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Under the Numbers: Week 8
John U. Miller
October 25, 2011

My FanDuel team logged a solid #182 finish out of 465 entries in The Huddle $500 FreeRoll.  If you beat me you’re getting $5 deposited in your account later today.  I also entered a 60k Salary Cap 5-Team League and won, pocketing a little cheddar for groceries.  Big fun!  If you haven’t registered at FanDuel what are you waiting for?  It really adds to your Sunday experience and the best part is you can have a totally different team every week.  The link for the Week 8 Huddle FreeRoll will be active soon and of course I’ll post it in this Friday’s JUMbotron.

Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 7.

1. Matthew Stafford completed 15 of 32 passes for 183 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs in the 23-16 loss to Atlanta.  Stafford injured his right leg on the final drive.  Maurice Morris carried 9 times for 50 yards. Keiland Williams carried 9 times for 44 yards. Calvin Johnson caught 5 passes for 115 yards and 1 TD. 

Wow, you had to see this game to understand how bad Stafford and OC Scott Linehan were.  First off, I’ve noticed Stafford has been doing weird things since in the Week 4 game vs. Dallas – side-arming his throws, a lot of back-foot stuff, a la Jay Cutler.  I could almost swear it started after DeMarcus Ware hit him in the 3rd quarter back on Oct. 2.  Aside from this new leg injury I wonder if Stafford’s right shoulder or arm has been bothering him for a while.  Stafford’s been hit 18 times in 3 weeks.  Furthermore, LT Jeff “Sack-Us” Backus is not helping Stafford’s cause: He allowed 2 sacks vs. Atlanta and also got pushed backward on several running plays.  Morris was the primary back but 31 of his 50 yards came on one run, and he missed two blitz pickups that could have gotten Stafford killed had he not released the ball so quickly.  Williams was an impressive runner in sheer north-south terms, looking a bit heavier than his listed 230 lbs.  I’ve had a hunch all along that Williams will make a bigger impact than expected – and this game didn’t change that feeling.  Megatron was targeted 11 times.  Nate Burleson and Titus Young were targeted 6 times combined.  Johnson dropped a pass on a slant in the 2nd quarter that would have gone for a big gain.  Stafford’s status for Week 8 at Denver is in doubt.  If Shaun Hill has to play he is a must-start in 12-team fantasy leagues – having accounted for 2+ total TDs in 14 of his last 25 full games. 

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2. Matt Ryan completed 20 of 34 passes for 218 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs.  He added a 1-yard TD run for the 2nd straight week.  Michael Turner carried 27 times for 122 yards and did not catch his only pass target.  Roddy White caught 5 passes for 52 yards and 1 TD, aided by 10 targets, the 14th time in his last 25 games that he’s seen double-digit targets.  That’s why he’s unbenchable.  Tony Gonzalez 5 passes for 62 yards (8 targets), Harry Douglas caught 4 passes for 62 yards (7 targets).

Ryan still looks the part. He’s not panicky, steps into throws, maybe even steps up too hard… he overthrew Roddy on a 2nd-and-5 that would have gone for 10-15 yards.  Ryan was bailed out by penalties at least three times.  If he and Roddy can finally get on the same page they can make it happen down the stretch.  Think about this: White has moved into the top-18 fantasy WRs despite a whopping 30 passes “not caught” – 2nd most in the NFL – according to STATS Inc., who tabulates all drops, deflections, and simply poorly-thrown balls. I’ve witnessed White flat-out blow 3 easy touchdowns this year.  Gonzalez is averaging 10.9 yards per catch, his highest mark since 2008 – and ranked 9th among all TEs (min. 25 catches).  Ryan got his knee & ankle horribly twisted in a pileup but only missed one defensive series while getting checked in the locker room. He’s fine.  JUMbo Whisper:  Atlanta has a bye and then play indoors for 5 straight weeks.

3. Maurice Jones-Drew carried 30 times for 105 yards in the 12-7 win vs. Baltimore on Monday Night Football.

You gotta give it up for this dude.  MJD keeps blasting away no matter how poor or listless his teammates appear to be at times.  Don’t look now but he’s 2nd in the NFL in rushing with 677 yards!  Jones-Drew is averaging 4.6 yards per carry despite a re-shuffled offensive line.  LT Eugene Monroe has been in and out with a shoulder injury, Eben Britton moved from left guard to right tackle, and career reserve Guy Whimper has been playing left tackle.  Rookie OLs Will Rackley and Cameron Bradfield have made 5 combined starts too.  Oh, and Jones-Drew has QB Blaine Gabbert inviting 8-man fronts over 50% of the time.  MJD is at Houston next week, who just lost LB Mario Williams and FS Danieal Manning for the year.  Week 9 is a bye, then MJD is at Indy, at Cleveland, and home against Houston again.

4. John Beck completed 22 of 37 passes for 279 yards and 1 TD, 1 INT in the 33-20 loss at Carolina.  Beck also added 10 rushing yards and a TD, and lost a fumble.  Tim Hightower carried 17 times for 88 yards before tearing his ACL.  Santana Moss caught 2 passes for 17 yards before breaking his hand.  Fred Davis caught 6 passes for 80 yards and 1 TD.

Beck’s a good quarterback but he’s inheriting a team with X-rays, crutches, and bandages everywhere.  Chris Cooley (fractured index finger) is out for 4-5 weeks.  LT Trent Williams (high ankle sprain) has missed the last two games and could miss two more.  LG Kory Lichtensteiger (ACL) is out for the year.  Moss (hand) is out for at least 5 weeks, probably more.  Hightower (ACL) is out for the year.  Beck was solid and in command of the offense.  On the first drive Hightower busted 23 yards on his first 3 carries but then Beck was sacked and fumbled at the Panthers’ 45-yard line. Later in the first half Beck led a 12-play, 75-yard drive down to the Panthers’ 13 but had to settle for a field goal.  Jabar Gaffney killed another drive with a fumble.  It should be noted that Gaffney is now their No. 1 WR with Moss out – and Gaffney was already ranked 22nd among WRs in targets per game.  Mike Shanahan’s offense can generate WR stats in spurts so Gaffney needs to be owned in all leagues.  Fred Davis is an amazing talent and I can’t imagine benching him unless you have Graham, Hernandez, Gates, Witten, Gonzalez, or Finley.  In his 16 legitimate starts (6 in 2011, 10 in 2009) with Cooley hobbled Davis has posted 69 catches for 887 yards and 8 TDs. 

5. Tony Romo completed 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards and 2 TDs in the 34-7 win vs. St. Louis.  DeMarco Murray carried 25 times for 253 yards and 1 TD.  Miles Austin caught 2 passes for 16 yards.  Dez Bryant caught 5 passes for 90 yards and 1 TD.  Jason Witten caught 5 passes for 35 yards and 1 TD.

Not much to add to Romo here because the numbers speak for themselves.  Murray broke it open with a 91-yard TD run on their 5th play of the contest.  Dallas compiled a sturdy 12 rushing 1st downs and converted 2 more via penalties so Romo became a game manager.  Sometimes we fantasy geeks assign too much value to a lop-sided matchup and assume the quarterback is going to the carnival for a shooting gallery.  St. Louis was too weak.  The score was 14-0 at the beginning of the 2nd quarter so Romo only attempted 13 more passes the rest of the day.  He did have two chances to hit Bryant for a score from the Rams’ 12-yard line right before halftime but Bryant bobbled them.  The mercurial receiver walked straight up to HC Jason Garrett and apologized; then in the second half he caught 4 passes for 56 yards and a TD.  Murray’s TD run was the longest “first-ever” career TD run since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.  Don’t kick yourself if you passed on a chance to pick up Murray… How on Earth could anyone guess?  Witten moved past ex-Eagles TE Pete Retzlaff for 5th-place on the all-time NFL list for TE receiving yards.  Witten could be Hall of Fame bound one day if he logged some big post-season stats and found himself a ring.  He has 653 career catches and just passed HOF WRs Charley Taylor, Don Maynard, and Raymond Berry for 44th on the all-time NFL receptions list.  Witten's next 3 games are at Philly (ranked 18th vs. fantasy TEs), vs. Seattle (16th), and vs. Buffalo (21st).

6. Drew Brees completed 31 of 35 passes for 325 yards, 5 TDs and a 144.9 passer rating in the 62-7 blistering beatdown of the Colts.

In the Week 7 JUMbotron I promised “there will be blood” when the Saints returned home from a 3-game road trip to face the Colts.  Brees did anything and everything he wanted to do, as the Colts only touched Brees twice in 37 drop-backs.  The Saints were an astonishing 7-for-8 in the red zone, bringing their league-leading total to 36 red zone trips on the season.  Brees recorded 4+ total TDs for the 7th time in his last 44 regular-season games.  Only Tom Brady has more (8) in his last 44 games.  Next on the list is Peyton Manning--5 (but obviously nothing this year), Matt Cassel--5 (no it’s not a misprint), Michael Vick--5 (not counting 2009 when he was a gimmick QB), and Aaron Rodgers--4 (but man, he has a ton of 3-TD games).  Darren Sproles had 18 total touches for 107 yards and 2 TDs.  He’s the 5th-ranked PPR fantasy RB.  Repeat that to yourself out loud.  Marques Colston (7-98-2) scored 20+ fantasy points in standard leagues for only the 3rd time in his last 32 games.  Jimmy Graham did what Jimmy Graham does and is now on pace for an unholy 103 catches, 1541 yards, and 11 TDs.  He’s the new Antonio Gates and worthy of a 3rd-round pick in all leagues next year.  Pierre Thomas had his best game of the year with 15 total touches for 125 yards.  Thomas has some burst back after that nasty ankle injury that wiped out his 2010 season.  JUMbo Whisper:  The Saints might be without Mark Ingram (heel) for the Week 8 game at St. Louis.  In that situation I believe Sproles and Pierre could be started together on a fantasy team, PPR or not.

7. Tim Tebow completed 13 of 27 passes for 161 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs.  He added 65 rushing yards and a 2-point run.

With 5:23 to go in the game Denver was down 15-0.  They had managed a mere 12 first-downs and only two of those via the pass.  Teboew had 40 passing yards at that point.  In the final 5:23 Tebow threw for 121 yards and generated 6 first-downs, 2 TD passes, and a 2-point conversion. Willis McGahee carried 18 times for 76 yards but broke his hand.  Initial estimates say 1-2 weeks but that’s nuts: He’s out for at least 3 weeks.  Knowshon Moreno should be in line for 15+ touches vs. Detroit in Week 8 but John Fox hinted that he’s not 100% healthy (?).  Denver left Tebow in the shotgun with 3- and 4-wide sets to spread Miami out and let him do his thing.  It never worked until the end of the game (when the Dolphins were tired) and got him sacked 7 times.  However, I’ll say unto you that sacks only strengthen the will and desire of young Timothy.  JUMbo WhisperDemaryius Thomas caught 3 passes for 27 yards and 1 TD in his 2011 debut.  He was targeted 10 times by Tebow, more than Eddie Royal (4) and Eric Decker (3) combined.

8. Cam Newton completed 18 of 23 passes for 256 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs.  His 127.5 passer rating was a career-high.  Newton also carried it 10 times for 59 yards and 1 TD.  Steve Smith caught 7 passes for 143 yards.  Jonathan Stewart carried 14 times for 68 yards and 1 TD.  DeAngelo Williams had 10 carries for 35 yards.  Neither RB had a single pass target.

Cam continues to carry the offense on his back with his 2,103 passing yards (4th in the league) and 266 rushing yards (2nd among QBs to Vick’s 372).  Newton has7 rushing TDs, more than anyone in the league but Adrian Peterson’s 8; and more than Arian Foster (3), Matt Forte (2) and Chris Johnson (1) combined.  Newton continues to hit Steve Smith deep because DBs are always peeking at Newton, just like they did at Vick last year when he was on total hell-fire. This is the second time that Smith has caught a bomb and been stopped at the 1-yard line.  Give him those 2 TDs and he’s neck-and-neck with Wes Welker for the No. 2 fantasy WR in the league.  As it stands Smith is still 4th or 5th depending on your scoring and he’s on pace for 89 catches, an Oh-Good-Lord 1,870 yards, and 7 TDs.  The NFL record for receiving yards is 1,848 by Jerry Rice in 1995, and it took Rice 122 catches to do it!  DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, well… I’m tired of talking about them.  They’re flex guys, what else do you want to hear?  Newton and Smith are at home vs. Minnesota in Week 8, who have the 29th ranked pass defense in the NFL.  Carolina is on bye in Week 9.

9. Daniel Thomas carried 19 times for 53 yards, and caught 2 passes for 0 yards in the 18-15 loss to Denver.  Reggie Bush carried 10 times for 42 yards and added 2 catches for 4 yards.  Brandon Marshall caught 6 passes for 61 yards.

Thomas continues to underwhelm and live up to the preseason speculation that he just doesn’t hit the holes.  I’m not a fan, never will be.  His longest run all year is 15 yards and STATS Inc. reports Thomas only has 6 “big-play” runs of 10+ yards out of 75 attempts.  To put that in perspective, Chiefs 240-lb RB Jackie Battle has 6 big-play runs out of 45 attempts.  Bush continues to be adequately busy for a flex starter – between 11-15 touches for the 4th straight week – but it was interesting that Bush wasn’t used when Miami tried (unsuccessfully) to grind out a 15-0 lead with 6:00 left in the game.  Marshall was overthrown on a 2-point conversion after a TD by Anthony Fasano.  It was actually Davone Bess who led the team with 12 targets (7 catches for 52 yards) to Marshall’s 9.

10. Beanie Wells carried 12 times for 42 yards before injuring his knee and leaving in the 2nd quarter.  Alfonso Smith stepped in to steal a 1-yard TD and finished with 5 carries for 17 yards.  Kevin Kolb completed 18 of 34 passes for 272 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT.  TE Rob Housler caught 2 passes for 28 yards. 

Wells has a bone bruise and is reportedly going to avoid surgery; but that’s what they said last year when Wells dinged the same knee in the preseason. Later it was revealed that Wells had his knee scoped to fix meniscus damage.  Just a hunch but I’ll bet Wells misses 3 games.  Kolb was awful.  He overthrew Larry Fitzgerald badly on two occasions, plays that would have added some 20-25 yards to Fitz’s 4-78-0 stat line.  Before LaRod Stephens-Howling took a flare pass and scooted 73 yards for a score, Kolb had gone 12 quarters without a touchdown throw.  Early Doucet caught 5 passes for 30 yards and 1 TD.  Doucet has officially beaten out Andre Roberts for the No. 2 job and will not give it back.  JUMbo Whisper: Doucet has been targeted 27 times in his last 3 games – ranked 6th among all WRs.  JUMbo Whisper II:  TE Rob Housler started for the injured Todd Heap and showed real separation quickness.  He was wide open on two plays where Kolb could have easily laid 30-40 more yards on his plate.

11. Jay Cutler completed 17 of 32 passes for 226 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs.  The Bears were a lousy 4 of 13 on third-down conversions.  Matt Forte carried 25 times for 145 yards and 1 TD, plus he added 2 catches for 38 yards.  Forte is the No. 2 fantasy RB since Week 11 of last year with 227 fantasy points (Arian Foster is No. 1 with 237 even with the hammy problem this year).

Pro Football Weekly summed up Cutler’s season perfectly:  “Leading by three with 3:52 to play, the Bears had 1st-and-goal from the Bucs' 4-yard line and Martz dialed up two pass plays, both resulting in incompletions, before CB Ronde Barber timed up a blitz perfectly and sacked Jay Cutler for a loss of six yards.  A stupid penalty by CB Aqib Talib -- he stuck his hand in Roy Williams' facemask -- on that play gave the Bears a fresh set of downs and the Bears ran three times, losing yardage on two of three plays, before PK Robbie Gould made a 25-yard field goal.”  I’ll add that Cutler is the 17th-ranked QB in fantasy points per game – tied with Tarvaris Jackson.  In addition, no Bears WR played more than 42 of the Bears’ 67 total plays, which indicates a massive committee approach.   

12. The Cincinnati Bengals were on bye in Week 7.

Just a reminder that Cedric Benson will now serve his 1-game suspension and won’t play at Seattle.  Bernard Scott is primed for a useful 15-touch day in Fantasy Flexville.  Other experts are predicting that Scott will get 20-25 touches like Benson does--but I think RB Brian Leonard will play a lot of snaps too.  Be sure and start A.J. Green no matter what: Seahawks CB Walter Thurmond is out for the year with an ankle injury.  He had been replacing Marcus Trufant, who was lost to a back injury.
13. Things I’ve Noticed That Perhaps You Haven’t:

--Matthew Stafford (ankle) was still in a walking boot Tuesday morning.
--Shaun Hill was a top-5 fantasy QB from Weeks 2-5 last season.
--Brandon Pettigrew played 54 snaps vs. Atlanta and continues to rarely leave the field.
--The Steelers offense is 4th in the NFL with a 49% conversion rate on 3rd downs.
--In a complete role reversal, Ryan Mathews had 5 targets to Mike Tolbert’s 1 last week.
--Giants RB Brandon Jacobs said his sprained MCL has healed and he expects to play Sunday.
--49ers WR Braylon Edwards (knee) is expected to make his return after missing 4 games.
--Ray Rice is averaging 3.5 per carry over his last 3 games.  He averaged 5.6 in his first 3.
--Drew Brees leads all QBs with 21 “big-play” passes of 25+ yards.  Sam Bradford is 20th with only 9.
--Michael Turner is 3rd in the league with 138 carries and is 1st with 17 attempts inside the 10-yard line.
--Antonio Gates had no significant setback on his troublesome foot and told reporters “It’s exciting to get back.”  He has an extra day to get ready for Monday night vs. Kansas City.
--Jets targets in Week 7:  Dustin Keller 8, Plaxico Burress 8, WR Jeremy Kerley 7, L. Tomlinson 4, Santonio Holmes 3.
--Bucs targets in Week 7:  Mike Williams 12, Kellen Winslow 11, Dezmon Briscoe 10, RB Kregg Lumpkin 8, Preston Parker 6. Arrelious Benn 1.

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