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Fantasy Intelligence Report: Split 69

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For the first time since the 2003 season, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne failed to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark. And for the first time in his career, he won’t be taking a back seat, to one Peyton Manning, when it comes to veteran leadership.

In fact, according to the Indianapolis Star, Wayne is like the rocking chair story-telling, wisdom-filled grandfather of the new look young Colts team - one that features plenty of rookie talent and immature NFL minds. Thus far, Wayne is taking on his new role.

“Those (young receivers) want to know everything they can and I love giving them information,” Wayne said after a Friday morning practice. “This is the top of the crop. Everybody that’s here are elite guys. I just want to help them take their game to the next level and do whatever I can do to help them do that.”

As for the question of why did Wayne return to a rebuilding Colts team?

“Just sit back and watch and see what happens,” he said. “That’s all I can say. Some people say we have a depleted roster, I say we’re younger and hungrier.… I wanted to be here to help build this foundation and keep it going and bring the Colts back and do some great things. We have a young team, but we have a hungry team.”

Wayne may be on to something. Last season, the Carolina Panthers were dealt an almost identical hand when it came to their quarterback and wide receiver situation - rookie Cam Newton as the starting quarterback, with aging veteran Steve Smith (33rd ranked preseason myfantasyleague.com wide receiver) heeding a receiver charge that included questionable young talent.

With just the injury-riddled Austin Collie being the only other receiver on the Colts roster who has shown something in his short career, Wayne could be in line for a Steve Smith-like revival season, especially if rookie quarterback Andrew Luck can find a groove early on.

It is worth noting that currently in all re-draft formats Wayne is the 32nd ranked wide receiver. 

6.D.G.T.M. -- 6 Divisional Games That Matter

One of the most muted statistics in fantasy football when it comes to veterans are historical splits against divisional opponents. The funny thing is that these are probably the most measurable, important games fantasy owners can hone in on, yet they are often thrown in the back seat of the fantasy car. Well, it’s time to put them up front by the shifter where they belong.

Below you will find six players who will have you doing the splits in excitement when you see their three year average splits against their respective division opponents.

QB Tom Brady, New England: Brady seems to be at his best against AFC East opponents, as he has averaged almost three touchdowns and 293 passing yards per contest (12 games). This should be the prime reason to rank him in your Top 3 among quarterbacks this season.

RB Michael Turner, Atlanta: In his previous 12 games against the NFC South’s New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Turner has averaged 19.4 fantasy points per contest (using the Fantasy Sharks scoring format). He has pretty much owned divisional opponents.

WR Marques Colston, New Orleans: Last season, Colston averaged 19.6 fantasy points in six games against NFC South opponents, and didn’t finish a single game under the double-digit mark.

WR Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis: The above-mentioned Wayne has been consistently good, and has averaged 17.5, 18.6 and 14.8 points against AFC South opponents during the last three seasons. And let’s not forget that he had a below average quarterback in Curtis Painter throwing to him last season.

RB Matt Forte, Chicago: Over his past 10 starts against the NFC North’s Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers, Forte has been lights out, averaging 19.2 points per game. He has scored single-digit points in just one game during that span.

QB Michael Vick, Philadelphia: Vick has had some of his best games against NFC East opponents in the last two seasons and has averaged 24.3 points per contest (10 games). There’s a good chance fantasy owners could get 24-plus points per game this season if he can stay healthy, too.

9.R.T.E.V. -- 9th Round Tight End Value

Last season, Rob Gronkowski’s average draft position in points per reception draft formats had him coming off draft boards as the ninth-best ninth round tight end. As you already know, he certainly didn’t finish nine spots from the top, and instead found himself king of the tight end forest. Gronkowski’s sudden emergence led me to do a little bit of research surrounding the lucky nines. You’ll be surprised to see what I found out.

Brandon Pettigrew: Even with Calvin Johnson lighting up opposing defenses, Pettigrew still managed to finish third in receptions (83) and second in targets (126). Pettigrew also finished with five games where he scored 17 or more fantasy points, including three in the final four weeks of the season.

Chris Cooley: In 2010, points per reception owners received great return on their mid-round Cooley investment. He finished second overall in receptions (77) and targets (126), and third overall in yardage (849), while averaging just less than 11 points per game (Hammerhead Leagues format). Cooley also had eight games over his fantasy average, a nice touch for owners who were looking for a consistent target at the position.

Owen Daniels: In 2008, Daniels posted the best season of his career, catching 70 passes for 862 yards, while being targeted 101 times. He also scored double-digit points seven times and wasn’t targeted less than four times in a single contest. His average draft position heading in to the season was 105.88.

Jason Witten: In 2006, Witten scored just one touchdown, which triggered fantasy owners to downgrade him to ninth-round status. But, in 2007, the consistent Cowboys pass-catcher threw fantasy owners a nasty curveball, when he posted career numbers of 96 receptions and 1,145 yards. He chipped in a half-dozen more touchdowns than the previous season, and posted just four games of single-digit scoring.

Heading into 2012, there are three current candidates (depending on how many teams) who could end up carrying the value-filled ninth round torch - Jermaine Gresham, Jacob Tamme and Tony Gonzalez. The most likely to breakout is probably Tamme, who will reunite with Peyton Manning and could become Manning’s prime short-yardage target. Gresham’s story in Cincinnati is quite comparable to that of Pettigrew’s 2011 tale - playing alongside a big down-field rising receiver who gets a lot of attention. Gonzalez is the dark horse. Most view him as an aging space-eater with no upside on an offense that will want to stretch the field.

Thanks for reading!

Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for fantasysharks.com. Email him your thoughts at ehuber@fantasysharks.com