Fantasy Fox: Lynch, Rodgers, Calvin lead Week 10 Revelations
As an occasionally selfish fantasy owner/commissioner, there’s no sweeter sight than blue skies and light winds on a scoring-friendly NFL Sunday (obviously, we can’t see wind … but work with us here).
Be honest, though: When tuning into The Weather Channel Monday morning and viewing the treacherous blizzard that had bludgeoned Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and parts of Wisconsin … you privately wished the Vikings were hosting a game at TCF Bank Stadium on this night — instead of being on a bye.
Snow games always make for good theater in the NFL universe. And if Winter Storm Astro had pounded the Upper Midwest 24 hours earlier … who knows, perhaps Aaron Rodgers doesn’t fall one touchdown pass short of the single-game, all-time NFL record — in just one half.
Here are 10 fantasy revelations from a crazy Week 10:
1. I’m relatively certain Rodgers won’t replicate his absurd Sunday-night production of 315 yards passing and six TD passes — all in the first half — next week against the Eagles.
But I’m not rushing to Vegas to post the wager, either.
Against the beleaguered Bears, Rodgers had all day to locate open receivers downfield, sometimes getting four-plus seconds to hit stars Jordy Nelson (6 catches, 152 yards, 2 TDs), Randall Cobb (4 catches, 72 yards, 1 TD) and Eddie Lacy (118 total yards, 1 TD) for monster gains.
Of his last six games, Rodgers has notched either 300 yards passing and/or three TDs every time; and in that span, he’s averaging 285 yards and 3.7 touchdowns per outing.
Still, it’s hard to envision him hitting that TD average against a Philly defense that has held the opposition to under-200 yards passing four times this season … and has allowed only 45 points in their last three games.
Plus, there’s always the worry that weather will play a huge factor in Green Bay. The Sunday climate at Lambeau Field for the Bears game — 34 degrees, manageable winds, no precipitation — was a little balmy for November.
2. The day will come when tailback Marshawn Lynch (163 total yards, 4 TDs on Sunday) isn’t the NFL’s greatest lock for finding the end zone from three yards or less.
The day will also come when fantasy owners won’t be advised to move heaven and earth to acquire Lynch before a trade deadline.
But that sounds like a problem for Future Fantasy Fox. The present me would value owning Lynch (306 total yards, 6 TDs for Weeks 9-10) above Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Le’Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, Andre Ellington, Arian Foster or DeMarco Murray — or any other elite-level back — in standard-scoring leagues.
And that’s even with a brutal Seahawks schedule that includes two meetings with the Cardinals — who haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season — for Weeks 12 and 16.
3. How’s this for gratifying: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (10 catches, 13 targets, 76 yards, 2 TDs vs. San Fran) may be the only asset who doesn’t need a Hail Mary touchdown to solidify his elite-level standing in fantasy circles.
As part of that, Graham (four TDs since Week 8) shall remain a top-3 positional pick for the remaining six weeks of the fantasy season — which includes an easy-breezy run of opponents for the playoff period of Weeks 14 (Carolina), 15 (Chicago) and 16 (Atlanta).
In other words, if you’re knee-deep in quality tailbacks, receivers or possess Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger on the same roster … it’s completely worth your time to make an immediate play for Graham — as part of a 3-for-1 or 4-for-2 blockbuster.
4. The fantasy community should be celebrating the return of Lions wideout Calvin Johnson, who rolled for seven catches, 113 yards and one score against the Dolphins.
But it’s also worth mentioning:
If it weren’t for the superhuman exploits of Fins cornerback Brent Grimes — who stuck to Johnson like glue all day and collected perhaps the most athletic interception of the season (40- inch vertical leap) — and one dropped ball in the end zone (just seconds before Theo Riddick’s game-winning TD catch) … Calvin could have easily had three touchdowns on the day.
The best news of all? Calvin looked spry in collecting a game-high 15 targets against Miami, the NFL’s No. 2 pass defense entering the weekend.
On the flip (read: happy) side, over their next four games, QB Matthew Stafford (280 yards passing, 2 TDs), Johnson (10 straight November outings of 100-plus yards and/or one TD), Golden Tate (11 catches, 109 yards) … and the explosive Lions will encounter the Cardinals, Buccaneers and Bears — three of the NFL’s five worst pass defenses. BOOM!
From my TV-viewing vantage point, Bortles (290 yards passing vs. Dallas) now relies on a short, choppy delivery that looks forced and thus, quite unnatural.
If that’s the case … the Jaguars are doing a tremendous disservice to a quarterback who has the highest of real-world/fantasy ceilings — once he works through the usual super-struggles of an NFL rookie.
6. I (state your name) hereby pledge to NEVER AGAIN reach for a defense/special teams in Round 11 of a standard-scoring, 16-slot fantasy draft.
Instead of boldly grabbing the 49ers, Seahawks, Chiefs or Rams early in a draft process — and subsequently viewing it as a coup — fantasy owners would have been far better off showing late-round faith in the Bills (NFL leader in sacks), Lions (NFL’s top scoring defense), Eagles (five return touchdowns) and Cardinals (two return TDs on Sunday) back in August.
Bottom line: Every year is a different animal in D/ST circles … which explains why it’s pointless to concoct defense/special teams rankings during the preseason.
7. If only we could converge the Bills’ modest three-headed rushing warrior of Bryce Brown (100 total yards vs. Kansas City), Anthony Dixon (62 rushing yards) and Fred Jackson (49 total yards) into one eminently productive fantasy stud.
The Buffalo ball carriers registered 211 total yards (7.3 yards per touch) against the Chiefs; and it would have been 216 yards if Brown hadn’t fumbled a surefire touchdown inside the 5-yard line … with the ball bouncing out of the end zone for a crucial touchback (the Bills lost by four points).
Which brings us to this: No one has greater respect for Jackson’s physical talents and speedy-recovery acumen from injuries, but I sincerely doubt he’ll log the majority of touches from this point forward.
The Bills coaches have a firm grasp on how to maximize the tailback-by-committee-approach, meaning none of the three should be viewed as top-tier starters for Weeks 12-16.
Plus, heading into the weekend, three of the Bills’ next four opponents — Dolphins, Jets, Broncos — ranked among the league’s top 10 rushing defenses.
8. In the realm of the Cowboys’ expected rout of the Jaguars, sure, we can discuss the heroic exploits of tailback DeMarco Murray (131 total yards — ninth 100-yard rushing effort this season), quarterback Tony Romo (246 total yards, three TDs) or receiver Dez Bryant, who shredded Jacksonville for six catches, 158 yards and two scores.
But it’s also fun to focus on Brandon Weeden.
Before Weeden started against the Cardinals in Week 9, a number of national pundits (including hyperbolic ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski) predicted the Cowboys passer would perform admirably in the spotlight … because he was the "most prepared backup QB in football" — a nod to Weeden logging starter’s reps every Wednesday (a preparation day that Romo traditionally misses).
Well, with his 8-yard completion on Sunday (Weeden’s lone pass during mop-up duty) … that experience will surely boost Weeden’s confidence for the next time Romo (multiple fractures in his back) goes down to injury.
Bottom line: In the eyes of some, taking half-speed reps carries greater weight than actual physical talent. That might explain why Dez Bryant likely doesn’t have a preference between Romo and Weeden. (Oh, snap!)
9. I don’t have time to look this up … but I’m guessing Raiders QB Derek Carr came perilously close to setting an NFL record for futility on Sunday, as in Fewest Passing Yards (192) With 45 Or More Attempts.
Here are three things to worry about, regarding the wretched Raiders (losers of 15 straight):
a) Oakland didn’t collect a single rushing first down against Denver.
b) Receiver James Jones tallied 12 targets … but finished with only eight catches and 20 yards.
c) Here’s something scary for the future: The Rams and Raiders tangle in Week 13 — the first weekend of the fantasy playoffs.
Educated guess: Only the Rams and Raiders D/STs are decent bets for double-digit fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues. Ugh!
Speaking of which …
10. This seems like a good time to repeat a popular sports-radio-interview mantra from last week:
Let’s get out of the business of starting Rams pass-catchers from this point forward.
Yes, tight end Jared Cook (2 catches, 84 yards, 1 TD) and tailback Tre Mason (4 catches, 81 total yards) both produced double-digit points in PPR leagues against the Cardinals … but not a single wideout collected more than five targets on Sunday.
That’s a damning statistic for a team that already had the NFL’s worst collection of pass-catching talent — before Brian Quick went down with a season-ending injury.
Jay Clemons, the 2008 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year (Fantasy Sports Writers Association), can be reached via Twitter, day or night, at @FOX_JayClemons.