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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 11
David Dorey
November 21, 2011
 
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Matthew Stafford 335 5
Jay Cutler 297 3
Cam Newton 280 / 37 3
Rex Grossman 299 3
Aaron Rodgers 299 3
Running Backs Yards TD
Kevin Smith 201 3
Ray Rice 147 2
Chris Ogbonnaya 134 1
Maurice Jones-Drew 93 1
LeGarrette Blount 113 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Jordy Nelson 123 2
Nate Washington 115 2
Vincent Jackson 165 1
Torrey Smith 165 1
Jabar Gaffney 115 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Jason Witten 85 1
Tony Gonzalez 74 1
Kellen Winslow 132 0
Vernon Davis 67 1
Antonio Gates 63 1
Placekickers XPT FG
David Akers 2 3
Matt Bryant 2 3
Dan Bailey 3 2
Sebastian Janikowski 3 2
Nick Novak 2 2
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Denver 1 3 2
San Francisco 0 2 4
Miami 1 2 2
Oakland 0 5 5
Carolina 1 2 3

Follow me on Twitter at @DMDorey for news and research tidbits

Bumps, Bruises and bowouts

Adrian Peterson - Ankle injury
Matt Hasselbeck - Elbow injury
Jay Cutler - Thumb injury
James Starks - Sprained knee
DeSean Jackson - Knee injury
Fred Jackson - Bruised right calf
Donald Jones - Ankle injury
Darius Heyward-Bey - Head injury
Taiwan Jones - Hamstring
Austin Pettis - Knee injury

Ten random observations

1. It is just painful watching the Rams offense try to pass. Sure, Brandon Lloyd has helped but he is the only one and Sam Bradford has gone from #1 draft pick to record setting rookie to Rookie of the Year. But he has not progressed. Both years he averaged around 220 yards per game but he passed for 18 touchdowns against 15 interceptions in 2010. This year he only has five touchdowns and five interceptions. This new offense is not scoring as much as last year when Bradford was a rookie. Josh McDaniels had big passing yards and scores in Denver with this offense but it has just never translated to the Rams. And no signs of getting any better.

2. I love consistency which means owning Jordy Nelson on my fantasy teams is a great thing half of the time. Nelson comes off a season best 123 yards and two scores on the Panthers. That makes it five road games with a total of two touchdowns and an average of 59 yards per game. And he has been in five home games with a total of seven touchdowns - never less than one per home game - and 92 yards per game. Perhaps he just doesn't travel well. But he is money at home.

3. I think studying the Redskins backfield is my new hobby. It is such a lesson in the randomness of nature and failings of the human psyche. It is like a soap opera that never ends and never quite makes sense. This week's installment had the Redskins bring in their new secret weapon Tashard Choice and let him run six times before they noticed he was only getting one yard per carry. He shared with Ryan Torain of course who had five runs for four yards to halve his previous 2.0 YPC in recent games.

They eventually let Roy Helu gain 35 yards on eight runs. It's like watching Goldilocks every week and Shanahan has to try every bowl of porridge before he remembers he already knows which one is the good one. I can hardly wait until next week to see who else gets to start.

4. You think that the Green Bay Packers who lead the league with 35.5 points per game would have some nifty points come out of their backfield. And you would be just as wrong as that time you thought a bed sheet could double as a parachute. By this point it is almost insulting to have a Packer running back on your roster. Ryan Grant has already excused himself from The Ranks of Players Who Matter. But some hold on to James Starks with that dreamy, wishful thinking that someday, some how, Starks is going to be a good start. Again - second floor window, a bed sheet and a full arm cast - remember? It is not merely enough that both Aaron Rodgers and John Kuhn have more rushing touchdowns (2) than Starks (1). Now the Packers are employing 337 pound nose tackle B.J. Raji as a goal line back and he has one carry and is tied with Starks with one rushing touchdown.

It's not like Starks would get ripped off the waiver wire if you dropped him. Heck, you kind of want someone else to grab him anyway.

5. Will be interesting to see what happens to the Bears now that Jay Cutler has injured his thumb and is reportedly out for an extended amount of time. The Bears are on a five game winning streak and at 7-3 are very much in the wild card race at the least. But now Caleb Hanie takes over and while the Bears live and die by defense, Cutler has his role to play. The last time Cutler was injured was in the NFC Championship game and Hanie came in and threw 13 of 20 for 153 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. Matt Forte usually controls the ball as well though he had an uncharacteristic bad game against the Chargers. Remaining games are @OAK, KC, @DEN, SEA, @GB and @MIN. Four road games are going to make it tough.

6. There is a new reporter on the NFL channel named Albert Breer that I always enjoy. He covered the NFL lockout and shows up at various games. But he is not an ex-football player or some curvy blond chick biding time until she gets picked to cover weather. Breer is not only like the guy you used to drink beer with in college, he sometimes seems like the station just woke him up from a non-sober slumber and he had to run to the stadium to get there on time. In a media filled with ex-jocks and surprisingly arrogant non-athletes, I enjoy listening to him interviewing because he seems like someone you would actually know. And you get the sense that inside he is saying "I can't believe I am doing this". In a good way. Look at him. You know at least one guy that looks just like him.

7. Nothing more humbling than projecting player performances. I especially love the consistency of wide receivers. Consider the following top ten wideouts from this week and what they did the two previous weeks.

Top Ten WR Week 11 Week 10 Week 9
Jordy Nelson 6-123, 2 TD 5-63, 2 TD 5-105, TD
Nate Washington 9-115, 2 TD 3-40 3-28
Vincent Jackson 7-165, TD 1-22 7-141-3
Torrey Smith 6-165, TD 3-28 5-71 TD
Victor Cruz 6-128, TD 6-84 6-91
Jabar Gaffney 7-115, TD 3-37 4-40 TD
Percy Harvin 6-73, 5-21 rush TD 6-52 3-18 rush bye
Johnny Knox 3-97, TD 1-18 1-14
Jerome Simpson 8-152 No Catches 3-43 TD
Roddy White 7-147 4-62 4-76

Not getting any more consistent either...

8. In most years there is great parity at least in the sense that most teams will not or can not string together all wins or all losses. In some years it seems every other week the opposite happens with most teams. But in 2011, we currently have six teams on streaks of five games or more. That's the Colts (10 losses), Chargers (5 losses), Redskins (6 losses), Packers (10 wins), Bears (5 wins) and 49ers (8 wins). There are 13 teams on streaks of three games or more. You'd think it would be easier to predict games.

9. Yes it is a passing league now. And for the first time in NFL history, three different quarterbacks (Rodgers, Brees and Brady) have all passed for 3000+ yards and 20+ touchdowns in their first ten games. All three will be gone by the second round of drafts next summer, the question is if all three are gone by the end of the first round. Getting about 300 yards and two scores every week is pretty addicting.

10. I'm not sure how to explain it really but Reggie Bush has been better in the last month than any time in the last five years. Bush gained 120 total yards in New York against the Giants and then 142 yards and a score in Kansas City. In week ten, he only had 51 total yards but scored twice on the Redskins and now just turned in 66 total yards and one score on the Bills., Hard to imagine that Bush is an every week starter but there it is. And the Fins are suddenly racking up the wins. I like to consider the season in quarters of four games each. Bush was a huge surprise in Q3 along with the Fins in general. He'll be hard-pressed to keep it up with a remaining schedule of @DAL, OAK, PHI, @BUF and @NE but at this point you have to start him until he starts to fail again.

To the waiver wire!

Here are a few players sure to be coveted on the waiver wire - right or wrong:

RB Kevin Smith - Stop reading - go grab him. I can wait.

RB Charles Clay - He had four catches for 69 yards and one score but the Dolphins fullback needs to remain on the waiver wire.

RB Joe McKnight - Decent showing of 16-59 and 6-62 receiving when LaDainian Tomlinson was out and Shonn Greene got hurt and he's worth owning if you have either NYJ starters. Otherwise, the "let's use McKnight" train runs every few weeks and rarely means anything.

WR Riley Cooper - The Eagles wideout went 75 yards and scored once on the Giants but with Jackson, Avant, McCoy and Celek around he's not worth the bother.

Sunday Snippets

NYJ 13, DEN 17 Granted it is not good for fantasy purposes outside of maybe Tim Tebow. And there is not a lot of scoring. And maybe it is like a basketball game since only the final five minutes matter. But there is something undeniably entertaining seeing a highly polarizing player like Tim Tebow play incredibly bad for up to 55 minutes and then pull out yet another win with a drive made mostly of him running if not scoring as well. He has a signature pose and you know the passing purists like John Elway cringe with every win. It's like watching High School football again only you drink beer out in the open and had a lot more hair. Oh yes, and you still are not getting lucky tonight.
CIN 24, BAL 31

It helped that Ray Lewis was out but still have to give props to Andy Dalton (373, TD, 3 INT) who was playing without A.J. Green but just switched to Jerome Simpson (8-152). Cedric Benson (14-41) lucked into two short touchdown runs but none of that could quite keep up with the Ravens. Ray Rice ended with 147 total yards and two touchdowns and Torrey Smith (6-165, TD) once again blew up on everyone's bench. The 7-3 Ravens are now tied with the Steelers for the AFC North lead. The Bengals fall back one game. Smith just joined Randy Moss (3) and Ken Burrow (2) as the only rookies in NFL history with two more more games over 150 receiving yards.

JAC 10, CLE 14 It all averages out. The Browns lost last week to the Rams after missing a 22-yard field goal and this time the Jaguars could not score with four tries inside the CLE 5-yard line. As expected, the only players that mattered were running backs Maurice Jones-Drew (118 total yards, TD) and Chris Ogbonnaya (134 total yards, TD). This game pitted two of the worst passing offenses in the league and the results showed in the score. The only purpose this game really served is to let everyone get one more game from Ogbonnaya.
TB 26, GB 35

This is what a trap game looks like when the better team is pretty much untrappable. As always - Aaron Rodgers throws for 300 yards and three scores as per his contract. Jordy Nelson again had a monster game with 123 yards and two more scores but no one else did much for the Packers including Greg Jennings (2-6). Josh Freeman passed for 342 and two scores like most every opponent only this went to Kellen Winslow (9-132) and Mike Williams (7-83, TD) who actually matter in games for the first time in 2011. Even LeGarrette Blount rushed for 107 yards and one score that came on a 54-yard run where he pinballed through nearly the entire defense before scoring. And yet (sound buzzer) it was a loss. The Packers remain perfect and the Buccaneers fall to 4-6 from whence they shall never recover.

BUF 8, MIA 35 The best guess here is that there is a magic wand that the Bills owned for the first half of the season. And then somehow it was lost and now the Dolphins own it. The Bills have lost three in a row and at 5-5 are watching their magic season slip away. The Dolphins lost seven games in a row and now have won their last three. The Bills lost Fred Jackson and Donald Jones during the game and never scored a touchdown. Matt Moore (160, 3 TD) had a nice game without making anyone else fantasy relevant including Brandon Marshall who only had one catch. The Bills appear to have peaked and are now skiing backwards down the black diamond slope while the Fins are winning games as a team
OAK 27, MIN 21

The Raiders continue to be a bad-ass only in road games with Michael Bush (129 total yards, TD) hoping Darren McFadden remains out forever. Carson Palmer (164, TD) calmed down in the passing yard department but added the ultra rare rushing score. Darrius Heyward-Bey was finally seen again up until the part where he was strapped to a stretcher (early word is he is fine). At least the Vikings remained competitive even with Adrian Peterson sidelined with a bad ankle thanks to Christian Ponder running for 71 yards on just five runs and throwing two scores. The Raiders remain on top of the AFC West by a full game and the Vikings 2-8 try so hard that you have to admit it is cute. Imagine - the Vikes still in a game to the end without Peterson.

DAL 27, WAS 24 OT GOTW contender and the Cowboys were expected to win handily instead of lucking out in overtime. Tony Romo (292, 3 TD) had a big game with the normal suspects but DeMarco Murray only gained 73 yards on 25 carries and had six catches for 32 yards. That's 105 total yards but no records were set in the process other than his lowest YPC in a game so far. Rex Grossman made this a game with 289 yards and two scores and only one interception. Jabar Gaffney (7-115, TD) showed up big and newly signed Donte Stallworth (4-51, TD) no doubt gets the waiver wire eye this week. Bottom line - Redskins tied the game with 22 seconds left on an 89 yard drive, got the coin flip right, got the ball and went to the DAL 34-yard line and missed the 52-yard FG. Eight plays later DAL kicks the 39-yard game winning FG. DAL remains in the thick of the NFC East race at 6-4 with a three game winning streak while the Skins are 3-7 and have lost six in a row.
ARI 7, SF 23

The 49ers won this wet, soggy game thanks mostly to a great defense and the passing of Alex Smith (267, 2 TD). Michael Crabtree (7-120) finally played like a first round pick and Vernon Davis (5-67, TD) set the franchise record for TDs by a tight end (34). Forget last week, ends up that John Skelton (99, 3 INT) really is just John Skelton and they benched him and used Richard Bartel (64, TD) instead and since he threw a score to Larry Fitzgerald, he may get more playing time in the future. Beanie Wells (8-33) is looking like he was the pumpkin from last year so it was fun while it lasted. Frank Gore (24-88) returned from his knee injury and did not suffer any setback. The 8-1 49ers are still in the running for a first round bye in the playoffs and he Cardinals are 3-6 which is bad but not quite bad enough to reach a superstar in the 2012 draft.

SEA 24, STL 7 The Seahawks defense finally made the plane trip for an away game and held the Rams to only 181 pass yards and even worse, Steven Jackson only rushed for 42 yards on 15 runs and we all thought he was finally back to being a dominating stud RB again. At home against SEA? Back to the drawing board. At least Brandon Lloyd (5-67, TD) still has fantasy value as the only player in St. Louis who actually understands the new offense of Josh McDaniels. Marshawn Lynch (27-88, TD) apparently only uses Beast Mode when he carries the ball more than 25 times. Both teams are hopelessly out of the race but in the world of the NFC West, this game will echo in the hallways. And echo because no one else would be there.
TEN 17, ATL 23

The Titans continue their wild swings from brilliance to bums and losing Matt Hasselbeck may have opened some eyes because Jake Locker played his first game action and passed for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Nate Washington had been slowly fading into the background for the last six weeks and suddenly posted 115 yards and two scores and Chris Johnson (12-13) crawled back under his platinum rock again. The Falcons finally rekindled 2010 when Roddy White gained 147 yards and Michael Turner gained 100 yards and one score on 21 carries. The loss drops the Titans to 5-5 and two full games behind the Texans and the Falcons rise to 6-4 and are one game behind the Saints in the NFC South.

SD 20, CHI 31 This may be the end of these trends. The Chargers have lost five in a row now but return home to face Tim Tebow and his gang while the Bears have won five in a row and have a 7-3 record but reportedly just lost Jay Cutler for a month or more to a broken thumb. This is about the time that the decision to make Caleb Hanie as backup is going to get a lot of scrutiny. Matt Forte only gained 57 yards on 20 carries and Johnny Knox (3-97, TD) was the only Bear with a decent fantasy game. Earl Bennett (3-75) will no longer be introduced as Cutler's college team mate every game. Antonio Gates (4-63, TD) upheld the tradition that the Bears always suck against tight ends but a true surprise was Vincent Jackson (7-165, TD) who randomly has big games every three or four weeks with team-killing bad games the norm. The Bears defense keeps them in games, now Hanie has to try to not lose them. The Chargers continue their direction as the team that is Good And Never Good Enough (GANGE).
PHI 17, NYG 10 Go figure. No Jeremy Maclin, no Michael Vick. And the Giants still could only post one touchdown (late fourth quarter no less). The Eagles inept defense suddenly became very "ept" when it held Brandon Jacobs to only 21 rush yards and Eli Manning passed for just 264 yards and one score with most of that coming on their final two drives before losing the "it's all over now" fumble. Vince Young looked surprisingly good throwing for 258 yards and two scores though he had three interceptions. The only reason to watch this game really was to see DeSean Jackson catch a bomb and gain 50 yards and then throw the ball at a Giants coach so the resulting penalty erased his gain. Now the Giants and Cowboys are tied at 6-4 and the 4-6 Eagles can still pretend they have a shot.

Huddle Player of the Week

Kevin Smith - This may be my favorite of all time because he is on few rosters and even they likely did not start him. I personally started him and Kregg Lumpkin in one league with major bye week and injury problems. Smith was one of 30 running backs the Lions brought in and tried out. He was added since he knew the offense and was finally healthy again after a torn ACL and various other continual ailments saw his career derailed when he was released last February by the Lions. With the soft rush defense of the Panthers showing up, it was no surprise that a little something good would happen. But Smith ran for 140 yards on 16 carries, caught four passes for 61 yards and scored three touchdowns. I would argue that never has a "what the hell" fantasy start exceeded expectations as much as Smith. Oh yeah, and just to send you dashing for your waiver wire, Smith is 24 years old, the same age as Delone Carter, Montario Hardesty, Felix Jones, Ryan Mathews, Darren McFadden and Ray Rice.

Salute!

Drama 101 - Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Yards TDs Tragedy Yards TDs
QB Rex Grossman 299 3 QB Matt Hasselbeck 141 0
RB Kevin Smith 201 3 RB Ryan Matthews 51 0
RB Joe McKnight 121 0 RB Fred Jackson 67 0
WR Riley Cooper 75 1 WR Brandon Marshall 5 0
WR Jabar Gaffney 115 1 WR Greg Jennings 6 0
WR Jerome Simpson 152 0 WR Steve Johnson 16 0
TE Tony Scheffler 24 1 TE Jermichael Finley 37 0
PK David Akers 2XP 3 FG PK Jay Feely 1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 140

Huddle Fantasy Points = 21

Sunday's Couch Commentary

Another week with three games that saw neither team score more than 17 points and the teams with losing streaks could ill afford another and yet that is just what they ended up with. This is the final week of byes so no more covering for players here on out and even less of a chance you start a guy like Kevin Smith on a whim. The best game of the week wasn't that close at the very end, but was clearly the points bonanza we could barely dream of it being.

Panthers 35, Lions 49

This game started out with the Panthers leaping out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and then led 27-14 at halftime. From then on out, the Lions came roaring back to life and took the lead by the fourth quarter with two touchdowns scored and a 28-27 lead. After another score by Kevin Smith extended it to 35-27, the Panthers finally drove 80 yards and Cam Newton ran in his second rushing score of the game and completed a two point conversion to tie the score 35-35 with 5:03 left to play.

But the Lions drove 80 yards in just seven plays and Matt Stafford threw a score to Brandon Pettigrew for the 42-35 lead with 2:36 left to play. On first down, Newton threw an interception off a batted pass and Kevin Smith ended up scoring against for the final 49-35 score.

While this was short on last minute heroics, this was a very notable game. It produced the top fantasy player of the week in Kevin Smith who had 201 total yards and three scores. He only had three 100 yard rushing games in his career and had never scored three times in any game. He never totaled 200 yards before. He went from being a free agent and within ten days produced a career best game and no doubt reinvigorated his career (until the next injury anyway).

The Lions became the first team in NFL history that won three games in a season where it had trailed by 17 or more points. Don't count out these Lions.

Matt Stafford passed for 335 yards and five touchdowns - the second five TD game of his career.

Cam Newton rushed in two touchdowns and with that set the record (9) for most rushing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback and it is doubtful that is the end of the records that Newton will set. He also threw a career high four interceptions in the game.

The game started out all Panthers and then ended all Lions. In the end, records were set, fantasy games were won and a red hot free agent was born. Almost half of the NFL teams are on some sort of a lengthy streak that begs to be broken. Receivers are only getting harder to predict and backup running backs now staff much of the top ten each week. We are in the season of all-out passing and the run no longer matters.

Oh wait... the Tebow thing.. go figure...

Now get back to work...


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