NFL Week 5 Hot Takes
Howard Bender offers up some hot takes on what went down during the Week 5 NFL games and how you should interpret for fantasy football purposes.
If Week 4 of the NFL left all of us in the fantasy football community scratching our heads wondering what the heck just happened, imagine how everyone felt when they changed the channel after watching the Colts put away the Chiefs in what was one of the bigger upsets of Week 5. From a fantasy standpoint, there was a lot to love as 19 teams posted 20 or more points with seven of them scoring more than 30. We had huge efforts from Deshaun Watson , Aaron Jones , Christian McCaffrey , Will Fuller , and Michael Thomas , so much so that the DFS cash pay-lines were ridiculously high. But rather than focus on the obvious, let’s look a bit deeper and dish out some hot takes from everything we just witnessed.
Strength of Schedule Should Be Viewed in Hindsight
I’ll admit it. I don’t care about Strength of Schedule. When ranking players and deciding who my draft targets are going to be, I don’t care who the players are facing in Week 12. I am not more interested in James Conner as my starting running back than I am Dalvin Cook because Pittsburgh plays Arizona during the fantasy playoffs in Week 14 while the Vikings face Detroit, a team that added Damon Harrison last year and rebuilt their run defense during the offseason. Sorry. It doesn’t matter. There is way too much that can happen between now and then, and a team can go from being the best to the worst in the blink of an eye.
However, what we should be doing that apparently no one is doing is looking at a team’s strength of schedule of games played before anointing them a top Super Bowl contender or crowing one of their players a superstar in the making. Yeah, Cowboys fans, I’m looking right at you and your team. Talented? Absolutely. But who doesn’t look good after beating the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins in the first three games of the season? Two of those teams are winless and the three together combine for a 2-12 record after Week 5. When Dallas lost to the Saints, heads should have turned and questions should have been asked, but instead, everyone simply chalked it up to how the Saints play at home. Maybe now, after a complete waxing by the Packers and witnessing just how bad the offensive line looks after just two injuries, we start looking more closely at who the true contenders are and who the paper champions might be.
And just to show you I’m not picking on Dallas, allow me to point out how amazing Lamar Jackson looked against the Dolphins and Cardinals versus how he’s looked against the Chiefs, Browns and Steelers. Or the Giants defense after beating up the Redskins in Week 4 only to be decimated by the Vikings in Week 5. And what should we expect from the 3-0 49ers tonight against Cleveland after they beat the Bucs, the Bengals and just barely got passed a Steelers team that had just lost its starting quarterback? Maybe it’s time to stop looking two months down the road and actually evaluate what you have right in front of you.
OK, time to hop onto another soapbox.
The Squeaky Wheel Almost Always Gets the Grease
If you’re looking for who the big Week 6 breakout star will be, just wait for the Tuesday morning headlines and see who is vocalizing the most displeasure with his role. While we spent the majority of the week wondering if Stefon Diggs was going to be traded, let’s not forget that it was Adam Thielen who first spouted off about his unhappiness with the way the Vikings offense was being run. Diggs chimed in as well, but it was after Thielen’s comments and then a personal absence from the team led to rumors about him demanding a trade. Whether they were true or not is irrelevant. The fact remains that Thielen, a player revered by the team’s fanbase, openly challenged his quarterback and coaches in the media and was disciplined how…? Oh yeah, with a team-leading eight targets. Yes, he turned those targets into seven catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns and the Vikings won, but it sets the precedent that, if you’re unhappy in your role, just take it public and you’ll win out in the end. Maybe Diggs would have been better served if he were the first to bash his team publicly instead of just taking his fellow receiver’s side in the argument. As for Week 6, let’s just see who’s crying the loudest on Tuesday. LeSean McCoy , maybe?
The Chargers Are Better Off Without Melvin Gordon
Three days ago, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said, “I don’t want to put Melvin Gordon in there and play him too much, and I really don’t have to. I like what Austin Ekeler has been doing.” I thought the statement was fantastic and I lauded Lynn for not capitulating to the hold-out and welcoming Gordon back with open arms. Austin Ekeler has been playing some inspired football and was looking like an RB1 to open the season. But over the next day and a half, Lynn wavered and there was far too much talk about a split backfield which had fantasy owners questioning what to do, especially those who owned both Chargers running backs. Well, after watching Gordon play Sunday, it was evident that the hold-out had a very negative effect on his level of play and the 12 carries he received were a veritable waste of time. Gordon averaged 2.6 yards per carry and his impact against a defense that had allowed almost 150 rushing yards per game was practically nil. Meanwhile, Ekeler was out there catching 15 of 16 targets for 86 yards and easily looked like the better player out of that backfield. Maybe Lynn wasn’t so crazy with his initial stance of keeping Gordon on the sidelines after all. Granted, the game flow was altered as the Broncos jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, but it was painfully obvious that any attempt to get Gordon moving was a detriment to the team’s ability to make a comeback. Perhaps things would have been different had they not felt the need to get an under-prepared Gordon onto the field.
D.J. Chark is an Every-Week Start
All this bad news on a Monday, it’s about time we hit a positive, right? Time to cue up the Baby Shark song! While parents with small children are likely sick of hearing it over and over again, fantasy owners of Jaguars receiver D.J. Chark can’t even say his name out loud without following it up with a “doo doo doo do doo!” If you’ve been looking for that WR3 you can just plug into your lineup, week in and week out, then look no further. There is an obvious on-field connection between Chark and his quarterback Gardner Minshew and if you hadn’t seen it before, just take a look at Sunday’s eight-catch, 164 yard, two-touchdown performance. Against a strong Carolina defense, Chark managed to shake coverage of veteran cornerback James Bradberry and gave Minshew a regularly-open target downfield throughout the game.
Listen, you’re looking for consistency with regard to your players. You don’t want to have to sit and tinker with your roster each and every week. You want player who are staples in their team’s offensive game plan. Are there weeks where they may not perform up to task? Of course. But that doesn’t mean you drop them after a down week. You have to look at the broader scope. Chark opened the season with four catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. Were there skeptics? Yes, and for that, many missed out on his 7-55-1 in Week 2 and his 4-76-1 in Week 3. Suddenly everyone was on this guy, singing the baby Shark song, and the novelty of owning him grew. But in Week 4, he managed just four catches for 44 yards and failed to find the end zone for the first time this season. And what happened? Not only did people leave him on the bench this week, but many actually dropped him for someone like Corey Davis . Well how did that point-chasing turn out? Exactly. Do yourself a favor – if you own him, start him. If he’s on your waiver wire, grab him. If someone else in your league has him and doesn’t believe in him, trade for him. You’ll be happier in the end. Doo doo doo do doo!
Patrick Mahomes is Mortal After All
And just like that, the bloom is off the rose. The Chiefs narrowly escaped with a win against Detroit back in Week 4 and just took their first loss of the season as the Colts defense gave the Chiefs fits throughout the game Sunday night. Over those two games, Patrick Mahomes has one…count it, one…touchdown pass. He also has a mere 56.8 completion rate over that span. I don’t hear anyone talking about his no-look passes or how he stared down a referee mid-play because the game is moving at so much slower a speed than he moves. He is a man, like any other. He is a very good quarterback with a strong arm and, usually, outstanding accuracy. But sorry, folks. The gods didn’t reach down and turn his arm into a thunderbolt nor does he do things that no other quarterback does. He isn’t elevating the abilities of his receivers and without a supportive ground game, defenses can defend against him. Andy Reid and the Chiefs will figure out the best way to get back on-track, but please…let’s stop treating Mahomes like he’s some mythical creature who left a throne in Olympus to play football in Kansas City.
When the Saints transitioned to a run-first team, there were numerous questions surrounding how this would affect a veteran gunslinger like Drew Brees . Surprisingly, the team didn’t miss a beat and the days of relying on Brees to air it out for 350 yards each week were gone. It shouldn’t have been much of a shock, though as his aging arm wasn’t the powerful cannon it once was and his ability to extend plays with his legs, not that it was ever his strong suit, was diminishing. As a result, Brees finished 2018 with his lowest yardage total since 2009 and last year saw him pass for fewer than 4,000 yards for the first time in his career. He was still capable of the 300-yard game, but if you look at his game log, you’ll see how in four of his last five regular-season games he failed to throw for more than 203 yards and he had just three touchdown passes over his final four games.
Now we have Bridgewater under center and the Saints are not only 3-0 with him starting, but he’s got six touchdown passes to just two interceptions and his numbers are steadily improving. The Saints look dynamic on the field and we aren’t even seeing the typical overuse of Taysom Hill . Perhaps this 26-year old, who is finally getting an opportunity to lead a decent team, has matured to the point where he can be considered a legitimate option, both in reality and fantasy. The game-manager reins have been lifted and the Saints dominated from start to finish. We still love Brees and everything he’s brought to the table, but there still seems like there’s something more to this Saints team with Bridgewater at the helm.
The Patriots Are Winning in Spite of Tom Brady
In the realm of aging quarterbacks who may just have to ride off into the sunset, has anyone else noticed that the Patriots’ 5-0 record actually has very little to do with Tom Brady ? You look at his game log for the season and you would think everything was status quo – four strong games with one stinker – but take a closer look at Sunday’s game flow. Brady threw the ball 42 times yesterday and 31 of those pass attempts came in the first half. New England was up 12-7 at the half and Washington looked like they could be on the verge of an upset. Their defense was looking sharp. But then the second half arrived and Bill Belichick took the ball out of his quarterback’s hands and put them into the hands of his running back, Sony Michel . Sure, Brady snagged the glory of a pair of touchdown passes in the second half and the Patriots went on to thrash the Redskins, but it was Michel’s 16-carry, 91-yard effort that paved the way. He ripped off big chunks of yardage, including a 14-yard touchdown run, and forced the redskins to change their focus. That is what opened it up for Brady and that is what helped them grab their fifth win of the season. Box score surfing will only get you so far in your support for TB12, but the fact remains that this team is doing it on the ground and with defense. Any game-manager quarterback can win with that kind of help.
Jay Gruden Being Fired is Irrelevant to the Redskins
We can talk about all the poor decisions Gruden made during his five-year tenure as the Redskins head coach, but none of it matters. We can all watch videos of him smoking weed and hitting on young girls at bars and it has nothing to do with the Redskins problems. This franchise is a hot mess and even rebuilding through the likes of Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin and Derrius Guice isn’t going to save this organization. The only way this team ever does anything positive is if Dan Snyder sells the team. He is the sole reason this team is as disastrous as it is and the longer he is allowed to maintain ownership and have a say in how this team operates, they will never see another Super Bowl again. Even the Jets will win before Washington does while Snyder owns the team and that’s probably the saddest fact you’ll ever hear.
Dan Quinn is the Next Coach to Lose His Job
It’s either a ringing endorsement for Kyle Shanahan’s abilities as a coach and offensive coordinator or just a huge slam against Dan Quinn, but either way, these Falcons are absolutely atrocious right now and the problem is clearly in the coaching. Quinn was already on the hot seat coming into the season, but now after a 1-4 starts and three-straight losses to three very beatable teams, he needs to be flipped out of the frying pan and into the fire. He’s a great defensive coordinator, but he doesn’t do well on the offensive side of the ball and, obviously, his choice to leave it all up to his offensive coordinators has been a mistake. Hiring Steve Sarkisian was a huge gaffe. The team wasted two years allowing this guy to run the offense. Dirk Koetter has his merits, but there are reasons he failed in Tampa Bay and, apparently, it has nothing to do with personnel. His offensive line may be a little banged-up right now, but how in the world do you have Matt Ryan , Julio Jones , Devonta Freeman , Calvin Ridley , and Austin Hooper and not dominate a defense? This is the same personnel Shanahan had to work with and he managed to succeed. So where is the disconnect? It’s not with the guys on the field, that’s for sure. So maybe we look at the guys wearing the headsets, right?