Tricks of the trends after Week 13
Here is a 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.
• I have always been a big fan of Dez Bryant and would constantly rank him higher than most because I thought we were dealing with another physically dominant receiver like Calvin Johnson or Andre Johnson . Bryant would tease us with flashes of his talent but never could put a full game together and did not even have a single 100-yard game in 2011. Well, something has clicked for Bryant and you can see the confidence growing every single week. Frankly it should be growing as Bryant has been on fire since Week 4. If you throw out the two games that Bryant was injured and used as a decoy, he has produced 10 or more Fantasy points in seven straight games, including 20-plus Fantasy points in each of the last three games. In those seven games, Bryant has been targeted 76 times and has caught 55 of them (72 percent) for 785 yards (10.3 yards per target) and eight touchdowns. He is averaging a ridiculous 1.76 Fantasy points per target and more importantly to you, he has produced an average of 18.2 Fantasy points per game. Bryant has produced 100 yards or a touchdown in every one of those games and has produced 100 yards and a touchdown or multiple touchdowns in four of those games, including the last three. Dez is on fire and is finally producing like the Top 5 receiver I always thought he could be.
• Calvin Johnson has an NFL record five straight games with 125 or more yards receiving and has a legitimate shot to break Jerry Rice's all-time, single-season record for receiving yards of 1,848 yards, set back in 1995. In his last five games alone, Johnson has caught 45 passes for 720 yards and four touchdowns! For the season, Johnson already has eight games with more than 100 yards receiving and has totaled 1,428 yards with four games still to play. He is on pace for 1,904 yards receiving and a 2,000-yard season is not totally out of the question. If he can just average 143 yards per game the rest of the way, he will get there. When you say that sounds crazy, keep in mind that Johnson has averaged 158 yards per game over his last five. We are witnessing another historic season from one of the best to ever play the game.
• Poor Larry Fitzgerald has no chance with Ryan Lindley at quarterback and he has to be benched until he gets some help in Arizona. In three games with Lindley under center, Fitz has been the target of 26 passes and he has caught just five of them for 65 yards total. That means that one of the best receivers of all time is catching just 19 percent of his targets while averaging 2.5 yards and 0.25 points per target. I don't think the issue is with Mr. Fitzgerald, but you have to face the fact that he is averaging just two points per game with Lindley under center and has to be benched going forward.
• I know he has not produced massive totals of late, but Lance Moore has been one of the most efficient receivers in the NFL over the last seven weeks. In those seven games, Moore has found the end zone in only one game and has only three double-digit games, but the only thing holding Moore back is a lack of targets. Over this seven game stretch, Moore has been targeted 47 times (6.7 per game) but has 33 catches (70.2 percent catch rate) for 535 yards (11.4 yards per target) and two touchdowns. Those are tremendous efficiency metrics and it should come as no surprise that Moore has averaged 11 points per game (without a touchdown mind you) in the three games during that stretch with at least seven targets. If Moore can consistently receive eight targets per game down the stretch, he could really have a strong finish to the 2012 season.
• Chris Givens is back in a big way for the Rams and if Danny Amendola remains on the sideline, we may have a nice No. 3 receiver for your teams for the stretch run. Over the last two games, Givens has been targeted 20 times and has 16 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown. He is catching 80 percent of his targets, averaging 10.35 yards per target and 1.3 Fantasy points per target as the primary receiver for Sam Bradford . In Week 13, Givens showed that he is more than just a vertical threat by catching 11 passes for 92 yards. If he can continue to develop as an overall receiver, Givens will have a very bright future in this league.
• I have to give Donnie Avery props for his excellent Week 13 as he caught five passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns, but he did see 14 targets, so he still remains inefficient. T.Y. Hilton is my man and caught six of his 12 targets for 100 yards and no touchdowns in the Colts' amazing comeback win over the Lions. Hilton now has 100 yards receiving or a touchdown in three straight games and has produced 100 yards or more in four of his five career games with eight or more targets (he has scored in three of them to boot). If he is available in a keeper league or a standard league for that matter, get this man off of the waiver wire immediately.
• Greg Jennings made his long awaited return to action in Week 13 and caught four of his eight targets for 46 yards against the Vikings. He has now seen eight or more targets in three games this year but has not reached 50 yards receiving in a single game. Hopefully Jennings can pick things up for you in the Fantasy playoffs, but he will have to significantly improve upon the career worst 4.1 yards per target he has produced in his injury riddled 2012 season.
• Mike Wallace is another receiver who can be benched right now. He has not reached 50 yards receiving in four straight games and has not produced 70 yards in a game since Week 6. The once great vertical threat has exactly one game of 100 yards receiving in his last 22 games, which becomes even crazier when you consider that he had 10 games with 100 yards receiving in the 21 that preceded this drought. For a big-play guy, Wallace is averaging just 6.8 yards per target, which is just a little more than half of the 12.3 yards per target he averaged before this season. Teams have realized that if you take away the deep ball, Wallace is pretty darn average. It also doesn't help Wallace that he has dropped more than a few potential big plays.
• Sidney Rice had his best game of the year in Week 13, catching six passes for 99 yards and a game-winning touchdown against the Bears. Rice has a touchdown in four of the last five games and five of the last seven. A closer look reveals that Rice is in such a groove that all he needs is six targets in a game to produce. During this seven-game barrage, Rice has seen six or more targets four times and he has scored in every one of those games. In fact, Rice has produced at least 11 Fantasy points in each of those games and has averaged 14.25 points per game when he sees six or more targets. For the year, Rice is averaging a ridiculous 1.53 Fantasy points per target, which puts him in the Top 4 at the receiver position for the season, which is very impressive.
• Eric Decker was red hot in the middle of the season as he had a stretch of six straight games with 100 yards or a touchdown from Week 3 to Week 9. Decker scored in five of those games and produced 79 or more yards four times, but the wheels have fallen off of the proverbial bus since then. In the last four games, Decker has one touchdown, but has produced a grand total of 10 catches for 119 yards. He has two games of exactly one point in his last four and we have a dreaded situation of decreased opportunities and decreased efficiency. In the six-game stretch of glory, Decker averaged nine targets per game, caught 68.5 percent of them and produced 8.8 yards and 1.65 Fantasy points per target. In the last four games, Decker saw just 4.75 targets per game, caught 52 percent of them and produced just 6.3 yards and 0.95 Fantasy points per target. Perhaps the increased involvement of a certain tight end is cutting into Decker's production or teams have figured out a way to slow down Decker, who is much less dynamic than teammate Demaryius Thomas , who continues to thrive. Either way, it is a big concern for those of us expecting a big playoff push for Decker who has a put up or shut up matchup with the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night.
• Jacob Tamme is finally playing like the ultra sleeper he became once it was announced that he was following Peyton Manning to Denver this offseason. Tamme saw a season-high 13 targets in Week 13 and caught nine of them for 89 yards, which are also both season highs. Over the last two weeks, Tamme has been targeted 20 times and has 13 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. I think Peyton is starting to lean on his familiar friend for the stretch run, which means Tamme has legit Top 12 potential the rest of the way.
• Aaron Hernandez really looked like himself against the Dolphins in Week 13 and I think the stud tight end could be in line for a big finish to the year. He was targeted 13 times and caught eight passes for 97 yards while narrowly missing a couple of touchdowns. With Brandon Lloyd being a complete bust, look for a healthy Hernandez to be very involved and very productive from here on out.
• Many of you may be into the Fantasy playoffs thanks to Brandon Myers , who caught 14 of his 15 targets for a career-high 130 yards and a touchdown in Week 13 against the Browns. What you may not know is that Myers had a garbage time drive for the ages as he literally had a game's worth of production in three minutes and 20 seconds. On the final drive, Myers caught all six of his targets for 73 yards and the touchdown! He accounted for 73 of the Raiders' 84 yards on the drive and produced 13 standard and 19 PPR Fantasy points in just another remarkable twist to an amazing season for the Oakland tight end.
• Target Leaders by position for Week 13: Wide receiver: Calvin Johnson (20), Wes Welker (18), Donnie Avery (14), Chris Givens (14), Brandon Marshall (14), and A.J. Green (13); Tight end: Brandon Myers (15), Aaron Hernandez (13) and Jacob Tamme (13); Running back: Darren Sproles (nine) and Ronnie Brown (eight)
• Of the 36 quarterbacks with at least 16 red zone chances this year, there are six with scoring rates greater than 30 percent. The six are Drew Brees (34 percent), Peyton Manning (34), Josh Freeman (33), Chad Henne (33) and Andy Dalton (30). Yes, I know that is only five, because No. 6 is Alex Smith at an NFL-best 42 percent (believe it or not).
• Drew Brees leads all quarterbacks with 24 red zone passing touchdowns, which is amazingly just two fewer than Eli Manning (11), Cam Newton (seven) and Robert Griffin III (eight) have combined.
• After finding the end zone in three straight games, Michael Turner is now third in the NFL with seven red zone rushing scores in 2012. After scoring on just 12 percent of his red zone carries over the first nine games of the year, Turner has scored on three of his last seven red zone chances and has legit 10 touchdown potential this year. Amazingly, if Turner gets to 10 touchdowns it will be his fifth straight year with 10 or more scores on the ground.
• Bryce Brown needs to stop fumbling so that a new star can be officially born. After running for more than 150 yards and two touchdowns in each of his first two NFL starts, Brown could be destined for greatness. He looks darn good in the red zone as well, scoring on 30 percent (three of 10) of his red zone carries. To put that into perspective for 2012, LeSean McCoy had converted just two of his 22 red zone carries prior to getting hurt in Week 11, so Brown has been an improvement in all aspects of the ground game in Philly.
• Josh Freeman is finding out what Peyton Manning knew all along; Dallas Clark is pretty darn good in the red zone. Clark has now scored in three of his last four games (all red zone scores) on just four red zone targets. In his first eight games in Tampa, Clark received only five red zone targets and had one touchdown. Over the last four games, Clark has become a priority in the red zone, with the four targets and three scores. If you needed some tight end help Clark could help out, especially in touchdown heavy formats.
• Who is the goal line back for the Panthers? Why that would be Cam Newton of course, who has six goal line rushing scores in 2012, which is tied for third in the entire league behind only Arian Foster (10) and Andre Brown (8). He has 10 carries on the year from inside the five-yard line while all other Panther running backs have nine goal line carries combined.
• When the Lions get near the end zone, they just need to start giving the ball to Mikel Leshoure on every play. Leshoure has scored on all four of his goal line carries this year and is the only runner among the 32 with at least four carries to have a 100 percent scoring rate.
• If there was any doubt about the roles of the Dolphins runners at the stripe, let me put an end to that right now. For the year, Reggie Bush has taken two goal line carries and has not scored a short touchdown. Meanwhile, Daniel Thomas has received eight goal line carries and has scored four goal line touchdowns, which is tied for sixth among all running backs. Knowing that Reggie Bush will not get any easy touchdowns and has just two games of 100 total yards all year (and none since Week 2), it becomes very tough to ever realistically count on 10 points from him.
• Mike Williams has really benefitted from the arrival of Vincent Jackson this year and has six touchdowns already in 2012. You may be surprised to learn that three of those scores have come from the goal line area, tying him with Eric Decker and A.J. Green at the wide receiver position.