NFC South Review: Week 5

By Robert Knarr

After the fifth week of football, the Falcons have taken sole control of the NFC South.  That may have something to do with the Panthers having a bye, but they are still undefeated.  Meanwhile, the Saints continue to fall apart, and the Bucs show signs of having a good future.

Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons: 19-25

Washington RedkinsAtlanta Falcons

This wasn’t a pretty game for the Atlanta Falcons.  But most of them this season haven’t been.

The Redskins and Falcons game was one of the ugliest NFL games I’ve seen this season.  Matt Ryan really struggled to start the game (ultimately completing 24 of 42 pass attempts for just 254 yards and 2 INTs), and Julio Jones was largely absent, mostly due to injury.  Freeman continued to be a bright spot, though, accumulating 153 yards on 27 carries and a TD as well 44 receiving yards, and the defense actually played well putting significant pressure on Kirk Cousins with 5 QB hits, 1 sack and 2 INTs.  Stopping the Redskins offense isn’t difficult, but they held them and made big plays, none bigger than Robert Alford’s pick-six to end the game in overtime.  They are 5-0, nearly guaranteed a playoff spot, and have been terrific at making adjustments throughout the season thus far.

robert-alford-washington-redskins-atlanta-falcons

Robert Alford’s pick-six against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 11, 2015.

The Falcons have made each victory entertaining, but rather difficult.  Some of this can be seen as a positive, because they are winning the 4th quarter, gutting out tough victories, and making adjustments to teams during games.  On the other hand, they have had an incredibly easy schedule and haven’t dominated any opponents, except for the Houston Texans.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe the Falcons are a good team, who have made tremendous strides.  They are a shoe-in for the playoffs.  However, I would have very low expectations of them making it deep into the playoffs, unless this team keeps getting better, which is not out of the realm of possibility.

Fantasy Implications Julio Jones had another pedestrian game, and was largely saved by a fumble recovery TD.  He still had ten targets, and will likely be fine.  However, I am slightly concerned that he’s not fully healthy.  He still needs to be started of course, and will be productive barring further injury.  Freeman has become arguably the most productive running back in the league, and wasn’t even slightly slowed down with the return of Tevin Coleman (who only received 2 carries).  I was surprised by that, but be happy if you picked him up.  Roddy White had a couple catches, but isn’t even worthy of holding a spot on your roster anymore.  I’d drop him if you need to.  Hankerson is worthy of a hold to see if he can get it together, but I wouldn’t start him.  Also, continue to hold Coleman as a strong handcuff, who might see some more carries as the season progresses.

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles: 17-39

New Orleans SaintsPhiladelphia Eagles

The Saints appear to be done for this season.  Brees was back, but, honestly, played pretty poorly.  He managed a garbage time TD to pad his stats.  However, he lost 2 fumbles and an interception.  That was pretty much the story of this game.  It could’ve been a lot closer, but those turnovers killed the Saints.  The game was close going into the second half, but the Saints proceeded to fall apart.  Brees did some good things, and I still don’t think the Saints are as bad as they’ve played.  A tough schedule can easily make a mediocre team look terrible. But at this point, it probably doesn’t matter.  They play in a tough division, and have practically no chance of coming out of this on top.  It’s time to start thinking about whether this will be Brees’ last season in New Orleans, and how the Saints move forward.

Drew Brees

Drew Brees

Bradford and his running backs actually got on track, but I still wouldn’t be optimistic moving forward.  The Saints defense isn’t good, and I’m gonna need to see this again before I believe in the Eagles.

Fantasy Implications Willie Snead is the big name to pay attention to this week.  He seems to have emerged as Brees’ top option with 11 targets last week, and should absolutely be added and can jump into your starting lineup.  Brees hasn’t played great, but definitely still has the ability to make wide receivers fantasy stars.  Not to mention how much they will be throwing the ball.  I wouldn’t be happy about starting Brees.  He is getting abused by his offensive line, but can still be serviceable with good potential.  Mark Ingram had few chances, getting 48 yards on 12 carries.  Spiller again did nothing, getting 3 carries and 3 receptions for -8 yards.  They have got to find a way to get him into space.  Brandin Cooks had a late garbage time touchdown, but underperformed other than that.  I’d rather have Snead at this point, but am still not dropping Cooks yet.  As far as the Eagles players.  I’ve been holding all of them, simply because of the potential.  I don’t believe in Bradford, but this was a good game, and perhaps can be a turning point for them.  They need to do this against better competition to have me convinced.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 31-38

Jacksonville JaguarsTampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers ended an 11 game home losing streak in an exciting shootout.  Remember last week I wrote about how Winston needed to learn from that tough game when he threw 4 picks.  Well, he responded by not throwing an interception against the Jags and looked solid.  Doug Martin played really well, rushing 24 times for 123 yards and 2 TD’s, while catching 3 passes for 35 yards and another score.  He had himself quite a day.  The Bucs didn’t look great, but can really build on this formula.  Their offense is strong enough, if they don’t turn the ball over.

Doug Martin - AP Photo

Doug Martin – AP Photo

This was a big game for Winston’s development, even though he only threw for 209 yards.  Their offensive line looked a lot better, which is important not only because of Winston’s play, but they drafted two of those guys early.  They want to see them solidify that line.  Both team’s defense needs to improve, but you can clearly see, that these aren’t the same train wreck offenses of last year.  Both the Jags and Bucs have good foundations with playmakers for their rebuilds.

Fantasy Implications Both of these teams have a lot of weapons.  Winston’s poor play mitigates a good bit of the potential for Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson.  I’m not sure I’d be starting either player.   Julius Thomas made his debut and did very little.  Most people were low on him after leaving Peyton Manning, and I’d say he probably won’t be great on this team.  However, they have the potential to be big if Winston starts to get some consistent play.  Doug Martin has really started to recover his rookie form, and could end up being a player with incredible value.  The Bucs are going to run the ball a lot.  Bortles on the other hand is having a sophomore season that shows a lot of development.  The Jags are throwing the ball a ton, so Bortles, Hurns, and Robinson all have potential to be solid starters.  Unfortunately, that also means Yeldon might not get the opportunities to be a strong contributor.

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