Saturday October 25th, 2014

It seems that every week, players who were previously non-factors end up being crowned as legitimate fantasy threats because of one breakout performance (take a bow, Branden Oliver and Tre Mason).

On the other end of the spectrum, established veterans start to worry owners because of one outlier of a game. Often, it’s much ado about nothing. But people need to be reminded all the same.

Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Do Anthony Dixon, Tre Mason belong in lineups Week 8?

Here are five players who had standout performances in Week 7 – for better or for worse – that you would be wise not to overreact to.

RB Shane Vereen, Patriots

Vereen led the Patriots in receiving yards (71) and found pay dirt twice through the air in New England’s first game without Stevan Ridley, which made him the top-scoring running back in Week 7 (23 points). That hid a rather subpar rushing performance on the ground (11 rushes, 43 yards).

Bill Belichick has favored a two-back system in recent years, and it wouldn’t be surprising if New England utilized Jonas Gray and/or Brandon Bolden much more against Chicago on Sunday.

The same goes for Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright, given that the Bears rank 30th in Football Outsiders DVOA – which takes strength of schedule into account – against tight ends in pass coverage.

While Vereen certainly has great catching instincts for a tailback, he’s the fourth option in a Patriots aerial attack that loves to spread the ball around and seems prepared to hand Wright a bigger role in two tight-end sets. Vereen has been targeted on 14 percent of New England’s passing plays, and with Brady averaging 35 attempts, that works out to just under five targets per game. 

New England Patriots 2014 Receiver Target Distribution | FindTheBest

It also seems unlikely that he’ll be left as wide open as he was by the Jets’ secondary on his 49-yard touchdown reception last Thursday.

Vereen is certainly playable this week and beyond, but he’s not an automatic start. If his carries drop down to the level they were before Ridley got injured, we’ll look back on his game against the Jets last week as an anomaly rather than a breakout performance.

RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks

After averaging 19 points in Seattle’s first four games, Lynch has put up consecutive six-point totals against Dallas and St. Louis over the past two weeks. He was especially uninspiring against the Rams on Sunday, averaging less than three yards per carry on 18 attempts.

But on Sunday the Seahawks play Carolina, who has seen its once-vaunted run defense collapse into the worst unit in the league by allowing 5.3 yards per carry to opponents. After that, Oakland comes to CenturyLink Field in what should be a blowout considering Oakland ranks 29th in opponent rushing yards per game (145.3).

Fantasy football Week 8 stat projections

Lynch could also see an incremental bump in carries with Percy Harvin no longer a part of Seattle’s offense. And though Russell Wilson has hurt Lynch’s production by rushing for touchdowns in three straight weeks, he’s also involved Lynch more in the passing game. Lynch’s three receiving touchdowns thus far are already a career-high.

Going forward, Lynch is still a clear-cut RB1. If you think you can convince his owner otherwise and snag him in a trade, do it.

RB Denard Robinson, Jaguars

For weeks, the Jaguars’ running game toiled no matter who lined up in the backfield. That changed on Sunday, when Robinson rushed 22 times for 127 yards and a touchdown against Cleveland in Jacksonville’s first win of the season.

Robinson has been one of the hottest waiver-wire pickups this week, but those who are expecting the former Michigan quarterback to be a consistent bell cow for the Jags will be disappointed. Only the Panthers have given the ball to their leading carrier less often, and that’s because both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams have been sidelined with injuries.

Jacksonville Jaguars 2014 Rushing Carry Distribution | FindTheBest

Robinson’s 18 points last week doubled his previous total for the entire season. That generous total came courteous of Cleveland’s run defense, which is awful by both traditional and sabermetric measures. The Browns have given up the most rushing yards per game (155.5) in the league and rank 31st in rush defense by DVOA.

Don’t expect another outstanding game from Robinson against Miami this weekend – the Dolphins’ defense ranks third in overall DVOA and ninth against the run.

RB Giovani Bernard, Bengals

Bernard logged just a single point last week in the Colts’ 27-0 thrashing of Cincinnati, netting 16 yards on nine touches. The lowly output was far from the norm for Bernard, who had previously averaged 15.2 points per week. 

Giovani Bernard 2014 Rushing Yards By Game | FindTheBest

Still, Bernard’s owners may be a bit concerned after a seven-point outing against the Patriots in Week 5, as the Bengals’ offense has underperformed as a whole in two of the past three weeks.

There’s nothing to worry about here, though. Bernard matches up nicely with Cincinnati’s next three opponents,  the Ravens, Jaguars and Browns, who all have to come play at Paul Brown Stadium, where the Bengals haven’t lost since 2012.

Bernard topped 100 total yards against Baltimore in Week One. Jacksonville just lost their only elite run defender (Paul Posluszny) for the year. After those two games, Bernard will get his shot at ravaging the aforementioned Browns.

WR Sammy Watkins, Bills

Watkins had the best game of his young professional career on Sunday, hauling in nine receptions for 122 yards and two touchdowns (all career-highs), including the last-second game-winner over Minnesota. With the Jets’ abysmal pass defense next on Buffalo’s docket, many will surely slot Watkins into their starting lineup.

But for all the Jets’ struggles on pass defense, they actually rank 7th against No. 1 wide receivers by DVOA (the Vikings, whom Watkins vanquished last week, rank 26th). Where the Jets really struggle in the passing game is stopping tight ends (31st in DVOA) and running backs (26th in DVOA).

Looking beyond Sunday, Watkins’ own success might work against him. With Buffalo losing C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson for extended periods, opponents will be paying more mind to Buffalo’s passing game and could routinely double-team Watkins.

Now, this isn’t saying that Watkins will be rendered useless against New York. But with Watkins being such a high-variance target – anyone who tells you they think Kyle Orton will keep averaging 296.7 passing yards per game is lying – it wouldn’t hurt to go with a more consistent target as your WR2 if you have a dynamite tailback you’d rather play in the flex spot.

FindTheBest is a research website that’s collected all the data on Marshawn Lynch and Shane Vereen and put it all in one place so you don’t have to go searching for it.

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