Most of the time, fantasy football is an exercise in pain and suffering. Even the best among us aren’t batting 1.000. Inevitably, whether it’s this week or the next, one of my five season-long teams will get its teeth kicked in. There was a time when being a fantasy football analyst (or whatever it says on my LinkedIn page) served as some sort of advantage over my friends. But that was back when the general public treated fantasy as a fun way to pass the time on Sundays. Now it’s war.
The point may have gotten lost in my elaborate build-up, but if you’re going to take away one major bullet point from all this self-indulgent silliness, here it is—thank you, Matt. Seriously dog, I owe you one. This man is my silent protector, an angel sent down from Fantasy Football Heaven. He is also a complete and utter fool. Let me explain.
So, I co-run a team with one of my buddies from college and this week we were going against the aforementioned Matt, whose last name I’ve omitted to protect his identity. Anyway, when Sunday wrapped up, the good guys (that’s John and me) were ahead 143.6-143.1. I texted John, “Phew, we squeaked out a close one.” He texted back, “No, we didn’t.”
See with Chicago on its bye week, Matt didn’t bother to start a defense. But all he had to do was scoop up either Washington or New Orleans off the free-agent wire and coast to an easy win (assuming neither scored negative fantasy points). If John and I had roster spots to spare we could have boxed him out by picking up both defenses, but with lineups already locked, our fate was sealed. Defeat was imminent.
But as Lee Corso would say (with or without the assistance of a mascot head), NOT SO FAST. Occasionally, you’ll catch a fantasy owner snoozing, so I was still holding out a sliver of hope that maybe, just maybe Matt would get caught up in something else and forget to check his lineup. But because fantasy football is nothing without its requisite dose of weekly back-stabbing, a fellow league member alerted Matt of his mistake. Except it wasn’t a mistake. Matt said he had made a conscious choice to punt his defense rather than dropping the Bears and losing them to the waiver wire.
To quote the incomparable Lil Jon, “WHAT?!!!” I understand that the Bears, led by quarterback-devouring swamp monster Khalil Mack, have been the highest-scoring defense in fantasy this year. But imagine having a victory in your grasp and saying, “Nah, I’m good.” IT’S JUST A DEFENSE, YOU PSYCHO.
It’s worth noting that Matt was 4-0 going into this matchup and obviously didn’t care about the result, but how can someone just accept defeat? Also, if Matt was so bullish on Chicago, why didn’t he just bench them and pick up another defense during the week? I try to be as forward-thinking as possible when it comes to fantasy but I find it hard to see the logic in this. Forfeiting the week just to keep the Bears from falling into the wrong hands is bold with a capital B.
So maybe the fantasy gods aren’t as cruel as we all thought. Wherever you are Matt, you beautiful, tropical fish, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Despite your inexplicable kindness, know that I would NEVER do the same for you because fantasy is war and I play for keeps. On that note (heartwarming as always, Jesse) let’s kick off the Power Rankings with the Rams, who hold the top spot for the fourth straight week.
1. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week: 1
Sean McVay’s brilliance was on full display Sunday against Seattle. The Doogie Howser of the NFL showed what good coaching looks like by calling a QB sneak on fourth-and-one from the Rams’ 44, sealing the win with 1:39 remaining. Todd Gurley continued his scoring binge, obliterating the Seahawks with three touchdowns in the victory. He’s having another video-game season with 645 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns through five contests. With Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp in the concussion protocol, Robert Woods will have to step up against the Broncos in Week 6.
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2. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 2
Patrick Mahomes threw his first interceptions of the year in Week 5 but it wasn’t all bad for The Patural (as Rich Eisen calls him). The 23-year-old extended his streak of 300-yard passing games to four while improving to 6-0 as an NFL starter. Kareem Hunt dropped some knowledge on Sunday, going for 87 rushing yards and a touchdown—his fifth in four games—versus Jacksonville. Next the Chiefs will head to Foxboro for a Sunday night tilt with the Patriots. Hunt fared pretty well in his last primetime game against New England, tallying 246 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s season opener.
3. New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 4
Drew Brees added another league record to his resume on Monday night by taking over first place on the NFL’s all-time passing yards list. Mark Ingram buried the Redskins in his return from a four-game suspension (73 yards and two touchdowns) while reducing Alvin Kamara to milk carton status. Michael Thomas became the latest receiver to beef with Josh Norman, calling him out on Twitter after Monday night’s win. Rookie Tre’Quan Smith shined in Week 5, contributing 111 yards and two touchdowns in place of injured deep threat Ted Ginn (knee).
4. New England Patriots
Last Week: 5
Tom Brady made history by becoming the third member of the 500-touchdown club in Week 5, reaching the milestone on a 34-yard strike to Josh Gordon. That was Gordon’s first touchdown since joining New England last month. Nobody on the Patriots has been as consistent as James White, who has scored in all but one game this year while ranking second among running backs with 32 catches. With his 75-yard performance in Week 5, Rob Gronkowski now ranks second on the Patriots’ all-time receiving yards list.
5. Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 8
The Panthers nearly blew it against the Giants on Sunday but were bailed out by the right leg of Graham Gano, who knocked home this insane 63-yard field goal—the longest in franchise history—as time expired (losing on heartbreaking field goals has become a frequent occurrence for the G-Men). Christian McCaffrey found the end zone against New York, scoring for the first time since Week 15 of last season. Curtis Samuel’s 25-yarder on Sunday marked his first career touchdown. That was his season debut after missing the first three games with an irregular heartbeat.
6. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 9
The 4-1 Bengals are off to their best start since 2015, which was also the last time Cincinnati qualified for the postseason. Reports suggested Joe Mixon would be limited in his return from arthroscopic knee surgery. So of course, he played a career-high 47 snaps in Sunday’s win. A.J. Green got the better of Dolphins corner Xavien Howard in Week 5, compiling 112 yards on six catches in the victory. That was the 32nd 100-yard receiving game of Green’s career, which broke a team record previously held by Chad Johnson.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 3
The Jaguars grinded their way to the AFC title game on the strength of a power running game last season, but this year they may have to get creative with Leonard Fournette (hamstring) and Corey Grant (foot) both down for the count. Jamaal Charles, who has now entered the “I’ll play for anyone as long as it pays” stage of his career, was signed as veteran depth behind interim starter T.J. Yeldon. Blake Bortles set a career-high in passing yards for the second straight week, but also threw four interceptions in an abysmal performance against Kansas City. Only Derek Carr (eight) has been picked off more times than Bortles (seven) this year.
8. Chicago Bears
Last Week: 10
Back from their bye week, the Bears now begin a stretch of four straight games against the AFC East. That will be a good litmus test for Mitchell Trubisky, who is coming off a miraculous six-touchdown performance in Week 4. Chicago’s next stretch will also go a long way toward solving the Bears’ backfield puzzle. Jordan Howard has out-touched Tarik Cohen 74-41 for the season, though Cohen showed him up with a monster effort in Week 4, compiling 174 yards from scrimmage in a win over Tampa Bay.
9. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 12
The Vikings got their you know what handed to them when they squared off against the Eagles in last year’s NFC title bout, but that was with Case Keenum at quarterback. With Kirk Cousins steering the ship, Minnesota took care of business against the Eagles, winning the rematch 23-21 in Week 5. Philadelphia had no answer for Adam Thielen, who became just the third receiver in NFL history to start a season with five straight 100-yard games. Unfortunately, the Vikes’ ground game is still a mess—Minnesota is the only team in football without a rushing touchdown.
10. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 6
We knew coming in that John Brown would be hit or miss, but unfortunately for Baltimore, he’s been a lot more miss than hit lately. The 28-year-old has made good on just seven of his 21 targets over the past two weeks, though the few catches he’s managed during that span have all been for big gains (24.9 yards per reception). At the time, it felt like the Raiders were making a mistake by moving on from Michael Crabtree, but now it looks like they knew what they were doing. The veteran has contributed a league-high eight drops including three in Sunday’s overtime loss to Cleveland.
11. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week: 14
Melvin Ingram had himself a game in Week 5, registering a team-high seven tackles along with a sack and his first career interception in a win over Oakland. He also got a goal-line carry for some reason. It’s time we start looking at the Melvin Gordon/Austin Ekeler pairing in a historical context. They’re on pace for a combined 3,216 yards from scrimmage, which would go down as the most by a running back duo in NFL history, bettering the current mark held by the Bears backfield tandem of Roland Harper and Walter Payton (3,207 combined yards in 1978).
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 7
Philadelphia didn’t measure up Sunday against the Vikings, falling short despite another goliath effort from Zach Ertz, who pulled in 10 catches for 110 yards on 11 targets. That puts Ertz on pace for 1,398 receiving yards, which would eclipse the current tight end record held by Rob Gronkowski (1,327 in 2011). With Jay Ajayi (ACL) done for the year and Darren Sproles still nursing a hamstring injury, might the Eagles consider a reunion with LeSean McCoy? Reports say they’re thinking about it. How do the Eagles right the ship after losing three out of four? Gary Cobb has an interesting solution.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 16
James Conner gave the Falcons all they could handle in Week 5, busting out of a mini-slump with 185 yards (110 rushing, 75 receiving) and two touchdowns. T.J. Watt has made life miserable for opposing quarterbacks this year, registering six sacks in the early going. That ties him with Geno Atkins and his older brother J.J. for the league lead. Remember a few weeks ago when people were losing their mind over Antonio Brown’s slow start? Well he’s fixed that in a hurry, piling on four touchdowns over his last three contests.
14. Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 11
Marquez Valdes-Scantling made DFS players some loot by delivering 68 yards and his first career touchdown in Week 5. Not bad, and all for the bargain price of $4,800 on FanDuel. Aaron Rodgers had a field day against Detroit, ethering the Lions for 423 yards, an impressive feat considering he was playing without two of his top wideouts (Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison). Mason Crosby cost his team Sunday by missing four field goals and an extra point, but after spending the past decade in Green Bay, the Packers aren’t ready to give up on him, at least not yet.
15. Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 13
After scoring upset wins over the Jaguars and Eagles in Weeks 3 and 4, the Titans let their guard down with an ugly loss to Buffalo in Week 5. Marcus Mariota looked mediocrity square in the face with another dismal performance on Sunday, connecting on just 14-of-26 throws for 129 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Malcolm Butler was a game-changer for New England but he hasn’t been the same since moving his operation to Nashville. The first-year Titan has already been burned for four touchdowns this season, second-most in the league behind Marcus Peters.
16. Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 15
The Dolphins dominated early in Week 5 but couldn’t finish the job, coughing up a 17-point second-half lead to Cincinnati. At least Kenyan Drake gave fantasy owners their money’s worth, piling on a season-high 115 yards from scrimmage while out-touching Frank Gore by a razor-thin 13-12 margin. Miami’s ill-fated DeVante Parker experiment seems to be nearing its end. The Dolphins are reportedly shopping the former first-round pick, though it’s doubtful they’ll find any takers. Injuries have limited the underachieving 25-year-old to just one game this season.
17. Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 23
If you decide to watch a Browns game this year, you better get comfortable because it might take a while. So far three of the Browns’ five games have gone into overtime including their Week 5 victory over Baltimore (they finally won on a Sunday!). Baker Mayfield threw for 342 yards in that one, the most by a Browns signal-caller since Week 10 of 2015 when Johnny Manziel racked up 372 yards in a loss to Pittsburgh. Denzel Ward is presenting a strong Rookie of the Year case. He’s tied for the league lead with three interceptions and currently holds PFF’s No. 4 coverage grade among cornerbacks.
18. Washington Redskins
Last Week: 17
It’s been a year of peaks and valleys for Adrian Peterson, who has so far delivered rushing totals of 96, 20, 120 and six. Not usually known for his pass-catching exploits, Peterson is on pace for 544 receiving yards, which would dwarf his current career-high of 436. Tight end has been an injury-ravaged zombie land this year, but somehow Jordan Reed has managed to avoid the carnage. Unfortunately, he’s been invisible, averaging a meager 47 yards with no touchdowns in his last three outings. Alex Smith has thrown for four touchdowns this season, seven fewer than the man he replaced, Kirk Cousins.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 20
Could this be the week we see Ronald Jones in a featured role? It wouldn’t hurt Tampa Bay to give him a spin, especially given the uninspiring play of Peyton Barber this year (3.0 yards per carry, no touchdowns). Jameis Winston has to be licking his chops with Atlanta next up on the Bucs’ schedule. Only two teams have given up more passing touchdowns (12) than the Falcons this year. Cameron Brate’s early contributions have been underwhelming to say the least, but he could be an interesting streamer with O.J. Howard (MCL) hurt.
20. Detroit Lions
Last Week: 24
LeGarrette Blount served as the Lions’ goal-line hammer in Week 5, punching in a pair of short touchdowns against the Packers. Unfortunately, the veteran did nothing else of note, stumbling to just 22 yards on 12 carries (1.83 yards per attempt). Kenny Golladay continued his blistering start with another standout effort on Sunday, registering a booming 4-98-1 line in the win over Green Bay. The sax man has put on a clinic this year, topping 70 receiving yards in every game but one.
21. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 21
Seattle let its running game shoulder the load in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, carrying the ball 32 times while only attempting 21 passes. Chris Carson looked good as new in his return from a one-week absence, dusting Los Angeles for 116 yards on 19 rushing attempts. Mike Davis also chipped in with 75 yards from scrimmage while adding a goal-line touchdown, his third in the last two weeks. Doug Baldwin was forced into decoy duty on Sunday, drawing one target on 53 offensive snaps.
22. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 19
Sunday’s loss in Pittsburgh was the Falcons’ third straight defeat. Atlanta’s defense went to the store for cigarettes and never came back. The injury-plagued Falcons have been a punching bag for opposing offenses, yielding an insanely generous 40.3 points per game over their last three contests. Welcome to Vulture-ville, population Ito Smith. The rookie has scored in back-to-back weeks further muddying the waters in what has become a three-man backfield committee. Jason Croom, Dane Cruikshank, Darren Fells, Demetrius Harris, Zach Line—don’t mind me, I’m just listing players who have more touchdowns than Julio Jones this year.
23. Houston Texans
Last Week: 25
Make that four straight 300-yard passing games for Deshaun Watson, who also leads the league in quarterback rushing yards with 201. Keke Coutee continued his electric start Sunday by scoring for the second time in as many weeks. The rookie has drawn an absurd 22 targets during that span. Fill-in starter Alfred Blue did little to threaten Lamar Miller’s job security in Week 5, stumbling to just 46 yards on 20 carries, though he did impress as a pass-catcher with eight grabs for 73 yards in the win over Dallas. Houston is winless in regulation but has won both of its overtime games this season.
24. Denver Broncos
Last Week: 18
Case Keenum threw for a season-best 377 yards in Week 5, though it took him 51 passes to get there. Demaryius Thomas had a standout game against the Jets, topping 100 yards for the first time since Week 6 of last season. Phillip Lindsay seems to be leading Denver’s backfield committee, at least for the moment. He out-touched fellow rookie Royce Freeman 15-8 on Sunday while outgaining him by over 30 yards from scrimmage. The Broncos will take a three-game losing skid into this week’s matchup against the undefeated Rams.
25. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 22
Jason Garrett, the NFL’s anti-Doug Pederson, played it shamefully safe in Sunday’s loss to Houston, opting to punt on fourth-and-one from the 42-yard-line with 5:40 remaining in overtime. Many chided the Cowboys for not drafting a wide receiver in the first round (Calvin Ridley was still available when Dallas picked at 19), but Leighton Vander Esch has quieted the critics with a phenomenal start. The first-round rookie out of Boise State holds PFF’s No. 4 inside linebacker grade out of 57 qualifiers. Only the 49ers have forced fewer turnovers than Dallas this season.
26. New York Jets
Last Week: 30
You thought Coachella was a wild time? No, wild is owning Isaiah Crowell in fantasy. One week Crowell will lay a goose egg on you (zero yards on four carries against Jacksonville), the next he’ll unleash mayhem like the second coming of Barry Sanders (219 rushing yards in a win over Denver). It’s all part of the Isaiah Crowell experience. Nice of you to join us in 2018, Robby Anderson. After four weeks of taking a backseat to Quincy Enunwa, Mount Anderson finally erupted, turning the Broncos to volcanic ash with 123 yards and two touchdowns in Week 5.
27. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 26
Andrew Luck has been a touchdown-throwing fool this year, dispensing 12 TDs (tied for third-most in the league) over his first five contests. Unfortunately, his arm is about to fall off—he’s on pace to throw 784 passes this year, which would shatter the single-season record currently held by Matthew Stafford (727 in 2012). Eric Ebron notched his first career 100-yard receiving game in Week 5. He leads all tight ends with five touchdown catches. If you’re wondering how NOT to play defense, this clip would serve as a useful primer.
28. New York Giants
Last Week: 27
After showing endless patience with slow-developing first-round pick Ereck Flowers, the Giants finally pulled the plug this week, ending his disastrous four-year tenure in East Rutherford. On Sunday Odell Beckham became the first Giant to catch a touchdown and throw for one in the same game since Frank Gifford in 1959. They didn’t get the win, but at least the Giants were able to halt their embarrassing 36-game streak of scoring 30 or fewer points. Lil Wayne is beefing with Eli Manning now? Being a Giants fan must be weird.
29. Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 31
All four rookie quarterbacks who started in Week 5 won including Josh Allen, who guided Buffalo to a narrow victory over the visiting Titans. And by “guided” I mean he spent most of the afternoon handing off to LeSean McCoy. The Bills did their best to hide Allen on Sunday by attempting only 20 passes compared with 43 running plays. Tre’Davious White claimed another victim in Week 5, handily winning his one-on-one matchup with Corey Davis. The 2017 first-rounder holds PFF’s No. 10 coverage grade among cornerbacks this year.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 28
C.J. Beathard had himself a turnover-palooza in Week 5, losing two fumbles while also throwing a pair of interceptions in an ugly loss to Arizona. In spite of this, Beathard still finished as the overall QB10 in fantasy on the strength of 349 yards (a career-high) and three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). Pierre Garcon continued his weekly ritual of not going anywhere near the end zone, keeping his 16-game touchdown drought intact. With Matt Breida nursing a sprained ankle, look for veteran Alfred Morris to carry the load Monday night in Green Bay.
31. Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 29
As Forrest Gump would say, Amari Cooper is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get. Turns out, that’s not a terribly appealing quality, especially in the fantasy realm. There’s never any middle ground with Cooper, who has posted yardage totals of nine, 116, 17, 128 and 10 this year. Jordy Nelson’s renaissance continued in Week 5 as the veteran ran his touchdown streak to three games. Seriously, when will coaches learn to give Marshawn the ball on the one-yard-line?
32. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 32
Arizona notched its first win of the Steve Wilks Era by embarrassing the Niners on their home field in Week 5. Nothing about his year has been pretty, but at least David Johnson is finally giving fantasy owners what they paid for. DJ has been a touchdown machine over his last two games, visiting the end zone three times in that span despite averaging a dismal 3.15 yards per carry. Christian Kirk’s 75-yard touchdown on Sunday was the first of his career. It was also the Cardinals’ longest play from scrimmage this season.
Biggest Jump: Browns
Biggest Drop: Broncos