It’s a common cliche in any sport that numbers don’t tell the whole story.
That’s very true, and last Sunday’s opener against the Vikings is proof. By the halftime stats, one would have thought that the Detroit Lions were up multiple possessions, not down by one.
But it’s for that reason that these numbers are so interesting. It’s not that they tell the wrong story, it’s that they tell different wrinkles of it. So this week, and for all foreseeable weeks, I’ll be breaking down the numbers game to point out the weird, interesting, and perhaps even useful stats for the week, starting with the Lions’ team rankings.
The first week of the season generally isn’t a great time to compare total stats. Those are supposed to be a general overall measure of performance, but right now it’s just a show of how the Lions did against Minnesota.
There isn’t a lot of separation between teams, and trends take more than one game to develop. Still, there are some pleasant signs here. The Lions’ running game is unexpectedly in the top 10, and while the defense is generally middling, they were effective in forcing turnovers, which was a key part of what made them a playoff team in 2011.
What would a series on stats be without a focus on fantasy? In this section, I’ll focus not on the best and worst fantasy performers of the week, but the most disappointing and pleasantly surprising, followed by a sleeper for next week.
If you had the foresight to start Joique Bell in your fantasy league this week, you were rewarded with a handful of yards and two touchdowns. Granted, he vultured both scores away from Reggie Bush, but he’s still worth a look now that he’s the obvious No. 2 back in Detroit, and Bush is already dealing with his first wave of injuries.
There’s no denying his impact on the Vikings defense, but Calvin Johnson finished the game with only four catches for 37 yards. That’s an important step for the team to show that it can be effective on offense without that offense running exclusively through Megatron. Johnson should still be one of the league’s leading receivers this year, but he may not be shooting for 2,000 yards again this year, and he probably doesn’t mind one bit, so long as the Lions pull more outcomes like last season.
Week 2 Sleeper
He may need a bit more time to prove himself (to the coaching staff, at least), but Joseph Fauria was by far the Lions’ most effective receiving tight end against Minnesota. He ran only six routes, but was targeted three times and caught all three passes (one for a touchdown). Meanwhile, Brandon Pettigrew fumbled and took a major holding penalty, and Tony Scheffler had a key drop and finished with no receptions. If you didn’t know anything about this team, you’d think Fauria was the veteran starter, not the undrafted rookie.
Also, Nate Burleson led the team in receiving last weekend, and is largely available in most formats. He’s not the most consistent option, but just when you count him out, he proves himself as a solid complement to Johnson. He’s especially valuable while Ryan Broyles remains out of the lineup.
15 — number of rushing yards Adrian Peterson gained against the Lions in the 17 carries after his initial touchdown
0 —number of combined tackles and sacks by Ndamukong Suh
+ 20 — Suh’s Pass Rushing Productivity rating, best among all defensive linemen as calculated by Pro Football Focus
5/7 — Ratio of kickoffs boomed into touchbacks by punter Sam Martin
6 — number of players with 3+ receptions for 25+ yards against Minnesota
191 — Yards from scrimmage gained by Reggie Bush last weekend
178 — Yards from scrimmage gained by the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend