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Under the Numbers: Week 12
John U. Miller
November 22, 2011

My FanDuel team logged a solid #153rd finish out of 276 entries in The Huddle Contest! If you beat me you’re getting $5 deposited in your account later today.  If you haven’t registered at FanDuel what are you waiting for?  It really adds to your Sunday experience.  The link for the Week 12 contest will be active soon!

Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 11.

1. DeMarco Murray carried 25 times for 73 yards and 0 touchdowns, and caught 6 passes for 32 yards in the 27-24 win over Washington.  Dallas has won 3 games in a row for the first time since 2009.

Murray was steady but he missed FB Tony Fiammetta, who was a surprise scratch on Saturday’s injury report.  Fiammetta had been a force of late, with Murray popping big gains while following behind on lead draws.  The Redskins stacked the box non-stop and made Murray earn every yard.  Dallas only ran 6 red-zone plays all day and Murray didn’t carry the ball on one of them; though he did catch a 7-yard flare pass on 3rd-and-6 from the Redskins’ 14-yard line.  Felix Jones had 1 red-zone carry & 1 red-zone target, but overall he only touched the ball 6 times to Murray’s 32.  I made it a point to watch the offensive line closely and noticed LT Doug Free is pretty damn good.  They knew what they were doing when they gave him a four-year deal with $17 million guaranteed this summer.  As for Felix (and his ankle), his workload was too small a sample size to see if he was near 100 percent.  Dallas plays Miami on Thanksgiving, who rank 4th in defending fantasy RBs… and I’d be willing to bet Jones is rather sore today.  My hunch is that Jason Garrett wants to keep feeding Murray the ball.

2. Reggie Bush carried 15 times for 32 yards and 1 TD in the 35-8 win over Buffalo.  He also caught 4 passes for 34 yards, off 5 targets.  Believe it or not Bush led all Dolphins in targets in Week 11. 

First, Daniel Thomas is a mess.  Someone shut him down before his confidence is totally ruined forever – like Curtis Enis in his rookie year with Chicago.  Bush is running as hard as he ever has in his pro or collegiate career.  The 5th gear is gone after multiple surgeries on his left knee – but he’s lowering his head and going north-south, which is more than Thomas can say, who’s 25 lbs. heavier.  Bush had 2 carries and 1 pass target inside the 11-yard line vs. Buffalo, while Thomas had 1 carry.  Bush is a top-6 fantasy RB over the last 3 weeks with 259 total yards & 4 TDs (and a 38-yard run called back three weeks ago) so please keep riding him until you see the knee listed on the injury report again.  Miami’s next 3 games:  at Dallas (ranked 10th vs. fantasy RBs), vs. Oakland (29th), vs. Philadelphia (28th).  JUMbo Whisper:  Brandon Marshall had a 3-yard TD reversed by replay.

3. Cam Newton completed 22 of 38 passes for 280 yards, 1 TD, 2-pt conversion, and 4 INTs in the 49-35 loss to Detroit.  He also carried 7 times for 37 yards and 2 TDs. 

Defenses have a lot of film on Newton now so he’s being baited left and right.  It’s OK, Newton is a fantasy machine because of the massive rushing totals.  He’s 3rd in the entire NFL with 9 rushing TDs and 6th with 17 rushing attempts inside the 10-yard line.  Cam is completely unbenchable unless you own Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees (in which case you should trade a QB immediately).  The Heisman rookie is also on pace for 459 fantasy points, just 3 less than what Tom Brady posted when he threw 50 TD passes in 2007.  Of course, Aaron Rodgers is currently on pace for a record 499 points.  The Panthers’ schedule is friendly with road games at Indianapolis and Tampa Bay coming up.  If you’re lucky enough to get into Week 14 Cam has a home game vs. Atlanta.      

4. Maurice Jones-Drew carried 21 times for 87 yards and 1 TD in the 14-10 loss to Cleveland.  He also caught 4 passes for 31 yards, off a healthy 6 targets. 

Is there a quieter, steadier fantasy RB in the league right now?  In fact, going back to the home stretch last year Jones-Drew has been an effective a yardage-maker as any RB.  Over his last 16 games Jones-Drew has totaled 100+ scrimmage yards 11 times: Only Arian Foster (13), LeSean McCoy (12) can claim more of those efforts.  Here’s the top-10 over their last 16 games each respectively (injuries not withstanding):  Foster (13), McCoy (12), Jones-Drew (11), Forte (11), McFadden (10), F. Jackson (10), Rice (8), Turner (8), Peterson (7), S. Jackson (7).  Jones-Drew is doing the absolute most you could expect of him with a rookie QB and an offense that ranks 32nd in red-zone trips.  The Jaguars have 3 homes games in a row – Houston (ranked 3rd against fantasy RBs), San Diego (14th), and Tampa Bay (32nd).   

5. LeGarrette Blount carried 18 times for 107 yards and 1 TD in the 35-26 loss to Green Bay.  Blount added 1 catch for 6 yards, off 1 target.  RB Kregg Lumpkin was only targeted once as well.

Blount runs like a hell-starved banshee, ramming into defenders like they assaulted his sister.  He’s also got that signature hurdle move, which he’s used at least 5 times since 2010.  I give the guy so much credit for returning with so much power after partially tearing his MCL just five weeks ago.  Blount is a classic workhorse back, a la Michael Turner 2008, who simply gets better as the game goes on.  In 9 career games with 18+ carries Blount has 941 rushing yards and 6 TDs, with an average of 4.9 per carry.  He had a crack at another score vs. Green Bay but couldn’t punch it in from the 7-yard line – and the drive ended in a field goal.  The Bucs’ next 2 games are at Tennessee (ranked 20th vs. fantasy RBs) and at home vs. Carolina (ranked 31st).  JUMbo Whisper: Kellen Winslow had a 4-yard TD nullified by offensive pass interference. 

6. Fred Jackson carried 7 times for 17 yards and caught 5 passes for 50 yards in the 35-8 loss to Miami.  He left with 6:00 to go in the 3rd quarter with a calf injury and did not return.

"I will be alright," Jackson said.  "It's just a bruise right now.  So we will get some treatment on it and see what happens."  Early reports indicate Jackson is pretty hobbled so his fantasy owners are in for a good week of ‘limited’ or ‘no practices’ and I’d suggest they go ahead and pick up C.J. Spiller if possible.  It’s worth owning him just in case, but please know that the Bills offensive line is banged up:  LT Demetrius Bell is still out so fourth-round rookie Chris Hairston is playing left tackle.  LG Andy Levitre is playing center because C Eric Wood tore his ACL.  Spiller had two chances from the 1-yard line vs. Miami and couldn’t bang it in.  This week Buffalo is at NYJ then they host the Titans next week. 
7. Christian Ponder completed 19 of 33 passes for 211 yards, 2 TDs and 3 INTs in the 27-21 loss to Oakland.  He also carried the ball 5 times for 71 yards.

This young dude knows how to play the position, folks.  Ponder is experiencing all the usual trappings of a rookie QB – 3 fumbles, 6 INTs in 4 starts – but I love the way he keeps throwing and throwing.  And when the pocket breaks down he tucks and bolts.  The Raiders sacked him 5 times, including one bone-crushing hit from DT Tommy Kelly.  Ponder was bailed out by several Raiders penalties (imagine that) but the bottom line is he kept the game close, even without Adrian Peterson (ankle) in the second half.  Peterson says he can play in Week 12.  "That's not in my DNA," Peterson said about missing this week’s game at Atlanta.  "I'm going to try to get back as fast as I can and God willing, I'll be up and ready to run this weekend."  The thing is, even if Peterson is somewhat ready, is it worth damaging his ankle further on a 2-8 team when you’ve guaranteed him $36 million dollars over the next three years?

8. Marshawn Lynch carried 27 times for 88 yards and 1 TD in the 24-7 win over the Rams.  He also caught 2 passes for 1 yard.  Lynch has scored in 6 straight games.

The Seahawks drew a pass interference call at the 1-yard line with :03 left in the half and opted to take the FG rather than let Lynch try to bang in a TD.  The right call, but still a pisser for fantasy owners.  On another drive the Seahawks had a 1st down at the Rams’ 27 after a 15-yard pass to Doug Baldwin; however, a 15-yard penalty and an 8-yard loss on a sack made it 3rd and 32.  Punt.  Lynch averages 16.2 fantasy points over his last 6 games, his hottest streak since his rookie year in 2007.  He’s coming on strong and is morphing into the NFC West’s version of Michael Turner with all the paydirt attempts:  Lynch is ranked 6th in the league with 11 carries inside the 10-yard line over the last 6 weeks – behind only Turner, McCoy, Gore, Peterson and Rice.  Keep plugging this guy folks because it’s all just going his way.   

9. Jabar Gaffney caught 7 passes for 115 yards and 1 TD in the 27-24 loss to Dallas. Donte Stallworth caught 4 passes for 51 yards and 1 TD.  Fred Davis caught 6 passes for 49 yards.

Rex Grossman breathing new life into the WRs.  Love him or hate him, he can drop vertical passes into breadboxes.  Gaffney had looks targets and now ranks 23rd among all WRs in targets.  In standard leagues this was Gaffney’s best fantasy performance since Week 17 of 2009.  Stallworth had his best fantasy game since Week 6 of 2007.  Gaffney played 61 of 65 offensive snaps and Stallworth played the second-most snaps of their WRs at 40. Davis led all Redskins with 64 snaps, the sixth time this year he’s done that.  What a great dynasty prospect, this 25-year old Davis.  The Redskins play at Seattle in Week 12 then follow it up with a home game vs. the Jets.  JUMbo Whisper:  I’d buy low on Santana Moss right now because he’s scheduled to return from his broken hand this week.  Strike while Rex is shooting BBs.    

10. Eli Manning completed 18 of 35 passes for 264 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in the 17-10 loss to Philadelphia.  He was strip-sacked with 1:18 left by Eagles DE Jason Babin to end the game, killing what was surely a much-needed overtime for desperate fantasy owners.

Every once in a while Eli has a game like this, when his face appears even more boyish and naïve – like he’s just not focused.  It was only the 2nd time this season that Manning’s had a QB rating under 75.0.  In the last two games vs. the Eagles Manning had thrown 8 TD passes and had ratings of 145.7 and 105.6.  I gotta put this one on OC Kevin Gilbride, who’s often caught undressed by opposing defensive coordinators just when things are looking the rosiest. 

11. Vincent Jackson caught 7 passes for 165 yards and 1 TD in the 31-20 loss to Chicago. 

He’s the most frustrating stud WR on the current fantasy landscape.  Since 2008, in between all the holdout crap and countless ‘questionable’ tags on the injury report, Jackson has posted 10 games with 18+ fantasy points.  Huge games.  Sounds great, but in the 10 games that immediately preceded those monster performances he averaged 6.9 fantasy points.  In other words, Jackson might have been on frustrated fantasy owners’ bench for several of those extravaganzas.  Hell, he was on my bench last week because of the 1-22-0 effort vs. Oakland.  I know fantasy geeks are a knee-jerk bunch who want constant gratification but c’mon Vincent, give us something to work with!  To put his career even more in perspective, Jackson has posted <7 fantasy points in 21 of 45 games since 2008.  Larry Fitzgerald, who tends get more negative fantasy press than he deserves, only has 11 games of <7 points in his last 45 games!

12. Darren Sproles was idle in Week 11.

Just a reminder that Sproles is the 7th ranked PPR fantasy RB -- with two home games coming up on the carpet vs. the Giants and Lions.  If you own him, plug him in.  A rested Sproles will be a terror.  If you don’t own him, go fishing and see if you can acquire him in a trade… perhaps the paper-scary Giants matchup will push someone off him – or maybe someone has a lot of RB depth and needs to shore up their WRs before the playoffs.  Don’t obsess over the Pierre Thomas-Chris Ivory-Mark Ingram mess.  Those three are battling each other for the same role in Sean Payton’s playbook.  Sproles has 2 chapters in that book devoted totally to what he does: He’ll always get his 12 touches (plus punt returns), which often include 6 or 7 hugely productive touches.

13. Tom Brady completed 15 of 27 passes for 234 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs in the 34-3 blowout of Kansas City.  He added 10 rushing yards but also lost a fumble.

The Chiefs came out fired up and knocked Brady around a bit early, disrupting his rhythm.  Then they realized they were a mediocre team on the road at Foxboro and laid down their arms.  New England’s offensive line is so chemically sound, truly one of the most underrated lines of the last five years.  The Patriots were happy to stick 33 RB carries in Kansas City’s face, keeping them off balance for play-action darts to TEs Rob Gronkowski (4-96-2) and Aaron Hernandez (4-44-0).  Gronkowski is now the #1 tight end in fantasy football, by the way.  What’s wrong with Wes Welker?  2 catches for 22 yards.  First 5 games: 40 catches, 740 yards, 18.5 yards per catch, 5 TDs.  Last 5 games: 29 catches, 288 yards, 9.9 per catch, 1 TD.  That’s a sharp, eye-catching decline.  Seriously.

Bonus 14. Just for fun let’s review a few quotes from my Aug. 30 preseason column.  Sometimes I lay the bat on the ball and take it deep.  Other times it’s a whiff-fest!

TE Jimmy Graham:  Jimmy, meet Pro Bowl.  Pro Bowl, meet Jimmy.  This guy caught 5 passes for 73 yards in the 3rd exhibition and looks completely uncoverable by any LB or DB.

WR Austin Collie:  Last year’s concussions, the new Kevlar-lined helmet, the mid-August knee strain, the late-August foot injury…. I’m not a Collie fan.

WR Percy Harvin:  Similar to Joseph Addai, no one is talking about this guy.  Harvin is all alone as the No. 1 go-to guy for Donovan McNabb.  What’s not to like in the 5th or 6th round?

RB Willis McGahee:  One of my 10 JUMbo Sleepers, I’m on record saying McGahee will score more fantasy points than Knowshon Moreno.

RB Chris Johnson:  This holdout has already done so much damage.  CJ has never even met Matt Hasselbeck, much less taken a handoff from him.  With a “sudden” back like CJ it takes hundreds of reps just for the quarterback to get used to handing the ball off. 

QB Matt Ryan:  Religious JUMbotron-followers have noticed my crush on Matt Ryan.  Not only is he #6 on my board, I really feel he’s about tied with Drew Brees at #5 – but just can’t find the stones to plug in Ryan above him.  No matter, #6 demonstrates my point. 

RB Arian Foster:  Call me Chicken Little because the sky is falling.  C’mon people, these late-preseason hamstrings are awful.  They hang around like a fever blister and it takes weeks to truly get over them.

WR Antonio Brown:  I heard a guy on ESPN Radio say that Antonio Brown is like the basket of bread served at a restaurant.  If the bread is good, you have a good idea about what the rest of the meal will be like.  Brown’s stellar preseason has been like that basket of bread. 

RB Roy Helu Jr:  Hightower in the 5th round or Helu in the 10th?  I’ll take the latter.  Then I’ll trade Helu after he rolls a 18-90-2 and I’ll fleece someone out of A.J. Green.

RB Mark Ingram:  I’ve got to take a jab at Mark Ingram even though I’m a fan.  Ingram is flying off the board in the late 3rd round sometimes now, just a couple weeks after quietly shuffling his feet in the 7th round.  Heisman make good fantasy hype.

RB Reggie Bush:  I will admit, part of Reggie’s high ranking is due to my underwhelming opinion of Daniel Thomas.  I just believe these rookie RBs are not as automatic as fantasy geeks try to will them to be.

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