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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Under the Numbers - Week 5
John U. Miller
October 5, 2010
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1. Philip Rivers hit 15-of-20 passes for 241 yards and 2 TDs vs. Arizona, for a near-perfect 148.1 rating.  He’s now passed for at least 300 yards and/or 1 TD in 24 straight regular season games. 

Huddle Up:  He’s rekindling old memories of the classic gunslinger-seasons by Brady, Manning, Warner, Marino, and ex-Charger great Dan Fouts, whose Charger team records are under assault by Rivers. The thing with Rivers is, he’s not dinking-and-dunking… at all.  He’s leading the NFL with an unheard-of 9.42 yards/attempt, and has completed 10 of 13 passes that traveled 20 yards or more in the air.  Rivers is a human Juggs machine who hasn’t posted a sub-80 QB rating in any game since Week 13 of 2008.  Antonio Gates is in Madden mode too, with a league-leading 6 TD receptions.  He has a TD catch in eight straight games.  Gates has also posted 2 TDs in five of his last 22 games.  Most star tight ends go 22 games without one multi-TD game.  The Chargers play at Oakland and at St. Louis in the next two weeks. 

2. Kevin Kolb replaced the injured Michael Vick and threw for 201 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.  He added 21 yards on the ground. 

Huddle Up:  Kolb still looked jittery, almost unwilling to throw vertical… but he accomplished one thing:  He put Brent Celek back on the map with a touchdown.  Kolb has now played three games from ’09-10 where he had all or most of the snaps.  In those three games he’s hit Celek 19 times – a whopping 12 of those 19 completions going for 10+ yards – with two going for touchdowns.  Vick update:  Sal Paolantonio spoke to ex-Eagles team physician Dr. Arthur Bartolozzi who said he suspected this kind of rib cartilage damage – between the sternum & rib cage – is extremely painful and is normally a two-to-four week injury.  With the Eagles’ bye in Week 8 its actually possible Vick won’t return until Week 9.

3. Greg Jennings caught 2 passes for 25 yards and a TD vs. the Lions.

Huddle Up:  Remember when ex-Eagles HC Buddy Ryan cut Cris Carter in 1989 because “All he does is catch touchdowns” (?).  That’s how fantasy owners feel about Greg Jennings.  How can one player be so annoying with a TD in three of four games?  I’ll tell you how:  Jennings only has 26 targets (check the Pass column) which is too low, given that he was the 9th or 10th receiver off the fantasy draft board.  Reggie Wayne and Roddy White have 45 and 50!  Heck, Donald Driver has 26 targets.  Wasn’t he supposed to be an old washout?  TE Jermichael Finley has 26 targets, and the James Jones/Jordy Nelson duo has siphoned away 26 targets too!  What’s worse is that only 10 of Jennings’ 26 looks have been in the second half.  And for all this talk about him being the deep threat, Driver almost matches him bomb for bomb.  Since 2008 Jennings has 14 receptions of 40+ yards, Driver is right behind with 12.

4. Jahvid Best carried 12 times for 50 yards and caught 5 passes for 34 yards at Green Bay. He also lost a fumble and slipped on a slant route, causing an INT. 

Huddle Up:  It was still a victory for Best-owners whether you started him or not – because his toe held up “fine” per coach Jim Schwartz.  When asked about his toe, Best said “It wasn’t a factor today.”  Best was out there for 60 of the team’s 78 offensive snaps – an absolute ton of playing time – including 2 carries on the team’s final drive.  The Lions had 13 plays in the red zone and Best had a carry or target on four of those plays.  RB Kevin Smith had two of the 13.  QB Shaun Hill (384 total yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) and WR Calvin Johnson (6 catches, 86 yards, 2 TDs) were the big stars, as Detroit called a pass play on 31 of their first 38 snaps.  Best will surely be limited in – or even held out of – Wednesday and Thursday’s practices – but there’s no reason to bench him in Week 5 vs. St. Louis.   

5. CB Charles Woodson had 13 tackles, 3 passes defended, and a 48-yard INT return for a TD vs. the Lions. 

Huddle Up:  Woodson is the IDP equivalent of Curtis Martin, a guy who keeps doing it again and again despite other CBs getting all the press.  In his 66 games as a Packer – starting around his 30th birthday mind you – Woodson has 29 INTs, 8 TDs, 10 forced fumbles, 68 passes defended, and 18 games with 6+ tackles recorded.  Right now Woodson ranks 3rd among all cornerbacks with 28 tackles – despite the fact that teams rarely throw at him.  On Sunday he became the first player in NFL history to return a INT for a score against the same team (Detroit) in 3 consecutive seasons.  Woodson has 10 career INT returns for TD, third all-time behind Rod Woodson (12) and Darren Sharper (11).

6. Reggie Wayne caught a franchise-record 15 passes for 196 yards at Jacksonville, the 13th time in his career (including playoffs) he’s posted 10+ receptions.

Huddle Up:  13 double-digit catch games is a helluva lot, placing Wayne in Hall of Fame discussions concerning Jerry Rice (20), ex-teammate Marvin Harrison (16), Cris Carter (14), Tim Brown (13), Torry Holt (11), and Randy Moss (11).  Terrell Owens only has 8 such efforts out of 209 games.  Wayne got his 13 in 145 games.  There’s no reason to think Wayne can’t add two or three more this season either – Peyton Manning is averaging a career-high 43 passes per game.  To put it in perspective, Manning only averaged 31 passes in 2004 when he went buck-wild for 4,557 yards and 49 TDs.  In fact, Manning’s pass attempts have climbed every year since 2007.  Target-wise, the numbers say Wayne (45), Austin Collie (39), and Dallas Clark (38) are unbenchable when healthy, regardless of matchup or weather. 

7. The following RBs saw their rushing attempts decrease by at least 40% from Week 3 to Week 4:  Chris Johnson (32-19), Michael Turner (30-16), Cedric Benson (27-15), Darren McFadden (25-12), Ray Rice (15-8), and Beanie Wells (14-5).

Huddle Up:  This helps explain why Week 4 was such a bummer for some fantasy owners.   The reasons for the decreases vary, but I’ll try to sum up each one.  1. Chris Johnson:  The Broncos had many long drives, holding the Titans to 24:42 in time-of-possession.  Johnson killed a drive with a fumble, and KR Marc Mariani’s fumble stymied one before it began. 2.  Michael Turner:  It wasn’t time-of-possession (29:19) but Matt Ryan attempted 43 passes, and Jason Snelling/Ovie Mughelli combined to steal 9 carries.  Turner only got two carries on the final 18-play drive, while Ryan dropped back to pass 16 times.  3.  Cedric Benson:  Easy, the Bengals only ran the ball on 18 of 58 total plays.  4.  Darren McFadden:  A pretty normal start vs. the Texans, he rushed or was targeted on 13 of the first 30 plays.  But Michael Bush stole a 2-yard TD in the 1st quarter, and McFadden missed the 4th quarter with a hamstring injury (sadly D-Mac is likely out for Week 5).  5. Ray Rice was hurt and everybody knew that going in.  After the game, Rice said “Once I got warm, I was good” – so maybe he’ll be back to his normal self vs. Denver.  6. Beanie Wells didn’t touch the ball in the 1st quarter.  Then it was 28-7 at halftime.  Bye bye Beanie.  Note: Tim Hightower looked good again, and even had a 22-yard TD run negated by penalty.  

8. Arian Foster carried 16 times for 131 yards and 1 TD, plus caught 3 passes for 56 yards and 1 TD at Oakland.  He didn’t touch the ball until midway through the 2nd quarter because he missed a team meeting.

Huddle Up:  Foster is the third running back in NFL history to have 500 yards rushing and 100 receiving yards in the first 4 games of a season, joining Emmitt Smith and Billy Sims.  Foster has 537 rushing yards and 152 receiving yards and leads all RBs (35 min. carries) with a 6.3 average per rush.  Only three running backs have more touches than Foster (96) – Chris Johnson (106), Frank Gore (102), & Darren McFadden (101).  In Week 4 it probably helped that the Texans offense could hear a pin drop at the line of scrimmage – There were only 32,218 people at the game, the smallest Oakland crowd since 1967.   Foster’s next two opponents aren’t pansies – Giants and Chiefs – but both games are at Houston.  His bye is Week 7.

9. Austin Collie caught 5 passes for 39 yards and 1 TD at Jacksonville.

Huddle Up:  Collie has scored in every game this year and now has at least 66 yards and/or at least 1 TD in 12 straight games including playoffs (I threw out the Colts’ annual Week 17 scrub game).  One of the bigger mysteries of 2010 fantasy drafts was the huge disparity between Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie.  Garcon was usually a fifth or sixth round pick, Collie was usually an 11th or 12th round pick.  I went back over the numbers last year.  Garcon had 47 catches for 765 yards & 4 TDs.  Collie had 60 catches for 676 yards & 7 TDs.  What gives?  Why was Collie still available right around the time people were picking Jacoby Jones and Nate Kaeding?  Oh wait, it was the postseason… Garcon turned on the heat with 21 catches for 251 yards & 2 TDs in three playoff games.  Uh, okay… Collie had 17 catches for 241 yards & 2 TDs too.  Nothing can explain why this year’s #1 FF WR (so far) was an August afterthought. 

10. Terrell Owens caught 10 passes for 222 yards and 1 TD at Cleveland.

Huddle Up:  T.O. ranks 5th all-time in receptions (1,030), 2nd in receiving yardage (15,325), and 3rd in receiving touchdowns (145).  He’s going to literally force some heated Hall of Fame debates one day.  Anyway, Owens has been targeted more than Chad Ochocinco by a count of 48-39.  Owens has had 7 looks in the red zone, Ochocinco has 4.  Owens beats Ochocinco in yards 374-296.  Owens averages 15.6 yards per catch, Ochocinco averages 12.9.  In fact, going back to 2008 Owens averages 15.2 per catch, Ochocinco averages 12.7.  The numbers suggest Owens is both the possession receiver and the deep threat.  Meanwhile, Ochocinco is awash in injury rumors, most of them started by himself.  

11. Clinton Portis carried 11 times for 55 yards and caught 2 passes for 26 yards at Philadelphia.  Ryan Torain had 18 carries for 70 yards & 1 TD. 

Huddle Up:  Portis said he felt his groin “pop” in the 3rd quarter.  His MRI results are pending, but add this to a sprained wrist and he’s sure to sit Week 5 vs. Green Bay.  Only 30 players in history have more career touches than Portis (2,471).  By the end of the year, assuming he stays on the field most weeks, Portis will be top-25 all-time in career touches – ahead of Earnest Byner (2,640) who played 14 seasons.  Torain has his own physical concerns (since 2007 he’s had a broken foot, torn ACL, broken elbow, and sprained PCL) but if he stays healthy he’ll get 200 carries in the last 12 games.

12. Peyton Hillis carried 27 times for 102 yards and 1 TD vs. Cincinnati.  He also caught 2 passes for 8 yards.    
 
Huddle Up:  Running down the Ravens and Bengals throats (and sticking it in fanalysts’ faces, including yours truly), Hillis is now the 9th leading rusher in the NFL with 322 yards.  He’s scored 1 TD in 4 straight games, the first Brown to do that since Greg Pruitt did it in 5 straight games in 1975.  Hillis is totally dominating the red-zone work with 13 carries inside the 20-yd line, as well as 2 pass targets.  No other Browns RB has more than one.  “He’s a guy you have to see in person to appreciate him,” said Ravens HC John Harbaugh. 

13. Brandon Lloyd caught 11 passes for 115 yards at Tennessee.  He was targeted a career-high 18 times.

Huddle Up:  Fantasy vets know Lloyd as the erratic-yet-talented-would-be-rapper who was drafted in the 4th round by the 49ers in 2003.  Back then he was about 185 lbs. in wet clothes but now he’s 195.  And finally, with his 4th NFL team, Lloyd’s putting it all together.  A top-7 fantasy WR in all formats, Lloyd also ranks 7th with 40 targets and 2nd with 454 receiving yards.  The Broncos are calling 47 pass plays per game (yes, 47) and Lloyd is a huge reason why.  He’s always made jaw-dropping catches and now he’s got Josh McDaniels’ pass-wacky playbook to keep fueling stats.  Note: Jabar Gaffney (34) and Eddie Royal (32) are next on the team in targets.

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