Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
03 Dec 2008
by Vince Verhei and Ben Riley
Remember Aaron Brooks? Once upon a time, he was a perennial top-10 fantasy quarterback, a guy who would produce yards and touchdowns as quickly as Judd Apatow produces movies. At the same time, though, Brooks was killing his real-life team, the Saints, with a penchant for interceptions, sacks, and third-down failures at the worst possible times. Only once did he rank in the top 20 in DYAR. With that in mind, we're looking at the most Brooks-like players in the league this season, those guys who are rewarded for their good plays but not penalized for their bad ones. We're also looking at their counterparts, the guys who are helping their teams win games while doing little for fantasy owners. You could think of them as the Troy Aikmans of 2008.
Better in Real Life: Matt Ryan
DYAR: 998, fifth overall.
Fantasy Points: 178, 14th.
Why the Difference? As someone who picked up Matt Ryan off the waiver wire midway through the season after Matt Schaub went down, let me just begin by saying that he has provided much peace and comfort over the past few weeks (albeit while stashed on my bench). The consensus Rookie of the Year is ranked fifth in DYAR, so why are his fantasy numbers so low? Two reasons: As one might expect, he started the season slow (two games with sub-10 point production), but he also lacks any of those monster, 30-plus-point performances that tend to skew a player's total fantasy numbers. Some say consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, whatever that means, but I say consistency is exactly what you want in a backup -- someone who will guarantee you won't get goose-egged in any one week. It will be interesting to see where Ryan gets drafted next year, although the Ghost of Carson Palmer's Past haunts many an owner to this day.
Better in Fantasy: Aaron Rodgers
DYAR: 776, 11th.
Fantasy Points: 259, third.
Why the Difference? This is a surprise -- Aaron Rodgers is the third-ranked fantasy quarterback this year? But that's what happens when you combine a banged-up Packers secondary, a surprisingly flaccid ground game, and a wide receiving corps that gets Doug Farrar disturbingly excited with its ability to generate yards after the catch. Plus, don't look now, but Rodgers has four touchdowns on the ground, and he leads all quarterbacks in rushing DYAR. As a quarterback, however, Rodgers has thrown some absolutely game-killing interceptions (although the Pack's loss last week was entirely the fault of the defense). If you own Rodgers this year, hopefully your playoffs last until Week 17 when the Packers host the Lions. Yummy.
Better in Real Life: Derrick Ward
DYAR: 142, seventh.
Fantasy Points: 112, 21st.
Why the Difference? This will come as no surprise Ward owners, but sharing carries with Brandon Jacobs isn't exactly a positive when it comes to scoring touchdowns. Although DYAR respects him for his knack with converting on third downs, his measly two touchdowns and the crowded Giants backfield severely handicaps his fantasy value. If only there was a fantasy league based on DYAR! (We'll think about it.)
Better in Real Life: Le'Ron McClain
DYAR: 119, tenth.
Fantasy Points: 108, 24th.
Why the Difference? Ah, volatility, you fickle, Baltimore backfield-destroying, Dow Jones Industrial Average-ravaging [rhymes with witch]. McClain is the classic fantasy running back nightmare, the guy who will rack up 56 points in his first four games, only to kill you with 16 points over the next five (aaargh), relegating him to the bench just in time for him to rebound with 32 points in the last three games (double aaargh). But DYAR doesn't punish him for being forced to share carries with the equally baffling Willis McGahee or Ray "I am Not Related to Jim" Rice, hence his top 10 ranking. By the way, LenDale White owners just read this entire paragraph with their heads nodding.
Better in Fantasy: LaDainian Tomlinson
DYAR: 11, 29th.
Fantasy Points: 159, 15th.
Why the Difference? Every fantasy player lives in fear of what's happened with LdR2-D2 this year. (And yes, the fact that we've never settled on a nickname for Tomlinson continues to irk me.) It happened to Larry Johnson owners two years back (don't say we didn't warn you!). It happened to Shaun Alexander owners before that (cue Groundskeeper Willie: "We warned ya, didn't we warn ya?"). We all knew that Tomlinson would fall off the fantasy cliff at some point, but what's surprising is that DYAR is even more unkind -- at 29th overall, he's inching dangerously close to becoming a replacement-level back. On the flip side, I'd like to thank him for making it socially acceptable to own a Vizio plasma television.
Better in Real Life: Steve Breaston
DYAR: 220, 9th.
Fantasy Points: 89, 30th.
Why the Difference? Because Breaston, the third option on his own team, ranks just 26th in targets. Breaston is pretty clearly the right guy in the right place at the right time: A fifth-round draft pick out of Michigan in 2007, Breaston was targeted only 14 times his rookie season. That's hardly the pedigree for a breakout season, but Breaston stepped into the opening left when Bryant Johnson departed to San Francisco. Then Breaston saw Larry Fitzgerald to one side, Anquan Boldin to the other, and Kurt Warner behind him, and he probably started to giggle. To draw comparisons to Warner's former receiving crew, Breaston is probably the Az-Zahir Hakim to Boldin and Fitzgerald's Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. Hakim did just fine as the third receiver on a great team, but flopped as a starter when he moved to Detroit. With that in mind, we'd advise Breaston to stay in the desert as long as he can.
Better in Fantasy: Terrell Owens
DYAR: 40, 50th.
Fantasy Points: 132, seventh.
Why the Difference? Owens has produced big plays, particularly in the red zone; he's tied for third among receivers in touchdowns despite being just 14th in yards. Those big plays, however, have come with plenty of incompletions. He has a catch rate of just 50 percent, and is fourth in the league in passes not caught. Owens also catches a lot of short passes. Only 57.7 percent of his catches have resulted first downs. Of the top 20 players in the league in receiving yards, only Wes Welker and T.J. Houshmandzadeh have lower rates than Owens.
Better in Real Life: Billy Miller
DYAR: 125, third.
Fantasy Points: 51, 16th.
Why the Difference? The Saints pass the ball more than any team except Arizona, but they spread the ball around, even among their tight ends. Miller has only 46 targets, 17th at his position and 11 fewer than teammate Jeremy Shockey. Still, he trails Shockey by only three catches, tops him by 79 yards, and matches him in first downs. Miller also ranks second in the league in catch rate.
Better in Fantasy: Kellen Winslow
DYAR: -13, 36th.
Fantasy Points: 61, 13th.
Why the Difference? Winslow isn't having a great fantasy season by any means, but he's probably starting in your league (or was, before a high ankle sprain put his playing status in jeopardy). That's only because the Browns are forcing him the ball though; Winslow ranks fourth among tight ends in passes despite ranking third from the bottom in catch rate, fourth from the bottom in yards per pass.
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Rian Lindell, overheard in the parking lot outside Ralph Wilson Stadium after he missed 20- and 40-yard field-goal attempts in the Bills' 10-3 loss to the lowly 49ers, virtually guaranteeing that they will miss the playoffs again this year:
Is this a shifter car? I cannot drive a shifter car, alright, so we got a little situation here. I can't drive these kinda cars! What the f*** is goin' on! You think that's funny? Would you like to know, smartass? Would you like to know why I can't drive this kinda car? I'll tell you why, I'm used to *luxury* cars. Have you ever heard of a luxury car? You know what luxury means? Ever heard of Cadillac, Cadillac Eldorado? That's what I drive. I drive cars that shift themselves.
You're a goon, Lindell.
You know, we get lots of suggestions for this award, and most of them are "You should go with Team X because they went for it on fourth down at Z point in the game." The truth is, teams go for it on fourth down every week. It takes more than a typical fourth-down attempt to win the Colbert Award. It takes something special. Something zany. Something that can only work because it's so mind-numbingly stupid, the opposing team could never possible expect it to happen. It takes a team like the Oakland Raiders, who didn't just go for it on fourth down, and didn't just attempt a fake field goal. No, they attempted a fake field goal that involved Shane Lechler, from one knee, flipping the ball between his legs back to Sebastian Janikowski -- yes, this Sebastian Janikowski -- who was then expected to run a sweep play to the outside and gain the 10 yards needed for a first down. Lechler botched the flip and Janikowski never got the ball; Maurice Leggett picked the ball off the turf and ran it in untouched for a score. Which is a shame, because Sebastian Janikowski in the open field would have been a once-in-a-lifetime treat for football fans everywhere.
QB: Two fumbles! Two interceptions! 0 fantasy points! That's what the Steelers did to Matt Cassel last Sunday. That's the sort of thing the Steelers do to most things, though, so Matt shouldn't feel too bad.
RB: Chris Perry has been banished to the bench, but that won't keep the Bengals out of this space: Cedric Benson tied with Julius Jones of the Seahawks. Each scored a measly little 1.
WR: Technically, Laveranues Coles and Roscoe Parrish tied here with a 0, but it's hard to look at the numbers and say that Coles wasn't worse. Two yards gained in seven passes -- and one of those passes was an interception?! Now that's a loser.
K: Shaun Suisham and Rian Lindell each scored a -1 this week. Suisham missed one field goal in a blowout; Lindell missed two in a nail-biting loss. Bigger loser: Lindell.
28 comments, Last at 08 Dec 2008, 3:42am by Skinnz