GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE
Chris Ivory, RB, Jets
How does the old saying go? Something like, no matter how hot she is, somewhere in the world there’s a guy who’s sick of putting up with her. Applies here, as Ivory still possesses the same tantalizing size/speed combo and high per-carry productivity that made him a star in spurts in New Orleans. The plan, of course, was for him to take on a feature-back role in New Orleans and turn that five-plus yards per carry into a steady stream of 100-yard games. Instead, Ivory has been slowed by a hamstring injury from almost the moment he stood up after signing his contract. Meanwhile, Bilal Powell rushed for 149 yards in Week 3 and has staked his claim to what was once Ivory’s. More on him later.
IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU
Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, Patriots
Aaron Dobson, WR, Patriots
After cautioning you to give the unproductive Thompkins another chance after a disappointing Week 1, it’s time for a complete stance shift. Why, you might ask? In theory, Tom Brady’s pass catchers should be fantasy studs but the reality thus far this year has been as far away from that as could be. The inability of New England’s rookies to get on the same page of the playbook as Brady has been a source of great frustration for the quarterback, driving him to the ridiculous lengths of contacting both Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch to see if they might want to return. Here’s a snapshot of how bad it’s been: Brady has targeted Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman—guys he trusts—48 times, with the duo catching 37 of those balls; Thompkins and Dobson have been targeted a similar 48 times and managed to connect with Brady just 19 times. Rob Gronkowski is close to return, and Amendola may be back soon from his injury as well. You know where Brady is going to go with the ball; the rookies have blown their shot.
CATCH ‘EM ON THE REBOUND
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys
If you sort NFL wide receivers by receptions Austin is still a top-30 guy, and if you sort by targets at least he’s still on the first page. But with 125 yards and zero touchdowns Miles clocks in around 75th among fantasy contributors at the position. The targets and catches suggest eventually things will turn around, and The Huddle’s handy-dandy strength of schedule tool will tell you that over the next five weeks no group of wide receivers has an easier go of it than the Cowboys. Don’t be surprised to see Austin in your free agent pool; if so, act quickly to fish him out. You could also get him as a throw-in in a trade scenario, with plenty of upside still at his disposal.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants
You wanna go conspiracy theory on the bit, the Giants are demanding that Eli Manning ignore Nicks in order to keep his free agency price tag down this offseason. That’s one way to explain his one-target, zero-catch performance in Week 3. A more rational approach would be to note that Eli was running for his life most of the afternoon and didn’t have much time to locate Nicks; the Panthers sacked Manning seven times and harried him into a barely 50 percent completion rate. Things might not get much better this week against a Chiefs defense that leads the NFL with 14 sacks, but after that it’s two months of favorable matchups for the Giants’ passing game. Tom Coughlin will find a way to give Manning time to throw, and the talented Nicks will put up numbers commensurate with his talent level. And right now, you can probably get him for a half-eaten bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and an 80s Power Ballads cassette tape.
PUT A RING ON THAT THING!
Bilal Powell, RB, Jets
Everything said about Chris Ivory in the preseason sleeper articles—that the Jets are predominantly a running team, that their offensive line is one of the stronger units on the team, that Shonn Greene turned the gig into a top-15 fantasy running back showing last year. Take out Ivory’s name, however, and insert Powell’s. Ivory can’t stay healthy, and after Powell rushed for 149 yards last week against Buffalo it’ll be tough to unseat him even if Ivory does get healthy. Powell will benefit from a nice run of matchups over the next month, just in time to be a regular fantasy contributor as the bye weeks hit.
MORE THAN JUST FRIENDS
Brandon Bolden, RB, Patriots
The Patriots sure looked set at running back coming into the season, with 1,000-yard rusher Stevan Ridley handling the heaviest workload and Shane Vereen chipping in as a third down back with benefits. Then Ridley dropped the ball—literally—and it looked like an all-Vereen kind of deal… right up until Vereen hit the IR with a busted wrist. Back to Ridley, right? Not necessarily, especially with Tom Brady in need of someone who could catch. The lightly used Bolden had 76 career catches in college but only two last year as a rookie—at least until Week 3, when Bill Belichick gave Bolden a spin with some intriguing results: three carries for 51 yards and five receptions for 49 more. Ridley, meanwhile, was ineffective to the point that LeGarrette Blount saw 14 carries and nearly doubled Ridley’s yardage. Going forward, it looks as if Bolden might be the best fit for what the Patriots want and need to do offensively. While it’s too early to write Ridley off completely, as the bye weeks hit and you’re throwing darts at backs with a pulse, Bolden’s seems to be beating quite loudly.
BEAT THE CLOSING TIME RUSH
Isaiah Pead, RB, Rams
Bye weeks start this week with only a pair of teams—the Packers and Panthers—taking the week off. Next week a more traditional four teams will sit, and the scramble for running backs will begin in earnest. Beat the Week 5 rush and pick up your bye week replacements for Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, and Alfred Morris right now. At the top of the list is Pead, who looks like he’ll get first crack at any carries Daryl Richardson vacates due to his foot injury. Pead has yet to demonstrate much of the flash he showed in college, but a Week 5 home date with the Jaguars could provide him with such an opportunity. Also on your Week 5 bye-week Band-Aid radar: Green Bay’s Jonathan Franklin (vs. Detroit) and Buffalo’s Fred Jackson (at Cleveland).