Monday, October 1, 2012

Week 4's Tebow Time?

OK, I'm not actually going to talk about Tim Tebow here, but suffice it to say that after the Jets got shut out on Sunday, I would be remiss not to mention my boy.

Another week of watching less than one total game (unless you include Monday Night, which hasn't happened yet), so you'll have to forgive me for my fly-by-night analysis.  And really, I'm blogging with house money after the Eagles somehow managed to squeak out their third win of the season by a combined 4 points.  The Eagles are a surprising 3-1 given how they've played, while the Giants, Saints, Packers, Patriots, Lions, and Steelers are all .500 or worse.  Gotta like the team's chances when they stop getting out of their own way with regards to turnovers and offensive play calling.

We had some pretty big blowouts this week, with the Patriots, Chargers, 49ers, Texans, Bengals, and Broncos winning by an average score of 38-13, and I'll be taking a look at two of those games below.


TRIUMPH:  Everyone tuned in to this game to see Jackie Battle try to get revenge on the Chiefs team that let him go last year, right?  Oh.  Well he got what he came for, scoring two touchdowns and gaining 81 yards on 19 total touches, which, more notably, caused Ryan Mathews to only garner 16 touches (albeit gaining 82 yards), but we'll get to that.  Battle had all of 5 touchdowns in his first 42 career games, and his 42 receiving yards in this game represent just about a third of his career receiving yards.  Needless to say, I'm not really seeing him setting the world on fire in the near future.

TRAGEDY:  On the other side of Battle's surprising performance was the game for Ryan Mathews, which appears to be related to the fact that he fumbled in the red zone last week, his 10th in just 27 career games.  He was relegated to mop-up duty, accruing 11 of his 16 touches in the 4th quarter when San Diego was up 2 touchdowns.  And we'll get to THAT later, too -- sorta.  It's not really a question that Mathews is the most talented back on their roster (sorry, Curtis Brinkley), and I think that with his health apparently no longer in question, he should be in for a larger percentage of the work in coming weeks.

TREND:  Those who have read my stuff before (or played with me in fantasy two years ago) know that I have a complicated relationship with Dwayne Bowe.  I don't have any stock in him in my six leagues this year, but I still find him really compelling from an inconsistency standpoint.  Two years ago, it was the ridiculous five-game stretch bookended by uselessness.  This year, it's his tendency to only perform when the Chiefs are getting blown out.  Bowe has 11 of his 25 receptions, 171 of his 342 yards, and all 3 of his touchdowns when his team is down by at least 17 points.  That is out of control.  In fact, he has only 3 receptions for 30 yards when the Chiefs are either tied or leading.  Sigh.

TRAIL MIX: The Chiefs just can't get out of their own way.  They're 4th in the league in total offense but are 18th in scoring.  They're 31st in the league in scoring defense despite allowing the 13th fewest total yards in the league.  How'd they pull that off, you might ask?  How does 15 turnovers in 4 games grab you?  Hey, Matt Cassel: take the ball, hand it to Jamaal Charles, run away.


TRIUMPH: The Vikings had lost their previous 7 road games within the division by an average score of 33-18, so getting this win was a pretty big step in the right direction for a team that has as many wins this year (3) as they did all of last year.  Not only that, but if the Bears lose to the Cowboys on the road Monday night (obviously I'm writing this before the game), the Vikes would have a 1-game lead at the quarter pole on the rest of the division.  I don't expect it to last, but with their start they could easily place third in the NFC North, which would represent a pretty big improvement for them.

TRAGEDY: Percy Harvin had 27 receptions on 32 targets in the first three games of the season (which, first of all, is an incredible catch rate), so the fact that he had just 6 targets and 3 catches Sunday  is a bit of a disappointment.  However, these things happen (right, Julio Jones fantasy owners?), and I'm not concerned about his usage.  Maybe he was tired from returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, which fans can't really gripe with.  The Vikings pass offense didn't really do anything in this game (just 111 yards for Ponder on 26 attempts), and didn't have to, considering they had two special teams touchdowns.  But -- say it with me -- we'll get to that.

TREND: Looks like the league hasn't figured out how to keep Matthew Stafford's and Calvin Johnson's yardage totals down, but they sure have come up with a way to keep them out of the endzone.  I took this stat from Yahoo Sports, but it's really compelling: Stafford has just 35 fewer passing yards than last season at this time, but has 8 fewer touchdowns, while Johnson actually has 5 more receptions for 102 more yards, but has 7 fewer touchdowns.  To me, this shows that opposing teams are buckling down in the red zone against these guys, and reeks of being a fluke, but it's a pretty interesting pair of consecutive seasons this combo is authoring.

TRAIL MIX: The Lions must have some kind of bet going to see how many non-offensive touchdowns they can allow this season.  They've allowed 6 such touchdowns this season, 5 in the past two weeks.  Of their 107 points allowed through 4 weeks, 36 have been directly from returns.  That's a third of their total points allowed!  If they don't allow any of those scores, we're looking at a 3-1 team and no one's worried.  To me, this looks like something that won't be a problem over the course of the season.


TRIUMPH: The Patriots had not one, but two 100-yard rushers in this game, which would normally make you think that Brady didn't put the ball up much, but he had 340 yards and 3 TD, so don't cry for him, Argentina.  Steven Ridley had a bounceback game, scoring twice and gaining 106 yards on 22 carries, while virtually unknown rookie Brandon Bolden impressed with 137 yards on 16 carries.  This game got out of hand late, so I'm not really seeing this as a breakout for Bolden, but Ridley's involvement is clearly legit.

TRAGEDY: Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller both surprisingly returned from injury in this game, and perhaps that affected their performance, but two of the most productive per-game backs in the league the last two years don't normally combine for 62 yards on 21 carries (although Jackson added 50 yards receiving to have a more productive day).  Fantasy owners should get used to a frustrating time-share between these two, but at the very least their per-touch production should get better in the future.

TREND: OK, everyone can calm down about Wes Welker -- for now.  After just 14 receiving yards in his first five quarters, Aaron Hernandez' injury early in Week 2 appears to have opened Tom Brady's heart to his old flame.  Welker has 22 receptions for 366 yards in the 11 quarters since Hernandez went down, so at least for the next week or two there shouldn't be a problem.  It wouldn't surprise me if the narrative that the Patriots were trying to phase out Welker in advance of his impending free agency, but when you start 1-2, there's no time for messing around.  Wes Welker will be his old self as long as the Pats have that sense of urgency, and Aaron Hernandez doesn't draw Brady's eye too often.

TRAIL MIX: I think AFC East offenses may have a bit too much familiarity with the Bills' defense.  This year, the preseason-hyped Buffalo defense has given up 100 points in two games against division foes, while allowing just 31 points in their other two contests.   Last season, they allowed 33 points per game within the division versus 23 per game against other teams (and if you're wondering, it was 30 per game against non-Patriots in the division).  Maybe they'll have better luck next week, against a limited offense in the 49ers.

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