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?
Leshoure might be listed as the starter, but Bell is the real mover and shaker in the Motor City backfield. While Leshoure has managed three touchdowns in the last four games, it's come at a disappointing average of 3.4 yards per carry.
Joique keeps jukin'
In that time, Bell has seen his workload increase each week in both the running game and the passing game. Last week Bell played 13 more snaps than Leshoure and was utilized on five more plays. Bell is quickly gaining value as a flex play consideration. Leshoure can't be forgotten, however, as he will likely get the carries near the end zone. This week against a hapless Arizona Cardinals team, Leshoure figures to get the late touches assuming the Lions are grinding down the clock looking to snap their five game losing streak.
With Broyles (torn ACL) done for the year and Titus Young shipped to Siberia, the rookie Durham, who played with quarterback Matthew Stafford at Georgia, has gone from practice squad to starter. Durham has some size, and the history with Stafford doesn't hurt, but it's hard to expect consistency from him right now.
Since Week 11, Scheffler and Pettigrew have combined for 28 receptions on 61 targets with all the injuries at wide receiver. Pettigrew missed much of last week's game with his ankle injury, and his potential absence would all but guarantee a second straight game of double-digit targets for Scheffler. Efficiency has been an issue for the Lions in the air, but the volume of chances would make Scheffler a borderline starter.
The Packers have reluctantly made Green their starter, although the recent injury to Starks (knee) helped make the decision a very easy one. Harris came off the practice squad to spell Green for seven snaps, all rushing attempts, including a 14-yard touchdown run. Ryan Grant is back and received a big cheer on his single run for 13 yards but figures to be slowly worked back into game shape. This backfield will get chances as the Packers want to stay somewhat balanced, but the performance just has not been there.
Aaron Rodgers has played well before in bad weather games but was limited to a season-low 173 yards, 102 going to Cobb, and couldn't get things going with his other receivers. Weather could be a factor again this week on the road against the Chicago Bears, so the passing options, outside of Cobb in the short passing game, may struggle once again.
In his first opportunity to carry the load, Owens dealt with cramping to start the second half, but he returned to tear off a long touchdown. He's looking like the starter down the stretch with no word on improvements from Jennings (concussion) and MJD (foot).
Without Shorts (concussion), the Jags were predictably awful. Blackmon never left the field but only managed six catches for 57 yards on a dozen targets despite playing every snap on offense. The lack of Shorts stretching the field and Blackmon's matchup with Antonio Cromartie limited him. Kevin Elliott and Jordan Shipley were force-fed a combined 17 times but only made eight catches. Lewis was a non-factor, managing a single catch for four yards.
The next two weeks are pretty unfavorable for the Jags, but Shorts' play-making ability makes him a high-end WR3, should he return. His presence would also elevate Blackmon to a fringe WR3.
Over the last three games, Drew Brees has thrown nine interceptions and just three touchdowns. He's also very likely to finish this season with his worst completion percentage since joining the Saints in 2006. The sagging performance of the Saints' passing game has taken place against three of the best teams in the NFC, but things are about to get a lot better. This week they'll host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, easily the worst pass defense in the league. Colston, Graham and Moore all remain worthy starts in this great matchup as their targets have remained intact during this recent dip in performance.
The aforementioned slide also coincides with the return of Sproles, who's averaging 8.3 targets per game and got his first carries since a three-game absence. He doesn't look like the electric player from a year ago but has serious PPR value. After a very solid performance in Week 13 (14 carries, 84 yards), Thomas totaled 76 yards last week, the bulk coming on seven receptions. Ingram went back to being the lead back, logging a season-high 68 yards. Neither of those options is very trustworthy on a weekly basis.
Blackbirds heading south for the winter?
The Baltimore Ravens have dismissed offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, whose questionable play selection and uncreative schemes had many wondering why he was ever retained in the offseason. Jim Caldwell will take over in his first stint as an OC, leaving a lot questions over how much this offense can really improve so late in the season.
If Joe Flacco gets his way, he'll get to run a more up-tempo offense and utilize the no huddle frequently. A more aggressive approach could smooth out Torrey Smith's inconsistencies and allow him to become more than a deep threat. Anquan Boldin is experiencing a revival with 78 or more yards in three of the last four games with three scores in the last two. The change to Caldwell is a big risk, but you should expect Ray Rice, the one constant on offense, to remain very active.
Backfields in motion
Fred Jackson (leg) is done early for the second straight season, leaving C.J. Spiller as the Buffalo Bills workhorse. Head coach Chan Gailey never gave Spiller the 60-40 spilt he promised a few weeks ago but says Tashard Choice is no threat to take major carries from Spiller. The remaining slate of games isn't ideal, but Spiller's top-notch abilities and projected workload will have owners starting him regardless of any matchup.
Wilson can climb fence
- The New York Giants have expressed uncertainty over the status of Ahmad Bradshaw (knee) for this week. David Wilson played great in his absence with 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 13 carries, in addition to big returns on special teams. The next two games are very favorable against the run, leaving Wilson as a possible difference maker in the championship run if the often dinged-up Bradshaw misses time yet again.
- With the Indianapolis Colts placing Donald Brown on Injured Reserve, rookie Vick Ballard becomes the man a week after registering a career-high 94 rushing yards. Indy will face a crumbling Houston Texans defense this week. After not allowing a rushing score for the first 10 games, the Texans have been scored on three times by ground over the last three games. Ballard is more of a grinder than a game breaker but keeps posting solid returns.
- After a Danny Woodhead fumble turned into a lucky touchdown, Stevan Ridley's stuff and strip near the end zone got him sent to the sideline for a bit in favor of Shane Vereen despite a New England recovery. Ridley has scored in six straight games but faces a mighty San Francisco 49ers defense in a brutal matchup. He'll need to better secure the ball, something that got Ridley into trouble late last year, to avoid what might become a more serious benching. Woodhead will continue to be in the mix regardless. To what degree all depends on the Pats' game plan.
- Facing a brittle Jags run D, the New York Jets got nearly identical performances from Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell. The latter has now carried the ball 11 or more times in four straight contests, yet Greene has still managed to average 79 yards per game during that span. The timeshare appears to be working for both the backs and the Jets, who've won three of the last four. Neither running back is much to crow about, but the matchup this week against the Tennessee Titans is excellent and offers some upside from both at the flex position.
- A huge blowout allowed the Seattle Seahawks to rest their offensive skill players last week. That resulted in 20 carries and 108 yards for Robert Turbin. Head coach Pete Carroll stated he is not worried about the workload given to Marshawn Lynch, so this looks like a one-shot deal. Despite making the most of the situation, Turbin is no threat to Lynch unless an injury occurs.
- A fractured finger has put Dez Bryant's season in jeopardy. He extended his scoring streak to five games, totaling seven touchdowns in that span. If he suits up, Dez is a must-start, despite concerns over how he might play with his finger wrapped up. If Bryant can't play with the injury, Dwayne Harris becomes a depth pickup. Miles Austin is coming off a disappointing game, but he paced the team with 10 targets. He could bounce back against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that just gave up three passing touchdowns and will continue to be without cornerback Ike Taylor (ankle).
- A return from his brief trip to the dog house and the return of Ben Roethlisberger suddenly have Mike Wallace making plays again for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wallace notched his first 100-yard game since Week 3 and scored a pair of touchdowns this past weekend. There's never been a question of talent, but a rash of ugly drops and poor play raised doubts over Wallace's mindset, following an offseason in which he held out but did not receive the long-term contract he demanded. With the season drawing to a close and the pay window about to open, Wallace is finally starting to elevate this play.
- Despite a big effort from tight end Brandon Myers in Week 13, he was kept in to block frequently on Thursday night. This all came when Myers appeared to be the most consistent option for the Raiders' passing game and lined up against a defense that has allowed nine touchdowns to rival tight ends, tied for the most in the league. It's extremely disappointing to see such a great mismatch go to waste, but sometimes the Silver and Black is just a Black Hole.
- No one on the Chicago Bears is going to cut into Brandon Marshall's targets, but Alshon Jeffery (knee) did return to action after missing six of seven games to score for the first time since Week 1. Jeffery played the second-most snaps at wide receiver, so he's clearly not being restricted. The remaining schedule is pretty good, so Jeffery isn't a bad pickup. Just keep in mind of his place on the pecking order and the obvious injury concerns.
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also 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.