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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Targets, Touches & Throws: Week 14
Alessandro Miglio
December 3, 2013
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It seems like just yesterday we were arguing about who to draft with your No. 1 pick. Now, the fantasy playoffs loom. Where did the time go?

If you made it to the postseason or are on the verge of getting there, you might need a push. To wit, are some of last week’s more intriguing statistics and some analysis to go along with them.

TARGETS

Cecil Shorts III, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
11 targets—6 receptions, 64 yards, 1 touchdown @ Browns
Ace Sanders, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
11 targets—8 receptions, 67 yards @ Browns

Cecil Shorts was always going to be the No. 1 receiver once Justin Blackmon was suspended. The issue was getting him the ball with defenses keying on him. We also didn’t know how that No. 2 spot was going to shake out.

Lately, Ace Sanders has made his case, and made it well for PPR formats. Sanders has 58 targets and 36 receptions on the season, but 26 targets and 20 receptions have come in the last three weeks alone. He has 60-plus receiving yards in each of those games.

Shorts is obviously someone you should have in your lineup in the flex or third receiver spot if you own him, but Sanders might be an option in PPR leagues if you are desperate.

Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers
4 targets—2 receptions, 68 yards vs. Rams
Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers
13 targets—9 receptions, 98 yards vs. Rams

Welcome back, Mr. Crabtree.

The 49ers offense has sputtered quite a bit this season thanks to injuries and regression, but the team is getting healthy at the right time. Granted, it wasn’t exactly an offensive explosion last week against the Rams, but it was good to see Crabtree back on the field making plays.

The stronger he gets, the better for Colin Kaepernick and the other skill players in that lineup. Teams will have to pick their poison between Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin, Frank Gore and Crabtree. This bodes well for the fantasy playoffs if you managed to get there.

Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams
7 targets—4 receptions, 25 yards; 1 carry, 10 yards @ 49ers

It took an extra week, but Tavon Austin finally crashed back to earth like Sandra Bullock in a Chinese capsule. But his target count is his parachute.

Austin is explosive, as evidenced by some of his spectacular plays in recent weeks. The trouble is he wasn’t getting many opportunities—he capitalized on what little touches he got, but it was ultimately unsustainable. That was proven last week.

But if he keeps seeing targets and carries like he did in San Francisco, chances are he will start breaking more big plays on a weekly basis. One week does not make a trend, but this was a positive sign. If you own Austin, he might come in handy.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
7 targets—5 receptions, 46 yards vs. Titans

The good news about T.Y. Hilton’s performance was that it was not unexpected. Tennessee has been quite stingy on pass defense, particularly toward receivers. Hilton was bound to have a down day.

The bad news is that Hilton’s schedule doesn’t get much easier the rest of the way. The Bengals are next up, and they have given up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers. The Texans have given up the sixth-fewest.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears
9 targets—4 receptions, 45 yards @ Vikings
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears
15 touches—12 receptions, 249 yards, 2 touchdowns @ Vikings

Xavier Rhodes was cleared to play, and it seems that his assignment was to stick with Brandon Marshall. As such, Marshall had a pedestrian afternoon in Minnesota while teammate Alshon Jeffery went nuts.

The good news for Marshall is that Jay Cutler migtht be back this week, which could conversely be a bad thing for Jeffery. The second-year receiver did have the 12th-most fantasy points at wide receiver through Week 6, though before Cutler initially got hurt. He has proven to be a great talent at the position, so it might not matter whether Cutler or Josh McCown is at the helm.

TOUCHES

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
23 touches—22 carries, 72 yards; 1 reception, 13 yards @ Jets

Lamar Miller’s fantasy owners might have done a low-key fist pump when Daniel Thomas was diagnosed with a bad ankle sprain. Miami had thrust the talented second-year running back into a timeshare with the pedestrian third-year plodder, which adversely affected his production. It will be interesting to see what Miller can do as the lead back, especially against teams that are a bit lighter on defense than that vaunted Jets front.

Miller had a nice game considering the competition, and it came close to being an unexpected gem. He had a long screen pass called back by a dubious penalty and came six inches short of a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans
22 touches—22 carries, 103 yards, 3 touchdowns vs. Patriots
Dennis Johnson, Houston Texans
4 touches—3 carries, 13 yards; 1 reception, 11 yards vs. Patriots

One week Ben Tate leaves fantasy owners who started him in tears. The next week, he leaves those who benched him weeping.

Tate took full advantage of a pretty good matchup against a Patriots defense that has lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo for the season. This is more in line with what we were expecting when Arian Foster went down, albeit predicting three touchdowns for any player in any game is a fool’s errand.

The truth lies somewhere in between his last two performances. Tate will have value going forward—especially if he receives a veritable lion's share of the touches like he did last week—but he is unlikely to come close to repeating this performance.

Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots
4 touches—3 carries, 2 yards; 1 reception, 18 yards @ Texans
LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots
12 touches—12 carries, 44 yards @ Texans

Round and round she goes, where she lands, nobody knows. The running back roulette in New England continues.

News broke that Stevan Ridley would be inactive just before the Patriots were set to kick off in Houston. Signs pointed to a punishment for fumbling as the talented running back had done so in three consecutive games before earning a spot on that bench. Common sense left Brandon Bolden—the Week 12 hero—as the guy to start.

Common sense is a damn fool.

LeGarrette Blount won last week’s roulette game in that backfield, but what will happen in Week 14? Aside from Shane Vereen—who is a sure thing because of his pass-catching ability—the Belichickian machinations in that New England backfield are too dangerous to trust the rest of the way.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
17 touches—15 carries, 149 yards, 1 touchdown; 2 receptions, 8 yards vs. Falcons
Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills
15 touches—11 carries, 42 yards, 1 touchdown; 4 receptions, 36 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Falcons

It’s amazing what a bye week can do. But coupled with a matchup against the Falcons? That combination was a sweet elixir for C.J. Spiller, who had a killer afternoon.

Rashad Jennings, RB, Oakland Raiders
18 touches—17 carries, 35 yards, 2 touchdowns; 1 reception, 10 yards @ Cowboys
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
5 touches—5 carries, 13 yards @ Cowboys

The Cowboys have been awful against the run in recent weeks, giving up nearly 36 standard points per game to opposing running backs over the past five weeks. The Raiders were no exception, though much of that had to do with luck—Rashad Jennings got in on goal line plunges.

The bigger story here is the fact Jennings got far more playing time than Darren McFadden. The latter was coming back from injury, but could this be the story in the Oakland backfield the rest of the way? After all, both running backs are free agents after this season, and the Raiders might want to give Jennings an extended audition to see if he is worth re-signing to a longer deal.

Whatever the case might be, it seems McFadden could be a non-factor the rest of the way.

Steven Jackson, RB, Atlanta Falcons
24 touches—23 carries, 84 yards, 2 touchdowns; 1 reception, 0 yards @ Bills
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Atlanta Falcons
5 touches—4 carries, 12 yards; 1 reception, 11 yards @ Bills

The Bills defense is not a bad potion either, as Steven Jackson found out.

The veteran running back built on his nice Week 12 output to have an outstanding fantasy day against the Bills. It seems he is actually performing the way we expected he might in that offense, taking over the lead back role after being injured for much of the season. His play kept Jacquizz Rodgers off the field.

The Falcons might not have anything to play for having already been eliminated from the playoffs, but Jackson might prove useful in the fantasy playoffs.

THROWS

Mike Glennon, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
21 throws—14 completions, 180 yards, 1 interception; 2 carries, 3 yards @ Panthers

It was a rough day for rookie Mike Glennon, who faced off against a tough Panthers defense. The man with the longest neck in the NFL couldn’t keep up the hot streak that helped the Buccaneers to a three-game winning streak.

Glennon did just miss on a long touchdown pass to Tiquan Underwood, though. He goes up against a much softer—albeit now fully healthy—Bills defense next week.

Nick Foles, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
34 throws—21 completions, 237 yards, 3 touchdowns; 9 carries, 22 yards vs. Cardinals

The Cardinals were supposed to be Nick Foles’ biggest test this season. He wasn’t supposed to have a great game against that vaunted defense. It seems little can be done to slow Saint Nick. (Side note: Nick Foles needs a good nickname.)

The second-year quarterback did throw his first interception of the season, but it was wiped out by a penalty. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. In Foles’ case, he’s both.

Foles gets to tear into Lions, Vikings and Bears—oh my—the rest of the way in the fantasy playoffs. Let him feast in your starting lineup.


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