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2012 Target Report: AFC North

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Throughout the year I highlighted various statistical facts and trends. With the year now complete, it's time to look back at each team and see what we can learn from the 2012 target, red zone and goal line data as we begin our preparations for the 2013 Fantasy season. I will profile each division separately in the coming weeks.

Baltimore Ravens

Target Leaders: Anquan Boldin (111 total /7.4 per game), Torrey Smith (110/6.9), Dennis Pitta (94/5.9), Ray Rice (83/5.2)
Catch Rate Leaders: Ray Rice (73.5 percent), Dennis Pitta (64.9), Anquan Boldin (58.6)
Yards Per Target Leader: Anquan Boldin (8.3), Torrey Smith (7.8), Dennis Pitta (7.1)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Torrey Smith (1.21), Dennis Pitta (1.16), Anquan Boldin (1.05)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Joe Flacco -- 24.6 percent touchdown rate (65 opportunities/ 16 touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: Ray Rice (48/eight touchdowns)
Red Zone Target Leader: Dennis Pitta (13/five)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Torrey Smith (54.5 percent), Dennis Pitta (38.5), Ray Rice (16.7)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Joe Flacco -- 42.8 percent touchdown rate (14 opportunities/six touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: Ray Rice (10/three)
Goal Line Target Leader: Dennis Pitta (three/two)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Dennis Pitta (67 percent), Torrey Smith (50), Ray Rice (30)

For the third straight year, the Ravens did not have a 1,000 yard receiver. ... Torrey Smith once again led the team in Fantasy points per target, but his 7.8 yards per target was a big drop off from the 8.8 he produced in 2011. ... If he does not improve his 44.5 percent catch rate or see a radical increase in targets (6.9 won't cut it), Smith will disappoint again in 2013, especially if he does not match his eight touchdowns from this season. ... Pitta now has 10 touchdowns in his last 20 games and is becoming a trusted option for Flacco, both in the middle of the field and in the red zone, where he led the team with 13 targets. ... I expect Pitta's role to continue to expand and I love his efficiency metrics across the board, which means he is a breakout candidate with more targets. ... Boldin reinvigorated his career this year with 65 catches and 921 yards, but he still had six games of less than five Fantasy points. ... Boldin has limited upside and is not getting any younger, so this is about as good as he will be. ... Boldin also really struggled with only one touchdown on nine red zone targets. ... Pitta is the breakout to watch in 2013 and if Smith can improve his route running and become less reliant on the deep ball, he could be a post-hype sleeper in 2013.

Cincinnati Bengals

Target Leaders: A.J. Green (165 total/10.2 per game), Jermaine Gresham (95/5.9), Andrew Hawkins (80/5.7)
Catch Rate Leader: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (73.3 percent), Jermaine Gresham (67.4), Mohammed Sanu (64)
Yards Per Target Leader: A.J. Green (8.2), Jermaine Gresham (7.7)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Mohammed Sanu (1.58), A.J. Green (1.22), Jermaine Gresham (1.09)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Andy Dalton -- 28.6 percent touchdown rate (84 opportunities/24 touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (47/six touchdowns)
Red Zone Target Leader: A.J. Green (24/eight)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Mohammed Sanu (57.1 percent), A.J. Green (33), Jermaine Gresham (30.7)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Andy Dalton -- 60 percent touchdown rate (15 opportunities/nine touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (14/five)
Goal Line Target Leader: A.J. Green (seven/four)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Mohammed Sanu (67 percent), A.J. Green (57.1 percent)

This team is all about Green in the passing game and he continues to be one of the most targeted and most productive receivers in all of Fantasy. He should be one of the first receivers taken in 2013. ... Gresham made big strides in 2012, setting career highs in receptions, receiving yards, yards per target, yards per catch and Fantasy points per target. ... Gresham has the chance to become a dependable weekly Fantasy tight end if he continues to improve, but his lack of speed puts a lot of pressure on him because he is not a route runner like Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten are and we saw him completely neutralized in the playoffs. ... Sanu was a key to this offense and they will be very happy to get him back in 2013. ... Sanu was dominant in the red zone and was the team's most efficient receiver outside of Green, which is important because this team desperately needs a second option opposite of Green. ... Dalton's touchdown numbers were boosted by five big games and excellent red zone play. ... If Dalton can maintain his red zone efficiency (24 touchdowns ranked sixth, 28.6 scoring rate was fifth) and become a more dependable yardage producer he is a 2013 breakout candidate, but as the Wild Card game illustrated, he still has a long way to go. ... The Law Firm found out that it is much tougher to score 50 percent of the time in Cincy than it was in New England, but it was still a solid first season. I would expect more of the same in 2013.

Cleveland Browns

Target Leaders: Josh Gordon (95 total/5.9 per game), Greg Little (92/5.8), Benjamin Watson (82/5.1), Trent Richardson (70/4.7)
Catch Rate Leader: Trent Richardson (72.9 percent), Benjamin Watson (59.8), Greg Little (57.6)
Yards Per Target Leader: Josh Gordon (8.45), Travis Benjamin (8.05)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Josh Gordon (1.16), Travis Benjamin (1.13)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Brandon Weeden -- NFL-worst 11.6 percent touchdown rate (54 opportunities/six touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: Trent Richardson (42/nine touchdowns)
Red Zone Target Leader: Josh Gordon (11/one)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Greg Little (42.8 percent), Benjamin Watson (33 percent), Trent Richardson (21.4 percent)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Brandon Weeden -- 25 percent (eight opportunities/two touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: Trent Richardson (12 carries/five touchdowns)
Goal Line Target Leader: Benjamin Watson, Jordan Cameron (three/one)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Trent Richardson (41.7 percent)

The Browns passing attack was dreadful in 2012, but there is some hope for 2013. ... Gordon was quite efficient as a rookie, averaging nearly 8.5 yards per target and 1.16 points per target. ... Gordon also had a solid stretch from Week 5 to Week 13 with 100 yards or a touchdown in four of eight games and was the first Cleveland receiver with more than 800 yards since 2008 (the Browns have not had a 1,000 yard receiver since Braylon Edwards in 2007). ... Little improved a lot in his sophomore season as his catch rate jumped from 50 percent to 57.6, and he finished with four catches in four of the last five games of 2012 and scored in each of the last two. ... If the Browns ever became a high-flying offense Travis Benjamin would have some upside given his excellent speed and big-play ability (8.05 yards per target). ... Richardson is a complete dual threat back who caught 51 passes as a rookie. ... Without broken ribs I think we will get an even better T-Rich in 2013 and he has Top 5 running back potential on Draft Day. ... Weeden was the worst quarterback in the red zone last year and will have to improve dramatically in 2013. He does throw a great deep ball -- which is good for Gordon and Benjamin -- but he has to become more consistent for anyone other than Richardson to be a weekly Fantasy play from the Browns in 2013.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Target Leaders: Mike Wallace (117/7.8 per game), Antonio Brown (106/8.2), Heath Miller (100/6.7)
Catch Rate Leader: Heath Miller (71 percent), Antonio Brown (62.3), Emmanuel Sanders (58.7)
Yards Per Target Leader: Emmanuel Sanders (8.3), Heath Miller (8.2)
Fantasy Points Per Target Leader: Heath Miller (1.3), Mike Wallace (1.1)
Red Zone Quarterback Performance: Ben Roethlisberger -- 26.9 percent touchdown rate (67 opportunities/18 touchdowns)
Red Zone Carry Leader: Jonathan Dwyer (24/two touchdowns)
Red Zone Target Leader: Heath Miller (20/seven)
Red Zone Touchdown Rate Leader: Antonio Brown (44 percent), Heath Miller (35 percent)
Goal Line Quarterback Performance: Ben Roethlisberger -- 47.6 percent (21 opportunities/10 touchdowns)
Goal Line Carry Leader: Jonathan Dwyer (five/one)
Goal Line Target Leader: Heath Miller (nine/four)
Goal Line Touchdown Rate Leader: Leonard Pope (100 percent)

The biggest question for the Steelers headed into 2013 will be how do they replace Miller, who tore his ACL in Week 16. ... Miller led the team in receptions, red zone touchdowns, catch rate and tied for the lead in touchdowns as the team's most efficient pass catcher. ... Pope did score on both of his red zone targets and if he is the starting tight end, keep an eye on him in touchdown-heavy formats. ... Brown led the team in targets per start for the second straight year and finally figured out how to score as he found the end zone in three of his last four games. Brown converted four of his team high nine red zone targets into scores, a great stat to build on for 2013. ... Wallace set career lows in yards per catch (13.3) and yards per target (7.2) and when you consider he was at 18.7 and 10.9 respectively, this is a massive drop off. His yards per catch and yards per target have decreased in each of the last two seasons. Wallace also only converted three of his 17 red zone targets into touchdowns. He did score five more touchdowns from 21 or more yards, so he can make plays, but he was not a dominant vertical receiver in 2012 and that is a trend that has been the case ever since Brown stepped up in the second half of 2011. In fact, Wallace has just two games with 100 yards receiving in his last 25 games. ... Sanders appears poised to step up if needed on a full time basis with a solid 8.3 yards per target average, but he has not really produced in limited starting chances in the past and must get better in the red zone than he was in 2012 (one score on five targets). ... The ground game was horrendous in the red zone this year and it will be interesting to see who is the lead dog in 2013. Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall combined to score just five touchdowns on 49 red zone carries.

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Player News
Giants announce Rashad Jennings will sit out again Week 9
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:18 am ET) Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Thursday running back Rashad Jennings will miss a third straight game Week 9 vs. Indianapolis due to a knee injury. The team was hopeful Jennings would be back following the team's Week 8 bye.

Rookie Andre Williams will earn a third straight start in Jennings' absence. Williams rushed for 59 yards on 17 carries in his first start Week 6 at Philadelphia and then rushed for 51 yards on 18 carries in his second start Week 7 at Dallas.


T.J. Ward feels bad Gronkowski was hurt on low hit, but 'that's about it'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:11 am ET) Broncos safety T.J. Ward might hear a chorus of boos reign down in his direction during Sunday's game at New England, and that's because Ward was the player responsible for sending Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski to injured reserve last season.

Ward, who was playing for the Browns last season, ended Gronkowski's season in Week 14 last season with a helmet-to-knee hit that tore Gronkowski’s right ACL and MCL. Ward said he has no regrets about the play and wasn’t purposely trying to take out Gronkowski’s knee, per The Boston Globe.

"I feel bad he got hurt, you know, but that’s about it," Ward said Wednesday. "I’m just playing fast out there, and coincidentally, it was a bang-bang play. I think if he wouldn’t have gotten hurt, then it wouldn’t be an issue."

Ward, who is seven inches shorter and 65 points lighter than Gronkowski, said the only way to tackle Gronkowski is by going low.

"Gronk’s a big dude. He gets hit, and he keeps going. Guys bounce off him, and he’s throwing guys left and right," Ward said. "I was taught that if you can take a guy’s wheels away from him, he’s no longer mobile, and that’s what you’ve got to do with big guys. I’m not going to go in there and bang heads with somebody that’s 60 pounds more than me. I’m going to hurt myself."


Titans OL Taylor Lewan pleads guilty to two misdemeanor charges
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:26 am ET) Titans rookie tackle Taylor Lewan pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges Thursday in Michigan stemming from an incident that took place last year following a Michigan-Ohio State game, according to The Tennessean. Lewan entered pleas to charges of disturbing the peace and being drunk and disorderly.

Under an agreement with prosecutors, Lewan is expected to get probation when he's sentenced Dec. 15. Lewan was initially charged with one count of misdemeanor aggravated assault and two counts of assault and battery. Two Buckeyes fans said Lewan assaulted them. Lewan had previously stated that he was breaking up a dispute and wasn't involved in a fight.


Jaguars might consider changing up linebacker corps
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:17 am ET) While the Jaguars were pleased with how J.T. Thomas performed at middle linebacker Week 8 against the Dolphins, coach Gus Bradley is considering making a change to the linebacker corps because rookie Jeremiah George is making a strong impression on the coaching staff. 

"We’re looking at the linebacker spot, what’s our best three on the field?" Bradley said, per The Florida Times-Union. "We know J.T. played well. [Otto] Dekoda Watson played pretty well. Jeremiah George is showing up a little bit in practice, so a chance to see him in there and throw him into the mix. We’re trying to find a way to see as of right now, what gives us our best opportunity and what guys are playing the best on the field."


Bills' Kiko Alonso starts to run, but still has ways to go in recovery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:11 am ET) Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso is pleased with his progress as he is three months removed from ACL surgery.

"I’ve started running already," Alonso told Buffalobills.com. "I’m just doing straight line running, so I’m doing everything but cutting right now. Obviously I’m progressing to full speed running. I’m doing everything, but I’m limited."

Alonso said his knee feels great. However, he is being cautious with his recovery, which usually takes 7-9 months after surgery.

"My knee feels great," he said. "It definitely doesn’t feel like there’s anything wrong with it. It’s just a matter of time. You’ve got to let that ligament heal and strengthen the muscles around it. It feels probably where it should be right now."


Ben Roethlisberger deserves to start
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10/29/2014) It goes without saying that Ben Roethlisberger's six-touchdown, 522-yard performance Week 8 against Indianapolis was a once-in-a-blue-moon thing, and I stand by my earlier assessment that he's too inconsistent to start in standard 12-team leagues. But that's more for those weeks when every quarterback is available. With six teams on bye, that's certainly not the case in Week 9.

For those owners accustomed to starting Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan or Jay Cutler, Roethlisberger may be the best choice. His matchup against Baltimore isn't great. The Ravens rank a suspect 22nd against the pass, giving up 256.0 yards per game, but having allowed just seven touchdowns through the air, they've surrendered the second-fewest Fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Regardless of the matchup, though, Roethlisberger has a better chance than most of the quarterbacks who might be available of putting up the numbers you're accustomed to.

I'd prefer Carson Palmer, Nick Foles and Cam Newton to him, to name just a few fringy types, but Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Ricahrd both have Roethlisberger in their top 10 for this week.


Brandon LaFell not the only Patriots WR to consider
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10/29/2014) It's time to give Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell a shot in Fantasy -- as in not just owning him, but starting him. If his 11 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown Week 8 against the Bears weren't enough to convince you, his matchup Week 9 against Denver should be.

It's not that the Broncos are so bad against the pass. They rank in the middle of the pack, allowing 242.9 yards per game. It's just that the Patriots' only hope against them is to beat Peyton Manning at his own game. Their passing attack -- at least the version they've shown in the last four weeks -- is good enough to beat anybody when they're motivated to use it.

LaFell appears to have leapfrogged Julian Edelman in the pecking order, but frankly, Edelman might not be such a bad play either. Tom Brady is going to need every weapon at his disposal to outscore Manning and company. Edelman is more of a desperation play than LaFell, I think, advisable only if you're short on startable wide receivers, but Dave Richard likes him enough with this matchup to rank him 24th at the position.


Shane Vereen a better choice than Jonas Gray
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10/29/2014) By giving the previously unknown Jonas Gray 17 carries for 86 yards Week 8 against Chicago, the Patriots revealed that they'll stick with a two-man backfield even with preferred rusher Stevan Ridley out for the year with a torn ACL and MCL.

But Week 9 against Denver might be a better matchup for preferred receiver Shane Vereen, who also thrived in Week 7 against the Jets. The Broncos, like the Jets, have done a good job stopping the run this season. They rank No. 1, in fact, allowing 72.4 yards per game.

Plus, the Patriots will most likely have to throw more than usual just to keep up with the league's highest-scoring team. These days, a team's only real choice against Peyton Manning is to beat him at his own game.

So most likely, Gray will spend much of Week 9 on the sidelines while Vereen spends much of it in the backfield. Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank Vereen among their top 20 running backs for this week.


Vincent Jackson not such a great play
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10/29/2014) On a day when the Buccaneers couldn't get anything going offensively Week 8 against Minnesota, wide receiver Vincent Jackson was barely involved, catching one pass for 13 yards. He was targeted five times, but for a player who misses a lot of the balls thrown his way, both because of his role in the passing game and his issues with drops, that's a pretty low number. He averaged 10.0 targets in his first six games.

Even worse for Jackson, quarterback Mike Glennon has developed a nice rapport with both Mike Evans and Louis Murphy, and the Buccaneers passing attack isn't prolific enough to sustain three wide receivers. Is it more likely to sustain him than those other two? Yeah, probably. But it'll likely cut into his production regardless.

And it could cut into his production in a big way Week 9 at Cleveland. The Browns don't rank especially high against the pass, but they don't give up many touchdowns through the air, allowing the fourth-lowest quarterback rating of any team this season. Cornerback Joe Haden, who has played better in recent weeks after a slow start, is a big reason for that, and he'll likely go up against Jackson on Sunday.

Neither Jamey Eisenberg nor Dave Richard rank Jackson among their top 30 wide receivers -- and that's in a week with six teams on bye.


Time to the roll the dice on Denard Robinson?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10/29/2014) Sitting Denard Robinson the week after his breakout 127-yard effort against the Browns was understandable. It was an outlier performance achieved with an especially favorable matchup, and there was some big talk about Toby Gerhart still playing a big role. But now, after back-to-back 100-yard games, taking a conservative approach with Robinson just seems kind of silly.

Especially since his matchup Week 9 at Cincinnati is, at least on paper, a favorable one. The Bengals rank 29th against the run, allowing 140.7 yards per game, and have given up the eighth-most Fantasy points per game to running backs. And as tough as the Jaguars defense has played in recent weeks, you don't have to worry so much about the Bengals running away with the game, compelling the Jaguars to throw every down.

Calling Robinson a must-start is taking it a bit far. Some people have enviable depth at the position. But in Week 9, Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank Robinson among their top 24 running backs, with Dave slotting him as high as 15th.


 
 
 
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