Fantasy Football: Alex Smith Leads the NFC-Based 'Revelations' from Week 5
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Here are five NFC-based fantasy revelations from Week 5, which shall begin with a roundabout tribute to Lloyd Bridges' hilarious persona (aka Steve McCroskey) in the groundbreaking 1980 comedy, Airplane:
1. Looks like I picked the wrong week to negatively compare Alex Smith to Cam Newton
On Sunday morning, while trying to make the numbers-based point that Newton (eight games of 350-plus total yards and three touchdowns since 2011) should never be benched for someone of Alex Smith's caliber in 12-team leagues—even though Smith (vs. Buffalo) had the more tolerable Week 5 matchup—it may have come off as an anti-Smith rant.
Instead, I was merely trumpeting Newton (183 total yards, zero TD in Week 5) as a superhuman force in fantasy circles—too stealth to be controlled by a stout defense like the Seahawks and too credible to ride the pine on a random NFL Sunday (wow, was I wrong!).
It's not like I had Smith doomed for Sunday failure. Last I checked, everybody scores on the Bills; and Smith certainly had the look of a Hall of Famer against Buffalo, rolling for 352 total yards (303 passing) and three touchdowns in San Francisco's 45-3 home demolition.
By extension, Michael Crabtree (six catches, 113 yards, one TD) finally broke out of his season-long slumber, Vernon Davis tallied a ho-hum five catches for 106 yards and Frank Gore maintained his status as a top-10 fantasy back (regardless of scoring rules) with 106 rushing yards and one touchdown.
And if the score hadn't gotten out of hand so quickly, the final numbers for San Fran's Big Four would have been markedly higher.
Bottom line: Unless Calvin Johnson stands as the prize, I wouldn't entertain any 1-for-1 trade discussions pitting Gore (at least 75 yards/1 TD in four games this season) against a wide receiver in standard-scoring leagues. He should be treated like an elite asset from this point forward.
2. And now for a salute to Marques Colston...and Drew Brees, time permitting
In the immortal words of another memorable Airplane character (Johnny)...Just kidding.
Not even Colston's three touchdowns could detract from Brees breaking Johnny Unitas's NFL record of 47 straight games with a touchdown pass on Sunday. It was just another tentpole moment to solidify Brees's air-tight candidacy for the Hall of Fame someday.
It's funny, but I can remember a time when Johnny U's accomplishment was once deemed "untouchable" by league pundits and historians.
But I never really shared that opinion.
In this pass-first, pass-second era of the NFL, I'm actually surprised that neither Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dan Marino, Dan Fouts nor Warren Moon were viable threats to Unitas' mark, long before Brees's 370-yard, four-TD night against San Diego clinched No. 48 for the record books.
After all, the "Mel Blount Rule"—prohibiting defenders from mauling receivers five yards beyond scrimmage—has been in effect since 1978. And because of NFL expansion (franchise-wise and roster-wise), not all teams have been created equal, through the years, in the tricky realm of acquiring and developing quality cornerbacks.
That aside, Brees should be commended for his assault on one of the most storied passing records. He came out firing against the Chargers, and didn't stop until Colston (nine catches, 18 targets, 131 yards) had a scoring three-pack...and Devery Henderson (eight catches, 123 yards, one TD) emerged from his September hibernation.
But alas, it wasn't all rainbows and roses for the Saints. There are genuine concerns about the roles of Darren Sproles (37 total yards on 10 touches) and Mark Ingram (16 rushing yards) in suspended coach Sean Payton's absence. And what will become of the offense if Jimmy Graham (ankle injury) misses substantial time?
3. If only Ahmad Bradshaw could log 34 touches every single NFL Sunday
You wouldn't believe the number of Bradshaw-centric skeptics I dealt with over the weekend, heading into the Giants' clash with the Browns.
Yes, the enigmatic Bradshaw had a sluggish start to the season—due to injury (neck) and the out-of-nowhere revival of Andre Brown—but he's still the club's primary asset in the running game, when healthy.
And even before Sunday's bludgeoning, Cleveland was amongst the NFL's bottom-rung circuit in rushing defense. Minus injury, how could Bradshaw not succeed in this matchup?
The fact that Bradshaw amassed 229 total yards (29 receiving) and one touchdown isn't the shock of a lifetime. He enjoyed per-season averages of 1,239 total yards and 9.5 touchdowns from 2009-10.
The real stunner comes from this: With New York falling behind 14-0 early in the first quarter, it would have been understandable for the Giants to de-emphasize the run, in an effort to forge another patented comeback through the air.
But the club stuck to their game plan and eventually bowled over the beleaguered Browns for 30 first downs, 41 points and 502 total yards.
In fact, you may have seen that Victor Cruz (five catches, 50 yards) caught three touchdowns and rookie tailback David Wilson executed a flawless backflip after registering his first career touchdown run.
But here's a quirky, unknown stat for numbers geeks:
Incredibly, the Giants have had five different wideouts (Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Ramses Barden, Domenik Hixon, Reuben Randle) lead the team in receiving yards for five consecutive weeks.
Without knowing how to quantify this, that has to be an NFL record. Or at least a tie. Right?
4. Tony Gonzalez may be raising the fantasy bar too high for Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham
I didn't think it was possible. A player not named Vernon Davis or Antonio Gates has bumped Gronkowski and Graham from the Mount Olympus of super-elite tight ends. And it involves a guy who seemingly had one foot into the retirement phase of his post-NFL career.
By any measure, Tony Gonzalez (1,188 catches, 13,726 yards, 99 TD in 16 NFL seasons) is a no-brainer lock for the Hall of Fame sometime before 2020. But that still didn't qualify him as a top-five tight end heading into the season.
After all, the Falcons were transitioning to an offense that would spotlight receivers Roddy White (four catches, 68 yards vs. Washington) and Julio Jones (10 catches, 94 yards, one TD) at every turn, while also paving the way for Michael Turner (67 rushing yards, one TD) to notch double-digit touchdowns once again.
In some ways, I figured 2012 would be like a victory-lap campaign for Gonzalez—full of rocking-chair gifts from opposing players or framed commemorative photos detailing his years with the Falcons and Chiefs, prior to Atlanta road games.
Instead, Gonzo (13 catches, 14 targets, 123 yards, one TD against the 'Skins) is seemingly hell-bent on finishing his illustrious career with a boom. For the season, he already has three games of 70-plus receiving yards, three games of double-digit targets and four games of one touchdown.
And for his career, Gonzo now has 12 career games of double-digit receptions and 29 outings of 100-plus receiving yards.
Bottom line: Just five games into the schedule, it would be a crime to keep rewarding Gronkowski and Graham (No. 1 and 1A ranking), based on their unlimited potential and 2011 stats...while ignoring Gonzalez's unrelenting contribution, week after week after week.
His presence alone has helped transform Matt Ryan (345 yards passing, two TD on Sunday) into a top-six fantasy QB. And it has motivated me to move heaven and earth to land Gonzalez, via trade, in leagues where I'm toiling for respectability at tight end.
5. Devery Henderson should not be a waiver-wire priority this week
Against the Chargers, Henderson impressively racked up eight catches, 10 targets, 123 yards and one touchdown on national TV, creating the illusion that he might be a hot waivers commodity in standard-scoring and PPR leagues.
But let's keep Hendo's ultimate standing in perspective here:
**In the last five seasons (2008-12), Henderson has posted only two games of double-digit targets (including Sunday).
**During that span, Hendo has had six games of 100-plus receiving yards. But of those outings, only 26 combined catches.
**In his eight-year career with the Saints (2005-12), Henderson has never had back-to-back games of six or more receptions.
**For 2011, after Henderson notched 100-plus receiving yards and one touchdown in Weeks 1 and 2 for New Orleans, his per-outing averages for the next 16 games (including two NFC playoff tilts) were 1.8 catches, 3.0 targets, 30 yards and 0.06 TDs.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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