Fantasy Football Fast Forward: Romo, Manning rack up points
Three of the league's best quarterbacks saw impressive streaks end on Sunday. Two of them probably didn't care all that much, since they still played great and came away with victories. One of the league's most average quarterbacks saw a notorious streak continue. He probably cared a great deal.
After throwing 20 touchdowns without an interception to start the season, including four more Sunday, Peyton Manning threw his first pick of the year in the third quarter of the Broncos enthralling 51-48 win over the Cowboys. Drew Brees led the Saints to a big 26-18 win in Chicago, but his streak of nine consecutive 300-yard games came to an end. Tom Brady had thrown at least one touchdown in 52 straight games, nearing Brees' record of 54. After the Bengals 13-6 win over the Patriots, Brees record is safe for the time being.
Finally, when it seemed it couldn't get any worse for Matt Schaub, he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown on the Texans' third play from scrimmage on Sunday night, his fourth consecutive game with a pick six. That means San Francisco's Tramaine Brock, Seattle's Richard Sherman, Tennessee's Alterraun Verner and Baltimore's Daryl Smith have all scored touchdowns on passes thrown by Schaub this season. Andre Johnson has not.
Let's get to the rest of the Week 5 news.
From a fantasy perspective, it's hard to top what we saw in Dallas between the Broncos and Cowboys. The teams combined for 99 points and 1,039 total yards. Peyton Manning threw for 414 yards and four touchdowns, while adding another score on the ground. Tony Romo became the first Cowboy to top 500 yards passing, going for 506 with five touchdowns. Ten players hit pay dirt. Each team featured a player who caught two touchdown passes. Tight ends Jason Witten and Julius Thomas combined for 16 catches, 243 yards and three touchdowns. Hell, even the kickers scored in the double digits, with Matt Prater putting up an especially impressive 15-point day.
On top of all that, the game went down to the wire, with Prater kicking a field goal at the gun to give the Broncos the victory. It featured another late-game backbreaking interception by Romo, who played an otherwise-flawless game. It featured yet another coach not understanding the endgame strategy of letting the other team score on purpose as his team's only real means of winning the game. This game truly had it all.
Let's stick with the Broncos and Cowboys for another section, because really we could devote an entire column to the most exciting game thus far this season. You might think something bad couldn't possibly come from a game like this, at least as far as fantasy owners are concerned. Well, think again. Put yourself in the shoes of a Demaryius Thomas owner.
Thomas is Denver's most explosive receiver, and though it's hard to define "best" in a real-world concept, I think it's safe to say the vast majority of people would consider Thomas the most dangerous weapon at Manning's disposal. If you told a Thomas owner that the Broncos would score 51 points on Sunday, what's the least they would expect out of him? Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 yards and a touchdown, right? With the team finding the end zone six times, they could even get greedy and hope for multiple scores with a yardage total pushing 200. Well, Thomas was an afterthought Sunday, catching just five passes for 57 yards. He was the only fantasy player from this game who didn't reach double-digit points in a standard scoring league. The second-lowest scorer was DeMarco Murray, who totaled only 48 yards from scrimmage, but salvaged his day with a four-yard touchdown run.
When Matthew Stafford's owners woke up on Sunday morning, they had every right to expect a big day. Green Bay has been terrible against the pass this season, surrendering 311 yards per game, 9.0 yards per attempt and eight passing touchdowns. Only nine teams had allowed more scores through the air even though Green Bay was just one of two teams to already have a bye this season heading into Week 5. Then the surprising news broke that Calvin Johnson would miss the game due to a knee injury. That meant Stafford would be without his two best receivers and his chances for a big game were all but dashed.
Stafford ended up struggling for the entire afternoon. He completed 25-of-40 passes for 262 yards, 6.6 YPA and one touchdown. The score came in garbage time with the Packers sitting back in a protective shell to make the Lions burn clock as they moved the ball down the field. Once Johnson was ruled out it wasn't hard to see this result coming, but that doesn't make it sting Stafford's owners any less.
Week 5 observations
• The Bears offense had one drive of note in the first two-and-a-half quarters of the team's loss to the Saints, but Jay Cutler finished with his best statistical day of the season, throwing for 358 yards, 10.2 YPA and two scores against zero interceptions. He's a good play going up against the friendly Giants' defense, even if it is a short week.
• Green Bay ground out a win over Detroit, but it was another subpar statistical day by Aaron Rodgers' standards. It was a clean, efficient day but not a very explosive one, as he threw for 274 yards and one touchdown.
• Russell Wilson threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns, but he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes against the Colts. He ended up with a big fantasy day thanks to his 102 rushing yards. He has another tough game on tap with the Titans visiting Seattle.
• Andrew Luck helped lead the Colts to an impressive statement victory over the Seahawks, throwing for 229 yards and two scores. He remains a matchup play for me, but this was a great showing against a strong defense.
• Don't be fooled by Sam Bradford's three-touchdown effort against the Jaguars. He threw for just 222 yards and 6.5 YPA against a team that had allowed 7.4 YPA coming into the game.
• Blaine Gabbert had to leave Sunday's game against the Rams with a hamstring injury. Justin Blackmon took off when Chad Henne replaced Gabbert as the starter last year, so this could bode well for the second-year receiver.
• Ryan Tannehill took six more sacks on Sunday, and the Dolphins are on pace to allow the most sacks in a season in NFL history. Tannehill would be hard-pressed to stay healthy all season if he continues to take so many hits week after week.
• The Eagles called more designed runs for Michael Vick against the Giants, and perhaps that had something to do with him suffering a hamstring injury. Nick Foles played very well in relief, throwing for 197 yards and two touchdowns. This isn't yet a quarterback controversy, but it very well could become one.
• In a great matchup, Eli Manning threw for 334 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He's no more than a matchup play this season.
• One step forward, two steps back. That seems to describe the last year and change of Cam Newton's career. He had no problem racking up yardage against the Cardinals, throwing for 308 yards and nearly 8.0 YPA. However, he threw three picks, two of which were deep in Arizona territory. As such, the Panthers scored just six points.
• Brian Hoyer suffered a partially torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season. Jordan Cameron already had huge success with Brandon Weeden under center, so we shouldn't downgrade him too much. Same goes for Josh Gordon, though there's little doubt both were better off with Hoyer at the helm.
• EJ Manuel will miss 4-to-6 weeks with a sprained LCL. Jeff Tuel will start in his place, which is horrible news for everyone in Buffalo.
• The Niners didn't need Colin Kaepernick to do a whole lot Sunday night, but he put up yet another dreadful line for his fantasy owners, throwing for just 113 yards and a score. I do not like him against the Cardinals next week.
• The Vikings, have reportedly signed the recently-released Josh Freeman.
• Pierre Thomas had a huge day thanks to two receiving touchdowns, but don't get used to that. What you should pay attention to is his 36 rushing yards on 19 carries. The receiving touchdowns were just a fluke.
• After taking a backseat role in the offense the past few weeks, BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 67 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Giovani Bernard looked like the better runner again, picking up 62 yards on 13 carries, but he had a crucial fumble that gave the Patriots one more chance to tie the game late. BJGE could hold onto a role that makes him worth playing if you're without a regular.
• LeGarrette Blount ran the ball well, but got just 12 carries. I'd avoid the New England running game at all costs.
Week 5 may have marked the game in which Eddie Lacy took control of the Green Bay backfield and became a fantasy regular. After watching him run for 99 yards on 23 carries, I'd be starting him with confidence against the Ravens next week.
• Another week, another huge day for Jamaal Charles. This time he ran for 108 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, and caught four passes for 37 yards. His pursuit of the Running Back Championship Belt continues.
• Meanwhile, in that same game Chris Johnson ran for 17 yards on 10 carries. He saved his day with a 49-yard touchdown reception, but he has looked terrible as a runner this year and is not getting goal-line carries. It's hard to believe in him.
• Trent Richardson plodded his way to 56 yards on 18 carries and is averaging 3.1 yards per carry this year. The lesson: Never ever doubt the Browns.
• Is there a less appreciated running back in the game than Marshawn Lynch? He racked up 102 yards on 17 carries against the Colts and should be in for a huge day against a Titans defense that has not performed well against the run this year.
• Zac Stacy impressed in his first career start, picking up 78 yards on 14 carries. He's expected to remain the Rams' starter and looks like a flex play against the Texans next week.
• What happened to Lamar Miller on Sunday? Seven carries for 15 yards? Really? Did anyone ask Joe Philbin what the deal was there? The Dolphins have a bye this week, so maybe we'll get some clarity on the situation.
• The yards-per-carry numbers were ugly, but the Ravens clearly have no problem leaning on Ray Rice. You have to love your back getting 27 carries, especially when it leads to two touchdowns.
• If David Wilson can't bust out against the Eagles, he can't bust out against anyone.
• Rashard Mendenhall ran for 43 yards on 17 caries while Andre Ellington ran for 52 on seven. The latter also caught four passes for 31 yards. Expect to see a lot more of him the rest of the season. He's worth spending one-fifth of your remaining FAAB budget to get.
• Jonathan Stewart could be back in the next few weeks, and that might crowd the Carolina backfield. Now could be the time to see if you can unload DeAngelo Williams.
• Knowshon Moreno racked up 150 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown Sunday, proving life is good with Peyton Manning. He should be started every week.
• Willis McGahee proved true our favorite adage, "Volume is a back's best friend." He picked up 72 yards and a score on 26 carries, and looks like an RB3/4 or solid flex for the rest of the season.
• C.J. Spiller owners had to be happy to see him go for 66 yards and a score on just eight carries Thursday. He faces a strong Cincinnati defense on Sunday, and the entire Buffalo offense will be hurting without EJ Manuel.
• Alshon Jeffery has officially arrived. He had 10 catches for a franchise-record 218 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. I'm starting him every week if I own him. Teammate Brandon Marshall had another down game, catching just four passes for 30 yards, though he did score a touchdown late.
• Danny Amendola caught four of his nine targets for 55 yards in his first game back from a sports hernia. You should start him as usual next week.
• Now would be a great time to check in on A.J. Green to see just how frustrated his owner is. He's still the elite receiver we all thought he was over the summer. You could be able to steal a huge asset.
• Julian Edelman got seven targets, even with Amendola back. That suggests he could have a large enough role to be a fantasy contributor with Amendola on the field, but I think that evaporates once Rob Gronkowski returns.
• Ryan Broyles only got two targets Sunday, and that was with Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson out. Feel free to cut him if you're still holding out hope.
• If you own Randall Cobb or Jordy Nelson, you're obviously starting the Packers every week. Given what this Green Bay offense can do, I think James Jones needs to be started every week, as well.
• Calvin Johnson was a surprise inactive because of a knee injury, but the early signs point to him playing against the Browns next week. Keep an eye on his practice schedule this week.
• Dwayne Bowe had just four receptions for 35 yards against the Titans. At this point, I don't think he can be trusted as anything more than a WR3.
• Donnie Avery kept on trucking Sunday, catching three passes for 91 yards. He's an option in deeper leagues in big bye weeks.
• Nate Washington had big games each of the last two weeks, but caught three passes for 30 yards Sunday. He's not a fantasy option with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center.
• Kendall Wright showed up Sunday, catching six of his eight targets for 74 yards. The Titans visit Seattle on Sunday, so I wouldn't be considering Wright with any seriousness.
• T.Y. Hilton's monster 140-yard, two-touchdown day came with him frequently matched up with Richard Sherman. Remember this next time you consider benching a guy you'd normally start because of his matchup.
• This week on the Seattle carousel, Doug Baldwin caught five passes for 80 yards, Golden Tate scored a touchdown, and Sidney Rice was a total no-show. If you could start "Best Seattle WR" as a fantasy player, that would be great. As it is, it's impossible to count on any of these guys.
• Justin Blackmon made his presence felt right away in his first game back from suspension, catching a 67-yard touchdown pass less than five minutes into the game. He finished the day with five catches for 136 yards and a score. I like him as a regular starter.
• Cecil Shorts also had a nice game, hauling in five passes for 74 yards and a score. I still believe Chad Henne is better than Blaine Gabbert for both of these guys.
• Austin Pettis snuck up on the Jaguars, catching four balls for 49 yards and two scores. With a few big bye weeks on the horizon, Pettis is worth grabbing now and stashing for the future.
• We talked about this last week, yet people chose not to listen again. Torrey Smith needs to be in your lineup every single week. You should not have to ask about him. Just plug him in there and watch the points accumulate.
• Mike Wallace had a ridiculous 16 targets on Sunday, catching seven of them for 105 yards. He's up to 44 targets on the season and should be considered a wealthy man's WR3.
• Was there any doubt DeSean Jackson would have a huge game against the Giants? Even if Nick Foles ends up starting next week, you want Jackson in your lineup.
• Hakeem Nicks got 12 targets Sunday, catching nine of them for 142 yards. It was encouraging to see him put up a big game, even against a weak defense like Philadelphia. I'd start him with confidence against the Bears on Thursday.
• Rueben Randle had a big day, catching six passes for 96 yards and two scores, but I wouldn't start him against the Bears. They did an admirable job against Drew Brees, and these Thursday games tend to be sloppy. Nicks and Victor Cruz is one thing. I wouldn't dig as deep as is necessary to start Randle.
• It's no surprise that Dez Bryant caught six passes for 141 yards and two scores against the Broncos. He's a stud, and that's just what he does from week to week. Terrance Williams, on the other hand, did surprise some by racking up 151 yards and a score on four receptions. He could be a sneaky play so long as Miles Austin is injured.
• Jimmy Graham has 548 yards and five touchdowns in his last four games. It's impossible for a tight end to win MVP, but could he make a charge at Offensive Player of the Year? He could, right?
• Sean McGrath caught four of his six targets for 54 yards in a tough matchup with the Titans. If you're looking for help at tight end, consider him on the wire this week.
• The Jared Cook Train of Stardom remains stuck in the station. He's on the outside of the group of guys you can trust as starters every week.
• On the flip side, Charles Clay has entered that group. He caught thee passes for 52 yards and a touchdown, and now has 23 catches for 297 yards and three scores this season.
• One Eagle who would clearly gain from a change at quarterback, even if it were just for a week due to injury, is Brent Celek. He caught a 25-yard-touchdown pass from Nick Foles and hasn't been getting a ton of attention from Michael Vick this year.
• The Niners were responsible for continuing Matt Schaub's streak that we talked about way back at the beginning of the column. They finished the night with five takeaways, one sack and the touchdown. And that was without Patrick Willis.
• Cincinnati had a huge defensive game, limiting the Patriots to six points, sacking Tom Brady four times and picking him off once. Start them confidently against the Bills next week.
• Arizona had a monster game, posting three interceptions, seven sacks and six points allowed. The Cardinals can be started most every week, included next week when they visit San Francisco.
• If you're looking for a defense to stream, you could do worse than simply picking out whoever plays the Dolphins. They're on pace to surrender the most sacks ever in NFL history. Of course, they have a bye next week.
MORE WEEK 6 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
GONOS: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em -- Is it worth starting any Raiders this week?
BELLER: Player Stat Projections -- Eli Manning could rise to the occasion
SI STAFF: Composite Player Rankings -- Expect another strong week from Bryant
BELLER, FLOOD: Weekly Roundtable -- Is Alshon Jeffery the real deal?
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Stacy stepping up as Rams' starting running back
McQUADE: Risers & Sliders -- Top players struggling to produce stats
BELLER: Fast Forward -- Quarterbacks steal the spotlight in Week 5