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Week 5 Review: Jimmy Graham's Ridiculous Pace Leads The Way

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Alshon Jeffery and a talented group of fellow young wide receivers put the NFL on notice Sunday. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Alshon Jeffery and a talented group of fellow young wide receivers put the NFL on notice Sunday. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

By Week Five, you should have your team pretty well figured out. Now instead of figuring out who is for real and who is a one-hit wonder, you need to figure out who can fill in when Adrian Peterson has a bye. The answer is no one can, but you’ve got to find someone who will at least be a respectable stopgap. Bye week fill-ins are so difficult because, for most of us, the players on our bench are fringe players. Do I start Alshon Jeffery or Kenbrell Thompkins? Hindsight is 20/20, but at the time, that was a really difficult decision for someone, somewhere. I just hope they picked right. Anyway, let’s get to it.

1. Tony Romo and Peyton Manning had one of the all-time great quarterback duels.

Manning continued to dominate while throwing four more touchdowns and rushing for another (his first in five years). He’s on pace to shatter numerous NFL records and he’s already kept the pace going for much longer than I expected, so who knows how far he can take it. With Romo’s 506 passing yards and five touchdowns, he proved why he was one of the best value picks in your fantasy draft. Taken as the 11th or 12th quarterback off the board, Romo is currently producing Top Five numbers.

Other quarterbacks who had noteworthy days include: Terrelle Pryor (who put up just under 20 points in standard leagues), Philip Rivers (who posted a solid fantasy line despite three interceptions in an embarrassing loss to Pryor and the Raiders), and Nick Foles (who stepped in for an injured Michael Vick and had an excellent day, although it likely benefited no one). Foles already been announced as the likely Week Six starter against the Buccaneers and coach Chip Kelly said that if he performs well in Vick’s absence, Foles could hold onto the job long-term. He’s worth an add if you have room on your bench. As for Pryor and Rivers, they’re both making solid cases for weekly starting consideration, and they’re both must-starts in two quarterback formats.

Some notable bad quarterbacks included Colin Kaepernick (who essentially stopped throwing at halftime because of how poorly Houston played), Matt Schaub (who was a big part of how poorly Houston played), and Cam Newton (who threw for over 300 yards, but also turned the ball over four times). If I own Kaepernick, I’m not concerned by this game. Even though he had no reason to throw the ball, it’s still a tough pill to swallow considering his first four weeks of the season. If I own Schaub, nothing has changed. He isn’t very good and we all know that. I’d just be praying that the one week that I need him to fill in, he pulls a rabbit out of a hat. As a Cam Newton owner, there’s nothing you can do. He’s too good not to start. This week is the latest example of why I am not a Cam owner in any league, and never have been. He is too volatile. One week, he’ll score 40 points. The next week he’ll be in the single-digits. He’s too much of a risk for me.

Finally, we can’t forget Tom Brady (who saw his 52-game streak with a touchdown pass snapped). Brady and the Pats played pretty awful en route to their first loss of the season. It continues to get harder and harder to trust Brady, but when Rob Gronkowski returns (which would appear to be soon), we’ll get a clearer picture of their offense’s capabilities moving forward. If they continue to sputter along, then you need to look elsewhere. However, I suspect that Gronk’s return will help spark the offense and benefit everyone (with the exception of opposing defenses).

2. Alshon Jeffery and a class of young bucks lead the way.

Jeffery exploded on Sunday and as someone who had the unfortunate luck of facing off against him, I can tell you that it wasn’t fun. Take Jeffery out of the equation and maybe I win. Include him and I get obliterated. Along with Jeffery’s monster day, we saw huge days from other young receivers like T.Y. Hilton, Rueben Randle, Terrance Williams, Keenan Allen, and Justin Blackmon (who had just returned from suspension). If last year was the year of the rookie quarterbacks and running backs, this is the year of the young wide receiver. So many of the young receivers who are getting opportunities are capitalizing in a big way.

Hakeem Nicks and DeSean Jackson also put up big numbers and if I own either of them, I’m selling high. Both will continue to be boom or bust type players. Jackson will often draw double coverage as the only receiving threat outside of LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia, and Nicks is injured too often in a (now) bottom of the barrel offense.

Finally, I need to highlight the performances of four wide receivers that I am finally starting to believe in. Cecil Shorts has played well so far.  Blackmon’s return from suspension should only help him and make him an every week WR2. Torrey Smith has been excellent every week this season, especially in PPR formats.  In standard leagues, he’s a WR3 with high upside. In PPR leagues, he’s a WR2 with that same upside. Josh Gordon may be being showcased for prospective buyers. Or maybe he’s just that good. I don’t care. Either way, Gordon has been viable in the three weeks since he returned from suspension. Finally, there’s Denarius Moore. I was a huge Denarius Moore fan for a long time and finally gave up on him this season (only to have it come back and bite me). With a quarterback who, if nothing else, puts pressure on opposing defenses, Moore has finally been able to string together several good weeks in a row. At worst, Pryor should be a bye week fill in. For some, I’m sure he’s moved into an every week role and it seems deserved.

3. Fred Jackson continues to be more valuable than C.J. Spiller.

That’s disgusting and disappointing all rolled into one. How Fragile Fred continues to lead the charge is beyond me. For many fantasy owners, having Spiller sit idly by must be worse than having lost him for the season. You have no choice but to start him because he has a similar skill set to Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy (who are absolutely killing it this year), but once again, he is being underutilized. You can say that he was nursing an injury and they didn’t want to risk re-injuring it, but it’s frustrating how often the Bills come up with “legitimate” excuses for limiting their dynamic (would-be) star running back. With that said, it’s time to accept that Fred Jackson could have a long-term role in the Bills offense. He is an every week Flex play until further notice. You’re always rolling the dice though, so just pray that he doesn’t live up to his nickname if you own him.

Pierre Thomas’ week just shows you why owning any part of the Saints’ backfield can be frustrating. Barely an afterthought in any game leading up to Sunday, he was suddenly thrust into a feature role, leaving Darren Sproles owners scratching their heads.

David Wilson finally found the end zone, but was sidelined shortly thereafter. Frank Gore had a respectable day (he’s never a sexy pick as an RB2, but he’s always solid). Danny Woodhead continues to show value in PPR leagues (he drew the majority of touches in the late Sunday night game and reeled in nine passes for 58 yards). It’s going to be tough to leave him on your bench moving forward.

4. Jimmy Graham is on pace for 1,897 receiving yards.

It seems that every week, I start off by commenting on what Graham is doing. It’s tough not to when he’s got 593 yards through the first five games. While his ridiculous pace will be nearly impossible to maintain it’s pretty funny to think that he could break the single season receiving yards record by a tight end (1,327 by Rob Gronkowski in 2011) by Week 12. I don’t see that happening, but I fully expect that record to be broken by Week 17. Graham simply cannot be stopped. It appears that it will be difficult for the Saints to franchise tag him this offseason without needing to compensate him as a wide receiver.

With that said, there are other tight ends who played pretty well on Sunday, believe it or not. Jason Witten finally stepped up and reeled in seven passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, if Romo could’ve thrown for 506 yards without getting his tight end involved, it definitely would’ve been time to panic. Julius Thomas showed us that Week 1 wasn’t a fluke as he dominated the Cowboys secondary on his way to a nine catches, 122 yards, and two scores.

Charles Clay continues to put up useful fantasy numbers week after week. He reached the end zone for the second consecutive week and has been targeted six times or more in each of the Dolphins first five games. One last bright spot at the tight end position is Antonio Gates. Written off by many as washed up, he has had a resurgent first third of the season that has him in the Top Five at his position in both PPR and standard scoring leagues.

As I wrote this, I realized how many of the players I mentioned were pairings from the same game. Romo and Manning. Witten and Thomas. Pryor and Rivers. Kaepernick and Schaub. All in all, it was kind of a weird week. There were a lot of low-scoring games, and at the same time, one of the highest-scoring games in league history. When it was all said and done, I found solace in the fact that no loss could be as bad what Tony Romo experienced. To throw for a franchise record 506 yards and put up 48 points and still lose, has to be about as awful as losing gets. That’s as good as Romo will ever play (and it was really, really good), but even so, Peyton Manning was just that much better. It’s going to sting today, tomorrow, and the next day. There’s nothing Romo and the Cowboys can do but move on. At least they know they won’t need to face Peyton and the Broncos again unless they reach the Super Bowl.