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Under the Numbers: Week 15
John U. Miller
December 13, 2011

Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 14.

1. Marques Colston caught 7 passes for 105 yards & 2 TDs in the 22-17 win at Tennessee.

It’s very rare but sometimes you can’t believe a box score when you read it, and this is one of those rare cases.  Despite the huge fantasy day, I’m here to tell you Colston was nowhere near being in the flow of the Saints offense – not even close.  He was rotating on and off the field all day, sometimes standing next to Sean Payton for two, three plays at a time.  Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, FB Jed Collins, and backup TE John Gilmore all played at least 18 snaps and were running pass routes – of course, in addition to the tons of snaps that Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham always play.  Drew Brees targeted a season-high 10 different players in this game!  I’ve never so many different personnel groupings in 12 years of covering the NFL for fantasy business.  Honest.  To give you an idea of how uninvolved Colston was, the WWL Radio announcer growled “Where is Marques?” in the 3rd quarter.  Then in the 4th quarter the Titans secondary crumbled – confusion, pointing at each other, arguing before the snap – and Colston broke down the seam for two TD catches in 5 minutes.  Terrific, and I’m happy for you if you started him but the first 3 quarters of torture is too much for me.  It didn’t feel right… almost like a lucky lottery ticket you picked up off the ground.  I don’t know if your league’s trade deadline has passed but if you can trade Colston for one of these 3 WRs below I’d do it right now:

Trade Marques Colston for…?
(Stats Over Last 3 Weeks )
Wide Receiver Targets Rec TDs Week 15
M. Colston 21 16 2 at Minnesota
Roddy White? 39 21 3 vs. Jacksonville
Percy Harvin? 32 26 4 vs New Orleans
Santana Moss? 28 12 1 at NY Giants

2. Chris Johnson carried 11 times for 23 yards and caught 5 passes for 43 yards in the 22-17 loss to New Orleans.  Javon Ringer did not carry the football. 

Back to the future, or déjà vu, or same ol’ same ol’… whatever the cliché I’m looking for, you get the picture.  Johnson was useless.  He stutter-stepped and couldn’t break arm tackles, just like for most of the first 10 weeks of the season.  The sad thing is that on the first play of the game Titans OC Chris Palmer motioned Johnson out of the backfield and Matt Hasselbeck hit him for a 14-yard gain on a swing pass.  It looked easy, like it was there for the taking all day.  The O-line was back to their mediocre ways too, so don’t put all the blame on CJ.  They couldn’t plow a wide enough hole for him to plant and burst.  It’s also important to know that when the chips were down in the 4th quarter – Hasselbeck out, Jake Locker in, Saints winning – Johnson only carried and/or was targeted on 3 of the Titans’ last 22 plays.  Their season was on the line (and it’s just about over now because Houston clinched) and the league’s most dynamic runner was not a part of the struggle to save it.  One final thing, and I won’t mention Johnson again until July. With 2:42 left in the game, Saints up 22-17, 2nd and 10, Jake Locker hits Johnson in the flat and CJ takes off down the left sideline.  He’s one on one with a DB with 5 yards between them for room to shake and bake.  It’s going to be a touchdown and the city of Nashville will explode.  Nope.  Johnson runs straight into him, hog-tied like he was roped and hog-tied... one yard short of the first down.  Tennessee turned it over on downs two plays later.

3. Darrius Heyward-Bey caught 5 passes for 78 yards on a team-high 11 targets in the 46-16 loss to Green Bay.

I have to say that our little boy is all grown up.  Heyward-Bey was immobilized and carted off the field on a stretcher just 20 days ago and here he is, out there fighting and scratching to keep his team in the AFC playoff race.  DHB is still maddeningly inconsistent, I know.  He’s only caught 51% of the passes thrown his way, compared to another youngster like Victor Cruz who’s caught 66%, but the overall progress is clear and thrilling to me.  In essentially 11 games -- remember, he missed Week 2 with a knee injury and watched Week 9 from the sidelines (late for a team meeting maybe?) -- Heyward-Bey has caught 43 passes for 620 yards and 4 TDs.  He could finish with 55 catches, 800+ yards and 4-5 TDs in 14 games, all the while trying to grab passes from mediocre QBs.  Jason Campbell had a so-so 84.2 passer rating, Carson Palmer 70.2, and Kyle Boller 31.1.  Going forward (which I hope you are) this season as a DHB-owner, he’s going to be a nice WR3/flex in many leagues.  Chaz Schilens just re-aggravated his foot injury, and both Jacboy Ford (foot) and Denarius Moore (ankle) are still jacked up.  In fantasy football we always say “Somebody’s gotta catch ‘em”… It truly applies here.  Oakland plays vs. Detroit (ranked 15th vs. fantasy defenses), at Kansas City (10th), and vs. San Diego (13th) to close the year.

4. Greg Jennings caught 2 passes for 20 yards in the 46-16 win over Oakland.  He was targeted 5 times.  Jennings left in the 3rd quarter with a knee injury that could be a torn MCL. Jordy Nelson caught 3 passes for 81 yards and 1 TD.  The Packers’ target list reads as: Nelson 7, Driver 6, Jennings 5, Jones 3.  Five other players had 1 or 2 targets.

Fantasy football giveth and it taketh away.  Whether the MCL is torn or not Jennings is useless to fantasy football owners for this crucial Week 15.  His 8 targets per game will have to be dispersed into Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, and Jermichael Finley’s hands.  Nelson continues to amass touchdowns like his life depended on it.  He has 10 TD catches, 2nd only to Rob Gronkowski (15) and Calvin Johnson (12).  We always gripe about Nelson’s lack of targets – only 70, which is 58th in the league! – but now we might see Nelson a little more involved, series to series.  I think he’s unbenchable in any league in Week 15 at Kansas City.  What about the Packers resting players, you ask?  Green Bay has clinched the NFC North but haven’t quite yet locked up the No. 1 seed.  All they need is one more victory in any of their last 3 games to do it, so look for them to pound KC early and get their business done.  Week 16?  You’re on your own.  That’s when we’ll see more Matt Flynn, Brandon Saine, Randall Cobb and TE Ryan Taylor... unless… McCarthy is truly going for 16-0???  Let the debate begin.

5. The Seattle Seahawks defense held the Rams to 13 points, 282 net yards, and scored a TD off a blocked punt.  They also had 3 sacks and 1 interception. 

I’ve just started getting into IDPs but I’m on board with John Gruden’s assessment on Monday night that Seahawks S Kam Chancellor is a star.  6 tackles, 2 passes defensed, including a helluva stick on RB Steven Jackson that made me stand up off the couch.  Is Kam really 6’3/232?  That’s insane.  Seattle is allowing 16 points per game over the last 6 weeks, a pace that would have put them in the top-5 defenses if initiated earlier in the year.  They’ve moved into 5th in the league with 17 INTs too.  Seattle’s defense is the 9th youngest in the league and you just know Pete Carroll will keep assembling the right parts.  File Under: 2012 Mega-Sleepers.  JUMbo Whisper: Seattle is not mathematically eliminated from the wild-card hunt yet. With a win over the Bears this week, coupled with a loss by Detroit (at Oakland) and Atlanta (vs. Jacksonville)… Who knows? Seattle is eyeing a possible 9-7 record and stranger things have happened.

6. Marion Barber carried 27 times for 108 yards and 1TD and caught 2 passes for 32 yards in the 13-10 loss to Denver.

My buddy Mike Clay counted 42 snaps for Barber, not a really huge day’s work, but in those 42 snaps he had 27 carries and 4 targets.  That’s busy!  You can tell he’s fresh again after a few years of skull-clobbering collisions in Dallas, but he still might have a screw loose because he made a huge mental mistake that helped allow Denver to tie the game.  Then he fumbled and let the Broncos win it.  Fantasy-wise, he’s all good however, with Matt Forte (knee) set to miss at least one more week. Barber is averaging 4.2 per carry over the last three games and will keep getting fed with Caleb Hanie and his 48.6 QB rating under center.

7. Cedric Benson carried 21 times for 91 yards in the 20-19 loss to Houston.  He caught 1 pass for zero yards, his only target.

Benson dismissed rumors that he has a bad foot.  When are we gonna learn that Marvin Lewis rests more veterans during the week than any other coach?  Granted, Benson did most of his damage on one 42-yard run – but that’s what he’s being pad for, right?  I hate it when people say, “Yeah, but if you take away that one run…” You know, if you took away “that one run” Barry Sanders would have 8,344 career yards, not 15,269.  So Benson missed a touchdown by inches on that big gallop, and before that he had a crack from the 6-yard line and got stuffed.  The Bengals ran 9 plays in the red zone and Benson only got 3 carries; while 5 other plays were Andy Dalton passes.  Still, Benson leads the NFL with 49 carries in the red zone.  Week 15 brings a juicy matchup at St. Louis, who’s being gashed on a weekly basis. 

8. Andy Dalton completed 16 of 28 passes for 189 yards and 1 TD.

Dalton has thrown at least 1 TD pass in 10 consecutive games and even more amazingly, 9 of Dalton's 18 TD passes have come on third down. Only Eli Manning (11), Tony Romo (10) and Drew Brees (10) have more. sums it up: “What he's done in Cincinnati through the team's first 10 games is nothing short of amazing.  He came into an awkward situation after a lockout, with a rookie No. 1 receiver and a rookie offensive coordinator and despite all the odds stacked against him, he's found a way to help the Bengals win football games.”  Dalton’s 82.1 QB rating is higher than Joe Flacco (79.9), Michael Vick (78.9) and Josh Freeman (72.5).  The Bengals have the 3rd youngest offense in the NFL, and thanks to the Carson Palmer trade they’ll have two 1st-round picks – somewhere around slots #20 and #25.  I’m already making notes for my 2012 fantasy drafts and one of them says, “Try to secure Dalton as your QB2… the sky’s the limit.”  JUMbo Whisper:  Those of you who made it to Week 15 and have Philip Rivers (vs. Baltimore) or Michael Vick (vs. NYJ) should consider plugging in Dalton at St. Louis.  “Never bench your studs” is not a law.  Have fun with this stuff.   

9. Maurice Jones-Drew scored 37.6 fantasy points vs. Tampa Bay in standard leagues, the biggest game of his career. 

David Dorey said it best in Tunnel Vision:  “Maurice Jones-Drew treated them like a discount rental car and gained 85 rushing yards, 51 receiving yards and scored a Jaguars record four times.”  Not only did MJD hang 37.6 on Tampa, he’s scored 116.5 points over his last 5 games, the 2nd largest 5-game tally he’s ever recorded.  In 2009 he scored 119.4 in a 5-game stretch midway through the season.  You could argue that Jones-Drew is the Fantasy MVP Runner-Up behind Aaron Rodgers.  I’m serious.  In a year where so many “stud” RBs have disappointed to varying degrees – Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, Rashard Mendenhall, LeGarrette Blount, Jahvid Best, Peyton Hillis – MJD has stayed supremely consistent, healthy, and seems to be getting stronger each week.  He leads the NFL with 1,222 rushing yards.  He’s never had less than 74 total yards in a game.  And he’s done it with no passing threat to loosen the box.  There were also 5 contests where he lined up against a defense that ranked top-5 in rush defense at that moment.  No other RB can make that claim.

10. Tim Tebow completed 21 of 40 passes for 236 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT along with 49 rushing yards in the 13-10 win over Chicago.

Keyshawn Johnson said something on ESPN and I nodded in agreement with him for the first time in his broadcasting career. “The best thing that John Fox has done… was that he didn’t go to Brady Quinn after that Detroit game [45-10 loss],” Johnson said.  Tebow is doing things that no rookie QB has ever done.  Forget the 7-1 record with all the late-game heroics… wait, I can’t forget… did you know Tebow just led a comeback win for the 5th time in 8 weeks (each of the 5 wins by 4 points or less)?  Furthermore, in only 11 career starts Tebow has 6 wins when his team was losing at the beginning of the 4th quarter, setting a new NFL record.  The previous record was held by Marc Wilson (Raiders) and Scott Brunner (Giants), who each had 5 such wins in their first 11 starts.  His 10-2 TD-Int ratio (+8) since being named the starter puts him behind only Matt Ryan (+9), Tom Brady (+14), Tony Romo (+15), Drew Brees (+16), and Aaron Rodgers (+19).  JUMbo Whisper:  Tebow has targeted WR Demaryius Thomas on 20 of 55 pass attempts over the last two weeks; next most is WR Eric Decker with 11 targets then Matthew Willis with 9.  JUMbo Whisper II:  In only 8 starts (as a quarterback, mind you) Tebow has more rushing yards than RBs Brandon Jacobs, Mike Tolbert, Ryan Grant, or Peyton Hillis. 

11. Reggie Bush carried 14 times for 103 yards and caught 5 passes for 27 yards (6 targets) in the 26-10 loss to the Eagles. 

Bush has moved up to 20th in the NFL in rushing with 770 yards and is also tied for 15th with a burly 4.6 average per carry.  Is this really Reggie?  Did he sign his soul over to Lucifer in exchange for new cartilage in his left knee?  Back-to-back 100-yard games, 5 TDs in his last 6 games, and suddenly we all need to rethink this guy.  Bush is only 26 years old and he’s only handled the ball 1090 times (including playoffs).  Seriously, maybe the microfracture surgery he had three years ago really worked… after all, Amar’e Stoudemire got even better after the procedure.  All I know is that Bush is a top-6 fantasy RB in any scoring system over the last 7 weeks.  Repeat that to yourself.  Out loud.  In Week 15 Bush is at Buffalo who ranks 29th against fantasy RBs.  Don’t question it, don’t overthink it, just dance with the one who brung ya.  If you’re in a 10- or 12-team league Bush is in your lineup somewhere, at least as a flex.  Period. 

12. Rex Grossman completed 19 of 32 passes for 252 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT in the 34-27 loss to New England.  He also fumbled twice, losing one.

This is the worst secondary Bill Belichick has ever presided over in his professional coaching career, but I don’t want to take too much away from Grossman.  He sprayed the ball over the place (including this gem of a throw) and posted his 3rd QB rating of 92+ in his last 4 games.  The Redskins offense has gained an average of 381 total yards and 23 points per game in this span.  Most of us only remember that 4-INT debacle vs. Philly when we think of Rex (especially me because he was my JUMbo Sleeper that week) but I’m telling you the guy is developing into a pure pocket passer.  Sometimes I squint my eyes and I don’t see any difference between Rex and Eli Manning.  Grossman’s style is tailor-made for fantasy play in deep leagues, as evidenced by his 7 games with 20+ fantasy points in his last 12 full games.  Thinking about starting Rex at NYG in Week 15?  Hell yes, why not?  DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle) is out and Tony Romo just had a field day against them.

13. A whopping 14 different WRs had 10+ targets in Week 14. 

These are the guys you want in your lineup this week.  All the other metrics don’t matter at this point – matchups, quarterbacks, catches, average per catch, TDs – because it’s crunch time.  Who’s getting footballs thrown at them?  Fantasy football is about opportunities and these 14 guys got the most last week:  Percy Harvin (15), Demaryius Thomas (13), Brandon Lloyd (12), Pierre Garcon (12), Michael Crabtree (12), Roddy White (11), D. Heyward-Bey (11), Kevin Walter (10), Wes Welker (10), Dwayne Bowe (10), D. Aromashodu (10), Stevie Johnson (10), Hakeem Nicks (10), Damian Williams (10).  Interestingly, there have been 6 other weeks where at least 15 WRs had 10+ targets. 

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