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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Targets, Touches & Throws: Week 11
Alessandro Miglio
November 12, 2013
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There is no locker room drama here. Only statistics. And occasional snark.

TARGETS

Rishard Matthews, WR, Miami Dolphins
14 targets—11 receptions, 102 yards, 2 touchdowns @ Buccaneers

There were a lot of first for Rishard Matthews last week. The second-year, former sixth-round pick had the game of his life in Tampa Bay, hauling in 11 of 14 targets—twice as many times as $60 million man Mike Wallace was targeted—for his first career 100-yard game and touchdowns.

And that is the real rub. Has Matthews gained Ryan Tannehill’s trust like Brandon Gibson did before his season-ending injury? Matthews looked good with all those targets, but the Buccaneers haven’t exactly done a good job against opposing receivers this season.

Matthews is certainly worth a waiver wire pickup, but don’t go crazy chasing the ghosts of a huge aberration.

Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams
3 targets—2 receptions, 138 yards, 2 touchdowns @ Colts

Don’t sweat it if you had Tavon Austin on your bench last week. Who could have predicted this?

The dynamic rookie tallied 314 total yards and three touchdowns against the surprisingly hapless Colts last week. His 98-yard punt return for a touchdown was the most exciting play the Rams have seen this season, and he finally showed what he brought to the table as the eighth-overall pick of the 2013 draft. But can he be trusted?

Austin did his damage as a receiver on three targets. Both the passes he caught went for long touchdown on blown coverage. That is a major regression flag, especially when taking his previous output into account—he had averaged just 23 receiving yards per game prior to last week.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
10 targets—3 receptions, 48 yards @ Steelers

E.J. Manuel’s return from injury was a bit oxidized.

He couldn’t quite shake off the rust against the Steelers on the road, and the entire offense suffered. He couldn’t get the ball to Steve Johnson, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Johnson led all receivers with 10 targets despite exiting the game with injury.

Of course, the severity of that injury could be a problem, but Robert Woods is also hobbled.

Johnson has a relatively tough matchup against the Jets coming up, but he gets the light-defending Falcons and Buccaneers after that.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears
18 targets—9 receptions, 114 yards vs. Lions

No Jay Cutler, no problem?

Jeffery was targeted a ton last week, but most of that came with Cutler at the helm. Josh McCown targeted him three times after he relieved Cutler. The second-year receiver has broken out, and he has thrived regardless of quarterback. The past three weeks have seen him catch 18 balls for 279 yards and a touchdown. He had another touchdown catch overturned on the whacky catch rules the NFL employs—apparently he didn’t say the right prayer to the football gods last Sunday.

At this point, it’s difficult to argue you should bench Jeffery. He has a high ceiling regardless of quarterback.

Riley Cooper, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
5 targets—3 receptions, 102 yards, 2 touchdowns @ Packers

Break up the Eagles.

Philadelphia has pulled into a tie for first place with Dallas this week, perhaps the most underrated surprise of the season to date. Nick Foles is a big reason why, and Riley Cooper has been his favorite target.

Week 10 marks the second in a row where Cooper went off. But is will it last? He does have another nice matchup against Washington this week, so maybe it will. But it’s tough to imagine a secondary will be as putrid as Oakland’s and Green Bay’s have been over the past two weeks. At one point, Nick Foles heaved a prayer that Cooper caught for a touchdown simply because the Packers defensive backs didn’t look up.

John Carlson, TE, Minnesota Vikings
7 targets—7 receptions, 98 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Washington

Kyle Rudolph is essentially done for the fantasy season. Naturally, John Carlson stepped in to have the best fantasy game of the year for the Vikings at tight end.

Rudolph had been a bit disappointing this season, so Carlson’s outburst was a bit of a surprise. It did help that he was going up against that soft Washington defense.

This is the kind of performance that will cause you to waste a waiver wire bid. Carlson is likely to fall back to nominal numbers—he has just two touchdowns over the past four seasons combined, after all.

TOUCHES

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans
18 touches—15 carries, 56 yards; 3 receptions, 8 yards @ Cardinals
Dennis Johnson, RB, Houston Texans
5 touches—4 carries, 7 yards; 1 reception, 14 yards @ Cardinals

A promising season has turned sour in Houston, the latest blow coming in the form of back surgery for their star running back, Arian Foster. Whoever happened to own Ben Tate in your league has cashed in on the handcuff lottery.

Tate didn’t have a big game, but that wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for opposing running backs facing that tough Arizona defense. The Cardinals are allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Similar superlatives cannot be said of the Raiders and Jaguars defenses—Tate’s next opponents.

Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints
24 touches—17 carries, 87 yards, 1 touchdown; 7 receptions, 24 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Cowboys
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
16 touches—14 carries, 145 yards, 1 touchdown; 2 receptions, 15 yards vs. Cowboys
Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints
12 touches—5 carries, 12 yards, 1 touchdown; 7 receptions, 76 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Cowboys

What fantasy world do we live in where all three New Orleans running backs sit in the top five in fantasy scoring for Week 10?

Mark Ingram had what was probably the most surprising performance of the season, matchup notwithstanding. He was amped up for that matchup against the Cowboys, and somehow Dallas made him look good. He upped his season average from 2.4 to 5.1 yards per carry, an eye-popping number considering he is barely above 4.0 for his career.

Despite the outburst, Ingram was the worst of the three in terms of fantasy scoring. He also cannot be trusted based on his body of work. If you happened to have him on your roster, sell high.

Trent Richardson, RB, Indianapolis Colts
8 touches—5 carries, 2 yards; 3 receptions, 33 yards vs. Rams
Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts
7 touches—2 carries, -1 yard; 5 receptions, 64 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Rams

This was supposed to be the matchup that got Trent Richardson going. The Rams had just given up 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns to Chris Johnson, and they had generally done a poor job of defending against the run. Indeed, despite a relatively good day against the Colts in that department, the Rams are still allowing the third-most points to opposing running backs.

Well, apparently there is no cure for suckitis. Richardson was awful, granted he was only handed the ball five times. Only a 20-yard pass made Richardson’s day more respectable than Lamar Miller’s.

It’s time to give Richardson the boot. He might be worth a waiver wire or dirt-cheap trade if you are desperate, but it’s hard to see him being a major contributor to your fantasy squad at this point. His value is strictly tied to short touchdown runs.

Andre Brown, RB, New York Giants
31 touches—30 carries, 115 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 4 yards vs. Raiders

Is it safe to invest in the Giants backfield? Or is this stock a mirage?

The Giants got Andre Brown back just after David Wilson was officially lost for the season, and he couldn’t have shown up at a better time. New York’s run game was a patchwork quilt of despair, Brandon Jacobs’ shocking outburst against the Bears being the only real bright spot until last week.

Brown apparently has the lead back role all to himself. He was supposed to see limited action in his first game back from a broken leg, and he wound up with 31 touches. He can partially thank Peyton Hillis’ fumble for that, but it looks like you might have found a winner if you picked him up.

THROWS

Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington
37 throws—24 completions, 281 yards, 3 touchdowns; 7 carries, 44 yards @ Vikings

Are we seeing Robert Griffin III round to form, or was this a product of his tasty matchup against that lowly Vikings defense?

The answer is probably “both.”

Griffin looked like his rookie self last week in Minnesota, though that didn’t include a victory. It might be too late to trade for him at this point, but you might be able to bamboozle his owner if you are looking to upgrade at quarterback. He has a favorable remaining schedule for the most part.


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