This new report will replace the Saturday editition of "Del Pilar's Mailbag." No worries about the mailbag. I'll still answer questions directly by email and Twitter.
It's easy to use numbers to break down players, but you always have exceptions to the rule. That's what this column will do. We'll take players with historical data against their opponents (usually divisional matchups) and see what they show us. Perhaps the player can overcome an elite defense because he's faced them before. Or, if an elite player can continue his elite play, how will second-tier players do?
There's a comments section at the end of the article, so please let me know if you would rather see this report or another mailbag, and how I can improve it.
QB Drew Brees, Saints (vs. Bucs)
In 12 games against the Bucs, including one as a Charger, Brees has averaged 255.8 yards and 1.9 TDs with one interception, not shabby at all, but also not elite. Since 2008, in seven games against Tampa, he's averaged 276.1 yards and two TDs with 1.3 interceptions, similar to his career production. The Bucs are allowing 279.7 yards and 1.6 TDs per game to the position, so Brees may not post elite numbers but will manage his average. Temper expectations.
QB Joe Flacco, Ravens (vs. Steelers)
Flacco has faced the Steelers seven times in the regular season, with his last game in Week One this year, when he went 224 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. That's the only game in which Flacco has seen fantasy success against the Steelers. Removing that game, in his past six games he averaged 214 passing yards, one TD and 0.7 interceptions. His Week One game against the Steelers was a different Steelers team. They're playing more like a Super Bowl contender now, which means Flacco is not a quarterback with great upside and you should look elsewhere.
RB Fred Jackson, Bills (vs. Jets)
In Jackson's last game against the Jets, he only managed 48 offensive yards and zero TDs in Week 17 last season. He is averaging 41.3 offensive yards and zero TDs against the Gang Green in the last three meetings. The Jets are allowing 171.3 offensive yards and one TD per game to running backs, so Jackson has an opportunity to blow out his past averages. Temper expectations as division games rarely follow the numbers. Jackson is playing too well to see any fantasy bench.
RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (vs. Ravens)
Mendenhall has a career average (six games) of 61.6 offensive yards with 0.5 TDs per game against the Ravens; vs. Ray Lewis and Co, those are not bad numbers. The Ravens shut him down in Week One, when he went 12-45-0. The fact that Ravens only allow 109 yards and 0.3 TDs to running backs tells us they may give up yards, but Mendenhall hasn't been able to overcome the Ravens to post solid numbers. You should temper expectations, and I'm going to tell you to bench him if you have any alternatives.
RB Ray Rice, Ravens (at Steelers)
The Steelers have clamped down defensively but are allowing 107.3 offensive yards and 0.8 TDs per game to running backs over the last four weeks. Rice is performing well based on elite expectations, with 23.4 utilizations for 123.1 offensive yards and one TD per game. In Week One, Rice went 19-107-1 rushing and has a career average of 16.5 touches for 89.7 offensive yards and 0.3 TDs against Pittsburgh. You don't bench Rice, and he has an opportunity to continue to post elite numbers, even this week against the Steelers, because he's a dual-threat player.
RB Steven Jackson, Rams (at Cardinals)
Jackson has been a Ram since entering the league, and in 11 games against Arizona he's averaging 84.0 yards and 0.4 TDs per game. Nothing great, but that takes his early years into account. He's healthy right now, and the team has to lean on him as it did in Week Eight against the Cowboys. Over the last four games against the Cardinals he's averaging 96 offensive yards and 0.5 TDs per game. The fact that the Cardinals are allowing 139.7 offensive yards and two TDs per game to running backs means he could have another game posting elite numbers this week.
WR Mike Williams, Bucs (at Saints)
Williams is nothing but a "nice" player who had a great rookie campaign. However, he's enjoying a two-game uptick with an average of 12 targets for six receptions, 67 receiving yards and zero TDs. However, in three games against the Saints, he's averaging 4.7 catches for 48 yards and 0.3 TDs per game, which is nothing spectacular, and those are more flex or bye-week numbers. You don't bench Williams, because he has upside this week, but temper your expectations.
TE Heath Miller, Steelers (vs. Ravens)
Miller has a career average against the Ravens (13 games) of 2.6 receptions for 22.5 yards and 0.3 TDs per game and has a five-game average of 2-24-0. With the Ravens allowing only 19.3 yards and zero TD to opposing tight ends per game the last four weeks, this is not a matchup where you can trust Miller to have positive numbers. Look elsewhere.