It was another week full of…well, a little bit of everything.
Unfortunately, “everything” included another huge injury
in addition to the excellence, failure, surprise, and disappointment
that make up the weekly soap opera we call fantasy football. We’ll
get the bad news out of the way first…
Just When it was Starting to Look Better…
The touchdown was scored…another silly celebration ensued…and
owners of Odell Beckham Jr. were beginning to feel as if the player
they drafted to be the cornerstone of their team was finally getting
healthy enough to be himself on the field. Less than an hour later,
all of that optimism came crashing down as Beckham fractured his
ankle with four minutes remaining in the game. Earlier, the Giants
had lost both Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall to ankle injuries
of their own. Eli Manning’s best fantasy games of the season
are now behind him as defenses will have little trouble game planning
for an offense without any real weapons. In theory, Sterling Shepard’s
role could increase dramatically once he returns to action as
might the role of TE Evan Engram. But, neither of those guys plays
like Beckham and just like Dalvin Cook’s injury last week,
this one is going to hurt fantasy teams in the worst way. Well
wishes to both men.
A three-touichdown effort on Sunday brings
Newton's TD total to 7 over the last two weeks.
Cam I Am
Does anybody know what happened to Cam Newton between Weeks 3
and 4 of this season? After looking like one of the worst fantasy
quarterbacks on the planet exiting September, Newton has taken
October by storm, producing 671 passing yards and 7 TDs in the
two games since the calendar change. And, he’s turning Devin Funchess (3 TDs in the past two games) and Ed Dickson (170+ receiving
yards vs. Detroit) into weekly lineup options. Rarely does the
switch flip like this for a player, much less a quarterback, but
Newton is looking like the Cam of 2015 and a solid QB1 moving
forward. With the Panthers struggling to run the ball, look for
Newton to continue trying to beat teams downfield. And the scary
part about what he accomplished on Sunday was that he did all
his damage (355 passing yards, 3 TDs) without any ground stats.
The Rise of Leonard Amidst The Fall of
Putting fantasy football aside for a moment, who saw the Jaguars
pounding the Steelers into submission on Sunday coming? Neither
the Ravens nor the Steelers probably want anything to do with
Jacksonville for the rest of this season and beyond. Putting the
fantasy glasses back on, it was another coming out party for an
NFL rookie, but in reality the party started back in Week 1. Leonard Fournette IS the Jaguars offense and on Sunday, he reminded us
that not only is he solid in the red zone, he can also make explosive
plays. 90-yard touchdown runs can change the entire course of
a fantasy game in a few seconds and that was what turned Fournette’s
day from very good to great. I know I got cold feet on Fournette
and traded him away in one league prior to the season starting.
Oh, to go back and do that over again.
On the other side of the ball, there was Ben Roethlisberger throwing
5 interceptions. Almost anybody else would have been benched for
such a mockery, but Ben’s accomplishments over the years
earned him the right to stay in and keep fighting. The question
is: How much more does Ben have left in the tank? He’s way
off the QB1 radar right now in spite of having arguably the league’s
best RB and WR at his disposal.
The Incredible Shrinking Men
In what is looking like a bad year for wide receivers (more on
that momentarily), four supposed marquee wideouts were quiet on
Sunday for at least the second week in a row. To be fair, none
compare the total disappearing act that is Amari Cooper. Hopefully,
you were smart enough to stick Cooper on the bench this past weekend
so that his 1 catch for 8 yards didn’t lose you a game,
but for some, he may have still been in the lineup due to a lack
of other options. Cooper is easily headed for Biggest Bust of
the 2017 season unless things change in a hurry. Maybe he isn’t
fully healthy…or maybe he’ll pull a Cam Newton and
rise from the ashes so to speak. At this point, Michael Crabtree
should be drawing the stronger cornerbacks in coverage, so Cooper
will likely get his chances in the weeks to come. As for the other
“shrinking” WR1-types, Alshon Jeffery and Doug Baldwin
were both held below 45 yards on Sunday for the third time this
season. At least they caught a ball - something that can’t
be said for the enigmatic Sammy Watkins.
Welcome Back, Mr. Martin!
The stats will suggest that Doug Martin had a very solid, but
not spectacular debut performance on Thursday night vs. New England.
After all, Martin ran for 74 yards, caught one pass, and scored
one TD. But, he also averaged nearly 6 yards a carry and looked
greasy fast doing it. Martin is sure to get more than 14 touches
in a game moving forward, and it doesn’t take an insider
to tell you that his arrow is pointing up. In a world where true
stud RBs hardly exist anymore, Martin has a chance to be a throwback
to a time when RBs reigned supreme. Expect 20+ touches a game
and top-ten numbers at the position. Feels good to share good
news alongside the not-so-good.
A.J. and DeAndre Save the Day
Getting back to wide receivers, last week we shared the shocking
truth that no fantasy wideouts scored 20 points or more in a game
in Week 4. That’s with all 32 teams in action, mind you.
And, it almost happened again this week except for the early Sunday
heroics of A.J. Green and the late Sunday performance of DeAndre Hopkins. Green did most of his damage in the first half vs. Buffalo,
while Hopkins ripped the Chiefs to shreds in the fourth quarter.
Both guys will be on a bye each of the next two weeks, but the
second half of the season should provide more of the same in terms
of explosiveness from these two. With Beckham out, Julio Jones
struggling somewhat with health, and few younger WRs emerging,
hitching your wagon to one of these two down the stretch could
lead you to a title. It’s something to consider if you’re
looking to package a couple of solid players in a trade for someone
truly elite. As an aside, a shout-out at WR is also in order for
T.Y. Hilton. After 170 yards receiving this weekend, it’s
becoming obvious that you’re an elite player no matter who
is throwing you the ball.
Something Old, Something New (Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers led the Packers (and fantasy teams everywhere)
to a last-minute victory on Sunday to the surprise of…well,
no one. In recent years, Rodgers has been a touchdown machine
much more so than a big yardage guy and with three more this weekend,
he’s now up to 13 on the season including three or more
in three consecutive weeks. What wasn’t expected from Green
Bay on Sunday was the presence of a 100-yard rusher named Aaron Jones. Jones’s emergence is good news for Packers, but could
be bad news for owners of Ty Montgomery as a timeshare will likely
emerge from Jones’ success. Yet another RB situation to
possibly avoid once both guys are healthy. The problem is, if
you ignore every situation in which there are shared carries among
two or more RBs, you’re basically avoiding everyone except
the two Los Angeles teams, Pittsburgh, and Jacksonville. Good
luck with that.
Re-Shaping the Landscape that is QB1
Last week, it was noted that we weren’t ready to anoint
Deshaun Watson as a QB1 just yet, but it’s time to change
that. Watson can hurt you with his legs as well as his arm and
his willingness to sling it deep to two wide receivers who can
go and get it (Hopkins, Fuller) should lead to more big days,
particularly if the Texans defense continues to struggle.
The other QB from the Houston-Kansas City game has also moved
firmly into QB1 status. It just doesn’t feel right to declare
Alex Smith a QB1, but the numbers suggest othwerwise. Sprinkle
in Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott, and you’ve got a changing
of the guard at the position So, if these four signal callers
are now QB1 material, who is no longer at that level? We mentioned
Big Ben earlier, but you can also throw in Matthew Stafford and
Derek Carr, even when he’s healthy. We’re not ready
to suggest Matt Ryan and Marcus Mariota don’t belong…
Monday Night Musings
Chances are if you were counting on someone on Monday night to
come through for you with a big game, it didn't happen. That would
include Stefon Diggs, who pulled an Amari Cooper and caught one
ball for four yards. It also includes Tarik Cohen (less than 20
total yards) who is coming back to Earth after an exciting start.
That's what happens when players play way above expectations in
early weeks. More interesting was the stellar play of Jerick McKinnon
who gained the upper hand on Latavius Murray for Dalvin Cook's
former job. McKinnon's 146 yards on 22 touches makes him the favorite
going forward for production on a team that will continue to try
to establish the run to complement a solid defense. As for Chicago,
Jordan Howard continues to look like the only player worth starting
on a fantasy team.
The Dreaded TD Vulture
In conclusion this week, we want to tip our caps to the dreaded
TD vulture. Kareem Hunt and Ezekiel Elliott owners are not too
fond of these individuals after they stole likely touchdowns on
Sunday. So, here's to you, Charcandrick West and Cole Beasley.
Since no one started you, all you did was mess up the fantasy
fortunes of many with multiple touchdowns apiece. Well done, sirs.
That's a wrap for the Buzz for Week 5. An intriguing season gets
more interesting each week. Until next Tuesday…