Frustrated Ray Rice owners, take solace: The Ravens are still a running team—Sunday's performance against the Bills was an aberration—and a new left tackle is on the way.
The Ravens have agreed to a deal to acquire Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe from the Jacksonville Jaguars, as first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter on Tuesday night.
Left tackles usually are more pass protectors than drive blockers for the run game, but a bolstered offensive line can only serve to help the struggling Rice, who was limited to just five carries in his return from a hip injury Sunday. The Ravens ran the ball just twice in the second half.
"When you get behind, it's hard to pound the rock," Rice told the Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson. "We were trying to score quickly, so the passing game we needed to ramp that up."
Monroe will replace Bryant McKinnie as the Ravens left tackle, who was "doing just enough to get in the way" in the running game, according to the Sun's Matt Vensel.
What was the problem with the running game Sunday? Rice told the Sun:
It's hard to tell when you don't have a substantial amount of attempts. We would have liked to run the ball better; we would have liked to run the ball more. Our problem is not a guy not getting a hat on a hat. It's more of an execution thing. As the leader of the group, we will get better. I'm not pushing the panic button.
Fantasy owners shouldn't either. Rice is going to do more good for your fantasy team on your roster than whatever you are going to get for him—in most cases.
As for the Jags, Schefter speculates they shouldn't be done dealing players in a contract year. Maurice Jones-Drew owners, you might have a shred of hope to get out of fantasy football purgatory in Jacksonville:
If only the NFL was like fantasy football, so these deals would happen. MJD owners, cross your fingers and toes.
Wilson! Giants Need to Call on Their Stud
Another midweek move signals a potential switch in approach for another struggling team that cannot run the ball. The Giants have waived third-down and receiving back Da'Rel Scott, as Giants.com's Michael Eisen reported Tuesday.
This signals a full-blown move—finally—to potential game-breaking back David Wilson. He should assume Scott's third-down and receiving roles, even if Brandon Jacobs continues to suck up more carries than he should in short yardage and around the goal line.
Yours truly has already pointed the Giants' winless start to Wilson's misuse...err...lack of use entirely.
That didn't come to fruition against the Chiefs, but the Eagles are a favorable matchup for even the woeful Giants. The Eagles have given up the seventh-most rushing yards and the 11th-most points in fantasy to running backs. Consider Wilson a solid Week 5 play in fantasy, despite his hugely disappointing start.
Wilson's time is now, even if it is not the Giants' year. He can break some long ones, even if the Giants can't block a soul. It is time to keep the ball in the hands of the Giants' one true game-changer.
San Diego Still Super Charged
Philip Rivers has been a fantasy revelation—mostly because Antonio Gates and Eddie Royal are playing like it is four or five years ago. It hasn't meant much for Vincent Brown, but that is coming. It might be coming for rookie Keenan Allen, too.
Michael Gelhken of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports Allen will continue to start in place of Malcom Floyd (neck), who has been placed on season-ending IR. Allen is coming off a career day: five catches for 80 yards.
Brown and Allen will work the outsides, Gates the seam and Royal, the slot receiver, will work the underneath routes. Danny Woodhead will do the pass receiving out of the backfield. It is a fairly dynamic set of options for Rivers, even if the fantasy totals have yet to be there for all of those receivers.
Consider Brown and Allen sleepers against the Raiders, who have allowed the second-most receptions to wide receivers through four weeks (68)—only the Eagles have allowed more (71).
Yes, the Chargers are going with more three-step drops and rhythm passing than Rivers is used to, but it will mean high-volume days for Royal, Brown and Allen. If they continue to get comfortable, they can start breaking long ones. And if the Chargers get in the red zone, it can mean easy short touchdowns.
Rivers is back to being a must-start fantasy quarterback, bumping the likes of Andrew Luck (facing the Seattle defense) this week.
Thursday Night Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
- Buffalo Bills: None
- Cleveland Browns: Willis McGahee, Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron
The problem with the Bills' options are they are banged up or facing a tough matchup against a Browns defense that is playing well. The Browns defense is top 10 against quarterbacks (ninth), running backs (sixth) and tight ends (fifth). They are also 11th against wide receivers, thanks mostly to shutdown corner Joe Haden.
The Bills are second worst in fantasy against wide receivers, and they have given up the sixth-most rushing yards per game (122.3). Gordon and Cameron are must-start options, while McGahee is a nice sleeper with the attrition of the running back position.
- Buffalo Bills: EJ Manuel, C.J. Spiller (ankle), Fred Jackson (knee), Steve Johnson (hamstring), Robert Woods, Scott Chandler, Dan Carpenter and the Bills D/ST
- Cleveland Browns: Brian Hoyer, Chris Ogbonnaya, Davone Bess, Greg Little, Billy Cundiff and Browns D/ST
If Spiller is active, you might consider him too good to sit, despite the injury, short week, his struggles, Jackson's usage and the difficulty of facing the Browns' solid run defense. Cleveland has given up the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game (79). Jackson is likely to play, but you shouldn't feel he is more than a flex play until Spiller is officially ruled out. That might not happen until game time.
Hoyer is intriguing, along with some of the Browns' secondary options in this favorable matchup, but you are likely better off going with a team that distributes the ball a little more. McGahee, Gordon and Cameron are going to have busy days and dominate the touches. The Browns defense is a sleeper, but we rank it just outside the starting options in a standard league still, particularly with so many good streaming D/STs this week.
Looking Ahead to Week 6
How tasty does the Oct. 13 matchup of Jacksonville at Denver look? Well, it might be the biggest spread in the history of NFL spreads, according to Sports Book Manager Kevin Bradley of Bovada.lv:
With the Broncos rolling once again [Sunday] and the Jags getting blown out, I have been asked numerous times already what the projected Week 6 spread will be when Denver hosts Jacksonville. Before [Sunday] I would have said it would be three touchdowns, but considering [Sunday's] results, the fact that Seattle easily covered 19.5 at home against Jacksonville, and how our bettors have been pounding Denver every week and betting against the Jags like it is free money, this spread is looking closer to four touchdowns. Barring any injuries or something very dramatic occurring, I would expect this to be the biggest spread we have ever posted.
That begs the question, what is the highest spread ever posted?
In the Bovada era, it was the New England Patriots as a 24.5-point favorite at home against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 25, 2007, according to sports publicist Jimmy Shapiro. The Pats held on to win 31-28 but didn't come close to covering. Shapiro adds the web wasn't around when the expansion Bucs went against huge spreads.
What does this mean in fantasy? Well, the Broncos are going to blow this one out big, and the likes of Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball might even be factors in garbage time. You might consider getting the jump on waivers, adding them as bye-week fill-ins for the Week 6 backs that are off: the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins.
Speaking of waivers...
Roster Trends Recap
We break down the top additions from a lackluster waiver run from Tuesday night. We use CBS Sports leagues as the guinea pig. The following chart is the 50 most-added players on that website, with the top addition at each position highlighted.
We said Hoyer has emerged as a bye-week replacement option, although Week 5 doesn't feature many starting options to replace. Alex Smith isn't a great play against the Titans defense, despite his hot play, and we cannot be sure of what Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to do filling in for Jake Locker (hip).
Rashad Jennings is likely to start in place of Darren McFadden (hamstring), but he will be facing a Chargers defense that is fifth-best in fantasy against running backs. LeGarrette Blount is stealing thunder from Stevan Ridley, but the Bengals have a good front, too. Danny Woodhead, because of his pass receiving, is the most intriguing addition at the position this week.
It is shocking, if not a huge mistake, that Kendall Hunter's fantasy value rose merely from 35 percent to 36 percent, despite touchdowns in back-to-back games. Sure, the 49ers are facing the Texans' run defense, but Hunter is going to emerge as a fantasy starter even if Frank Gore, 30, doesn't have his usual injury woes. The 49ers lack targets in the passing game, and they will boast one of the most run-heavy offenses in the NFL going forward.
Alshon Jeffery is emerging as a must-have fantasy option and might even prove to be a must-start option through the bye season. Nate Washington is fool's gold because he will now have to deal with Fitzpatrick and not Locker getting him the ball, in addition to Kenny Britt (ribs) returning from injury, according to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean:
Garrett Graham has proven consistent through four weeks, catching touchdowns in three of them, but Owen Daniels should still be considered the Texans' primary tight end. We are not quite prepared to tap Houston as a team that can sustain fantasy-starter production for two tight ends, a la the New England Patriots of the past few years. Coby Fleener, despite the matchup against Seattle, is the real prize on the waiver wire this week.
The Rams, Falcons, Chargers and Panthers are great streaming options this week. They are a lot better defensively than anyone gives them credit and they face favorable matchups. Like we said above, the Browns aren't quite a starting unit because this quartet is more intriguing off waivers.
David Akers is coming off a big week and faces a Packers team that gives up points, but those points are mostly touchdowns. The Packers and Saints (four games) have allowed the fewest field goals through four weeks. Mason Crosby, Ryan Succop, Nick Novak or Steven Hauschka are much better options for streaming owners.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.