Hopefully we can all agree that one of the most difficult throws for an NFL quarterback to make is a third-and-long pass into coverage, while Clay Matthews is hanging onto your shoulders like a cape.
On Sunday, Andrew Luck somehow completed such a throw. Just look at this thing. That's ridiculous.
The play gained 18 yards on third-and-12, with Indy trailing 27-22 inside the final two minutes. Four snaps later, Luck would reconnect Reggie Wayne for the game-winner. The rookie QB finished his day with 362 passing yards and two scores, adding a three-yard rushing touchdown. Luck peppered Wayne with targets all day, hitting him 13 times for 212 yards and the late TD. Wayne's yardage total was actually a career-high — that's no small feat for a five-time Pro Bowler who spent 10 seasons with Peyton Manning.
Luck was brilliant in Week 5, piling up huge numbers against a defense loaded with playmakers. Going forward, you need to think of him as something more than a fantasy backup. His setup is ideal for our purposes. Luck has excellent weapons at his disposal, he's already had his bye-week, and the Colts' defense won't allow offensive balance — they simply aren't good enough. Luck put the ball in the air 55 times on Sunday, the third time he's topped 45 pass attempts in his four pro games. The kid is now on pace to throw the ball an absurd 708 times this season. There's no way he can avoid a monster fantasy season with a passing workload like that.
Entering the year, everyone who isn't Phil Simms viewed Luck as a high-impact, pro-ready QB. Through four games, he's been at least that good, if not better.
If you drafted Luck as your QB2, maybe it's time to toss your QB1 on the trade block.
• While we're discussing uncommonly talented rookie quarterbacks, here's the early word on RG3's concussion, from the player himself...
But all his tweet really proves is that Griffin has been cleared to operate a mobile device. He'll still need to navigate the NFL's concussion protocol. Let's hope for the best for a thrilling player, who happens to have another decent match-up on deck in Week 6 (vs. MIN).
• The usual suspects all had excellent days for Atlanta — Matt Ryan threw for 345 yards, Julio Jones and Roddy White combined for 162, Michael Turner found the end zone — but I'd like to focus on the crazy numbers delivered by Tony Gonzalez. For the fourth time in five games this season, Gonzalez will finish among the top-seven scorers at his position. (He's the leader in the clubhouse as of this writing, with Graham, Gates and Daniels still to play). He caught 13 passes for 123 yards and a score against Washington, which means he's now averaging 7.8 catches, 77.6 yards and 0.8 TDs per game. He's essentially having a career year, at age 36, in his 16th NFL season.
There's no way this man can retire, right? Gonzalez gets Oakland next week before the Falcons' bye, so expect more fantasy goodness.
• Death, taxes, robotic pressers from Bill Belichick, and tight end production against the Tennessee Titans. These are life's guarantees. Kyle Rudolph found the end zone against the Titans' D in Week 5, off a nifty throw by quarterback Christian Ponder. If my math is correct — I won't guarantee that it is, but let's just say — Tennessee has now allowed 41 catches, 420 receiving yards and seven TDs to opposing tight ends. Heath Miller gets to feast next week.
Percy Harvin was actually the offensive star for the Vikes on Sunday, finishing with eight catches for 108 receiving yards and one TD, rushing twice for eight yards and another score. The Titans offense was notably absent (again), as they ended the day with another low point total (seven), gaining just 267 total yards. Chris Johnson returned to uselessness, rushing 15 times for 24 yards and losing a fumble. Hope you sold him after last week's 141-yard performance; you definitely aren't starting him against Pittsburgh. We should note that Kendall Wright had another quietly decent PPR day, hauling in nine passes for 66 yards.
• The Bears have one of the few defenses that I'd be willing to stash on my bench during a bye week, because they're one of the only Ds in the league that focuses on scoring — not merely getting turnovers, not limiting yardage, but scoring. Chicago's defense made two more house calls in Week 5 at Jacksonville, as Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs pick-six'd Blaine Gabbert. You'll recall that those two also returned interceptions for touchdowns against Dallas in Week 4. They're the first teammates in NFL history to pull off that odd trick. So yeah, this defense is murderous.
Chicago was so dominant in the final two quarters, scoring 38 unanswered points, that's it's easy to forget they were actually tied with the Jaguars at halftime, 3-3. Jay Cutler delivered 292 receiving yards with two touchdown passes, Brandon Marshall hauled in 12 balls for 144 yards, and Matt Forte demonstrated that he's at least semi-healthy, gaining 127 yards on 24 touches. Oh, and Devin Hester made one of the great catches of the season. (That's not even a joke; hit the link).
• Andy Dalton's three-game streak of fantasy excellence came to an end in Week 5, as he was picked twice by Miami and threw for just 234 yards, rushing for 21. He still connected with AJ Green for a late touchdown, because Green cannot be stopped. Dalton and AJ get the Browns next week, and you can expect decent stat lines. Reggie Bush had a nice enough day at Cincinnati, carrying 19 times for 48 yards and one touchdown, but you should take note of Daniel Thomas' workload: 11 touches, 37 yards, TD. Thomas' one-yard plunge gave the Dolphins their first lead.
• Ahmad Bradshaw's fantasy stock jumped in a big way on Sunday, as he dominated the backfield work for New York while exploding for 229 total yards. Bradshaw took 30 carries for the Giants, rushing for an even 200 yards, and he broke the plane late in the second quarter. His day began with a fumble, but it ended with him leading all backs in fantasy scoring in Week 5. Andre Brown likely would have stolen a few touches this week, but he was sidelined early with a concussion. The Brown injury led to a garbage-time opportunity for David Wilson, and, for once, the rookie didn't fumble it away. Wilson took this hand-off 40 yards for a late score. I am probably the only fantasy owner in America who actually started him somewhere (and that's more an indictment of my bench-building skills than a sign of my fantasy aptitude. I was forced to play Wilson in a 16-teamer, with Doug Martin and Darren McFadden on byes. I definitely didn't feel good about it).
• Cedric Benson left Indianapolis in a walking boot after injuring his left foot/ankle in the Packers' loss. The next man up in that backfield appears to be Alex Green, who gained 55 yards on nine carries in relief of Benson on Sunday. James Starks is saying a bunch of good things about his preseason toe injury, but he was inactive in Week 5. He's worth a flier in deeper formats, because Ced's injury looked ugly.
• Philadelphia and Pittsburgh played the 16-14 game we probably should have expected, and no one involved had a significant day, fantasy wise. Michael Vick tossed a pair of TD passes, but he only threw for 175 yards and he lost a pair of fumbles. The Eagles worked to get Jeremy Maclin more involved in the offense, and he nearly found the end zone, stepping out of bounds just shy of the goal line. But in the end, Maclin finished with just five catches for 39 yards.
Rashard Mendenhall looked excellent in his post-ACL surgery debut, rushing for 81 yards on 14 carries and catching two passes for 20. He crossed the goal line from 13 yards out for the game's first score, juking Mychal Kendricks on his way to the end zone. Here's the play. That was nasty. (It was also a bummer for Big Ben owners, who thought they had a cheap TD pass. Alas, it was ruled a lateral). Mendenhall is clearly back on the fantasy map, and he'll face Tennessee next week.
• The Tuckers beat the Succops on Sunday, 9-6. Here's the box score. Jamaal Charles had another million-yard game (OK, 161), Ray Rice hit triple-digits (118), and Matt Cassel was concussed, giving way to Brady Quinn. Eric Winston rightly ripped the fans who cheered the Cassel injury. (Seriously, that's pretty low. Unnecessary. Ugly). Quinn seems likely to get the start at Tampa in Week 6.
• The Niners thoroughly mauled the Bills in Week 5, with Alex Smith having an impressive day, throwing for 303 yards and three scores on just 24 pass attempts (12.6 Y/A). Frank Gore was great (106 yards, TD), and Kendall Hunter piled up 81 yards on just 11 carries. Buffalo's defense stopped nothing, allowing 40-plus points for the third time this season. Here's the Bills' upcoming schedule, for those looking for easy points: at ARI, vs. TEN, bye, at HOU, at NE, vs. MIA, at IND.
We should mention that Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller again split the carries for Buffalo, though neither made a dent in San Francisco's defense. They combined for 53 yards on 16 carries, helping nobody.
• Seattle's defense held Cam Newton and the Panthers to less than 200 yards of total offense on Sunday, which ain't easy. Cam was horrendous, completing just 12 of his 29 throws, and he was also harassed (four sacks, fumble). It was really a rough day for recent Heisman winners. Seahawks safety Earl Thomas offered a stinging quote about Newton following the game...
''We know he's a great dual-threat quarterback, but once we bottle it up and frustrate him, we know he's going to tank a little bit."
Ouch. That's not a note you want on your permanent record, Cam. With Carolina headed into a bye week, there's now a window to acquire Newton at low cost. That's a gamble I'd still take, despite Sunday's lousy stat line. Cam still has a goal line role, and the Panthers have a few attractive match-ups on the schedule, including a Week 16 date with Oakland.
Seattle's offense delivered less than 20 points for the third time this season, yet the team still sits at 3-2. Good for them. I'm not going to lose any sleep over not owning enough Seahawks.
• Peyton Manning delivered a tremendous individual performance in a losing effort at New England, completing 31 of 44 throws for 345 yards and three scores. He had a fourth quarter comeback in the works, too, but Willis McGahee fumbled it away. (Willis also had a killer drop on fourth-and-1, on what should have been an easy first down). Manning connected with Demaryius Thomas on several deep balls, leading to a nine-catch, 188-yard day for the third-year wideout.
But, in the end, the Pats still won. That's what they do. Tom Brady was relatively quiet by his standards, though he threw for one score and took a one-yard plunge for another. Stevan Ridley had a big day statistically (151 rush, TD), and he looked great doing it, but he lost a late fumble that kept the Broncos alive. That's two fumbles in as many weeks for Ridley, a player who lost playing time due to ball security issues in his rookie year. A road date with Seattle looms. Brandon Bolden had another nice day for the Pats (14 carries, 54 yards), highlighted by several tough, smart runs. Keep Bolden on your radar. New England ran the ball 54 times in Week 5, following up a 40-rush performance against Buffalo last Sunday.
EARLY ADDS FOR WEEK 6
QB Kevin Kolb, Cardinals (vs. BUF)
QB Christian Ponder, Vikings (at WAS)
QB Brandon Weeden, Browns (vs. CIN)
QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers (vs. KC)
RB Kendall Hunter, Niners (vs. NYG)
RB Bilal Powell, Jets (vs. IND)
RB Daniel Thomas, Dolphins (vs. STL)*
RB David Wilson, Giants (at SF)
RB Alex Green, Packers (at HOU)
RB James Starks, Packers (at HOU)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (at ATL)
WR Robert Meachem, Chargers (vs. DEN)
WR Mike Williams, Buccaneers (vs. KC)
WR Kendall Wright, Titans (vs. PIT)
WR Brandon Gibson, Rams (at MIA)
WR Josh Gordon, Browns (vs. CIN)
*Thomas suffered a fourth quarter head injury on Sunday, which obviously isn't good. He's already been concussed once this season. Let's hope the kid is OK. If he can't go in Week 6, then rookie Lamar Miller gets a slight bump.
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