I’d like to give some serious dap to the NFL writers. You know, the guys who script the games every week and give us storylines to discuss between Sundays. Now that Breaking Bad is long over they’ve had much more time to focus on their NFL duties, and man, it shows.
Tonight by a twist of evil fate they’ve given us the most off-the-field fecal filled game in the history of the NFL. In one corner we have the league’s only remaining winless team that smeared its starting quarterback earlier this year before sending him to rot in Minnesota, and the disease of losing has become quite literal in their locker room. Tampa’s MRSA outbreak reached the point where other teams brought in mushroom men to disinfect any area a Bucs player touches…when they’re on the road, since they’re now disease carriers.
Georgia Dome cleaning crews in hazmat suits going into Bucs lockeroom. Crew told me they had special cleaner. pic.twitter.com/JmvQ4jvQIY
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) October 21, 2013
Then there’s the Dolphins, with their spiraling bully madness. It’s hard to believe that Richie Incognito has only been suspended for just over a week, because it feels like at least two months. As an NFL investigation continues, Incognito was lobbed softball questions yesterday by Jay Glazer, and he said Martin also sent him a threatening text message. Turns out what he really sent was an ancient Interweb meme which is one step away from Grumpy Cat.
JMart’s text 2 Richie Incognito. U decide….. pic.twitter.com/IrgdNnhGe2
— David Cornwell (@wmdavidcornwell) November 10, 2013
Yes, nothing scares me more than that menacing dog.
Amid all that, at 4-4 the Dolphins still have a very realistic shot at a Wild Card playoff berth. They just have to go about the business of winning football games knowing that their entire coaching staff and front office could be on employment death row. No worries, right?
But whatever, there’s a football game to watch, and with the stretch run towards the playoffs upon us, it has significant fantasy implications for a lot of people. While they’ll make this game entertaining in the same way that watching someone get a football in the groin is great fun, the off-field stuff concerns us little around these parts.
So let’s watch for these three things tonight, and let’s do it together.
1. Will the Bucs find some middle ground for Mike Glennon’s throwing?
Yes, I think we can all fully understand that passing happens much more often when a team trails. There’s no hidden code here: overcoming a large deficit means scoring a lot of points fast, and that’s best accomplished through covering great distances through passing.
Crazy stuff there, I know. But although losing has definitely been a weekly thing in Tampa, the blowout factor hasn’t been strong during the still young Mike Glennon era. Of the five games with Glennon under center, two of them were three-point losses, and in two more the Bucs were well within reach while trailing by a touchdown heading into the fourth quarter. Yet still, with the exception of last week’s near-win and eventual overtime loss to Seattle, the run/pass ratio has been wildly lopsided, which isn’t a healthy situation for a rookie quarterback. If we exclude last week — which is an outlier by comparison — Glennon has averaged 45.3 pass attempts per game.
For fantasy purposes, that volume has been quite enjoyable, especially for you Vincent Jackson owners. Although he dropped off last week along with the rest of Tampa’s passing game, Jackson was targeted 11, 14, 22, and 13 times over Glennon’s first four starts. This presents us with a bit of a fantasy conundrum (aside: if you don’t enjoy the word “conundrum”, you’re doing English wrong).
Last week Mike James showed that he’s a fully capable Doug Martin replacement — who was, of course, snatched by many now former Martin fantasy owners — as he ran for 158 yards at a pace of 5.6 yards per carry. He was able to do that partly because the Bucs jumped out to a three-touchdown lead, and they then removed their foot from the accelerator.
We, the fantasy friends and fiends, need that from James, but we also don’t need Jackson to be completely silenced. Balance is a beautiful thing.
2. Will Lamar Miller’s recent uptick in touches continue?
It’s all happening. Finally, it’s happening. Maybe.
I’m a kind and gentle soul, so I’ll still give Daniel Thomas his place in the Dolphins’ backfield. I suppose short-yardage work is an area where he’s best suited, even though he’s been routinely stuffed while averaging only 3.6 yards per carry this season. That’s why, thankfully, the Dolphins have heard our pleas and they’ve now shifted towards Lamar Miller.
Miller has 41 touches over his past two games, and prior to that over the Dolphins’ previous six games he had a total of 65 touches. That’s all of 10 per game, which includes three weeks with single-digit carries. Yet even with those misaligned backfield priorities and that minimal workload, Miller still had three games over the first four weeks with 60 rushing yards or more, and he’s been over 4.5 yards per carry in six games.
He’s the far superior and more versatile running back to Thomas, and now that’s mercifully being recognized. His increased work which should continue tonight has translated into 241 total yards during the Bucs’ past two games, a chunk of which came on a 41-yard carry.
3. Tiquan Underwood vs. Tim Wright: who has more value going forward?
The gut reaction here is Tim Wright, and you’re probably not wrong. But last week Tiquan Underwood did…well he did a thing.
When Mike Williams was lost for the season, a second option in the passing game beyond Jackson was needed. The production and therefore also the fantasy value of whoever that ended up being is limited because of Glennon being magnetized to Jackson (see: the aforementioned target numbers). But still, in deep-ish leagues (14 teams or more) any receiver who’s getting consistent snaps and looks has value.
Wright is a tight end, but he’s one in name only. He doesn’t have the typical build of a tight end, and like many of his kind in this modern day, he spends much of his time lined up in the slot. The Bucs have only been living life without Williams for one game, but before that in Week 8 he was severely limited and left early while trying to fight through a hamstring injury, and Wright largely inherited his targets. In that loss to Carolina, Wright was targeted a season-high eight times, catching five of them for 48 yards and a touchdown.
Those are some pretty nice flex numbers, as were Wright’s four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown last week. In that game, though, Underwood countered with a touchdown of his own on near-equal targets (three to Wright’s four), and over the length of our tiny post-Williams sample size there’s certainly a gap in production, but not a massive one for those looking to fill some flex voids. Over the Bucs’ past two games Wright has 106 receiving yards, while Underwood has 76.
But you’re dice chucking should reside with Wright, and he should be owned in more than 38 percent of Yahoo leagues. Even prior to Williams going down and Glennon taking over, Wright logged a 91-yard game, and he has two +20 yard receptions despite a moderate 24 total catches.