One Big Thing – NFC – Week 5

Updated: October 17th 2020

Every week we learn a little bit more about how a team sees each player as a part of their offense allowing fantasy footballers to react (positively or negatively) to those actions. Each week I will look to capture the “One Big Thing” that should have an impact on each team going forward and how you, the savvy fantasy player, can use that to your advantage.

NFC EAST

Philadelphia

What has happened to Zach Ertz? He has averaged 92 percent of the Eagles’ snaps and earned at least five (5) targets in each game this season but is the current TE15 on the season. It hit a low point last week when he was targeted six (6) times but only caught one (1) pass for six (6) yards and finished as the TE41. This all comes while the receiving core of the Eagles is out with injuries to which makes even less sense. The only explanation is that the opposing defense is hyper-focusing on covering Ertz as the only real threat. Fantasy owners can only hope that with other players returning around him, Ertz can provide close to where his RSO contracts likely are valued.

 Washington

It was a nice story to have Alex Smith back in an NFL game for the first time in two years but it did not provide any kind of spark to the offense as the team only recorded 108 total yards against the Rams. This team is likely going to the well for a quarterback again in the 2021 draft as it appears that Dwayne Haskins is all but an afterthought to this coaching staff. We will see whether he is traded or released and can find a backup role to continue his development. For those who drafted him in the mid-first round of Superflex leagues with all the receiver talent that has started to blossom, this has to sting.

 NY Giants

The Giants offense was able to take advantage of a bad Dallas Cowboys defense to the delight of those who started Darius Slayton and Devonta Freeman. Specifically, with Freeman, he seems to slowly be taking over the backfield (not that surprising) as he becomes more familiar with the play calling and pass protections. He played on 54 percent of the team’s snaps and accounted for 17 of the 25 rushing attempts. Another below-average matchup against Washington in week 6 could provide a second opportunity for both Slayton and Freeman to provide adequate fantasy numbers.

 Dallas

Can Andy Dalton save the Cowboys’ season? That is the question that everyone has been talking about this past week. Dalton was unceremoniously ushered out of Cincinnati for first overall pick Joe Burrow as his production had significantly dropped off in recent years. To be fair to Dalton he did not have the strongest support around him in his final years as he does now in Dallas. The last time Cincinnati had three strong receivers and a steady backfield (2015) Dalton threw for 25 touchdowns to only seven (7) interceptions and a 106QBR. In the weak NFC East, even 80 percent of that production should be enough to win this division.

NFC NORTH

 Chicago

Regardless of whether it is Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles at quarterback, it is the one-man-band show in Chicago for Allen Robinson. The wide receiver was tied for the most targets in week 5 with 16 and leads all receivers this season with 57. The question is will anyone step up and be the second option consistently enough? After week 1 it looked like Anthony Miller might have his breakout season but he has been quiet over the last month since. Jimmy Graham has looked much better in Chicago than he did in Green Bay, with four (4) touchdowns in five (5) games so maybe he can be the second option. The team is surprisingly 4-1, so what they are doing already maybe will be enough to make the playoffs.

 Minnesota

Kirk Cousins looked pretty good in the first half against the Seahawks and then came out in the second half so flat that the Seahawks scored three (3) touchdowns in 2 minutes and 27 seconds. He rallied to give the team a late lead but Russell Wilson had a spectacular final drive to win it. Dalvin Cook has already been ruled out for week 6’s game against the Falcons so it may be on Kirk Cousins to win this game for the Vikings. This team is not as bad as their 1-4 record shows but the losses all count the same when looking ahead to draft positioning. It would be interesting to see this team with a top 5 pick and what decision they would make with Kirk Cousins with guys like Justin Fields and Trey Lance potential available to draft.

NFC SOUTH

 Tampa Bay

Tom Brady has yet to have his full arsenal of weapons through the first five (5) games of the season but he seems to be out of sync with everyone, including Rob Gronkowski. Whether it is conflicting ideologies on the play calling with Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich or timing with receivers, the team looks too inconsistent to be a serious Super Bowl contender at this point in the season. Ronald Jones has been great for fantasy owners the last two weeks with Leonard Fournette sidelined with an injury and Mike Evans has been a touchdown machine with at least one in each game this season. If the Bucs get inside the five-yard line, expect at least one end zone fade pass from Brady to Evans.

 Carolina

The Panthers have suggested that they may hold out Christian McCaffrey through week 8 and possibly till after their week 9 bye. You cannot blame them for wanting to get their All-Pro running back healthy with how well Mike Davis has played in his absence. The team has rattled off three straight wins and find themselves in a three-way tie for first in the division. Robbie Anderson has to be this year’s biggest surprise thus far as he has been a fantasy gold mine as the PPR WR7. He likely is on a single-year contract so he is an ideal buy candidate for any contender.

 Atlanta

The game started so well for the Falcons, going down the field for a touchdown on a long Todd Gurley touchdown. Then, as it seems to every game this season, the flood gates on their defense opened up and they could not do enough to keep up with their opponents. Matt Ryan has not been his usual backend QB1 and has failed to score a touchdown in consecutive games for the first time in his career. Julio Jones has once again been hampered with injuries and forced him to miss weeks 3, 5 and half of week 4’s game. Other than his week 1 performance with 157 receiving yards it has been difficult for fantasy owners to start him with any confidence. After five consecutive losses to start the season it has finally forced owner Arthur Blank to fire both his head coach and general manager. It also opens the door to questions about how much of a rebuild this team may be in for.

 New Orleans

There is a certain ratio of talent to diva that teams are willing to deal with before it just becomes not worth it. Antonio Brown’s talent slipped slightly and it became necessary for three (3) teams to tell him to go away in ten months. Hopefully, we are not seeing the same thing with Saints receiver Michael Thomas but he is making a pretty easy case to dislike him. The Saints suspended him this past week for throwing a punch at a teammate during practice and then mouthing off to Head Coach Sean Payton afterwards after he was set to return from the ankle injury that has kept him out since week 1. He will play this week and will continue to be an elite WR1 when on the field, but it will be interesting once Drew Brees retires to see whether Payton and Thomas can continue to co-exist if he continues to act out.

NFC WEST

 Arizona

It must have been nerve-racking for DeAndre Hopkins fans heading into the fourth quarter of last week’s matchup. The elite wide receiver, against one of the worst teams since the 0-16 Browns, had only four (4) catches for 49 yards. Then he and Kyler Murray connected on two deep passes for 82 yards total and scored a touchdown to turn what could have been a let-down game into the PPR WR8 of the week. Through their first five games, it appears that the Cardinals can bully the bad teams (San Francisco, Washington, NY Jets) but have struggled with teams that show even a little bit of resistance (Detroit and Carolina). Murray is having a stellar start to fantasy season and should continue to put up great numbers playing against two of the worst pass defenses over the next two weeks.

 LA Rams

The Rams have started the season off great, with a 4-1 record that could easily be 5-0 if not for a questionable pass interference call against the Bills. Looking deeper though, all four (4) of their wins have come against the NFC East, a division that currently has a 4-15-1 record. Not that we should devalue them since you can only play the teams that you are scheduled against but the second half of their season should be much closer games than their first half. Jared Goff has also had a nice bounce-back start to the season scoring three (3) total touchdowns in three (3) games thus far compared to only two (2) such games all of last season.

 San Francisco

Who knows whether it was the injured ankle or just an off day for Jimmy Garoppolo but he was bad, scoring negative fantasy points in week 5. The whole team was dominated by the Dolphins in a 43-17 beat down but Jimmy G’s performance was so bad that he was benched at halftime for it. The good news is that offense is getting healthier and so they should have a full complement of weapons available to them soon. The problem is that if they do not get better quarterback play it will be difficult for this team to make a comeback in a tough NFC West. This may be a make or break season for Garoppolo as his guaranteed money runs out in 2021. Much like Atlanta and Minnesota, if the 49ers find themselves in a spot to draft one of the two other great quarterbacks of this rookie class would they move off of Garoppolo a year removed from making the Super Bowl?

 Seattle

It does not matter who their opponent is the Seahawks are going to put on a show of theatrics with Russell Wilson. The offense looked flat for the first half of Sunday Night Football against the Vikings only to come back, lose the lead again, and then regain it on the final drive of the night. D.K. Metcalf is looking like the reincarnation of Calvin Johnson with his freaky size and speed dominating defenders. He has at least 90 yards receiving in each game this year and five (5) touchdowns. If he is not the dynasty WR1 by the start of the 2021 season it would be a shock.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews