1. We have nearly hit the midseason mark so let’s go out on a limb here (not really) and proclaim Tennessee running back Chris Johnson as the biggest fantasy bust thus far in 2011. Johnson has been simply atrocious, helping to bolster two arguments often espoused by fantasy owners: don’t acquire players who are holding out and don’t acquire player who have just signed a lucrative, long-term contract. Johnson hit on both counts and maybe that’s why he’s not doing much on the field. In six games, Johnson has just 268 rushing yards, 143 receiving yards and a single touchdown while averaging 2.9 yards per carry. That’s not a typo, folks. And neither is this – his fantasy points per game average sits at 7.9, making him the 31st highest points producer at running back. If you put him ahead of a couple of players who have yet to have their byes, Johnson would rank 29th. That’s not even automatic start territory. The big plays just haven’t been there for Johnson in 2011. Or maybe he’s just not making the most of his opportunities. Either way, he’s been held under 54 rushing yards five times, topped 100 rushing yards once and had three games with less than 25 rushing yards.
2. Bears running back Matt Forte is having an outstanding, MVP caliber season and is the main reason that Chicago remains in the hunt for a wild card spot at 4-3. With 151 yards rushing and 39 receiving yards this week against the Buccaneers in London, Forte became the first player since 2004 to top 1,000 total yards in just seven games. Both Priest Holmes and Tiki Barber accomplished the feat that season.
3. The Cam Newton Show keeps on rolling in Carolina. This week, the Panthers defeated the Redskins 33-20 in a home game, lifting their record to 2-5. Newton added to his league leading quarterback rushing total, gaining 59 yards on the ground and scoring another touchdown, giving him seven on the season. That touchdown allowed Newton to tie the record for the most rushing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback. Here’s banking on Newton shattering that record by season’s end.
4. After looking decidedly mediocre and completely overhyped for the first five games of his NFL career, Cowboys rookie running back DeMarco Murray looked like the second coming of Jim Brown this week, running roughshod over a Rams defense that had more holes that swiss cheese. Murray finished the game with 25 carries for 253 yards and a touchdown, breaking both the Cowboys single game record for most rushing yards and accumulated the 9th best rushing performance in league history. After the game, Murray stated that he’d never expected to have “a game like this.” Suffice it to say that after his first five games, his fantasy owners didn’t either and many of them likely had him planted on the bench.
5. At the start of the season, the Redskins offense was playing surprisingly well with Rex Grossman at quarterback, Tim Hightower churning out decent production at running back, Santana Moss once again leading the wide receiver corps and a pair of talented tight ends in Chris Cooley and Fred Davis. What a difference a few weeks. In a key game this week against the Bills in Toronto, Washington will trot out John Beck at quarterback, Ryan Torain at running back, Davis at tight end and Jabar Gaffney as their top wide receiver. It also doesn’t help that the Redskins placed starting guard Kory Lichtensteiger on injured reserve a week ago. If you don’t see trouble ahead for Washington’s offense, take off the rose colored glasses. There is but one solid fantasy option in the Redskins offense and that is Davis, who is on the verge of becoming a top five fantasy producer at his position.
6. Sticking with the Redskins, don’t expect Cooley back in Washington for the 2012 season unless he accepts a massive pay reduction. Cooley will turn 30 prior to next season, has lingering knee problems and is due $3.8-million next season. Considering that he has been surpassed on the depth chart by Davis who is clearly an ascending player, Cooley will need to accept backup money to return to Washington in 2012.
7. Here’s a shout out to Vikings defensive end Brian Robison. After the Vikings 33-27 loss to division rival Green Bay, Robison tweeted that he was sorry for kicking Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang in the groin, that he didn’t aim for the groin and that he is not a dirty player. Which begs a couple of questions. Where exactly was Robison aiming? Does Robison think that kicking is okay, provided it’s not in the groin? Here’s hoping NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell kicks Robison really hard somewhere – like say his bank account.
8. The Rams keep getting mentioned as a candidate to land the top overall pick in the draft and the opportunity to land Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Of course, with Sam Bradford on the roster, a Luck selection by the Rams would be followed quickly with a trade of the Stanford star to another team. However, that scenario isn’t likely to happen. After this week’s game against New Orleans, the Rams play each of their NFC West rivals twice, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Presumably, the Dolphins and Colts are the front-runners in the Suck for Luck sweepstakes.
9. Owners of Jermichael Finley have, for the most part, been disappointed in the Packers tight ends fantasy performance in 2011. Expected to be a top five producer at his position with many pundits having him pegged as the second ranked tight end behind the Chargers Antonio Gates, Finley has just 25 receptions for 334 yards and four touchdowns this season, with 85 yards and three touchdowns coming in the Packers Week 3 win over the Bears. While the consensus has generally been that his performance will turn around, a look at the tight end stats tells us that Finley is the 17th most targeted tight end on a per game basis. As you read here all the time, opportunity is the first ingredient in production and Finley just isn’t getting much of either. Over the Packers last two games, Finley has been targeted just six times.
10. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz has been a boon to the team’s offense since taking over in the slot, producing a number of big games prior to his two reception, 12 yard performance in Week 6 against the Bills. In the three games prior to that, he had 17 receptions for 369 yards and 3 touchdowns and the assumption by most is that he had put a stranglehold on the slot receiver role for New York. However, 2009 3rd round pick Ramses Barden is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list and there are rumblings out of New York that the team is anxious to see what he can do. Despite having solid size at 6’6” and 225 pounds, the team thinks Barden can produce out of the slot as well as on the outside spelling Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.