Here I am again taking a look back at another week of fantasy football with a list of “Standout Fantasy Performers.” from Week 5.
I’m going to try to be consistent and stick with the same theme. We’re not necessarily looking at which players had the overall best week – although I won’t stray from the subject if necessary – but players who had a good week despite going up against a tough defense, broke out of a slump, emerged as a sleeper or just plain overcame the odds. Before it’s all over, we’ll take a look at what each of these players can expect in week 6.
Tony Romo, QB
Last Week: Philip Rivers
Up until the waning moments of the game Sunday afternoon, Tony Romo had played what could arguably be called his greatest performance ever. If stats were measured in calories, Romo would be a diabetic nose tackle. If there’s anyone in the NFL that wanted to beat Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos this Sunday, it was the Dallas Cowboys and their highly scrutinized leader. Romo finished the day with everything but a ‘W’ by racking up a franchise record 506 yards on 25 of 36 passes. Add that with his 5 TDs and anyone in their right mind would wonder, “how do you lose a game with a stat line like that?” One lone interception, that’s how.
As someone who loves the Denver Broncos and despises the Dallas Cowboys, I have to say that I really didn’t want Romo to lose that way. He didn’t deserve it. I’ll even go as far as to say he deserved to win that game outright because, from where I was watching, the guy played his heart out. However, let’s not put all the blame on Tony. Twitter was littered with Romo-bashing comments and I feel they were a little out of line. The interception by Danny Trevathan was a brilliant defensive play and Romo most literally carried his team in the best attempt we’ve seen this year at keeping up with the NFL’s top offense. If Romo put up games half as good as this consistently, then the Cowboys might actually win some playoff games.
Bottom Line: Romo makes this list with his breakout game of the year, having barely skirted the 20 fantasy point mark once so far. The leader of America’s team brought his A-game to the table. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough to stop what is shaping up to be the greatest offense the NFL has seen. Romo not only registered 40+ fantasy points for his owners but he also made anyone’s day who had Terrance Williams, Dez Bryant, or Jason Witten in their lineups. Each of them finished the day with over 100 yards and at least 1 TD. Next week, the Cowboys host the Washington Redskins on Sunday night. The ‘Skins are giving up an average 24 fantasy points to QBs. As long as Tony says “nay” to all the nay-sayers, he could be primed for another big game. He won’t throw another 5 TDs but it wouldn’t be crazy to expect another 3 from the ‘star’ in Dallas.
T.Y. Hilton, WR
Last Week: Victor Cruz
Eugene ‘T.Y.’ Hilton. That’s right… Eugene. I know I’m not the only fantasy owner that has been dying for this guy to take off this season. I even saw him go before Reggie Wayne in a couple of auctions. That’s almost understandable considering the positive reports about Hilton in the offseason, and he finally brought those rumors to complete fruition this week against the Seattle Seahawks. That’s right, the Seahawks. The very same Seahawks that are allowing the least amount of fantasy points to WRs in the NFL.
Hilton had one nice game in week 2 against the second best team vs opposing receivers, the Miami Dolphins, where he caught 6 passes for 124 yards but failed to reach the endzone. Then, for two straight weeks, Hilton might as well have spent his time on the bench enjoying a nice, electrolyte-filled cup of juice because that’s about all he was worth. Week 5, however, ended in an entirely different vein. How about 5 receptions for 140 yards and 2 TDs? This is the type of high-ceiling game Hilton is supposed to be dropping on defenses. Now, if only he could just put up nice averages in between.
Bottom Line: T.Y. Hilton has proven to be the epitome of ‘feast or famine’ so far this year with a slight emphasis on the ‘famine’ part. He plays alongside one of the NFL’s most talented veteran receivers, Reggie Wayne, which can only be good for him. Andrew Luck is apparently finding a rhythm with him as a go-to guy when facing tough defenses. In fact, Hilton’s only two fantasy worthy games this season have come against the toughest pass defenses in the league. Coincidence? Not at all. Reggie draws defenders like moths to a porch light. Heading in to week 6, the Colts face the Chargers in San Diego on Monday night. If this trend of good games against tough defenses continues, then Hilton could be in for another sleepy night. However, all it takes for a receiver to gain a QB’s trust is to have a game like Hilton did on Sunday. He was all over the field making diving grabs and changing routes to account for underthrown passes by Luck. That hunger will get a WR2 like Hilton more big games this season and you could definitely do worse in week 6.
Julius Thomas, TE
Last Week: Tony Gonzalez
If you had to call up Merrian-Webster and change the definition of “breakout season” then you could easily just paste in a picture of Julius Thomas. At 6’5″, the former Portland State basketball star has exploded onto the fantasy scene this season and is putting up Jimmy Graham-esque numbers. As a matter of fact, he’s only second to Graham in TE fantasy points so far with 27 catches for 359 yards and 6 TDs. That’s insanely impressive considering that in his first two seasons he only played in 9 games and caught one pass for 5 yards.
Week 5 against the Dallas Cowboys had a lot to do with Thomas’ impressive stat line. He led the team with 12 targets and connected 9 times with Peyton Manning for 122 yards and 2 TDs, leading the team in those categories as well. Of the 20 TDs that Manning has thrown this season, Julius Thomas has accounted for 30% of them. That’s as much as Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have combined and last season that tandem hauled in 23 TDs collectively. What’s even more impressive is that the 2011 4th round pick is second only to Peyton Manning on the Broncos for fantasy points, barely ahead of Wes Welker.
Bottom Line: Not only was Thomas the sole week 5 TE to snag 2 TDs and break 20 fantasy points, but he was an integral part of the Denver Broncos narrow victory Sunday. Manning slid Thomas a quick shovel pass at the end of the first quarter to get the Broncos on the board to build momentum against the monster that awoke in Tony Romo. His second TD saw him weave between two defenders off of a quick slant to fall into the endzone. Thomas made the list because he dominated this week and while Manning has plenty of TDs to dish out, the breakout TE has gone back for seconds twice this season. Week 6 finds the Broncos hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars. If you pay any attention to Twitter, you’ll know that the Broncos and the Jags have been taking some jabs at each other over the matchup. Jacksonville gives up an average 10 fantasy points per game to TEs but they also give up 19 per game to RBs, 23 per game to WRs and 21 per game to QBs. The revolving door of weekly success in Denver will be a season long trend, but with a great matchup at home, it’s likely that the Broncos will run up the score on the lowly Jags which bodes well for fantasy teams. Thomas is a weekly must start due to his consistent endzone presence, but you knew that already.
Fred Jackson/CJ Spiller, RB
Last Week: Danny Woodhead
Last year, I had two broken down Honda motorcycles in my garage – one of them just a bit older than the other. If it’s one thing about bikes from the same factory, it’s that a lot of the parts are interchangeable. Now in my garage, sits a pristine cafe racer. Just like taking two broken motorcycles and making one working one, the Buffalo Bills took two broken running backs and made a beast in the backfield. If the RB taking handoffs for the Bills was named ‘CJ Jackson’ or ‘Fred Spiller’, he alone would have recorded 159 total yards and 3 TDs (4 receptions for 40 yards). But alas, they were two backs and even then, neither really disappointed fantasy owners. In fact, Fred Jackson was the #1 fantasy RB this week and CJ Spiller finished as the #11, getting 21 and 12 points respectively.
Jackson got the brunt of the carries (17) and playing time which gave him the opportunity to lock in 53 yards with 2 TDs. Spiller on the other hand, had 8 carries to work with and made the best of them by breaking away for a 54 yard TD run and finished with a total of 66 yards. That was the kind of CJ Spiller run we had been waiting for and that was the Fred Jackson performance we’re all familiar with.
Bottom Line: Together they’re one of the best rushing attacks in the league, even when they’re both hobbled by injuries and faced with a short week. That’s why the duo made the list this week. You could clearly see the hindrance each player was facing on the field but that didn’t stop them from pacing each other on the way to a pair of pretty solid fantasy performances. With QB EJ Manuel going down, the tandem had just enough to keep them in the game, but not enough to overpower the Cleveland Browns passing attack in their Thursday loss. Looking ahead to week 6, the Bills will host the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s looking like Thad Lewis will be throwing the ball since Manuel is sidelined for 4-6 weeks with an LCL sprain. Lewis started one game for the Browns last year and had a mediocre day through the air so it’s safe to expect that Jackson and Spiller will see a combined 25+ carries and quite possibly around 10 targets. With the long week of rest, it’s not too bold to say that Spiller will get the start and gain the hot hand against the Bengals who are giving up an average 15.5 fantasy points to RBs. Both backs are a good start in fantasy, though I see them switching roles this week.
Cincinnati Bengals, D/ST
Last Week: Denver Broncos
The Cardinals, 49ers, Raiders, Browns and Chiefs. What do all of these teams have in common? Their defense/special teams scored more fantasy points than the Cincinnati Bengals. That doesn’t mean the Bengals don’t deserve to be here though. They had a nice, solid outing for owners with 15 fantasy points. Cincinnati got to QB Tom Brady 4 times, nabbed 1 INT, recovered a fumble and held the Pats to 6 points in their Sunday victory.
Bottom Line: Yeah that’s nothing too special. It was a really solid game and got you some nice supplemental points for your fantasy match-up but probably didn’t make or break your week. That is unless you were also playing against Tom Brady this week. The Bengals D/ST makes the list this week because they managed to do what no other team has done in 52 weeks: hold Tom Brady to 0 passing TDs. Sure, it was raining and yes, Brady hasn’t been able to hit his usual full stride this season, but if you were playing against Brady this week in your league – whether you had the Bengals D/ST or not – you were given a sigh of relief by a defensive group that made the bad man in New England look pretty bad. The Bengals face the aforementioned Buffalo Bills next and should have a pretty good time giving backup QB Thad Lewis the runaround. If you’re in need of a change on defense this week, you could do worse than the Bengals corps who should be able to hit double digits.
Alex Henery, K
Last Week: Adam Vinatieri
The third year Philadelphia Eagles kicker hasn’t been perfect this season but Sunday was his moment to make up for it. He went 5 for 5 on field goals and 3 extra points in their win against the New York Giants. His 15 points off of FGs alone was enough to match the margin they beat the Giants by.
Bottom Line: Henery hasn’t had a perfect game all season – minus week 1 where he only kicked for one field goal. He’s missed one kick in each of his previous three games. Sailing five through the uprights after a start to the season like that is plenty to get you recognized this week among the leagues standout kickers. This week the Eagles face the Buccaneers on their own field who – coincidentally enough – share with Philly the lead for most fantasy points given up to kickers. That means about as much for Henery’s value as Monopoly money at the grocery store, however he does get some kicking opportunities and has the potential to put up weekly 10-pointers, especially since Michael Vick is expected to be out with a leg injury.
Hot Streak: Alshon Jeffery, WR
Last Week: Wes Welker
If you thought Alshon Jeffrey broke out last week, then he literally spit fire in week 5 against the New Orleans Saints. In what was another disappointing loss for a standout fantasy player, Jeffrey nearly doubled every stat he had in week 4. The buzz around the grapevine was that Jeffrey’s 13 targets were a direct result of heavy coverage on fantasy stud Brandon Marshall, but that’s not how I saw it. Marshall only attracted 5 targets on the day and although yes his side of the field was a bit more defensively active, Cutler hardly even bothered to turn his head in that direction. There was one redzone trip I witnessed where Marshall had single coverage and Cutler still tossed one up to the second year wideout without even thinking twice.
Bears fans were probably wondering what was up, but fantasy owners that scooped up Jeffrey from the waiver wire were more than satisfied with how he built on his first breakout game of his career. Last week he registered 5 receptions for 107 yards and 1 TD – his first 100 yard game. What better way to follow it than with 10 receptions for 218 yards and another TD?
Bottom Line: That’s two straight weeks with over 20 fantasy points. Does this mean he is worth a start every week? I’m going to say yes. It appears that Cutler trusts Alshon Jeffrey with more than single digit targets, and when he does, he performs. In fact, he stands out. (See what I did there?) Last season, Jeffrey only started 6 games but in 4 starts this season he’s already beaten his fantasy point total from his rookie year. The Bears face the New York Giants in their own house on Thursday night. Despite the short week of practice, this is good news for the second year receiver as the Giants are giving up an average of 27 fantasy points to opposing WRs. I’m not expecting him to continue his current trend and have an even better game but Alshon Jeffrey is definitely WR2 worthy now. I’m going to put him in the same class as T.Y. Hilton. He’s an explosive young receiver playing alongside a future hall-of-famer. That’s a recipe that’s inspired greatness from plenty of budding pass-catchers in the past and Jeffrey has proven he can keep that theme alive.
Sleeper To Watch: Justin Blackmon, WR
Last Week: Jerome Simpson
Justin Blackmon isn’t really a “sleeper” per se. We know he’s talented after all, but anyone who can produce some kind of a good fantasy week on the Jacksonville Jaguars is pretty much a sleeper. Blackmon spent the first four weeks of the season on a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy – whatever that means anymore. Owners who reserved a spot for him on their benches were very pleased with his first week back. Though, if anyone should be thankful for Blackmon’s positive return, it’s Blaine Gabbert, who owes the second year receiver a beer after giving him his first TD of the season before he left with a hamstring injury and did not return. Blackmon finished the day with 5 receptions for a team-high 136 yards and a TD, giving fantasy owners a little glimmer of hope from an offense that only had one TD heading in to week 5.
Bottom Line: Blackmon’s rookie year was pretty solid with a stat line of 64-865-5 and it’s not insane to think he can build on that despite missing 4 games so far. With Gabbert sidelined for at least a game – again – Chad Henne takes control of the offense. That’s like trading apples for… well, apples. Henne will perform just as good, which isn’t that great to begin with, so I wouldn’t worry about it affecting Blackmon’s potential numbers going forward. The Jags go to Denver this week to face Peyton Manning’s no huddle offense that will most likely score quickly and give Blackmon plenty of opportunities on offense. It’s this type of play that has allowed teams all year to put up big points on the Denver defense. However, with added opportunities to score comes added opportunities to turnover the ball and Jacksonville is great at that. With that said, week 6 should be a chance for Jacksonville to finally put up some real points; maybe even – dare I say – 3 TDs? Blackmon will find the endzone again and it will probably happen this week. Going forward, be cautious of the sophomore because he’s on one of the least productive offenses in the league. He’s got the talent but until there’s real talent throwing to him, it’s hard to see him as much more than a decent FLEX option with a high ceiling and a rock bottom floor. He’s definitely worth keeping an eye on and thanks to his solid first game back, he’s my sleeper to watch this week.
For more insight and analysis from Ryley Henry, follow him on Twitter: @ryleyhenryff