Congratulations if you’ve dominated your league thus far. Don’t pull a Denver Broncos, though.
If you are fighting for your playoff lives, here are some intriguing statistics that might help you with your decision-making in the coming weeks.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3 targets—2 receptions, 61 yards @ Lions
Tiquan Underwood, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5 targets—3 receptions, 108 yards, 2 touchdowns @ Lions
It appears Vincent Jackson and Tiquan Underwood had a Freaky Friday incident last week. If a player has a huge game on the waiver wire, does he make a sound?
The usually unheralded and underwhelming Underwood was the hero on the field last week, but he likely did little to help any fantasy owners outside those who might have taken him in daily leagues. He took advantage of a weak Lions secondary, something most expected Jackson would do.
Fear not, Jackson owners—this was a one-week deal.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
10 targets—6 receptions, 92 yards, 1 touchdown @ Browns
Once again, the old adage that you should start your studs is proven correct. What was all that chatter about Antonio Brown struggling against Joe Haden?
Brown toasted the shutdown corner, particularly on a beautiful 41-yard touchdown reception. Haden is good, but Brown got the better of him. The Pittsburgh receiver has made sure to exorcise any ghosts Mike Wallace might have tried to leave around that team when he bolted for big money.
Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers
5 targets—3 receptions, 80 yards, 1 touchdown @ Chiefs
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
8 targets—3 receptions, 21 yards @ Chiefs
The hype was slowly building for Ladarius Green, heir apparent to Antonio Gates’ throne. After last week, it’s going to be a mad scramble to snag him on the waiver wire. His dynasty owners will also be most pleased.
But is it time to give up on Gates? Despite the upside Green presents, he is still the clear backup in San Diego. He has gotten more run in recent weeks, but Gates continues to garner the majority of the targets.
Rod Streater, WR, Oakland Raiders
9 targets—5 receptions, 93 yards vs. Titans
It seems there is some chemistry developing in Oakland, and it involves Matt McGloin.
Rod Streater has been targeted 17 times over the past two games, converting them into 11 catches for 177 yards and a touchdown in that span. The Titans are giving up the least fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season, so it was a particularly good showing for Streater last week despite not getting into the end zone.
Part of that is due to Denarius Moore’s absence, but McGloin seems to have developed an affinity for the second-year receiver. With a short week, Streater might get another shot as the No. 1 receiver on the team. He gets it against a mediocre Dallas defense to boot.
Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints
15 touches—10 carries, 73 yards; 5 receptions, 57 yards @ Falcons
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
9 touches—9 carries, 32 yards @ Falcons
The evidence is mounting in Pierre Thomas’ favor down in New Orleans.
Darren Sproles was out with injury, but that wasn’t the only reason Thomas got a chance to shine in primetime. Travaris Cadet took some of Sproles’ snaps, but Thomas earned his chance with fantastic play.
The Saints have limited Thomas because he has had injury issues in the past, but he has held strong this season. That woeful Falcons defense won’t be on the docket every week but, if he gets a similar touch count every week, Thomas will be a valuable asset to your fantasy team going forward.
Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans
12 touches—7 carries, 1 yard; 5 receptions, 26 yards vs. Jaguars
Dennis Johnson, Houston Texans
15 touches—13 carries, 74 yards; 2 receptions, 13 yards vs. Jaguars
Well, what do we have here? The assumption that Ben Tate would do just fine in Arian Foster’s place has clearly been turned on its head. Tate was awful against a bad Jaguars defense, giving the diminutive Johnson the chance he needed to show what he could do.
Johnson didn’t score or anything—the Texans don’t seem interested in a coherent offensive plan these days—but he could be a waiver wire pickup to put you over the top as the playoffs approach.
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
4 touches—4 carries, 14 yards, 1 fumble vs. Broncos
Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots
18 touches—8 carries, 31 yards; 10 receptions, 60 yards vs. Broncos
Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots
14 touches—13 carries, 58 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 11 yards vs. Broncos
Apparently all the game balls were dipped in vaseline before Denver squared off against New England last Sunday night. It wasn’t a pretty sight in a first half that featured roughly 47 fumbles, including Stevan Ridley’s—his third in as many weeks. It was enough to get him benched for the rest of the game.
LeGarrette Blount didn’t fare better, fumbling himself before giving way to Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen for the rest of the game.
Bolden did the bulk of the damage on the ground while Vereen resumed his pass-catching duties. The second-year back has become a favorite target for Tom Brady, leading the team in targets since his return from a wrist injury. Of all the running backs in that backfield, Vereen seems to be the only lock to get quality touches at this point. Who knows if Ridley will be given his job back, or whether Bolden will disappear into the Bill Belichick ether.
We are back to full-on Belichickery in New England.
Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams
13 touches—12 carries, 87 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 10 yards vs. Bears
Benny Cunningham, RB, St. Louis Rams
13 touches—13 carries, 109 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Bears
It was a predictably great day on the ground for the Rams, who took advantage of the league’s best matchup, the Chicago Bears.
That would have been a laughable sentiment a year ago, but injuries and coaching changes have ravaged that defense beyond recognition. Zac Stacy had a predictably good game that could have been epic, but a concussion forced him out and let Benny Cunningham have a better line.
Stacy could be out this week, so Cunningham is someone you might want to grab on the waiver wire.
Trent Richardson, RB, Indianapolis Colts
9 touches—7 carries, 15 yards; 2 receptions, 11 yards @ Cardinals
Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts
3 touches—2 carries, 1 yard; 1 reception, -2 yards @ Cardinals
What a difference one week makes.
Donald Brown looked like he might have overtaken Trent Richardson after a fantastic performance against the Titans a week ago. He simply looked like a better running back, and there was little reason to think he hadn’t won at least a timeshare in that backfield.
Apparently, that was not the case. Richardson was back to being a workhorse, albeit he’s more dobbin than thoroughbred at this point.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
39 throws—30 completions, 292 yards; 2 carries, 10 yards @ Saints
Well, at least Matt Ryan didn’t throw an interception. The embattled quarterback might be coming out of that mid-season funk. Or he might have been lucky.
Ryan did appear to play better against the division-rival Saints, who do have a pretty good defense. Ryan came close to throwing for one touchdown and almost rushed for another, but close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and nuclear weapons.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
38 throws—26 completions, 294 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception; 2 carries, -3 yards vs. Chargers
You know things aren’t going too well when Alex Smith has to put it up 38 times. Kansas City’s defense did a little statistical regressing last week in giving up 41 points to the Chargers at home, and Smith spent much of the see-saw battle trying to keep up in the passing game.
Smith did have a fantastic line, nearly winning the game in the process. But the Chargers don’t exactly have a world-beating defense, particularly against the pass.
Matt Flynn, QB, Green Bay Packers
36 throws—21 completions, 218 yards, 1 touchdown; 4 carries, 24 yards vs. Vikings
Was Matt Flynn merely pining for his days in the frozen tundra?
The journeyman quarterback made his way back to the midwest after stops in Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo, but those stops proved the obvious—his incredible season-ending performance in 2011 was one big fluke. But here he was last week, leading the Packers back from the brink of disaster against the woeful Vikings. He only earned a tie, but Flynn certainly has more upside than Scott Tolzien, spin move and all.