Bumps, Bruises and Bowouts
Chris Hogan – Head
Ryan Griffin – Neck
MyCole Pruitt – Knee
Cody Kessler – Chest
Steve Smith – Ankle
Gary Barnidge – Ankle
Dwayne Harris – Toe
Eddie Lacy – Ankle
Randall Cobb – Neck
Week 5 of the NFL was very kind with injuries but there are still a number of teams undergoing transitions and already tinkering with the depth charts to get their team on track. We saw the return of Tom Brady, backfield committees with a vengeance and still more wideouts that turned in surprising stats in the box scores.
Brian Hoyer (Bears) – He’s already taken over the starting spot in Chicago from Jay Cutler and his first two starts posted over 300 yards and two scores each. In Indianapolis, he reached the hat trick with his third such game and his 397 yards were second only to Tom Brady on Sunday. The only bad defense he faces over the next five weeks is the Vikings in Week 8. Hoyer is offering more consistency and production than the Bears have received from the quarterback spot in years.
Colin Kaepernick (49ers) – Blaine Gabbert is expected to lose his starting job after four straight losses. He only threw for 162 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the home loss to the Cardinals and head coach Chip Kelly no longer defends him. While there is some call for Christian Ponder to get his shot, the starting nod will end up with Kaepernick thanks to a better arm and more mobility. Kaepernick would step in at an opportune time with the 49ers facing the Bills, Buccaneers and Saints next.
Dak Prescott (Cowboys) – He steered the Cowboys to a 4-1 record and still has yet to throw an interception. Against the Bengals defense, he threw for 227 yards and a score and rushed in a touchdown for the third time this season. But the Cowboys have been adamant that Tony Romo will resume the starting job likely in Week 8. That means Prescott would have just one more start – in Green Bay – before turning over the reins during the Week 7 bye. Romo’s first games would be against the Eagles, Browns, Steelers and Ravens.
Charlie Whitehurst (Browns) – Once again another Cleveland quarterback was injured. Cody Kessler was hurt during the loss to the Patriots when he received a hard hit to his chest. That forced the Browns to call in Whitehurst who threw for a credible 182 yards and one score long after the Patriots had already secured the win. But he too hyper-extended his knee and went to the sidelines before returning later. By this point, it is evident that the Browns are never going to keep a quarterback for more than a few games and that Terrelle Pryor is reliable for some passing yardage as the last man standing every week or two.
Running Backs by Coin Flip
Falcons – After winning their last four games, the offense is not producing much from the receivers outside of Julio Jones who is not above the odd bad game. But the Falcons are winning thanks to their tandem of backs – Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman. Both have been productive this year while turning in at least one bad game. But determining which will be the best or when that bad game will happen is nearly impossible. Freeman is clearly the primary rusher but Coleman scores more and is currently the NFL leader in receiving yardage by a running back. This week at Seattle will likely lower at least one of their fantasy outputs. But then the Chargers, Packers and Buccaneers are up next.
Vikings – This is becoming harder to forecast and is starting to resemble 2014 when Adrian Peterson missed the season and both Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata shared the load. The Vikings want the faster and shiftier McKinnon to handle the primary rushing role and he had 18 carries for 85 yards and a score versus the Giants in Week 3. Asiata was limited to only 18 yards on eight touches but ran in the short score. In the win over the Texans, McKinnon gained just 36 yards on 20 runs and caught one ten-yard pass. Asiata ran 14 times for 55 yards and a touchdown plus added three catches for 46 yards. The Vikings go onto their bye but return to four road games over the next six weeks. That’s likely to result in very inconsistent results for both backs playing in tougher venues.
Giants – Rashad Jennings remains out with a thumb injury and the workload is shifting every week. The loss of Shane Vereen gave Bobby Rainey more work as a receiver and he was the most effective rusher with 22 yards on five carries last Sunday. Orleans Darkwa was used more in Week 4 when he ran 12 times for 48 yards but then only managed 11 yards on seven runs. Paul Perkins still only gets three or four touches despite being more effective. Jennings will return soon but this backfield has lost all consistency. The return of Jennings will only push Darkwa back to the bench.
Raiders – Latavius Murray is out with a turf toe and he’s been held to ten carries or fewer since the opener. DeAndre Washington took the start for Week 5 that he earned with 13 carries for 103 yards over the previous two games. But Washington only rushed nine times for 23 yards in the win over the Chargers and added five catches for 29 yards. Jalen Richard was quiet since the opener but then ran for 31 yards on eight attempts and added 66 yards on his six catches. The return of Murray is not going to improve this ever-changing backfield.
Broncos – The season started with C.J. Anderson assuming a heavy workload – 20 runs for 92 yards and a score in the opener. Devontae Booker was only used three times for relief. But that ratio shifts with every game. In the loss to the Falcons when the Broncos always trailed and needed their best players, Anderson rushed just 11 times for 41 yard and added three catches for 21 yards. But Booker ran six times for 23 yards. And he caught four passes for 36 yards. Booker’s six targets were less than only Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. This shift in workload comes right before the schedule becomes very attractive. Up next are the Chargers (away), Texans, Chargers (home), Raiders and then the Saints. There could be plenty for both backs.
The Brady Bunch
The return of Tom Brady led to a predictable thrashing of the Browns, but there were interesting changes to the play calling from previous weeks. LeGarrette Blount was no longer needed to control the ball and fell to only 18 runs for 37 yards though he scored once. Chris Hogan’s first game with Brady resulted in a team high 114 yards on five catches. But Julian Edelman was held to only five catches for 35 yards. Before assuming any real change is happening, realize that his ten targets were a team high. And more notable were the tight ends. Rob Gronkowski went from one catch on the year to five receptions for 109 yards like nothing was different from 2015. And the two-tight-end sets were devastating. In addition to Gronkowski’s big game, Martellus Bennett caught six passes for 67 yards and all three of the receiving touchdowns. And while that is sure to be a part of every game plan, realize too that they faced the Browns who were only ranked 29th against the position and now are a clear 32nd in the NFL.
Wide Receiver Breakthroughs
A number of wideouts turned in bigger than usual stats that deserve more scrutiny.
Cameron Meredith (Bears) – The loss of Kevin White gave the second-year undrafted free agent his first NFL start. He responded with nine catches for 130 yards and one score in one of the best performances on Sunday. Unfortunately he lost a fumble at the end of the game right after the Bears lost the lead. That lead to a Colts field goal and prevented a comeback. But Meredith immediately had chemistry with Brian Hoyer and this week against the visiting Jaguars can make amends.
Adam Thielen (Vikings) – He led the Vikings with seven receptions for 127 yards and one score while he replaced Stefon Diggs who was out with a groin injury. But they go on their bye now and Diggs should be back for the game in Philadelphia in Week 7. Thielen at least earned more attention in the rotation and had been good for around three or four catches per week.
Brandon LaFell (Bengals) – He led the team with eight receptions for 68 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to the Cowboys. That joins the season opener when he caught four passes for 91 yards but then was held to around 40 yards for three straight weeks. He could be big again this week since they head to New England who will focus heavily on A.J. Green. The return of Tyler Eifert could impact how much work LaFell gets.
Andrew Hawkins (Browns) – The Browns are in dire need of help and Hawkins turned in his best game of the year. He caught four passes for 56 yards and one touchdown in the loss to the Patriots. But the ever-changing quarterback situation and the presence of Gary Barnidge and Terrelle Pryor removes all reliability despite the obvious need.
Cordarrelle Patterson (Vikings) – His past history is all about being a star returner and a bust as a receiver. But the former first round pick is being included in the game plan again and while he totals just 77 yards on nine catches over the last two weeks, he scored once. And he is getting six targets per week. There has never been a reason to question his speed, but the Vikings are trying to find ways to use him on the offense. Sam Bradford has already had more success connecting with Patterson than Teddy Bridgewater had.
Rishard Matthews (Titans) – He was a pricey acquisition during the offseason but Matthews disappointed for the first three weeks. In Houston, he only caught two passes but gained 82 yards and in the win in Miami, he caught four passes for 32 yards and one touchdown. That’s hardly the making of a fantasy star but at least Marcus Mariota is trying to have more success with his wide receivers and using Matthews the most.
WAS 16, BAL 10
The Redskins get a much needed win even though none of their players gained more than 56 yards and Pierre Garcon (5-56, TD) caught the only touchdown. The Ravens drop two in a row and not only is that 3-0 start hard to remember but ends up did not really mean much. Terrance West (11-95) ran well but not that often and Mike Wallace (7-63) was as good as it got for receivers. 26 total points means to forget this barren wasteland. The 3-2 Redskins host the Eagles this week while the 3-2 Ravens head to New York to play the Giants.
NE 33, CLE 13
Tom Brady returned and merely reeled off 406 passing yards and three scores that all ended up with Michael Bennett (6-67, 3 TD). Rob Gronkowski apparently was just waiting for his BFF to return because he went from one catch on the season to five receptions for 109 yards. Chris Hogan (4-114) was the only other Patriot with notable stats (Sorry Julian Edelman… 5-35). The Browns lost yet another quarterback and are down to Charlie Whitehurst and Terrelle Pryor. It is like 2015 with Gary Barnidge (5-76) being the last man standing again only with out the touchdowns. This was everything that was expected except for Edelman. Now the 4-1 Patriots host the Bengals and the 0-5 Browns seek to protect their #1 draft pick status in Tennessee.
PHI 23, DET 24
The Eagles finally lose one and Carson Wentz sealed their loss with his first career interception. The Eagles played mediocre and not players had a big game. It was like Cinderella just got back home. The Lions weren’t much better though Theo Riddick totaled 82 yards and two scores to make the difference. The Eagles nearly pulled off a comeback but fell short. Marvin Jones (4-37, TD) had a down game but scored to help his fantasy value. Now the 2-3 Lions host the Rams and the 3-1 Eagles head to Washington.
CHI 23, IND 29
This did not feature many touchdowns with eight field goals but there were plenty of fantasy points. Brian Hoyer (397 yards, 2 TD) was a great free agent fantasy pickup and Cameron Meredith (9-130, TD) impressed considering he only had 6-52 on the season. Alshon Jeffery (5-77) and Zach Miller (7-73) had decent showings though Jeffery is getting frustrated and received the fourth-most targets for the Bears. Jordan Howard ended with 163 total yards and one score. T.Y. Hilton (10-171, TD) had the only big performance for the Colts though it was the best in the NFL. Andrew Luck passed for 322 yards and two scores but five field goals by Adam Vinatieri made the difference. Now the 1-4 Bears host the Jaguars while the 2-3 Colts hit the road to Houston.
TEN 30, MIA 17
Overall, could have gone better for the Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill threw for 108 of his 191 yards on two passes and he had no scores with two interceptions. In fact those two catches were about all the Fins offense did. Marcus Mariota only threw for 163 yards but tossed three touchdowns. DeMarco Murray turned in 137 total yards and Delanie Walker scored once on his five catches for 66 yards. The Titans were no different really and the Dolphins were just really bad. A few more of these and they’ll talk change in Miami. To his credit, HC Adam Gase did go with Jay Ajayi (13-42, TD) almost exclusively instead of the four-man tag-team approach. The 2-3 Titans host the Browns and the 1-4 Dolphins host the Steelers this week.
HOU 13, MIN 31
Houston bad, Minnesota good. That is about all you need to know and you should have known that coming in. Brock Osweiler (184 yards, TD) is hardly worth the money so far but at least Deandre Hopkins (5-56, TD) saved his fantasy value with the last score. Lamar Miller was held to 20 yards on eight carries. The Vikings just play dominating defense – and scored on a punt return this time – and then get enough from what would otherwise just be another moderate offense. They only rushed for 91 yards and McKinnon was held to 36 yards on 20 carries. Adam Thielen (7-127, TD) was the top receiver and even Cordarrelle Patterson (4-39, TD) caught a touchdown. Now the 3-2 Texans host the Colts and the 5-0 Vikings are the only unbeaten team as they enter their bye. Good luck trying to find a replacement defense as good this week.
NYJ 13, PIT 31
The Jets defense really missed Darrelle Revis since Antonio Brown (9-78, TD) and Sammie Coates (6-139, 2 TD) were more than enough to win this game. Le’Veon Bell only gained 60 rush yards but added nine catches for 88 yards. Other than Brandon Marshall (8-114, TD) there were no good performances from the outmatched Jets and even Matt Forte only managed 60 total yards. Now the 1-4 Jets have to go play in Arizona while the 4-1 Steelers head to Miami.
ATL 23, DEN 16
If this had more points it would be the game-of-the-week. Disregard losing to the Bucs in the opener and the Falcons are maybe the best team in the NFL. I am just as shocked after last year. The only Falcons with notable performances was Tevin Coleman (4-132, TD receive, 6-31 rush) and Devonta Freeman (23-88, TD rush, 3-35 receive). Julio Jones was held to only 29 yards on two catches. But the Broncos only received 62 total yards from C.J. Anderson and Demaryius Thomas (5-49, TD) was the best fantasy receiver. Emmanuel Sanders (7-80) also had a strong yardage game. While the Broncos did start a rookie quarterback for the first time, the success of both the Falcon’s offense and defense cannot be denied. The 4-1 Falcons now travel the Seattle while the 4-1 Broncos head to San Diego.
CIN 14, DAL 28
Speaking of teams that are actually legit, the Cowboys took down the Bengals in a game that they led 28-0. Brandon LaFell (8-68, 2 TD (was the only decent fantasy play while A.J. Green settled for just 50 yards on four catches. The Cowboys won behind the rushing of Ezekiel Elliott (15-134, 2 TD) and he also turned in three catches for 37 yards. The Cowboys defense has really improved this year and the lack of a high-powered passing game is compensated by Elliott and Dak Prescott who ran in his third touchdown versus four scores via a pass. The 2-3 Bengals need to get back on a winning track but head to New England this week. The 4-1 Cowboys travel to Green Bay.
BUF 30, LA 19
With these two teams. almost anything can happen in any given week. The Bills only had 124 passing yards from Tyrod Taylor but he threw two touchdowns. LeSean McCoy ran for 150 yards on 18 carries to provide the bulk of the offense. But the Bills collected four turnovers and scored on an interception return. Todd Gurley ran for 72 yards on 23 carries and scored once plus caught three passes for 36 more yards in one of his better games. No other Rams player scored or did much even though it was at home against a soft opponent. Now the 3-2 Bills host the 49ers and will look even better. The 3-2 Rams travel to Detroit.
NYG 16, GB 23
The Giants struggled to move the ball consistently and there were no standout performances. Odell Beckham (5-56, TD) saved his game with the late score but no one else did much. Eddie Lacy (11-81) was running great until he hurt his ankle. Randall Cobb (9-108) and Davante Adams (5-85, TD) both had surprisingly good performances. Aaron Rodgers (259 yards, 2 TD) was good without being great. There were only three touchdowns scored in this game which is yet another disappointing output when the Giants are involved. The 2-3 Giants host the Ravens this week while the 3-1 Packers host the Cowboys.
Huddle Player of the Week
Ezekiel Elliott – The rookie scored a touchdown or broke 100 total yards in every game. As of Sunday, he set a Cowboys record with three straight 100 yard games by a rookie. He leads the NFL with 545 rushing yards thanks to the 134 yards on 15 carries against the Bengals that scored twice and had three receptions for 37 yards. So far the rookie is as billed and getting better every week.
Drama 101 – Somebody has to Laugh, Somebody has to Cry
|QB||Marcus Mariota||223||4||QB||Ryan Tannehill||191||0|
|RB||Tevin Coleman||163||1||RB||Lamar Miller||24||0|
|RB||Theo Riddick||82||2||RB||Matt Forte||60||0|
|WR||Cameron Meredith||130||1||WR||Julio Jones||29||0|
|WR||Brandon LaFell||68||2||WR||Jarvis Landry||30||0|
|WR||Adam Thielen||127||1||WR||Julian Edelman||35||0|
|TE||Jesse James||43||1||TE||Kyle Rudolph||15||0|
|PK||Adam Vinatieri||5 FG 2 XP||PK||Mike Nugent||2 XP|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 155||Huddle Fantasy Points = 26|
Sunday’s Couch Commentary
This was a good week with several big performances from all positions and higher overall scoring by the NFL teams. There were a few surprises of course but by now we are getting more comfortable with what is reality for 2016. Atlanta is really good. So are the Vikings. The AFC South still will be won by a team with a terrible record. The Saints are bad but without the decency of having big scoring shootouts. Things change.
Chargers 31, Raiders 34
This was everything we hoped for – a shootout with 65 total points. Both Philip Rivers (359 yards, 4 TD) and Derek Carr (317 yards, 2 TD) had big stats so that all the right receivers had big games.
Tyrell Williams (5-117, TD) and Travis Benjamin (7-117) turned in high fantasy points and even Hunter Henry (3-74, TD) had a good showing while Antonio Gates (4-30, TD) was playing. Even Melvin Gordon caught a touchdown and totaled 87 yards.
Amari Cooper finally popped the touchdown cork when he caught six passes for 138 yards and one score. Michael Crabtree was held to just three catches for 47 yards but also scored. Jalen Richard totaled 97 yards while DeAndre Washington only had 52 total yards. The rushing efforts were both marginal but all that passing made up for it.
The Raiders will host the Chiefs this week while the Charger head to Denver to make them look great again on offense.
We’re passing the one-third mark to the regular fantasy season so now is about the time you can start to panic. We’ve all had problems with our rosters losing players to injury and some fantasy teams had catastrophic situations. But there’s still time to turn it around.
And no matter what, at least your team hasn’t burned through four quarterbacks in five weeks like the Browns. You’ll always have that.
Now get back to work…