Which NFL records could fall this season? Is there a chance, even if it's a small one, that Chris Johnson will be able to at least somewhat salvage his 2011 season? Are you serious – Matthew Stafford is hurt again? Are the Browns really ready to give up on Peyton Hillis? Finally, did you listen to me an add a certain quarterback who can't throw a spiral but still figured to be a fantasy force?
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Records Made to Be Broken?
It's still very early in the year, we aren't even halfway through the games yet, but that doesn't mean that there aren't a handful of players performing at such amazing levels that they aren't “on pace” to approach or even surpass some hallowed NFL records. Here are a few of those names.
Record: Dan Marino 5,084 yards passing
Drew Brees is averaging 353.9 yards a game this season, a pace that would equate to 5,662 yards. However, Brees isn't the only one on pace to set the NFL passing yardage record. In fact, Tom Brady is averaging 360.5 yards a game putting him on pace for 5,768 yards. All of that makes poor Aaron Rodgers and his pace of 5,422 yards seem so passe.
Record: Jerry Rice 1,848 yards receiving
With Tom Brady on pace to set an NFL record for passing yards, it's hardly surprising that one of his wideouts in on pace to also set the receiving mark. Wes Welker is on pace to eclipse 2,000 yards, even though he's never even had a season of 1,350 yards (he went for 1,348 in 2009). Steve Smith already has one epic season, he went for 1,563 yards back in 2005, and he's also on pace to better Rice's mark by just slightly more than 20 yards.
Record: Anything a tight end has ever done.
Jimmy Graham is a physical freak which, when combined with arguably the best passer in football in Brees, has him on pace to post the greatest overall receiving season in the history of football for a tight end. Graham's current pace would equate to 103 receptions, 1,540 yards and 11 touchdowns. Amazing.
Record: Chris Johnson 2,509 yards from scrimmage
Matt Forte has done it all for the Bears this season. Forte is currently third in the NFL with 672 rushing yards, an average of 96 yards a game on the ground. He's also Jay Cutler's favorite option in the passing game, and his total of 38 receptions is second amongst all backs in football (Darren Sproles has 45), while his 419 yards is the best total for a runner. Those numbers equate to 1,091 yards from scrimmage through seven weeks, a pace that would result in Forte falling just short of Johnson's record with 2,494 yards.
And that leads to my next point...
Can Chris Johnson Turn It Around?
Chris Johnson has been a colossal failure. There, I said it. He seems to lack some short area burst, the offensive line isn't exactly opening up holes, and the passing offense, minus Kenny Britt, has predictably regressed the past few weeks. So it's time to give up completely on Johnson, right? Not so fast.
(1) Johnson was a top-10 pick this season, and likely a top-5 selection if your draft was held right before opening day. At this point, what kind of value would he have on the trade market given his 44.7 yards per game an one rushing score? Are you really going to trade him for Jackie Battle, Knowshon Moreno or Ryan Torain?
(2) Here are some of Johnson's yardage totals: 34, 53, 5, 53 and 39. No those aren't his rushing marks from this season, those are some of his per game totals last year when he ran for 1,364 yards, the fourth best total in football. I didn't even list two other games in which he ran for 58 and 59 yards meaning that seven times last season he failed to reach 60 yards in a game. Are you really sure you want to completely bail on him given the fact that he was “average” last year nearly half the time and still ran for almost 1,400 yards?
(3) Let's take a look at the rankings of some of the running back rankings from last season through seven weeks of the season in a PPR setup.
53: Fred Jackson
33: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
18: Jamaal Charles
13: Ray Rice
But wait you say, didn't all of those backs end up having pretty darn good seasons in 2010? Of course they did. Here are the four backs final season rankings from 2010.
21: Fred Jackson
17: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
5: Ray Rice
4: Jamaal Charles
Shocked? Those four running backs improved by an average of 17.5 spots in the overall running back standings in the second half of the season proving that a runner who gets off to a slow to middling start isn't necessarily precluded from becoming a strong season long option (don't overlook the fact that if a guy is moving up 18 spots in the rankings in the second half of the season that he's likely producing some seriously impressive numbers to offset that slow start).
So, can Chris Johnson, who's currently ranked 22nd at the running back position (thanks in no small part to his 24 receptions), show a similar amount of improvement in Weeks 8-17? Make sure you give this some strong consideration before dumping him in some deal because there is still plenty of time for him to turn things around and have a strong second half in 2011.
Stafford May Miss Week 8?
We talk all the time about injured players, and names like Malcom Floyd, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones always pop up in that discussion. It's now time that we squarely add another name to the mix – Matthew Stafford. Here are the facts about the quarterback who is seemingly constructed out of copper instead of steel.
(1) Stafford was limited to 10 games in 2009. He ended up being placed on the IR after suffering a separated shoulder and then a right knee issue.
(2) Stafford appeared in only three games needing surgery to fix an injured shoulder.
(3) Drew has appeared in seven games this year, an it's looking like that he could miss Week 8 with an ankle issue. Stafford said it's “...just a sprain, I guess. It's kind of in a weird spot...” Um, it's in your ankle Matt. Now it's far from certain that Stafford will be out of action this week, but Shaun Hill took first team reps at practice on Wednesday which clearly signals that, at best, Stafford is not close to 100 percent (Stafford did move around on Wednesday doing some light running and throwing). We will obviously end up with a better understanding of the situation as we get closer to game time.
Speaking of Hill's ill health, here is one of the better quotes from the 2011 NFL season. I only wish it wasn't attributed to a “source” because when someone says something this good you want them to stand up and take credit for it. “It takes a tank to keep him out,” the source said in Pro Football Talk's report. Apparently, without knowing it, Stafford has simultaneously been playing for the Lions and working on the forward front in some World War that no one else is aware of. I mean, really, a tank? At this point it certainly seems like a tricycle could knock him out of action.
So, what do you do if you own Stafford this week? The easiest move would be to add Shaun Hill who played pretty well last year subbing for Stafford (he averaged 260 passing yards and 1.6 touchdowns per start). Whether you add Hill or not, if your current backup keeper is on a Bye (Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, Mark Sanchez, Carson Palmer and Josh Freeman), it wouldn't be the dumbest things in the world to go out an add someone because it's far from certain that Stafford will be under center in Week 8 against the Broncos.
Browns Backfield a Mess
Peyton Hillis was a top-10 running back last year as he ran for 1,177 yards, caught 61 passes, and scored 13 touchdowns (11 rushing, two receiving). His production did slow in the second half last year causing some trepidation going into draft day this year (3.9 YPC over his last eight games), but he was still taken with the expectation that he would at least be a solid RB2. It hasn't gone at all according to plan in Cleveland. He ran for 94 yards and two scores in Week 2, and then the fun started. He missed a game with strep throat. He later admitted that he could have played but that his agent advised him to sit out since he was less than 100 percent and still pushing for a long term contract extension with the Browns. He then injured his hamstring and wasn't able to play in Week 7. Through it all Hillis has averaged a mere 3.5 yards per game as Montario Hardesty has come on in his absence.
So where are the Browns as we head into Week 8 in a match up with the Niners, the second ranked run defense in football (74.7 yards per game) and the only team who has yet to give up a rushing score? The common perception is that Hardesty is in the lead for touches in the backfield after running for 95 yards against a stout Seahawks defense last week. However, there are a couple of major issues to consider before you can call this Hardesty's backfield.
(1) Hillis was a superstar last year. Would the Browns, even with the off the field stuff, simply turn away from the guy who was their best player last season? I find that doubtful.
(2) Here's a quote from the Browns HC Pat Shurmer from Wednesday about Peyton Hillis. “We're looking forward to him performing Sunday and having a good game. He's our starting halfback.” Does that sound like Hillis is going to be an afterthought to you if Hillis' hamstring allows him to play?
(3) Let's keep things real with Hardesty. Yes he ran for 95 yards against a good run defense in Week 7, but he averaged just 2.9 yards a carry (he toted the rock 33 times). Hardesty has also averaged just 3.3 yards on 73 carries this season for the Browns. Do you want a guy with those type of numbers carrying the ball 20 times a game? I sure don’t. And talk about injury prone. This guy has had more injuries to his knees than Lindsey Lohan has times being arrested, and at last count that's like 86 times (slight hyperbole added).
There's no way to know how the backfield will play out in Week 8 because of the health concerns with Hillis' hamstring, but if I'm in a league where someone has given up completely on Hillis, and there are a lot of leagues like that out there, I'm pushing hard to add Hillis to my roster
Told You So
Last week Tim Tebow was dreadful for three quarters. Actually, it was even worse than that as he was 4-for-14 for 40 yards with the fourth quarter half completed. If you were watching the game you know what I mean. Tebow was setting back the forward pass about 55 years. Tebow rallied the Broncos to a win in the first comeback from down 15 points with less than three minutes to play since the 1983 season. In the end he completed 13 of 27 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and he also ran the ball eight times for 65 yards. Pretty middling numbers right? They might be average at best numbers, but did you happen to catch how many fantasy points he recorded last week? In the SiriusXM Fantasy Experts League he recorded 24.55 points, the fourth best point total of any quarterback in football in Week 7. Now where did I read that Tebow might be a poor real world quarterback but an excellent fantasy weapon? Oh yeah, it was in my piece from two weeks ago titled 2011 Fantasy Football News: Tim Tebow Mania.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account Twitter account.