving yards in Weeks 3, 4, and 5, respectively. As a deep play threat, Fuller has caught just half of his targets this season. With DeAndre Hopkins also disappointing (he has just one game with more than 56 receiving yards in 2016), approach your Texans cautiously, especially with Denver's tough defense looming on the schedule in Week 7.
- When the waiver wire opens, don't forget about Jeremy Kerley, who has been in the Chip Kelly system for about a month and a half, yet has established himself as the clear No. 1 receiving option on the 49ers, with 22 targets, 190 yards, and two touchdowns in his last two games.
- A few players on the rise in terms of snaps: Rishard Matthews (41), Breshad Perriman (36), Dorial Green-Beckham (32), and Cordarrelle Patterson (48). The best speculative plays of this group are Perriman, a talented wideout who lost all of 2015 to injury and could capitalize on a possible Steve Smith absence, and Matthews, whom the Titans pursued in free agency but has been unable to get into any kind of rhythm this season. Patterson is also an intriguing option - a 2013 first round pick who has 12 total targets and a touchdown in the last two weeks.
Remember to replace and bench your Vikings and Buccaneers, who are off in Week 6.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com