While youíd like to think that a teamís overall game plan is fairly set in stone for the season by now, obviously with a few tweaks here and there, key personnel injuries always thrust a monkey wrench into the finely tuned machines that we expect to see every Sunday. Some injuries have less of an impact to the overall product, but the quarterback injuries suffered in Week 10 are going to have much bigger ramifications than, say a change at free safety or even at fullback. Moving to a back-up quarterback comes pretty close to changing the landscape of a teamís offense and one of the biggest impacts you might see come Week 11 is target distribution.
As weíve seen on the running Target Percentage Leaderboard (TPL), there is no question that quarterbacks have their favorites. Some favor certain players for red zone work, some seek out the same targets on key third down situations, and some just prefer to go to one particular guy throughout the entire game. These are the guys they practice with throughout the week and these are the guys they find themselves in the trenches with for each and every game. But take one of them out of the equation and, more often than not, the other suffers.
Similarly to the starters, the back-ups also tend to have their favorites. While Alex Smith is practicing with Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss, Colin Kaepernick is getting his work in with Kyle Williams. Ben Roethlisberger is working on plays with Mike Wallace while Byron Leftwich has trained to look for Jerricho Cotchery in similar schemes. Will Jason Campbell lean on Brandon Marshall the same way Jay Cutler does or will Earl Bennett start to see a few extra looks here and there?
With the recent increase of quarterback injuries weíve seen, along with other changes, such as the return of Jake Locker, you may see a slight shift in overall targets from some of our favorites this year. With any luck, the injuries wonít keep too many guys out, but when youíre sifting through the waiver wire looking for that WR3 to start, take the rapport between back-up QBs and back-up WRs into account.
Now letís take a look at what Week 10 actually brought usÖ
Top Targets from Week 10
|Player Name||Pos||Team||Yards||TD||Pass Att||Targets||Recpt||RZTgts||RZTgt%||Catch %||Target %|
Tony Gonzalez carried quite the load this past week, racking up 15 targets, but while he and Roddy White captured almost all of Matt Ryanís attention, the distribution was also injury related, since Julio Jones tweaked his ankle early in the first quarter and had to head back to the locker room. Meanwhile, the Falcons fell behind the Saints and were in need of some catch-up. This resulted in a pass-heavy game plan and Jonesí usual targets being distributed amongst the aforementioned duo. When Jones returned, he took back a few of those targets, but without being at 100-percent, Ryan continued to look for Gonzalez and White more often. Being so, keep an eye on Jonesí ankle injury this week. Both White and Gonzalez are must-starts anyway, but with a potentially heavier workload, they could be even more explosive. I mean, did you see those red zone targets for Gonzo?
After what we saw in Week 9, it shouldnít come as much of a surprise to see Laurent Robinson sharing the targets lead for the week. Upon his return, Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert looked for Robinson quite often in the red zone and their on-field rapport looked even stronger than it did before Robinson got hurt. Though he didnít garner any red zone looks this week, you should still expect to see more of Robinson over the coming weeks, especially as the Jags find themselves relying on the pass more with Maurice Jones-Drew still out.
It was a big week for Hakeem Nicks, but as youíll see below, it still wasnít enough to keep him on the overall TPL. Normally, we would consider this to be an outlier, but Nicks has been battling injuries most of the year. When healthy, he should be leaned on heavily, particularly with what we saw this week, when the Bengals used Leon Hall to blanket Victor Cruz, who was also dealing with a rib injury. If Eli Manning and the Giants passing game can get back on track, you should expect to see Nicks here almost as often as Cruz.
Do you think Sam Bradford is happy to have Danny Amendola back? Iíd say so. It was almost 13 targets and 12 catches with an additional 80 yards for Amendola this week had an illegal formation call not nullified the opening play of the overtime period.
With Steve Smith getting Champ Baileyíd this week, itís no surprise to see Greg Olsen have such a big game. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was forced into throwing underneath the Broncos defense most of the time and Olsen was a huge beneficiary. As a favorite target most of the year anyway, Olsen should continue to see significant targets and red zone looks the rest of the way.
Donald Jones saw a lot more action this week and with the head injury to Fred Jackson, it is more than likely that Buffalo will employ a more pass-heavy offense, even when theyíre not forced to play catch-up. His 10 targets this week helped nudge him up on the TPL below and given the Bills remaining schedule, Jones could be there to stay.
Target Percentage Leaderboard
|Player Name||Pos||Team||Yards||TD||Pass Att||Targets||Recpt||RZTgts||RZTgt%||Catch %||Target %|
While the question was posed above, as to how much Jason Campbell will lean on Brandon Marshall if Jay Cutler is out for any length of time, itís doubtful that Marshall will fall off his perch atop the leaderboard here. He may not see as many targets per game as he normally does, but heíll still dominate percentage-wise. Campbell is still a gunslinger at heart and will try to find Marshall as often as he can, but we might also see Lovie Smith turn to the run a lot more.
Also mentioned briefly above, but definitely worth its own mention here, is the 49ers situation. Vernon Davis has already been off the TPL more than heís been on it, as defenses continue to cut off his routes and stifle his big-play ability down the sidelines, but now weíve seen Mario Manningham fall off as well and Michael Crabtree could be headed down soon too. Colin Kaepernick is much more of a scramble-and-run type quarterback than he is a pocket-passer and if Alex Smith misses any significant time, then all three will continue to see a reduction in targets. Defenses will always have to play the Niners as a run-first team, but even more so now as Kaepernick, even during his decent second half this week, seemed tentative to throw the ball downfield.
A return to some red zone work for both Dennis Pitta and Kyle Rudolph this week resulted in touchdowns for both. While you canít rely on an outright return to the way things were for both tight ends in the early weeks of the season, itís good to see them both getting a little something back for right now. Keep an eye on the red zone looks for both as each one can and should be a favorite of their respective QBs once inside the 20.
Andrew Hawkins may have nabbed himself some extra red zone work and a touchdown this week, but he continues to creep further down on the TPL and could find himself off the list come the conclusion of Week 11. Itís not so much that he is being phased out as it is that other receivers seem to be garnering more attention from their quarterbacks than Hawkins does from Andy Dalton. His target percentage has remained relatively unchanged, but with other receivers growing within their own passing games, there seem to be better options elsewhere.
The rise of Cecil Shorts has many fantasy owners taking notice and he is becoming quite the hot topic in trade talks recently. It was presumed that his role would be reduced with the return of Laurent Robinson, but it has been the frustrating Justin Blackmon who has seen the steady decline. Shorts, with yet another 100-yard week, is quietly gaining must-start status.
I had Malcom Floyd tabbed as a possible breakout last week and while he did find the endzone, even after missing some of the game due to a hit to the jaw, I find it extremely disconcerting that he still has zero red zone targets this year. Even if the match-up seems favorable, his chances of scoring are greatly reduced and itís just way too difficult to rely on someone like that.
Just Missing the Cut This Week: Scott Chandler (16.5%), Golden Tate (16.5%), Brandon Gibson (16.4%), Dexter McCluster (16.3%), Hakeem Nicks (16.2%)
TPL Risers to Monitor: Jeremy Maclin, Cecil Shorts, Kyle Rudolph
TPL Fallers to Monitor: Golden Tate, Brandon Gibson, Mario Manningham
Week 11 Matchup to Watch: New Orleans Saints at Oakland Raiders Ė With the Raiders running game decimated by injuries, Carson Palmer will continue to take it to the air, especially against a 31st ranked Saints defense that gives up an average of 307 passing yards per game and has allowed 19 touchdowns through the air this season. Denarius Moore and Darius Heyward-Bey should get plenty of action this week, and if Brandon Myers returns form his concussion, he should also see plenty of work, particularly in the red zone. For the Saints, do we even have to mention their offensive prowess in the passing game? Oakland may only allow an average of 258 yards through the air each game, but with 17 passing touchdowns allowed and a minimal pass rush, Drew Brees should have no problem finding Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Lance Moore on a regular basis.
Potential Week 11 Breakouts: Steve Smith (CAR), Brent Celek, Steve Johnson
Potential Week 11 Busts: Torrey Smith, Michael Crabtree, Tony Gonzalez
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