As a member of Generation X, following sports -- especially football -- was very different back when I was a kid. There were no satellite dishes perched atop your roof ready to bring whatever sporting event you desired into your home. There was no Red Zone channel that could show you each and every important play from all over the country. There weren't even any bye weeks until 1990, so you always got your local team, week in and week out, and that was pretty much it.
Still, in 2017, even with access to any game you want, if you're a fan of a particular NFL team, you're probably glued to the television screen when they are on the field. Fantasy experts do their best to collect as much knowledge from all 32 NFL teams as they can, but because of the nature of the schedule, it's nearly impossible for anyone to watch every single play of every single game.
As I always like to say, hometown fans know far more about their own team than any fantasy expert ever could, though they're likely to have far less knowledge about the other 31 clubs. They're like specialists in the medical field. If you have a cold, you don't go to a cardiologist. However, when your heart skips a beat, you don't go anywhere else. And, when you have questions about the heart of your fantasy lineup, checking in with a specialist is also wise.
Nobody expects you to pick up the phone and survey every member of a team's fan base in order to figure out which players they're suddenly sour on, or who has played their way into darling status. But a quick shorthand can indeed be taking a look at jersey sales from the past week, , as reported by Dick's Sporting Goods.
Certain sudden surges in sales are ones that are expected. For example, Mitchell Trubisky moves into the top five in sales among offensive players this week, which makes a ton of sense since he made his NFL debut -- taking over the helm of the Bears offense from Mike Glennon -- on Monday night, at home, in Chicago.
Similarly, Deshaun Watson of the Texans, who climbed all the way to No. 13 last week, rose again to No. 6 on the ledger, thanks to his second consecutive week with five touchdowns. Playing that well in front of friendly faces is always going to inspire some souvenir shopping on the way back to the parking lot.
In fact, you're going to expect strong movement in week-over-week sales numbers based simply on the travel schedule of NFL clubs. Teams that play at home should see jersey sales rise, while teams that go on the road should see their players slide a bit on the list. The trio of Travis Kelce, Aaron Rodgers and Larry Fitzgerald, just to name a few, all slid -- despite solid Week 5 outings -- due primarily to playing on the road. There's no reason to read anything more into those numbers.
A similar check of players whose soaring jersey sales during the past seven days coincided with games in their own stadiums reveals that Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, Jarvis Landry and Zach Ertz were among the biggest movers of the week. Again, no big surprise that players with home games see an uptick in sales, but fans can choose which player to buy, and the fact that this quartet led the way in their respective cities tells you a lot about which members of those offenses may have the most "name value" in fantasy trades right now.
You can also get a feel for which players on bye weeks have a sense of optimism surrounding them, compared to which ones may have some less-than-confident support from those who watch them regularly. Four teams had Week 5 byes: Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins were up. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were all down. You can potentially leverage this "wisdom of the crowds" to try to maximize value from any trades involving these players, but do it quickly.
The last set of names we're going to discuss this week are the outliers. Here is where players whose jersey sales go against the expectations are more likely the direct result of on-field performance than any other factor. Players who go on the road and see a rise in sales are those fantasy managers should be targeting, if possible. Meanwhile, those who drop down the list or simply maintain the status quo, despite thousands of potential purchasers sitting in a stadium full of opportunity to do so? Be afraid.
Those on the road and on the rise in Week 5 included Alex Smith, Kelvin Benjamin and Leonard Fournette. Players who couldn't manage to inspire the fans already predisposed to liking them over the past seven days included Amari Cooper, Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and Dez Bryant. The specialists have detected something troubling here, folks. Feel free to get a second opinion, but I wouldn't be so quick to ignore the situation.
Promotional consideration paid for by Dick's Sporting Goods.