Opportunity in the NFL can translate to success in fantasy football. Are these target numbers a trend or an aberration for these players' fantasy football value? Do they deserve attention on fantasy football waiver wires?
Note: Last three weeks, not including byes, of touches (running backs) and targets (wide receivers and tight ends) for each player listed in parentheses. X means player was inactive. A listing of zero means he was active but not targeted.
RB: Darren Sproles INJ (13-X-X), Mark Ingram (3-9-17), Pierre Thomas (10-9-7), Chris Ivory (X-11-8)
WR/TE: Jimmy Graham (10-11-8), Marques Colston (10-4-6), Lance Moore (6-2-9), Devery Henderson (4-3-2)
Brown-out coming for Bradshaw?
Not only are the Saints winning games since Joe Vitt has returned to the sideline, but they are running the football well. Without Sproles (hand) for the last two games, Ingram has become the primary ball carrier, totaling 23 carries for 111 yards.
However, the scoring and highlights have come from Ivory with his two touchdowns and more yards gained, despite getting fewer carries than Ingram. Ivory was only activated when needed in his three seasons as a Saint despite the fact he keeps outperforming last year's first-rounder.
Thomas is still on the field more often than Ingram and Ivory because he is trusted a lot more on passing downs, even though he's rarely targeted.
When Sproles returns, Ivory is in danger of returning to being a weekly inactive unless he keeps working this well in the power running game. Moore could also lose targets, particularly short passes, but he has shown he is capable of posting WR3 numbers with or without Sproles. Maybe Thomas will lose reps, though, because his skills are redundant as long as Sproles is on the field.
RB: Ahmad Bradshaw INJ (22-15-14), Andre Brown (5-7-13)
WR/TE: Victor Cruz (8-11-4), Hakeem Nicks (7-4-14), Martellus Bennett (6-4-9), Domenik Hixon (3-1-2)
It's been three straight games without a touchdown pass for quarterback Eli Manning, who hasn't thrown for multiple scores since Week 5. Manning has denied rumors of a tired arm after having major pass protection issues last week. Thankfully, he'll have a bye this week to get things figured out, so you should remain optimistic.
Cruz was targeted a season-low four times and has two poor games during Manning's touchdown drought. The G-Men's slot machine has struggled with physical play and press coverage lately while the opposition has successfully focused on limiting his yards after the catch. Better offensive line play might allow Cruz to get the most out of his routes from here on out.
Nicks had his best performance since missing three games early in the season. He hasn't always looked 100 percent, but as long has his knee reacts positively and doesn't swell up like it did coming into this game, Nicks should be in the clear moving forward.
The always fragile Bradshaw will have his neck, hand and foot looked at during the bye. Before getting the start over Bradshaw last week, Brown had already been on the rise and now has a touchdown in four straight games; he's become the preferred option near the goal line. He ended up with fewer carries than Bradshaw, but the aforementioned ailments favor Brown's playing time. Rookie David Wilson is a big factor as a kickoff returner but has been too raw to trust on offense and has seen his maturity questioned by the coaching staff.
RB: Steven Jackson (12-9-32), Daryl Richardson (11-11-9)
WR/TE: Danny Amendola (X-X-12), Brandon Gibson (7-3-6), Chris Givens (6-4-X), Lance Kendricks (4-4-6), Austin Pettis (3-5-4)
Amendola caught 11 of the 12 passes thrown at him for 102 yards in his return after missing three games due to a shoulder injury. His strong chemistry with quarterback Sam Bradford picked up exactly where it left off and now leaves very little left for the other Rams receivers.
Givens was a healthy scratch for violating curfew despite him recently setting an NFL record of five straight games with a reception of 50 or more yards. He'll have to connect on one of the limited big-play opportunities he gets each week to offer any fantasy production.
It took 10 games and a season-high 29 carries for Jackson to finally break the century mark in a game this season. In addition to resting during blowouts, S-Jax was nearing a timeshare with Richardson. But coming off a bye week against the class of the division, Jackson was allowed to play the work horse once again. The reduced playing time may have also been part of an effort to keep Jackson healthy for trade purposes. With the deadline now past, it's possible Jackson stays the featured back when the team is competitive, but keep in mind the remaining schedule is extremely brutal against the run.
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.