Counting down the significant stats, notable numbers and illustrative integers emerging from the first two weeks of the 2016 season:
285 – League-high receiving yards so far for the Vikings’ Stefon Diggs. The second-year wideout reeled in nine of his 11 targets for a career-high 182 yards and a TD in Sunday night’s 17-14 win over the Packers – marking the best single-game yardage outing by a Minnesota wide receiver since Sidney Rice in 2009. Through Sunday’s games, only the Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry (17) had caught more passes than Diggs’ 16 and only the Panthers’ Kelvin Benjamin had more point-per-reception fantasy points (51) than Diggs’ 50. And no matter who’s been throwing him the ball over the last year – Teddy Bridgewater, Shaun Hill or, now, Sam Bradford – Diggs has produced. He’s been targeted on a team-best 31.3 percent of the Vikings’ passes this season, and he’s accounted for 57.1 percent of the team’s WR receptions and a full 70.2 percent of the squad’s WR receiving yards.
59 – Total touches so far for the Jets’ Matt Forte, who has rushed 52 times for 196 yards and three TDs while catching seven of his 10 targets for 68 yards. Only fellow 30-plus-year-old back DeAngelo Williams (59) and the Texans’ Lamar Miller (53) had more rushing attempts than Forte, and only Williams had more touches (69) through Sunday’s action. Of course, the Steelers have the luxury of riding Williams hard until the suspended Le’Veon Bell returns in Week 4, but Forte has received a whopping 88 percent of the Jets’ RB touches so far and that appears to be more or less the plan going forward. Well, at least as long as Forte – who turns 31 in December – can hold up as he’s on pace for a whopping 416 rushing attempts and 472 total touches. His previous season highs in both categories (316 and 379) came in his rookie year of 2008 with Chicago, but he’s only exceeded 250 rushes three times in the seven seasons since. Forte already looks like he’ll prove to be one of the true RB fantasy steals of the season, but don’t be surprised if Bilal Powell (with only eight touches so far) starts to cut into Forte’s volume in the coming weeks to help keep the veteran from being run into the ground.
22 – Receiving yards so far for Cardinals WR John Brown, who has caught two of his seven targets. That receiving-yardage total ranks Brown seventh on the Cards while his two receptions rank eighth and his seven targets fourth. In other words, a less-than-ideal start for a wideout who was a mid-round fantasy pick with ample upside. However, Brown has been slow in bouncing back from a preseason concussion, and Carson Palmer has instead relied on fellow WRs Larry Fitzgerald (21 targets-14 receptions-162 yards-3 TDs) and Michael Floyd (13-5-69-1) and second-year stud RB David Johnson (11-7-141-0). Even backup wideout Jaron Brown got into the act in Sunday’s 40-7 rout of the Bucs, catching both of his targets for 78 yards, including a 51-yard TD grab. But given the offense and the player’s demonstrated skill-set, don’t give up on John Brown just yet. In fact, try to poach the speedy widedout from a panicked fellow fantasy owner if you can.
15 – Combined points in two games for the Seahawks, which ranks ahead of only the TD-less Rams (nine total points) among the teams who had played at least two games through Sunday night. It’s even more glaring when it’s considered that Seattle’s two opponents – the Dolphins and Rams – surrendered a combined 59 points in their other two games to teams quarterbacked by Blaine Gabbert and the Jimmy Garoppolo/Jacoby Brissett duo. Seattle struggled mightily Sunday in managing only a second-quarter field goal in L.A. The main culprit appears to be the team’s rebuilt offensive line which has struggled in protecting Russell Wilson (five sacks and sprained QB ankle allowed) and opening holes in the ground game (Seattle ranks 27th with 3.2 yards per rush). It’s muted the fantasy values of Wilson and his offensive counterparts so far, but there is hope in the Pacific Northwest in light of the second-half turnarounds which have followed the early-season struggles in each of the last two seasons in Seattle.
13 – Total targets for Atlanta tight ends Jacob Tamme, Austin Hooper and Levine Toilolo in Sunday’s 35-28 win over the Raiders (more on them shortly) as the trio combined for 10 receptions, 180 yards and a TD. In all, 38.2 percent of Matt Ryan’s 34 targets and 38.5 percent of his 26 completions went to tight ends in the contest. Veteran Jacob Tamme led the way again, reeling in five of his eight targets for 75 yards and a score, and believe it or not, he trailed only the Panthers’ Greg Olsen in PPR-scoring fantasy points (38-30) through Sunday’s games. Tamme also leads the Falcons in targets (16) and receptions (11) and ranks second in yards (126). Tamme did have a similar hot streak last season, but look for Hooper, the team’s rookie third-round pick, to become more involved as the season progresses and cut into Tamme’s fantasy value.
8.02 – League-high yards per play allowed by the Raiders’ defense so far with the opposition rolling up 1,035 total yards in two games. According to the Pro Football Reference database, that’s the highest total allowed over the first two games of a season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The Silver & Black’s pass defense has been particularly leaky as Drew Brees and Matt Ryan have combined to throw for 808 yards and seven TDs while completing 71.1 percent of their passes. CB Sean Smith, a prize offseason free-agent acquisition, was benched in Week 1, and All-Pro pass-rusher Khalil Mack has yet to collect a sack. The Raiders’ rushing defense hasn’t been much better either as foes are averaging 113.5 yards per game and 4.5 per carry. In the meantime, this is good news for Derek Carr and the team’s offensive fantasy stars with them trying to keep pace with the opposition on a weekly basis. So remember last season when every fantasy owner was salivating over matchups with the porous Saints? The Raiders are shaping up to be 2016’s version unless there’s a major turnaround in the cards.
6 – Takeaways (four fumble recoveries and two interceptions) so far for the Vikings’ defense, which is on the other side of the spectrum from the Raiders. Diggs, Bradford and Adrian Peterson’s knee injury have monopolized the fantasy headlines in the Twin Cities, but the Minnesota defense quietly has been the best in fantasy so far after stifling Aaron Rodgers and Co. to the tune of 14 points Sunday night. Overall, the Vikes have allowed only 30 points and 579 total yards while recording seven sacks and scoring a pair of TDs of their own – both in the season-opening win over the Titans. Only the Cardinals, with seven, have more takeaways to date, but Minnesota could’ve been on top had the Packers not pounced on two of their own four fumbles Sunday evening.
1 – Touchdown pass for Washington QB Kirk Cousins in two games. That figure looks even worse when you consider that Cousins was tied with the Jaguars’ Blake Bortles for the league passing-attempts lead with 89 through Sunday. Cousins does rank third with 693 yards, but his lack of scoring tosses (or rushing TDs) has him ranked 20th among fantasy QBs through Sunday. Some fantasy general managers, of course, waited on QBs in drafts and pegged Cousins as a sleeper after he memorably lit up the stat sheet with 23 TD passes and four rushing scores over his final 10 regular-season games a year ago, but the momentum certainly hasn’t carried over so far. Cousins has been particularly deficient in the red zone in 2016, completing only 5-of-17 attempts for 34 yards, one TD and two interceptions. In fact, of the league’s four picks thrown in the red zone and the three tossed inside the opposition’s 10-yard-line so far through Sunday, Cousins has accounted for two of them.
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