Will Carroll
Monday October 4th, 2010

Filling in for Jay Clemons is like pinch hitting for Ted Williams. I'll just try to stay within myself, try to help the team. I'm watching the games a bit differently than most, but maybe not. It's a modern media mix of RedZone on the big screen and my iPad for both looking up stats, chatting it up with my pals at Football Outsiders, watching my fantasy points tick, tweeting, and writing this entire column. (The laptop is charging from the weekend trip.) Here are my 10 -- make that 11 -- revelations from Week 4 in the NFL, ranging from stats to hits, from concepts to contact. Just be sure to check back in on Thursday when I get back to writing the Injury Report.

1. Accuracy is everything

Aaron Rodgers made some of the most beautiful passes in the first half, including a rocket to Jermichael Finley for a TD that was as hard as anything Brett Favre ever threw in his years at Lambeau. In the second half, he forgot that accuracy and let the Lions back into a game they really looked out of early. For years, we've known that passing accuracy over a reasonable sample size during a college career can be a major predictor of success at the pro level. It's important for fantasy players to note the same thing. Just look down the completion percentage list here and you'll see the usual suspects like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Rodgers, but above the 66 percent mark are some value plays like Vince Young and Kyle Orton. Any QB in the 50s has to be evaluated closely for any roster spot on a winning fantasy team.

2. Please tip well

We need a new category. Interceptions are never good, but time and again this year, we've seen a lot of interceptions that shouldn't get blamed on the QB. I know it's a fine line, often a judgment call, as to whether a pass was "good" or "bad." It's easier to say whether it was tipped or not. I haven't found any place that divides interceptions this way, but I know that teams do during video review. It's going to be impossible to tell all the factors we'd need -- pass type, good spiral, coverage type -- because without the coach's tape, it's impossible to tell (and don't let anyone tell you differently.) Watching Peyton Manning give up his first INT because Jacob Tamme couldn't hold the ball is the perfect example of this. But if accuracy is everything, then this would add additional information for players and information is the currency of Fantasyland.

3. The end of the TE

Is there any reason to separate tight ends from wide receivers anymore? Sure, there are the "blocking" TEs that are still around, closer to the classic definition of the position. As we see more real receivers, prototyped by Tony Gonzalez and then iterated by players like Dallas Clark and Dustin Keller who can split wide and cause matchup problems, I'm not sure that the artificial division is good for fantasy any more. Just as some teams go with two TEs and some go four and five wide, fantasy teams need the flexibility to make better use of roster space. Until that change comes, those players have huge value. In another couple years, the transition will be complete and every team will have one, leaving us the normal splits between great, good and oh-crap-I-need-a-warm-body picks. The sooner we stop thinking of these new-style TEs as anything other than a bigger receiver, the quicker the fantasy world will be adjusting to the new NFL reality.

4. Adjusting the line

The NFL of 2010 is continuing the trend we've seen over the past few years --fewer true feature backs and more committees and role-backs. Looking at the best stats for RBs, I feel like I'm looking at the best offensive lines instead. Would it be better to draft based on the expectations of the RBs or to draft players that have opportunities behind great lines? Looking at advanced measures like Adjusted Line Yards would have helped people scanning the waiver wires this week. BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn't a secret to most smart fantasy players, but how many of those same smart players knew that New England was second best in ALY so far this season? Behind a good line, almost anyone good enough to make the team can make some yardage. That's a revelation you can score with this season.

5. Role playing

Lance Moore is not Reggie Bush. He's not dating models, he's not making millions, he wasn't a high draft pick, but on the field, Lance Moore is Reggie Bush right now. Sean Payton isn't using him out of the backfield, but it's clear after two weeks that Moore is getting the targets that Bush got. Roles matter in the NFL, but it's hard to read the minds of NFL coaches. With Pierre Thomas out, the passing game became even more important for the Saints. Moore's now a fantasy star, but you can see that players like Kenneth Darby, Green-Ellis, and others can put up similar numbers in the roles that got names drafted high. It also makes those true feature backs like Maurice Jones-Drew or Adrian Peterson even more valuable.

6. Size matters

Calvin Johnson, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez all have the height, size, and athletic ability -- but in the red zone, look around for more than the obvious guys. Some teams are going to plus-sized tight ends or bigger running backs out into the pattern. Few teams have the big defensive backs to match up with more than one of these guys, which is leading to some interesting matchups and coverage schemes. Given the choice between a bigger guy and a smaller one, you might make up the difference in targets with touchdowns. Joel Dreessen, Marcedes Lewis and Jermaine Gresham are getting lots of looks and could really pay off down the line. Also look for sizable younger players who could factor in later this season. A big WR4 or WR5 is likely to see some time with injuries for many teams.

7. Rex can't commit

Going into the season, lots of fantasy players were touting Shonn Greene and drafting him as high as the end of the first round. The Jets had a great line, an improving passing game, and less competition ... or so it seemed. LaDanian Tomlinson had a lot more left than most thought and Greene didn't help himself by fumbling the ball early. That gave Brian Schottenheimer reasons to look at Tomlinson and he took that opportunity. Tomlinson is now a definite 1A if not the RB1 and the second half showed that Rex Ryan is comfortable keeping this a committee. If Greene didn't get all the carries in a blowout, you can't count on him getting the bigger share at any point, shy of an injury. Tomlinson's for real, for now.

8. Big Ben returns

Ben Roethlisberger is back for the Steelers next time out, leaving three QBs behind. Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich had injuries and Charlie Batch had a nice game in Week 3, but can we tell anything about Roethlisberger from the play of the others? Not really. The Steelers won with defense and power running, and used a "game management" mode on all but a few plays for the first four games. Roethlisberger isn't going to show up and suddenly create a dynamic passing attack. He is going to be better than his backups, about as expected. The bigger question is whether Roethlisberger will make better use of his weapons, especially his wide receivers. I spoke with one NFL insider this weekend who thought that Roethlisberger would look for "comfort" in his first couple games. That has to be good for Hines Ward and Heath Miller.

9. Strippers can't tackle

We all remember the famous Leon Lett play, but was that the Gladwellian turning point for tackling fundamentals? Vince Lombardi has to be rolling over, wondering if anyone can hold on to the ball. Those of you who grew up playing the game remember the old "gauntlet drill." Punching at the ball is keeping some players from wrapping up, leading some players with iron grips to get extra "yards after strip." Turnovers are huge, so I understand the value, but there's always something there for fantasy players. Take a hard look at fumble counts and watch out for players who have hand and wrist injuries, like Clinton Portis has dealt with for the past few weeks.

10. Thin is not in

Look at the rosters of most NFL teams and you'll see why I don't think the 18-game schedule is a good idea. The Colts barely have enough wide receivers to play, leading them to spread out tight ends and running backs who really have no reason to be out there. It's one thing to split Joseph Addai out and entirely another to try it with Mike Hart. When Melvin Bullitt went down in the first quarter against the Jags with what looked like a stinger, the Colts faced the Jags without their first- or second-string safeties. It's more than just the Colts. Injuries, especially injury stacks in which a number of players at the same position get injured, reduce the talent level on the field. We're going to have teams going to their third RB, fifth WR or, worse, their third QB. That means more fantasy points scored by guys you didn't pick or points scored against guys that should be on the bench. I don't find that compelling content.

11. Strap it up

Someone needs to check chinstraps. A lot of helmets went flying off today and I'll bet there were more I didn't see. Many players simply don't take the time to strap their helmet on correctly and many more have loose helmets because they don't like their hair messed up. The NFL already has a rule in place to protect the player by stopping the play. It almost cost Jones-Drew a TD today, but he'd just barely crossed the goal line when his helmet was sent flying. As part of the offensive against concussions, the NFL needs to direct referees to stop plays if they see a player with a chinstrap hanging loose, as well as fining players if they lose their helmet without having it strapped on. (You really didn't think I could go a full column without bringing it back to concussions, did you?)

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