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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
Titans' Massaquoi rehabbing shoulder, to miss OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:34 pm ET) Outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi will not participate in the Titans' first organized team activities, per ESPN.com.

Massaquoi, who was claimed off waivers from the Falcons earlier this year, is recovering from shoulder surgery. He had a bone spur removed from the area, but the procedure was categorized as a minor cleanup.

Massaquoi recorded 22 tackles in 15 games with Atlanta last season.


Entering third season, 49ers' Lawrence Okoye eyeing roster spot
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:04 pm ET) This might finally be the year Lawrence Okoye can crack a spot on the 49ers' roster, per the Bay Area News Group.

Okoye, a former British Olympics discus thrower and rugby player, is feeling confident about his improvements and feels like his potential is worth a roster spot.

“It’s very different from the first time I came here. I’m feeling very good about things,” Okoye said Thursday while sitting at his locker. “I’m just happy I was given the opportunity to stay here so long, so I could catch up. I have a good opportunity to show what I can do.”

Okoye has worked under new head coach Jim Tomsula for two years and with Justin Smith's retirement, his emergence might be rewarded.

“You’re going to get lots of people telling you things. But the main thing is to just keep yourself motivated, despite what people say about you," Okoye said. "People will write you off. People will say this or that. Just keep yourself motivated, keep going every day and you’ll be good.”

 


Bengals' Terrelle Pryor still dreams about winning it all
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:45 pm ET) Terrelle Pryor's chances of taking the Bengals to the Super Bowl and winning it are slim, but that won’t stop him from dreaming.

Pryor -- in his fourth year in the league -- dreams about winning the Super Bowl with quite some frequency, he just isn't sure what team he's doing it with.

“I don’t know the team. It’s always in black uniforms,” Pryor said. “I didn’t see any orange. No, it’s not the Raiders. But I believe it can happen because I can visualize it like that. I’m into visualization.”

Pryor hasn't played a down since the 2013 regular season, when he passed for 1,798 yards, seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 11 games.


Flowers' college position coach thinks he can fill in for injured Beatty
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:18 pm ET) Things are moving really fast for Giants offensive lineman Ereck Flowers. The eighth overall pick in the draft, because of an injury to Will Beatty, might have inherited a huge workload this season, per nj.com.

Art Kehoe, Flowers' offensive line coach at the University of Miami, thinks Flowers will be up to the task of protecting quarterback Eli Manning.

"I'm sure he raised his level up a notch or two, but I think he plays every week, I think he plays hard in practice," Kehoe said. "He's an unproven commodity at the next level, and he's a high draft pick, [the Giants] drafted him to be a fixer, so I'm sure he's going in there to do what he did in Miami — scrap his ass off every day in practice, and if you're supposed to be a badass the next weekend [against] your opponent, he's gonna be there and he's gonna bring everything he's got. That's what he does. He wants to know that there's a dude, and he has to take care of him, and he'll be up to the challenge.

Giants' 2013 first-round pick, Justin Pugh is also a top candidate to fill in for the injured Beatty.


Union: Goodell must back off hearing of Patriots QB Tom Brady
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:00 pm ET) NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith is growing impatient awaiting word from Roger Goodell on the request of the NFL commissioner to recuse himself as arbitrator of the appeal hearings ofPatriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The league suspended Brady for the first four games next season for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal, claiming that he likely knew that game balls were being deflated for his benefit before the 2014 AFC title game.

Smith is claiming that neither Goodell nor the Wells Report, which investigated the incident, could legitimately claim impartiality. He added that the NFLPA will "advance the volume" of the request if they don't hear from Goodell by next week. Part of the union's press release reads as follows:

Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement, the Commissioner's role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the Commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as arbitrator in this matter. The players also believe that the Commissioner's history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner.

As for the Wells Report, Smith stated that "you can't really have credibility just because you slap the word independent on a piece of paper." He offered into evidence the findings in regard to NFL official Walt Anderson, who was a key figure in the investigation, citing one part of the report questions his memory and another credits it.


Zimmer happy with progress of Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:32 pm ET) Mike Zimmer has expressed optimism that underachieving Vikings wideout Cordarrelle Patterson is gaining a better understanding of route-running and the nuances of playing the position in the NFL, which would allow his talent to result in greater productivity.

Patterson took a step back in 2014 after a mediocre rookie year. He played in every game, but managed just 33 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown. He has since stated that 2015 is his make-or-break year and is apparently acting like it in the offseason.

"He's done real well," Zimmer told Fox Sports North. "He's running routes good. He's working hard. So we just need him to continue to do those things and continue to keep getting consistent and keep improving. I've been impressed."


GM: Dolphins LT Branden Albert should be fine for Week 1
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:22 pm ET) Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey has expressed optimism that left tackle Branden Albert will be ready to roll by the regular season opener.

Albert has been rehabbing from a torn ACL and MCL sustained last November against Detroit. He had signed a five-year, $46 million contract the previous March and had been performing particularly well before going down.

"It's been a long rehab and he's really attacked it every day," Hickey told SiriusXM NFL Radio, adding that there was a "reasonable explanation" that he would be ready for Week 1. "We really like his progress. He's out there with his team working out. We're really encouraged by what we're seeing with him."

Ja'Wuan Williams was forced to move to left tackle following the Albert injury in 2014. But he struggled at that position and is expected to move to his more familiar right tackle spot this year.


Report: Bills still want to extend Marcell Dareus
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:15 pm ET) The Bills still want to extend the contract of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, according to a report by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

Despite the one-game suspension levied by the league against Dareus on Thursday, the team still hopes to have an extension wrapped up before the start of training camp. 

2015 is scheduled to be the last season of Dareus' current contract. He'll make $8.06 million.


Shanahan: Struggles of Robert Griffin III unrelated to injury
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan does not believe injuries have prevented quarterback Robert Griffin III from maximizing his potential in the NFL. Rather, he feels it was the team not creating an offensive system that best fits his talents and his own belief that he could play a traditional role at that position.

Griffin sustained a serious knee injury in the 2012 playoffs. He then struggled in 2013 in an offense designed to transform him into a drop-back quarterback rather than one that took advantage of his mobility. He suffered another knee injury last year and did not perform well in the offense of new coach Jay Gruden.

"I don't think getting hurt has anything to do with it," Shanahan told 106.7 The Fan. "In college he didn't have a route tree, didn't have a playbook. That does take some time. ... If you take a quarterback like that you must run the kind of system that allows him to be successful. ... I really believe Robert thought he was more of a drop-back quarterback. He hasn't done things the NFL asks you to do. It does take some growing pains. You better really work on it inside and out."

Some have wondered why the Redskins went so hard after Griffin if they weren't willing to create an offense that maximizes his skill set.


Sheldon Richardson not at Jets' OTAs because 'I have a life'
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:05 pm ET) Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson is skipping the team's OTAs this week, a decision that earned him criticism from fans and media. 

Richardson's explanation isn't likely to win anyone over. 

Richardson went on Twitter and told fans he missed the workouts because, "I have a life outside of football."

"I chose to enjoy my family a little longer," he continued. "So to (you) fans that know everything, please worry 'bout yourself."

Richardson pointed out in another tweet that he "jus' wasn't at practice," but that he was still "putting in work tho'"


 
 
 
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