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Tricks of the trends after Week 15

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Thanks to Matthew Stafford for reading last week's column and getting my man Calvin Johnson the targets he deserves.

Megatron saw 14 targets against the Raiders and delivered a career day with nine catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns. It was only the first time since Week 10 that he had received 10 or more targets and I am here to plead for 10-plus targets for Megatron every week. This year, Calvin has seen 10-plus targets in six games and in those six games he has caught 42 passes for 702 yards and nine touchdowns! That translates to roughly 22.1 points per game, which can lead us to only one conclusion: Throw him the damn ball!

Target observations after Week 15 ...

• Maybe Mike Williams was not able to get open against the Cowboys in Week 15, but a wide receiver cannot be expected to produce without receiving any chances, literally. Williams did not see a single target in the blowout loss to the Cowboys last Saturday and left his owners with a disappointing zero. How could he not receive a single target? That's the real question and it certainly makes it even tougher to contemplate starting Williams in Week 16 against the Panthers. After all, Williams had seen seven or more targets in 10 of his last 11 games before Week 15 and then did not get a single pass. It's tough enough when you have been as inefficient as Williams this year -- who is averaging just six yards per target -- but it is another issue when you do not even get a chance to produce. Williams had five catches for 93 yards in his last game against Carolina, but that was with Josh Johnson at quarterback. Josh Freeman's shoulder is clearly an issue and there are many receivers I would rather start than Williams in this critical week.

Jabar Gaffney has been an unsung hero of the playoff run, especially in point-per-reception leagues. Over the last two games, Gaffney has seen 17 targets and has caught 12 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. He is averaging 11.5 points per game in standard scoring leagues in those two games and is at a whopping 17.5 points per game in point-per-reception leagues. With the awful secondary of the Vikings (28 points per game to wide receivers over the last four games), look for Gaffney to continue to be an important part of winning Fantasy Football teams as a quality wide receiver who is still available in 33 percent of leagues.

Demaryius Thomas continued his excellent play in Week 15 with another big-time performance. He now has 100 yards or a touchdown in three straight games and is taking full advantage of being targeted like a star receiver. Thomas saw 13 more targets in Week 15 and caught seven on them for 116 yards. He has 18 catches for 338 yards and three scores over the last three weeks and should be in your lineups again in Week 16 against the Bills.

For more from Nathan check out his website at thefantasyconsultant.com

• Please start Jake Locker in Tennessee! Locker played another half of a quarter and threw a touchdown to his main man Nate Washington. Washington has four touchdowns and 202 receiving yards with Locker in four and half quarters of play. With the Jaguars up next (who have given up a league high nine touchdowns to the opposing top target and 34 touchdowns to opposing number one receivers in their last 46 games), Washington could lead the charge for a Fantasy Bowl title if he can get Locker as his quarterback.

• I wish I could tell you that Percy Harvin just did not get any opportunities to make plays in Week 15, but the fact is that he saw seven targets against the Saints. Those seven targets produced three catches and only eight yards for Harvin, who had scored in four straight games and who had been the top receiver in all of Fantasy over the last five weeks. He has seen at least seven targets in six straight games and I would expect Harvin to bounce back against the Redskins.

• Tip your cap to the Chiefs secondary who completely shut down the Packers receivers in Week 15. Green Bay's receivers saw 16 targets in that game and combined for a grand total of 10 catches for 106 yards and one touchdown. They averaged just 7.1 yards per target as a group including Randall Cobb, but Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Donald Driver were held to just 4.4 yards per target as the team's starters. Jones and Nelson entered the game averaging over 12 yards per target each and were reduced to nothing on Sunday. That was a bad time for the most efficient receivers in the NFL to suddenly become below average.

• Is anyone playing better than Marques Colston right now? Colston has caught 15 of his last 16 targets for 196 yards and two touchdowns. When you consider that his teammate Lance Moore has also caught nine of his last 12 targets for 111 yards and two touchdowns, maybe the question should be is anyone playing better than Drew Brees?

Malcom Floyd is a huge reason for Philip Rivers' recent success. Floyd is averaging 13.2 yards per target, second only to Jordy Nelson among the 80 most targeted receivers in the league. Floyd is another big-time playmaker for defenses to contend with and when he is healthy along with Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Ryan Mathews, the Chargers are as dynamic as any offense in the league.

• Another game and another scoreless Sunday for Austin Collie, who still holds the infamous honor of leading the league with 79 targets and no touchdowns. Collie is the only receiver with more than 50 targets who has not yet scored a touchdown. Wow. In other news, Chad Ochocinco finally scored his first touchdown of 2011. Hooray!

Jermaine Gresham has been getting plenty of chances to make plays over the last three weeks, but his efficiency has been non-existent. Gresham has seen 19 targets in his last three games, but he has caught only nine of them for 98 yards. He has caught just 47 percent of his targets and has been averaging just five yards per target during that span, which is atrocious for a tight end. Unless he gets those metrics fixed in practice this week, it is tough to trust Gresham in your Super Bowl.

Kahlil Bell has taken over in the receiving department for Matt Forte. In the last two games, Bell has seen 11 targets and has 10 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Look for Bell to catch another five or more passes in Week 16 against the Packers, making him a solid flex in all formats and a sleeper second running back in point-per-reception leagues.

Target Leaders by position for Week 15: Wide receiver: Roddy White (16) and Calvin Johnson (14); Tight end: Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Pettigrew and Jared Cook (11); Running back: Chris Johnson and Ray Rice (11)

Yards Per Target Leaders among qualifying players by position after Week 15: Wide receiver: Jordy Nelson (13.5) and Malcom Floyd (13.2); Tight end: Rob Gronkowski (10.9) and Jake Ballard (9.9); Running back: Michael Bush (9.3) and Fred Jackson (9.0)

Worst Yards Per Target among qualifying players by position after Week 15: Wide receiver: Andre Caldwell (4.7) and Austin Collie (4.7); Tight end: Chris Cooley (5.0) and Marcedes Lewis, Dallas Clark (5.3); Running back: Sammy Morris (0.0) and Willis McGahee (2.8)

Red Zone

• One reason David Akers is having such a good year is the complete ineptitude of the 49ers in the red zone. Quarterback Alex Smith's 14.8 percent red zone scoring rate is the worst among the 25 quarterbacks with at least 40 red zone chances. With all of those drives stalling up close, it is no surprise that Akers leads the NFL with 12 multiple field goal games in 2011.

LeSean McCoy is a touchdown machine. McCoy leads all non-quarterbacks with 17 red zone touchdowns in 2011 and his 26.2 percent red zone scoring rate is the best among the 14 busiest runners inside the 20. In fact, he is having such a great year that he trails the next three busiest running backs inside the 20 by only two touchdowns. McCoy's 17 scores have come on 65 targets plus carries, while Arian Foster, Frank Gore and Cedric Benson have a combined 19 red zone scores on 169 opportunities.

Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, Laurent Robinson and Plaxico Burress lead all receivers with seven red zone scores. White has really come on strong of late and is becoming a monster touchdown machine when you need it the most, while Robinson is the most efficient of the bunch with a 70 percent red zone scoring rate. Trailing that quartet are two undersized slot receivers in Wes Welker and Lance Moore, who both play with some great quarterbacks and who have each caught six touchdowns inside the 20.

Rob Gronkowski (11) and Aaron Hernandez (six) have combined for 17 red zone scores this year, which is amazing for two tight ends on the same team. It is even more amazing when you consider that they have more touchdowns inside the 20 combined than Vernon Davis (four), Dallas Clark (two), Jermichael Finley (six), Jason Witten (three) and Marcedes Lewis (zero) combined.

Goal Line

Ryan Mathews has scored on four of his five goal line chances this year, which is a league best 80 percent goal line touchdown rate among the backs with at least five chances. His teammate, Mike Tolbert, has four goal line scores on 16 chances. Give the ball to Mathews Norvall! That also bodes very well for Mathews in 2012 should Tolbert leave via free agency, because if he becomes a full time and goal line back, Mathews will have top five potential.

• Since BenJarvus Green-Ellis barely receives 10 carries in his games, it is a good thing he has remained a stud at the goal line. The Law Firm has been the most efficient goal line runner among the 10 busiest goal line backs this season as has scored eight times on 16 carries, good for a 50 percent scoring rate. The worst among the top 10 in chances has been Frank Gore, who has just a 23.8 percent scoring rate, which is another reason that David Akers is the main point scorer in San Francisco.

• For as dominant as A.J. Green has been in other aspects of his game, he has to get better in scoring situations if he wants to be a top five Fantasy receiver. Green has just one touchdown on six targets inside the five yard line, which is the second worst scoring rate among the most targeted receivers.

• In a battle of Brandon's, who do you think leads this trio in terms of goal line touchdowns in 2011: Brandon Marshall, Brandon Lloyd or Brandon Lafell? We can cross Lafell off of that list right? Wrong! Marshall and Lloyd have yet to score a goal line touchdown this year despite seeing 11 targets combined (seven for Marshall and four for Lloyd). Lafell meanwhile has converted both of his targets inside the five yard line into touchdowns. That's another clear example of what a wacky league the NFL can be at times.

Glossary
Target Conversion Rate or Catch Rate (TCR): The percentage of a player's targets (passes thrown to them) that are converted into receptions. Over 60 percent is excellent, 66 percent is elite and under 52.5 percent is worrisome.
Yards per Target (YPT): A player's receiving yards divided by his targets. In other words, the numbers of yards a team gains on average every time they attempt a pass to a certain player. Over 10 is exceptional, over 8 is solid and 6 or lower is horrendous.
Red Zone Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 20 yard line
Red Zone TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Red Zone opportunities that result in a TD
Goal Line Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 5 yard line
Goal Line TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Goal Line opportunities that result in a TD
Consistency Rate: The percentage of quality starts a player gives you out of 16 games. For QBs that is a game with 300+ yards passing OR multiple TDs. For RBs/WRs: A game with 100+ yards rush/rec or a game with a TD. For TEs: A game with 60+ yards receiving or a TD. For a Kicker: A game with multiple FGs.
Big Game Rate: The percentage of dominant starts a player gives you out of 16 games (games missed with injury count as a bad game since they do not help your Fantasy teams). For a QB that is a game with 300+ yards and 2+ TDs or 200+ yards and 3+ TDs. For a RB/WR that is a game with 100+ combined rush/rec yards and a TD or a game with multiple TDs. For a TE that is a game of 60+ yards and a TD, 100+ yards or a game with multiple TDs.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Nathan at @NathanZeguraTFC .

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Player News
Report: Buccaneers bringing in Dan Connolly for a visit
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(9:11 pm ET) Former Patriots offensive guard Dan Connolly will visit the Buccaneers on Tuesday, per a report by Fox's Ross Jones, citing a source. 

Connolly has played in 87 games for the Patriots in the last seven years and hasn't played in fewer than 13 games in a season since 2008. 


Steelers RB DeAngelo WIlliams says signing was easy decision
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(9:03 pm ET) After playing his first nine seasons with the Panthers, running back DeAngelo Williams signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Steelers this offseason. Among his many thoughts on the signing, he called it an easy decision, according to the Sporting News.

“I didn’t know they wanted me. I had never been on a visit before,” Williams said. “I was with the same organization for nine years. When I got the call and they said, 'hey we want to bring you in for a visit' I took it as that. Had they said we wanted to bring you in for a signing I would have had a different mindset. I had no idea what was going to transpire when I got here.”

Williams added that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get the team to the next level.

“It’s the opportunity to take maybe one or two reps or whatever it takes to make this team better,” Williams said. “That is what I will do. I want to make it to a Super Bowl and win it. I know this team has that potential and they can do it.

“Coming here was an easy decision. This is a Super Bowl contending team. Every veteran out there, veteran or rookie, they want to go to the Super Bowl and win it and get the best opportunity. I think the best opportunity is here in Pittsburgh.”

Williams has rushed for 6,846 yards on 1,432 carries with 46 rushing touchdowns in his career.


Lions WR Golden Tate doesn't feel pressure due to loss of Suh
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(8:49 pm ET) Although Lions wide receiver Golden Tate feels the loss of Ndamukong Suh is a blow to the team, he doesn't believe it puts more pressure on the offense, reports ESPN. 

When asked specifically about the subject, Tate was clear about his thoughts.

"No, I don't think it adds any pressure," Tate said by phone Monday. "We just need to be who we are. We know that we have a lot of weapons all over the field. We just need to reach our potential each and every week.

"We just need to go out there and play fundamentally sound football and I have no doubt our defense is going to be really good again this year and we just got to do our jobs. There's no pressure on anyone but to be ourselves and to play good football."

Additionally, Tate recognizes that Suh was a game-changing player for the Lions, but he likes the addition of Haloti Ngata.

"Obviously, losing Suh is a big hit," Tate said. "I don't care what team you are, he's the guy that can change the game. Change an opposing offense's game plan. He affects the game so much. But with that being said, I'm thankful to have [had] the opportunity to play with him for a year and be a part of something special. But the show must go on.

"The guy we got, [Haloti] Ngata, is a heck of a player. I think it's a good pickup for us. I know he has a past with coach Caldwell so he knows the ins and outs of the system, probably. But we're ready to move forward. We can't live in the past and football season must still go on. We're preparing to have a great year and build from last year."

The 26-year-old stated that he plans on focusing on the intricacies of the offensive playbook heading into this season.

"One thing I really want to focus on is learning the playbook a little bit better," Tate said. "I felt like I knew it for the most part, but details, running the plays exactly how Joe Lombardi draws them up, could help us win more games and create more opportunities for myself and our team."

Tate finished his first season with the Lions catching 99 passes for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns.


Report: LB Rolando McClain ends Patriots' visit without contract
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(7:52 pm ET) After visiting the Patriots on Monday, linebacker Rolando McClain and the team did not agree to terms on a contract, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. The same report states that the visit was a positive one.

McClain played in 13 games last season for the Cowboys, collecting 81 total tackles and one sack. Over his four-year career, the 25-year-old has accumulated 327 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, 23 passes defensed, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.


Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu looks forward to being healthy
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:56 pm ET) Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu believes that he is regaining his health and he's ready to make an impact this season, according to the team's website.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been healthy,” Mathieu said Monday. “Last year I felt like I took a back seat. I played well my rookie year and then last year it was kind of, eh, I was there but I wasn’t there. This (year) is more important for me because I really want to let everyone know I’m back and I can still make some plays.”

Mathieu tore his ACL and LCL toward the end of the 2013 season. He recently said that the comeback was "way harder than I thought."

Head coach Bruce Arians talked about how Mathieu was not himself last season.

“You saw him fight through it last year,” Arians said. “He was not the player he was used to (being) and it was very frustrating for him.”

Mathieu was aware of the chatter from the outside world and he is using that as motivation going forward.

“You hear people talk and I had time to listen to them talk, so it’s like … I hear it,” Mathieu said. “Like I said, I didn’t feel like I made enough plays last year to help our team. I am looking forward to this year because I know I can do it.”

The 22-year-old has registered 106 total tackles, one sack, three interceptions and one forced fumble in 26 games played during his two-year career.


Saints plan to rework Jahri Evans, Cameron Jordan contracts
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:27 pm ET) Saints coach Sean Payton said that the team has a plan in place to rework guard Jahri Evans' contract to help create salary cap space, per ESPN's Mike Triplett

Evans is scheduled to make $6.8 million salary in 2015 and cost $11 million against the cap. 

The team might also extend defensive end Cameron Jordan's contract. Jordan is entering the last year of his contract and is scheduled to make $6.969 million this year.


Rams have agreed to terms with OL Tim Barnes
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:16 pm ET) The Rams have agreed to terms with offensive lineman Tim Barnes, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The one-year deal has a maximum value of $1 million. 

Barnes recently visited had a visit with the Chiefs before signing with the Rams. The 26-year-old spent all three of his previous seasons with the Rams, starting four of the 45 games he appeared in.


Report: Brandon Tate visits Chiefs
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:14 pm ET) Free agent wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Tate visited the Chiefs on Monday, according to a report from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, citing a source.

Tate had 17 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown for the Bengals last year. He also had a combined 571 yards in kick and punt returns. 


Lions' Riley Reiff open to playing right tackle
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:10 pm ET) Lions coach Jim Caldwell said that Riley Reiff might start at right tackle next season. 

Reiff has started 32 games at left tackle over the last two seasons. The Lions aren't sure that last year's right tackle LaAdrian Waddle will be fully recovered from knee surgery, and backup tackle Cornelius Lucas is better on the left side. 

Reiff told the Daily Republic he doesn't care where he plays. 

 "I like playing, and wherever they want to put me, that's fine. I'll play," he said.


Broncos OL Michael Schofield looking to compete for starting job
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:05 pm ET) Broncos offensive lineman Michael Schofield is ready to come in and compete for a starting job this season, reports the Denver Post.

After not dressing for a single game as a rookie, Schofield added weight and he looks forward to fighting for a starting job.

"I am going in there with that mentality. In the NFL everybody is competing," Schofield said during a road trip to see family in Illinois. "They are looking for someone to step up and take over. I want to make that jump."

The third-round draft pick of the Broncos in 2014 struggled with weight issues, but he is now up to 305 pounds. He also recognized that his pass protection needs improvement.

"Personally, I felt there were reasons I wasn't out there (for games). I wasn't consistent enough in pass pro (protection). And my weight was really fluctuating," Schofield said.

Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak believes that the team's zone-blocking scheme can help Schofield elevate his game, and Schofield agrees.

"We like the Schofield kid, so we'll see. We think he's got some flexibility (in where he can play)," Kubiak said. "It will be very competitive."

"I feel like I am better suited for this," Schofield said. "You have to be able to reach block, and I feel the steps required fit me better."


 
 
 
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