Hello er’body. The 11th hour is upon us and for some of us, this is the last week of the regular season before the playoffs begin. The trade deadline has come and gone and now it’s up to the waiver wizard to grant us powers of depth and domination. For me, and I’m sure for many of you, this is a very tricky time of year. When every point counts, many are forced to decide whether to go with underachieving starters such as Bowe, Turner or Lloyd, or hot upstarts such as Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon, or Bryce Brown. It’s not easy sitting a guy you drafted in the fourth round for a guy you picked up on free agency, I get it.
This week for example, my starting lineup in a 12 team QB, WR WR, RB RB, TE, Flex Flex league consisted of Eli Manning, Torrey Smith, Mohamed Sanu, Doug Martin, Marcel Reece, Kyle Rudolph, Brandon LaFell, and Daryl Richardson. I know what you’re thinking; you call yourself an expert and this is the team you fielded!? In my defense I had Antonio Brown, DMC, McGahee, and Amendola as starters before their respective injuries and this is an extremely competitive league. Ironically, in part due to the NE defense, I accumulated one of my highest point totals of the season. Now, with Brown, Amendola, and DMC likely to suit up, I need to make a decision about starting the guys coming off injury, or going with the hot hands. I wish I had an easy answer for you, but I’ll be sweating my lineup decisions all the way until kickoff. If it came down to it, would I play Cecil Shorts over Larry Fitzgerald? Honestly…this week I think I would. Generally, in a do or die situation, I think it’s more important than ever to ride hot hands in great matchups. The good news for owners up against the wall is that there are plenty of decent adds floating around in free agency. What do you say we take a peek at who these guys are. Time is of the essence so this week I’ll try to spare the fluff and get right down to it in this week’s target breakdown.
Explanation of Target Breakdown Scoring System
In addition to my comments, my enthusiasm for each player’s potential will be measured out of five tacos. Since we live in America where more is better, the more tacos I rate a player, the more I like him. Why tacos you ask? Well our goal in this fake world is to fill our rosters with so many dominating players that we effortlessly pummel our hapless victims. This pummeling inevitably manifests itself into delight equivalent to a vinegar stroke. If you’ve ever watched The League you’ll know what vinegar strokes are and since this is a family show, I won’t go into an in-depth explanation. You’ll also know that the term was coined by “Taco,” which provides the logic for my use of tacos as positive denotations. That and the fact that I obviously love a good taco. It makes sense in my head.
Andre Johnson- After looking like Andre from “The League” leading up to the last two games, Johnson has looked like the giant of old lately. In fact, he’s been closer to a beast than to a human these last two games. On Turkey Day, he stuffed competitors to the tune of 9 catches and 188 yards on 15 targets. This meal was merely a side dish to feast he put out a week before and over his last two games, Johnson has caught an unbelievable 23 passes for 461 yards and a touchdown on a staggering 34 targets. The only explanation I have is that he’s feeling healthier and there’s simply no way you can sit him.
Hakeem Nicks- Though he hasn’t been as beastly as Andre, Nicks looked very healthy Sunday, and perhaps more importantly, so did Eli. Nicks went for 5, 77, and one on 13 targets Sunday night and has caught 14 passes for 152 yards and a touch in his last two. Keep riding him against a poor Redskin D.
Stevie Johnson- Three games ago, it looked like Donald Jones was in a timeshare battle for Fitzpatrick’s favor. However, Stevie has proven over the last three weeks that it’s harder to keep up with the Johnsons than the Jones’s. Last week he had six grabs for 106 yards on 15 targets and he’s gone for 18 and 271 on 33 targets over the last three. Of his 21 targets over the last three, Jones has only caught 12 for 104 and a touch. Stevie hasn’t found the endzone lately but you’ve got to play him against the kitties this week.
Denario Alexander- “He’s a Denario brother and scorings his game, he’s not the others who get all the fame/when your roster’s in trouble you can call him on the double/He’s faster than the others so get hooked on the brother, do a dance/doo doo doo doo doo det-det-de-doo, doo doo doo doo-doo-doo.” Kudos to those who get the horrible allusion to the Super Mario Brothers show, a show that I watched religiously as a child. Anyway, the dude just keeps putting up numbers and he’s clearly Rivers’ favorite target. His 26 targets over the last three games leads the team and he’s caught 17 of those for 304 yards and three touchdowns in that span. He handled Champ quite nicely a couple of weeks ago and I like him a lot against Cinci. Keep playing him.
Pierre Garcon- In his second game back after losing his footing, Garcon came up big with a 5, 93, and one stat-line on a team high seven targets. His catch and run touchdown was spectacular and his ability to outrun defenders proves that he’s getting healthier. Shanny reported that he suffered no setbacks and with RGIII and the Redskins breathing new life, I like Garcon as a solid WR2/3 against the vulnerable Giants’ secondary this week.
Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon- There is a perfect fantasy storm brewing in Jacksonville with Henne’s heroism, MJD’s injury, and the loss of Laurent Robinson that make Shorts and Blackmon prime time players. The two have been great the last few weeks and they’re both averaging over 15 FPPG over the last three. Shorts has caught 13 balls on 26 targets for 291 yards and three touchdowns and Blackmon has caught 15 of his 24 targets for 323 yards and two touchdowns in the last three. I would start either one over Fitzgerald or Miles Austin among others at this point and they’ve got a great matchup against the Bills this week. For the record, I like Shorts slightly more in standard leagues, given his ability to stretch the field and score touchdowns, and Blackmon get the nod for PPR due to his target efficiency. Both look like homestretch homeruns.
Brandon Stokley- We know how solid Thomas and Decker have been this year but steady slot man Stokley also deserves some praise. Though somewhat of a risk, low-reward play, those in PPR leagues searching for a flex filler may want to take note of Stokley’s 12 catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns over the last three games. He’s tied with Davone Bess for 25th in FPPG over the last three with 9.7 and he’ll always be involved in the gameplan, albeit to a lesser degree than Thomas or Decker. He won’t set the world on fire, but I’d consider him at home this week against an ailing and vulnerable Tampa Bay D.
Emmanuel Sanders- Since Ben and Browns’ injuries, Sanders hasn’t been great but he’s been better than Wallace. In that two game span, Sanders has more targets (16 to 14), catches (8 to 5), and yards (157 to 33) than Wallace and the coaching staff has taken notice. Tomlin and the rest of the coaches have verbalized their displeasure over Wallace’s effort and with Brown expected back this week, it will be Sanders and Wallace battling for starting position opposite him. Ben is also expected to slowly work back into practice but he is no lock to play. Keep your eye on the situation because if Ben does play and Sanders does start, he’ll hold some value in a tough divisional game against the Ravens this week.
if Ben in and starting
Ryan Broyles- I don’t know exactly what Titus Young has been doing at practice or on the sidelines, but apparently it’s enough to get him kicked off the team for possibly the remainder of the year. Schwartz was quoted as saying, “the team and he needed a little break” and that he’d “potentially” be back at some point this year. This bodes well for Broyles owners going forward as he’s basically the defacto #2. In a Thanksgiving day shootout, Broyles had a great game on paper, garnering a 3rd best 12 targets, catching six for 126 yards. Despite his strong effort, I’m a bit hesitant to call him a must add player, simply because he’s basically had this role as the #2 for the last few weeks and he hasn’t been very consistent. Before his solid outing last Thursday, Broyles had only three catches for 41 yards in the previous two contests. He’s definitely worth a shot for desperate owners in a nice home matchup against Indy this week, but he’s no slam dunk.
Julian Edelman- Edelman looked all-world Thursday night, blowing up the Jets with a pair of sweet touchdowns—one sweet looking fumble return, and an arguably sweeter long receiving touchdown. Buzz for Edelman is pretty high right now, especially considering that he has scored in two straight weeks. While the hype is somewhat understandable, I’m not at all sold on Edelman’s role in the Patriot offense. To me, it is a lot like Danny Woodhead’s. They’ll both get their reps and have opportunities to produce by the simple fact that they play for the Pats, but they’re ceilings are low and their contributions are impossible to predict on a weekly basis. While Edelman will see an uptick in targets with Gronk out and Hernandez ailing, he has only seen ten targets in the last three games. To me, he’s simply a risk I’m not willing to take.
Davone Bess- The dreaded monster has been Miami’s best receiver recently, putting up solid, consistent numbers, especially for you PPR folks. Including his rock solid Sunday, in which he caught seven of his team high nine targets for 129 yards, Bess has recorded 17 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown over the last three games. He’s led the team in targets two of the last three weeks (Hartline) and he’s sure to see his share again this week when the ‘Fins take on the Pats. I’m not confident he’ll get in the endzone, but I’m pretty confident he’ll see double digit targets as the Dolphins will most assuredly need to sling it early and often. He’s a solid PPR flex play this week and possibly beyond.
Chris Givens- With Amendola limited to eight snaps last week, Givens capitalized to the tune of five receptions for 115 yards and a score on six targets. Earlier this week Fisher admitted that Amendola, though not facing any setbacks, is not 100% and will not be for some time. We should expect Amendola to be limited against the hard hitting ‘Niners secondary this Sunday which opens up things for Givens. Despite the inauspicious matchup, Givens will surely get looks as the clear #1 behind Amendola. Those who are desperate may want to give Givens a shot, despite his relatively low ceiling.
if Amendola out
Cole Beasley- Interestingly, Beasley was a big part of the gameplan even before Austin left with granny like hip troubles. The diminutive slot man was doing his best Welker impression out there, catching seven of his 13 targets (2nd on team) for 68 yards. He has a relatively good matchup this week against the Eagles but he is only worth consideration for very desperate PPR owners and only really playable if Austin is out. As of now, he is expected to play.
if Austin out
Jarius Wright- Productive once again in Harvin’s absence, Jarius caught seven of his team high ten targets for 49 yards. His ceiling isn’t very high, but if Harvin misses yet another game and Rudolph is also sidelined—both of which seem likely at this point—the time is Wright to take a flier on the Jarius. He’ll most assuredly see double digit targets against the Pack’ and like Bess, he’ll be a solid PPR play.
if Harvin/Rudolph out
Mohamed Sanu- Sanu came through for me last week and it’s possible he’ll come through again against the Chargers this week. The guy is an absolute redzone beast and he’s now caught four touchdowns in his last three games, all in the redzone. However, he has failed reach 100 total yards (98) in that span and he only has 11 catches which limits his consistency in PPR or standard play. These stats make him a td or bust play so he certainly presents some risk for owners who may need consistency this week. That being said, he’ll remain the starter and he did see the same amount of targets as Green last week (9) so you could do worse. I’ll put it this way; he’s not in the same class as Shorts, Blackmon, or Alexander, but I like him better than a lot of other desperation plays such as Stokley, Bess, J. Wright, Givens, E. Sanders or any Titan receiver. His ceiling is simply higher.