Week 4 in the NFL has just come to a close, and it’s time to start separating the flukes from the conclusions we need to take seriously. Lucky for you, I’m here to analyze some situations around the league, and tell you whether to be worried or not.
I’ve separated players into “panic levels”: green means don’t panic- these players are going to turn it around and should be targeted in trades. Yellow means a little bit of reconsideration- we may need to readjust our expectations for these players, at least temporarily. And red? You guessed it- glued to the bench until further notice. Without further ado, to panic or not to panic:
Panic Level Green
Brandon Marshall: I’m not sure how worried owners actually are, but if it weren’t for the touchdowns Marshall owners would be panicking. Only one game with more than 5 catches, and one game with over 48 yards? Not the Brandon Marshall we are accustomed to. Much of it has to do with his bum ankle, and it looks like the Bears are going to take a closer look at that this week.
I don’t see Marshall having a high ankle sprain, and even if he misses one game to get healthy, he’s probably going to finish incredibly strong. He simply doesn’t have poor seasons with Jay Cutler.
Demaryius Thomas and Calvin Johnson: I paired these two together because their situations are quite similar. Calvin owners may be getting uneasy after him not scoring or topping 83 yards since Week 1, while Demaryius owners are fretting after a start that hasn’t seen Demaryius have more than 62 receiving yards.
Seriously, please do not panic over either of these players. They are still clearly top-5 wideouts the rest of the way. Both have had nagging injuries that seem very temporary. Calvin emerged from his 2-12-0 dud unscathed, while Demaryius just had his bye week to rest up. Odds are these players are going on a tear.
Panic Level Yellow
LeSean McCoy: It’s time to officially panic a little bit about LeSean McCoy, as much as I don’t like to admit it. Under 1.7 yards per carry with 0 catches the past two weeks? One touchdown on the year? With their offensive line looking more like a trauma ward manifest than anything, there are oftentimes nowhere to run. LeSean has also looked a bit lost like he doesn’t know where to go or what holes to hit- the few that actually exist.
The good news? This is a player in his prime with a proven track record of dominance with maybe the most offensively gifted head coach in the league. He at least gets Lane Johnson back this week, and the line should once again be at full strength a few weeks before fantasy playoff time. I’m buying, but readjusting my short-term expectations.
Eddie Lacy: A big, bruising back who tore the league up as a rookie while getting a pass for his unimpressive YPC average… sound familiar? If you guessed Trent Richardson, you’d be correct. But so far, you’d also be correct if you guessed Eddie Lacy. I mean Lacy has really been bad, having yet to rush for 50 yards in a game with 1 touchdown and 7 total receptions.
Does it have to do with him getting over 13 carries only once so far? Yes. Does it have to do with playing at Seattle, at Detroit, and vs the Jets, who all feature stellar run defenses? Of course. But at some point, we are going to have to stop making excuses. I don’t think that day has come yet- this is a guy who’s earned the right to prove himself on a stellar offense- but he’s officially on watch in my book.
Panic Level Red
Torrey Smith: Torrey Smith always seems to disappoint a little, but I never expected this. Coming into the season, everyone and their mother thought Torrey Smith would be playing the X receiver in the Kubiak/Shanahan offense, aka a fantasy point machine. Even Joe Flacco predicted 100 catches, while Steve Smith suggested he’d be the Kevin Walter to Torrey’s Andre Johnson.
I’m not sure if they planned this trickery all along, or if they stumbled into it and haven’t looked back. Either way, with the way Steve Smith is playing, nothing is changing anytime soon. As of now, I don’t really see a light at the end of the tunnel for Torrey barring an injury. Don’t drop him, but he should be relegated to your bench until further notice.
Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter: I want to begin this section by saying something about Ryan Fitzpatrick. Whether its Stevie Johnson, Kendall Wright, or DeAndre Hopkins, Fitzpatrick has proven he can support a breakout/fantasy difference-making wide receiver. He certainly isn’t a stud quarterback or even an ideal starter, but as the Titans are proving this year, you could be a lot worse off.
Coming out of college, Kendall Wright was a vertical threat with incredible separation skills. I am not an astute scout, so I have absolutely no idea how they turned him into a 5-yards-at-a-time possession receiver. All I know is, there is no massive improvement coming. He’ll probably stay around 5 catches for 50 yards per game while maybe scoring 1 or 2 more touchdowns, but thoughts of him being Whisenhunt’s Keenan Allen need to be put to bed.
Hunter has been far worse after a beastly preseason, and much of the blame goes to the Titans truly pathetic quarterback play. He doesn’t seem to handle adversity well, and the targets may simply stop coming. Bishop Sankey could be a silver lining, but this Titans offense is a dumpster fire.
Tom Brady: I was never ready to admit Tom Brady has lost it. Not after last year, not when Gronk went down again, not during the preseason. But after watching him against the Chiefs on Monday Night Football, I’m there. Does this offense even have a chance? They were a holding penalty away from going to overtime against the Raiders.
Brady is not at the point where he can elevate the play of players around him. Those days are over. Instead, he needs playmakers to help support him, and the Pats are fresh out of those. Edelman is a great slot receiver. But that’s all he is. Gronk can barely run- I watched Tamba Hali, a defensive end go step-for-step with him downfield last night. Even safeties couldn’t keep up with the old Gronk. And their outside receivers? Dobson and Thompkins can’t even make the active list when healthy, and Brandon LaFell couldn’t make it in Carolina, who basically chose Jerricho Cotchery over him.
Throw in his seriously bad offensive line and worse deep-ball accuracy, and Brady is going to be mediocre for the foreseeable future.