With Week 8 comes the halfway point of the 2006 NFL season. In this week's installment of FantasyInsiderOnline.com's Fantasy Football Report, we take a look at some fantasy players that have typically excelled in the second half of the season (Weeks 9 thru 16). Of course players do have off years, and at times, do not live up to career stats. Nevertheless, the numbers don't lie. So, you may want to take into consideration making a move for a key player or two that has put up solid second half stats helping you make that push towards the fantasy playoffs. As it has been stated time and time again in this column, your main target throughout the fantasy "regular season" should be to make your league's playoffs! Listed below are some of the players that can help you reach that goal.
Corey Dillon, RB, NE
During his career, Dillon has averaged 83.0 rushing yards per game in Weeks 9-16, as opposed to 67.1 in Weeks 1-8. Now that might not seem like a big deal, but remember one of the fundamental rules of fantasy football: maximize your points. On average, that's an extra 2 fantasy points per game (in standard-scoring leagues). And let's not forget that QB Tom Brady seems to play his best in the cold weather, meaning more passes dumped off to Dillon out of the backfield. Yes, RB Laurence Maroney has proven to be a solid back for New England. However, after last week's two-touchdown performance, it's apparent that Dillon has not been forgotten.
Clinton Portis, RB, WAS
After being hampered by early season injuries, Portis has gotten off to somewhat of a slow start in 2006. Although he currently ranks in the Top 5 fantasy running backs in most leagues with standard scoring, Portis has flown under the radar this year... and there may be no better time than now to try to make a move for him. In the second half of the season, Portis averages nearly 30 more rushing yards per game than he has in Weeks 1-8. Also, don't overlook the fact that he has 31 career TD's in Weeks 9-16 as opposed to 20 in Weeks 1-8.
Fred Taylor, RB, JAX
Looking at career averages, Taylor has eclipsed his first half stats in both rushing yards per game and touchdowns. In Weeks 9-16, this veteran rushes for nearly 25 more yards per game (97.8) and twice as many touchdowns (35) than he has done in Weeks 1-8 (72.9 rushing yards per game with 18 total touchdowns). Even though rookie RB Maurice Jones-Drew has shown glimpses of greatness, Taylor has still seen 20+ touches in four of the Jaguars' six games in 2006.
Derrick Mason, WR, BAL
If you've been keeping up with the column, you've undoubtedly heard Mason's name mentioned on numerous occasions. Why? Because Mason is the poster child for first half underachievers. Not only does the addition of this veteran give a boost to your fantasy totals in the second half, Mason also provides the consistency necessary to building a championship caliber fantasy squad. In his career, Mason has gained 1,100+ more receiving yards in the second half of the season that he has in Weeks 1-8. Let's not forget to mention the additional 10 career touchdowns he has scored in Weeks 9-16.
Lee Evans, WR, BUF
As the cold weather rolls into Orchard Park, NY each year, Evans starts to heat up. Thru 2005, Evans has caught 13 career TD passes in Weeks 9-16, in contrast to the three that he has caught in the first half of the season. Not bad for a guy that only has two years under his belt... that's almost a touchdown per game in the second half. Don't forget that he averages 20+ more receiving yards per game in the latter half of the season, meaning that Evans should breakout in the remainder of the games this year.
Eddie Kennison, WR, KC
The loss of QB Trent Green in Week 1 really hurt Kennison. Nevertheless, Green is slated to make his return in Week 10 against the Miami Dolphins. And even if he doesn't, back-up QB Damon Huard has done an admirable job filling in (1,163 yards passing with 7 TD's). Add in the fact that Kennison has gained 1,100+ career receiving yards more in Weeks 9-16 with 21 total TD's (as opposed to 14 in Weeks 1-8), and it's a good bet that Kennison will step his game up in the second half of 2006.
Of course, the preceding list is not limited to just these players alone. These are just a few names to help set your mind in motion when thinking about making a move for that second half push. The key recommendation here is to be aware of players' "split stats", showing how well have they performed in the second half (Weeks 9-16) as compared to their first half performances (Weeks 1-8) in their careers. You don't want to end up trading for a player that is hot right now, but will end up posting sub-par numbers in the latter half of the season. Remember, don't let spikes in yardage or touchdowns fool you. If you recall the main point from last week's article, consistency is the key to championship fantasy football teams. If you're trying to make a move to upgrade your squad, pay close attention to which players have shown that they will consistently get you additional points in the second half.
The reason behind why no quarterbacks or tight ends were mentioned is because looking at career stats, none of the players at these positions showed significant gains in the second half of the season. There are those players that have proven to be cold weather studs (like Patriots' QB Tom Brady and Packers' QB Brett Favre), however making a deal for a second half quarterback or tight end probably won't give the boost you're looking for in your fantasy lineup.
There is another point worth considering when it comes to the second half of the fantasy season don't forget about the big names that have not performed up to expectations this season thus far. There's no concrete rule here, but use your brain. Do you really believe that Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Johnson will end the season with only two touchdowns (if he keeps up his present pace)? This guy has posted 1,110+ receiving yards in the last four seasons he's bound to breakout of his 2006 slump. Pay attention to those players who have underperformed, as well as those who have been dealing with injury, resulting in a dip in numbers. Now is the time to try to acquire some of those solid, big name players that have caused fantasy owners a great deal of angst this year. Some noteworthy underachievers from the first half of 2006 that should pick it up in the oncoming weeks include: Ahman Green (RB, GB); Cadillac Williams (RB, TB); Shaun Alexander (RB, SEA); Hines Ward (WR, PIT); Tony Gonzalez (TE, KC).
PATRIOTS FANTASY REPORT
In Week 8, the Patriots will face a stingy Minnesota Vikings defense. With comparisons to the "Purple People Eaters" of the 1970's, this defense ranks at the top of the league in defending the run (allowing only 70.8 rushing yards per game in 2006). In addition, the Vikings sit in the Top 8 of the NFL in both points per game allowed (15.8) and total yards per game allowed (277.8). Nevertheless, the Minnesota defense does have a weak spot in a shaky secondary that has allowed 207.0 passing yards per game this season (ranking in the bottom half of the league).
Therefore, the Patriots fantasy players to keep an eye on this week are QB Tom Brady and WR Chad Jackson. Basically, you could put Brady in this section of the column every week, as he currently ranks in the Top 10 fantasy quarterbacks. And even though Brady excels in the cold weather, he performs his best indoors. In his eight career games inside a dome, Brady has posted an average passer rating of 103.9, with 15 total TD's and 232.0 passing yards per game. It is also important to mention that Brady loves playing on Monday Night Football passing for an average of 244.9 yards with 15 total TD's in his seven career games on Monday night. Brady hasn't thrown an INT in the last two games, and his passer rating is steadily increasing. So, look for another big game from #12 in Week 8.
Last week's 35-yard touchdown reception was just a glimpse of how great the Tom Brady/Chad Jackson combo could be. Yet, this 2nd round pick from Florida has been hampered by injury all season, and has not had the chance to breakout as one of Brady's favorite receivers. With just five receptions this year, however, Jackson already has two TD's. It is apparent that the Patriots want to get the ball to Jackson, but the only problem is keeping him on the field. After a bye week and an injury-free game under his belt, Jackson will no longer be limited to certain situations. Keep a lookout for Jackson to be a factor in the receiving corps this week, as well as on special teams (as he will most likely see punt returning responsibilities against the Vikings).
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