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Good teams pave way for solid fantasy stats

| Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009

As it turns out, it's not just picking up good players that wins fantasy football leagues.

Almost as important is having players on winning teams.

Sounds simple enough. Surprising, though, is how much of a difference it has made for running backs and wide receivers in 2009.

Of the NFL's top 40 in receiving yards-per-game, only five play for losing teams. In 2008, only nine of the top 40 played on losing teams. At the same time, only one of 2009's top 24 pass-catchers in fantasy points (San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis) plays for a losing team. In 2008, those numbers were only five of the top 29.

Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck is the quarterback on a losing team who has thrown for the most yards per game — he's No. 18 in that category.

Apparently, the theory that bad teams have to throw the ball a lot when they are losing hasn't really held true.

While that makes sense, here's the even better hidden value: running backs on good teams get more fantasy value per carry or yard than players on bad teams because players on good teams score more often.

For instance, Tennessee's Chris Johnson has been a great find this season, leading the NFL in rushing with 959 yards. But despite outgaining every other running back by more than 100 yards, he is only No. 4 in rushing fantasy points (not counting receiving stats).

With only six touchdowns, Johnson falls behind Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew (737 yards, 11 TDs), Minnesota's Adrian Peterson (784 yards, nine TDs) and Atlanta's Michael Turner (720 yards, 10 TDs).

Each of those three plays for a team with a .500 record or better.

It's not just at the top of the heap that a team's winning percentage matters, either. Almost two-thirds of the running backs on winning teams have improved their fantasy standing by scoring more touchdowns than competitors who gain similar yardage. And on losing teams, it's just the opposite.

As if you needed more reasons to stay away from the Browns.

Once signed, LJ not a pariah in fantasy

For those not too busy cursing his name, Larry Johnson just became the most intriguing name in fantasy football.

When the Chiefs released Johnson on Monday, it may have knocked him out of a second straight game after he missed Sunday's game with a suspension. More importantly, though, it opened up a world of possibilities for the disgruntled running back.

Johnson has been trying to play himself out of Kansas City for almost two years, even earning discipline from notoriously easygoing coach Herm Edwards. The Chiefs' offensive line is terrible, and at best Johnson had become a bottom-tier No. 2 fantasy running back.

Now, Johnson (and his 358 yards, 2.7 average and zero touchdowns) could end up anywhere from a No. 1 back on a team with a good offense (Houston) to part of a maddening backfield timeshare (New England), being a backup (San Diego) or out of football.

Other teams mentioned as possible destinations for Johnson: Washington, Indianapolis, Arizona and Green Bay. And Johnson has never made a secret of how much he always has liked the Steelers.

If he ends up in Arizona or Houston, Johnson owners could still hit the jackpot. But any of those places probably would be better than Kansas City.

Hot pickups

Name (Team) Pos.

Tampa Bay defense

Chris Chambers (KC) WR

Ladell Betts (Was) RB

Freezing cold

Name (Team) Pos.

Matt Ryan (Atl) QB

LaDainian Tomlinson (SD) RB

Willis McGahee (Bal) RB

Wideouts to watch

Keenan Burton, Rams — Picking any Rams player is risky, but Burton has 18 catches (though for only 161 yards) in his past four games. The Rams had a bye last week, so people have already forgotten about him.

Roy Williams, Cowboys — His 75-yard rebirth came against a tough Eagles pass defense last week. Don't expect it to happen twice in a row (vs. Packers this week), but he has two soft games looming.

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