Counting down the significant stats, notable numbers and illuminating integers compiled through action Sunday in the 2016 fantasy-football season:
98 – Targets this season for the Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. That total ties him with the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce for the second most at the position behind the Panthers’ Greg Olsen (104) through Sunday’s games. Rudolph has been targeted at least seven times in nine of 13 contests this season, including Sunday’s win in Jacksonville, where he caught four of the eight passes directed his way for 60 yards and a touchdown. That TD catch was Rudolph’s sixth of the season and puts him into a tie for the position lead with the Buccaneers’ Cameron Brate, the Titans’ Delanie Walker and Chargers rookie Hunter Henry, who we’ll get to a little later in this piece. Rudolph also has had at least four receptions in nine of 13 games this season and has totaled at least 45 yards in eight of 13 contests, helping him to rank seventh overall among tight ends with 99.3 fantasy points. And with Minnesota’s leading receiver, WR Stefon Diggs, battling through a knee issue here late in the season, expect the targets and fantasy points to keep flowing Rudolph’s way the next few games with the 7-6 Vikes battling for their playoff lives.
14 – Takeaways for the Buccaneers’ defense over the last five games. Breaking it down, that’s 10 interceptions and four fumble recoveries to go along with 13 sacks, two defensive TDs and 64 total points allowed (12.8 per game), helping fuel the team’s five-game win streak that has 8-5 Tampa Bay tied for the NFC South lead and in position to nab its first playoff berth since 2007. The Bucs have scored double-digit defensive fantasy points four times during that span, lifting them to fifth-place overall in the season fantasy team defensive rankings behind only the Chiefs, Vikings, Broncos and Panthers. Coming out of Sunday, Tampa also was tied with K.C. and the Chargers for most takeaways on the season with 25 (14 picks and 11 fumble recoveries). And the Bucs’ recent run of defensive success hasn’t come against a punching-bag lineup of offensive lightweights, either, as they’ve beaten in order, the Bears, Chiefs, Seahawks, Chargers and Saints. Speaking of Sunday’s 16-11 win over New Orleans, they held the Saints to a season-low 11 points and intercepted Drew Brees three times. So even though the Bucs’ remaining schedule – at Dallas and New Orleans and at home against Carolina in Week 17 – doesn’t seem like it will lend itself to much fantasy defensive production, neither did this last five-game stretch beforehand so definitely keep Tampa high on your short list of fantasy-postseason team defense starting candidates.
6 – TD receptions for the Chargers’ Henry, which has the second-round pick out of Arkansas tied for the league lead among tight ends, as mentioned earlier. Although Henry only caught two passes for 13 yards in Sunday’s loss in Carolina, one of the grabs was of the scoring variety, giving the rookie three TD receptions in his last four games. And at 73.8 fantasy points on the season – currently 10th at the position – Henry already has posted the eighth-highest rookie tight end fantasy-point total in the last 20 years, according to Pro Football Reference, and is on pace to challenge for a spot in the top five. But he’ll likely need a stretch-run bump in yardage production to get there. Henry opened eyes with a midseason stretch where he had at least 61 yards receiving in four straight games, but partly due to nagging injuries, he hasn’t topped 20 yards in any of the six contests since. Still, he’s an obvious red-zone favorite for Philip Rivers and the pass-happy Chargers, and that alone puts him on the short list of most valuable fantasy-playoff tight end assets.
3.26 – Yards per carry this season for the Rams’ Todd Gurley, ranking the second-year running back 63rd in yards per attempt out of the 68 players with at least 50 rushes on the season. It’s a far cry from his rookie average of 4.83 yards per carry, and to wit, Gurley currently has two fewer carries (227) than he did all of last season but has rushed for 366 fewer yards and five fewer TDs. That puts him seventh in the league this season in terms of rushing attempts but only 18th in rushing yards and 20th in RB fantasy points, even with his uptick in production as a pass-catcher (35 receptions-272 yards). Gurley ranks sixth overall with 262 touches coming out of Sunday but has yet to notch a 100-yard rushing game after five last season and only has a single contest in which he’s topped 100 total yards after six such outings as a rookie. Gurley’s consistent touch volume makes him a useable fantasy piece in itself, but he’s now strictly in flex/low-end RB2 territory instead of the must-start commodity he was a year ago.
3 – Total touchdowns for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson over his last four games. That’s followed back-to-back games in Weeks 9 and 10 where he totaled three scores in each contest and looked to be on the verge of another second-half explosion like he was in the midst of a year ago at this time. But it’s been painfully slow going of late for Wilson and his fantasy owners over the last month as he’s averaged only 235 passing yards and 36.8 rushing yards while throwing for three TDs and eight interceptions over the last four games. In case you somehow missed it, a career-high five interceptions came in Sunday’s 38-10 drubbing on the frozen tundra in Green Bay as Wilson finished 22-of-39 for 240 yards and one TD. In all, Wilson only has accounted for 14 total TDs this season, and a stunning nine of them have come in three games, leaving a grand total of five for his other 10 contests. Yeah, not exactly the kind of volatility you need from your starting QB in the fantasy postseason – that is if Wilson’s Sunday stink bomb didn’t KO your title hopes already.
1 – TD reception over the last nine games for Panthers wideout Kelvin Benjamin, and it didn’t come Sunday when he caught only one pass (on four targets) for 11 yards in a 26-18 win over the visiting Chargers. After missing Carolina’s 2015 Super Bowl season with a torn ACL, Benjamin looked like an immediate contender for fantasy comeback player of year honors after hauling in four TD passes in first four games, but he’s only added one scoring grab in the nine games since. Benjamin also opened the year with back-to-back double-digit fantasy-point games, but likewise has only posted one more since. And after totaling 13 receptions in his first two games, only 38 more have followed in the ensuing 11 contests with the numbers dwindling even further over his last four games in which he’s caught only eight of 23 targets for 139 yards and a TD. In short, Benjamin doesn’t belong anywhere near the fantasy postseason WR radar outside of the deepest of leagues or most desperate of situations.
0 – Passing TDs over the last two games for the Saints’ Drew Brees, single-handed wrecking the fantasy playoff aspirations of the majority of his teams after guiding them there as fantasy’s No. 1 QB through 12 weeks. Last week against the Lions, Brees finished 31-of-44 for 326 yards and three interceptions and then followed that up with a near-mirror 25-of-41 outing for 257 yards and three picks Sunday in the 16-11 loss to the Bucs. It’s been a pair of stunning performances that have went against all odds and industry-wide pre-game point predictions, especially when you realize that it’s been since Weeks 3 and 4 of the 2009 season – yes, the Saints’ Super Bowl season of 2009 – that Brees has gone consecutive games without a TD pass. Pair that with the first back-to-back three-interception games of the future Hall-of-Fame QB’s career, which has spanned 242 total contests (including the postseason), and it’s a sign that the apocalypse may be truly upon all of us – and not just Brees’ 2016 fantasy owners.