Under the Numbers: Week 9
Alessandro Miglio
October 30, 2012
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We wish the residents of the Eastern Seaboard, New England and the northern Midwest a safe week in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and her bad-weather cohorts. If you went up against Jason Witten in a PPR or 1.5-PPR league this week, you might know what it is like to be sitting in New Jersey right now—in the fantasy football realm, that is.

Here are some of this week’s more compelling statistics.

1. Matthew Stafford: 34/49, 352 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception; 4 carries, 12 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Seattle Seahawks

Raise your hand if you were expecting this super nova from Matthew Stafford against the tough Seattle defense. Great, now keep it raised if you expected it to happen with Calvin Johnson being limited to three catches and 46 yards—not to mention yet another dropped touchdown pass—thanks to a bum knee and Richard Sherman.

Stafford was due. His peripherals said so. Even with receivers that continue to drop passes like they were all wearing Jermichael Finley costumes—and despite some poor mechanics that had Stafford misfiring at times—it was only a matter of time before he broke out of his slump.

2. Titus Young: 9 receptions, 100 yards, 2 touchdowns vs. Seattle Seahawks

The biggest beneficiary of Stafford’s incredible day was one Titus Young.

Well, perhaps it was more than just Stafford. Young’s emergence coincides with a season-ending injury to Nate Burleson who was sitting—not literally, though it may have seemed that way at times—in front of Young on the depth chart. The second-year receiver appears to be blossoming before our very eyes, which is good news for the Lions offense all around.

If you happened to grab Young or have him stashed, congratulations; you have yourself a keeper. With all the attention opposing defenses pay to Calvin Johnson, Young is in for more big games. He will not be scoring two touchdowns per game, but he will be a strong WR2 play on a weekly basis from here on out.

Incidentally, Young’s emergence will also help Johnson and Ryan Broyles. Defenses will need to adjust to Young’s presence on the field, meaning Megatron might actually have some space to operate. Of  course, if he keeps dropping touchdown passes, there is nothing Young or anyone else can do for him.

3. Ryan Mathews: 24 carries, 95 yards; 2 receptions, 9 yards at Cleveland Browns

In what was an otherwise abysmal performance by the Chargers, Mathews actually had a decent game. It was a good sign for him that Norv Turner did not pull him in silly fashion when Mathews fumbled early in the contest.

He might continue to be a fantasy tease for owners, but Mathews is primed for a huge game or two given his workload. He’s got some pretty good matchups coming up against the Chiefs and Buccaneers. Maybe this is the Stockholm Syndrome talking, but Mathews should be a bargain right now; pick him up while you can.

4. Jason Witten: 18 receptions, 167 yards vs. New York Giants

Whoever was picking the plays in this Madden 13 matchup seemed to have found their bread-and-butter play: a 5-10-yard out pattern for Jason Witten.

It seems as though Witten has gotten his groove back with Tony Romo. The big tight end has caught a whopping 43 passes for 411 yards over the past four weeks, but he has caught just one touchdown on the season. While he has been a PPR monster, he could just as easily lay a fantasy egg or three if the other team decides to cover him.

This may be your best chance to deal him and get something good, particularly in dynasty leagues. Witten is no spring chicken; if you can afford it, shop him aggressively.

5. Justin Blackmon: 4 receptions, 67 yards / Cecil Shorts: 20 receptions, 400 yards, 3 touchdowns

Are the mothballs finally falling off, or was this another mirage for Justin Blackmon?

The rookie finally showed some life this week after tinkering with his Invisible Man Halloween costume over the past couple of months. He has failed to live up to his status as the top-drafted rookie receiver thus far, though not for lack of trying. Blaine Gabbert has targeted Blackmon 30 times over the past four games, but he has caught less than half of them in that span.

That is not unsurprising with the lack of effort Blackmon seemingly puts forth, but he will be given every opportunity to succeed as long as he is healthy and stays out of trouble. If Gabbert continues to improve, Blackmon is in for a good game or two; now would be a good time to pick him up.

His counterpart has made things rather difficult for Laurent Robinson when he finally returns from injury. Shorts has been rather good for the Jaguars this season, including a game-winning catch in Jacksonville’s only win of the season.

6. Nick Foles: 40/63, 553 yards, 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions

There is a fair amount of speculation that Michael Vick is about to be benched—sad news for Vick owners as he heads into a tasty matchup against the New Orleans Saints—but it seems like he might hang onto his job, for now. Should you pick Foles up just in case?

Unless you do not have a good backup, the answer is a resounding “no.” Indeed, the statistics above paint a pretty picture, but preseason stats are a dangerous measuring stick. You do not have to look very far to find one player whose preseason statistics were glorious, only to find his regular season output to be less-than-stellar.

Okay, you have to actually go about 2,800 miles from Philadelphia to find a quarterback whose preseason stats belied his regular season potential. Russell Wilson has not been a terrible fantasy quarterback, he has not been terribly good either. Is Nick Foles at Russell Wilson’s level? The fact that question was rhetorical should inform your decision to grab him.

7. Jacquizz Rodgers: 8 carries, 60 yards; 5 receptions, 20 yards at Philadelphia Eagles

Owners were right to dump him after nearly half a season of worthless fantasy contribution from Rodgers, but it might have been a tad premature.

Michael Turner appears to have entered his second-half swoon early this season, rushing 35 times for just 91 yards the past two games. He lacks wiggle where Rodgers does not. The diminutive back has not been able to take advantage of the opportunities afforded him thus far this season, however. Does this performance mean he has finally broken through?

Perhaps. Most of his production came on his 43-yard scamper as the game entered garbage time at the end of the third quarter, however. If the Falcons figure out how to get Rodgers out in space more often, he will be more effective. Until then, though, he is liable to run into the middle of the defense for a minimal gain more often than not.

8.  Dez Bryant: 28 receptions, 314 yards, 2 touchdowns over the past four weeks

Say what you want about the knuckleheaded tendencies of one Dez Bryant, but he has been putting up good numbers this season. Aside from his two-catch stinker against Carolina, Bryant has been tearing it up for the Cowboys in recent weeks.

Clichés aside, it might be time to fully embrace Bryant as a fantasy football player. He has now doubled his career total of 100-yard games, and he was a pinky away from having one of the week’s best fantasy outputs from a receiver to go along with an improbable comeback victory against the Giants.

The problem is his current owner. Chances are he has been waiting for this from Bryant all along, so trading for him might not be a great deal.

9. Jonathan Dwyer: 34 carries, 229 yards; 1 reception, 8 yards over the past two games

There has been plenty of chatter about Dwyer and the unwritten rule that says players cannot lose their starting gigs due to injury. Are Rashard Mendenhall’s days numbered in Pittsburgh?

Perhaps. Dwyer has certainly proven that he can carry the load effectively during the past two games. But how much of a workload will they give him when Mendy and Isaac Redman return? Even if Dwyer has earned more playing time going forward, it is likely the Steelers will go with a committee when their backs are healthy. Even if Dwyer heads up the committee, his opportunities figure to go down dramatically.

10. Kenny Britt: 4 receptions, 31 yards vs. Indianapolis Colts

It was a meager output for Britt, but the statistics belie the truth.

The mercurial receiver caught two long passes—one for a touchdown—that were called back on offensive pass interference penalties. The touchdown-nullifying call was a particularly dubious one as Britt appeared to catch the ball cleanly without interfering with the defender.

Since many stat-jockey wannabes who own Britt might not know this, this might be your best chance to pounce on him in a cheap deal.

11. Jermichael Finley: 28 receptions, 265 yards, 1 touchdown

In no particular order, here is a list of tight ends who have outperformed and out-produced Finley thus far: [LIST EXCEEDS CAPACITY]

Finley currently resides comfortably in the No. 23 spot amongst fantasy tight ends, just ahead of rookie Dwayne Allen—who shares time with Coby Fleener—and Aaron Hernandez, who has played three games. Finley has dropped six passes on the season, including a few in the end zone; he has simply been terrible.

He has, on numerous occasions, said he needs to have better chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. How much more chemistry does he need when Rodgers’ passes all hit him in the hands? If you are a Finley owner, try getting something—anything—in a trade. Otherwise, he is barely rosterable at this point.

Vulture Parade

Will Johnson: 2 receptions, 8 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Washington Redskins

His touchdown catch came before Heath Miller’s, but it happened just after Miller missed out on a touchdown reception. Johnson escaped the ire of fantasy owners because Miller was able to get into the end zone after all, but he took away a potential touchdown to Jonathan Dwyer, Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown in the process.

Donald Driver: 2 receptions, 10 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

If you are a Twitter aficionado, you might know that we had a sneaking suspicion Donald Driver would have sleeper value with Jordy Nelson out of the lineup. For most of the game it seemed like that was incorrect—the Packers decided to give the Jaguars a sporting chance, it seems—but Driver scored late in the game, which led to this picture:

Donald Driver

We think this sums things up nicely.

John Phillips: 3 receptions, 14 yards, 1 touchdown vs. New York Giants

Not that Jason Witten and his fantasy owners needed the points (okay, you can never have too many points), but Phillips took away a touchdown that would have made Witten the highest-scoring non-quarterback of the week not named Rob Gronkowski.

Jason Snelling: 1 carry, 1 yard; 3 receptions, 16 yards, 1 touchdown
D.J. Davis: 2 receptions, 30 yards, 1 touchdown at Philadelphia Eagles

The Falcons put on a show against the Eagles, but boy did some of the big names in that offense miss out on big fantasy days. Julio Jones was the lone skill player to escape with a good fantasy day as Snelling and Davis scored touchdowns that would have otherwise gone to Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White or Michael Turner.

Delone Carter: 2 carries, 8 yards, 1 touchdown at Tennessee Titans

Vick Ballard and Donald Brown were both having decent days, but Delone Carter had to spoil all the fantasy fun for them with a touchdown on his second—and final—carry of the day. Ballard’s fantasy day was saved with his incredible touchdown catch to win the game in overtime.

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