It's Week 6 of the NFL season and story lines are emerging. Drew Brees is a start. Some have been disappointed by the play of Tom Brady and Cam Newton. The Colts, Packers and Cardinals have new players joining the mix for starting looks out of the backfield. Andre Johnson is struggling to assert himself while the Jaguars are trying their hardest to get Blackmon more involved. Finally, Antonio Gates has been a disaster. Who would have thought that would occur? This and more in our positional breakdown this season.
Through five weeks of the NFL season, here are some interesting factoids at the quarterback position.
Drew Brees has been the #1 quarterback in football this season, just as I said he would. Brees has thrown for a league leading 14 scores and 1,720 yards. He's tossed for as many scores as Michael Vick and Tom Brady, combined, and he's throwing for 344 yards per game, more than 100 yards a game better than what Jay Cutler is doing right now (242 yards per game).
Tom Brady is on pace for 4,640 yards. That would be the third best mark of his career. Brady is also on pace for 26 scores. Of course people will be greatly disappointed if Brady threw for 26 scores this season, but newsflash people, do you know how many TD passes Tom Brady has averaged per 16 games in his career? Thirty. Just a hot week will get Brady back in the mix to reach his career rate.
Cam Newton has been awful but he's still 9th at the position in fantasy points. He's carried the ball 40 times for 209 yards and three scores. Those numbers are just behind Robert Griffin III and his 42 carries for 241 yards and four scores. Griffin is trending in the right direction as he works his way back from a concussion, and it appears likely that he will be on the field in Week 6. By the by, RGIII leads the NFL with a 69.1 completion percentage, one tenth better than Christian Ponder.
Mark Sanchez has a tenuous hold on playing time with the Jets. Sanchez has a 1:1 TD to interception ratio, is tossing the pigskin for just 209 yards per game, and is completing a mere 48.4 percent of his passes. He might be the worst starting QB in football right now, and that's saying something given some of the other names that are out there. Tim Tebow is said to be on the cusp of seeing his role increase, and frankly, what do the Jets have to lose? With the lack of talent they are throwing out there on offense, perhaps Tebow and his unorthodox skill set is just what the Jets need. What a disaster though. Blame from front office for the offensive side of the club being so pathetic. No matter who is on the field under center, there just isn't a lot of skill position depth with this club.
Andre Brown had one huge game, he ran for 113 yards and two scores in Week 3, but right now he's dealing with a concussion issue and hasn't been medically cleared for Week 6. The Giants face the Niners this week, a club that has held runners to just 81.4 yards and one rushing score through five games, so whomever is on the field for the Giants isn't likely to bust out. Still, this might just be the opening that David Wilson needs to emerge from the doghouse that he has been relegated to. Word out of NY is that the coaching staff is once again as jazzed about Wilson as they were in the preseason. I'm still shocked that he fell out of favor so quickly for a missed blitz pickup and one fumble. Wilson is a dynamic talent with the ball in his hands, and the Giants better realize that they simply can't ride Ahmad Bradshaw this hard (30 carries, 200 yards last week) and expect him to still be on the field in December.
Donald Brown had knee surgery Tuesday, and it appears likely that he will miss 2-3 weeks of action. It's not considered a major issue, but it does open the door for Vick Ballard to get a chance to do something of note to solidify a bigger role in the offense. Brown has one score while averaging 4.0 YPC this season, and he's failed to separate himself from the pack at the running back spot in Indy. Ballard was thought of by many as the better option for the Colts this season, he impressed everyone in camp and during the preseason, but it's been rough going so far this year with 21 carries for 42 yards. Still, all he has to do is to hold off Delone Carter for touches the next couple of weeks, and he is arguably the most talented back the team has anyway. Add Ballard this week. Now is his shot at establishing himself.
Daniel Thomas isn't practicing Wednesday due to a head injury. The team isn't calling it a concussion, but it most certainly is. That means Thomas has suffered from two concussions in just five weeks time. That's a huge warning sign and could lead to an absence of weeks from the lineup. If that is the case, and remember Reggie Bush isn't at 100 percent right now, Lamar Miller becomes a very intriguing addition to a fantasy squad. Miller has issues, blocking at the top of the list, but he can do some things with the ball in his hands (there is no doubt about that). Miller is a nice per-emptive pickup if he's available as his role could grow substantially in short order.
With Beanie Wells out until Week 12, and Ryan Williams done for the year with a shoulder issue, the Cardinals are in desperation mode at running back. William Powell would seem to be in the lead for early down work. Powell led the NFL in preseason rushing yards, for what it's worth, and he will get a chance to establish himself. Alfonso Smith is also around in case Powell stumbles, and LaRod Stephens-Howling will also see work on third down making him a possible PPR option as a flex play during the Bye weeks. At this point it may not matter who gets the ball as the Cardinals O-line simply isn't getting it done as the Cards are averaging 2.7 YPC and 68 yards a game on the ground. "If we could guarantee that (play action success) we'd have it, we'd run play-action every snap, but it's not like we've been killing it in the run game," HC Ken Whisenhunt said. Powell is the back to target here, but he's not likely to be a top fantasy option at any point this season.
Justin Blackmon caught three balls the first three weeks of the season but he's improved his production immensely with nine receptions the last two weeks. He's only caught 13 balls for 119 yards on the year, but he has to be “the man” for a Jaguars club that lacks elite level talent out wide. Blaine Gabbert certainly isn't making this easy on anyone in that offense, but consider GM Gene Smith in the camp of people who think that the Jags need to make a concerted effort to get the ball in Blackmon's hands more. The Jags simply aren't an effective team moving the ball through the air, and if they impress upon Gabbert that he simply must throw the ball to Blackmon more, it could get even uglier. Blackmon is still the only Jaguars' receiver worth owning, but he's limited right now to PPR setups as nothing more than a depth play.
Would you rather have Anquan Boldin or Antonio Brown on your fantasy squad? I would bet 90 percent of you would say Brown. I can't say that I'm in disagreement with that position, but it is worth noting that their numbers are virtually identical this year.
Boldin: 23 receptions, 331 yards, one score
Brown: 25 receptions, 326 yards, one score
Of course, Brown is younger and has played one fewer game this season, so it's really not as close as it seems when you look just at the raw numbers. I will ding Brown in one respect. He's just not getting into the end zone. He's scored just once in seven games dating to last year, and since the start of last season he has three touchdown grabs in 20 games. Moreover he has just three scores in 29 career games. That's not good folks.
Marques Colston was a disaster that had everyone panicked two weeks ago. Now, after 18 receptions fro 284 yards and four touchdowns in his last two games he's once again a superstar in everyone's eyes. Keep the faith people. Elite talent is elite talent. Colston was always going to rebound from his slow start, even if you didn't expect it (you should have), and he's currently on pace 90 reception, 1,420 yards and 13 touchdowns. All three of those numbers would be career bests.
Andre Johnson is averaging barely two catches a week for just 41 yards. For a guy who averages 5.7 receptions a game for 78.3 yards in his career, his start to the season has been dreadful. “I’ve got to do a better job of getting him involved,” HC Gary Kubiak said. No shinola Kubiak. I know this team can dominate on the ground, that O-line opens up gaping holes, but they simply MUST get the ball in the hands of Johnson. I still look at Johnson and think he is a WR1 talent, but it's time for the Texans to start treating him as such.
There are only two tight ends in football who have produced 10 points each week in a PPR setup (Brandon Pettigrew has gone for at least 10 points in each of his four games, but his Bye week knocked him out of the 5-for-5 club). That set of ends does not include Rob Gronkowski (4.1 points in Week 3, 7.5 points in Week 5) or Jimmy Graham (1.4 points in Week 5). The 10 point duo is Tony Gonzalez (more on him below) and Owen Daniels. By the way, Daniels is third at the position with an average of 14.4 points a week.
Jermichael Finely (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday, though he still maintains he will play in Week 6. The team isn't quite as positive, and that has to be a concern if you are counting on Finley. A disappointment through five games, Finley is on pace for just 634 yards receiving and three scores. He has been a solid PPR option though with a pace that would equate to 70 receptions (his career best is 55). You can't give up on Finley, but it would be wise to make sure you have a backup in place for Week 6.
Antonio Gates has 27.3 points in a standard PPR league. That's less than a third of the top dog at the position, Tony Gonzalez (101.8). Gates' effort thus far is also less productive thank Dwayne Allen (29.6), Donte Rosario (30.4) and Craig Stevens (32.2). That might be the most shocking statement that I have typed out in 2012. Gates is a solid buy low option as he can't possibly be this bad for the duration of the campaign.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Thursday at 7 PM EDT and Friday's at 9p-12a EDT. You can see more of Ray's work at BaseballGuys.com and you can follow him on Twitter at the BaseballGuys' Twitter Account.