I'm going to blow your mind today andl point out some pretty interesting facts that may have escaped your attention the last month or so. Are the guys you think are good really any better than those guys that you pass over each week? Why does anyone care about which defense they start each week? I'll also touch on the return of Andre Johnson (finally). Should you count on him even without Matt Schaub? And what should you do now that Fred Jackson has been ruled out for Week 12 – is it C.J. Spiller time?
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Fred Jackson Ruled Out for Week 12
Fred Jackson has a calf injury that had his status for Week 12 in some doubt. Consider that doubt squashed. The Bills announced this morning that Jackson is out for Week 12. When a player is ruled out so early in the week it's clear there is a significant issue. The situation with Jackson isn't dire quite yet, but it's certainly trending in that way, especially when you read the following quote. This was the response of HC Chan Gailey when he was asked if Jackson's injury would sideline him for the rest of the season. “"I don't know about that. We'll have to wait and see." There was even mention of Jackson being placed on the injured reserve list by the Buffalo News. An elite level performer in 2011, there would appear to be a very real possibility that Jackson could be done for the season with the fantasy playoffs on the horizon.
You might have noticed that the picture that accompanies this piece is of C.J. Spiller from his college days at Clemson. Did I grab a picture from that time because I was lazy and it was already in my computer database of photos? No. I did it for a reason (how lazy do you think I am?). The reason I chose Spiller in orange instead of red and blue is that it was the last time that Spiller was any good. The 2010 first round draft pick has done nothing of note in his NFL career. Think I'm kidding? This season he has one touchdown, and it was scored back in Week 1. Care to guess how many games that he's had 40 yards from scrimmage this year? The answer is a massive number – one (he had 69 yards in Week 2). In 24 career games he has run for more than 40 yards one time. Once. He also has a whopping two scores in those 24 contests. Now you could argue that the results are simply because he hasn't been given the rock, and at a certain level you would certainly be correct. Spiller has averaged less than four carries a game in his career, and he's averaged 1.6 receptions a contest as the Bills have, despite ALWAYS saying he'd be a big part of the offense, failed to utilize his talents at almost every turn. They have no choice now.
What do you do in Week 12? You go and grab Spiller immediately. Even though the Bills offense is going the wrong way as Ryan Fitzpatrick has seemingly forgotten how to move an offense downfield, and even though the Bill face the Jets this week you still add Spiller. The vaunted Jets' defense is 16th in fantasy points allowed to the running back position so the match up isn't as bad as most seem to think. I have no illusions that Spiller is going to run for 100 yards and catch five passes while scoring a touchdown each week, but he does have talent, and finally perhaps, the opportunity to truly flash it.
Andre Johnson Finally Returns
It seems a lock that Andre Johnson, who last appeared in Week 4, will finally return from his hamstring injury. An elite target, Johnson figures to have immediate success even with his quarterback lost for the season (more on that below). Matt Leinart is no Matt Schaub, but he should be a capable pigskin tosser. The good news for Leinart is two-fold. (1) Johnson is an elite level talent in all respects. That means that Leinart merely has to get the ball close and Johnson will go and get it. He's not one of those receivers that has to have the ball hit him in the numbers. Johnson is so physically gifted that he'll go and get the ball more times than not. (2) The Texans running game is flat out dominant. If you get a chance, watch this unit operate. I'm not kidding you, they open up six foot wide holes that yours truly could run through (provided I was stretched out of course because I wouldn't want to pull a hammy). Defenses have to key on Arian Foster and Ben Tate as the Texans boast the most effective rushing attack in the AFC (they are second to the Eagles in yards per game on the ground and are tied with the Raiders and Vikings for the NFL lead with 13 rushing scores).
It shouldn't be long before Johnson is burning defenses for his normal six catches a game, and there has to still be plenty of optimism that he'll be able to push the 80 yard a game average he has posted during his career even with Leinart under center.
Did You Know?
Sometimes we are all guilty of taking things for granted. We know the sun will come up each day. We know that we'll be heading to work for another awful day (well I don't ever have that issue, but I work from home wearing my slippers while talking fantasy sports, so what the hell do I have to complain about?). We all know that Tim Tebow is a worse fantasy quarterback than Tom Brady. But is he...?
The last five weeks Tim Tebow is the #3 rated fantasy quarterback. Bye weeks come into play knocking down guys like Brady, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford, but still, you have to be impressed by that placing of Tebow, don't you? Per game Tebow's 20.2 point mark the past five weeks is the #8 mark at the quarterback position. As I've said all along, when he plays, he's a QB1.
The past five weeks, Alex Smith is the #13 fantasy rated quarterback in points per game. That's right, he's better than Michael Vick, 17.5 points to 16.4. Stick that in your pipe Smith haters.
The past five weeks Michael Bush is averaging more points a game (21.5), in a standard PPR setup, than Adrian Peterson (19.4), Steven Jackson (18.6), Marshawn Lynch (18.1), MJD (17.3) and Matt Forte (16.6). You might have figured that. However, were you aware that Pierre Thomas (14.5) was averaging more points a game than Michael Turner (13.6), Chris Johnson (13.4) and Rashard Mendenhall (12.4)? Or how about this nugget. Everyone's favorite Patriots' TD vulture, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (5.2) is averaging fewer points per game than NFL stalwarts John Kuhn (6.2), Javon Ringer (6.9), Marcel Reese (7.5) and Kregg Lumpkin (8.0).
For all the crap he gets from everyone, I bet it will knock your socks off – where did that saying come from anyway? – to learn that the #1 PPR point producer at the wide receiver position the past five weeks is... wait for it... Larry Fitzgerald. So much for the haters on that one. The #2 option is from the Packers, but it isn't Gregg Jennings, it's Jordy Nelson. Since the Packers had a Bye during the past five weeks, Nelson is robbed of the top overall spot that he actually deserves. Per game his 21.1 point per game total dwarfs the efforts of #2 man Victor Cruz (19.3). Speaking of performances per game the past five weeks, how about this one. Per game the seemingly always disappointing Michael Crabtree is averaging 12.7 points a game, more than Wes Welker (12.2), Dwayne Bowe (11.6) and Hakeem Nicks (11.6). Moreover, here is a list of wideouts who have produced more points than Welker: Earl Bennett (15.0), Percy Harvin (13.5) and Jabar Gaffney (12.4).
Over the past five weeks Ron Gronkowski is averaging 24.4 points a game. That's nearly eight points more per game than the #2 man at the tight end position, Jimmy Graham (16.6). Truth be told, Gronkowski has been so amazing that his point total per game is fourth in all of football regardless of position from Weeks 7 through 11. Apparently hanging out with porn stars is a good thing. Who knew?
Do Defenses Matter?
Playing defensive bingo, where you roll out there whichever defense has the best match up, makes all the sense in the world. Sticking with one defense, no matter how good they are, doesn't always work (this week Lions' owners have to be wondering – do I hold on to a defense that will likely be burned by the Packers' machine?). I implore you to do something you probably don't do often – look at the numbers. In a standard league, whatever the heck that is, most defenses just don't separate themselves on a weekly basis. When you get that 21 point defensive outing you likely win your week's match up, but if you average things out over the course of a season, the fact of the matter is that there isn't much difference in defenses.
In the SiriusXM Experts League, the top scoring defense through Week 11 is the Bears with 108 points. Since they've played 10 games that's an average of 10.8 points a week. There are four other teams with 95 or more points, and each of them averages at least 9.5 points a week. That's only 1.3 points down from the best option out there. There are another five squads who have posted at least 80 points. Those teams average 8.0 points a week. So the difference between the top defense and the #10 defense in the league is 2.8 points a week. I'm not going to say that 2.8 points a week don't matter because obviously that would be foolish, but my point is that should you really be so worried about which defense to use each week when the point differential shows you that there really isn't that much of a difference?
Montario Hardesty (calf) will likely play this week, an if he does HC Pat Shurmur says Hardesty will start. Chris Ogbonnaya will still have a role in the offense, so don't go expecting Hardesty to rack up 20 touches if he plays.
DeSean Jackson (foot) will not practice on Wednesday. The team continues to say that his foot issue is nothing to worry about. He's expected to play in Week 12, but if his foot is still giving him issues it will obviously impact his speed-centric game.
Adrian Peterson (ankle) will be in a walking boot until Thursday. Given that the Vikings are 2-8 it would seem highly unlikely that we'll be seeing AD on the field this week.
Matt Schaub (foot) has been placed on the IR ending his season. He'll likely need surgery to fix his Lisfranc joint.
Michael Vick (ribs) will not practice Wednesday. He did a little throwing on Tuesday, but at this point it's starting to look like we will see Vince Young against the Patriots in a dream match up.