Through five weeks, only six running backs are on pace for 300 carries, a rather low number for this early in the year before injuries have fully taken their toll.
Out of the six players, only two are making consistent contributions as receivers and are on pace for more than 35 receptions: Kevin Smith and Steven Jackson. Owners of Smith and Jackson will be the first to say that these two players aren't the most complete backs in the league. Their low-wattage offenses are holding down their scoring and yards.
The point here is that the perfect RB1 isn't out there, ready to carry your entire team on his own. Adrian Peterson comes close enough, but there is only one of him. And he has virtually the same yardage totals as Cedric Benson, and fewer yards from scrimmage than Ray Rice.
I like fantasy football better this way. More players matter. Depth matters. There will be ups and downs to a season for your players and team that you have to navigate carefully. Backups like Ahmad Bradshaw are worth more than plenty of starting running backs, if you have the guts to play them (Heck, Bradshaw has been worth more than Brandon Jacobs lately).
If someone blames their season on an injury or a bad first-round pick, you know they are full of Mangini.
Different players on your fantasy team will take turns carrying you; it's your job to continue to keep perfecting your depth with trades and pickups.
Fantasy football is still the fantasy sport most based on luck, matchups, and random touchdowns. But this relatively star-less season we're in rewards the best owners more than ever.
1. The conditions for Derrick Mason still exist for him to have a surprising top-25 fantasy wideout season. The Bengals did a great job double covering him, but that won't happen often.
2. DeAngelo Williams had a rough afternoon and Jonathan Stewart scored, but Williams' role has remained consistent this year and we still believe in Carolina's run-blocking offensive line.
3. For now, Calvin Johnson's knee injury doesn't sound devastating. The Lions have a Week Seven bye, though, so they could play it safe with him this week.
4. Santonio Holmes had his third straight quiet week, but I refuse to believe the wide open Pittsburgh passing attack isn't going to help him big in the long run. He's a WR2 that will have quiet weeks, but the monster outings are still on the week.
5. The schedule has a lot to do with Kevin Smith's 3.1 yards per carry average. His usage is still very encouraging and his talent level is plenty for a starting running back, even if he's not "special." The yards should come.
6. The bye week comes at a good time for Marion Barber, who didn't look fully recovered from his quadriceps injury Sunday. The Cowboys made a mistake not using Tashard Choice more.
Miles Austin has been a fantasy football favorite for a while, and finally came through with a monster outing (to put it mildly) in his first career start. I co-own an NFFC team with my boss, and we debated letting Austin go this week, but I wanted to hold on to him if possible because I still thought there was talent there. (Although we would have happily dropped him for the right player—Mohammad Massaquoi—and just didn't bid enough.)
That's the good news.
The bad news is that we had him on our bench in favor of Patrick Crayton and Lee Evans Sunday, missing Austin's most useful moment of his fantasy football life.
Hopefully Austin's breakout—despite three touchdowns he didn't catch—will gain the trust of Tony Romo and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Austin is Dallas' fastest receiver and deserves a bigger role.
But he's not particularly likely to have the same conditions as Sunday again anytime so: an easy matchup, with Roy Williams out. It's easy to second-guess now, and it's also easy to understand why Austin is on so many waiver wires. He had four catches for 39 yards in the previous three games combined.
But that doesn't make it much easier to stare at the 47 freaking fantasy points he scored Sunday on our bench without wanting to puke.
Some Panic is Acceptable
1. The wind was brutal in Buffalo, but Trent Edwards still figured out how to put up 152 yards. The Browns won't turn from Derek Anderson after they won despite his ugly performance, but it's hard to trust their passing game no matter who is at the helm.
2. Maybe it was the matchup, but it was a bad sign for Jerome Harrison's value long-term that Jamal Lewis got 31 carries to only eight for Harrison. Then again, Lewis won't stay healthy for long if he gets 31 carries every week.
3. There isn't much left to say about Terrell Owens and Lee Evans, who each have 12 catches this year and far fewer yards on the season than Miles Austin had Sunday. But they can't be used against the Jets next week.
4. The Redskins will play their sixth straight winless team this week, but Clinton Portis has averaged more than four yards per carry only once this season. Including last year, he's topped four ypc once in his last ten games. The offensive line bears much of the blame, but blame won't score fantasy points. And left tackle Chris Samuels is expected to miss this week. What's going to happen when Washington plays some decent teams?
5. The impressive start to Hakeem Nicks' career is going to hurt Mario Manningham more than it hurts Steve Smith, although it will hurt both a little.
6. It's not a great sign for Brandon Jacobs owners when Ahmad Bradshaw is tearing up New York's easy matchups, while Jacobs is just plodding along.
Against three of the worst defenses in football, Jacobs piled up 68 for 251 rushing yards and a score. He had four receiving yards. This is acceptable, but not overly exciting considering the matchups.
Bradshaw had 37 carries for 278 rushing yards and two scores over the same stretch. He's also not very involved in the passing game, but did take his one catch Sunday for 55 yards. Bradshaw has turned into a quality RB2/flex option most weeks. You can't bench Jacobs because the touchdowns will come, but he's under-performing.
When good players have bad teammates
Steve Smith of the Panthers is on pace for just over 1,000 yards. The Panthers passing attack isn't going to be good enough for him to live up to his top-10 receiver draft value. Some touchdowns will come, and he won't kill owners, but the lack of receiving weapons around him will continue to make life difficult. He's more of a WR2 now than a WR1.
Real and Spectacular
1. Cedric Benson and the Bengals running game are very real. The only concern for Benson owners is whether he can hold up to the workload. He's on pace for 370 carries and his previous career high was 214, set last year. That's a concern Benson owners are just going to have to deal with unless you can get top-five value for him in return.
2. Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall continued to play to their new status in fantasy football. Roethlisberger is a top-eight option worth starting nearly every week. Mendenhall will be an every-week play until Willie Parker is back at the least.
Short, declarative sentences about defenses
Baltimore's pass defense is now a plus matchup. The Bengals defense shuts down opposing top receivers. The 49ers aren't quite as nasty as we thought. Anyone playing Oakland, Cleveland, Tampa, Washington, and St. Louis remain excellent plays.
Quickly changing regular season storylines
1. That committee in Baltimore has turned into a one-man show, starring Ray Rice. His value on passing downs makes the difference for coordinator Cam Cameron. Willis McGahee is going to still have some high workload weeks, I suspect, when the conditions are right. Rice is proving to have consistent RB1/2 value, which is hard to find.
2. Owners who picked up Marshawn Lynch last week in a trade should be smiling. I was particularly impressed with his play in the passing game, where he has underrated skills. Fred Jackson will continue to be a big part of the offense, but Lynch's effort against the Browns should earn him a bigger workload.