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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Under the Numbers - Week 7
John U. Miller
October 19, 2010
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Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 6.

1. The Oakland Raiders offense ran 53 total plays for 179 total yards in the 17-9 loss at San Francisco, averaging 3.4 yards per play.  They rank 29th in the league – ahead of only St. Louis, Arizona, and Carolina – in yards per play for the season.

Huddle Up:  RB Michael Bush was especially lame with 20 carries for 47 yards.  My buddy “ts”, a Huddler All-Pro on the Forums, pointed that 16 of Bush’s 20 attempts went for 3 yards or less. Surging fantasy TE Zach Miller was torpedoed by QB Jason Campbell’s putrid display (10.7 QB rating, enough said), only managing two catches for 48 yards.  In the 11 quarters that Campbell has been under center this season, Miller has 11 catches for 145 yards and 1 TD.  In the 13 quarters with Bruce Gradkowski, Miller has 19 catches for 243 yards and 2 TDs.  Bottom line:  Miller is a must-start if Gradkowski plays, a must-bench if Campbell plays.  Injury update:  Campbell hurt his knee and might have a torn meniscus.  Gradkowski has been nursing a shoulder sprain similar to Matthew Stafford’s and probably needs another week of rest – so it might be Kyle Boller starting at Denver in Week 7.

2. The Miami Dolphins offense ran 78 total plays for 381 total yards in the 23-20 win at Green Bay, averaging 4.9 yards per play.  They rank 15th in yards per play on the season, ahead of many over-hyped offenses like Atlanta, Minnesota, and Baltimore.  Miami is also the least penalized team in the NFL with only 4.2 flags per game. 

Huddle Up:  QB Chad Henne threw for 231 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT – for a sturdy 82.3 passer rating.  It’s the 14th time in 18 career starts that Henne’s posted a 75+ QB rating.  After 18 starts he’s easily matching Drew Brees at the same stage in his career.  Brees completed 59.7% of his passes for 3,668 yards with 20 TDs and 19 INTs.  Henne’s completed 61.4% of his passes for 3,978 yards with 19 TDs and 18 INTs.  Brandon Marshall caught 10 passes for 127 yards at Green Bay, and also had a 25-yard TD reversed by replay when he couldn’t get his left foot down.  Davone Bess, who I constantly promote as the most underrated receiver in the NFL, caught five passes for 37 yards and 1 TD.  Bess has either five catches and/or 1 TD in nine of his last 14 games going back to last year. K Dan Carpenter hit the game-winner and is a top-8 fantasy kicker in leagues that give distance bonuses.  He’s hit from 50 and 53 yards this year (another 53-yard try was blocked) and seems to be in the zone.    

3. Calvin Johnson had 5 receptions for 146 yards including this 87-yard TD from Drew Stanton in the 28-20 loss to the New York Giants.

Huddle Up:  The right shoulder injury was obviously not a huge issue, though in that video you’ll notice he showboats the ball up high with his left arm when he realizes it’s paydirt.  Calvin Johnson has 6 TDs in 6 games this year.  Remember, I will always count that touchdown at Chicago that was ruled incomplete, so for the purposes of my column Johnson has 6 TDs.  He’s scored in 20 of his last 36 games and in his career he’s caught touchdowns from J.T. O’Sullivan, Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky, Daunte Culpepper, Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill, and Drew Stanton.  Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew caught seven passes for 61 yards, though he dropped three balls in this game. Pettigrew ranks second among all TEs in receptions (33) and targets (47), trailing only Dallas Clark in both categories.  The Lions called a pass 22 consecutive times in their last 22 plays. Their only play in the red zone was a 14-yard TD catch by Nate Burleson.  RB Jahvid Best carried 12 times for 16 yards and caught six passes for 31 yards.  He reportedly has turf toe on both feet – so no player will benefit from the Week 7 bye more than Best.

4. Broncos LB D.J. Williams registered 11 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 pass deflections in the 24-20 loss to the New York Jets. 

Huddle Up:  Williams is the 5th best overall IDP player and is on pace for career highs in tackles (149) and sacks (6.5).  His tackling pace could even accelerate because the Broncos switched to a 4-3 defense to compensate for the losses of LBs Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers – and D.J. is playing classic middle linebacker.  In the next six weeks Denver has Oakland (home), San Francisco (road), Bye week, Kansas City (home), San Diego (road), and St. Louis (home).  If Denver doesn’t make the playoffs they’ll look back to Week 6.  Leading the New York Jets 20-17 with 1:22 remaining, it’s 4th-and-6 and Mark Sanchez heaves one to Santonio Holmes at the 2-yard line.  CB Renaldo Hill was called for pass interference, giving the Jets a 1st-and-goal.  Tomlinson scores, game over.  It was the right call – Hill actually grabbed Holmes’ facemask too – but the NFL needs to review the penalties for these PI calls.  A 46-yard penalty is a bit harsh, right? 

5. Philip Rivers completed 22 of 39 passes for 249 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in the 20-17 loss at St. Louis.  It was his lowest yardage total since Week 11 of 2009 (discounting Week 17 where Rivers was pulled because they had nothing to play for).  Rivers is still on pace for 5,355 passing yards – to break Dan Marino’s record of 5,084.  Kyle Orton (5,179) and Peyton Manning (5,109) are on pace too.

Huddle Up:  The Chargers only ran seven plays in the red zone all day, and four of them were runs.  One was the 5-yard TD pass to Craig Davis.  Rivers was sacked seven times – the most sacks for St. Louis since November 30, 2003.  It was a horrible day for Rivers on many levels.  One, the Chargers remain 1 ½ games behind Kansas City in the AFC West.  Two, he lost WR Malcom Floyd to a hamstring injury for possibly two or three games, judging by the early reports on the severity.  Three, now Rivers might face New England this week without his six best skill players from 2009 on the field:  Malcom Floyd (hamstring), Vincent Jackson (hasn’t reported yet), Antonio Gates (sprained toe), Legedu Naanee (hamstring), LaDainian Tomlinson (signed with Jets), and blocking TE Brandon Manumaleuna (Bears). 

6. The St. Louis Rams defense not only sacked Philip Rivers seven times, they held the Chargers to 287 yards of total offense.  San Diego entered the game ranked #1 at 433 yards per game.

Huddle Up:  The Rams held them to 0-for-5 on third-down conversions in the first half, and 4-for-12 for the game.  Three different players – LB Larry Grant, DE Chris Long, and DE James Hall – each notched 2.0 sacks.  They’ve only allowed three points in the first quarter all year.  It’s time to recognize Rams HC Steve Spagnuolo and the idea that his defense is fantasy-viable for the first time since 2001.  Remember, this guy once took the Giants defense to dizzying heights.  In the year before Spagnuolo got to NY, their defense ranked 24th in sacks.  The next year he made them #1 with 53.  Last year, with much less to work with than he had in NY, Spagnuolo’s Rams ranked 30th with 25 sacks.  Now they already have 17 sacks, 6th most in the league.  The Rams also rank 8th in opposing QB completions at a stingy 57.3%.  Their schedule over the next seven weeks is: at Tampa Bay, vs. Carolina, Bye week, at San Francisco, vs. Atlanta, at Denver, at Arizona.

7. Roy Williams caught 3 passes for 28 yards and 2 TDs in the 234-21 loss to the Vikings. 

Huddle Up:  Williams is one of those much-maligned fantasy receivers who can’t seem to overcome a bad reputation, no matter how well he plays.  He has five TDs in his last three games, but all you see on fantasy message boards is “Aaargh, I didn’t start Roy!”  People, it’s time to get him in the lineup, even you 8-team and 10-team leaguers.  Roy is a top-15 fantasy WR who hasn’t seen a single double-team since Miles Austin emerged last October.  For the season Roy leads the Cowboys with 6 red-zone targets (4 for scores), Miles Austin is second with 5 (1), and Jason Witten has 3 (1).  And remember, Roy also had a red-zone TD called back in the season opener vs. Washington.  The Cowboys’ next two games are both at home vs. NYG and Jacksonville.

8. Arian Foster had 18 carries for 71 yards and 2 TDs in the 35-31 win over Kansas City.  Derrick Ward had 3 carries for 58 yards and 1 TD.   Foster had 6 receptions for 26 yards, Ward had one catch for 12 yards. 

Huddle Up:  Gary Kubiak has been hinting that Ward will get more touches but so far it’s still Foster hogging the majority of the work.  But Ward is really making plays, and he passes the eye test with flying colors.  Ward only has 17 touches in the last three games but he’s scored three TDs.  Foster still had a whopping 24 touches vs. the Chiefs, the second-biggest workload he’s had all year.  The Texans ran 14 red-zone plays and Foster either got a carry or pass target on nine of them.  Ward didn’t register a red-zone play.  Even if Ward’s workload increases there are plenty of carries to go around:  Houston currently ranks 10th in rushing attempts after finishing 20th last season.  The Texan are on bye in Week 7, followed by a road game at Indianapolis and home vs. San Diego.

9. Joseph Addai carried 17 times for 128 yards and 1 TD in the 27-24 win over the Redskins.  He also lost a fumble.  Mike Hart, filling in for Donald Brown, carried 11 times for 43 yards.  Neither RB caught a pass. 

Huddle Up:  Addai got drilled by Redskins LB London Fletcher (a true class act, Fletcher wished him well as trainers helped him off) and had to leave early in the fourth quarter.  In Week 5 he got smashed by DE Glenn Dorsey and reportedly couldn’t turn his head to the left without pain until 48 hours before the Redskins game.  Fletcher’s hit aggravated the injury and possibly caused a moderate concussion too.  The Colts are off in Week 7.  Whoever starts in Week 8 if Addai is out – Hart or Brown – is worth a play in all fantasy leagues.  Addai was on pace for 1,083 yards and 8 rushing TDs.  Indy inserted G Kyle DeVan into the lineup and it seemed to spark the whole line.  Other Colts notes:  Austin Collie has six TDs in six games.  Reggie Wayne needs five yards to become only the 34th player in history to reach 10,000 receiving yards.  Pierre Garcon made perhaps the best catch I’ve ever seen -- though some say Antonio Bryant’s was better because he adjusted to such a poorly thrown ball.

10. Steve Smith (NYG) caught 6 passes for 70 yards in the win over the Lions.  He’s the 33rd ranked fantasy WR after 6 weeks.

Huddle Up:  It’s the perfect time to get Smith for relatively cheap.  He has one touchdown all season and your league’s Smith-owner is undoubtedly a bit irate after spending a fourth- or fifth-round pick on him.  Plus your buddy might have a key RB on bye this week (Foster, Tomlinson, Greene, Addai, Best) and could be in a pinch.  Smith is quietly tied for 9th in WR receptions with 34, and one of only three WRs to be targeted at least 8 times in every single game this year.  If you have RB depth, make an offer for Smith.  The Giants’ next six games feature some low-ranked defenses vs. fantasy WRs:  Dallas (18th), Seattle (28th), Dallas (18th), Philadelphia (3rd), Jacksonville (32nd), and Washington (27th). 

11. Jay Cutler completed 17 of 39 passes for 290 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs in the 23-20 loss to Seattle.  He targeted WR Johnny Knox 11 times, almost as many as Devin Hester (3), Devin Aromashodu (5), and Earl Bennett (6) combined.  Knox had a mini-breakout game with 5 catches for 120 yards.

Huddle Up:  The Bears ran eight red-zone plays and called a pass on five of them.  They had 14 total drives and punted on eight of them.  The other six resulted in a Matt Forte TD run, field goal, field goal, Seahawks safety, missed field goal, and a Devin Hester kickoff return TD.   Seattle racked up six sacks, giving Jay Cutler a league-high 23 times sacked.  Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com notes that the Bears started their fourth different combination up front on the offensive line.  Cutler?  “He was all over the place, and should've had several passes picked off,” writes Dickerson.  Note:  Danieal Manning had a 89-yard kickoff return TD wiped off by a penalty.  10 minutes later Devin Hester took it 89 yards to the house and that one counted.

12. Saints RB Chris Ivory carried 15 times for 158 yards in his NFL debut.  He also caught 1 pass for 17 yards.

Huddle Up:  Ivory’s 158 yards is the most by a Saints rookie RB since Ricky Williams had 179 vs. the Browns in 1999.   FOX analyst Tim Ryan said Ivory was “running with a fury this offense needs.”  The Saints ran the ball on eight plays in the red zone, but Ivory only had one of those carries.  Ladell Betts had four and Julius Jones had three.  TE Jeremy Shockey limped off the field with 1:54 to go, after only catching two passes for 21 yards.  No. 2 TE David Thomas had three catches for 17 yards and No. 3 TE Jimmy Graham had a 13-yard TD negated by penalty.    

13. Ben Roethlisberger completed 16 of 27 passes for 257 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT in the 28-10 win over the Browns.  Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, and Heath Miller all caught a TD.

Huddle Up:  His only big mistake was a 1st quarter INT where he tried to force one to Mewelde Moore in traffic.  Roethlisberger’s next three games are all on the road:  Miami, who ranks 6th in defending fantasy QBs, New Orleans (8th), and Cincinnati (11th).   One interesting nugget is Roethlisberger’s juicy Week 16 matchup at home vs. Carolina. 

Bonus stat from the Monday Night Football stat crew:

14. Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson both had exactly 3,719 rushing yards in their first 36 career games.  Johnson had 722 carries, Peterson had 721 carries. 

Huddle Up:  Just for fun I went back and checked – only two other RBs in NFL history had more rushing yards in their first 36 games: Eric Dickerson at 4,219 and Clinton Portis at 3,762.  Edgerrin James is right behind Johnson and Peterson with 3,679.   Okay, the big question is:  Why did Jeff Fisher keep running Chris Johnson late in the game, outcome already decided, for seven straight carries and the Ka-Boom 35-yard TD?  No, it wasn’t for the consecutive-100-yard-games-on-the-road-streak.  It’s because Fisher gets a kick out of rubbing it in Jacksonville’s face.  Always has.  Fantasy Nirvana! 

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