Winter is coming.
Well, actually, it’s already here if last weekend was any indication. Normally adverse weather conditions are not cause for major alarm in the fantasy realm—were you really going to sit Calvin Johnson last week?—but the snow made for some whacky results.
Let’s parse some of that data, shall we?
Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Indianapolis Colts
9 targets—6 receptions, 107 yards, 2 touchdowns @ Bengals
Lavon Brazill, WR, Indianapolis Colts
4 targets—3 receptions, 53 yards, 1 touchdown @ Bengals
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
5 targets—2 receptions, 7 yards @ Bengals
The Colts got off to a horrendous start, thus making it necessary to have Andrew Luck throw the ball 46 times. Nine of those targets—the most on the team—went to newly activated rookie, Da’Rick Rogers.
The question is whether this is a harbinger for opposing defenses or merely an aberration. Can you trust a rookie buried on the depth chart that just made his first appearance?
Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots
17 targets—12 receptions, 153 yards; 3 carries, 9 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Browns
Why is Shane Vereen out of place, in the Targets list instead of Touches? Because he barely qualifies as a running back at this point.
We knew Vereen is a pass-catching back, worth far more in PPR leagues than standard. But the second-year running back took things to a whole new level against the Browns.
How often are receivers targeted 17 times in a game, let alone running backs? Vereen is PPR platinum at this point.
Eric Decker, WR, Denver Broncos
12 targets—8 receptions, 117 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Titans
Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos
10 targets—5 receptions, 61 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Titans
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
10 targets—7 receptions, 88 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Titans
Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos
7 targets—5 receptions, 35 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Titans
The Titans were giving up the least fantasy points to quarterbacks and wide receivers this season. Then they locked horns with Peyton Manning and Co.
The results weren’t pretty.
Manning was surgical—in freezing weather, no less—tossing four touchdowns while honing in on passing records he is sure to own for a long time. He got everyone involved. Wes Welker was targeted 10 times before he was knocked from the game with a concussion. Eric Decker didn’t quite have the supernova like Week 13, but he maintained positive momentum with his second consecutive eight-catch week.
There are plenty of mouths to feed in Denver, but Manning spreading the ball around is like sweet manna from heaven.
Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens
11 targets—6 receptions, 48 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Vikings
Welcome back, Mr. Pitta.
One week after Michael Crabtree made his season debut for the 49ers, Dennis Pitta did the same with the Ravens. And the results couldn’t have been much better.
Pitta quickly resumed his role as Joe Flacco’s safety blanket, as evidenced by the 11 targets he garnered. If you need a replacement for Rob Gronkowski or simply a better option at tight end, Pitta is your man.
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns
10 targets—7 receptions, 151 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 carry, 34 yards @ Patriots
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns
9 targets—9 receptions, 121 yards, 1 touchdowns @ Patriots
What an amazing run Josh Gordon is on. He has surely buoyed many a fantasy team with his record 774 yards over the past four games. That is more receiving yards than Mike Wallace has for the whole season.
It was great to see Jordan Cameron shake off the doldrums of mid-season. He caught all nine of his targets en route to a huge game. Hopefully he didn’t leave his fantasy owners in dire straits through his touchdown drought of the previous five games.
Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets
5 targets—3 receptions, 55 yards vs. Raiders
Kellen Winslow, TE, New York Jets
6 targets—3 receptions, 61 yards vs. Raiders
In reality, Holmes should have an additional target and a touchdown to go along with it. Unfortunately for him, Jeremy Kerley played the rare role of touchdown vulture at receiver, snagging a deep ball that looked to be intended for Holmes.
It was interesting to see how much work Kellen Winslow got, but his target count might be a bit deceiving. Jeff Cumberland still ran more passing routes than Winslow despite his lack of targets.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers
17 touches—17 carries, 110 yards vs. Seahawks
Frank Gore had been mired in a bit of a malaise the past several weeks, unable to get it going in good matchups, let alone bad ones. Last Sunday was supposed to be a terrible matchup against the Seahawks, but Gore did just fine.
Of course, nearly half his total yardage came on a 51-yard scamper due to blown assignments on Seattle’s part, a play during which he might have scored had he been a few years younger.
The running game might be opening up for San Francisco with Michael Crabtree back and Vernon Davis continuing to dominate. Hopefully Gore hasn’t submarined your fantasy team out of the playoffs.
Marcel Reece, RB, Oakland Raiders
21 touches—19 carries, 123 yards, 1 touchdown; 2 receptions, 38 yards @ Jets
What do we get when Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings go down with injuries? A whole lotta Marcel Reece, apparently.
The big back rumbled his way to a huge game against the Jets last week, perhaps putting the final nail in the coffin that houses McFadden’s Raider career. Is he someone you can pick up as an emergency fill-in for, say, Adrian Peterson? That might be the case were it not for one simple fact—Rashad Jennings is going to be back this weekend.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Arizona Cardinals
17 touches—17 carries, 41 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Rams
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
13 touches—11 carries, 46 yards, 1 touchdown; 2 receptions, 17 yards vs. Rams
Stepfan Taylor, RB, Arizona Cardinals
5 touches—2 carries, 9 yards; 3 receptions, 16 yards vs. Rams
It seems we have reached an equilibrium in Arizona. If health holds, this is the sort of split we can expect between Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington. As has been the case this season, one was far more efficient than the other.
The interesting part of the running back puzzle here is rookie Stepfan Taylor, who got some extended looks last week. Could the Cardinals be auditioning him for a bigger role next season, when Mendenhall might be gone?
This is, of course, a dynasty question more than anything, but Taylor might be a guy to keep an eye on this offseason.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
25 throws—10 completions, 148 yards, 1 fumble @ Eagles
A miserable time was had by all during the first half of the game in Philadelphia. But nobody had a more miserable time than Matthew Stafford, who might have been longing for the warmth of Ford Field.
Stafford fumbled the ball five times, though not all of them were his fault. He managed just one turnover on those fumbles, but the Lions were unable to get anything going in the air. Contrast that with the Eagles, who were able to do something after the blizzard abated in the second half.
The good news is Stafford is home, in the comfortable confines of a stadium with a roof.
Josh McCown, QB, Chicago Bears
36 throws—27 completions, 348 yards, 4 touchdowns; 3 carries, 16 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Cowboys
The Bears weren’t going to lose on a night they honored Mike Ditka, now, were they? But could you expect Josh McCown to shine with the fire of a thousand Ditkas?
Before we get carried away with McCown as the savior, though, remember that he was going up against a woeful Cowboys defense. Jay Cutler could be back any week, to boot. Marc Trestman has done a wonderful job with McCown in Chicago, but it would be wise to have a backup plan for McCown if you find yourself counting on him in the coming weeks.