Here are 15 off-the-cuff revelations from the Sunday slate of Week 5 action — minus any deep thoughts about George Winn, a little-used backup with the Lions (48 rushing yards) who was pressed into emergency duty at tailback … but unfortunately, not at kicker.
(Through five games, the Lions kickers — both of whom no longer reside on the active roster — are 4 of 12 with field goals. Think about that.)
1. I honestly don’t know what to make of Demaryius Thomas’s career day against the Cardinals (eight catches, 226 yards, two TDs). Yes, he broke the Broncos’ single-game franchise record for receiving yards (previously owned by Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe), and yes, he displayed tremendous speed when running in open space.
But dear lord, there were times when the Cardinals seemed absolutely clueless to Bebe’s whereabouts on the field, a disturbing thought for a guy who collected 16 targets.
Here’s the deal: If you’re hurting at running back in 12-team leagues (like me), it may be best to explore a blockbuster deal involving Thomas this week — unless Peyton Manning (career-high 479 yards passing) currently stands as your quarterback.
Just make sure, as always, to involve EVERY league owner in the process. If you’re going to sell high on perhaps the most explosive wideout in fantasy (especially given Calvin Johnson’s injury woes) … an open-auction bidding market — with a firm deadline of Friday afternoon — will spark the greatest return.
2. Bears tailback Matt Forte was a straight-up PPR killer on Sunday, rolling for 166 total yards, one TD and catching all 12 of his targets (for 105 receiving yards) against the Panthers.
And yet, yours truly still lost his PPR matchup for the week.
The reasoning behind that: Owning Matt Forte and Antonio Brown, among others, means very little when you’re riding a three-week period of Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Joe Flacco as the starting quarterback.
3. Rams QB Austin Davis (405 total yards, three TDs vs. Philly) may be the new Garbage-Time King of the fantasy world — a distinction that certainly makes him roster-worthy from this point forward.
Davis, who broke Brett Favre’s passing records at Southern Miss, throws a great deep ball and has quickly developed a solid rapport with receiver Brian Quick (five catches, 87 yards, two TDs).
4. Here’s why I respect Bill Belichick and the Patriots offensive coaches: They might get too cute on random Sundays, in terms of doling out carries to Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.
But when the urgency is high, and the local and national media are uniformly questioning the Patriots’ staying power as an elite NFL franchise, the coaches are smart enough to keep things simple and ride Ridley for 20-plus touches — regardless of the scoring scenario.
Against the Bengals, Ridley (27 carries) rumbled for 113 yards and one TD, while helping the Patriots collect 30 first downs, 43 points and 38 minutes of ball possession.
So, what does this mean for the future? I will pursue Ridley, via trade, in all 10 of my leagues this week … even if I have to pay a premium penny for the transaction. It took five weeks, but New England finally understands the true meaning of workhorse back.
5. There’s no need for a victory lap in predicting that Andre Ellington (144 total yards, two TDs vs. Denver) would post elite-level numbers on Sunday.
He’s consistently drawing 17-plus touches per week; and with Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas logging time at quarterback — in the wake of Carson Palmer’s nerve-related injury — it makes perfect sense to lean on a highly versatile back out on the flat … instead of attempting risky downfield passes.
As such, Larry Fitzgerald (three catches, 57 yards) and Michael Floyd (one catch, seven yards) likely cannot wait for Palmer’s return — which may come against the wretched Redskins in Week 6.
6. There is zero discouragement with Kelvin Benjamin’s three-catch, 38-yard output against the Bears. The rookie notched 11 targets for the second time in three weeks … and barely missed on his fourth seasonal TD (force-out in the end zone).
7. For free agency this week, I’d rather spend more FAAB money on Titans wideout Justin Hunter (three catches, 99 yards, one TD vs. Cleveland) than Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who caught four balls for 44 yards and one TD Sunday (five targets).
Bottom line: Hunter has less competition amongst his receiving corps and a higher physical upside, compared to Beckham. Plus, it’s worth reminding everyone that roughly 95 percent of rookie receivers post pedestrian stats in Year 1 … making the second-year Hunter more viable on that front.
(Rookie exceptions to the above rule: Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin, A.J. Green, Keenan Allen.)
8. It’s good to see Khiry Robinson (97 total yards, one TD vs. Tampa Bay) separate himself from the pack of capable Saints rushers. The West Texas A&M product (second year) has tallied either 18 touches or 100 total yards in three straight outings.
9. The Browns wasted no time in solving the three-way mystery of which running back would log the most touches after Ben Tate returned from injury.
On Sunday, in a game where Cleveland actually trailed 28-3 in the third quarter, Tate (123 rushing yards) had three times the carries of Terrance West (31 yards) and Isaiah Crowell (19 yards). Plus, he was the only Browns back to catch a pass against the Titans, who inexplicably blew a 25-point home lead.
10. The mark of an elite-level fantasy QB lies with his ability to tally rock-solid numbers on sloppy days. That was the case with Andrew Luck on Sunday, who accounted for 324 total yards (312 passing) and one TD against the Ravens.
But the Baltimore experience raises some questions about Luck over the next six weeks (five games and a bye):
Is he a lock for 300-plus passing yards against the Texans (road), Bengals, Steelers (road), Giants (road) and Patriots (Week 11)? If not, fantasy owners might want to float a trial balloon out to the other owners, as a means of gauging the presumably sky-high value right now.
The upside to keeping Luck: He draws the Jaguars, Redskins and Cowboys for Weeks 12, 13 and 16 — games where he’ll rank as a top-three quarterback.
11. It’s sad to say, but running back Chris Ivory (44 yards vs. San Diego) is the only Jets playmaker who warrants starting consideration in 12-team leagues … and that’s for bye-heavy weeks only.
Which brings us to this: I will be shocked if another Jets tailback — especially one who had a successful run with a previous team before signing with New York — dons the No. 21 jersey from this point forward.
Neither LaDainian Tomlinson nor Chris Johnson (22 total yards on eight touches vs. San Diego) did anything with a #21 Jets jersey.
12. I’ll happily drink the kool-aid with Branden Oliver’s fantasy future — but in PPR leagues only.
Yes, Oliver (168 total yards, two TDs vs. New York) rolled for 114 yards against one of the NFL’s best rush defenses.
But he’s unequivocally built like a scatback (let the Darren Sproles comparisons fly) … meaning that his 23 total touches from Sunday were more obligatory than desired for the Chargers coaches, when charting the next few games.
As for his FAAB value, Oliver will undoubtedly command more free-agent money than Knile Davis — the Wednesday after Jamaal Charles suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 2.
Realistically speaking, fantasy owners in highly competitive leagues might have to cough up 55 percent of their remaining funds to close the deal.
13. I’ve officially run out of hope and patience with Bucs tailback Doug Martin (74 total yards vs. New Orleans) — in terms of living up to the preseason hype of a RB1 or RB2 in fantasy circles.
From this point forward, Martin (33 total touches, one TD for Weeks 4/5) should garner consideration for the flex spot only.
As for next week (against the Ravens), don’t even think of starting Martin in 10- or 12-team leagues. Sadly, Bobby Rainey (42 total yards, one TD) has more TD-only value than his teammate (Martin) — despite logging half the touches.
14. Give the Jaguars — the NFL’s worst pass defense entering Week 5 — credit for doing everything in their power to contain Steelers wideout Antonio Brown (five catches, 12 targets, 84 yards vs. Jacksonville).
As such, it’s a little surprising that Le’Veon Bell (118 total yards on 20 touches) and LeGarrette Blount (46 total yards) combined for only 31 touches.
Speaking of running backs, Jaguars rookie Storm Johnson should make for a great minimum-bid free agent this week. Jacksonville’s rushing attack is a mess (no shocker here, if you’ve been reading the Fantasy Fox blog since July) … and Johnson has tangible upside as an every-down back.
15. Here are nine words I never dreamt of writing back in August: It’s OK to dump C.J. Spiller in 10-team leagues.
Jay Clemons, the 2008 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year (Fantasy Sports Writers Association), can be reached via Twitter, day or night, at @FOX_JayClemons.