Fantasy Football

Week 9 red zone targets, touches

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Michael Harmon

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What’s your big takeaway from Sunday?

• Are you marveling at Charles Tillman’s four forced fumbles and perfection of the “ball punch” technique?

• Did you shake your head in amazement that the Oakland run defense got owned by backup linemen?

• Did you start Jordy Nelson, only to lament his early exit while Randall Cobb (two touchdowns) and James Jones (one) continued their brilliant seasons?

• You weren’t surprised that Aaron Rodgers threw another four touchdown passes, but I bet you didn’t expect them to run the ball effectively. Did you?

• Were you in shock that Detroit scored 31 points and that Matthew Stafford was shut out (285 passing yards and zero touchdowns)?

It was an interesting day of football with myriad big-time performances and a host of marquee matchups that made fans take to the edges of their seats. Of course, the day was marred by a huge infusion of names to the fantasy MASH unit, including Darren McFadden, Nelson, Antonio Brown, Percy Harvin among other fantasy heroes. We’ll keep an eye on those injuries and apprise you of waiver wire quick-fixes on as the practice week commences.

In the interim, it’s time for another look inside the red zone.

Red Zone Rushing

Isaac Redman posted a fantastic effort against the Giants in a tough road spot. He tied Marshawn Lynch for the most red zone carries in Week 9 with seven, producing 29 yards with a short touchdown run. Redman logged 26 carries for 147 yards, his second game with at least 100 total yards in the past four weeks. He did not touch the ball against the Bengals or Redskins. Keep an eye on the injury reports concerning Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer for Week 10. Redman would be in line for a huge night against the Chiefs if given a full workload.

Mikel LeShoure was the star of the early games on the ground, producing a huge effort against the sieve-like Jacksonville run defense. LeShoure scored three red zone touchdowns, generating 23 yards on five red zone carries. He finished the game with 70 rushing yards on 16 attempts.

Of course, fantasy owners wanted to see a fourth rushing touchdown from LeShoure, but that was reserved for backup running back and Week 9 “Sleeper” Joique Bell. Bell produced 20 rushing yards on his three red zone carries, including a touchdown romp. He amassed 109 total yards on 16 touches. I’m intrigued to see how he’s used against the Vikings in Week 10 (Flex-worthy, I’m thinking).

What do I need to say about Doug Martin? He ripped off several huge runs against the Raiders and delivered a fantasy performance for the ages. Martin rushed five times for 18 yards in the red zone with one touchdown. He finished the game with 251 rushing yards (21 receiving yards) and four touchdowns. Fans and fantasy owners wondered how well he’d fare following the injury to Carl Nicks. They got an emphatic reply. The rookie from Boise State has rushed for 794 yards with seven touchdowns.

Following his 182-yard performance against the Seahawks, Adrian Peterson stands 43 yards short of 1,000 for the season. Peterson set up his own red zone dominance, as the Minnesota passing attack added little to the ledger. He carried the ball three times in the red zone, producing seven yards with two touchdowns.

The Bears turned over the offense to Jason Campbell and the backups early in Sunday’s dominant performance against the Titans. As a result, Armando Allen and Michael Bush each amassed six red zone carries as the fourth-quarter clock wound down. Matt Forte made the most of his two red zone opportunities early, including an eight-yard touchdown run aided by the offensive line.

Red Zone Targets

Eric Decker extended his personal scoring streak to five games by scoring a pair of red zone touchdowns in the Broncos’ road victory over the Bengals. Decker caught 2-of-3 red zone targets for 17 yards. Decker caught 8-of-11 targets overall for 99 yards to pace the Broncos. He’s caught 46-of-70 targets this season for 583 yards with seven touchdowns.

I post this curiosity from the Chargers’ Thursday night victory. Ronnie Brown led the Chargers with three red zone targets, finishing the game with three red zone receptions for 17 yards.

Tight end Alex Smith of the Browns caught all three of his red zone targets for eight yards. Smith was targeted four times all day by Brandon Weeden in the loss to Baltimore.

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Oakland tight end Brandon Myers was the recipient of two Carson Palmer red zone touchdown passes (more on him later). Myers caught 8-of-13 targets overall for 59 yards. Take a peek at Myers on the wire. He’s caught 39-of-50 passes overall for 442 yards. These were his first touchdown receptions of 2012.

Laurent Robinson played a large role in the red zone offense for the Jaguars, leading the team with four targets (two receptions for 10 yards). However, Michael Spurlock and rookie Justin Blackmon snagged the red zone touchdowns from Blaine Gabbert.

Golden Tate continued his flair for the dramatic with a pair of red zone touchdowns against the Vikings. Tate’s diving effort for the goal line will be featured on highlight shows all week. He finished the game with four receptions (six targets) for 28 yards, but his impact was huge.

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the Bears’ blowout victory over the Titans. Brandon Marshall caught all three of his red zone targets for 21 yards with two touchdowns, the first of which was an absolute rocket from Jay Cutler. Marshall finished the game with nine receptions for 122 yards. Through eight games, he’s already eclipsed.

Red Zone Passing

Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler finished the job started by his antagonistic defense. Cutler completed 6-of-8 red zone attempts for 32 yards with two touchdowns passes (Marshall). He finished with 229 passing yards overall following a slow start with three touchdowns, three sacks and a lost fumble.

Comeback kid Peyton Manning actually threw a red zone interception, but he completed his other three red zone attempts, all for touchdowns (Decker twice and once to Dreessen). Manning completed 27-of-35 attempts for 291 yards, his sixth straight game with at least that yardage count.

Carson Palmer lit up the scoreboard in a shootout home loss to the Buccaneers. He completed 5-of-8 red zone attempts for 30 yards with three touchdowns. Palmer completed 39-of-61 attempts overall for 414 yards. He’s averaging 294.4 yards per game this season, but faces a difficult matchup against the Baltimore pass defense.

Blaine Gabbert completed 5-of-8 red zone attempts for 26 yards with two touchdowns. Gabbert passed for 220 yards with two interceptions. He’s completed 27 passes in back-to-back weeks and has thrown nine touchdown passes against five interceptions this season (178.6 yards per game).

Philip Rivers has come under fire frequently for the Chargers’ offensive inconsistency in 2012. He delivered in the Thursday night marquee game against the Chiefs, producing five completions in seven targets for 44 yards with two touchdowns. It was Rivers’ fourth multi-touchdown game in his past five starts.

Russell Wilson didn’t need to boast huge numbers on Sunday against the Vikings. He merely had to make the most of his red zone chances. Wilson completed 4-of-5 red zone attempts for 34 yards with three touchdown passes. He passed for 173 yards (16-for-24) and has thrown eight touchdown passes against two turnovers in his past four starts.

Random Stat Checks

For the second straight week, the Redskins were involved in a game that featured some curious uniforms. Last week, the Steelers wore those fantastic striped uniforms (I still want one). This week, the Redskins wore what looked like a Florida State helmet and a helmet fashioned to conjure images of the old leather helmet era.

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Mike Shanahan should have stared at that helmet a little bit longer and remembered that the forward pass was nonexistent in those days. Alfred Morris ran for 72 yards on 12 carries in the first half against the Panthers. He finished the day with 13 carries for 76 yards, and owners were “Shanahaned” when Evan Royster walked away with a one-yard touchdown plunge. Shake your fist, fantasy nation!

I put up a note of caution about Robert Griffin III this week because of strong play by the back-seven in Carolina. I didn’t expect to see RGIII get shut out. He did have two touchdowns (one rushing and one passing) called back because of penalties before Evan Royster plunged in for a late score. Griffin III and the Redskins take their Bye week in Week 10 following some startling comments from Mike Shanahan after the Week 9 loss.

Chris Johnson was bottled up by the Chicago defense, as expected, but that’s not what the box score says. The statement “It all counts until the final gun sounds” has never rung more true than in the Titans’ 51-20 loss to the Bears. Johnson carried the ball 16 times for 141 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown sprint. He’d already lost two fumbles and the Titans were trailing 51-12 at the time of his run, but fantasy owners celebrated the massive point infusion just the same. Johnson ranks sixth in the NFL with 736 rushing yards following Sunday’s effort.

I’ll take my lumps for putting Andrew Luck as a mid-QB2 for Week 9 against the Dolphins. Miami had been generous to quarterbacks in terms of yardage, but had limited opposing quarterbacks to eight passing touchdowns while racking up 22 sacks entering Sunday’s showdown. Luck exited with 433 passing yards, two touchdowns and was sacked only once. The rookie from Stanford has equaled Peyton Manning in passing yardage (2,404) through the midpoint of the 2012 campaign. He’s averaging 300.5 passing yards per game.

Andre Johnson logged his first 100-yard game since Week 1 in the Texans’ victory over the Bills. He caught eight passes for 118 yards, including a 34-yard reception. Alas, he still hasn’t posted a touchdown reception since Week 3.

Trent Richardson became the first rookie to rush for 100 yards against the Ravens since Fred Taylor in 1998. Richardson carried the ball 25 times for 105 yards, his third 100-yard game of the year. He added six receptions for 31 yards in the loss.

A.J. Green found himself in a difficult individual matchup in Week 9 against the Broncos, but the elite wide receiver came through with a big effort once again. Green caught seven passes for 99 yards (sorry, bonus people), including his eighth touchdown of the season. He’s scored in seven consecutive games and has posted four games with at least six receptions, 99 receiving yards and a touchdown.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis owners got the red zone love they sought in the Bengals’ home loss to the Broncos. Green-Ellis produced just 56 rushing yards on 17 carries, but he scored for the first time since Week 3. Unfortunately, he languished on many fantasy benches.

We’ll need to watch Tony Romo’s health status (back) this week following his late injury against the Falcons. Romo passed for 321 yards (25-for-35) with one touchdown and one sack in the hard-fought road loss. He’s averaging 299.3 passing yards per game with 11 total touchdowns (one rushing) and 15 turnovers.

Michael Turner burst free for a 43-yard sprint, a rare long gain for the artist formerly called “The Burner.” He would later score a short rushing touchdown, the lone touchdown scored by the Falcons in a grueling home win. Turner rushed for 102 yards on 20 carries, his second 100-yard game of the season. He has a glorious spot on the schedule in Week 10 against the Saints.

Matt Ryan didn’t throw a touchdown pass, but he eclipsed 300 passing yards and guided the Falcons to their eighth straight win. Ryan was under duress all day, but stood tall in the pocket. He completed 24-of-34 pass attempts for 342 yards with three sacks. It was the first time he’s been shut out this season (17 touchdowns against six interceptions).

Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones caught five passes (six targets) for 129 yards, including a 48-yard gain. The second-year receiver has posted back-to-back 120-yard games (123 in the previous week against Philadelphia).

Roddy White contributed seven receptions for 118 yards in the victory. It was his third 100-yard game of the season and fifth with at least six receptions (47 overall).

Doug Martin will receive all the headlines following his dominant performance against the Raiders, and deservedly so, but I would be remiss if I failed to laud the continued success of quarterback Josh Freeman. Freeman completed 18-of-30 attempts for 247 yards with two touchdown passes and a lost fumble. He’s thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game this season, including four straight multi-touchdown efforts. Both Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson were on the receiving end of Freeman touchdown strikes against the Raiders.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was hardly dominant against the woeful Washington pass defense, but he delivered a solid fantasy day and a win for Ron Rivera. Newton completed 13-of-23 attempts for 201 yards, including the first touchdown pass to Steve Smith (three catches for 41 yards) this season. Newton also carried the ball eight times for 37 yards with a touchdown. This marked his first multi-touchdown game since Week 4 against Atlanta.

Finally, sleeper darling Titus Young was added in a ton of leagues for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars. The activation of Calvin Johnson and his subsequent dominance (except for that last two feet ahead of the goal line) made Young a virtual bystander. He finished the game with two receptions for 20 yards on five targets and dropped a would-be touchdown pass. That’s right. I’m ending with some negativity.

Tagged: Falcons, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Lions, Packers, Titans, Raiders, Vikings, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Redskins, Panthers, Jaguars, Steelers, Chargers, Texans, Peyton Manning, Steve Smith Sr., Carson Palmer, Andre Johnson, Michael Turner, Alex Smith, Ronnie Brown, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Michael Bush, Calvin Johnson, Matt Forte, Matt Ryan, Brandon Myers, Josh Freeman, Golden Tate, Antonio Brown, Eric Decker, Mike Williams, Joique Bell, Chris Johnson, Isaac Redman, Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Blaine Gabbert, Mikel Leshoure, Evan Royster, Doug Martin, Brandon Weeden, Robert Griffin III

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