During the 2022 NFL season, there were three games where a non-QB scored at least 45 PPR points. 2023 has already blown it out of the water.
After D.J. Moore dropped 49 points Thursday night, Ja'Marr Chase followed it up with a massive 15-catch, 192-yard, three-touchdown performance Sunday against the Cardinals, becoming the sixth non-QB to do that this season. That's already tied for the sixth-most in NFL history, and we've got 13 weeks (and one game, tonight, obviously) left in the season.
I don't necessarily think there's any kind of lesson to be learned here – despite those big games, league-wide scoring entering Sunday night sat at 22.3 points per game, the third-lowest mark over the past decade, ahead of only 2022 (21.9) and 2017 (21.7). I just think it's an interesting, fun stat to kick off today's newsletter with, and I wanted to share it with you.
I guess it wasn't so fun if you were going against Moore and/or Chase this week, so I'm sorry if you were just painfully reminded of that.
Before we get to this week'sand my biggest winners and losers from Sunday's action, let's quickly run through the biggest injuries from Sunday you need to know about:
Anthony Richardson has a shoulder sprain – Richardson has an AC joint sprain in his right shoulder, with NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reporting Monday morning that the injury could miss "a month or more" as a result of the injury. The Colts are still awaiting the MRI results, but it sounds like Gardner Minshew is going to start for the next few weeks, at least – and, as I wrote Sunday afternoon, I do think this injury, Richardson's third in five games, . And those changes would probably be for the worst for his Fantasy appeal if they do come to pass, unfortunately.
Justin Jefferson left with a hamstring injury – We haven't really gotten any updates on Jefferson's status as of Monday morning, but he'll likely have tests done Monday to start to determine a timeline. The concern here would be a tricky, multi-week recovery with the potential for a setback, like we saw with Cooper Kupp, but hopefully that won't be the case. Either way, I'm making plans for him not being available in Week 6 at this point.
Daniel Jones injured his neck – Jones is going to have an MRI taken Monday, but Rapoport reported Monday morning that the Giants believe Jones did not suffer a serious injury. That doesn't mean he definitely won't miss time, but that's the hope as of now, at least.
James Conner has a knee injury – Conner left the game early in the second quarter after a 35-yard run, and we haven't really received any updates on his status as of Monday morning. After the game, coach Jonathan Gannon told reporters Conner was "feeling OK," and Conner was spotted on the sidelines with his helmet on trying to get back into the game, so hopefully that's a sign that this is isn't a serious issue. Emari Demercado was the lead back in Conner's absence with Keaontay Ingram out with a neck injury, and will be worth adding on waivers this week in case he's the lead back for Week 6 against the Rams.
Tank Dell suffered a concussion – Dell is in the concussion protocol and will have to clear that before he is able to return. We should know well ahead of Week 6 whether Dell will be able to play, though players do typically miss at least one game after being diagnosed with a concussion, so make alternate plans.
Hopefully the Jefferson and Richardson injuries end up being less serious than feared, but that's what we've got for now. We'll learn more in the coming days, and hopefully before Tuesday night's waiver-wire runs so we have the information we need.
Of course, it doesn't always work that way, so we're going to take out, though I've gotta be honest: This week's crop doesn't look super appealing right now. Below that, I've got my last thoughts on Week 5, with my biggest winners and losers, and we'll have our first look at the Week 6 rankings later today:
For the early waiver-wire column on CBSSports.com Sunday night, I wrote about the Panthers backfield, and the fact that Miles Sanders may have fumbled away his shot to be the lead back. I've got a few more thoughts about that later in today's newsletter, but the problem here is that even if Sanders is going to see a diminished role moving forward, I'm not sure it would be enough to make Chuba Hubbard much more than a fringe Fantasy starter.
That's a problem because Week 6 looks like another one where we don't necessarily have an obvious, must-add option on the wire. Demercado is probably the closest thing out there if Conner and Ingram's injuries force them to miss time, but there's also a chance he barely sees the field as an RB3 next week, and we may not know by the time waivers run. That's one to watch closely over the next 36 hours or so.
- D'Onta Foreman, RB, Bears (11%)
- Josh Downs, WR, Colts (14%)
- Josh Reynolds, WR, Lions (59%)
- Dalton Schultz, TE, Texans (55%)
- Jonnu Smith, TE, Falcons (10%)
Biggest Winners and Losers
Here's who has the arrow pointing up or down coming out of Sunday's action:
In my Week 5 QB rankings piece, I had this to say about Burrow: "I do believe we'll see Burrow play at a high level at some point this season. But I'm not expecting it in Week 5, and I want to stay as far away as I can." Can I get half-credit for that one? We saw little from Burrow in the first four weeks to think this kind of game was coming, but it serves as a reminder that, even when we think we have a very good reason to ignore the larger sample size of a player's career in favor of the smaller, more recent one – like, say "Joe Burrow is playing on one leg" – it's still important not to overreact to those small sample sizes and write off really good players who are struggling. What's interesting about Burrow's big game is that he didn't fix his biggest flaw, deep passing. He hit on one long touchdown to Ja'Marr Chase, but was just 1 for 4 overall on passes that traveled at least 15 yards down the field. That makes the rest of his game even more impressive.
We got a quote from Robert Saleh this week about how Hall was no longer on a "pitch count," and I was a bit worried it was just some coach talk. I had Hall ranked higher than I have at any point this season, but it wasn't high enough – he was my RB17, but only Travis Etienne and Zack Moss have outscored him as of Sunday night. The Broncos defense remains hilariously prone to giving up the big play, but it wasn't just that Hall was consistently picking up big chunks of yards, with eight carries of between five and 20 yards, plus his 72-yard touchdown. Hall is still stuck in what looks like a pretty bad offense, but he's also been fully unleashed – he had just 22 carries, compared to six for Dalvin Cook, who also didn't have a target Sunday – and he was a must-start guy in a similar offense last year. He sure looked like one yet again on Sunday.
Zack Moss, RB, Colts
In Jonathan Taylor's much-hyped return to the Colts, Moss proved he's not just going to take a bench role quietly. He rushed for 165 yards on 23 carries, dwarfing Taylor's 18 yards on six carries, and he looked like the explosive back who could house one at any point. I still think Taylor will be the lead back here, probably as soon as Week 6 – they didn't give him $42 million after a holdout and trade demand to use him as a No. 2 – but I also have a hard time imagining Moss is just going to disappear from this offense entirely. He's been too good, and that could make Taylor's path to a return to the elite ranks of Fantasy RBs a little less clear. That being said, Taylor was the No. 1 RB in 2021 with other backs on the Colts combining for 153 touches, so if he gets back up to speed quickly, he should still be very good. After all, as good as Moss has looked, Taylor's the much better player and should show it before long.
Hopkins had a number of near-misses prior to Week 5, most notably on what could have been a long touchdown catch last week if his fingers were about an inch and a half longer. Well, he didn't need to grow or wear any prosthetics this time around, as the veteran wide receiver had a vintage performance, showing he can still serve as an alpha No. 1 WR, thank you very much. Hopkins caught eight of the 11 passes thrown his way Sunday for 140 yards – and, for what it's worth, he almost had a truly massive game, but was once again just barely overthrown on what would have been a touchdown, this time from Derrick Henry. An ankle injury has slowed Hopkins at times this season, while iffy QB play has slowed him otherwise, but he's still getting open and demanding targets at a high rate, sporting a 29.2% target share through five games. This was a nice reminder of what he's still capable of.
Adam Thielen, WR, Panthers
I liked Thielen a bit as a late-round sleeper in PPR leagues, but man, I wish I had liked him a whole lot more right now. He was targeted 13 times Sunday, his second double-digit target game of the season, and he caught 11 of them for 107 yards and a touchdown, his third of the season. Thielen, who turned 33 just before the season, is having an unexpected renaissance, with a current 17-game pace of 129 catches, 1,339 yards, and 10 touchdowns. I don't think he can keep this up, but I also would have bet against him having a stretch this good at any point in the season, so he's already surpassed any reasonable expectations. I think you have to view Thielen as a must-start WR moving forward, especially because your leaguemates are probably going to be just as skeptical as everyone else when it comes to the possibility of a sell-high trade.
You know all that stuff I said about Burrow? About trusting the longer track record and not overreacting to the small sample sizes? That's the story here, too. That's not to say the struggles for Waller and Goedert were total flukes – in Waller's case, especially, his team's overall offensive malaise certainly played a role. But I never quite brought myself to bury either of these guys in the rankings the way their play suggested I should, and that faith worked out well here. It can be frustrating to keep starting players who aren't doing anything, but it's worse to give up on very good players just because they are in a slump, only to watch them turn back into themselves on your – or, even worse, someone else's – bench. I hope you kept the faith.
Miles Sanders, RB, Panthers
I wrote about Sanders in the early waiver-wire piece Sunday night, but it really feels like Week 5 might have been the breaking point with his role in Carolina. He lost yet another fumble in this one, his second of the season, and went from playing around 75% of the snaps before the fumble to around 25% after. It could have just been a one-week punishment, but the problem is, Sanders just hasn't been good enough to make any kind of mistake worth stomaching for the coaching staff. I don't think Sanders is just going to get benched, but I'm anticipating this will be a true committee moving forward, with Chuba Hubbard serving as a backfield partner, rather than an understudy. Sanders hasn't been efficient enough to overcome any kind of loss of touches, and I'm anticipating he'll be ranked no higher than the RB3 range for me this week.
Garrett Wilson, WR, Jets
Picking on the Broncos defense worked out with Hall this week, but Wilson is still reliant on Zach Wilson delivering the ball accurately, and that was an issue Sunday. He had seven targets on 26 passes, a solid 27% target share, but caught just three of them for 54 yards. To a certain extent, this was just a bit of negative variance, something every wide receiver has to deal with. However, the problem with Wilson is, matchups don't get much better than this one looked, and he finished with just 8.4 PPR points. The low level of QB play in New York is going to hold Wilson back all season long, and while he's still a viable WR3 because his individual brilliance will lead to big plays regularly enough to live with the downside, this was a reminder that the situation is still really, really bad, and it's going to keep dragging him down.
The Patriots have benched their QB in blowouts in consecutive weeks, which just about sums it all up. This is a terrible offense that hasn't topped 15 points since Week 2, and has only even reached 20 once. If Stevenson had managed to consolidate the RB work here, it might not matter as much, but Ezekiel Elliott continues to play a frustratingly large role – Elliott had as many carries as Stevenson and actually had four targets to Stevenson's two in this one, and they split snaps almost evenly even before Mac Jones was benched in the second half. Stevenson is a committee back in an offense that looks pretty hopeless right now, and even ranking him as an RB2 these days feels generous.
Comparing his first four games to Week 5, Mattison saw a decline in his share of running back carries (from 82% to 57%), his route participation rate (54% to 43%), and his red zone snap rate (81% to 56%), as SportsLine's Jacob Gibbs pointed out Monday morning. Mattison hasn't lost his role as the lead back to Cam Akers yet – fullback C.J. Ham actually saw the biggest increase in playing time among the team's backs Sunday – but he's also no longer dominating work here, and that's going to make it awfully tough to trust him moving forward. You got bailed out with a touchdown this week, and a matchup against the Bears in Week 6 might make it tough to fade him entirely, but he's still one of the more obvious sell-high candidates in the game in my eyes.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos
Sutton covered up an otherwise poor performance in Week 4 with a touchdown, but he couldn't manage the same trick Sunday, and it laid bare what is becoming pretty clear at this point: He's back to being a pretty lousy Fantasy option. He has one game so far this season with more than seven targets, and that's also his only game with more than 66 receiving yards; he has less than 40 yards in three of five games. This is a pretty low-volume passing game with a lot of designed passes going to running backs, and Sutton has the same number of targets over the past three games as Jerry Jeudy, which comes out to a 19.6% target share in that span. The situation isn't great, and Sutton is just a touchdown-or-bust WR3/4 in this offense at this point.