And then there were two. With ten combined games played, Atlanta and Houston have recorded zero losses between them. And while ‘unbeaten’ might not mean much this early in the season - not with four months of football still to play - the Falcons and Texans nonetheless stand head and shoulders above the pack.
They’re doing it in different ways on offense: Houston run do-it-all weapon Arian Foster into the ground and rely on occasional play-action heaves downfield to Owen Daniels and Andre Johnson, while Atlanta have opened up under Matt Ryan and ask Julio Jones, Roddy White and the incomparable Tony Gonzalez to win individual battles in the secondary. Right now it’s working, and these two franchises are third and fourth respectively in point differential (the difference between points scored and conceded).
As teams capable of scoring big and shutting down opponents, it goes without saying that their key offensive personnel, kickers and defenses (even without Houston’s Brian Cushing, feared lost to an ACL) merit weekly consideration - at the very least - for your NFLUK fantasy lineups.
Let’s get to your week six fantasy questions:
- ‘Does Robert Griffin III’s poor outing and injury mean the end of his early season dominance, or is it just a blip?’
RGIII. He’s been the talk of fantasy since that staggering week one upset of the New Orleans Saints, and while teams have caught up to him a little - his passing stats have certainly fallen off a bit - his sheer athleticism has still been producing yardage and points for the Redskins and for countless NFLUK teams. The only thing that could stop him? Forcing him off the field, as Falcons’ LB Sean Weatherspoon did in week five with a monster hit. Griffin, for his part, couldn’t remember the score or which quarter it was when he came to. For many NFLUK Fantasy Leaguers, his absence equated to a disastrous weekend.
It’s tough to get on a player for not producing when he has succumbed to injury, but for Griffin the criticism has a little more to it because of his playing style. Just like Philadelphia’s Michael Vick, to whom he’s closer in stature and style than Cam Newton, RGIII can be reckless on scrambles and leaves himself open to serious blows.
Griffin’s week six status versus Minnesota is uncertain right now, especially with new, rigorous concussion protocols in place. Keep an eye on news feeds - or on our own Two Minute Warning feature on Fridays at www.nfluk.com - to see where he’s at. Latest reports have him feeling much better already, but as we saw with the Jets’ Darelle Revis earlier in the season, it won’t be Griffin’s choice if neurological testing highlights any residual effects.
Griffin will be playing at a high level again soon enough - the romance certainly isn’t over for the darling of 2012 fantasy football, nor is it likely to end anytime soon - but week six against a hard hitting front seven might just be the time to opt for a safer bet.
- ‘What impact will the injuries to running backs Cedric Benson (Green Bay) and Ryan Williams (Arizona) have?’
When Packer’s running back Cedric Benson ($1 million) left the field on a cart Sunday, he did so with a placid smile - leading most to assume his ankle issue was nothing more than a tweak. A day later, Benson has been ruled out for up to eight weeks. Meanwhile, unquestioned Cardinals starter Ryan Williams ($2 million) finished Thursday’s loss in St. Louis sore but supposedly healthy - only to be placed in injured reserve with a shoulder injury three days later. Benson had been a useful budget option more often than Williams so far in 2012, but Williams’ 83 yard performance in week three promised better times ahead.
Either way, both are now off the fantasy radar and their sudden, surprising absences create opportunities for a handful of unproven players. In Green Bay, 2011 starter James Starks ($1 million) has fallen out of favour. While he’s returning to health and could make a move, Alex Green ($1 million) is the runner you want. He broke one long run on Sunday and has the passing game skills to be an interesting option.
In Arizona, tiny La’Rod Stephens-Howling ($1 million) has been loosely anointed the new lead horse, but will in all likelihood play in a committee with Alfonso Smith and William Powell. Stephens-Howling, a mighty mite with incredible quick twitch running skills that make him an intriguing pass catcher and returner, will get first dibs at making an impact. That said, his small frame will surely limit his weekly workload.
Opportunity knocks, but all of these part-timers will need to earn your trust before you consider them for your lineup - sit back and wait and see if a breakout comes before investing.
- ‘Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson doesn’t seem the same without Greg Jennings opposite. Is he still an option?’
Certainly Nelson disappointed in the Packers’ loss in Indianapolis Sunday, registering just two catches for 29 yards while James Jones (two touchdowns) and the mercurial Randall Cobb (82 yards, one score) picked up the slack. Without Jennings - and with Jermichael Finley not really fulfilling his promise - Nelson is being treated as the Packers’ top receiver by opposing defenses.
But I don’t think Nelson is sunk without Jennings - even if he is double covered more often. In week five, as Jennings was hobbling with a groin injury that limited his playing time, Nelson still notched eight catches, 93 yards and a touchdown on twelve targets. Looking forward, Jones’ and Cobb’s gradual emergence should help force defensive attention away from Nelson and leave him free for a regular handful of the big plays for which he’s known.
The entire Packers offense is somewhat out of sync - and it could be that Jennings’ absence is a big part of that - but Nelson will get his catches, yards and touchdowns this season if you stay patient. One caveat - week six in Houston, even without MLB Cushing, might not be the moment he turns his season around… but week seven at St. Louis just might be.
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