If there was one strength that Dallas had heading into this season it was their offensive line. Tyron Smith and company brought plenty of physicality. Their strong performance last season had the coaching staff promising a more prominent ground game. We heard that heading into 2013 as well, and the Cowboys ranked 31st in the league in rushing attempts. Needless to say, when they reiterated their desire to run this summer, I had trouble believing them.
This year I am in 13 Fantasy leagues. This is the first year I don’t have a single share in DeMarco Murray, and after five weeks I hate myself for it. My biggest fear about this team was what I perceived to be the worst defense in the league heading into the season. That screamed shootouts to me, which in my mind would limit Murray’s usage.
Well, the defense has surprisingly held up so far. The result has led to Murray racking up five consecutive 100-yard rushing games to start the season. He now has 670 yards rushing on 130 attempts (5.2 yards-per-carry) and five touchdowns while also adding 15 receptions for another 124 yards. This guy has been an absolute beast and unfortunately, with the number of Fantasy teams I have, I am pretty sure at least one of my teams will be facing him on a weekly basis!
While the numbers have been other-worldly, there is some reason for concern. As mentioned above, Murray has never been a model of health. Last season’s 270 touches over 14 games were a career high. This year he is on pace for an absolutely ridiculous 464 touches. It will be interesting to see how the team handles his workload going forward. They have to reduce his workload or risk losing him to injury or just completely wearing him out.
Things got interesting in San Diego. The Chargers found a new number 43. Undrafted free agent rookie Branden Oliver did his best Darren Sproles impersonation against a stout Jets rush defense, gaining 114 yards on 19 carries with a score. He added another four catches for 68 yards in a score. Donald Brown was struggling in place of Ryan Mathews prior to leaving with a concussion this week. Oliver took his opportunity and literally ran with it, exhibiting some serious burst while looking like a true dual threat back. After this performance I think it’s safe to say Oliver usurped Brown in the running back pecking order, regardless of his health. Mathews is probably looking over his shoulder as well. This was an eye opening performance from Oliver, one that makes him a must-add for all Fantasy owners this week.
Coming out of their bye week, I really was interested to see what Montee Ball would do. The team had two weeks to try and get him on track, and facing a strong Arizona rush defense seemed like a good barometer of what to expect from him moving forward. Unfortunately, he ended up leaving the game with what looked to be a pretty severe groin injury. Prior to leaving, he had seven yards rushing on six carries and caught two passes for 11 yards. Not exactly inspiring, especially when you consider Ronnie Hillman came in and gained 64 yards on the ground on 15 carries. If this running game gets going with Ball on the shelf, I have a really tough time believing he returns to a role as the bell-cow back. Hillman is a must-add at this point. C.J. Anderson should see some run as well, and is worth a look in deep leagues. Ball owners need to be very worried here. If you are offered a trade for Bell and can get something you can use, don’t fret about selling low.
The sample size is small, but I am not going to lie when saying I like what I saw with Kyle Orton under center for the Bills. This is not an endorsement for him as a QB1, although he can be a useful bye week filler or second option in two quarterback leagues. What I really like is that he wasted zero time getting the ball to Sammy Watkins. Twelve of his 43 pass attempts were to the talented rookie. He didn’t reach the end zone but he did catch seven passes for 87 yards. This switch will continue to pay dividends and should lock Watkins into Fantasy lineups as a weekly WR3 option. Anyone that saw the play this week, in which he deflected a pass to himself for a 22-yard gain, can see plain as day that there is special play-making ability here. He needs to be in your lineups.
It has taken a bit of time for him to get back to form, but Tony Romo is starting to look like his old self again. What particularly impressed me was a spin away from J.J. Watt that resulted in a perfect 43-yard touchdown strike to Terrance Williams. Sunday represented Romo’s first 300-yard passing game of the season. Dallas has quickly morphed itself into the league’s most well-rounded offense. Romo no longer has to carry the load, and the results are starting to show. Since the Cowboys Week 1 blowout at the hands of San Francisco, Romo has thrown for eight touchdowns against two interceptions while completing 71.3 percent of his passes. Consider him back on the radar as a low end QB1, but don’t do so until after next week. Dallas heads into Seattle, where they are going to have to deal with that ferocious home crowd.
Odell Beckham Jr. began putting in limited practices on September 23 for this first time since a hamstring sidelined him on August 18th. Sunday was his first taste of game action and he didn’t disappoint, catching four of five passes thrown his way for 44 yards and a touchdown. He looked good from what I saw. He immediately adds a field-stretching element to the Giants offense that is going to make him a handful to handle. Combine that with a solid set of hands and good route running and we have ourselves a guy that needs to be on the field. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Larry Donnell saw just one target this week. He looks primed to lose some looks in the passing game when Beckham is playing. I think Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle see a drop in value as well, courtesy of Beckham’s well-rounded game. He passes the eye test, and has me excited. If he isn’t owned in your league he needs to be. Hopefully, you are the one to get your hands on him. He should put up solid numbers if he sees eight targets a game.
In drafts this year, I found myself drafting teams with C.J. Spiller filling my RB2 role. I liked the upside and felt that if things came together for him he would easily return value on the late fourth/early fifth round draft pick. Luckily, I am a realist and grabbed Fred Jackson to handcuff him in the eighth round in case things went awry. Through five games Spiller has out-touched Jackson 75 to 68, but Jackson has outgained Spiller 383 to 321 and has the only touchdown. From this point forward, I am no longer gambling on Spiller’s big play ability and going with Jackson’s steady performances. Spiller hasn’t totaled more than 84 yards in a game this year. He doesn’t see red zone work. If you take away his 47-yard run against Miami in Week 2, he is averaging just 2.7 yards-per-carry. This guy just isn’t performing.