This week we take another look at the “Standout Fantasy Performers.” from Week 6.
The theme is the same: we’re not necessarily looking at which players had the best week, although, if fitting you’ll see the top scorer at his respective position listed, but we’ll discuss players who had a good week despite going up against a tough defense, broke out of a slump, emerged as a sleeper or just plain overcame the odds. Before it’s all over, we’ll take a look at what each of these players can expect in Week 7.
Thaddeus Lewis, QB
Last Week: Philip Rivers
Before the first pink cleat touched turf on Sunday, I imagined myself writing about how many touchdowns Aaron Rodgers threw on the Baltimore Ravens or how Russell Wilson ran for two scores on the ground. However, neither of those things happened and as the final minutes of Sunday’s matchups came to a close, the only QB that stuck in my mind was Thaddeus Lewis.
If we recall, last week I gave the go ahead to start the Cincinatti Bengals D/ST for week 6 if you needed a defense with a good matchup. On paper it seemed like the logical choice. Thad Lewis had only ever started one game in his career for the Cleveland Browns and that was last year. Let’s just say he didn’t dazzle. In fact, he didn’t really go crazy in Sunday’s game either. He did, however, impress me, his teammates, his coaches and most notably his fans, who weren’t shy in pointing out on Twitter how amazed they were that he was able to score on his first possession.
This was not supposed to happen. Sure, Thad isn’t a pushover but surely he wouldn’t have given the Bengals more of a run for their money than Tom Brady did, right? Surely, he wouldn’t throw 2 TDs and run for another? He would most certainly not finish a game with a passer rating of 100.52! Or would he? Turns out, I was wrong.
Bottom Line: Thad came out confident and managed to do every one of those things. His 19 of 32 completions for 216 yards and 2 TDs wouldn’t have been as impressive had he not also managed to avoid throwing an interception. Let’s add 7 carries for 17 yards and a score as well. If Stevie Johnson had been out there, Lewis might have actually beat the Bengals in overtime; he might even have beat them outright! Unfortunately, Lewis couldn’t take a W home with him on Sunday, perhaps thanks in part to a 3rd quarter fumble he lost on a scramble. Coach Doug Marrone said Lewis was “doing too much” on the field and I have to agree, but that fumble doesn’t demonize his overall performance for the day. Thad Lewis proved he could come out and play against a fairly talented team and we’ll see how well he does this week against the Miami Dolphins who are currently allowing 18 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Stevie Johnson is optimistic about playing week 7 which would be a great asset for Lewis as he returns home to Miami to face the Dolphins (well, very close to home at least). It’s tough to say how he will fare this week. If he stays focused through practice and pushes past the mild ankle sprain he suffered on Sunday, we might even be talking about him for the second week in a row. As far as fantasy goes, he’s nothing more than a bye week replacement at the moment, but one with a lot more upside than guys like Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Stevan Ridley, RB
Last Week: CJ Spiller/Fred Jackson
I really wanted to cover how Knowshon Moreno had the best game of his career in week 6, but it was against the Jaguars and we’ve already seen Moreno’s role become more productive this season than it has in the past. What really stood out this week was the first sign of hope for Stevan Ridley owners. Last year, Ridley ran for a whopping 1263 yards and 12 TDs and from the moment the season ended I began calling it a total fluke. I swore it wouldn’t happen again in 2013 and so far I’ve been completely right. Before week 6, Ridley had been averaging 43.5 yards per game and ZERO touchdowns. All this talk in the preseason about how Ridley would have an even better season because Brady lost his receivers was preposterous. Brady’s high powered passing game is what opened lanes for Ridley all of last year and without it, the running game is as hollow as my wallet.
Bottom Line: All of that aside, he was bound to have a good game. In week 6 he more than doubled his rushing average and recorded his only 2 TDs on the year so far. Let’s be honest, 96 yards isn’t anything to write home about but when you factor in 14 receiving yards and 2 scores on the ground, Ridley had a game that brought us back to a year ago when he was recording them consistently. It was the kind of game that owners who drafted him were hoping for all season. The fact that it took 6 weeks for him to post a positive game is why Ridley’s performance stood out to me. The downside to this is that many owner’s probably had him on the bench for his 23 point game… I may have even advised a few people to do so, unfortunately. This week Ridley will face the division rival New York Jets in their own house and the Jets are no joke against the run. They’re only giving up an average of 64 rushing yards per game heading in to week 7. I wouldn’t count on Ridley to bolster your chances this week but you could do worse for a FLEX option. To be perfectly realistic though, don’t count on the third year back this week.
Joseph Fauria, TE
Last Week: Julius Thomas
I’m going to go on a bit of a rant with this one. Heading into week 7, there are 5 tight ends with 5 or more TDs this season: Julius Thomas, Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis, Jordan Cameron and… (drum roll) Joseph Fauria. (crickets) That’s right, Joseph Fauria has 5 scores this season. Did you know he also leads the Detroit Lions in receiving touchdowns? Yeah, ahead of Calvin Johnson. That stat only became true, however, after a week 6 performance that saw him grab 3 receptions for 34 yards and 3 TDs against the Browns.
You see, aside from being the #2 TE in fantasy in week 6, Fauria stood out for another reason. So far this season, he’s scored a TD in every game he’s been targeted in. The red flag here is that he’s only been targeted in 3 games since week one. To be exact, that’s 9 total targets, 7 catches and 5 TDs. That’s a stat line that’ll make you rub your chin and furrow your brow. From the looks of it, Joseph Fauria pretty much only catches touchdowns. I’m beginning to wonder if he called up Mike Vrabel for some goal line pointers. The Jacksonville Jaguars tried – unsuccessfully – to place the OW tag (offensive weapon) on Denard Robinson, but if anyone deserves a specialty tag on a roster it’s Fauria and that tag would be TM: Touchdown Machine.
Bottom Line: What this really comes down to is that Joseph Fauria is impressive in the fact that he essentially only gets red zone targets and makes something out of them. Snagging three scores this week was more than enough to make him a standout player and his red zone track record was plenty for me to make a big deal out of. In reality though, he’s worthless in fantasy unless you can predict which games he’s going to be targeted in. He’s behind Brandon Pettigrew on the depth chart since Tony Scheffler is out with concussion problems, so he has a positional battle to wrestle with. Or does he? After showing his reliability in the red zone this week, Fauria could see a slightly elevated role but most likely just more red zone targets. That’s not the worst news but he’s truly giving the term “goal line tight end” a place in the football dictionary. Therein lies the question: If Fauria were to be given the start, would he put up better numbers than Pettigrew? When we look at their stat lines side by side, Pettigrew holds 20-187-0 to Fauria’s 7-66-5. Their receiving percentages are nearly identical with Pettrigrew at 71% and Fauria at 78%. He has similar production, all the TDs and is clearly trusted when Calvin Johnson is injured. If it were me, Fauria would get the start because I think he has potential for a solid low-end TE1 season from this point forward.
This week the Lions are at home against the Bengals and it should be a little bit of a slugfest. I don’t advise using Fauria in this matchup merely because we don’t know how his role will be increased – if at all – in the coming weeks. If you have a bench spot you save for project players, this is your guy to pick up this week. I think he has great potential as a possession receiver. He could develop into a golden goose or he could end up just laying a bunch of goose eggs on your roster. Only time will tell.
Vincent Jackson, WR
Last Week: T.Y. Hilton
Immediately after the draft in one of my auction leagues, I traded Randall Cobb for Vincent Jackson and Tony Gonzalez. I needed an upgrade at TE desperately and I was stacked at RB. After weeks 5 and 6, I’m looking back at that trade and wondering if I’m subconsciously clairvoyant. Cobb goes down with a fractured fibula, Julio Jones is out for the season (possibly opening more opportunities for Gonzo) and Vincent Jackson FINALLY scores a touchdown. Actually, he scored two for the day, his first two of the season. VJax has been mildly disappointing this season. While he may have two 100-yard games on the year, those were also the only games that he scored double digit fantasy points, thanks largely to the fact that he forgot where the endzone was. He must’ve gotten a Google Maps update during the bye week or something because navigating his way to the endzone twice in week 6 surely made a lot of owners happy, myself included. The former San Diego Charger finished Sunday with 9 catches for 114 yards and 2 TDs.
Bottom Line: What’s stands out the most about this performance is that Jackson had rookie QB Mike Glennon throwing him the ball. It took one bye week for Glennon and Jackson to get on the same page and Jackson surely vocalized the rapport they’ve built. “He put’s the ball in (a) position where guys can catch it. That’s unique.” This is more than Jackson would offer to say about former QB Josh Freeman and probably for good reason. Jackson looked to be in his element on Sunday with Glennon under center. He caught 64% of his passes, the best he’s done all year. If the two can keep this connection up, Jackson could possibly top his 72-1384-8 stat line of 2012. I think it’s completely possible, and this is coming from a guy who face-palmed at the utterance of Vincent Jackson’s name before week 6. For me, hope has been somewhat restored, but I’m going to hold on to some of my eggs before I fully commit to that basket.
Jackson and Glennon face the Atlanta Falcons in their own house this week. The dirty birds are allowing the 5th most fantasy points to QBs and WRs; even Geno Smith had 3 TDs against the Atlanta squad. This week is shaping up to be another huge game for VJax. The matchup is right, the relationship appears to be strong and with the Falcons offense looking like a remake of the movie The Replacements, Tampa has a pretty good chance of writing a W on the board in week 7. Vincent Jackson is a must-start.
Kansas City Chiefs, D/ST
Last Week: Cincinatti Bengals
I only have one thing to say about this selection: 10 sacks. That is an insanely awesome stat. Of all the defensive plays you can make, the “sackle” – as I like to call it – is by far one of my favorites, so I will admit that I may be a bit biased. However, the Chiefs defensive group also snagged 3 interceptions, one of which saw Husain Abdullah return it for a TD.
Bottom Line: The Chiefs are defensive monsters this season. They’re 40 fantasy points ahead of the #2 D/ST Seattle Seahawks. That’s inescapably and unequivocally impressive considering that last season they were by far the worst defense in fantasy. Talk about a net gain. Andy Reid has proven to us that he just needed a change of scenery to continue his legacy because this group is flying as high as gas prices with him at the helm. The Chiefs are hosting the Houston Texans this Sunday who just got through getting absolutely ravaged by the other team in Missouri, the St. Louis Rams. Outside of Arian Foster – who seems to have finally woken up – the Chiefs should be able to pick through the shards of the broken offense from Houston and produce another double digit fantasy week for owners.
Last Week: Alex Henery
The Pittsburgh Steelers need any help they can get and they’re lucky to have had Suisham to count on in week 6. He hasn’t missed a kick all season and hit 4 for 4 on Sunday, taking him to 10 total for the season. Those aren’t crazy stats but Suisham has emerged as one of the most consistent players on the Steelers this season, who grabbed their first win against the New York Jets thanks largely to the 31-year old kicker.
Bottom Line: Had Suisham not scored his 13 points, the Steelers would have tied the Jets 6-6 in that game. Offensively, he was the integral cog in their victory and that’s why he made the list. In their next matchup, the Steelers take on the Baltimore Ravens at home. The Ravens defense has been hit or miss this season but they should give the Steelers enough trouble for them to rely strongly on Suisham’s cleats which could make him a good fantasy filler for week 7.
Arian Foster, RB
Last Week: Alshon Jeffery
I was planning on talking about Jamaal Charles here but he’s been consistently good all season. Rather, I’ll bring up a guy who many thought would be a complete bust this season: Arian Foster. The fantasy stud had a bit of a shaky start to his season when it looked like Ben Tate would eat into his carries quite a bit, but when Gary Kubiak got desperate, he started feeding the ball to Foster like he used to and with great results. In the first 3 weeks of the season, Foster had less than 20 carries and managed to only reach double digits in fantasy once. In the 3 weeks since then, he’s received 20+ carries and hit double digit fantasy points with 100+ total yards each game. He averaged 7 yards per carry last week and caught 4 of his 7 targets for 57 yards.
Bottom Line: As I mentioned earlier, it seems Foster has hit his stride with the proof coming in his last 3 games. The big workload that many worried would break Foster is apparently what fuels him to perform better. His best run of games this season have come when he’s been force-fed the ball. The stats are there and as Michael Smith would say, “Numbers never lie.” It doesn’t help that the Texans are constantly playing from behind and can’t seem to go a single game without a turnover, but the silver lining in all that is Gary Kubiak appears to stay committed to the run despite their shortcomings. Foster faces one of the toughest defenses in the NFL when they go to Missouri to take on the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Andy Reid and his group have been giving up an average 77 rushing yards per game to RBs which isn’t promising for Foster. However, if anyone is going to get something going against this tough defense, it’s the guy who has averaged 1,421 yards over the past 3 seasons. I expect Foster to meet that 77 yard average the Chiefs are giving up but also to come away with 5 catches for around 40 yards and a TD – most likely the only TD the Texans score in week 7.
Sleeper(s) To Watch:
Joseph Randle/Peyton Hillis
Last Week: Justin Blackmon
I couldn’t resist bringing up both of these guys as my sleepers to watch for week 7, so I’ll be brief on both. Let’s start with Joseph Randle. I watched a lot of his footage in the preseason and liked what I saw but he could never quite get off the line quick enough to break into his lanes. Add that with his fumbling problems in college and Randle doesn’t seem like the best RB option for the Cowboys. However, this kid has great hands and presence in the passing game with his tall frame for a RB. Back in June on my predraft fantasy blog, Not So “Fantasy” Football, I labeled Joseph Randle as a fantasy handcuff to keep an eye on in 2013. I predicted Murray would have his annual injury as usual (not much of a prediction, really) and that Randle would be the first to fill in. Well, that wouldn’t have been the case had Lance Dunbar stayed healthy this season, so by default Randle gets the start anyways. I’ll take it, no shame. I also said Randle will probably start “at least 3 games” this season and it’s looking like that’s a possibility given the extent of Murray’s injury, but we’ll see. The Cowboys go to Philly to face the Eagles who are giving up 90+ yards on the ground to RBs. Randle should be able to find some room to run and be involved in the passing game, especially since he’s expressed how hungry he is to show what he’s made of. The Oklahoma State alumni could be a great bye week filler or handcuff this week if you’re in need of filling a spot, and could even emerge as a valuable sleeper.
Now on to Peyton Hillis. I’m going to preface this section by saying Hillis is a deep, deep sleeper. He was just signed by the New York Giants who are desperately in need of RB depth with Andre Brown out and David Wilson nursing a neck injury that fortunately doesn’t require surgery. I’m not wishing any ill will on Wilson whatsoever, but I wish he wasn’t coming back so that Hillis could get a chance to revive his career since his breakout 2010 season where he had 1,600+ total yards and 13 total TDs for the Cleveland Browns. That said, I don’t think it’s going to happen but I’ll give it a 5% chance that Hillis is able to get an opportunity AND utilize it this season for the Giants. I’m not saying go out and pick him up. He’s nothing more than insurance for an aging Brandon Jacobs at best right now and doesn’t deserve a spot on your bench. All that aside, we can’t ignore the fact that he was once a talented and dangerous backfield threat (who helped me win a league in 2010) and I think that playmaker is still tucked deep inside him somewhere. Stay away from him in fantasy but – on a desperate Giants squad – pieces could fall into place for Hillis to be worth starting MAYBE one week in the near future. Maybe. I want nothing more than to be able to say he’s going to produce even half as well as he used to but right now he’s merely worth keeping tabs on and that’s really it.
For more insight and analysis from Ryley Henry, follow him on Twitter: @ryleyhenryff