From the fantasy perspective, Week 9 of the National Football League season wasn’t as much about who was playing as who wasn’t.
Due to injuries, ejections, benchings and bye weeks, here’s an off-the-top-of-my-head partial list of the notable names who were missing in action for either all or a sizable portion of the weekend:
- Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Jameis Winston, Le’Veon Bell, Melvin Gordon, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Doug Martin, Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Julian Edelman, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Keenan Allen, Allen Robinson, Zach Ertz, Rob Gronkowkski, J.J. Watt, Earl Thomas and Eric Berry
Add in the present and playing but virtual stat-sheet no-shows such as Andy Dalton, LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, C.J. Anderson, DeSean Jackson, Jonathan Stewart, Jason Witten, Austin Seferian Jenkins and the once-formidable defenses of the Broncos and Giants and we’re left with quite the weird, unpredictable and disjointed week.
And that was with Ezekiel Elliott being cleared to play only 48 hours before game time as the ridiculous and convoluted ongoing court battle over his status swung again in his favor – maybe for the final time this season.
So now, as we attempt to sort through the carnage and confusion and make sense of it all, let’s delve deeper into the significant stats, notable numbers and illuminating integers of the weekend. Here goes …
Slumping stud backs
With 12.5 standard-scoring fantasy points – and nary a touchdown – between them Sunday, the vexing midseason slumps continued for the Falcons’ Devonta Freeman and the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt.
Freeman rushed for 46 yards on 11 carries and caught four passes for 18 yards in Atlanta’s 20-17 loss in Carolina to extend his TD drought to four games. Backfield mate Tevin Coleman did score but he didn’t exactly jump off the stat sheet, either, with all of 24 total yards on six touches.
Freeman, though, was the Atlanta back drafted with RB1 hopes, but he’s failed to top 90 total yards in five straight games and hasn’t found his way into the end zone since Week 4.
In his first four games, Freeman rolled up 385 yards and five TDs on 79 touches, but those numbers have dropped to 294 yards and no scores on 54 touches over the last four contests while he’s dealt with nagging shoulder and abdomen injuries.
The stretch-run schedule looks a little more favorable for Freeman and his fantasy owners with the Falcons’ home-and-home games against the pillow-soft Bucs defense set for Week 12 and 15, respectively, but definitely also expect a few more bumps along the way.
Hunt, meanwhile, rushed for 37 yards on a season-low-matching nine carries and added 24 yards on four receptions in K.C.’s 28-17 defeat vs. Dallas.
Hunt, as you may recall, lit the fantasy world on fire by scoring six TDs in his first three games, but the rookie hasn’t scored in the six games he’s played since. His 100-total-yard streak also has fallen by the wayside as he’s totaled only 129 yards on 38 touches over his last two games after averaging 143.1 total yards on 21.3 touches during his seven-game, 100-total-yard streak to start the season.
Perhaps the Week 10 bye is coming at the right time for Hunt and the Chiefs, but it’s become clear that he likely isn’t the no-doubt, locked-in RB1 he appeared to be only a few weeks ago.
Phat stats in Philly
Carson Wentz and the Eagles continue to light up the scoreboard with their latest effort – a 51-23 thrashing of the visiting Broncos on Sunday – marking a season-high and causing the Lincoln Financial Field pyrotechnics crew to expend their fireworks supply before the home team’s scoring ended.
That’s where we’re at with a team averaging 31.4 points per outing – a figure which trails only the Rams (32.9) in the league at the season’s halfway point.
Ertz, Wentz’s main man and fantasy’s top tight end entering the weekend, was shelved with a hamstring injury Sunday, and that just allowed the spotlight to shine brighter on a pair of emerging Philly weapons.
Now, sure, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was expected to make an immediate impact in Philly, but he got off to a slow start with an average stat line of 3.7 cathces-50.6 yards and 0.29 TDs and only one double-digit standard-scoring fantasy-point outing over his first seven games. In the two contests since, though, Jeffery has reeled in eight of 19 targets for 146 yards and three scores while tripling his season total of double-digit fantasy-point games.
Sunday’s season-best 20.4-point game (6-84-2) only came against the Broncos’ vaunted No-Fly Zone, sending Jeffery owners into Philly’s bye week with justifiably elevated stretch-run expectations.
Meanwhile Sunday, undrafted rookie RB Corey Clement had a TD hat trick while totaling 66 yards on 13 touches and arguably has emerged as the sneaky Eagles’ fantasy back to own while the others – LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood and newcomer Jay Ajayi – in the team’s four-headed backfield garner more headlines and attention.
Clement, in fact, has as many TDs (five) as the other three backs combined this season and has totaled 135 yards and four TDs (37.5 fantasy points) over his last three outings.
Soft D by the Bay
One of the most predictable fantasy showings of the week was turned in by Cardinals RB Adrian Peterson, who bludgeoned the 49ers for 159 rushing yards on a career-high 37 carries in Arizona’s 20-10 road win Sunday afternoon.
Heading into Monday night’s Lions-Packers clash, it stands as the only 100-yard rushing performance of the weekend, and as just stated, it was far from a fantasy surprise.
The once-formidable San Fran “D” – remember Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Donte Whitner and an in-his-prime NoVorro Bowman? – has been gashed repeatedly by opposing running backs over the last season and a half.
A year ago, the Niners surrendered the most carries (469), rushing yards (2,324), rushing TDs (24), total yards (2,845), total TDs (27) and fantasy points (440.8) to enemy backs, and this season they’ve picked up right where they left off, allowing the most rushing attempts (261), rushing yards (1,071), receiving yards (572), receiving TDs (six), total yards (1,643), total TDs (10) and fantasy points (220.3) to opposing RBs.
Over that 25-game span, San Francisco has yielded 14 100-yard rushing outings and 20 15-point PPR fantasy performances to opposing backs. On average, it’s been a whopping 179.5 total yards, 1.48 TDs and 26.4 fantasy points (31.1 PPR) surrendered per game.
It’s the fantasy RB gift that just keeps on giving, and, looking ahead, it’s shaping up as an early holiday treat for Lamar Miller, DeMarco Murray/Derrick Henry, Leonard Fournette/Chris Ivory and Todd Gurley owners who will get to have their backs face the 49ers in the fantasy playoffs in Weeks 14-17.
Joy to the world.
- Winston was pulled early again because of his nagging shoulder issue and finished 7-of-13 for 67 yards in Sunday’s 30-10 loss to the Saints – the fifth straight for the reeling Bucs. Of Winston’s 10 TD passes this season, six have come in two games (Week 4 vs. the Giants and Week 7 vs. the Bills) and in his other six contests, he’s totaled four scoring passes, five interceptions and thrown for an average of 200.7 yards.
- Through action Sunday, Dez Bryant led the league in red-zone targets with (14), Ertz, WR Davante Adams and RB Christian McCaffrey were tied for the lead with eight red-zone receptions and Ertz was tops with six red-zone TD catches.
- As for inside-the-opposition-10-yard line rushing stats, Le’Veon Bell and Elliott ranked 1-2 in attempts (18, 17) and rushing yards (34, 36) while Gurley had a league-leading six rushing scores.
- Of course, Ajayi’s first touchdown of the season (a 46-yard burst in the second quarter Sunday) also goes down as the first rushing score allowed by the Broncos in eight games this year.
- In the same game, Denver WR Demaryius Thomas hauled in his first TD catch in his last 14 games, scoring on a 1-yard reception in the fourth quarter.
- Since being reinstated from a suspension in Week 4, Saints WR Willie Snead has played in three of five contests, has been on the field for a total 43 snaps and has caught one of three targets for 11 yards.
- Fresh off his season-best 126-yard receiving outing Sunday night on eight catches and nine targets, the Raiders’ Jared Cook ranks fourth in the league and tops among tight ends with 290 yards over the last three weeks. For the season at his position, Cook ranks fourth in yards (499), sixth in targets (55) and fourth in receptions (39) and the reason he’s only tied for seventh in overall fantasy points (56) is that he’s managed only TD catch.
- The two running backs (Fournette and McCaffrey) drafted in the top 10 last spring have had strong fantasy seasons but the same can’t be said about the three top-10-drafted wide receivers (Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross). Due to preseason and off-season injuries, that trio has combined to play in only eight games so far with a total 11 receptions for 123 yards and no TDs.
- The Raiders, who have not managed to intercept a pass in any of their nine games this season, also (not coincidentally) rank last among fantasy defenses so far with 25 points, going by Huddle Performance scoring.