Fantasy: Gronk, Gore, Calvin lead Week 7 Revelations
Here are some Fantasy Revelations from Sunday's frenzied action for Week 7:
Seven days after Johnson (ailing knee) partook in 43 percent of Detroit's offensive snaps against Cleveland, catching only three balls for 25 yards, there were diminished fantasy expectations against Cincinnati — a defense that hadn't surrendered a 300-yard passing outing in 20 games.
But none of that seemingly mattered on Sunday, as Johnson rose to the challenge of indirectly matching wits with Bengals receiver A.J. Green (eight catches, 155 yards, one TD vs. Detroit), notching an old-school outing of nine catches, 155 yards and two touchdowns — off 15 targets.
For good measure, Lions QB Matthew Stafford passed for 357 yards and three scores, busting the Bengals' previously referenced streak of 20 games below the 300 mark.
All this begs the question: Is Calvin (six TDs in his last five games) a reasonable bet for 100 catches and/or last season's NFL record of 1,964 receiving yards?
Well, he's on track for only 88 receptions and ahead of last year's prolific pace in receiving yards. (Calvin has already trumped his 2012 TD output.)
But here's why Johnson will crush all fantasy comers by season's end, if healthy:
Of his last 24 games, dating back to 2011, Johnson has 16 100-yard outings and 23 games of eight-plus targets.
And last we checked, the Lions still don't have a No. 2 pass-catcher who's a regular lock for 75 yards and one score every other Sunday.
In other words, they still have no choice but to run Calvin into the ground.
How does a guy coming off four surgeries (back/forearm), who hadn't played an NFL game in 11 months, collect 17 targets on his re-launch date?
That's 17 opportunities for Gronkowski (eight catches, 114 yards vs. the Jets) to re-injure his arm when getting tackled to the ground (with extreme force, in some cases).
On the flip side, that's 17 chances for Gronk to quickly recapture his standing as fantasy's No. 1 or 2 tight end — depending on one's preference for standard-scoring or PPR leagues.
And even with the three or four drops and wobbly legs toward the end of Sunday's thriller, it was a remarkable debut — so much that Gronkowski stands as a viable candidate for double-digit catches/targets and one or two scores against the Dolphins and Steelers (Weeks 8/9), before the Patriots' bye.
In today's NFL, turning 30 runs synonymous with a thoroughbred horse being put out to pasture — minus the lucrative 'stud' fees. But there are exceptions to every rule, especially with Gore, who ravaged the Titans for 104 total yards and two touchdowns.
OK, so maybe "ravaged" is a little strong, since Gore didn't tally a single catch or carry for more than seven yards. But just look at the collateral effect of Gore logging a heavy workload:
**He logged 22 more touches than backup Kendall Hunter.
**San Francisco trounced Tennessee in time of possession (11-plus minutes).
**After re-committing to a power-running game after a Week 3 loss to the Colts, the 49ers have produced four blowout wins — with an average victory margin of 33-12.
On the nit-picky downside, though, San Francisco has scored fewer points in four consecutive weeks (from 35 to 34 to 32 to 31). Damn!
Which brings us to this ...
In Friday's "20 Fun Facts To Ponder," we led off with an automatic and still timely nugget:
Dating back to 2011 and including last year's Super Bowl, Frank Gore (533 total yards, three TDs) has notched 100 total yards and/or one touchdown in his last eight games against AFC foes.
Make that nine straight outings ... and 10 for next Sunday, after the Niners take care of the Jaguars — the NFL's worst rush defense — in London.
Green Bay held various double-digit leads over Cleveland for nearly three quarters and still called upon QB Aaron Rodgers (260 yards passing, three TDs) for 36 pass attempts.
Given the Packers' litany of injuries with pass-catchers (Randall Cobb, James Jones and now Jermichael Finley), that's an encouraging sign for fantasy owners who worried Green Bay might have gone conservative during crunch time.
Instead, Finley (five catches, 72 yards, one TD before incurring a neck injury), Jordy Nelson (five catches, 42 yards, one TD) and the second-year vet Boykin (eight catches, 103 yards, one TD) all rewarded their owners with rock-solid fantasy days.
The news gets better for Boykin, who bears a physical resemblance to Cobb: On Sunday, he drew 10 targets, while maintaining a slot role that doesn't necessarily conform to James Jones's route-running talents.
That bodes well for the next eight weekends, as the Packers can look forward to attractive matchups with the Vikings (twice), Bears, Eagles (ranked 31st against the pass), Giants (24th), Lions (28th), Falcons (22nd) and Cowboys (29th) from Weeks 8-15.
Bottom line: Boykin merits a weekly starting slot at the flex in standard-scoring leagues ... and WR2 consideration in PPR leagues.
And that status won't change, even if rookie tailback Eddie Lacy (108 total yards, one TD vs. Cleveland) keeps flirting with 100 total yards every Sunday.
The Bills don't have a bye until Week 12, meaning fantasy owners will likely have to endure another four games of limited Spiller reps — against stout defenses (New Orleans, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, New York Jets) — while the Buffalo back keeps playing on a tender ankle.
It's one thing for Fred Jackson (85 total yards, one TD) to carry the Bills' workload with his partner hobbling. It's another for Tashard Choice to log the same amount of carries (six) as Spiller, who was seemingly waiting his turn along the sidelines whenever Choice entered the fray.
As such, I cannot recommend Spiller for a weekly top-20 slot, among running backs, for the next month or so.
Sore ankles just don't magically heal from Sunday to Sunday without proper rest; and Spiller is maddeningly well enough to practice with nimble aplomb ... but not strong enough to explode through rushing lanes 15 or 20 times a game.
Let's start with something positive: Mathews (110 yards, one TD vs. Jacksonville) has amazingly been reborn with the Chargers, cracking the century mark in consecutive weeks (with 20-plus touches, too).
Let's end with something negative: Mathews (zero catches/zero targets on Sunday) has now endured three straight outings without a reception. As late as two weeks ago, the San Diego tailback had never gone back-to-back games without a catch.
And frankly, that makes no sense, given the Chargers' depleted corps of receivers, prompting battlefield promotions for wideouts Keenan Allen (three catches, 67 yards on Sunday), Vincent Brown (two catches, 26 yards) and Eddie Royal (four catches, 69 yards, one TD).
For two years, the knock on Mathews involved him being a "PPR-friendly back," an asset more apt to amass 110 total yards than find the end zone on a given Sunday.
But the tables have turned on that assessment ... which should scare anyone who doubts whether Mathews will continually hold a sizable advantage, touches-wise, over Danny Woodhead (76 total yards, one TD).
For the season-ticket holders with no use for preseason games, they've only seen injured back Steven Jackson (hamstring) register four touches and one touchdown at the Georgia Dome — the screen-time equivalent of Burt Reynolds' horribly conceived cameo at the end of Smokey and the Bandit III.
Things are looking brighter for Week 8, though, as Jackson is slated to practice on Wednesday (after a six-week absence) and presumably play against the Cardinals next Sunday in the desert.
However, that's no reason to discredit Rodgers from this point forward. His two-game output of four touchdowns (against the Jets and Bucs) dwarfs the end-zone efficiency of Jackson, who has only five TDs in his last 21 games, dating back to 2011.
No offense to Zac Stacy, but it's a sad day when a Rams running back infuses more confidence in 12-team leagues than Miller, a speed demon who seemingly has the tools to be a Tier II back in fantasy circles.
And yet, against the seldom stout Bills, Miller (47 total yards) posted his sixth straight seasonal outing of 16 or fewer touches — 15 consecutive games, if we're charting the kid's entire career path.
The lesson here: Neither Miller nor Daniel Thomas (58 total yards) have the track record — or offensive line support — to merit starts in 10- or 12-team leagues, minus some kind of bye-week-depletion dilemma.
Looking at Miami's next four opponents (New England, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, San Diego), it's hard to see Miller matching or eclipsing his single-game high of 75 total yards/one TD (13.75 fantasy points) anytime soon.
And that's quite depressing for those who invested a Round 4 pick back in August.