The Tennessee Titans offense was a mess through the first six games of the season. However, after watching Vince Young hit cheerleaders with errant passes in the preseason, did anyone truly believe VY was the answer? Not me.
The Titans gave Young the starting gig during their Week 7 bye week. Since that time, the self-proclaimed future Hall of Famer has led the squad to five straight wins and ignited the offense. Does this mean he's a recommended fantasy starter? Heck no.
Let's take a fantasy look at Young's rebirth and his impact on Tennessee's offensive weapons.
Young is still not a preferred QB1 option. In fact, he never has been one throughout his career. In his only two seasons as a full-time starter (2006 and 2007), Young was the 13th- and 19th-ranked QB, respectively.
Young has been an impressive game manager over his five starts this year (two INTs, one fumble lost) since he replaced Kerry Collins. He's added a scrambling dimension to the Tennessee attack that has opened up running lanes and open spaces in the passing game. Young has shown he has the intelligence, confidence and leadership to play quarterback in the NFL. Of course, for fantasy purposes, this all means absolutely nothing -- we only care about his numbers.
The dude's statistics are underwhelming. He has 1010 passing yards, 159 rushing yards and five total TDs. Notably, he's thrown for over 175 yards in only two of his five starts, and has failed to register two TDs in any of his games. It's not like he's putting up monster numbers with his legs either; he's only rushed for over 30 yards in one game. Weak.
Young's primary role is to hand the rock to Chris Johnson. Many people are making a big deal over the fact that Jeff Fisher allowed Young to throw 43 passes on Sunday versus the Cardinals. What they don't tell is that this was the first game Young had more than 25 pass attempts. Sure, the head coach is beginning to trust Young as the season progresses. Nevertheless, he isn't about to give that leash too much slack with Johnson in the fold.
Start VY as an injury replacement, nothing more. He has some matchups against softer pass defenses such as Indianapolis, St. Louis and Miami on tap. That said, please don't go throwing him in the lineup over guys like Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb, as some have considered. Don't let media hype cost you a playoff bid or a precious championship.
WEEK 13 OUTLOOK: 235 PaYDs, 25 RuTDs, 3 INTs, 1 PaTD
Young will post respectable yardage numbers because the Titans will be forced to throw to keep up with the Colts' explosive offense. However, he will turn the ball over three times due to a strong pass rush and the endless noise in the raucous Lucas Oil Stadium.
Seriously, how did Johnson slip to the second round in some drafts? The 5-11, 200-pound back has done more damage than Elin Nordegren with a lob wedge. Johnson is the top-ranked running back with 1690 total yards, 33 receptions and 10 total TDs. I know, Matt Forte's owners felt a little sting when I rattled off those numbers.
Johnson has put on quite a show since Young got behind center. Specifically, he has rushed for over 100-plus yards and compiled 150-plus total yards in every game Young has started. Johnson is as dangerous as they come because he can pile up the numbers in both the rushing and receiving game. For example, Johnson has had nine receptions and 85-plus receiving yards in two separate games this year.
Are there any LenDale White owners still out there? Probably not. He has firmly established himself as a wasted draft pick with only 208 rushing yards and two TDs on the season. Maybe giving up the tequila wasn't such a great idea for Mr. White.
WEEK 13 OUTLOOK: 130 RuYDs, 1 RuTD, 4 Rec, 45 ReYDs, 1 ReTD
The Colts' 15th-ranked rush defense will attempt to shut Johnson down like they did in Week Five when they held him to 34 rushing yards. They won't be as successful this time around. Unlike Week 5 when Collins was behind center, the Colts will have to respect Young's skills (as opposed to disrespecting Collins' lack of skills). In addition, the strategy of frustrating Johnson by keeping him between the tackles won't work this game because the savvy RB has learned to take advantage of interior creases at the line of scrimmage.
Tennessee's wide receivers have been consistently sub-par in their rush-heavy offense. Nate Washington has 29 receptions for 317 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Justin Gage has shown flashes, but only has 22 catches for 302 receiving yards and one TD on the season. This duo is nothing more than weak WR4 or WR5 fodder.
There is one receiving weapon on the Titans that is starting to make some noise -- rookie Kenny Britt. In my preseason rookie preview, I stated: "The Titans will bring their first-round pick along very slowly. Look to scoop him off the waiver wire in re-draft leagues or late in drafts. He could occupy a more significant role in the Titans' offense if the oft-injured Gage goes down again, or towards the end of the season when they want to give the rookie hands-on experience."
Britt is making me proud. After a slow start to the season, he has taken advantage of Gage's recent back injury and posted starter-worthy numbers over the past two weeks (11 receptions/170 receiving yards/two TDs). Britt is Young's top receiving option (11 targets last week); he isn't losing his starting job even if Gage returns. Consider the big-play rook a low-end WR3 with upside down the stretch.
WEEK 13 OUTLOOK: 6 Rec, 83 ReYDs, 0 ReTDs
The Colts' defensive scheme limits deep balls. However, the banged-up secondary has allowed wide receivers to rack up yardage and catches in recent weeks. As previously mentioned, the Titans will have to go the aerial route this week to keep the game close. Britt will lead the team in targets and post WR3 numbers this week.
Bo Scaife compiled solid TE2 (16th ranked TE) stats last year with 58 receptions for 561 receiving yards and two TDs. However, Scaife has been a disappointment in 2009 (28th ranked TE) with 29 catches for 287 receiving yards and zero TDs. Most owners who drafted him justifiably cut bait weeks ago.
Scaife has displayed faints signs of life with Young leading the show. Over the last three games, he has been targeted 23 times and caught 11 balls for 122 yards. Based on his increased involvement in the passing offense, grab Scaife off the waiver wire if you're looking for a backup option. Don't start him unless absolutely necessary because he's primarily a check-down option, and a red zone afterthought.
WEEK 13 OUTLOOK (@IND): 5 Rec, 55 ReYDs, 0 ReTDs
Scaife will be targeted as Young's safety valve. Don't expect him to post high yardage numbers or score his first TD because of his role in the offense, and the Colts' defensive scheme.