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Under the Numbers: Week 13
John U. Miller
November 29, 2011

A quick reminder not to ignore FanDuel just because there’s no more weekly FreeRoll.  The JUMbotron entered three different 5-team leagues and won them all, plus another victory in a 1-on-1 matchup, pocketing even more cash.  And by actually depositing some money (hint, hint) to play other FanDuel contests I was invited to enter the Weekly Depositor FreeRoll in which I stormed to a 9th place finish out of a whopping 839 entries – almost qualifying for a seat in the 2012 FFFC!  My point here is that FanDuel is fun and it really adds to your Sunday experience.   

Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 12.

1. Beanie Wells carried 27 times for 228 yards and 1 TD in the 23-20 win over St. Louis.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the new Fred Taylor.  The transformation is complete.  Beanie and Fred are the same guy in different eras: Both 6’1, 235; both electrifying talents who can roll the ever-so-rare 200-yard game; and both of them collect ‘questionable’ listings like baseball cards.  How else can you explain a running back who has the 10th most fantasy points but yet causes heartbreak and even outright hatred?  How many of you benched Wells in Week 12?  Of course you did – he had 115 yards and 0 TDs in the 3 previous games combined!  The roller coaster ride started in Week 2 when Wells pulled a hamstring.  When asked if he would play in Week 3 vs. Seattle, Wells said, “Yeah definitely.”  Nope.  Inactive.  Then in Week 4 instead of more optimism after a week’s rest, Wells mumbled, “I could be safe this week.”  No practice Wednesday, limited Thursday, limited Friday – half of us benched the guy accordingly – and Boom!  27 carries for 138 yards and 3 TDS vs. the Giants.  Then he sprained his right knee in Week 7 (“The swelling’s going to be an all-year thing,” said Ken Whisenhunt) but went out and carried 22 times for 83 yards and 1 TD vs. the Ravens.  Seven questionable listings this year, a lousy performance vs. the Rams (10-20-0) in Week 9, followed by this Herculean effort vs. the Rams in Week 12.  Ugh.  It gets better, folks.  He took a shot on that same right knee in the 4th quarter and missed four plays – then re-entered and broke off a 53-yard run!  I’ve learned to hate Beanie Wells just like John Tuvey said I would – and I’m not the only one.

2. Mike Williams caught 6 passes for 84 yards and 1 TD in the 23-17 loss at Tennessee.

He was targeted 11 times for the 2nd straight week as Bucs OC Greg Olson must have finally read some of his fantasy hate mail.  If you feed Williams targets, the production will follow:  He’s had double-digit targets in 10 of 27 career games and scored a TD in 7 of those 10 games.  Over the last two weeks the Bucs WR target count has read: Williams 22, Benn 11, Parker 5, Briscoe 3.  In the two previous weeks it was: Williams 13, Benn 8, Parker 8, Briscoe 4.  I will add that Williams padded his stats vs. the Titans with 2 catches for 46 yards in the final 2:00 drive, but hey, that’s part of the game – He was targeted, he hauled them in.  The Bucs’ next 3 games are tough for WRs on paper – Carolina (ranked 8th vs. fantasy WRs) Jaguars (4th), and Cowboys (9th) – but they’re all in warm weather and if you made it in the playoffs you aren’t benching MW.  You’ve waited all year for this production.

3. Michael Bush carried 24 times for 69 yards and 1 TD in the 25-20 win over the Bears.  He also caught 4 passes for 24 yards.

Bush had to grind for everything he got vs. the rigid Bears defense but boy, he could have scored many more fantasy points.  Late in the 2nd quarter an interception set up a 1st and goal at the Bears’ 6-yard line – Bush got the carry and was stuffed, then on the next play he took a Carson Palmer dumpoff and smashed his way to the 1-yard line.  They had to kick a field goal with 5 seconds left.  In the 3rd quarter Bush had a 12-yard TD reception nullified by a holding call!  Overall the Raiders ran 13 plays in the red zone and Bush’s numbers was called on 5 of those plays.  Bush remains the #1 fantasy RB over the last 4 weeks and has become a pivotal player in the destiny of countless fantasy leagues.  He averages an unheard of 28.5 touches over the last 4 games and should get another 20-30 vs. the Dolphins in Week 13.  JUMbo Whisper:  Darren McFadden update from the Contra Costa Times Mon. Nov. 28 -- “McFadden was spotted on the practice field this morning, working out under the guidance of a team trainer…McFadden walked around the perimeter of the near field, without a protective boot on and with no obvious sign of a limp.  It wasn’t much but it has to pass as progress.  At this rate, it’s likely that the Raiders are targeting the Green Bay Packers game Dec. 11 as the projected return for McFadden.”

4. Percy Harvin caught 8 passes for 95 yards and 1 TD in the 24-14 loss to Atlanta.  He also carried the ball 5 times for 11 yards.

Amazingly, this is only the 5th time in 40 career games Harvin has scored over 16 fantasy points.  And just like Michael Bush, Harvin could have had so much more… In the 3rd quarter he split the seam with a 20-yard reception to the Falcons’ 1-yard line.  Toby Gerhart pounded the ball in on the next play.  In the 4th quarter Harvin busted a 104-yard kickoff return but got caught at the 3-yard line!  It’s the first time in NFL history someone has returned a kick or punt longer than 102 yards and did not score a touchdown.  Chalk it up to Harvin being exhausted late in the game (not to mention Falcons CB Chris Owens’ 4.4 speed), because in the 1st or 2nd quarter he would not have been caught.  Overall Harvin has picked up his level of play just in time – just like Mike Williams, Roddy White, Chris Johnson, Johnny Knox, and DeAngelo Williams – though I suspect Harvin’s the reason a lot of you aren’t in the playoffs.  In addition, Harvin has been targeted 8+ times in 3 straight games for only the 2nd time in his career.  If you’re still in the running it’s hard for me to fathom benching Harvin at home on the carpet vs. Denver in Week 13.

5. Andre Johnson caught 2 passes for 22 yards in the 20-13 win over the Jaguars.

As I feared, Johnson was a decoy.  He’s not a healthy football player, and you wouldn’t be either if your distal hamstring tendon had just been surgically repaired on October 3rd.  Texans beat blogger Lance Zierlein summed it up perfectly:  “While (T.J.) Yates completed two passes to Andre, it was clear that Andre wasn’t back to his regular self and that QBs 2 and 3 didn’t really have a feel of how to get him the ball.”  Now Matt Leinart is out for the season too so Houston will wing it with T.J. Yates for a week or two until the soon-to-be signed veteran QB takes over.  Even if your league’s trade deadline isn’t up yet, you can’t trade AJ for a box of golf balls – so if you need some fresh blood at WR try to get Deion Branch, Doug Baldwin, or even Santana Moss who’s un-owned in 42% of ESPN leagues.

6. Laurent Robinson caught 7 passes for 79 yards and 2 TDs in the 20-19 Thanksgiving win over Miami. 

One of the biggest fantasy waiver grabs of the last several years, Robinson is doing a poor man’s 2010 Dwayne Bowe impersonation.  Last year Bowe caught 13 TDs in a 7-game span, and this year Robinson has 7 scores in his last 5 games.  The question on every Robinson-owner’s mind is “When will Miles Austin return?”  My hunch is not this week.  Austin has been rehabbing for three weeks and could not even participate in a brief walkthrough on Monday.  Dallas plays at Arizona this Sunday in the cozy indoors in front of maybe 50,000 people.  Even if Austin plays I bet he’ll be a Andre-like decoy and shouldn’t detract from the red-hot Robinson much.  Tony Romo has posted a 107+ QB rating in 4 of his last 6 games and has a clear affinity for Robinson around the red zone.

7. Drew Brees completed 24 of 38 passes for 363 yards and 4 TDs (plus 1 TD run) in the 49-24 win over the Giants.  His QB rating was a stellar 129.6. 

The Saints had 4 TD drives of 80+ yards and the score doesn’t reflect how lop-sided this game was.  Funny story, I was looking at all of Brees’ games with a 100+ QB rating, on a hunch that he leads the NFL in that category over the last 3 years.  Brees has 24 since 2009, but then I found that Tom Brady has 26.  Okay, so I was close.  Wait, I looked up Aaron Rodgers and he has (gulp) 28: We have a winner!  Anyway, Brees is lined up to once again take fantasy owners to the promised land with a home game vs. Detroit up next in Week 13.  In Week 14 he’s at Tennessee, who just got diced up by Matt Ryan, then in Week 15 it’s a warm indoor game at Minnesota.    

8. Matt Ryan completed 27 of 34 passes for 262 yards and 3 TDs in the 24-14 win over Minnesota.  He did not turn the ball over, was sacked only twice, and the Falcons controlled the ball for over 34 minutes.  Roddy White caught 10 passes for 120 yards and 1 TD.

I’m a closet Falcons fan who’s attended or watched most of their games over the years and I can tell you this might have been Ryan’s best game ever.  If White and Jones hadn’t dropped a couple of deep balls Ryan would have been 29 of 34 for over 400 yards.  Will Svitek allowed Jared Allen zero sacks and might keep the starting left tackle job when Sam Baker returns from injury.  Ryan has quietly thrown 9 TDs and 2 INTs in the last 4 games, the last three opponents being some pretty tough customers – Saints, Titans, and Vikings.  For what we always consider such a conservative offense did you know Ryan ranks 5th with 55 red-zone pass attempts?  Ryan’s also on pace for 4200 passing yards and just moved past Philip Rivers for #8 on the fantasy QB list!  Roddy White is the 5th-ranked fantasy WR over the last 3 weeks and is making amends for his wishy-washy start to 2011.     

9. Marshawn Lynch carried 24 times for 111 yards and caught a 20-yard TD pass in the 23-17 loss to Washington. 

Lynch is as hot as any fantasy player around, especially for a RB2-Flex type who isn’t expected to carry your squad – but that’s exactly what he’s done lately.  Lynch-owners are chalking up wins and kicking down the door. Lynch averages 16.6 fantasy points over his last 7 games, the best 7-game streak of his career and placing him the 6th best fantasy RB over this span.  In short, Lynch has been money.  He’s consistently on the field for 40-45 of the Seahawks’ 60-ish snaps every week, which indicates that Pete Carroll has issued the order to stop rotating Justin Forsett and Leon Washington so much.  Nice.  Look, even if you don’t believe in Lynch’s talent – he’s a Thomas Jones-type plodder, I get it – you cannot ignore the touches.  Here are the RB leaders in touches over the last 5 games:  Arian Foster 138, Ray Rice 135, Michael Bush 133, Marshawn Lynch 131, Steven Jackson 127, DeMarco Murray 118, Matt Forte 116.

10. Cedric Benson carried 21 times for 106 yards and 1 TD in the 23-20 win over Cleveland.  He also caught 4 passes for 24 yards, off a respectable 5 targets.  Benson could have a 2nd TD but got stuffed on a 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

The 16-yard TD run was sprung by a lead block from fullback Chris Pressley.  Benson’s the 18th ranked fantasy RB despite missing 1 game due to suspension.  Not a bad for a 5th-7th round fantasy pick.  Benson has now rushed for 100+ yards in 4 of his last 6 vs. the Browns.  The next 2 games are rough – at Pittsburgh (ranked 10th vs. fantasy RBs) and vs. Houston (5th) – but if you are lucky enough to keep playing in Week 15 you’ve got a road game at St. Louis (29th).  20-carry backs don’t grow on trees so if you’re benching Benson this week I’d like to know who you’re sitting him for.  He’s healthy and the Bengals move the football.   

11. Eli Manning completed 33 of 47 passes for 406 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT in the 49-24 loss to New Orleans in front of his family and hometown friends.

It was his second career 400-yard game, aided by the Giants’ stupid decision to let Eli keep dropping back in the 4th quarter with the game well out of hand.  Saints DC Gregg Williams is an ornery type and Eli’s lucky a well-timed blitz didn’t get him injured with absolutely nothing to play for.  Manning hit Victor Cruz 9 times for 157 yards and 2 TDs and it thrusts Cruz into the top-5 fantasy WRs for the year!  Remember, Cruz barely played any snaps in the first 2 games (4 targets, 2 catches) so he’s basically the 2009 Miles Austin all over again.   

12. Rex Grossman completed 26 of 35 passes for 314 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs in the 23-17 win over Seattle.

He’s only owned in 12% of ESPN leagues.  Why?  Grossman is a fantasy contributor when healthy and now has 300+ total yards and 2 TDs in each of the last 2 games.  Sure, it would be stupid to write 200 words here about how great Grossman is, but the fact is that he loads fantasy points in bunches – and I would consider carrying him into my playoffs as a QB2.  All of you cruising in with Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees at the helm might want to cover your butts and roster Grossman for his Week 16 matchup at home vs. Minnesota, who rank 31st in defending fantasy QBs.  Injuries can strike anytime (knock on wood) and I’d hate to be left with say, Mark Sanchez vs. the Giants or Alex Smith at Seattle that week.  Heck, what if Aaron Rodgers leaves at halftime with nothing to play for?   

13. Plaxico Burress caught 4 passes for 54 yards and 1 TD in the 28-24 win over Buffalo. 

Dustin Keller was the big performer in this one with 4 catches for 61 yards and 2 TDs.  The Jets’ target count was Holmes 9, Burress 8, Keller 8, Greene 4, McKnight 3.  Burress has 5 TDs in his last 5 games (thanks to a 3-TD outburst in Week 7) and is finding a rhythm in the red zone.  Jets OC Brian Schottenheimer is finally learning that calling Burress’ number in the red zone is a winning formula, and Burress is 4th among all WRs with 7 RZ looks in those 5 games.  Burress was the butt of a joke in this game when Stevie Johnson scored a TD and mocked him by pretending to shoot himself in the leg -- then running through the end zone mimicking Santonio Holmes’ “Jet wings” with his arms outstretched.   However, the joke was on Johnson because he cost his team the win and probably a shot at the playoffs:  He was whistled for the excessive display which forced Buffalo to kick off from the 20.  Dave Rayner nubbed the kick and the Jets recovered the ball at Buffalo's 36-yard line.  Holmes caught the game-winning TD four plays later.  Ouch!

Bonus 14. New England is favored by 21 points over Indianapolis. It’s a fair and accurate line, folks.  Not only are the Colts ranked 31st in offense and 29th in defense, but remember – Bill Belichick hates Bill Polian.  Back in 2003 Polian whined to the NFL competition committee to change the illegal contact rule after the Patriots bullied the Colts WRs and took the AFC Championship.  Belichick will not feel sorry for the Manningless-Colts this week and will pour it on.

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