The State of Fantasy Football in The AFC: A Team-By-Team Review

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The State of Fantasy Football in The AFC:  A Team-By-Team Review
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Kyle Orton

With five weeks of NFL action in the books, and nearly one-third of your fantasy football season completed, now is a great time to take a look around the league team-by-team and see how things are shaping up in the fantasy football world.

 

AFC East

 

New York JetsQB Mark Sanchez is continuing to play good enough, but is only completing 55 percent of his passes and remains a good backup option, but is not good enough for a weekly start.  

WR Braylon Edwards continues to be heavily targeted, but expect the return of WR Santonio Holmes to cut in to his production as Holmes becomes more acclimated in the offense.

The Jets' running game hasn't missed a beat since acquiring a rejuvenated LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson is on pace to finish at least in the top-15 running backs if he can stay healthy.  

RB Shonn Greene is still only a depth option on most fantasy squads, but should see more carries down the stretch to keep Tomlinson fresh.

 

New England PatriotsWith the departure of WR Randy Moss, expect to see a new style of offense from the Patriots.  

While the Patriots have been employing two-TE sets more than the rest of the league, expect that to be the norm while they pound the rock with RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis.  

QB Tom Brady and WR Wes Welker took a hit, however slight, to their value when Moss was traded. WR Brandon Tate has the speed to be a deep threat, but simply doesn't have the experience or skill set to force a defense to give him additional attention.  

TE Aaron Hernandez is the player who benefits most from the Moss trade. Expect him to finish on the cusp of the top-12 tight ends.

 

Miami DolphinsQB Chad Henne has barely performed well enough to be considered an adequate backup, and unless the passing game picks up, he will have little value going forward.  

WR Brandon Marshall will continue to be a beast in point-per-reception leagues, but his lack of touchdowns and red-zone opportunities is concerning. WR Devone Bess could be a sneaky play if Henne gets it going.

The Dolphins' running game has been less than spectacular, averaging just 107 yards per game. Neither back has been inspiring confidence in fantasy owners, and both would benefit if the passing game starts clicking. RB Ronnie Brown is the better back, but sharing carries as he is, he may struggle to finish the year as a top-25 running back.

 

Buffalo BillsWhile the Bills were a wasteland for fantasy football production during the first three weeks of the season, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has sparked this offense in ways that at one time seemed unimaginable.  

Fitzpatrick is well on his way to becoming a good backup option. WRs Lee Evans and Steve Johnson are producing, and even if that production comes in garbage time, it still counts.  

With RB Marshawn Lynch departing for the better climate of Seattle, RBs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller will see more opportunities to make plays. Jackson is the better bet of the two for production, as he is the better running back at the moment.

Neither has much value, as the Bills' offensive line is one of the worst in the league.

 

AFC North

 

Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco not yet performed up to his preseason mid-round sleeper status, and is only worth starting if the matchup is good.  

WR Anquan Boldin is the only wide receiver on the Ravens' offense worth starting on a weekly basis, and even then he will struggle because Flacco is still developing. WR Derrick Mason is worth a taking a chance on in deeper leagues.

It now seems that RB Ray Rice has recovered from his knee bruise, and is returning to fantasy football dominance. Rice's production in Week 5 was helped by getting opportunities at the goal line that have been vultured by RB Willis McGahee in the recent past.  

McGahee is still going to get some short-yardage opportunities, but the Ravens seem to be warming up to Rice in those situations as well.

 

Pittsburgh SteelersQB Charlie Batch played well enough to get the Steelers three victories while QB Ben Roethlisberger served his four-game suspension. Now that Roethlisberger has returned, it's all systems go for the Steelers' offense.  

WR Hines Ward has seen his value take a major hit over the last three weeks, and is a great buy-low opportunity right now. WR Mike Wallace will also benefit from Roethlisberger's return, as he can stretch the field with Big Ben's great arm.  

TE Heath Miller is another great buy-low candidate as well.

RB Rashard Mendenhall has been a steady contributor through the first four games, and may see a slight decrease in carries, but should see an uptick in production at the same time.  Defenses must respect Roethlisberger's arm, and his ability to make plays on the run, which will open up running lanes Mendenhall has yet to see this year.

 

Cincinnati BengalsOne of the few bright spots this year has been RB Cedric Benson.

Benson is getting at least 15 carries a week, but has only found the end zone twice in five weeks. While the yards should be there for Benson, the touchdowns may never come.  

A top-15 finish is possible, but unlikely if he only scores six touchdowns.  

QB Carson Palmer is a shell of his former All-Pro self. The Bengals' offensive-line woes, combined with Palmer's mechanics issues, makes Palmer a fantasy backup.

Palmer can have a good week or two against a poor defense (see Week 4 v. CLE), but at best he is a spot starter.

WR Terrell Owens is on pace for over 1,500 receiving yards, which is pretty sick considering he's 36 years old. Even when Palmer is not having a solid game, Owens seems to be his favorite target, so he's worth starting in a flex spot or as a third wide receiver. 

 

Cleveland BrownsThe only player really worth talking about is RB Peyton Hillis.

Hillis, a converted fullback, is a pure power runner and a great receiving back with hands as soft as Charmin. Hillis is running behind a good offensive line, and has made the most of his opportunity by scoring in every single game thus far.  

With his aggressive running style, the concern for injury is always present, but keep riding this horse until he bucks you off.

Quarterbacks Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme have combined to average only 198 passing yards per game. The bright side, of course, is that the poor quarterback play is allowing Cleveland to remain in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes come April 2011.

AFC South

 

Houston TexansRB Arian Foster is a beast, and that's official.  

Even after totally tanking in Week 5, Foster still registers as the second-best fantasy producer through five weeks. Foster is an option in both the running game and the passing game, thereby increasing his value even more.  

If you wouldn't consider trading Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson for less than all of the Vatican's gold, the same applies to Foster. The words "sell high" don't apply here.

QB Matt Schaub has been one of the bigger disappointments of the fantasy football season. Schaub ranks only as the 15th-best fantasy quarterback, and has burned owners in Week 1 and Week 5.  

While some blame falls on Schaub, it should be noted that his wide-receiving corps has been battling injuries and not playing their best football.

WR Andre Johnson has only posted one great week, and ranks as only the 22nd-best fantasy receiver. Johnson should get it going once his ankle heals up, and hopefully that will be soon.  

But Johnson's value and production relies on an offense that seems schizophrenic at times, and still unsure of how to incorporate their new-found running game, and old-style passing attack.

 

Indianapolis ColtsQB Payton Manning had his first clunker of the year in Week 5 against an improved Kansas City defense.  

But Manning remains a top fantasy option, as does WR Austin Collie, who should finish in the top-10 fantasy wide receivers for the first time in his career.

WR Reggie Wayne should also finish in the top 10, as well as TE Dallas Clark, making you a happy fantasy owner if you own any part of the Colts' passing attack.  

The Colts running game leaves something to be desired as a fantasy owner, as both Joseph Addai and Donald Brown have been battling injuries.  Addai has cracked the top 15, but should he give in to any of his injuries for any length of time, finishing in the top 15 could be a stretch.

 

Jacksonville JaguarsOf all the possible fantasy disappointments of 2010, RB Maurice Jones-Drew takes the top spot.  

Jones-Drew's performance has left much to be desired, currently the 17th-best running back in fantasy football. His struggles can be explained by poor offensive-line performance, as well as QB David Garrard's fetish for throwing short-yardage touchdowns to TE Marcedes Lewis instead of Jones-Drew.

Lewis is one of the better additions for owners in non-PPR leagues, because he's on pace to score 16 touchdowns on only 51 receptions. But his touchdown pace is likely unsustainable.  

So Lewis could easily finish in the top-10 tight ends, but he won't do it with many receptions and yards.  

WR Mike Sims-Walker has disappeared for three of the Jaguars' first five games. As a fantasy owner, you can't start him on a regular basis and expect any sort of consistent production.  

At best, he can be a spot starter. At worst, he is waiver-wire fodder.

 

Tennessee TitansQB Vince Young is not worth owning outside of 16-team leagues.  

The Titans are reluctant to let him throw the ball at all. But when Young does throw it, he finds either WR Nate Washington or WR Kenny Britt.  

Keep an eye on Britt going forward, as he may have played his way back into the starting lineup.

RB Chris Johnson is not going to rush for 2,000 yards this year. But that doesn't mean he isn't one of the best running backs in fantasy football.  

While Johnson has been bottled up twice this year, don't expect that to be a trend. It wouldn't be at all surprising to see Johnson average 100 yards and a touchdown every week for the rest of the year.  

 

AFC West

 

Kansas City ChiefsStarting QB Matt Cassel should be nowhere near your fantasy radar.  

While the Chiefs have an explosive offense, Cassel does not provide the spark.  

RBs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones have teamed up to create the NFL's third-best rushing attack. While Charles is the more explosive back, Jones is getting more carries in addition to short-yardage work near the goal line.  

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Tony Moeaki

Charles is the back to own, as he can take it to the house any time he touches the ball. But until he starts finding the end zone, his upside is limited and should be considered no better than your second running back.

WR Dwayne Bowe should be resting comfortably on your bench if you were unlucky enough to draft him. Bowe is not worthy of more than filling a hole on your roster during bye weeks.  

On the other hand, TE Tony Moeaki has been Cassel's favorite target, and has a soft schedule the next three weeks should you need a tight end for a spot start.

 

Denver BroncosI bet the Chicago Bears wish they had a quarterback as good as Kyle Orton to run Mike Martz's offense.  

At this point, Orton is a must-start, regardless of matchup. He faces another tough test this weekend against the New York Jets, but so far has showed no signs of slowing down and is currently the third-best fantasy football option at quarterback.

WR Brandon Lloyd has the reputation of being a fantasy tease and flameout. Lloyd has erased all doubt for owners confident enough to grab him early, and is the No. 1 fantasy receiver through five games.  

Lloyd has been consistent, and WR Eddie Royal is probably the only other wide receiver in Denver worth starting on a weekly basis.

The Broncos running game is nonexistent, and that probably won't change much even when RB Knowshon Moreno returns.

 

San Diego ChargersQB Philip Rivers and the Chargers' offense is benefiting from horrific special teams play.  

Rivers is a fantasy stud, and leads the NFL in passing yards and touchdown passes. Keep riding this horse.  

No reason to trade him unless you are getting fantastic value in return. Rivers will finish as a top-three fantasy quarterback.

TE Antonio Gates is tearing up defenses and averaging nearly 1.5 touchdowns a game. Gates leads all other tight ends in fantasy scoring by 37 points.  

Thirty-seven points is the total points put up by TE Kellen Winslow. It's simply amazing to witness.

WR Malcom Floyd has benefited greatly from both WR Vincent Jackson's holdout, and the poor special teams play mentioned above. Floyd is far and away Rivers' favorite receiver not named Gates.  

Floyd is on a nearly unsustainable pace for 1,600 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. If Jackson does not play a down for the Chargers this year, Floyd may wind up as a top-15 fantasy option at wide receiver. 

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Owners of RB Ryan Mathews have found themselves in a running-back-by-committee situation that they didn't anticipate entering the season after spending an early draft pick on the rookie running back. Mathews has shown flashes of great play this year, but has been plagued by injuries, providing RB Mike Tolbert the opportunity to prove his worth.

 

Oakland RaidersThe Jason Campbell experiment lasted all of two minutes, and QB Bruce Gradkowski has turned into a decent fantasy option for a one-week start here or there based on matchups.  

WRs Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey are both developing in-to decent wide-receiving options, with Murphy being the more productive of the two thus far.  

As far as receivers go on the Raiders, the one you want to own is TE Zach Miller. Miller is the third-best fantasy tight end through five games, only trailing TE Dallas Clark for the No. 2 spot by one point.  

Miller has scored a touchdown in each of the last three weeks, and there is no reason to think his production is suddenly going to drop off.  

As tends to be the trend, RB Darren McFadden suffered a hamstring injury and sat out Week 5, providing RB Michael Bush a chance to prove his fantasy worth. And prove it he did.  

While McFadden had been a top-10 fantasy running back through four weeks, one has to believe that Bush will be getting some carries now that he is healthy and has shown he is productive. Which means that McFadden should be downgraded to a second running back option.

That wraps up our look at the state of fantasy football in the AFC. Up next is a team-by-team look at the NFC.  

For more fantasy football related chatter, you can follow Nathan on Twitter at @NathanWaddell.

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