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Fantasy Football: Thursday Night Takeaways

Rich Hribar breaks down some fantasy lessons learned from Thursday night’s Eagles vs. Chiefs matchup.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick

Sep 19, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) is chased by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston (50) during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. The Chiefs defeated the Eagles 26-16. Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Another mistake filled episode of As the World of Thursday Night Football Turns is etched in stone as Andy Reid bested his former employer in his old stomping grounds last evening. While the game was definitely more entertaining than the week two TNF tilt, there’s still some fantasy football takeaways still to be had that apply for the rest of the season.

Is Mike Vick’s deal with the devil over?

Absolutely not. In what I deem as a must read piece for all fake football fans, fellow XN writer Salvadore Stefanile shed light on the fact that Thursday Night Football does in fact cast a power dampening field over quarterbacks and their fantasy production.

Vick still has never really matured as a quarterback that was able to play with eyes in the pocket and read defenses before the snap and it showed again Thursday night. He made a litany of poor decisions throwing the football en route to completing only 13 of 30 pass attempts for only 201 yards. That 43.3 completion percentage was the lowest by Vick in a game since his return to the NFL after his two-year absence due to his infamous off the field activities and worst since 2006.

For good measure, Vick added two interceptions, one of which was returned 38 yards for a touchdown by Eric Berryand lost a fumble on the Eagles’ final drive of the game.

Those types of turnover filled games are something Vick and his owners have grown accustomed to getting. Although he had yet throw an interception through the first two weeks, and his lone fumble was on a bizarre backwards pass that was deflected week one, Vick now has thrown 26 interceptions over his past 26 games played.

As bad as all of that sounds, his weekly  floor is still extremely high due to his immense upside provided by his rushing ability and that can be an advantage under certain scoring settings. Vick added 95 yards rushing last night, including a 61-yard jaunt in the first quarter, the longest run of his 810 career rushing attempts. His 172 rushing yards in three games on the season are exactly the same total that Frank Gore, Lamar Miller and Montee Ball have combined entering week three.

In a turnover filled slopfest where the Eagles held the football for under 21 minutes (20:53), Vick still posted 15-20 points depending on the scoring your league uses. His ceiling is massive (as evidence by the first two weeks) while his floor is still very much safe. We all knew that he wouldn’t post 16 games of 30 plus points, and he likely didn’t bury your chances of winning in an off night. In the voluminous Eagle offense and with his ability to move the ball with his feet, he still remains a top five QB option going forward.

Say It Ain’t So, Dwayne Bowe

Many, including myself, believed Andy Reid would breathe new life into the fantasy corpse of Bowe this season. The one big time receiver that played under Reid, Terrell Owens, was a gushing geyser of dispensing fantasy points during his time under the pass happy coach in Philadelphia. That has been far from the truth so far, as Bowe has posted just nine receptions for 90 yards and one score total through the first three weeks.

There are many contributing factors to his poor tangible production. First, is that Bowe is the only real playmaking threat that the Chiefs have outside (sorry, Donnie Avery backers) and is the focal point of the opposing defenses best cover player and or multiple defenders on nearly every play he’s on the field.

That coincides with the type of player that his new quarterback, Alex Smith, is. Smith is the type of quarterback who will always take what the defense is willing to give to him through the air, rarely, if ever, forcing the ball into small windows or downfield. Even without ever playing alongside a legitimate receiver with the pedigree of Bowe, Smith has also never shown the propensity to lean on feeding one player outside.

Although Smith is on pace to absolutely shatter his career high in completions (on pace for 340, career high of 273) and attempts (560 , high of 445 in ’11) , he’s doing it in a very similar fashion to what he’s done over his previous seven seasons.

Smith’s adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) is 7.1 this season. He’s averaged a 7.3 AY/A over his previous three seasons, and his 61 percent of completed passes is just a notch under is his 63.6 percentage over that same timeframe.

He’s also never pushed the ball downfield in his career. Per Pro Football Focus, just four of Smith’s 105 pass attempts have traveled over 20 yards in the air (one was a hail mary that ended the first half last night), the same number of similar attempts that Blaine Gabbert had in just week one. Only 66 of his past 768 attempts (8.6 percent) have been over 20 yards in the air. In other words, Alex Smith is still doing Alex Smith things; he’s just doing more of them.

That’s a big time problem for the fantasy prospects of Bowe. The lack of big plays vertically will cap any of his value as the wide receiver two you drafted him as. The pass distribution of Smith and the safe and secure mentality in which he plays even damages Bowe’s PPR value as he is more of a decoy and may end up posting numbers that are very similar to that of a Greg Jennings. Going forward, Bowe is a low end third receiver with limited upside dependent on scoring touchdowns.

Andy Reid was the best thing for Jamaal Charles in Fantasy

While Smith may be having a crippling effect on Bowe’s fantasy outlook, he’s having the opposite effect on Charles.  Through three weeks, he leads the Chiefs in targets (24), receptions (18), receiving scores (2) and is second on the team in yardage (151 yards) through the air.

Earlier in the summer, I used the fantasy points per route run (FPPRR) metric to determine what we could anticipate seeing from Charles in the passing game this season. Backs under Reid have flourished in the passing game during his NFL tenure, as he loves using versatile backs in space and incorporates short throws to them as a form of balancing out the misnomer that he doesn’t provide enough touches to them over the years. Combine that with the cautious and efficient play of Smith, and you have a PPR casserole set at 450 degrees in the oven for the entire season.

In an admitted conservative projection, I figured he would best the 45 receptions he tallied in 2010, but he is on pace to shatter that number so far. While he may not maintain the Sprolesian 96 catch pace he is currently on, Charles big play rushing ability hasn’t even surfaced full tilt yet.

Charles also has three touchdowns so far in three games. He’s never had a season with more than eight scores, and we’ve already seen LeSean McCoy reach pay dirt 20 times in a season under Reid. While he doesn’t need to get to that lofty of a number, double digits seem like a virtual lock at this juncture.

With his touchdown and pass catching numbers in tow to become career highs, 2013 is shaping up to be a top five PPR season for Charles and those owners who secured him in the first round.

*Stats used were provided from ProFootballFocus, Pro-Football-Reference,


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