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By the Numbers: Kirk Cousins, Mitchell Trubisky, John Brown

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Oct 3, 2018

Jordan Howard has been losing work to Cohen

Numbers matter in fantasy football. There’s no denying that. Passing yards are measured in numbers. Receiving TDs are measured in numbers. Rushing yards, receptions, interceptions, rushing TDs – that’s right, all numbers. The most critical fantasy number is points scored. Score more than your opponent, and you win. Score even a fraction of a point less, and you lose.

In fact, numbers don’t just matter in fantasy football. They are everything. Fantasy owners can read the box score of every game every week, but that doesn’t always tell the whole story. Numbers without context are meaningless. Some numbers matter more than others, some are good predictors of future behavior, some are fluky and hard to consistently forecast, and others merely reinforce what our eyes already tell us about a particular player.

In Week 4, we had more overtime games, strong performances, studs, duds, and surprises. It was another interesting week for fantasy football, and it’s just the latest in what’s shaping up to be on the craziest years for fake football in recent memory. Here are some thoughts and observations now that the dust has cleared on the first quarter of the NFL season using important numbers and statistics to tell the story. It’s that time once again to go “By the Numbers.”

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43.5 – Mitchell Trubisky fantasy points in Week 4

Welcome to the NFL, Trubisky. Trubisky was the week’s highest-scoring fantasy QB, passing for 354 yards and six, yes six, passing TDs. He surgically dissected the Bucs’ hapless secondary en route to a 48-10 bludgeoning of Tampa Bay.

Why should I care?

Trubisky has been serviceable in his starts for the Bears, and the offensive game plan set by Chicago’s coaching staff has been fairly conservative, limiting Trubisky’s opportunity to make mistakes. The second-year QB was allowed a little more room to run free in this one, but this game speaks more to Tampa Bay’s bad and porous defense. Through the first quarter of the season, Tampa Bay’s defense allows a whopping 358.0 yards per game passing. That’s dead last in the NFL.

While Trubisky’s magical Week 4 is sure to linger in the minds of Bears fans through the team’s Week 5 bye, it should be taken with a grain of salt. This was Trubisky’s 16th NFL start, and in his 15 previous games, he threw for a total of nine TDs, had seven games without a passing TD, and had five games where he threw for under 150 yards. His 354 yards passing were easily a career best.

Chicago’s offensive weapons are more than capable of helping Trubisky achieve continued success in the passing game, but this team is built around defense and conservative play-calling. It will be interesting to see what the Bears’ game plan is after the bye week, but don’t expect a Chicago air raid every week. I’m not rushing to the waiver wire for Mitchell Trubisky just yet.

11 – KeKe Coutee’s receptions in his first NFL game

Have yourself a day, young man! Coutee came out hot in this one, nabbing 11 of his 15 targets for 109 yards in the Texans’ first win of the season.

Why should I care?

The receptions were the most in a player’s debut since 1970. Coutee also tied for the league lead in targets and receptions in Week 4 – not a bad start to an NFL career. He was electric at Texas Tech, and he showed why the Texans took him in the draft this year. Will Fuller left this game with yet another hamstring issue, and Coutee took his place as the number two to DeAndre Hopkins. Bruce Ellington is on IR and Fuller V is seemingly always nursing some injury, so Coutee should find a lot of passes coming his way the rest of the season.

The Texans average 37.0 passing attempts per game, so the volume is certainly there, especially considering the TE position has been all but forgotten, and backs Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue are not wildly talented pass-catchers out of the backfield. It should be noted that Coutee was on the field for 93% of the Texans’ offensive snaps in this game. He’s four percent owned in Yahoo! leagues, so go out and grab him while you can. If Fuller V misses any significant amount of time, Coutee would be a viable WR3.

54 – Percentage of snaps played by Jordan Howard in Week 4

Howard led the Bears RBs in snaps for the fourth consecutive week, but it was Tarik Cohen who led the way in touches.

Why should I care?

Cohen handled 13 carries and seven receptions, while Howard had 11 carries and no catches. Cohen finished with an absurd 174-25 advantage in scrimmage yards. Howard’s usage is concerning, especially because the Bears had this one wrapped up at halftime and should have used him to burn time in the second half. Howard’s snap counts have come down in the last two weeks, and at this point in the season, Cohen looks like the better athlete. Take a look at the snap counts through four weeks:

Week 1: Howard (71%), Cohen (40%)
Week 2: Howard (73%), Cohen (32%)
Week 3: Howard (62%), Cohen (41%)
Week 4: Howard (54%), Cohen (48%)

Cohen also holds a 308-281 advantage over Howard in total scrimmage yards this season, despite Howard holding a 74-41 advantage in touches. Howard is still the lead dog in this backfield, but if he’s not getting 20 touches a game, he won’t be more than an RB3 or Flex. His game is not predicated on big or explosive plays, and without volume, he may be relegated to your bench unless the matchup is great. Keep an eye on this situation moving forward, but Cohen’s role seems likely to grow with Week 4’s stellar performance. Chicago has a Week 5 bye to sort out the backfield duties.

756 – Kirk Cousins‘ pace for total pass attempts this season

Through four games of the 2018 season, Cousins has passed 189 times, recording at least 50 pass attempts in his last two.

Why should I care?

His passing attempts lead the league. Kirk Cousins is operating at a maniacal pace in his first season in Minnesota. Apparently ownership wants him to earn every penny of his $84 million contract. He is averaging 47.25 passing attempts per game, and that puts him on pace for 756 attempts over the course of a full season. The current record for passing attempts in a single season is 727 by Matthew Stafford in 2012, the only time a QB has thrown at least 700 times in a season.

Cousins is currently third in passing yards at 1,387, and he is the QB6 in fantasy through four games. He’s not winning games, but the volume makes him an every-week QB1. With no semblance of a running game thus far, expect the Vikings to chuck it to Diggs and Thielen with reckless abandon. Cousins is an every-week play, regardless of matchup… “You like that!?”

22.5 – John Brown‘s yards per reception

Brown is averaging 22.5 yards per reception in his first season with the Baltimore Ravens.

Why should I care?

“The Abolitionist” ranks second behind only Desean Jackson (24.9) among receivers in yards per reception. He is also accounting for 44.05% of his team’s air yards, fourth best among receivers. He kept things rolling in Week 4 with what has become his signature – a long TD.

Brown is a talented player who missed time in Arizona with injuries, most notably his sickle cell trait, but he did have a 1,000 yard/seven TD season for the Cardinals in 2015. His health hasn’t been a concern in Baltimore, and he leads the team in receiving yards and receiving TDs in 2018. He ranks second behind Michael Crabtree in targets and third behind Crab and “Silly” Willie Snead in receptions. His breakaway speed and game-breaking abilities are something that the Ravens have lacked in their receiving corps, and Brown has become a favorite of Joe Flacco. He’s a WR2/3 every week with major big-play upside.

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Zachary Hanshew is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

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