NFL Week 5 fantasy awards: Welcome back, Mendenhall
Rashard Mendenhall offered Steelers' struggling run game an immediate boost
Steve Smith has seen his stats plummet as Cam Newton has struggled this season
Brandon Marshall has caught 19 passes for 282 yards over the past two games
Week 5 will go down as the time Drew Brees broke a hallowed 50-year-old record, Rashard Mendenhall became Pittsburgh's leading rusher after one game, the Chiefs and Ravens played a touchdown-less battle that still managed to be offensive, a gaggle of big name receivers had monster days and the fantasy world held its collective breath when Robert Griffin III lay on the field. Offense seemed to be down for most teams, not counting the Bears' defense (again) this week, but that doesn't mean there are a lack of Fantasy Awards honorees ...
The Welcome Back Award: Savvy owners on draft day used late-round picks on Rashard Mendenhall and hopefully avoided the preseason Isaac Redman hype. The Steelers entered Sunday with the 30th-ranked running game, averaging 65 yards a week. On 16 touches, Mendenhall accounted for 101 yards, including 81 rushing yards on 14 carries. If the one-time first-round fantasy pick is still available in leagues -- run, don't walk, to the waiver wire. Further illustrating the flank steak vs. prime rib argument is that Redman, on one less carry, chipped in only 41 yards.
Fantasy No-Show of the Week: Cam Newton. For a guy who finished second in the Madden cover voting, Newton is playing like he came in first. The third-ranked Seahawks defense is tough, but the Panthers quarterback was held under 150 passing yards and has had two good outings in five starts this season. Worst of all, the biggest fallout victim from his sophomore jinx has been Steve Smith, who is pretty much unusable.
Fantasy No-Show of the Week, Part II: For the first time this season Mike Wallace was a non-factor, snapping a streak of three touchdowns in three straight games. Wallace was targeted eight times, second to Antonio Brown, but created nary a box score ripple on a rare off-day for the Steelers passing game.
Biggest touchdowns that benefited no one: Seeing Robert Meachem in the end zone twice was akin to unicorn sightings. Anyone still starting Meachem was either a masochist, in a 20-team league or related to the Chargers' receiver. At his best with the Saints he was a low-end WR3. With San Diego, after putting up fantasy bagels in two of the last three weeks before Sunday, he is hardly even roster-able. Next week bank on him disappearing as usual while Malcom Floyd continues to be the top aerial target in San Diego.
Injury that rocked the fantasy world: The fantasy fortunes of many a first-place squad felt a similar blow like the one that knocked RGIII out of Sunday's game. Griffin, who took an unnecessary blow, tweeted last night that he thinks he'll play next week. Owners everywhere, including the real one, Daniel Snyder, have a lot riding on his health. Through five weeks he's easily been fantasy's MVP and a real-life difference maker. It will be interesting to see how this hit affects his running going forward.
Injury that rocked the fantasy world, runner-up: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham rolling his ankle was also mighty unpleasant. Making it worse was seeing him trotted out as a decoy, twisting the knife of disappointment and leaving owners begging "just throw to him one more time ..." Ahem, I think.
Better Late Than Never Nod: Owners might have held their breath every time Ryan Mathews got tackled Sunday night. He most likely benefited from a post-Bounty-gate Saints defense that has been gashed for yards weekly, but nonetheless, it was great to see everyone's preseason darling start playing big. For the second straight week, Mathews ran well, only this time he shouldered a little more of the rushing load and didn't get robbed at the goal line by Mike Tolbert 2.0, Jackie Battle.
Best Football Hat Trick: Two receivers scored three touchdowns each with killer outings. Victor Cruz started the day off by making the most of five catches and 50 yards with a trio of scores. The nightcap was provided by the Saints' Marques Colston, who killed it with 140-plus yards and three scores. Both have been on the upswing, especially Colston, who began the year brutally but now has back-to-back nine-catch, 130-yard plus games.
The Welcome to Hotel Bitterness Award: That collective groan you might have heard likely was all of the Hakeem Nicks owners every time Cruz made it into the end zone. Or the sound of a fist hitting a keyboard? Perhaps owners of Jimmy Graham and Lance Moore watching Colston make the most of his increased 18 targets. Nicks owners might want to get comfortable for awhile as his health maladies look like an ongoing albatross.
The Questionable is the New Probable Award: For the second straight week Rob Gronkowski played despite having the dreaded scarlet "Q" next to his name before kickoff. Unlike last week, Gronk didn't do much fantasy-wise, but there's a ton of owners who no doubt appreciate the grit.
Goal line surprise of the week: Stevan Ridley has rounded into form as a fine RB2 and the top Patriots' running back. And Brandon Bolden has nudged his way into the rotation as well, but Shane Vereen? Vereen's one-yard touchdown theft was from so far out of left field that it was enough to induce Mike Shanahan circa Denver nightmares.
Marshall Plan Award: Brandon Marshall is rounding into a WR1 status. When the Bears' defense wasn't busy scoring, the offense, led by Marshall, was giving the Jaguars' secondary fits. Marshall accounted for 144 yards and a touchdown, giving him a Wes Weller-esque 19 grabs for 282 yards the past two games combined.
The Running on Empty Award: For the second week in a row, the Bills' running game was non-existent. Just two weeks ago, C.J. Spiller was on fire with Fred Jackson on the shelf with an injury. Yesterday, neither even hit the 30-yard rushing mark in a blowout to the 49ers. If the Bills keep falling behind early like the past two games, both backs will continue to be non-factors.
Rookie of the Day: Andrew Luck. Once a high-end QB2, Luck looks like an every week plug 'n play starter for teams struggling with the likes of Tony Romo, Michael Vick or Matthew Stafford right now. On Sunday the Indy rookie led a rally to defeat Green Bay with his third straight two-touchdown pass game and second straight 300-plus yards outing. Luck also added his first rushing touchdown of his career, which everyone but Donald Brown owners had to love.
The 200-yard Club: Reggie Wayne and Ahmad Bradshaw each hit the magical 200-mark in style. The Giants' Bradshaw posted a career-high outing -- which further makes the Andre Brown mania of a few weeks ago look like a thing of the past. What running back committee? Exactly. Wayne, playing with ill coach Chuck Pagano in mind, was a monster and put up a vintage performance with 212 receiving yards to knock off the mighty Packers.