Week 5 Recap: Limericks
With the general length and depth of the recap, I am beginning to realize that an intro is somewhat superfluous. So instead of making up a witty anecdote, I wanted to take a minute and ask for some help with my new weekly mailbag. Every week I will answer a handful of questions from numberFire readers about the week's games. What sort of questions am I looking for? Anything fantasy related, really. The more interesting, the better. If you are funny, that won't hurt either. Please do keep in mind that numberFire is an analytics based site, so I will always default towards questions answerable using actual data, including our Net Expected Points (NEP) algorithm. (If you've been a reader here for long, you already know what NEP is, but here is a quick primer for the uninitiated: It is a measure of how many real world points a player adds to his team's bottom line. In a practical sense, it tells us how efficient a player is on a per touch basis.)
Just use our questions section on the site, and I'll pick out some of the best. Remember, the more interesting, funny, and applicable the question, the better the chance it gets answered.
Browns 37, Bills 24
It looks like EJ Manuel could miss as many as six to eight weeks; a significant blow to Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods. After losing out on the Josh Freeman sweepstakes, if Buffalo can’t find a veteran quarterback, most of their pass-catching options will become unplayable.
The Brian Hoyer knee explosion hurts, but isn’t critical to the Browns from a fantasy perspective. With Hoyer under center, Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron had elite upside and a very high floor. With Brandon Weeden back at quarterback, both are solid weekly plays who will still have big games, but their ultimate upside is capped. Do not panic or sell for pennies on the dollar, but temper your enthusiasm just a bit.
Buy: Bills running backs. Without Manuel, they will be even busier than they already were.
Sell: Browns running backs. This is the third week in a row I have listed them here, but Willis McGahee’s 72-yard, one-touchdown performance notwithstanding, I am not interested. That is the high water mark for him in this offense. Also, there are three-legged elephants with quicker feet.
Hold: Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron
Saints 26, Bears 18
Coming into this game, a lot of people predicted a Saints running back would have a bunch of receptions. And nobody would have been surprised if a Bears wide receiver had 10 catches for over 200 yards and a touchdown. But Pierre Thomas and Alshon Jeffery?
With Mark Ingram hurt/terrible, Thomas has a free and clear path to touches. And touches he got. 28 of them, in fact. One of the NFL’s most well-rounded players, Thomas is going to continue to be on the field for a ton of snaps. I don’t know that he will see 19 carries or nine receptions again anytime soon, but we don’t need to for Thomas to be effective. He has traditionally ranked among the most efficient running backs in the league and now that he has the opportunity in front of him, we expect him to capitalize.
Alshon Jeffery, top-20 wide receiver? So far, yes. But can it continue? Probably not, but he can get close. The Saints draped two guys on Brandon Marshall all day, with the same thing happening last week against the Lions. I would have to think that after Jeffery torched defenses employing this tactic for two consecutive weeks, we should see a shift away from it. Even then, Jeffery is big, strong, fast, and unusually polished for a second year player. He gets himself open and is a big part of this offense. numberFire has him as a WR4 due in large part to his low NEP/target thus far (39th out of 50 wide receivers with at least 25 targets through the first four weeks). After this game, that should skyrocket, and his rank along with it.
Buy: Pierre Thomas. His NEP per rush is traditionally among the league’s best. Given the touches, he can be a fantasy factor. Check back later this week for more on Thomas from yours truly.
Bonus Buy: Along with Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler is placing himself at the top of the tier directly below the top-12 passers. If you happen to own both Cutler and a true QB1 and need help at other positions, it may be worth shopping your stud; Cutler will be just fine the rest of the season.
Hold: Darren Sproles and Marques Colston. This was an odd game where both teams racked up yards in spurts then went multiple drives with nothing. Both will bounce back.
Bengals 16, New England 6
The Pats would like to forget this game happened, but I’m glad it did because I believe we learned a few things:
1. Kenbrell Thompkins' fantasy value is going to tank upon the return of Rob Gronkowski. Most telling of all stats is Thompkins' pathetic catch rate: he ranks 149th out of 150 receivers with at least 25 targets. His NEP, and thus numberFire's rank, is skewed by the touchdowns. If those go to Gronk, as I believe they will, his NEP and season-long projections would take a serious hit.
2. Julian Edelman is going to be hurt by Danny Amendola’s return. Despite Amendola being on a snap count, Edelman fielded only seven targets Sunday. He will retain some value in PPR leagues, but I don’t believe he will be startable in standard leagues as long as Danny Boy is in the lineup.
3. LeGarrette Blount is not immune to the fumbles-and-doesn’t-play treatment that Stevan Ridley got earlier this year. After putting it on the turf in the second quarter, he touched the ball only three more times the rest of the way. Now that the Patriots coaching staff has been reminded of how awful Blount is, the question that needs answering is, who carries the mail next week? A bigger question is, do we even care? At this point, I am very much bailing on the Patriots backfield until we either get clarity or I get sucked back in during 2014 drafts. In the meantime, my best guess is that Ridley is somewhat flex worthy, Brandon Bolden is playable only in PPR, and Blount is for desperation only.
On the Cincinnati side of the ball, it was basically a rerun of the last few weeks. They struggled to move the ball through the air, Giovani Bernard was more effective than the incumbent BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and A.J. Green had another mediocre game, marking the fourth in a row with 61 or fewer yards. Andy Dalton and the conservative play calling are crushing Green's fantasy value. A matchup against the Bills in Week 6 may be the cure, but if not, it could be time to start getting concerned.
Buy: Tom Brady. This game was plagued with bad weather and poor offensive line play. With Gronk on the way and Amendola looking good, I am a buyer.
Sell: Kenbrell Thompkins. He has been improving, but the drops and volume of catches are still an issue. I think Gronk will spell the death of his fantasy value.
Hold: A clipboard and call short slants and dive plays. Congrats, you’re Jay Gruden.
Packers 22, Lions 9
Apparently missing Calvin Johnson is a big deal for the Lions offense. Who knew? While it is hard to take away much from this game for Detroit, I think two important things did come out of it. The first is that Ryan Broyles is droppable in all formats. He saw two targets in a game where he should have been featured. And after seeing no targets last week and three the week before, it isn't looking good. I was very high on him coming into the season, but could not have been more wrong. The other takeaway is that Kris Durham is not ownable in basically any format. He caught the touchdown, but was brutal otherwise, catching only three of eight targets.
If I am going to admit to getting Broyles wrong, I get to take some credit for getting Eddie Lacy right. While the Packers dialed back the passing game Sunday afternoon against a struggling Lions offense, the distribution of carries (Johnathan Franklin managed only three) is likely to continue. Lacy is a three-down workhorse in a great offense. You could do worse at RB2.
Buy: Eddie Lacy as a very solid RB2
Sell: Kris Durham, Ryan Broyles
Hold: Reggie Bush. It is one bad game. Don’t get cute.
Chiefs 26, Titans 17
A game like this deserves the hardest hitting analysis I am able to provide. So I wrote limericks.
There once was a player named Kenny
His skills shone like a shiny new penny
Then his numbers got worse
When his health bubble burst
And now he drops passes o' plenty
There once was a back who looked great
He proudly wore number two-eight
There were many great years
But hard hitting he fears
And now he’s earned fantasy hate
There once was a thrower named Smith
A strong arm was not his best gift
It drives us insane
To watch a Chiefs Game
When all Dwayne Bowe does is whiff
Buy: Jamaal Charles, both defenses, and nobody else.
Sell: Chris Johnson. I am stepping out on numberFire’s rankings here, but I would rather have a fourth nipple (don’t ask) than play Johnson in a given week.
Hold: Dwayne Bow, but only because you can’t drop him.
Colts 34, Seahawks 28
I really wish Trent Richardson would have a big game so I wouldn’t have to write about him every week. If you want to see my defense of Richardson, check out last week’s recap. To supplement my words, I sat down this week and watched every touch he's notched in 2013. What I saw was a guy who is routinely met at the line of scrimmage. Most often this is the fault of the offensive line, but Richardson is not entirely without blame as he has seemed tentative at times, allowing for defensive penetration. He still has burst and is nearly impossible to tackle one-on-one (his average yards after contact is among the league leaders), both of which bode well going forward.
As seems to be the case often this year, there really isn’t much to say about Seattle. But here goes...They are really good. Less so on the road. None of their wide receivers are consistent plays in most any format. Proceed as planned.
Buy: Russell Wilson is a top-10 quarterback option who will occasionally have very quiet weeks followed up by two-touchdown, 100 rushing yard days. I think he gets undersold some, but is the type of guy who is only going to get better as the season progresses.
Sell: Seahawks receivers as anything more than bye week fill-ins
Hold: Trent Richardson
Bonus Hold: T.Y. Hilton. He is doing the huge game or awful game thing right now and there is no real way to know when either will happen. Until the consistency occurs, I’d shy away from playing him.
Rams 34, Jaguars 20
Justin Blackmon is back. Despite Blaine Gabbert, he had a big day, instantly inserting himself into the WR2 discussion. Even better, his presence didn’t hurt Cecil Shorts' numbers. Despite being awful before leaving the game with a hamstring, the Jags have already said Gabbert is still the guy when healthy. This will cap their value some, but garbage time is a very real thing and both Blackmon and Shorts will benefit.
Zac Stacy is the new Rams starting running back. For now. It could be that he is inactive next week. So goes life as a Rams runner. I watched some of this game and Stacy looked good, if not exactly spectacular. But at this point, that should be good enough to hang on to the job. He should be this week’s number one add in all leagues. In the right matchups, he enters flex consideration.
Buy: Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts as kings of garbage time for the woeful Jaguars.
Sell: Maurice Jones-Drew. See if somebody in your league will bite. With a brutal schedule and rookie left tackle and number one pick Luke Joeckel out for the year with a broken ankle, things will get worse before they get better.
Bonus Sell: All Rams wide receivers and tight ends. The amazingly wide distribution of the ball renders them all unstartable in most leagues.
Hold: Zac Stacy
Ravens 26, Dolphins 23
Ray Rice had a nice fantasy day, but reportedly did not look like himself. The 2.7 yards per carry would suggest those reports speak the truth. Considering Baltimore's season-long struggles on offense, I could see a case for trying to move Rice sometime in the next week or two. The Ravens get the Packers and Steelers next, followed by a bye and then a very tough stretch with matchups against the Browns, Bengals, Bears, and Jets. It is certainly something worth considering if you can get 100 cents on the dollar (I didn't say to give him away).
I have long been Torrey Smith detractor, due mostly to his inability to consistently get open on anything other than deep routes. Those days are over. Smith is becoming a target-rich, versatile playmaker worthy of low-end WR1 consideration (and certainly an every-week WR2).
In what is becoming a consistent pattern, the Dolphins went away from the run game yet again. I watched all of Lamar Miller’s 2013 carries earlier last week and while I am not exactly an NFL scout, his athleticism jumps off the screen several times every game. If he ever got consistent work he could prove to be a legitimate RB2. But in the meantime, he is a risky flex.
Buy: As long as the Fins are throwing so much, I can see Brandon Gibson as a sneaky bye-week fill in in PPR leagues (he doesn’t score, minimizing his standard league value).
Sell: All Baltimore receivers not-named Torrey Smith.
Hold: Lamar Miller, and hope Miami starts feeding him.
Eagles 36, Giants 21
Whelp, it happened; Michael Vick got hurt, spelling potential doom for the Eagles fast paced offense. A bit surprisingly, the Eagles didn’t skip a beat with Nick Foles in the game. Vick is clearly the better fantasy player and offers a dynamic aspect that Foles never will, but this should not impact the Eagles skill players from a fantasy perspective. Start them with confidence in the instance that Vick misses time.
The Giants are officially awful. Despite that, or maybe because of it, there is still value in their receiving corps. The real story with the Giants is once again David Wilson. He scored a touchdown early, then disappeared before getting hurt. Reports are that he was removed from the game for purely precautionary reasons. Look, he is clearly the Giants only real option in the backfield, their schedule is very friendly, and he still looks like a star when he has room to run. And while I personally think he will flirt with a top-15 standing, we are at the point with Wilson where any analyst that says they know what is going to happen is making it up. My best advice when making lineup decisions involving the underachieving dynamo? It's your team. Come to a decision you are comfortable with regardless of what others think. And if he has a huge game on your bench, shrug your shoulders and move on.
Buy: Eagles offense to be just fine without Michael Vick.
Sell: Brandon Myers. Eli Manning is well known for helping his tight ends to very nice seasons. But this year is such a disaster I don’t think we can count on that. And with the results being so poor in the interim, it is time to look elsewhere.
Hold: David Wilson
Cardinals 22, Panthers 6
On Saturday, I spent the day outside enjoying the October weather here in Las Vegas. It wasn’t too much of a chore to replace the exterior lights on the front of our house, and due to the beautiful day, mowing the lawn was actually a pleasant experience. To add in a bit of pleasure, my wife, daughter, and I went to a local orchard (yes, they have those here), dug up some carrots, and picked a half-dozen pumpkins. I capped it off by hanging a TV on our bedroom wall and enjoying watching qualifying for Formula 1’s Korean Grand Prix on the newly hung set.
That story was likely more interesting to most of you than this game was.
Buy: Cardinals defense. With Daryl Washington off suspension, this unit instantly becomes a terror to opposing offenses. They were already solid, but Washington is a significant difference maker.
Bonus Buy: Andre Ellington. He might be owned in your league already, but if not, hop on it. Ellington is looking more and more like the future starter in Arizona, a position his ability as a receiver would make him somewhat valuable in, even behind their awful line.
Sell: Any hope of the Arizona offensive line allowing Carson Palmer time to pass. It will be tough going for all the Cards receivers. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
Broncos 51, Cowboys 48
Sell: Your opinion of Tony Romo in high pressure situations. There is no fantasy category for that, so we don’t care. He is a top-10 guy. Every. Year.
Hold: On to hope that Peyton Manning doesn’t sit weeks 15-17 once the Broncos have the number one seed locked up.
49ers 34, Texans 3
Matt Schaub's confidence looked completely destroyed Sunday night. It was actually hard to watch a guy who has been so steady for so long struggle so much. And unfortunately, he is bringing the whole team down with him. You aren’t benching Owen Daniels or Andre Johnson, but the DeAndre Hopkins breakout is going to have to wait.
At least Arian Foster looks like his old self. There is a clear difference between the Foster of the last two weeks and the Foster of the first three. Due to his slight regression and the ascension of others around him, he is no longer in consideration as a top three fantasy running back, but top five is not out of the question if Schaub can get himself right.
Colin Kaepernick did nothing, but then again, he didn’t need to. As I said last week, he is a young quarterback and will have bad games, but I don’t consider this part of that. The 49ers defense dominated so thoroughly that, save for a long touchdown to Vernon Davis, Kaepernick kept his gun in the holster. I am utterly unconcerned.
Buy: 49ers for the rest of the season. The defense looks great, the offense will be fine. In both real life and fake football, there is a lot to like.
Sell: Ben Tate. Unless Arian Foster gets hurt, he just isn’t going to see much action.
Hold: Owen Daniels, Andre Johnson, and Matt Schaub
Raiders 27, Chargers 17
We have been patiently waiting for a Chargers wide receiver to step forward, and we may have finally gotten our wish in double dipper form. Vincent Brown has 15 receptions his last two games, and is finally starting to fulfill the expectations many set forth as early as last season. Across the field, rookie Keenan Allen posted a 6/115/1 line, and has tallied 11 catches for 200 yards the last two weeks. With Antonio Gates revived and Danny Woodhead looking like a three-quarters Darren Sproles, the odds Philip Rivers keeps things rolling seems on the rise.
Terrelle Pryor had a great start, but faltered a bit in the second half as the Raiders had a tough time generating offense. This is to be expected of such a young, raw player, but as we have said numerous times on numberFire this season, he is a top-notch streaming option who should be owned in all formats.
Denarius Moore has been a very good fantasy play for three of the five weeks thus far. In those games he has posted 10.3, 18.4, and 14.4 standard fantasy points. The other two games, 0 and 6.6. Moore is always a risky play, but he has been on more than off this year and Pryor doesn't seem to be slowing down.
Buy: Philip Rivers as a high-end QB2, Vincent Brown as a WR4 with WR3 upside, Keenan Allen as a WR5 with WR4 upside, Antonio Gates as a top-six tight end, Danny Woodhead as an RB2 in PPR, Terrelle Pryor as a great streaming option with weekly QB1 possibilities, and Denarius Moore as either a WR2 or a total disaster.
Sell: Ryan Mathews had a tepid performance before suffering a concussion. He is barely even in the flex conversation when healthy.
Hold: Your head in a bucket of ice water if you still have Eddie Royal on your team. This is his third consecutive game of uselessness. Move along now, there is nothing to see here.