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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Under the Numbers - Week 4
John U. Miller
September 28, 2010
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Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 3.

1. Matt Forte carried 11 times for 29 yards and 0 TDs against the Packers.  He also caught 2 passes for 14 yards.

Huddle Up:  Over his last 20 games Forte has carried 309 times for 1,087 yards, for an average of 3.5 per carry.  Forte has scored 3 TDs this season, all via the pass.  He’s been busy in the red zone – an insane 13 combined touches and targets – but is setting a record for goal-line futility.  Six carries inside the three-yard line, zero TD runs.  Where did that grit go, the determination he showed as a rookie?  Forte’s best served as a wingback/receiver… He’s more Larry Centers than Larry Csonka!  Forte’s next two opponents, NYG and Carolina, rank 25th and 24th in defending fantasy RBs this year.    

2. Ronnie Brown carried 11 times for 54 yards and 0 TDs against the Jets.  He also caught 2 passes for -1 yards.  

Huddle Up:  Over his last 20 games Brown has carried 280 times for 1,298 yards, for an average of 4.6 per carry.  Brown has scored 1 TD this season.  He’s also been busy in the red zone, with 10 combined touches and targets this season.  Eight of those 10 were Wildcat snap-n’-runs, making Brown essentially the Dolphins’ red-zone running quarterback.  Brown could also be distancing himself from Ricky Williams, who averages a measly 3.4 per carry and has already fumbled three times (one of them luckily reversed by replay) this season.  Brown has only fumbled twice in his last 296 total touches.  Bye warning: Ronnie Brown’s off in week 5.

3. DeAngelo Williams carried 10 times for 64 yards and 0 TDs against the Bengals.  He did not catch any passes. 

Huddle Up:  Over his last 20 games Williams has carried 339 times for 1,857 yards, for an average of 5.5 per carry.  Williams has scored 0 TDs this season.  He’s barely been a factor in the red zone, despite the fact that Carolina’s had a decent amount of trips (eight) down there:  Williams has four combined touches and targets inside the 20.  The biggest problem is the Panthers have inexplicably thrown 14 red-zone passes and only attempted eight runs.  Eight red-zone runs in three games!  By comparison, the Atlanta Falcons attempted 11 red-zone runs in just their Week 3 game alone!  And so far it’s not really Jonathan Stewart biting into Williams’ overall touches, it’s RB Mike Goodson who has been targeted in the passing game a whopping 16 times, most of them on 2nd or 3rd-and-long when their best playmaker Williams should be the field. 

4. Jeremy Maclin caught 4 passes for 83 yards and 2 TDs at Jacksonville.  After failing to score in his last six games of 2009, Maclin has scored every week this season.  Michael Vick threw 3 TD passes and ran in 1 TD, the first time ever he’s thrown more than 2 TDs in a game where he had a TD run. 

Huddle Up:  Maclin is doing more damage (top-5 fantasy WR after three games) with less ammo than all other WRs.  He averages a score every 4.75 targets (4 TDs in 19 plays), the best average of any wide receiver with 2+ scores this year.  His 19 targets on the year doesn’t even rank in the top-40 busiest WRs – which refutes my theory that fantasy football is about collecting opportunities.  A Michael Vick tidbit:  In his 10 quarters under center he’s accounted for 920 total yards (pass and run) and 7 TDs.  That yardage ranks #5 among QBs – behind only Kyle Orton (1096), Philip Rivers (1094), Peyton Manning (1009), and Jay Cutler (932) – all of whom have played two more quarters of football than Vick. The Eagles are right on track with their usual 62/38 pass-run ratio, and the best thing for Vick is that some of that “38” is him running the ball anyway!

5. The 49ers rank 31st in 3rd down conversions (a putrid 24%) so OC Jimmy Raye was fired and replaced by QB coach Mike Johnson. Johnson has previously been a QB coach for Doug Flutie and Michael Vick. 

Huddle Up:  It’s true that opposing players have been figuring out the 49ers’ plays before the snap, and that will stop -- but it still just comes down to execution.  Now Mike Johnson will call the plays.  He once helped coax a career-season best 3,464 passing yards out of Flutie.  As WR coach for Baltimore in 2006 Johnson lifted the mercurial Mark Clayton to 67 catches for 939 yards and 5 TDs.  Back in 2003, Falcons interim coach Wade Phillips asked Johnson to grab the headset and call the plays in two games: Vick was coming off a broken leg but managed a 119.2 rating at Tampa Bay and a 93.0 mark vs. Jacksonville.  However, Alex Smith’s next three opponents – Atlanta, Philadelphia, Oakland – rank 12th, 13th, and 10th in defending fantasy QBs. 

6. Anquan Boldin caught 8 passes for 142 yards and 3 TDs vs. Cleveland.  It was the 10th multi-TD game of his career.

Huddle Up:  Boldin has always scored in bunches.  Only Randy Moss (24), Marvin Harrison (14 from 2003-2008), Chad Ochocinco (13), Hines Ward (12), and Terrell Owens (11) have had more multi-TD games since 2003.  His ex-teammate Larry Fitzgerald has 10 since he began in 2004, and amazingly Lee Evans has 7 since 2004 as well.  After Boldin it’s Reggie Wayne (7), Andre Johnson (7), Santana Moss (7), and Steve Smith (7) since 2003.  Boldin also became the fastest to reach 600 career receptions in NFL history.  He took only 98 games, beating Marvin Harrison’s record of 102.  His next two opponents, Pittsburgh and Denver, rank 11th and 28th against fantasy WRs, respectively. 

7. Jamaal Charles carried 12 times for 97 yards against the 49ers.  He also caught 3 passes for 57 yards.  Thomas Jones carried 19 times for 95 yards and 1 TD, adding 1 catch for 1 yard.

Huddle Up:  Ranting about Chiefs HC Todd Haley is a waste of keystrokes so I’ll just ask one of you to forward him these numbers…  Over his last 10 games Charles has 201 total touches for 1,339 yards from scrimmage.  Over their last 10 games combined Maurice Jones-Drew and Clinton Portis have 383 touches for 1,569 yards.  Charles almost equals their combined total yardage with half the touches!  Look at that again closely.  Charles also has 9 TDs in this span – MJD and CP have 8.  The reason why Haley won’t listen to a fantasy dork like me is because KC is 3-0 for the first time since 2003.  And they are only the seventh team ever to start 3-0 after opening at 0-3 the previous season.       

8. Frank Gore had 15 carries for 43 yards and caught 9 balls for 102 yards at KC.

Huddle Up:  Gore-owners caught a huge break when not only did he stay on the field throughout the 4th quarter when they were down 24-3 and 31-3 – he caught a swing pass with nine seconds left and rumbled for 41 yards, putting him over the 100-yard receiving mark.  Gift from the Fantasy Gods.  Not only were Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon nowhere to be found (0 carries between them), Gore played 56 out of 62 snaps.  In fact, Gore has been on the field for an amazing 178 out of his team’s 186 offensive snaps this year! 

9. Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware tallied 3 sacks in their 27-13 win at Houston.

Huddle Up:  The Texans were without starting left tackle Duane Brown (suspended) but his replacement Rashad Butler was only beaten for one of those sacks.  The other two times Ware came off the other side (once all alone against a tight end?). He also drew two holding calls on RT Eric Winston.  In his last 16 games Ware has 60 tackles, 15 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 4 pass deflections.  Back to the Texans... Matt Schaub has been sacked an AFC-high 11 times, and Brown isn’t coming back from suspension until Week 6.  Houston travels to Oakland this week.  Raiders LB Kamerion Wimbley is making plays as the Raiders defense mixes up the 4-3 and 3-4.  In Week 5 Houston hosts the NY Giants.     

10. Carson Palmer completed 19 of 37 passes for 195 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs at Carolina.

Huddle Up:  Conspiracy theorists suggest Palmer’s arm is toast since his elbow injury in 2008.  In the three years prior to the elbow his QB ratings were 101.1, 93.9, and 86.7.  In the last three years it’s 69.0, 83.6, and 79.1.  And this year’s 79.1 would be even lower if New England hadn’t called off the dogs in their Week 1 blowout, allowing Palmer to go 15-of-22 with a TD after the score was 31-10.  Yards per attempt?  You guessed it:  In the three years prior to the elbow it was a sturdy 7.5, 7.8, and 7.2.  Since then it’s 4.7, 6.3, and 6.4.  Bengals fans are quietly starting to turn on Palmer and they wonder if the decision to skip Tommy John surgery was the right one.  Remember, Palmer partially tore a ligament and a tendon off the bone.  

11. Felix Jones carried 7 times for 43 yards and 0 TDs at Houston.  He did not record a catch.  Marion Barber had 18 touches for 60 total yards. 

Huddle Up:  The 2008 NFL Draft yielded seven mega-talented running backs in the 1st and 2nd rounds… and Felix Jones has played the least of any of them.  Jones now has 168 carries in his career – dead last in the group:  Chris Johnson (684), Matt Forte (612), Jonathan Stewart (426), Ray Rice (413), Rashard Mendenhall (325), and Darren McFadden (290).  Heck, a couple 3rd-rounders from that draft – Steve Slaton (411) and Jamaal Charles (291) – have carried the ball more.  As we move along it’s becoming painfully clear that Jones just isn’t a big part of our FF hobby.  You could argue that cast-offs or fill-ins like Peyton Hillis, Justin Forsett, Laurence Maroney and BenJarvus Green-Ellis all have more fantasy value than Jones. 

12. Beanie Wells carried 14 times for 75 yards and 0 TDs vs. Oakland. Tim Hightower had 11 carries for 40 yards. 

Huddle Up:  Wells entered in the third series just like he did last year, immediately ripping off a 24-yard run on his first carry of 2010.  In the 2nd quarter he had a carry from the three-yard line but couldn’t stuff it in.  All numbers aside, Wells looked imposing and sudden – two things Hightower is not – and reminded us that he’s a very explosive back who gets downhill in a hurry.  His knee held up fine, just 22 days after doctors scoped and trimmed a damaged piece of meniscus (so much for the “knee bruise” story).  It’s a minor procedure.  Wells could ascend to the 16-18 carry range next week at San Diego. 

13. Justin Forsett carried 17 times for 63 yards and 0 TDs, and caught 3 passes for 31 yards vs. San Diego.  No other Seahawks RB recorded a rushing stat.

Huddle Up:  If Forsett were a fantasy football novel his first three chapters would be called Love, Hate, and Like.  At first there was love for Forsett as a sleeper coming off that strong finish in 2009.  Then in the preseason Pete Carroll threatened RBBC and it became hate.  Now we kinda like Forsett.  His carries have gone up each week.  Julius Jones didn’t touch the football in Week 3 and Leon Washington is their return ace.  With bye weeks and injuries starting to infiltrate, there’s a chance Forsett could be quite useful.  Seattle plays at St. Louis in Week 4 and they get LT Russell Okung and G Chester Pitts back from injury too.  Note:  Leon Washington now has six career kick-return TDs, two behind Josh Cribbs in NFL history, and tied for 2nd with several big names including Gale Sayers and Mel Gray.

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