The surface of the earth moves about 1,000 mph at the equator, yet the NFL regular season seems to travel faster because it’s already Week 6. Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy and A.J. Green are some of the elite players who are off as Dallas, Buffalo, Seattle, and Cincinnati have an upcoming bye. No worries. As Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll says, every game is a “championship opportunity” in the pursuit of winning a title.
Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (at Oakland)
Who wears a bolo tie to postgame press conferences, has seven kids and trash talks with a Southern twang without cursing? The same guy who’s about to pick apart Oakland’s No. 15 passing defense at 226.6 yards, 1.2 touchdowns and no interceptions per game. In the first two weeks, Rivers passed for 523 yards, four touchdowns and one interception for a 106.4 rating. Week 3 was his worst performance by far, tossing three interceptions versus Kansas City for a 37.2 rating. He then had 347 passing yards and two touchdowns at Philadelphia and 258 passing yards for three touchdowns and one interception against the New York Giants on Sunday. Rivers isn’t the most accurate passer, completing 23.2 of 38.8 attempts (59.8 percent) per game. Almost 40 attempts a game is a good thing. Rivers may be on the waiver wire or buried on your bench. Just because the Chargers are 1-4 doesn’t mean Rivers should be written off in fantasy.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit (vs. New Orleans)
The Saints have a high-scoring offense and one the worst defenses, meaning New Orleans will likely score a lot of points and give it right back, especially in an indoor stadium. Abdullah is becoming a focal point, earning increased touches each week out of the backfield. His rushing attempts went from 17 to 14 to 20 in Week 4 at Minnesota for 94 yards (4.7 average) and a touchdown. Following Abdullah’s performance, Minnesota had the third-best rushing defense at 71.2 yards per game. Abdullah only rushed for 31 yards on 10 attempts against Carolina, but that can be explained because Detroit was playing from behind. New Orleans’ defense allows the fourth-most yards (374.8) per game and 19.5 points due to shutting out Miami in Week 4. The Saints allow 109.5 rushing yards (0.5 touchdowns) and 265.2 passing yards (1.5 touchdowns) per game. Abdullah was productive against one of the NFL’s best rushing defenses when the game was close. Imagine what he can do versus the Saints.
Bye week replacements and injuries are worrisome, but lesser-known talent with a great matchup provide hope. The reason McGuire or Powell are viable options is because the Patriots have the ninth-worst rushing defense at 124.2 yards per game. Powell is day-to-day with a strained calf. He didn’t play in the second half Sunday and his status is uncertain versus New England. Starter Matt Forte (turf toe) missed his second straight game. In the past two games McGuire, a rookie, averaged 10.5 carries for 56.5 yards (5.4 average) and 0.5 touchdowns with two receptions for 24 yards. As for Powell, after just 13 carries combined in the first two weeks, he torched Jacksonville for 163 yards on 21 attempts (7.8 average) and a touchdown and four receptions for 27 yards in Week 4. He rushed for five yards on two attempts and four receptions for 28 yards versus Cleveland due to injury. Ten rushing yards equals a point, so McGuire or Powell can score in the double digits if those averages hold up – unless New England gets a large lead that forces quarterback Josh McCown to throw often.
Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina (vs. Philadelphia)
If you’re playing against Funchess, the 6-foot-4, 232-pound receiver is the type of guy who might make you think, “Who the hell is that?” after he vastly outproduces his projection. Philadelphia has the fourth-worst passing defense at 283.2 yards per game to go along with eight touchdowns. Philadelphia starting cornerbacks Jalen Mills (6-0) and Rasul Douglas (6-2) are tall yet Funchess has a height advantage. Funchess also has 33 1/2-inch arms compared to Mills (31 1/8 inches) and Douglas (32 3/8 inches). Since Coach Carroll’s arrival in 2010 the Seahawks have coveted corners with at least 32-inch arms who are 6 feet or taller. In a copycat league, teams have taken notice of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom.” Mills and Douglas may fit part of the mold but their on-field play isn’t up to par. As good as Funchess can be he’s also the same type of player who might underwhelm, such as two receptions for 20 yards in Week 1 and combined eight receptions for 126 yards the next two weeks. That’s why seven receptions for 70 yards and two touchdowns against New England was surprising. He followed that with seven receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown at Detroit in Week 5. Quarterback Cam Newton targeted Funchess a combined 27 times for 18 receptions the past three weeks. Newton has completed 68.3 percent of his passes, including 77.4 percent over Weeks 4 and 5. Philadelphia’s secondary is almost as bad as New England, the worst-ranked passing defense. Funchess exploited the Patriots so there’s no reason to think the Eagles won’t suffer a similar result.
Pierre Garcon, WR, San Francisco (at Washington)
First-team All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman will miss a few more weeks with rib and lung injures. Not that Norman would have lined up across from Garcon every play, but his absence is great news for fantasy owners who should start the 10-year veteran as their WR2 or flex without hesitation. Garcon averaged six receptions on 8.3 targets for 71.3 yards in the first four weeks. In Week 5 he caught eight receptions on 11 targets for 94 yards. Although those numbers are inflated due to seven receptions for 142 yards in Week 3 against the Los Angeles Rams, it goes to show Garcon can excel with quarterback Brian Hoyer under the right circumstances. Garcon still hasn’t caught a touchdown. That’s unfortunate but you play him for volume and opportunity with the hopes of scoring. Through four weeks, Norman was tied for fifth with teammate Bashaud Breeland in coverage snaps per reception. Pro Football Focus: “Like Breeland, Norman has played 163 snaps, and given up five receptions, but Norman has seen the ball come his way an extra four times, so (he) has allowed a completion rate of just 38.5, the second-best mark in the league. Those passes have produced a passer rating of only 55.9.” Garcon should be targeted often considering the 49ers will likely be playing from behind. Breeland is good but he – and Washington’s secondary as a whole – will not be as effective without Norman.
Other Players to Like
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit (at New Orleans)
Chris Thompson, RB, Washington (vs. San Francisco)
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver (vs. New York Giants)
Jermaine Kearse, WR, New York Jets (vs. New England)
Golden Tate, WR, Detroit (at New Orleans)
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia (at Carolina)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, New York Jets (vs. New England)