Fantasy Football Hot Takes: NFL Week 5
Dan Malin recaps the weekend's action in the NFL with his fantasy football hot takes and what you need to take away from everything you saw.
Do you want to know what was an underrated storyline in Week 5? The fact that we had a lack of serious injuries. Now I may have just jinxed it for the Monday and Tuesday
Let’s start over because before I even finish that second sentence, because at the time of this writing Dak Prescott just got hurt. It looks like a broken ankle (confirmed compound fracture and dislocation). It’s gross. I’m sad. I hate everything. Honestly, what’s the point anymore? If we can’t get Dak throwing 6,000 yards this season, then why bother watching football? 2020 has been such a crapshoot. It’s dumb. Medals should be distributed to fantasy owners that manage to win leagues this year. There will come a time when we’re older, wrinkly, decrepit, and impotent with mild memory loss, but we’ll all remember the 2020 fantasy football season. It carried no bias or prejudice. It took much more than it gave. I’m just dumbfounded at this point. Between the re-scheduled games and injuries, it’s been quite the ride.
But at the same time, maybe it’s time to lend a little perspective. This is just fantasy football. It’s literally fake football for us. You may have a couple hundred bucks on the line and if you lost Saquon Barkley for the season, or McCaffrey, Ekeler, or Chubb for a few weeks, just keep in mind this is their livelihood and they’re playing during a pandemic. Prescott’s playing on the franchise tag this year as he’s been in constant contract talks with the Cowboys. I genuinely don’t believe football players need to give a damn about our fantasy teams. They play for their actual teams and themselves. It’s a nice gesture when fantasy managers give back to professional athletes, but it doesn’t happen as much as it should. And I’m guilty of that as well, I’m no angel by any means. I’ve maybe donated $150-$200 to actual athletes that helped me to a title. Athletes shouldn’t care too much about our fantasy woes when they’re performing without preseason games, a full training camp, and a positive test in their organization could throw off the trajectory of their weekly schedule. Matthew Berry’s tweet earlier this morning really helps put it all in perspective:
Just said this on #FFNow ... If I had told you in June that you would get football this year but there will be some last minute game cancellations & a lot of moving parts... you'd have signed up for that deal ASAP. Stop complaining. People's health + safety > your fantasy team.— Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) October 11, 2020
Just enjoy the ride everyone. I’m sure you all have that one team that’s been crushed by injuries. In the grand scheme of it all, there are infinite things more important. Either way, here are some hot takes.
Writer’s Note: I apologize if this is shorter than previous articles. I had three paragraphs written up about how Dan Quinn had convinced Arthur Blank to tank in order to draft Trevor Lawrence and save his job, and then he was appropriately fired yesterday. So, naturally that section had to get cut out.
The NFC East Champion Will Have Five Wins
For weeks I’ve joked about how bad the NFC East is. Once again the header of this section is meant to emphasize how pathetic this division is. Following Sunday’s slate the NFC East is a combined 4-15-1. That’s hilariously embarrassing. On the Ante Up podcast I did with Ronis a couple weeks back I joked that the winner of that division will have six wins. But I’ll double-down and say the division winner gets just five wins. FIVE. Mathematically it might be impossible, but I’m not in the “Math” business, I’m in the “Takes” business, if such a thing exists. There’s something to say about being 31.25% of the way through the season and the division leader has just two wins (although it should be one win) without its franchise quarterback the rest of the way. This is a historically bad division. Who has the best starting quarterback right now? Maybe the Eagles by default? But even Carson Wentz has thrown nine interceptions through five games (with a lost fumble as well). So, when you’re sitting at the bar chumming it up with some other townie, just know that predicting a seven-win division winner isn’t bold. And predicting a six-win division winner is so last week. No, the new trend is calling your shot now and predicting a five-win division champion. (Again, I completely have no idea if it’s physically possible for this to happen, but good luck getting me off this soap box.)
Lamar Jackson Simply Is NOT A Top Ten Quarterback
He’s looked off. It’s hard to explain or put into words. But this isn’t the same player that was the league MVP a year ago. He has just six touchdown passes over his last four games and just one game passing over 200 yards in that span. Prior to this week he had at least provided four straight games rushing for at least 45 yards, but on Sunday he ran for a total of three yards. Now he did miss practice for most of the week with a knee injury, or illness (depending on what the coaching staff tells you). This was a layup though. It should’ve provided more fantasy production and it didn’t. There were reports in the offseason that he would run less but if that were the case we’d expect better passing numbers. And unfortunately he has a pretty tough schedule coming up against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, New England, Tennessee, and then Pittsburgh again before finishing the year with a cupcake schedule. With Prescott done for the year, he has a shot to crack the Top Ten. But he certainly has not lived up to his ADP and we just aren’t seeing him take control and put the game in his hands like we did a year ago.
The Carolina Panthers Backfield Becomes RBBC
Christian McCaffrey is still a few weeks away from coming back, but why should the Panthers go away from Mike Davis? The argument could be made that the Panthers want to get their money’s worth from McCaffrey since they paid him so much. So what? They paid Mike Davis $3 million for this one year so why wouldn’t they possibly run him to the ground? He has 30 receptions since taking over for McCaffrey with a touchdown in each of his last three games. Not to mention the Panthers have won three straight games and are tied for the division lead. So if they invested in the long-term of McCaffrey’s future, and the short-term of Davis', why not just split the workload and take it easy on McCaffrey’s ankle to protect his longevity? Davis has proven he can produce in this offense and Carolina isn’t tied to him next year. Why wouldn’t they continue to get him involved at the expense of McCaffrey’s carries if it kept McCaffrey from possibly sustaining a more serious injury?
Zach Ertz Is Being Screwed Into A TE2
Either Wentz sucks or there’s a movement from the top to screw Ertz over. I think it’s quite possible we’re seeing both! NBC Sports published a very intriguing article about a month ago detailing the frustration and tension between Ertz and the front office. Initially I brushed it off because they started 0-2-1 and lost Dallas Goedert after Week 3. They couldn’t possibly screw one of their best players out of production at the expense of losing games, right? Naturally, with Goedert out of the way it seemed feasible that a good amount of targets would go to Ertz considering the team was also without DeSean Jackson , Jalen Reagor, and Alshon Jeffery . But since Goedert went down, Ertz has just five catches for 15 yards on 11 targets. That’s across two games. Sure, defenses may be keying in on him or scheming for him. But Carson Wentz is making too many off-target throws with a clean pocket. It’s a conspiracy that starts at the top. Ertz sees George Kittle and Travis Kelce get lucrative deals and he wants one. The Eagles have a shiny new tight end waiting in the wings. Said tight end gets injured, and they somehow can’t get use out of their other Pro Bowl tight end despite the lack of other passing options. How does Travis Fulgham, who is on his third team in the last three months, end up with 13 targets in a game and Ertz gets half that? The sad thing is that without Dak Prescott playing, this team could win the division and get by. But it would just be nice to see Ertz get the workload and production he’s entitled to. But the Eagles don’t seem to feel the same way.
Darrell Henderson Jr. Is “The Guy” In Los Angeles
There’s been a lot of talk about the Rams backfield the last few weeks. A couple weeks back during my waiver article I said I prefer Henderson of the three. Even this past Sunday in the NFL Seasonal Chat I was still touting Henderson, but did have my reservations about Akers. I feel validated in my beliefs based on Sunday. If you’re a box score reader you’ll call me an idiot since Akers had the most rushing yards in the Rams backfield. But pump your breaks because one of his runs went for 46 yards. The other eight carries went for a whopping 15 yards. And Henderson was no gem running the ball either. He averaged just 2.5 yards per carry, but at least he found the end zone… TWICE. He led the team in carries and caught three passes for 30 yards and a score. There will be ebbs and flows with this backfield, but I’m still a believer that Henderson is the guy this year. If Henderson and Akers are healthy, Malcolm Brown is about as useless as the ‘g’ in lasagna.
Test The Trade Market On Your 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo made his return on Sunday as the 49ers starting quarterback. Coming into Sunday’s game the Dolphins allowed 285 passing yards per game and they didn’t exactly boast the greatest pass rush either. But for whatever reason, Jimmy G couldn’t get it going in his first game back. He was sacked three times in the first half alone and he completed 7-of-17 passes for 77 yards and a pair of interceptions. In his one half of football he had a 15.7 passer rating. To give this a little perspective, he was replaced by C.J. Beathard who went 9-for-18 for 94 yards and a touchdown with two sacks. That was an 84.0 passer rating. Kyle Shanahan said he made the swap at quarterback to protect Jimmy Grapes and this is where the problem lies. If Garoppolo was really hurt or there were actual concerns regarding his health, why start him to begin with? This team has suffered an orgy of injuries so far this year so why put your starting quarterback at further risk when he was returning from his own injury? The benching was purely due to poor play. Courtesy of Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard a week ago, George Kittle had a monstrous game in his own return. He caught all 15 targets for 183 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps Garoppolo just isn’t that good. We’ve run out of excuses for him at this point and he just might not be that good of a quarterback. And for that, he may drag his teammates down. Raheem Mostert looked solid in his return earlier today. George Kittle will still get targets going forward, but the quarterback play is deeply concerning. It feels weird saying this, but maybe the 49ers could experiment with Nick Mullens , despite his three costly turnovers against the Eagles a week ago. It might be worth testing the waters to see what you can get for your 49ers while you still can. Jimmy G just isn’t it and sadly San Francisco has to pay him a couple more years.
Chase Claypool Is A Top 15 Wide Receiver ROS
Saying he would be a Top 20 wideout seemed lukewarm, and Top 10 seemed stupid. So, I’m splitting the difference here. Claypool showed up in a big way on Sunday with four total touchdowns on ten total touches. There were reports all throughout training camp that Pittsburgh really liked Claypool and he flashed some big-play upside in Week 2 when he took a pass from Big Ben 84 yards to the house. But yesterday was an absolute clinic. If you were a JuJu Smith-Schuster manager or even Diontae Johnson manager, you were easily frustrated. Every golden opportunity was going to the rookie. A lot of people questioned how Claypool would get involved with so many mouths to feed and now the Steelers are back to having a perennial three-headed monster once again in the passing game. Remember the dominance and how fun it was watching Mike Wallace , Antonio Brown , and Emmanuel Sanders back in the day? This group is smelling a lot like that trio. Roethlisberger can make one more run at a Super Bowl with these weapons. But back to Claypool, the Steelers can’t possibly put the lid back on Pandora’s Box, can they? Four touchdowns provided a breakout, but they can’t relegate him to the sidelines especially with Diontae Johnson having battled toe, knee, and back injuries (and a concussion for that matter). Even Smith-Schuster has taken on a lighter role in the offense with 24 targets in four games, including ten in his last two contests. Claypool is a big 6’4” target for Roethlisberger. The upside was on full display and we could be looking at a high-end WR2 rest of season.
Andy Dalton Could Save Your Season
It’s hard to truly go bold with this call, but Dalton has the weapons to put up respectable fantasy numbers going forward. Remember, he was a fantasy gem in 2015 with weapons at his disposal and he enters a similar situation in that regard now with Ezekiel Elliott , Amari Cooper , CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup , and even Dalton Schultz . However, we need to acknowledge the fact that Dallas’ offensive line is incredibly bad right now. Tyron Smith and La’el Collins are done for the year and Joe Looney is out a couple weeks. I’m not too worried about rookie Tyler Biadasz filling in because I do believe he could be a mainstay in the future of the offensive line. Dalton lost a fumble on a botched snap that led to a short-field touchdown for the Giants. But he led the team on a game-winning drive to give Dallas their second win of the season. Giving him more time to work with the first-team on offense will help him out. The Cowboys don’t play again until they host the Cardinals (who just lost Chandler Jones for the season) next Monday in primetime. If you lost Dak in a deeper league, there may be other options on waivers, but this is still a quarterback in an offense that will have to throw the ball quite a bit.