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Under the Numbers - Week 15
John U. Miller
December 14, 2010
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Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 14.

1. Drew Brees completed 25 of 40 passes for 221 yards with 3 TDs and 2 INTs in the 31-13 win over St. Louis.  Marques Colston caught 5 passes for 46 yards and 2 TDs.

Huddle Up:  Brees and Colston have hooked up 7 times in their last 7 games, the first time in their five seasons together they’ve done that in a 7-game span.  Brees is the No. 2, 3 or 4 ranked fantasy QB depending on your league’s scoring, and Colston has crept up to around the 12th best WR in most leagues.  Two terrific fantasy draft picks.  What’s most encouraging to me is that we don’t hear about Colston’s knees anymore.  In January 2009 he had microfracture surgery done on his left knee (his second procedure on that knee), and last summer he had the right knee scoped.  Brees, frankly, is the premier touchdown-making QB in fantasy football.  Since the beginning of 2008 he leads all QBs in total touchdowns per game, passing and rushing:

QB Touchdown-Makers Since 2008
Quarterback Games TD pass TD run Total TDs / game
Drew Brees 45 96 2 98 2.18
Aaron Rodgers 45 81 13 94 2.09
Philip Rivers 45 88 1 89 1.98
Tom Brady 30 57 2 59 1.97
Peyton Manning 45 86 1 87 1.93
Tony Romo 35 63 1 64 1.83

2. Kyle Orton completed 19 of 41 passes for 166 yards, with 0 TDs and 3 INTs in the 43-13 loss at Arizona.

Huddle Up:  This is bad.  Orton-owners who enjoyed his torrid pace for the first 9 games – and relied on him – have to sweat Tim Tebow starting in Week 15.  Orton was easily a top-6 fantasy QB for the first half of the season, but over the last 4 weeks he he’s barely been top-20.  You see, Broncos management doesn’t take into account Orton’s massive fantasy stats, all they see is a guy with a 3-10 record and the 24th best completion percentage (58.8%).  Denver’s now in line for the 3rd overall NFL draft pick, with tiebreakers over 3-10 Buffalo & 3-10 Detroit.  Carolina (1-12) and Cincinnati (2-11) are at home against Arizona and Cleveland, respectively – so Denver could actually be in the running for the #1 pick if they lose at Oakland.  Interim coach Eric Studesville muttered that Orton would remain the starter but it was a weak endorsement.  In fact Studesville later added, "We're going to consider looking at anything to help us play better… If that's part of that equation (putting in Tebow) then yeah, we're going to look at it."

3. Matt Hasselbeck completed 27 of 42 passes for 285 yards with 2 TDs and 4 INTs in the 40-21 loss at San Francisco.  He also fumbled twice, losing one of them. WR Ruvell Martin caught 4 passes for 73 yards and 1 TD.

Huddle Up:  Don’t let the total numbers fool you.  I had the unfortunate experience of watching virtually this entire game (it was like a car wreck, I could not look away) and let me tell you, it’s the worst performance by a veteran QB that I have ever seen.  Jake Delhomme, Brett Favre, Rex Grossman, Jay Cutler, all the turnover kings… They got nuthin’ on Hasselbeck, my friends.  Okay, maybe Delhomme has been worse.  Anyway, Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times said it best:  “He was picked off four times in the game, each interception by a different defender. Each of San Francisco's starting safeties caught one. So did cornerback Nate Clements. If nothing else, Hasselbeck prevented one player from padding interception totals by throwing the ball all over the field.”  Ruvell Martin is a possible sleeper for Week 15 at home vs. Atlanta.  Deon Butler (leg) is out for the season, Brandon Stokley (hamstring) had his leg heavily wrapped Sunday night, and both Ben Oboomanu (hand) & Mike Williams (foot) might miss another game.  With Martin it’s the old “Someone has to catch ‘em” theory, right?

4. Jason Witten caught 7 passes for 69 yards and 2 TDs in the 30-27 loss to Philadelphia. He was targeted 7 times.  WRs Miles Austin and Roy Williams were targeted 5 and 4 times, respectively.

Huddle Up:  Witten has moved into the No. 2 ranking among fantasy tight ends and is delivering on his 5th round ADP.   Over the last 4 years Witten is one of the “Big Four” fantasy tight ends, neck and neck with Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, and Tony Gonzalez:

The Big Four Fantasy TEs Since 2007
Tight End Games FP FP/game
Antonio Gates 58 836 14.41
Dallas Clark 52 749 14.40
Tony Gonzalez 61 859 14.08
Jason Witten 61 847 13.88

Witten has also been targeted 7.9 times per game since 2007, 2nd most behind Tony Gonzalez (8.7) among all tight ends in this span.  If Jason Garrett retains the Cowboys head coaching position in 2011 you can expect Witten to keep churning out these stellar numbers.  Witten is also only 28 years old, the youngest of the Big Four -- almost a full two years younger than Gates and three years younger than Clark. 

5. Aaron Rodgers completed 7 of 11 passes for 46 yards and 1 INT at Detroit before sustaining a concussion after getting hit on a 18-yard run up the middle.  Matt Flynn replaced Rodgers and threw for 177 yards and 1 INT.  The Packers lost 7-3.

Huddle Up:  The derailment of the Rodgers Express will be remembered for a long time.  Week 14, inside warm and cozy Ford Field, Detroit has the 26th-ranked scoring defense, Drew Stanton preparing to turn the ball over a zillion times… Rodgers was supposed to have a 304-yard day with 3 TDs and probably another score on the ground.  Ugh.  This is Rodger’s second concussion in 63 days, which is not good.  His playing status is not up to him or coaches anymore, it’s up to team doctors and independent neurological consultants.  Medical clearance could take weeks, just ask Austin Collie.  To make matters worse, Rodgers’ absence takes down Greg Jennings with him, another guy who was leading many of us to fantasy trophies.  Green Bay is at New England in Week 15 on Sunday night.  The young Patriots defense is getting better and better right before our eyes – having shut down Jay Cutler, Mark Sanchez, and Shaun Hill the last three weeks, all of whom had some good momentum prior to the meeting.  They shut down Ben Roethlisberger too, before going into a prevent defense with the score at 29-10. 

6. Ben Roehlisberger completed 21 of 33 passes for 258 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs in the 23-7 win over Cincinnati.  He added 23 rushing yards.   Hines Ward was the offensive MVP with 8 catches for 115 yards (10 targets).  Mike Wallace caught 5 passes for 78 yards (9 targets).

Huddle Up:  Thinking about the best 7 or 8 quarterbacks today, it seems like Roethlisberger is most likely to have these types of games:  90+ passer rating, no turnovers, a few big 3rd down tosses, and the defense scoring a touchdown or two.  That’s what happened here.  Troy Polamalu & LaMarr Woodley each took a Carson Palmer pick to the house.  It irritates the hell out of Ben-owners for two different reasons:  1. The Steelers kick off to the opponent again, leaving Ben on the sidelines even longer.  2. Mike Tomlin won’t allow OC Bruce Arians to pitch it around if the Steelers get up by 10+ points.  This ain’t New England or Philly – Tomlin orders them straight into Run/Run on 1st/2nd downs, without fail.  Run/Run/Run if they’re up by 17+.  Anyway, if you own Roethlisberger you’re just lucky he’s not in the hospital.  Cincinnati got away with roughing the passer at least 3 times (like really roughing), and one time it looked like Ben wasn’t getting up. Cincy also got away with non-calls for pass interference (on a throw to Mendenhall), and defensive holding (Wallace) that prevented big passing plays.   Pittsburgh hosts NYJ in Week 15.

7. Ryan Torain carried 24 times for 172 yards in the 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay.  He added 4 catches for 10 yards.  Chris Cooley only caught 2 passes for 22 yards.

Huddle Up:  This sums up Mike Shanahan’s fantasy portfolio perfectly.  Torain missed the last 4 games with a hamstring injury, on Wednesday he’s limited in practice, then on Thursday and Friday he practices in full, but Shanahan lists him as questionable anyway.  Not coincidentally, only 12% of CBS Sportsline fantasy owners started him.  Therefore, Torain busts out like a 24-year old Eddie George with 158 rushing yards in the first half alone.  He touched the football on 20 of the Redskins’ first 33 plays!  And even if you did start him (my hat’s off to you), of course you couldn’t get one TD in there somewhere, right?  After all, lots of RBs pile up 182 total yards without a single touchdown, right?  In Week 15 Torain is at Dallas, who’s allowed 6 different 125 total-yard efforts to RBs this year.  Even Brandon Jackson had 69 total yards and 2 TDs against them.  As for Cooley, he’s gone 9 straight games without a TD.  That’s not even his worst streak – back in 20008 he went 11 games without a touchdown.    

8. Peyton Hillis carried 21 times for 108 yards in the 13-6 loss to Buffalo.  He also caught 4 passes for 10 yards.  Hillis is at 1,070 rushing yards with 3 games left and is only the 9th Browns RB ever to reach 1,000.

Huddle Up:  He’s the real deal and I hope people don’t forget it next summer when they’re drafting.  I can just hear it now:  “Uh oh, Cleveland selected RB ___ ____ in the 2nd round, he’s gonna steal carries from Hillis.”  No, he’s not.  Any rookie, or even Monatrio Hardesty (coming off a torn ACL) will have to rip the job away from Hillis’ bleeding fingers.  He’s captured the hearts of fans, teammates, and coaches.  “Peyton Hillis is the man in Cleveland,” said Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta.  Back to this game, Hillis had 3 carries at the goal line on the first drive but couldn’t slam it in.  The closest they got after that was to the Bills’ 8-yard line but Jake Delhomme overthrew Brian Robiskie in the end zone.  Hillis also fumbled away a drive when he tried one of his patented hurdles.  Cleveland is at Cincinnati in Week 15 and you aren’t benching him no matter what.  Hillis is the No. 2 fantasy RB in PPR leagues.

9. Roddy White caught 8 passes for 79 yards in the 31-10 win at Carolina.  He was targeted 14 times and leads the NFL with 153 targets – more than DeSean Jackson and Hines Ward combined (152).  Michael Turner carried 28 times for 112 yards and 3 TDs.

Huddle Up:  Remember Week 9 vs. Tampa Bay when Roddy left the game twice to get his knee checked?  My job is to go Under The Numbers… Well, here’s what I found:

Roddy White's Stats Since Knee Scare
Before Week 9 7 games 54 rec 747 yards 5 TDs 13.8 yds per rec
Since Week 9 6 games 45 rec 472 yards 2 TDs 10.5 yds per rec

I’ve been watching him closely and he’s not the same player he was two months ago.  That said, if indeed there is a sprained PCL or maybe some cartilage issues, I’ll still take Roddy at 80% over just about anyone at 100%.  Atlanta is at Seattle in Week 15, who has the 31st ranked defense against fantasy WRs. Michael Turner continues his fantasy spree with 10 TDs in his last 7 games.  Turner has 38 TDs in his 40 games as a Falcon.  Over the last 7 weeks he’s been a top-4 RB in any scoring system.  Unbenchable.

10. Derrick Mason caught 6 passes for 78 yards and 2 TDs in the 34-28 win at Houston.

Huddle Up:  The 14-year vet is pushing for the BVP fantasy award (Best Value Pick) by steadily making his way into the top-24 WRs.  Sure, Mason’s had a couple stinkers (2 catches for 22 yards vs. Pittsburgh) but c’mon, the guy was a 10th round draft pick!  Mason has either 100 yards or a TD in 5 of his last 8 games.  Mason has had more targets than Anquan Boldin in 4 of those 8 games.  Mason, who turns 37 in January, has 916 career catches and will pass Torry Holt (920) for 12th all-time.  He also 11,765 receiving yards and should pass Michael Irvin (11,904) for 18th in receiving yardage this season as well.  Mason and Boldin play host to New Orleans in Week 15, who has the #1 defense in terms of allowing fantasy points to WRs. 

11. Mike Tolbert had 16 carries for 66 yards and 1 TD in the 31-0 shellacking of Kansas City.  He added 1 catch for 13 yards.  Ryan Mathews had 16 carries for 65 yards and 1 TD, with 1 catch for 6 yards.

Huddle Up:  Tolbert was his usual self, totally beasting over would-be tacklers, and making the ones that do tackle him regret it.  He also lost a 14-yard run to a holding penalty.  Mathews was the real story, though – showing more burst and balance than he had in the preseason and proving the ankle problem is finally behind him.  It’s going to be a 60/40-ish split with Tolbert/Mathews moving forward, though I get the idea that Mathews stays in the 10-touch range if the Chargers aren’t comfortably ahead.  Norv Turner seems to ride the rookie pretty hard with his comments.  “He’s still missed some holes,” Turner said about Mathews. “He missed some plays that I think in another two weeks he’ll make.  That’s one of the reasons he’s having a few more collisions…”  The one factor that could eat into both Tolbert and Mathews’ touches is Darren Sproles, who surprised everyone by coming off a concussion and handling 11 touches.

12. Jason Campbell completed 21 of 30 passes for 324 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs in the 38-31 loss to Jacksonville.  Darren McFadden compiled 209 yards from scrimmage and 3 TDs. 

Huddle Up:  Despite the loss, it might have been the best game of Campbell’s career.  In the 4th quarter he got knocked out of the game on a helmet-to-hit smash by Jags CB Williams Middleton.  Kyle Boller came in and ruined the drive with an INT – but Campbell returned to lead them on a 7-play scoring drive to tie it 31-31.  Oakland allowed a 65-yard kickoff return, which led to Maurice Jones-Drew’s game-winning TD run.  Still, Campbell brought them all the way down to the Jags’ 23-yard line before time expired.  That drive could have been Campbell’s shining moment had Darrius Heyward-Bey not dropped a 40-yard pass.  Darren McFadden… Damn, words almost can’t describe his dominance at times.  With that unlawful combination of size, speed, and vision he’s like a young Fred Taylor… hopefully without the injury curse.  Darren McFadden is the No. 2 fantasy RB in points per game.  Say that to yourself out loud.

13. Matt Schaub completed 31 of 62 passes for 393 yards, 3 TDs, a 2-point conversion, and 2 INTs in the 34-28 loss to Baltimore.  Arian Foster carried 20 times for 100 yards and caught 4 passes for 25 yards.  Andre Johnson caught 9 passes for 140 yards and 2 TDs. 

Huddle Up:  Schaub threw the game-losing pick-6 in overtime but they wouldn’t have been in overtime if not for him.  It wasn’t the best game of Schaub’s career – but it was definitely his best second half – 24 of 38 for 242 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs.  Against the Ravens!  Foster, the No. 1 fantasy RB by a big margin, has been an undeniable joy to own since Week 1.  He seemingly racks up points no matter who the opponent is.  He’s put up 125+ total yards against Baltimore, Washington, Dallas, Tennessee, NYJ, San Diego, Oakland, and Indianapolis (twice).  Andre Johnson has reached deity status.  He’s on pace for almost 1,500 receiving yards and could become the first WR since Jerry Rice (’93-95) to lead the league in rec. yardage in 3 straight seasons.  Foster and Johnson are unbenchable at Tennessee in Week 15.

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