Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 8.
1. Jon Kitna completed 34 of 49 passes for 379 yards with 1 TD and 4 INTs in the 35-17 loss to Jacksonville.
Huddle Up: Kitna was completely betrayed by his teammates, namely Felix Jones, Miles Austin, and Roy Williams – as all three of them bobbled a catchable pass right into the hands of a Jaguars defender. It was almost like they were on the Jaguars’ payroll. Seriously. In fact it looked like Roy Williams tried to volley it to CB Derek Cox. Give those three back to Kitna and he’s probably somewhere in the 450-yard/3-TD range. Cowboys OC Jason Garrett once again showed no interest in running the ball, as he called passes on 16 of their first 26 plays. Only Arizona (141 rushing attempts) has run the ball less than Dallas (155). On a good note, Miles Austin caught 7 passes for 117 yards, the 7th time he’s topped 100 yards in his last 13 games.
2. Larry Fitzgerald caught 6 passes for 72 yards and 2 TDs, and Steve Breaston caught 8 passes for 147 yards in the 38-35 loss to Tampa Bay. They were targeted 12 and 11 times, respectively.
Huddle Up: The Cardinals ran 15 plays in the red zone and Fitzgerald had 4 red-zone targets (catching 2 for TDs), while Breaston only had 1 red-zone rushing attempt. Breaston had receptions of 37, 36, and 33 yards. Fitzgerald’s longest reception was 24 yards, and he only has one 30+ yard catch in his last 23 games. In his previous 23 games he had 13 catches of 30+ yards. According to STATS Inc., Fitzgerald leads the NFL with 41 “passes not caught” which essentially means “bad throws.” QBs Max Hall and Derek Anderson combined for 4 INTs (2 returned for touchdowns) and coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn’t decided who will start at Minnesota in Week 9.
3. LeGarrette Blount carried 22 times for 120 yards and 2 TDs in the win over Arizona. He also had 2 catches for 9 yards. Blount lost a fumble that was returned for a Cardinals touchdown.
Huddle Up: Blount’s 48-yard run in the 4th quarter was one of the best runs in the NFL this year. Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham combined for 5 carries for 12 yards. And for all the talk about Cadillac still being the third-down back, Blount was on the field for 5 of the Bucs’ 12 third-down plays. His 7-yard run on 3rd and 6 with 2:31 left in the half helped set up a field goal to put Tampa up 24-14. In his last two games Blount has 33 carries for 192 yards, plus he also had a 46-yard run wiped out by a penalty in Week 7 vs. St. Louis. The Bucs’ next 4 games are at Atlanta (ranked 9th against fantasy RBs), vs. Carolina (24th), at San Francisco (12th), and at Baltimore (8th).
4. Steve Smith caught 9 passes for 85 yards in the 20-10 loss to the Rams. He also lost a fumble. David Gettis, the 4th best fantasy WR in Week 7, didn’t catch a single pass. Jonathan Stewart only managed 38 total yards on 15 touches (14 rush, 1 catch).
Huddle Up: The bad news is that Carolina only ran two plays in the red zone all day, both passes, and Smith wasn’t targeted on either of them. He also let a perfectly-thrown 30-yard pass bounce off his facemask. The good news is that Smith was targeted a league-high 15 times and doesn’t show any lingering effects of the high ankle sprain, speed-wise. Jonathan Stewart? “It’s like he’s running in the mud,” writes Michael Blunda of Pro Football Weekly. QB Matt Moore has played less than 5 full games but has 10 INTs and 2 lost fumbles. Carolina’s 85 points this year is 33 fewer than the NFL’s 2nd lowest scoring team, Cleveland.
5. Jamaal Charles carried 22 times for 177 yards and caught 4 passes for 61 yards in the 13-10 overtime win over Buffalo. Thomas Jones had 19 carries for 77 yards, plus 1 catch for 5 yards. Kansas City only had 1 offensive penalty, on the opening kickoff. Matt Cassel also overthrew Charles on what could have been a 52-yard TD reception in the 1st quarter.
Huddle Up: Charles leads all RBs with a 7.2 yard average every time he touches the ball. Over the last 16 regular season games Charles has 2,038 total yards from scrimmage, more than any player except Chris Johnson (2,265). Charles also has 11 TDs in that span (9 rush, 1 catch, 1 kickoff return). The Chiefs are on pace for 3,046 team rushing yards, which is a pace for the 3rd best team-rushing total in NFL history, behind only New England’s 3,165 yards in 1978, and Buffalo’s 3,088 yards in 1973. Kansas City’s next 4 games are at Oakland, at Denver, vs. Arizona, and at Seattle – who have a combined average ranking of 26th in defending against fantasy RBs.
6. Chris Johnson carried 15 times for 59 yards and 1 TD in the 33-25 loss at San Diego. He also caught 5 passes for 24 yards.
Huddle Up: His touchdown was a thing of beauty and proof that the thigh injury has been over-reported the last two weeks. What Johnson does have, however, is soreness and fatigue - after banging straight into 8-man fronts for two months. Titans OC Mike Heimerdinger needs to mix up the play-calling and bring back the stretch and slant runs that worked so well last season. This year it’s been almost entirely off-tackle and basic trap plays. Back to the “thigh” injury, Johnson’s two ‘probable’ tags the last two weeks are only the 2nd and 3rd time he’s ever been listed on a regular season injury report since 2008. He was listed as probable with an ankle in Week 14 last year. Johnson has a well-timed bye in Week 9, then his next 3 games are at Miami (10th ranked defense vs. fantasy RBs), vs. Washington (19th), and at Houston (24th).
7. Greg Jennings caught 6 passes for 81 yards in the 9-0 win over the New York Jets.
Huddle Up: Jennings was targeted 12 times, tied for 4th most in the NFL in Week 8. In the 3 games since Jermichael Finley went down, Jennings has averaged 9.7 targets per game. In the 5 games with Finley in the lineup Jennings averaged 6.2 looks. In the 1st quarter Jennings caught a 30-yard pass down to the Jets’ 6-yard line, then on 2nd and goal Rodgers didn’t see him wide open in the end zone and dumped off a 4-yard pass to Brandon Jackson. On 3rd and goal Rodgers overthrew Jennings by a mile in the back of the end zone. Jennings has quietly climbed from 40th to the 20th ranked fantasy WR in points per game since Finley was injured. Here are Jennings’ next 5 weeks: vs. Dallas (ranked 26th in defending fantasy WRs), Week 10 bye, at Minnesota (9th), at Atlanta (29th), and vs. San Francisco (13th).
8. Ronnie Brown carried 16 times for 61 yards in the 22-14 win at Cincinnati. He caught 1 pass for 7 yards. Ricky Williams carried 9 times for 47 yards and 1 TD, also catching 1 pass for 2 yards. Brandon Marshall caught 5 passes for 64 yards. He failed to score for the 4th straight week and only has 1 TD in 7 games.
Huddle Up: The only Dolphins that rank in the fantasy top-20 at their position are TE Anthony Fasano (17th) and K Dan Carpenter (2nd). Not even their defense/special teams are in the top-20. WR Brian Hartline’s 20-yard reverse was only Miami’s 2nd run of 20+ yards this year. Ben Volin of The Daily Dolphin did more digging on this ineptitude: “Through seven games this year, the Dolphins still have yet to score more than two touchdowns in a game. They have just seven red-zone touchdowns, fewest in the NFL, in 15 attempts. In three games since the bye, the Dolphins have scored four touchdowns and kicked 13 field goals.”
9. Arian Foster carried 15 times for 102 yards and 1 TD in the 30-17 loss at Indianapolis. He also caught a staggering 9 passes for 65 yards. Andre Johnson caught 7 passes for 106 yards and 1 TD.
Huddle Up: The top-5 NFL rushers are Adrian Peterson – 776, Foster – 737, Chris Johnson – 721, Ahmad Bradshaw – 708, and Frank Gore – 691. Foster’s 982 total yards from scrimmage ranks only behind Frank Gore’s 1039. Foster’s 8 TDs is tied for 2nd in the NFL behind only Antonio Gates with 9. Andre Johnson caught a 21-yard pass on the final garbage drive to put him over the 100-yard mark for the fifth time in his last 10 games. Johnson ranks 7th among WRs with 13 fantasy points per game. The Houston offense is the #1 red-zone unit in the league with 13 TDs in 18 red-zone trips.
10. Mike Hart carried 12 times for 84 yards in the win over Houston. He also had 3 carries for 24 yards negated by penalties. Hart added 3 catches for 19 yards. Donald Brown had 11 touches for 29 total yards.
Huddle Up: Brown was obviously not 100% recovered from the hamstring injury suffered all the way back in Week 3. It might linger all season. Hart was sensational, juking and smashing, whatever it took to make first downs… but he hurt his left ankle in the 4th quarter and was limping badly. With Joseph Addai possibly out for a few more weeks (his words, not mine) we could see Javarris James starting at tailback against the Eagles in Week 9.
11. Steven Jackson carried 23 times for 59 yards in the 20-10 win over Carolina.
Huddle Up: Jackson was not necessarily tentative (at least not per my TV eyeball test) but you have to figure it’s hard to be yourself with two pins surgically inserted in your left ring finger. Jackson caught one pass and had to spear it with his right hand. The Rams ran 11 red-zone plays and Jackson carried the ball on 5 of them, but he couldn’t punch it in. In the 2nd quarter he had a 2-yard run to the 8-yard line but a holding penalty pushed them back to the 20 and they ended up kicking it. The Rams have a Week 9 bye so Jackson can ditch the soft cast, then his next 3 games are at San Francisco (ranked 12th against fantasy RBs), vs. Atlanta (9th), and at Denver (ranked 31st).
12. Jerricho Cotchery led all Jets receivers with 4 catches for 89 yards in the loss to Green Bay. He was targeted 13 times, tying a career-high, while Braylon Edwards was targeted 4 times and caught 1 for 32 yards. Santonio Holmes was targeted 6 times and caught 3 for 43 yards.
Huddle Up: Cotchery and Holmes each dropped 2 balls. One of Holmes’ drops was probably a 45-yard TD with all the real estate he had in front of him. Some analysts said that Packers CB Charles Woodson shut down Edwards, and they are pretty much correct. Out of Mark Sanchez’ 38 pass attempts I counted Woodson on Edwards in man coverage / or at least on his side about 22 times. The Jets actually called a pass on 14 of their first 23 plays – but they still only rank 26th in the league with 217 pass attempts. Sanchez has to face the beastly Lions’ front-four in Week 9 (in Detroit), then the next week it’s at feisty Cleveland.
13. The Detroit Lions defense tallied 7 sacks, 1 INT, and 1 fumble recovery for a TD in the 37-25 win vs. the Redskins. It should have been 2 INTs but CB Alphonso Smith dropped a sure pick-6 in the 2nd quarter. Sadly, only 42,329 fans were there to see Detroit spank them.
Huddle Up: The Redskins only had 13 first downs and their longest drive was 3 minutes and 41 seconds. The Lions sacked Donovan McNabb on 3 of his first 7 dropbacks, actually hitting him hard on 4 of them. Washington’s first 4 drives started at the 10, 20, 20, and 11-yard line. Lions PR Stefan Logan had a 71-yard punt return to the 19-yard line, almost his 2nd return TD of the season. Detroit is the #1 ranked fantasy defense/special teams at 10.71 points per game. Lions DT Ndamukong Suh has 27 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 1 INT and 1 fumble recovery for a TD. He’s not only in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year, he’s being mentioned as a candidate for NFL MVP. The Lions’ next 4 games are vs. NY Jets, at Buffalo, at Dallas, and vs. New England.