Fantasy Football Week 9: What We Learned

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles

Nov 3, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) throws a pass against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. The Eagles defeated the Raiders 49-20. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We saw an enigmatic quarterback post one of the greatest stat lines in fantasy football history, an elite pass catcher who finally has someone willing to chuck him the pigskin downfield, and a wide receiver’s opportunity spike that paid dividends right away.

Indeed, Nick Foles, Andre Johnson, and T.Y. Hilton produced in ways that would carry most fantasy squads to victory. The math told us Hilton was in for a value boost, and the gunslinging Case Keenum has instantly — and wonderfully — elevated Johnson’s weekly fantasy ceiling with deep shots and a flood of targets.

It seems fantasy owners have an understanding on the two receivers’ value going forward, but what of Foles, the guy who was declared dead in fantasy circles three short weeks ago?

A debacle of a performance against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 sent Foles back to the waiver wire in most leagues, just a week after it seemed he would be a waiver wire gem and a potential every-week fantasy starter. I was as disappointed as anyone in Foles’ 11-for-29, 80-yard performance against a Dallas secondary that has been shredded through most of 2013.

Foles left that game with a concussion — a factor that we have every right to consider in our rest-of-season evaluation of the Eagles’ signal caller.

Let’s engage in a little cherry picking. Remove Foles’ Week 7 clunker and here’s what you have in three 2013 performances: 60-of-84 completed passes (71 percent) for 12 touchdowns and an average of 299 yards per game. It’s a miniature sample size, I know. The point is that Foles has played lights-out in all but that Dallas disaster.

Foles’ lack of attempts makes me at least a little wary of his weekly fantasy floor. His season-high attempts was 31 at Tampa Bay in Week 5. Foles completed 22 of his 27 aimed passes that day, a week after connecting on 22 of his 25 aimed passes against the Giants.

That’s scary efficiency, and I think, at best, it’s presumptuous to assume Foles can continue at the clip.

Perhaps Foles’ nightmarish game against Dallas was a blip on the screen of an otherwise extraordinary fantasy producer. Maybe we should throw it out and embrace Foles’ utter annihilation of every other defense he’s faced in 2013. Wherever you stand on Foles, know this: his upcoming schedule is mostly marshmallow soft.

  • I’m going to stroke my ego a little bit and say, briefly, that I told you to acquire Hilton before his first big post-Reggie Wayne outing. His Sunday night line of seven grabs for 121 yards and three scores officially closes the trade window that remained wide open for two weeks after Wayne went down for the season. Andrew Luck targeted his new No. 1 receiver 12 times against a solid Houston secondary. Kudos to those who traded for Hilton last week. Enjoy your top-12 receiver.
  • No one was ever worried about Andre Johnson’s share of the targets coming from whoever was under center in Houston. He was going to get his, though the deep balls weren’t going to be there with any regularity. Keenum locked in on Johnson throughout most of last night’s tilt, connecting on nine of 13 targets for 229 yards and three touchdowns. The old veteran has seen a miniscule 4.3 percent of his 2013 targets 20 or more yards down the field. For some perspective, other elite pass catchers have seen at least 20 percent of their targets travel 20 yards or more. Keenum makes Johnson — and DeAndre Hopkins — much more valuable than they were with Matt Schaub under center.
  • Probably many of you will dismiss this little tidbit of advice because you’re in leagues teeming with degenerates who know better, but any and every owner of the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense should consider trading their prized fantasy producer before it’s too late. The Chiefs are on their bye week this week and face the Denver Broncos and Peyton’s Perfect Machine in Weeks 11 and 13. I think you’d be amazed by the number of fantasy owners who covet KC’s defense. If you can upgrade at receiver, running back, or tight end, part with your prized defensive possession and play the waiver wire for the season’s final seven weeks.
  • Don’t worry about Josh Gordon. His fantasy floor isn’t going to be among the truly elite (yet), and he still drew seven targets while the Baltimore defense tilted coverage his way from start to finish. Greg Little reaped the benefits, collecting 121 yards on seven receptions. Gordon, meanwhile, will be just fine.
  • Way to go, Mike Munchak. The Titans’ head coach drove down Chris Johnson’s price in every conceivable way when he said last week that Shonn Greene would get 15 carries a game upon his return to the active roster. CJ?K proceeded to go nuclear against the Rams, taking 23 carries for 150 yards and two scores. It’s a reminder that St. Louis’ defense is infinitely generous to running backs, and that Greene — while a safe bet to see goal line work — likely won’t be the locked-in flex play Munchak hinted he’d be.
  • There was quite a bit of teeth gnashing on the Twitter Machine Sunday night, as owners ran headlong into buzz saws named Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, Nick Foles, Case Keenum, Tom Brady, and the Chiefs’ defense. Meanwhile, plenty of fantasy studs underperformed, including Jamaal Charles, Robert Griffin III, and Dez Bryant. Another ego stroke is in order, as I leave you with an excerpt from my book, “How To Think Like a Fantasy Football Winner,” which I wrote precisely for times like these.

You’re going to lose. It’s what happens after the losing that counts. It’s a brutally important truth in any competition with luck baked into its innards, and it’s one you should accept, especially in fantasy football, and especially if you value your mental health. The best, most obsessive poker players preach this ugly reality, making it a part of their mental training for the game they love.

In all manner of poker strategy books, readers are encouraged to embrace the inevitable losing that can’t be eliminated in a game sometimes determined by the dumbest of luck. Bad beats are part of the game — the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll improve. … You’re going to lose, no matter how many hours you pour into your research and analysis, no matter how much All-22 footage you watch, no matter how many instructive Twitter exchanges you have in a day or week or month. All that work could bring you a whole armful of fake football titles over the years, but along the way to collecting those trophies and cash deposits and satisfaction in knowing your arch nemeses have met their fantasy demise, you will lose. You’ll lose in ways that rip your beating, bloody heart straight from your chest. You’ll be blown out, dismantled, humiliated. … You’re going to lose. Let that wash over you.

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C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.
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