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Week 2 fantasy red zone targets
The games of Week 2 were as dizzying as those of the opening week. Those feel-good stories in Chicago and Dallas coming out of Week 1 spun quickly in the other direction following embarrassing road losses in Green Bay and Seattle, respectively. Things got even worse in New Orleans and Kansas City, and the poison pens are out in New York following the Jets’ blowout loss to the Steelers.
We do know one thing. The Texans didn’t overlook their first two opponents (Denver is on tap for Week 3) and San Francisco is a balanced monster in the making. Alex Smith played heady football and received tremendous support from Michael Crabtree (more on Vernon Davis later) in defeating Detroit. Smith even came away bloodied, just like Tom Brady did a week ago.
* I will undoubtedly receive Tweets and emails asking how I could compare Smith to Brady. They had bloody noses in games their teams won. One grew up in northern California and one plays there now. That’s it.
As always, a number of high-profile players were lost to injury, thereby forcing new heroes to emerge. I’ll highlight several of those short-term breakthrough options in this week’s “Red Zone Alerts” piece. Let’s get deeper inside the box scores.
With Ryan Mathews still sidelined, Norv Turner shuffled up his backfield and spread out the carry count between four running backs. Jackie Battle was the most effective, amassing 69 rushing yards on 14 carries. Battle was particularly effective in the red zone, carrying the ball seven times for 22 yards, including two touchdown runs.
Mark Ingram served as the Saints’ principal red zone back against the Panthers. Ingram carried the ball four times for 17 yards with a touchdown in the red zone. He led the Saints with 16 carries for 53 yards in the Week 2 loss.
The dynamic duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate carried the Texans to an easy Week 2 win over the Jaguars. Tate touched the ball four times in the red zone for 12 yards with two touchdowns. He rushed 12 times for 74 yards overall.
Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin posted his second straight 20-carry game against the Giants. Martin posted 66 rushing yards on 20 carries in the shootout loss. More importantly for fantasy owners, Martin made the most of red zone touches. He carried the ball twice for 13 yards, including an eight-yard touchdown, the first of his NFL career.
Despite the early exit by Ahmad Bradshaw because of a neck injury, rookie David Wilson was a non-factor against the Buccaneers. Andre Brown received a sizable workload in Bradshaw’s absence, producing 90 total yards on 15 touches (13 carries for 71 yards). Brown rushed four times in the red zone for nine yards, including a touchdown run.
Red Zone Targets
Backup tight end Dante Rosario of the Chargers got the start in place of the injured Antonio Gates against the Titans and dominated the red zone. Rosario caught all three of his red zone targets for 30 yards, all touchdown grabs.
PPR hero Danny Amendola caught both of his red zone targets for seven yards, including a touchdown grab. See more on Amendola’s ridiculous output in the “Stat Checks” feature below.
Martellus Bennett caught five passes for 72 yards in the Giants’ win over Tampa Bay, but he failed to make the most of his red zone targets. Bennett dropped two would-be touchdowns in his four red zone targets. Still, his frequent targets from Eli Manning warrant a dramatic bump in his ranking assessment.
Throw it up and let Rob Gronkowski go get it. Gronkowski continued his run of red zone dominance with a five-yard touchdown reception from Tom Brady. He was targeted twice in the red zone Sunday. Gronkowski caught six passes for 75 yards in the shocking loss to Arizona. He’s scored 24 touchdowns in his past 24 games.
They were red zone looks, but they certainly were close. Vernon Davis recorded touchdown receptions from 21 and 23 yards in Sunday night’s win over the Lions. Davis caught five passes for 73 yards.
Red Zone Passing
The Chargers’ offense struggled to finish drives in the Week 1 victory over the Raiders. Philip Rivers did not let that happen again despite the absence of Antonio Gates and Ryan Mathews against the Titans. Rivers completed 5-of-6 red zone attempts on Sunday for 31 yards, including the aforementioned three touchdown passes to Dante Rosario. Rivers completed 24-of-32 attempts for 284 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to a resounding home win over the favored Cowboys. Wilson completed 4-of-5 red zone attempts for 32 yards. He passed for 151 yards overall (15-of-20), including a touchdown strike to tight end Anthony McCoy. Wilso also rushed for 28 yards.
Ben Roethlisberger continued his red zone efficiency to start 2012, completing both attempts for seven yards with a touchdown strike to Heath Miller (back-to-back weeks). Roethlisberger completed 24-of-31 attempts overall for 275 yards with two touchdowns.
Though the Vikings lost on the road at Indianapolis, Christian Ponder built nicely on his season-opening win against the Jaguars. Ponder completed 5-of-6 red zone passes for 23 yards with two touchdowns. Tight end Kyle Rudolph corralled one of those touchdown passes from six yards out. Rudolph finished the game with three receptions for 35 yards.
Eli Manning passed for an eye-popping 510 yards in the Giants’ shootout win over Buccaneers, completing 31-of-51 attempts with three touchdowns and three interceptions. He was inefficient in the red zone, however, completing just 2-of-11 attempts for 26 yards. When Victor Cruz can catch the ball and sprint 80 yards for a touchdown, a little red zone inefficiency and inexplicable turnovers can be forgiven.
Random Stat Checks
Brandon Weeden’s “Passer Rating” was a frequent punch line coming out of Week 1. Weeden rebounded nicely against the Bengals, producing 322 passing yards on 26-of-37 passing with two touchdowns.
The Rams took advantage of a Josh Morgan meltdown and a missed Billy Cundiff field goal try (Ravens fans felt better for a moment) to defeat the Redskins. Sam Bradford completed 26-of-35 attempts for 310 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
His top target was PPR machine Danny Amendola, who caught 15-of-16 targets for 160 yards with a touchdown. Amendola was a rock-solid start in Week 2 because of an expected high target count. This level of efficiency for Bradford was flat-out ridiculous.
Let me shift back to the Redskins for a moment. Robert Griffin III has passed effectively and Washington has put up points. However, tight end Fred Davis has been a non-factor through two weeks, producing just 52 receiving yards. He generated two receptions for 14 yards on just five targets despite the absence of Pierre Garcon. Niles Paul is starting to see time (three targets on Sunday) and there have been reports about contact between the Redskins and Chris Cooley.
How about one more piece of data from Mike Shanahan’s squad? For all of the highlights and early-season excitement, the Redskins have been terrible on third down. Washington ranks 30th in the NFL in third-down efficiency, converting just 8-of-28 third-down plays (28.8%).
The Cardinals pulled off an improbable in at Foxboro this weekend though longtime fantasy superhero Larry Fitzgerald was invisible. Fitzgerald caught a single Kevin Kolb pass for four yards on five targets.
Sleeper Andre Roberts delivered another touchdown reception for the victorious Cardinals. His two-yard touchdown reception was his only catch of the day and his only target.
Fantasy owners faced a difficult call with Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks because of his injury-shortened practice week. He played a huge role in the shootout victory over the Buccaneers with 199 receiving yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions (15 targets).
The Chiefs were terribly disappointing for the second straight week. Romeo Crennel and Brian Daboll had no answer for C.J. Spiller, who terrorized the Kansas City defense. Spiller logged 170 total yards on 18 touchdowns in the Bills’ blowout victory. He rushed 15 times for 123 yards with two touchdowns. Spiller leads the NFL with 292 rushing yards through two weeks while averaging 10.1 yards per carry.
They were garbage touchdowns as far as the NFL scoreboard was concerned, but Dwayne Bowe’s two late touchdown receptions in Buffalo were fantasy gold. Bowe finished the game with 102 receiving yards on eight receptions (15 targets).
Aaron Hernandez left Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals because of an injured right ankle. Early speculation is that Hernandez will miss at least one month because of the injury. Hernandez’s departure put Wes Welker back into a prominent role. He finished with five receptions and 95 yards on 11 targets, a decided upgrade from his Week 1 disappearing act.
DeSean Jackson appeared on the injury report because of a balky hamstring, thereby relegating him to lower-end WR3 option for Sunday’s matchup against the Ravens. Jackson performed well in the narrow victory, catching 7-of-8 targets for 100 yards.
Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta was targeted frequently by Joe Flacco in Sunday’s loss. He caught eight passes for 65 yards on 15 targets. Pitta ranks fifth among all receivers entering Monday’s Week 2 finale with 24 targets.
Daryl Richardson filled in for the injured Steven Jackson (what?) and helped the Rams vanquish the Redskins in St. Louis. Richardson amassed 83 rushing yards on 15 carries (5.5 yards per carry) in the victory. He’s on the radar for a waiver wire pickup as Jackson recovers from the groin injury that forced him out of Sunday’s game. As a quick aside, Jackson left the game after drawing a penalty for spiking the ball after failing to score from the one-yard line.
Brandon LaFell posted another big game opposite Steve Smith in the Panthers’ victory over the Saints. LaFell caught six of his eight targets for 90 yards. LaFell has caught 9-of-13 targets for 155 yards through two weeks.
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