Now fantasy football season has really started.
Before people start sending me calendars (are those still a thing?), I'm well aware that we're actually five weeks into the season. But now things are about to get real. The rubber's about to hit the road. The wheat shall soon be separated from the chaff and all that jazz.
The bye weeks are here.
Granted, from an IDP perspective, the bye weeks are blowing in more with a whimper than a bang—the only elite option who will be sitting this week is Las Vegas Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby, who has been absolutely off the chain this season. But whether it's Jeffery Simmons of the Tennessee Titans on the defensive line, Detroit Lions linebackers Alex Anzalone and Malcolm Rodriguez, or Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard, there are multiple defensive players taking Week 6 off who have been starters for fantasy managers over the first five weeks of the season.
Couple those losses with the ever-growing list of injuries on defense, and there are more holes than ever in lineups this week. I personally have one roster where both Byard and rookie Jalen Pitre of the Texans are sidelined this week—leaving me with no safeties in a league with a short bench.
Tough decisions await.
These are the weeks that separate average fantasy teams from good ones and good ones from great ones. It's easy to win when everything is working. But overcoming adversity is how IDP championships are won.
Fortunately, you purchased a membership to Footballguys in 2022. And contained within that 52-card deck of fantasy goodness is your ace in the hole to survive (and even thrive in) the bye weeks—this column.
Well, assuming that I have even the faintest idea what the heck I'm talking about.
We can hope, right?
DE Marcus Davenport, New Orleans (vs. Cincinnati)
The 2022 season was supposed to be a coronation for New Orleans Saints edge-rusher Marcus Davenport. After posting four sacks over the final month of the 2021 season, the proverbial lightbulb appeared to be coming on for the former first-round pick. Per the team's website, then-teammate Jordan Mills said that he believed we had only seen the tip of the iceberg where Davenport was concerned.
"He's a guy that has all of the intangibles," Mills said. "He's fast, quick, powerful. The one thing I would say that makes him more difficult (to block) is you don't know when his power is coming. When it does come, it's a load unlike any other. He can maul anybody at any moment. You know, he's starting to realize that. To see the things he does to tackles sometimes, they can't really do anything about it. Marcus is a great young player. He's going to do great things in this league, and I'm glad he's on our team."
Instead of a coronation, fantasy managers have been treated to a vanishing act—just half a sack over the first five games of the season. That dismal start got Davenport the hook in quite a few leagues, but with the Saints about to play a Cincinnati Bengals team that has surrendered 19 sacks and the 12th-most fantasy points to defensive ends, one team's trash could become another team's treasure.
EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul, Baltimore (at NY Giants)
Not that long ago, Pierre-Paul was not that unlike you and I—in that he too was watching football on Sundays on television. But after injuries hit the Ravens edge-rushers particularly hard, the team took a flier on the 33-year-old. As a matter of fact, they threw Pierre-Paul to the wolves—he played 100 snaps over his first two weeks with the team. All things being equal, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters after Sunday night's win over the Bengals he's been pleased with what Pierre Paul has shown so far.
“Very impressed," Harbaugh said. "He hadn’t played at all in training camp or in the season. I thought he looked good the first week, and now just a little bit better this week. To get his hands on those balls, and to pressure the quarterback, strong against the run. He plays super hard, he’s a hard-playing guy. You can tell he loves the game, so he’s a big plus for us. I’m very happy that we have him.”
Pierre-Paul hasn't blown up the stat sheet—six total tackles and a sack spread over those two contests. But he has been a factor in both games, looked pretty good doing so and draws a New York Giants team that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points to defensive ends this season.
Who's up for a little Big Apple homecoming action?
DE Robert Quinn, Chicago (vs. Washington)
Remember the good old days when Robert Quinn was coming a franchise-record 18.5-sack season and he was a tabbed a DL1 in some IDP circles.
Pepperidge Farm remembers.
The first five weeks of the season haven't gone even remotely according to plan for the 32-year-old. After a goose egg against the Vikings in Week 5, Quinn has six tackles and one sack for the season. It hasn't just been Quinn, either—the entire Bears' pass rush has been MIA. But as Sean Hammond wrote for Shaw Local News, things aren't as bad as they appear.
"According to Pro Football Reference," he said, "the Bears lead the league in QB hurries with 29 through five games and a QB hurry rate of 17.9%. They also have the fewest QB knockdowns (times the QB hit the ground after throwing) with only seven. Those two numbers together would seem to indicate that the Bears are getting pressure, those pressures just aren’t resulting in QB hits or sacks. If the Bears keep pressuring the QB at a high rate, those results are going to come."
Pressures and hurries can turn to sacks relatively quickly, as evidenced by Maxx Crosby's monster year—last year's pressures have become this year's sacks. This week Quinn and the Bears hist a Commanders team that has allowed the second-most sacks in the NFL with 20 and the second-most fantasy points to defensive ends this year.
Quinn gets right this week. And gets home.
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