Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
26 Sep 2007
by Bill Barnwell
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Some weeks, everything just goes right.
When owning a fantasy football team, you'll have weeks that see you crush your opposition. Those are fun. Other weeks, you'll put up record-low numbers and get heckled by your fellow owners. That's also fun, in the keying-your-friends'-cars sort of way. The best, though, is when your fantasy team does so preposterously well, so far above what could be expected, that you get congratulatory and somewhat awe-struck messages from your fellow owners ... by halftime of the first slate of Sunday games.
This week, I managed to pull off such a trick in one league. The high score through two weeks in this league had been 145. In Week 3, I put up a whopping 236. The players with huge days weren't my stars; Willie Parker was merely good as opposed to great, and I left Tony Romo on the bench. Instead, it was my secondary guys: Ronnie Brown, Kevin Curtis, Jon Kitna and Roy Williams all put up enormous games, and even though my opponent had Donovan McNabb, I'd won the week by 3 p.m. EST.
While this performance will go down in the annals of my league, the point of Scramble isn't to brag. Just wait till we get to Best Bets. This gigantic performance and all the big games we saw on Sunday made me wonder -- was this the highest-scoring week in fantasy history?
Of course, we need to put some qualifications on "fantasy history." The wonderful pro-football-reference.com's games database only has game-by-game performance back to 1995. In addition, it only has game performances for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, and has no fumble data. So, then, we should compare apples to apples and see how this week's performances match up based upon those criteria only, using a point-per-reception system with otherwise standard scoring.
The answer? Week 3 of the 2007 season was, in fact, the highest-scoring fantasy week in the last thirteen years. Kevin Curtis' 51.1 points led the way, with ten players scoring more than 30 points. Curtis' performance was tied for twelfth-best in a single game since the 1995 season, and was fifth amongst wide receivers in that timeframe.
This week, quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends garnered 2,836.2 points of fantasy goodness (again, not including fumbles). An average week sees 2,306.4 fantasy points scored by the players at those positions.
The previous high was 2,813.4 points, set in Week 13 of the 2004 season. That week, as you might imagine, saw a barrage of huge games. Ten teams scored 30or more points, highlighted by the Colts, who put 51 on the Titans, but didn't enjoy the fantasy standout of the game; Drew Bennett caught three passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns. Brandon Stokley put up 153 yards and a touchdown across from him, so it was a great game for gritty fan favorites everywhere.
Probably the most important game for fantasy players, though, was Cincinnati's 27-26 victory over the Ravens. Rudi Johnson only ran for 56 yards, but Carson Palmer threw for 382 yards and three touchdowns (all in the fourth quarter) against the second-ranked pass defense in football, leading to a Shayne Graham field goal at the death for the win. Chad Johnson had 10 catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns, while the then-still emerging T.J. Houshmandzadeh also caught 10 passes for 171 yards and a score. They're one of only four wide receiver tandems since 1995 to each catch 10 passes in one game -- one tandem did it last year, and you'll never guess who it was. Answer's at the end of the column.
The biggest performance of that week, though, was just like this one -- in Philadelphia. Brian Westbrook only had 12 carries for 37 yards, but he caught 11 balls for 156 yards and scored three times, leading him to 48.3 fantasy points. Donovan McNabb was the second-high scorer of the week, his 464 passing yards and five touchdowns pacing all quarterbacks. Terrell Owens had eight catches for 161 yards and a touchdown, giving him 43.2 points. The only other person above 40 was Julius Jones, who ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns and caught three passes for 11 yards against the Seahawks. Keep in mind that there were only 15 40-plus-point performances that entire season, and three of them occurred in this week alone, and you'll understand what a huge fantasy burst this was, especially for teams on the precipice of making the playoffs.
This week also saw three 40-plus-point games: Curtis, McNabb and, pretty much overlooked in a big week, Anquan Boldin, who caught 14 passes for 181 yards and two scores against the Ravens in a performance that will go from great to otherworldly after opponent adjustments are implemented after Week 4.
Of course, it's also worth bringing up the worst week for fantasy players: Week 8 in 1998 saw an appallingly-low 1,735 fantasy points go on the board. While Terrell Davis actually put up a gigantic game with 44.1 fantasy points, there were dire performances around the league. Eric Zeier went eight of 19 for 34 yards. That's not even two yards per attempt. Tony Graziani was seven for 14 for 86 yards and threw an interception. Trent Dilfer was in "just win" mode, going 20 of 44 for 186 yards. No one was moving the ball this week, apparently. Robert Holcombe put up a zen-like 12 carries for 18 yards. It wasn't pretty by any means. And speaking of not pretty...
Quarterback: The Rams were the team up against it this week. Marc Bulger, their leader, led them down. His -1 tied him for Losingest Loser of the Week. Throwing three interceptions is one thing; only garnering 116 yards through the air is another. Drew Brees turned the ball over five times, but managed to pick up a single point by throwing for 225 yards against the Titans' prevent defense.
Running Back: The biggest mystery of the fantasy season is Maurice Jones-Drew. Well, maybe disappointment is the better word. The mystery is Jack Del Rio and his hiring of Dirk Koettner. Of course, if MJD doesn't fumble inside the three, we're not bringing him up here. He scored two points. PFP 2007 suggested that Rudi Johnson might be slowing down after three years with a heavy workload, and so far, the book's been right. Johnson's only averaging 3.1 yards per carry, and while he had 118 yards in the shootout against the Browns, he had nine yards on 17 carries against the Seahawks front seven this week. 33 receiving yards got him to three points. Chris Brown, DeAngelo Williams, Larry Johnson, Warrick Dunn and Frank Gore all had four apiece.
Wide Receiver: Good news for Lee Evans: He put up 15 points this week. Bad news for Lee Evans: That was because he had one catch for seven yards, and hit the penalty. Hint: Buy Low. Four receivers put up a single point this week: Javon Walker, Isaac Bruce (no points for concussions), Kevin Walter and Ernest Wilford.
Kicker: The co-Losingest Loser of the Week? Jeff Wilkins, who put one field goal through but missed two others. It's pretty rare to see an offense have two negative-point guys in one week. Rian Lindell and Jason Hanson only had one point each.
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1-1-1 last week, 4-4-1 overall
I wasn't sure whether to root for or against the Giants in the second half last week. On one hand, I'd bet against them here, and I also want them to fail miserably so they can recognize the major flaws in this team, get a high draft pick and actually build around the useful parts that are there. On the other hand, I'm a Giants fan. This led to much consternation regardless of what was happening. This week, I'm avoiding the Giants altogether, as well as the Colts, who appear to be getting leads and just sitting on them so far.
I think the Patriots are fantastic. I think the Bengals secondary is pretty miserable. I also think, though, that the Patriots secondary can be exploited. The Bengals are too good of a team, especially at home, to be laid this many points.
On the other hand, St. Louis has shown little in the way of effectiveness over the first three weeks, and appear to be losing key offensive players by the week. I don't honestly think the Cowboys will win more than ten games, but this is going to be one of them, and it's not going to be close.
I know, I know, I picked Cleveland to go to the playoffs. I was wrong. Game tape of Derek Anderson against the Baltimore defense might qualify as a snuff film in some countries.
KCW this week goes to Joe Gibbs and Al Saunders. Instead of tailoring their game plan to the Giants' obvious weaknesses on defense, the Redskins employed the same scheme they used to little success throughout 2006, the smoke-and-mirrors screen pass attack, while running the ball primarily using tosses and stretch plays. The thing is, of course, that the Giants' weaknesses this year are overpursuit and inability to cover in the middle of the field. I'm not sure if this was chutzpah or ignorance, but it cost Washington the game. In addition, there was a bizarre two-minute drill that Saunders has to take the blame for. After picking up a first down in Giants territory inside 1:30, the Redskins decided to run another play without spiking the ball -- a play in the shotgun. Jason Campbell wasn't prepared for the snap while directing players around, fumbled and had to fall on the ball. He then spiked the ball on second down, costing the Redskins time and a play. Furthermore, when the Redskins actually got the first down and had first-and-goal inside the two with a minute left, they spiked the ball again. This cost them a down that they would need when the Giants stopped them three consecutive times for a victory that saved their season.
By the way, that tag team of wideouts that each caught 10 passes in a game in 2006? The vaunted passing attack of ... the Houston Texans. Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds each had 10 catches against the Jets in Week 12.
First, I won't be joining you next week in these pages. I'll be moving to the bright lights of San Francisco, where I can finally scream about East Coast biases with only a slight hint of irony. Your substitute writer will be Doug Farrar. He will be reporting back to me, so behave yourself, kids. I've left him a number of assignments and if you don't complete them...
Secondly, we're delighted to welcome a new addition to the Scramble family. Ian Dembsky and his wife, Aprille, welcomed Alison Hope Dembsky into the world last week. While passing this information onto fellow FO emeritus Al Bogdan, Ian also managed to text him his first Loser League pick for our internal weekly draft. Unfortunately, Julius Jones was one carry short of a 2, and instead hit the penalty. Guy's already losing his touch. Congratulations, buddy.
For the next few weeks, we'll also be presenting a Best Bet from the Scramble sponsor, Doc's Sports Odds. You can get a free week of winning NFL picks from Doc's Sports Handicapping Service by calling 1-866-238-6696 or e-mailing email@example.com with "Free Football Outsider" in the subject line.
This week's Doc's Sports Best Bet is Detroit (+3) over Chicago. Finally, our long national nightmare is over: Rex Grossman has been benched in favor of Brian Griese. ThatÂ¹s great news for Bears fans. Trouble is, Chicago's defense and offensive line have are battered and bloodied and their secondary could be without two more starters. Detroit has won three of the last five at home in this series and seven of the last eight meetings in Detroit have been decided by six points or less. Also, home dogs that surrendered 40+ points the previous week have covered the spread at a 64.8-percent clip over the past 21 years.
53 comments, Last at 28 Sep 2007, 9:19am by Dash