- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Of the consensus top 11 wideouts heading into the season, check out the Week 5 carnage (with one obvious exception):
1. Calvin Johnson: Didn't play because of a knee injury
2. A.J. Green: Five catches for 61 yards
3. Dez Bryant: Six catches for 141 yards and two TDs, also known as: the exception
4. Brandon Marshall: Four catches for 30 yards and a TD
5. Julio Jones: Plays Monday
6. Demaryius Thomas: Five catches for 57 yards
7. Roddy White: Plays Monday
8. Vincent Jackson: Bye
9. Andre Johnson: Three catches for 39 yards
10. Randall Cobb: Four catches for 35 yards (but added two carries for 72 yards)
11. Larry Fitzgerald: Three catches for 43 yards
Fortunately for Megatron's fantasy owners, the Detroit Lions announced before game time that their stud wideout would be inactive, so you had a chance to change your lineup. Unfortunately, no Lions replacement was good; likeliest suspect Ryan Broyles had two grabs for 27 yards.
Meanwhile, such supposedly middling fantasy commodities as Alshon Jeffery, T.Y. Hilton, Terrance Williams, Rueben Randle, Justin Blackmon, Keenan Allen and Austin Pettis went bonkers. Jeffery was the best: He produced 218 yards and a TD on 13 targets and 10 grabs, giving him 325 yards and two scores in his past two games, after managing 104 yards and zero scores in his first three. Does this mean Jeffery is the new Marshall, and a must-start? Let's put it this way: Defensive help isn't shifting to Jeffery's side anytime soon, and the Chicago Bears face the awful New York Giants' defense Thursday night. No doubt there comes a point where we can consider using these short-term wonders in place of struggling options like Dwayne Bowe, Steve Smith and Steve Johnson. Are we there yet? It's up to your individual risk tolerance. I'll say this: Jeffery was No. 32 on my WR list this week, the highest of this week's shocking WR studs. He'll be even higher in Week 6.
Remember: Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @CHarrisESPN for more analysis during the week. For now, let's look at Sunday's other top storylines:
• David Wilson scored a touchdown! All was right with the world! For about one quarter. Wilson is utterly determined not to give you any solace. Either that, or he owns Brandon Jacobs on his fantasy team. On the final play of the first quarter Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, Wilson got a carry up the gut from his own 5, smacked into the line and bounced backward. Half of the Philly defense crowded into him in the end zone, driving him to the turf, and Wilson suffered a neck injury. (No truth to the rumor that Wilson hurt his neck doing a double-backflip after his TD.) Initial reports indicate that Wilson's injury isn't considered serious, but he was held out of the rest of the game as a precaution. As I just mentioned, the Giants play Thursday against the Bears, which doesn't give Wilson much time to get ready. Jacobs had 37 yards on 11 carries in Wilson's absence, and it was painful to watch. Don't rule out New York signing a street free agent.
• Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh wasn't lying when he said Ray Rice would be the focus of his Week 5 game plan. Rice never broke a play longer than 7 yards Sunday, but he touched it an impressive 33 times for 102 total yards, and more importantly, converted two goal-line runs for short TDs. It seems safe to assert that Rice's hip problem is behind him. You're using him without reservation next week against the Green Bay Packers.
• Speaking of the Pack, they cruised over the Lions in the second half using Eddie Lacy as their primary weapon. Lacy got 13 carries and one target in the first half, followed by 10 carries in the second. I'm not the least bit concerned that Lacy had no runs longer than 13 yards. If you watched him go, you saw the violent, powerful, change-of-direction player we all hoped we were getting. Lacy's biggest worry at this point is a Packers offense that bogs down in opposing territory too frequently; the last piece he's missing is a plethora of short scores. It's worth noting that Week 3 celebrity Johnathan Franklin was barely used even with James Starks out; Franklin had three carries for 1 yard and then fumbled in the second quarter (Aaron Rodgers recovered) and was never heard from again. I'm not ditching Franklin just yet unless I'm in need of a roster spot, because his Week 3 effort was legit and no joke. But let's see if a residency in the Packers' doghouse is forthcoming.
• Tom Brady failed to throw a TD pass for the first time in 52 games (though he came within inches in the fourth quarter on a weird, uncoordinated catch by Danny Amendola), leading to an awful five standard-league fantasy points. The song remains the same: Brady awaits Rob Gronkowski. But the hard facts of the case are: You can't blame Tom Terrific's pass catchers for this one. Brady was massively pressured in this game and made some inaccurate throws. And then there was the running game. Stevan Ridley was inactive. LeGarrette Blount had a couple of spry runs, but then did what he always does: hurt his team with mistakes. Blount lost a fumble in Cincinnati Bengals territory and was scarcely seen again, as Brandon Bolden took over backfield duties. In fact, the only time I really noticed another Blount carry came on the play after Amendola just missed scoring. He got a carry from the Cincy 1 and -- surprise! -- couldn't convert. He's the worst giant short-yardage runner I've ever seen. What a mess. Brady will presumably get better. This RB situation is hands-off, pure and simple.
• Michael Vick is hurt again. And water is wet.
• But seriously, folks. Vick was on his way to a huge Sunday, with 105 passing yards and 79 rushing yards in less than a half before he pulled a hamstring. In his place, Nick Foles had some down moments, but mostly played quite well, including two solid throws for TDs. Vick was able to keep playing for a couple of snaps after his injury, so it's probably not a major one. But Foles is worth keeping an eye on.
• Ryan Mathews suffered a concussion on his third carry of Sunday night's loss against the Oakland Raiders, but I seriously was getting to the point of ranking him behind Danny Woodhead even without the injury. Before Mathews got hurt, Woody had out-touched him 5-to-3, and had clearly out-snapped him as well. I don't want to sell you Woodhead as anything resembling a must-start player; he lost most short-yardage carries to Ronnie Brown once Mathews was out, though he did score a red-zone TD from the Oakland 5. But it's time to pull the plug on Mathews. In a 10-team league, I'm OK with dropping him. If he comes back to haunt you later in the season, well, stuff happens. But I'm not counting on it.
• Pierre Thomas got 19 carries! Holy schnikey! Of course, he did next-to-nothing with those looks, getting stymied for 36 yards. But he took the Darren Sproles role in the New Orleans Saints' offense by catching all nine of his targets for 55 yards and two scores. Certainly Mark Ingram's absence has clarified things a bit in the Saints' backfield, but probably not enough. I had several angry tweeters demand an explanation of why I didn't have Sproles (six touches, 41 yards) in the top 10 in this week's RB ranks. Now you understand why.
• Another Thomas went kooky Sunday: Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas. Orange Julius scored twice and grabbed nine of 12 targets for 122 yards, and now is up to six TDs for the season. Thomas' usage is pretty obviously situational. The Dallas Cowboys put everything they had into stopping Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, and left Julius Thomas man-to-man all afternoon with either a free safety or a middle linebacker on him. They picked their poison, and Julius Thomas crushed them. Some weeks, defenses will choose differently, and he will be quieter. But he's still worth a start most weeks, just for his upside.
• Two of fantasy's most annoying players, Chris Johnson and Hakeem Nicks, finally made some plays that made them worth owning. Johnson was mostly his typical doggy self, rushing it 10 times for 17 yards and yielding all high-value carries to Jackie Battle, but Ryan Fitzpatrick avoided a midfield sack just long enough to offer a desperation flip pass to Johnson, who took it to the house. Hey! He can do that? Awesome! It was Johnson's first TD of the season, and at the moment, he doesn't look like a guy who'll get five all year. If I could, I'd sell based on this performance. As for Nicks, he had nine grabs for 142 yards against the Eagles' awful corners, but of course, he had to poke a finger in his fantasy owners' eyes by allowing an easy TD on a fade route to clang off his hands. (Randle scored on the next play.) I'd be just as willing to sell Nicks high.
• Mike Wallace stuffed the stat sheet with 16 targets and seven grabs for 105 yards, but I was left unimpressed. Much of that work came early, and later on, he was a woof-meister. I'm not sure how many drops the official scorer will give Wallace, but I counted four, including two on a crucial late-game drive. Listen, the Miami Dolphins don't have much in the way of other playmaking options. Mr. Sixty Minutes will continue to be Ryan Tannehill's top target. But I'm sorry, the man should be better than he is. It's frustrating.
• Zac Stacy didn't stir the echoes of Marshall Faulk (or even Steven Jackson), but he generated the most rushing yards of any St. Louis Rams RB in a single game so far this year: He had 14 carries for 78 yards. This was still a split job with Daryl Richardson, who had 10 carries before Stacy left the game with a minor rib injury, plus it came against the Jacksonville Jaguars. I didn't see much of this game, and look forward to watching Stacy on tape Monday; he wasn't a potential NFL star at Vanderbilt, but I liked his toughness and vision, so I'm hopeful. Still, no matter who the Rams' lead back is in Week 6, expect tougher sledding against the Houston Texans.
• Taking a page from starter Darren McFadden's playbook, Raiders backup RB Rashad Jennings played decently in the first half Sunday night, then suffered a hamstring pull and was never heard from again. In his stead, Marcel Reece got the backfield work and was just fine. If the universe is merciful, we'll get DMC and Jennings ruled out early this week for Oakland's Sunday tilt against the Kansas City Chiefs, and Reece will be named the starter. In such a scenario, at minimum he'd be a decent flex option.
• Before the Carolina Panthers' bye, Cam Newton produced his first Newton-esque game of his third season: three pass TDs, one rush TD and 28 fantasy points. There was reason to expect he'd keep it going against the Arizona Cardinals, especially because his rushing is supposed to make him relatively slump-proof. Um, no. Newton did eclipse 300 yards passing for the first time this season, but he tossed three picks (one was deflected, but still) and most troublingly rushed it four times for 25 yards. The big guy has 118 rush yards in four games, putting him on pace for 472; he's never been below 706 in his prior seasons. So much for slump-proof.
• The Minnesota Vikings signed Josh Freeman for a whole bunch of dough: $3 million for 12 games. If that makes you think we could be nearing the end of the Christian Ponder era, you're forgiven. Ponder was already unlikely to play in Week 6 against the Panthers because of fractured ribs, and Matt Cassel played a pretty good game in Week 4. But you'd have to imagine the Vikings want a nice long look at Freeman, and soon. He may not go Sunday, because learning any new NFL offense is a steep curve, and Freeman has never been known as the headiest of players. But I'm betting we see Freeman as a starter in the Twin Cities soon.
• The Buffalo Bills saw enough of Jeff Tuel Thursday night, when he replaced the injured EJ Manuel under center. So they signed Thad Lewis off their practice squad and announced he'll get the nod versus the Bengals. That's not good news for Steve Johnson or Robert Woods.
• Sure, Tony Romo had a spectacular statistical day, posting an incredible 40 fantasy points while tossing for 506 yards and five TDs. But in the end, he channeled his inner Tony Romo. Oy. His late-game pick deep in his own territory was truly a Romo Special, handing a win to the transcendent Peyton Manning and the Broncos. A lot of fantasy owners left Romo on their benches and are probably ticked off at themselves, but listen, the guy hadn't even thrown for 300 yards in a game this season, and had been stuck on 6.7 yards per attempt. Now you know he's startable again. You're forgiven.
Christopher Harris reviews Week 5's action, including a number of unsung wideouts coming up big.