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Under the Numbers: Week 17
John U. Miller
December 27, 2011

Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 16.

1. Matthew Stafford completed 29 of 36 passes for 373 yards and 3 TDs.  Kevin Smith carried 15 times for 49 yards and 1 TD and added 2 catches for 12 yards and another TD in the 38-10 win over San Diego.

Stafford made fantasy dreams come true when it mattered most.  Did you know he was the #3 fantasy QB from Weeks 11-16?  Stafford has also posted a 105+ QB rating in 9 of 15 games, a seriously incredible statistic that proves he’s arrived.  Key line from CBS’ Dan Dierdorf late in the game vs. San Diego:  “Nice comfortable pocket Mr. Stafford has enjoyed.  He's been sacked twice, but by and large, he has been in the rocking chair.”  If the Lions add more bricks and mortar to this offensive line Stafford will be an elite fantasy QB for years to come.  It was a gritty but effective day for Smith, who was reluctantly placed in many fantasy lineups due to the uncertainty surrounding guys like Chris Johnson, Felix Jones, and Beanie Wells.  He carried and/or was targeted on 3 of the Lions’ 9 red-zone plays.  Smith was the 10th best fantasy RB in Week 16 and proved once again that he’ll play through pain.  He’s only been off the field for 12 of the Lions’ 135 offensive snaps the last two weeks, giving the term “tough guy” a new meaning.  Looking forward to 2012, I envision a total fantasy mess when we gauge the Lions RBs – Smith, Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure, and possibly another rookie – similar to the Redskins RBs this past pre-season.  But I will be targeting Smith as a legitimate sleeper in the mid-rounds because of his experience, versatility, and of course, toughness.

2. Philip Rivers completed 28 of 53 passes for 299 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs in the 38-10 loss at Detroit.  Ryan Mathews touched the ball 14 times for 74 yards from scrimmage.  Malcom Floyd caught 6 passes for 95 yards and 1 TD.  Antonio Gates caught 4 passes for 40 yards.

Rivers caps a most annoying fantasy season with his 8th game of 2+ INTs, once again chipping off his weekly fantasy total in leagues that subtract for turnovers.  He’s also lost 5 fumbles in 15 games.  Rivers had chances to generate points vs. the Lions but could not make it happen when it counted.  He completed 0-of-6 passes inside the Lions’ 5-yard line!  There was still hope in the 3rd quarter when Rivers fired an 11-yard TD to Floyd (who stepped up nicely while Vincent Jackson was clearly hobbled) and then the Chargers recovered an onside kick at the Lions’ 47-yard line.  But 9 plays later Rivers couldn’t generate a score and they kicked a field goal.  Mathews was effective when he got touches but with the Lions up 17-0 early in the 2nd quarter, Mathews’ role was sliced too thin.  I still insist he’s the new Knowshon Moreno and his legs/feet will always betray fantasy owners just when they’re feeling comfortable (Hey, it wouldn’t be a JUMbo column without a little Mathews hate, right?).  Gates had a 24-yard catch negated by a penalty.  He hasn’t topped 70 yards since Week 9.   

3. Arian Foster carried 23 times for 158 yards and 1 TD – plus he caught 3 passes for 16 yards – in the 19-16 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Give Foster back those two games he missed with the hamstring injury and he’d probably be the #1 fantasy RB again.  As it stands he is the top guy with a juicy 19.70 points per game average, ahead of LeSean McCoy (18.83), Ray Rice (17.66), and Fred Jackson (17.36).  Foster had 7 carries/targets out of the Texans’ 9 total red-zone plays vs. the Colts, and that’s where his value truly is:  He’s tied with Cedric Benson for most red-zone carries with 54 (again, Foster missed 2 games) and OC Rick Dennison’s playbook remains devoted to him when paydirt is near.  Foster is a scoring machine who has compiled 11 TDs in his last 9 games from Weeks 7-16.  He did put the ball on the ground vs. the Colts, for the 5th time in 5 games, but Kevin Walter jumped on it.  Foster has a staggering 491 rushing yards in his last 3 games vs. Indy, the most of any RB in his last 3 games vs. anyone since 2010. 

4. Maurice Jones-Drew carried 24 times for 103 yards and 1 TD – and snagged 6 passes for 21 yards – in the 23-17 loss at Tennessee.  He was targeted 10 times!

It’s too bad the Jags can’t spread the field and strike harder because defenses would back off and MJD might have rushed for 1,800 yards this year.  At one point late in the game the Jags had snapped 15 plays inside the Titan’s 35-yard line and only came away with 7 points; and that score was (aaargh) Greg Jones stealing a 1-yard TD.  I don’t recall ever seeing a team that literally only had one offensive player with any degree of playmaking ability.  Jones-Drew has accounted for 46.5% of the Jaguars’ total yards this year, only the third RB in the last six years to top 45% of his team’s yardage output.  Jones-Drew leads NFL rushers with 1,437 yards and he'll face the Indianapolis Colts in Week 17.  In the first meeting this year, Jones-Drew posted 114 rushing yards on 25 carries with a touchdown.  With LeSean McCoy a distant second this year at 1,309 yards (and day-to-day with a sprained ankle) Jones-Drew has the rushing title locked up. Throw in his 11 TDs and MJD has been nothing short of a fantasy hero in 2011.

5. Aaron Rodgers completed 21 of 29 passes for 283 yards and 5 TDs in the 35-21 win over Chicago.  He also added 18 rushing yards.

I won’t go through all his explosive passing records and stats (it would take up the whole column) but I want to mention a few tidbits you might not know.  Rodgers is 4th in QB rushing yards with 257.  He’s #1 in yards per attempt at 9.25, which means no dinkin’ and dunkin’.  Rodgers’ 122.5 passer rating could set a new NFL record, topping Peyton Manning’s 121.1 mark from 2004 – and since Rodgers will probably sit in Week 17 the record is his.  Assuming his season is over, Rodgers will end with 45 TD passes, 4th most ever in a single-season behind Tom Brady 50, Peyton Manning 49, and Dan Marino 48.  Remember when we thought Marino’s mark would never go down?  Rodgers and Tom Brady are tied for the league-lead with 2+ total TDs in 22 of their last 24 full games.  Drew Brees is next with 2+ total TDs in 18 of his last 24 games.  And here’s one about the Packers in general that blew my mind:  Per the Elias Sports Bureau, on Christmas night the Packers became the first team in 39 years to score at least 30 points while committing no turnovers or penalties.  Good Lord! 

6. Drew Brees completed 23 of 39 passes for 307 yards, 4 TDs, and 2 INTs in the 45-16 win over Atlanta. He also added 9 rushing yards.

Speaking of Marino, Brees broke his record of 5,084 yards and is sitting at 5,087 with one game to go.  The Saints still have to keep fighting in Week 17 because they are 12-3 and tied with the 49ers for the No. 2 seed.  New Orleans plays Carolina at the same time San Francisco plays St. Louis, and if the 49ers somehow lose while the Saints win, the No. 2 seed belongs to New Orleans.  However, if they are both 13-3 the 49ers take it on tiebreakers.  Brees has a mind-boggling 23-2 red-zone ratio of TDs to INTs even after that fluke INT on the pass intended for Jimmy Graham.  Brees is ranked #2 in red-zone attempts this year with 85, behind only Tom Brady at 94.  Note:  Brady is also about to break Marino’s record too.  He’s only 190 yards behind Brees.  JUMbo Stat of the Week:  New Orleans is closing in on the NFL team record of 7,075 offensive yards set by the 2000 St. Louis Rams.  They are at 6,857.

7. Roddy White caught 11 passes for 127 yards in the loss to New Orleans.

He was targeted a team-high 16 times and should have hauled in a couple good throws to add 30+ more yards to his total.  Roddy White has been the #3 fantasy WR from Weeks 11 to 16.  Repeat that to yourself out loud.  Clutch, money, kick-ass.  White has 5 TDs in the last 4 games, along with two 10-catch games.  He also needs 44 yards to pass Terrance Mathis for the most receiving yards in Falcons history at 7,349.  This season only 5 WRs have more receiving yards than White’s 1,227:  Wes Welker, Calvin Johnson, Victor Cruz, Steve Smith, and Larry Fitzgerald.  White’s 170 targets leads all NFL players. 

8. Mark Sanchez completed 30 of 59 passes for 258 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs in the 29-14 loss to the New York Giants.  Sanchez added a rushing TD but also lost a fumble and was tackled in the end zone for a safety.

The whispers are getting louder.  The Giants came into the game as the 29th ranked pass defense and were missing DE Osi Umenyiora, plus DE Justin Tuck was playing at maybe 80%. Sanchez dropped back to pass 68 times, folks – and all he could manufacture was 258 passing yards and 1 TD?  He was sacked on 5 of those drop-backs and two of them were his fault for not getting rid of the ball.  Sanchez has averaged a league-low 5.6 yards per attempt over the last 6 games.  Not to go off topic too much, but I just had a thought:  Santonio Holmes is wasting the prime of his career with this man at quarterback.  Holmes has not reached 100 yards once in his last 24 games including the payoffs.  "If you look at what Mark has done since he’s been here, he is an amazing quarterback,” said LG Matt Slauson after the game.  Slauson has not been linked to any narcotics rumors so I don’t know how those words came out of his mouth.  JUMbo Stat of the Week II:  Sanchez has a career 55.1% completion rate.  Vince Young’s is 57.9%.

9. Jackie Battle carried 14 times for 56 yards in the 16-13 loss to Oakland.  He was only targeted one time and did not catch the pass.

Battle rode a little fantasy wave in October as a free-agent pickup but has never been able to recreate the 119-yard game from Week 5.  That week he had 19 carries but he’s averaged 12 carries ever since.  When I see that stat it tells me perhaps the coaches aren’t as fond of Battle’s skills as they used to be.  Something on film, or maybe he’s not hitting the right holes(?).  Plus, Thomas Jones has carried the ball 60 times over the last 5 weeks, which is a direct insult to Battle any way you slice it.  Looking ahead to 2012, Jamaal Charles should be back to 100% (if you’re gonna tear the ACL, do it in September please) and I don’t envision Battle being a big part of this offense.  Maybe he’ll be the new Thomas Jones, hammering the short-yardage and grind-out-big-lead stuff to keep Charles fresh.   

10. Demaryius Thomas caught 4 passes for 76 yards in the 40-14 loss at Buffalo.  Thomas led the team with 8 targets.

Here’s the Broncos WR target count over the last 4 games: Demaryius Thomas 41, Eric Decker 17, Matthew Willis 13.  Say what you want about Tim Tebow but I’ve rarely seen a QB so insanely radar-locked on a teammate.  Thomas has a chance to be special in this league but he needs Tebow to improve as a pocket passer (duh) and must cut down on the drops.  He’s dropped 6 of his 63 targets, a pretty high ratio – and two of them were sure touchdowns.  Another thing to remember:  Thomas is excelling despite a torn Achilles’ in February with no offseason mini-camps, rehab or conditioning programs due to the lockout.  He was also practicing wit the scout team for the first 5 weeks of the season!

11. C.J. Spiller carried 16 times for 111 yards and 1 TD in the win over Denver, and also caught 2 passes for 27 yards.

Spiller is a great young talent.  His 38-yard run in the 1st quarter set up a field goal attempt and I am continually impressed by his suddenness when daylight opens up.  Spiller and CB Justin Rogers have been the two best players on the roster down the stretch.  Del Jaeger of wrote:  “This kid is the real deal.  Given a sliver of room, he's off to the races…Spiller is proving with each week that the only thing holding him back is the number of times Chan Gailey is calling his number.” In the 5 games since Spiller took over for the injured Fred Jackson he has 533 total yards and 4 TDs.  He also had a 41-yard TD called back vs. Tennessee; and Spiller’s been running behind an injury-shuffled offensive line, not the same cohesive group that was plowing holes for Jackson.  Spiller has been the 8th-best fantasy RB from Weeks 12-16. 

12. Rex Grossman completed 26 of 41 passes for 284 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT in the 33-26 loss to Minnesota.  He also lost a fumble.  Jabar Gaffney caught 6 passes for 77 yards and 1 TD. 

It looked like Santana Moss was going to have a monster day as Grossman targeted him on 4 of his first 5 attempts but Moss couldn’t get good separation all day (has he finally lost a step at age 32?).  Grossman was his usual self, alternating pinpoint-touch throws with costly turnovers.  Jason Reid of the Washington Post wrote one of the best lines I’ve ever read:  “I mean, committing turnovers and producing intermittent big plays is what Grossman does.  It’s just how the lovable lug rolls.  He gets out of bed in the morning with two turnovers.”  I don’t know where the Redskins are going with the QB position in 2012 (free-agent QB Matt Flynn, anyone?) but Grossman seems like a guy poised to get better and better.  He’s only 31 years old.  He’s also scored at least 20 fantasy points in 8 of his last 14 full games under Mike Shanahan.  Jabar Gaffney delivered as my JUMbo Week 16 Sleeper Deluxe and earned a spot on my fantasy teams next year because I put my faith in him and benched Steve Johnson in crunch-time.  JUMbo Stat of the Week III:  Washington has averaged 23.7 points over their last 6 games, 9th best in the league… without TE Fred Davis for the last 3 weeks.

13. Cam Newton completed 12 of 17 passes for 171 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs in the 48-16 win over Tampa Bay.  He added 65 rushing yards and another TD on the ground.

This guy is an absolute Super Freak.  Are you kidding me?  14 rushing TDs, most ever by an NFL quarterback.  “The NFL mark for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback is 43, by Steve Young, and Newton's a third of the way there already,” Peter King pointed out.  “He already owns the rookie record for passing yards (3,893), and, obviously, will be the first rookie to pass for 4,000 with 107 yards against the Saints next week.  Newton passed Peyton Manning's record with his 478th throw Saturday; Manning threw 575 passes as a rookie in 1998.”  The AP reports three rookie QBs in NFL history have had at least 3,000 pass yards and 20 pass touchdowns, and two of them are this year. Cam Newton and Andy Dalton have joined Peyton Manning as the only three rookies to accomplish that feat.  The Panthers ran 14 red-zone plays vs. the Bucs and Newton passed or ran on 10 of them.  I will be praying that I can get Cam Newton in my fantasy drafts next year – and it’s not just because of his abilities, it’s because of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, one of the more underrated play-callers in the league.  This is a guy who coaxed 29 TD passes out of Derek Anderson in Cleveland four years ago, one of the most amazing feats of any offensive coordinator in the modern era (yes, sarcasm).  If Chudzinski keeps letting this boy run near the goal line (Cam has 23 attempts inside the 10-yard line, 8th most in the NFL… as a quarterback!) then the fantasy fireworks will continue.

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