Counting down the significant stats, notable numbers and illuminating integers emerging from the first four weeks of the 2016 season:
106 – Total touches so far for Texans RB Lamar Miller. That figure not only leads the league, but it also has Miller way ahead of the pack in the race to become 2016’s Melvin Gordon. If you need a refresher, Gordon frustratingly accumulated the most touches (217) a season ago without finding his way into the end zone. That’s been corrected in a big way so far this season with the second-year San Diego back having accumulated a league-leading six TDs through play on Sunday. Miller’s fantasy owners, though, are desperately hoping it won’t take a year for his touchdown drought to be corrected as he’s currently the only player out of the 26 with at least 50 touches this season who hasn’t scored. Miller’s fantasy owners, though, should definitely be giddy over the RB’s usage as he’s had at least 22 touches in all four games while accumulating 429 yards from scrimmage – the ninth-highest total in the league. By comparison, Miller only had three games total in his 68 with the Dolphins where he racked up 22 or more touches.
73.3 – Percent of the Titans’ running-back touches this season that have gone to DeMarco Murray. The free-agent acquisition has totaled 85 and has turned them into 496 total yards and five TDs, putting him atop the fantasy-RB ranks through four weeks. This past summer, though, more than a few fantasy general managers and pundits viewed Tennessee second-round pick Derrick Henry as the far better value, but that hasn’t exactly played out so far on the field with the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner only totaling 147 yards and no TDs on 30 touches to date. The disparity grew even more lopsided on Sunday as Murray racked up 119 total yards and two TDs on 27 touches while Henry carried the ball all of three times for nine yards in the loss in Houston. Murray also has accounted for all six of the Titans’ rushing attempts inside the opposition’s 10-yard line this season. So the expected split has basically become a Murray monopoly, but Henry obviously is still worth hanging on to as an ultra-valuable insurance option should Murray go down.
54 – Total receiving yards for Lions wideout Golden Tate over his last three games following his one-catch, one-yard performance Sunday on four targets in a game in which he was benched in the second half. To be sure, it’s been a devastating season so far for Tate’s fantasy owners who had big-number visions dancing in their heads after the offseason retirement of Calvin Johnson. And rightfully so with Tate having totaled 272 targets and 189 receptions over the previous two seasons with Megatron around. But then the season started, and after an OK, seven-target, seven-catch, 41-yard showing in Week 1, Tate has disappeared off the fantasy radar. In all, he’s caught only 14 of his 26 targets for all of 95 yards – and a miniscule 6.8 yards-per-catch average – and no TDs while Motor City newcomers Marvin Jones (36 targets-23 receptions-482 yards-two TDs) and Anquan Boldin (24-17-136-2) appear to have bypassed him in Mathew Stafford’s WR-pecking order. Things could certainly trend back in Tate’s direction as the Lions’ current strategy has gotten them a 1-3 record and basement residency in the NFC North, but in the meantime, Tate certainly appears droppable in 10- and 12-team leagues.
18 – Targets over the last two games for Bucs tight end Cameron Brate, who’s turned them into 10 catches, 113 yards and two TDs. Not coincidentally, Brate’s surge has come after the team’s release of the troubled Austin-Seferian Jenkins prior to Week 3, and overall this season Brate ranks eighth among fantasy tight ends through play Sunday with 28 points (25-16-159-2). So if you’re looking for help at tight end – and we know a number of you are now that the bye weeks are upon us – definitely give Brate a serious look as he’s one of Jameis Winston’s top options in a pass-heavy offense.
9 – Passing touchdowns this season for the Raiders’ Derek Carr, which placed him behind only Matt Ryan (11), Ben Roethlisberger (11) and Drew Brees (10) after Sunday. Lost in the hubbub over the big Sunday numbers posted by Ryan and Roethlisberger, Carr quietly tossed four scoring passing and threw for 199 yards in rallying the Silver & Black past the host Ravens, and he emerged from the weekend ranked ninth among fantasy QBs with 92 points. An overlooked key to Carr’s success so far has been the Raiders’ pass protection as he’s been sacked only twice in 155 dropbacks for a measly 1.3 sack percentage. And while the solidified protection is relatively new development, Carr has been trending up fantasy-wise since the start of last season as he’s now thrown multiple TD passes or for 300 or more yards in 14 of his last 19 games.
5 – Targets for Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery on Sunday in the team’s 17-14 win over the visiting Lions. Coming off his injury-addled 2015 season, Jeffery was drafted as a high-end No. 2 receiver in many leagues this summer, but his production so far has failed to match as he’s caught 17 of his 25 targets for 317 yards and is still looking for his first TD grab. Jeffery’s receiving yards have declined in each of the last three games – falling from 105 to 46 – while second-year wideout Kevin White has emerged as the team’s most-targeted WR with 36, resulting in 19 catches for 187 yards. Veteran Eddie Royal, with 18, also has more receptions than Jeffery and has reeled in a pair of scoring passes as well. Even TE Zach Miller (21-18-156-3) has been more productive. Still, as disappointing as Jeffery’s fantasy campaign has been, he could be in for an uptick as White left Sunday’s game early with an ankle injury. So hold tight for now.
2 – Touches in one game since Week 2 for Eagles RB Ryan Mathews. Sure, Philly had a Week 4 bye thrown in as well, and no doubt it was beneficial to Mathews, who was limited to only eight snaps against the Steelers in Week 3 due to ankle stiffness. Meanwhile, Mathews still ranks behind only the Bolts’ Gordon in terms of carries inside the opposition’s 10-yard line with nine and has scored on three of them. Coach Doug Pederson has said the Eagles will employ a backfield committee when the Eagles resume play this coming Sunday in Detroit, but Mathews will likely be at the head of that contingent in terms of rushing attempts if healthy so definitely don’t forget about him if you need RB help. He may be available on your league’s waiver wire following his Week 3 dud and subsequent bye week.
1 – League rankings for Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ passing attack and the Broncos’ defense in terms of yards per pass attempt at 10.5 and 5.6, respectively, through Sunday’s action. We mention these two in tandem here as they will go head-to-head this coming Sunday in the Mile High City in one of the more intriguing fantasy matchups of the early season. Ryan, fantasy’s surprise top scorer through four weeks coming off his 503-yard, four-TD performance in the Week 4 thrashing of the Panthers, has a league-most 1,417 passing yards and 11 TDs this season and has thrown for at least 240 yards and two scores in all four of his outings. The Denver D, meanwhile, has allowed all of 678 passing yards and two aerial TDs total in four games while intercepting five passes from the likes of Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton and Winston – who all, except for Dalton (No. 17), came out of Sunday ranked among fantasy’s top six QBs. It’ll be a close as we can get so far in terms of an irresistible force meeting up with an immovable object, and there will no doubt be more than a few Week 5 fantasy matchups hanging in the balance.