Week 5 came and went, but was perhaps the strangest fantasy weekend to date for the 2013 NFL season. Yes, Peyton Manning and the Broncos put together another monster performance but beyond that, the fantasy landscape was as unpredictable as ever. There’s no need to look further than our top-3 running back performances in Week 5 — Fred Jackson, Pierre Thomas, Knowshon Moreno — to realize that anything can happen on any given Sunday. As always, there were a couple player who exceeded expectations and those who fell way, way too short. And with that we give you our Week 5 achievers.
Over-achiever – Tony Romo (DAL)
23-36, 506 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT
Romo’s spectacular Sunday effort wasn’t quite enough to lead the Dallas Cowboys to victory, but there is little doubt that a majority of his fantasy owners collected a W in Week 5. Romo racked up 40 fantasy points, tossing for over 500 yards and five touchdowns. He also threw a critical interception late in the game and, while costly to his NFL stock, the pick was just his second of the season. The Cowboys have found a running game in recent weeks and aside from the emergence of Dez Bryant, that may be the most influential factor in Romo’s breakout. The Cowboys defense, of course, payed their part as well as this team has allowed the opposing QB to rack up 400+ yards in three of five games this season, but for fantasy owners, that’s a good thing. Romo will continue to chuck it as his offense needs to put up points to carry the team. He’s a top-10 fantasy option each and every week.
Under-achiever – Tom Brady (NE)
18-38, 197 yards, 1 INT
The return of Danny Amendola did not quite lead to great things for Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense. Drops were once again an issue for the teams’ green receiving corps and we also must give a fair amount of credit to the Cincinnati Bengals defense that held Brady without a TD pass for the first time in his last 53 games. All told it was another disappointing effort for the QB who had finally turned in his first really strong fantasy performance of the 2013 season in Week 4. Maybe Rob Gronkowski will return in Week 6, and maybe he won’t, but regardless, we know that Brady is a much better player than this. With his running backs banged up, we expect the veteran quarterback to continue to carry the load for this team and you can bank on a huge bounce-back performance at home in a shootout against the Saints next week.
Over-achiever – Zac Stacy (STL)
14 carries, 78 yards
We got word early Sunday morning that rookie Zac Stacy would make the start for the Rams and while the Jags represent an extremely soft matchup, we saw more from the Rams’ running game in Week 5 than we had all season. Daryl Richardson remained the change-of-pace third down type back — a role he thrived in last season — and it is easy to see the team stick with that type of workload split for the foreseeable future. On Monday, Jeff Fisher confirmed that Stacy would get the bulk of the work early and though the Texans’ defense is not the friendliest of matchups, the team has allowed 100+ rushing yard in each of their last two games and three of five contests this season.
Under-achiever – Lamar Miller (MIA)
7 carries, 15 yards
Though it would appears that Miller got swallowed up by the Ravens’ defense on Sunday, in reality, he was a victim of his team’s play calling. Despite playing a relatively competitive game throughout, Miami attempted just 11 rushes compared to 40 passes, shrugging off any notion of a balanced attack. Miller never really got a chance to get going against Baltimore’s stout run defense and the result was another pathetic performance from the running back. Heading into the bye week, expect the Dolphins to fine-tune their game plan and make Miller a larger part of it. Despite some tough matchups in the coming weeks, Lamar Miller will be a top-20 back for the balance of the season, and with an off-week ahead, it is a prime time to snag Miami’s speedy tailback at a discount from an owner desperate for a win.
Over-achiever – Alshon Jeffery (CHI)
10 receptions (13 targets), 218 yards, 1 TD
Welcome to the big time, Alshon Jeffery. Typically, our early-week discussions of dominating performances from Bears’ receivers detail the exploits of one Brandon Marshall. Not so this week as we have a new star on the scene. The second-year wideout broke loose for 218 yards on 10 catches while, surprisingly, leading the Bears in targets on Sunday Jeffery took advantage of soft coverage from the Saints’ defense, who all too often paid too much attention to B-Marsh on the other side. Jeffery, available in 68% of standard Yahoo leagues, shoots to the top of our waiver wire targets for the week and looks to have a shot at maintaining this value for the balance of the season.
Under-achiever – Victor Cruz (NYG)
5 receptions (12 targets), 48 yards
While Hakeem Nicks re-asserted himself as a fantasy relevant player Victor Cruz was left on the short end of the stick Sunday. Cruz reeled in just 5 balls for 48 yards in the disappointing effort, with two of those grabs coming in garbage time after Eli Manning imploded in the fourth quarter. Cruz had been the No. 1 receiver in PPR formats heading into the game against the Eagles’ porous secondary so suffice it to say that owners will have a salty taste in their mouth after this week. Cruz, however, remains a top-5 play and will continue to put up monster numbers. He was targeted on a pair of downfield passes — and 12 passes overall — and though he was unable to make a big play, Cruz remains a focal point of the Giants’ passing game.
Over-achiever – Julius Thomas (DEN)
9 receptions (12 targets), 122 yards, 2 TDs
With so many mouths to feed in Denver it’s a bit surprising that such a relatively unknown commodity from the preseason has become the focal point of the best offense in the NFL, but make no mistake, this production is legitimate. Thomas is a matchup nightmare, with the size and speed to simply abuse opposing linebackers and safeties who try to cover him. If we think back to Peyton Manning’s days in Indy and recall the chemistry that he and tight end Dallas Clark showed on a weekly basis, it is easy to get excited about the potential for Thomas. His natural tools dwarf those of Clark and while it is hard to expect a touchdown every single week, Thomas will continue to be heavily involved for the Broncos moving forward. At this point, Jimmy Graham remains the only tight end in the league that you can confidently rank ahead of Thomas on a week to week basis.
Under-achiever – Jared Cook (STL)
3 receptions (3 targets), 26 yards
Despite a solid game from Sam Bradford (222 yards, 3 TDs), Cook was largely an afterthought on Sunday, seeing just three targets on the afternoon… three fewer than fellow tight end, Lance Kendricks. Cook’s talent is evident, but his usage and production will be a major frustration for fantasy owners moving forward. Since breaking out for 24 fantasy points in Week 1, Cook has totaled just 11 points in four games. We call him this week’s under-achiever mostly because he ranked as a top-10 option against a horrible Jaguars defense, but really, it is our rankers that fell short of expectations here. The schedule will not be Cook’s friend moving forward with road games against Houston and Carolina leading up to home matchups with Seattle and Tennessee. It’s hard to expect Cook to put together useful fantasy numbers in those games and he’ll find himself outside of the top-10 at his position more often than not in the coming weeks.