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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Under the Numbers: Week 11
Alessandro Miglio
November 13, 2012
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Last week shall heretofore be known as “Quarterbackpocalypse.” Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger all went down with injuries with no current timetable for return.

Which quarterbacks should you target to replace one of your battered quarterbacks or, perhaps, block one of your leaguemates from replacing theirs? You will have to sift through our numbers of note to find out.

1. Cecil Shorts: 6 receptions, 105 yards, 1 touchdown; Laurent Robinson: 9 receptions, 77 yards vs. Indianapolis Colts

The Jaguars had an opportunity for a good game on offense with injuries to an already-weak Colts secondary. Naturally, they did not take advantage—at least at any meaningful point in the game—but their receivers had good fantasy production in the end.

 Shorts’ stock has been climbing steadily as the season wears on with some nice games under his belt. He has far outplayed rookie Justin Blackmon, earning the trust of his quarterbacks and offensive coordinator in the process. We thought he might see a dip in production with Robinson back from injury, but that was not the case on Thursday night.

It did seem like Robinson would have a negative impact on Shorts throughout the first half of the game. Robinson did the bulk of his damage in the first two quarters as the Jaguars seemed to call the same passing play every other down. (Robinson caught most of his passes on medium curl routes.) The play-calling against an Indianapolis defense that was playing off-man for much of the game makes Robinson’s production a bit of a mirage. There was a reason he barely produced when healthy earlier this season.

2. Chris Johnson: 78 carries, 561 yards, 4 touchdowns; 11 receptions, 39 yards over the past four games

“One thing we were certainly wrong about was Johnson’s value peaking two weeks ago. It should certainly be at its highest today. “ – Under the Numbers, Week 9

Color us wrong.

That is the question many fantasy owners were wrestling with regarding Johnson over the past several weeks. A prime “sell-high” candidate, Johnson has proven his doubters wrong after nearly two-and-a-half seasons of fantasy disappointment.

He had some great games, but we thought he would hit the brakes against the vaunted Chicago Bears and a Miami Dolphins team that had not given up a 100-yard rusher in 22 straight games.

It might have been garbage time, but Johnson lit up the fantasy scoreboard against the Bears in Week 9, then helped his Titans pummel the Dolphins in Miami in unexpected fashion. It seems like Johnson’s resurgence was legitimate. Kudos to you if you traded for him.

3. Sam Bradford: 26/39, 283 yards, 2 touchdowns at San Francisco 49ers

Rub your eyes or adjust your glasses if you must, but this actually happened.

Bradford was unfazed by the 49ers defense on the road, boldly leading his team to a tie. Having Danny Amendola back was no small help for him, but he has quietly had a decent 2012 campaign. Bradford is on pace to throw for nearly 3,700 yards, though just 18 touchdowns to complement that. Hopefully Amendola stays healthy and Bradford can start tossing multiple touchdowns per game like he did on Sunday.

Of all the likely options available on the waiver wire after the carnage at quarterback this week, Bradford might be your best. Aside from another date with the 49ers, Bradford has a pretty good remaining schedule culminating with the weak Buccaneers pass defense in the championship game.

4. Michael Crabtree: 10 receptions, 142 yards, 3 touchdowns over the past two weeks

Crabtree disappeared against the Rams when Alex Smith was knocked out of the game with a concussion., but not before catching his second touchdown pass in as many weeks.

After years of carrying the prima donna  monkey on his back, Crabtree seems to be blossoming in San Francisco. Maybe it’s Jim Harbaugh or the wisdom that a few years in the NFL might bring, but San Francisco’s top receiver is finally acting like a No. 1.

Granted, he is not putting up Megatron numbers (nor would we expect him to), but he seems to be a reliable option down the stretch. Of course, all bets are off if Alex Smith misses any significant amount of time.

5. Ahmad Bradshaw: 59 carries, 226 yards, 1 touchdown; 7 receptions, 36 yards / Andre Brown: 22 carries, 113 yards, 4 touchdowns; 6 receptions, 46 yards over the past four weeks

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Ahmad Bradshaw’s foot.

The Giants running back has been missing practice because of his balky foot, only to start and play in the bulk of New York’s games. His effectiveness has been notably limited; he is averaging just 3.8 YPC over the past four weeks while his counterpart averages 5.1.

How long will the Giants stick with Bradshaw as long as this lasts? They may not need to answer that question in the short term as Bradshaw has a new injury to his neck. Brown makes for an excellent waiver wire pickup if he happens to be available.

6. Danario Alexander: 5 receptions, 134 yards, 1 touchdown at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Even if you take away his 80-yard reception—which was more a result of awful tackling on Tampa Bay’s part than anything else—Alexander had a good game.

What makes this sweeter for the oft-injured receiver is the fact he stayed on the field for most of the game, supplanting Robert Meacham as the No. 2 receiver on the team. Alexander has always had potential but could never live up to it because he has Greg Oden’s knees. If this is the way things are going to be in San Diego the rest of the season, Alexander looks like a good deal.

7. Nick Foles: 22/32, 219 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 1 fumble vs. Dallas Cowboys

Eagles fans, rejoice; your hero has arrived!

Foles entered for Michael Vick after the Eagles starter was concussed and had predictably mixed results. He found Jeremy Maclin wide open for a touchdown on one play, but threw a bad pick-six and got stripped for another defensive touchdown, effectively putting the game out of reach for the Eagles.

This is a bit of an odd situation for Foles and the Eagles. If Vick were to be cleared to play this week, would they start him? There had been rumblings that Vick would be benched for weeks; this seems like as good of a time as any to give Foles a legitimate shot to show what he’s got. Of all the quarterback injuries save, perhaps, Big Ben’s separated shoulder, Vick’s is the most worrisome. He might not get his job back.

8. Brian Quick: 1 reception, 36 yards, 1 touchdown at San Francisco 49ers

The second-round rookie snuck onto the playing field, threw off his invisibility cloak behind the 49ers defense, and scored a 36-yard touchdown for the Rams as part of their surprising showing at Candlestick Park. He promptly donned the invisibility cloak once more and resumed his quest to find the Horcruxes, never to be seen again in San Francisco that day.

The truth is that Quick will be lucky to get another opportunity like this this season. Chris Givens was suspended, which is the only real reason he even got on the field. Even with the Amendola injury, Quick had logged just 85 snaps before going to San Francisco. The touchdown play happened because he manhandled Chris Culliver, who tried to jam him, knocking him over at the line. That left him wide open outside, where he caught the ball and rumbled to the pylon.

The play itself was a good sign from Quick. He used his size advantage to his benefit, overpowering the cornerback as we might expect from a 6’3”, 220-pound receiver. If he continues developing into a good receiver, he will make for a fine dynasty stash.

9.  Arian Foster: 221 carries, 872 yards, 10 touchdowns; 17 receptions, 92 yards, 2 touchdowns on the season

Did we all expect Foster to have this kind of season? Of course. But here is the problem going forward: Foster is on pace for 392 carries.

How is this a problem? You have probably heard of some variation of the “Curse of 370,” which says that running backs who approach or surpass the 370-carry barrier are compromised the following season or longer. The curse is not all-encompassing, but Football Outsiders did a study several years ago showing that, indeed, running backs with heavy workloads tend to have drop-offs the following season. They did that study in order to predict what Larry Johnson might do the following year after carrying the ball a record 416 times in 2006. They were also discussing Shaun Alexander’s down season a year after hitting 370 carries on the nose.

Johnson and Alexander both battled injuries while their careers flamed out.

As we said, though, the Curse is not all encompassing, as shown in that FO article. Might Foster reach the dreaded 370-carry mark and live to tell about it? Of course, we do not dwell on the intangible here at UtN; the Madden Curse is silly superstition, this just happens to be a curse named by an arbitrary number. The fact remains that overuse can lead to physiological problems, which can, in turn, short-circuit a running back’s career.

Foster is young, and the Texans might ease up on him as the season wears on. They have been forced to utilize him more in recent weeks due to an injury to Ben Tate, who will be back soon. Even then, reducing Foster’s workload by even three carries per game would get him past 370.

The issue looms, and this is something to consider in dynasty leagues. Running backs tend to have less value for precisely this reason. Add to this the fact Foster is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry and the red flags seem to pile up. Of course, if you trade Foster and he winds up topping 300 fantasy points for the next five seasons you will be kicking yourself.

The Great Tight End Escape

Sunday saw an offensive explosion from the tight end position. Here are some of the best performances.

Jimmy Graham: 7 receptions, 146 yards, 2 touchdowns
He seems to be all the way back from his ankle injury.

Tony Gonzalez: 11 receptions, 122 yards, 2 touchdowns
Old man Gonzo shook off a few subpar fantasy performances with a massive game against divisional rivals.

Greg Olsen: 9 receptions, 102 yards, 2 touchdowns
Where did this come from?

Kyle Rudolph: 7 receptions, 64 yards, 1 touchdown
We have a confirmed sighting; Rudolph no longer missing in action.

Scott Chandler: 5 receptions, 65 yards, 1 touchdown
Playing the Patriots is a nice way to get back on track if you are a receiver or tight end.

Dennis Pitta: 5 receptions, 67 yards, 1 touchdown
Similar things can be said about the Raiders.

Antonio Gates: 4 receptions, 47 yards, 1 touchdown
Good thing he got all his production in before Philip Rivers turned into a pumpkin at halftime.


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