By Joe Kilroy
Well folks, Week 5 of the NFL season is behind us and with it comes a bit of change to the weekly “Green Light / Red Light” feature here at DFW. To begin with the article will now be known as the “Fantasy Traffic Report” (or FTR for short).
Rather than focus solely on advice about whom you should start and sit for the upcoming week we will now address a larger variety of topics.
The article will speak for itself, but in short I may now touch on things I noticed from the previous week, comment on players values in general (both long and short term; dynasty vs. redraft potential), and instead of slapping a green, yellow, or red light label on numerous players at each position I will instead pinpoint just a few players I feel are truly noteworthy of those labels regardless of the position they happen to play.
In other words I won’t always address a player from each of the four positions. I’ll be focusing more so only on players I feel may not be such obvious starts and sits with reasoning given as to why I feel that way. I’ll also be able to provide commentary now on the “wild cards” that catch my attention and are worth being yellow lighted.
So, now that we have everyone brought up to date on the changes with this feature it’s time go forth with DFW’s first edition of the Fantasy Traffic Report.
The Green Bay Packers Backfield
One of the first things to note about this past week’s games is the injury to Cedric Benson. Benson got off to a surprisingly strong start amongst fantasy leaguers (especially those in PPR formats) after signing late in the offseason with the Green Bay Packers.
Most owners felt that a 29-year old power back signed to a new team with little time to learn an offensive system he had never played in before wouldn’t amount to much. The former first round pick struggled in his season opener against the 49ers (like most running backs do), but he compiled 286 yards on 55 touches (12 of which were receptions) with a touchdown in the three full games he had played prior to suffering a Lisfranc injury (foot) this past Sunday.
With Benson expected to miss no less than 8 weeks due to the injury his touches will now be given to someone else.
Against the Colts it was second year back Alex Green who stepped in for Benson following his departure. Green’s final stat line looked impressive (9 carries for 55 yards; 1 reception for 8 yards), but it’s worth noting the majority of his yardage came on a 41 yard carry. Nonetheless he stands to be the biggest beneficiary during Benson’s absence and should quickly be added in all fantasy leagues.
James Starks may get some work as well, but after being declared inactive in every game this season it stands to reason he’ll only receive a considerable amount of touches if Green fails to seize the opportunity that lies before him.
Andrew “It’s Not Luck” Luck
Even with the high expectations placed upon Luck as the number one overall pick in this year’s draft no one predicted the 23-year old out of Stanford would perform this well right out of the gate.
Luck was no doubt a commodity to be had in dynasty leagues, but in redrafts he was considered no better than a quarterback worthy of back-up consideration. As it turns out, however, Luck has performed about as well as any fantasy QB one could own.
In his first three games he has surpassed the 300 yard mark three times. He’s also thrown for 2 touchdowns in each of his past three contests. Luck has also attempted no less than 45 passes in three of his games as well. Furthermore he has already led the Colts to two victories – matching their entire win output from all of 2012.
He capped it all off this past week with a 30-27 victory against the Green Bay Packers in which he threw for 362 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also scored another one via the ground.
Needless to say Luck very much looks like the “real deal.” If he keeps this up Colts fans won’t have nearly as difficult a time moving on from Peyton Manning like anyone would have rightfully expected.
If you drafted Luck in redraft leagues as a #2QB after already owning one of the elite options at the position now is the time to trade him – or your other QB – for a worthwhile player you can start on a weekly basis at RB, WR, or TE.
In dynasty leagues the same can be said as long as the other QB you own is starter worthy and young enough to handle that role for no less than the next 2-3 years. Of course, as always, don’t trade him just because you can afford to. Make sure you get the proper value in return for a rookie quarterback that is well on his way to being amongst the elite options at the position for years to come.
Kevin Kolb vs. BUF: Following the Cardinals debacle against the St. Louis Rams last Thursday night most owners will likely be hesitant to rely on Kevin Kolb this week despite the fact he performed quite well in Weeks 3 and 4.
Furthermore, even though he was sacked 9 times in St. Louis he still threw for 289 yards and only turned the ball over once (on a fumble).
Against the Bills Kolb faces a defense that has failed to meet expectations following the return of Kyle Williams at defensive tackle along with the additions of Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, and Stephon Gilmore during the offseason.
Buffalo ranks 30th in the league against the run, but considering the Cardinals lack a proven rushing attack and the fact the Bills also rank 24th in the league against the pass (they allow just over 290 passing yards per game and have yielded 12 TD passes on the season) Kolb should bounce back this week with another starter worthy performance.
Mikel Leshoure @ PHI: The Eagles defense ranks pretty well against the run (12th in the league), but running backs have performed admirably against them from a fantasy perspective in terms of overall yardage produced from carries and receptions.
Philadelphia contained Trent Richardson in the opener, but since then Ray Rice, Ryan Williams, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Rashard Mendenhall have all had double-digit outings against the birds in leagues that use a PPR scoring format.
Last week Mendenhall and Isaac Redman combined for 122 yards and 1 touchdown against the Eagles on 27 carries. Mendenhall tacked on another 20 yards with his 2 receptions.
Given the production these backs have had along with the fact Leshoure is coming off his BYE week (which gave him valuable time to rest the sore groin he played through in Week 4) the Lions second year vet should be in line for production worthy of a #2RB this Sunday.
Brandon Weeden vs. CIN: I can’t honestly say I would want to truly rely on Brandon Weeden as my starting quarterback at any point this season, but then again that’s why this “yellow light” category exists.
The 29-year old rookie has already performed better than most expected upon joining a young and unproven offense when drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of this year’s draft.
In five games he has already produced two 300 yard outings and came close last week with a 291 yard effort against the New York Giants.
Perhaps more telling is the fact Weeden had his best outing of the season against the very opponent he faces this Sunday. In Week 2 the Oklahoma State product threw for 322 yards and 2 touchdowns with zero interceptions on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals.
There is no guarantee he’ll match that production again, but in leagues that start two quarterbacks, or if you just don’t have a better option at the position this week, Weeden is worth taking a gamble on.
Shonn Greene vs. IND: Shonn Greene has not lived up to the lofty expectations I placed upon him at the start of the season, but I haven’t given up all hope on him quite yet (although I must concede that I probably should).
While Greene has underperformed, there are other contributing factors outside of himself which haven’t fallen in his favor. Chief among them has been a very difficult run schedule and injuries to key offensive players as well as Darelle Revis on the defensive side of the ball. With that said Greene will have no built-in excuses this week should he fail to average more than 4.0 yards per carry and show some signs of life.
The Indianapolis Colts rank 25th in the league against the run. They’ve allowed an average of 4.7 yards per carry to the opposing offense and yield nearly 135 yards per game on the ground. The Colts have also surrendered 5 rushing touchdowns in four games played.
Given his complete lack of production since his Week 1 outing against the Bills fantasy owners have little to no reason to put any trust in Greene right now. Nonetheless if you’re in a jam at running back due to injuries, have a starter on a BYE, or simply didn’t draft well at the position Greene is worth considering as a #2RB this week.
Joe Flacco vs. DAL: Flacco got off to great start this year with big outings against the Bengals, Patriots, and Browns which has some fantasy leaguers predicting this will be the year he finally surpasses his mundane averages of roughly 3600 yards passing and 22 touchdowns.
While that may be true the fifth-year product out of Delaware has had a few duds already this season against the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs. This Sunday he goes against the number one ranked pass defense in the league. And with the Dallas Cowboys coming off their BYE week their defense should be well rested and ready to play at peak performance.
Given the circumstances its doubtful Flacco will throw for any better than 180-220 yards this Sunday. There’s a good chance he’ll be limited to only one touchdown pass as well.
Ahmad Bradshaw @ SF: Considering the opponent a suggestion to bench Bradshaw this week against the 49ers shouldn’t be all that surprising to most of you. Nonetheless, with the sixth-year back out of Marshall coming off the best game of his career there will be plenty of owners amped up to plug him into their starting line-ups this Sunday.
If you decide to do so I suggest reining in your expectations considerably. The San Francisco defense has allowed just one rushing touchdown through five games this season. They are also limiting opposing rushers to just 3.5 yards per carry while allowing only 81.4 rushing yards per game.
With that in mind all signs point to Bradshaw being better left on your bench for this contest.