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Under the Numbers: Week 16
John U. Miller
December 20, 2011

Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 15.

1. Percy Harvin caught 3 passes for 8 yards and carried once for -1 yard in the 42-20 loss to New Orleans.  He was targeted 7 times.

Just when a clear and present trend is established – in this case, the fact that Harvin touched the football 60 times in 5 weeks, more than any WR – we’re reminded that fantasy football is the most frustrating hobby on Earth.  4 touches?  7 net yards from scrimmage?  What the hell happened, it’s like the Vikings didn’t want to score points.  Early in the game things looked good for Harvin: The Saints turned it over on the opening possession, setting up Minnesota at the 26-yard line.  Adrian Peterson for 1 yard, then Harvin got the second carry but didn’t get a seal block on the left side.  Stuffed.  Christian Ponder then tried to hit Harvin on 3rd down but threw it out the back of the end zone.  That’s OK, Ponder hit Harvin for 3 and 5 yards on the very next series – giving Harvin a carry or target on 4 of their first 7 plays.  Busy day, right?  Harvin was only targeted 3 more times in the half and inexplicably, only once in the entire second half.  He was on the field quite a bit, though Devin Aromashodu, Greg Camarillo, Joe Webb, and some dude named Emmanuel Arceneaux were rotating in and out all day.  The Vikings only ran 54 plays all day because the Saints had the ball for a whopping 39 minutes.  Pre-JUMbotron advice: I’d recommend starting D. Heyward-Bey (at Kansas City) or Nate Washington (vs. Jacksonville) over Harvin (at Washington) this week.    

2. Michael Bush carried 18 times for 77 yards and caught 7 passes for 62 yards in the 28-27 loss to Detroit. 

Aside from a terrible game in Week 13 against Miami (the most underrated defense in the league), Bush has been a god-send for the McFadden-less or simply those who needed a boost at midseason. From Weeks 9-15 Bush was the 5th best fantasy RB in standard scoring while averaging a crazy 25 touches per game.  He’s chasing the cheddar and he’s gonna get it.  Bob Evans and I think Bush would be a perfect fit in Cleveland.  Bush’s recent performances haven’t been awe-inspiring – he’s hasn’t had a run longer than 15 yards since Week 11 – but that’s just normal wear and tear.  Remember, he took over in Week 7 with just 50 touches under his belt.  This 139-total yard effort vs. Detroit was about the best you could hope for because Oakland only ran 1 red-zone play all day – a 12-yard end-around TD for Louis Murphy.  You’d have to really be stacked to bench Bush in Week 16 at Kansas City, who has the 27th ranked defense vs. fantasy RBs.  JUMbo Off-Topic:  Hue Jackson says he’s still hoping Darren McFadden can play this season.  Number one, there are only two games left.  The season’s over!  Number two, you can’t say “Lis Franc” and “hopeful he’ll return this season” in the same breath – which is exactly what Jackson did last Wednesday.  A confirmed Lis Franc mid-foot separation is game-set-match-hopefully-we’ll-see-you-next-year.  Period.  It is often a career-ender… maybe not immediately, but eventually.  Ex-Lions RB Kevin Jones suffered the injury in December 2006 and still has two screws in his foot to this very day! 

3. Greg Little caught 5 passes for 131 yards and 1 TD in the 20-17 loss at Arizona.

Little’s 76-yard TD was the longest offensive play for Cleveland since Braylon Edwards caught a 78-yard TD from Derek Anderson against Baltimore in 2007.  And it was a helluva play by Little to “make himself available” to Seneca Wallace.  By the way, Little is 6’2/220.  I just thought that needed to be said.  LB D’Qwell Jackson racked up another 13 tackles and has a league-leading 102 on the season.  He also has 3.5 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries and 1 INT.  Ladies and gentlemen, meet D’Qwell Jackson, the overall #1 IDP LB (!) with 2 games remaining.  Back to Greg Little, I thought QB Seneca Wallace was more than serviceable because of his instincts and quick feet, but hasn’t he always impressed when he plays?  I would do more than glance at Little for my WR3/flex spot in Week 16 even though they play the Ravens.  I’d start him.  CB Lardarius Webb has a sprained toe and didn’t play last week.  Little is not hitting the rookie wall like others have and he’s quietly ranked #14 in WR targets with 108.  Plus he has a respectable 669 yards on the season and if it weren’t for his league-leading 12 drops Little would be over 800, with a decent shot at 1,000 as a rookie!

4. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 31 of 47 passes for 316 yards, 2 TDs and 3 INTs, plus added 7 yards on the ground in the 30-23 loss to Miami.

Just when we totally write the guy off, he scrapes out 25 fantasy points in a wild one on the snow-slippery turf at Ralph Wilson Stadium.  Fitzpatrick actually wasn’t as sharp as the numbers suggest, as evidenced not only by the 3 picks but his 3-of-10 passing on 3rd down.  He missed on a two-point conversion attempt and had three passes batted down on the day.  On the last three 4th-quarter come-from-behind drives Fitzpatrick piled up 196 pass yards and both his scores… but fantasy owners don’t care how he did it.  Steve Johnson (5-82-0) felt his groin “pop” (his words) in the 4th quarter and left early.  If Johnson can’t go it’s hard to recommend Fitzpatrick in Week 16 vs. Denver – unless you’re sweating the hobbled Ben Roethlisberger or worried about Eli Manning against the Jets.

5. Darrius Heyward-Bey caught 8 passes for 155 yards and 1 TD n the 28-27 loss to Detroit.

Wow, he’s really a freak!  The guy can play, man.  Remember when Al Davis shocked the country by picking Heyward-Bey with the 7th overall pick (over Michael Crabtree, which caused him to hold out) for what we assumed was simply because of his delicious 4.30 at the combine.  It turns out that Davis was right after all.  Heyward-Bey looks like a complete receiver.  In essentially 11 games – he missed Week 2 with a knee injury and sat out two others for disciplinary action – he has 775 receiving yards and 7 receptions of 25+ yards.  DHB also ranks 10th among all WRs with a 15.2 average per catch.  Give him a full offseason with Carson Palmer or any other respectable veteran QB and this guy has 75-1200-8 written all over him next year.  

6. The San Diego Chargers defense held the Baltimore Ravens to 14 points, 290 total yards, and 6 rushing 1st downs; and posted 7 sacks & 2 INTs in the 34-14 win on Sunday night.

It wasn’t even that close.  Joe Flacco hit Torrey Smith on a cheap garbage TD with 1:55 to go.  San Diego also had another sack negated by a penalty.  I don’t know what light suddenly flicked on for these guys – they were the 30th ranked fantasy defense going in – but they looked like a Super Bowl defense.  They had 5 sacks in their previous 5 games combined!  Ray Rice only had 27 total yards in the second half.  The big story here is LB Antwan Barnes, the ex-Raven, who compiled 4 sacks and now has 11 on the season despite playing maybe half the snaps this season because he rotates with Travis LaBoy.  A lot of fantasy leagues have shut down the waiver wire already but I have to say, if you can pick up the Chargers for Week 16 at Detroit, I think the potential is there for another sack-fest.  The Lions’ offensive line tends to completely break down every few weeks or so, putting Matthew Stafford in great danger.  In three different games this year they’ve let Stafford get sacked 5 times.   

7. Darren Sproles carried 8 times for 33 yards and caught 5 passes for 79 yards and 1 TD in the 42-20 win over Minnesota. 

The 5th-ranked PPR fantasy RB continues to make the most of limited touches.  Sproles has yet to get more than 18 touches from scrimmage in any game but has 1,155 total yards and 7 TDs.  Sproles added a punt-return TD in Week 1 and had another one negated at Tennessee two weeks ago.  Last week at Minnesota he had a 2-yard TD run reversed by instant replay.  Sproles averages an astounding 6.5 yards per carry running most of the same toss sweeps and draws that Reggie Bush did as a Saint, and Bush averaged 4.0 per carry.  The irony is that while Sproles has been so much better than Reggie Bush in Sean Payton’s scatback role, Bush is absolutely thriving now in Miami.  Sproles only played 30 snaps vs. Minnesota (definitely a part-time role) while Chris Ivory played 29 and Pierre Thomas played 22.  The matchup vs. Atlanta in Week 16 isn’t ideal on paper because the Falcons rank 3rd against fantasy RBs, but a closer look shows Atlanta ranks 18th in RB receptions allowed (65).  Plus it’s at home at the Superdome.  No need to bench Sproles now if he’s been in your lineup regularly.    

8. Larry Fitzgerald caught 3 passes for 65 yards in the 20-17 win over Cleveland.  He was targeted 8 times, 4th-most on the team behind Andre Roberts (10), Todd Heap (9), and Early Doucet (9). 

If you missed the game and just caught the box score -- QB John Skelton passed for 313 yards and 1 TD -- you would have assumed Fitz rolled a 7-122-1 or something.  Nope.  Just as I suspected, Browns CB Joe Haden shut Fitzgerald down, holding him to 2 catches for 33 yards in regulation (actually CB Dimitri Patterson was on Fitz quite a lot too) before he finally got loose for a 32-yard overtime grab to set up the winning kick.  "We had him contained [before overtime]," said Haden.  "I was playing him when he was outside, and Dimitri was playing him when he was inside.  He probably had one catch when we were in Cover 2 and we're just playing our thing."  Fitzgerald had a chance for a 1-yard TD in the 4th quarter but Skelton horribly misfired – and Beanie Wells banged it in on the next play.  In 5 games with Skelton, Fitzgerald averages 82 yards.  In 8 games with Kevin Kolb he averaged exactly the same 82 yards.  The only difference is that Skelton hit him for 4 TDs in 5 games, Kolb hit him for 2 TDs in 8 games.

9. Aaron Rodgers completed 17 of 35 passes for 235 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs in the 19-14 loss at Kansas City.  He did add a TD on the ground, giving him 25+ fantasy points in 12 of 14 games this year. 

Why do I have the feeling this one will leave a mark?  Countless Rodgers-owners have been spanking butts all year, especially if they had Jordy Nelson paired up as their WR2 or WR3.  The Chiefs were lifted up by the crazed Arrowhead crowd; and I would have given anything to hear what the publicly calm Romeo Crennel said to them before they took the field for his first head coaching gig since 2008.  “Everybody had marked it off as a win for the Packers,” Crennel said. “But those guys in the locker room, they’re football players. They decided that they were not going to lay down.”  Indeed.  They held the Packers scoreless in the first half, the only time that’s happened all year, and compiled a surprising 18 first downs through the air with the steady Kyle Orton at quarterback.  36:11 in time of possession, that’s a good way to achieve success against the Packers.  Now the Rodgers Fantasy Express is coming off the rails at the worst time.  Starting RT Bryan Bulaga hurt his left knee and his backup, rookie Derek Sherrod, broke his leg.  Here’s the rub:  The 49ers still have a shot at the No. 1 seed and home-field throughout, the spot Green Bay has banked on keeping all season.  If the 49ers win out and the Packers lose out, the 49ers take it on the common opponents tiebreaker.  However, the 49ers play on Saturday at Seattle.  Green Bay plays Sunday night vs. Chicago.  If the 49ers lose then the Packers have absolutely nothing to play for.  Nada.  Food for thought.  JUMbo Whisper:  K Mason Crosby has the yips.  After going a perfect 16-of-16 through Week 10, he’s missed 3 of his last 10.  Though in his defense he missed a 54-yarder at Arrowhead, which isn’t a major crime.   

10. A.J. Green caught 6 passes for 115 yards in the 20-13 win over St Louis.  He had 9 targets, more than the other 3 active Bengals WRs combined (8).

Green has had an outstanding rookie year with 61 catches for 1,006 yards and 7 TDs, despite missing a game with a knee injury.  Green is only 3 yards behind Cris Collinsworth’s Bengals rookie record of 1,009.  He injured his shoulder in the 2nd quarter vs. St. Louis and doctors are calling it a Grade 3 sprain.  Uh oh.  He’s in immense pain as we speak.  Green was able to return in the second half, however, and caught 2 passes for 21 yards with his shoulder heavily taped and padded.  Will he play vs. Arizona?  According to Dr. Neal ElAttrache, orthopedic surgeon at Karlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, Green could play through it: “If that is truly the injury then the issue primarily is pain.  As long as he can get his arm up over his head he should be fine.  For a receiver it is better compared to a cornerback like New England’s Devin McCourty who suffered the same type injury.  With the impact that defensive players make and how they use their shoulder, he was out for a couple weeks.  As long as they can give Green a shot to help with the pain he should be able to play.”

11. Eli Manning completed 23 of 40 passes for 257 yards, 0 TDs and 3 INTs in the 23-10 loss to Washington.  He was sacked 3 times and simply failed to get into rhythm.

In the 1st quarter it was all setting up nicely as Manning lofted a should-be-easy-breezy 54-yard TD to Hakeem Nicks, who found the ball in stride but let it bounce off his facemask.  You just got the feeling it was going to be one of those days.  In the 4th quarter there was a 13-yard TD waiting for Mario Manningham but miscommunication led to a Redskins interception.  “I guess he went inside at the last second, so it made it a little too easy of a play for the defensive back,” Manning said.  “There was a great opportunity.”  JUMbo Translation:  “The idiot broke off the route but I’m too much of a professional to call him out and hurt his confidence.”  Now all the ticker-tape fantasy parades for Eli are a distant memory.  Now we don’t care that he’s on pace for 5,000 yards and was the hottest QB in the league from Weeks 12-14.  Now it’s Week 16 and you have to decide if you’re starting him against the Jets.  TE Jake Ballard (knee) is out and you know how Eli gets in these mini-funks for weeks at a time. 

12. Mike Wallace caught 5 passes for 66 yards in the 20-3 loss at San Francisco. 

I can’t recall a more hot-and-cold fantasy receiver from the first half of a season to the second half.  Sure, when the 2012 fantasy campaign heats up in July we’ll look at the final rankings and see that Wallace was around the 10th best fantasy WR.  But I’m making notes to remind myself of how un-good Wallace was down the stretch.  In the first 7 games he was the 3rd best fantasy WR – behind only Wes Welker and Calvin Johnson.  In the last 7 games Wallace hasn’t even been a top-20 guy; with a high of 70 yards in those 7 games and no touchdowns in 5 of them.  It’s just like Ben Roethlisberger’s output, which I’ve discussed at great length:  The highs are so high and the lows can be so low.  2,000 yards, Mike?  He’s now limping across 1,000 (at 1,034) after popping 730 in the first 7 games!

13. Reggie Bush and Marshawn Lynch changed fantasy destiny in 2011. 

C’mon, admit it.  How many of you dropped Reggie Bush after that Week 2 debacle where he touched the ball 7 times while Daniel Thomas carried 18 times for 107 yards?  You dropped Reggie quicker than Kim Kardashian did when she saw Miles Austin’s strangely alluring hazel eyes.  Same with Lynch, you need to fess up.   He also touched the ball 7 times in Week 2 and earned the fantasy pink slip.  I saw someone drop Lynch for Isaac Redman in one of my experts leagues!  Here we are going into Week 16 and both Bush and Lynch are bangin’ like All-Pros.  Bush rolled 203 yards and 1 TD on the Bills, giving him 973 yards and 6 rushing TDs on the year.  He’s caught 41 passes and a TD, too.  I’ve also counted 3 runs totaling over 60 yards that Bush has lost to penalties this season.  Bush’s 3 straight 100-yard games during the fantasy playoffs, you just can’t ask for more from an RB2-type guy… Everything else has been gravy.  Lynch is a scoring machine who’s hit paydirt 12 times in a 10-game streak.  Only the league’s #1 fantasy RB, LeSean McCoy, has more TDs in his last 10 games with his whopping 14.  Lynch has climbed up to #5 on the RB rankings despite missing Week 7 with back spasms.

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