Tricks of the trends after Week 7
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.
• Wow! 216 yards! That's how many Vincent Jackson racked up against the Saints in Week 7 as he hauled in seven of his season high 14 targets and scored a touchdown. Jackson now has 17 catches for 382 yards and four touchdowns in his last three games and has seen a very solid 33 targets. He is only catching 45 percent of his targets, but when you factor in that he is averaging 21.7 yards per catch, 9.8 yards per target and 1.48 points per target, we will let that slide. V-Jax is thriving as the main man in Tampa Bay and he is making the most of his career high 10 targets per game average.
• Anyone who thought Victor Cruz was a one-year wonder was sorely mistaken. While he is not hitting big plays on a weekly basis like he did last year, although he had a 77 yard score in Week 7, Cruz is showing that he is one of the best inside receivers in the NFL. He leads the NFL with 81 targets, is third with 50 catches, is Top 5 with 628 yards and is tied for the lead amongst receivers with seven touchdowns. When you consider that Cruz has maintained his elite receiver status despite seeing his yards per catch go from 18.7 last year to 12.5 this year, you have to be very impressed. I know that I am and I think Cruz will be even more dangerous once Hakeem Nicks gets back to full speed.
• Randall Cobb was one of my favorite sleepers headed into the 2012 season and now the secret is out about the electric second year wide receiver. Over the last three weeks, Cobb is finally being allowed to run some downfield routes and boy is it paying dividends. During that span, Cobb has seen 22 targets and has caught 19 of them (86.3 percent) for 273 yards (12.4 yards per target) and three touchdowns. He has seen his yards per catch, yards per target and Fantasy points per target all jump up from the first four weeks of the season and he is here to stay. When Greg Jennings comes back, it could very well be the end of James Jones' value, but Cobb is looking like a dominant force for the rest of the year.
• In two games without Danny Amendola in the lineup, Brandon Gibson has seen 16 targets and has hauled in 12 of them for 151 yards. He has at least five catches in both games and should continue his solid play in Week 8 against the New England Patriots who cannot stop anyone in the passing game. Gibson is a great grab and play this week, especially in PPR leagues. Teammate Chris Givens has posted a team high 158 receiving yards over the last two weeks and is also worth a look against the Pats.
• I know fall is here and winter is right around the corner, but that does not mean it is time to put away your shorts just yet. You see Cecil Shorts , not Justin Blackmon , has emerged as the go to guy for Blaine Gabbert and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Shorts leads the team with three scores on the year and also has topped 70 yards receiving three times as well. In the two games in which Shorts has seen at least seven targets, he has caught eight passes for 153 yards and two scores. In Week 7 against the Raiders, Shorts made his first career start and saw a season high 10 targets. He caught four of them for 79 yards and the score. For the year, he is averaging 23.7 yards per catch, 9.8 yards per target and a very solid 1.6 Fantasy points per target. If you need a sleeper wide receiver to get you through the bye weeks, Shorts is worth a look as long as Gabbert is healthy.
• Lance Moore certainly benefitted from the absence of Jimmy Graham in Week 7 as he saw a team-high 10 targets and caught nine of those passes for 121 yards. Moore has now seen 25 targets in his last two games and has caught 16 of them for 188 yards. Perhaps the most amazing thing about those stats is that both games were played outdoors, which typically is not good news for Sir Lancelot. He will go outdoors again in Week 8 against the Denver Broncos in what should be a high-flying offensive display and he is a solid start once again.
• Eric Decker is on fire of late and if you watched the matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7, you have to expect that to continue on Sunday night. Decker has scored or topped 100 yards receiving in four straight games thanks to a solid target workload and excellent efficiency. In those games, Decker has seen 37 targets and has caught 25 of them (67.6 percent) for 334 yards and three scores. He is averaging a solid 9.0 yards per target and is scoring 1.4 Fantasy points per target. He is not the vertical threat that Demaryius Thomas is, but Decker is a precise route runner with sure hands. That has made him a favorite of Peyton Manning and I expect that to continue this week against the generous Saints.
• If you are in a PPR league and are looking for an elite receiver to "buy low" on, go after Antonio Brown . He may not be a touchdown maker, with only three scores in his last 22 games, but Brown gets tons of targets, catches and yards. Brown is currently 14th at 9.5 targets per game and has hauled in 36 passes for 442 yards and the one score in six games. He catches a solid 63.2 percent of his targets and is averaging six catches per game. Brown has been held under 74 yards receiving only once all year. That means in a PPR league you can just about pencil him in for 13 points per game and if he starts to score, you have a breakout player on your hands.
• Joe Flacco turned in the lowest Total Quarterback Rating since 2008 on Sunday against the Houston Texans when his score was 0.3. His receivers really paid the price as Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith saw a combined 21 targets and caught just seven of them 65 yards. That's a pathetic 33 percent catch rate and the two of them averaged just 3.1 yards per target. Flacco has been brutal on the road all year and that certainly was the case in Week 7. The bigger issue as I see it is that Flacco is going to have to carry the Ravens on his back given the injuries and struggles of the team on the defensive side of the ball. Whether or not he is up to the task of leading an offense that will be one-dimensional at times remains to be seen. If he can produce then both Smith and Boldin will finish the year very strong given that they will see a ton of targets. If he cannot, this Ravens team and its Fantasy value could sink like a rock.
• Vernon Davis did not receive a single target in Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks and that my friends, is totally unacceptable. He is averaging 10 yards per target, best on the 49ers and second best at tight end this year. More importantly for Fantasy owners is that Davis is leading all tight ends at 1.79 Fantasy points per target. Alex Smith must make it a priority to get the ball to Davis, who is clearly the best playmaker that the 49ers have in the passing game. Hopefully the fallout from the zero target game will lead to change.
• Dustin Keller was finally back at 100 percent and it was great news for Mark Sanchez . Keller has been Sanchez's top target in each of the last two seasons and in Week 7 he caught all seven of his targets for 93 yards and a touchdown. Look for Keller to re-establish himself as the top option for Sanchez going forward and if you need a tight end for your teams, Keller is definitely worth a look.
• Who leads all running backs with 17 targets over the last two weeks? The answer is Fred Jackson of the Buffalo Bills, who has caught 13 of those targets for 79 yards and a touchdown. With Jackson and C.J. Spiller both sharing time in the backfield, Jackson's heavy utilization at the goal line and in the passing game will keep him relevant alongside the unbelievably talented Spiller.
• Target Leaders by position for Week 7: Wide receiver: Mike Wallace (15), Vincent Jackson (14), Torrey Smith (13), Jeremy Kerley (11), Victor Cruz (11), Calvin Johnson (11) and Reggie Wayne (11); Tight end Owen Daniels (10), Brandon Myers (10), Rob Gronkowski (9), Dennis Pitta (8), Heath Miller (8) and Jason Witten (8); Running back: Fred Jackson (11), Shonn Greene (9) and Rashad Jennings (9)
• Hey new general manager of the Carolina Panthers, please sign Plaxico Burress so that Cam Newton has someone to throw the ball to in the red zone! Last year, Burress was brilliant with Mark Sanchez under center, turning seven of his 22 red zone targets into touchdowns, which is an excellent 31.8 percent scoring rate. When you consider that Cam Newton has thrown just three red zone scores on his 24 pass attempts (12.5 percent scoring rate), it is obvious he needs some help in that part of the field. Burress would be the perfect solution right off of the street and here is hoping that someone in Carolina realizes you can't depend on a wide receiver who is the height of a jockey when the field becomes compressed.
• Drew Brees (14), Aaron Rodgers (13) and Matt Ryan (12) are the only quarterbacks with double-digit red zone passing touchdowns thus far. Believe it or not, but Christian Ponder is tied fourth with nine passing scores along with Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning . Tom Brady checks in at fourth overall with 10 total red zone scores (eight passing and two rushing).
• Arian Foster leads the NFL with 40 red zone rushes and nine red zone rushing touchdowns. No other running back has more than five red zone rushing scores and only the combo of Shonn Greene (five) and Ray Rice (five) has more rushing scores than Foster alone inside the 20-yard line.
• Steven Jackson finally got into the end zone this week and now the dubious distinction of most red zone carries without a touchdown belongs to Jamaal Charles with 11.
• In New England, BenJarvus Green-Ellis enjoyed a 50 percent red zone-scoring rate as part of that electric offense. I was worried about the move to Cincinnati's impact on his scoring efficiency and clearly the concern was valid. Through seven games with the Bengals, Green-Ellis is 10th with 18 red zone carries, but has only two scores, which is an awful 11.1 percent touchdown rate.
• As if you needed another reason to like Percy Harvin , but here I go anyway. Harvin leads all receivers with 17 total red zone chances (11 targets and six carries) and he has converted them into three touchdowns. If he can improve his red zone scoring rate just a little bit the rest of the way, he will easily have his first season of 10 touchdowns.
• Here is a look at the non-quarterbacks who have at least five total red zone scores through seven weeks of the 2012 season: Arian Foster (10 total), James Jones (seven), Ray Rice (five), LeSean McCoy (five), Shonn Greene (five), Marques Colston (five), A.J. Green (five), Heath Miller (five) and Kyle Rudolph (five).
• Which rookie quarterback has a league best three goal line rushing scores and leads all quarterbacks with seven total touchdowns from inside the opponent's five-yard line? Nope, it is not Robert Griffin III ; the answer is actually Andrew Luck . Luck's seven scores have come on just nine pass attempts and three rushes, so he is definitely getting the job done up close.
• Arian Foster has eight total goal line touchdowns this year and no other running back has more than four. The three backs at four goal line scores are Shonn Greene , Jackie Battle and believe it or not, Andre Brown .
• Chris Johnson had his best day of the year in Week 7 with nearly 200 yards rushing and two rushing scores, but it could have been much better. For the second straight week, Jamie Harper replaced Johnson at the goal line and punched in two short scores. For the year, Johnson has just three goal line carries and no scores, while Harper has scored on all three of his opportunities up close. Looks like Harper has some value in touchdown-only leagues and that Johnson will continue to have to score from deep if he wants to hit pay dirt.
• Tight ends lead the pass catchers in touchdowns from inside the five-yard line. No wide receiver has more than two goal line scores this year, but Heath Miller (four), Kyle Rudolph (three) and Rob Gronkowski (three) are all making that money up close. It should be noted that Gronk has seen three goal line targets in seven games, while teammate Aaron Hernandez has seen two (in only three full games) and has one score.