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Quick Fantasy Hits for Week 5

Senior Fantasy Writer
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As we wade into a fifth week of action, there are some nuggets that are too in-depth for the podcast, too smart for Twitter and a little too short for the full column. Enjoy these Week 5 Quick Hits:

Your byes for Week 5: Dallas, Detroit, Oakland and Tampa Bay. Be sure your lineups are adjusted accordingly. And keep an eye on the progress of Darrius Heyward-Bey, who could be back in Week 6 and might be dropped in your leagues for flavor-of-the-week wire pickups. If you have room on your bench, he could be a nice, sneaky pickup who won't play this week, but could contribute down the line.

Let's move on ... to the Jets. To put it bluntly, the Jets are a huge mess right now. They have a weird situation at running back and have lost their top three receiving threats (Stephen Hill, Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller) to injuries over the first four weeks. Holmes is out for the season, while Hill and Keller should be back soon. For now, though, the Jets' starters looks like this:

QB: Mark Sanchez
RB: Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell
WR: Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens, Clyde Gates
TE: Jeff Cumberland

Throw Hill or Keller into the mix and they instantly become the team's top offensive threat. But if the roster stands as is (which it shouldn't, as they could sign someone like Plaxico Burress, who at least understands last year's system) for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans -- who have given up the fewest points (14.0 per game) and yards (273 per game) in the NFL this season -- it's going to be ugly. However, it's not entirely hopeless looking forward. Here's a look at the the way things shake out for three shaky skill positions:

Jets running backs:

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Shonn Greene has averaged 4.2 yards per carry over the last two seasons. He's only scored a combined eight touchdowns over that span, but keep in mind that he had to share the load with LaDainian Tomlinson, who led the team in rushing in 2010. Greene should be benefitting from Offensive Coordinator Tony Sparano's ground-and-pound strategy -- as coach of the Dolphins, the team finished in the top 12 of rushing attempts all four years, and finished in the top six twice. But one detail lost in the mix was Sparano's usage of both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in the offense -- and, in 2011, both Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas:

2008: Brown -- 214 attempts, 916 yards, 4.3 ypc, 10 TD; Williams -- 160 attempts, 659 yards, 4.1 ypc, four TD
2009: Brown -- 147 attempts, 648 yards, 4.4 ypc, eight TD (in just nine games); Williams -- 241 attempts, 1,121 yards, 4.7 ypc, 11 TD
2010: Brown -- 200 attempts, 734 yards, 3.7 ypc, five TD; Williams -- 159 attempts, 673 yards, 4.2 ypc, two TD
2011: Bush -- 216 attempts, 1,086 yards, 5.0 ypc, six TD; Thomas -- 165 attmepts, 581 yards, 3.5 ypc, zero TD

What Sparano tends to do -- or, at least, what we can cull from his history -- is use both backs. Although he seems to pick one guy and stick with him as his lead back. Had Brown not been injured in 2009, he would have had the better set of numbers. Take away 2009, and this is the Sparano trend: the lead back gets 200 carries, second guy gets 160. Or, more precisely, the lead back gets 210, the supplemental back gets 161.3, which is a 58/42 split. So far this season, the Jets' running game looks like this:

2012: Shonn Greene -- 68 attempts, 191 yards, 2.8 ypc, one TD; Bilal Powell -- 26 attempts, 99 yards, 3.8 ypc, zero TD

That's a 72/28 split, which is way off from what Sparano did as coach of the Dolphins. If anything, Greene is getting plenty more carries than what we should have expected. The results are far less impressive than what Sparano got from either Brown or Williams, but it doesn't seem to be costing Greene any carries yet. There are two ways to look at this: Greene is being used to pound at and wear down the defense so Powell can catch them off guard with a burst of energy, or Greene is being overused and Powell will eventually catch up to the carries and get the running game back to the 58/42 split that Sparano established in Miami. Whatever the case, we can probably deduce this much: if you had Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams from 2008 to 2010, or even Reggie Bush last year, you will likely find yourself just as frustrated, if not more so, if you happen to own Greene or Powell. At best (for a Greene owner), this 72/28 pace will continue and Greene will be used to wear down defenses, leaving him with a low ypc average but a handful of touchdowns and yardage from volume of carries, while Powell will get receptions and longer runs in smaller numbers. At worst (for a Greene owner), Greene slips to the Ricky Williams 42-percent-of-carries role, leaving both running backs with only marginal Fantasy value.

Jets wide receivers/tight ends:

Let's just imagine a game this Sunday without Keller or Hill. The Jets will likely start Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schillens, or Clyde Gates. Kerley has been targeted 14 times this season, Schillens has been targeted seven times, and Gates has been targeted twice. And then there's Jeff Cumberland, the tight end who has 88 receiving yards on 11 catches so far this season. Kerley will likely pace the team against the stingy Texans defense. Already this season, he has two games of 65 or more receiving yards, and has caught two touchdown passes. Last year, he had five games of four or more receptions and twice got over the 70-yard mark. He caught one touchdown pass on the season, as well. But the star of the game may be Cumberland, who has a few things working for him:

1. Mark Sanchez tends to throw to his tight end. Dustin Keller has seen his receiving yards rise from 522 yards in 2009 to 687 in 2010 to 815 in 2011. Cumberland isn't exactly at that level yet, but in the role of tight end, he could see some passes come his way.

2. For all the ground-and-pound hype that surrounds Sparano, he made his way through the NFL as a tight ends coach. His highlights include Kyle Brady's 461 yard, four touchdown effort in 2002 (and Pete Mitchell had 246/2 that year, as well), and Jason Witten's rookie and second year campaigns in Dallas in 2003 and 2004 (347/1 and 980/6). Going back to the Dolphins, Sparano involved Anthony Fasano in all four years, with a 454/7 effort in 2008, 339/2 effort in 2009, 528/4 in 2010, and 451/5 in 2011. It's not an overwhelming set of data, but it does seem to work in Cumberland's favor.

3. There's not really anything else going on in the passing game. The Texans have given up 182.8 pasing yards per game. Mark Sanchez has three possible wide receiver targets, who will be locked down by the defense. Maybe we'll see some Tim Tebow trickery, and perhaps Sparano will line up Bilal Powell in the split, like he and Brian Daboll wanted to do in 2011 with Reggie Bush. But, with the Jets likely down early, they'll probably pass a good amount before reverting to the run when all hope seems lost toward the end. And with the Houston pass defense being so solid, Sanchez could look for shorter passes, which would suggest that Cumberland could run, turn, and help Sanchez find a few first downs.

Of course, if Keller plays, just assign all these points to him. But if he's out again, Cumberland could be Week 4's "who is this guy?" Fantasy breakout.

So... So if you're desperate due to injury or bye weeks, I'd rank the Jets as Kerley and then Cumberland, assuming Powell, who could play a Reggie Bush 2011-type role, is already off wires in PPR leagues. And don't get too excited about Powell, or too low on Greene. But do remember that they're playing what is arguably the best defense in the NFL this week, and not to expect much from any Jet this week, as far as Fantasy value.

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Enough with the Jets. What about Ryan Mathews?
Mathews broke his clavicle in the first preseason game, causing him to miss, essentially, the entire preseason and the first two regular season games. He returned in Week 3 with a 10-carry, 44-yard game, and finished Week 4 with 61 yards on 14 carries. These are steadily-improving numbers for Mathews. His carries went up, as did his yardage. Granted, he caught three fewer passes in Week 4, but his total yards were still better, going from 76 to 82. Mathews ran for 1,091 yards last year and had 50 receptions for 455 yards, despite missing two games. But consider this -- Mathews is returning from an injury that could cause him to be a little tentative when hard hits are coming his way. It might be subconscious -- it might not even be happening -- but if you broke your collarbone and then had to basically put it out there for helmets to ram their way into it, there is probably some instinct buried deep in your DNA that would cause you to adjust and protect yourself, which may be cause for his fumbling.

Part two of this theory is that the coaches know this and are trying to ease Mathews into his full-time role (10 carries followed by 14 carries may imply this). And part three of the theory is taking a look at Mathews' usage in his career. In 2011, he had just four games of 100 or more rushing yards and only five games of 20 or more carries. However, with his receiving yards mixed in, Mathews ended up with 10 games (out of 14 played) with 100 or more total yards. And then there's this fun stat:

Over his first two games in 2011, Mathews averaged 12 carries and five receptions. Over his first two games of 2012, Mathews has averaged... 12 carries and 3.5 receptions. And had he not fumbled on the goal line, he would have a touchdown.

Mathews is close to being the player he was in 2011, it's just not apparent yet in his stats. But with a Week 5 game against New Orleans, the NFL's worst rushing defense (186.6 yards per game and six touchdowns allowed), Mathews could shine.

Justin Blackmon quietly had a nice Week 4. Justin Blackmon began the season owned in 100 percent of leagues. After catching four passes for 31 yards over the first three weeks, Blackmon saw his ownership numbers dip to his current 71 percent level. But Blackmon had some encouraging numbers in Week 4 against Cincinnati, a team that is in the middle of the pack as far as passing yards allowed: six receptions from 10 targets for 48 yards. It may not look overly impressive on paper, but Blackmon has seen his targets rise over the last three weeks, from 4 to 5 to 10. It's not a slam dunk that he's going to improve on the Week 4 performance, but Blackmon had a ton of hype coming into the season for a reason (skill and opportunity, mainly), and was taken in the top 100 of most drafts, ahead of Danny Amendola, Denarius Moore and Anquan Boldin. While he ranks just fifth on his own team in receiving yards, behind Cecil Shorts, Laurent Robinson, Marcedes Lewis and Maurice Jones-Drew, he leads the team in targets with 25. In fact, Blackmon has more targets than James Jones, Mike Wallace, Brandon LaFell and Andrew Hawkins. And Blackmon and LaFell are the only two wide receivers with more than 20 targets but fewer than 11 receptions. The major difference between the two is that while LaFell has 182 yards on his 10 receptions, Blackmon has 79. It might look bad, but it's not exactly the death knell for a receiver. Greg Jennings, who is injured (but that detail is irrelevant for this stat), has just 78 yards on 12 receptions off 22 targets. And it's been shown what he's capable of offensively. If you have a Peyton Hillis dangling on the end of your bench, it might be worth it to consider picking up Blackmon and seeing if he can get hot.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyFB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasyfootball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Lions' Caldwell: Don't expect Stafford's numbers to change much
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:36 am ET) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is just one of five quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards. However, since he accomplished the feat in 2011, his passing yards have declined each season.

Stafford passed for 4,257 yards and attempted 602 passes in 2014 -- his first year under coach Jim Caldwell. While at the NFL owners' meetings in Phoenix this week, Caldwell said it's probably safe not to expect Stafford's numbers to change much in 2015.

"Here's the thing I want to make certain you guys understand, and see what I see just in terms of my vision," Caldwell said, per MLive.com. "When I tell you we're not going to throw the ball anymore than we threw it, that's a fact. We're probably not going to throw it (more).

"If we do throw it more, that means we're struggling, we're not winning, we're not a very good football team. OK? Plain and simple. Maybe that ball's got to be distributed a little bit differently, but I don't anticipate those numbers changing, overall, a significant amount."


Nick Foles' acquisition won't change Rams' plans to draft QB
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:26 am ET) Rams coach Jeff Fisher said the team is still looking to draft a quarterback this year, despite the acquisition of quarterback Nick Foles, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“It’s our intention to draft one,” Fisher said. “The Nick (Foles) trade has no bearing over what we do in the draft.”

The Rams have the 10th pick in the first round. It's unlikely Jamies Winston or Marcus Mariota fall that far, so unless St. Louis trades up, then they are likely looking to draft from the second-tier of quarterbacks, which includes Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley, Sean Mannion and Garrett Grayson.

“There’s some outstanding players once you get beyond (Winston and Mariota),” Fisher said. “We’re just starting the process. My understanding based on our first-wave draft meetings is that there’s some young quarterbacks that can play.”

Petty, who played at Baylor, said in a radio interview earlier in March he intends to visit with the Rams before the draft.

“Good combine,” Fisher said. “Got a very strong arm. Good athlete. You don’t see him do things that we’re gonna ask him to do, so I think you have to see him actually work out, private workout, things like that.”


Cowboys' Garrett: DL Nick Hayden an 'important signing'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/26/2015) Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett made it a point of emphasis to mention to reporters at the NFL Meetings that re-signing defensive lineman Nick Hayden was important, reports the Dallas Morning News.

“Well, we’re always trying to get better and we have to get better,’’ Garrett said. “We have to bring some impact players into our defense. But Nick has been such a good player for us as a leader of that defensive line and he’s a really productive player. There’s a lot of the dirty work but he’s one of those guys who makes a lot of hits on the ball, is around the football a lot and simply makes a lot of plays.

"That was an important signing for us.’’

Hayden has started all 16 games with the Cowboys for two consecutive seasons. Over his seven-year career, he has 135 total tackles, two sacks, two passes defensed and one forced fumble.


Giants' Coughlin: WR Victor Cruz looks 'really good'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/26/2015) Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is encouraged that wide receiver Victor Cruz can return to form, according to the NY Daily News. Cruz suffered a torn patellar tendon that forced him to miss 10 games last season.

“I think he will be back to the player that he was and hopefully better. Victor looks really good, he’s starting to run, I was in the field house watching him rehab, he’s coming along well.” … As for when Cruz will be back at practice, full-time, Coughlin added, “I don’t know. I shouldn’t say this, because medically I really do not have a definite answer, but by training camp, hopefully. He will work his way through.”

Through his five years in the NFL, Cruz has 264 receptions for 3,963 yards and 24 touchdowns.


Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower to miss at least six months
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/26/2015) Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower is going to miss between six and seven months, according to the Boston Globe.

Hightower had surgery this February to repair a torn right labrum. The team is concerned that he might not be able to be ready for the start of the reguar season. He played through the injury for a good portion of the 2014 season prior to surgery.

The 25-year-old started all 12 games he played, collecting 89 total tackles, six sacks, two passes defensed and one forced fumble.


Packers to use pistol formation more often this season
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/26/2015) After implementing the pistol formation into the offense to help take stress off of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' leg in 2014, the Packers are considering to use it more often this season, according to the Journal Sentinel.

"I like the pistol," head coach Mike McCarthy said during a break at the NFL owners meetings this week. "I think there's a lot of value regardless of the injury to Aaron. I know he likes it. There's a place for it year-round in your offense."

Although McCarthy has no intention of turning Rodgers into an option quarterback, the system provides unpredictability for opposing offenses.

"I would say this is about the third year it's been part of our pace and installation," McCarthy said. "Really, when we moved to it exclusively there at the end of the year it really wasn't a change for us.

"I liked it from a self-scout standpoint. It gives you another self-scout variable when you're in the gun, but you also have the tailback behind you. (There are a) lot of benefits to it."


Report: Vikings sign CB Terence Newman
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/26/2015) The Vikings have signed cornerback Terence Newman to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with $750,000 in guarantees on Thursday, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. 

Newman spent the last three seasons with the Bengals after playing nine years for the Cowboys. The 36-year-old has had at least one interception in each year of his 13-year career. The cornerback has recorded 741 total tackles, two sacks, 147 passes defensed, 37 interceptions, and eight forced fumbles. 


Kubiak wants Peyton Manning comfortable with playbook
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/26/2015) Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak wants to make sure that all of his players are comfortable with the new offensive playbook, including quarterback Peyton Manning, reports ESPN.

“I think you prepare to help him call that game throughout the course of the week," Kubiak said. “A lot of people put emphasis on him calling plays at the line, but you’ve also prepared to do that throughout the course of the week, so you, as a coach, 'Here’s what I think is best in that situation.' In a lot of ways you’re still working together. You’re just going about it a different way."

“You never want to put a player in a position where he’s doing something he’s uncomfortable with," Kubiak said. “One of things about having a veteran, especially like Peyton, he’s going to let you know, 'This is what I do best and this is what I feel comfortable with.' That’s what you need to go do as a coach. You might tweak things here or there that you think may help, but you’re never going to take him out of his comfort zone and what he feels like he does best.”

Manning, 39, recently took a pay cut of $4 million to help clear salary cap space for the team.


LB Brandon Magee still committed to playing in NFL
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/26/2015) After being released by the Buccaneers, linebacker Brandon Magee is going to participate in spring training with the Boston Red Sox. That being said, he is still committed to playing in the NFL, according to Pro Football Talk. 

Magee's agent, Blake Baratz, emailed Pro Football Talk regarding his client's desire to resume his NFL career.

“There have been rumors circulating that Brandon Magee, who was recently released by Tampa Bay, has given up football with the intention of playing professional baseball. This could not be further from the truth,” Baratz wrote. “While he does attend spring training for a few weeks up until the beginning of the NFL off-season program, he is 100% fully committed to playing in the NFL.”

Magee, 24, has seen action in 17 games the last two seasons, nine of which were in 2014 with the Buccaneers. He has registered 10 total tackles in his career.


Bill O'Brien: 'Sky's the limit' for WR DeAndre Hopkins
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3/26/2015) With Andre Johnson now in Indy, DeAndre Hopkins enters the 2015 season as the Texans' undisputed No. 1 receiver.

“He had a really good year last year and the sky’s the limit with Hop (Hopkins)," coach Bill O'Brien told NFL Network. "He’s an excellent young player who works extremely hard and we’re looking forward to putting together our whole receiving corps and he should be the leader of that.”

Hopkins led Houston with 1,210 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns last year. He has 128 catches for 2,012 yards and eight scores in his two NFL seasons.


 
 
 
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