Fantasy Football Recap & Takeaways: Week 5
In the second week of the season with byes, the Bears and Buccanneers were off. The Cowboys are at the Texans as I write this piece, and the Redskins still have to play the Saints in New Orleans Monday night. The rest of the NFL teams played this week starting with last year’s AFC Super Bowl representative looking like a juggernaut in the Thursday Night Football game. Home teams ruled the roost this week with nine hosts winning and just three road squads earning victories.
Colts 24 at Patriots 38
Andrew Luck was tasked with throwing the ball a whopping 59 times, and he totaled 365 yards passing, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. It was Luck’s second straight game surpassing 350 yards passing, and it was his third game of 300-plus passing yards this season. He’s settling into better form, and that’s despite throwing the ball to a horrendous collection of pass catchers in the absence of T.Y. Hilton in an offense that can’t generate much of anything on the ground to keep opponents honest, either. Eric Ebron has long been wildly inconsistent, but he reminded football fans why teams and fans continue to dream on his upside with a massive 9-105-2 line. Rookie Nyheim Hines is becoming a reliable PPR option after totaling 90 yards from scrimmage (his second straight game eclipsing 70 yards from scrimmage) and reaching or besting five receptions for the fourth time in five games.
Tom Brady was clicking on all cylinders throwing for 341 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Box-score scouts will not recognize that Brady’s interceptions were hardly just his fault. Both Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski failed to corral passes that resulted in tipped-ball interceptions on Brady’s ledger. Gronk’s tipped-ball interception was actually initially ruled a fumble before being changed to an interception. The backfield duo of Sony Michel and James White both helped fantasy gamers and complement each other well. White led the team in targets (14), receptions (10), receiving yards (77), and caught a touchdown. Julian Edelman was a reliable option for Brady, albeit posting a ho-hum fantasy line with seven receptions for 57 yards. Josh Gordon played only 18 offensive snaps, but he made them count catching two of four targets for 50 yards and a score.
Broncos 16 at Jets 34
Since starting the season 2-0, the Broncos have reeled off three straight losses. Case Keenum played his best game of the season, but he extended his interception streak to five games to open the year, and he took four more sacks. The leash could be shortening on him with preseason darling Chad Kelly waiting in the wings. Gamers in leagues that start two quarterbacks or a super flex should strongly consider stashing Kelly — assuming you’re positioned to work around byes. Denver’s backfield committee was led by Philip Lindsay, and he’s the more desirable back of the two rookie runners. Demaryius Thomas paced Denver’s pass catchers with a 5-105-1 line on six targets, but Emmanuel Sanders is the top dog (9-72-0 on a far and away team-high 14 targets) as long as Keenum is starting. Sanders is also the best receiver, so I wouldn’t be overly concerned about a quarterback change hurting his rest-of-season value if it comes to pass.
Sam Darnold was just 10 of 22 for 198 yards, three passing touchdowns, and one interception. The Jets leaned heavily on their ground attack, and it delivered the goods. Isaiah Crowell rumbled for 219 yards and a score on 15 carries, and Bilal Powell added 99 yards rushing on 20 carries. The former chipped in 12 yards on a single reception. Quincy Enunwa was a non-factor with a bagel on five targets. Robby Anderson woke up from his slumber and ripped off 3-123-2. Anderson’s a big-play dependent dart throw on a weekly basis unless his target output increases.
Dolphins 17 at Bengals 27
The Dolphins led 14-0 at the half and 17-0 before completely melting. Their fraudulent 3-0 start is a distant memory, and the offense is a raging tire fire. The only plus for the Dolphins was Kenyan Drake‘s afternoon. He carried the ball just six times (Frank Gore carried 12 times) for 46 yards, but he led the team in receptions (seven), receiving yards (69), touchdown receptions (one), and targets (11). Until Drake’s inexplicably low volume of work increases, he’s a risky flex or bye-week RB2 fill-in at best. Kenny Stills is Miami’s best fantasy asset, but the floor of his volatile profile was on display with just two grabs for 17 yards.
Joe Mixon wasn’t eased back into action. He toted the rock 22 times for 93 yards and added two grabs for 22 yards and a touchdown. A.J. Green was the apple of Andy Dalton‘s eye and led the team in targets (10), receptions (six), and receiving yards (112). Tyler Boyd didn’t keep up his momentum, but he was second on the ream in receptions (four), receiving yards (44), and targets (seven), and he’s in the weekly WR3 mix, namely in PPR formats.
Falcons 17 at Steelers 41
This game projected to be a back-and-forth shootout, but it turned into a boat race. Matt Ryan was constantly under duress and took six sacks. He left early, and, according to Ray Fittipaldo of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was seen exiting the x-ray room at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh’s defense held the Falcons in check, and Julio Jones (5-62-0) and Calvin Ridley (4-38-0) both disappointed fantasy owners. Neither Devonta Freeman (eight carries for 32 yards) nor Tevin Coleman (six carries for 15 yards) could get anything going on the ground, and adding salt to the wound was Ito Smith punching in a two-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Smith’s touchdown cut the score to 27-16 before Matt Bryant added the point-after attempt. In other words, it wasn’t a garbage-time touchdown run. Smith’s goal-line usage adds another potential source of frustration to the backfield timeshare, and it lowers the floor and ceiling of both Freeman and Coleman.
The Steelers leaned on the running game, and James Conner delivered with 110 yards rushing and two touchdown runs on 21 carries, and, predictably, he torched Atlanta for 75 yards receiving on four catches. Ben Roethlisberger was tasked with throwing the ball only 29 times, but he made the most of his attempts passing for 250 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Antonio Brown posted a vintage line with 6-101-2, and JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s four receptions for 34 yards were saved by one of those grabs being a touchdown. The lack of passing volume hurt Vance McDonald the most out of Pittsburgh’s fantasy-relevant players, and he finished one reception for six yards on two targets.
Giants 31 at Panthers 33
The Giants hung 31 points, and Eli Manning had easily his best game of the season passing for 326 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions while taking only one sack. He wasn’t the only Giant to pass for a score, though. A trick play saw Odell Beckham Jr. complete a throwback pass to Saquon Barkley that resulted in a 57-yard touchdown. The superstar wideout added 8-131-1 on 14 targets through the air, and the electric rookie back rushing for 48 yards on 15 carries and posted a 4-81-2 line on four targets. Sterling Shepard was also solid with a 4-75-0 line on seven targets. The Giants have a short week this week and will host the Eagles in the Thursday Night Football game.
Cam Newton was his typically erratic self as a passer completing 21 of 35 passes for 237 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions while adding 29 yards rushing on eight attempts. Newton did lead a game-winning drive that was capped by a 63-yard field goal that had enough distance to have gone in from farther away. Christian McCaffrey‘s rushing efficiency (3.4 yards per carry) was nothing to write home about, but he’s the bell cow after carrying the ball 17 more times for 58 yards and reeling in five of six targets for 35 yards and a score. Devin Funchess led the team in targets (seven), receiving yards (53), and was tied for second with four receptions. He’s a WR2 as long as Greg Olsen is out, though, his role and usage will need monitoring and re-evaluating when Olsen returns. A noteworthy nugget from the box score is rookie DJ Moore‘s increased usage out of the bye. He caught all four of his targets for 49 yards. Moore is an explosive player who could turn into a fantasy asset down the stretch, but he’s merely a stash option in the interim.
Jaguars 14 at Chiefs 30
The Jaguars were whooped by the Chiefs, and the game was never close. Blake Bortles passed for 430 yards and a touchdown and added 34 yards and a score on the ground, but he was sack-taking turnover machine with five sacks taken, four interceptions, and one lost fumble. T.J. Yeldon was excellent rushing for 53 yards on 10 carries and gashing the Chiefs through the air for eight receptions, 69 yards, and one touchdown. He’s a locked in RB2 as long as Leonard Fournette is out, and a fringe RB1 in PPR formats.
The vaunted Jaguars defense picked off Patrick Mahomes a couple of times, but they also ceded 313 yards passing and a rushing score to him. Kareem Hunt rush 22 times for 87 yards and a score, but he was mostly inactive in the passing attack with just one grab for seven yards on a pair of targets. Tyreek Hill was — as usual — used in a variety of ways carrying the ball twice for 26 yards and hauling in four of seven targets for 61 yards. Travis Kelce balled out with a 5-100-0 line on eight targets, and Sammy Watkins shined with six grabs for 78 yards on eight targets. Kansas City’s offensive weapons’ usage remains tightly clustered.
Packers 23 at Lions 31
Green Bay trailed 14-0 after the first quarter and 24-0 at the half. The absences of Geronimo Allison and Randall Cob opened the door to Equanimeous St. Brown (3-89-0) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (7-68-1), but both had rookie moments. Davante Adams was force fed a dozen targets that he turned into a 9-140-1 line, and Jimmy Graham inefficiently caught six of 11 targets for 76 yards. In all, Rodgers posted 442 yards passing, three touchdowns, zero interceptions, two lost fumbles, and three carries for 10 yards. Mike McCarthy’s incompetence remains a problem for Green Bay’s offense, namely their backfield. Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus tweeted out Green Bay’s snap counts, and as you can see here, Jamaal Williams led the way with 33, followed by 29 for Ty Montgomery, and rounded out by 22 for Aaron Jones, Green Bay’s clear cut top back. Gamers who are rostering Jones are fully aware of his talent level, so he can’t be had for a bag of chips. Having said that, if he can be bought for the cost of a low-end RB2 (think RB20-RB25 range), I’d advise doing so. Jones’ upside is that of an RB1, and I suspect Rodgers might clamor behind the scenes for an increased role for Jones, though, that’s speculation on my part. What’s not speculation, however, is that Jones is far and away the team’s best back.
Because the Lions raced out to a big lead, Matthew Stafford was tasked with throwing the ball only 26 times. Green Bay isn’t the only team shooting themselves in the foot with a bad running back rotation. The Lions split carries evenly (a dozen each) between Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount. Johnson rushed for 70 yards, and Blount totaled only 22 yards with two short scores. It’s unfair to totally blame Blount for his low yards per carry total when he punches in a pair of one-yard scores, but he’s a one-dimensional plodder whose work should be scaled back in favor of his rookie backfield mate. Detroit’s wideouts were led by second-year breakout Kenny Golladay (4-98-1), and Marvin Jones Jr. avoided a total train wreck outing by making his single eight-yard grab count for a touchdown.
Ravens 9 at Browns 12
Bad Joe Flacco reared his ugly head in Baltimore’s loss to the Browns. The backfield time share was split 14 touches for Javorius Allen (eight carries and six receptions for 78 yards from scrimmage) to 13 touches for Alex Collins (12 carries and one reception for 66 yards from scrimmage). In a reversal of the norm, it was Collins who took care of the football with zero fumbles and Allen who lost one. John Brown was targeted an eye-popping 14 times but caught only four passes for 58 yards. Michael Crabtree turned in a very 2018 Crabtree line with six receptions for 66 yards and no score.
Baker Mayfield was far from perfect, but he completed 25 of 43 passes for 342 yards, one touchdown, and one interception while adding 23 yards on a pair of runs. He’s not a QB1 yet, but he’s a QB2 with upside. Carlos Hyde rushed 17 times for 63 yards, falling short of four yards per carry for the fourth time in five games. He added two receptions for 14 yards, but his four-game streak of reaching pay dirt came to a close. Nick Chubb was rewarded for his eye-catching showing in Week 4 with just three carries for two yards. Who was Cleveland’s Week 5 leader in receptions, targets, and co-leader in receiving yards, you ask? Second-year tight end David Njoku (6-69-0 on 11 targets) is the mystery man. Tight end is a wasteland, but Njoku is starting to click with competent quarterback play. Jarvis Landry reached double-digit targets (10), bested 65 yards receiving (69), and caught five or more passes (exactly five in Week 5) for the fourth time in five games. Cleveland’s offense will face softer defensive matchups in the coming weeks, and it’s an offense that’s ascending in the right direction.
Titans 12 at Bills 13
This game had letdown written all over it for the Titans after their exciting overtime victory against the Eagles in Week 4, and a letdown it was for the visitors. The Titans ran only 53 offensive plays for a measly 221 yards. Corey Davis was the closest thing to a bright spot with a 4-49-0 line on six targets.
Josh Allen didn’t dazzle as a passer completing 10 of 19 passes for 82 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception. However, he took just one sack and rushed four times for 19 yards and a score. The close game allowed the Bills to lean heavily on their running game. LeSean McCoy had his best game of the season with 24 carries for 85 yards and two receptions for 23 yards. Sadly, that’s probably pretty close to Shady’s weekly ceiling in Buffalo’s putrid offense. He’s Buffalo’s only fantasy-relevant player.
Raiders 10 at Chargers 26
Speaking of letdown games, the Raiders followed up their first win in the second Jon Gruden era with a stinker. Jared Cook disappeared with four receptions on six targets for 20 yards. He wasn’t the only one who disappeared. Amari Cooper caught his only target for 10 yards. In Week 1, Week 3, and Week 5, he’s combined for four receptions on nine targets for 36 yards. He bested 115 yards receiving in Week 2 and Week 4. He’s been the ultimate feast-or-famine player this year. Jordy Nelson has been the anti-Cooper. He had a blowup week against the Dolphins with 6-173-1, but over the last two weeks, he’s settled in between 40-50 yards receiving (43 this week) on a handful of grabs (four, to be exact) with a touchdown. Nelson’s touchdown brings his streak to three straight contests reaching the end zone.
Philip Rivers shredded the Raiders for 339 yards passing and two touchdowns completing 22 of 27 passes. Melvin Gordon ate with 120 yards from scrimmage, four receptions, and one touchdown run. Austin Ekeler rushed for only 15 yards on six carries, but he turned his only reception into a 44-yard touchdown. Keenan Allen had another solid but unspectacular showing with eight receptions for 90 yards.
Cardinals 28 at 49ers 18
There will be no winless teams in the NFL in 2018. The Cardinals earned their first victory, but the offense continues to sputter. David Johnson had a dreamy matchup for piling up production through the air, and he was targeted only three times. He turned his three targets into two receptions for 16 yards. Johnson barely eclipsed three yards per carry rushing for 55 yards on 18 carries, but he scored a couple of rushing touchdowns. Josh Rosen completed under 50% of his passes completing 10 of 25 for 170 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions. Larry Fitzgerald‘s in the midst of a forgettable season, and he caught two of three targets for just 35 yards. He simply can’t be started in fantasy leagues. Christian Kirk, on the other hand, had his second strong showing in his last three games with three receptions for 85 yards and one touchdown, and one rush for five yards. The rookie wideout did almost all of his damage with a 75-yard touchdown reception on Arizona’s first play from scrimmage. Kirk’s bound to have ups and downs due to Arizona’s offensive struggles, but he’s a more desirable option than Fitz for the rest of season.
C.J. Beathard turned the ball over four times (two interceptions and two lost fumbles). Having said that, he capably moved the football passing for 349 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Beathard’s competence moving the ball bodes well for George Kittle, who caught five of seven targets for 83 yards. Matt Breida rushed eight times for 56 yards and caught his lone target for five yards. Unfortunately, he left early with an ankle injury. Breida can’t seem to avoid getting banged up. Alfred Morris rushed 18 times for 61 yards and caught three passes for 30 yards. Kyle Juszczyk also contributed with six receptions for 75 yards and rushed once for 12 yards. In Beathard’s two starts, he’s caught eight passes for 90 yards. He’s an emergency bye-week fill-in in deep PPR leagues, and Morris is a fringe RB2/flex if Breida is forced to miss time. Speedster Marquise Goodwin was inactive.
Rams 33 at Seahawks 31
It wasn’t easy for the Rams, but they kept their perfect record intact winning a shootout in Seattle. Jared Goff threw a couple of interceptions, but he was his chunk-yard-gaining self passing for 321 yards and a touchdown on only 32 attempts. Todd Gurley was the focal point of the offense rushing 22 times for 77 yards and three touchdowns while also catching four of five targets for 36 yards. Robert Woods shined with two rushes for 53 yards and five receptions for 92 yards. Cooper Kupp did, too, catching six passes on nine targets for 90 yards and a touchdown, but his day was cut short to a concussion. Kupp wasn’t the first or only Ram to be concussed. Brandin Cooks was knocked out with a concussion as well. Cooks tallied zero yards from scrimmage prior to his exit, and both receivers will have to pass through the NFL’s concussion protocol before being able to play again.
Seattle is steadfast in their run-first approach, and it nearly got them a third win in a row. Russell Wilson attempted only 21 passes, and he was held under 200 yards passing (198) for the third straight game, but he did toss three touchdown passes. Wilson also attempted zero rushes, and he’s bested 20 yards rushing in only one game this year. Wilson’s not startable in single-QB leagues. Chris Carson (19 carries for 116 yards and one reception for 11 yards) and Mike Davis (12 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown as well as two receptions for seven yards) formed a nifty one-two punch. Doug Baldwin barely made his way into the box score securing his only target for one yard. Tyler Lockett was targeted only five times, but his big-play ability yielded 98 yards and a touchdown on three grabs. Lockett has caught three or more passes and bested 50 yards receiving in all five games this year, and he’s scored a touchdown in four of five. His reliance on big plays will eventually result in a dud, but the lack of passing volume in Seattle’s offense makes Lockett a more desirable dice roll as a flex than Baldwin. If the Seahawks are forced to throw more, Baldwin will surpass Lockett in fantasy value as Wilson’s presumed most trustworthy option in the passing offense.
Vikings 23 at Eagles 21
Dalvin Cook was out, and Minnesota’s run offense predictably struggled against Philadelphia’s stout run defense. Kirk Cousins carried the offense completing 30 of 37 passes for 301 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions. Cousins has been able to sustain the fantasy value of both Adam Thielen (7-116-1) and Stefon Diggs (10-91-0 and two rushes for 25 yards). Thielen’s 10 targets against the Eagles were his lowest total this year. He also became the first player in the Super Bowl era to start a season with five-straight games surpassing 100 yards receiving. Meanwhile, Diggs has reached double-digit targets in four straight games and bested 90 yards receiving or caught at least one touchdown in four of five games. Even Kyle Rudolph has carved out a useful tertiary role caught five or more passes and besting 40 yards receiving in his fourth straight game with his five receptions for 41 yards against the Eagles.
Philadelphia’s offense struggled mightily before scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter. Carson Wentz has gone over 300 yards passing with a pair of touchdown passes in back-to-back games, and he rushed five times for 26 yards against the Vikings, too. He did lose a fumble, though. Zach Ertz has been a monster since Wentz’s return, and he beat up on the Vikings for a 10-110-1 line on 11 targets. Ertz has caught 10 passes and gone over 100 yards receiving in back-to-back games, and he’s reached double-digit targets in every game.