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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Under the Numbers - Week 16
John U. Miller
December 21, 2010
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Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 15.

1. Brandon Marshall caught 11 passes for 106 yards and 1 TD in the 17-14 loss to Buffalo.  Davone Bess caught 9 passes for 78 yards.  They were targeted 12 and 13 times, respectively – no other Dolphin had more than 6 passes thrown his way. 

Huddle Up:  After the hamstring injury cost Marshall 2 ½ games, he’s come back to score a TD in two straight weeks.  Your fantasy league might be penalizing Marshall for a fumble vs. Buffalo but it was actually a desperation lateral with :00 left on the clock.  Hopefully that didn’t make a difference in your league.  Anyway, Marshall looked healthy and explosive.  I think he’s a must-start vs. Detroit this week – and possibly a top-3 WR overall.  The Lions will probably be without both starting safeties – Amari Spievey (neck) & Louis Delmas (concussion) – and Chad Henne is starting to find a rhythm again.  And for all the talk about Miami being a running/wildcat team, Henne averages a sturdy 34 pass attempts over his 12 ½ games.  Bess is simply PPR-flex gold.  He ranks 14th among WRs with 71 receptions, and now that Brian Hartline is out for the year with a hand injury, Bess will never leave the field.

2. BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried 6 times for 38 yards and 1 TD in the 31-27 win over Green Bay.  He also caught 2 passes for 12 yards.  RB Danny Woodhead carried 9 times for 59 yards and caught 1 pass for 12 yards.

Huddle Up:  Green-Ellis’ output consisted basically of one run, the 33-yard TD, but that’s what makes him so appealing.  Touchdowns.  Law Firm has 12 TD runs, second only to Arian Foster’s 13 AP???.   I’ve already had 22 emails asking me whether to start Green-Ellis over Tomlinson, Donald Brown, or Brandon Jackson.  Are you kidding me, I’d start Green-Ellis over all those guys in my fantasy championship – even Steven Jackson.  You don’t get points for carries.  Law Firm has scored a TD or rushed for at least 87 yards in 11 of his 12 starts!  New England has the #1 scoring offense and they’ve been to the red zone an AFC-high 56 times.  They play at Buffalo in Week 16.  We’ve already seen that Belichick never eases off the gas, so you don’t worry about him letting up in a blowout.  Same with Danny Woodhead as a flex, you need guys like this in your lineup when the chips are down.  Buffalo has given up an NFL-high 1,980 rushing yards to RBs this year.     

3. Calvin Johnson caught 10 passes for 152 yards in the 23-20 overtime win at Tampa Bay.  He was targeted 12 times while Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler were targeted 13 times combined.

Huddle Up:  Johnson continues to dominate no matter who the opponent is, no matter who his quarterback is.  His overtime toe-tapping catch on 3rd and 8 set up the winning field goal.  If I was the Imperial Fantasy Football Dictator I would issue an edict that prohibits any owner from asking, “Should I bench Calvin Johnson?”  A healthy Megatron is unbenchable regardless of opponent as long as his quarterback has five fingers on this throwing hand.  Actually three and a thumb would do.  Seriously, since 2008 Johnson is tied with Larry Fitzgerald with 30 TD catches, and his yardage is almost always there too, whether it’s Stafford, Hill, or Stanton.  Since 2008 only 10 WRs average 70+ receiving yards per game and Johnson’s ranked 4th:

WR Receiving Yards/Game Since 2008
Wide Receiver Games Rec Yds Avg/Gm Total TDs
Andre Johnson 45 4360 96.9 25
Roddy White 46 3819 83.0 26
Reggie Wayne 46 3656 79.5 21
Calvin Johnson 44 3383 76.9 *30
Larry Fitzgerald 46 3509 76.3 30
Brandon Marshall 42 3200 76.2 19
Wes Welker 44 3342 75.9 14
Greg Jennings 46 3431 74.6 25
DeSean Jackson 44 3092 70.3 24
Anquan Boldin 41 2875 70.1 23

(* Remember, JUMbotron always counts his negated Week 1 TD at Chicago.)

4. Drew Brees threw for 267 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT in the 30-24 loss at Baltimore. 

Huddle Up:  I already established last week that Brees is the #1 QB TD-maker since 2008, with 2.20 TDs per game (99 passing, 2 rushing in 46 games), but he’s also on a yardage streak for the ages.  With 4,122 passing yards so far, he’s on pace for 4,711.  That would give him an average of 4,648 passing yards over the last 4 seasons.  The next two best average streaks over 4 straight years are Dan Marino’s 4,303 and Peyton Manning’s 4,289.  This marriage of Sean Payton’s playbook and Brees’ arm has created the most amazingly consistent QB stats in pro football history.  Of course it helps when you have playmakers like Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham making unbelievable athletic plays.    

5. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 16 of 26 passes for 223 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT in the 17-14 win at Miami.  He also rushed for 19 yards.

Huddle Up:  One of my favorite players, Fitzpatrick didn’t even blink without Lee Evans, hitting three different rookie WRs -- Naaman Roosevelt, Donald Jones, & David Nelson --for big plays throughout the game.  The 6’5 Nelson has caught a TD in 3 straight games (Keeper Alert).  Of course Fitzpatrick also hit #1 target Stevie Johnson for another score, his 10th of the year.  Fitzpatrick has thrown at least 1 TD in every one of his 12 starts this year – and going back to last year he has a TD pass in 15 straight games.  That’s just 3 short of tying Jim Kelly's franchise record of 18 straight games set in ‘86/87. If the Bills are smart they’ll lock up Fitzpatrick with an extension and focus on other needs in the draft.  He’s a gamer, and even though his record is 4-8 as a starter this year, half of his losses were by 3 points each to the Steelers, Bears, Chiefs, and Ravens.  No other NFL QB does more with less. 

6. Michael Vick threw for 242 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT in the 38-31 win over the New York Giants.  He also carried the ball 10 times for 130 yards and 1 TD. 

Huddle Up:  The Eagles scored four unanswered touchdowns in 7 minutes and 28 seconds, ending with DeSean Jackson’s 65-yard punt-return TD (which you’ve seen 15 times by now).  Let’s stay with Vick here.  He rang up 43 fantasy points in standard leagues – many more in some leagues – which is up around the 25 best single-game fantasy performances of all time.  Remember, he already scored 52.7 back in Week 10, which is the 3rd best ever.  He’s played 11 games this year (really just 10 full games) and scored over 28 fantasy points in 7 of them.  To put that in perspective -- Drew Brees, who’s (barely) the #1 fantasy QB in total points, has played 14 games and only topped 28 points twice.  Last week I mused about Vick going around fourth overall in next summer’s fantasy drafts.  The more I think about it, the more I think Vick will go #1 overall in many leagues.  Why not?  He’s the ultimate weapon - and finally devoted to conditioning and the quarterback craft.  Amazing young WRs Jackson & Maclin, awesome depth with Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, & Chad Hall.  Andy Reid lives by a 60-40 pass-run ratio, and when they do run, many of those attempts are Vick’s!

7. Tashard Choice carried 15 times for 53 yards and 1 TD in the 33-30 win vs. Washington.  Choice caught 4 passes for 31 yards too.  Felix Jones carried 12 times for 70 yards and added 2 catches for 47 yards.

Huddle Up:  This is a nice duo for Dallas.  Cowboys interim HC Jason Garrett is mxing them in the right situations and it’s created a balanced offense.  He even puts Choice in the wildcat for crazy plays like this.  Choice is 26, Jones is 23, and I think they have a good future ahead.  Fantasy owners would accept it next year, right?  Just pick one of ‘em around the 7th or 8th round and plug him in as a flex.  This week the Cowboys play at Arizona on Saturday, Christmas day.  The Cardinals rank 32nd in allowed fantasy points to RBs.  LB Joey Porter (triceps) is out and LB Clark Haggans is useless with a nagging groin pull.  If Marion Barber is out again and I’ve got Choice or Jones on my roster, they are in my lineup somewhere as a RB3 or flex… Choice possibly as a RB2 in deep leagues.  The matchup is just too good to ignore. 

8. Dwayne Bowe caught 2 passes for 53 yards in the 27-13 win at St. Louis.

Huddle Up:  Bowe almost single-handedly lifted fantasy teams into the playoffs with 88.5 fantasy points from Weeks 10-12; then almost single-handedly ruined fantasy teams with 5.6 fantasy points from Weeks 13-15.  It’s inconceivable.  What I’m noticing is it’s not just the Matt Cassel appendix/Brodie Croyle issue -- it’s that Bowe just isn’t getting the targets.  8 different receivers caught a pass vs. the Rams.  Bowe has only had 16 targets in the last 3 games, compared to 43(!) in those magical Weeks 10-12.  And the Chiefs are not sustaining enough drives – less plays, more punts, it’s a vicious cycle.  Over the last 3 games the Chiefs have been downright awful on 3rd down conversions:

Worst 3rd-Down Converters - Weeks 13-15
Offense Converted Rate
Denver 8-of-39 20.50%
Arizona 9-of-42 21.40%
Kansas City 11-of-42 26.20%
Carolina 12-of-43 27.90%
St. Louis 13-of-45 28.90%

9. LeGarrette Blount carried 15 times for 110 yards and 1 TD in the 23-20 loss to Detroit. Josh Freeman threw for 251 yards and 1 TD, with another 29 yards rushing.

Huddle Up:  Blount broke a 39-yard TD run and also threw a Corey Dillon-stiff arm on Lions safety C.C. Brown for a 27-yard run.  He’s the real deal.  However, true to his word, HC Raheem Morris put Earnest Graham in the goal-line package in the 4th quarter – but Graham got stuffed for a loss.   Freeman continues to impress – he has at least 1 TD pass in every game but the loss to Pittsburgh – and will be in my preseason top-10 QBs next summer.  Freeman has a better QB rating than Eli Manning, more rushing yards than any QB but Michael Vick, and he’s the reason why the Bucs are ranked 9th in 3rd down conversions.  Last year they ranked 27th.  On one play Freeman stiff-armed Ndamukong Suh backwards and then threw a 14-yard pass to Graham to convert a 2nd on 9.  Amazing.  Freeman is my QB Sleeper of the Week on the upcoming JUMbotron – at home vs. Seattle’s 27th ranked defense vs. fantasy QBs.

10. Adrian Peterson was declared inactive for the Monday night game vs. Chicago.

Huddle Up:  Fantasy larceny. "We know Adrian, so he'll be fine," said coach Leslie Frazier after Friday’s practice.  No Leslie, apparently you don’t know him.  This Peterson jobbie ranks up there with the all-time disaster inactives, like 1. 2008: Brian Westbrook’s Sunday night scratch at Chicago, when he had practiced on Friday, Andy Reid said the ankle was fine, blah blah blah.  2.  2007: Laurence Maroney’s MNF vanishing act at Cincinnati.  He practiced in a limited fashion all week with a sore groin.  He was coming off a 103-yard game vs. Buffalo and if you recall, had been a 1st round fantasy pick.  Maroney’s fantasy reputation would never be the same and many of us learned to hate him.  But those inactives didn’t sting like this one.   Hopefully Peterson wil come out fresh and bangin’ at Philadelphia in Week 16, if his fantasy owners are still in the competition.  You know what… I still can’t believe this dude didn’t play Monday night.

11. Ray Rice carried 31 times for 153 yards and 1 TD, plus 5 receptions for 80 yards and 1 TD in the 30-24 win over New Orleans.

Hudlde Up:  It was Rice’s biggest fantasy game of his career with 35.3 points – and more than he’d scored in his three previous games combined.  OC Cam Cameron (who I feel has completely bungled the job this year) finally got wise:  Rice touched the ball on 17 of their first 26 plays!  In fact, Rice either carried the football or was targeted on 10 of the Ravens’ 17 red-zone plays.  He even had a carry at the 5-yard line (stuffed), which is McGahee territory.  "I saw the game plan. I knew we were going to run the ball today," Rice said.  Baltimore is at Cleveland in Week 16, whose run defense is starting to buckle.  In the last 5 weeks the Browns gave up 150 rush yards to Cedric Benson, 145 to Jackson/Spiller, 98 to Ronnie/Ricky, 153 to Stewart/Goodson, & 132 to Maurice Jones-Drew. 

12. Vincent Jackson caught 5 passes for 112 yards and 3 TDs in the 34-7 win over San Francisco.  Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews each had 17 carries, for 46 and 56 yards, respectively.  Tolbert banged in a TD off 5 straight tries near the goal line.

Huddle Up:  Sorry Vince, you’re still not getting a huge extension yet but at least you’ll pocket $10 million guaranteed next year.  He was unstoppable against the 49ers, scoring from 58, 21, and 11 yards out -- and should have had a 4th TD from 7 yards out but stepped on the end line.  “Maybe if I wore a size 12 instead of a 14, I might be in,” Jackson said.  San Diego faces Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday night, and the early forecast says 23 degrees/snow flurries, nothing major. The Bengals have lost an NFL-high 6 DBs to injured reserve; and 9 different players have started in their secondary.  Tolbert and Mathews appear to be in a time-share, though 13 of Mathews’ 17 carries occurred after the Chargers were up 24-0.  You also get the idea from Norv Turner’s comments that Tolbert stays in (he called him the “lead guy” on Dec.5th) during a hotly contested game.

13. Rex Grossman completed 25 of 43 passes for 322 yards, 4 TDs, and 2 INTs.  He also hit two 2-point conversions and lost a fumble.  Washington scored the most points they’ve had on the road since Week 14 of 2009 (34 at Oakland). 

Huddle Up:  Grossman also did what Donovan McNabb hasn’t been able to do since Week 10 of 2007:  Score 32 fantasy points in a game.  Grossman was predictably all over the place and had a couple bone-headed turnovers – but he gave the Redskins a pop they have lacked in the passing game.  Rex hit five different players for 20+ yard gains, something McNabb hasn’t done this year either.  Rex’s 27-yard over-the-shoulder rainbow to Mike Sellers was a touch pass McNabb has never been able to make.  Still, Dallas has allowed 30+ points in 8 different games, so I wouldn’t rush out to pick up Grossman for my fantasy super bowl, although the way this year has gone… Hmmm, Washington is at Jacksonville, the 30th ranked defense against fantasy QBs.  Rex played ball at Florida which is just 60 miles down the road.

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