Hold on, now. I know what you’re thinking. You watched last week’s TNF, looked at tonight’s teams, and checked to see if you had other things to do. But this game carries a bit more fantasy intrigue. Plus, both teams have less expectations, so there’s less tension. It could be fun!
Carson Wentz can excel when afforded a clean pocket. Justin Fields looks like he may be coming on as a passer. There are even a couple of fringe fantasy options worth considering.
But first, let’s look at the matchup from a big-picture perspective.
Two ‘Prove-It’ Quarterbacks Collide in NFC Showdown
It’s odd to think that Fields has to prove himself in his second year. We all saw his rookie season. But a new regime invites new plans. And Fields doesn’t necessarily have to be part of those plans. Their moves this offseason intimated as much. Regardless, his development is the fulcrum for what happens next. At least he can still create under duress:
Watching Fields in the open field is fun, but the necessity of his magic brings a bit of sadness into the mix. Per Pro Football Focus, he’s tied for the most scrambles of any quarterback. In other words, his highlights probably aren’t by design. And while the quick reaction is to point to Chicago’s personnel, some of the blame has to go to the quarterback.
Fields has the slowest average time to throw at 3.35 seconds. Meanwhile, the Bears offensive line is eighth in pass block win rate. Something doesn’t add up here. Moreover, he has the second-highest pressure rate among all starters. So, I’m betting we’ll see more of him trying to navigate through traffic.
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Washington’s defensive front is fifth in pressure rate and fifth in rushing EPA allowed. However, their secondary is a work in progress. Three of their five opponents have had multi-passing touchdown results. The Commanders haven’t forced an interception since Week 1.
Fields could shine as a passer tonight. He’s made some improvements, and Washington’s defense may give him a much-needed confidence booster. Hopefully, their offense also shows up to force a competitive match.
But what about Carson Wentz?
Robert hit the nail on the head here. Without a doubt, Wentz has been inconsistent under center. But look at when those inconsistencies have cropped up. Philadelphia dunked on him in Week 3, and Dallas showed him a similar amount of love the following Sunday. Both teams are top-10 in dropback EPA allowed. Wentz is the same guy, just in a Commanders’ uniform.
But we fantasy managers can still use Wentz tonight. Chicago is seventh in pressure rate but has the ninth-lowest adjusted sack rate. At the same time, Wentz hasn’t been a complete disaster under pressure. Outside of Weeks 3 and 4, he’s seventh in on-target rate without any interceptions.
The long-term viability of Wentz as Washington’s starter may be up for debate if things go south. But for tonight, the offense has the runway to perform well. Terry McLaurin has my eye this evening and will be one of my points of interest as Week 6 kicks off.
Points of Interest in TNF
Besides Ron Rivera casting stones at his quarterback, I don’t feel the same anxiety in the air tonight as I did in Week 5. So, I can focus on a couple of key aspects of each offense with long-term fantasy impacts. For instance, I may have been out on the aforementioned fields too early.
Justin Fields Check-In Time
I gave Fields a pass in his season opener. Chicago won, but he only dropped back to pass 23 times in the rain. And then the losses came in back-to-back fashion.
Through Week 3, he had just 45 attempts. Tom Brady‘s thrown 52 times in consecutive weeks. Fields’ unbelievably high sack rate and turnovers were enough to have me worried about his season and career. But he may have turned a corner.
Fields’ baseline metrics have steadily risen since Week 3. Admittedly, they’re not great, but I’ll take a positive trend when I can. Part of the improvement is his trusting the scheme and his teammates. His completion percentage on play-action passes for the first three weeks was ranked 31st despite running it at the fifth-highest rate. He didn’t miss a throw off play action in Week 5. And we all know what he can be as a rusher.
Josh Allen is the only quarterback with a higher forced missed tackle rate than Fields. He has three fewer explosive runs than Jalen Hurts, who leads all passers with 12. Continued progress as a thrower is exactly what we need to see from a young quarterback on a rebuilding team. With Washington’s woes on defense, we should get another glimpse of his headway tonight.
Where’s Scary Terry?
Wentz is top five in passing yards and touchdowns. In theory, I buy it. His supporting cast is better than it was on the Colts, and he’s eighth in pass rate over expected. However, Terry McLaurin‘s middling role in the (likely short-lived) “Wentz resurgence” is a tough sell. Jahan Dotson oath Logan Thomas missed last week, and the recently extended receiver was third in targets. But I don’t think it’s his fault.
I don’t think I’ll get much pushback on the idea McLaurin’s their best receiver. However, as their best, it’s pushed him to the outside at a career-high rate of 68.9%. No other pass-catcher on the team can consistently gain separation or force coverages to honor the boundary like McLaurin.
As a result, he’s reliant on volatile targets from Wentz. Plus, his red-zone participation has hit an all-time low. For now, he’s just another guy in the offense.
McLaurin leads all Washington starters in air yard share. And Washington has the ninth-most passing attempts when in the red zone. It may take time, but McLaurin’s talent shouldn’t relegate him to being a solely tertiary option for Wentz.
But Don’t Bench These Guys
Tonight starts our first week dealing with teams on bye. Injuries may have forced your hand over the last couple of weeks, but our choices are even more limited in Week 6. If you couldn’t get one of this week’s hot waiver pickups, it’s OK. Maybe one of these guys at the end of your bench could get you through your matchup.
Brian Robinson will likely be the spotlight of Washington’s backfield. And, rightfully so. In his debut, he out-touched Antonio Gibson, putting himself in line to lead the Commanders. However, the third option in their rushing attack should have some PPR appeal on TNF.
JD McKissic did not have a single rushing attempt in Week 5. However, he was second on the team in targets in the same game. His route participation has been above 50.0% over the past three weeks. Most importantly, his targets per route run (TPRR) bounced back in Week 5.
Logan Thomas’ absence works in McKissic’s favor. Last week, the pass-catching back earned both of Wentz’s red-zone targets while handling 40.0% of the two-minute work. When McKissic is on the field, there is a strong indication that the team is trying to get him the ball. His 28.0% TPRR leads all Washington pass-catchers through five weeks.
Again, I’d give the nod to McKissic in PPR formats only. The Commanders have enough uncertainty in their running game as it stands. However, McKissic’s role as a receiver has enough certainty for a FLEX play on Thursday night.
It’s been a rough season for Darnell Mooney. Or rather, it depends on how you look at it. He leads his team in target share (24.4%). His 44.2% air-yard share is the most of any starting receiver in the league. However, he has just 21 goals on the season. Cooper Kupp up to 19 looks in Week 4 alone. But Washington’s secondary is weak enough to warrant Mooney as a viable option tonight.
I know we’re in Week 5, but reminding myself about a player’s skill level can be helpful. It becomes easier to parse how much of their current situation is on them versus their surroundings. Reception Perception gives us a solid starting point.
Mooney has been successful at each level since his rookie season. His outrageous 17.8 aDOT would have you believe he’s only a deep threat. But, to their credit, the Bears coaching staff has put him in positions to succeed.
Mooney leads all Chicago receivers in slot targets and screens. Typically, they’re the high-percentage throws we want for our pass-catchers. And yet, Mooney and Fields have connected on only half of those throws. So, I can excuse most of Mooney’s lack of production. Plus, tonight’s matchup should be enough to forgive the last month of misfires.
I won’t bring up other WR1 stat lines as evidence for a solid outing from Mooney. I mean, sure — if he got double-digit targets, he could match DeVonta Smith‘s numbers. But I’ll be realistic and focus on where the Bears will likely use Mooney.
Slot receivers have scored four touchdowns in five weeks while averaging 54.2 yards on 5.5 targets per game against Washington. Meanwhile, Washington has given up 54.8 yards per game on attempts of 15-plus air yards. There’s been at least one deep reception every week. Washington’s deficiencies at each level give Mooney a solid floor for fantasy purposes.
Even on limited volume, he can be a WR3 for Week 6.