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Fantasy Intelligence Report - Week 5

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The hot story this week is brewing in New England, where undrafted rookie running back Brandon Bolden is receiving a lot of attention for his 16-carry, 137-yard performance against Buffalo last week. According to the Boston Globe, Bolden became the 35th member of the Patriots’ 100-yard club and gained some nice comments courtesy of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

“I think Brandon has really done a nice job of keeping his head down, staying focused on learning our system, doing everything that’s asked of him,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “I think that’s ultimately a great sign for a young player. He gets in and any way he can help the team, he’s willing to do it. I think Brandon’s attitude has been great.”

What McDaniels is speaking of is already evident in Bolden, as the fantasy unknown star of the week wants to keep moving forward, and, according to the Worcester Telegram, wants to be ready for when his number is called again.

“I’m not worried about last week,” Bolden said. “Last week happened. Now we’re getting ready for Denver. We have them coming here. Just forget about it. It was a game. You’ve got to see that and, yeah, yay, yippee, everybody was happy. It happened. It’s in the past and now we’re moving on.

“I’m going in trying to learn as much of the game plan as you can in case your number does get called, you have the opportunity to execute everything.”

The Patriots have a tough task ahead, with the ninth-ranked Denver run defense on the schedule this week and the second-ranked Seattle defense next week. In other words, Bolden won’t be good bye week filler until Weeks 7 and 8. That’s when New England plays the New York Jets (30th against the run) and St. Louis Rams (25th against the run).


Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was all the fantasy rage in the preseason. Some pegged him to quickly move in to the Top 10 among receivers, while others took it even further and talked about him finishing side-by-side with Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

Through four games Jones isn’t even sniffing the Top 20. Now, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, some, like offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, are insisting that Jones’ lack of production is due in large part to a hand laceration the budding receiver suffered in Week 3 against the San Diego Chargers, and that as he recovers his production will go back up.

My question is: Has Jones been involved enough in the offensive gameplan?

“He still had eight targets (in the Week 4 Carolina game),” Koetter said Tuesday. “That’s a fair number; it just didn’t work out. Eight targets and one catch is not a good percentage. Julio’s hand is not 100 percent. Credit him for playing and running his routes hard. When he’s 100 percent he will be even more effective.”

Luckily for the Falcons, wide receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez have picked up the slack that “excuse” Jones (as I like to call him) has left dangling within the offense. White has played beyond expectations and is currently seated in most Top 5s among receivers. Ironically, he was also the receiver many had written off, with the thought of Jones taking the Falcons top seat.

As for Gonzalez, he has been perhaps the best tight end (points per reception formats) in terms of value thus far through four weeks - 26 receptions, 265 yards and three touchdowns.

On Thursday, Jones announced that he will be fully recovered for Atlanta’s Week 5 match-up with the Washington Redskins.

“Oh, yeah I’m fine,” Jones said. “I’m ready to go.”

The Redskins rank 31st in passing yards allowed per game (326.3) and 32nd in passing touchdowns surrendered (11).


Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie running back Doug Martin has fantasy owners on pins and needles. His production has steadily decreased since the start of the regular season, leaving many questioning whether he’s really worth starting on a week-to-week basis.

Equipped with a ton of tools, and a running style that punishes and wears down defenses, Martin should be primed to start breaking off a few good weeks. However, in order to accomplish that the rookie must start finding ways to hit a few homeruns, as according to the Tampa Bay Times, Martin has the second lowest yards per carry average (3.5) among running backs with 60 attempts or more.

“He’s had a few (long runs),” coach Greg Schiano said. “Would I like it to be more? Yeah. But I’d give it a little more time until the offensive line gets settled down a little, because he’s got that kind of ability.”

Unfortunately for fantasy owners, patience seems to be the theme that Buccaneers coaches are preaching in the Tampa Bay locker room. Martin himself even realizes the importance of it.

“As a running back, you’ve got to be patient,” Martin says. “They’ll come. They’ll come. We’ve got a lot of the season left, and we’ll just keep talking to the line, keep practicing and they’ll come. … It’s really just a matter of guys staying on blocks, me hitting the hole and all of us following the details.”

Patience will have to be the theme for fantasy owners who own Martin as well, but maybe not for long. Tampa Bay will have Week 5 off, but will return to play the 19th-ranked Chiefs run defense. It will get better as the season progresses, too. After the Chiefs, the Buccaneers will play seven of their remaining 11 games against defenses ranked 21st or higher against the run.

In other words, it may be a good idea to keep Martin on your fantasy roster and in your starting lineup beginning Week 6. It also may be a good time for those who want him to go out and get him.


O.W.5.T. - Other Week 5 Tidbits

- San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews will not get the starting announcement every fantasy owner was hoping for. In fact, there is now a belief that Mathews may have lost his starting job completely to Jackie Battle. According to nfl.com, head coach Norv Turner is keeping the issue to himself, but would like to have a balance between the two runners like last week against Kansas City.

“It’s not a big deal,” Turner said. “One had 14 carries (Mathews) and one had 15 carries (Battle), and if we can get that done again, it’ll be outstanding.”

- Bears running back Matt Forte will play against the Jacksonville Jaguars this week. He’s listed as probable, and, according to the Chicago Tribune, he fully participated in practice on Friday. The Jaguars rank 29th against the run, so Forte should be in every fantasy owner’s starting lineup this week.

- Word out of New Orleans is that Saints wide receiver Lance Moore won’t play this week against San Diego due to a hamstring injury. Moore has enjoyed a pretty good start to his 2012 fantasy campaign - 19 receptions, 287 yards and two touchdowns on 38 targets. More importantly for New Orleans is that Moore is an important piece in moving the chains, as he leads the team in first downs (18).

At the same time though, Marques Colston (more than Jimmy Graham) should benefit a great deal from Moore’s absence in the starting lineup. Last season in games with Moore in the lineup, Colston averaged 5.5 receptions, 76 yards and a half a touchdown per game. Without Moore Colston improved his numbers to 6.5, 113 and one touchdown per game. Colston is a must start this week against the 16th-ranked Chargers pass defense.


G.T.E.M. -- Going The Extra Mile

 

It’s 3rd-and-5 for the Green Bay offense on the New Orleans’ 14-yard line. The Saints are in a 4-1-6 Dime Cover 1 defense with backup safety Isa Abdul-Quddus deep while primary starters Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper float to the line of scrimmage.

Harper (orange dot, red arrow at the top of the screen) will fake the blitz and go man up on fullback John Kuhn, who will run a simple flat route. Quddus (orange dot, red arrow middle of the screen) has the easy job of covering the deep part of the field from just outside the left hash to just outside the right hash. Jenkins (orange dot, blue X) is the roaming defensive back who ultimately tries to bust through the route design on the overloaded right side of the Packers formation. Cornerbacks Corey White, Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson (red dots) and linebacker Curtis Lofton (purple dot) are all man up on the receivers assigned to them.

For the Packers, it’s a basic Shotgun three wide receiver ( Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones) formation, with the tight end ( Jermichael Finley) lining up just under the slot receiver. The route concept is much more complex, but really quite genius. They will utilize the circled blue zone to create a diversion.

Nelson and Finley (light green routes) will run quick slant curls towards each other to create a hot mess congestion amongst the three Saints defensive backs and Lofton (who isn’t a factor from the start). Meanwhile, the slot receiver, Cobb, will split the slanting receivers, Nelson and Finley, and break off a post corner route, while drawing the deep safety down.

Ultimately, Jones (yellow route) ends up in man coverage with Greer, who has no chance and no help to the inside. The end result is an easy pitch and catch touchdown from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to Jones.

Fantasy owners should see a lot of these types of plays from the Packers offense this week against the Indianapolis Colts, who feature very identical secondary talent as the Saints. And like Harper, Colts free safety Antoine Bethea loves playing the run and will be brought in to the box quite a bit, especially if Green Bay can get running back Cedric Benson going early.

With Greg Jennings out, as he was on this play, all Packer receivers are good starts this week, especially Nelson (see below).


G.T.E.M. Bonus

It’s 3rd-and-2 for the Denver on the Oakland 17-yard line. The Raiders are in a Nickel Cover 1 Blitz defense, with eight defenders in the box ready to attack the line of scrimmage. The safety (dark red circle) is 15 yards deep on the strong side of the field.

The defensive call is the right one. The Raiders blitz from the left side of the defensive formation and will contain on the right side and middle with linebackers against the run. The idea is that if Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning does pass that he has to roll to his left and make a pass across his body and on the run, something he does not prefer to do.

The Broncos are in a shotgun three wide receiver set, with all three lined up on the strong left side of the offensive formation. The play call is unusual, but works perfectly against the Raiders defensive formation.

Both slot receivers, Brandon Stokely and Eric Decker (orange circle), will run pick-like drag routes in front of each other. Stokely’s job is to take the two defenders (purple dots) - Joselio Hanson and Michael Huff - closest to him out of the play completely, so that Decker can run the drag to the sidelines (orange route).

Outside receiver, tight end Julius Thomas, is a diversion meant to take the cornerback (circled in black) away from the sidelines and keep the safety towards the middle of the field. Thomas runs a slant route, but then breaks it off towards the sidelines, keeping the cornerback behind him to allow Decker to sneak by down the sidelines after the catch. The safety becomes a non-factor immediately, because he’s too far center to get over in time.

The end result was an easy short throw left from Manning to Decker for a 17-yard touchdown. It was also one of the best designed plays I’ve seen all season, and was an excellent example of a receiver (Stokely) sacrificing himself for the team.

Plays like this will be crucial for the Broncos this week against a New England secondary that is weak down the middle, but solid on the corners. Manning is too smart to challenge the Patriots’ best defensive back Devin McCourty, so he will be looking to slot designed plays to Decker and Stokely quite a bit. This means that Demaryius Thomas likely will not be a huge fantasy factor in Week 5.


S.O.W.F. - Speaking Out With Fortitude

You know, I’m growing real tired of hearing fantasy owners and media members gripe about Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson’s production thus far this season, and how he needs Greg Jennings to be great. Actually, to be honest, it’s very disappointing that the gripes come with absolutely no statistical fortitude behind them, and a bunch general non-researched statements.

The truth is … Last season through his first four games, Nelson caught 15 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns. Through four games this season his stats are fairly comparable - 21 catches, 260 yards, and one touchdown.

The truth is … Last season without Greg Jennings in three games, Nelson caught 17 passes for 306 yards and five touchdowns. Nelson’s season averages were 4.25 receptions, 78.6 yards and .93 touchdowns per game, all of which he exceeded without Jennings.

The truth is … Last season Jordy Nelson’s catch rate percentage this season is higher than Calvin Johnson, who, by the way, has the same number of drops, Victor Cruz, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, and a slew of other “top rate” receivers.

So the next time that folks like Sportsradio 1250’s Gary Ellerson want to rip a player like Nelson, they better make damn sure they have their cold hard facts straight first!

Thanks for reading!

Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for fantasysharks.com and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). Email him your thoughts ehuber@fantasysharks.com