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?
New England Patriots
Prior to a pair of big games in the last two weeks, Lloyd had only averaged 2.7 catches on 5.2 targets and never cracked 50 yards in a game during a span of six contests. However, during a blowout victory against the Houston Texans and a near-epic comeback against the San Francisco 49ers, Lloyd exploded, totaling 17 catches for 279 yards.
Charles not in charge of workload
Since Week 13, Hernandez leads the Patriots with 43 targets and is second among all players during that span. In addition to benefiting from a blanketed Welker and absent Gronkowski, Hernandez is the touchdown maker in the red zone. These two lethal underneath options and an accelerated offensive pace have allowed Lloyd to get more shots down the field, which culminated in last week's career-high 190 yards.
The combination of a big scoreboard deficit and fumbles opened the door wide open for Woodhead's big game. Ridley lost one fumble and saw a season-low nine rushes, ending his streak of six straight games with a touchdown. With New England heading south to face the Jacksonville Jaguars, there should be little resistance allowing the Pats to strike their desired balance of running and throwing the ball. Ball security cost Ridley playing time last year, but he appears safe, for now.
Vereen's lone touch of the game resulted in a lost fumble, squashing his chances of cutting in on Ridley. Vereen is a big loser here since he had been playing on a lot of passing downs. He's now in serious danger of using those snaps to Woodhead or Bolden, if Bill Belichick chooses to use him. The game plan has dictated Woodhead's usage, though, and limits him to a borderline flex candidate.
Kansas City Chiefs
With Dwayne Bowe (ribs) done for the season, Baldwin, the second-year project receiver, saw the most snaps among the KC wide receivers but did not catch a pass on any of his four targets. He's now been shut out in two straight games Meanwhile, Steve Breaston remains a healthy scratch in favor of Newsome.
McCluster was the only receiver to do much of anything. He landed 10 targets for a season-high seven catches. Unfortunately, the team has gone seven quarters without scoring a point, and these receivers all look pretty toxic in any matchup. Things might actually get worse. The team is considering starting second-year man Ricky Stanzi following Brady Quinn's ribs injury and the nine sacks he's taken over the last two games.
Back in Week 8, Charles only registered four yards on five carries against the Oakland Raiders. Last week wasn't any better with nine carries for 10 yards facing the same typically porous Black Hole defense. Charles owners have gotten accustomed to the KC coaching staff misusing their best player, however. If you survived his disappearing act, Charles has a very favorable matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, but another lopsided score could result in more wasted opportunities.
Backfields in motion
- Darren McFadden received a season-high 30 carries and four targets in the passing game but averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. Even when healthy, DMC has been unable to break off many big runs. In fact, Mike Goodson has looked far more explosive when called upon. He received more than four carries for first time all season with 13 totes and 89 yards. Now that the Raiders backfield is back to relative health, Marcel Reece has settled back into his fullback duties. Volume alone will keep DMC in your lineup, but Goodson's sudden increase in usage makes him an emergency option in deeper formats.
A quick deficit left Doug Martin with only nine carries and 12 touches against in what was a great matchup against the New Orleans Saints. Quarterback Josh Freeman couldn't get the offense moving, and with the score rapidly getting out of the hand Martin never had a chance. The opponent this week, the St. Louis Rams, has allowed nine rushing touchdowns to running backs over their last seven games. Don't overreact. Keep the Muscle Hamster uncaged.
T-Rich also irked with game plan
- After scoring two touchdowns and giving the Cleveland Browns the lead at halftime, Trent Richardson said it was "shocking" to only receive two carries early in the third quarter and zero attempts in the final frame. Afterward, T-Rich openly questioned the coaching staff for not sticking with the game plan. This week the Browns travel to face a brutal Denver Broncos run defense that has not allowed a touchdown on the ground to a running back all year. Even though he's scored six touchdowns in the last four games Richardson has only averaged 56.8 yards per game. If Richardson is slowing down or defenses are simply selling out in an effort to stop him, he's still finding ways to score and remains a must-start.
- Ryan Mathews (collarbone) is done for the year, bringing a merciful end to his dreadful season. Curtis Brinkley got the majority of playing time after Mathews departed, primarily because the team was playing from behind. In a closer content, Jackie Battle would receive more chances to kick up some dust. If Ronnie Brown (hamstring) is able to go, he'll likely bump Brinkley out of the mix and offer a desperate flex play.
- Even though Joique Bell played two more snaps than Mikel Leshoure during an embarrassing defeat to the Arizona Cardinals, the former was not nearly as efficient in his limited number of touches as in previous weeks. The blame can't go to Bell, though, as the entire offense struggled, led by Matthew Stafford throwing three interceptions. The Atlanta Falcons have been friendly to opposing running backs for much of the season, keeping Bell has a risky but somewhat promising RB3 option.
- Mike Tolbert scored a pair of one-yard touchdowns in the first quarter during his best vulture effort since signing with the Carolina Panthers. As long as Jonathan Stewart (ankle) remains sidelined, Tolbert will get a small handful of carries in addition to blocking duties for the resurgent DeAngelo Williams. Tolbert draws a struggling Raiders run defense but is purely a speculative play in hopes of landing another short touchdown.
- The San Francisco 49ers have given LaMichael James eight carries in each of the last two games and even trusted him several times on key plays during the fourth quarter. Frank Gore has been given the rock more than 20 times in two of the last three games, so the team may look to spell Gore more frequently in hopes of keeping him fresh for the postseason.
- Leonard Hankerson scored a pair of touchdowns off rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins after the Washington Redskins opted to err on the side of caution with Robert Griffin III (knee). Hankerson was only targeted three times and is still behind Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss in the pecking order. Another scoring outburst would be tough to duplicate, but if Cousins is called up once more, a hapless Philadelphia Eagles defense could end up allowing big plays to anyone.
- Over the last three games, Riley Cooper has averaged seven targets per game for the Eagles and has scored three times in the last six. Cooper isn't posting much in the way of yardage but is connecting with Nick Foles on touchdowns, particularly in the red zone. In Week 11 he registered a season-high 61 yards against the 'Skins and looks like a pretty legit WR3 or WR4.
About Eric McClung
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.
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