Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 12

Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 12

Player Analysis

Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 12

In Week 11, we welcomed, among others, Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, Keenan Allen, LeSean MCoy and Brandin Cooks back to fantasy relevancy.

Meanwhile, it was a fantasy week for forget for the likes of Dak Prescott, Isaiah Crowell, Jordy Nelson, Adrian Peterson, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Martin and Rob Gronkowski – and, alarmingly, it’s looking like more of a trend than an exception for a few in this latter group.

As always, though, there’s no shortage of statistics to sift through as we try to make sense of it all here in the late stretch run of the fantasy season. So let’s delve deeper into the significant stats, notable numbers and illuminating integers of the weekend and figure out what they mean for your Thanksgiving Week fantasy fortunes – and beyond.

Here goes …

Thielen it in the Twin Cities

Things are looking up Minneapolis these days with the 8-2 Vikings leading the NFC North by two games and currently owning the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

A rugged defense, revamped offensive line and the improbable surge of journeyman quarterback Case Keenum are garnering most the headlines, but don’t overlook one of steadiest/quietly outstanding performers in the league.

Fourth-year wide receiver Adam Thielen punctuated the Vikings’ sixth straight win Sunday by catching six of his nine targets for 123 yards and a touchdown, giving him 14 receptions for 289 yards and two scores over the last two weeks.

Thielen and Dolphins wideout Jarvis Landry are the only two players in the league who have caught at least five passes in each of their 10 games and this season, and Thielen not only ranks third among all wide receivers in point-per-reception scoring (168.7 points) but he also checks in at No. 4 in the standard-scoring ranks (106.7) as well.

Not too shabby for an undrafted hometown kid from Division II Minnesota State who many astute league observers still regard as the second best receiver on his own team. In fantasy terms, though, Thielen has firmly established himself as a locked-in WR1 in all league formats.

To wit: Since his breakout game – a seven-catch, 127-yard, one-TD performance against the Texans – in Week 5 last season, only Antonio Brown (1,941) and T.Y. Hilton (1,837) have totaled more receiving yards than Thielen’s 1,738 on 118 catches through action Sunday. And in the 22 games in that span, Thielen has 15 contests with at least five catches, has reeled in eight of his nine career TD passes and has averaged an impressive 15.29 PPR points per outing.

In short this holiday season, fantasy general managers who took a shot on Thielen in the middle rounds of their drafts last summer have much to be thankful for.

Bad teams, stud RBs

Standout fantasy backs are typically found toting the rock for winning teams, but once again this season, there are a few notable exceptions.

We highlight two of them here in Jordan Howard, the bellcow for the 3-7 Bears and Orleans Darkwa, the leading rusher for the 2-8 Giants.

Following his 15-carry, 125-yard, one-TD performance on the ground Sunday in a 27-24 loss to the Lions, Howard now ranks third in the league in rushing with 841 yards and is a borderline RB1, ranking 11th with 12.19 (standard-scoring) fantasy points per outing.

In the quest to find every-week startable fantasy RBs, most of the battle is seeking out volume, and Howard most definitely checks that box, trailing only Le’Veon Bell (232) with his total of 192 rushing attempts this season.

And since the start of last season – Howard’s rookie campaign – Howard and Bell, with 2,154 rushing yards apiece, trail only Ezekiel Elliott (2,414).

Darkwa, meanwhile, isn’t in the same RB1 conversation with Howard, but he has emerged as a valuable stretch-run commodity at the position, totaling at least 12 touches in last five games for the last-place Giants.

In his last six contests, Darkwa has had at least 72 yards in five outings, and overall during that span, he ranks ninth in the league in rushing (436 yards) and 11th in yards from scrimmage (507) while finding the end zone twice – all with a bye week thrown in the stretch as well.

So while the Giants are a postseason afterthought, Darkwa is anything but for those in need of late-season fantasy RB help.

Chief concerns

The struggle continued Sunday for the Chiefs as they fell to the woebegone Giants in overtime to suffer their fourth loss in their last five games. (So much for Andy Reid’s history of success following a bye week).

In its 5-0 start, K.C. averaged 32.8 points per game, and over its 1-4 span of late, that average has plunged to 19.6 points.

Along with the standings struggles naturally comes a corresponding dip in fantasy production as well.

We’ve recently discussed in this space the marked decline in rookie running back Kareem Hunt’s numbers over the last month or so, and QB Alex Smith has experienced a similar stumble.

Coming out of Sunday’s action, Smith still ranked sixth among fantasy QBs with 23.17 points per outing, but his last five contests only have produced two 250-yard-plus games and a total of seven TDs, three interceptions and a fumble. In Smith’s first five games, four featured at least 250 aerial yards while he totaled 12 TDs (including one rushing) and no turnovers.

In his latest outing Sunday in the windy Meadowlands, Smith failed to register a TD, passing or rushing, for the first time in his last 17 games dating to last season while throwing for only 230 yards and a pair of picks.

Add it all up, and it should be clear that Smith is no longer the sure-fire QB1 he appeared to be earlier in the season – and that’s especially so now that we’re free and clear of the bye weeks.

Extra points

  • The Saints’ Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara continue to churn out the eye-popping fantasy numbers, and since the Saints’ Week 5 bye – and the trade that sent Adrian Peterson west to the Cardinals that same week – Ingram and Kamara rank first and third in the league in yards from scrimmage with 724 and 676, respectively. Even more impressively, Ingram and Kamara ranked 1-2 in PPR points during that span entering Monday night with 133.4 and 126.6, respectively – and that included all positions, even quarterbacks.
  • Speaking of Saints skill players, second-year wideout Michael Thomas has led the team in targets in all 10 games this season, but continues to be a much better fantasy option in PPR than in standard-scoring formats, ranking seventh among WRs in the former and 17th in the latter. That’s because TD catches (two) have been few and far between for Thomas, who also ranks behind only Antonio Brown (70), Larry Fitzgerald (69) and Landry (67) with his 65 receptions this season.
  • In Washington, WR Jamison Crowder has emerged as the D.C. wideout to roster with a team-most 32 targets and 20 receptions for 271 yards over the last three games. However, he is still looking for his first TD catch after snaring seven a season ago.
  • Another wide receiver, the Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas, has reversed his touchdown fortunes of late, grabbing a scoring pass in each of his last three games after going the previous 13 without a TD.
  • Bucs tight end Cameron Brate, meanwhile, is trending in the opposite direction, catching only three of 10 targets for 31 yards and no scores over his last three games after totaling 31 grabs, 405 yards and four TDs over his first seven outings. Brate’s decline nearly mirrors the absence of QB James Winston, who’s missed the majority of those three games as he deals with a shoulder issue.
  • RB Doug Martin’s production also has been lacking of late. On Sunday in Miami, he managed only 38 yards on 19 rushes and 6 yards on a pair of receptions. So after racking up 146 yards and two TDs on 29 touches in first two games of the season, Martin has 257 yards and no scores on 90 touches, including 216 yards on 85 rushes (2.54 per carry) in the five games since. The volume is obviously still there with an average of 18 touches per outing over that five-game span, but the efficiency is most definitely not so proceed with Martin as a matchup-dependent flex option going forward.
  • In Minnesota, Jerick McKinnon out-touched fellow RB Latavius Murray 19-16 in Sunday’s win over the Rams, but the latter had the superior fantasy day for the third time in the last four games, totaling 96 yards and rushing for a pair of scores. McKinnon, meanwhile, produced 60 yards on his 19 touches and remained stuck on one TD in his last four contests.
  • Down south – all the way down in South Beach in fact – Dolphins WR Kenny Stills extended his late-season surge Sunday, reeling in seven of his eight targets for a career-high 180 yards and TD in a loss to visiting Bucs. Stills has hit at least 11.5 PPR points in five of his last six games and is pacing the team with 588 receiving yards on 40 catches.
  • Since his Week 9 return from injury, Titans rookie WR Corey Davis has been targeted 22 times – one behind team-leader Delanie Walker during that span – but the production is still lacking as he’s only managed only nine catches for 103 yards and no TDs.
  • Finally, matchups against the Browns’ offense remain the clear No. 1 start for fantasy defenses/special teams. The Jaguars racked five sacks, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions and a TD for 21 fantasy points (Huddle Performance scoring) in their 19-7 win in Cleveland on Sunday, and, on average, opposing defenses score a league-best average of 10.8 points per week against the winless Browns, who have coughed up a league-most 28 turnovers so far. To close out the season, the Browns play, in order, the Bengals, Chargers, Packers, Ravens, Bears and Steelers. Plan your fantasy defensive matchups accordingly.

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