Don’t look now, but mid-November is upon us and we’re in the stretch run of the fantasy regular season. Along with Thanksgiving, Black Friday and non-stop Christmas music, trade deadlines are fast approaching in most leagues and the playoffs are looming right behind.
In short, put up or shut up time is nigh for your teams in Fantasy Football 2017.
And that’s where we’re here to (hopefully) lend a stretch-run helping hand as we attempt to sort through the over-abundance of data and make sense of it all. So let’s delve deeper into the significant stats, notable numbers and illuminating integers of the weekend and figure out what they mean for your fantasy fortunes. Here goes …
It’s a “New” (Orleans) offense
It’s hardly a surprise to see the Saints averaging the third-most points (29.8) in the league after hanging a Sunday-most 47 on the host Bills for their seventh straight win.
But it’s how New Orleans is putting up the points that’s the most eye-opening in reality – and certainly fantasy.
In Sunday’s shellacking of Buffalo, the Saints rolled up 298 rushing yards and a franchise single-game record six touchdowns on 48 attempts. Both Mark Ingram (131) and rookie Alvin Kamara (106) topped the century mark on the ground and combined for four rushing TDs.
Drew Brees, meanwhile, hit season lows in passing attempts (25), completions (18) and yards (184) while failing to toss a TD pass for the second time in his last three games.
In fact, his only TD of the afternoon was – most appropriately – a 7-yard rushing score in the third quarter.
The game was certainly strange by recent Saints standards – per ESPN, it’s the 25th time a Brees-led New Orleans team has put up at least 40 points in a game, and it’s the first of those such contests which didn’t feature a TD pass – but it’s hardly been the exception this season.
In the overall league statistics through play Sunday, New Orleans ranked fifth in passing yards (260.2 per game) and 17th in TD passes (13) while ranking third in rushing yards (142.2) and first in ground TDs (14).
Ingram, who’s tied for the league lead with his seven rushing scores on the season, and Kamara, who ranks third in receptions (43) among running backs, rank as top-eight backs in both standard and point-per-reception scoring.
Brees, meanwhile, ranks 12th among fantasy QBs with 20.53 points per game and is tied for 13th among QBs with his 13 aerial scores. He has topped 300 yards only twice so far after averaging nine 300-yard games in his first 11 seasons in the Big Easy.
At their current pace, the Saints are set to establish single-season highs in rushing attempts (491), yards (2,275) and TDs (14) during the 12-season Sean Payton-Brees era, which began in 2006.
On the flip side, Brees is on pace for New Orleans career lows in yards (4,263) and TD throws (23) and his remarkable 13-year run of top-10 QB fantasy finishes – which includes his final two campaigns with the Chargers – is in some jeopardy.
That, of course, in turn hurts the Saints’ other weapons in the passing game outside of Kamara, as No. 1 wide receiver Michael Thomas was only tied for 23rd at his position with 8.69 fantasy points per outing coming out of action Sunday.
So if you haven’t done so weeks ago to reflect the new run-heavier approach in the Big Easy, adjust your Saints’ offensive fantasy expectations accordingly across the board.
L.A. aerial combo on fire
The league’s hottest pitch-and-catch combo the last two weeks also not-so-coincidentally plays for the league’s highest-scoring offense (32.9 points).
In lopsided wins over the Giants and Texans, the Rams’ Jared Goff and Robert Woods have hooked up 12 times on 15 targets for 241 yards and four touchdowns.
So just in those two contests, that means Woods has as many receiving scores as Julio Jones, Keenan Allen and Demaryius Thomas have combined – for the season.
Overall, Woods ranks seventh and 11th (PPR) among wideouts with 87 and 126 fantasy points, respectively, and since getting off to a slow four-catch, 61-yard, no-TD start in his first two contests with his new team, he has snared 35-of-50 targets for 561 yards and the four TDs over his last seven outings to surprisingly emerge as the most fantasy-useful of the Rams’ new-look wideout corps, which also includes Sammy Watkins and highly-touted rookie Cooper Kupp.
Goff, meanwhile, has taken an amazing turn since his disastrous rookie season (1,089 yards, five TDs, seven interceptions in nine games) of a year ago and currently ranks 10th among healthy fantasy QBs with 21.56 points per outing.
In his six games with at least 16 fantasy points, Goff admittedly has taken advantage of less-than-formidable pass defenses with all six foes (Colts, 49ers, Cowboys, Cardinals, Giants and Texans) ranking among the top 14 in terms of the most fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks.
But then again only three of the Rams’ seven remaining foes (Vikings, Saints and Seahawks) rank among the league’s top half vs. opposing QBs so keep riding the Goff-Woods combo – or either or – with confidence.
On the flip side of the two aforementioned 7-2 teams, we have the 3-6 Broncos who have dropped five straight games – all by double digits – to turn a promising 3-1 start into a burgeoning disaster.
And like with most teams headed south as the weather turns colder, fantasy general managers are going to want to use Broncos players with decided descretion. And that applies to the (likely soon-to-be) three-headed QB carousel, to the decidedly fantasy-unfriendly three-way split at running back to the inconsistent big names at wide receiver to the non-existent tight ends and even to the once-dominant defense that has been shredded for a whopping 91 combined points over the last two weekends.
The three most important ingredients in fantasy are, in order, touchdowns, TDs and touchdowns and for the Broncos’ offense they’ve been exceedingly rare of late. In their first two games, the Broncos scored eight offensive TDs; in their last seven contests, they’ve produced all of seven.
Only two of those seven TDs have been scored by running backs, and the touch totals over the last three games – C.J. Anderson (36), Devontae Booker (26) and Jamaal Charles (25) – tells you all need to know about the backfield volume and reliability in the Mile High City.
Meanwhile, only the winless Browns (23) have coughed up more turnovers than the Broncos’ 21 this season, but it’s Denver which ranks dead last with a minus-14 differential.
That’s because the Denver D only has come up with seven takeaways – only the Raiders have fewer with 6 – and the Broncos also rank in the league’s bottom half in points allowed (29th with 26.6), sacks (tied for 18th with 20) and defensive-special teams fantasy points (tied for 23rd with 5.11).
There is one clear Broncos best bet in fantasy, though. And that’s playing the opposing defense/special teams as only the Colts are surrendering more defensive fantasy points to their foes on a weekly basis.
- In part due to the Cowboys’ pass-protection issues playing without All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, QB Dak Precott ran for a season-high 42 yards Sunday afternoon in Atlanta and scored a rushing TD for the fifth time in his last seven games. As of Sunday night, his five rushing scores on the season led all QBs and was more than 10 whole teams.
- Jerick McKinnon has been the presumptive back to own after Dalvin Cook’s season-ending knee injury in Week 4, but take note that Latavius Murray has had at least 16 touches in each of Minnesota’s last four games and has out-touched (55-49), outgained (228-226 total yards) and outscored McKinnon (34.8-28.6 standard-scoring fantasy points) over the last three contests.
- Chargers rookie RB Austin Ekeler hit season highs with 15 touches, 119 total yards and two TDs – compared to a bleak 21-42-0 stat line for starter Melvin Gordon – in Sunday’s overtime loss to the Jaguars but did cough up a late fourth-quarter fumble that helped set the table for Jacksonville’s win.
- Despite Kirk Cousins ranking seventh among QBs with 23.1 fantasy points per game, the highest-ranking Washington fantasy wide receivers are tied for 61st (Ryan Grant and Josh Doctson) in total WR fantasy points (39.8). Blame it on the team’s spread-it-around approach as seven D.C. pass-catchers currently have between 29 and 54 targets while Cousins’ 14 passing TDs have been distributed among eight players.
- Since returning from an ankle injury in Week 9, Giants wideout Sterling Shephard easily leads the team in targets (22), receptions (16) and receiving yards (212). He had career highs in all three categories (13-11-142) in the road loss to the 49ers.
- Over his last four games, Jaguars WR Marqise Lee has averaged 9.8 targets, 5.8 catches, 71.3 yards and has scored on two TD receptions and a 2-point conversion reception.
- In the three games Brett Hundley has started since Aaron Rodgers was lost to a broken collarbone in Week 6, Packers WR Jordy Nelson has only eight receptions on 15 targets for 68 yards and no TDs. In the other five full games he played in earlier in the season, Nelson averaged 7.6 targets, 5.0 receptions, 58.0 yards and scored six TDs.
- With Garrett Celek’s 47-yard TD reception Sunday, the Giants have surrendered a TD catch to a tight end in all nine games this season and in an NFL-record 10 straight regular-season contests dating back through Week 17 of last season. Up next is the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce, who has five scoring grabs on the season.