Five weeks into the 2016-2017 NFL season, and we have just one remaining undefeated team. The craziest thing about it is that it’s a team who lost their starting quarterback during the preseason, traded their 1st Round pick in next year’s draft for a new starter, and then lost their best player, a future Hall of Famer, in Week 2. Despite all of that going against them, the Minnesota Vikings head into their Week 6 bye at 5-0, and the clear favorite to win the NFC at this point in the season. This just goes to show that the NFL is near impossible to predict.
Didn’t have much time to devote this week, so it’s a shorter post than normal. I’ll give you my new Top-10 teams and a start/sit for fantasy. Can you believe it’s mid-October already? Pretty nuts.
1 – Minnesota Vikings
I wanted to declare this team #1 last week, but I was still a little hesitant. Then they went out and straight dominated a good Texans team. That, combined with a Broncos home loss to Atlanta, has the Minnesota Vikings in the top spot. It’s pretty remarkable too how they’ve gotten to this point. The only remaining undefeated team, they lost their starting QB during the preseason, and then their future Hall of Fame running back gets hurt in Week 2. Yet here they are, 5-0 and showing no signs of slowing down. Except for that tricky bye week, which always seems to catch teams at the worst time.
2 – New England Patriots
Everybody in the Northeast can breathe a sigh of relief, Tom Terrific is back! And he hasn’t skipped a single beat. Brady showed no signs of rust last week, picking apart the Browns defense to the tune of 406 yards and three touchdowns. They play host to a struggling Cincinnati team on Sunday before a huge road game in Week 7 down in Pittsburgh. The winner of that game will become the favorite to win the AFC.
3 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Speaking of that Pittsburgh team, how happy do you think Ben Roethlisberger, Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin are to have Le’Veon Bell back in the fold? His versatility takes the Steelers’ offense to the next level, and they’ve showed that off with back-to-back dominating performances against two very good defenses (Chiefs, Jets). Now, Ben tends to play much better at Heinz Field, but luckily for him, the Dolphins are in a tailspin right now, and their weakness is their secondary. They just have to avoid looking ahead to New England next week.
4 – Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks move up a little bit in my rankings this week without even playing, but they deserve it. Their performances in the last two games are exactly what we expected from them this season. The defense looks just as great as the one that led them to consecutive Super Bowls just a couple years back. They have a big game this week as they welcome the blazing hot Atlanta Falcons into town. The 12th Man will really have to be rocking for this one.
5 – Atlanta Falcons
If you didn’t think this team was for real before last week, you definitely do now. They went into Denver and defeated the defending Super Bowl champs 23-16. They did only win by a touchdown, but the score was not indicative of how the game went. The Falcons dominated this game. It seemed like they could do just about whatever they wanted to do on offense against what most believe to be the best defense in the NFL. We thought a Carolina-Denver-Seattle stretch would spell doom for the Falcons, but they have taken the first two of those games, and look like a pretty sure bet to win the NFC South.
6 – Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers was not his best on Sunday night, completing just 23 of 45 passes, but the defense was stellar as the Packers pulled out a 23-16 win over the visiting New York Giants. If the Green Bay defense can continue to play well and lift up the team when the offense struggles, the Packers will be a force in the NFC. They sit at 3-1, and the 4-1 Dallas Cowboys will come into Lambeau on Sunday for America’s Game of the Week. Should be a fun battle between the veteran Rodgers and the rookie Dak Prescott.
7 – Oakland Raiders
They don’t win pretty, and they don’t do anything easy, but they win games, and in the NFL, that is all that matters. The scary thing is that they have yet to play a game up to the level that everyone knows they can play at, and they are still 4-1 with three of those wins coming on the road. Their lone loss on the season was a 35-28 loss to the Falcons, who are actually better than most expected them to be. A legitimate argument can be made for Derek Carr as the MVP of the league so far, as he has been the difference in these close victories. A big division battle with the Chiefs is on their plate this week. A 5-1 start would really put Raider Nation into a frenzy.
8 – Dallas Cowboys
How ‘bout them Cowboys? When Tony Romo went down again in the preseason, if you said Dak Prescott would have them 4-1 going into the Green Bay game, you would have been called crazy, and you would have been wrong, because everyone knows the biggest reason for the 4-1 start is Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line. Prescott has done a great job controlling the game and protecting the football, but Elliott has been as explosive as advertised, leading the league in rushing through five weeks. The debate rages on as to whether or not they should put Romo back in when he’s healthy. I believe that they should, but they should have him on a short leash. If the rest of the team continues to play well, it probably won’t matter who’s under center.
9 – Philadelphia Eagles
I figured the early bye week would be a bad thing for the previously unbeaten Eagles. I also expected them to come out sluggish in Detroit because of the bye week. I still expected them to take care of business and defeat a Lions’ team that simply isn’t very good. Despite giving up touchdowns on each of the Lions’ first three drives, the Eagles had a 23-21 lead late in the game. Then it crumbled. Ryan Mathews fumbled on a 3rd down as they were just looking to run clock. The Lions went ahead with a field goal, then Carson Wentz threw his first career interception, and Philadelphia fell to 3-1 on the year. I think they can still compete for the division crown, but they’ll need to play much better than they did last week. The real season starts this week with a trip to Washington, which is followed by a matchup with the Vikings. This week might be must-win.
10 – Denver Broncos
My, how the mighty have fallen, and how quickly it has happened. The Falcons are obviously a good team, but the Broncos turned in a very poor performance against them at home, highlighted (actually, lowlighted) by backup quarterback Paxton Lynch. Lynch played great in relief of starter Trevor Siemian in the game the previous week in Tampa Bay, but he looked mediocre at best against the Falcons. I said going into the draft that Lynch was the most overrated quarterback prospect, and his performance against Atlanta showed why I felt that way. I figured with a short week, the Broncos wouldn’t be able to think about the loss too much and would come back with a vengeance against San Diego last night. Quite the opposite, actually. Denver turned in a pitiful performance against a 1-4 Chargers team, and only had a chance to tie the game at the end because it’s the Chargers, and they’ll always try to lose.
Next Five Up: Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams
Just don’t think about this one too much. I know he’s coming back from a concussion, and he has not been the same this year as he was last year. But Ron Rivera announced today that he plans to start Newton this week barring a setback. Well, barring a setback, you start Newton against the Saints. I don’t care who else you have.
Another player coming off of a concussion, but he too is expected to play this week, and he has a good matchup against the struggling Jets’ secondary. It’s been tough being a Palmer owner this year, but I think things will start to turn around this week. I’d like them to announce that he’s definitely playing before Sunday, but if you don’t have another Top-10 quarterback, it’s worth the risk to wait til Monday and go with Palmer.
Matthew Stafford surprisingly put up good numbers against the Eagles last week, but just about all of his success came early, and then he was shut down. It’s Kirk Cousins’s turn to face the Eagles, and I don’t see him putting up the numbers necessary to start him in a 10 or 12 team league this week. Especially if Jordan Reed doesn’t pass the concussion protocol.
The Giants’ offense has yet to find any consistency this season, and that is mostly due to Eli Manning’s struggles. He has just five touchdown passes this season, and three of those were in the first game against Dallas. Also, the Ravens’ defense has been surprisingly good against the pass, ranking 5th in the league in passing yards allowed per game.
I know that you are probably starting Miller if you have him, mostly because he was likely your 1st Round pick. But I’m sure some of you have been frustrated by him to the point where you’re considering benching him. Give him this week yet to turn it around. The Colts are terrible against opposing running backs, and in the Sunday night spotlight, I expect Miller to go off.
Thank you Jordan Howard for making me look smart last week! He had a big game against Indianapolis (118 yards rushing, 45 yards receiving, touchdown catch), and I expect more of that this week against the Jaguars. Jacksonville is much better against the run than Indy, but the Bears will need to lean on Howard in order to get the win. John Fox knows that feeding Howard gives him the best chance to come out on top.
Looks like it could be another frustrating year for Lacy owners. He has yet to score a touchdown this season, and he’s nursing a knee injury. He practiced in full on Thursday, so he’s likely to play Sunday against Dallas, but I’d have a hard time being confident starting him. I need him to have a breakout performance before I feel good about starting him. You should too.
Isaiah Crowell/Duke Johnson
The Titans’ defense is solid against the run, as they give up just under 100 rushing yards per game, and opponents have only scored two rushing touchdowns against them this season. Crowell is among the leading rushers in the league, and Duke Johnson has been targeted 28 times in the passing game this year, but I wouldn’t start either of them this week.
Robinson has been solid this year, but he has yet to live up to the preseason hype. He was drafted as a WR1, but he’s performed like a WR2. I think that is all a fluke, and he’s still going to have a big year. It begins this week against an injury-riddled Chicago secondary. One of the biggest stats for a wide receiver is targets. As long as a receiver is being targeted, he has a chance to put up big numbers. Robinson is being targeted just over 10 times per game. That’s a good number, and it’s hopefully a sign of things to come.
Ah, the best cure for a receiver’s struggles, a matchup with the Saints’ defense. The physically imposing Benjamin should have a field day against this secondary, and he’ll have Cam Newton back throwing to him. Start Benjamin and don’t think twice about it (Sidenote: I still like Benjamin this week even if Newton doesn’t play).
I don’t really have numbers to back this one up, so call it a hunch. The Falcons’ defense has played much better recently, and even when they struggled, Desmond Trufant has been really good this year. Baldwin’s two big games this year came against awful defenses (Miami, San Francisco), and he was a non-factor in Seattle’s other two games. Combined with the re-emergence of Jimmy Graham, I think Baldwin is on track to have a rough game this week.
It hasn’t been a great start to the year for Jeffery. He has yet to record more than five catches in a single game, and before his 77 yards last week, his yardage numbers had decreased in each game this season. Bryan Hoyer has found reliable targets in tight end Zach Miller and Eddie Royal, and Cameron Meredith has emerged as another option for him on the outside. With Jalen Ramsey likely covering him, I don’t think Jeffery will have a great game this week.
I came into this season looking at Jimmy Graham as undraftable at the tight end position. All signs pointed towards that. But now healthy, Russell Wilson is taking advantage of the mismatches that Graham creates with his size and athleticism. He has over 100 yards receiving in two straight games, and I think he makes it three straight this week against Atlanta.
Who saw three Bennett touchdowns coming last week? Not me. It would appear as though Bennett is on his way to a career resurgence, and it now has him playing the role that Aaron Hernandez played in this Patriots’ offense before all of his criminal activities were revealed. The Bengals are struggling right now, so I can see Bennett having another big game.
Jordan Reed/Other Redskins’ TEs
As someone who owns Jordan Reed in three leagues, I was devastated to hear that he is in the concussion protocol. Concussions have had a huge impact on his career already, so another one can’t be good. If Reed is somehow able to play, you’re going to start him (so will I), but I wouldn’t expect a huge game from him. If he doesn’t play, look to another team before you pick up Vernon Davis or Niles Paul as a replacement. The Eagles have been really good against opposing tight ends this season.
Tamme in Weeks 1-2: 11 receptions, 126 yards
Tamme in Weeks 3-5: 6 receptions, 32 yards
I miss the first two weeks. Unfortunately, I think the last three weeks are more what we should expect from Tamme. You can’t start him this week against the Seahawks given the trends.