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The Odd Seasons of Three Top Picks
Now that every team has had its bye, we can make apples to apples comparisons about season-long fantasy stats. Taking a look at Rodgers body of work this year, one number stands out the most: he's only 12th overall in passing yards (2,838) despite not missing any time. And Rodgers' yardage total is closer to that of Ryan Tannehill and Ryan Fitzpatrick than it is to league leaders Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan.
On the flip side, Rodgers remains first in QB rating (105.6), second in TD passes (28) and has thrown only seven picks in 379 attempts (5th in INT percentage). But he has yet to run for a score, and his 7.5 YPA ranks 10th – not counting the 37 sacks he's taken – most in the league by a wide margin.
Some of that is the poor play of the Packers offensive line, some likely has to do with losing No. 1 receiver Greg Jennings and some is probably just regression to the mean as last season's 9.2 YPA and 48 total TDs in 15 games was one of the top few quarterback seasons in the history of the league. Regardless, Rodgers has been only the No. 4 QB in points per game (22.32), behind RGIII, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, and Rodgers' average is nearly as close to No. 9 Andy Dalton's (20.37) as it is to RGIII's 24.20.
Going forward, he's still a top-5 QB, based on his skills and history. But his lack of rushing touchdowns and that he's attempted more than 100 fewer passes than Matthew Stafford (and 75 fewer than Tony Romo) put him in the middle of a densely packed top-10 rather than in a distinct top tier of two or three.
Last year Stafford threw for 5,038 yards, the fifth most in NFL history, but I cautioned people before the season that it was largely due to his 663 attempts, third most all time, and with a pedestrian 7.6 YPA, he'd never get close to repeating. Well, I was wrong. This year, his YPA has gotten even worse – 7.0, good for 21st among qualified players, behind Tannehill, Dalton and Russell Wilson. Moreover, Stafford has Calvin Johnson on his team and plays his home games in a dome.
Nonetheless, despite missing part of the Lions-Titans shootout, Stafford again leads the NFL in passing attempts (488) by a wide margin. Prorated over 16 games, that's a pace for 710, 19 more than Drew Bledsoe's all-time record of 691. Even at a below-league-average 7.0 YPA, that puts Stafford on pace for 4,988 yards, roughly on par with last year's total. Of course, he has just 14 TDs, on pace for 20, though his three rushing TDs salvage his overall scoring numbers.
The bottom line – even though Stafford isn't anywhere close to Rodgers as a real-life quarterback – I'd rank him in the same general area thanks to his ungodly number of attempts every week. Moreover, if he would just get some air under his deep balls – twice he overthrew Ryan Broyles and Calvin Johnson on Thanksgiving Day – he might pad his YPA and TD numbers down the stretch.
Among RBs with 100 or more carries, Johnson ranks fourth in the NFL with 4.9 yards per carry. That puts him ahead of Doug Martin (4.8), Jamaal Charles (4.8), Alfred Morris (4.7) and Marshawn Lynch (4.6) and way ahead of Ray Rice (4.3), LeSean McCoy (4.2) and Arian Foster (4.0). What's so noteworthy about that? Through three games, Johnson had 33 carries for 45 yards. Remove that from the equation, and Johnson has had 5.7 YPC since.
Johnson's lack of receiving production – just 20 catches in his last 10 games – and his meager TD total (4) keep him out of the top-10 among RBs to date, but whatever problems he had for much of 2011 and the first few games of 2012 have been solved.
Things to Take Away from Week 12
• How odd was it on Thanksgiving when Justin Forsett was awarded a touchdown on a play where his knee and arm were clearly down? Apparently, I never realized the extent to which coaches needlessly throwing challenge flags on scoring plays was ruining the game. If you really want to stop coaches from wrongly throwing challenge flags, why not simply behead them at the 50-yard line? It would be only slightly more heavy handed than the current rule, and far more effective. Plus, it wouldn't ruin the cover for someone who had the Lions +3 at home.
• Brandon Pettigrew is a worse version of Jermichael Finley – someone who drops passes and fumbles, but offers even less upside. Ryan Broyles is the only Lions receiver who might be capable of making other teams think twice about devoting their entire secondary to Calvin Johnson.
• Whitney Mercilus has a great name for a linebacker.
• The only thing capable of slowing Andre Johnson thus far in his career has been injuries and a run-heavy system bolstered by a top defense. Now that the Texans run blocking is average and the defense has slipped without Jonathan Joseph, Johnson is obviously still a top-five receiver. (That might change again when Joseph returns, though).
• I didn't watch much of the Dallas-Washington game, but if you weren't convinced last week that RGIII is better than Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and other QBs of that ilk already, maybe his decimation of the Cowboys defense persuaded you.
• The Jets giving up 35 points in the second quarter was funny. So was Tom Brady racking up fantasy points up 30 with four minutes left.
• It boggles the mind that C.J. Spiller once again had just 14 carries after the Bills vowed to get him more work. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry, but of course Ryan Fitzpatrick had to attempt 33 passes at 5.5 per, not counting a pick and two sacks.
• Reggie Wayne got another 14 targets Sunday and now has 144 targets in 11 games, a pace for 209. The last five years, the league leaders in targets had: 181, 179, 170 and 183, 170, respectively.
• The difference between the Steelers and Browns is six points when Pittsburgh turns it over seven times on the road with its third string QB.
• The Raiders are unbelievably bad right now. Say what you want about Al Davis, but whatever succeeded him is worse.
• The Falcons are still a fraud, but they won because the Bucs are even more of a fraud. It was nice of Matt Bryant to miss the short FG at the end and leave me with a push, though. Trying a 56-yard FG, down one, on 4th-and-7 with 3:32 left was a questionable decision by Greg Schiano. Assuming the likelihood of success of converting was about equal to making the FG, I'd rather convert and have a new set of downs to burn clock and possibly score a touchdown. Moreover, you save seven yards of field possession of you don't make it.
• Chad Henne got 10 yards per attempt Sunday and spread the ball to Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts and Marcedes Lewis. It was the Titans defense, but still – a nice follow-up to the Texans game for all three.
• The key to enjoying the Chargers is to see them for what they are: performance art. I found this week's collapse on 4th and 29 both creative and inspiring. The execution was masterful. It really looked like they were trying to tackle Ray Rice, but just couldn't do it. Appreciate their greatness while you still can.
• Colin Kaepernick played well (9.2 YPA), no sacks, just one pick, but he wasn't as sharp as last week, it was against the Saints and the team staked him to two pick sixes. There's some upside here, but it's probably more Russell Wilson than RGIII.
• There's no truth to the rumor that Vernon Davis wants Alex Smith back at quarterback.
• It was awfully nice of the Packers to run the ball 23 times while having Aaron Rodgers throw only 25 passes despite being down big most of the game. The field goal on 4th and 1 from the 11 down 17, and the 55-yard attempt early in the game were also gifts.
• In games against the 49ers and Packers this year, the Giants have scored 64 points and allowed 13.
• Bryce Brown fumbled twice, but otherwise looked fantastic against a Carolina's league-average rushing defense (4.2 YPC allowed coming into Monday's game before being shredded by Brown).
Things to Look for in Week 13
• The Saints travel to Atlanta for the Thursday night game.
• The rejuvenated Giants are the first team to see RGIII for the second time on Monday night.
• After losing to the Falcons, the Bucs get a tougher test in Denver.
• Seattle (1-5 on the road) heads to Chicago (5-1 at home).
Beating the Book
Line: Buccaneers +7 at Broncos
The Bucs had a nice run to get into playoff contention, but this is a big step up in class, and I don't think they'll be able hang with the Broncos in Denver. Not only does Denver have the better passing offense, but Tampa's pass defense is among the worst in the league. Back the Broncos.
Prediction: Broncos 34 – 16
Last week we lost with the Bills to put us at 4-8 on the season in this forum and 80-91-5 overall. Last year we went 10-7 in this forum and 124-125 overall. Over the last five years we've gone 50-34 in this space. You can read the full Week 13 column here.
Surviving Week 13
With Cincinnati and Denver both winning last week, few pools suffered significant losses. Let's take a look at this week's slate:
|Team||Opponent||%Taken||Vegas ML**||Vegas Odds|
Home Team in CAPS
* according to OfficeFootballPools.com
** average of the two moneylines
*** no Vegas line (Ben Roethlisberger's status unclear)
Looking at the chart, Dallas and Buffalo are the most popular teams, but their "percent taken" numbers are still small enough that the pot-odds angle is minor. So the main objective here is simply to pick the team with the best chance to win. There are a lot of comparable choices this week with Dallas and Green Bay being the most heavily favored, closely followed by New England, Denver and San Francisco.
I'd take Green Bay, followed by Denver and San Francisco if I had every team available. I don't, so I'm looking at Dallas, Buffalo and the Bears. The Cowboys are the biggest favorites, but Philly – as bad as they've been – got up off the mat against Carolina Monday night and probably would have won but for three fumbles. Moreover, Dallas has zero home-field advantage and is capable of imploding without notice. For now, I'll go with the Bears at home against Seattle who's traveling for the second straight week for an early game and are much worse away from home.
It's worth mentioning that the wild card here is the Ravens - who should be favored by at least seven and quite possibly more - at home over the Steelers if Ben Roethlisberger isn't able to play. In that case, they're worth serious consideration, and I'll incorporate them into the analysis when more is known in the full article that comes out Wednesday night.
Follow Chris on Twitter at @Chris_Liss