The NFL runs like a well-oiled machine, and reporters covering the league are usually pretty plugged in to everything that's happening. As such, there aren't many “shockers” anymore. That's not to say results of games can't be shocking, but rarely do fans get caught off guard with news that seemingly comes out of nowhere.
So far this year, we've already been blown away by a mid-week Trent Richardson trade that even he reportedly didn't know about, and last week, fantasy owners were left scrambling when Calvin Johnson was scratched about 90 minutes prior to kickoff because of a sore knee. Sure, he was “questionable” heading into the game, but neither the Lions nor any of their beat reporters even once suggested he might not play.
Is there a lesson here? For starters, it's a simple reminder that no matter how well we manage our fantasy teams, there's only so much we can do when it comes to injuries, weather and other external factors. That said, you should always “hope for the best and prepare for the worst.” If you have any player listed as “questionable,” you should have another option ready. Thus, building depth is important through the bye weeks. That's where we can help. Let's look at some risers and fallers at each offensive position after Week 5.
Also, don't forget to send your questions in for Friday's Fantasy Mailbag. Every Friday during the season, we'll tackle the best fantasy questions of the week and help you with roster, trade and strategy decisions. You can submit your questions by 5:00 p.m. CT every Thursday. Please specify players with common last names (e.g. Davis, Jackson, etc.) and include the relevant scoring parameters of your league (e.g. PPR, passing TDs worth 4 points, etc.).
Two big-name QBs took a step backward on Sunday -- for different reasons. Michael Vick exited Philadelphia's game against the Giants because of a strained hamstring, and it's currently believed he'll miss at least Week 6. Nick Foles relieved Vick and did an adequate, job but Vick owners shouldn't be relying on Foles to fill in on their roster.
The entire Lions offense took a huge hit in fantasy value when Calvin Johnson (knee) was scratched, but no one suffered more than Matthew Stafford. He still managed 262 yards and a touchdown thanks to garbage time, but Stafford didn't have any receivers who could gain separation downfield. If Johnson's injury lingers (right now, it's not expected to), Stafford is a fantasy backup.
Notable Riser: Tony Romo and Peyton Manning were obviously the stars of Week 5, but there isn't much to say about them -- start them every week and enjoy the production. One guy who fantasy owners often question is Andrew Luck, but he took big strides in becoming an “every-week starter.” Things didn't look good for him early against Seattle, but he finished strong, throwing for 229 yards, two TDs and a two-point conversion. Considering the competition, that's a solid day. Luck has a good mix of steady and big-play receivers, and even though he didn't showcase it last week, his running ability gives him an extra edge. Luck hasn't had a monster game yet, but he's still a solid starter. Perhaps surprisingly, so is Oakland's Terrelle Pryor, who has 20-plus fantasy points in three of four starts this year.
Notable Faller: There were plenty of disappointing QBs last week, with Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick standing out. But Tom Bady might have been the most disappointing, especially since he got slot receiver Danny Amendola back. Brady completed just 18 of 38 passes and failed to record a touchdown. Inclement weather in the second half didn't help, but Brady did little to help his own cause. The impending return of Rob Gronkowski could be huge for Brady, but considering he's topped 19.5 fantasy points just once this year, Brady is only a borderline starter right now.
A few RB committees took steps toward being cleared up, but a few are still causing problems for fantasy owners. Things got a lot clearer in St. Louis, where
The Browns (Willis McGahee), Packers (Eddie Lacy) and Saints (Pierre Thomas) also saw players take steps forward. The Bengals, Patriots, Chargers and Bills are still muddled situations, largely because of injuries. Stevan Ridley (thigh/knee) missed Sunday's game, forcing LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden to split time for New England. San Diego's Ryan Mathews left Sunday night's game due to a concussion, so Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown split carries (with Woodhead getting more touches because of his receiving ability). Fred Jackson played more than C.J. Spiller for Buffalo last Thursday, but that was mostly due to Spiller's ankle injury. The fact that Spiller had a 54-yard TD run was a good sign, but they should continue splitting time going forward, with Jackson likely getting goal-line touches.
The Bengals might be the most frustrating platoon. Giovani Bernard continues to outplay BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but Green-Ellis got more carries (19 vs. 13) and both of Cincinnati's goal-line carries. We were quick to anoint Bernard as the “back to own” a couple weeks ago, but Green-Ellis isn't going away.
Notable Riser: After getting just five carries in Week 4, Ray Rice ran 27 times and scored twice last week. Unfortunately, he only had a 2.7 ypc, marking the fourth time in four starts that he's been under 3.5 ypc. Still, with 33 total touches, it's nice to see the Ravens remembering Rice's value as a workhorse. The window to buy low might be closed, but Rice should continue to be a big fantasy asset as long as he keeps getting close to 20 touches per game.
Notable Faller: Arizona's Rashard Mendenhall and Tennessee's Chris Johnson both scored last week, but Johnson's TD came on a fluky 49-yard shuffle pass; Mendenhall's came on a one-yard plunge that was set up by an Andre Ellington 26-yard run. Johnson will continue to be Tennessee's lead back, but he isn't the goal-line back, and his 3.1 ypc leaves a lot to be desired. Mendenhall seems on the verge of ceding more time to the more explosive Ellington. Johnson owners can't do much but try to find a trade partner; Mendenhall owners would be wise to grab Ellington if he's still available.
We talked last week about the influx of new QBs and how that would affect the fantasy values of various receivers. After more injuries and free-agent signings last Sunday, we'll see a bunch of changes again.
Buffalo's Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods figure to take the biggest hits from their QB, E.J. Manuel, being out. Manuel (knee) is expected to miss 4-8 weeks, and the Bills are turning to Thad Lewis to lead the team. Not much is known about Lewis, but considering he was just called up from the practice squad, this doesn't figure to end well. The Browns have played with Weeden before, and even though he's a downgrade from Brian Hoyer (knee, out for season), the value of Josh Gordon doesn't change much. DeSean Jackson loses a little value playing with Foles, but he caught a TD after Vick exited, so he's still capable of being an every-week starter.
Perhaps the most interesting situation is in Minnesota, where Josh Freeman was acquired on Sunday night. It's already been announced that he won't start in Week 6, but he presumably wouldn't have signed there if he wasn't able to start in the near future. Freeman has had his ups and downs, but given Minnesota's QB situation, he would be an upgrade and improve the fantasy value of Greg Jennings.
Notable Riser: Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts proved they could co-exist, both catching touchdowns last week. Blackmon, who caught five of nine targets, caught his TD from Blaine Gabbert and probably should have had another that Gabbert misfired on; Shorts caught his from Chad Henne after Gabbert exited due to a hamstring injury. He hauled in five of 10 targets overall. Both receivers could be inconsistent, but their respective upside makes them worth starting most weeks, regardless of Jacksonville's quarterback.
Notable Faller: Outside of a garbage-time touchdown in Week 4 (when the Chiefs were leading, no less), Dwayne Bowe has done next to nothing in four of five games. It wouldn't be that big of a deal if he was getting consistent targets (like when Victor Cruz was targeted 12 times last week despite posting just 48 yards), but he hasn't topped eight looks in a game. The Chiefs aren't throwing as much as anticipated (37 attempts per game, 16th), and Bowe isn't being targeted as much as anticipated. He's obviously worth having on your team, but he isn't an automatic start.
Detroit's Tony Scheffler and Philadelphia's Brent Celek haven't been on the fantasy radar this year, but both players took advantage of injuries on Sunday. Scheffler was targeted seven times, catching four for 55 yards in the absence of Calvin Johnson. Celek caught all three of his targets, including a touchdown, in the second half after Michael Vick exited.
If Johnson and Vick remain out, both Scheffler and Celek become sleepers. The Lions don't have many “stretch-the-field” options, and Scheffler actually qualifies since he's usually matched up with linebackers and safeties. Foles showed a preference to dump down more, which is good for Celek. Both should be available as free agents after your league runs waivers, so keep them in mind if you're in a bind at TE.
Notable Riser: For the second straight game, Jason Witten had 10 targets. However, the results were vastly different, as Witten went for 78 more yards and one more touchdown this week. So far this year, Witten has had two monster games (19 points in Week 1, 18.1 points last week), two mediocre games (6.7 points in Week 3, 4.3 points in Week 4) and one poor game (1.2 points in Week 2). He's still third among all TEs in targets (43), so don't chalk him up as a “boom-or-bust” player. Witten is still an elite TE.
Notable Faller: Some fantasy owners are worried about Jordan Cameron now that Brandon Weeden is QB again. Don't be. Cameron averaged 13.15 fantasy points in Weeks 1 and 2 with Weeden under center. He'll be fine. Someone who actually seems to be moving down fantasy boards is Cincinnati's Jermaine Gresham. For the second straight game, rookie Tyler Eifert had as many or more targets as Gresham, who's yet to score this year. Gresham, Brandon Pettigrew and
Giants at Bears
Stat to know: Jay Cutler has padded his stats in garbage time the past couple weeks, but he likely won't need to against the Giants. New York has allowed at least 22.4 fantasy points to QBs in every game this year. Cutler and his receivers are solid starting options.
Sleeper: TE Brandon Myers (Bears allowing 9.5 fantasy points per game to TEs.)