We’re finally starting to see separation in developing trends. What we thought we knew coming into the season is either being confirmed or dispelled, sometimes in a humbling manner. The first four weeks of the season are the toughest from a prognostication perspective. This will be addressed in greater detail in the Rest of the season rankings update.
Injuries — and big ones — dominated the fantasy conversation Sunday. It looks like Dalvin Cook (knee) will miss the rest of the year with a presumed ACL tear. Julio Jones has a hip injury that cost him most of the game. But his partner in crime, Mohamed Sanu, also failed to return due to a bum hammy and will miss a few games. Derek Carr took gnarly shot to the back that was eerily similar to the one Tony Romo (who coincidentally was calling the Raiders game) suffered and resulted in a transverse-process fracture. Early word says Carr escaped a long-term injury. Marcus Mariota injured a hamstring and didn’t return. His prognosis is currently unclear.
Miscellaneous thoughts before we dive into the fun stuff:
- How much longer will Jay Cutler survive? Matt Moore has to be champing at the bit to get his hands on the football.
- Speaking of survival, Ben McAdoo might be a dead man walking as head coach of the New York Giants … 0-4 doesn’t sit well in any city, especially that one.
- This is mostly in jest, but it would be something if the New Orleans Saints traded Adrian Peterson to the Vikings for, well, anything … a ham sandwich would suffice. As written in this space, Peterson has a fork sticking out of his back. I’ve dumped him in every fantasy league. Yet, I still can’t shake the idea that he’d look much better in a Vikings jersey than the current husk of his former self in Saints duds. Instead, Latavius Murray will have to suffice.
4 catches, 34 yards: Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown disappointed fantasy owners with a 7.4-point PPR day.
Takeaway: This happened several times last year, and AB rebounded with the best of them. In 2016, Brown posted a 4-39-0 line in Week 2. The next week he emerged to the tune of 12 catches for a buck forty. In Week 6, we saw another 4-39-0 line, which he followed up with a 7-106-0 day the next weekend. Fantasy owners who survived Brown’s quiet Week 15 showing of 3-58-0 were rewarded with a 10-catch, 96-yard, 1-TD effort in their title game. Unfortunately, he’ll need to do it this time against the No. 1 defense of fantasy receivers in a Week 5 meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
24.8 PPR fantasy points: The Cincinnati Bengals were without tight end Tyler Eifert once again, which paved the way for backup Tyler Kroft to author one of the best fantasy games of the year for his position.
Takeaway: There is no exact time table on Eifert’s recovery, but it is expected to be multiple weeks. He is already two into this nebulous prognosis. Gamers are well-aware of his injury history. They probably aren’t as familiar with Kroft’s athleticism. He has above-average hands and can get down the field — you know, in the mold of Eifert. The system utilizes the position, and Andy Dalton often looks its way. Add Kroft in the event tight end is an area of need.
Also see: Week 4 fantasy recap
80 receptions: This is the season-long extrapolation for receptions by Sean Payton’s newest third-down gadget, running back Alvin Kamara, after he logged 10 catches in Week 4.
Takeaway: The system loves throwing to running backs. Remember Darren Sproles’ success? Payton missed having that kind of weapon available in the passing game. Over the last three years, without a dynamic receiver in the mold of Sproles, the top two backs have combined for 83, 84 and 86 grabs, respectively. Sproles averaged 77 grabs in his three seasons with the Saints, and that is after missing four contests. Maybe this Payton dude has some kind of formula for the positional role … just sayin’.
7-70-2: This is the stat line posted by Carolina wideout Devin Funchess in Week 4, which is bound to attract fantasy suitors on the waiver wire.
Takeaway: Interestingly, Funchess was quietly contributing the past two weeks. He caught four balls in each game and tallied double-digit PPR totals. Look for a much larger role for the glorified tight end with Greg Olsen on the shelf for several more weeks, if not longer. The former Michigan Wolverine is coming into his own as an NFL receiver and improving on the nuances. Fantasy gamers should happily add him for no worse than depth but a likely fill-in target as bye weeks begin challenge us to get creative with lineups this week.
13.2 fantasy points allowed: This is the combined average of fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks by the top two teams against the position. Through four games, the Pittsburgh Steelers rank as the second-toughest defense of quarterbacks in fantasy football. The Jacksonville Jaguars rate as the strongest opponent.
Takeaway: Pittsburgh has faced quarterbacks DeShone Kizer, Case Keenum, Mike Glennon and Joe Flacco … hardly the height of quarterbacking. Jacksonville, coincidentally Pittsburgh’s Week 5 opponent, also has encountered a lack of elite quarterback play: Deshaun Watson/Tom Savage, Marcus Mariota, Ryan Mallett/Flacco and Josh McCown. In 2016, Pittsburgh ranked sixth and Jacksonville seventh against quarterbacks. Hardly fluky production despite facing less quarterbacks. In other words, these defenses have done their jobs as planned.
15: The number of total carries for Marshawn Lynch over the last two games combined.
Takeaway: Yeah, I get he is a 31-year-old back who didn’t play last year, but 7.5 carries per game for a guy who tends to get stronger as games wear on is among the more frustrating things we’ve seen in 2017. Game flow has been a factor, sure, but the Raiders need to get Beast Mode going early and often. It was a tough matchup versus a Denver defense that played tough against Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy and Melvin Gordon. Furthermore, Oakland was down for the second straight week. Be patient and expect this to work out.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s coming-out party was fun to watch. He finished with 283 passing yards, four TD throws, a pick, one rushing score and 24 more yards on the ground.
Takeaway: The label of “fluke” is unfair, and I admit it. That said, his performance must be put into context. The Tennessee Titans were the fourth-easiest matchup to exploit coming into Week 4. Watson has shown at the collegiate level and during his young NFL journey that the game isn’t too big for him. The moment isn’t greater than what he can handle. That should be your take away. Don’t get hung up on the stats. Next week, he faces KC and may throw four picks to one TD. He’s still a rookie, after all.
You have to go back to Week 12 of the 2015 season to find the last game Denver Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas was held to one catch.
Takeaway: Let’s call “fluke” an “abnormality” for this one. Oakland focused on slowing Thomas, giving up considerable underneath work to checkdowns instead. The star receiver bounced back from that last single-catch game to go for 18.1 PPR points the next week, for whatever that is worth. He has caught at least three passes in 33 of his last 35 games.
Gut check: Sooo … about that Alex Collins chat we had last week. I contended he wasn’t worthy of being more than a fantasy watch list guy after his 9-82-0 day versus Jacksonville in a blowout. In that context, I stand by the advice. So the former Seattle Seahawk did it again, also in a blowout, right? Not so fast. Most of his work came in the first half, including going for 23 on the second play of the game. Collins is officially a must-add. Let me have it if 164 yards on 18 carries isn’t enough to open the eyes of his coaches.
Here’s a thought: Wouldn’t it be awesome to see Frank Gore play for another decade?! Seriously, he looks amazingly spry for a 34-year-old back who had multiple major injuries early in his career and has as much mileage on the odometer as a Peterbilt. He’s a free agent after the year, and common sense says he is likely to retire. Here’s to hoping Gore signs on with a contender as a third-down back. Cheers to you!
I want to believe: Isaiah Crowell will get on track, but it would be a monumental feat at this point. He is more talented than what we have witnessed to date this season. Crowell has no worth to speak of on third-downs, and his team is playing from behind far too often, which eliminates him from the game plan in favor of Duke Johnson. Toss in a rookie quarterback who was just benched in favor of another inexperienced passer in Week 4 … man, nothing about this situation is conducive to an immediate resurrection.
It’s hard to believe: Arizona cannot find anyone better than its current stable of sad sacks trying to replace David Johnson. Chris Johnson is probably worse than Adrian Peterson at this point, and that says something! So much for Kerwynn Williams‘ big break, eh? Andre Ellington offers virtually nothing as a running back. With all of the talented youngsters out there, and even a few lingering veterans, no one is a better option? Crazy talk.
Also see: Week 4 Tunnel Vision
Book it: Barring an injury of his own, Seattle Seahawks wideout turned running back, J.D. McKissic, will lead this backfield in fantasy production. Knee-jerk? Nah. He is the most electric back on the roster — a team dying for someone to stand out. McKissic’s 2017 debut couldn’t have gone much better, exploding for a pair of scores and 65 offensive yards on just five touches. The apparent loss of rookie Chris Carson (leg) opens a door for McKissic, but he won’t be asked to do it alone. It matters none based on his big-play nature.
It sure seems like: With the way the New England Patriots are playing on defense, running back James White is a must-play each week. He caught only one ball in Week 3 during the Patriots’ rally against the Texans, which was somewhat surprising. The week prior saw eight grabs on his part, and White chipped in 10 against the Panthers. In a similar vein, pass-catching backs are a must-start against the putrid Pats D.
I feel: It is a crying shame that Alfred Morris doesn’t have a starting gig all to himself. He was a prolific rusher before Dallas’ mammoth offensive line aided his cause. Morris beat out a 1,000-yard back in Darren McFadden to back up Zeke, and it truly is unfortunate fantasy owners don’t have Morris at their disposal on another team’s roster as the lead dog.