December 02, 2009
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When pressed into every down duty with Marshawn Lynch(notes) suspended over the season's first four weeks, the backup trampled opponents out of the gate, scoring once while averaging 123.3 total yards per game. His dynamite Monday night showing against the Patriots opening week instantly catapulted the rusher into must start territory. Owners who stole him in the middle rounds surely grinned evilly.
But when Beast Mode returned in Week 4, Jackson was forced into a value-damning timeshare. Instead of sulking on the sidelines or insinuating he needed more touches in the media, the humble back gracefully accepted his diminished role. In a Twitter age when selfishness knows no bounds (cough, Larry Johnson(notes)) his demure attitude was refreshing.
As discussed previously, Jackson's humility wasn't surprising. His climb from Division III Coe College to the small circuit United Indoor Football League to the NFL is rare and extraordinary. It's due to those humble beginnings the blue-collared back plays every minute as though it was his last. Whether punching the clock on special teams, in the passing game or on the ground, the multidimensional runner always carries a hard hat and lunch pail.
Based on his incredible backstory and gritty play, Jackson, in a way, is the Scrappy Doo of running backs (Random aside: This analogy would make Lynch Scooby. Maybe Tim Lincecum, playing the role of Shaggy, could be hired as an interpreter). Because of his "Let me at 'em" tenacity, it's no wonder he's a favorite in Buffalo and Fantasyland.
With Skeletor (Dick Jauron) no longer a threat to Eternia, Jackson's season has come full circle. Interim head coach Perry Fewell has caged the Beast, rewarding No. 22 for his early season deeds and acquiescence. Comparing the duo's numbers side-by-side, the third-year rusher more than deserved a second opportunity (Jackson yards per touch: 4.9, Lynch: 3.5). Last week against an ungenerous Miami defense, he rewarded Fewell's decision by totaling an impressive 116 yards on 20 touches, splashing pay-dirt twice, his first TDs since Week 1.
For Jackson loyalists, particularly those in PPR formats, his promotion couldn't have come at a more opportune time. With the playoffs just a week away, one of this season's top PT Cruiser candidates could be a one-man army. Here are three reasons why the difference-maker will help carry owners to the winner's circle:
1) Schedule. The football gods overlooking Buffalo must be fans of chocolate fondue because the Bills' remaining slate tastes very, very sweet. From FFToday.com:
Not including this week's tilt with the Jets on international soil, Jackson will face three accommodating defenses during the most stressful time of the year. Kansas City, obliterated often on the ground this season, ranks sixth in most fantasy points allowed to rushers. Atlanta rates ninth in that category. Meanwhile, New England, a team he torched for 140 total yards earlier this year, has yielded 4.5 yards per carry to RBs this season.
If your league crazily wraps up in Week 17, his Super Bowl bout against "resting" Indy could also produce generous numbers.
2) Perry Fewell. Not to be confused with Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell – their resemblance is striking – the interim skipper has freed his team from Skeletor's conservative grasp. As the Piano Man pointed out in Tuesday's Brunch, Fewell's loose attitude has liberated Buffalo, especially Jackson. Under Jauron, the versatile rusher was handcuffed. But Fewell, who obviously has a better eye for talent, is the sole reason why the shackles have been removed.
Equally as important, the Bills are no longer playing with a sense of hesitancy, taking shots downfield. As a result the running game has jumpstarted. This aggressive approach should continue to pay major dividends for the ground attack down the stretch.
3) Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes). Three weeks ago it seemed Glenn Beck had better odds of crashing the next state dinner than Fitzpatrick did suddenly developing into a competent NFL quarterback. Recently, few Ivy Leaguers have achieved long-term pro football success. But due to the philosophical change, the former Harvard standout has played with more fearlessness, which has led to a string of admirable performances.
Though it's hardly Kelly-to-Reed, his numerous connections with Terrell Owens(notes) have added much-needed balance for a passing attack that has ranked near the bottom of the league for most of the season. His ability to scramble has also created headaches for defensive coordinators. If Fitzpatrick continues to air it out, defenses will be forced to drop safeties back in coverage, creating sizable running lanes for Jackson to burst through.
Of course, shortcomings such as the Bills' horrific ground defense and injury plagued offensive line are legitimate concerns. But based on the above reasons, Jackson possesses significant profit potential.
As for this week's Maple Leafed matchup with the Jets, look for Jackson to turn his intradivision rival into Canadian bacon.
Last week Gang Green paralyzed Carolina, one of the league's most feared rushing teams. Because Jake Delhomme(notes) is the antithesis of a quality "Duck Hunt" player (Dogs really do laugh at him), the rushing attack was victimized. Facing several overloaded fronts, DeAngelo Williams(notes) and Jonathan Stewart(notes) combined for just 75 yards on 25 carries (3.0 ypc). In typical incompetent fashion, Delhomme tossed four interceptions. For a week, the Jets were able to forget about Kris Jenkins'(notes) absence.
Novices would surmise Buffalo's suspect passing offense would lead Jackson to suffer a similar fate. Undoubtedly, Darrelle Revis(notes) will blanket T.O., but Lee Evans'(notes) vertical success – he racked four catches for 68 yards and a score in their first meeting – will be critical to sparking the ground game. If Fitzpatrick hooks up with the speedster early and often, Fab Five Freddy should be able to compile excellent ground totals. Even if that connection fails to materialize, he should still flirt with the century mark in total yardage due to his presence as a pass catcher.
Without question, offensive balance is crucial for the resurgent rusher to net a top 20 day. Since Week 8, the Jets have surrendered just 3.5 yards per carry, 97.4 total yards per game and three scores to rushers, equal to the ninth-fewest fantasy points allowed. However, in six starts, Jackson has averaged 110.7 total yards per game and scored three times.
Regardless of what unfolds this week, Jackson's second go-round as the starter could be magical.
Week 13 Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 72 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 24 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15 fantasy points
What are your thoughts on Fred Jackson this week and beyond? Do you support the league playing regular season games north of the border? If forced to choose, who would you rather have on your "Call of Duty" team: Delhomme or JaMarcus Russell(notes)? Discuss.
Images courtesy of AP