FOX Sports Exclusive
Wallace ready to roll vs. Bengals
In Week 15, football fans and fantasy owners watched as many of our would-be heroes failed to surmount much of a statistical impact. We watched many marquee matchups turn into lopsided, miserable viewing sessions, and the Patriots were forced to play a rare game of catch-up. As a result, Brandon Lloyd produced a career-high 190 receiving yards as the Patriots fell to the 49ers last Sunday night. With Rob Gronkowski expected to be sidelined for another week, Lloyd is expected to take on a high target count against the Jaguars.
It’s time to put the failures of Week 15 in the rear view mirror. If you’re relegated to the third-place matchup, you still need to grind it out. There’s one more chance to smack-talk until September. If you’re grinding toward a championship, you’re trying to find separation in your WR2 and WR3 options.
Let’s push toward glory with this championship round of “Lineup Calls.”
Cecil Shorts III vs. NE
Shorts III returned to action against the Dolphins and promptly logged his fourth 100-yard game of the season. He’s produced at least 77 receiving yards or a touchdown in seven of his past eight games. His high weekly target count and big-play potential puts him on the board as a high-WR2 option. Shorts III has recorded a reception of at least 24 yards in 11 games this season.
Randall Cobb vs. TEN
James Jones made the highlight-reel touchdown receptions in Week 15. Cobb quietly notched his second straight 100-yard game (three for the season) on six receptions in the victory over Chicago. He’s caught at least four passes in five consecutive games, producing at least 60 receiving yards in four of those contests.
Steve Smith vs. OAK
He’s hardly been dominant this season, but Smith has come on strong down the stretch. He’s caught four or more passes in five consecutive games, including two 100-yard efforts and two touchdowns (57 or more receiving yards in each game). The Raiders have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to wide receivers.
Pierre Garcon at PHI
Garcon had his three-game scoring streak end in Week 15 against the Browns, though he still logged six receptions for 65 yards with Kirk Cousins under center. He’s logged at least four receptions in four consecutive games, producing three games with at least 83 receiving yards.
The Eagles have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to wide receivers (18 touchdowns). Garcon’s high weekly target count puts him in line for another strong performance, whether Robert Griffin III plays or not. If Kirk Cousins does start, then Leonard Hankerson (two touchdowns in Week 15) becomes a sneaky WR3 play.
Stevie Johnson at MIA
Johnson has been a consistent fantasy contributor since Week 10. He’s caught six or more passes in five of his past six starts, and scored a touchdown in a smallish effort against the Jaguars (two receptions for 18 yards). He’s also produced at least 71 yard on five occasions during this stretch, including two 100-yard games.
He caught 6-of-9 targets in Week 11 against the Dolphins for 79 yards.
Mike Wallace vs. CIN
Wallace welcomed Ben Roethlisberger back to the lineup in Week 14 and produced 112 yards with two touchdown receptions. He followed that up with a solid four-reception, 95-yard game against the Cowboys. Wallace was targeted a total of 21 times in those contests.
He’ll be active and highly-targeted once again in a must-win game against the Bengals. Wallace was targeted 15 times in the Week 17 meeting against the Bengals, producing eight receptions for 52 yards. It’s not a huge spot, but opportunity knocks for this big-play threat.
Danny Amendola at TB
Amendola famously spiked the ball and broke a man’s glasses in Week 15. He caught six passes for 58 yards in his return to the St. Louis lineup, his seventh performance with at least five receptions this season. He rates as a high-WR2 option against the sieve-like Tampa Bay pass defense. The Buccaneers have allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers.
Brandon Gibson at TB
One of my preseason “Ninjas” is starting to make an impact down the stretch. Gibson has recorded six receptions in back-to-back games, producing 176 yards on 17 targets with one touchdown. He’s on the board for a strong encore performance this week against the woeful Tampa Bay secondary. The Buccaneers have allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers, including an average of 221.3 receiving yards per game.
Brian Hartline vs. BUF
Hartline quietly reached the 1,000-yard mark for the season with his five-reception, 77-yard performance against the Jaguars. He’s produced at least 77 receiving yards in three of his past six games, and has been targeted at least five times in each of the eight games since the Dolphins’ Week 7 Bye.
The Bills have allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to wide receivers, including 159.9 receiving yards per game.
Michael Crabtree at SEA
Crabtree is firmly entrenched as Colin Kaepernick’s “go-to” receiver. In the past three weeks, Crabtree has been targeted 34 times, producing 23 receptions for 301 yards with two touchdowns (both in Week 15 against the Patriots). He’s on the board as a WR2 option this week against the Seahawks, regardless of whether Richard Sherman wins his appeal (the decision is due late on Friday).
James Jones vs. TEN
You can bet that the fans in Chicago did not celebrate Jones’ hat trick in the Packers 21-13 win last week at Soldier Field. His low weekly target count in recent weeks, his seven targets against Chicago marked his highest target count since Week 9. Still Jones’ role in the Packers’ red zone offense puts him on the radar as a WR3 this week. He’s tied for 16th among all receivers with 15 red zone targets this season, producing 11 receptions (nine touchdowns).
The Titans are a middle of the pack pass defense, with the overall numbers obviously aided by last week’s ridiculous game against the Jets.
Justin Blackmon vs. NE
With the exception of a huge flop in Week 13, Blackmon has been a consistent contributor to fantasy lineups for the past month. Blackmon caught five or more passes in four of his past five games, producing at least 57 receiving yards (236 against the Texans in Week 11).
He’s on the board as a strong WR3 option this week against the Patriots. We can reasonably expect the Jaguars to be down early and for Chad Henne to be working in frantic comeback mode. As a result, you take the huge target count and big-play potential. The Patriots have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers.
Alshon Jeffery at ARI
Jeffery made a huge return to the Chicago lineup in Week 14 against the Vikings, recording three receptions for 57 yards with a touchdown. He’s remembered for his three offensive pass interference calls while being shut out by the Packers in Week 15 (four official targets).
Brandon Marshall draws Patrick Peterson in Arizona this week, thereby putting Jeffery in position for a larger target count this week. OK, Marshall will still have his number called 20 times by Jay Cutler this week, but Jeffery stands as the clear-cut No. 2 option for Cutler in a huge road game.
Marques Colston at DAL
Colston will be in your lineup this week, but his recent production is concerning. He’s scored once in his past five games, and hasn’t topped 71 receiving yards since Week 7. Colston drifts down to a high-end WR2 slot this week.
The Dallas secondary has slipped in the second half of the season, and I suspect that Drew Brees and Tony Romo engage in a high-scoring affair. As such, Colston remains a fixture in your lineup. However, given his recent low production output, I’m fearful of other New Orleans receiving (Moore, Sproles, Graham, etc.) piling up the numbers.
Danario Alexander at NYJ
Alexander was one of many Week 15 failures, producing zero receptions on three targets against the Panthers. With Malcom Floyd sidelined, Alexander locks up with Antonio Cromartie in a difficult individual matchup. The Jets have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers (123.9 receiving yards per game).
Josh Gordon at DEN
Gordon flopped in a huge spot against the Redskins in Week 15. He caught just three of his eight targets for 27 yards, thus ending a four-game streak in which he’d recorded at least 50 receiving yards. This week, the speedy rookie from Baylor draws shutdown cornerback Champ Bailey. The Broncos have allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. You can take a shot that Gordon breaks off a long gain in frantic comeback mode or that you get a slip on a weather-impacted field. Just temper your expectations.
Mike Williams vs. STL
Josh Freeman missed a wide-open Williams on a would-be touchdown pass early in that 41-0 debacle against the Saints. He was largely invisible until “garbage time” and finished the game with 63 receiving yards on four receptions. Williams had finished three of his previous four games with fewer than 30 receiving yards.
The Rams have allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season. As such, Williams rates no better than a WR3 this week.
More Stories From Michael Harmon