Fantasy football has crossed the midseason point and is now racing down the stretch toward the playoffs. Trade deadlines are coming; soon fantasy owners’ only potential de facto trade partner will be the waiver wire.
End-of-season schedules should be considered in add/drop and trading decisions. It’s important not to over-value them—trading Adrian Peterson straight up for Willis McGahee is not advisable just because Peterson plays the Chicago Bears twice and McGahee draws the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders.
Peterson’s more consistent than McGahee. Furthermore, he’s matchup-proof.
The dude’s simply a beast.
In no particular order—because every fantasy owner’s specific priorities are different—here are 25 things that every fantasy owner should know.
In case you missed out on grabbing San Diego Chargers wide receiver Danario Alexander before his 2012 breakout against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there’s still time to get him—but there’s more competition for him, too.
The massive wideout recorded eight catches for 195 yards and a touchdown in his last two games, including seven for 134 and a score in Week 10. His 19 standard-scoring ESPN fantasy points in Week 10 represent the highest total of any San Diego wide receiver—and tops fellow WR Eddie Royal’s entire season thus far.
The top Green Bay Packers wide receiver in fantasy through 10 weeks is not Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson or James Jones.
It’s Randall Cobb.
Cobb leads the team in receptions (45), is second on the team in receiving yards (500), targets (59) and touchdowns (six) and has a special-teams touchdown to his credit.
This sleeper woke up.
Both of Peyton Manning’s main wide receiver targets, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, are productive fantasy options at wideout. Thomas (five) leads the Decker (one) in 100-yard games, but Decker has scored seven touchdowns to Thomas’ four. All seven of Decker’s scores have come in the Denver Broncos’ last six games.
Thomas has scored twice since Week 3.
Nine tight ends hit 10 or more fantasy points during the replacement refs era and have failed to do so since. The New York Giants’ Martellus Bennett is the only tight end to score double-digit fantasy points in every week that the replacement referees worked without hitting the 10-point mark once since the regular referees returned.
Bye weeks have taken place during every week that the regular officials have been back in uniform for NFL games thus far. Nevertheless, the highest number of tight ends that scored double digits in a single week was seven (Week 10) and five or fewer did so in five of the seven weeks that the regular refs have been working games.
Owen Daniels of the Houston Texans didn’t top nine points once with the replacement referees, but he has reached 10 or more four times since.
Twenty-seven different tight ends have scored double-digit fantasy points this season (ESPN standard scoring). Fifteen have done it more than once.
Eleven have scored double-digit fantasy points three times, six have hit 10 points four times and only three have scored 10 or more points five times in nine games this season: Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Tony Gonzalez.
Elite tight ends still hold value in fantasy football.
Seattle Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson is, over the entirety of the season, by no means a top-flight fantasy quarterback. In five games at home, however, he has been.
Wilson has averaged just 187 passing yards per game in Seattle, but he has thrown 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions at home with two fumbles. He threw multiple touchdowns in four home games this year and his rushing numbers are even up at CenturyLink Field: 24.8 yards per home game vs. 13 yards per game on the road.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning hasn’t accounted for a touchdown in three weeks, totaling 532 passing yards and five turnovers in the meantime. He’s on a bye in Week 11 and should break out of his slump sooner rather than later.
Two of his next three opponents (the New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins) are top-five in ESPN standard-scoring fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.
Only the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons are bottom-half in the NFL in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks this season. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has already faced the Falcons this year, posting the best standard-scoring fantasy day of his sophomore season.
He threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns, rushing for 86 yards and a third on nine carries. Newton did not turn the ball over.
His other remaining opponents are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 11), Kansas City Chiefs (Week 13), San Diego Chargers (Week 15), Oakland Raiders (Week 16) and New Orleans Saints (Week 17).
The Arizona Cardinals have allowed 38 sacks in their last seven games, leading to five straight double-digit ESPN standard-scoring fantasy performances for opposing D/ST units. Arizona has only surrendered one defensive touchdown, but it turned the ball over 14 times in its first nine games.
On Monday Night Football in Week 10, the Kansas City Chiefs were five yards away from allowing a sixth defensive touchdown this season. Had Lawrence Timmons found the end zone on his overtime interception of Matt Cassel, it would have been the seventh time that Kansas City gave up double-digit fantasy points (ESPN standard scoring) to its opposing D/ST.
A big part of fantasy production—for any position, but especially tight ends—is touchdown-making. The Jacksonville Jaguars have stopped every tight end that they’ve faced from accomplishing that particular goal.
Through nine games, Jacksonville has allowed 42 catches for 403 yards to tight ends on 69 targets.
The Tennessee Titans allowed eight receiving touchdowns to tight ends in the season’s first five weeks, firmly entrenching them amongst the top fantasy matchups for players at the position in terms of total points allowed this season.
Since Week 6 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they’ve turned that around.
In their last five games, the Titans have given up just 19 total catches for 204 yards and zero TDs to TEs.
The New Orleans Saints are 4-1 in their last five games, but you’ll still want to start your fantasy football players against their defense. New Orleans is allowing 469.3 total scrimmage yards per game, 59.3 more than the second-worst in that department, the Buffalo Bills.
It also is allowing a league-high 25.9 first downs and the fourth-most points per game (28.4).
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass defense hasn’t been anything to write home about this season, but neither has that of the New England Patriots. New England acquired Tampa Bay’s No. 1 cornerback, Aqib Talib, who was serving a four-game suspension at the time of the trade.
His first possible game for New England is Week 11 against the Indianapolis Colts. How much he helps New England’s pass defense bears watching going forward.
Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden missed Weeks 2 through 5 due to suspension. Through the first six weeks of the Browns’ season, Cleveland gave up an average of 16.7 receptions, 261 yards and two touchdowns per game to opposing wide receivers.
In the three games since, it has totaled 25 catches, 287 yards and one touchdown allowed.
After spending the first month-plus getting steamrolled by essentially every running back they faced, the Indianapolis Colts have tightened up their run defense in the last four weeks.
Against the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars, Indy has allowed a total of one rushing touchdown to fantasy running backs. RBs have rushed 66 times for 252 yards and Reggie Bush’s TD in the last four weeks.
In the five games before that, Indianapolis allowed 136 attempts for 713 yards and eight scores.
Over four of the last five weeks, running backs of all shapes and sizes have been successful against the Minnesota Vikings. Excluding Minnesota’s Week 10 matchup with the Detroit Lions, the Vikings defense has allowed 112 carries for 462 yards and four touchdowns in addition to 18 catches for 216 yards and three touchdowns during that time.
From the Arizona Cardinals’ LaRod Stephens-Howling (5’7”, 185 lbs; 20 rush, 104 yds, TD) to the Seattle Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch (5’11”, 215 lbs; 26 rush, 124 yds, TD), running backs have recently enjoyed productive fantasy days against Minnesota.
Every defense in the NFL has allowed at least two rushing touchdowns this season—except the Houston Texans. They haven’t just held running backs out of the end zone. Quarterbacks got the same treatment.
Over nine games, opponents have rushed 188 times against Houston’s defense. They’ve gained 770 yards and broken just two 20-plus yard runs. No one has rushed for more than 40 yards on one carry against Houston.
Despite their reputation, the San Francisco 49ers have allowed three 100-yard rushing performances by single running backs in their last four games.
Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in Week 6, Marshawn Lynch rushed for 103 yards on 19 carries in Week 7 and Steven Jackson gained 101 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries in Week 10.
The only backfield that didn’t feature a 100-yard rusher against the 49ers in that span was that of the Arizona Cardinals—a team that was without its top two running backs.
Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com reported that New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is undergoing a number of medical tests. Even when Bradshaw was playing, backup Andre Brown has scored a touchdown in four straight weeks.
Brown’s statistical totals over the last four weeks are: 22 carries, 123 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, six catches and 46 receiving yards.
Rookie David Wilson may be worth a pickup as well if Bradshaw misses time following the Giants’ Week 11 bye.
Chris Johnson has been getting work for the Tennessee Titans all year, but he wasn’t producing much in the season’s first five games. The speedy rusher totaled 210 rushing yards in his first five games—including 141 in Week 4 against the Houston Texans.
In his last five, he’s run for 652 and four touchdowns.
It’s probably too late to trade for Johnson now, but it might get even better down the stretch. He still gets to play the Jacksonville Jaguars (Weeks 12 and 17), Indianapolis Colts (Week 14) and New York Jets (Week 15).
St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson had a season-high 29 carries in Week 10 against one of the NFL’s more fearsome run defenses, the San Francisco 49ers. He topped 100 yards—barely 101—and scored a touchdown.
Jackson has the New York Jets (Week 11), Buffalo Bills (Week 14) and Minnesota Vikings (Week 15) on his schedule. He should have at least a few more big games before the season’s out.
James Walker of ESPN.com reported that Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson will miss the Bills’ Thursday night clash with the Miami Dolphins. A reminder of C.J. Spiller’s stats from the first three games without Jackson (one of which he left due to his own shoulder injury): 33 carries, 308 rushing yards, seven catches, 114 receiving yards and four total touchdowns.
He’s a must-start option as long as Jackson is unavailable to Buffalo.
Minnesota Vikings’ star rusher Adrian Peterson went five straight games without finding the end zone from Week 2 to Week 6. From Week 7 to Week 10, he scored five touchdowns. That includes two against the Seattle Seahawks, one against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and one against the Arizona Cardinals—all defenses that make it tough for running backs to score fantasy points.
You can count on him to produce big numbers for the rest of the year.
Follow Jamal on Twitter for opinions on trades and other fantasy advice: Follow @StatManJ