Welcome to Toad’s Fantasy Football Weekly Review, where I summarize the aftermath of the past Thursday through Sunday games, but more importantly ten thoughts and their lasting fantasy impact.
It was the first bye week of the season and many key players were missed. Also some major injuries took the headlines in a surprising week of football. Some young quarterbacks have entered the conversation of elite, while some are beginning to look long in the tooth. Rookie receivers have failed to impress, but the rookie class of running backs continue to be the story of 2017. Here are the 10 things I took away from week five.
1. The state of the Giants’ passing game keeps going further down the toilet and the rest of the Week 5 injuries.
• WR Odell Beckham – The Giants star receiver fractured his ankle, so by now we all know they’re in dire straits. Sterling Shepard hurt his ankle to add insult to injury… but then Brandon Marshall sprained his ankle, too! But no, the nightmare didn’t stop there because kick returner and fourth receiver Dwayne Harris suffered a fracture in his foot, and will join Beckham on the injured reserve. Life goes on and next man up, starting receivers don’t grow on trees, so look for this offense to look worse over the next three weeks.
• RB Bilal Powell was unable to build on his massive week four game after he suffered a calf injury in the second half of the Browns game. He’s going to be week-to-week moving forward but the Jets are already dealing with Matt Forte with turf toe, if you haven’t but a watch on Elijah McGuire, now may be the time to do so.
• DE J.J. Watt fractured his tibia and there’s no need for guesswork, he’s done for the season–again. This is a brutal loss, though the Texans know how to play without Watt. He’s a ferocious competitor but the injuries keep mounting, robbing him of his best years. OLB Whitney Mercilus is done too with a torn pectoral. The Texans defense will bounce back, they’ve done it before, but to lose Mercilus is a bigger loss because they’ve already played without Watt for an extended period. But not Watt and Mercilus. This defense is still trying to fill the holes left from free agency. It’s no longer a defense I want any part of.
• Chiefs TE Travis Kelce is in concussion protocol after leaving the Sunday Night game in the second quarter. WR Chris Conley ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in the fourth quarter and is done for the year. Alex Smith still has his two best playmakers in Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt, but they’ve got two weeks to get healthy or find replacements because they’ll play the Broncos in week eight.
• Bills TE Charles Clay was carted off to the locker room at the start of the Bills–Bengals game and that immediately hurt the Bills’ offense. He suffered a knee injury and is expected to miss multiple weeks, but is not expected to miss the entire season. The impact was seen immediately as Tyrod Taylor had a terrible game.
• An example of how bad the Bills offense is hurting without any receivers or tight ends to throw to, the Bengals lost starting cornerbacks Adam Jones (lower back) and Dre Kirkpatrick (shoulder) and they still couldn’t throw on them. Bengals DST owners will want to see how they perform in coming weeks to see if these injuries will linger and affect the Bengals back end portion of their defense.
• Another week gone by and another injury to Rob Gronkowski. The elite tight end is elite—when he plays. He’s expected to be back for week six but how much can his owners trust him? That’s the risk you take in drafting Gronk.
2. Where there’s smoke there’s fire
Carlos Hyde was limited with 33 snaps vs. Matt Breida’s 35 snaps. Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan insisted he was riding the hot hand and that Hyde’s hip was not bothering him. This doesn’t make sense given that they were playing the Colts. Hyde was given nine total touches for 18 yards from scrimmage. Breida had 10 carries for 49 yards. Something doesn’t smell right.
3. Acquaint yourself with Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz
I’m not about to say I told you so, but the Eagles game played out nearly exactly as I mentioned it would, including seeing Nelson Agholor score a touchdown. How did I know? The Cardinals have a shutdown corner in Patrick Peterson but the secondary is still struggling. That’s how I knew that the Eagles would be moving the ball through other players, including the run game, since Wendell Smallwood was hurt. So Agholor and Ertz made sense and to get them away from Alshon Jeffery, who was expected to have a bad day. So whenever Jeffery is facing stiff coverage but there’s not other great cover guys, it’s Agholor and Ertz that predictably will get the action. Torrey Smith’s long touchdown was a pure bonus, but as a boom or bust kind of player, historically, I prefer Agholor emerging as one of Carson Wentz’s favorite targets moving forward.
4. Deshaun Watson has answered Houston’s prayers for offense
Despite having DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller the last two seasons, the Texans’ offense experience during Bill O’Brien’s tenure head coach has been a trip through the Stone Age. Watson changes that. Just look at the team’s last drive, when the game was well out of hand and he flinged a Hail Mary to put the Texans at the goal line with five seconds to go in the game. They would eventually score, but even in garbage time, they were aggressive. Finally, we see the Hopkins of old throughout the game, because he has a quarterback that trusts his skills by putting the ball where he can go out and up to get it. Will Fuller gives them another vertical threat too. If only Braxton Miller could, Watson opens up an entire half of the playbook that stretches the defense. He’s thrown the second most touchdowns in 2017 through week five, as a rookie, and did not make his first start until week two. The defense carried the Texans into the playoffs in the past, now it’s the offense that needs to make the big plays.
5. Dak Prescott has entered the elite fantasy QB1 conversation
Prescott has moved into the top ten quarterback rankings with a 238.4 yard average with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions, throwing the ball an average 35.8 attempts. That’s up from his 31.0 attempts at this same in the season as a rookie. Prescott had a 247.8 yard average then but only had five touchdowns and two interceptions. The rise in touchdowns show what a better quarterback, how much more aggressive he is, and his 11 passing scores keep him tied for third amongst quarterbacks with Tom Brady and Alex Smith. As far as I’m concerned, any three-touchdown performance qualifies as a huge day for a quarterback and he’s done at least that in each of the last three games. Defenses have focused on stuffing Zeke Elliott and Prescott has been comfortable putting his team on his shoulders and so should his fantasy owners.
6. The Jaguars have established their new identity
Blake Bortles attempted just 14 passes (still threw a pick) for 95 yards. Leonard Fournette ran the ball 28 times and Chris Ivory had eight carries for a total of 122 yards. The defense did the rest and Tom Coughlin couldn’t be happier. Now this is going to discourage all of those owners who went out on a limb and got Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, and yeeesh, even Marcedes Lewis, but this is going to be how the Jaguars win games, especially against quality defenses. I’m downgrading the Jaguars’ receivers moving forward as they’re all volatile options for fantasy.
7. Hunter Henry is slowly pulling away from Antonio Gates
I know that fantasy owners have been hesitant to go all in with Henry but I don’t see the future Hall of Fame tight end to be in the picture much longer. They’ve got similar numbers but remember that Henry wasn’t targeted at all in one game. Henry could be more of a downfield threat and probably double his numbers if it wasn’t for Gates but every week, Henry is starting to pull away, ever so slightly. Look at the weekly snap count for both tight ends and who out-snapped who. Targets are in parenthesis. Keep monitoring this and see if the Chargers take notice to what everyone else can see on the field.
Week 1 Gates 39 (3 – 1TD) vs. 23 Henry (0)
Week 2 Henry 33 (7) vs. 32 Gates (4)
Week 3 Henry 41 (0) vs. 40 Gates (5)
Week 4 Gates 36 (5) vs. 35 Henry (3 – 1TD)
Week 5 Henry 59 (8 – 1 TD) vs. 41 Gates (3)
8. The MVP Cam Newton is back
For now it appears that Cam Newton has returned to his MVP form. How do I know this? For two straight weeks, he hasn’t forced the ball to Kelvin Benjamin or Christian McCaffrey, He spread the ball evenly to McCaffrey, Benjamin, Devin Funchess, and Ed Dickson. This is what he did best two years ago on his Super Bowl run season. The Panthers completely ditched the run game as a result though and the only Panther with gaudy stats was Newton. Okay, Dickson too but that caught everyone off guard, especially me who flagged Dickson as a Sit’em in week five. The Panthers play much better when Newton doesn’t single out one or two targets, but he’s also throwing down the field with accuracy, which shows me that he’s made it back and has done so for two straight weeks. The Lions are a good defense. They muscled past the Bills, another tough defense and they were grittier than the Patriots for one week. Let’s take that peculiar week three loss to the Saints out of the equation, and you have a stud campaign building.
9. The AFC North is weak
Annually, we’ve seen two out of three teams be playoff contenders come out of the AFC North but let’s go through what we’ve seen so far. The Cleveland Browns are winless and can be cast off already. Cincinnati has been good defensively and inconsistent from an offensive standpoint, making them an average team at best. Baltimore has looked abysmal on offense in most weeks but in week five showed that every dog gets a bone sometimes. Then there’s the Steelers who we considered were the top of the class headed in, and were the favorite to win the division. However, they struggled to beat the Browns in week one and they lost to the Bears in week three. I circled this past game against the Steelers and Jaguars as one to watch this week, because I wanted to see just how good the Jaguars’ defense was this year. Holding the Steelers to nine points, picking Big Ben five times, two of which went for touchdowns was proved to me that if the Steelers can be erased, and they have consistently struggled with subpar teams, then perhaps there’re not that far off from being mediocre too.
10. Get ready to see the Giants’ run game is going to go from bad to putrid.
Obviously the Giants passing game is spiraling down but some fantasy owners may take that as a signal to put their chips into the run game but let me be clear. STAY AWAY, I understand that Wayne Gallman and Orleans Darkwa did a fair job in week five but know that their production came early in the game, when they had wide receivers. The offensive line is still bad and they’ve got some upcoming matchups that will eat them up (Broncos, Seahawks, Rams). With their top four receivers out or ailing, opposing defenses are going to give the Giants nothing but disrespect on all facets of the offense and the run game especially will feel the brunt of these losses.