Counting down the fantasy numbers of note from the fourth weekend of the NFL season:
908 – Total yards allowed by the Carolina Panthers’ defense over the last two games which were, not coincidentally, lopsided losses to the Steelers (37-19) and Ravens (38-10). The Panthers have surrendered a total of 49 first downs, 491 rushing yards and 517 passing yards on a 72.1 opponent completion percentage (44-of-61) in the two contests while recording only one sack and five combined QB hits and failing to force a turnover. In short, it’s been a shocking reversal of fortune for a unit which last season allowed an average of only 15.1 points, 86.9 rushing yards and 301.1 total yards per outing to rank as one of the best overall and fantasy defenses in the league. And with dates looming with the Bears, Packers, Bengals, Saints (twice) and Falcons (twice), fantasy GMs should be far from automatically plugging the Panthers’ D into their D/ST slot without a second thought.
54 – Receptions for Steelers’ TE Heath Miller over his last 11 games following his career-high 10-catch, 85-yard, one-TD outing Sunday against the Buccaneers. In that span, which dates back to Week 11 of last season, only the Saints’ Jimmy Graham (64 catches) and the Panthers’ Greg Olsen (59) have recorded more receptions among all TEs. The perennially underrated Miller has hauled in 21 of his 27 targets for 197 yards so far this season to rank 11th among TEs in PPR leagues with 45 fantasy points. Miller’s TD catch, however, was only his second scoring reception in his last 19 games, and an uptick in that department would move him squarely into TE1 territory.
37 – Team-leading targets this season for Bears TE Martellus Bennett, ranking second only to Graham (42) among league tight ends. Bennett also ranks among the TE leaders in fantasy points (first with 54), catches (second with 29), receiving yards (fourth with 295) and TD receptions (tied for second with 4). According to Pro-Football-Reference.com’s red zone stats, the 6-foot-7 Bennett has been targeted eight times inside the 20 – ranking second among TEs and tied for fourth among all pass-catchers – and has six receptions, which is tied for second among all league players. Bennett has been especially busy this season with WRs Brandon Marshall (32 targets-16 receptions) and Alshon Jeffery (32-20) having been slowed by injuries in the early going, but he’ll be a weapon Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler & Co. will continue to lean on given his size, skills and production.
33 – Rushing yards in three games for Panthers QB Cam Newton, who’s carried the ball only eight times and obviously is still slowed after undergoing offseason ankle surgery. That rushing total is tied for 20th among all quarterbacks and ranks behind the likes of rookie Blake Bortles (54 yards), Matt Ryan (47), Charlie Whitehurst (40 in 1 game) and Philip Rivers (36) among others. The 33-yard total in fact is lower than his own per-game average of 42.3 from his first three seasons – a span in which he led all league QBs in attempts (365), rushing yards (2,032) and ground TDs (28). His rushing prowess has played a leading role in Newton ranking as a top-five fantasy QB in each of the three campaigns, but that run in most definitely in danger as he ranks only 24th currently with 52 total points.
11 – Offensive touches over the last three games for Vikings wideout Cordarrelle Patterson. It’s a mind-boggling low total for the second-year playmaker who was one of the top fantasy WRs down the stretch last season. It’s even more surprising given that it’s coincided with the stretch Minnesota has been without Adrian Peterson. Still, that’s been it for Patterson over the last three weeks: 11 touches – 10 receptions on 16 targets and a single rushing attempt – for 148 total yards and no scores. The lack of rushing attempts has been particularly perplexing. Patterson rushed 12 times for 158 yards and three TDs as rookie last season and picked up where he left off in the 2014 season opener, carrying three times for 102 yards and a TD. But he’s had only the one carry since then, resulting in a 7-yard loss.
4 – Receiving touchdowns by Indy RB Ahmad Bradshaw, a figure that leads the Colts and doubles the total of any other NFL back. Bradshaw has yet to record a rushing score, but he’s caught 14 of his 16 targets as a receiver, including a 7-for-7 performance in the red zone, which ties him with Giants TE Larry Donnell for the most catches inside the opposition 20-yard line.
4 – Double-digit fantasy-point game performances this season for Saints skill players not named Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham or Mark Ingram, currently sidelined with a broken hand. There was the double-digit outing for rookie WR Brandin Cooks (15.5 points) in Week 1, one apiece for RB Pierre Thomas (11.1) and backup TE Josh Hill (10.8) in Week 3 and another for RB Khiry Robinson (10.5) on Sunday night in Week 4. But that’s been it, and by process of elimination, that leaves none for WRs Marques Colston or Kenny Stills. That’s important to note for those who are passing up better fantasy options simply to own a piece of the Saints’ offensive reputation.
0 – Favorable fantasy matchups remaining this season for Jaguars rookie QB Blake Bortles, according to The Huddle’s Strength of Schedule Tool. The third overall pick has certainly piqued some fantasy interest by completing 70.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 476 yards and three TDs and rushing for 54 yards on seven carries in his game-and-a-half of action so far. But the remainder of the Jags’ schedule – which includes seven games against teams currently ranked among the top eight in fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks – is among the toughest roads facing any signal-caller in the league.