Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 8

Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 8

Statistical Analysis

Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 8

On a weekend where LeSean McCoy and Julio Jones finally found their way into the end zone, Amari Cooper exploded back into fantasy relevance in a big way and the Patriots’ defense snapped its streak of surrendering 300-yard passing performances versus 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan (of all quarterbacks), fantasy points – and just plain points, period – were hard to come by Sunday for a shocking number of teams and players.

Three teams (the Cardinals, Colts and Broncos) failed to get on the scoreboard at all, four others (the Panthers, Bears, Titans and Browns) scored nary an offensive touchdown and five more teams (the Ravens, Giants, Bengals, 49ers and Falcons) fell shy of 17 points. That accounts for 12 of the 26 teams in action Sunday, and only four of the remaining 14 managed to put up at least 30 points with the Bills and Dolphins waiting until the waning seconds of their respective wins to get there.

So what can we make of this scoreboard-challenged Week 7 and what it means going forward? Let us start by delving deeper into the significant stats, notable numbers and illuminating integers of the weekend, compiled through action Sunday. Here goes …

  • We begin with one of the few true big fantasy point-producers of Sunday in Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who dropped four touchdowns and 260 total yards on the hapless 49ers in a 40-10 shellacking in Santa Clara. He and teammate Ezekiel Elliott (219 total yards, 3 TDs) gave us two of the four 30-point fantasy performances on Sunday, with the Dallas sophomore running back the only player on the day racking up more than 32 fantasy points at 40.9. And if it seems like Prescott is still riding in the shadow of his 2016 draft class teammate, it’s because he is. Even in a down season before Sunday afternoon’s breakout, Elliott has commandeered the headlines with his protracted suspended-no-wait-that-suspension-is-temporarily-suspended running court battle with the NFL, and as great as Elliott was a year ago in winning the rushing title and taking fantasy leagues by storm, many still forget that it was Prescott who was voted the league’s offensive rookie of the year and finished as fantasy’s eighth-ranked QB in terms of total points. And after Sunday’s showing, Prescott now resides atop the 2017 fantasy QBs ranks at 26.75 points per game. He’s arrived there by accounting for at least three TDs in four straight games and tying Texans rookie DeShaun Watson for the league lead with 17 total TDs, including a league-QB-high-matching three on the ground. Amazingly, Prescott has yet to top 268 passing yards in any contest this season and only has three 300-yard aerial outings among his 23 career games (postseason included), but he has accounted for two or more TDs in 16 of those 23 games, including nine total rushing scores – the most among QBs since the start of last season. So peer behind Elliott’s shadow and realize the running back is playing with one of the true fantasy elites at his own position in one Rayne Dakota – a.k.a. Dak –
  • Meanwhile, one of the Cowboys’ NFC East rivals managed only one offensive TD for the second straight week, and one player has accounted for both of them. Giants rookie tight end Evan Engram posted team highs Sunday in catching six of 12 targets for 60 yards and a TD while all of his other pass-catching teammates combined for 13 receptions for 74 yards and no scores on 26 total targets in a 24-7 loss to the visiting Seahawks. Overall, Engram currently ranks fifth among tight ends with 30 catches for 342 yards and three TDs on 55 targets – good for 52 fantasy points. As of Sunday, only Zach Ertz, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and Cameron Brate had accumulated more. If the Chargers’ Hunter Henry didn’t knock a hole in the rookie-tight-ends-are-not-good-fantasy-tight-ends mantra a year ago, Engram is doing his best to dispel that notion now with at least four receptions in six of seven games so far and at least 9.5 point-per-reception fantasy points in five of his seven outings. He’s attracted at least five targets in five of his seven contests and his total of 53 is 24 more than the next-highest Giant (WR Sterling Shepard), who hasn’t suffered a season-ending injury. In short, Engram is a no-doubt TE1 start every week and one of the more dependable ones at that given the notorious volatility and lack of productive depth at the position.
  • On the running-back front, the struggles continued Sunday for a pair of high fantasy picks in Jay Ajayi and Isaiah Crowell. Ajayi put up a 23-51-0 rushing line and added three receptions for 26 yards in the Dolphins’ 31-28 comeback win over the visiting Jets while the Browns’ Crowell rushed 17 times for 35 yards and caught four of his six targets for 36 yards in a 12-9 overtime loss to the Titans. We pair Ajayi and Crowell together here because after McCoy snapped his TD-less streak Sunday, they were the only players in the league as of Sunday night with 65-or-more touches who had yet to find their way into the end zone. Ajayi, who scored eight TDs on 287 touches a year ago, leads the way 135 scoreless touches – 31 more than Crowell, who had seven TDs among his 238 touches in 2016 when he (14th) and Ajayi (11th) both finished as top-15 fantasy backs. Both RBs also boasted yards-per-carry averages of 4.8 or better a season ago – Ajayi at 4.89 and Crowell at 4.81 – but have seen that efficiency dip staggeringly this year with Ajayi (3.54) ranking 30th and Crowell (3.15) 35th among the 38 players with 50-plus rushing attempts as of Sunday. The lack of relative big gains has played a key role here as Ajayi’s long run so far is 20 yards and Crowell’s is 17. Now, sure, both backs, particularly Ajayi, remain every-week fantasy-start considerations on sheer volume alone as both rank among the league’s top 16 in rushing attempts, but unless the scoring production and efficiency start to increase – and soon – keep lowering your fantasy expectations accordingly.
  • In New Orleans, the Saints have won four straight after a 0-2 start, and Drew Brees ranks as a top-10 fantasy quarterback for what seems like the 29th straight season. But it’s his WR corps that we slide under the fantasy microscope here. Second-year Michael Thomas once again is setting the team pace with 54 targets, 35 receptions, 403 yards and two touchdowns, but Willie Snead – he of the 205 targets, 141 catches, 1,879 yards and seven TDs the previous two seasons – has been missing in action aside from a single 11-yard reception in Week 6. Snead started the season by serving a three-game disciplinary suspension and then was inactive Week 4 due to a balky hamstring leading into the team’s Week 5 bye. He then garnered only three targets while playing 21 of the team’s 71 offensive snaps in the Week 6 win over the Lions before the hammy apparently acted up late last week and landed the wideout back on the inactive list for Sunday’s win in Green Bay. In his stead, Ted Ginn Jr. (7 targets-7 catches-141 yards-0 TDs) and Brandon Coleman (3-2-31-1) continued to impress. Ginn has topped 12 PPR points in three of his last four outings while Coleman leads the team with three receiving grabs among his 12 catches for 191 yards on 18 targets. Snead may be ready to return Week 8 against the Bears, but don’t be surprised if he has trouble dislodging Ginn and Coleman from their productive spots in the Saints’ WR pecking order for the rest of the season.
  • Extra points: With C.J. Prosise playing only two snaps Sunday vs. the N.Y. Giants after his nagging ankle injury flared up yet again, Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy had 12 touches apiece to pace Seahawks’ backfield while J.D. McKissic had five. Combined, those 27 touches produced 128 total yards and no scores. … Second-round rookie WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has outsnapped veteran Martavis Bryant in four of the Steelers’ last five games and has been the more efficient and productive receiver this season with 17 grabs for 231 yards and three TDs on 26 targets while Bryant has put up a 36-18-234-1 stat line. The Bryant trade rumors persist with the league deadline a week away on Halloween. … Panthers rookie Christian McCaffrey continues to lead all backs in targets (59) and receptions (44) and is on pace (101) to seriously challenge Matt Forte’s 2014 single-season RB record of 102 catches. Of McCaffrey’s 56.3 standard-scoring fantasy points, only 11.4 have been compiled on the ground. … The Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry and the Vikings’ Adam Thielen are tied for the longest current game streak with at least five receptions at seven contests apiece. Landry now has reeled in a touchdown catch in three straight games while Thielen has the distinction of owning the league’s most targets (65) and receptions (43) without a TD grab. … Through action Sunday, the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein was pacing the league in both field goals and extra points made with 21 of each for an NFL-most 84 points. In all, he’s connected on 42-of-43 kicks, missing only a 36-yard field-goal attempt in Week 5.

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