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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Under the Numbers - Week 8
John U. Miller
October 26, 2010
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Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 7.

1. Drew Brees threw for 356 yards, 2 TDs and 4 INTs in the 30-17 loss to Cleveland.  Marques Colston had his best fantasy game since Week 6 of 2009 with 10 catches for 112 yards and 1 TD. 

Huddle Up:  With the score 20-3 Browns, the Saints launched into comeback mode, calling passes on 26 of their last 32 plays.  Brees piled up yardage and threw both TDs in the 4th quarter.  Earlier in the game he did have a 20-yard TD to Lance Moore negated by a holding penalty.  Brees came into this game leading the NFL in third-down passing with an efficiency rating of 116.5 and 8 TDs vs. only 1 INT.  Against the Browns he rated 82.0 on third-down passing with a TD, INT, and a fumble.  The Browns were in prevent mode so his numbers should have been worse.  The good news is, garbage time counts in fantasy.  It’s even welcomed.   Marques Colston hadn’t posted a double-digit reception game since Week 9 of 2007, and his 15 targets vs. the Browns ties a career-high set in Week 17 of 2007. 

2. The Cleveland Browns defense held the Saints to 17 points, 2 rushing first-downs, 5-of-15 on third downs, and picked off Drew Brees 4 times.  LB David Bowens had 2 INTs – both returned for scores, CB Sheldon Brown had 1 INT, and ex-Saints LB Scott Fujita had the other INT. 

Huddle Up:  Fujita was especially fired up since New Orleans let him walk in free agency, unable to even match Cleveland’s thrifty 3-year, $14 million deal.  Fujita was the emotional leader of the Saints (wasn’t that worth a few million by itself?), the very first unrestricted free agent Sean Payton brought in, and a guy who was deeply rooted in the community.  Besides the INT vs. New Orleans, Fujita notched 11 tackles and a sack too. He has a sack in 3 of the last 4 games.  The Browns have only allowed 13 points in the 1st quarter all season, second only to the St. Louis Rams defense who’ve allowed 6 points.  In addition, the Browns, Titans, and Patriots defenses have each allowed 1 rushing TD all year.  Cleveland has a bye in Week 8, then they face New England (home), NY Jets (home), Jacksonville (away), and Carolina (home). 

3. Marshawn Lynch had 24 carries for 89 yards in the 22-10 win vs. Arizona.  Justin Forsett had 9 carries for 41 yards, plus 2 catches for 31 yards. 

Huddle Up:  Lynch also had 24- and 15-yard runs called back (both of them thanks to OL Sean Locklear) on penalties so he should have cracked 100 yards pretty easily.  Lynch dominated the red zone work with 10 carries compared to Forsett’s 3 carries plus 1 pass target.  Lynch had a chance to bang one in from the 2-yard line but the Cards defense got penetration and stuffed him.  I asked my buddy Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about Lynch.  Thiel said it’s obvious “he makes the Seahawks notably better” with his physical presence.  “He's a risky character,” added Thiel, “but most people grow up eventually.  No one can say for sure about this guy, except he probably doesn't want to embarrass his little pal Justin.”  Forsett and Lynch are very close friends.  It’s definitely a RB committee attack in Seattle, but it’s more Lynch-heavy than you think because he has 44 total touches in two games, Forsett has 22 – and the needle is pointing in Lynch’s direction.  He looks better each week in this offense.

4. Panthers WR David Gettis caught 8 passes for 125 yards and 2 TDs in the 23-20 win over the 49ers.  QB Matt Moore set career-highs in completions (28), attempts (41) and yards (308).  

Huddle Up:  Gettis is a 6’3”/216-lb prototype who looks like he’s closer to 6’5”.  Wearing the #12 jersey, Gettis is a Marques Colston clone, only quicker. On his first touchdown he almost broke 49ers CB Nate Clements’ ankles. Gettis led the team with 9 targets (Steve Smith had 8, Brandon LaFell had 6) and on every single one of his receptions he had single coverage with no safety in sight, no doubt thanks to the threat of Smith in the lineup.  Gettis is the first Panthers WR other than Smith or Muhsin Muhammad to reach 100 yards since Drew Carter posted 132 in Week 11 of 2007. According to our Huddle Strength of Schedule Tool the Panthers WRs have the 7th easiest fantasy schedule going forward … and with Matt Moore gaining confidence it makes sense to add Gettis to your roster in 12-team leagues.

5. Ray Rice carried 16 times for 72 yards and 0 TDs in the 37-34 win over Buffalo.  Willis McGahee had 11 carries for 64 yards and 1 TD.  They were each targeted two times and caught one pass.  McGahee also had a 13-yard run called back for holding.

Huddle Up:  McGahee had two carries inside the 6-yard line (one for a TD) and Rice had one.  I call any carries inside the 6-yard line “paydirts” and McGahee continues to siphon them away from Rice.  Going back to the beginning of 2009 McGahee has 18 paydirts and Rice has 12.  McGahee also could have added a couple more two weeks ago at New England but he was held out of the game, obviously because the trade deadline was looming and there were offers on the table.  But he didn’t get shipped, so McGahee will stick around to vulture Rice week after week. 

6. Rams WR Danario Alexander caught 1 pass for 6 yards in the 18-17 loss at Tampa Bay.  He was targeted twice.  Sam Bradford attempted 26 passes and most of the targets went to Danny Amendola (5), Brandon Gibson (5), and TE Michael Hoomanawanui (5). 

Huddle Up:  The Week 6 fantasy phenom laid an egg on us, and it might be his knee that’s to blame.  The former Mizzou star’s left knee has been operated on four times since 2008, the most recent procedure in March 2010.  Alexander’s knee has been such an issue that the Rams medical staff took measurements of his left thigh before signing him, because his leg muscles had atrophied significantly.  Bernie Miklasz of the Post-Dispatch reports Alexander only played 12 snaps at Tampa.  Even other second-stringers around the league like Jordy Nelson and Bernard Berrian consistently play 20-30 snaps per game.  As exciting as Alexander was back in Week 6, there are huge warning signs that he’s just not ready yet.  In fact, he may never be.  Unless you’re Correll Buckhalter, Frank Gore, or Kellen Winslow Jr., multiple surgeries on one knee is too much to overcome. 

7. Jamaal Charles carried 15 times for 71 yards and 1 TD in the 42-20 win vs. Jacksonville.  Thomas Jones had 20 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD. 

Huddle Up:  It was totally bizarro-world when in the 1st quarter Jones busted the big 70-yard run down to the 4-yard line, leaving Charles to punch it in.  However, that was Charles’ only red-zone touch, and Jones later got 5 straight tries inside the 3-yard line and banged it in.  With the score 35-20 and the outcome securely in hand, Chiefs HC Todd Haley dissed both Charles and Jones-owners by giving RB Jackie Battle 3 straight carries at the goal line.  Charles and Jones are on pace for 1304 and 1229 yards, respectively – which would make them the 6th tandem to top 1000 yards on the same team.  The most recent pair to do it was the Panthers’ DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart with 1117 and 1133 yards, respectively.  Note #1:  In this game Maurice Jones-Drew had a carry from the 1-yard line and couldn’t score.  Note #2:  Start Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki this week vs. Buffalo. Todd Heap just schooled them and they rank 32nd in defending tight ends.   

8. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 302 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs in the 23-22 win at Miami.  In his first two starts of the year he’s averaging 24.5 fantasy points per game.  The top-2 fantasy QBs right now – Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers – average 24.6 and 24.4 fantasy points per game.  Rashard Mendenhall only had 15 carries for 37 yards.

Huddle Up:  As you’ve probably seen 20 times by now on ESPN, Roethlisberger had a touchdown run correctly negated by instant replay, then the Dolphins got hosed out of a fumble recovery because the referee blew the whistle too early.  As many expected (or hoped) with Big Ben under center, both Hines Ward and Mike Wallace are shooting up the fantasy charts.  Both have scored a TD in each of the last two games, and in those two games Ward has 12 catches for 185 yards, Wallace has 5 catches for 143 yards.  Mendenhall wasn’t out there during the game-winning drive.  Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore split up the last three red-zone carries.  When asked if Mendenhall’s shoulder bruise was an issue, Mike Tomlin said, “We talked about an opportunity to unload [rest] Rashard if possible.”

9. Donald Driver failed to catch a pass in the 28-24 win vs. Minnesota.  It broke his 133-consecutive games streak with at least one reception.

Huddle Up:  If he was “nowhere close to 100%” like Mike McCarthy said after the game, then why was Driver listed as ‘probable’ on Friday?  This isn’t the first time McCarthy’s been loose with the NFL injury protocol, and this time it cost fantasy owners dearly.   Aaron Rodgers still delivered nicely with 295 passing yards and 2 TDs -- plus his 14 rushing yards offset one of his 2 picks in leagues that penalize INTs.  But the way he came out firing – a career-high 166 yards in the 1st quarter – it felt like a 400-yard game was coming.  Rodgers was not sacked once in 37 dropbacks (Vikings DE Jared Allen sacked Rodgers 7 ½ times in 2 games last year).  Greg Jennings and James Jones (10 and 8 targets, respectively) continue to shine in Jermichael Finley’s absence.  Jennings caught 6 passes for 74 yards and 1 TD.  Jones caught 4 passes for 107 yards, his best game since Week 15 of 2008. 

10. Larry Fitzgerald caught 3 passes for 30 yards, despite being targeted a whopping 10 times. 

Huddle Up:  Fantasy owners could care less, but Fitzgerald became the youngest player in NFL history (27 years, 54 days) to record 550 receptions.  But back to this game – What happened?  “[CBs Marcus] Trufant and [Walter] Thurmond did a good job on me all day, you know you’re in a dogfight every time you play against them,” Fitzgerald said sheepishly after the game.  Huh?  Dude, you have never faced Thurmond before: He’s a rookie from Oregon who made his first career start… and you have four inches and 30 pounds on the kid.  Thurmond was on Fitzgerald more than half of the time too.  Even when QB Derek Anderson replaced Max Hall, only 4 of Anderson’s 17 passes went toward Fitzgerald.  He threw 6 at Early Doucet.   I could tell you that Fitzgerald has some reasonably easier matchups coming – Tampa Bay, San Francisco, St. Louis – but does it really matter? 

11. Lee Evans had a career day at Baltimore with 6 catches for 105 yards and 3 TDs.  He caused Ravens CB Fabian Washington to get pulled in the 4th quarter.  WR Steve Johnson got in the fun with 8 catches for 158 yards and 1 TD.  Johnson is a top-15 fantasy WR in all scoring systems. 

Huddle Up:  Just as I stated in Fantasy Football Axiom #8 you can count on Lee Evans exploding at some point.  And when I look over his career, he almost always does it on the road.  In his career Evans has 18 games where he either had 100+ yards and/or scored 2+ TDs.   A startling 13 of those 18 games were on the road!  What’s even stranger is that 13 of those 18 big games were against 5 teams:  Baltimore (2), Kansas City (2), NY Jets (2), Cincinnati (3) or Miami (4).  As fate would have it, Evans faces Kansas City next week and Cincinnati in Week 11.  QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 374 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs – but it was like a fantasy tree falling in the forest.  No one started him.  No one.   Fitzpatrick has back-to-back 3-TD passing games, the first Bills QB to do it since Jim Kelly in 1990.

12. Chris Johnson carried 24 times for 66 yards in the 37-19 win over the Eagles. He added 2 catches for 7 yards.

Huddle Up:  Johnson is still the league’s 2nd leading rusher with 662 yards.  Only Arian Foster has more fantasy points at the RB position.  However, Johnson is averaging a modest 4.1 yards per carry.  Last year at this time he was averaging 6.9 per carry.  Part of the decline, as Jon Gruden pointed out last week, is attributed to simple geography:  More attempts inside the 10-yard line will taper your average per rush.  There’s no room left on the field.  Last year at this time Johnson only had 2 carries inside the 10-yard line because LenDale White was still sponging a little action, plus CJ had popped a few from way downtown.  This year Johnson already has 14 grinding attempts inside the 10-yard line.  His next 5 games are at San Diego (5th against fantasy RBs), bye week, at Miami (14th), vs. Washington (21st), and at Houston (25th). 

13. Roddy White caught 11 passes for 201 yards & 2 TDs in the 39-32 win over Cincy. He also added a 2-point conversion. 

Huddle Up:  He did lose a fumble that Pacman Jones returned 59 yards for a TD.  White was targeted 13 times, which is often a career-high for many receivers, but routine for him.  In his last 45 games White’s had double-digit targets an astounding 24 times.  Fantasy Football’s #1 WR is on pace for 123 catches, 1707 receiving yards, and 11 TDs.  Forget his touchdowns vs. the Bengals, this one-handed sideline grab was insane.  White has a bye in Week 8, then his next 5 games are:  vs. Tampa Bay (defense ranked 24th vs. fantasy WRs), vs. Baltimore (4th), at St. Louis (23rd), vs. Green Bay (14th), and at Tampa Bay (24th).  His only potential bad-weather game is at Seattle in Week 15. 

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