Opening a Week 5 column with a look ahead to Week 6 is not normally advisable, but an exception has to be made for possibly the most lopsided matchup in recent NFL history.
Denver's unbelievable offense is hosting the unbelievably offensive Jacksonville Jaguars next week, and initial estimates set the spread at 27 to 28 points in favor of the QB Peyton Manning-led Broncos. Without going too far into point spreads, the two things that matter about this to you are the surreal points possibilities for any Denver players (including Manning, TE Julius Thomas, WR Demaryius Thomas, RB Knowshon Moreno, WR Eric Decker, along with their DEF), and the terrifying concept that the league could just call off the remainder of the Jags season after this whipping takes place.
(Ok, that's not likely, but hold off on trying to acquire RB Maurice Jones-Drew for a couple of weeks, to be safe)
This prompted an intrepid Yahoo! columnist to wonder...could Alabama's powerhouse college program give Jacksonville a run for their money? The folks who set those lines say...no.
They project that, in such a bizarre world that the matchup could actually happen, the Jags would be 17.5 point favorites against the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide. Physical differences and the style of NFL play make this a mismatch, but also raise an even more fascinating number for Nick Saban haters. Those estimates would make the Broncos a 40-plus point favorite against the two-time national champions.
Holy h-e-double hockey sticks. Anyways, on to Fantasy Projections for Week Five:
Grab 'Em and Start 'Em
RB's Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles (NO) - This duo is possibly unavailable in your league as a free agent, but trades on the cheap for scoring backs in RB-by-Committee situations are ideal in the first half of the season, and that time is definitely now. Sproles and Thomas aren't doing much with handoffs, totaling less than 200 yards combined on 51 carries over four games, but 42 catches for nearly 400 yards make up much of that ground. Thomas alone has 105 yards after catch...on just 111 total receiving yards. QB Drew Brees and Coach Sean Payton are finding their stride after their league-mandated year apart, and these backs stand to benefit the most. Expect a points 'splosion against the 19th-ranked Bears pass defense this week.
WR Jerricho Cotchery (PIT) - The Steelers have been stinking up stadiums across two continents so far this season, but the problems don't lie in the passing game. Big QB Ben Roethlisberger has averaged over 300 yards per game (mostly playing catch-up late, but still), and Cotchery has been making the most of his touches. Out of 26 targets, he's caught 15, and taken a half-dozen of them over 20 yards downfield. WR Antonio Brown has only one more in that category, despite having more than double the catches. With Brown likely not out there to pick up, Cotchery is a great Bye Week add, and possibly a WR3 further into the season. Pittsburgh will have to throw the ball to compete behind their suspect line, so the WR corps will get their chances against the Jets next week. They're on Bye this week, so this is more of a Grab 'Em and Hold 'Em. I suggest this guy now, because people in Byes next week (ATL and Miami player owners) won't give you a chance come Tuesday morning.
RB Bilal Powell (NYJ) - Despite not matching his surprising Week 3 output last week against the Titans, Powell was a bright spot, with a second straight game of 100-plus yards from scrimmage, on only 17 touches. QB Geno Smith will rely on Powell more over the next two weeks, starting with Monday Night's matchup with Atlanta. Don't expect RB1 numbers, but 80 yards on the ground and three or four catches for another 40 through the air is a good possibility. Ignore the Falcons' DEF at your own peril, but Smith will have few options past Powell.
Others to watch:
WR Robert Woods (BUF) is becoming a bigger part of the passing game in Buffalo, and Cleveland's marginal secondary will do nothing to stop the former USC standout this week. If the STL Rams DEF is still available, pick up the improving unit, who will see a boost of confidence facing the remains of QB Blaine Gabbert and his Jaguars. WR Michael Floyd (ARI) is a solid WR2 at this point, nearly matching WR Larry Fitzgerald's numbers out in the desert, and leading the team with a 15.0 yards-per-catch number. Even more encouraging for Floyd, the number of targets has gone up each week. Buy low here. RB LeGarrette Blount (NE) seems to have made a claim to the starting RB position in Foxboro, and Coach Bill Belichick likes his 4.6 yards/carry number as much as his zero fumbles.
Dump 'Em (or Bench 'Em for at least this week)
It's harder as the season goes on to suggest dumping a player, unless he is an absolute dumpster fire on the field. Free agency is getting thin at this point, as even the pool secretaries have heard about TE Julius Thomas and RB Reggie Bush's fast start in Detroit. Now this section will be more of a "Keep them in case of major injury or bye week needs, but don't start them if at all possible" zone. A bit wordy for a header, though.
QB's Mike Glennon and Josh Freeman (TB) - their terrible play is bad enough that the Bye Week this week will be an improvement at the position in the eyes of Bucs fans.
RB's for the New York Giants - The team as a whole has rushed for one more yard than WR Hakeem Nicks has caught for, and he's not the team leader there. Until either David Wilson or Da'Rel Scott show some spark, expect the ball to stay in the air at the Meadowlands.
RB Johnathan Franklin (GB) - the Packers' breakout RB before the Bye will not see nearly as much action this week, with RB Eddie Lacy back from injury. RB James Starks is out with a knee injury, but the backup situation in Green Bay won't deliver major Fantasy points any time soon.
Matchups to Watch:
St. Louis' offense against Jacksonville's DEF. Either this game is an ugly slop-fest, or the Rams crush the Jaguars. I cannot emphasize enough how brutal Jacksonville is to watch at this point. WR Tavon Austin was a first-round pick (one that the Rams gave up picks that equate to E.J. Manuel and stud LB Kiko Alonso to get) who leads the team in catches, but is fourth in yardage. His 6.2 yards per carry is a league-low for his number of catches. With that said, the speedy slot receiver should fix many of those numbers against this Jags Front 7. If he doesn't, and the Jaguars get early stops, this game will turn into the aforementioned slop-fest fast enough that the Red Zone Channel will not look back in on the game again. Field Goal Festival.
On the other end of the scoring spectrum , The Dallas Cowboys' DEF is hosting the Orange Crush offense of Denver. An underrated part of the Broncos' success so far is their 3rd-ranked run defense, which prevents opponents from running the clock and, in turn, wearing out opposing defenses. A tired defense that gets little rest between series turns a team that trains in high-altitude into a bunch of track stars. If RB DeMarco Murray can manage anything resembling his first four games against Denver, that Cowboys' D might stand a chance at keeping Peyton Manning under 400 yards passing and 4 touchdowns. Might. This game's outcome won't necessarily hinge on the Cowboys' D, but it's over early and by a wide margin if they don't. Sign every Bronco starter you can find, as the matchups get easier for them over the next six weeks after Sunday's afternoon game.
Blown Pick of the Week Gone By:
Each week, I'll quote myself from the week before, and where I totally blew it (supposing, of course, that I never turn in a perfect week. If I ever do, I promise to only gloat a little). From Week Four's Closing Thoughts:
"TEN QB Jake Locker is on the rise. His athleticism and arm strength have always been there, but film suggests his brain is catching up to his A-Plus physicality. Expect more good news from the Titans."
From the team's injury report: "Locker will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a sprained hip". Fun. The good news is they face a struggling...oh, nevermind. They're playing the Chiefs, with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter.
The City of Cleveland has suffered through bad times and nicknames like "The Mistake By the Lake", but had a nice run...since the Browns traded RB Trent Richardson. Since the day after the trade, pro teams in Cleveland went 12-0, including two Browns wins, until Wednesday night's loss by the Indians. To end their season. The Browns get a chance to start a new streak Thursday night against Buffalo.
Niners' star CB Donte Whitner had been fined a couple of times over the last year or so for violent hits against wide receivers he's faced, and has decided to respond by changing his name...to Donte Hitner. Cute, right? Problem for him: The league will not change his jersey unless he buys every existing jersey with the previous spelling on it. While not as prevalent as, say, Frank Gore jerseys, I personally have seen a few Whitner jerseys, since he was a big free-agent signing from Buffalo in 2011. He may write a big check to the league...for NOT hitting someone.
Good luck, and good scoring.
By Bill Hudson @nosduhllib