Tricks of the trends after Week 1
Here is our weekly deep dive behind some of the key statistics (targets, red zone and goal line) for Fantasy Football success to help give you a little edge in your weekly quest for victory.
• Reggie Wayne has to be grinning from ear to ear now that Curtis "Finger" Painter is gone and Andrew Luck is in at quarterback for the Colts. No player in the NFL saw more targets in the season opener than Wayne, who was the intended receiver on 18 passes from Luck against the Chicago Bears. He caught nine of them -- second most in the league behind only running back Darren McFadden --- for 135 yards, and it is clear that with Luck in town, Wayne will be a great PPR receiver. He has a good shot to average 10 targets per game for the year and if that happens, he will be amongst the most consistent yardage producers on a weekly basis.
• I'd say you'd have to tip your cap to Tony Romo (or shake your head at the Giants secondary) in Week 1 as all three of his receivers were incredibly efficient. Kevin Ogletree led the way at 10.4 yards and 2.1 points per target. Miles Austin caught all four of his targets for 73 yards and a score, which equates to 18.3 yards and 3.3 points per target. Finally, Dez Bryant checked in at a solid 17 yards and 1.7 points per target. I understand why people love Ogletree, but keep in mind that last year in this role, Laurent Robinson averaged just 5.7 targets per game and was second in the NFL in touchdown percentage, points per target and was tops in red zone touchdown rate. Romo is great, but that kind of efficiency is unlikely once again from a third receiver in the Dallas offense, so don't go crazy with KO.
• My man Julio Jones started 2012 right where left off at the end of last season, catching six of his nine targets for 108 yards and two touchdowns. He now has three 100-yard games and three multiple touchdown games in his last five regular season starts and has not been below 76 yards receiving or been held without a touchdown in that span.
• No one was more efficient than Pierre Garcon in Week 1 as he caught all four of his targets for 108 yards and a touchdown. Not a bad quarter of work for the current league leader in yards (27.3) and Fantasy points (4.3) per target, as he was forced to leave the game early with a foot injury.
• I was worried about Vincent Jackson ability to maintain his extreme efficiency following his move to Tampa Bay. In San Diego, Jackson averaged over 17 yards per catch and 10 yards per target for his career, which are both elite numbers. In Week 1, Jackson saw a very healthy 10 targets, but posted a poor 11.8 yards per catch and just 4.8 yards per target. It is only one week and of course some long bombs can cure that in a hurry, but it is definitely something to keep an eye on.
• With his five carries and eight targets, Percy Harvin was the fourth-most involved receiver in Week 1. Last year, he was second in that category once Christian Ponder took over, so there is a good chance this a trend that will continue all year long, which is music to Harvin's owner's ears. He also averaged a very healthy 10.5 yards per target and caught 75 percent of his targets in what will be a banner year if he stays healthy. It should also be noted that his 11 touches were more than any other wide receiver this week as well.
• Wes Welker has had exactly one game with five or fewer targets in each of the last four seasons. That's it. One game with five or fewer and it has never happened this early in the season. In fact, over the last four years, Welker has averaged 8.5 catches and 12.25 targets per game in Week 1. If we see another low-target game in the near future it will definitely be time to worry about Wesley.
• Some lesser known or underappreciated receivers who need to be on your radar after seeing at least nine targets in Week 1: Randall Cobb (used as a third down back and will be a matchup nightmare), Danny Amendola , Michael Crabtree , Dexter McCluster , Andrew Hawkins and Sidney Rice .
• Some incredibly efficient receivers from Week 1 to keep an eye on (yards per target/points per target): Brandon LaFell (13/2.5), James Jones (13.5/2.35), Stephen Hill (14.8/3.48) and Malcom Floyd (11/2.1).
• Dennis Pitta made quite the impression on Monday night as he saw a team high nine targets and caught five of them for 73 yards and a touchdown. He was often flexed out wide for the Ravens and it should be noted that Pitta now has three touchdowns and double digit Fantasy points in his last four games, including the playoff run of 2011.
• My biggest concern with Jermaine Gresham was his lack of top end speed, which made his yards per target and yards per catch averages among the worst starting tight ends headed into 2012. Well, in Week 1, his 3.8 yards per target average was dead last among the 30 most targeted tight ends. He has to get better if he wants to break out and the matchup with the Browns in Week 2 should provide that opportunity.
• Run DMC may need to change his name to catch DMC. He was targeted an NFL high 18 times in Week 1 and caught 13 of them for 86 yards. No other two running backs totaled more than 12 catches combined and the top two yardage producers ( Chris Johnson and Reggie Bush ) after DMC had just 93 yards total. In fact, Darren McFadden had double the targets of LeSean McCoy , who was second at the position with nine.
• Target Leaders by position for week 1: Wide receiver: Reggie Wayne (18), Brandon Marshall (15), Jeremy Maclin (14), and many tied at 11; Tight end: Jermichael Finley (11), Coby Fleener , Jimmy Graham and Brandon Pettigrew (10); Running back: Darren McFadden (18) and LeSean McCoy (9)
• Matt Ryan sure was nice in Week 1, producing a league high 37 points against the Kansas City Chiefs. He did much of that damage in the Red Zone where he produced a league high four touchdowns, one of which was a five-yard scamper. The Falcons are going to be able to score from anywhere on the field and if Ryan can stay dominant inside the 20-yard line, he will absolutely have 40-touchdown potential.
• It sure looks like Michael Turner will need to score more often than not to have good Fantasy value this year. In Week 1, he saw five red zone opportunities, which was fifth-most in the league, but failed to punch in any touchdowns. He will have to make the most of these scoring chances to be counted on as a weekly play.
• Seven backs scored two red zone touchdowns in Week 1 and they are Arian Foster (on a league high seven red zone opportunities), Adrian Peterson (four), Ray Rice (four), Alfred Morris (four), Kevin Smith (three) and goal line vulture extraordinaire Michael Bush (four).
• In the more good news for Stevan Ridley department: In Week 1, Ridley had six red zone chances (second most) and converted one into a touchdown. Meanwhile, quarterback Tom Brady only attempted three red zone passes in Week 1.
• In my shameless preseason gushing over Julio Jones , I wrote the following: "I do want to see Jones become more involved in the red zone, and if he does, look out Calvin! Last year, Jones only scored two of his eight touchdowns inside the 20 and his nine red zone targets paled in comparison to the league high 30 that teammate Roddy White received." Well if Week 1 is any indication, Calvin should be on notice. Jones saw three red zone targets (same as White) and turned two of them into touchdowns, meaning his next score from inside the 20 will set a new career high.
• Russell Wilson clearly trusted Sidney Rice in scoring situations as he targeted his big receiver a league high four times in Week 1. They connected for a score as well and if Rice can stay healthy, he will be a solid No. 3 receiver if Wilson continues to force him the ball.
• Dennis Pitta is a sleeper on the rise after Week 1. He saw three red zone targets, second at his position, and converted one of them into a touchdown. Pitta has now scored a red zone touchdown in three of his last four games and four of his last six, including the playoff run of 2011. Clearly Joe Flacco trusts him in money situations and with the Ravens opening things up, Pitta is one to watch.
• I don't know if this means that the Steelers have no confidence in their running game, but I do find it odd that Ben Roethlisberger threw seven passes inside the five yard line in Week 1, while the team attempted only one rush.
• Alfred Morris certainly did his part to keep his job in Week 1 and at the goal line it was no different. Morris punched in both of his carries up close for a perfect 100 percent scoring rate after the season opener.
• Something to keep an eye on in Buffalo is that Tashard Choice saw two goal line carries in Week 1 while C.J. Spiller saw none. That could have been part of the blowout loss or it could be a vulture situation to watch.
• Heath Miller saw three goal line targets in the season opener, most in the NFL, and converted one of them into a touchdown. Keep an eye on his involvement going forward, because he is also tops at the tight end position with four targets after Week 1.