At its core, fantasy football is the perfect marriage between statistical analysis and a working knowledge of the game of football, its many strategies and the strengths and weakness of its players and coaches.
A pile of numbers does you little good in fantasy if you don't know how to apply them, much as game film won't show you much if you can't take what you're seeing and project what future production it might imply.
Seeking to find the perfect balance between what we see watching the game and what the stats say, I've accumulated some of the most telling statistics for fantasy owners this week. Based on what I've seen, these stats have helped provide me with a deeper understanding of what should happen in the future.
Hopefully, they do the same for you.
Note: Stats taken from ESPN standard-scoring leagues.
Stat: BenJarvus Green-Ellis of the Cincinnati Bengals is averaging 2.9 yards per touch. Giovani Bernard is averaging 6.8 yards per touch.
Why You Should Care: The days of Law Firm as the lead back in this attack are over. Bernard showed how dangerous he could be against the Pittsburgh Steelers, scoring two touchdowns and looking far more threatening every time he touched the ball.
Green-Ellis still has use as a goal-line vulture and will likely be used to grind out yards and wear down defenses late. But Bernard will be the superior fantasy option moving forward and should see his usage continue to increase.
Stat: We get our next intriguing stat from Grant Paulsen of Washington Football Tonight:
Only three WR's have been targeted more than Pierre Garcon this season: Andre Johnson (HOU), Julian Edelman (NE) and AJ Green (CIN).— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) September 17, 2013
Why You Should Care: Garcon seems primed for big things this year. He already has 15 receptions for 207 yards and a touchdown and is clearly Washington's most dangerous weapon in the passing game. If he can stay healthy, he's a clear WR2 the rest of the way.
Stat: As of Tuesday evening, Jordan Cameron was owned in just 68.1 percent of ESPN leagues.
Why You Should Care: If he's available in your league, go out and get him! Here are his numbers and how they rank in standard-scoring leagues amongst tight ends:
- 14 receptions (tied first with Jimmy Graham)
- 203 receiving yards (second behind Graham)
- One touchdown (tied 10th)
- 20 targets (second behind Graham)
- 25 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues (tied fifth)
He absolutely should be rostered in all leagues.
Stat: This is a two-parter:
- The Cincinnati Bengals have only allowed 9.5 fantasy points per week to opposing running backs (ESPN).
- James Starks has rushed for over 100 yards once in his career, and it happened on Sunday.
Why You Should Care: If you have waiver priority, don't waste it on Starks. Eddie Lacy owners wanting to handcuff the starter in case he misses time this week should add Starks if they don't have a deep running back stable, but that's about it.
Stat: This next stat made me laugh out loud, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information.
Chiefs QB Alex Smith has rushed for more yards (82) than the Steelers (75) and Giants (73) have gained as a team— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 17, 2013
Why You Should Care: For the most part, I just thought it was funny. But in general, I thought it served a few purposes.
Firstly, try to convince someone in your league to trade you David Wilson. He'll come really cheap, and at some point Tom Coughlin will trust him again and he'll produce as an RB2 for fantasy owners.
Secondly, avoid the Pittsburgh backfield like the plague. This team can't run the ball.
Third, keep an eye on Alex Smith. He's averaged 18.5 fantasy points per week in standard-scoring leagues to start the season, and he's an excellent addition to fantasy teams this week against arguably the league's worst secondary, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Stat: Another two-parter.
- Eddie Royal has a touchdown (five total) for every 2.8 targets.
- His 14 targets tie him for the most on the San Diego Chargers alongside Antonio Gates.
Why You Should Care: There are two divergent thoughts here. The first, obviously, is that his touchdown pace isn't sustainable. To put that figure into perspective, last year's leader in touchdown receptions, James Jones with 14, had a touchdown for every seven targets, and that was deemed wildly unsustainable.
But Royal is being utilized as a primary weapon in this offense, so he should continue to produce. Just don't expect him to be the top fantasy wide receiver after this week.
Stat: Cam Newton scored less than 15 or fewer fantasy points seven times a season ago in standard-scoring leagues. He failed to reach 15 fantasy points six times in Carolina's first nine games in 2012.
Why You Should Care: Because he still finished the season as the fourth-highest scorer in all of fantasy, that's why. You shouldn't hesitate to bench him this week if you so desire—I have him as my 14th-ranked quarterback this week—but do not, under any circumstances, sell low, even despite his early struggles.
He'll come around, same as last year.
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