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Under the Numbers: Week 7
John U. Miller
October 18, 2011

JUMbotron created a FanDuel team in Week 6 and battled hard for the second week in a row, finishing 136th out of 482 entries in The Huddle $500 FreeRoll.  Now that I’ve figured out FanDuel’s “bargain” salary QBs are bargains for a reason, look for these consistently higher finishes the rest of the way.  However, if you were able to top JUMbotron’s Week 6 score you’ll have $5 deposited in your FanDuel account later today.  The link for the Week 7 Huddle FreeRoll will be active soon and of course I’ll post it in this Friday’s JUMbotron column.  

Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 6.

1. DeMarco Murray carried 10 times for 32 yards and caught 1 pass for 7 yards in the 20-16 loss at New England.  Tashard Choice carried 5 times for 14 yards and caught 3 passes for 16 yards.  Felix Jones left in the 2nd quarter with a high ankle sprain and will miss at least 2 games, probably more.

Felix Jones is officially the new Fred Taylor.  No, scratch that, Taylor was an almost-Hall-of-Famer.  Felix Jones has never accomplished anything.  He’s the new Trung Canidate, destined to be forgotten completely by 2013, and I’m officially placing him on my archived “Stay Away” list with Lee Suggs, Ryan Torain, and Knowshon Moreno.  But anyway, let’s go back Under The Numbers… DeMarco Murray was predictably energetic with fresh legs early on, gaining 8 yards on each of his first two carries, but he seemed to lose his wind quickly.  I counted two occasions where Murray waved himself off for Choice to replace him.  In the 3rd quarter Murray slipped into in the flat at the 10-yard line and Tony Romo laid a pass on his hands but he dropped it.  Murray could have turned and scooted to the pylon had he caught it.  Cowboys LG Bill Nagy is out for the year (broken ankle) so backup C Kevin Kowalski replaced Nagy at left guard.  Veteran G Derrick Dockery remains out with a sprained MCL.  If you’re running out to pick up Murray just know that the Cowboys offensive line is one of the 10 lightest in the league (avg. 310 lbs) and according to my research their depth situation is possibly the worst in the NFL.  Dallas ranks 28th in the league at 3.4 yards per carry -- and only have 2 rushes of 20+ yards all year.  To put that in perspective, the Kansas City Chiefs have 5 runs of 20+ yards since Jamaal Charles went down.

2. Sam Bradford completed 28 of 44 passes for 321 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT in the 24-3 loss to Green Bay.  Danario Alexander caught 6 passes for 91 yards (10 targets), Greg Salas caught 8 for 77 yards (10), and TE Lance Kendricks caught 4 for 71 yards (6).

Bradford is (was?) a key player in fantasy leagues because many pinpointed him as a QB2 spot-starter based on the promise he showed in the preseason.  Against the Packers he finally flashed some of the talent we all knew he had.  Despite zero TDs I believe it was Bradford’s best game of 2011 against a mean opponent on the road:  He had a season-high 63.6 completion rate, a season-high 7.3 yards per attempt, and five trips inside the Packer’s 30-yard line.  But as usual the Rams could not convert those drives into scores.  Bradford had a potential 10-yard TD pass to Alexander picked off because he didn’t throw the fade quite high enough.  Earlier in the 1st quarter he had Alexander open down the middle for a sure-to-be 81-yard TD but Alexander didn’t turn around in time.  Three things going forward: 1) Bradford has a high ankle sprain, 2) The Rams acquired WR Brandon Lloyd, and 3) Bradford’s schedule is much easier from here on out.  Over the next 4 weeks he faces Dallas, New Orleans, Arizona, and Cleveland, all of whom with various issues in their secondary.  Look, we all know how OC Josh McDaniels used Lloyd last year in Denver – 4th in the NFL with 153 targets – so don’t underestimate what this acquisition could do for Bradford.  And Lloyd, of course.  Hopefully Sam’s ankle injury isn’t as bad as originally reported.

3. Matt Ryan completed 14 of 22 passes for 163 yards, 1 TD and 0 INT in the 31-17 win over Carolina. He also added a rushing TD.  Michael Turner carried 27 times for 139 yards and 2 TDs.  Roddy White caught 2 passes for 21 yards.  Tony Gonzalez caught 3 passes for 29 yards.

Ryan continues to sputter and it’s causing real damage to fantasy rosters.  The Falcons chose to run, run, run and keep Cam Newton off the field – and it worked to some degree. One 13-play drive ate up half the 2nd quarter, with 8 of 13 plays being runs.  The Panthers only ran 62 plays after running more than 70 against the pass-happy Bears and Packers.  Ryan and White still had chances to deliver in the passing game.  Our own Huddler ‘delusions of granduer’ pointed this out on the forums:  “Roddy drew two PI flags on end-zone passes that he easily would have caught had the defender not interfered (one being a 30-40 yard rainbow right on the money).”  But coulda-woulda is not enough.  Ryan is the 12th ranked fantasy QB and White is the 20th ranked fantasy WR – both pretty low marks given their lofty ADPs.  Turner has been a great surprise this year, with 100+ rushing yards and/or at least 1 TD in all but one game this year.  Turner also had two more chances from the 1- and 2-yard line vs. Carolina but couldn’t punch it in.  He also had a 15-yard run called back on a penalty.  Gonzalez is 5th among TEs with 44 targets and continues to be nearly unbenchable in 12-team leagues. Atlanta’s next 6 weeks read as follows:  at Detroit, bye week, at Indy, vs. New Orleans, vs. Tennessee, vs. Minnesota. A couple tough ones… but then again, every game is indoors where they like it.

4. Arian Foster carried 15 times for 49 yards and caught 6 passes for 52 yards in the 29-14 loss to Baltimore. He led the team with 11 targets.

A solid performance against one of the last true run-stuffing defenses in pro football.  Foster was on the field for at least 25 of the Texans’ 41 pass dropbacks and didn’t just slip out for dumpoffs – he ran a few wheel routes and lined up in the slot twice.  Foster dropped two passes, one of which could have been a 20-yard gain.  On a 4th-and-1 from the Texans’ own 20, Foster got stuffed (no punt, Gary Kubiak?) but was pulled down by his facemask and the officials missed it.  The Texans only ran two plays inside the Raven’s 11-yard line, and Ben Tate got both carries.  He fumbled at the 1-yard line and OT Wade Smith recovered it in the end zone for a TD.  Jacoby Jones finally delivered with a 32-yard TD catch, beating Ed Reed who jumped Matt Schaub’s play fake.  Jones caught 4 passes for 76 yards (7 targets) and Kevin Walter caught 6 for 52 yards (8 targets).  The most important thing here is that Arian Foster is healthy and very busy.  His next three games aren’t ideal matchups – Tennessee (ranked 14th vs. fantasy RBs), Jacksonville (10th), & Cleveland (16th) – but you aren’t benching him so it doesn’t matter.

5. Joe Flacco completed 20 of 33 passes for 305 yards, 0 TD and 1 INT.  He sneaked in a 1-yard TD run.  Anquan Boldin caught 8 passes for 132 yards, only the 3rd time in his last 25 games he’s caught 8+ passes.  Ray Rice carried 23 times for 101 yards and caught 5 passes for 60 yards.

Flacco was pretty efficient until they got deeper into Houston territory where Billy Cundiff had to kick 5 FGs.  Flacco was sacked at his own 17-yard line and fumbled the ball away to Houston, who scored 3 plays later.  In the 3rd quarter Flacco stood tough in the pocket and delivered a rainbow to Torrey Smith (JUMbotron’s Flex Play of the Week), who beat double coverage for a 51-yard gain.  Rice totaled 120+ total yards for the 17th time in his last 32 games: He’s had more 120 total-yard games in this span than any RB but Chris Johnson, who’s had 19 (though 11 of Johnson’s were packed at the end of his magical 2009 year).  It’s important to note that Ravens C Andre Gurode was amazing in this game vs. Houston, and his high level of play will help Flacco and Rice compile good stats.  Flacco’s schedule is a mixed bag going forward: Jaguars (ranked 12th vs. fantasy QBs), Arizona (23rd), & Pittsburgh (1st) but he’s going to be a nice matchup-starter for those who don’t own Rodgers, Newton, Brees, Vick, Stafford or Brady.  

6. Brandon Marshall caught 6 passes for 109 yards in the 24-6 loss to the New York Jets.  He was targeted 13 times and no other Dolphin had more than 6 looks.

Marshall has been targeted 12 times in the red zone this year – tied with Wes Welker for the most in the NFL – and has dropped 4 that should have been easy touchdowns.  He had one in the 1st quarter vs. the Jets where he didn’t box out properly and Darrelle Revis batted it down.  Of course another one was picked and taken 100 yards to the house by Revis.  On the positive side, it was obvious that he and Matt Moore worked hard during the bye week.  They were on the same page – Marshall just can’t shake the dropsies.  I think Marshall is the ultimate Buy Low WR right now: He’s healthy, his quarterback looks confident and focused, and his bye week is behind him.  Marshall faces Denver (ranked 31st vs. fantasy WRs), NYG (23rd), Kansas City (29th), Washington (8th) and Buffalo (27th) in the next 5 weeks.

7. C.J. Spiller played wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills in Week 6.  He caught 5 passes for 39 yards in the 27-24 loss to the Giants.  Steve Johnson caught 5 passes for 39 yards and 1 TD.  Naaman Roosevelt caught one pass, a 60-yard TD.  David Nelson caught 4 passes for 62 yards.  TE Scott Chandler only caught one pass and is always blocking until they get around the 10-yard line.  Fred Jackson remains the #1 fantasy RB with another 168 total yards and 1 TD.  

Yes, Spiller played WR on at least 32-33 offensive snaps and only a few at RB.  In many 3-WR sets it was Johnson and Spiller out wide with Nelson in the slot.  In fact that was their base formation over 50% of the time.  Roosevelt got the headlines with the 60-yard TD but he really didn’t play much.  Here is the target count:  Johnson 10, Nelson 6, Jackson 6, Spiller 5, Roosevelt 2, Chandler 1. Jackson is officially an Ultra-Back who is on pace for 330 fantasy points – exactly the same amount Arian Foster had in his otherworldly 2010 season.

8. Montario Hardesty carried 11 times for 35 yards and caught 2 passes for 18 yards in the 24-17 loss to Oakland.  Peyton Hillis carried 6 times for 14 yards and didn’t catch a pass, though he had a 16-yard reception negated by a penalty.  Hillis left the game in the 2nd quarter with a hamstring injury and tried to return in the 4th quarter for a couple snaps.

Many of you don’t watch Browns games (I don’t blame you) and it’s hard to even find a video highlight of Hardesty on, but here’s one I found: 19-yard run in Week 3.  Trust me when I say he’s got all the skills.  Hardesty has been predictably impatient, however, trying to bust the big one when he needs to wait on his lane to develop.  He’s actually been targeted quite a bit – 13 targets in the last two games – but has dropped 5 of them.  Hillis told reporters his hamstring injury isn’t “too bad” but I expect Hardesty to start vs. Seattle this week.  You’d be wise to pick him up if this Week 7 bye causes you problems:  Fred Jackson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cedric Benson, Ahmad Bradshaw, LeSean McCoy, and Frank Gore are all off.

9. Alex Smith completed 17 of 32 passes for 125 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in the 25-19 win at Detroit.  Frank Gore carried 15 times for 141 yards and 1 TD, and also caught 2 passes for 5 yards.  Michael Crabtree caught 9 passes for 77 yards.  Vernon Davis caught 2 passes for 8 yards.  Kendall Hunter carried 8 times for 33 yards.

Smith isn’t going to generate fantasy stats unless he gets up over the 40-attempt mark consistently -- and he will never do that because of the way the 49ers are running the ball.  The 49ers rank 10th at 4.5 per carry and lead the league with 4 runs of 40+ yards.  Smith is actually playing at a higher level this year and in Week 6 he made the play of his career: The go-ahead TD pass to Delanie Walker on 4th-and-6.  If the 49ers make the playoffs you can go back to that play as the reason why they’re in.  Smith did look for Crabtree almost exclusively – 15 targets, more than all the other WRs/TEs combined.  Crabtree (the JUMbo WR3 Start of the Week) looks faster and more kinetic than I’ve ever seen him.  Coach Harbaugh has gotten through to the dude.  Crabtree also had an apparent 13-yard TD at the pylon but he tapped the same left foot twice and never got the right foot down.  Over his last 16 full games Crabtree has 63 receptions, 807 yards, and 6 TDs – with 2 TDs negated & that one just overturned last week.  Vernon Davis ranks 20th in TE targets and isn’t a huge part of this offense anymore.  I told you to Sell High last week.  If you did, you’re probably dancing a jig.  JUMbo Whisper:  The 49ers will keep giving Kendall Hunter the ball more and more to see if he can be their new workhorse.  I know this because 1) He’s a smart, explosive young runner that will keep Gore fresh this year, and 2) Gore’s new extension only guarantees $2 million next year and it’s structured so that they can part ways easily.  “Gore's base salaries of $3.3 million in both 2013 and 2014 are guaranteed against injury only -- not skill.  If Gore's talents dropped off and the 49ers decided to part ways with him after 2012, the 49ers would not incur any salary-cap hit in 2013,” writes Matt Maiocco of  JUMbo Whisper II:  SF plays St. Louis and Arizona 4 times in their last 10 games.

10. A whopping 14 RBs had 20+ “plays” in Week 6The Huddle Stats page records carries and targets and combines them as “plays.”  That’s a lot considering that 6 NFL teams were on bye, taking Willis McGahee, Chris Johnson, Beanie Wells, Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert, and Marshawn Lynch off the table.

Week 6 RB "Plays" (Combined Carries & Targets)
Running Back Plays Carries Targets
LeSean McCoy 32 28 4
Michael Turner 30 27 3
Ray Rice 30 23 7
A. Bradshaw 28 26 2
Arian Foster 26 15 11
M. Jones-Drew 25 22 3
Matt Forte 24 17 7
Shonn Greene 23 21 2
Steven Jackson 23 18 5
R. Mendenhall 23 23 0
Fred Jackson 22 16 6
D. McFadden 21 20 1
Frank Gore 20 15 5
Jahvid Best 20 12 8

11. Aaron Rodgers is on pace for 501 fantasy points, an all-time record.

And with his 119.6 QB rating in the 24-3 win over St. Louis, he’s the first QB in history to post 6 straight games with a 110+ QB rating (Thank you Peter King).  Rodgers has also compiled 3+ total TDs in 16 of his last 32 full games.  The next best mark is Drew Brees with 12 in his last 32.  Rodgers’ schedule is not ideal going forward, but does it really matter?  His next 7 weeks are:  at MIN (ranked 14th vs. fantasy QBs), Bye week, at San Diego (5th), vs. MIN (14th), Tampa Bay (20th), at DET (6th), at NYG (13th).

12. The Cincinnati Bengals defense held the Indianapolis Colts to 17 points and 273 total yards, and scored a defensive TD.  They registered 1 sack and 3 takeaways, plus they blocked a field goal.

Yeah, it’s the Colts… but the good defenses do what they’re supposed to do – because any NFL offense can light up anybody’s defense on any given Sunday.  Cincinnati has the No. 2 ranked defense in the NFL.  It’s a true team effort too (hear that, Carson Palmer?.. it’s called a team) because they have no one in the top-25 in sacks and no one in the top-25 in tackles.  However, S Reggie Nelson, the former 21st pick of the 2007 draft and a Jaguars castoff, has really blossomed into a stud.  He’s the 16th ranked IDP DB with 40 total tackles, 1 sack, 3 passes defensed, and 2 forced fumbles.  DT Geno Atkins is the 26th best IDP DL (from the tackle position!) with 16 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 pass defensed, 1 forced fumble, and a TD return.  Cincinnati plays Seattle, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland in the next 5 weeks.

13. There are 6 WRs on pace for 90+ receptions:  Wes Welker, Jeremy Maclin, Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Roddy White, and Brandon Marshall.  Only 4 WRs hit 90+ in 2010, but 9 accomplished it in 2009.  

For all the talk about the new pass-happy NFL, the trend is not necessarily creating more fantasy mega-studs at the WR position (aside from Welker and Megatron).  The balls are being spread around to No.2 WRs, slot WRs, versatile RBs, and freakishly athletic tight ends.  The most 90+ catch WRs we’ve seen in the last 15 years were in 2007 (11) and 2001 (11).

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