Tebow emerges as rising commodity
QB: Tim Tebow, Broncos
The NFL’s most celebrated second-stringer was thrust into action on Sunday after Kyle Orton’s atrocious outing (6-for-13, 34 yards and an interception) and did not disappoint. While he only completed four passes in 10 attempts, Tebow hit Knowshon Moreno for a 28-yard touchdown strike and found the end zone on a 12-yard scamper, nearly overcoming a 16-point deficit against the Chargers. Denver is off this week, providing the perfect platform for a change under center. Tebow was impressive in abbreviated action at the end of last season, scoring seven times (four passing, three rushing) in the Broncos’ final three games. For those in search of a backup or in two-QB leagues, Tebow is a safe bet with enormous upside.
RB: Jackie Battle, Chiefs
Fantasy owners’ two-year nightmare of Thomas Jones may be nearing an end, as Battle seemingly took the reins as Kansas City’s, um, “chief” running back, accumulating 119 yards on 19 carries in a comeback win on Sunday. Battle, a Houston product that went undrafted in 2007, also added two receptions for 21 yards in the passing game. With the ineffectiveness of Jones (who averaged just 2.8 yards per carry heading into Week 5) and the lack of assimilation of Dexter McCluster (a mere five touches against Indianapolis), Battle has the opportunity and ability to be a fantasy contributor for the remainder of the 2011 campaign.
RB: Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
Lynch’s 98 rushing yards were certainly aided by a 47-yard dash, but the Seattle back reached the Promised Land for the second straight week and inserted himself in the passing attack, hauling in four passes for 33 yards. The Seahawks’ schedule is far from arduous, presenting few matchup issues for Lynch. He won’t light the fantasy scoreboards on fire, and a lack of consistency at quarterback may alarm potential Lynch proprietors. Yet with little backfield competition in the Emerald City, Lynch’s 15-20 touches per game boosts the back as a solid flex option or No. 2 running back in deeper leagues going forth.
WR: Pierre Garcon, Colts
Week 4’s production (146 yards, two touchdowns) was initially chalked up as an anomaly, as Garcon’s harvest derived from a meager two receptions. However, Sunday’s contest against Kansas City illustrated that last week’s output was no aberration, as Garcon finished with five receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, quarterback Curtis Painter targeted Garcon a team-high eight times. As long as Painter maintains his starter status, the former Purple Raider is a must-start as a No. 2 wideout.
WR: Victor Cruz, Giants
Hop on board the Victor Cruz bandwagon while seats are still available. Owned in just 30.5 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, Cruz is becoming a hot commodity after his third straight fantasy conquest, posting eight receptions for 161 yards and a score against Seattle. The news out of New York last week mentioned Cruz as the new No. 2 receiver in the Giants’ passing scheme. After receiving a game-high 11 targets, one has to wonder if Eli Manning’s affinity toward Cruz is beginning to outweigh the quarterback’s proclivity to Hakeem Nicks. The second-year man out of Massachusetts has a sound command of the middle and breakaway speed. Cruz should have a field day versus a Buffalo defense in Week 6 that is surrendering 283.4 yards per game through the air.
WR: Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
Big year for Dougs: Doug Fister giving the Tigers new life in the second half of the season, Doug Stanhope killing in a cameo role in Louie, Doug Ellin finishing the last year of Entourage, and now Doug Baldwin emerging as the primary target for the Seahawks. The rookie out of Stanford submitted another strong performance for Seattle, grabbing eight balls for 136 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s win over the G-Men. Sidney Rice should continue to garner the focus from opposing defenses, allowing Baldwin the necessary room to roam free.
TE: Jared Cook, Titans
After last week’s showing of 93 yards and a touchdown, Cook’s stat line of four receptions and 59 yards may be slightly disappointing. But factoring in the nine targets in his direction from Matt Hasselbeck, owners should be assured of Cook’s long-term fantasy worth. Damian Williams materialized as a possible new aiming object in the Titans passing game; nevertheless, expect Cook to remain the primary complement to Nate Washington. And yes, I’m aware of the “primary complement” oxymoron.
DEF: Cincinnati Bengals
They may have conceded 20 points, but the Bengals held Jacksonville to two field goals in goal-line situations and, aside from a 74-yard score from Jason Hill, were harassing Blaine Gabbert and company all afternoon. Cincinnati is owned in barely 12 percent of leagues despite holding opponents to a league-low 279.6 yards per game. With Indianapolis, Seattle and Tennessee on the upcoming slate, pick up the Bengals ASAP.
K: Nick Novak, Chargers
Since taking over for the injured Nate Kaeding, Novak is a perfect 11-for-11 on field goals this season, including a 5-for-5 performance on Sunday. The Chargers have had recent struggles converting inside the 20, making Novak a fantasy asset.
QB: Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
I thought Freeman might be in for a slight regression in 2011, but certainly didn’t fathom this dreadful display. The Tampa signal caller was a casualty of Sunday’s 48-3 slaughtering at the hands of San Francisco, completing 17-of-33 passes for 187 yards and throwing two interceptions. The two picks bring his season count to six, which matches Freeman’s total from 2010. Worse, Freeman has only found the end zone three times through the air. At this point, with a plethora of proficient passers in fantasy this season, Freeman doesn’t merit a starting spot.
RB: Stevan Ridley, Patriots
Although, to be fair, if you started Ridley this week, it was a you problem, as trusting a Bill Belichick back is as risky as a rusher from the stable of Mike Shanahan. A week after accumulating 97 yards and a score against Oakland, Ridley was stuffed by the Jets, gaining an insignificant 13 yards on seven carries. Not helping matters was a career day for BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who finished with 27 rushes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Ridley should still maintain a roster spot, as his role should increase with further incorporation into the New England offense, but don’t expect to start the Patriot back for the foreseeable future.
RB: Mark Ingram, Saints
On the bright side, Ingram made an excursion to the end zone. Alas, the 2009 Heisman winner received just nine carries for 32 yards, as the Saints continue to evenly split the rushing duties between the rookie, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas. This equation spells Ingram as a benchwarmer in standard fantasy formats. There’s also the sentiment that Ingram’s bruising, battering style that propelled him to glory in college won’t facilitate the same fruition in the pro ranks. Considering he’s yet to surpass 55 yards on the ground in five contests, one could even make the case that Ingram doesn’t warrant a roster position.
WR: David Nelson, Bills
After garnering 20 receptions for 233 yards and a touchdown in the first three weeks, Nelson has hauled in just three catches for 24 yards and a score in the past two games. Also disconcerting is Nelson’s lack of targets, with only two passes in his direction on Sunday. I’m not throwing in the towel yet, but another stink-bomb from the Buffalo wideout should permit banishment to the waiver wire.
WR: Mike Williams, Buccaneers
Poor Williams. The Buccaneer receiver finished 2010 with 65 receptions for 964 and 11 touchdowns, making Williams a trendy selection for 2011. Yet through five games, Williams has just 19 catches for 183 yards and one touchdown. The wideout’s poor production in 2011 is correlated to Freeman’s futility rather than failures of his own. Unfortunately, unless Freeman turns around his season in a hurry, Williams would better serve your team on the bench.
WR: Devery Henderson, Saints
Two straight no-shows, as well as the return of Marques Colston, severely diminishes the value of Henderson. He’s certainly capable of repeating his three-week conquest at the start of the season (12 receptions, 265 yards, two touchdowns), but the New Orleans' receiving corps is too deep to depend on Henderson, Moore and Meachem on a consistent basis. Unless one of the four aforementioned entities is banged up, Henderson is a risky start.
TE: Scott Chandler, Bills
In his defense, few expected Chandler to maintain his torrid September showing, where the tight end finished the month with four touchdowns in three games. Still, Chandler has come crashing back to Earth with three catches for 12 yards in the last two games.
DEF: Philadelphia Eagles
Philly snagged their first interception of the year, and Buffalo’s offensive success was predicated more by the ineptitude of the Eagles offense rather than incompetence from the defensive unit. Sadly, many fantasy scoreboards failed to reflect this attitude, as the Eagles gave up 31 points, 24 which came against the defense, in a Bills’ win. Things won’t get any easier versus first-place Washington next week.