Welcome to the home stretch, a glorious test of your nerves. Woe be to your fingernails on Sunday afternoons as you sweat fantasy results that might make or break your season.
Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets
8 targets—2 receptions, 71 yards @ Bills
The Jets were a mess against the Bills last Sunday. Geno Smith was particularly bad, travailing through the game like an overmatched rookie. But lost in the abysmal offensive performance was a glimmer of hope, perhaps for your fantasy team.
Santonio Holmes made his return from injury and immediately showed what he can bring to the table as the season wanes. Holmes is, by far, the beast weapon Smith has on that offense. If Holmes can stay healthy, he will be the key to more than one fantasy team’s success in the playoffs.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, Buffalo Bills
9 targets—6 receptions, 81 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Jets
T.J. Graham, WR, Buffalo Bills
4 targets—2 receptions, 74 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Jets
It was supposed to be a rough go for the Bills offense last Sunday. EJ Manuel was coming off a rusty performance the week before, and he was missing his top two receivers in Steve Johnson and Robert Woods. They were going up against the vaunted Jets defense, to boot.
Nothing could have prepared us for the shellacking Buffalo gave New York—other than the Jets having a hot-cold relationship with the entire season—particularly on offense. While the Bills didn’t get much going on the ground, they didn’t have to—Marquise Goodwin and T.J. Graham filled in just fine.
Of course, both Woods and Johnson are set to return after the team’s Week 12 bye, so what can we really learn from this performance? The biggest takeaway here is Goodwin’s line, which came on nine targets. This wasn’t his first big game of the year, but it was his first one with this workload. Could he be working himself into a bigger role even when the two starters return?
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns
15 targets—5 receptions, 125 yards, 1 touchdown @ Bengals
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns
7 targets—6 receptions, 29 yards @ Bengals
It’s nice to see Josh Gordon targeted so much. Now if only Jason Campbell could connect more often.
Not that there is much to complain about Gordon’s fantasy performance last week, but much of it was predicated on a long touchdown reception. As you can see from Jordan Cameron’s line, targets don’t necessarily equal fantasy points, especially in standard scoring leagues.
It’s good to see Cameron increase his target count, but this has been a brutal second half for the talented tight end. We might be getting to the point where you need to bench Cameron, especially if you have a tight end with a nice matchup on your bench.
Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
10 targets—8 receptions, 67 yards vs. Lions
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
5 targets—3 receptions, 48 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Lions
We already know that Antonio Brown is great, so there is little need to delve into his big Sunday. But what of other weapons for Ben Roethlisberger?
The biggest surprise here that seems to still be flying under the radar this season is Jerricho Cotchery, who is currently the No. 21 fantasy scorer at wide receiver, just ahead of one Larry Fitzgerald. A big reason for this is Cotchery is making the most of his opportunities—he is ninth in the league at receiver with 0.33 points per target. The crafty veteran has a knack for the end zone, scoring seven touchdowns on just 34 receptions this year.
The question is whether those touchdowns will dry up. Cotchery has just 48 targets in nine games this season, and touchdowns are finicky. Meanwhile, it’s nice to see Heath Miller pick up so many targets. If he converted an end zone target, he would have had a great fantasy day.
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
11 targets—8 receptions, 110 yards vs. Packers
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
5 targets—4 receptions, 50 yards vs. Packers
Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants
3 targets—3 receptions, 37 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Packers
The Giants passing game hasn’t exactly been hitting on all cylinders—or even a few cylinders some some weeks—this season. It was more of the same last week against a weak Packers secondary in what should have been a big game for at least one of the Big Three receivers.
Victor Cruz wound up with a nice line despite failing to score, but last week marked the sixth in a row without a salsa dance from the talented receiver. He has scored just once since his three-touchdown explosion to start the season. Rueben Randle has scored six in that span.
Caught in the middle of all this—or perhaps the bottom—is Hakeem Nicks, who is having a rather disappointing contract year. But he is still garnering more targets than Randle—Nicks has 25 more on the season. This is a bit of a red flag for Randle going forward, who might flip roles with Nicks on your fantasy squad at any given moment. Proceed with caution.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers
15 touches—13 carries, 48 yards; 2 receptions, 8 yards @ Saints
What is going on with the San Francisco offense? Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been the quarterback he was last season, and lately Frank Gore hasn’t been himself either.
IT doesn’t help that the 49ers have played a couple of tough run defenses in the past couple of weeks. Carolina and New Orleans don’t allow a ton of fantasy points to opposing running backs, and Gore was relatively bottled up in those games.
Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints
16 touches—11 carries, 49 yards; 5 receptions, 35 yards vs. 49ers
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
7 touches—6 carries, 25 yards, 1 reception, 4 yards vs. 49ers
If you didn’t sell high on Mark Ingram, shame on you.
As mentioned last week here, Ingram’s big game was still just third-best on his own team. There is good reason for that—Ingram is just not very good.
The third-year running back was just as amped up to play the 49ers if body language after short runs were any indication, but all that got him was 29 total yards. Granted, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles didn’t fare much better, but Ingram regressed back to his plodding ways rather quickly.
Fortunately for him and that entire Saints backfield, New Orleans gets a reeling Atlanta defense that allowed roughly 127 fantasy points to undrafted rookie Bobby Rainey last week.
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
9 touches—1 carries, 7 yards; 83 receptions, 65 yards @ Panthers
Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots
13 touches—13 carries, 48 yard; 1 touchdown @ Panthers
The Panthers have a great defense, one that hasn’t allowed many fantsay points to running backs this season. The Patriots found a way to get Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen going.
In reality, Ridley was saved by a goal-line carry. Prior to that point he was having a disappointing fantasy night due to a fumble. But the real story is Vereen here, despite the fact he didn’t score.
The second-year running back made his return from a wrist injury in a big way, leading the Patriots in targets with 11. If you own him in PPR leagues, it seems that he will be gold for you the rest of the way.
Trent Richardson, RB, Indianapolis Colts
13 touches—8 carries, 22 yards; 5 receptions, 31 yards vs. Titans
Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts
15 touches—14 carries, 80 yards, 2 touchdowns; 1 reception, 14 yards vs. Titans
Indianapolis, we have a problem.
The Colts were praised for landing a talented, young running back in Trent Richardson for the mere price of a likely late-first-round pick a few weeks ago. Ryan Grigson and Jim Irsay might want a mulligan on this one after several weeks of disappointment.
It’s not just that Richardson isn’t producing, it’s that he is being outshined by Donald F. Brown. The fifth-year running back is hitting the holes hard and churning his legs after contact, things Richardson is expected to be doing. If last week was any indication, the Colts might just be handing the keys to that backfield to the unheralded Brown. This would be the nail in the coffin for Richardon’s fantasy owners.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
26 throws—17 completions, 298 yards; 9 carries, 47 yards, 1 touchdown
Was this Nick Foles crashing back to earth? If you look at the pure passing statistics, perhaps. But like the cake, the statistics are a lie.
Foles narrowly missed out on two touchdown passes—one on tight end screen Brent Celek took to the house only to have it called down at the one, and the other on a slant to Riley Cooper that narrowly missed the end zone. He still had a great fantasy outing thanks to a rushing touchdown, and he is still without an interception on the season. The second-year quarterback still has a rather nice schedule the rest of the way, so stick with him unless you have a stud starter.
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
27 throws—13 completions, 93 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; 4 carries, 0 yards vs. Browns
This isn’t interesting as much as it is odd, and a bit comical.
Dalton managed to have a decent fantasy day, but it was not pretty. Dalton actually got off to an awful start, throwing a pick-six that gave the Browns a 13-0 lead. It was all down hill from there for the Browns
The Bengals special teams and defense saved the day, giving Dalton a short field on multiple occasions and allowing him to cash in with three touchdown passes. This marks yet another dud performance from Dalton after that hot streak earlier this season, this time costing A.J. Green a decent game that a Hail Mary could not salvage.
Is this a harbinger of things to come for Green?