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Tricks of the trends after Week 14

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

Pierre Garcon is back and will have to hope that Robert Griffin III is a fast healer, because this duo is as hot as any in the NFL right now. Even if RG3 is not back for Week 15, Garcon was able to haul in a touchdown from Kirk Cousins late in the team's win over the Ravens, so maybe he is just flat out on fire. Garcon has scored in three straight games for the Redskins -- who are undefeated when he scores -- and has produced at least 14 Fantasy points in every one of those contests. In his three game-barrage, Garcon has been targeted 27 times and has 18 catches for 286 yards and the three scores. He has at least five catches, 87 yards and a touchdown in every one of the games and has shown remarkable efficiency, combined with big-play ability. Garcon has caught 67 percent of those targets and is averaging an elite 10.6 yards per target and 1.8 Fantasy points per target. If Garcon had played the whole season, we could be looking at a Top 12 Fantasy wide receiver, which is something to keep in mind come Draft Day 2013.

• Perhaps no receiver has turned it on in a more under-the-radar fashion than Anquan Boldin over the last four weeks. Boldin has three games of at least 78 yards receiving during that span, which includes two games against the very tough Steelers defense. Boldin has caught a touchdown in back-to-back games as well, hauling in three total scores in the last two games and may be emerging as the main target for Joe Flacco. Over the last four weeks, Boldin has been targeted 35 times and has 18 catches for 280 yards and the three touchdowns. By comparison, teammate Torrey Smith has been targeted 31 times and has 12 catches for 205 yards and no touchdowns. Smith has been held to 33 or fewer yards in three of those games as well. I knew a Baltimore receiver would do well against the Redskins in Week 14, but I thought it would be Smith. Boldin seems more like the go-to-guy for Flacco and if Smith draws Champ Bailey in Week 15, it could be Boldin who once again makes for the better Fantasy play.

Danario Alexander is becoming a superstar right before our very eyes in San Diego. Alexander has at least five catches in each of his five starts and has produced 10 or more points four times. His only "off" game was a five-catch, 74-yard effort in Week 12 against the Ravens and frankly, that is not too shabby. In three separate games, Alexander has produced 19 or more Fantasy points and the guy has been off the charts with his numbers. In his five-game run as a starter, Alexander has been targeted 47 times and has caught 30 of them (64 percent) for 494 yards (10.1 yards per target) and five touchdowns (1.8 Fantasy points per target). He is averaging six catches, 99 yards and touchdown per game for the Chargers, who often find themselves in a position of needing to play some huck, chuck football. He is a great start going forward due to his consistently high target volume and production.

• If there was any doubt about where the ball would be going with Colin Kaepernick under center, let's put that to rest right now because Michael Crabtree is his clear No. 1 receiver. Crabtree has produced nine or more Fantasy points in three of Kap's four starts, but over the last two weeks, he has really become the main man. In those two games, Kap has thrown 55 passes and 22 of them (40 percent) have gone the way of Crabtree, who has caught 16 of them for 194 yards. No other pass catcher on the 49ers has seen more than eight targets total over the last two weeks, so Crabtree is clearly the man. I'd love to see a touchdown with one of these high volume catch games, but Crabtree looks like a safe No. 3 receiver with some nice upside should he find the end zone against the Patriots in Week 15.

• I have been very hard on Mike Wallace and deservedly so, but hopefully Week 14 will kick-start a nice finish to the season. Wallace had his best game of 2012 as he hauled in seven of his 11 targets for 112 yards and two touchdowns. It could have been even better as he dropped a perfectly thrown 40-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger, but you have to like the fact that Wallace got back over 100 yards for only the second time this season (and only the second time since Week 7 of 2011). The Cowboys have struggled with their secondary of late and Wallace will look to build on his momentum on the fast turf of Cowboys stadium.

Victor Cruz is heating up at the right time and now has a touchdown or 100 yards in every game since the Giants returned from their bye in Week 12. Cruz has back-to-back 100-yard games as well and turned in his best game since Week 7, with eight catches for 121 yards and a score against the Saints in Week 14. Cruz is back to making big plays a La 2011, which is huge for this offense. Keep in mind, Cruz had only one game of 70 or more yards receiving since Week 4 before his consecutive 100-yard efforts in Week 13 and 14. Over the last two weeks, Cruz is looking like his old self, catching 76 percent of his targets and averaging 13.2 yards per target. A healthy Hakeem Nicks certainly has been a nice help for Cruz, who should post big numbers the rest of the way.

Josh Gordon did not score against the Chiefs, but he caught eight passes for 86 yards in a solid game. He has been targeted 19 times over the last two weeks and has caught 14 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown during that span and should stay hot against the suspect pass defense of the Redskins. Gordon has seen at least seven targets and has at least four catches in four straight games and has really emerged as the primary receiver for Brandon Weeden.

• With a tasty matchup against the Chiefs in Week 15, you have to get excited about the passing attack of the Raiders. The real question is which wide receiver do you trust at this point? Over the last two weeks, Denarius Moore leads the receivers with 14 targets, but has only six catches for 74 yards. He still has the upside, but his production has been non-existent for four straight games. Darrius Heyward-Bey has been targeted 12 times and has nine catches for 122 yards and a touchdown (82 and the score came last week against Denver). Finally, there is Rod Streater, who has been targeted 11 times and has seven catches for 196 yards and a touchdown. Streater is the only Oakland receiver to post 10 or more points in each of the last two games and looks like a solid flier to take a chance on in deep leagues.

Mike Williams has scored in each of the last two games and now has a very impressive seven touchdowns on the season. In addition to the touchdowns, Williams saw seven or more targets in each game. This year, Williams has been targeted seven or more times in seven games. He has produced a touchdown or 100 yards receiving in five of those games and seems like a guy who just needs some chances to produce. It is interesting to note that one of the two exceptions to this rule was in Week 7 against New Orleans, when he was targeted eight times but finished with just four catches for 36 yards. Look for Williams to even the score with the Saints in Week 15 and is once again a solid No. 3 receiver for your teams.

Steve Smith has come on strong the last two weeks with back-to-back 100-yard games. Cam Newton seems to be playing at his highest level of the season and Smith has been a big part of that with some excellent efficiency. Over the last two weeks, Smith has been targeted 21 times and has caught 12 of them for 229 yards (10.9 yards per target) and a touchdown. It has been his most productive two-game stretch all year as Smith has scored 28 Fantasy points, and it could only be the beginning. In Week 15, Smith travels to San Diego to take on a Chargers team that was just torched by Mike Wallace. Then he follows that up with games against the dreadful pass defenses of Oakland and New Orleans, so look for Smith to help bring home some Fantasy titles.

• With Brandon Pettigrew banged up (not to mention the Lions wide receivers), Tony Scheffler is someone to look at as a great plug-and-play tight end for Week 16. Scheffler now has at least 50 yards or a touchdown in three straight games and saw 10 targets in Week 14. Now, he only caught three of those 10 targets for 20 yards, but did find the end zone and should look to have similar success against an Arizona defense that has allowed a tight end touchdown in each of their last two games.

• I am on board with the Jimmy Graham panic train because the talented tight end is just not producing. I am convinced that he is nowhere near 100 percent and has not been since suffering an ankle injury just over a month ago. Graham has gone four straight games without reaching 60 yards receiving, something that happened only two times in the first eight games of the year. He has not scored or produced six Fantasy points in three straight and has not reached nine points in any of the last four. During that span, Graham has been targeted 28 times (yes that is low for him), but has turned them into 19 catches for just 177 yards and one touchdown. It has been the worst four-game stretch of his career as a starter in terms of yards per catch (9.3), yards per target (6.3), Fantasy points per target (0.82), yards per game (44.2) and Fantasy points per game (5.25). Hopefully, Graham can get it going again for you over the next two weeks or he will be a main culprit in some early exits from the playoffs.

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• Welcome back Darren Sproles! Sproles was finally used like it was 2011 last week against the Giants as he saw 12 targets plus carries and turned them into 84 yards and two total touchdowns. The five carries were the most since Week 7 and the 12 combined looks were tied for the third most that he had all season. All he needs are double-digit chances and he will produce, because Sproles has 10 or more Fantasy points in four of the five games with significant involvement.

Target Leaders by position for Week 14: Wide receiver: Brandon Marshall (19), Calvin Johnson (13), Jeremy Maclin (13), Justin Blackmon (12), Jason Avant (12), Steve Smith (12) and Josh Gordon (12); Tight end: Tony Scheffler (10), Jimmy Graham (10), and Rob Housler (10); Running back: Pierre Thomas (eight)

Red Zone

• After Matthew Stafford ran in another short touchdown against the Packers in Week 14, he became tied for fourth in terms of quarterback rushing scores from inside the 20-yard line. The leader is Cam Newton with six, followed by Robert Griffin III (five) and Andrew Luck (five). Stafford is tied with Colin Kaepernick, who also has four red zone rushing scores this year and really sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the others. First of all, Stafford is the only one of the five that does not have 25 yards rushing in a single game this year. Secondly, Stafford is the only one of the group that is not either a first or second year quarterback.

Eli Manning had seven passing touchdowns in the red zone through his first 10 games of 2012. That was a hugely disappointing stat that was a total outlier based on Eli's prior performance. Apparently, the bye week did him well, because since returning to action in Week 12, Eli has thrown for seven red zone touchdowns in his last three games alone! If Eli can stay hot, the Giants will be tough to beat and his patient Fantasy owners will be rewarded

• Amazingly, the Jets have been able to do one thing right this year; convert their red zone carries into touchdowns. Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell have a combined 10 red zone rushing scores this year, which is amazing when you consider that only the Texans, Giants, Patriots and the Jets have two runners with 10 or more total red zone rushing scores. The first three are all very potent offenses on very good teams and the Jets are not, so it is definitely a little bit of a shocker.

• Here's a stat that is a real head scratcher: In 2012, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Miles Austin and Hakeem Nicks have received a combined 61 red zone targets and have produced just six touchdowns. James Jones has been targeted 13 times in the red zone this year and has seven touchdowns of his own!

• Don't look now, but Dennis Pitta is tied for sixth among all tight ends with five red zone touchdowns after hauling in his third of the last five weeks against the Redskins. Pitta now has seven red zone scores in his last 16 games and has been the most productive Baltimore pass catcher inside the 20 during that span. With a Week 15 game against the Broncos, he could easily find the end zone again for your Fantasy teams.

Goal line

• Only three quarterbacks in the NFL have 10 or more goal line touchdowns this year and they are Tom Brady (11), Matthew Stafford (10) and Andrew Luck (10). It is interesting to note that all three have at least three rushing scores to boost their overall totals into double figures.

• It doesn't seem like it was 2012 when Adrian Peterson had a five-week scoring drought, but it did happen. Since then, he has scored eight times in his last seven games and four of them have come from inside the five-yard line. For the year, Peterson has six goal line touchdowns, trailing only Arian Foster and Andre Brown. Oh yeah, he also has seven straight games with 100 or more yards rushing, which is pretty darn impressive too.

Delone Carter has six carries over the last four games combined. Three of those carries have come from the opponent's one-yard line and two of them resulted in touchdowns. Apparently, Carter is the goal line specialist for the Colts and zapped some of Vick Ballard's potential in Week 14. If Carter is unable to go in Week 15 due to an injury, Ballard's upside will increase significantly as a No. 2 running back or a flex option.

Mike Williams, who was highlighted right here last week, caught another goal line touchdown in Week 14 and now leads all wide receivers with four goal line scores on the year. Incredibly, he trails teammate Doug Martin by just one goal line score for the season despite seeing only six targets compared to 17 carries for Martin.

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Player News
Tamba Hali says he wants to be back in Kansas City in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Outside linebacker Tamba Hali once again expressed an interest in returning to the only team he's ever played for in the Chiefs.

"At this stage of my career, it isn’t about money," Hali said. "The Kansas City Chiefs have taken care of me, financially. I have some good people in my corner that have positioned me to be able to live a lifestyle a lot of people won’t be able to live. So I’m not one of those guys who gets all bent out of shape over money. I love playing the game, I want to win a championship in Kansas City."

Hali totaled 59 tackles including six sacks and three forced fumbles in 16 games. It was his lowest sack total since 2008.

"If money is going to be a hindrance in doing that, we’ll find a way … we’ve got to get Justin (Houston) paid and get our guys, Dee Ford, ready to be playing at a higher level … but we’ve got to get Houston paid, I’m optimistic about that … that’s something we’ve got to get done."


Report: Seahawks' Richard Sherman finishes elbow treatment
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said Tuesday his elbow is improving daily and he's finished with treat, according to Ed Werder of ESPN. 

According to Werder, Sherman tore ligaments in his elbow in the NFC Championship game against the Packers. Sherman was seen grimacing in pain throughout the game after suffering the injury.

The Seahawks are currently 1-point underdogs for the Super Bowl, according to VegasInsider.com.


Seahawks GM: Russell Wilson's contract to present roster challenge
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) The Seahawks are preparing to re-sign quarterback Russell Wilson. With Wilson making under $1 million per year in his first three seasons, Seattle has been able to give other players contract extensions. Now, general manager John Schneider knows it will be tough on the team to get Wilson at the hefty price tag.

"It presents challenges, there is no question," Schneider said. "We haven’t sat down with his representatives. We are still going to be drafting young players and playing young players, so we might not be able to dip into free agency like you may want to here and there or compensate somebody else that you want to compensate that is already on your team, but just the fact that we’re going to continue to keep drafted players and playing young players should help us compensate for whatever level of compensation (for Wilson’s contract) is."

Wilson threw for 3,475 yards in 2014 with 20 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He also ran for 849 yards and six touchdowns.


Cardinals' Drew Stanton says he'll be healthy by April
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton is on the road to recovery. The 30-year-old quarterback is in the middle of a rehab program to be able to get back on the field this spring

"I’ll be full strength by time we start offseason program," Stanton said at Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day. "I don’t really need to do anything now so just kinda let my body rest to get away from the game a little bit, spend time with my family and get refreshed for next season."

Stanton said he would have needed one more week before trying to give it a go in the playoffs with the knee injury.

"I was going to need at least another week to have a shot," Stanton said. "That was my hope. So, I was trying to find ways to get ready to go, talking to the training staff and talking to guys (about) what I can be doing when we would get back from that flight from Carolina. It didn’t work out unfortunately, but it was a difficult situation the way everything ended. At the same time, I think that the building blocks are starting to fall into place for us." 


Bengals OC Hue Jackson still believes in QB Andy Dalton
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson missed quarterback Andy Dalton's Pro Bowl performance Sunday. Despite hearing about his 9 of 20 passing performance, Jackson said Tuesday to ESPN he still has faith in Dalton to get the job done.

"I'm not going to stop believing in him," Jackson said. "He's going to have to prove otherwise. I believe this guy has it in him. My job, my charge as I've said before is to have him do it on a consistent basis."

Jackson added he's seen the great Dalton and thinks it's something to build on.

"I see in the first three games of the season a guy that played with moxie and tenacity and aggressiveness, and who played extremely well down that 3-0 stretch," Jackson said.


Seahawks NT Brandon Mebane expected to be full go by April
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Seahawks starting nose tackle Brandon Mebane said the surgery to fix his torn hamstring went well, and he should be full go by April, reports the Seattle Times. Mebane's season was cut short after nine games. He finished with 20 tackles and a sack.

DT Kevin Williams could retire if Seahawks win
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Seahawks defensive tackle Kevin Williams did not rule out retiring if his team beats the Patriots in Super Bowl 49, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Williams, 34, is a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time First-Team All-Pro.

He played in every game this season, recording 22 tackles, three sacks and two pass breakups.


Bills' Roman: EJ Manuel getting clean slate with new coaching staff
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Tuesday during his introductory press conference quarterback EJ Manuel will get a fresh start with the new coaching staff, per WGR 550. Manuel was benched in favor of veteran Kyle Orton in 2014. Orton has since retired.

"I'm not going to get into specifics. but I definitely think he's done some very good things and displayed some good traits," Roman said. "We just have to get his level of consistency a little bit greater. Really, he and everybody else, once we get thru this evaluation process, we're going to have a very clean slate, once we get going because what they might have been asked to do or done in the past is really not relevant to what we may or may not ask them to do. So to sit here and pontificate about this that and the other, is a little premature."

Manuel is 6-8 as a starter over two NFL seasons. The 2013 first-round pick has a career 58.6 completion rate. He has passed for 2,810 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 15 games (14 starts).


Bryan Stork not a lock to play in Super Bowl
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Patriots rookie center Bryan Stork said he's working with the training staff in hopes of playing in Super Bowl 49, reports ESPN.com. Stork, who nursing a knee injury, has been limited in practice.

"Nobody's working harder than Bryan to play," coach Bill Belichick said.

Stork started 11 regular-season games but missed the AFC title game after getting hurt in the divisional playoff win over Baltimore. Ryan Wendell replaced Stork and played well in the 45-7 victory over the Colts.


Colts can void RB Trent Richardson's contract
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) The Colts can void running back Trent Richardson's $3.18 million guaranteed salary for 2015 because he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, reports CBS Sports' Joel Corry, a former agent who's an expert on player contracts.

Richardson, who missed a walkthrough before the AFC title game, received a two-game suspension from the team, general manager Ryan Grigson confirmed. If Indy chooses to keep Richardson, he'd serve the second game of the suspension next season.

ESPN.com expects the Colts to exercise their option to void Richardson's contract, and the players' union to challenge that move.


 
 
 
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