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Tricks of the trends after Week 12

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

Hakeem Nicks certainly looked more like his old self against the Packers on Sunday night as he caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in the Giants' win. He now has at least five catches and 75 yards in each of his last two games and you have to hope he can build on this for the playoff run. A closer look reveals that Nicks still has a long way to go in terms of efficiency as he caught just 51 percent of his targets the last two weeks and averaged an awful 4.9 yards per target. Furthermore, if you watched the Green Bay game you saw Eli Manning try to force the ball to Nicks in the red zone time and time again, but their timing remained a little off. They did connect for one touchdown, but he really should have had three given that he was targeted six times in the red zone and three times from inside the 10-yard line. Still, it was a positive development for Nicks who has seen 27 targets in his last two games. If he can get his yards per target back to his career average of 8.2, Nicks will be a big time playoff contributor for your teams.

Ryan Broyles stepped into the starting lineup for the Lions and you have to think he will stay there the rest of the year. Broyles saw 12 targets against the Texans and caught six of them for 126 yards in a very impressive performance. Frankly, Broyles has been impressive all year for the Lions and enters Week 13 with the following efficiency numbers: 68 percent catch rate, 10 yards per target and 1.4 Fantasy points per target. With Matthew Stafford heating up and Titus Young in the doghouse, Broyles has the chance to be a weekly contributor working against single coverage opposite Calvin Johnson. Broyles looks like a must-add off of the wire and someone you can start as a third receiver as long as he keeps starting for the Lions.

Donnie Avery was active in Week 12 and saw nine targets compared to three for T.Y. Hilton. Avery produced three catches for 31 yards on his eight targets, while Hilton caught all three of his for 33 yards and a touchdown. Hilton has out-produced Avery all year long and is averaging 8.6 yards and 1.4 Fantasy points per target compared to just 6.9 and 0.75 respectively for Avery. Hopefully someone on the coaching staff notices this trend soon and we can all use Hilton for the Fantasy playoff run. In 2013, Hilton will become a household name, which will make him unique among the Hiltons because he actually possesses real talent and skills.

Justin Blackmon will be getting Chad Henne a nice Christmas gift this year as he has now scored in each of the two games that have featured Henne at quarterback. Blackmon followed up his ridiculous 236-yard, one touchdown game against Houston in Week 11 with five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown on only six targets in Week 12. Prior to Week 11, Blackmon was catching 44 percent of his targets and was averaging 4.4 yards and 0.5 Fantasy points per target. In two games with Henne, Blackmon has caught 63 percent of his targets and averaged 15.6 yards and 2.2 Fantasy points per target. Those numbers are clearly not sustainable, but Blackmon sure looks like a solid No. 3 receiver alongside budding superstar Cecil Shorts in Jacksonville.

Denarius Moore is definitely one of my favorites, but he has been struggling the last two weeks, which is a cause for concern. After seeing at least eight targets and catching at least four passes in seven straight games, Moore has just two catches for 29 yards and a touchdown total in his last two games. He has been targeted just 11 times during that span, but two catches and 29 yards is horrendous by any standards and when you consider that he faced New Orleans and Cincinnati in the two games it becomes even more troubling. With Joe Haden coming to town in Week 13, Moore could very likely struggle again. After all, Haden has allowed more than 50 yards receiving just once in the last four games and has not let a receiver top 10 Fantasy points. With ugly trends and a tough matchup, I think Moore can be benched in Week 13.

James Jones has just one touchdown in his last five games and is disappearing from the Green Bay offense. He has seen just four total targets in the last two games and has two catches for 33 yards total during that span. With Greg Jennings due back in the lineup in Week 13, Jones is someone who can be sent back to the bench. After all, he has produced more than 60 yards receiving just three times all year and with reduced chances, Jones could struggle to hit 40 yards more often than not, which limits his upside even if he scores a touchdown.

• Last week I asked for more targets for Julio Jones and he saw nine of them in Week 12, which is his second highest total of the season. Jones caught six of those passes for 147 yards and a touchdown in a huge win over the Buccaneers. For as talented as Jones is, you may find it hard to believe that he has seen nine or more targets in only three games this year. In those three games, Jones has 22 catches for 349 yards and four touchdowns. He has produced at least 15 Fantasy points in each of those games and has shown that he can be a dominant No. 1 receiver when he receives the proper target volume for a player of his caliber. If he ever averages 10 targets per game, Julio Jones will challenge Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green for the title of best receiver in the NFL.

Steve Johnson is not catching touchdowns, but he has been very involved over the last three weeks and if he can get some scores down the stretch look out. Johnson has seen at least nine targets in each of those games (33 total) and has 18 catches (six in every game) for 271 yards (90.3 per game). With the soft pass defense of Jacksonville up next, Steve Johnson will have a very good shot to be "TD Steve" once again, making him a great start for your teams.

• I don't know what is more disappointing, the fact that Brandon Lloyd has found the end zone in just one of his last seven games or the fact that he has topped 50 yards receiving once during that span as well. There is no way to sugar coat this one: Brandon Lloyd is a flat out bust. In those seven games, Lloyd has seen 48 targets (just about seven per game), but has a grand total of 24 catches for 264 yards and two scores. He is averaging just 37 yards per game receiving and is catching 50 percent of his targets while producing only 5.5 yards per target. When you consider that Tom Brady is completing 65 percent of his targets and averaging nearly eight yards per attempt, you can see that not only is Lloyd below average in general, but he sticks out like a sore thumb in the New England offense. With Rob Gronkowski out, Lloyd will be asked to pick up the slack, but I am not sure he is up to the task.

• In the two games that Percy Harvin has missed, Kyle Rudolph has been the top target for Christian Ponder and has produced like a superstar. Rudolph was targeted nine times in each of those games and caught 12 of the 18 targets for 119 yards and two touchdowns (he scored in both games). For the year, Rudolph has been targeted nine or more times in three games and he has scored a touchdown in all of them and has produced at least 11 Fantasy points per game. Throw him the ball!

• In each of his last two games, Jimmy Graham has been targeted six times, which ties for the second lowest total of the season. Watching the Saints play in those games was interesting to say the least as there are now multiple personnel groupings that the team uses that do not feature Graham. Frankly, I think he should be on the field for every play and it makes you wonder if he is not at 100 percent. After all, over the last two weeks against the Raiders and 49ers, Graham has totaled just 62 yards on his 10 catches. That's just 6.2 yards per catch for one of the best athletes in the NFL and that is certainly troubling as is his 5.1 yards per target average, when you consider that Graham was averaging nearly eight yards per target before Week 11. Hopefully this is a two-week aberration, but it definitely warrants monitoring going forward.

• This may be the craziest stat I have seen all year: In 2012, Jason Witten has been the target of 107 passes from Tony Romo and yet they have not connected for a single touchdown. His only touchdown catch of the year came with Kyle Orton at quarterback in garbage time against the Bears back in Week 4. To put that in perspective, Ray Rice would be second among all pass catchers with 63 targets and no touchdowns receiving. Among wide receivers and tight ends, Josh Morgan (52 targets) is the only one with more than 50 targets this year and no touchdowns. So Witten, at 107 targets with Romo and no touchdowns, is bordering on a historical touchdown drought.

Darren Sproles is back after seeing nine targets and catching seven passes for 65 yards against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12. Sproles has nine targets in each of his last two games and with all of the problems on the Saints' offensive line, they will need to him to play a big role in the screen game to slow down the opposing pass rush.

Target Leaders by position for Week 12: Wide receiver: Calvin Johnson (17), Brandon Marshall (17), Steve Johnson (15), Andre Johnson (15) and Reggie Wayne (14); Tight end: Jason Witten (15), Brandon Pettigrew (15) and Rob Housler (11); Running back: Ray Rice (nine), Darren Sproles (nine) and William Powell (nine)

Red Zone

• Looking for another reason to like Colin Kaepernick as a Fantasy quarterback? Look no further than his red zone efficiency, because Kap gets it done inside the 20-yard line. In limited action this year, Kap has 20 red zone pass and rush attempts combined. Seven of those plays have resulted in touchdowns (three passes and four rushes, including one of each against the Saints last week), which is a tremendous 35 percent red zone scoring rate. That would put him right among the elite quarterbacks in the league right now and if he can keep that up, we will have a surefire Top 12 Fantasy quarterback for the stretch run.

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• You know who is quietly fourth in the NFL with 18 red zone touchdowns? How about the Red Rifle himself Andy Dalton, who has 16 red zone passing scores and has run in two touchdowns to boot. Dalton is tied with Matt Ryan and trails only Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, which is a big reason why he has become a Fantasy stud in 2012.

Andre Brown is second in the NFL with eight red zone rushing touchdowns, but he will be stuck on that number after suffering a broken leg in Week 12. Ahmad Bradshaw has long been one of the best scoring backs in the NFL and will get the chance to pick up those touchdowns. After all, Brown has scored in five straight games and now those scores will go to Bradshaw, who would have been the No. 7 Fantasy runner in standard scoring leagues over the last six weeks if he would have gotten Brown's five scores.

• No one in the Fantasy Football world is more disappointed with Ryan Mathews than I am, but in reality his total yardage has been solid and the big disappointment has come from a lack of touchdowns. To be fair to Mathews, it is tough to score without red zone chances and his 12 red zone carries rank 34th this year. Now, he has only one touchdown on the 12 carries, which is a weak 8.25 percent scoring rate, but he needs opportunities to score and frankly, he is not getting them. Unfortunately I do not see that changing any time soon as both Jackie Battle (16 targets plus carries) and Ronnie Brown (14 targets plus carries) have been more involved in the red zone then the "star" runner Mr. Mathews.

Mohamed Sanu is becoming a red zone force. After catching two more red zone touchdowns in Week 12, Sanu now has four on the year (tied for ninth most among wide receivers). The best news for Sanu owners is that all four of his red zone scores and six of his seven red zone targets have come in the last three weeks alone. His targets are second only to Hakeem Nicks (who had six red zone targets this week) and he leads the NFL in red zone receiving scores during that span. If you are in a touchdown heavy league or need a receiver with some scoring potential, Sanu is for you. I also think he has the chance to develop into a good keeper option as the No. 2 receiver in Cincinnati for years to come.

Goal Line

Doug Martin is now second in the NFL with 15 goal line carries, but he has converted only four of them into touchdowns. That's a poor 26.7 percent goal line scoring rate, but if Martin can improve in this area, he could develop into a top flight Fantasy back with 2,000 total yard and 16 touchdown potential.

Michael Bush is tied for third in the NFL with five goal line rushing touchdowns after punching in two last week. He has scored on five of his seven goal line carries (71.4 percent) and should get more opportunities going forward with Matt Forte banged up.

Bilal Powell has "vultured" the short touchdowns from Shonn Greene in each of the last two weeks, a trend that could continue. Powell has scored on two of his three goal line carries this year and his 3.3 yards per carry average inside the five yard line is highest in the NFL. Greene, meanwhile, has scored on four of his 12 goal line carries, so while it is a much smaller sample size, Powell does seem to be the more efficient short-yardage runner. Without those touchdowns, Greene is going to have a very tough time delivering solid Fantasy totals down the stretch.

• Eleven players in the NFL have caught three goal line touchdowns this year. Of the 11, nine are tight ends and only two are wide receivers. The two outliers are A.J. Green and Eric Decker, who have three goal line scores apiece. The nine tight ends with at least three goal line scores are Rob Gronkowski (five), Heath Miller (four), Kyle Rudolph (four), Brandon Myers, Tony Gonzalez, Marcedes Lewis, Garret Graham, Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis (all with three).

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Player News
Vikings' Adrian Peterson to begin probation on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will begin his probation on Wednesday, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Peterson will begin community service, and will undergo counseling to determine whether he has a drug problem. Peterson will report to a probation officer once a month in order to take a drug test. The strict drug testing stems from an Oct. 8 pre-trail urinalysis. Peterson admitted to "smoking a little weed," though the results from the test were never disclosed. 

Probation officials will also determine whether Peterson needs to attend parenting classes. 

Per his plea agreement, Peterson was fined $4,000 and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service. He's required to perform at least 16 hours per month, which would allow him to complete to program prior to training camp.

Peterson is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million. The team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension. 


Austin Collie signs with CFL's BC Lions
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Free-agent receiver Austin Collie has signed with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, the team announced Thursday.

"I’m excited to be joining the Lions and very much look forward to playing in the CFL," said Collie. "The wide-open play of the Canadian game and the passion of fans across the league is going to be a lot of fun to experience."

Collie played four seasons with the Colts and one with the Patriots. In his last NFL action, he caught four passes for 57 yards in the 2014 AFC Championship Game.


Eagles RB LeSean McCoy: 'I don't want to take less money'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Eagles running back LeSean McCoy reiterated Thursday that while he'd be willing to restructure his contract if asked, he would not accept a pay cut, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

"I know how hard it is to keep a team together and I want to be part of this team. But I don't want to take less money," McCoy said. "I want to figure a way to make it happen [where] we're all together."

McCoy, who is due to count $11.95 million against the cap in 2015, turned in his fourth 1,000-yard season in the last five years in 2014, finishing with 1,319 rushing yards on 312 carries and 155 receiving yards on a career-low 28 receptions. All five of his touchdowns came on the ground.


Bills' Rex Ryan won't commit to EJ Manuel as starting QB
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) When asked about who his starting quarterback would be in 2015, Bills coach Rex Ryan said the team would look at every available option, reports The Buffalo News.

"We're going to exhaust every resource we can," Ryan said. "We'll look at free agents. We'll look at the draft. We'll look at anything."

The Bills have former first-round pick EJ Manuel on their roster, but Ryan said he would not commit to Manuel as his starting quarterback at this time.

"To say that he's definitely going to be the guy, it's way too early to say that," Ryan said.


Bills RB Fred Jackson excited to play for new coach Rex Ryan
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Bills veteran running back Fred Jackson said he hasn't had the opportunity to meet with new coach Rex Ryan, but that didn't stop him from expressing his excitement about the new coaching regime in Buffalo.

"I can't wait to play for him. I've heard nothing but good things," Jackson said Wednesday of Ryan during an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "I'm looking forward to that [first] conversation when I sit down and talk to him."

The Bills finished 9-7 in 2014, which was their best record since 2004. While Jackson believes Ryan is going to "be that catalyst that comes in and pushes us over that hump," he didn't have many bad things to say about coach Doug Marrone, who opted out of his contract New Year's Eve.

"I thought he was a tremendous coach," Jackson said. "He showed up, he worked hard, he pushed players to give their best effort. He got us to a 9-7 record -- we hadn't won nine games in 10 years. There's definitely some things about him that made him a great coach. It's just the way he exited. I don't think anybody expected that. 

"Players, the way we found out is we got a generic text from him, saying that he was moving on and he had chosen to opt out of his contract." 


Justin Tuck: Raider Nation would appluad signing Ndamukong Suh
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) If defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh doesn't sign a long-term deal with the Lions, then he will become a free agent March 10 and there will be plenty of teams interested in the Pro Bowl lineman. 

Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck indicated if Suh wanted to sign with Oakland, then he would be welcomed in Raider Nation.

"(He's) Raider-ish," Tuck said, per the Detroit Free Press. "And that's one of the reasons why I know Raider Nation would applaud that move, beyond the fact that he's an awesome football player. He kind of fits the mold of ... the toughness and the ferocious player that built the Oakland Raiders."

It is speculated Suh will receive a contract worth at least $100 million. Tuck believes the three-time All-Pro deserves such a lucrative deal.

"The thing about him, you know what you're getting every day. Some of the tactics, you could probably do without, but he's a hell of a football player," Tuck said. "I would love to have the opportunity to line up beside of him and let him take all the double teams that I normally take."


Nick Foles: 'I plan on being in Philly' in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) There has been a lot of talk about quarterback Nick Foles' future with the Eagles, especially since Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly's former pupil at Oregon -- Marcus Mariota -- will be part of this year's draft class.

On Thursday, Foles addressed the rumors and stated he is expecting to be back on the Eagles' roster in 2015.

"Yeah you hear about it," Foles said in between doing paid appearances at Super Bowl XLIX, per NJ.com. "You are going to hear about it every single year. That's just part of it. The main word is 'rumor.' You can't put too much into it....I plan on being in Philly.

"I only listen to (head coach) Chip Kelly. That's what is most important. He is the one that will make the decision. Right now all I am going to do is work because I plan on being back in Philadelphia and playing with my team. That's all I ever thought. So that is what I plan on doing and I'm not looking at it any other way."

Foles added he hasn't talked with Kelly since the end of the season.

"We haven't talked a lot. He has a lot going on," Foles said. "This time of year you really just get away from everything. He is busy looking at the draft, doing all that. I saw he is more of the decision maker. Haven't really talked to him too much, but I'm sure I'll hear from him soon."


Dwyer pleads guilty in domestic violence case, gets probation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer pleaded guilty Thursday in Maricopa County (Ariz.) Superior Court to a single count of disorderly conduct pertaining to his domestic violence case, according to The Arizona Republic.

Dwyer was sentenced to 18 months of probation and community service following the plea, according to a court spokesman.

The 25-year-old Dwyer was arrested Sept. 17 for a July 21 incident in which he allegedly head-butted his wife in the face and broke her nose after she refused his sexual advances and bit his lip, according to reports taken at the time.

Dwyer's wife told police she reported the incident in September because she feared for their child's safety after seeing reports of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's arrest on child-abuse charges.

The Cardinals placed Dwyer on the reserve/non-football injury list after his September arrest. He did not play again during the 2014 season.


Tom Brady on Peyton Manning: 'I certainly hope he comes back'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) While the football world anxiously awaits official word from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning about his playing status for the 2015 season, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady -- and longtime Manning rival -- said Thursday he hopes the five-time NFL MVP will continue his career.

"What a great player he's been for this league," Brady said Thursday, per NFL.com. "He's a great competitor, and I've been fortunate to play against him a bunch of times. I certainly hope he comes back, 'cause the league will miss him if he doesn't. But those decisions are up to him. I'm sure it's up to whether he's mentally and physically -- that's what he wants to do. But I certainly hope he's back."

Archie Manning, Peyton's father, told NFL Network on Thursday that his son hasn't made a decision yet.

"Well, Peyton evaluates things; he's pretty good at that," he said. "I can't tell him what to do, and he hasn't told me what he's going to do. But I do know that he's really giving a lot of things a lot of thought. He's thinking about where he is physically, he wants to see how he can do this some more, trying to get over an injury."

Archie added starting over with new Broncos coach Gary Kubiak will not be an issue for Peyton, if he decides to return next season.

"Yeah, but he loves Gary. He likes Gary," Archie Manning said. "He liked John Fox. He liked Adam Gase. All those things, I think, are considered with. But my deal is he's always made good decisions; he's pretty thorough. He's going to evaluate a lot of things, and I think he'll make a good decision."


RG3: 'I could've sat out the rest of last year' after hurting ankle
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) During a radio interview Wednesday night, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III indicated the dislocated ankle he suffered in Week 2 against the Jaguars hindered him the rest of the season. He missed six games due to the injury.

“I had never suffered an ankle injury of that severity before, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Griffin said, per The Washington Times. “It just became more and more tough the more games that we lost, because you know how hard your guys work, and you want to get out there and help them win games.

“I could’ve sat out the rest of last year, with how bad the ankle was, but I felt like I could play, and I wanted to get out there and play with my guys and help them win games. And that didn’t happen when I got back out there. Then coach made a decision [to bench me]. That was an unfortunate decision, and something we all had to go with because that was coach’s choice.”

Griffin will be entering the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2015. The Redskins have until May 3 to decide if they want to exercise the fifth-year option on his contract for 2016. 

Griffin added his focus this offseason will simply be on getting healthy.

“Last year, I wasn’t healthy, and it sucked,” Griffin told ESPN 980. “There’s no other way to say it other than that. When you dislocate your ankle in the second week of the season, when you and your team had big things in mind. So I guess it’s just getting healthy, getting a mental break, getting a chance to spend time with family, and then formulate my plan going forward from this year so we can go out there and win games.”


 
 
 
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