There’s a saying, “90% of all statistics are made up”. It’s a funny quote and always gets a smirk from whoever you say it to. In this series we’ll take a look at the other 10% of statistics, those cold hard numbers that make this great game of fantasy football possible. We’ll take a look at what these statistics meant for the game and what they could mean for this week’s game or even the rest of the season. Undoubtedly there will be some statistics I share with you that you’ve heard before, others you’ll be able to share with your friends, enemies or league-mates (none of which are mutually exclusive from one another I might add) and look like the smartest owner around.
Quarterback Focus: Robert Griffin III
I think it goes without saying that last week for this column (and most fantasy teams in general) was an absolute disaster. Nick Foles looked like a high school quarterback trying to play in a pro game, I take that back, that would be a slap in the face to high school quarterbacks everywhere. The most frustrating part of the entire debacle is that he had the best match-up he’s had since the Eagles turned to him to start and he absolutely and completely blew it. OK, what’s in the past is in the past, on to this week.
Robert Griffin III faces Denver this week in what has turned out to be a boon for opposing quarterback play so far this season. Denver has given up the most points in the NFL to opposing quarterbacks due in large part to the league leading 2358 passing yards they’ve surrendered this season. That breaks down to 337 passing yards per game, a staggering number that any quarterback would certainly call an excellent day at the office. However, what is even more interesting to this matchup is the fact that Denver has given up a league low 77 rushing yards per game. Why does that make this a good matchup? Well what is hidden in that statistic is the fact that quarterbacks are accounting for a full 20% of those rushing yards, a statistic that should be extremely interesting to Griffin. He has 233 rushing yards (39 yards per game) so far this season including three 20+ yard rushes. When you factor him the fact that the Redskins will likely be playing from behind you’ve got the potential for an absolutely huge game for Griffin, both through the air and on the ground.
Running Back Focus: Knowshon Moreno
This is really the flip side of the coin to the Griffin examination above. The Broncos figure to move out to a lead on the Redskins early and it’s entirely conceivable that this game could be out of control by halftime. A big part of Moreno’s success thus far this season is directly attributable to Manning’s utter domination of teams through the air early in their contests, allowing Moreno to rack up the yards as Denver attempts to run the clock down. However, this week Denver just so happens to be facing the worst defense in the league in terms of fantasy points given up to opposing running backs. The Washington defense has given up a league leading eight rushing touchdowns to running backs and looky here, they’ll be facing the league leader in rushing touchdowns in Moreno, a collision which could produce fireworks. Don’t think opposing offenses haven’t noticed that Washington is susceptible to the run either as a full 43% of all offensive plays run against Washington have been rushing plays, the eighth highest percentage in the NFL. Meanwhile Denver is feeding Moreno like an all you eat buffet, the Broncos have the ninth most rushing attempts per game at 29 rushes per game. Finally, when you consider the fact that Washington is giving up the fifth most rushing yards per attempt at 4.6 yards per rush and you’ve got to start Moreno if you’ve got him, he looks to have a lot of points coming his way this weekend.
Wide Receiver Focus: Saints WRs
It’s safe to say that New Orleans has not had the most explosive wide receiver corps this season. Marques Colston, their leading wide receiver is only 58th overall when it comes to receiving yards, he actually has two running backs and 10 tight ends with more receiving yards, one of each who are on his team (Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham). It’s never a good sign for a wide receiver when he is the leading wide receiver on his team but has the third most receiving yards on the team. Nonetheless the Saints are 5-1 and atop their division so they’ve been able to find ways to win. This week Colston looks to factor into their game plan as they face the second worst team in terms of fantasy points being given up to wide receivers in the Bills. Buffalo has given up the third most receptions to wide receivers with 101 receptions through seven games or a little over 14 receptions per game. The Bills are also giving up the second most touchdowns, targets and receiving yards to wide receivers in the NFL. If there is ever a game for Colston to come back to life, then it’s against the Bills. The Saints have a future Hall of Famer in Drew Brees slinging the ball roughly 40 times per game, the eighth most in the NFL. Buffalo, meanwhile, is giving up the seventh most passing attempts per game with 39 attempts per game which means we should see Brees able to likely up that average a bit. The Bills are getting hurt mainly on the number of yards they are giving up per completion where they surrender roughly 12 yards per completion, the fifth highest amount in the NFL. This falls perfectly into Colston’s normal reception range as the Saints’ mid to long range receiver.
The big question mark, clearly, is going to be “Does Jimmy Graham play?” If Graham plays it’s obvious that Colston’s targets will be less than if he doesn’t play, nothing earth shattering about that assessment. However, if Graham doesn’t play, watch out, Colston is shaping up to have a monster game.
Tight End Focus: Rob Gronkowski
Nothing really earth shaking here, one of the best tight ends to play the position is going against one of the worst defenses when defending tight ends. Nonetheless, here’s the reasoning. First, Miami is giving up the second most touchdowns to tight ends with six through this season. The notable performance thus far was when the Dolphins played the Saints and Jimmy Graham tagged them for five receptions, 104 yards and a crazy three touchdowns! Gronkowski meanwhile has only played on game this season but what a game it was with eight receptions for 114 yards. A performance even close to his Week Seven performance, which is highly likely, will make his return from multiple devastating injuries complete and will once against secure him as one of the two elite, most own tight ends in fantasy football.
Defensive Team Focus: Packers
The Packers defense has a great match-up this week against the Vikings. Normally, based on Adrian Peterson alone the Vikings wouldn’t be an offense that one would target for a defensive match-up. However, a few factors go into this being a great time to start Green Bay. First, the obvious, there are huge quarterback issues in Minnesota this season. Josh Freeman is out with a concussion after just one, horrible, start and now the Vikings are back to Christian Ponder which I’ just is just a treat for Vikings fans everywhere. Second, the Vikings have had a short week to prepare with their game coming on Monday night. Against, one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL the Vikings offense could become one dimensional very quickly. Third, the Vikings couldn’t post an offensive touchdown against one of the league’s worst defenses. Now then, down to the actual numbers, Green Bay’s defense is being rushed on the sixth least in the NFL at only 23 rushes per game, the obvious strength of the Vikings. This is due in large part to the third least rushing yards given up per game at only 79 per game as well as the third least yards per rush given up at 3.4 yards per rush. The Vikings are going to lean heavily on their strength of rushing which plays right into the Packers strength. Given the Vikings recent skid and tough match-up, the Packers defense couldn’t look more attractive this week.