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Under the Numbers: Week 4
John U. Miller
September 27, 2011

Uh oh, the JUMbotron finished a sparking 56th out of 973 entries in The Huddle $500 FreeRoll for Week 3.  The JUMbotron team included crazy points from Tom Brady, Fred Jackson, Calvin Johnson, & Nate Washington, and probably could have gone top-10 if Steve Smith hadn’t flopped.  Still, a lot of you expecting your free $5 bucks for beating the JUMbotron were stopped at the door!  If you haven’t signed up at FanDuel you’re missing out.  It’s free, it’s fun, and it really adds to the fun of fantasy football.  CLICK HERE and play in Week 4!

Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 3.

1. There are three high-priced RBs who are absolutely killing fantasy teams and have caused countless 0-3 or 1-2 starts nationwide.  Chris Johnson, Frank Gore, & DeAngelo Williams.  I call them The “Ugh” Three.

The “Ugh” Three
Week Chris Johnson Frank Gore DeAngelo Williams
1 15 touches, 49 yds 25 touches, 78 yds 13 touches, 36 yds
2 27 touches, 65 yds 23 touches, 64 yds 9 touches, 36 yds
3 17 touches, 75 yds 17 touches, 42 yds 12 touches, 35 yds

These guys have scored exactly 1 TD so far, Gore on a 1-yard run vs. Dallas.  Now many of you are in a quandary: You can’t trade ‘em, their stock is worthless when everyone’s bad-mouthing them.  You can’t drop ‘em because, well, you used a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round pick, right?  Let’s dissect each one:  Johnson is averaging a sturdy 20 touches, normally plenty for any talented back to accumulate stats and pay the fantasy bills, but after the lockout and holdout CJ simply hasn’t been prepared physically.  I do see some positives, though.  Johnson hasn’t pulled a muscle (which I fully expected) and OC Chris Palmer is mixing up the playbook a little bit.  Look at CJ lined up split left for a fly route, something ex-OC Mike Heimerdinger never called once in three seasons.  Gore is getting loads of touches so I’m not quite as sour on him as the others, but he injured his ankle in Week 3 and might miss this week’s game.  More on Gore below.  DeAngelo Williams is locked squarely into a 50/50 timeshare with Jonathan Stewart.  DW has 34 touches, JS has 36.  This wouldn’t be a total disaster if Williams was doing something with his 12-ish touches per game (like Darren Sproles), but he’s not.  The season’s too short to wait any longer – so cut DW if you see a viable 15-touch RB on the waiver wire.

2. The San Francisco 49ers offense continued to sputter in the 13-8 victory over Cincinnati.  WR Michael Crabtree (foot) did play quite a bit and had a 10-yard TD called back on a penalty.  K David Akers hit from 23 and 53 yards is quietly 7-of-7 this year.

They only compiled 16 first downs, went 5-of-15 on third downs… and, to only score 13 points with a whopping 35 minutes of possession is inconceivable.  My Huddle buddy “ts” pointed out some other disturbing numbers too: In the 1st half the offensive line committed a penalty on 4 of 5 drives, and Frank Gore only had 9 carries of which 5 went for 3 yards or less.  Gore says his ankle his fine (they always do) but let’s be honest: He was already losing touches to the young, electric Kendall Hunter, who had 11 touches and a TD.  I’ll also add that the Seattle Seahawks just hopped over San Francisco to get out of the cellar in NFL total offense.  The Niners are dead last.  JUMbo Whisper:  In this game Hunter had a 7-yard TD run and touched the ball inside the 10-yard line twice.  He was amazing in the preseason and earned the No. 2 job over Anthony Dixon, so now Hunter’s in line to start vs. the Eagles this week.

3. The New England Patriots offense racked up 495 total yards, 30 first downs, and 5 red-zone trips in the wild 34-31 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Tom Brady is the #1 fantasy QB by a sizable margin with 1,327 passing yards, 11 TDs, and 5 INTs.  He’s only been sacked 3 times in 136 dropbacks.  In this game the Pats ran 17 plays in the red zone and here’s the breakdown:  5 targets for Wes Welker (who exploded with 16 catches for 217 yards & 2 TDs), 4 carries/targets for Danny Woodhead, 4 carries for B. Green Ellis, 2 targets for Rob Gronkowski (who also caught 2 TDs in this game), 1 target for Deion Branch, and 1 Brady scramble.  It’s worth noting that Green-Ellis got stuffed at the 1-yard line three different times; it might not be a coincidence that RB Stevan Ridley (a JUMbotron fave) got 6 touches in the 4th quarter.  As for the Bills, I don’t have much to say – they are all over the news at 3-0 – but I will add that Fred Jackson scored again and bumped Ray Rice for #3 in many fantasy leagues – behind only Darren McFadden and LeSean McCoy. In the 4th quarter Jackson took a dump pass and went 39 yards for another TD but it was reversed on replay to the 1-yard line.  Top fantasy waiver-grab WR David Nelson delivered with 6 catches for 84 yards (8 targets), and his teammate WR Donald Jones caught 5 passes for 101 yards (10 targets) so he’ll be snatched up quick as well.

4. Donovan McNabb completed 22 of 36 passes for 211 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs in the 26-23 loss to Detroit.  Adrian Peterson carried 17 times for 78 yards and 1 TD.  He added 4 receptions for 19 yards (5 targets).  WR Michael Jenkins caught 9 passes for 88 yards (11 targets).

McNabb showed signs of fantasy life late in the 1st quarter, going on a streak of 9-for-11 for 75 yards and a TD, but overall he was throwing nothing but underneath stuff.  A lot of it’s by design, sadly.  In fact the only two guys I saw run any deep routes were Percy Harvin and TE Kyle Rudolph.  Harvin had 2 carries for 41 yards, 3 catches for 47 yards.  Rudolph had 3 catches for 39 yards and I think he’s got a big future.  Peterson looks like he always does – robust and aggressive – but he only got 5 carries in the second half (?).  He also had runs of 29 & 14 yards called back for holding calls on Jenkins and Visanthe Shiancoe.  Vikings DE Brian Robison had 2 sacks.   The Vikings have had leads of 10, 17 and 20 at halftime each week – and lost every time.  As Peter King mentioned, it isn’t the defense’s fault – they’ve been solid – it’s the offense’s fault for not sustaining momentum.  Christian Ponder will be under center before Halloween.

5. Matt Hasselbeck completed 27 of 36 passes for 311 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs in the 17-14 win over Denver. Kenny Britt was lost for the season with a torn ACL.  Nate Washington caught 8 passes for 92 yards & 1 TD. 

Hasselbeck hit 11 different receivers, an NFL-high so far this season, and the Titans converted 8 of 15 on third downs.  Hasselbeck is one of the more quiet success stories in the NFL this season (because he’s in a small market now), ranking 7th with 932 passing yards, 3rd with a 69.6 completion rate, and 8th with a 102.2 QB rating.  Considering Hasselbeck was thrown into a brand new playbook with brand new teammates after the lockout ended on July 26th, I’ll go so far as to say he’s playing some of the best football of his career.  He’s a fiery competitor too, which no one gives him credit for: When Britt’s knee blew out everyone piled on him and Hasselbeck went to help out his teammate; but Broncos CB Cassius Vaughn (unseen by refs) pushed Hasselbeck down on the ground.  Instead of retaliating directly, Hasselbeck went after Vaughn on the very next play, a 30-yard strike to Nate Washington that was unfortunately ruled out of bounds. On 4 of his next 6 passes Hasselbeck picked on Vaughn for completions.  Washington is ballin’   JUMbo Whisper: Damian Williams will start in Britt’s place. Williams has skills, trust me.  Tennessee might bring back free-agent Justin Gage, who they never should have cut in the first place.  TE Jared Cook has been a part-time player, but now he’ll be forced into 10-15 more snaps per game.

6. Jay Cutler completed 21 of 37 for 302 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs.  He added 11 rushing yards.  Matt Forte carried 9 times for a career-low 2 yards, but piled up 7 receptions for 80 yards.  Devin Hester caught 3 passes for 62 yards.  Johnny Knox caught 4 passes for 84 yards but had an amazing punt-return TD negated by penaltyWR Dane Sanzenbacher caught 5 passes for 27 yards and 1 TD.

Cutler is not going to make it through 2011 after getting hit 5 more times and sacked on 3 of them.  Mike Martz is getting him killed.  He’s been sacked 66 times since 2010, 20 more than any other QB, and just admitted to reporters that his hip and back are sore.  Former Rams VP Tony Softli, who oversaw Martz back in the day, has a theory that Martz’ offense results in his QBs – like Marc Bulger – getting “shell-shocked” and developing chronic happy feet. Even Bears OL coach Mike Tice joked that he would lose some weight and suit up if it meant keeping Cutler healthy. "I don't know if I have anything in me but the national anthem, but I'll give it a whirl," Tice said.  Martzx has called 95 passes vs. 20 runs over the last two weeks.  Matt Forte couldn’t find any running lanes vs. Green Bay’s well-executed gap defense, so he ended up catching 7 balls – and now leads all RBs with 22 receptions, on pace for 117 (!). Roy Williams couldn’t haul in any of the 4 passes thrown his way and dropped a TD in the 2nd quarter.

7. Joe Flacco completed 27 of 48 passes for 385 yards and 3 TDs.  He also rushed for 29 yards.  Ray Rice carried 8 times for 79 yards and caught 5 passes for 83 yards.  WR Torrey Smith caught 5 passes for 152 yards & 3 TDs and also added a 10-yard run.

As you’ve heard by now, the rookie Smith caught TDs of 74, 41, and 18 yards in the first 13:12 of the football game.  Ravens OC Cam Cameron came out firing and it’s becoming a trend:  In the first 3 games Cameron has called 34 pass plays and 18 rushing plays in the first quarter.  Smith was humble when asked about his insane showing in his first NFL start in place of the injured Lee Evans.  “Lee’s proven, I’m not,” Smith said. “For me to have a game like this, I think it definitely helps us out in the games going forward.”  Anquan Boldin caught 7 passes for 74 yards (14 targets) and TE Ed Dickson caught 5 passes for 51 yards (9 targets).  K Billy Cundiff hit 3 FGs but also missed twice from 51 yards.  The Ravens’ next 4 games are vs. NYJ (3rd ranked DEF vs. fantasy QBs), vs. HOU (6th), at JAX (16th), and vs. ARZ (28th).

8. The Cincinnati Bengals defense allowed 226 total yards, 1 touchdown and sacked Alex Smith 5 times in the 13-8 loss to the 49ers.  Another sack was negated by a penalty.  They were also handed an intentional safety.

Bengals DC Mike Zimmer continues to get the most of his unheralded unit, which is also the 9th youngest defense in the league. They rank 3rd in the NFL in total defense (276.3 yards per game), 7th in third-down conversions (42%), and 7th in sacks (9).  If you’re looking for a sleeper defense this is the group.  Even though next week the Bengals face the red-hot Buffalo Bills offense, over the next 3 games their schedule is juicy: at Jacksonville, vs. Indianapolis, and at Seattle.

9. Matt Ryan completed 26 of 47 passes for 330 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in the 16-13 loss at Tampa Bay. Michael Turner carried 11 times for 20 yards.  Roddy White caught 9 passes for 140 yards (17 targets).  Julio Jones had a breakout game with 6 catches for 115 yards (7 targets).  Tony Gonzalez only caught 2 passes but one was a 10-yard TD.

Ryan patched together an adequate fantasy line with a lot of come-from-behind passing.  Once the Falcons were down 16-3 midway through the 3rd quarter Turner’s day was essentially over. White had a couple uncharacteristic drops, including what could have been a 14-yard TD when he turned and ran with it.  White’s 17 looks from Ryan are astounding, and it reinforces his reputation as the premier target-beast.  Over his last 24 games White has been targeted 13+times in 12 different games.  No other receiver has 13+ targets in even 8 of their last 24 games (Andre Johnson & Brandon Marshall both at 7 of 24).  I’m always scanning for intriguing “buy lows” and Matt Ryan might be that guy right now.  Your league’s Ryan-owner might be a little antsy, thinking about benching him for Ryan Fitzpatrick or Eli Manning.  Or maybe he’s got Matthew Stafford and simply isn’t using Ryan anymore.  Make an offer.  The Falcons are finally getting Julio Jones going and their schedule is nice: The next 3 games are at Seattle (15th vs. fantasy QBs), vs. Green Bay (30th), and vs. Carolina (22nd).  7 of their next 8 games are indoors!

10. The New Orleans Saints RBs combined for 101 rushing yards, 62 receiving yards, and 2 TDs in the 40-33 win over Houston.  Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles scored from 13 and 30 yards out, respectively.

It’s a 3-headed monster with Ingram (38), Sproles (36), and Pierre Thomas (31) all with more than 30 combined carries & targets on the year, which are called “Plays” on The Huddle Stats page.  It might seem like a fantasy nightmare, but is it?  Despite the time-share, Ingram and Sproles have more “plays” than BenJarvus Green-Ellis or Brandon Jacobs: They belong in all 12-team fantasy lineups at least as a flex.  The time-share isn’t as detrimental if there’s a ton of love to go around, and New Orleans has run 208 offensive snaps, 3rd most in the NFL.  Long, fruitful drives… plenty of chances to join the party.  Thomas had a crack from the 4-yard line vs. Houston but got stuffed.  The Saints’ next 3 games are all on the road: Jacksonville (ranked 10th vs. fantasy RBs), Carolina (16th), and Tampa Bay (20th).

11. Cardinals RB Alfonso Smith carried 17 times for 54 yards and caught 3 passes for 21 yards in the 13-10 loss to Seattle.  Kevin Kolb threw for 252 yards and 1 TD, with 2 INTs and also 16 rushing yards.  Larry Fitzgerald caught 5 passes for 64 yards and 1 TD.  Early Doucet and Andre Roberts continued to be WRs 2 & 2A, with 6 targets each.

With Beanie Wells (hamstring) out it was Chester Taylor getting the start, but he didn’t have any juice in his legs.  Taylor carried 8 times for 20 yards on the first two drives then gave way to Smith.  He’s a former Kentucky Wildcat who’s 6’0/208 and runs in the low 4.4’s.  More of a straight-line runner, Smith did make a good case to be Wells’ backup going forward.  Cards HC Ken Whisenhunt was perturbed that Wells couldn’t go after a pretty good pre-game workout, but Wells assured reporters he would play in Week 4 against the New York Giants.  Kolb had another fumble, giving him 3 on the year. The Cards went into no-huddle mode in the 2nd quarter and had their best drive of the season.  Fitzgerald is right around the 10th or 11th best fantasy WR and is quietly on pace for 80 catches, over 1,300 yards & 10 TDs.  Kolb and Fitzgerald should make plays against the Giants’ injury-riddled secondary in Week 4, who’ve allowed 13 pass plays of 20+ yards, 5th most in the NFL.  Note:  One of my favorite blogs, SB Nation’s “Revenge of the Birds,” reminds us that the Cards had lot of problems with Seattle: “This was not a good game for the Cardinals and if they don't clean up their play and get the offensive line struggles worked out, the Giants are going to swallow them whole next week in Glendale.”

12. Team Red-Zone Leaders:

Team Red Zone Trips Red Zone TDs
New England 16 11
Houston 16 5
Washington 14 6
New Orleans 14 6
Buffalo 14 11
Philadelphia 14 6
San Diego 13 7
Miami 13 5
Green Bay 13 8
Detroit 13 8

New England is at the top, of course… but look at Buffalo, punching it in 11 times in 14 opportunities.  And getting back to the amazing 34-31 win over New England, don’t forget it was the defense that sparked the comeback.  After the Pats were up 21-7 the Bills picked off Tom Brady 4 (count ‘em, 4) times.  Two of those INTs by Leodis McKelvin and Drayton Florence were returned for 21 and 27 yards, respectively – with Florence going to the house. 

13. Felix Jones carried 14 times for 115 yards and had 3 catches for 40 yards in the 18-16 win over Washington.  Dez Bryant caught 4 passes for 63 yards.

Jones was the only offensive spark on either side of the ball, running with a hunger that I haven’t seen in his entire career.  And the fact that Jones did it with a shoulder harness is what totally earns my respect.  Jones has a nice fantasy schedule coming up: home vs. Detroit (5th vs. RBs), at New England (22nd), vs. St. Louis (26th), and vs. Philadelphia (32nd).  Bryant was visibly not 100 percent with the sore quad on Monday night but he also gutted it out and won a lot of respect.  His night was bailed out by a 30-yard catch on a busted play, but a catch is a catch – and Bryant made it happen by giving Tony Romo a place to throw it. Bryant only played 28 of 62 snaps (and still went 4-63) but there was no setback reported, so he should be ready to rock Sunday vs. the high-scoring Lions.

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