October 09, 2011
I won't try to convince you that Tim Tebow(notes) is now a great NFL quarterback, or that he'll ever develop into one. This isn't 1944 and the league isn't looking for Frankie Sinkwich-types, guys who can run all day and maybe complete 40 percent of their throws. Tebow isn't the most accurate club in the bag, timing and touch aren't really his strengths, and watching him in the pocket is sometimes painful, sometimes funny. His final incompletion on Sunday was preceded by a slow, unnecessary spin to avoid phantom pressure.
But you have to admit, Broncos games are a lot more entertaining when Tebow is involved. The billboard always made perfect sense.
Denver's offense was a mess for two quarters against San Diego, accounting for only three points .. and then, to the home crowd's delight, Kyle Orton(notes) was lifted. Tebow led a crazy second half charge, nearly erasing a 16-point fourth quarter deficit (with an assist from his defense). He took a quarterback draw for a 12-yard score, then later found Knowshon Moreno(notes) on a screen that became a 28-yard TD. Brandon Lloyd(notes) made a brilliant one-handed catch on the final drive, adding another 20 yards to Tebow's relatively modest passing totals (4-for-10, 79 yards).
Just in case you'd forgotten the sort of fantasy asset that Tebow can be, I'll remind you that he was the leading scorer in our game last season, during the most important three-game stretch. In Weeks 15-17, he rushed for 199 yards and three TDs while passing for 651 and four scores. It wasn't a clinic at all times — in fact, it was never a clinic — but he piled up stats, and the Broncos were a fun watch.
It was the same story in Denver on Sunday, in the not-quite comeback against the Chargers. The Broncos get a bye in Week 6, giving Tebow abundant time to prep for a road start against the Dolphins. No, the coaches can't fix his flaws in two weeks, but it's reasonable to think they'll install a game-plan that suits him. There's really no way John Fox can go back to Orton at this point. (Let's hope they leave Kyle in Miami, where he can help save Brandon Marshall's(notes) season). Fox probably should have always had a package of red zone plays for his back-up QB, but that's now a non-issue.
It's Tebow time again. Rejoice, Denver fans. Add as needed, fantasy owners.
• San Diego's bye arrives at the right time (Week 6), because Mike Tolbert(notes) was concussed on Sunday and Ryan Mathews(notes) left the stadium on crutches after suffering a calf injury. Mathews still finished with his usual 120-plus yards, but Jacob Hester(notes) was the closer for the Chargers, running for 47 yards on 11 carries. This week, Philip Rivers(notes) poached the rushing TD, but that won't happen too often. Rivers also connected with Malcom Floyd(notes) for a 42-yard score, but he was dropped five times by an impressive Denver pass rush.
• BenJarus Green-Ellis dominated the backfield work for New England on Sunday, carrying 27 times for 136 yards and two short touchdowns. Rookie Stevan Ridley(notes) wasn't much more than a footnote, gaining 13 yards on seven carries. So the Ridley takeover has been indefinitely delayed. Aaron Hernandez(notes) returned from his MCL sprain a few weeks earlier than anyone initially expected, catching five balls for 56 yards against the Jets on nine targets.
• It's not often that you see a respectable team dominated as thoroughly as Tampa Bay was at San Francisco. That was a mauling, a 48-3 embarrassment. The Bucs' head coach put it perfectly in his post-game comments...
"Flat start. Flat finish. Flat middle. Everything," coach Raheem Morris said. "We didn't even get off the plane this time."
The only thing Tampa really did well was draw unsportsmanlike conduct flags. Not an impressive effort at all. Alex Smith only need to put the ball in the air 19 times in the rout, but three of his passes resulted in touchdowns — two for Vernon Davis(notes), one for Delanie Walker(notes). Frank Gore(notes) was excellent, rushing for 125 yards on 20 carries. And when Gore was finished, Kendall Hunter(notes) added another 65 rushing yards. That was really an impressive beating. Tampa now has to attempt to rebound against the 4-1 Saints, so, um...good luck with that.
• Here's a quick thought about the New Orleans passing game that I should have included in an earlier update: Don't assume that all these targets and receptions for Jimmy Graham(notes) are coming at the expense of the Saints' wide receivers. That team completed over 100 passes to the tight end position last year, but the workload belonged to multiple players so we didn't really notice (41 catches for Shockey, 30 for Thomas). These days, it's all Graham. No need to downgrade the wideouts severely. If anything, buy low.
• To say that the NFL has become a passing league is a bit like saying that sumo wrestling has become a fat man's game. The NFL has been like this for a little while. Still, we've never seen an aerial display quite like what's happened in 2011. Two quarterbacks have topped 400 passing yards so far this week (Eli Manning(notes), Matt Schaub(notes)), which gives us 10 for the year. The record for 400-yard performances in any season is 13, established in 1986 and tied in 2004. That mark is going to be shattered this year, perhaps before Week 8. Blame the rule changes, blame the coordinators, blame Jeff George ... blame whoever you like. Just appreciate the stats, enjoy the highlights. I'm certainly not complaining, just observing.
Early waiver options for Week 6...
QB Tim Tebow, bye (6 percent owned)
QB Andy Dalton(notes), vs. IND (14 percent)
RB Delone Carter(notes), at CIN (10 percent)
RB Jackie Battle(notes), bye (2 percent)
RB Montario Hardesty(notes), at OAK (14 percent)
RB Roy Helu(notes), vs. PHI (23 percent)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes), vs. CLE (6 percent)
WR Doug Baldwin(notes), bye (4 percent)
WR Steve Breaston(notes), bye (15 percent)
WR Mike Sims-Walker(notes), at GB (39 percent)
WR Mohamed Massaquoi(notes), at OAK (7 percent)
TE Benjamin Watson(notes), at OAK (17 percent)
DEF Cincinnati, vs. IND (22 percent)
-posted at 10:10 pm ET
• Ground-and-pound was supposedly the game-plan for the Jets, and that's what Rex Ryan's team has given us in the first half. Shonn Greene(notes) has looked uncharacteristically lively, rushing for 49 yards and a score on 11 carries. New York has attempted just 10 passes, gaining only 57 yards through the air. The defense has kept the Pats close through two quarters, so expect more ground, more pound.
Darrelle Revis(notes) has spent most of his day tracking Wes Welker(notes), but No. 83 still hauled in three passes for 47 yards in the first half. (Note: And as I was writing that last sentence, Welker was racing up the middle 73 yards, not quite scoring. Caught from behind by Revis).
• The Bucs don't seem to have any answers for A) San Francisco's defense or B) Frank Gore. Josh Freeman(notes) threw two first half picks, one of which was returned for a score by Carlos Rogers(notes). It's early in the third quarter, 9:43 remaining, and Gore has already reached 98 total yards on 18 touches. He's dominating the backfield work, as Kendall Hunter has just one carry for -1 yards.
• I may lose one of my fantasy match-ups this week because of this absurd game-ending touchdown. So thanks for that, Jacksonville. Check the play-by-play on that thing...
Fine work by the box-score blurb writer there. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton tossed a pair of TD pass in the win over the Jaguars, connecting with AJ Green(notes) and Jermaine Gresham(notes) for scores. Dalton isn't the most mobile quarterback in the league, but he kept a few plays alive, drifting away from pressure. Not a bad performance from the rookie. He'll face the Indianapolis defense next week...
• ...and the Colts couldn't handle Kansas City's wideouts in Week 5. Dwayne Bowe(notes) and Steve Breaston each finished with two TDs in the comeback win at Indy, combining for 11 catches and 178 yards. Bowe was simply an unstoppable force, breaking more tackles than anyone on Sunday. (Buffalo skill players don't count, because Philly defenders are not serious tacklers). He might single-handedly keep Matt Cassel(notes) relevant, at least during the bye weeks.
• It turns out the Dream Team can't stop a thing, even when they should know what's coming. The Eagles couldn't stop Fred Jackson(notes) at Buffalo on Sunday, giving up 196 yards on 32 touches. Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) was hardly needed, though he finished 21-for-27, connecting with David Nelson(notes) for a 6-yard score. Michael Vick(notes) had a terrific fantasy day — 315 passing yards, 90 rushing — but he also turned the ball over four times and absorbed the usual punishment.
This could be a long, humbling season for Philly, and the team hasn't even reached what we thought would be the rough part of the schedule. Check the match-ups in Weeks 8-12, after the bye.
-posted at 6:15 pm ET
• Entering Week 5, Tennessee's defense seemed like a difficult match-up for any team, ranking seventh in the league against the pass and eighth against the run. Leaving Week 5, the numbers won't look so good for the Titans. Ben Roethlisberger(notes) shredded that defense, throwing for 228 yards and five scores — two to Hines Ward(notes), one each for Mike Wallace(notes), Heath Miller(notes) and David Johnson(notes) — while Jonathan Dwyer(notes) and Isaac Redman(notes) rushed for 156 yards on 26 carries. (Rashard Mendenhall(notes) owners, Redman didn't give you much to fret about. The big gain was a 76-yarder from Dwyer). Pittsburgh managed to overcome big injuries on both sides of the ball, on a day when Roethlisberger wasn't moving at full speed. Impressive win, no doubt.
Chris Johnson delivered a good-not-great fantasy day, picking up 65 scrimmage yards and finding the end zone in the third quarter (late, when the outcome of the game was basically known). Damian Williams(notes) had six catches for 66 yards for Tennessee, scoring his second touchdown in as many weeks.
• If ever there was a Raiders win that Al Davis could have appreciated, it was Sunday's 25-20 victory at Houston. That was a semi-miracle, a game that came down to the final ticks, ending with an end zone interception by Michael Huff(notes). Oakland relied on a script that Davis might have written, heavy on gadget plays and deep shots. Darrius Heyward-Bey finished with seven catches for 99 yards, scoring on a 34-yard play where his speed was the difference. Sebastian Janikowski(notes) kicked four long field goals, three from 50-plus. The Raiders committed 11 penalties, but managed to overcome the missteps. Well played, Coach Jackson.
• Another week, another highlight play for Victor Cruz(notes). Look at this thing. That's insane, a one-handed grab, beating double-coverage. Why would Eli Manning even choose to throw it? Perhaps because Cruz only makes these impossible plays. Much later, Victor tipped a pass that became an INT. He giveth, he taketh.
Seattle eventually won a sloppy-yet-exciting game, but the team lost quarterback Tarvaris Jackson(notes) to a pectoral injury. Charlie Whitehurst(notes) took over, completing 11 of 19 passes for 149 yards and a way-too-easy TD pass to Doug Baldwin. New York's secondary decided not to pick up the receiver, and Whitehurst didn't miss the layup.
• I can't be the only Cam Newton(notes) owner who was rooting for the Brandon LaFell(notes) touchdown to be overturned, right? Because there was never any question that Cam would follow with the 1-yard rushing score. Sunday's game offered further confirmation that Newton is the top option for Carolina in short-yardage. The Panthers dropped another close contest, but Cam gave us yet another big fantasy line (224 pass, 2 TDs, rush TD). If Carolina's defense could stop anything, that would really be a scary team ... but of course if they could stop anything, the quarterback might not be such a fantasy monster.
DeAngelo Williams(notes) gave you a stat line that you can sell, so don't waste time. He rushed for 115 yards and a score on nine carries, doing most of his damage on a 69-yard option pitch from Newton. Nothing happened on Sunday to make anyone think that Williams is likely to have a red zone role, and Jonathan Stewart(notes) finished with nearly as many touches.
• This is your second Jackie Battle update, which is two more than I think we've ever had in Sunday Scene: Battle rushed for 119 yards on 19 carries, adding two catches for 21 yards in KC's comeback win. The vet had an impressive 24-yard gain in the final minutes, spinning away from tacklers. Battle offers speed and size (6-2, 238), though he's not necessarily the most elusive back you'll ever see. Still, he's clearly at or near the top of the backfield hierarchy for the Chiefs. You'll find background info on "Mr. Preseason" right here. If you'd been hoping for a Thomas Jones(notes) revival, give it up.
-posted at 5:20 pm ET
• If you're facing Adrian Peterson in fantasy this week ... well, sorry. You're obviously not having a good day. Maybe you should just spend the afternoon outdoors, try to get away from the box-scores for a little while. This isn't your week, champ.
Peterson needed only 15 minutes of action to rush for 59 yards and three TDs against Arizona's defense. He absolutely humiliated poor Patrick Peterson(notes) on two of the scoring plays — the rookie corner bailed on an opportunity to hit AP near the goal line on the second TD, a 24-yarder, then All Day carried him into the end zone on the third. If the Vikes intend to blow this lead, they've got tough task ahead. This will take a total team effort.
• There's always a big early injury, usually in the first half of the first games, and we've followed the script in Week 5. Joseph Addai(notes) checked out for the Colts with a hamstring injury, and he's not expected to return. Donald Brown(notes) and rookie Delone Carter have taken over the rushing workload for Indianapolis, with the latter punching in a short score near the end of the first half. Carter will no doubt be a popular add in the week ahead — he's owned in just 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues — but let's just keep in mind the fact that Indy isn't built to run, and that O-line is dinged. Success at home against the Chiefs is nice, but the Colts are on the road in Weeks 6-8, and they'll dial up the degree of difficulty: at Cincinnati, at New Orleans, at Tennessee.
Another note from Indy: Curtis Painter(notes) to Pierre Garcon(notes) is clearly the new Manning to Harrison. I can no longer deny it. Garcon topped triple-digit yards in the first half, and he's broken the plane twice already. He completely lost the coverage on the second score.
• New Orleans is leading Carolina after two quarters, to no one's surprise, and the Saints appear to be on their way to a big number. If anyone can explain why the Panthers took that end-of-half timeout, please share with the group in comments. That stoppage allowed John Kasay(notes) to kick a 46-yard field goal, pushing the lead to 20-13. Both of the New Orleans touchdowns were 1-yarders, the first an easy catch by Jed Collins(notes), the second a plunge by Mark Ingram(notes). Pierre Thomas(notes) actually had an early opportunity inside-the-5, but he was brought down inches short of the goal line. Collins then took the next two attempts, getting stuffed on a fullback dive before catching a short score.
Later in the half, Steve Smith crossed the goal line on this ridiculous 54-yard play. Smith went absurdly high to make the grab, then threw Jabari Greer(notes) to the ground as he landed. He took a late cheap shot from Roman Harper(notes) in the end zone, well after he broke the plane (flag thrown), and shamed Malcom Jenkins in an after-the-whistle skirmish. That's an all-phases highlight right there.
• The Eagles defense apparently still can't tackle, and the team's O-line still can't protect Michael Vick. Buffalo gained 178 total yards in the first half, many of them after contact. Vick has been battered again, and the pressure has contributed to his three early interceptions. Fred Jackson gained 117 yards from scrimmage over the first two quarters, scoring the first of the Bills' three TDs. Donald Jones(notes) is done for the day with an ankle injury, further depleting an already damaged Buffalo receiving corps.
• Jackie Battle led Kansas City in rushing in the first half against the Colts, carrying six times for 38 yards. Thomas Jones took four hand-offs for 20 yards, Dexter McCluster(notes) three for four. Ideally, you'll avoid this backfield altogether. The best thing I can say about Battle is that he's not Jones.
• Ben Obomanu(notes) caught six passes for 51 yards against the Giants in the first half, finding the end zone on an early 11-yard score. Obomanu is getting extra work, with Mike Williams concussed. Giants tight end Jake Ballard(notes) bulldozed his way across the goal line later in the first quarter, his second score in as many weeks. Ballard had two early catches for 40 yards.
-posted at 3:05 pm ET
The byes are upon us, so it's time to get your teams off auto-pilot, maybe do a little managing. We've got a few hours remaining before kickoff, just enough time to take advantage of a panicky 1-3 fantasy owner. You won't have a better opportunity to strike a deal for Miles Austin(notes) or Steven Jackson or some other useful asset. Go scan the rosters of your league's bottom dwellers, see what you find.
If you're looking for last-minute news and advice, join us at noon ET for Fantasy Football Live. For the updated Week 5 position ranks, click here. If it's injury info you need, try this link. And please check back with Sunday Scene for game-day observations, with fantasy spin.
Let's recommit to excellence today, gamers. Go get a win.
Photos via AP Images (Tebow, Davis) and US Presswire (Greene, Ward, Peterson)