We have reached the quarter-season pole, and there is much to discuss. From breakouts to surprise disappointments, here are some of the more compelling statistics after Week 4.
1. Brandon Weeden: 25/52 320 yards, 1 interception at Baltimore Ravens
This stat line belies how good Weeden looked against the Ravens on the road. Aside from one terrible pick-six that wound up deciding the game, Weeden threw the ball with confidence, nearly bringing the Browns back to tie the game in he waning seconds of the game.
Unfortunately, his receivers all dipped their hands in wet cement before the game. They dropped seven passes, abominable for any NFL game. Considering Weeden threw 47 aimed passes—five were spikes or throwaways—that means he was accurate on 32 of 47 throws, a respectable 68 percent. One of those would have gone for a touchdown to Greg Little.
It would be disingenuous for me to say you should pick Weeden up in most leagues—I feel there are at least two dozen better options at quarterback—but he might be a good dynasty league bye or two-quarterback league stash.
2. Brian Hartline: 25 receptions, 455 yards, 1 touchdown at Arizona Cardinals
Your eyes do not deceive you: Brian Hartline leads the league in receiving.
If only he got into the end zone more often, he would be a fantasy stud. Hartline was a bit of a Under the Numbers special from several weeks back. We could not possibly predict his epic 253-yard performance on the road against a good Cardinals defense, but he will continue to have value as Miami’s No. 1 receiver.
Things look nice for him next week as the Dolphins get a Cincinnati pass defense that is among the worst in the league. Of course they might decide to double him all game long, so do not expect another fantasy explosion quite like last week’s.
3. Chris Johnson: 25 carries, 141 yards; 2 receptions, 16 yards at Houston Texans
Johnson wins a reprieve from fantasy owners, but it will be ever so fleeting if he reverts to early-season form. It was encouraging that this came against a good Houston defense, but this could be your only chance to sell high on him this season.
4. Scott Chandler: 12 catches, 175 yards, 4 touchdowns
The most astounding statistic here is not that Chandler is averaging a touchdown per game, it is the utterly unsustainable 33 percent touchdown rate.
To put it into perspective, Chandler had a similarly hot start to last season—he caught nine passes for 89 yards and four touchdowns through the first three games of 2012. His totals in the remaining 13 games? Twenty-nine catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns.
That he has more targets, catches and yards at this point than he did last year is a good sign that he will not fall off a cliff—at least not to that degree—but Chandler is not going to keep up this scoring pace.
He might be a good piece to package in a deal to upgrade elsewhere.
5. Jamaal Charles: 17 rushes, 92 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 fumbles; 3 receptions, 23 yards, 1 touchdown vs. San Diego Chargers
Charles followed his tremendous Week 3 performance with another nice one despite the Chiefs digging themselves into a hole once again.
This was an especially good sign considering he had two early fumbles that had his fantasy totals in the red. Luckily, the Chiefs do not employ vulture extraordinaire—Jackie Battle (see below)—nor do they feel the silly need to punish top talent for fumbles.
Charles redeemed himself and rewarded their patience and fantasy owners with a ridiculous, cross-the-field, 40-yard touchdown run and wound up with a top-10 fantasy day in the end.
6. Matthew Stafford: 114/173, 1182 yards, 3 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
It has been a rough season for Stafford’s fantasy owners.
The Lions have had to face the 49ers on the road, but the Rams, Titans an Vikings are not exactly known as world-beaters on defense. While St. Louis and Minnesota are improved defensively, Stafford was supposed to be on the elite level of quarterbacks that can carve up most defenses regardless.
Even with improved offensive line play, the Lions have simply not been able to sustain drives and get into the end zone. That is a boon for Jason Hanson owners—congratulations, he might have been a difference-maker if you chose him as your kicker—but terrible for Stafford and his cohorts.
Dropped passes have been killer, to be sure, but Stafford is on track to throw 692 passes—he is bound to find the end zone at a much higher rate going forward.
7. Andre Roberts: 15 receptions, 229 yards, 4 touchdowns
With all the defensive attention opposing teams pay to Larry Fitzgerald, it is no wonder Roberts has enjoyed a fine season as a No. 2 receiver thus far. He ran wild against the Dolphins last week, torching former teammate Richard Marshall for six receptions, 118 yards, and two touchdowns.
If he is somehow still available in your league despite UtN’s early-season endorsement, feel free to pick him up if you have the room. He will not score 16 touchdowns on the season, but he should have
8. Ronnie Hillman: 10 carries, 31 yards; 2 receptions, 32 yards
Part of his workload may have been a product of the big lead Denver enjoyed later in the game, but Hillman got on the field a decent amount throughout the contest.
Consider that his competition for playing time, Lance Ball, got just six carries for 10 yards. He also happened to catch one pass for 14 yards and a touchdown, but it looks like Hillman might be pushing for some serious playing time and fantasy relevancy in Denver.
9. Ryan Fitzpatrick: 72/125, 931 yards, 12 touchdowns, 7 interceptions
It has been a rather nice season thus far for the Bearded Wonder. The Bills quarterback has scored 85.6 standard fantasy points in the past three weeks, fourth in the league. There are are a couple of reasons to be pessimistic about his future, though, namely in the next few games.
The biggest obstacle comes in the defenses he faces: San Francisco and Arizona. The Cardinals just got done giving up 431 passing yards to Ryan Tannehill at home, so they might not be as bad of a matchup. The 49ers, though, are a fearsome bunch.
The bigger issue here is the way Fitzpatrick has put up points. In Week 1, nearly all of his fantasy output came in garbage time. He played against the weak defenses of Kansas City and Joe Haden-less Cleveland in Weeks 2 and 3, and was the fortunate benefactor of some fantastic field position against the Patriots in Week 4 after a rough start.
10. Justin Blackmon: 6 receptions, 48 yards vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Blackmon finally got something going last week. Of course, it came against the sieve-like Cincinnati pass defense, so his efforts should be taken with a grain of salt.
It was not for lack of effort on Blaine Gabbert’s part. The second-year quarterback targeted the rookie wide receiver 10 times last week, nearly doubling his total number of targets on the season. If this is a trend rather than an aberration, then Blackmon is in for some decent fantasy games.
Perhaps his owner has given up on him, or perhaps Blackmon is alreay on the waiver wire. He and Laurent Robinson are duking it out for top receiver honors in Jacksonville—a somewhat ignominious award these days, yes—but he should be in line for a ton of playing time regardless.
11. Calvin Johnson: 3 receptions, 54 yards vs. Minnesota Vikings
What is going on in Detroit?
Superstitious fantasy owners will tell you this is all because of the Madden Curse. Well, Megatron has been dinged up, but his lessened production has much more to do with the offensive funk the Lions are in more than anything.
He has not helped his own cause, dropping two passes last week including one in the end zone, though Harrison Smith cracked him pretty hard on that play.
You figure this cannot last throughout the season. The Lions offense has too many talented players to be in this funk for much longer, particularly here with Johnson. Perhaps it is time to start buying low on them, if you can pry them from their fantasy owners’ hands.
Jackie Battle: 15 carries, 39 yards, 1 touchdown; 4 receptions, 42 yards, 1 touchdown at Kansas City Chiefs
It was an alarming day for Ryan Mathews owners as Jackie Battle stole the majority of the playing time and fantasy points away from the talented sophomore running back. A.J. Smith’s threat to Mathews’ playing time was no bluff as the Chargers seemed stubbornly intent on using Battle and Ronnie Brown despite their relative ineffectiveness, touchdowns aside.
Now might be a great time to deal for Mathews because, let’s face it, the Chargers are not going to trot Battle out there to the tune of 2.6 YPC all season long. They wouldn’t be that hard-headed, right?
Craig Stevens: 2 receptions, 24 yards, touchdown vs. Houston Texans
Jared Cook wound up with three catches for 36 yards, but Stevens took a touchdown away from him. This was not an egregious attempt to humble Cook as witnessed in Kansas City for the Chargers, but it made for a disappointing Sunday for Cook owners.
Keep the faith with Cook.
James Casey: 5 receptions, 36 yards, 1 touchdown at Tennessee Titans
Fortunately for Owen Daniels owners, the big tight end came back to finish with a nice fantasy day. Casey potentially stole a red zone touchdown from him or one of a few other highly rated choices, though. Perhaps Andre Johnson owners are fuming.
Casey is not really worth a look unless Daniels goes down—he would not provide any sort of consistent fantasy scoring.
Bear Pascoe: 1 reception, 6 yards, 1 touchdown at Philadelphia Eagles
After several weeks of outperforming expectations, Martellus Bennett crashed back down to earth, betraying his fantasy owners in the process. Had he gotten this touchdown instead of Pascoe, Bennett’s fantasy day might have been saved. Alas, Manning found Pascoe open in the red zone for New York’s second touchdown and Bennett was left with a virtual goose egg.
This should not be a common theme, but Bennett was a bit of an unknown commodity in this offense. It looks like fantasy consistency might be elusive for the big tight end.
The Police Plodder is closed for repairs this week due to big performances from Michael Turner and Chris Johnson.