Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chanukah Done Took, uh, Over

That title was an abomination.  But really, has anyone ever actually tried to rhyme anything with Chanukah?  I mean who does that?

Anyway, back to the action.  I don't know if you heard (and you probably didn't because it's probably irrelevant to you), but tonight, on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, begins a semi-glorious/semi-oversold holiday season known as Chanukah (or Hannukah (or Hanukkah (or Khannukkah (or khkhhkkhkhh if you really get into that first letter)))).  As Adam Sandler has taught us, it's about a great miracle that happened a really long time ago that we signify by celebrating for eight crazy nights.  I won't bore you with the details.

So, in the spirit of the season, here are eight great miracles that happened this year from the perspective of a fantasy football player, as the regular season winds to a close (and with 5 of my 6 teams in the playoffs, no less).

1. Adrian Peterson is Loose!
In the first week of the season, Adrian Peterson returned to action just 9 months after tearing his ACL and MCL and ran 17 times for 84 yards and 2 touchdowns.  NBD.  Then he hit a "lull," presumably still getting back into real game shape, as he averaged an almost identical 83 yards on 19 carries for the next five weeks, but scored no touchdowns.  Then, all of a sudden, he went bananas, and has averaged 158 yards on 20 carries the last six weeks, scoring six touchdowns.  Oh, and he's on pace for almost 2000 yards with a quarterback who's on pace for barely over 3000.

2. Peyton Manning Neck and Neck With MVP Leaders
OK, he's not really in the conversation for Fantasy MVP because he was drafted reasonably high and is still just the 5th ranked QB.  Despite that, his 4700-yard, 37-TD, 12-INT pace is made significantly more impressive by the fact that he sat out all of last year, had to do significant rehab to get even moderate arm strength back, and joined a new team this season that plays its home games outdoors.  He is on pace to post his second-best season of his career (the first, of course, being the year in which he set the single-season touchdown record at 49 against just 10 interceptions) despite all those obstacles.  Way to go, Mr. Maccabee-ning.

III, Griffin, Robert
Cam Newton set the new standard for rookie QB's, especially from a fantasy perspective, last season, throwing for 4000 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions, and rushing for 700 yards and 14 touchdowns.  Griffin is in a position to match that performance, as he is on pace to pass for 3500 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions, to go with 950 yards and 8 touchdowns rushing.  Cam posted 352 fantasy points in standard ESPN/Yahoo scoring last year, and Griffin is on pace to score 345.  Of course, last season there were historic performances being put on by other top QB's, so Cam finished fifth at his position, while Griffin is likely to end up at the top of the heap.  How's that for a miracle?

4. The Colts get Lucky
Not to be outdone by the man who was drafted one pick behind him, Andrew Luck joined a non-competitive 2-14 team and has, with four games left, set a record with 8 wins by a top overall pick in his first season.  How do 4700 yards and 23 TD passing, and 300 yards and 6 touchdowns rushing, grab you?  Luck is not only the 8th overall fantasy player himself, but he has elevated Reggie Wayne from an afterthought last season to a top-ten receiver this season, one who leads the NFL in pass targets?  As the 16th-drafted QB in fantasy leagues this year, he has returned a healthy profit, albeit on a lesser scale than that III guy.

5. Rookie Running Backs, well, Running Well
There are always hyped rookie running backs on fantasy draft day that disappoint (e.g. Ryan Mathews, Mark Ingram, Daniel Thomas, you get the picture), but few that really get the needle moving after the first couple weeks.  Well, this year, Doug Martin and Trent Richardson are both top-five fantasy running backs, although they've gotten there different ways.  Martin was hyped as a Ray Rice lookalike, but hadn't really done much until Weeks 8 and 9, in which he combined for 486 total yards and 6 touchdowns.  Those outputs represent over 40% of his season output.  Richardson had the better pedigree but was injured coming into the season and was downgraded slightly due to his defensive-minded division.  Despite that, he's on pace for 1600 total yards and 9 touchdowns, and that's with his best game being a paltry 145 total yards and 2 TD.

6. Megatron Slowly But Surely Slaying the Madden Curse
The 2012 season didn't start out quite like 2011 for Calvin Johnson, as his first seven games produced seven fewer touchdowns, despite the yardage total looking awfully similar.  However, the pendulum has swung back the other way, as Johnson has totaled almost 380 more yards and two more touchdowns over the next five weeks as he did in 2011.  Granted, in the last three weeks of '11 he totaled 560 yards and 4 touchdowns to top off a ridiculous season, but who's going to bet against him doing that this year?

7. The Monsters of the Midway
Through Week 9, the Bears' Defense and Special Teams had racked up 141 fantasy points by ESPN scoring.  That's two more points than Dez Bryant and Julio Jones scored all of last season, and more than 26 defenses scored in all of 2011.  Now, that was fueled by an absurd and, as we've observed, unsustainable 8 defensive touchdowns, so they've reduced their average scoring from 17 in the first 9 weeks to 6 in the last four weeks.  This run seems to be the most miraculous of the ones I've mentioned so far, as it's clear that it couldn't be maintained over a full year.

8. Michael Turner Burning Down, But Not Out
Many pundits (and myself) were calling for 2012 as the year that Michael Turner's workload and age caught up with him, and we haven't been as right as we really felt we were going to be.  Turner averaged over 330 carries for 1400 yards and 13 touchdowns in his three full seasons in Atlanta prior to this one (he was injured for much of another one, although still managed 10 TDs).  Prior to an explosive performance against a terrible Tampa defense in the last week of '11, he looked sluggish and ineffective.  He still looks sluggish and ineffective, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, by far the worst of his career, and is ceding a healthy amount of touches to Jacquizz Rodgers (Turner's on pace for just 240 carries this year).  Having said all that, his 8 total touchdowns have him slotted as the 14th best running back in fantasy this year, and when you consider that he's had six games of fewer than 50 yards, two over 100, and none over 103, that's positively miraculous.

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