Patriots Insider Fantasy Report: Week 9

Last week, we discussed the concept of "second half players", or guys that always seem to step it up year after year in Weeks 9 thru 16 of the NFL season. In this week's installment of Fantasy Insider Online's Fantasy Football Report, we take a look at some fantasy players that have typically fallen off in the second half of the year.

Think of things in this sense: you've gotten some solid production from one of these players in the first eight weeks of the season, and while their stock is still high, you may want to consider parting ways. This may be tough, but educating yourself on how your players perform in the second half will only pay huge dividends for your fantasy team in the long run. Look for those consistent players that put up solid numbers no matter what time of the season, instead of sticking with a big name and watching your team fall off at the most crucial point of the fantasy season.

Listed below are a few of the big names that have shown significant drop offs in the second half of the season throughout their careers. Remember, this is not an exhausted list, and there are others out there that have struggled down the stretch. These are only a few examples of the key players that may hurt your chances of obtaining that ultimate goal of fantasy football: "making your league's fantasy playoffs".

Steve Smith, WR, CAR
There is no doubt that Steven Smith is a playmaker… pound-for-pound (5'9", 185 lbs.), he may be one of the toughest players in the NFL. However, throughout his career, Smith has failed to duplicate stellar first half performances in Weeks 9-16. In the second half, his receiving yards per game has fallen an average of 16.6 yards, and he has posted only eight career receiving touchdowns (in contrast to 14 in Weeks 9-16).

Terry Glenn, WR, DAL
With Terrell Owens in town, Terry Glenn has seen his production drop off in 2006. In 2005, Glenn had already posted 682 yards receiving thru Week 8, however he has only amassed 430 yards this season. And things don't look promising for Glenn in the latter half of the season. In his career, he has posted 15.7 less receiving yards per game in Weeks 9-16, with nine less career TD's. It looks as though QB Tony Romo will get the nod under center for the remainder of the season, and T.O. probably couldn't be happier. Romo will most likely keep Owens quiet by giving him a ton of looks in Weeks 9-16. So, Glenn's production may fall off even more in the second half of 2006.

Santana Moss, WR, WAS
There were many questions coming into the 2006 season about Santana Moss. Would he be able to duplicate his 1,483 yard/nine TD performance of 2005? The answer: doubtful… especially with the fact that Moss has only posted 435 receiving yards and three TD's thus far in 2006. And, it looks as though that goal may be even more unobtainable when looking at his career second half stats. Though his touchdown totals are identical (14), Moss has seen a drastic fall off in receiving yards (about 22.2 yards per game less in Weeks 9-16). Redskins QB Mark Brunell has definitely had his fair share of lackluster performances in 2006, so things don't look too promising for Moss in the remainder of the season.

Travis Henry, RB, TEN
The situation in Tennessee is a very interesting one… there were a whole slew of questions coming into the 2006 season regarding the Titans offense. One of those questions that seemed to be answered concerns the running back situation. Travis Henry is now the guy in Tennessee (especially after two 120+ yards performances in Weeks 5 and 6). Nevertheless, don't look for Henry's success to carry over into the second half of this year. Though he has averaged roughly about the same rushing yards per game in both halves, Henry's drop off in TD's has been drastic. In his career, Henry has 22 total touchdowns in Week 1-8, yet only eight in Weeks 9-16. To put it in perspective, in the first half of the year, Henry gets in the endzone once every six quarters of football… in the second half, there is a gap of 14 quarters between each touchdown that he scores.

Thomas Jones, RB, CHI
The Bears love to run the football. However, with the emergence of Rex Grossman as a legit NFL quarterback, Chicago doesn't fear going to the air as much as they used to. Jones is still seeing almost 20 carries per game, but RB Cedric Benson has not yet been forgotten. So, there seems to be a lot working against Jones heading into the second half of 2006. Though his career yards per game are almost identical in both halves, Jones has seen six fewer touchdowns in Weeks 9-16. Couple that with the fact that by the midpoint of last season, Jones already had six rushing touchdowns (currently he has three), and you may start to question whether or not Jones is the answer as one of your top fantasy running backs.

Tatum Bell, RB, DEN
After removing himself from last week's game against the Colts because of turf toe, back-up RB Mike Bell exploded onto the scene with 136 rushing yards and two TD's. It's already being said that T. Bell will lose some carries coming into Week 9 against Pittsburgh… and if M. Bell can have another solid performance, things won't be too promising in the second half for Tatum. Also, looking at his stats last year only increases the chances of T. Bell having a rough second half. In 2005, T. Bell rushed for almost 20 yards less per game in Weeks 9-16 (70.3 in the first half, as opposed to 51.3 in the second half), with two less touchdowns.

It is imperative that you make sure your fantasy players will not underachieve in the second half of the season, since this is when you need to push for the playoffs. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to think about parting ways with some of your big name guys. Nevertheless, it's crucial to consistently put up solid fantasy points (if you're presently in a good position), or more points in Weeks 9-16. Don't' forget to pay attention to your players "split stats" (career performances in Weeks 1-8 vs. Weeks 9-16). If you see a huge drop off, it should be an indicator to make a move now. Remember, you want to maximize your fantasy points each week, and may not want to risk losing points down the stretch just because of a player's name or their first half performance.

Another thing to consider as we enter the second half of the NFL season concerns the DEF/ST you include in your fantasy starting lineup. Take notice of warm weather and dome teams that will visit cold weather environments, such as Chicago and Green Bay. Looking at the current top defenses in the NFL, many will make the trek northward to battle the opposition and the elements. For example: Jacksonville and San Diego visit Buffalo (Weeks 13 and 14 respectively); Minnesota and Tampa Bay head to Chicago (Weeks 13 and 15 respectively); Minnesota will also go to Green Bay in Week 16; and Atlanta heads to Philadelphia in the last week of the season. It's tough to say "play match-ups" when it comes to fantasy football, because you would hope your top players would rise to the occasion each week. However, when it comes to the DEF/ST position in your lineup, as the season progresses, this may be a good way to eliminate any outside factors influencing your total fantasy points. Remember, often times in bad conditions, offenses will slow down the pace of the game and grind the clock away by running the ball. So, it may be a good idea to focus on playing DEF/ST that are good against the run when poor conditions present themselves.

PATRIOTS FANTASY REPORT

In Week 9, the Patriots square-up against the undefeated Indianapolis Colts. The Colts high-powered offense, led by QB Peyton Manning, currently ranks in the Top 3 in almost every offensive category (including points per game, total yards per game, passing yards per game, first downs per game, and third down conversion). As many have come to realize, the only flaw in the Colts overpowering attack is in the running game… mainly due to the loss of RB Edgerrin James to the Cardinals in the offseason. Thru Week 8, the backfield duo of Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai has averaged just over 100 rushing yards per game (108.4), leaving the Colts on the cusp of the bottom half of the NFL when it comes to running the football. Nevertheless, this is an offense that has averaged 29.3 points per game in 2006 thus far.

What must the Patriots do to slow down this high-octane offensive juggernaut? No, it doesn't involve new defensive schemes and blitz packages. No, it won't have the Pats putting six DB's on the field at all time. Instead, we must look to the New England offense to be the key factor in slowing down the Colts. Just as Bill Belichick exploited a sub-par Minnesota Vikings secondary in Week 8, the plan this week should be keeping the ball out of the Colts' hands. How will Belichick and the Patriots do this? By grinding away at the game clock with the run game. So, in Week 9, the Patriots fantasy players to keep an eye on are running backs Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney.

Now, the scheme of controlling the game with the run goes hand-in-hand with the performance of the Colts defense in 2006. Currently, Indianapolis ranks last (that's right... the 7-0 Indianapolis Colts) in defending the run, allowing 167.9 rushing yards per game. This is not the same Indy defense that shocked many critics in the 2005 season. Tiki Barber (NYG), Travis Henry (TEN) and Mike Bell (DEN) have all had 100+ rushing yards in games against the Colts this year.

Rookie RB Laurence Maroney has shown glimpses of greatness in 2005... most notably against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4 (125 yards rushing with two TD's). In that game, the plan was the same as it should be this Sunday night... keep the ball out of the opposition's hands by keeping the ball on the ground and racking up time of possession. Add in RB Corey Dillon, who has averaged 70.5 yards per game (with three TD's) in six career games against Indianapolis, and all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Yes, these two will split the run load, but both should see equal opportunities to excel in the ground game. We all saw what happened on Monday night when the Patriots stick to the game plan. Week 9 should be no different. Belichick will run the ball again and again... and the rushing yards for both Dillon and Maroney will start to pile up.

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Patriots Insider has partnered with a number of guest sports writers and independent websites to provide insightful, expert advice for readers interested in fantasy football. This week's Patriots fantasy report is brought to you by Matt Hinzpeter at FantasyInsiderOnline.com. If you have any questions for Matty, you can reach him, or any of the other FIO experts, at TheTeam@FantasyInsiderOnline.com.

If you are interested in becoming a contributor to Patriots Insider's group of independent experts, contact us at feedback (at): patriotsinsiders (dot) com


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