Last week I started this column off with the theme "Fantasy Football is fun when hitting on all cylinders." Week 5 started off great, as I went to 4-1 and first place in one league and 3-2 and a tie for first in another (to be transparent, I am 1-4 in my third league, despite being in the top 3 point scorers the last two weeks. Sometimes you just get the wrong opponent two weeks in a row in head to head play). Everything looked rosy until the news came across my twitter feed Tuesday morning that Stud WR Julio Jones was likely out for the season. Ouch for Julio and ouch for anyone who had been riding high on Jones' monster start to the season. I'm hurting too as I have Matt Ryan as my QB1 on all three of my fantasy football teams and a Ryan/Jones tandem on one and a Ryan/Gonzalez tandem on another. Complicating matters more is the Falcons 1-4 start, WR Roddy White's injury and the fact that Steven Jackson has missed four of the first five games. At FFChamps.com we strongly advocate starting players from great offenses and Atlanta was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender and offensive machine.
OK, rant over.
Fantasy football championships are not won with one player and injuries happen on a weekly basis. The key is to adapt and strategically position your team to win despite setbacks. When the going gets tough the tough get going!
If Matt Ryan is your QB too, it's important to plan for the possibility of a significant drop-off in points. It's a balancing act as Matty Ice, despite the team's woes, has been very strong and a top 5 QB in most formats. It is key to assess your back-up QBs and ask the question, "Can that quarterback carry me to a championship in my scoring format?" In one of my leagues, I have Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco as back-ups and the answer to that question is no, so I traded for Phillip Rivers this week to essentially replace Ryan. If somehow Ryan turns out to stay strong despite losing all his weapons, then I can always trade Rivers or Ryan before the trading deadline. It is important not to trade just to trade and as always, every trade should improve your starting lineup. In Ryan's case, he just became a serious risk as your fantasy football QB.
Not to sound like a broken record but Rivers, on the other hand, continues to look like the fantasy Stud he was in 2009 and 2010. He has a revamped offense with WR Keenan Allen becoming a viable target replacing Malcom Floyd and RBs Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead serving as pass receiver-type backs. Rivers has a good strength of schedule and should continue to perform. He is many teams' back-up QB in fantasy football and can be obtained for a decent price. If he continues on this pace, he will become the No. 1 on many of those teams and it will be too late.
The FFChamps call-in online radio programs on Patriots.com (every Tuesday and Thursday from 4pm-6pm), and on FootballNation.com (every Tuesday and Thursday from 12pm-2pm), as well as the FFChamps member 1-on-1 advice submissions, are loaded with questions about the Broncos offense. The most common question is which Broncos WRs should be started each week or targeted in a trade? That's easy, you should start any Broncos offensive player you have on your roster: Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas and Knowshon Moreno. The Broncos are racing to the record books and on any given day, any of their players, especially the wide outs, can win your game for you single-handedly. All of them seem to have a good game each week. There will be weeks in which the ball is spread around and your starter may not be in on the action but the next game he will be. Do not over think this, play all Broncos.
The Jaguars are a travesty but two weeks ago we mentioned that we still like Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon coming off his suspension. Shorts continues to be stellar and Blackmon put up 136 yards and a 67 yard TD in his first game back. The Jaguars will be behind early and often, which bodes well for their wide receivers (and less so for Maurice Jones-Drew).
Dez Bryant is unbelievable. He is a fantasy machine. To think the Patriots had a clear shot at this guy and Tom Brady would be throwing to him right now … talk about fantasy. Tony Romo is still "meet the old boss, same as the new boss" when it comes to making big mistakes at key moments but he is also continuing to prove he is a viable top notch fantasy football producer and Dez is the biggest reason for this. Trading for Dez would require something earth shattering and he has had late season health issues the last two years but he is the type of player that could win your league for you in the playoff weeks. For example, if you have Aaron Rodgers as your QB and Rivers as your back up, you might be able to trade Rodgers for Dez and plug Rivers in and not miss a beat. Just a thought.
The Bears have been just OK the last couple of weeks. Brandon Marshall has not been the Stud he normally is as that role has been reserved for the emerging Alshon Jeffery, who posted 218 yards and was targeted 13 times. Matt Forte also had a quiet game in Week 5. The Bears have a great strength of schedule in several of the next games. I am high on Marshall, Forte, Jeffery, and TE Marcellus Bennett.
At FFChamps, we have a weekly tool called Target Analysis, http://www.ffchamps.com/p/receivingAnalysis/, where we examine the number of targets a WR gets on a weekly basis. Cecil Shorts, Dez, and Victor Cruz are always high on the list each week. In Week 5, Mike Wallace led all WRs with 16 targets, and Bills rookie Robert Woods was targeted 13 times. Tight end tony Gonzalez continued to receive double digit targets, which will increase but also become tougher in double coverage with the injury to Jones. I like start players who are getting the looks on a consistent basis as the NFL is a passing league and if a strong player is getting targeted by his QB, he will score fantasy points.
On waivers this week Josh Freeman will be a hot commodity now that he is Vikings bound. The Vikings QB situation is messy, with Freeman joining about-to-be-squandered first rounder Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel, who can throw the rock. Either Cassel or Freeman will be a bump up for Vikings WRs Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson, and TE Kyle Rudolph, but this offense begins and ends with Adrian Peterson. Nick Foles will also be a QB pick-up to plug in for a bye week for your QB and with LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson in Chip Kelley's offense, that is a chance worth taking if the match-up is right the week you need to play Foles. At WR, one can often make a waiver wire pick up that has a meaningful impact on the starting lineup for the entire season. The key is determining who are one week wonders and which will perform consistently all season. I have two guidelines for WR waiver wire decisions. The first is if a player looked great in the week leading up to the waiver pick up, and you have a player who should be cut anyway, take a shot, leave that wide receiver on your bench that week and see how he does for a couple of weeks. You will be able to determine if he is the real deal in that timeframe. Second, if the WR on waivers is on a great offensive team, pick him up. This week, that belongs to Cowboys WR Terence Williams and Chargers WR Keenan Allen. Both should be taken if available.
As we do each week, we focus on the FFChamps.com SOS or Strength of Schedule. The SOS tool is incredibly powerful for deciding who to start or sit, trade, or how your player's match-up will be in playoff weeks 14-16. Once an FFChamps member, you can see the SOS here at http://www.ffchamps.com/p/resources.sos/. In Week 6, we like the QB and WR match-ups for the Redskins, Chiefs, Bears, Panthers and Colts. RGIII should come off his bye week rested and ready to rumble against the Cowboys in a huge game, and as said above, the Bears should move the ball. RB match-ups we like are the Browns, where Willis McGahee, a true fantasy overachiever, already looks like he will carry the load for the Browns. While the Lions have a strong pass rushing defensive line, the Browns may be able to move the ball on the ground. Other strong RB match-ups are the Broncos, who will run away from the Jaguars early and put the ball in the hands of its backs, the Texans and the Bears.
The Patriots offense continues to be an enigma. Brady missed more throws in Week 5, Ridley was a DNP, and the young receivers and Danny Amendola did not do much. We all know the result was the end of Brady's TD streak at 52. Word is Rob Gronkowski is ready to come back. The Saints will score and Week 6 will be a shoot-out. I expect this is the week Tom returns to fantasy football relevance. If you are in a position to be patient, you will be rewarded with this offense and Brady down the stretch. If you can use the early season woes to steal Brady in a trade, that is a risk worth taking. If it goes the right way, it could be your game changer, especially if you are a fantasy football team is struggling to keep your season relevant.