Cullen: Veterans lead the way in NFL Week 5

Scott Cullen
10/9/2012 2:32:58 PM
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It's a week for longtime greats, including Drew Brees, Reggie Wayne and Tony Gonzalez, while the San Francisco 49ers suddenly present viable fantasy options, RGIII is injured and more in Scott Cullen's Week 5 Recap.

Passing for 370 yards and four touchdowns was enough for Saints QB Drew Brees to both set the all-time record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass and earn the first win of the season for New Orleans.

For all of their flaws as a team, most of them are on defence, so the Saints can pile up yardage. With star TE Jimmy Graham suffering a sprained ankle, Brees worked with his outside threats, so the primary beneficiaries of Brees' aerial assault against San Diego were wide receivers Marques Colston (9 REC, 131 YDS, 3 TD) and Devery Henderson (8 REC, 123 YDS, 1 TD).

Given the atrocious quarterback play he put up with last season, there was every reason to believe that veteran Colts receiver Reggie Wayne could rebound this season with rookie Andrew Luck representing an upgrade in pass distribution. Against Green Bay on Sunday, Wayne put up 13 catches for a career-high 212 yards, scoring one touchdown.

Through four games, Wayne leads the league with 126.5 receiving yards per game and while he's not going to have a 2,000-yard season, 33-year-old Wayne could be a No. 1 fantasy receiver for the first time in a couple of years.

There was a time when Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez was the unchallenged champion among tight ends, but the position has undergone a renaissance, what with Antonio Gates becoming a perennial Pro Bowler and Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham appearing as new-era prototypes last season.

Through it all, however, Gonzalez has remained an elite producer at the position. After 13 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown against Washington, 36-year-old Gonzalez leads all tight ends with 388 yards and four touchdowns (tied with four others).

I've been as skeptical as anyone about the value provided by the 49ers, but they paid off huge against Buffalo. QB Alex Smith (18-for-24, 303 YDS, 3 TD) suffered a finger injury, but after his performance, he's currently the top-rated quarterback (108.7 QB Rating) in the league.

WR Michael Crabtree (6 REC, 113 YDS, 1 TD) and TE Vernon Davis (5 REC, 106 YDS) benefitted from Smith's effective passing game, while running backs Frank Gore (14 carries, 106 yards) and Kendall Hunter (11 rushes, 81 yards) helped grind out the yards in the blowout win.

Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III had been the most productive quarterback in fantasy circles through the first four weeks, so when a concussion forced him from Sunday's game against Atlanta, it was a significant development.

Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins was serviceable (5-for-9, 111 YDS, 1 TD, 2 INT) in relief, but Washington's hopes are pinned on the health of Griffin. If he responds favourably to physical activity this week, though, there is the possibility that Griffin III will be starting for Washington next week against Minnesota.

After rushing for 141 yards at Houston in Week Four, Titans RB Chris Johnson returned to his fantasy useless self with 15 carries for 24 yards at Minnesota Sunday. The Titans host Pittsburgh thsi week, which isn't a great opportunity to recapture his lost form, but maybe the following week, at Buffalo, will be his next chance to salvage what has been an awful start (210 rushing yard, 2.9 ypc) to the season. Johnson's primary backup, Javon Ringer, will be out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, which makes it unlikely that there will be any changes to the Titans' backfield.

Last year's prized rookie quarterback, Carolina's Cam Newton, has struggled this season, with his 80.9 QB rating ranking 20th in the league. In Sunday's loss to Seattle, Newton completed 12 of 29 passes (a career-low 41.4%) for a career-low 141 yards. Newton wasn't effective passing the ball, but the Panthers' gameplan didn't really reflect that, practically refusing to attack the Seahawks any other way.

Carolina ran the ball on 19 of their 52 offensive plays, but seven of those runs were by Newton, leaving 10 carries, total, for running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.

Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall made his first start of the season, returning from offseason knee surgery and finished with 101 yards and a touchdown on 16 touches against Philadelphia. Mendenhall adds competence to a Steelers running game that sputtered with Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman but, with Mendenhall returning, Redman filled a complementary role against the Eagles and Pittsburgh was clearly more effective.

New England is getting more comfortable with the running game it seems, with Stevan Ridley (28 carries, 151 yards, 1 TD) and Brandon Bolden (14 carries, 54 yards) putting up significant yardage for the second straight week.

Even with a few games of limited production, Ridley ranks fifth in the league with 490 rushing yards and is tied for second with four rushing touchdowns.

Part of the reason that the Patriots are running the ball is that they don't have their full complement of receivers, but fewer pass-catching options for Tom Brady means that Wes Welker is re-establishing his place as Brady's prime target. With 13 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown, Welker now leads all wide receivers with 38 catches on the season; his 484 yards ranks sixth. Not bad for a guy that was supposedly getting phased out in Week One.

The Cardinals' running back situation is a mess, which makes for challenges throughout the offence because it's not as if QB Kevin Kolb is generating enough of a passing game to survive without a competent rushing attack. With Beanie Wells already sidelined with a turf toe injury, Ryan Williams suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

That leaves an undistinguished trio. William Powell, who has three carries for nine yards in the NFL, is ahead of Alfonso Smith (who rushed for 102 yards on 30 carries last year) and LaRod Stephens-Howling, who is on the small side, who has 738 yards from scrimmage in three-plus NFL seasons and might have the most upside of this bunch.

Rams DE Robert Quinn registered three sacks against Arizona, giving him six on the season. He had five as a rookie in part-time duty last season, but Quinn is quickly becoming one of the premier pass-rushing ends in the league.

Rams No. 1 WR Danny Amendola is likely to miss at least a month, and possibly more, after suffering a shoulder injury against Arizona. With more than twice as many targets, catches and yards as anyone else on the Rams roster this season, Amendola's absence creates a significant hole in what is already a paper-thin offence surrounding QB Sam Bradford.

With Amendola out, that means more looks for Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens, the latter of whom stepped in to fill Amendola's spot when he left the Arizona game. Gibson and Givens are deep threats, however, not proven in the kind of possession routes that have been Amendola's hallmark, so this could conceivably open the door for veteran WR Steve Smith, who has been inactive for the last couple games.

Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis lost carries to Bernard Scott against Miami, which isn't unreasonable since he had 14 yards on nine carries, but with Scott suffering a season-ending knee injury in the contest, Green-Ellis has some comfort atop the Bengals' depth chart. Brian Leonard and Cedric Peerman are next in line, though neither one appears to be ready to challenge for the starting job yet.

Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw appears to be back in full health, running for 200 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries against Cleveland. With Bradshaw's career day (his previous high was 151 at Buffalo in 2007), that meant less work for backups. Andre Brown had zero carries and David Wilson two carries (for 44 yards), so Bradshaw solidified his position.

With Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden out, Giants rookie WR Rueben Randle put up six catches for 82 yards against the Browns. Randle may not get enough looks when all are healthy, but he could be a viable performer as the Giants' number three behind Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon when that opportunity is available to him.

With inconsistency plaguing the Browns' receiving corps, most notably drop-prone Greg Little, there are opportunities opening up for others. Rookie WR Josh Gordon, had just two catches against the Giants, but they were 62 and 20-yard touchdowns and, even though he has a modest nine catches, he leads all Browns receivers with 175 yards this year.

Jordan Norwood, a second-year receiver out of Penn State, had nine catches for 81 yards as he has suddenly become a prominent target (13 catches, 137 yards in the last two games) for QB Brandon Weeden.

Green Bay RB Cedric Benson suffered a lisfranc injury in his foot that is expected to keep him out at least eight weeks. This opened the door for Alex Green, initially, but James Starks, who has been out with a toe injury, will figure prominently in plans too, since he has more of a track record in the Packers offence.

While the presence of Ryan Grant might cause some concern about playing time for Redskins rookie Alfred Morris, continued production seems assured of keeping Morris in his spot at the top of the depth chart.

For the second straight week, Morris rushed for a career-high (115 yards this week against Atlanta) and ranks fourth in the league with 491 rushing yards.

After he was surprisingly bumped from the top of the Chargers RB depth chart, Ryan Mathews turned in a strong game (139 yards, 18 touches) at New Orleans to re-establish that he is, in fact, with all due respect to Jackie Battle, the best San Diego has at the position.

There is an argument to be made that no one on the Jets is worthy of fantasy consderation, but those in deeper leagues might want to give WR Jeremy Kerley some consideration. He put has five receptions for 94 yards against Houston and his 291 receiving yards through five games ranks ahead of notables like Jordy Nelson, Andre Johnson and Stevie Johnson.

Controversy swirled when Kansas City fans cheered QB Matt Cassel leaving the field with a concussion. Putting aside that tastelessness, however, that increases the likelihood of Brady Quinn starting at Tampa Bay next week.

On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs do have an improving pass rush. Chiefs OLB Justin Houston had two sacks against the Ravens (as did teammate Tamba Hali) and Houston, a second-year linebacker out of Georgia, is now tied for third in the league with six sacks, making him a dangerous complement to Hali, who has 26.5 sacks in the last two seasons as well as three sacks in four games this year.

Bears rookie WR Alshon Jeffery suffered a broken hand against Jacksonville, which will open up additional looks in the passing game for Devin Hester and Earl Bennett.

Of course, any receivers in Chicago are secondary in nature to Brandon Marshall, who is back in sync with QB Jay Cuter, finishing with 12 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington (concussion)
Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans (ankle)
Cedric Benson, RB, Green Bay (foot)
Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona (shoulder)
Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis (shoulder)
Matt Cassel, QB, Kansas City (concussion)
Brian Cushing, ILB, Houston (knee)
LaMarr Woodley, OLB, Pittsburgh (hamstring)
Troy Polamalu, SS, Pittsburgh (calf)
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago (hand)

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Reggie Wayne (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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