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NFL Fantasy Football Lister Week 10: Strange but true facts, shocking stories, outlandish tales

By Marc Hardin
NKyTribune contributor

Moon was Buzz Aldrin’s mother’s maiden name. Buzz Aldrin was the second man on the moon in 1969. His mother committed suicide in 1968, the year before the moon mission.

Warren Moon, the first African-American quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was actually undrafted coming out of college in 1978.

Radical rocker Frank Zappa, whose nonconformist almost jazz-like improvisational sound made his music virtually inaccessible to most, had his only top 40 hit with a novelty tune called “Valley Girl” in 1982. It was a goofy song featuring spoken-word vocals by his 14-year-old daughter Moon Unit Zappa, who imitated her Southern California friends while employing local slang typical of the time with lyrics such as “grody to the max” and “gag me with a spoon.”

With the simple use of a seemingly innocuous rabbit hole in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll invented a fictional portal and a metaphor for an entry into the unknown, while creating a new slang expression for a disorienting experience. The 19th century tale went on to be considered one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre.

These disparate trailblazers asked us to jump down the rabbit hole and imagine a world with wildly idiosyncratic musicians who could find their way onto the pop charts, black quarterbacks who could successfully run an NFL offense, not just one man on the moon but 12, and children’s stories that become influential in popular culture and literature, especially the fantasy genre.

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

Looking at the NFL’s record-breaking 2018 offensive explosion is the easiest way to show just how far down the hole we’ve gone in fantasy football. Some of the numbers are super inflated, others just plain ridiculous, sending certain happy fantasy owners over the moon. Other unsuspecting owners who didn’t see it coming are left wanting to find a hole to crawl in.

At the very least, the wild ride has been, well, idiosyncratic. At most, it’s been quite surreal. For example, NFL teams averaged 21.7 points per game last season. This season, the average is up to 24. Last year, the Rams were the only team to average more than 29 points per game. This season, four teams are averaging more than 30 points, led by the Chiefs’ eye-popping 36.3.

Individually, how about Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen? He leads the league with 78 catches for 947 yards, putting him on a 16-game pace for 138 receptions. The NFL single-season record is 143. Thielen’s yardage total projects to 1,683, which would rank 11th in league history. This is the same Adam Thielen who had 79 total catches his first three years, just one more than he has right now after nine games!

Speaking of strange receiving numbers, what Chargers wide out Tyrell Williams lacks in targets he more than makes up for with chunk yardage and scores. Over his last three games, he’s averaging a measly three catches. However, he’s also averaging a robust 86.3 yards per game with four touchdowns. Weeks 6 and 7, he had back-to-back 118-yard games. Strange but true, Williams is still unowned in 70 percent of leagues nationwide.

More of the surreal. Tampa Bay slot receiver Adam Humphries, virtually unowned around the country, is averaging 14.4 points per game in points-per-reception leagues over his last five games, more than No. 2 Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson (12.2). Reality check. With no semblance of a successful Bucs running game, expect Humphries to continue seeing targets in the Bucs’ pass-dependent offense.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE

Outlandish tales are nothing new to the NFL so Rod Serling has nothing on professional football. The Green Bay Packers’ season ticket waiting list has a reported 86,000 people on it. Considering that some reports indicate fewer than 100 people leave the list annually, it would take about 955 years to make it to the top. To put that strange fact into perspective, construction on the Tower of London on the north bank of the River Thames began 940 years ago.

Strange: Rumor has it that no network footage exists of Super Bowl I because the original tape was reportedly used to record a soap opera. Controversial receiver and former Bengals player Terrell Owens, who did not show up for his own hall of fame enshrinement, wrote a children’s book called “Little T Learns to Share.”

True: The Baltimore Ravens’ three bird mascots are named Edgar, Allan and Poe. Former 49ers quarterback Steve Young is the great-great-great-grandson of Mormon leader Brigham Young.The great-great grandfather of Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri was the bandmaster for General George Custer. He survived Little Big Horn because Custer had suggested he ride back to camp before the battle.

STARS OF THE SHOW

Also from the strange-but-true file: Former Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson once raced a horse for charity and won. Former Lions defender Alex Karras’ film character Mongo punched out a horse in Blazing Saddles. Houston Oilers defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan punched fellow coach Kevin Gilbride in the face in real life on Monday Night Football in 1994.

Way before Warren Moon, the aptly named Willie Thrower was the first black quarterback in the NFL for the Chicago Bears in 1953. In 2002, the Patriots’ Tom Brady led the NFL with 28 TD passes. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes currently leads the league with 29, after just nine games. The single-season record is 55. Mahomes is on pace for 51. To put that into historical perspective, it took Johnny Unitas, at one time the gold standard for NFL quarterbacks, three years to get to 52 career passing TDs. When Unitas set the league single-season record with 32 in 1959, he broke Frankie Albert’s 11-year old record of 29, Mahomes’ total right now.

Last season, the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson led the league with 34 TD passes and fantasy QBs with 347.9 points or 21.7 per game. Mahomes is averaging a whopping 27 points per game. That projects to a 16-game total of 433, more than the combined 2017 totals of Andy Dalton (210.7) and Marcus Mariota (210.5). It should again be noted that Mahomes’ ascension comes, unbelievably enough, after he played in one game last season as a rookie.

Just three short years ago, four players — Doug Baldwin, Devonta Freeman, Brandon Marshall and Allen Robinson — tied for the NFL lead with 14 touchdowns. After nine games, Rams running back Todd Gurley has scored a league-leading 16. He’s on pace for 28. Gurley’s 40 career rushing TDs in basically three and a half seasons is as many or more than two NFL hall of famers produced in their entire careers: Ollie Matson (40 rushing TDs in 15 seasons) and Gayle Sayers (39 in seven seasons).

STRANGERS TO THE BIG TIME

San Francisco’s Nick Mullens, who began the season as the third-string quarterback, stepped into the starting role on Thursday Night Football and had the best QB debut in NFL history. Mullens, in for Jimmy Garoppolo’s replacement, C. J. Beathard (injured wrist), finished 16 of 22 passing for 262 yards in a win over the Raiders. He threw three TDs and had no interceptions for a passer rating of 151.9, the highest for a QB with at least 20 attempts in a debut since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Owners in 20-team leagues who are desperate for a QB should take note.

In the absence of injured Falcons lead back Devonta Freeman, current No. 2 Ito Smith, unowned in 70 percent of leagues, is averaging 10.3 points per game in PPR over his last five games. He’s scored four TDs in that span for a team that made former No. 2 back and current No. 1 Tevin Coleman a household name when Freeman was the man. Should Freeman remain out, expect Smith to put up numbers similar to what Coleman generated when he was Atlanta’s No. 2 back.

In his last five games, Seahawks No. 2 back Mike Davis has been on a season pace of 912 yards and 10 touchdowns for a team that prefers to run the football. Unowned in 80 percent of leagues, he has some stand-alone appeal as a No. 2 back in larger leagues but could quickly emerge as a bona fide stud in the event of any missed time by lead back Chris Carson, who’s nursing hip and groin injuries and is questionable this weekend.

Some surprising tight ends ranking outside the top 15 are in the midst of scoring binges. Denver’s Jeff Heuerman, rated no better than 30th in most listings, has scored touchdowns in two straight games and is averaging better than 15 points per game in that span. The Jets’ Chris Herndon, listing just inside the top 20, has three TDs in four games. Over that span, he’s averaging 12 points per game. Both are probably available in your league.

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