Have you heard about this combo?
This one-two punch is one of the best in the league and week in, week out, they look pretty unbeatable.
Every team Detroit has faced in recent weeks has trouble stopping them and the result has been incredible unseen before production.
Of course, I'm talking about the Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, the team's No. 1 and 2 starters heading into the postseason tonight against the vaunted New York Yankees.
Detroit is a baseball town. They love their Lions, Red Wings and Pistons but when the Tigers are remotely good, the fans turn out in droves, even in the midst of an economic downturn that has caused more people to lose their jobs than in other states.
The Tigers' incredible second half has the people of Detroit forgetting for a moment everything else going on in the world of sports around them.
While Verlander and Fister have been downright dominant, there's another combo just across the street from Comerica Park at Ford Field that has fantasy owners taking notice: Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.
Johnson has been a fantasy stud at the wide receiver position since his second year in the league, but never at this level of success. Already the former Georgia Tech star has six touchdowns, which is already halfway to his season career high of 12 (2008 and 2010). And judging by the Tweets this week of his QB and the motivation Johnson has shown since getting dissed by Cris Carter, one has to expect that kind of production to continue through at least this weekend. The ESPN commentator didn't include Johnson as one of the top six receivers in football in the preseason. However, Johnson is on the verge of tying Carter's mark for consecutive games with multiple touchdowns at four. Seeing that the Lions are playing a beat-up secondary Sunday in Dallas, I think that's going to be a shared record after this weekend.
But saying Johnson is a stud is kind of like saying the Red Sox blew it.
The surprise has come from Matthew Stafford, who, while it's only three games, is the third highest scoring quarterback in fantasy so far, behind Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Stafford was a sexy sleeper this preseason, and not just because he uses Axe Body products. But the knock on Stafford is that he hasn't been able to stay healthy. Just because he's been solid through three weeks doesn't mean that concern has gone away. Normally in this situation, I'd recommend trading him while he's still upright, particularly when the Lions have talked about this week concerns over how many times Stafford has been hit.
But Stafford is starting have that Peyton Hillis/Michael Vick feel from last year, like you're watching something special. Hopefully for him, and Lions fans, it doesn't have the same result, with both guys getting banged up toward the end of the year and not being nearly as effective. Stafford is playing at that kind of level, where he can help deliver wins in your league and give you a sizeable lead in the standings, sort of like the Cleveland Indians had in May.
Speaking of seeing something special, Brady is showing signs of 2007 again, when he threw for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns. Already through three games, Brady has tossed for 1,327 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has a reputation for being a guy who spreads it around, but so far, the main beneficiaries have been Wes Welker (458 yards, 4 TDs) and Rob Gronkowski (281 yards, 5 TDs). Add in Deion Branch's 222 yards (even with no catches last week) and you see who's getting the spread and who is still left hungry (Chad Ochocinco).
A guy who won't be seeing any more balls any time soon is Kenny Britt, who went on the injured reserve this week when he dedicated his ligaments to surgeon study. In his place, Tiffin University's own Nate Washington will elevate to the No. 1 receiver spot, but was already producing like a No. 1 receiver (21 catches, 258 yards, 1 TD). Taking his spot at No. 2 looks to be Damian Williams and Lavell Hawkins, both of which have pedestrian numbers so far, but are worth keeping an eye on.
One replacement on your team for Britt is Torrey Smith of Baltimore. The rookie made good in his first start with five catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns. He was playing in place of Lee Evans who has an ankle injury. He'll start this weekend again in place of Evans. I'd exercise caution here. Here's a few things to remember. Rookie wide receivers don't typically produce at a high level in their first season. The aforementioned Johnson had just 756 yards and four scores in his rookie year before transforming into Megatron his sophomore season.
So while it was a great week, Smith had just one target in the first two weeks. It struck me as a right place, right time situation. Anquan Boldin is still the No. 1 receiver there and unless Smith puts up solid numbers for a second week, I think Evans stands to get the gig back when he returns from an injury.
Vick owners are seeing the full effects of the high risk/high reward of the quarterback. For the second straight week he left a game with an injury and for the second straight we have guarantees that he's going to start. When Vick is on, he has shown the ability to be the best player in fantasy football but his frame and his style leave him open to the situations we've seen the last two weeks. I don't see this going away any time soon and having a solid backup is vital for Vick owners.
In most situations, when you have a stud at a position like that, the backup is not as important because unless you play in a two QB league, your backup is only starting one week: the bye. I fear that Vick's tempting of fate is ultimately going to lead to him being on the sideline for a few games.
Some options out there in many leagues include Chad Henne, Mark Sanchez and Matt Hasselback. They are not going to score like Vick most weeks, but they have the potential to have huge games.
Talk of big games brings us back to Verlander. For a guy who has openly admitted his goal is to get to the Hall of Fame, his road to Cooperstown can get much straighter starting tonight. If he wants to be considered one of the best ever, now is the time. Now is the time you take what made you dominant in the regular season and translate it to postseason success.
And in the process, Verlander could help rid the world of a small bit of tyranny and evil: the New York Yankees.
History awaits you.
Aaron Korte is the A-T's fantasy sports writer and unabashed Detroit Tigers fan. He can be reached at akorte(at)advertiser-tribune(dot)com.