Plenty of things worth mentioning happened around the league this week – as is typical in a sport with such parity – but the crowning moment of the weekend was definitely on Monday night; on a beautiful 62-yard touchdown, Drew Brees became the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards. It feels inevitable that Brees would eventually take the record. After all, of the nine 5000-yard passing seasons in NFL history, Brees owns five of them. No other QB has achieved the feat more than once. What’s perhaps most telling is that Brees threw for 363 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions, and my gut feeling was “yeah, sounds about normal.” We here in fantasy-land salute you Brees! Many a championship was won with you at the helm.
Of course, even a night of vintage Brees will not win you a fantasy championship if you start all the wrong players around him. You have to make sure you’re making the right starts and fades at all positions. That’s where we come in. Let’s take a look at how we did last week:
Week 5 Starts: Sterling Shepard, Aaron Jones, Vance McDonald, Dallas D/ST
As you probably noticed, last week was not our best week for start projections. It wasn’t because of misplaced faith though. Sterling Shepard showed fantastic efficiency, racking up 75 yards on 4 catches. Unfortunately he just didn’t get enough targets next to squeaky wheel Odell Beckham. The same situation befell Aaron Jones; he picked up 5.7 yards a pop, but did not see enough touches to capitalize as the Packers got away from the run game after falling behind early. McDonald also had to compete against a squeaky wheel in Antonio Brown, though the Steelers’ re-commitment to James Conner and the suddenly potent defense probably had more of an impact on his negligible bottom line (1/6/0). The Dallas D/ST didn’t do terribly, though unexpectedly the points came from the relatively low final score more so than from sacks. They did get 2 turnovers though. So that’s something.
Week 5 Fades: Odell Beckham, Jr., Jay Ajayi, Michael Thomas
The Panthers secondary limited Julio Jones and A. J. Green, but apparently they’re no match for a cranky Odell Beckham. 8/131/1 is pretty solid. Thomas and Ajayi were better picks for this section. Thomas only picked up 4 catches for 74 yards while Ajayi struggled to 29 yards and a lost fumble.
Overall, quite a tumble after near-perfect week 4 predictions. Let’s see if we can regain that form this week.
The Bills defense has been one of few bright spots for them this year. The defense has sparked upsets over the Titans and Vikings through tough coverage and surprising pressure up front. What they do struggle with is covering the slot. Slot receivers led Buffalo’s opponents in receiving the first three weeks (Willie Snead, Keenan Allen, and Adam Thielen), and the only reason they didn’t the last two weeks was because Cobb was out and Tennessee can’t throw anyway. With a turnstile offensive line and his two star receivers likely to be at least somewhat taken away from him, Deshaun Watson is going to lean heavily on slot receiver Coutee.
Cook has been an afterthought after a spring full of hype, struggling to stay on the field and struggling to gain yards when on it. He’s still not at full health – a definite risk for this week and a major stipulation on whether or not this will actually be a worthy pick – but he appears to be on track to play this week. If he does, there’s some PPR value to be had here. Arizona has a quietly tough run defense, but the running backs they face tend to see higher target volume than normal (highlighted by the 49ers’ combined 10/110/1 line from this past week). Already proving to be more of a receiving threat than a running one, this falls well within Cook’s wheelhouse. Keep an eye on his hamstring, but if Cook is out there expect a fair number of catches.
Speaking of PPR values, Hines also figures to be in for a good week. After a rough training camp, he’s come to life as the Colts’ receiving back of choice. T. Y. Hilton’s injury didn’t leave Andrew Luck with many other targets and the Jets tend to funnel a few extra targets per game to running backs anyway, so Hines should continue to see plenty of passes come his way. The return of Marlon Mack could cut into Hines’s production a little, but I wouldn’t be too worried seeing as how Mack hasn’t been all that effective when healthy this year.
To those thinking Carson’s week 5 burst was just a fluke, think again. Say what you want about OC Brian Schottenheimer, but he does know how to pad his running back’s stats. Here in fantasy land, that’s all that matters. Carson is sharing this backfield, but there are plenty of carries to go around. Oakland doesn’t exactly pose an intimidating threat either. They’ve struggled against
the run all offense this year. Their offense is also rather hit-or-miss, which could pose some problems for them against an opportunistic defense like Seattle. The newly run-happy Seahawks will run even more if they find themselves in a positive game script. Carson is in line for another 100+ yard day.
All starting members of the Patriots and Chiefs
I’d like to say this is a joke answer, but you pick a starter for either team that won’t be start-worthy this week. The Chiefs have something of a pass rush, but not much behind it. Something tells me Brady will be just fine avoiding that pressure and hitting just about every receiver the Patriots have for chunk gains. The KC run defense is putrid too so both James White and Sony Michel figure to have efficient days that will only be limited by volume. On the other side, the Patriots defense just got beat by some guys Andrew Luck found on the street, and this after making Blake Bortles look like an all-star just a few weeks prior. Patrick Mahomes and his #2 scoring offense should eat. I would not be surprised to find that this game set some records when I look through the Monday morning headlines.
Top Giants CB Janoris Jenkins hasn’t faced too many noteworthy opponents this year, but the ones he has have been truly noteworthy. Yet, Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins – two of the most elite WRs in football right now – combined for 10/133/0. That’s closer to what those two are known for putting up in a single game, not combined over two. Jeffery isn’t quite on that level. With the rest of the Giants secondary looking kinda average so far this season, Jeffery isn’t likely to see too many targets and will probably have a tough time with the ones he does get. His week 6 stat line will look a lot more like week 5 (2/39/0) than week 4 (8/105/1).
Just as DJ was starting to find his groove, he’s likely going to find himself back in fantasy wasteland this week. Outside of a shootout in L. A. against Todd Gurley and the Rams, running backs have struggled to gain traction against this Minnesota defense. With few other weapons on the Cardinals’ offense to account for, the Vikings will be free to key in on Johnson, limiting him even further. It’s hard to bench him, but being part of a bad offense on the road against a tough defense doesn’t scream positive stat line either.
Zeke has been the heartbeat of what little offense the Cowboys can muster. That doesn’t bode well against a defense like Jacksonville. The Jaguars have been tough on running backs so far, and with Dallas’s utter lack of a passing game they’ll have no reason not to bolster this by stacking the box to shut Zeke down. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that they’re probably not overly happy after that loss to Kansas City either. Motivated elite defense + likely stacked boxes = long day for Zeke.