Week 5’s Top Storylines by Team
Jeff Haseley catches us up with what’s going on around the league for each NFL team.
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The Cardinals return from their bye 3-0 and they get their signal caller back in Carson Palmer. That’s the good news. The bad news is they have a tall order this week at Denver. I like what I’ve seen from the Cardinals defense so far. It’ll be difficult to stop Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but I do believe Arizona will be up to the task, even on the road. Offensively, I like the matchup for Palmer and the WR trio of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown. Before the bye last week, Denver was worst in the league in passing first downs allowed with 54 in three games.
It’s very difficult for me to pick against Atlanta at home, but on the road they are a different team, especially in open stadiums. This week they travel to the Meadowlands to play the Giants. Similar to last week, I like the Falcons receiving game, but not as much as I would if the game were in the Georgia Dome. Antone Smith has scored in three of the four games this year. He hasn’t had a lot of touches, but when he does, he excels. If Atlanta doesn’t feed him the ball more, I’d be shocked. He’s on the short list of proactive waiver wire claims (if he’s still available).
The way the Ravens are playing, it’s looking like Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro will be a dual rushing attack with Bernard Pierce being the odd man out, at least for now. Ol’ Steve Smith Sr. is using this year to bolster his claim as a future Hall of Famer. He’s clearly the Ravens go-to receiver in this offense and it doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. Only Jeremy Maclin and Jordy Nelson have more targets than Smith (42) this season. Torrey Smith is a career 44% reception receiver with primarly a one-route bag of tricks. Remember former Dolphin and Charger WR Chris Chambers from the early 2000’s? Torrey Smith is him at his best. He’s just too spotty when it comes to fantasy production. Yes he scored a touchdown last week and he’ll likely get a few more this year, but he’s consistently inconsistent. I’m passing on Torrey Smith this year and wouldn’t recommend him going forward.
Big news out of Buffalo this week. They have benched EJ Manuel for veteran Kyle Orton. I see what you’re doing Buffalo. You’re bringing in Kyle Orton for a reason – to get the ball down field, mainly to Sammy Watkins, but also Robert Woods and Mike Williams. Buffalo has the defense to make some noise in the suddenly wide open AFC East. If their offense gets a boost (from Orton), they can be contenders. The news of Orton taking over has my needle moving up even higher regarding Watkins. The spreading of the field also opens things up for CJ Spiller. If you want to buy low on a guy, Spiller is a good choice. I envision a spike coming for him too. If J.J. Watt doesn’t get that tipped ball and interception for a touchdown last week, Buffalo probably wins that game. Then again, maybe they wouldn’t have made the quarterback change though? We’ll see if Orton has anything left in the tank, but if so, I like the Bills chances to get some wins.
The Panthers can’t run or stop the run right now – and Superman is feeling the effects of injury Kryptonite. They have injuries on both sides of the ball, but most notably at running back. DeAngelo Williams (ankle/foot) is likely out this week and so is Jonathan Stewart (knee), Mike Tolbert (leg) and potentially Fozzy Whitaker (thigh). That leaves Darrin Reaves to carry the load. Depending on the health of Whitaker, the Panthers may be forced to IR someone and pick up a free agent (Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Lache Seastrunk are whispers I’ve heard). From a fantasy standpoint, only Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen are worthy of starting. The Bears come to town this week, who gave up 38 points to the Packers at home last week. The Panthers offense is by no stretch near the Packers ilk. Until the defense and offense improves, the Panthers will be a giant welcome mat for opposing fantasy match ups.
Not only is Cincinnati one of the better teams in the league, but they are coming off a bye and will play the hapless Patriots this week. New England has only played one home game, but they barely beat Oakland in that one game. The Pats are struggling on offense and defense and Cincinnati should be licking their chops heading into this game. Giovani Bernard, A.J. Green and even Jeremy Hill could have big games. This week we may see the return of Marvin Jones (foot), who had a breakout season last year. If you’re looking for a waiver wire gem this week, Jones is a good proactive claim Iif he’s still available). His return could mean a drop in numbers from Mohamed Sanu, who should see less targets as a result. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sanu have some success despite the decrease in numbers.
I’m going to get on my pedestal and suggest you take a flier on RB Isaiah Crowell. The Browns have indicated that he will see more opportunities going forward. He is practicing ahead of Terrance West, and Ben Tate is still nursing a sore knee. Crowell has the ability to be a featured back for the team and yes, his talent is better than Tate’s (and West’s). I would not be surprised at all to see him flash in the next few games at TEN, PIT, at JAC. Andrew Hawkins was a nice surprise in the first three games of the season. Even with Jordan Cameron (shoulder) coming back to health, I still see Hawkins getting a lot of looks.
First off, the Bears play Carolina this week and it doesn’t matter if it’s on the road. I fully expect Jay Cutler and company to go off against the Panthers. The offensive value of Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett rises even higher if Carolina can keep pace on the scoreboard, otherwise it’s just a blow out win with little or no effort in the second half for increased points. Martellus Bennett is one of the bigger surprises this year. After finishing a very quiet 10th among tight ends last year, Bennett is second behind only Jimmy Graham in fantasy points for tight ends. That says a lot, considering the influx of successful tight ends this year.
We know about DeMarco Murray, but I’m starting to get some interest in Terrance Williams as an every week start – at least as a flex option or WR4. One quick note about Cowboys receivers, Jason Witten has the lowest reception percentage among notable Dallas receivers at 65.2%. And he’s the lowest! The Texans come to town this week, who normally have a strong pass defense, especially in terms of pass attempts allowed, but not this year. Only the Eagles and Bills have allowed more pass attempts than Houston (151) after four games. Tony Romo and the Cowboys receiving game looks like a strong play this week.
The only player I’m concerned with on Denver (well, there’s also Wes Welker), is Montee Ball. The second year back out of Wisconsin hasn’t set the world on fire this year and his sample size is growing with each sub-par game. C.J. Anderson has a higher YPC average 5.0 compared to Ball’s 3.4. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Anderson get some more looks if Ball doesn’t improve soon enough. Anderson is a good proactive waiver claim if you have the roster space and he’s available.
Joique Bell suffered a concussion last week and it’s unknown if he will be available for the Week 5 game vs. the Bills. If he can’t go, look for Reggie Bush to see an uptick in production. The Bills have been strong against the run, so don’t expect the world from Bush as rusher. As a receiver, he could have a 6+ reception game. The big value is at wide receiver this week for the Lions. Calvin Johnson (ankle) is iffy, so monitor his status this week and be prepared to see him again as a decoy if his injured ankle keeps him from a full practice on Friday. Golden Tate is in line for another big day of filling the void and the Bills are a great match up to continue the hot streak.
Aaron Rodgers bounced back to form last week. Jordy Nelson is a Top 2 fantasy wide receiver and Randall Cobb is showing signs of life again. All is good with the Packers for now. Even Eddie Lacy is climbing up the fantasy ranks. Last week against Chicago, it was the Jordy and Cobb show but Davante Adams had a few small appearances, including a sweet touchdown catch that was called back due to an offensive holding call. Adams is starting to make some noise with Jarrett Boykin taking a back seat to the rookie. Look for Adams’ role to increase in the next few weeks.
While I’m not setting the sun on Andre Johnson‘s career just yet, DeAndre Hopkins is making a name for himself with a Top 10 fantasy ranking after four games. Hopkins has scored or exceeded 100 yards receiving in each game this year. Hopkins is 10th in PPR, Johnson is 28th. That should give you an indication of who’s leading the way in Houston’s receiving corps. Arian Foster tried to come back from his injured hamstring last week, but in actuality he should’ve rested one more week. Hopefully he’ll be back to 100% soon enough. Monitor his practice status this week.
Andrew Luck is the top ranked fantasy quarterback after four weeks. He has 13 touchdown passes with another on the ground. He has three 300+ yard games to go along with the scoring barrage. He’s looking like a good bet to contiue his strong pace. Ahmad Bradshaw has a sore ankle. That didn’t take long. His ankles have given him trouble in the past, so this is a bit of a concern. Still, Bradshaw is one tough hombre. He’ll play hurt and usually he does well even if slowed by an injury. Monitor his progress this week. If he plays, he’s worth starting as a RB2 or flex option. Dwayne Allen is getting more and more attention. He has three scores in four games so far and is looking like his role will start to increase even more going forward.
Cecil Shorts is still having issues with his hamstring. He is not expected to play this week, which opens the door further for Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson. The Jaguars running game appears to be a RBBC between Toby Gerhart and Denard Robinson. If anyone, I like Gerhart here, but only as a marginal flex option. He’ll be the one getting goal line looks. With some injuries at wide receiver, Ace Sanders returns from his four game suspension just in time to help that ailing unit.
The Chiefs offense is looking sharp, especially due to the dual threat approach of Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis. Both have found success in the running game, which is also opening up the passing game for Alex Smith. Dwayne Bowe even looks like a decent flex start and all eyes witnessed Travis Kelce‘s emergence in the national spotlight. The Chiefs look like they could be a tough out in the AFC West.
I’m not sure what we can expect from Teddy Bridgewater with a sore ankle, but he is capable of making plays here and there. There will be some growing pains that could result in lower numbers across the board from Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings. At the same time, the Vikings will have to do without Kyle Rudolph (sports hernia) for about six weeks. Patterson and Jennings will see more targets as a result. I’m not loving the fantasy value in Minnesota, but there is room for surprises, especially if Bridgewater picks things up quickly and is able to convert in Norv Turner’s offense. The running game looks to be a committee approach between Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon has the flash and talent, but his inexperience could keep him from being the team’s feature back. The only way I see him earning the lead role is if he does well with the intangibles like pass protection and dominance of the playbook. For now, Asiata’s experience will keep him in the huddle.
At what point do you abandon ship on Tom Brady and start to look elsewhere for an every week quarterback? I think that time is now. I wouldn’t throw the towel in on Brady and the Patriots but I do think reaching for the towel is warranted at this time. Brady isn’t startable right now, but the season is still young. He could turn things around at some point, but for now look elsewhere. In addition to Brady, Rob Gronkowski worries me. He’s not showing good separation skills in his route running, plus Brady isn’t gettting enough time under center for his receivers to run their full routes. As a result, passes are hurried and often inaccurate. It all results in decrease in production across the board, Gronkowski included. He may still get 10 touchdowns this year, but I doubt he has the strong yardage games like he had in seasons past.
The Saints are struggling in the suddenly inconsistent NFC South. Getting back to the dome will help matters. It’s too early to write off this team just yet. Jimmy Graham and Brandin Cooks are the two mainstays in the offense and when Mark Ingram returns, he’ll provide a nice spark while Khiry Robinson is relegated to back up duty. It looks like Travaris Cadet is rising and Pierre Thomas is falling. Whether that continues is anyone’s guess but if you’re looking for a PPR spark, Cadet is someone I have my eye on.
The Giants are on the rise. Offensively they have weapons in Rashad Jennings, Victor Cruz and everyone’s favorite surprise, Larry Donnell. Even Rueben Randle is starting to get some value as a flex option. A little tidbit about Donnell – he is catching an impressive 80% of the passes that come his way (25 recs, 31 targets). Look for the Giants to continue their offensive ways against the Falcons this week in the Meadowlands.
I think it’s safe to lower expectations on Chris Johnson at this time. He isn’t seeing a lot of consecutive carries which is affecting his rhythm. Chris Ivory has emerged as the primary rushing threat and I don’t see that changing, without an injury. Ivory’s rushing style is equivalent to a runaway freight train. He delivers a powerful punch to opposing defenses and often gains yards after contact. I can see his involvement and a potential emergence coming for Ivory. I will say that his running style is conducive to injury, which is definitely something to be concerned about, especially if his touches increase.
Prior to Darren Sproles arriving, LeSean McCoy was a Top 5 running back who had plenty of receptions. I do think McCoy will bounce back at some point, but his reception totals look like they will finish in the 40s as opposed to the 50s. Sproles’ presence is the main factor. The offensive line is also partly to blame with McCoy’s struggles. The holes aren’t there for him like they have been in seasons prior. If someone offers you a good offer, I think you take the deal. At this point I don’t see McCoy finishing in the Top 5.
The Steelers play at Jacksonville this week, who have allowed over 30 points per game this year. All signs point to Pittsburgh putting up similar numbers. Start your Steelers with confidence. If you were on the fence with Markus Wheaton before, consider starting him this week. LeVeon Bell should have a big game as should Antonio Brown. If you have Ben Roethlisberger as your QB2, he’s an excellent start this week. Ben has two 300+ yard passing game in four games this year. So far, so good for the quick strike, hurry up Steelers offense.
Keenan Allen is back and Eddie Royal looks like he might have some more value in him. Outside of at Baltimore Week 13 and at San Francisco Week 16, I like the Chargers schedule, especially agains the pass. The Jets come to town this week, who have a struggling secondary. That’s good news for Allen, Royal, Malcom Floyd and even Antonio Gates. I am not a fan of Donald Brown this week. This isn’t the week to start him.
The groin injury to Mike Evans has opened the door for someone to step up and last week that someone was Louis Murphy. By default Louis Murphy has some fantasy appeal. Unless you are desperate, don’t go out of your way to acquire Murphy, despite the big game last week. One player that could see a big uptick in value is Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. As one door closes, another opens. In this case, Sefarian-Jenkins is starting to get more involved in the Bucs offense. Doug Martin has returned as the lead back, which relegates Bobby Rainey into a back up role. I’m still not a big fan of Martin, but he has value as the starter. The Bucs aren’t as bad as they were against Atlanta, but they aren’t as good as the win at Pittsburgh. This week’s battle at New Orleans isn’t going to be easy. If they don’t get out to a fast start, it could be tough sledding for Tampa Bay this week.
Bishop Sankey‘s role in the offense has increased, which is a good sign for his 2014 outlook. The offense has shifted towards giving him more carries and so far he has done well. I expect that to continue as we go further into the season. Right now the passing game consists of Delanie Walker and Kendall Wright with some Justin Hunter sprinkled in here and there. Hunter’s value is inside the red zone where he can use his height to his advantage, we just haven’t seen many opportunities for him yet, but they are coming. I’ve come to the conclusion that Jake Locker isn’t the answer for what Tennessee needs. Neither is Charlie Whitehurst. I’m all-in on seeing what Zach Mettenburger can do. He has an NFL arm, which would be good for the down field passing game. Locker looks like he’ll be able to play this week vs. CLE, so expect a lot of passes to Delanie Walker and Kendall Wright.
We all saw Kirk Cousins melt down on Thursday Night Football, but I’m not convinced that’s the Kirk Cousins we’ll see this going forward. I think a lot of his unraveling was a result of Niles Paul going down with a head injury and no real tight end in the offense available at his disposal. Jordan Reed (hamstring) is improving but he’s still not a guarantee to play this week vs. Seattle. Cousins could struggle again if Reed can’t go. Monitor this situation as the week progresses.
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