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Tricks of the trends after Week 4

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Here is a deep dive behind some of the key statistics (targets, red zone and goal line) for Fantasy football success to help give you a little edge in your weekly quest for victory.

Targets

Brian Hartline just had 19 targets and 253 yards receiving in an NFL game. Seriously, it just happened in Week 4 against the Arizona Cardinals no less. For the year, Hartline is now third in the NFL with 48 targets and is one of only 10 receivers in the game to have seen at least eight targets in every game this year. We have definitely seen his best game of the year, but Hartline already has two 100-yard games and has a catch of at least 20 yards in every game. With an average of 12 targets per game, Hartline is worth a spot on every team and makes for a solid start in Week 5 against the Bengals.

• While Brian Hartline has his 48 targets through four games, I thought it would be important to point out that Andre Johnson has a grand total of 24. The Texans may be too good to give him the kind of workload he needs to be a dominant Fantasy performer week in and week out.

• We need to start calling Dwayne Bowe the Garbage Man, because no one in the NFL gets it done when it doesn't matter better than Dwayne Bowe. Bowe, who is tied for the league lead with 49 targets through four games, is especially busy when the game is out of hand. 19 of those 49 targets have come after the third quarter this year for Bowe and perhaps more importantly to his Fantasy owners, Bowe has scored all three of his touchdowns in the final stanza.

• The Atlanta wide receiving duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones may be the best in the NFL, but thus far they have been taking turns each week, rather than dominating together. In Weeks 1 and 3, Jones has caught 11 of his 16 targets for 175 yards and three touchdowns, or 35 Fantasy points. In those same games, White has 11 catches of his own for a solid 142 yards and no scores. In the even weeks however, it has been all about the Hot Rod. In Weeks 2 and 4, White has caught 16 of his 23 targets for 271 yards and three scores which is a ridiculous 45 Fantasy points. Jones meanwhile, has been almost invisible in those games, catching just five passes for 44 yards total. I'd like to see Jones be more like White when it is "not his week," or even better for Fantasy owners, how about they both blow up at the same time.

Larry Fitzgerald and Kevin Kolb apparently sat down and read the Tricks of the Trends a couple of weeks ago and decided they needed to go to quarterback/receiver counseling. Well, kudos to the doctor involved because over the last two weeks, they are looking like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. After a seven game scoring drought dating back to 2011, Fitz and Kolb are exactly on the same page. In the last two games, Fitzgerald has converted 17 of his 24 targets for 178 yards and two scores. If I am going to nitpick, I would like to see the yards per catch (10.5) and yards per target (7.4) go up, but hey, we can build on this.

Jerome Simpson only saw five targets in his 2012 debut with the Vikings, but Minnesota hardly threw the ball in their special teams win over the Lions. Those five targets were second on the team and he caught four of them for a team-high 50 yards. That's 10 yards per target, which is right where Simpson was in Cincy last year, so if he is still on your wire,go ahead and add him this week.

• Who leads all wide receivers with four receiving touchdowns? Duh, it's Andre Roberts of the Arizona Cardinals. Fitz and Kolb have worked out their issues as I outlined above, but Roberts can't be ignored either. Roberts has caught 15 of his 25 targets (60 percent) for 229 yards (9.2 yards per target) and the four scores. He is averaging 1.88 points per target thus far, which is the best number among the 70 most targeted receivers in the NFL. Something to keep in mind is that Roberts now has six scores in his last eight games and during that span, he has never produced fewer than seven points when he sees nine targets. With Fitz taking defensive attention on the other side of the field, Roberts is quietly earning more targets with his ability to win one-on-one matchups.

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• During the offseason I talked about how Mike Williams would be much more efficient working opposite Vincent Jackson then he was in 2011 as the main man. Well, through four games, Williams is averaging a career best 10 yards and 1.54 points per target and if he can get a few more looks from Josh Freeman (he is currently tied for 53rd at 5.5 targets per game), Williams could be a solid weekly play as your third receiver.

• Through the first three weeks of the NFL season, Martellus Bennett, Dennis Pitta and Kyle Rudolph averaged a combined 24 targets and a whopping 32 Fantasy points per week. In Week 4, they combined for only 10 targets and failed to produce a single Fantasy point. As Jamey Eisenberg likes to say, they were Pittaful. I am not giving up on these three after one bad week, but we have to make sure this radical decrease in targets and production does not continue.

• Who would have thought that after four games, the only pass catchers in the NFL with at least four receiving touchdowns would be the aforementioned Andre Roberts and tight ends Vernon Davis (ok, I can see that), Heath Miller (in three games mind you) and Scott Chandler? Well, Chandler is looking like the real deal and I love his overall involvement in the offense this year. In 2011, Chandler did catch six touchdowns, but averaged just 3.3 targets and 24.3 yards per game. This year, Chandler is averaging 5.8 targets and nearly 45 yards receiving per game. If he can maintain those levels and remain a beast in the red zone, he will be a sneaky Top 12 tight end when it is all said and done.

Antonio Gates and Jason Witten both got their efficiency in order in Week 4, which was good to see, but only one of them had a substantial workload. You see, Jason Witten saw a season high 14 targets in Week 4 and caught 13 of them for 112 yards and a touchdown. Entering the game, Witten had caught only eight passes for 76 yards on 19 targets. Now poor Antonio Gates has only 18 targets on the season, four more than Witten saw last week. He did catch all three of his targets in Week 4 for 59 yards, but Gates needs more chances to succeed and he should get them in Week 5 against the New Orleans Saints.

• After seeing 25 targets in the first two weeks, Darren McFadden has seen just three total in the last two games. The Raiders need to use their bye week to find better ways to get the ball into the hands of their star running back.

• Target Leaders by position for week 4: Wide receiver: Brian Hartline (19), Larry Fitzgerald (15), Lance Moore (15), Victor Cruz (13), Dez Bryant (13) and Marques Colston (15); Tight end: Jason Witten (14), Rob Gronkowski (11), Jimmy Graham (9) and Brandon Pettigrew (9); Running back: Ray Rice (11) and Marcel Reece (8)

Red Zone

Matt Schaub has 12 red zone chances and has produced four touchdowns. Meanwhile running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate have combined for 30 red zone opportunities and seven touchdowns. The Texans are perhaps too good at running the ball and way too good on defense to give Schaub a chance at consistent high-level Fantasy production.

Russell Wilson is single handedly murdering whatever value the pass catchers in Seattle may have now that the real refs are back on the field. Wilson has 24 red zone chances through four weeks, which tied for the third most in the NFL. Unfortunately, he has only one red zone score and his 4.2 percent red zone touchdown rate is the worst in the NFL among the 25 busiest quarterbacks. The other five quarterbacks with 24 or more chances inside the 20-yard line have combined for 32 red zone scores by comparison.

Darren McFadden leads all running backs in a dubious category, as his 14 red zone opportunities are the most at the position without a single touchdown in 2012.

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• Who is second among all running backs with four red zone touchdowns? If you guessed the wart on Ryan Mathews' current Fantasy production, the one and only Ewart Haron "Jackie" Battle III, then you are correct. He got all of the red zone work in Week 4 and scored twice against the Chiefs in his second two-touchdown game of the year.

• Three receivers pace the field with three red zone scores after the first four weeks of the season. Julio Jones is not a huge surprise, but I would imagine not too many of us had Andre Roberts and James Jones in our office pools. In fact, James Jones and Andre Roberts have combined for more red zone touchdowns than Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Percy Harvin, Wes Welker and Dez Bryant have combined receiving scores from anywhere on the field.

Alex Smith has three red zone scores on eight pass attempts. Only two of those attempts went the way of Vernon Davis, but both resulted in scores. My advice to Mr. Smith is to please give Vernon the two red zone targets per game that Martellus Bennett is currently receiving from Eli Manning.

Goal Line

• Last week, I highlighted Robert Griffin III for being four for four in goal line chances through the first three weeks of the NFL season. Well, he is now five for five and is like having a goal line back on your team in addition to a quarterback.

• Last week I also noted that Doug Martin was the only runner with four goal line chances and no touchdowns through the first three weeks. Well, Martin is still stuck at zero for four after Tampa Bay elected to give LeGarrette Blount the goal line work in Week 4. Blount made the most of his one goal line chance by converting it into the team's only short rushing touchdown of the year.

Jackie Battle and Arian Foster lead all running backs with four goal line touchdowns and they are No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of chances at 10 and nine respectively.

Reggie Bush owners should maybe start to be concerned about Jorvorskie Lane, the big bruising full back has taken the ball at the goal line in each of the last two weeks. He has converted both of his goal line chances into touchdowns and you'd expect that the Dolphins will continue to utilize their big battering ram up close.

• One reason that Larry Fitzgerald is finally scoring with Kevin Kolb under center is that he leads all receivers with four goal line targets this year. If that continues, we will see plenty of scores from the Fitz/Kolb combo.

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

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Player News
You'll want to stick with Tre Mason
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:31 pm ET) In two games since blowing up for 164 total yards and three touchdowns, Rams running back Tre Mason has a total of 99 yards on 33 carries. Neither performance was good individually, and Week 15 against Arizona was especially bad. Subtract the fumble from his 33 yards, and he scored a grand total of one Fantasy point in standard CBSSports.com leagues.

So why would you consider using him in your championship game with the Rams hosting the Giants in Week 16? For one thing, the matchup is a night-and-day difference. You had to expect Mason to struggle against the Cardinals, who rank sixth against the run, allowing 90.4 yards per game, but would have guessed the Redskins, his Week 14 opponent, rank seventh? It's not a matter of teams choosing to beat them through the air either. They're one of 10 teams that have allowed less than 4 yards per carry.

The Giants, meanwhile, rank 30th against the run, allowing 135.1 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. It doesn't mean Mason is a lock for big numbers. The Redskins' Alfred Morris, who most would consider a superior running back, had just 49 yards on 14 carries against the Giants last week. But after splitting carries early on, Mason has become the clear workhorse of the Rams backfield. You don't sit a running back with that role when he has a favorable matchup, especially when he's performed as Mason has this season.

Jamey Eisenberg agrees, naming Mason the CBSSports.com Start of the Week for Week 16.


Packers, Randall Cobb not in discussions for contract extension
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:21 pm ET) Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb said Thursday that he and the team haven't been engaged in contract-extension talks, the Journal Sentinel reports.

"There’s no contract talks that have been going on right now, so I guess not," Cobb said when asked if he thought he's done enough to earn an extension. "I guess there’s still more to do. So, just continue to put my nose down every day and focus on getting the team into the playoffs and doing everything I can to bring back the Super Bowl."

Cobb is in the last year of his rookie contract and will become a free agent this offseason if an extension isn't signed. He's enjoyed a breakout performance in 2014, racking up 76 receptions for 1,076 yards with 10 touchdowns. If the Packers choose to let Cobb enter free agency, 2014 second-round pick Davante Adams would likely move into a much larger role.


Turner: Matt Asiata to get bulk of carries Sunday against Dolphins
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:59 pm ET) After it was reported the Vikings were going to use a running-back-by-committee approach once Jerrick McKinnon was lost for the season, offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Thursday Matt Asiata will get the majority of the carries when Minnesota travels to Miami Sunday.

"Well, Matt I think showed, I think he's shown throughout, but he's showed in the game that he's a guy that gives us the best all-around running, catching, [pass] protection," Turner said Thursday. "He had an outstanding game so I would expect Matt to get the bulk of the work and when there's opportunity to get someone else in there we'll do it."

Asiata is averaging 3.3 yards per carry this season with seven rushing touchdowns. Running backs Joe Banyard and Ben Tate appear to be on the back burner after Tate has had just 38 yards on 13 carries since going the Vikings. While Banyard has just 45 yards on 10 carries. 


Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham on track to play Week 16
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham, who missed the Week 15 win at Cleveland with a toe injury, practiced fully Thursday, reports ESPN.com. He's on track to start Monday against the Broncos.

With Tyler Eifert still trying to come back from an elbow injury he suffered in the season opener, Gresham is the team's only pass-catching tight end. Gresham has 50 grabs for 378 yards and three touchdowns.


DeAngelo Williams could play Sunday wearing a cast
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:38 pm ET) Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams is getting fitted for a cast he'd wear if he returns to action Sunday against the Browns, reports ESPN.com. Williams fractured his right hand in the Week 13 loss at Minnesota.

Williams was limited in Thursday's practice. He hasn't caught passes, and the team is concerned about how the injury will affect his blocking, the report said.

But if Williams returns, he'll cut into the sizable workload Jonathan Stewart has received the past two weeks when he averaged 21.5 touches.


Jaguars announce QB Blake Bortles will start Thursday night
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:21 pm ET) Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, who was questionable with a mid-foot sprain, will start Thursday night's game against the Titans, the team announced. It will be Bortles' first primetime appearance.

Bortles made a quick recovery from the injury, but how effective he'll be remains to be seen. He's thrown 10 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. Tennessee will start quarterback Charlie Whitehurst following injuries to Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker.

Jacksonville is favored by 3.5 points -- the first time it has been favored in 43 games.


Edelman, LaFell, Vereen still limited for Patriots
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:20 pm ET) The Patriots received limited participation in practice from Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and Shane Vereen on Thursday.

All three players were limited on Wednesday, so there was no change in their status. Edelman is battling a thigh injury and a concussion. LaFell has a shoulder issue. Vereen is dealing with an ankle injury. The team will release a final game status for each player following Friday's practice. 


Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) practices fully
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:14 pm ET) Broncos tight end Julius Thomas practiced fully Thursday as the team readied for Monday night's game in Cincinnati. It's a positive step for Thomas, who was limited last week due to his ankle injury.

Thomas played 29 snaps and caught a 30-yard pass in the Week 15 win at San Diego. He could be primed to return to his normal workload Monday.


Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles practices in full Thursday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:59 pm ET) Ankle and knee ailments could not prevent Chiefs standout running back Jamaal Charles from putting in a full practice Thursday. He was limited in the Wednesday session.

Charles in a roll. He has 515 yards on 86 carries in the last six games for a 6.0 YPC average.


DeMarco Murray increases workload in Thursday's practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:53 pm ET) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray was listed as limited in Thursday's practice, but he said he did a lot more than he was able to do Wednesday, reports the Dallas Morning News. Wearing a special glove with padding to protect his surgically-repaired left hand, Murray participated in some team drills.

"It’s good," Murray told the paper. "I feel good."

Murray was asked if he'll play Sunday against the Colts, if the decision is left up to him. "I’m a very competitive person and I want to help this team out as much as I can," he told the paper. "I’ve had two good days and we’ll see how it goes."

Owner Jerry Jones said he was encouraged that Murray, the NFL's leading rusher, is "so aggressive in his thinking about playing."

Murray underwent surgery Monday to fix a broken bone in his hand. If he sits out, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar would rotate at tailback. Dallas is favored by 3 over the Colts at nearly every sportsbook.


 
 
 
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