Tricks of the trends after Week 14
Victor Cruz, Anquan Boldin and Danario Alexander are stepping it up of late for their teams and owners. Our Nathan Zegura explains why and examines the latest target, red zone and goal line trends.
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.
• Pierre Garcon is back and will have to hope that Robert Griffin III is a fast healer, because this duo is as hot as any in the NFL right now. Even if RG3 is not back for Week 15, Garcon was able to haul in a touchdown from Kirk Cousins late in the team's win over the Ravens, so maybe he is just flat out on fire. Garcon has scored in three straight games for the Redskins -- who are undefeated when he scores -- and has produced at least 14 Fantasy points in every one of those contests. In his three game-barrage, Garcon has been targeted 27 times and has 18 catches for 286 yards and the three scores. He has at least five catches, 87 yards and a touchdown in every one of the games and has shown remarkable efficiency, combined with big-play ability. Garcon has caught 67 percent of those targets and is averaging an elite 10.6 yards per target and 1.8 Fantasy points per target. If Garcon had played the whole season, we could be looking at a Top 12 Fantasy wide receiver, which is something to keep in mind come Draft Day 2013.
• Perhaps no receiver has turned it on in a more under-the-radar fashion than Anquan Boldin over the last four weeks. Boldin has three games of at least 78 yards receiving during that span, which includes two games against the very tough Steelers defense. Boldin has caught a touchdown in back-to-back games as well, hauling in three total scores in the last two games and may be emerging as the main target for Joe Flacco . Over the last four weeks, Boldin has been targeted 35 times and has 18 catches for 280 yards and the three touchdowns. By comparison, teammate Torrey Smith has been targeted 31 times and has 12 catches for 205 yards and no touchdowns. Smith has been held to 33 or fewer yards in three of those games as well. I knew a Baltimore receiver would do well against the Redskins in Week 14, but I thought it would be Smith. Boldin seems more like the go-to-guy for Flacco and if Smith draws Champ Bailey in Week 15, it could be Boldin who once again makes for the better Fantasy play.
• Danario Alexander is becoming a superstar right before our very eyes in San Diego. Alexander has at least five catches in each of his five starts and has produced 10 or more points four times. His only "off" game was a five-catch, 74-yard effort in Week 12 against the Ravens and frankly, that is not too shabby. In three separate games, Alexander has produced 19 or more Fantasy points and the guy has been off the charts with his numbers. In his five-game run as a starter, Alexander has been targeted 47 times and has caught 30 of them (64 percent) for 494 yards (10.1 yards per target) and five touchdowns (1.8 Fantasy points per target). He is averaging six catches, 99 yards and touchdown per game for the Chargers, who often find themselves in a position of needing to play some huck, chuck football. He is a great start going forward due to his consistently high target volume and production.
• If there was any doubt about where the ball would be going with Colin Kaepernick under center, let's put that to rest right now because Michael Crabtree is his clear No. 1 receiver. Crabtree has produced nine or more Fantasy points in three of Kap's four starts, but over the last two weeks, he has really become the main man. In those two games, Kap has thrown 55 passes and 22 of them (40 percent) have gone the way of Crabtree, who has caught 16 of them for 194 yards. No other pass catcher on the 49ers has seen more than eight targets total over the last two weeks, so Crabtree is clearly the man. I'd love to see a touchdown with one of these high volume catch games, but Crabtree looks like a safe No. 3 receiver with some nice upside should he find the end zone against the Patriots in Week 15.
• I have been very hard on Mike Wallace and deservedly so, but hopefully Week 14 will kick-start a nice finish to the season. Wallace had his best game of 2012 as he hauled in seven of his 11 targets for 112 yards and two touchdowns. It could have been even better as he dropped a perfectly thrown 40-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger , but you have to like the fact that Wallace got back over 100 yards for only the second time this season (and only the second time since Week 7 of 2011). The Cowboys have struggled with their secondary of late and Wallace will look to build on his momentum on the fast turf of Cowboys stadium.
• Victor Cruz is heating up at the right time and now has a touchdown or 100 yards in every game since the Giants returned from their bye in Week 12. Cruz has back-to-back 100-yard games as well and turned in his best game since Week 7, with eight catches for 121 yards and a score against the Saints in Week 14. Cruz is back to making big plays a La 2011, which is huge for this offense. Keep in mind, Cruz had only one game of 70 or more yards receiving since Week 4 before his consecutive 100-yard efforts in Week 13 and 14. Over the last two weeks, Cruz is looking like his old self, catching 76 percent of his targets and averaging 13.2 yards per target. A healthy Hakeem Nicks certainly has been a nice help for Cruz, who should post big numbers the rest of the way.
• Josh Gordon did not score against the Chiefs, but he caught eight passes for 86 yards in a solid game. He has been targeted 19 times over the last two weeks and has caught 14 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown during that span and should stay hot against the suspect pass defense of the Redskins. Gordon has seen at least seven targets and has at least four catches in four straight games and has really emerged as the primary receiver for Brandon Weeden .
• With a tasty matchup against the Chiefs in Week 15, you have to get excited about the passing attack of the Raiders. The real question is which wide receiver do you trust at this point? Over the last two weeks, Denarius Moore leads the receivers with 14 targets, but has only six catches for 74 yards. He still has the upside, but his production has been non-existent for four straight games. Darrius Heyward-Bey has been targeted 12 times and has nine catches for 122 yards and a touchdown (82 and the score came last week against Denver). Finally, there is Rod Streater , who has been targeted 11 times and has seven catches for 196 yards and a touchdown. Streater is the only Oakland receiver to post 10 or more points in each of the last two games and looks like a solid flier to take a chance on in deep leagues.
• Mike Williams has scored in each of the last two games and now has a very impressive seven touchdowns on the season. In addition to the touchdowns, Williams saw seven or more targets in each game. This year, Williams has been targeted seven or more times in seven games. He has produced a touchdown or 100 yards receiving in five of those games and seems like a guy who just needs some chances to produce. It is interesting to note that one of the two exceptions to this rule was in Week 7 against New Orleans, when he was targeted eight times but finished with just four catches for 36 yards. Look for Williams to even the score with the Saints in Week 15 and is once again a solid No. 3 receiver for your teams.
• Steve Smith has come on strong the last two weeks with back-to-back 100-yard games. Cam Newton seems to be playing at his highest level of the season and Smith has been a big part of that with some excellent efficiency. Over the last two weeks, Smith has been targeted 21 times and has caught 12 of them for 229 yards (10.9 yards per target) and a touchdown. It has been his most productive two-game stretch all year as Smith has scored 28 Fantasy points, and it could only be the beginning. In Week 15, Smith travels to San Diego to take on a Chargers team that was just torched by Mike Wallace . Then he follows that up with games against the dreadful pass defenses of Oakland and New Orleans, so look for Smith to help bring home some Fantasy titles.
• With Brandon Pettigrew banged up (not to mention the Lions wide receivers), Tony Scheffler is someone to look at as a great plug-and-play tight end for Week 16. Scheffler now has at least 50 yards or a touchdown in three straight games and saw 10 targets in Week 14. Now, he only caught three of those 10 targets for 20 yards, but did find the end zone and should look to have similar success against an Arizona defense that has allowed a tight end touchdown in each of their last two games.
• I am on board with the Jimmy Graham panic train because the talented tight end is just not producing. I am convinced that he is nowhere near 100 percent and has not been since suffering an ankle injury just over a month ago. Graham has gone four straight games without reaching 60 yards receiving, something that happened only two times in the first eight games of the year. He has not scored or produced six Fantasy points in three straight and has not reached nine points in any of the last four. During that span, Graham has been targeted 28 times (yes that is low for him), but has turned them into 19 catches for just 177 yards and one touchdown. It has been the worst four-game stretch of his career as a starter in terms of yards per catch (9.3), yards per target (6.3), Fantasy points per target (0.82), yards per game (44.2) and Fantasy points per game (5.25). Hopefully, Graham can get it going again for you over the next two weeks or he will be a main culprit in some early exits from the playoffs.
• Welcome back Darren Sproles ! Sproles was finally used like it was 2011 last week against the Giants as he saw 12 targets plus carries and turned them into 84 yards and two total touchdowns. The five carries were the most since Week 7 and the 12 combined looks were tied for the third most that he had all season. All he needs are double-digit chances and he will produce, because Sproles has 10 or more Fantasy points in four of the five games with significant involvement.
• Target Leaders by position for Week 14: Wide receiver: Brandon Marshall (19), Calvin Johnson (13), Jeremy Maclin (13), Justin Blackmon (12), Jason Avant (12), Steve Smith (12) and Josh Gordon (12); Tight end: Tony Scheffler (10), Jimmy Graham (10), and Rob Housler (10); Running back: Pierre Thomas (eight)
• After Matthew Stafford ran in another short touchdown against the Packers in Week 14, he became tied for fourth in terms of quarterback rushing scores from inside the 20-yard line. The leader is Cam Newton with six, followed by Robert Griffin III (five) and Andrew Luck (five). Stafford is tied with Colin Kaepernick , who also has four red zone rushing scores this year and really sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the others. First of all, Stafford is the only one of the five that does not have 25 yards rushing in a single game this year. Secondly, Stafford is the only one of the group that is not either a first or second year quarterback.
• Eli Manning had seven passing touchdowns in the red zone through his first 10 games of 2012. That was a hugely disappointing stat that was a total outlier based on Eli's prior performance. Apparently, the bye week did him well, because since returning to action in Week 12, Eli has thrown for seven red zone touchdowns in his last three games alone! If Eli can stay hot, the Giants will be tough to beat and his patient Fantasy owners will be rewarded
• Amazingly, the Jets have been able to do one thing right this year; convert their red zone carries into touchdowns. Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell have a combined 10 red zone rushing scores this year, which is amazing when you consider that only the Texans, Giants, Patriots and the Jets have two runners with 10 or more total red zone rushing scores. The first three are all very potent offenses on very good teams and the Jets are not, so it is definitely a little bit of a shocker.
• Here's a stat that is a real head scratcher: In 2012, Calvin Johnson , Larry Fitzgerald , Miles Austin and Hakeem Nicks have received a combined 61 red zone targets and have produced just six touchdowns. James Jones has been targeted 13 times in the red zone this year and has seven touchdowns of his own!
• Don't look now, but Dennis Pitta is tied for sixth among all tight ends with five red zone touchdowns after hauling in his third of the last five weeks against the Redskins. Pitta now has seven red zone scores in his last 16 games and has been the most productive Baltimore pass catcher inside the 20 during that span. With a Week 15 game against the Broncos, he could easily find the end zone again for your Fantasy teams.
• Only three quarterbacks in the NFL have 10 or more goal line touchdowns this year and they are Tom Brady (11), Matthew Stafford (10) and Andrew Luck (10). It is interesting to note that all three have at least three rushing scores to boost their overall totals into double figures.
• It doesn't seem like it was 2012 when Adrian Peterson had a five-week scoring drought, but it did happen. Since then, he has scored eight times in his last seven games and four of them have come from inside the five-yard line. For the year, Peterson has six goal line touchdowns, trailing only Arian Foster and Andre Brown . Oh yeah, he also has seven straight games with 100 or more yards rushing, which is pretty darn impressive too.
• Delone Carter has six carries over the last four games combined. Three of those carries have come from the opponent's one-yard line and two of them resulted in touchdowns. Apparently, Carter is the goal line specialist for the Colts and zapped some of Vick Ballard's potential in Week 14. If Carter is unable to go in Week 15 due to an injury, Ballard's upside will increase significantly as a No. 2 running back or a flex option.
• Mike Williams , who was highlighted right here last week, caught another goal line touchdown in Week 14 and now leads all wide receivers with four goal line scores on the year. Incredibly, he trails teammate Doug Martin by just one goal line score for the season despite seeing only six targets compared to 17 carries for Martin.
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