Warning: Reading this column about fantasy football can be hazardous to your health. If you cannot handle humor and satire, mixed in with a few juicy tidbits of NFL facts, this may not be for you. But if you are ready — read on, my friend.
This year, I am lucky enough to have a top high-caliber team in the prestigious Sirius XM Individual Defensive Player (IDP) Dynasty Experts League. The previous owner dropped out and I inherited a great team. I wheeled and dealt for draft choices, trading away many of the older veterans.
My Fantasy Sharks colleague, Gary Davenport, the master of the IDP world is the commissioner and he must have setup the scoring. In most IDP leagues, the defensive players are not usually all that significant. In this league, 11 of the 20 lineup slots go to IDPs and many IDPs actually are more valuable than most offensive players.
The first three weeks I crushed the opposition and cockiness set in. According to MyFantasyLeague.com (MFL) I was a huge favorite against a very weak team last week. After Thursday night, I was ahead 75-0 and I was cruising. There was no way I could lose. After all these years I should have known better.
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones put my opponent into the lead by eight points going into Monday night. On Sunday my esteemed opponent scored many more points than expected and, of course, my own scoring plummeted below expectations. I still had two guys to play on Monday night that were each averaging 11 fantasy points per game and he was all out of scoring chances. It was still a simple, but close win. But no, my guys got five points between them and I lost by three stinking points. I could not believe it. It could not be. Alas, I was robbed, but whichever way you cut it, my 4-0 team emerged from Week 4 with a 3-1 record. It reminded me of the movie – The Perfect Storm.
Tuesday morning I bid on eight players on waivers and will continue to work my butt off to win. This was a classic example where assuming means making an a$$ of me. Toby enjoyed watching me heehaw around the house all day Tuesday. Those low-toned rabbit chuckles can be quite annoying.
Now that the season is going into Week 5, some numbers are starting to show trends and make our previous decisions either valid or not. What do the numbers tell us this week? Can we believe them?
Here are this week’s six pack of observations.
Belting down this week’s Couch Six Pack
1. In Week 5, the Matt Ryan/Julio Jones duo, with more than 500 passing yards and 300 receiving yards, disrupted many planned victory celebrations. Bonnie lost a game to a Ryan/Jones team as well so we both felt the pain. Like Terrelle Pryor in Week 4, this too set a record as the first time teammates exceeded the 500-yard passing and 300-yard receiving marks.
Sixty-five years ago, Norm Van Brocklin had the biggest passing game ever with 554 yards and in 1989 Flipper Anderson exploded for 336 receiving yards. To hit these thresholds Matt Ryan and Julio Jones accomplished something really rare in our game. The 80-90 fantasy points they generated together were almost impossible to beat. Now the true test for them is what will happen over the next 13 weeks. And, of course, we all are wondering, what great feat will be accomplished next?
2. It is amazing how mentally shallow some players are. There are a lot of supposed studs out there who hit harder with their Tweets than their bodies. Odell Beckham Jr. pretty much had his way in 2014 and 2015. He hauled in pass after pass, many of which were downright incredible athletic moves. Then the opponents discovered they could get under his skin. With the return of Victor Cruz and the emergence of rookie Sterling Shepard, he is just another good wide receiver going into Week 5, not the diva he thought he was.
After averaging 75 yards a game and scoring no touchdowns as of yet, he says that he is not having fun. I know, let’s have a collective loud awwwwww as we hear him belting out his chorus of whining. There are 15 wide receiver with more yardage right now than Beckham, and 13 of those 15 have at least one touchdown. If we have a bad day at the office, nobody really cares. Now the moronic wide receiver has given notice that those trying to get under his skin are indeed doing so. He has made a formidable obstacle to overcome even bigger. He is not a sympathetic figure and people love to see smart guys like him fail. Now defenders will increase the pressure and it is time for Beckham Jr. to man up. Dynasty owners, now might be a good time to try to work a trade to get him.
3. It looks like running back scoring is trending down. That is sure the perception we have, especially the way A.J. Green and Julio Jones are scoring. Yet if you look at the four-week numbers for the last three seasons, you might be surprised to see that at least at the top of the running back scoring list, fantasy points are actually trending up.
In 2014 after four weeks, seven running backs were averaging 17 or more fantasy points per game. For the same period in 2015, that number grew to eight and this year it is up to 10. And the biggest surprise to me is that DeMarco Murray is leading the pack in 2016 with 24.65 fantasy points per game, just like he was in 2014 when he was at a 24.8 pace.
4. While we are all marveling at Matt Ryan’s start to the season, punctuated with that huge game last week, let us put some things back into perspective. While Ryan is averaging 31.087 fantasy points per game thus far, that is not so much a new normal as it is, well to put it plainly, just normal.
Last season, Tom Brady got off to a robust 30.7 start to the year after four weeks and looking back to 2014, it was Andrew Luck who had a 31.163 fantasy points per game, higher than either Ryan or Brady. Ours is a game where little in the way of new ground is broken in any one year. Instead, it is history repeating itself with different names in the forefront. While we can have a good general picture in our minds of the relative value of players, there is just enough variation to keep us at least a little bit on the cautious side. Let me just roll out a few sure thing names going into this season – Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Randall Cobb and Laquon Treadwell … how well have these highly regarded players done for you thus far?
5. A couple years ago, where you drafted a tight end meant more than it does today, at least based on scoring numbers. Using 12 fantasy points as a measuring stick, the supply of high-scoring tight ends has dwindled thus far. The question is what are the numbers going to show as the 2016 season progresses and what can we conclude at the end of the year?
In 2014, there were 11 tight ends averaging more than 12.3 to 21 fantasy points per game after Week 4. In 2015, that number dropped down to nine with 12.875-23.6. Now in 2016, there are only six tight ends so far averaging between 12.15-17.875 fantasy points per game. A big part of this is the missing Rob Gronkowski factor, but, in reality, if he is not scoring points, you might as well have Joe Putz in your lineup.
6. This week we sat here on the couch and threw some numbers out for discussion. Everything I wrote is true, but is it valid? With any batch of numbers, you can pretty much have them prove that something is a certain way and conversely, that it is not a certain way. How big the sample might be is a key element in a discussion.
If I told you that the Top XX tight ends were scoring at a higher rate over those three years, I could “prove” theoretically, that scoring for tight ends is increasing, not falling. We could prove that top quarterbacks are either throwing more, or less touchdown passes. All we have to do is manipulate the definition of how many top quarterbacks to include in our sample group until we get the numbers we want.
From a practical value, the ability to find the numbers that strengthen your argument is a skill you need to develop for trading purposes. For instance, in a dynasty league where trading is most relevant, you can use numbers to make a point for obtaining Odell Beckham or Todd Gurley in a trade. Now I don’t mean a steal, but a couple of first rounders and a prospect might draw some interest, while there was no interest a month ago. Watch for opportunities.
Be an active owner to enhance your chances of winning. Managing the waiver wire, prudent trading and careful lineup decisions are the key to success on this journey we started together in Week 1.
When we play fantasy football we are so busy with our teams that we forget about the football game as a whole. Be sure to remember that the answers to our fantasy football questions can usually be found within the numbers. And if all else fails, feel free to ask me. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All fantasy football questions are welcome.
Good luck! Have fun!