Instant Impressions: Week 5
• Welcome to TSPN. As in: Tebow and Sports Programming Network. Tim Tebow replaced an ineffective Kyle Orton after halftime Sunday, and although Timmy's numbers didn't sing (4-of-10 for 79 yards with a passing touchdown; six carries for 38 yards and a rushing touchdown), it won't stop us folks at the Worldwide Leader from dedicating a large chunk of our talk over the next two weeks to the question: Tim Tebow, great quarterback or the greatest quarterback? Tebow nearly brought the Broncos back from the brink against the Chargers, and although Denver has a Week 6 bye, you'd have to be the staunchest Tebow hater evah to claim that Orton should retain his starting job. It's time to watch Timmy sink or swim. And because the guy almost will certainly be his own goal-line back, Tebow is worth an add in all fantasy formats.
• The same game saw drama amid the Chargers' backfield. First, Ryan Mathews left the game with a calf strain. Then, Mike Tolbert suffered a concussion. Then, Mathews returned to the game, reinjured the calf and left for good. Mathews was certainly the beneficiary of the most playing time, winding up with 24 carries for 115 yards while Tolbert had five carries for 24 yards, but it was revealing that Jacob Hester was actually the back on the game's key drive with San Diego winning by two. San Diego also has a bye next week, which should allow these guys to get healthy (as well as possibly Antonio Gates). But the merry-go-round keeps going 'round. Mathews is the player to start, but he's not shedding his injury-prone label just yet.
• LeGarrette Blount took a blow to the knee from Dashon Goldson in the third quarter Sunday with the Buccaneers losing 31-3, and Blount didn't return to the game. As of this writing, we don't know much about the injury, and the fact that Tampa was getting crushed at the time might've meant the problem wasn't serious, but the team decided to hold Blount out for precautionary reasons. In Week 6, the Bucs try to get back on track against the Saints at home. If Blount is limited, the running back work figures to be spread out among Earnest Graham, Allen Bradford and Kregg Lumpkin.
• The Colts look like an early leader in the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes, going to 0-5 with a dispiriting defensive effort against the moribund Chiefs. Worse for fantasy owners, Joseph Addai proved that his reputation for fragility isn't all talk, as he injured a hamstring in the first quarter and didn't return. Expect the slow-healing Addai to miss more time. In his place, Indy split the work between Delone Carter and Disappearing Donald Brown, and you know what? Brown was actually the better player (eight carries for 38 yards, compared to 12 for 22 for Carter). However, it was clear that Carter will be the Colts' preferred option near an opponent's goal line, though I can't promise they'll get there often against the Bengals next week. This will almost certainly be a split, at least until one of the young rushers asserts himself.
• On the other sideline, Thomas Jones had an acceptable statistical game on a per-carry basis (10 totes for 55 yards), but Jackie Battle got more work and really put the game away late. He wound up with 16 carries for 119 yards and added 21 more yards in the passing game; 41 of those rushing yards came on a crucial third-quarter drive, and he put the contest out of reach with about two minutes left with a 24-yard scamper. Battle also appeared to get his head dinged on his final carry and had to be helped off the field, but the Chiefs are off in Week 6, so he'll have time to get right. Visually, there's very little difference between Jones and Battle: Each looks as though he's running in molasses, but K.C.'s line blew open some good holes Sunday. I'm skeptical that Battle will notch another 100-yard game this season, but he's still probably worth an add for teams that are desperate for running back help.
• Still color me skeptical, but Victor Cruz put up his third consecutive game of at least 98 receiving yards, and in those three contests he has 17 grabs for 369 yards and three scores. The UMass alumnus made a ridiculous circus catch on a bad pass from Eli Manning into double coverage Sunday, and that led to his 68-yard score, but Cruz seems to be making a living on these tipped, bobbled and misdirected plays. The difference Sunday, however, was that Cruz hadn't replaced Mario Manningham in two-receiver sets; his biggest plays came as he ran out of the slot, and Manningham appeared to be in nobody's doghouse for a change. Cruz is a good story (and he played collegiate football in the town where I live), but I think he's someone to sell high on.
• Rashard Mendenhall was active but served only as the Steelers' emergency back. Isaac Redman started and did get the lion's share of carries, including a look from the Titans' 1 on which he was stuffed, but it was the better-pedigreed Jonathan Dwyer who broke the only long run of the game, a 76-yard scamper midway through the second quarter. Redman actually wound up leaving the game with a leg injury, ceding garbage touches to Dwyer, although early reports out of Pittsburgh indicated that Redman was dealing with a cramp. If Mendy's hammy is still bad for next week's contest with the Jaguars, I still think Redman will be the lead back if he's healthy, though Dwyer proved worthy of touches, too.
• Some unheralded receivers produced big games in Week 5. Doug Baldwin (136 yards and a score), Jason Avant (139 yards) and Jason Hill (118 yards and a score) emerged from nowhere, while James Jones (140 yards and a touchdown) and Malcom Floyd (100 yards and a touchdown) climbed out of their respective funks. But how about Darrius Heyward-Bey? In back-to-back weeks, DHB has at least 99 yards receiving. True, the Texans essentially dared the Raiders to beat them with DHB by singling him up on corner Jason Allen, but Heyward-Bey played a legitimately strong game with good moves and power after the catch. The WR smoke seems to be settling in Oakland, with DHB and Denarius Moore starting as the outside receivers and Jacoby Ford playing the slot (with guys like Chaz Schilens and Derek Hagan also seeing time). This is probably too big a mess to consider starting any of these guys right now. But DHB has never come close to stringing together two games like this in his pro career. I think he's worth a speculative add, just in case.
• It was pretty obvious what happened as soon as Julio Jones pulled up on a deep throw down the left side Monday night. Jones touched his hamstring and bent over, then was next seen limping to the locker room. The Falcons roared down the field the first two times they touched the ball against the Packers but did precious little thereafter, and Jones -- coming off back-to-back 100-yard efforts -- illustrated why it can be scary to rely on rookie No. 2 receivers in fantasy by posting one catch for 16 yards. My speculation simply based on observing the injury is that Jones' fantasy owners should be prepared for life without him for at least next week against the Panthers. Harry Douglas and Eric Weems are best suited to be slot players, but they'll likely both line up in three-receiver sets if Jones does miss time.
• It wasn't as big a story as it could've been because the Falcons are having terrible trouble rushing the passer, but the Packers may be without both of their starting tackles for a time. Bryan Bulaga missed Week 5 with a sprained knee, and Chad Clifton appeared to severely injure a hamstring Sunday night. That leaves rookie Derek Sherrod at right tackle and Marshall Newhouse guarding Aaron Rodgers' blind side. It's not like you'd even think about benching Rodgers or his primary weapons, nor do I expect Green Bay's Week 6 opponent, the winless Rams, to generate much of a pass rush. (They have eight sacks in four games.) But this could be a story as the season winds on.
• I've been strident in my stance that although Stevan Ridley has looked pretty good for a couple of straight games, you need to start BenJarvus Green-Ellis over him every week, because at the very least there's no evidence to suggest that BJGE's goal-line work is in jeopardy. Well, versus the Jets in Week 5, the Law Firm did more than just pound in a short touchdown (though he did that, too): Green-Ellis carried it 27 times for 136 yards and two short scores, as he killed the clock and choked the life out of New York. It won't always be this way for BJGE, but you're wise to use him over Ridley until further notice. (But that doesn't mean Ridley isn't ownable.)
• There's no debating that Curtis Painter likes to throw to Pierre Garcon. Garcon led the Colts in targets again with eight. And his first touchdown Sunday was supremely legit: a 6-yard, red zone score over the middle where Garcon fought through traffic and caught a crisp slant. But his second score -- a 67-yard affair -- was yet another utterly blown coverage where Garcon found himself traipsing down the field with nobody within 10 yards. I can't quibble with the numbers. I mean, in the past two weeks Garcon has 271 yards receiving and four touchdowns. But three of those touchdowns have come because of insanely bad tackling or just flat-out forgetting that No. 85 plays for Indy. I admit that I'm going to start ranking Garcon in the mid-30s among fantasy wideouts this week. But I'm not buying him as elite, and I'm still putting Reggie Wayne above him (if only slightly above him) for the time being.
• The Texans' defense suffered a serious blow, as former No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams tore a pectoral muscle Sunday against the Raiders. As of this writing, the team hasn't indicated how much time Williams will miss, but it's hard to imagine he'll be playing any time soon. Williams suffered the injury while sacking Jason Campbell, his fifth sack of the young season; as a team, Houston currently has 15 in five contests. Not that he looked like a viable starting fantasy quarterback the last time we saw him on the field, but Joe Flacco's matchup next week versus Houston did just get more attractive.
Christopher Harris is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.
Fantasy Football Week 6
Cam Newton has made so many strides early in his career that he's a top-five option at QB entering this week.
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Week 6 Rankings
• Harris: Hard Count
• Berry: Love/Hate for Week 6
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• Daube: Trendspotting
• Carpenter: Gridiron Challenge preview
• Cockcroft: Consistency ratings
• Harris: Top Week 6 free agents
• Harris: Instant Impression of Week 5
Bell Injury Blog
• Top 100 flex rankings
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• Maurice Jones-Drew lacking in targets
• Week 6 sneaky pickups
• Ranks reax: Good matchup for Pack RBs
• 2011 Rankings: A.J. Green on the rise
• Pass Plays: Sell high on Fitzpatrick
• Four Downs: Chiefs' and Steelers' offenses
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