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Week 15 fantasy targets, touches
I didn’t know what to say at the end of Sunday’s games. For much of the day, I kept looking at the calendar to make sure that the NFL hadn’t moved the entire slate to Thursday.
Several of the marquee matchups turned into blowouts quickly, making the anticipation of “garbage time” fantasy points the only reason to stay tuned to the telecasts. In some cases, owners were rewarded for sitting through those contests. For the most part, they were left flat by flailing quarterbacks, ill-targeted receivers and tailbacks being swarmed under in big spots.
Let’s go inside the numbers and acknowledge the good, bad and ugly from Week 15 in the red zone.
Red Zone Carries
Alfred Morris and the Washington offense thrived behind Kirk Cousins in a huge win over the Browns. The rookie from Florida Atlantic rushed for 87 yards on 27 carries, including two short touchdown runs. Morris logged 30 rushing yards on six red zone carries, including two touchdown runs. He’s now surpassed 1,300 rushing yards this season with nine touchdowns.
Trent Richardson failed to pile up yardage against the Redskins, but he plunged forward when needed to put points on the board. Richardson posted three red zone carries, producing nine yards with two touchdown runs. He finished the game with 28 rushing yards on 11 carries. In the past two weeks, Richardson’s scored four touchdowns while amassing 70 rushing yards on 29 carries. Despite his frequent end zone appearance of late, he’s no better than a high-RB2 option against Denver in Week 16.
Danny Woodhead carried the ball six times in the red zone against the 49ers, producing 16 yards and two touchdowns. Stevan Ridley owners did not receive the goal-line love from Bill Belichick that they’ve become accustomed to in weeks past. Ridley logged a single red zone touch and did not gain any yardage. He finished the game with 23 yards on nine carries and was eliminated from the equation as New England worked back from a huge deficit.
Knowshon Moreno continued his late-season surge against the Ravens. Moreno produced a six-yard touchdown run on his lone red zone carry, and finished the game with 118 yards on 22 carries. He’s recorded at least 84 total yards in four consecutive games since returning to action in Week 12.
Michael Turner rewarded trusting owners with another early touchdown run following an Eli Manning interception in the first quarter of Sunday’s blowout win. Turner tied BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Arian Foster atop the red zone carry column this week with eight. He produced 18 yards, including his ninth touchdown of the season. Turner finished the game with 52 yards on 16 carries. He’s scored in six of his past seven starts.
Red Zone Targets
James Jones dominated the Chicago secondary on Sunday, accounting for all three of the Packers’ touchdowns in the 21-13 win at Chicago. Jones caught 2-of-3 red zone targets for 14 yards, including two touchdown grabs (he’s recorded nine red zone touchdowns this season). Jones caught 5-of-7 targets overall for 60 yards. He’s worthy of WR3 consideration against the Titans.
Cecil Shorts III returned from the concussion that sidelined him in Week 14 to produce his fourth 100-yard game of the season. Shorts III was the most-targeted receiver in the red zone on Sunday. He caught one of his five red zone targets for six yards. He needs 75 yards in the final two weeks to reach the 1,000-yard mark for 2012.
A.J. Green didn’t post a huge final stat line against the Eagles on Thursday night, but he did break his three-game scoring drought. Green caught 2-of-3 red zone targets for 13 yards, including his touchdown receptions.
Demaryius Thomas was silenced by the Baltimore defense on Sunday, a small victory in an otherwise forgettable day for the Ravens. Thomas caught four passes for 13 yards on nine targets in the win. Two of his receptions (four targets) came in the red zone and covered five yards. He next squares off with Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden at home.
Teammate Eric Decker caught his only red zone target for 14 yards. Decker posted his first 100-yard game since Week 3, finishing Sunday’s win with eight receptions for 133 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown. Decker needs 77 yards in the final two weeks to reach 1,000 for the season.
The Chargers were pathetic in a home loss to the Panthers, but Antonio Gates finally returned to the end zone following a four-week absence. Gates caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers, the longest pass play of the day for San Diego. Let that breathe for a second. Gates finished the game with four receptions and 31 receiving yards.
Red Zone Passes
The Rams were blown out at home by Adrian Peterson and the Vikings, but Sam Bradford produced a great fantasy day. Bradford passed for 377 yards with three touchdowns, one interception and a two-point conversion in the two-touchdown loss. All three of his touchdown throws came in the red zone. He completed 7-of-9 red zone passes overall for 43 yards.
Drew Brees and the Saints obliterated the Buccaneers, a team that only showed competitive fire on the sidelines against their own coaches. Brees completed 6-of-9 red zone passes for 40 yards with three touchdowns (Moore, Sproles and Thomas). He passed for 307 yards (26-of-39) and rushed for 11 yards.
Matt Ryan led the Falcons to a dominant home victory over the Giants. He completed his three red zone attempts for 12 yards, including two touchdowns (Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones). Ryan passed for 270 yards overall with three touchdowns (a 40-yard completion to Jones).
Joe Flacco threw another red zone interception in Sunday’s loss to the Broncos. He completed 1-of-3 red zone attempts for 14 yards, and finished with a solid fantasy game. Flacco completed 20-of-40 passing attempts for 254 yards with two touchdowns, two turnovers and three sacks. Only Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford have thrown more red zone interceptions than Flacco (he’s thrown three).
The Chargers were riding sky-high following a road victory against the Steelers in Week 14. They failed to surmount much of an effort in a terrible home loss to the Panthers on Sunday. Danario Alexander, a second-half fantasy hero off of the waiver wire, was limited without a reception on three targets. Philip Rivers passed for 121 yards with one touchdown pass to Antonio Gates (four receptions for 31 yards) and absorbed six sacks. The Chargers amassed 164 total yards in this game.
The Ravens changed out coordinators, but that didn’t solve the offensive woes in Sunday’s loss to Denver. Anquan Boldin was targeted six times in the loss and failed to register a reception. Torrey Smith caught one of three targets for 14 yards before departing because of a concussion. Dennis Pitta was the hero of the day, producing seven receptions on 125 yards with two touchdowns. Pitta has recorded 12 receptions for 171 yards with three touchdowns in the past two weeks.
San Francisco won a Sunday night shootout with the Patriots in Foxboro, led by Colin Kaepernick’s touchdown passes. Michael Crabtree was the big-play option for Kaepernick downfield, delivering seven receptions for 107 yards with two touchdowns. Crabtree hadn’t scored since Week 11, but he did extend his streak of games with at least 90 receiving yards to three. He needs 132 receiving yards in the final two weeks of the season to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career.
Randy Moss also returned to the fantasy radar, if only for one play. The former fantasy hero caught an early touchdown pass from Kaepernick, his third of the year. Moss finished the game with two receptions and 36 receiving yards.
Brandon Lloyd established a new career mark with 190 receiving yards as the Patriots were forced into a rare chasing scenario against the 49ers. Lloyd caught 10-of-16 targets in the loss. In the past two weeks, Lloyd has recorded 17 receptions on 25 targets for 279 yards. He’s back in WR2 contention for Week 16 against the Jaguars.
I know that you’ve already seen the footage of Danny Amendola’s post-touchdown spike that broke a pair of glasses. Amendola caught six of his 12 targets for 58 yards in a solid return to the field. He’s a solid Week 16 play against the porous Tampa Bay secondary in championship week.
Dez Bryant played through his injury and delivered a touchdown reception in the Cowboys’ overtime win over the Steelers. Bryant caught 4-of-9 targets for 59 yards. He’s now scored in six consecutive games (eight overall). He’s a rock-solid play against the Saints in Week 16.
The Cardinals perpetrated one of the best one-week turnarounds in recent memory. They absorbed an utterly demoralizing defeat at the hands of the Seahawks in Week 14. Arizona beat Detroit at home by a final score of 38-10 in a game that featured two interceptions returned for touchdowns and three Beanie Wells touchdown plunges.
Wells rushed for 67 yards on 17 carries. His rushing average of 3.9 yards per carry established a new season-high mark. Wells next faces the stout Chicago run defense at home.
Matthew Stafford completed 24-of-50 attempts for 246 yards with three interceptions. The consensus top-5 quarterback during draft season has produced 21 total touchdowns against 17 turnovers. Happily for fantasy owners, Stafford did complete 10 passes to Calvin Johnson.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks rolled to another resounding victory. This time, Wilson was front and center in the scoring column, producing nine carries for 92 yards with three rushing touchdowns. Wilson also completed 14-of-23 attempts for 205 yards with a touchdown pass. He’s on the big stage Sunday night against the 49ers.
Marshawn Lynch ran wild in limited work for the Seahawks. Lynch rushed for 113 yards with a touchdown on just 10 carries. Lynch has been a consistent workhorse for fantasy owners in 2012, producing at least 85 rushing yards in 12 of his 14 starts.
C.J. Spiller, Stevie Johnson and the “Gangnam Style” guy were the lone bright spots for the Bills. Spiller produced 103 rushing yards on 17 carries, including a first-quarter touchdown run. Johnson logged eight receptions for 115 yards, including a 20-yard, second-quarter touchdown reception.
Josh Freeman was a consensus top-10 fantasy quarterback option for Week 15 against the Saints. The Buccaneers were shut out, and Vincent Jackson was invisible until recording a few late receptions (six catches for 81 yards, a respectable total). Freeman missed a wide-open Mike Williams on a would-be touchdown throw early in the game, only to throw an interception to cap the possession. He would throw four interceptions and lose a fumble in this game.
His miserable performance overshadowed the pathetic effort put forth by the Giants. Eli Manning completed 13-of-25 attempts for 161 yards with two interceptions and was shut out of the end zone for the fourth time this season.
Darren McFadden posted 149 total yards on 34 touches in Sunday’s shutout victory over the Chiefs. McFadden had left the Raiders’ Week 14 loss to Denver early, leaving many owners reticent to start him in a playoff matchup. They should feel confident starting McFadden this week against the Carolina run defense.
I now present a short list of names to make you shake your head: Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, Bryce Brown, David Wilson, Greg Jennings, Marques Colston, Josh Gordon, Doug Martin, Mike Williams, Wes Welker, Donnie Avery, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, Carson Palmer and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Sebastian Janikowski kicked five field goals.
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