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On Target: Yeah, He's that Good

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

Here we go - Week 13. Bye weeks are out of the way, and it's time to put your big boy (or girl) pants on and get down to some serious business. For many, this is the final game of your regular season, and you're either fighting for a playoff spot, a better seed or you're just looking for the best way to screw over your buddy/boss/colleague and play spoiler.

For others, this is the start of your playoffs, which means it's win now or go home. Whichever the case, it's all about making the right decisions about whom to start and sit. You should be checking the matchups, the weather, injury reports and, of course, targets. Some players are seeing a whole lot more action coming their way while many others are falling off and just not getting enough looks to generate the points you need to win each week. Of course, we've got a slew of the same old names, but if you start looking deep enough, you just might find a few surprises capable of coming up big for you at the most opportune moment.

So let's hit the leaderboards.

Week 12 Target Leaders

(Click column headings to sort.)

Josh Gordon, CLEWR2371521714466.782.432.7
Dez Bryant, DALWR8603816900.056.342.1
Calvin Johnson, DETWR11504614700.050.031.1
Keenan Allen, SDWR124039129225.075.030.8
James Jones, GBWR80053127216.758.327.3
Brandon Marshall, CHIWR1171471210314.383.325.5
Pierre Garcon, WASWR48027118133.372.740.7
C. Patterson, MINWR54030118375.072.737.9
Harry Douglas, ATLWR7903911900.081.836.7
Larry Fitzgerald, ARIWR52238115866.745.531.4
Julian Edelman, NEWR110250119550.081.822.9
Shane Vereen, NERB60050118112.572.722.9
Cecil Shorts, JAXWR71033108233.380.035.7
Antonio Brown, PITWR92134106133.360.030.3
Dexter McCluster, KCWR59038107228.670.027.8
Ted Ginn, Jr., CARWR1103810300.030.027.0
Mike Wallace, MIAWR12714210500.050.024.4
Jarrett Boykin, GBWR60153105333.350.022.7
Nate Burleson, DETWR77146107233.370.022.2
Rob Gronkowski, NETE90150107437.570.020.8
Jordan Cameron, CLETE32052103333.330.019.2

Josh Gordon, WR CLE -
What more can you say about this guy that his game doesn't already say? Whether it's Jason Campbell or Brandon Weeden at the helm, Gordon sees a ton of targets and does amazing things with the ball when it falls into his hands. He has five touchdowns, five 100-plus yard games, and his 988 receiving yards rank fifth in the NFL yet he's only played nine games. If you own him, you love him, and if you don't, you covet the !^#* out of him. If you own him in a keeper league, they'll have to pry your cold, dead hands off him before you'll give ever him up, and if you don't, you might want to think about trading for him. Yeah, he's that good. Imagine what he'd do with a better/more accurate passer under center. To throw some credit where credit is due, you have to give it up for Davone Bess and Greg Little. Neither are superstars yet both are strong enough to prevent teams from double-teaming Gordon. The makes for an outstanding supporting cast. Oh yeah, and one more thing ... the next five pass defenses he faces this season rank 30th, 8th, 14th, 16th and 18th.

James Jones, WR GB -
We haven't heard much from Jones these last few weeks. He was a huge red-zone threat for Aaron Rodgers last year and started to recapture that in Weeks 3 and 5, but a knee injury took him out of action for a few weeks, and he's been trying to get back onto the radar ever since. He started to blossom in Week 12 when Matt Flynn came into the game, so there's certainly a new air of optimism, but he does have Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin ahead of him on the targets list.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR MIN -
There were high hopes for the rookie coming into the year, but his job on the offense was limited while he focused on learning and perfecting the return game. Similarly to Tavon Austin, he has done well with his job as a return man and is now becoming more of a factor in the passing game, catching a touchdown in Week 10 and garnering 20 targets between Weeks 11 and 12. With Greg Jennings still feeling the effects of a lingering Achilles injury, Patterson is stepping into a larger role, though it does seem like more possession work than anything else. He'll look to break out a bit more this week against a suspect Bears defense.

Shane Vereen, RB NE -
As expected, Vereen returned to the Patriots and immediately made an impact in the passing game. He's seen 22 targets the last two games and has 16 catches for 125 yards. But now with Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount both in the doghouse with a case of the fumbles, Vereen is also seeing a few more carries out of the backfield as well. He was already a must in PPR leagues and should get a boost in standard scoring as well with the added workload. Houston's run defense, Vereen's Week 13 opponent, is struggling to contain the ground game lately and ranks 22nd in the league against running back pass plays, so you'll want him active once again.

Mike Wallace, WR MIA -
He went from being a must-start back in his Pittsburgh days to being a suspect choice for even your third receiver or flex play each week. He's really had only three good weeks this season and none have been particularly predictable, especially last week against the Panthers. Now the question is, will it be another few weeks before he lights up the stat sheet again or can he repeat it this week against a Jets secondary that ranks 20th against No. 1 wideouts and allows 84.9 yards per game to them? With Antonio Cromartie's hip hurting, it would seem to lean toward the latter.

Nate Burleson, WR DET -
While we all know that this is Megatron's team, Burleson still posted some fantastic numbers in his first game back from his broken arm, and he should continue as a viable receiving option as the secondary target in this high-octane passing game. Teams will still try to double-team/contain Calvin Johnson, which means Burleson should continue to see decent opportunities ahead. Up next for Detroit is a Thanksgiving Day special with Green Bay's 29th-ranked pass defense. And looking a little deeper, you'll see the Packers rank 28th against No. 2 wideouts this season.

Moving on to the cumulative numbers:

Overall Targets Leaderboard

(Click column headings to sort.)

A.J. Green, CINWR10206407123672428.954.530.4
Calvin Johnson, DETWR119811465123663940.053.725.6
Pierre Garcon, WASWR9193408120752632.762.530.1
Andre Johnson, HOUWR10025440119741520.062.227.6
Vincent Jackson, TBWR8885364116582535.950.033.9
Antonio Brown, PITWR10446419116801922.669.028.9
Brandon Marshall, CHIWR9459414115742922.664.328.3
Cecil Shorts, JACWR7001379106582622.454.727.0
Dez Bryant, DALWR8358408105612623.958.126.1
Alshon Jeffery, CHIWR8603414103582927.456.325.4
Victor Cruz, NYGWR8514398102601323.858.827.7
Demaryius Thomas, DENWR95510444101641918.163.422.7
Josh Gordon, CLEWR988546898542118.655.120.4
Jimmy Graham, NOTE9461143997651925.567.022.9
Wes Welker, DENWR679944496653627.867.721.6
Torrey Smith, BALWR859340495481725.050.523.8
Mike Wallace, MIAWR661241895491115.951.623.3
T.Y. Hilton, INDWR745539692511017.655.422.9
Steve Smith, CARWR581333791512034.356.027.6
Kendall Wright, TENWR763236491651223.171.425.3
Larry Fitzgerald, ARZWR606839790502635.755.625.0
DeSean Jackson, PHIWR985735189581020.965.225.9
Jordy Nelson, GBWR947740189612727.668.524.3
Julian Edelman, NEWR610443089612028.068.521.6
Jordan Cameron, CLETE661646889593128.866.318.5
Antonio Gates, SDTE685342287592116.967.822.3
Brian Hartline, MIAWR67724188753713.660.921.3
Tony Gonzalez, ATLTE611445186582225.067.421.2
Harry Douglas, ATLWR833245185601414.170.621.0
Jamaal Charles, KCRB425239885532321.462.419.5
Eric Decker, DENWR797344485552416.764.719.1
Emmanuel Sanders, PITWR561341983481617.757.820.6
Anquan Boldin, SFWR724527582521232.363.434.0
Steve Johnson, BUFWR471337979411929.451.921.0
Jason Witten, DALTE569640879511926.164.619.6
Dwayne Bowe, KCWR477439877421617.954.517.7
Hakeem Nicks, NYGWR620039876421021.455.320.7
Greg Little, CLEWR361146876311916.940.815.8
Denarius Moore, OAKWR569533874372434.450.022.6
Michael Floyd, ARZWR761339774491119.066.220.6
Davone Bess, CLEWR315246874371111.950.015.4
Keenan Allen, SDWR737342271502116.970.418.2
Matt Forte, CHIRB414141471561112.978.917.5
Nate Washington, TENWR56623647036610.351.419.5
Greg Olsen, CARTE526533769451731.465.220.9
Jerome Simpson, MINWR54603726836410.552.918.8
Danny Woodhead, SDRB469542268591625.486.817.4
Martellus Bennett, CHITE531541468462624.267.616.7
Golden Tate, SEAWR600432667421225.862.724.0
Charles Clay, MIATE501441867461520.568.716.4
Kenbrell Thompkins, NEWR450443067311820.046.316.3
Coby Fleener, INDTE494439665411823.563.116.2
Aaron Dobson, NEWR492443065351618.053.815.8
DeAndre Hopkins, HOUWR554244065391717.860.015.1
Jared Cook, STLTE508437164371815.557.817.4
Garrett Graham, HOUTE436444064381417.859.414.8
Brandon LaFell, CARWR49543376340917.163.519.1
Delanie Walker, TENTE449536463441730.869.817.5
Chris Givens, STLWR463037163281415.544.417.1
Dexter McCluster, KCWR37413986337610.758.714.4
Rod Streater, OAKWR60023386240815.664.518.9
Greg Jennings, MINWR439237262361123.758.117.1
Marques Colston, NOWR569243962431215.769.414.6
Pierre Thomas, NORB406343962561317.690.314.6
Julius Thomas, DENTE5901044462452219.472.614.0
Kris Durham, DETWR403246562321015.051.612.9
Vernon Davis, SFTE623927561382445.262.325.3
Reggie Bush, DETRB3832465614078.365.612.7
Scott Chandler, BUFTE42823796037714.761.716.0
Robert Woods, BUFWR34923796026917.643.316.0

With a lot of the same faces adorning the top of the leaderboard, I've expanded the list this week to the Top 70, those with a minimum 60 targets, in an effort to look at options who have become a little more active in their team's passing game.

Target Percentage

Dez Bryant, WR DAL -
While he's always been a must-start, his increase in target percentage should definitely be noted as it jumped from 24.4 percent to 26.1 percent this week. The Cowboys said they wanted to get him even more involved in the offense and, true to their word, he was the most-targeted player on the field throughout Sunday's game. However, he's seen no red-zone looks in the last three games and has just two touchdowns in his last six, both of which came in the same game. He'll look to break that scoreless trend this week as the Raiders are giving up more than 80 yards per game to opposing No. 1 receivers and have allowed 21 touchdowns through the air this season.

Vernon Davis, TE SF -
While the 49ers may have thrown the fewest passes in the NFL this season, Davis is always a huge threat in that offense. His 25.3-percent target rate is the highest of any tight end and his 45.2-percent target rate inside the red zone leads the NFL. He has touchdowns in back-to-back games, three touchdowns in his last four games and nine touchdowns all year. He does have a fairly tough matchup this week against the Rams, who rank fifth in the league against tight ends and allow just 40.9 yards per game to the position. But with the possibility of Michael Crabtree returning to join Anquan Boldin and Mario Manningham, the defensive backs are going to have their hands full all game, leaving some mismatched coverage on Davis by linebackers who will struggle to keep pace.

Eric Decker, WR DEN -
A few weeks ago, it was noted that Peyton Manning was doing a phenomenal job of spreading the ball around and Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker were seeing a fairly similar number of targets. However, since their Week 9 bye week, Decker has seen just five targets per game, and his target percentage has dropped to just 19.1 percent. Heading into the bye, it was at 21.1 percent, and while the difference may not seem like much, just look at how little his 15 targets have done for fantasy owners these last three weeks.

Red Zone Target Percentage

Larry Fitzgerald, WR ARI -
Not only has he seen more targets lately, he's seen a big jump in red-zone looks the last two weeks, jumping from a 32-percent red-zone target rate to 35.7 percent. Obviously, he's always had the talent, but the difference lately is that Carson Palmer has finally stepped up his game, throwing for a ridiculous 733 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions these last two weeks. Fitzgerald has three of those touchdowns, and now the two will match up against a 26th-ranked Eagles pass defense that ranks 16th in the league against No. 1 wideouts and gives up 83 yards per game to them.

Martellus Bennett, TE CHI -
It's been a rough road for Bennett since Jay Cutler went down, and you're not only seeing a hit in the number of targets, but in red-zone looks as well. Before Cutler was injured, Bennett was seeing 28.6 percent of the team's red-zone targets. Today, he's looking at just 24.2 percent, and his touchdown last week was just his first in his last four games. He's shown a boost in his yards after the catch these last two weeks, so perhaps Josh McCown has some renewed faith in his tight end. One can only hope as they face Minnesota this week, a team that ranks 18th in the league against opposing tight ends and allows 58.7 yards per game to them.

Potential Risers
(those who failed to make the cut this week):

Tavon Austin
Jarrett Boykin
Rueben Randle
James Jones
Brandon Pettigrew

Potential Fallers

Chris Givens
Dexter McCluster
Robert Woods
Kris Durham
Scott Chandler

Week 13 Matchup to Watch

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions -
Nothing better than some fantasy fireworks on Thanksgiving, and it all kicks off with this matchup. Detroit's pass defense ranks 27th, Green Bay's ranks 29th and both quarterbacks love to air it out. Matt Flynn has Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and James Jones to look for all game while Matthew Stafford adds Nate Burleson to his arsenal that obviously includes the best wide receiver in the game in Calvin Johnson. The Packers could tone it down early while they establish the run with Eddie Lacy, but both teams should be heaving the rock heavily in the second half. Get those receivers active.

A very happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Eat lots!