Just like that, we are halfway through the season. It goes by quickly, doesn’t it? It seems like just yesterday you were worrying about your fantasy drafts. Now the fantasy playoffs are just a scant few weeks away. (Okay, five or six, but the playoffs will be upon us before we know it.)
Need help getting there? Here is the story behind some of last week’s targets, touches and throws to get you started.
Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
10 targets—7 receptions, 67 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 carry, 5 yards vs. Browns
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
2 targets—1 reception, 7 yards vs. Browns
When the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith, Dwayne Bowe’s days as a good fantasy option were numbered.
Sure, Bowe has had a couple of good games this season, but Smith’s inability—or perhaps merely his reticence—has cost Bowe’s fantasy owners dearly. Bowe’s stock is tanking so hard that Dexter McCluster’s nice game has him just 10 standard scoring points behind his teammate.
The only reliable player on the Chiefs offense is Jamaal Charles, who just saw his touchdown streak snapped last week. Don’t trust McCluster or Bowe unless you are desperate.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
7 targets—3 receptions, 72 yards, 2 touchdowns; 1 carry, 1 yard @ Lions
Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys
10 targets—2 receptions, 64 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 carry, 5 yards @ Lions
Jason Witten, WR, Dallas Cowboys
2 targets—2 receptions, 15 yards @ Lions
Thankfully Dez Bryant’s sideline antics don’t really affect his fantasy performance.
The real statistical story here belong to Terrance Williams and Jason Witten, who have had divergent fantasy lines in recent weeks. Witten has all but fallen off the map while Williams continues to score big points. It looks like Tony Romo trusts Williams plenty, targeting him a healthy 10 times last week. He was only able to catch two of those, but one of them went for a long touchdown.
With Miles Austin still ailing, plan on keeping Williams in your lineup unless you have several great options. As for Witten...it’s hard to suggest benching him. He is liable to catch 14 passes his next time out. But if you have a solid second tight end—say, Jordan Reed or Charles Clay—then you might want to keep Witten on your bench until he gets right.
Harry Douglas, WR, Atlanta Falcons
18 targets—12 receptions, 121 yards @ Cardinals
It looks like Harry Douglas is around to stay in the fantasy realm.
Julio Jones’ replacement flourished in his debut as a No. 1 receiver in Week 7, but that was against a soft Buccaneers defense. Confidence in his production wasn’t very high heading into a Week 8 matchup against Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals. But it becomes easier to produce when you get 18 targets.
It looks like Douglas has a major place in this offense.
Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints
6 targets—3 receptions, 18 yards vs. Bills
Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints
4 targets—3 receptions, 129 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Bills
Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints
3 targets—3 receptions, 34 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Bills
What is going on with Marques Colston? This was a tasty matchup for him coming off a bye, but he could only muster 18 receiving. Instead, rookie Kenny Stills stole the show with two big touchdown grabs.
Colston is still being targeted a healthy amount—the most at receiver, in fact. He hasn’t been able to cash in for much of the season, but he is still the No. 1 receiver on the team. Now would be a great time to trade for him with his value being so low.
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
10 targets—7 receptions, 86 yards @ Eagles
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
12 targets—7 receptions, 51 yards @ Eagles
Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants
1 target—Goose egg
This was a curious non-performance out of Rueben Randle. Not only had he emerged as a legitimate weekly threat in recent weeks, but he had torched the Eagles in the past, to the tune of 10 receptions for 154 yards and four touchdowns over the past two games.
Perhaps the Eagles were prepared for this and actively tried to stop him. Whatever the case may be, Eli Manning rarely looked his way, uncorking one solitary throw in his direction.
The whole offense couldn’t really get going, however, as evidenced by the pedestrian statistics all around. Randle will be back scoring fantasy points for your team in no time.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
25 touches—19 carries, 75 yards; 6 receptions, 47 yards vs. 49ers
Did you know that the 49ers had been giving up the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs heading into Week 8? Had he gotten into the end zone, that trend might have continued.
Jones-Drew gets the Titans this week—allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing backs—but then the Cardinals (third-least) come to town.
Mike James, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14 touches—10 carries, 39 yards; 4 receptions, 25 yards vs. Panthers
It was an inauspicious debut for Mike James as the starting running back for the Buccaneers. But it was always going to end this way.
For starters, Carolina is no defensive pushover—the Panthers currently sport the league’s top rushing defense. Then there is the fact that Doug Martin was having trouble scoring points before he went down with injury, and James is not Martin.
But there is a silver lining from this dud performance, and that is the fact James appears to be the lead back for the Buccaneers while Martin is out, which could be the rest of the season. If you picked James up, don’t give up on him yet. If his owner is despondent, cheerfully offer to take him off their hands on the cheap.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
34 touches—29 carries, 94 yards, 1 touchdown; 4 receptions, 17 yards @ Vikings
Green Bay, we have our lead back.
Eddie Lacy has come on in recent weeks, taking the starting gig by the horns and wrestled it into submission. Okay, so that metaphor needs some work.
Lacy has now carried the ball 22-plus times each of the past four weeks. He is only averaging 4.0 yards per carry on the season, but a bell cow in a high-octane offense is a valuable thing.
Hold onto him if you’ve got him. Try to trade for him if you don’t. Considering the running back position is in general disarray this season, you need someone you can count on to get touches.
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets
14 touches—10 carries, 19 yards; 4 receptions, 20 yards @ Bengals
Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets
6 touches—6 carries, 11 yards @ Bengals
You were warned last week.
Chris Ivory garnered an impressive 34 carries in New York’s surprise victory over New England. But Rex Ryan’s comments about going with the “hot hand” were suspect. One week later, suspicions were confirmed—Ivory did not have the hot hand.
Granted, the Jets were behind by 24 or so before their fans could spell J-E-T-S, but it’s clear Ivory and Bilal Powell won’t have clear roles on a game-to-game basis.
Matt Barkley, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
26 throws—17 completions, 158 yards, 1 interception, 1 fumble vs. Giants
If Matt Barkley’s last two outings are any indication, the Eagles offense is in a lot of trouble. Barkley looks like a college player trying to run a NFL offense.
Barkley was atrocious last week against a previously terrible Giants defense, though he did have more success moving the ball than Michael Vick. Barkley gets the Raiders this week, who have had mixed results on defense. Whatever you do, don’t start him if you somehow have the misfortune of having him on your roster. He is also going to affect the likes of LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson while he is in there.
Hopefully Nick Foles is back soon.
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
30 throws—19 completions, 325 yards, 5 touchdowns vs. Jets
That noise you hear is Andy Dalton, who can no longer be ignored in the fantasy realm. For weeks we have been waiting for the other shoe to drop—Dalton has thrown at least three touchdowns in four consecutive games now—but his ascent to the top shelf of fantasy quarterbacks has not abated one bit.
Dalton has benefited by the rise of Marvin Jones and the ever-fantastic A.J. Green. It’s difficult to keep Dalton out of your lineup these days unless you have a top-five lock.