Thank goodness the Giants are in the playoffs right now. I am referring to the San Francisco Giants winning the division and advancing to the National League Championship Series to battle the National League’s two-year champion, the Philadelphia Phillies. Hopefully, this will help ease the pain embedded in the heart of San Francisco’s 49er fans.
With a pool of young talent and lofty expectations for 2010, many analysts pegged San Francisco to not only improve their record from last season, but win the NFC West. With chemistry building between Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree in the second half of last season combined with the dynamic skill set of Frank Gore, San Francisco seemed like the popular pick to win a playoff spot in a weak division featuring the St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks and the Kurt Warner-less Arizona Cardinals.
After the first five games, San Francisco is one of three winless teams and sitting in the cellar of their division. Although this is one of the season’s most interesting (and disappointing) surprises, here are a few more to ponder. As first pick in most drafts, Chris Johnson is performing well, but has less fantasy points than mid-draft picks Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy, and is short of being on pace for this goal of 2,500 rushing yards. In a standard fantasy league, quarterbacks inhabit the Top 15 scoring leaders, except for Foster. Think about some of these statistics as you prepare to sell players high or target an underperformer.
Week 5 bred more shockers as Ryan Fitzpatrick and Shaun Hill each posted top-tier quarterback statistics, despite both being listed as backups on their teams’ depth chart at the beginning of the season. In fact, both posted better fantasy numbers than quarterbacks Drew Brees, Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers who were often taken in the first three rounds.
After three weeks of disappointing performances from Matt Forte, I decided to clear him a bench spot as I felt that Carolina’s defense would center their efforts on stopping him as backup quarterback Todd Collins ran the offense. I missed this call by a mile. Forte barreled through the Panthers’ defense for 166 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Lastly, Malcom Floyd, Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Lloyd put smiles on their owners’ faces with monster performances. Although Lloyd is on his fourth stop, started only 26 games over the last four seasons and remained undrafted in most leagues, he leads all NFL receivers in total yards and is averaging 117 receiving yards per game. Although fantasy football champions are often strategic drafters, this proves that you also must be a skilled geologist to find these types of diamonds in the rough. As we head into Week 6, let’s dive into the matchups and variables affecting your players.
Shaun Hill – If you picked up Hill to fill in on a bye last week or to replace your injured starter, then you experienced another pleasant surprise from the former 49ers quarterback. As Matthew Stafford’s backup, Hill has been one of the most productive quarterbacks over the last four weeks averaging more than 282 yards and two touchdowns. However, his toughest challenge will be this week against the NFL’s stingiest pass defense, the New York Giants. After a rough start, the Giants’ defense has rebounded and allowed only 146 passing yards per game. In addition, quarterbacks have only completed 54.7 percent of their passes, which ranks second in the league. I would only suggest starting Hill this week if he is your only option, especially since Calvin Johnson may be recovering from a shoulder injury. Try streaming a quarterback with a better matchup this week if you need a fill-in. Hill should post numbers resembling 175 passing yards and a touchdown.
Michael Bush – Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but the 49ers seemed to have left their defense in 2009. San Francisco’s defense ranks 20th in rushing yards and has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs. Last season, they ended the year giving up only the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs. However, this season’s ineffectiveness cannot be blamed solely on the shoulders of the defense as the offense has the highest turnover ratio in the league.
The Oakland Raiders have not shown any significant improvement this season as a whole; however, their running back combination of Bush and Darren McFadden has been one of the few bright spots. When Bush started the year injured, McFadden carried the load with more than 100 total yards in the first four games. After McFadden injured his hamstring, Bush rushed for 104 yards and caught 31 yards through the air against a tough San Diego Chargers’ defense. With Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy racking up 138 total yards and a touchdown last weekend, I expect Bush to have another strong outing against a frustrated and overworked San Francisco defense. However, if McFadden does return from injury this week, hamper your expectations accordingly for Bush. Assuming Bush is the primary back in this Sunday’s “Bay Area Battle,” I project 100 rushing yards, 35 receiving yards and a score.
Davone Bess – Troubled former Denver Broncos’ wideout Brandon Marshall received all of the publicity this offseason as he “took his talents to South Beach” to play for the Miami Dolphins. Although Brandon Marshall is Chad Henne’s primary target with an average of 85 yards per game, another Dolphins’ receiver has swum into fantasy awareness, especially in point-per-reception leagues, with at least six catches in three of Miami’s four games this season.
With defenses focused on taming Marshall, Bess has been successful in finding openings in the secondary. Although Marshall has 20 more targets than Bess, he has totaled only six more receptions and two more yards after catch. Green Bay’s defense has been satisfactory against the pass this year, but they will be without linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Barnett, and safety Derrick Martin. They also may be on the field significantly longer if Aaron Rodgers sits this weekend. With an extra week to prepare against a battered Green Bay offense and defense, I see the Dolphins’ offense playing one of their better games. If Bess is still available in your league, he is a valuable waiver wire replacement for any receiver on a bye this week or in the flex slot. My forecast for Bess is seven catches for 80 yards and a touchdown, which is more than some top tier receivers have been producing lately.
Tony Moeaki – Kansas City’s third round draft pick with the hard to pronounce last name (MO-ee-AH-kee) is also the team’s leading receiver. In addition, Moeaki has one of the more favorable schedules for tight ends as he will contend against Houston, Jacksonville, Buffalo and Oakland. It seems that every week, I choose a player competing against the Houston Texans’ secondary, but that is due to the fact that they are pitiful. Eli Manning had the good fortune of throwing against them and recorded 297 passing yards with three touchdowns last weekend.
The Texans also allow the most receptions, yards and targets to opposing tight ends. As Matt Cassel’s favorite target, Moeaki will be a sure-fire play this week in a favorable matchup against Houston with two weeks to prepare. If your team is mourning the loss of Jermichael Finley, or are fed up with your current tight end’s output, pass the peyote and invite Moeaki to your Week 6 pow-wow. I am predicting 75 receiving yards and a score against Houston’s helpless pass defense.
Miami Defense – The Green Bay Packers have been one of the most fruitful offenses over the last two seasons. However, cheeseheads will likely be without star quarterback Aaron Rodgers this weekend who suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss against Washington. If Rodgers takes a seat, then backup Matt Flynn will be the starter. Flynn has thrown only 17 passes in his career. Another handicap hindering the offense is the fact that their top two tight ends, Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee, will also be unavailable. Not to mention, running back Brandon Jackson has not been an example of consistency. Green Bay’s offensive powerhouse now looks more like a B-Team. Miami’s defense has been solid and currently ranks seventh in yards allowed.
In addition, the Dolphins’ defense has played exceptionally well on the road this year allowing just 10 points in each contest. Be confident in streaming Miami’s defense this week if Rodgers sits as they should be well-rested and poised for an attractive matchup.
If you find your team in the middle of the pack but healthy, then count your blessings. If your team needs to operate their own hospital, then it is time to pick up replacements with favorable matchups. Do not just look ahead to this week, but glance over the next four weeks as you look to fill in the gaps and make trades. Good luck in Week 6!