warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Fantasy Football Week 11: Second Half Predictions And Players To Target

David Tobia |
November 15, 2012 | 11:20 a.m. PST

Staff Writer

Mark Twain popularized the phrase "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics." He was right. (Sfjalar, Creative Commons)
Mark Twain popularized the phrase "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics." He was right. (Sfjalar, Creative Commons)
If you hear excessive thumping over the next week don’t be alarmed. It’s probably just me patting myself on my back. It takes someone who is wrong as much as I am to truly appreciate a good call. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, and this week I was lucky enough to stumble into two pretty good calls in one week -- just check out the teaser I wrote at the end of my last article:

Next Week: Why Andrew Luck, Doug Martin, and Daryl Richardson are going to be three of the most important players in the second half of the fantasy season.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

So to recap how those players have performed since I wrote that:

Martin followed up a 214, two-touchdown performance with the third best fantasy game since 1995: 272 total yards and four touchdowns (and that was after he lost 14 yards on his final three carries as the Raiders blitzed not only their entire 53-man roster, but also convinced the 52,055 costume-clad freaks in attendance to put their shoulder-spikes and clubs to good use). 

Luck started a bit more slowly with a 297-yard, one-touchdown performance in an overtime victory over Tennessee before breaking the rookie single-game passing record with 433 yards and two touchdowns against the Dolphins.

Richardson outrushed “starter” Steven Jackson 53-23 as both received seven carries against the Patriots (hooray for misleading stats! Richardson only had 5 more total yards than Jackson, but that doesn’t make my point as well so strike it from the record). The Rams proceeded to try to trade their aging, contract year running back (technically Jackson has one year left on his contract, but he's averaging 3.6 yards per carry and is set to earn $7 million next year. He’s either going to void his contract or is going to get cut), but couldn’t find any suitors.

So it’s great that I get to brag about some calls, but now its over. Let’s go forward. 

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

The most common mistake people make in fantasy sports is to project the past on the future. One reason it’s so common is because most things don’t happen for defined reasons. For example, ESPN’s Matthew Berry wrote that the season ending injury to Carl Nicks, Tampa Bay’s All-Pro left guard, would be a crushing blow to Doug Martin’s value. 

I single Berry out not because I want to criticize him - there are more than enough people who do that already - but because everything he said makes perfect sense. He listed Martin’s rushing averages to the left, middle, and right, and the trend clearly shows Martin has had the most success when running behind Nicks. Contrary to what a certain popular television show may suggest, numbers lie all the time, but when reading a fantasy football article, which of these would you most likely believe?

  • Carl Nicks played every single snap at left guard for Tampa Bay this year. And as John Parolin from ESPN Stats & Information points out, Martin was much more effective when running behind him. Left: 47 rushes, 210 yards, 12 first downs, 2 TD, 4.5 yards per rush. Middle: 56 rushes, 249 yards, 10 first downs, 1 TD, 4.4 yards per rush. Right: 26 rushes, 84 yards, 1 first down, 3.2 yards per rush. Dude. Martin goes from a low-end No. 1 running back to a low-end No. 2. Crushing blow for Nicks, for Martin owners and for the Buccaneers.”
  • The Raiders have held opposing running backs to just 3.7 yards per carry, and Pro Football Focus ranks the Raiders' run defense as the second best in the NFL. Sell high on Martin after his performance against the Vikings. He’s unlikely to get 29 carries again, and his 64-yard touchdown reception was fluky, as he’s only had one other reception of over 20 yards this season.
  • Doug Martin is a good running back and the Bucs offense has begun to shape into one of the best in the league. You should trade for him before he breaks out for the best fantasy game since 2003. 

The first is Berry’s analysis, the second is a statistically sound examination of Martin’s chance of success against the Raiders, and the third is my retroactive, factitious example of a statement that would never fly as acceptable in a fantasy football article, but is actually much more accurate than the previous two. People don’t want to read wild speculation (or if they do, they go to Bleacher Report), so writers need to rely on stats to make predictions. 

But stats are a numerical explanation of the past, not an accurate depiction of the future. So the same statistic that told us the Raiders were a top-five rush defense (3.7 yards per attempt allowed entering the week) now tells us they are 26th in the league. 

The truth of the matter is they are probably somewhere in the middle. Elite rush defenses don’t often allow 45, 67, and 70-yard touchdown runs in the same game, but the Raiders actually defended Martin’s touchdown runs decently well - at least well enough where I’m confident Chris Johnson would not have scored on any of them, and probably would have been tackled behind the line of scrimmage on at least two.

So the point of all this is that you’re not going to win fantasy football championships by riding the trends of the first half of the season. New players will get hot, and players who were successful will fade. Let’s try to highlight the players that might not make your team look great right now, but could help you win it all:

Andrew Luck's schedule has him set up for second half success. (Mark Susina/Creative Commons)
Andrew Luck's schedule has him set up for second half success. (Mark Susina/Creative Commons)
Andrew Luck (QB, Indianapolis): Here is Luck's remaining schedule:

  • Week 11: at New England
  • Week 12: Buffalo
  • Week 13: at Detroit
  • Week 14: Tennessee
  • Week 15: at Houston
  • Week 16: at Kansas City
  • Week 17: Houston

There isn’t an easier schedule in football, at least from a quarterback’s perspective. The only even remotely scary teams are the Patriots and Texans, but the Patriots have the same record as the Colts, and neither team plays a whole lot of defense. The high-scoring nature of the game should allow Luck to rack up huge fantasy numbers.

As for the 7-1 Texans, they will be in pretty good shape in the playoff picture by Week 15 and Week 17. After the Matt Leinart/T.J. Yates fiasco of ’11, don’t be surprised to see the Texans start resting key players as soon as they secure a playoff spot. Luck is set to have a huge second half to the season.

Doug Martin (RB, Tampa Bay): The Bucs really want to create a role for LeGarrette Blount, but he keeps doing everything he can to convince them to cut him. He fumbled again Sunday and almost cost the Bucs the win. Martin keeps trending up. I think he regresses a bit over the next three weeks  (@Car, Atl, @Den), and then comes back strong for the fantasy playoffs (Phi, @NO, Stl) as the Bucs fight for a wildcard birth in the crowded NFC. 

Daryl Richardson (RB, St. Louis): Richardson is a backup running back on a bad team, but he’s also a more dynamic player than Steven Jackson at this point in his career. The Rams may say they had no intentions of trading Jackson, but trade rumors don’t come from nowhere, and it’s pretty clear that if the price was right Jackson would be somewhere else right now. Richardson isn’t startable in most leagues yet, but he could be by Week 14 when he’ll be set to play Buffalo, Minnesota and Tampa Bay in the fantasy playoffs. 

C.J. Spiller (RB, Buffalo): My love for CJ2K-S has been well documented. The season hasn’t gone as predicted, as Fred Jackson returned from injury sooner than expected and the Bills displayed more inadequacy than people thought even they were capable of. But there’s still time for things to turn around. If you can pry Spiller away from a frustrated owner, please do so. 

Pierre Thomas (RB, New Orleans): Darren Sproles broke his hand, and reports indicate he could be back as soon as this week, but most of Sproles' value comes not from running the ball, but rather from pass catching. I'm no NFL player, but my experience with three broken wrists leads me to believe it becomes more difficult to catch passes when playing with a cast on your hand. Travaris Cadet opearted as Darren Sproles 2.0 in the preseason and led the NFL in preseason receiving yards, but Kirk Cousins Cousins and William Powell led the preseason in passing and rushing yards respectively, so that tells you just about all you need to know about preseason statistics.

If statistics are worse than lies, then preseason NFL statistics are the reincarnation of Satan (that's why Tebow had a 26.5 QB rating this preseason! He was just taking a stance. Shoulda known). So Cadet is someone to keep an eye on, but Pierre Thomas was the best all around running back on this roster before Sproles's injury, and now he will get even more of a chance to shine on the perennially-in-a-shootout Saints.

Calvin Johnson (WR, Detroit): Before last week Calvin was on pace to catch 98 balls for 1534 yards, two touchdowns, and get tackled at the one yard line 10 times. Call me crazy, but I think some of Johnson’s five “tackled at the one’s” turn into touchdowns in the second half of the year. Somewhere John Madden reads this and chuckles devilishly. His 207 yards and one touchdown last week are also a good sign, so there's that.

Randall Cobb (WR, Green Bay): Greg Jennings did a few too many pushups with a Jet Ski on his back, and has missed essentially the entire season because of it. If only he had broken his leg rather than hurt his groin and maybe he could help some fantasy owners. Now Jordy Nelson has an injured ankle, and although it is not supposed to be serious, it still opens more opportunity for Cobb. Cobb could be a top-five receiver the rest of the season.

Kenny Britt (WR, Tennessee): The Titans have the most talented bad offense I've ever seen. Jake Locker is back, which is good news for all involved. Britt's main threats for targets are Kendall Wright and Jared Cook, but Wright is injured and the Titans seem focused on making Cook's life as frustrating as possible. Locker does like to throw to Nate Washington, but Britt is a much better receiver, and talent should win out over the second half of the season.

Aldrick Robinson (WR, Washington): Robinson started in place of Leonard Hankerson because Hankerson has struggled with drops so far this year. Robinson, inspired to do all he could to squander his opportunity, promptly dropped the first pass of the game, and then only received one more target against the Panthers. Luckily, head coach Mike Shanahan has weirdly announced he has quit on the season and will devote the rest of the year to “playing to see who, obviously, is going to be on” the Redskins “for years to come.” So although Robinson may not be worth rostering now, he should get another chance to succeed. I think he will.

T.Y. Hilton (WR, Indianapolis): Reggie Wayne can’t catch every pass from Andrew Luck. Donnie Avery is playing hurt, T.Y. Hilton went to Florida International, so you know he’s tough

Broncos D/ST and Steelers D/ST: Two units coming on at the right time that will be in the playoff hunt. And they’re in the AFC, so they get to beat up on terrible teams. And when the refs are calling this a touchdown, you know things are going your way.

Reach staff writer David Tobia here. Follow him here.

Next Week: I stubbornly insist these players are actually good and implore you to wait for them to turn it around.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.