Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 14

Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 14

Player Analysis

Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 14

Hey, so you made your fantasy playoffs. A hearty round of congrats are in order as that’s nothing short of huge.

In fact, I consider it 90 percent of the battle in the quest to win a fantasy championship. You’ve weathered the ups, downs, trials and tribulations of a full 13-game regular season to establish your hand-picked squad as one of the four, six or eight best teams in your league.

Major mission accomplished.

From here, though, there’s a little more fortune, randomness and unpredictability involved as advancing in the fantasy postseason often come down to one week of matchups and the corresponding unforeseen volatility and craziness that often ensues. One Thursday-night upset, a key injury or an out-of-nowhere insane game from a fringe fantasy starter that someone has rolled the dice on can take down that top-seeded 12-1 juggernaut, lift that 5-8 team that snuck into the postseason via a weak division and/or wind up tilting your league’s entire playoff bracket on its ear.

But, for now, you’re in the fantasy dance, you have a shot at the golden goose and that’s all that matters at the moment.

In the meantime, there’s no shortage of statistics to sift through as we prep for our respective tourneys. 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 Week 14 fantasy fortunes – and (hopefully) beyond.

Here goes …

Running backs on a roll

Stumbling upon that running back who has caught fire in the second half of the season and/or seized control of a backfield rotation via injury, another back’s underperformance or just plain and simple opportunity is nothing short of pure fantasy gold.

And, right one cue, 2017 has delivered us two such right-place, right-time backs in the Ravens’ Alex Collins and Packers rookie Jamaal Williams.

Collins, a 2016 fifth-round pick of the Seahawks, has been a part of the Baltimore backfield rotation since Week 2 and has logged double-digit carries in every game since Week 5. He’s had his only 100-yard game in the Week 8 shutout of the Dolphins, but since the Ravens’ Week 10 bye, he’s become even more of a fantasy force.

In that three-game span, Collins has tallied a league-most four rushing touchdowns through action Sunday while totaling 226 yards and 59 touches, including 184 on 51 rushes. And among running backs, only Alvin Kamara (75.0) and Williams (53.3) have racked up more standard-scoring fantasy points during those three weeks.

His most recent effort was his best yet as he totaled 98 yards and two TDs on 17 touches in Sunday’s 44-20 thumping of the visiting Lions.

Overall on the season, Collins ranks 19th among fantasy backs with 102 points, and only six other RBs are averaging more yards per carry than Collins’ 4.9 clip.

Williams, meanwhile, is a fourth-round rookie who has stepped into the lead role in Green Bay after injuries felled starter Ty Montgomery and fellow rookie Aaron Jones.

Williams had only 15 total touches in the Pack’s first eight games, but in the last four contests beginning with Green Bay’s Week 10 win in Chicago, the rookie had totaled an NFL-most 91 touches, including a league-leading 80 rushing attempts, through Sunday.

And it’s been more than just pure volume for Williams, who has turned the workload into 427 scrimmage yards (fourth among RBs over that span through Sunday), three TDs and 60.7 standard-scoring fantasy points, which places him behind only the Saints’ dynamic duo of Alvin Kamara (94.8) and Mark Ingram (74.4) since the start of Week 10.

On Sunday, Williams notched his first 100-yard rushing game with 113 and a TD on 21 carries and added 10 more yards on two catches in a 26-20 overtime win over the visiting Buccaneers.

There are some more hurdles for Collins and Williams to overcome going forward, as the former had to deal with a migraine headache in the second half of Sunday’s game while Williams saw Jones return and play in Week 13, turning his only carry into the game-winning 20-yard TD run in overtime.

Still, Collins and Williams simply have been too productive to just be pushed and wayside and fantasy general managers can keep riding them and reaping the late-season benefits.

Untimely slumps

On the flip side of the above, fantasy GMs must come to grips with the late-season slumps which have settled in for a number of other former set-them-and-forget-them players.

At quarterback, Marcus Mariota notched his second 20-point fantasy game of the season after throwing for 150 yards and a TD and adding another 23 yards and a score on the ground in Sunday’s 24-13 win over the visiting Texans, but that’s been the exception and not the rule for the third-year QB this season.

Including Sunday’s season-low 150 yards and his 184-yard outing the previous week, Mariota has now thrown for 264 yards or fewer in nine of 11 games this season and has had one or fewer TD passes in nine of 11 contests as well with just 10 TD tosses and 12 interceptions on the season as a whole.

Mariota did notch his fifth rushing TD Sunday, but he’s only topped 30 yards rushing twice this season and his 213 rushing yards on the season ranks 10th among QBs.

Matt Ryan, meanwhile, entered Week 12 riding a four-game roll of multiple passing TDs, but he’s added only one more aerial score in the two games since after failing to throw a touchdown pass Sunday for the first time in his last 31 games, postseason included, dating back to Week 14 of the 2015 season.

Ryan also was limited to a season-low 173 passing yards in Sunday’s loss to the visiting Vikings and now has ranked as the QB15 or lower now in nine of 12 games this year with only two top-10 finishes, making him far from a totally trustworthy starter in the fantasy playoffs.

At running back, volume isn’t the issue with the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon – he ranked second to Williams with 88 total touches over the last four weeks heading into Monday night – but production is as he’s found the end zone only once during the last month while averaging 3.28 yards per rush on his 76 carries during that span.

Emerging rookie backup Austin Ekeler, meanwhile, has scored two more TDs and has nearly matched Gordon yard-for-yard (287 to 309) on 50 fewer touches during that four-game span and is going to continue to see plenty of action with that superior efficiency.

Finally, at wide receiver, the Vikings’ Stefon Diggs simply hasn’t been the same since his sizzling start (22 catches-391 yards-4 TDs in first four games) and a subsequent groin injury which sidelined him for Weeks 6 and 7.

So since Diggs’ return in Week 8, he’s caught only 19 of 29 targets for 235 yards and a TD in five games for an average of 9.7 point-per-reception points per outing.

Contrast that with fellow WR Adam Thielen’s 31 receptions for 527 yards and three TDs (20.3 PPR average) and tight end Kyle Rudolph’s numbers (24-221-4, 14.0 average) over the same time frame, and it’s clear that Diggs is now the third option in the Minnesota passing game.

Adjust your fantasy expectations accordingly.

Extra points

  • In their 14-9 win at Atlanta, the Vikings failed to score 20 points Sunday for the first time in their current eight-game win streak that’s put them atop the NFC playoff standings, but that didn’t keep QB Case Keenum from notching his fourth multiple-TD-pass game in his last five outings as he continues to be an unlikely but wholly viable fantasy starting option.
  • While it still didn’t result in a win, the Chiefs awoke from their late-season offensive slumber with 31 points Sunday versus the Jets, but rookie RB Kareem Hunt still couldn’t snare a slice of the XL fantasy-point pie as he finished with 63 yards and no scores on nine touches – marking his ninth-straight TD-less game and fifth consecutive outing with 7.7 or fewer standard-scoring fantasy points.
  • Per ESPN, Chargers wideout Keenan Allen on Sunday became the first player in NFL history to post three straight games with at least 10 receptions, 100 receiving yards and a receiving TD as he upped his totals to 33 catches on 41 targets for 436 yards and four scores over the span. By comparison, Allen caught 44 of 81 targets for 596 yards and one TD in his first eight games this season.
  • In the same game Sunday afternoon, WR Josh Gordon saw his first NFL action since Dec. 21, 2014 and led the winless Browns with 11 targets, four receptions and 85 yards.
  • In Miami, WR DeVante Parker continued his late-season fade Sunday, reeling in only one of his four targets for 5 yards in a 35-9 win over the Broncos. That means over his last three games, Parker has caught six of 16 targets for 36 yards and no scores.
  • QB Jameis Winston was back starting for the Bucs after a three-and-a-half game injury absence and, not coincidentally, TE Cameron Brate immediately came back to life with two scoring catches on six targets for 39 yards. In the previous 4 games with backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brate caught only four of 12 targets for 37 yards and no TDs.
  • The Rams’ defense ranked among Week 13’s best starts with six sacks, two blocked kicks and a pair of interceptions – including a pick-6 – in a 32-16 win at Arizona, and L.A. now ranks third among all defenses/special teams on the season. A word of caution, though, as 66 of Rams’ 128 total defensive fantasy points have come in three games (the opener vs. the Scott Tolzien-quarterbacked Colts and the two contests vs. the Cardinals) and neither of those two teams appear on L.A.’s remaining four-game schedule. Instead, the Eagles pay a visit to the L.A. Coliseum this Sunday followed by a trip to Seattle in Week 15, and offenses led by two of the league’s top three MVP candidates (Carson Wentz and Russell Wilson) don’t figure to pad the Rams’ fantasy defensive stats.

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