Counting down the fantasy numbers of note from the third weekend of the NFL season:
490 – League-high rushing yards this season for the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their dominating 264-yard effort on 34 carries Sunday night in Carolina. Le’Veon Bell (21-147) and LeGarrette Blount (10-118) both cleared the century mark against the supposedly formidable Panthers. The noticeably slimmer Bell, who dropped 20 pounds over the offseason, ripped off an 81-yard run Sunday night and now has 315 yards on 53 carries this season, trailing only DeMarco Murray (75-385). Overall, it’s been quite a rushing reversal of fortune for the Steelers, who last year ran for only 1,383 yards – the franchise’s lowest full-season total since the 1970 merger.
61 – Receiving touchdowns among 943 career receptions or the Texans’ Andre Johnson, ranking him only ahead of Jason Witten (52 TDs/889 receptions), Eric Moulds (49/764) and Wes Welker 48/847) among the 40 WRs/TEs who have 700 or more career catches. So it shouldn’t be a shocker that Johnson (16-191-0) has yet to find the end zone this season and has now gone 10 straight games – a span of 63 receptions – without a scoring grab. That lack of TDs is keeping Johnson out of WR3 territory despite the targets (27) and receptions (16) that suggest otherwise.
35 – Rushing attempts so far in three games for the Niners’ Frank Gore, who carried only six times for 10 yards in Sunday’s 23-14 loss to the Cardinals. In all, Gore and rookie backup Carols Hyde accounted for only nine of the team’s 24 rushes in the game, while QB Colin Kaepernick had 13 for a team-leading 54 yards. Despite big early leads and favorable matchups against the Cowboys and Bears in the first two games, Gore’s attempts have decreased with each outing this season — going from 16 to 13 to six – and is on pace to finish with 187 if he plays a full season. Gore’s fewest rushing attempts in the last eight seasons came in 2010 when he logged 203 in 11 games (18.5 per contest).
30 – Rushing attempts out of 49 this season for Broncos’ RB Montee Ball which have netted 3 or fewer yards. Ball, who had a second-round ADP this summer as the seventh back off the board, has averaged only 3.37 yards per carry (49-165) in three games and has scored one TD while losing a fumble. It’s a marked decline for Ball, who averaged 4.66 yards a tote last season backing up Knowshon Moreno. Now, however, he’s the lead dog in Denver, but it’s been an all-around struggle for the Broncos on the ground with Denver averaging 3.18 yards per attempt as a team – ranking ahead of only the Lions (3.03) and Chargers (2.42). Those numbers certainly suggest the rushing issues go beyond Ball, but that’s little consolation at the moment for the underperforming back’s fantasy owners.
19 – Straight games with five or more receptions for Steelers’ wideout Antonio Brown, following his 10-90-2 outing Sunday night against the Panthers. That ties Brown with Laveranues Coles for the second-longest streak in NFL history, trailing only Jimmy Smith who had 21 consecutive games of five or more catches from 2000-02. Brown, however, isn’t just an elite PPR-only WR as he ranks second in yards (1,795) and 10th in TD receptions (11) among all wideouts since the start of last season.
15.1 – Fantasy points Sunday for Ravens’ rookie RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, who rushed for 91 yards and a TD on 18 carries in his NFL debut. Taliaferro, a fourth-round pick out of FCS Coastal Carolina who led the league with 243 rushing yards in the preseason, stepped up big with Bernard Pierce (thigh) sitting out the game and became the third different back to lead the team in rushing in as many games. Justin Forsett had 63 yards on 11 carries Sunday and leads the Ravens with 189 rushing yards overall, and it’ll be another RBBC for fantasy GMs to decipher once Pierce returns.
13 – Of 32 teams coming out of Sunday whose top fantasy WRs were either rookies or players who didn’t suit up for the squad a year ago. These include free-agent signings or players coming back from season-long injuries. Particularly notable, though, are the rookies as the strong first-year wideout class is flexing its fantasy muscle with Sammy Watkins (Bills), Allen Hurns (Jaguars), Brandin Cooks (Saints), Kelvin Benjamin (Panthers) and John Brown (Cardinals) all pacing their respective teams. Benjamin, a first-round pick who starred for national champion Florida State last season, and Hurns, an undrafted rookie from Miami, are tied for sxith overall among all wideouts with 37 fantasy points. Another fresh face, Eagles’ second-round pick Jordan Matthews, also is making an impression coming off a nine-catch, 59-yard, two-TD effort vs. Washington on Sunday.
5.5 – Yards per passing attempt for the Patriots’ Tom Brady, ranking him above only rookie Derek Carr (5.4) and the struggling Ryan Tannehill (5.0) among league QBs who have started the majority of his team’s games so far. Of Brady’s 68 completions, only five have resulted in gains of 20 or more yards, and he’s particularly struggled finding targets other than WR Julian Edelman or TE Rob Gronkowski. Throwing to everyone else, Brady is 35-of-63 for 256 yards and no TDs for an ugly yards-per-attempt average of 4.06. It’s been a steady decline for Brady whose overall yards-per-attempt average has declined each season (8.6-7.6-6.9-5.5) over the last four seasons. His completion percentage (65.6-63.0-60.5) has followed suit, trending down to his current 58.8 rate. Protection issues – the Pats have allowed seven sacks and 14 QB hits in three games – have certainly been an issue, but Brady’s struggles go beyond that as he has compiled only 43 fantasy points to rank an eye-popping 27th among all QBs this season.
5.2 – Combined Week 3 fantasy points for Philly RBs Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy in the team’s 37-34 win over Washington. It was a 1-vs.-1 showdown of the Eagles’ top-ranked fantasy RBs against the team that had allowed the fewest points to opposing backs, and the latter prevailed decisively, utterly stifling Sproles (2-20 rushing, 3-30 receiving, fumble) and McCoy (20-22 rushing, 1-0 receiving). Stellar work and, as a reward, up next for the D.C. crew are two top-five fantasy RBs: The red-hot Rashad Jennings (Thursday night) and Marshawn Lynch (Oct. 6). Certainly two matchups to keep an eye on.
2 – League-low passing touchdowns surrendered by the Bengals’ defense this season. Cincy also has allowed a NFL-low 54.1 percent completion percentage and has a league-leading six interceptions while sitting atop the total points-allowed chart (33). In addition, opposing QBs have compiled a 55.6 passer rating – ranking a shade behind the top-ranked Patriots’ pass D (55.4). But what makes the Bengals’ accomplishments even more impressive is that they’ve faced a trio of top-15 fantasy QBs in Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Jake Locker. Even tougher tests, though, lie ahead with Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning all on the schedule.