Statistical fun to help with lineup choices


I'm a big statistics guy, not only studying trends that can help fantasy owners but being interested in how three quarterbacks are on pace to break the NFL record for season passing yards (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees) and how of the three running backs with consecutive-game rushing touchdown streaks of six this season, two were top-5 overall picks (Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson), while the other (Marshawn Lynch) was an eighth-rounder.

Anyway, on this fine, chilly Friday, I figured I'd delve into the cool stack of ESPN Stats & Information goodies for this weekend and share my thoughts on the fantasy options you might be on the fence about using.

Fact: After being held to 35 yards on 16 carries in Weeks 10-11, Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee has rushed for 228 yards in his past two games. McGahee's six games with 100 yards rushing this season are tied with the Buffalo Bills' Fred Jackson for the most in the NFL.

Fantasy spin: Jackson's season ended due to injury, but who would have guessed McGahee has been this productive? He's actually 10th in the league in rushing. He's playing well recently but was active in barely half of ESPN standard leagues last week (Matt Forte was active in more). Get Willis active!

Fact: Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been held to fewer than 200 yards passing in each of the past three games. His five yards per attempt over the past three weeks is the lowest among quarterbacks with at least 30 attempts in that span.

Fantasy spin: Hasselbeck has been awful lately, probably due in some part to how productive running back Chris Johnson has been. Still, it's odd that Hasselbeck is the No. 2 most-added QB over the past week, likely because he's facing the New Orleans Saints. It is an enticing matchup, but I would not have Hasselbeck active.

Fact: The last time Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson missed playing time, from Weeks 5 through 10, Arian Foster led the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards. Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones averaged five targets per week, fewer than four receptions and fewer than 50 receiving yards in that span.

Fantasy spin: The Texans run the ball about as well as any team. Even their backup running back is productive. Fantasy owners continue to rely on Daniels (top 10 at tight end in ownership and starting percentage) despite the fact that he last scored in Week 4 and has no more than three fantasy points since Week 8. I like Jones over Walter but wouldn't overthink things and get close to activating either. The facts tell us Foster replaced Johnson previously, not the wide receivers or tight end.

Fact: No team has spent more time trailing this season than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have been behind for 475 minutes and 22 seconds. The Bucs have trailed for 43 more minutes than the Indianapolis Colts, the next worst team.

Fantasy spin: I guess the fantasy significance there is it makes little sense to me that the Buccaneers defense is the fourth-most added one in ESPN leagues this week, but wow, is this not an amazing stat in general, even for football fans? Go Colts!

Fact: Although Julio Jones leads the Atlanta Falcons with five 30-plus yard pass plays, he hasn't been the most effective receiver stretching the field. Matt Ryan has only four incompletions when targeting Jones for 10 yards or fewer downfield this season but is just 9-for-31 on throws of more than 10 yards.

Fantasy spin: File this under the "learn something new every day" section. Jones can be dynamic, but he also ranks last among NFL receivers (including tight ends and running backs with at least 30 attempts) with a 29 percent completion percentage on plays 11 or more yards downfield. I might have ranked Jones too well, considering this stat, his three drops in two weeks and his inconsistent play.

Fact: Cam Newton has 13 rushing TDs, most by a quarterback in a season in NFL history. He has more rushing touchdowns this season than 26 teams.

Fantasy spin: That last line is just incredible. The first line explains how a quarterback with more interceptions than touchdown passes can rank second in fantasy this season.

Fact: Newton's completion percentage of 60.8 has been helped dramatically by completing 41 of 44 (93.2 percent) screen passes, the highest completion percentage on screen passes in the NFL.

Fantasy spin: It's also why I continue to rank Jonathan Stewart over DeAngelo Williams. Each running back has three rushing touchdowns and fewer than 600 rushing yards, but Stewart destroys Williams in the passing game.

Fact: DeMarco Murray is averaging 29 rush yards after contact per game and has zero rushes of 20-plus yards over his past three games. From Weeks 7 to 10, Murray averaged 59.8 yards after contact per game and recorded seven 20-plus yard rushes.

Fantasy spin: Can't really blame this on Felix Jones, can you? Perhaps we were all a bit too excited about Murray this week, but then again, there's another stat that shows he averages 6.7 yards per rush in home games and 3.8 yards per rush on the road. So this is a big week for Murray.

Fact: The San Francisco 49ers haven't allowed a rushing touchdown this season. Every other team has allowed at least three. San Francisco is allowing only 71.8 rush yards per game, 17 yards better than any other team in the NFL.

Fantasy spin: I did not rank Beanie Wells well this week for this reason.

Back to the first paragraph of this blog entry: You have to activate Lynch. Forget how he's burned you in the past. He's averaging 19.8 fantasy points per game over the past five games.

Enjoy and best of luck this weekend!