Welcome back, loyal 5th Down Fantasy readers! We’re through seven weeks of the 2018 NFL season and we’ve got a great mix of familiar faces and fresh-faced new comers that made a major impact this week. Two young RB’s are finally finding their footing in mid-west, a veteran QB is a quiet MVP favorite in the West and we’re officially one week away from crowning a new king of the 100-yard receiving game. Let’s take a look at who stood out this week
[Also See: Week 7 Top Moments]
Kerryon Johnson (Detroit Lions)
It’s a new day (YES IT IS) for running backs in the Motor City, and Lions fans have to be ecstatic about it. For the first time in well over a decade the Lions look to have a genuine, top of the line starter in their backfield. You may want to learn his name, you’ll be hearing a lot of it moving forward.
Kerryon Johnson burst onto the scene initially in Week 3 against the Patriots when he became the first Lions running back to go for 100+ rushing yards in a game since Reggie Bush did it back in 2013. That’s a streak that stretched for 70 games, and he broke it on his first real try. Since that game we’ve seen an injury to Theo Riddick and a general lack of consistency from LaGarrette Blount pave the way for Johnson to become the man in Detroit. He’s totaled 11/11/8/17 points since that Week 3 outing and his Week 7 performance was by far his most impressive yet. Johnson exploded for 179 total yards on 22 touches, including a highlight reel worthy 70-yard breakaway run as the Lions handily defeated Miami (32-21) on the road.
His road ahead looks challenging (Seattle/Minnesota/Chicago), but with a full work load of 18-20 carries per game Johnson is a locked in RB2\-worthy play in standard leagues with even higher upside in PPR leagues due to Riddick’s absence.
Marlon Mack (Indianapolis Colts)
While we’re talking about breakout running backs, let’s discuss the absolute dominance that 2nd year RB Marlon Mack showed against the Bills. The 2017 fourth round pick was highly touted by fantasy analysts coming out of last year’s draft to be a PPR darling with a penchant for game-breaking plays in the receiving game. That praise may have been an understatement, as Mack shredded Buffalo on the ground AND through the air in a blowout victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. No. 25 was a Swiss army knife out of the back field, dicing up Buffalo’s hapless defense and filling up every major offensive statistic (22 touches/159 total yards/rushing TD/receiving TD/2-point Conversion). He was everything the analysts thought he could be and more, and he did it in just his 2nd game back from an injury that kept him sidelined for four games at the start of the season.
Mack will hit with road for another juicy match-up against the rebuilding Raiders in Week 8. I recommend firing him up full force in the Black Hole.
Alshon Jeffery (Philadelphia Eagles)
The story of the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles is a complicated one. The defending Super Bowl champions have talent, coaching and an MVP-caliber QB, and yet they can’t seem to finish games against teams they should beat. That was the case once against this Sunday in south Philadelphia as the Eagles allowed the Panthers to score 21 un-answered points and steal a victory.
However, there were bright spots to be seen in that game for the champs, namely the performance of No. 1 wideout Alshon Jeffery. Since returning from a torn rotator cuff in Week 4, Jeffery has been one of the top WR’s in fantasy football with performances of 16/3/19/14. He continued that streak of greatness with his 14-point performance against Carolina, hauling in 7 receptions for 88 yards and a TD in a dominant showing against Panthers CB James Bradberry. While the team around him is in a state of confusion and mild disarray, Jeffery continues to be a dominant force for fantasy owners with a target share that’s through the roof (9/8/12/10) since his return.
With Carson Wentz’s trust and a target share rivaling that of Zach Ertz, Jeffery is a must-start at the WR position in most match ups. He faces off against Jalen Ramsey in London in Week 8 in a battle of two struggling playoff teams from last year.
Philip Rivers (Los Angeles Chargers)
With the possible exception of Andrew Luck, I don’t think there’s a more consistently underrated fantasy quarterback than Philip Rivers. Where Luck is underrated for his lack of available targets, Philip Rivers is underrated because for some reason people don’t seem to understand how good he is.
With a current TD:INT ratio of 17:3 and an average of 280 yards/2 TDs per game, there’s a fair argument for Rivers to be an MVP candidate so far this year. The veteran QB has long been under fire for his animated attitude on the field and he’s been held back by playing for the Chargers, but he’s consistently been a top tier player throughout his career. This year is no exception, he’s performing better than ever and that’s translating to top-5 QB numbers in the fantasy realm. Rivers fantasy totals since Week 1 look like this: 29/22/17/22/21/15/20. With the exception of a short week match up against Cleveland in Week 6, Rivers has been the model of consistency for fantasy purposes. He’s performed this well all while literally traveling around the world the past 3 weeks, from a home game in Week 5, Cleveland in Week 6 and London this past Sunday.
The Chargers will get a much-deserved rest with a Week 8 bye. Make sure to check your waiver wire to see if anyone in your league drops Rivers. He’s a league-winning player that could be yours due to bye weeks, don’t miss out if you get the opportunity.
James White (New England Patriots)
The Evil Empire of New England is never in short supply when it comes to offensive weapons, but it may have broken the mold when they made James White.
I wrote previously that the combination of Sony Michel/White was one of the top tandems in the league, but on Sunday in Chicago, White showed that he can shoulder the load on his own when called upon. When Michel went down early with a nasty looking leg injury, White stepped up and tore through the Bears’ top-10 defense to the tune of 19 touches/97 total yards/2 receiving TDs. Above all, White brings the trademark versatility to the New England attack that the franchise adores. He’s a PPR darling for fantasy purposes that has touchdown upside in standard leagues and his weekly point totals back that up (11/8/11/23/13/9/21).
While the injury to Michel is fortunately being reported to be minor, it’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll at least miss some time. White will be an RB1 in PPR with RB2-level production in standard leagues while he’s gone. Fire him up regardless of match ups.
Emmanuel Sanders (Denver Broncos)
There aren’t many things Emmanuel Sanders can’t do. He’s one of the favorite wideouts in the game (virtually and otherwise) because of his explosiveness in all facets of the Denver offense. His performance in a Thursday night blowout in Arizona showed off exactly what he’s capable of (6 rec/102 yards/TD, 28 pass yards/passing TD). Sanders became the third receiver this season to throw and catch a touchdown in a single game (joining Odell Beckham Jr. and Albert Wilson) and solidified himself as the top weapon in an offense that lacks reliable options. Denver loves pounding the ball on the ground with their array of running backs, but Sanders is so undeniably good that they take to the air whenever they find a chance to get him in space. He’s a legitimate force and a player well worth starting each week in your lineup regardless of league preference.
If you need further evidence here are his weekly totals: 19/6/13/6/7/17/21. He also averages 10 targets/85 yards per game. He’s a stud.
Adam Thielen (Minnesota Vikings)
Speaking of stud wideouts, there’s one in Minnesota that’s officially one step away from tying an NFL record. Adam Thielen’s story has been plastered on the front pages of national NFL social media accounts all year, and for good reason. The underdog WR was already excellent coming into 2018, but he’s elevated himself to an elite, top-5 level with new quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Thielen’s routinely filling the stat sheet with jaw dropping performances that you’d be surprised to see in a game of Madden, let alone in a real life NFL contest. His weekly fantasy totals are absurd (10/19/10/19/17/18/17), and his 9 rec/110 yard/TD performance in Week 7 extended his consecutive 100 yard game streak to seven. That mark ties him for 2nd place all time in league history with Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, and he now looks up to Megatron in Week 8 as he takes on a New Orleans defense that’s given up the most yards to fantasy wideouts this season.
At the beginning of the year most would say it would take a miracle for Thielen to tie Johnson’s mark, now I’d say it would be miracle if he didn’t match it. Start him in all leagues regardless of the scoring format and prepare to witness history in Minneapolis.
Trey Burton (Chicago Bears)
When the Chicago Bears signed former Eagle Trey Burton in the off-season, it was looked at as major boon for both the team and a player that was riding high as a hero of Super Bowl 52. While he was a stand-out in the biggest game of the year, Burton was 3rd in line in Philadelphia’s pecking order for Tight Ends, but he frequently flashed potential to be a starter.
Chicago wisely saw this and brought the young star in while his prestige was at its highest, and Burton rewarded them with a mostly middling return to start the year. Through the first 6 weeks, Burton averaged 4 targets per game and while he caught most of them, he didn’t have much in the way of fantasy value (other than one 14-point game against TB in Week 4).
Then Week 7 came along and showed us exactly what Burton was capable of when he’s let loose in Chicago’s offense. Burton tore up a familiar foe (New England) to the tune of 9 rec/126 yards/TD and racked up a season high 18 points in standard leagues. This performance isn’t just a flash in the pan, either, now that Burton’s potential has been showcased I look for Mitch Trubisky to continue looking his way moving forward. He’s just the type of player that can get open in space while Trubisky does his best Russell Wilson scrambling routine.
The reps he had with Wentz in Philly gave him experience with a QB that can make plays with his legs, and Burton showed that he can be a legitimate top-5 option at the position when his team needed him most. Start him as a TE1 moving forward & pat yourself on the back for holding onto him through the tough weeks.
MY TAKEAWAY FROM WEEK 7:
The Chiefs offense is just now reaching its full potential, and that’s frightening.
Let’s take a look at the Chiefs point totals so far this season:
Week 1: 38
Week 2: 42
Week 3: 38
Week 4: 27
Week 5: 30
Week 6: 43
Week 7: 45
Their defense is one of the worst in the league, but with Andy Reid’s offense running on all cylinders this team is damn near unbeatable unless you’re the New England Patriots (at home). The Chiefs sport one of the best homefield advantages in the league at Arrowhead and that is combined with arguably the finest array of offensive weapons in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes is an MVP favorite in his first real season in the league, and Tyreek Hill is tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns and is practically un-guardable. Travis Kelce is a top-3 tight end in the league whose physicality is rivaled only by Rob Gronkowski.
The receiving options are incredible, but the real reason Kansas City is so frightening is located in their backfield. Behind Mahomes, Hill and Kelce lies the NFL’s 3rd leading rusher; Kareem Hunt. The 2nd year RB out of Toledo led the league in rushing in his rookie season and is currently on pace to surpass his rushing mark and shatter his receiving numbers from last year. He currently has 542 yards on just 118 attempts on the ground (he led the league with 1,327 yards on 272 attempts in 2017), and he’s caught 15/21 passes for 226 yards (halfway to his 455-yard mark from last year). Those statistics are already enough to make a defensive coordinators’ heads spin, and that’s before you factor in his 9 touchdowns through 7 weeks (5 rushing/4 receiving).
Hunt is right up there with Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley as far as the league rushing race is concerned, and he has the same characteristics that make both of those players so great. He’s exceptional at catching the ball out of the backfield like Gordon, and he possesses an unrelenting physicality that enables him to crumble defenders at their feet like Gurley.
The Chiefs have been dominant so far this year largely without Hunt needing to be a focal point, and now he’s stepping out of the shadows to show just how deep this offense’s war chest is. The rest of the league should be frightened of how versatile this offense is, because it’s young, talented, and it’s not afraid to go right through you to gain victory each and every Sunday.