Trying to balance winning now and later

One thing you hear a lot in fantasy circles is to draft for the playoffs. Outsmart your opponents by setting up an unbeatable Week 15-17 roster. The counterpoint is that you can have the best Week 17 roster of all time but not be in the running for a championship because you didn’t make the playoffs. Some of us need to start winning now to be in a position where our preseason savvy regarding our fantasy playoff rosters can pay off.

Don’t forget that a lot will change between now and then too, and a lot already has. Let’s get to the surprises Week 5 had in store for us, with an eye toward winning now oath later.

Are there still any doubters out there? Slap the FACT sticker on this one, because Brown is the real deal in Arizona. He’s had double-digit targets in every game except Week 1 and is averaging 11 per game. That’s tied with Justin Jeffersonbehind only Cooper Kupp. Brown is the fifth-best WR in PPR scoring, with touchdowns in three games (Weeks 1, 4, 5). The Cardinals still don’t look as good as they should as a team, but Hollywood Brown is a constant positive who is helping managers win now. You’re getting great value based on his preseason ADP, and up next is Seattle. The Seahawks are the second-most generous overall defense for fantasy, and while it might also be a bounce-back spot for Zach Ertz and a great rushing matchup, you should expect another heavy dose of Brown in a close and high-scoring game.

Starting in Week 7, though, DeAndre Hopkins is expected to be back in the fold for the Cardinals, having served his suspension. After missing seven games in the second half of last season and having MCL surgery last December, I expect there to be some rust. In the short term, I think Hopkins will at least demand more defensive coverage, perhaps making Brown’s opportunities that much better. If you’ve held him this long and your roster can withstand it during Week 7 byes, I’d recommend taking a wait-and-see approach with Hopkins in Week 7 vs. New Orleans (Thursday Night Football).

Once Hopkins demonstrates his chemistry with Murray, his speed and his contested catch/toe-tapping sideline skills again, he can be a difference-maker in the fantasy playoffs (vs. Atlanta Week 17).

“Finally!” is all I really want to say here. I’ve been patient with Davis since Week 1 and it finally paid off with two huge highlight-reel touchdown plays (he ultimately went 3/171/2 on six targets). Stefon Diggs led the team with 11 goals, going 8/102/1. Josh Allen got almost everyone involved, with even a rookie Khalil Shakir (3/75/1) and newly signed Isaiah Hodgins (4/41) getting in on the action without Isaiah McKenzie or Dawson Knox on the field.

The Bills absolutely blew the Steelers out on Sunday, with Allen having another 400-plus yard game. It leaves no doubt that this offense can support 2-3 fantasy stars any given week. More often than not, those will be Diggs, Davis and/or Devin Singletary, so be sure those three are in your lineups for the game of Week 6 vs. Kansas City. This one should be high-scoring and close, with an early line of 53.5 points and Bills minus-2. Davis and Diggs should both thrive in the seventh-best WR matchup for fantasy.

Hill likely swung some fantasy matchups this week as the Saints were shorthanded enough that people actually started him. Moreso than Hill and his four touchdowns (three rushing, one passing), the takeaway here is that whoever is playing the Seahawks is going to crush.

Another point here is that Hill’s game did not come at the expense of Alvin Kamara (103 rushing yards with nine catches for 91 receiving yards). Next week will be a tough RB matchup with the Bengals, but the Saints should continue to rely on the gadget opportunities that Hill provides, and the run/pass versatility that Kamara offers.

Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara were able to coexist from a fantasy perspective in Week 5. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

The fact that we can’t exactly define Hill as a fantasy player makes some people uncomfortable; categorizing is what our brains are built to do. By storing similar stimuli or events in overlapping “category space,” our brains are wired to access information faster. Categorizing is also thought to aid in associative learning — the process by which we expect certain things to co-occur. When we encounter someone who doesn’t quite fit within the TE category space (Hill), it forces our brains to think harder, and slower, using neuronal paths that aren’t well-worn to figure out how to assess him.

For many of us, the preferred path is to simply ignore the outlier. With so many of the Saints’ receivers sure to be on the injury report again for Week 6, I say embrace the chaos, especially when you can use him as a very high-ceiling tight end.

Detroit Lions offense

The Lions are just committed to the unexpected this season. First, they wowed us with their run game, then their pass game, and now, their utter failure to show up in any fashion. Detroit has been so bad for so long, that the default reaction here will be to fall back on our long-held belief that we finally saw the real Lions in Week 5. Anchoring is kind of a theme this week as we struggle to figure out who can help us win now and down the stretch. Given that New England is a good — not great — defense this year, and the Lions were on the road without De’Andre Swift and a less-than-100 percent Amon-Ra St. BrownI’m going to tame my bias and give the Lions a chance to redeem themselves.

After the Week 6 bye, Detroit will face a series of difficult matchups (Dallas, Miami, Green Bay, Chicago, NY Giants and Buffalo), but prior to the shutout in New England, they were the league’s highest-scoring team. Their defense is arguably the worst in the league, which sets up the kind of high-scoring back-and-forth games that make fantasy fun. One other factor in my assessment is that Jared Goff wasn’t appreciably different statistically in Week 5, other than the touchdown line (about 55 percent completions, 229 yards, one interception).

Detroit won’t be a playoff team, or even probably a team with a winning record, but plan on holding (or trading for) St. Brown, Swift, Jamaal Williams, Josh Reynolds oath TJ Hockenson for Week 7 and beyond.

Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins

In one and a half games without Tua Tagovailoa, Waddle has been a fantasy disaster. I have shares of Waddle, and like some of you probably, have anchored my current opinion of him as a fantasy asset to his Week 2 game against the Ravens. In fact, Waddle was a star in all of his first three games of the season, never below 15 PPR fantasy points. Anchoring is a bias that makes it hard for us to digest and accept new information that conflicts with our first impression. For now, we are forced to accept that only Tyreek Hill may weather the Dolphins’ quarterback storm and even he has been relegated to perhaps WR2 status without Tua.

I’ve been starting Waddle over Jacoby Meyers (more on him shortly) in one league, but presuming Meyers is healthy, I’m flipping that script for Week 6.

Quick Hits: Fact

Kenneth Walker III: With Rashaad Penny out for the rest of the season, Walker season is officially upon us. Geno Smith and the Seahawks played a great game against Taysom Hill and the Saints, and although they didn’t come away with the win, Seattle is a bonafide balanced offense that will keep defenses on their toes this season.

Walker should thrive and start as early as Week 6 vs. Arizona.

Travis Etienne: The Jaguars drafted Etienne in 2021 to be their back, and the shift appears to have happened this weekend. Etienne racked up 71 rushing yards on 10 carries and added three catches for 43 yards on five targets. James Robinson also saw 10 carries but yielded only 27 rushing yards while not securing either of his two targets. It was an ugly game for the Jaguars overall, but I’d prepare your rosters for the ascension of Etienne and the fading of Robinson.

Travis Etienne Jr.  #1 of the Jacksonville Jaguars

Did Travis Etienne just take over the Jaguars backfield? (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

With several starting RBs on bye in Week 6, it’s time to 1) make sure he’s not on the wire in your league (he’s rostered in about 89 percent of leagues) and 2) promote him to start against the Colts in Week 6.

Jacoby Meyers: This one is for PPR-league players only. Meyers is a target hog when he’s on the field. He’s averaging over 17 fantasy points per game in three games this season, catching 20 of 27 targets for 261 yards. I wasn’t sure about his chemistry with Bailey Zappebut as we noted last week, Zappe is a solid QB with a 75 percent completion rate and a 2:1 TD:INT ratio, better than Mac Jones so far (2 TD:5 INT). In fact, Zappe didn’t seem to get the memo that Meyers doesn’t catch touchdowns, delivering Meyers his first of the season. Meyers is safe to start in PPR formats with either Jones or Zappe at QB as long as he’s healthy.

Kenny Pickett: I’m impressed.

I said last week that I thought it was too soon; starting the rookie against the Bills was bound to end in disaster. Well, that depends on your perspective. Steelers fans aren’t thrilled with the result, but for fantasy, Pickett was a pleasant surprise with 327 passing yards and one interception plus 10 yards on the ground. He looked like the pass-first QB we expected and wasn’t afraid to spread the ball around with 13 targets to Diontae Johnson9 to Chase Claypool and 8 to George Pickenswho finished with the best line (6/83).

Pickett gets another tough matchup with the Bucs next week, but he came out of this one better than I expected. If you’re hit by byes or injuries, he’s startable in 2QB leagues. Zach Gentry is a name to watch if you’re desperate at TE and for the first time this season, Jaylen Warren out-performed Najee Harris. Warren was a bigger factor in the passing game with 4 targets to Harris’ 2 and proved more efficient on the ground in the blowout loss.

This is seriously concerning for preseason Harris believers (like me); I’m avoiding both backs in Week 6.

Quick Hits: Fluke

Jets: The Jets putting up 40 points with zero passing or receiving touchdowns is something else. We noted the juicy rushing matchup with Miami last week, and both Breece Hall oath Michael Carter delivered. Even Zach Wilson ran in a touchdown against the Dolphins, something he did a total of four times in 2021. The consensus is that the Jets are an improving franchise, and fans are buying into this not being the same old lame, losing Jets team. Still, the upcoming schedule is not favorable (Green Bay, Denver, New England, Buffalo), and I think this kind of fantasy output falls into the fluke category.

You’re still obliged to start Hall, and perhaps Corey Davis in deep leagues or in a bye-week pinch, but otherwise, this isn’t an offense to flock to for fantasy points.

Randall Cobb: Cobb is basically the Old Faithful of NFL wide receivers but he’s not going to get 13 targets every week. His seven catches for 99 yards were nice but probably didn’t help too many people in 10-12 team leagues. I see this one as a blip and expect to see Cobb in the 4/50 range most weeks.

Dyami Brown: The Commanders are going to be up and down this season and how they get to wherever they end up in any given week seems to be anyone’s guess. Brown catching two passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns is the flukiest of flukes. He looks like the fifth option in this offense and can be safely ignored in 90 percent of fantasy leagues.

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