Fantasy Football

Avoid Austin, Bowe in Week 14

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Michael Harmon

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Other Harmon rankings: QB, RB, WR

No position causes fantasy owners more fits than the wide receiver slot. A running back that sees a high target count will generally put up numbers. Elite quarterbacks will occasionally melt down and fail in a big spot (Brees in Week 13, anyone?), but they generally some statistical support. Wide receivers, regardless of their skill level, are at their mercy.

How often have you seen a high target count for a player that yields little production? I look to Larry Fitzgerald, Dwayne Bowe, Torrey Smith and countless explosive targets who have been inconsistent contributors because of quarterback play. I’ll save the full-on analysis for the postscript.

Let’s zone in on the matchups of Week 14 and find our heroes of the day.


(Exclude Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, Victor Cruz, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson, Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker)

Pierre Garcon vs. BAL
Garcon made a quiet return to the field in Week 11 against the Eagles. He’s exploded in the past two weeks, producing 192 yards on 12 receptions with two touchdowns. Garcon has been targeted 17 times during these games and has clearly left his injury concerns in the rearview.

The Ravens eliminated big-play threat Mike Wallace in two of the past three weeks with Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch at the helm. Robert Griffin III obviously presents a different challenge.

Marques Colston at NYG
Colston caught six passes for 71 yards in that strange Week 13 opener against the Falcons. The performance marked his highest reception and yardage totals since Week 7. Put him on the board as a back-end WR1 this week in the shootout against the Giants.

Hakeem Nicks vs. NO
Nicks reportedly returned to the practice field on Friday and took part in post-practice drills with Eli Manning. So, barring a setback, Nicks is primed for a big day in a potential shootout against the Saints. Nicks has recorded 19 receptions for 195 yards in the past three weeks.

The Saints have allowed the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers.

Randall Cobb, Greg Jennings vs. DET
For the purpose of this combo pack, I’ll just put up Aaron Rodgers’ history against the Lions. In eight career games against the Lions, Rodgers has averaged 264 passing yards with 18 touchdown passes and eight turnovers. He’s completed 69.5% of his pass attempts. With Jordy Nelson sidelined once again, look for Jennings’ target count to increase this week.

Mike Wallace vs. SD
Ben Roethlisberger is back under center for the Steelers for a home date against the Chargers. As a result, Wallace returns to the fantasy radar this week after a short-term disappearing act. Wallace has retained a high target count in Roethlisberger’s absence (22 targets), but generated just 10 receptions for 77 yards in the past three weeks.

The Chargers have allowed the 16th-most fantasy points to wide receivers (158.75 receiving yards and 1.25 touchdowns per game).

Mike Williams vs. PHI
Williams produced his best yardage output since Week 6 with his 93 receiving yards on six receptions, including a touchdown grab, against the Broncos. He broke a three-game scoreless streak that included two tepid efforts against the division rival Panthers and Falcons.

The Eagles have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to wide receivers (156.3 yards and 1.25 touchdowns per game).

Jeremy Maclin at TB
Maclin has been a difficult play for fantasy owners. Between his injury issues and the struggled of the Philadelphia offense, he’s been a non-factor in most weeks (seven games with fewer than 40 receiving yards). This week’s matchup against the Tampa Bay secondary puts Maclin on the radar as a WR3 option. The Buccaneers have allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, surrendering 220 receiving yards and 1.08 touchdowns per game.

Sleeper Options

Lance Moore at NYG
Moore led the Saints with 123 receiving yards on seven receptions in Week 13. Of course, he dropped a would-be touchdown.

Moore has produced multiple receptions in every game this season, including five games with at least 70 receiving yards (three 100-yard games).

Josh Gordon vs. KC
Gordon scored for the first time since Week 7 in Cleveland’s 20-17 win over the Raiders. He’s been a frequent target for Brandon Weeden in the past three weeks, producing 15 receptions on 21 targets for 229 yards. The Chiefs have allowed the 18th-most fantasy points to wide receivers, including 19 touchdown receptions. Go deep with Gordon as a WR3 option this week.

T.Y. Hilton vs. TEN
Hilton earned his second 100-yard game in three weeks against the Lions in Week 13. Interestingly, he finished both of those game with six receptions and 100 yards. He’s caught five or more passes in four of the past six games.

Hilton caught five passes for 35 yards in the first meeting with the Titans. He’s a back-end WR2 against the Tennessee secondary this week (13th-most fantasy points to wide receivers). Teammate Donnie Avery rates a play as a WR3.

Kenny Britt at IND
Britt hasn’t posted dominant numbers of late, but he’s made the most of limited opportunities with touchdown receptions in back-to-back games. He’s on the radar for a WR3 in the first round of the playoffs against the Colts.

The Titans’ defensive issues point to another game of chasing for Jake Locker, and that means another 40 pass attempts. Britt has been running well of late and should take on a bigger role in what could be a high-scoring game.


Miles Austin at CIN
Austin practiced fully this week, so fantasy owners can pencil the veteran receiver back into a back-end WR2 slot. We can reasonably expect him to take on a greater target count this week. Austin scored in Week 13 against the Eagles, producing two receptions (two targets) for 46 yards.

However, this is a difficult spot for Tony Romo and the Dallas passing attack. The Bengals have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, including nine touchdown receptions.

Torrey Smith at WAS
Smith’s on the board as a WR2 option this week against the porous Washington secondary, a unit that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers. However, Smith has finished seven of his past eight starts with fewer than 70 receiving yards (four games with fewer than 40 receiving yards).

Dwayne Bowe at CLE
I’m not going to belabor the point. Bowe hasn’t scored since Week 4 and draws Joe Haden this week. The sixth-year wide receiver has not logged more than 80 receiving yards since that Week 4 meeting with San Diego.

Larry Fitzgerald at SEA
I don’t know how Fitzgerald finds an active slot on your roster this week. I know that he’s had some success with John Skelton in the past (why wasn’t he inserted in Week 13?), but the longtime star has been a non-factor since Week 6. Fitzgerald has scored once in his past six games, the only game during this stretch that he’s topped 52 receiving yards.

Fitzgerald caught 4-of-11 targets in Week 1 against Seattle with 63 receiving yards.

- Bowe and Fitzgerald will not appear in this section for the remainder of the 2012 season.

Tagged: Falcons, Browns, Cowboys, Lions, Packers, Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Saints, Giants, Eagles, Buccaneers, Redskins, Ravens, Cardinals, Steelers, Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Lance Moore, Miles Austin, Dwayne Bowe, Pierre Garcon, Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt, John Skelton, Mike Williams, Torrey Smith, T.Y. Hilton, Josh Gordon

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