Fantasy Football Fast Forward: Peyton Manning off to record pace
Fantasy Football Fast Forward: Week 4 (cont'd)
Way back in 2011, Drew Brees set an NFL record by throwing for 5,476 yards that season. Four years before that, Tom Brady threw 50 touchdown passes, breaking a record that was all of three years old. By the time we turn the calendar to 2014, both marks could fall.
Through four weeks, Peyton Manning is having a season for the ages. The Broncos are 4-0 and clearly look like the best team in the NFL. Much of it has to do with a passing attack that has the potential to go down as the single-most prolific in NFL history. Manning has completed exactly 75 percent of his passes this year, racking up 1,470 yards and 16 touchdowns against zero interceptions. That puts him on pace for 5,880 yards and 64 scores on the year, which would leave both 2011 Brees and 2007 Brady in the dust. To say he was the fantasy MVP for the month of September is an understatement. What he is doing is simply incredible.
Of course, there's one more regular-season record on which the Broncos have set their sights. Those 2007 Patriots, for whom Brady threw 50 touchdowns, put up 589 points, an average of 36.8 per game. The Broncos have scored 179 points this year, an average of 44.8 points per game, putting them on track to amass a ridiculous 716 points for the season. Is it sustainable? Probably not. But it sure is fun to watch this team play offense.
Let's get to the rest of the Week 4 news.
So much of a player's success depends on being in the right environment. Many of my industry brethren and I were so excited about Reggie Bush this year because the Lions seemed like the perfect team for him. That was on display against the Bears on Sunday.
After missing one game because of a knee injury, Bush ran for 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries while adding another 34 yards on four receptions. It wasn't just the number of yards either, but the way he got them, that was so impressive. Eight of his 22 touches went for double-digit yards, including his 37-yard touchdown run that put the Lions up 30-10 in the second quarter. He gashed the Bears all game and was the Lions' most consistent playmaker, something that is quickly becoming a trend in his Detroit tenure.
On the flip side of this situation is Joique Bell, who filled in admirably when Bush was out against Washington. He had just 11 touches for 42 yards, taking a backseat in the offense. Unfortunately for Bell owners, he cannot be trusted as a starter when Bush is healthy. He'll still have a role, but not one that will make him a reliable fantasy player.
If Maurice Jones-Drew reads this column this week, and quite frankly I'd be shocked if he didn't, he might be sobbing after reading the whole notion about environment and how Detroit is enabling Bush's rise to stardom. That's because there's no worse setting for any offensive player than Jacksonville. The Jaguars were blown out again Sunday, falling to the Colts 37-3. Jones-Drew ran for 23 yards on 13 carries and caught one pass for five yards. They had the ball on the Colts' side of the field three times all day. The first time they started with it on the Indy 41, gained six yards and kicked a field goal. The other two times were in the second half with the outcome already well in hand.
So what's an MJD owner to do? You pretty much have no choice but to suck it up and ride with him. You're not going to get anywhere near fair value for him on the market, not with the Jaguars pushing the boundaries of offensive ineptitude. I also don't recommend selling him at a huge discount. We've seen him have success in adverse conditions in the past, and I don't think it's worth getting 50 cents on the dollar when we know he can be so much better than he has been this year. It may not be fun, but it's the best course of action for the time being.
The case for the Bengals as Super Bowl sleeper hinged on Andy Dalton taking the next step in his progression. Through four games, it appears he has taken a step back. Going up against a tough Cleveland defense, he completed just 54.8 percent of his passes for 206 yards and an interception, getting just 4.9 yards per attempt. He's doing a fine job of wasting A.J. Green, one of the league's best receivers, who has just 26 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns this season, a line that looks a lot worse when you consider he had 162 yards and two scores in Week 1.
It doesn't appear it will get any easier in the future, either. The Bengals get the Patriots, who rank in the top 10 against the pass, next week, followed by middle-of-the-road Buffalo and Detroit. After that comes a string of strong defenses in the Jets, Dolphins, Ravens and Browns. Dalton will have to turn it around in a big way if the Bengals are to make good on their preseason hype.
• When is a 347-yard, two-touchdown performance a bad day? When it's accompanied by five interceptions. Joe Flacco continues to find ways to be on the outside of the crop of weekly fantasy starters.
• The Browns are 2-0 with Brian Hoyer at the helm. He threw for 269 yards and two scores Sunday and didn't turn the ball over against a strong Cincinnati defense. It's hard for a team to turn around and play on Thursday, as the Browns do this week, but I like Hoyer as a potential starter in two-QB leagues for the rest of the year.
• Jay Cutler finished the day with 317 yards and two touchdowns, but he showed too many of the tendencies that got him into trouble in the past. He held onto the ball for too long on two of the three sacks and threw two terrible interceptions. I wouldn't trust him against the Saints.
• Matthew Stafford really underwhelmed against a Bears defense that surrendered big days to Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder and Ben Roethlisberger this year. His throws were off all day. I'm still starting him with confidence against the Packers, though.
• Eli Manning can't seem to get a thing going with anyone other than Victor Cruz. Outside of the 69-yard score to his favorite receiver, he threw for 148 yards and an interception against the Chiefs. You can't trust him right now.
• Matt Cassel impressed in his first start as a Viking, throwing for 248 yards, 9.9 YPA, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Leslie Frazier said after the game the team remains committed to Christian Ponder.
• Why does Andrew Luck always leave me a bit flat? He had a great matchup, his team put up 37 points, yet he threw for just 260 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. That isn't much of a fantasy day, especially in 2013.
• I have a good friend who lives in Singapore. On Sunday night, he sent me and some other friends an email discussing "Blazing" Blaine Gabbert. Good to see the fine folks on the other side of the world aren't missing out on Gabbert's fine performance this season.
• Is it possible Russell Wilson is a great real-life quarterback and average-at-best fantasy quarterback? It certainly looks that way through four games.
• Jake Locker was having another great game when he went down with what could be a serious hip injury. There's no word yet as to its severity, but this would be a huge blow for the Titans. Locker was looking like a fringe starter in single-QB leagues, too.
• Michael Vick picked up 9.2 YPA against the Broncos, but he didn't convert it into anything meaningful for fantasy owners. You should be starting him with extreme confidence against the Giants.
• After throwing for just 227 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders, Robert Griffin III is on my bench so long as I have other viable options.
• Philip Rivers torched the Cowboys for 401 yards, 9.5 YPA and three scores. I'm not considering him an every-week starter, but he's certainly a guy who can start in 12-team leagues during plenty of weeks.
• The 49ers didn't need a huge game out of Colin Kaepernick this week, but I'm not sold he has it all figured out just yet. I do like him against the Texans this week.
• Well I guess Ray Rice's hip was still more of an issue than the Ravens let on. He has a tough matchup with the Dolphins this week. Monitor his practice involvement, but you might want to stay away.
• C.J. Spiller got 23 carries to Fred Jackson's 16, but Jackson ran for 10 more yards and got the only touchdown out of the backfield. You should continue using both of them as normal.
• Matt Forte had another huge day, totaling 117 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. He's a top-five back for me for the rest of the season.
• Eleven more targets for Jamaal Charles resulted in five receptions, 62 yards and a touchdown. Add in 65 rushing yards and it was a great day for one of the top two running backs in fantasy football.
• Lost amid the chaos of another terrible performance by the Giants was David Wilson's 13-carry, 55-yard effort. Da'Rel Scott had a terrible fumble this week, and we know how Tom Coughlin feels about that. Check in on Wilson's availability this week.
• Le'Veon Bell immediately took control of the Pittsburgh backfield in his NFL debut, running for 57 yards and two scores on 16 carries. He also caught four of his five targets for 27 yards. You'll have to wait to use him, though, as the Steelers have a bye this week.
• Adrian Peterson romped for 140 yards and two scores on 23 carries. There's no real analysis to add here. Dude's an absolute stud. I just felt the need to note his huge performance.
• Poor Doug Martin. With all the upheaval in Tampa, he managed just 45 yards on 27 carries against the Cardinals. Through no fault of his own, he has to be downgraded for the remainder of the season.
• Have a day Arian Foster. There wasn't any question about who the man in Houston was, but after Foster carried the ball 27 times for 102 yards and caught six passes for 69 yards and a touchdown, all those who avoided him like the plague this summer probably regret doing so.
• Trent Richardson had the backfield largely to himself with a nice matchup against the Jaguars, but totaled just 60 yards on 20 carries. The touchdown saved his day, but I think he could easily finish outside the top-12 running backs.
• In a game in which the Jets got blown out, Bilal Powell managed 66 yards on 14 carries and caught three passes for 42 yards. You should start him every week.
• Given Knowshon Moreno's role in the best offense in the league, I find it awfully hard to justify benching him regardless of matchup.
• Danny Woodhead is a great weapon in full PPR leagues, but that's really the only format in which you'll want to consider starting him. You can't count on him finding the end zone on a regular basis.
• In the 49ers two losses this year, Frank Gore had 20 total carries. In their dominant win over the Rams, he had 20 carries for 153 carries. There is some chicken-or-egg going on here (did they fall behind because they abandoned the run, or did they abandon the run because of the deficit?), but it's safe to say they'll lean on Gore in the future.
• Daryl Richardson is not a fantasy starter. Plain and simple. Stay away from him.
• Stevan Ridley led the Patriots in carries, but LeGarrette Blount chipped away at the workload while Brandon Bolden handled obvious passing downs and appeared to be the goal-line back. This is just a nightmare situation that you're best off avoiding.
• I continue to get questions every Sunday morning asking whether or not to start Torrey Smith. After Smith's five-reception, 166-yard, one-touchdown day, I hope we can put that question to rest. You should start him every week.
• Robert Woods has 18 targets over the last two weeks. He did a lot more with his opportunities against the Ravens, catching four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. I like him on the waiver wire this week.
• Alshon Jeffery had his best game as a pro, catching five passes for 107 yards and a score. Jay Cutler targeted him 11 times after throwing him eight passes a week ago. I wouldn't recommend him as a starter against the Saints, but he can be a WR3 for the rest of the year.
• Donnie Avery came back to earth this week catching just two passes for 23 yards, but he did have 10 targets. I still see him as a guy you can turn to when hit hard by the bye weeks.
• Antonio Brown caught 12 of the 13 balls thrown his way, racking up 88 yards. It has been a dreary month in Pittsburgh, but I'd consider him a starter nearly every week.
• Jerome Simpson and Greg Jennings each had big games with Matt Cassel at the helm. Simpson caught seven passes for 124 yards, while Jennings hauled in three receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns. It can't all be chalked up to Cassel, but it would be nice to see what the pair could do playing with Cassel on a consistent basis.
• Larry Fitzgerald had six receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown, and clearly looked a lot more like himself than he has since suffering the hamstring injury. Consider him 100 percent.
• Cecil Shorts is probably going to get enough targets to put up solid reception and yardage numbers most weeks, but until the Jaguars show any ability to put the ball in the end zone, it's hard to start him.
• Andre Johnson had nine receptions for 110 yards. It's safe to say he's healthy. Meanwhile, DeAndre Hopkins has failed to cash in on his big game from two weeks ago.
• With the Seahawks passing game so up and down from week to week and the stars of it unpredictable in a good week, it's hard to consider Sidney Rice, Golden Tate or Doug Baldwin for starting spots.
• Nate Washington had his second straight big day, catching four passes for 105 yards and two scores. If Jake Locker is seriously injured Washington's stock would take a hit, but he did catch his second touchdown from Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's worth a small bid if he's on your waiver wire.
• The Business-As-Usual Club this week includes the following:
- Demaryius Thomas: nine catches, 86 yards, two touchdowns
- Wes Welker: seven catches, 76 yards, two touchdowns
- Dez Bryant: six catches, 81 yards, two touchdowns
- Reggie Wayne: five catches, 100 yards, one touchdown
- Victor Cruz: 10 catches, 164 yards, one touchdown
• Martellus Bennett has found a home in Chicago. Jay Cutler targeted him 12 times and the big tight end caught eight of those for 90 yards. He should start every week.
• After catching just two passes for six yards, Kyle Rudolph should not be owned in any but the deepest of leagues.
• Heath Miller caught six of eight targets for 70 yards in his second game back after ACL surgery. Given the role he played in the Pittsburgh offense last year and his fast start this year, I think he'll find himself inside the top 12 at the position by the end of the season.
• The Colt who impressed me the most on Sunday was Coby Fleener, who had five receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown. He's a guy I'd feel good having as my regular starter.
• I don't own him in any leagues, but I am thoroughly enjoying the Antonio Gates resurgence. Call me a sentimentalist. After catching 10 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys, he has 25 receptions for 364 yards and two scores on the year. He's easily a top-five guy at the position.
• We saw the upside of the defense carousel this week with teams like the Cardinals and Titans. Both were widely available leading up to Sunday and produced starter-worthy numbers. The Cardinals forced three turnovers, sacked Mike Glennon twice and held the Buccaneers to 10 points. The Titans got to Geno Smith five times and posted four takeaways, one of which went for a touchdown. The carousel is notably empty this week, but the Rams host the Jaguars and could be quite profitable.
• Speaking of those Jaguars, the Colts showed us just how much fun it can be to exploit the worst team in the league. They had three interceptions, four sacks and a touchdown while allowing just three points.
• The Browns have removed themselves from the defense carousel. After their dominant performance against the Bengals, you should be comfortable starting them every single week.
• So much for the 49ers defense being done, huh? They sacked Sam Bradford five times, forced two turnovers and didn't give up a touchdown until garbage time. Feel free to roll with them against the Texans.
• Houston and Seattle provided a lesson in why you don't overthink your defense decision. They're two of the better defenses in the league, though it wasn't a great matchup on paper for either side. The Texans managed to sack Russell Wilson five times and force two turnovers, while the Seahawks had four sacks, three takeaways and a touchdown. If you're going to use a roster spot on an elite defense, you have to start it every week.
• How the mighty have fallen. The Bears defense has surrendered 384 yards and nearly 27 points per game. It has rightly earned its reputation as an opportunistic bunch, but it won't be able to count on those takeaways every single week. This is not the slam-dunk fantasy D it once was.
MORE WEEK 5 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
BELLER: Week 5 player stat projections -- Rodgers won't let the Packers lose
GONOS: Start 'em, sit 'em -- With so many injuries, who are the best starters?
SI STAFF: Composite player rankings -- Reggie Bush realizing his potential
BELLER, FLOOD: Weekly Roundtable -- Does anyone trust Eli Manning anymore?
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Rashad Jennings given the opportunity of his career
McQUADE: Risers, Sliders -- Philip Rivers bounces back with a strong game vs. the Cowboys
BELLER: Fast Forward -- Peyton Manning on pace to shatter NFL records