Week 5 Recap: Another eventful week of NFL action is now mostly in the rear view window and patterns are starting to form across the league. The two undefeated juggernauts of the AFC/NFC (Rams/Chiefs) continue to roll, the defending champions continue to struggle, and the Browns continue to show evidence that they’re an actual football team worth watching every week. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest standouts from Week 5.
NFL Rookie Quarterbacks
Rookie quarterbacks were undefeated during Week 5, and that’s something worth celebrating not just because of what it means for the future of the league, but for what it means in terms of parity. Each one of these young quarterbacks were thrust into four of the least attractive offensive situations in the league, and they’ve lived up to their draft stock thus far in the young season despite the lack of talent around them. Truly, now more than ever, anything can happen on an NFL Sunday.
Sam Darnold carved up the Denver defense to the tune of 198 yards and 3 touchdowns on a day where the Jets dominated at home and showed that their offense can impose their will on teams thought to be their superior.
Josh Rosen led the Cardinals to their first win of the season in an ugly division battle against the 49ers. While the line may not jump off the page (170 Yds/TD), Rosen was efficient and accurate with his throws in a game that saw him start to build chemistry with fellow rookie Christian Kirk and superstar tailback David Johnson.
Josh Allen showed his versatility and ability to make things happen with his feet against a Titans defense that joined a long list of teams that have overlooked Buffalo this season. Allen has essentially taken on the roles of quarterback and lead running back in the first five weeks of the year, and when the Bills are in the red zone, they lean on his ability to create on the fly to score touchdowns. He’s not the most polished prospect, but he’s got guts and that’s what both of the Bills wins thus far can be chalked up to.
Finally, Baker Mayfield made his proper debut as the starting quarterback for the Browns at First Energy Stadium. He then promptly drove down the field to setup a game winning field goal against the hated rival Baltimore Ravens. The first overall pick’s swagger is what pops off the screen the most to me, as he brings a confidence to this Browns team under center that I haven’t seen in my entire life watching football (I was born in 1992, sorry Otto Graham/Bernie Kosar fans). Baker makes this team not only watchable but also competent. The final box score of 12-9 indicates a classic AFC North trench battle, but Mayfield’s stat line shows he was balling out all day (342 Yds/TD). Add another TD on that line and people would be hailing his performance even more, but as it stands right now, the rookie QBs of the NFL are acclimating quickly and executing effectively. That’s a great thing to see.
Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants)
Odell Beckham Jr.: All Pro Wide Receiver; World Class Athlete; Future Starting Quarterback?
I joke, but I assure you Giants fans throughout the Tri-State area have been crowing about Beckham’s passing touchdown to Saquon Barkley for the past 24 hours. With the quarterback situation looking bleaker seemingly by the snap, Big Blue needed a hero to step up and they got one in the form of their wild haired, highly-paid wideout. Beckham took over the game in multiple facets with a line of (8 Rec/131 Yds/TD) and a passing line of (57 Yds/TD). If it weren’t for the Giants supernatural ability to allow a world-record level of kicks from their opponents, Beckham would’ve been the hero of the day that gave the G-Men a big win. Alas, that wasn’t meant to be, but Beckham should still be praised for his effort. He’s unquestionably one of the top wideouts in the game and should be rolled out in all formats on a weekly basis regardless of opponent.
Melvin Gordon (Los Angeles Chargers)
Say what you want about the fan base, but LA sure knows a thing or two about running the ball in 2018. With the exception of Todd Gurley there arguably hasn’t been a more consistent running back in the game through the first five weeks than Melvin Gordon. Gordon’s posted double-digit fantasy totals in both formats every week (18/24/14/23/18), and he’s done it while also allowing backfield mate Austin Ekeler to put up fantasy relevant days as well.
The Chargers came into the season being hyped as Super Bowl favorites, largely because of their defense, but with the long-standing injury to Joey Bosa, they’ve under performed thus far. This has led to the Chargers offense needing to step up and they’ve performed incredibly well in support of their ailing defense. Gordon in particular is averaging 80 yards on the ground and 60 through the air per game in 2018. His touch totals seemingly climb every game as the bond between he and Philip Rivers continues to grow. He currently has 276 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground and 199 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air and we’re only now entering Week 6. Don’t sleep on Gordon, if you have him you know how good he’s been, if you’re playing against him well…good luck.
Kenny Golladay (Detroit Lions)
The man they call “Babytron” in Detroit is living up to that legendary moniker thus far in his second season in Honolulu Blue. The 6’4”, 220-pound wideout made Calvin Johnson proud on Sunday with a dominating performance against the Green Bay Packers secondary in Week 5. He carved up the cheese heads (4 Rec/98 Yds/TD), and he should’ve had more. A penalty brought back another score in what was a surprisingly efficient handling of the Lions fierce rivals from Wisconsin.
Golladay is blossoming into a legitimate WR2 for fantasy purposes, and he’s made Marvin Jones practically irrelevant in the Lions offense. He’s posted fantasy totals of (11/14/11/7/15) in standard format and has seen his targets hold steady at 8-10 per game. With his combination of size, athleticism and underrated speed, Golladay is a force to be reckoned with for opposing defenses. What’s even more terrifying? It looks like he’s only getting started.
James Connor (Pittsburgh Steelers)
I made the joke last week that the Dallas Cowboys offensive picture would just be Ezekiel Elliott standing by himself. I could make the same statement about James Connor and the Steelers offense for the entire first half of their Week 5 game against the Falcons. Conner touched the ball 21 times (it seemed like much more) and gashed the depleted Atlanta defense (21 Car/110 Yds/2 TDs). He also dominated in the passing game, catching all four of his targets for another 75 yards.
He’s shown himself to be a legitimate weapon for this Steelers team to hang their hat on while Big Ben continues to seek out connections with his receivers. James has made himself an invaluable piece of what makes this offense tick on a weekly basis, and that makes the impending return of Le’Veon Bell that much more interesting. Conner has been too good for too long for him to simply take a backseat to Bell, and the added drama off field between Bell and his offensive linemen makes this situation all the more confusing.
If you’ve had Conner in your lineup you know exactly how good he’s been, and I recommend you continue to start him moving forward. Just make sure you have an eye on the waiver wire for potential replacements if Bell does return and take over completely. For fantasy owners sake I hope that doesn’t happen, but the return of a superstar can often make teams behave irrationally. Until then, ride the wave of production from Conner and hope for the best.
Adam Thielen (Minnesota Vikings)
Call it Deja Vu, call it a comeback, call it what you will…I just call it impressive. Adam Thielen is back for his second-straight week in my standout column because he made history in Philadelphia. The Vikings had been stinging from their embarrassing 38-7 NFC Championship loss for months, and they managed to exercise that demon on Sunday by topping the Eagles 23-21. Thielen was a major part of that victory, routinely leaving corner back Jalen Mills in the dust on a variety of routes across the field, and continuing to be Kirk Cousins’ favorite target. Thielen flashed the yellow gloves for a line of 7 Rec/116 Yds/TD, marking his fifth straight game with over 100 receiving yards and becoming just the third man in league history to accomplish that feat to start a season. He’s a certifiable PPR machine with his target totals reaching the double-digits in every week (12/13/19/12/10), and he’s making the most of those opportunities with 47 receptions and 3 TDs.
The Vikings now travel home to face a one win Cardinals team in Week 6. I look for Thielen to continue his dominance of the target share and go for his sixth straight 100-yard game in that contest. He’s been the most consistent wide receiver in the league so far this year, and I see no reason to think that won’t continue.
Sony Michel (New England Patriots)
Sony Michel has affectionately earned the nickname “PlayStation” amongst my friend group because he makes video game moves out on the field (His name being Sony also may have something to do with it). The Patriots first-round draft pick started the year recovering from an injury but has come along quickly since his debut in Week 2.
His breakout (25 Car/112 Yds/TD) performance against Miami could be the new normal in this Patriots backfield as he handled the Colts in similar fashion this past Thursday in Foxboro. Michel carried the ball 18 times for 98 yards and scored the game clinching TD in a contest that showed that Tom Brady will use the tandem of Michel and James White as a lethal combination moving forward. I put Michel/White right up with Kamara/Ingram and Gordon/Ekeler as a top RB combination in the league from this point moving forward, especially in PPR format. The evil empire has gained a shiny new weapon, and that should scare people.
T.J. Yeldon (Jacksonville Jaguars)
T.J. Yeldon is perhaps the most overlooked back in the league right now. Having Leonard Fournette ahead of him on the Jaguars depth chart will do that, but his talent shines on the screen whenever he gets opportunities to shoulder the rushing burden for this team. He’s impressed with fantasy totals of 12/20/18 in the games he’s started as the primary back this season, and he has 4 TDs to show for it.
That was the case once again in Week 5 with Fournette once again dealing with a hamstring issue. Yeldon combined for 18 touches for 122 yards and a touchdown in a game that quickly got out of hand in Kansas City. The Jaguars defense struggled against the Pat Mahomes-led powerhouse, but their offense got a spark from Yeldon throughout. He deserves to be owned in all fantasy leagues as the most valuable handcuff in the NFL. With Fournette’s health almost constantly up in the air, Yeldon is a stud waiting in the wings for his next opportunity.
MY TAKEAWAY FROM WEEK 5
Todd Gurley is the league MVP so far this year, and he should’ve been last year.
Name a more dynamic player on a weekly basis in the league (fantasy included) than Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams. You won’t find one, because he’s been the best player in the league since the start of last year. Since the dawn of the Sean McVay era in LA, Gurley has become a runaway train with no brakes. It doesn’t matter who the Rams face, Gurley produces.
Coming off an unthinkable 19-touchdown season, expectations were high for Gurley to continue his ascent, but no one could’ve imagined he’d be as dominant as he’s been so far. Through just five weeks, Gurley already has nine touchdowns (7 rushing/2 receiving). His 415 yards on the ground put him on pace to beat his 1,305 mark from last year and his 230 receiving yards put him a quarter of the way to his 788-yard mark from last year. No player in the league gives his team the boost Gurley does.
From an offensive standpoint the Rams can spread the ball around, or they can be completely one-dimensional and just pound the ball with Gurley all game if they want. They showed that this past week in their stiffest test yet in Seattle when they lost Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp to concussions. They didn’t worry, they didn’t slow down, they fed their superstar and Gurley plowed through the Seattle defense for a combined 113 yards and 3 TDs on 27 touches.
Patrick Mahomes has been excellent, Khalil Mack has been dominant, but Gurley has been transcendent. He’s just the kind of talent that can make that impossible leap to MVP status at the running back position, and he should’ve been recognized as such last year.
The last back to win the league MVP award was Adrian Peterson in 2012. Peterson challenged Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 13 TDs that year. Gurley scored 19 combined TDs in 2017 on 80 less touches on the ground in his first year of a new offensive scheme. Through five weeks in 2018 he’s already just four scores from tying Peterson’s touchdown total from that MVP campaign. The yardage total and national acclaim did the heavy lifting for Peterson’s MVP win in 2012, and Gurley should be getting that same treatment as this year continues on.
Gurley is the closest the league has come in over half a decade to an MVP-caliber talent at the position, and he deserves that credit on a national level.