Fantasy Football By The Numbers: Preseason Predictions Shot Down

Craig RondinoneCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 23:  Bernard Berrian #87 of the Minnesota Vikings runs after making a reception against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the game at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on November 23, 2008 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Fantasy football owners and pundits, including this one who fits in both categories, sometimes make mistakes.

Fantasy football owners get ideas in their heads. The ideas make sense on paper. They sound good in theory. But things do not always play out like you would expect in the NFL.

So which players have not been following the fantasy script during the opening weeks of the season? Here is the list.


The Dallas Cowboys defense

Prediction – The Dallas defense/special teams was going to be one of the top 10 to own in fantasy football, if not one of the top five best.

After being one of the premier fantasy defenses in 2008, thanks to leading the league in sacks, the Cowboys added linebacker Keith Brooking and defensive tackle Igor Olshansky in the offseason, so it was generally assumed they would remain an above-average defense in 2009.

Yet in the first two games Dallas’ defense is the only unit to have zero sacks, zero interceptions, and zero fumble recoveries. And you thought the only zeroes in Dallas were in the check owner Jerry Jones wrote to build his new scoreboard.

Some of the Dallas D highlight

1. Allowing New York Giants receivers Steve Smith and Mario Manningham, not exactly the next coming of Swann and Stallworth, to both catch 10 passes against them in Week 2.

2. Letting injury-prone Byron Leftwich riddle them for 276 passing yards and a touchdown toss and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams run for 97 yards and a score in Week 1 when they played at Tampa Bay.

DeMarcus Ware, Terence Newman, and Jay Ratliff have been quieter than the crowd at a Jacksonville Jaguars game. For a defense with so much talent and so much money invested in it, you would think an occasional sack and turnover could be created.

The good news is the schedule makers set up Dallas with back-to-back-to-back games against Carolina, Denver, and Kansas City in the next three weeks, so the sack and turnover shutout should end quickly, probably as soon as Jake Delhomme drops back for his first pass on Monday night.


Bernard Berrian, Minnesota Vikings

Prediction – Berrian was primed for the first 1,000-yard year of his career.

If Berrian can post back-to-back 900-yard seasons with erratic arms like Rex Grossman and Tarvaris Jackson throwing to him, he should be able to reach the 1,000-yard plateau with Brett Favre at quarterback, right? It sounded believable to me, but I thought Erik Estrada really did have his own line of sunglasses, too.

But while Berrian was a long-range threat last season—20.1 yards per catch—this season he is no threat at all. Berrian went catchless in Minnesota’s first game and had six receptions for just 46 yards (7.7 ypc for those scoring at home).

What’s the cause of this? The first is Favre. He has been reduced to a dinker-and-dunker thanks to his shoulder problem and old age. So it is hard for Berrian to average 20 yards a catch when Favre has trouble throwing the ball 20 yards.

The second is rookie Percy Harvin, who seems to fly on Favre’s radar more than Berrian. Harvin has touchdowns in each of the first two games, and even though his other numbers are not all that and a bag of chips (eight receptions for 77 yards), they are better than Berrian’s.

The Adrian Peterson factor cannot be discounted, either. When Minnesota is handing the ball to their franchise 25 times per game, that limits Berrian’s opportunities, though Berrian still racked up his 900 yards in 2008 with Peterson being fed the majority of the touches.

You would imagine Favre and Berrian’s chemistry can improve as the season wears on and Berrian’s stats should get back on the road to recovery, but you wonder if Berrian would be better served if Favre and Harvin were not in the picture.


Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos

Prediction – Royal was going to be a top-20 receiver in fantasy football.

After a rookie campaign where Royal snagged 91 passes for 980 yards, conventional thinking was that he could blossom into a 1,200-yard receiver in his sophomore season. He was to be featured in a pass-first offense by an offensive genius that was planning on making him the next Wes Welker.

The result after two games—Royal has five catches for 38 yards.

You heard right. Royal did not do that in one quarter, half, or game like other receivers have this season. It took him two full games, against below-average Cleveland and Cincinnati defenses, to get that. Start penciling him on your Pro Bowl ballots now!

Blame Royal’s sluggish start on Brandon Marshall getting out of the doghouse and back on the field quicker than we all thought, quarterback Kyle Orton’s inaccuracy, and head coach Josh McDaniel’s penchant for rotating his receivers.

I think Royal, Berrian, and the boys will turn things around, possibly as soon as this week. But it would have been nice if they jumped out of the gate this season like greyhounds instead of turtles.


Run and Shoot

Look for less running room for Clinton Portis the rest of the way. Washington’s best run blocker, guard Randy Thomas, is out for the season with a torn triceps. And it does not help Portis that quarterback Jason Campbell and the Redskins passing attack instill absolutely no fear in defenses, so teams can stack up the line against him.

Marshawn Lynch owners have to be ready to cry like Taylor Swift was at the MTV Video Music Awards. When Lynch returns from his three-game suspension he will not be stepping right back into his starting tailback role, no sir, not with Fred Jackson having piled up 220 rushing and 108 receiving yards in Buffalo’s first two contests.

Circle Sunday, Oct. 4 on your calendars, fantasy owners. The most intriguing early-season matchup for stat geeks will be taking place when the New York Jets and their top-ranked defense face the New Orleans Saints and their top-ranked offense.

You would think Drew Brees and Co. can score on any defense with the armada of weaponry they possess, but if the Jets can make fantasy mincemeat out of superstars like Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Steve Slaton, and Andre Johnson, why wouldn’t they be able to hold down Brees, Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, and the Saints?