Week 5 Recap: Beyond the BoxScore
New England 6
The headlines will talk about Tom Brady's streak of 52 consecutive games with a touchdown pass coming to an end. The real story? New England's inability to run the football. It didn't help that their most talented all-around back - Steven Ridley - missed this game due to a knee injury, but the duo of LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden managed just 75 yards combined on 17 carries. Blount also fumbled.
Though limited and kept on a snap count, Danny Amendola returned - catching only four passes for 55 yards despite nine targets. Brady completed just 18-of-38 passes in this game as the Bengals defense did a tremendous job shutting down the Patriots offense without stud corner Leon Hall or defensive end Michael Johnson. Amazing stat to use around the office this week: according to ESPN Stats and Information, Brady's 16.8 Total BR (Quarterback Rating) was his worst game since Week 14 of the 2006 season. Rob Gronkowski was inactive for the fifth straight game, but is expected to return next weekend against New Orleans.
On the Cincinnati side of the football, BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored the only offensive touchdown in the game against his former team on a one-yard dive late in the fourth quarter. The veteran finished with 67 yards on 19 carries as the Bengals' second half lead allowed for more carries. Rookie Giovani Bernard ran for 62 yards on 13 carries, but lost a fumble. He continues to be the "high upside" play out of this tandem.
Fantasy stud wide receiver A.J. Green has now been held to under 100 yards receiving in four straight games with just one touchdown over that stretch. Recent matchups against stud corners Ike Taylor, Joe Haden and New England's Aqib Talib in three of the last four games haven't helped. If possible, grab Green from owners feeling nervous. The schedule gets much easier as the Bengals face Buffalo, Detroit and the New York Jets in his next three games. Maybe that gets Andy Dalton going, but it sure seemed like the coaching staff didn't have much faith in the passer. Dalton has two interceptions and zero touchdown passes over the last two games.
New Orleans 26
The emergence of Alshon Jeffrey is quite surprising, unless you have been paying attention to the Chicago Bears offense this season. Jeffrey caught 10 of 13 passes thrown his way for a franchise record 218 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. The second-year receiver averaged 21.8 yards per catch, picking up big chunks of yardage on catches of 31, 42, 58 and 21 yards. Jeffrey has found the back of the end-zone and eclipsed the century mark in back-to-back weeks. Forget just owning him in all formats. Upcoming games against the Giants and Redskins mean Jeffery is in the WR2 mix those games.
Brandon Marshall was frustrated after the game, but turned in a solid fantasy performance with four catches for 30 yards and a short touchdown. The established fantasy stud faced double coverage virtually the entire game, which opened up Jeffrey. It also led to just five targets for Marshall. If teams continue to adopt a similar defensive strategy, Jeffrey will continue to be the beneficiary and Marshall will have to find a way to overcome the double coverage.
Against one of the better defenses in the NFL this season, the New Orleans Saints had no trouble executing. They jumped out to an early lead, pulling away despite the run game continuing to be a non-factor. Drew Brees fired the ball consistently in the direction of tight end Jimmy Graham, who reeled in another 10 passes for 135 yards and tied an NFL record with his fourth-straight 100-yard game. Pierre Thomas continues to be a nice bye-week fill-in for fantasy owners, providing just enough production most weeks to be worthy of a start. He came up with more than enough production against the Bears with nine catches for 55 yards and a pair of receiving touchdowns. Thomas managed only 36 yards on a team-high 19 carries, but his all-around versatility makes him the only Saints back not named Darren Sproles (a point-per-reception monster) worthy of consideration on a weekly basis. Welcome to the wavier wire Kenny Stills; the roster spot is too valuable to hold onto him any longer if you have been this long. The talent is still there; the targets aren't, which can almost be said for Marques Colston, who is quietly having a blah season in non-PPR formats.
Green Bay 22
The Lions' day started bad with Calvin Johnson ruled. It never got much better. They couldn't run the ball in this game (65 yards on 18 attempts). Down Johnson and Nate Burleson, the passing game struggled. Matthew Stafford completed just 25-of-40 passes and the Lions had a season-high five drops in this game. The most likely beneficiary of Johnson and Burleson's absence was Kris Durham, who caught just three of eight passes thrown his way for 30 yards, but did score a touchdown. Frankly it is surprising that Reggie Bush wasn't a bigger part of the passing game, especially with all of the Lions' injuries. The road doesn't get any easier for Detroit, facing nose tackle Phil Taylor and corner Joe Haden - the anchors of a solid Cleveland Browns defense next weekend. Don't expect a turnaround right away until Johnson gets back to 100 percent.
They may not be the most prolific offense in the NFL like a certain Mile High team, but it is hard to find a more consistent, reliable fantasy offense than the Green Bay Packers. Injuries aside, do you ever really have any questions about Aaron Rodgers and his core group of talent? Eddie Lacy fell one-yard short of his first career 100-yard game, getting 23 carries in his first game back from a concussion. Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones (4-127-1) continue to find ways to be productive week after week. Solid.
Kansas City 26
Jamaal Charles is really, really good, so are the defense and special teams units. From there, well, it's hard to count on another member of the 5-0 Chiefs in your fantasy lineup right now, even Dwayne Bowe. The Chiefs' top receiver, Bowe has been a major disappointment, failing to break 60 yards receiving or catch more than four passes in any of Kansas City's first five games. Alex Smith, who is a bye week option, spreads the ball around (as evidenced by the fact that he targeted 11 different receivers against the Titans and only one - Charles, who got nine - got more than six targets).
The Titans sorely missed Jake Locker in this one. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick hooked up with running back Chris Johnson for a 49-yard touchdown, but that was pretty much it. Fitzpatrick actually finished as the team's leading rusher, racking up 50 yards and a touchdown. Johnson continues to be a below average NFL running back, rushing for just 17 yards on 10 carries. That's back-to-back weeks of just 21 and 17 yards for those keeping track at home. It won't get any easier on the road at Seattle and at home against San Francisco in the next two weeks. Nate Washington finished with a season-low 30 receiving yards. With Fitzpatrick under center, Washington moves back into WR4 status.
Finally, T.Y. Hilton owners were rewarded with a big game. After a slow first month to the fantasy season and plenty of "Darrius Heyward-Bey is still getting targets?" disbelief, Hilton caught five passes for a career-high 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Adam Vinatieri (yes, he is still kicking New England fans) booted the game-winning 49 yard field goal to knock off Seattle. The Seahawks' vaunted pass defense headlined by corners Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner had allowed just two passing touchdowns in the first four games, which made Hilton's effort even more impressive. The victory overshadowed Donald Brown outscoring Trent Richardson thanks to a short-TD run.
Lost in the shuffle of the Colts' impressive win was a solid game from Russell Wilson. The current embodiment of the "dual-threat" quarterback, he passed for 210 yards and a pair of scores while rushing for 102 yards on 13 carries. Marshawn Lynch delivered another solid 102 yards on 17 carries. The Seahawks offense is what it is. Golden Tate, who scored a touchdown, and Doug Baldwin are the only options in the passing game worth gambling on in the right matchup.
St. Louis 34
I feel like this entire game needs a disclaimer that against virtually any other team, these offenses are completely inept. The Jaguars got wide receiver Justin Blackmon back from a suspension and he delivered a nice game, catching five passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. The bummer is Jacksonville lost newly entrenched left tackle Luke Joeckel for the rest of the season with a broken ankle less than a week after trading their best offensive lineman - left tackle Eugene Monroe - to Baltimore for a pair of draft picks. Seriously, I can't make this stuff up. Making matters worse - or better - Blaine Gabbert injured his hamstring in the second half. He was forced to leave after posting his best Total BR of the season: 2.8. Out of 100. Seriously his BR for the season is 1.8. Awful. The Jaguars are headed for 0-16; their only game in which they have a shot (aside from this one, which they actually led at one point) is probably Week 15 against Buffalo. Oh by the way, Jacksonville gets Denver next weekend. If you are relying on any Jaguars, you might be in more trouble in your league than they are (though Chad Henne gives the offense a puncher's chance). Sign Tim Tebow. What do you have to lose at this point?
For St. Louis, this was a nice rebound game for Sam Bradford (222 yards, three TDP) against one of the worst defenses in the league. Heck even the running game showed signs of life with rookie Zac Stacy (14-78), but let's see what happens against a real team. Austin Pettis scored twice, while more heralded receivers Tavon Austin and Chris Givens caught a combined five passes for 48 yards. All are risky plays. Sadly, Jared Cook (3-26) is becoming one as well.
The Ravens went back to Ray Rice this week. Guess what? He delivered with 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 27 carries. He also caught six passes for 28 yards. Fantasy owners who have held onto Rice this long (or acquired him post-draft) were certainly rewarded. Bernard Pierce was still involved (11 carries for 46 yards), but it is clear that the Ravens want to give Rice a majority of the carries if he is healthy. Rice's days as a top-five fantasy running back may be over, but he is still a solid number one fantasy option. Torrey Smith had a second-straight 100-yard game, helping to offset the absence of Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones. No touchdown passes for Joe Flacco. Shrugs.
Lamar Miller and Mike Wallace may be the most frustrating players in fantasy football this season because of their week to week inconsistency and fluctuations in productivity. Here are Wallace's targets game-by-game this season through five weeks: 5, 11, 4, 8, 16. Here are his yardage totals in those weeks: 15, 115, 22, 24, 105. If you want to roll the dice, you may be rewarded with a nice game like the one he had against the Ravens (7-105), but you are just as likely to get burned with a dud. This is what happens with pure deep threats, though at least he and Ryan Tannehill (307 yards, one TDP) had success this week. As for Miller, just 15 yards on seven carries against Baltimore? Ugh. At least Daniel Thomas only had two carries. Have I mentioned how much I love Charles Clay? To be honest, I have an affinity for players like Clay, who are under the radar options that come in handy on any fantasy bench over the course of 16 or 17 fantasy weeks. Though he had some drops, the tight end caught three passes for 52 yards and a touchdown.
New York Giants 21
Michael Vick, a widely recognized fantasy risk due to his style of play and lengthy injury history, left this game with a hamstring injury. An MRI is scheduled for Monday, but early reports have him likely out in Week 6. Fortunately for the Eagles, they have a capable backup in Nick Foles - completed 16-of-25 passes for 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns in relief. Even if Vick is ready to go next weekend, Foles is going to be back on the field sooner than later. This quarterback situation is worth monitoring and Foles is worthy of a pickup off the wavier wire in all leagues. DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy continue to be the only Eagles worthy of being in fantasy lineups each and every week.
It is now officially time to throw in the towel on the New York Giants' season. Not completely from a fantasy standpoint, but in reality, they are finished. I wrote a week ago that a win in this game gets them right back in it and what happened? The defense gave up 36 points and Eli Manning threw for 334 yards, but threw three interceptions that led to Eagles points. Another gem from ESPN Stats and Information that sums up Manning's struggles: "Manning was 3-of-16 (18.8%) passing 15 yards or more down field and was 5-of-14 (35.6%) passing with in five yards of the line of scrimmage with two interceptions."
David Wilson suffered a neck injury in this game, finishing with 16 yards and his first touchdown of the year on six carries. According to a plethora of reports, Wilson will be ready to go next week. The numbers will be there for Hakeem Nicks, Reuben Randle and Victor Cruz almost by default, so fantasy owners need to keep them in their lineup.