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Under the Numbers: Week 5
John U. Miller
October 4, 2011

Whoops, my FanDuel week 4 team crashed all the way down to 444th out of 485 entries in The Huddle $500 FreeRoll.  This is what happens in FanDuel when you haven’t rostered the big-salary guys like Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Matt Forte, or Calvin Johnson.  The good news for many Huddlers is that $5 bills are flying out the door.  In The Huddle $500 FreeRoll you pocket $5 for simply topping my score!  Seriously, FanDuel is fun and it’s free to sign up.  CLICK HERE and play in Week 5!

Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 4.

1. Tim Hightower carried eight times for 24 yards and caught one pass for four yards in the 17-10 win at St. Louis.  Ryan Torain carried 19 times for 135 yards and 1 TD, and Roy Helu carried 8 times for 35 yards.

I spent half of August wailing and barking about Mike Shanahan’s anti-fantasy mission and how he will do whatever it takes to hurt your team. “I believe you are putting yourself at an immediate disadvantage if Hightower is your RB2,” I clearly stated on Aug. 30.  Here we are in early October and the damage has already been done.  Just when Hightower was seemingly establishing a rhythm as an appealing 20-touch RB in an underrated offense, Shanahan pulled the rug on Hightower-owners and literally cost thousands of us a fantasy ‘W’ in Week 4.  The worst part is, Shanahan makes you look stupid.  “How could you start Hightower, we all knew Torain was the man,” said your buddy on the league message board.  Brutal stuff, and that buddy of yours probably has top priority on waiver claims so he’ll snatch up Torain. It’s ok, just move on because the Torain-owner will get his booty spanked in a few weeks too.  Roy Helu will start a game in the next five weeks, mark my words.  One final note, Hightower started this Week 4 game.  It’s not like Shanahan announced it right before kickoff.  Even Helu got 3 carries before Torain was unveiled midway through the 2nd quarter for 19 carries in the last 37 minutes.  Evil.  Pure evil.

2. Frank Gore carried 15 times for 127 yards and 1 TD, plus he caught 1 pass for 12 yards in the 24-23 win over Philadelphia. Kendall Hunter carried 9 times for 38 yards and caught 2 passes for 62 yards.  

Right before the game 49ers beat writer Matt Maiocco reported that Kendall Hunter would start over Frank Gore, but Gore would definitely play.  Hunter immediately logged 7 and 18 yards on the first two plays of the game, then Gore entered on the 3rd play and broke a 40-yard run.  For the rest of the game it was a pure RBBC with Gore getting 15 more touches, Hunter getting 10 more (one carry wiped out by penalty).  Late in the 4th quarter Gore had a 12-yard run for a score that was reviewed by replay because his elbow appeared to be down before he broke the plane (and it was). Gore took his helmet off on the sideline so Hunter was going in for the next play, a potential 1st-and-goal from three inches out; but the officials gave Gore the score.  Ok, where does all this leave fantasy owners?  I’m thinking it’s a poor man’s Foster/Tate combo, with Hunter quite possibly assuming a majority of work as Gore approaches 2,000 career touches (1,739 now) and his body wears down.  I gotta say, it’s going to be hard for the 49ers to keep Hunter off the field.  The 49ers’ next 5 opponents – Tampa Bay, Detroit, Cleveland, Washington, & NYG – average an 11th ranking in defending fantasy RBs.

3. The Philadelphia Eagles defense allowed 442 total yards in the 24-23 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.  It was the most total yards the 49ers have gained in a game since Week 5 of 2004 vs. Arizona, when Tim Rattay was the quarterback and Kevan Barlow was the tailback.

The Eagles did notch 3 sacks (all by DE Jason Babin) but didn’t pick off Alex Smith once and frankly made him look like Matt Ryan: 21 of 33, 291 yards, 2 TDs, while hitting 8 different receivers and engineering 5 drives of 6 plays or more. In fact if not for normally-deadly David Akers missing 2 FGs this game could have somewhat easier for the Niners to win. To make matters worse, the Eagles lost DE Trent Cole (knee) for at least 3 weeks, plus DEs Juqua Parker (ankle) and DE Darryl Tapp (chest) have been out and could remain so for 2 more weeks. Right now Philly ranks 30th in rush defense, 31st in avg. per rush allowed, 16th in pass defense, and the needle’s pointing down folks.  Another glaring reason why drafting fantasy defenses in the 8th or 9th round is potentially a back-breaker.  Not only did you pick a useless starting DEF about four rounds too early, you probably missed out on superlative skill players like Panthers WR Steve Smith, TE Rob Gronkowskil or (gulp) QB Matthew Stafford.  Fantasy title winning types of mid-round picks.  The Eagles’ next 4 games are at Buffalo, at Washington, and vs. Dallas. They have a bye in Week 7.  You start all your Bills, Skins, and Cowboys in those matchups.

4. Matt Forte carried 25 times for 205 yards and 1 TD and added 4 catches for 23 yards in the 34-29 win over Carolina.

After four weeks Forte is the #1 RB in PPR leagues, #4 or #5 in standard leagues, and ranked 3rd among all RBs with 406 total yards.  He’s playing out of his mind, shaking and baking, and the proof is on the tape.  The guy is only making $600,000 this year – less than backup safety Craig Steltz – and he’s ticked off.  And Forte is doing all this despite Jay Cutler’s 77.8 QB rating and the offense’s 29th-ranked 28% 3rd-down conversion rate.  I’ve never seen anything like it, honestly.  Forte is literally carrying a poor football team on his back.  The Bears are ranked 29th in time of possession which means they either punt or Forte strikes from long distance.  The defense is ranked 31st overall in the NFL… and yet they’re 2-2 and very much in the wild-card hunt with a win over Atlanta already.  Truth be told, the offensive line is playing well.  LG Chris Williams is playing the best ball of his career and TE Kellen Davis is a great extra tackle up front.  They might miss C Olin Kreutz’ (now a Saint) leadership but on the field Roberto Garza is doing just fine.  Chicago faces Detroit (5th against fantasy RBs), Minnesota (31st) and Tampa Bay (11th) in the next three weeks.

5. Steve Smith caught 8 passes for 181 yards in the 34-29 loss to Chicago.  He was targeted 10 times.  Legedu Naaanee caught 4 passes for 27 yards and was targeted a team-high 11 times.  Brandon LaFell caught 4 passes for 42 yards and was targeted 6 times.  Greg Olsen had 7 targets (5-50-1) and Jeremy Shockey had 5 (2-41-0).  Shockey had a 22-yard TD nullified for offensive pass interference.

Smith continues his Comeback/Breakout/Amazing season with a pace for 96 catches, 2120 yards, & 8 TDs.  Smith almost hauled in a 16-yard TD in the 3rd quarter but Cam Newton threw it a little low and behind him.  On a 53-yard completion he fell down at the 1-yard line because Newton underthrew him slightly. Smith also took another 9-yard flare pass and was pushed out of bounds at the 5-yard line.  Shockey re-broke his finger and suffered a concussion against the Bears and might miss a week or two, so Greg Olsen could get into the 8-10 target range where he needs to be as a perceived TE1.  Newton had another massive fantasy explosion – 409 total yards, 3 total TDs – and he and Smith must be started every week, health willing.  The Panthers’ schedule over the next 6 weeks is: vs. New Orleans, at Atlanta, vs. Washington, vs. Minnesota, bye, vs. Tennessee.  That’s 4 of 5 games at home.

6. Matt Hasselbeck completed 10 of 20 passes for 220 yards, 3 TD, and 1 INT. He sat out the last series because the game was out of reach.  Chris Johnson carried 23 times for 101 yards and caught 2 passes for 11 yards, off his only 2 targets. 

Hasselbeck finally got TE Jared Cook involved with an 80-yard TD pass and posted his 4th straight 90+ QB rating, the first time he’s done that since 2007 with Seattle.  He’s playing at the most effective level of his 13-year career.  Hasselbeck is a top-8 fantasy QB in most formats.  Johnson got his first 100-yard game thanks to an early 25-yard run.  Honestly, Johnson didn’t look especially great to me – but the play-calling was adjusted a bit to get him out wide where he can choose a cutback lane.  It was obvious Mike Munchak left CJ in the game late in the blowout just to get him over the 100-yard mark, if only for a psychological boost.  In the 2nd quarter the Titans had a 1st and goal at the 4-yard line and Javon Ringer was in the backfield; but Hasselbeck threw a TD to WR Damian Williams.  Speaking of Williams, he started in place of Kenny Britt (on IR) and was targeted only 4 times – but Nate Washington was only targeted 4 times too.  Washington had a 57-yard catch that was aided by a Williams block downfield, earning D.W. a hug from Munchak on the sidelines.  Tennessee plays at Pittsburgh this week, then have a bye, then have three home games in a row vs. Houston, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati.  JUMbo Whisper: The Titans get FB Ahmard Hall back from suspension this week.

7. Struggling RBs:

--Shonn Greene had 10 carries for 23 yards and wasn’t targeted once in the loss to Baltimore.  Greene ranks 32nd in avg. per carry (3.1) among RBs with at least 30 attempts behind an offensive line that 15 other backs would kill for. 
--Reggie Bush had 13 carries for 50 yards and caught 2 passes for 15 yards in the losss to San Diego.  He looked healthy but is not capable of generating big gains in a feature back role, playing snap after snap.  It seems inevitable that Steve Slaton will get a lot of playing time when he assimilates the playbook.
--Thomas Jones had 11 carries for 37 yards and no pass targets in the win over Minnesota.  This is about par for the course with Jones at his age.  Dexter McCluster had 11 combined carries and targets and only compiled 38 yards.  The Chiefs only ran 7 plays in the red zone and Jones had 2 carries, McCluster 1 carry, and Matt Cassel passed to someone else in the remaining 4 plays.
--Peyton Hillis had 10 carries for 46 yards and 5 catches for 23 yards in the loss to Tennessee.  Montario Hardesty had 7 carries for 22 yards and 5 catches for 49 yards.  Both RBs had 16 total carries and targets, indicating a 50/50 split down the middle.

8. Joe Flacco completed 10 of 31 passes for 163 yards and 1 INT in the win over the New York Jets, plus he lost a fumble. 

Granted, it’s the Jets defense… but then again, Tony Romo torched them for 26 fantasy points in Week 1.  Jeez, Flacco only had two completions after there was 2:01 remaining in the 1st quarter!  Baltimore fans are squarely behind Flacco, though – in an online poll at the question was “Is Flacco good enough to lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl?”  The responses came in at 77% Yes.  Anquan Boldin caught 1 pass for 28 yards off a measly 2 targets.  Revis Island.  One quick random thought:  Is it possible Boldin is one of those stud receivers that falls off the map after age 30, like Antonio Freeman, Eric Moulds, or Rob Moore?  They can’t all be a Jerry Rice, or even a Rod Smith.  TE Ed Dickson was targeted a surprising 12 times but only snagged 4 for 45 yards.  Week 3 phenom Torrey Smith was targeted 6 times and caught 1 pass for 1 yard.  He had a shot at a touchdown but Flacco put it ever-so-slightly behind him, though Smith has to make that catch if he wants to be a full-time starter.  The Ravens are off in Week 5 then face Houston (home) and Jacksonville (away).

9. Saints WR breakdown:  Devery Henderson played 65 snaps but was targeted one time in the 23-10 win at Jacksonville.  Robert Meachem played 63 snaps and was targeted 6 times, catching 4 for 59 yards.  Lance Moore played a very low 33 snaps but was targeted 6 times and caught 5 passes for 50 yards.  Marques Colston made his return from a broken collarbone and played 31 snaps.  He caught 1 pass for 8 yards and was essentially a decoy as anyone could have predicted.

I don’t know what to make of it except that it’s typical Sean Payton, mixing in a zillion different formations and personnel groupings.  Obviously Henderson and Meachem are the lead guys for now, in terms of playing time.  Moore is almost like a RB who basically catches long handoffs; and he had a short goal-line target deflected by a Jaguars linebacker.  Meachem had an apparent TD in the 4th quarter ruled out of bounds, otherwise he’s scored in 4 straight games.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I expect him to produce all year long, Colston or no Colston.  For Meachem’s sake I actually prefer Colston out there to draw attention to the middle of the field.  Meachem could (should) become a “Baby Moss” to some degree, working the sidelines with his big frame and 4.38 speed.  Oh yeah, TE Jimmy Graham had his Gates Breakout Party with 10 catches for 132 yards and 1 TD.  I’ll asseverate that Graham is 1 of 5 absolute must-start TEs right now along with Jason Witten, Jermichael Finley, Rob Gronkowski and Tony Gonzalez.

10. Julio Jones led all WRs with 17 targets in Week 4, catching 11 passes for 127 yards in the 30-28 win over Seattle.  Roddy White had 11 targets and caught 6 passes for 78 yards.  No other Falcons WR had a single look from Matt Ryan.

Jones is getting on track with two straight 100-yard games and is on pace for over 1,300 yards.  White is off to a pretty typical start though his pace for 1,200 yards is a little off.  He’s only scored once and now we hear he’s been lugging a thigh bruise around. Atlanta gets Green Bay in the dome this week, and not many people realize the Packers have the 31st ranked pass defense.  Charles Woodson did pick off Kyle Orton and go the house last week, but as I’ve said before, he’s lost a step and can be beaten pretty often these days.  Atlanta’s next 8 games are indoors.  For the record, the Falcons have used a 66-34 pass-run ratio so far.  I vehemently maintain that Matt Ryan is going to launch into fantasy overdrive very soon.

11. Tony Romo completed 34 of 47 passes for 331 yards, 3 TDs and 3 INTs in the 34-30 loss to Detroit.  Dez Bryant caught 3 passes for 37 yards and 2 TDs, plus he had a 5-yard run.  New starting WR Laurent Robinson (while Miles Austin is out) caught 7 passes for 116 yards off 10 targets.  Jason Witten caught 8 passes for 94 yards and 1 TD off 10 targets as well.

Dallas gave this one away.  2 of Romo’s 3 INTs were bone-head throws but the last one was a dead giveaway post-route for Witten that has to be hung on Jason Garrett:  Dallas was up 30-27 with 4:22 left in the game.  Much love for Bryant who fought through injury once again (remember the ankle last year?) and makes plays when called upon.  He’s becoming one of my favorite players.  Dallas is using a 63-37 pass-run ratio so far this season and even though it’s pushing fantasy QB-WR stats, it’s going to get Jason Garrett fired one day.  Over the last 9 full starts by Romo, Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee going back to 2010, Garrett has called an average of 39 pass plays per game.  Dallas is off in Week 5 then play New England (away) and St. Louis (home).

12. Brandon Lloyd had 11 targets and caught 8 passes for 136 yards in the 49-23 loss to Green Bay.  Eric Decker was targeted 10 times and caught 5 passes for 56 yards and 2 TDs.

Lloyd is quietly turning it on, folks. He missed Week 2 with a groin injury and then the next week I watched Lloyd in person at the Broncos/Titans game and he was maybe 80%.  But in Week 4 he ran by the Packers DBs constantly (again, start all WRs and TEs against Green Bay) and could have had a 50-yard TD but Kyle Orton underthrew him.  I think I dismissed this guy too quickly.  The groin injury obviously fixed itself with a week’s rest, and even though John Fox wants to run non-stop he really can’t if Denver’s going to be behind all the time.  Decker is turning out to be a heck of a talent (6’3/218 by the way) and even when Eddie Royal returns I don’t see how Decker gives up his job.  Royal can be the No.3/slot guy where he’s best suited.

13. Wes Welker caught 9 passes for 158 yards and 1 TD in the 31-19 win over Oakland.  He was targeted 14 times, giving him a league-leading 57 for the year.  He has over 20% more targets than the nearest competitor, Roddy White. 

Welker is the No. 1 fantasy WR in all PPR and standard leagues, beating out Calvin Johnson even though Megatron has caught 2 TDs in every damn game this year!  That gives you an idea of Welker’s super-massive reception and yardage totals.  He’s on pace for 160 catches, 2,464 yards, and 20 TDs.  Welker could fall way off pace and still breeze through to 100 catches, 1,500 yards and 12 TDs.  It’s inconceivable.  Against the Raiders there was rarely a time when Tom Brady didn’t stare down Welker and simply wait for the route to develop.  Deion Branch was only targeted 4 times (but caught a TD) and Chad Ochocinco was targeted 2 times.  New England has two home games coming up vs. NYJ (ranked 16th in defending fantasy WRs) and Dallas (22nd).  Interesting schedule note:  The Patriots have zero indoor games this season. 

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