Each week during the NFL season, I will offer up a variety of top-five lists because, well, who doesn’t love a top five list? With that universal love of lists in mind, I offer up some notable under-the-radar stats, as well as some under-the-radar players that may have notable performances in Week 5.
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5 Notable Offensive Stats
Melvin Gordon, LAC, RB; Todd Gurley, LAR, RB – The Los Angeles running backs are tied for the league lead in carries (19) resulting in no gain (or a loss of yards). But with -37 yards on 14 such carries, rookie Joe Mixon has been most negatively effected by these fruitless carries. Gurley and Gordon have amassed -25 yards and -26 yards, respectively, on their 19 fruitless carries. Interestingly, Gurley also leads the league in rushes that have gained five or more yards (34).
Matt Ryan, ATL, QB – As part of his run to ’16 NFL MVP honors, Ryan completed 32 passes on targets that were 20 yards downfield or further. This season, through four games, he has just three such completions – among qualified QBs, only Mike Glennon and Joe Flacco (2) have fewer. And Ryan’s Completion% (20.0 – 3-for-15) on 20-plus passes is lowest in the league – for the record, he hit at a 57.1% rate last season, second-best behind Sam Bradford (57.4).
Michael Thomas, NO, WR – Just call the Saints’ go-to guy the King of Consistency. Thomas has caught at least four passes in all 19 games he has played at the professional level. It’s the longest active streak of games with at least four receptions. Odell Beckham is second with a streak of 15 games, but after that, there’s a precipitous drop to third place (Mike Evans – 7).
Evan Engram, NYG, TE – Speaking of streaks with four or more catches, Engram is in select company with Zach Ertz as the only tight ends to have at least four catches and 40-plus yards in each of their four games this season. Engram’s under-the-hood numbers bode well for his fantasy owners going forward, as he ranks first at the position in the total number of snaps in which he’s run a pass route (144, ahead of the 140 run by Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski), and his 30 targets is tied for second (with Gronk) behind Ertz (36).
Jaron Brown, ARI, WR – Something to consider when deciding on whether to cast a line in the waiver pool for Brown’s services is that he ranks tied for fifth in catches that have gone for 10 or more yards (14). This is especially impressive, considering he didn’t even record a catch in Week 1. Not surprisingly, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones (16) top this list, and Stefon Diggs and A.J. Green clock in right after with 15 such catches. So Brown is hanging in elite territory in this statistical showcase.
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5 Notable Defensive Stats
Baltimore (Shutdown) Corners – Baltimore’s trio of corners (Brandon Carr, Jimmy Smith and slot cover Ladarius Webb) all rank in the top 13 (among CBs that have played at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps) in QB Rating Allowed on intended targets to their assignments. All have a QBR Allowed below 60.0, with Carr (20.0) and Smith (26.0) ranked first and third, respectively. In total, the trio has combined to allow just 24 catches for 453 yards with a TD-to-INT ratio of 0:5 in four games. Sans QB Derek Carr, all Raiders’ wideouts, who face Baltimore this week, need to be heavily downgraded for the matchup in addition to the QB change.
Pittsburgh Steelers – It could be a rough week for Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offense. The Jags face a Steelers’ defense that is second in QB sacks (15), first in Yards per Pass Attempt (5.2) and has allowed just 4.2 yards per play, lowest in the league. New England (7.2) has allowed a full three yards more per play than Pittsburgh, and sit last in this category. The Buccaneers get to host the Patriots this week, and the Tampa Bay offense has generated 6.0 yards per play, fifth-best in the NFL.
Tennessee Titans – The Titans’ defense allows a league-high 4.5 red zone opportunities per game, resulting in an average of 3.2 red zone touchdowns allowed per game, also tops in the league. Oh, and guess who allows the most first downs per game? Yep, that’s the Titans once again, allowing 24.8 chain-moving plays per game. Hosting Tennessee, it’s a great week for Miami to break out of its offensive slump.
Chicago Bears Run Defense – The Bears have faced some formidable running backs through the first month of the season (Devonta Freeman, Le’Veon Bell and Ty Montgomery among them), yet they are the only team that has yet to allow a run of at least 15 yards. And only Philly and Denver have allowed fewer yards from scrimmage to the running back position. Dalvin Cook owners might be tempted to pick up Latavius Murray and/or Jerick McKinnon to plug in for Cook this week at Chicago on Monday night, but they should seek other options.
Cleveland Browns – Think the Browns’ defense is a pushover? Think again. The Cleveland defense has produced a total of 50 plays that have resulted in no gain or a loss of yards, tops in the league.
5 Flex-able Bye-week Fill-ins
Adam Humphries, TB, WR – New England corners Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung have been two of the most victimized corners in slot coverage this season, both yielding QB Ratings north of 140 on targets intended for their slot assignments. Humphries, who leads the Bucs in receiving yards over the past two weeks (138) spends the majority of his time in the slot, so this matchup suits him well.
Geronimo Allison, GB, WR – There’s a good chance that Packers WR Davante Adams (concussion) sits in Week 5. And if that’s the case, Allison will be the biggest playing time beneficiary. We’ve already seen Allison flash in Week 3, recording six catches for 122 yards while filling in for injured starter Randall Cobb. Allison could post similar fantasy value this week against a Dallas defense that has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to the WR position.
Sterling Shepard, NYG, WR – Shepard has played at least 56 snaps in every game this season and sits ninth among WRs in total snaps played this season. That workload has helped propel Shepard to the No. 21 spot in fantasy points among WRs through the first month of the season, and should help him continue living in that neighborhood for another week as he faces a Chargers’ secondary that has allowed a 101 QB Rating (ninth most) and the 11th-most fantasy PPG allowed to the WR position.
Isaiah Crowell, CLE, RB – Time for a last-ditch effort for Crowell owners. If he can’t make good this week, it’s more than justified kicking him to the curb. But Crowell has a set-up that just might work out (finally!) for his fantasy owners. No team has trailed more often than Cleveland this season, and game flow has certainly contributed to Crowell’s first-month funk. But he’s at home this week against a Jets team that has faired poorly in two road contests this season, getting outscored by a combined score of 66-32 against Oakland and Buffalo. And running backs have carried the ball 107 times versus the Jets this season, fourth-most in the NFL. There is reason to believe Crowell could see his largest workload of the season this week. If he doesn’t at least come close to doubling his Fantasy PPG average (4.6) on Sunday, by all means, throw him out with the trash.
C.J. Prosise, SEA, RB – Prosise is expected to be back in action this week after sitting out Week 4 with an ankle injury. With Chris Carson lost to IR with a broken leg, the lead backfield role is again up for grabs. Prosise offers the skill-set with the most bells and whistles and it would not be surprising if Prosise, in addition to handling the passing down duties in the backfield, also sees something in the neighborhood of 6-10 carries. And a double-digit workload against this Rams’ defense that has allowed more fantasy points to the RB position than any other team, could very easily net flex-worthy results.
5 Players/Defenses with Enviable October Schedules
Jay Ajayi, MIA, RB – Game flow has hurt Ajayi’s workload upside in the past couple games, but if Miami can put forth some competitive efforts this month, Ajayi stands to make major gains. The Dolphins will face Tennessee, Atlanta, the NY Jets and Baltimore over the next four weeks. Each of those four teams currently sits among the top 10 most generous in fantasy to opposing running backs.
Kelvin Benjamin/Devin Funchess, CAR, WR – Funchess (No. 2 – 7-for-70 and 2 TDs) and Benjamin (No. 18 – 4-for-104) were both among the top 20 fantasy wideouts in Week 4, and it’s not hard to imagine the duo repeating this feat again in the weeks ahead given the softness of their October slate. This week, the Panthers’ wideouts face a Lions’ defense that has been middle-of-the-road against receivers for fantasy purposes. That will be the biggest hurdle ahead for Benjamin and Funchess. After that, they’ll face Philly, Chicago and Tampa Bay, all three among the seven most generous in fantasy to the WR position.
Hunter Henry, LAC, TE – Sitting at 0-4 to start the season, it’s high time the Chargers started looking to the future, moving Henry to the forefront in the TE platoon with Antonio Gates. By snap count measurements, I guess you could say the transition has already begun – after trailing in combined snap count over the first two games by a tally of 71-56, Henry has played even time with Gates the past two games (76 to 76). If the trend continues in that direction, Henry is going to see a healthy workload over the next four weeks against the NY Giants, Denver, Oakland and New England, teams ranked among the nine most generous to the TE position – they have combined to allow 12 TE touchdowns thus far.
Joe Flacco, BAL, QB – Each of Flacco’s October opponents sits in the bottom half of the league in QB Rating allowed, and three of those opponents (Oakland, Chicago, Miami) rank among the bottom six, each allowing a QBR over 103. Flacco is off to a rough start, but it’s worth a reminder that he missed the entire preseason because of a back injury and his QB strength of schedule through his first four games rates as the third-toughest. Flacco might not be a bad direction for Derek Carr owners to turn in October.
Philadelphia Defense – Not only is Philly a great get for this week hosting an Arizona offense that has allowed the most QB pressures, hurries and sacks, but it also gets two more home dates this month, against offenses that have been among the most generous to opposing defenses (Washington, San Francisco). Moreover, its one road date in October comes at Carolina, against a Panthers’ offense that has allowed the 11th-most sacks (11) and third-most INTs (5).
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