6 Players Who Mattered: nF's Week 2 Fantasy Recap

Can you make sense of what happened yesterday? numberFire writer Zach Warren is still looking through the carnage.

OK, let's take a poll. Who had the top three running backs in fantasy yesterday being Reggie Bush, C.J. Spiller, and Trent Richardson? Just Kim Kardashian? OK then, well who had both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz scoring over 20 fantasy points? Stop that Eli and put your hand down, you're lying. Fine, then how about this: who had Chris Johnson only scoring two fantasy points on the day? Wait, that's too many hands to count. I guess we're learning something here.

And that is, as always, that fantasy football is a bit crazy. We're here to make sense of it, but sometimes, there's things that even we can't predict. Here's a look at the most crucial names from yesterday and why they overperformed, underperformed, or were right on target with numberFire's projections.

Locked on Target, Sir

Victor Cruz - New York Giants
Week 1 Final Points: 23 (#2 WR)
numberFire Projected Points: 12.98 (#1 WR)

So we predicted Victor Cruz would finish with a point total right there at the top of the receivers' leaderboard. We thought he would get a good number of looks his way, and 33% of Eli Manning's passes indeed went to the Spicy Salsa Man. We also thought he would be a solid candidate to catch at least one TD pass with a receivers-leading projection of 0.79 TDs - he did just that too with one TD catch. What we couldn't predict, though, was just how much Manning would be airing the ball out in week 2. Manning's 51 pass attempts were the most of any QB yesterday, and Cruz was the primary beneficiary with an NFL-leading 17 targets. Cruz's catch rate increased only slightly over week 1 at a 64.7% clip this time around, but even catching that many still gave him 4th in the NFL 11 receptions. It's safe to say that Salsa Time is going to become a regular occurrence in New York this season with just how much Eli is looking his way.

Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers
Week 1 Final Points: 25 (#3 QB)
numberFire Projected Points: 20.01 (#2 QB)

Many people were surprised at Cam Newton's strong game on the ground yesterday, finishing with a 71 yard rushing total that tied for 16th in the NFL before the Monday night game. His previous high was only 65 yards, coming at the end of last season against the Tampa Bay Bucs. We at numberFire, however, expected Newton to take off on the ground. Newton did surpass numberFire's projected 53.36 rushing yards, which was double the rushing yardage projection from any other QB entering the week. But he didn't surpass it by much. Perhaps the most surprising part of Newton's performance was just how many times he rushed the ball - he gained his 71 yards on 13 carries (32% of all Carolina carries) while numberFire only projected him to have eight rushing attempts. As expected, his arm didn't do most of the heavy lifting, as he finished with only 253 yards passing on 14 completions (we projected 203 yards passing on 16 completions). I'd expect to see Newton remain near the top of numberFire's projections because of his dual passing/rushing attack.

Low Expectations, High Performance

Robert Griffin III - Washington Redskins
Week 1 Final Points: 30 (#1 QB)
numberFire Projected Points: 14.18 (#11 QB)

This now makes two straight weeks (before the Monday night game) that RGIII has been the second-best player in all of fantasy football, finishing behind Matt Ryan in week 1 and behind Reggie Bush in week 2. I predicted Griffin would be the surprise QB of week 2; I just thought the damage would be done with his arm. But this week, he didn't need the gaudy passing statistics - his 206 passing yards ranked 21st among the 30 starting QBs that have already played. And he had exactly as many passing TDs as Green Bay punter Tim Mastay this week (one). This time though, he had the ground game that numberFire did not predict - his 82 yards rushing was only one yard behind Trent Richardson for top ten in the league yesterday. Beating even Cam Newton's carries rate, RGIII finished with 38% of Washington's carries on Sunday, a huge bump from his 21% of all Redskins carries in week 1. Most important for fantasy owners, though, may be his newly-found vulture status. With Evan Royster only receiving one carry and Roy Helu receiving none, RGIII looks to be the third-down and red zone back of choice. He proved it inside the ten yard line yesterday, with successful TD runs of five and seven yards. That short-yardage success likely means more red zone scrambles for Griffin in the coming weeks.

C.J. Spiller - Buffalo Bills
Week 1 Final Points: 28 (#2 RB)
numberFire Projected Points: 10.00 (#23 RB)

So maybe I wasn't too excited about him this week. That was my bad, guys; Spiller found a way to shut me up. When all was said and done, Spiller did not even have to be the workhorse back that I was worried about: his 15 carries only represented only 42% of the Bills' final total. But in those 15 carries, Spiller was absolutely deadly - his 8.0 yard per carry average was 1st among all running backs with at least 10 carries on the day. Considering that this week's YPC average represents his second-best career total with at least 10 carries (after his week 1 12.1 average), I still feel somewhat vindicated that this performance came out of nowhere. But with his rushing output, we learned two things: 1. the Chiefs defense we've seen the past two weeks really is that bad, and 2. C.J. Spiller is not to be messed with. Against an 0-2 Cleveland Browns team this week, it would not surprise me to see Spiller in the top 10 backs when the numberFire week 3 projections are released tomorrow.

But You Were Supposed To Do So Well!

Jamaal Charles - Kansas City Chiefs
Week 1 Final Points: 1 (#59 RB)
numberFire Projected Points: 16.90 (#2 RB)

Should Jamaal Charles owners be panicking right now? Maybe, because it doesn't look good. After a highly ineffective three yards on six carries, the Chiefs reversed course and placed Peyton Hillis in the game for the remainder. Hillis performed admirably, gaining 66 yards on 11 carries, but I don't think that should be enough to wrestle the entire starting job away from Charles. Instead, I would be much more worried about a straight Shanahan-esque time share moving forward, especially if Charles can't get it going on the ground immediately. Seeing the back get four targets from Matt Cassel was a nice touch, but we were expecting that - numberFire projections had him at the correct three receptions during yesterday's game. Maybe if C.J. Spiller had not busted out and put Buffalo up 14-0 three minutes into the second quarter, we would have seen more from Charles. But for now, I'd be very wary moving forward with a back that was healthy and still fourth on his team in rushing yards (behind Hillis, Cassel and Shaun Droughn).

Larry Fitzgerald - Arizona Cardinals
Week 1 Final Points: 0 (#- WR)
numberFire Projected Points: 11.56 (#4 WR)

Perhaps Fitz and Kevin Kolb had a fight over some girl in training camp last year. Maybe Kevin Kolb has a thing against dreads. Or it might be that Fitzgerald doesn't like catching passes from QBs who have alliterative names. Whatever it is, Kolb and Fitz just don't have the connection that Shelton and Fitz do. Last year, Larry Fitzgerald had eight double-digit fantasy point games, including three in his last four games on the season. That doesn't mean much until you look at the QB breakdown: only two of Kolb's eight games as the primary QB led to Fitzgerald double-digit points, while the receiver scored at least 10 FP in six of Skelton's eight starts. Apparently, that (likely non-existent) feud has carried over into 2012. In week 1 with Skelton starting at QB, Fitzgerald had 11 targets, 31% of throws from Arizona QBs (primarily Skelton). But in week 2, Kolb just seemed to look the other way: 5 targets and only 19% of all throws from Kolb. How much to expect from Fitz next week against the Eagles may just depend on who's under center.