BY ZACHARY KRUEGER
No Matter How Ugly, It's a Win
We get to open this week's article with a Ravens story. Albeit, it may be a tad unimpressive and mundane, but that's what you get with them this year.
If you don't want to hear about how ugly the Ravens four wins have been on the season, then start by explaining them outscoring their opponents in those for wins by a total of seven points. In their four wins, the Ravens are winning games by an average margin of 1.75 points.
Baltimore welcomed the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers to Charm City on Sunday, and promptly sent them packing with a 21-14 victory, all while propelling them to first in the AFC North divisional race.
Neither Joe Flacco or Ben Roethlisberger looked exceptionally well on Sunday, which was expected of Roethlisberger after coming off a surgery to repair a torn meniscus earlier than expected.
The offensive numbers for both teams were horrendous, but the Ravens were particularly bad out of the backfield. Baltimore combined to run the ball 29 times for 50 yards on the ground, posting a dismal 1.7 YPC.
Perhaps one of the less talked about disappointments in the running game was rookie running back Kenneth Dixon taking nine carries for 13 yards. His longest carry of the game went for six yards.
Just a few weeks ago it was the Steelers who helped put Jay Ajayi on the map when he ran for for over 200 yards on them, giving off the false impression that the Steelers could be run on by anybody. Well, that isn't quite the case, as the Steelers are 13th in the league in rushing yards allowed (99.6 RPG), but nobody would have predicted that the Ravens would take 29 carries for 50 yards on the day.
Terrence West isn't the future running back in Baltimore, it's supposed to be Dixon, at least we think. He was injured to start the season, and is just now starting to get looks, but Sunday felt like the day Dixon would officially put himself on the map. At least I thought so. Like an idiot, I even boldly predicted that. I even started him in fantasy this week!!!! Although a lot of people did apparently thanks to the dreadful Week 9 byes. Anyhow, I digress...
The Ravens struggled to get to their fourth win of the season. If not for a blocked put and a 95-yard touchdown receptions by Mike Wallace, the Ravens would have been looking at their lowest offensive output of the season since scoring only 13 points at home against the Bills in Week 1.
The Ravens get a short week before heading into Week 10 where they will host the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about this game could be the color rush uniforms the Ravens will be rolling out on Thursday. That being said, I'm also holding out hope that perhaps the offense will take a chance and rise up against an underwhelming Browns defense.
The Browns are looking more and more like an 0-16 team, but we've overlooked pathetic teams before. Just ask the 2007 Miami Dolphins.
Missing: Packers Offense, If Found Return to Green Bay
The Green Bay Packers have dropped to 4-4 on the season, losing to a Colts team that quite frankly folks, doesn't have a very good defense. But you wouldn't have known that Sunday afternoon.
The Packers looked lost, yet again for the better part of Sunday, and only managed to make the game close after finding themselves down 31-13 with 9:35 left in the fourth quarter.
Aaron Rodgers finished the day going 26-for-43 for 297 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, while his teammates continued to let him down by not being passionate enough about football. At least that would be Rodgers' assessment.
The Packers do not have a running game right now, although Ty Montgomery did look the part (once again) of an NFL running back, taking seven carries for 53 yards while also hauling in three receptions for 38 yards. Had Montgomery not been sick last week, he may have played a bigger role in Sunday's matchup with the Colts, but he needs to get more involved because, well, he isn't exactly bad. Since taking over the role as the team's running back, Montgomery has taken 21 carries for 119 yards, good for a 5.7 YPC average.
It seems like such a novice concept, but perhaps establishing a successful run game could lead to a more prolific passing offense for one of the league's best quarterbacks.
There may be some more uphill sledding for Green Bay heading into Week 10 as well, as they travel to Tennessee to face a Titans defense that has posted a few solid performances against talented offenses already.
The Opportunity is There, Unless it Isn't
The more I learn about and talk fantasy football, the more I learn that there are a lot of people who play the game who don't appreciate the opportunities their fantasy players bring them.
I was reminded of this yesterday in my fantasy matchup, where my opponent (although he did beat my team riddled with bye weeks) chose to leave Jay Ajayi on the bench because of the statistical matchup against the Jets.
You should know who Jay Ajayi is by now if you didn't know him before as the Miami running back who could never seem to get a grasp on the starting running back job. Well, he has the starting job now, and has rushed for a total of 529 yards on 77 carries and four touchdowns in his last four games...you don't bench that ever. Regardless of matchup.
Why? Opportunity share.
If you don't know/understand opportunity share, then you haven't quite grasped fantasy football yet.
Opportunity share as explained on PlayerProfiler.com is the, "percentage of total team running back carries plus targets." It's why guys like Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon are such viable and important fantasy running backs.
Aside from their talent, Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley are top fantasy options EVERY SINGLE WEEK despite only averaging 4.0 YPC and 3.1 YPC per game respectively. Prior to Sunday's game against the Titans, Gordon was only averaging 3.5 YPC on the season.
These players have held their value however because of their opportunity share. On the season, Gordon has a 78.6% opportunity share while Todd Gurley has had a whopping 85.2% opportunity share on the year with the Rams.
Guys like Giovani Bernard (48.5%)/Jeremy Hill (48.5%), Duke Johnson (40.6%)/Isaiah Crowell (56.1%), any Patriots running back, etc., if you want to play them based on matchup, that's fine. Because their opportunity share is vastly lower than the above mentioned guys.
You want to start those guys based on their explosiveness and likelihood to score rather than how many chances they will be given to do so.
Then there's guys like Jay Ajayi, who you should want to start even if he was facing the '85 Bears tomorrow.
If you haven't looked into things like opportunity share, or even target share, I highly encouage you to do so. You can find it all on PlayerProfiler.com. If you don't want to look any of that up, you probably have no real interest in winning your fantasy football league. If you want to ignore opportunity share, you are ignoring a chance to propel you and your fantasy team forward.
Follow Zachary on Twitter at @CentralBirdland