Trend spotting: Look to the Davises
In a good number of leagues, owners will be scrambling to the waiver wire hoping to be able to acquire either Shonn Greene, Jamaal Charles or, in some shallow leagues, even Beanie Wells. If you need running back depth, you'll obviously have no choice to choose one of these three to fill in that hole on your team. What if you have depth at running back? If you are in that position, you'll likely find yourself without a good enough waiver position to secure any of those three, so you are looking for someone who might make an impact on your team. For those fortunate enough to find themselves in that type of situation, let me suggest Fred Davis.
Davis was selected in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft. He filled in nicely for the Washington Redskins in Monday night's game after Chris Cooley left due to injury. Davis was targeted an incredible 10 times, which he turned into eight catches for 78 yards and a score. For those of you questioning whether he has the physical abilities to become a top pass-catching tight end, you should know that before becoming a standout tight end at USC, Davis was selected to play wide receiver in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl following his senior year of high school.
On targetOver the past five weeks, here are the NFL leaders in terms of passing targets per game:
|Player||Games||Targets||Targets per Game|
|Steve Smith (NYG)||5||43||8.6|
With those numbers in mind and since one of the keys of winning fantasy football is to identify trends before everyone else does, here's a closer look into this weekend's box scores:
Sidney Rice, Minnesota Vikings (14 targets; 11 receptions; 136 yards): Personally, I don't know what's more unbelievable: that Brett Favre threw the ball 51 times or that Rice led the NFL in targets this past week. Rice is a must-start going forward, which really says an awful lot about how much Brett Favre means to the Vikings.
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers (11 targets; 7 receptions; 93 yards): Maybe all that time spent in the doghouse alongside Alex Smith is paying dividends. All of Davis' production except for one 6-yard catch came with Smith in at quarterback.
Chad Ochocinco, Cincinnati Bengals (11 targets; 10 receptions; 118 yards): He entered the season as one of the biggest question marks. Those who invested a mid-round pick in him now have a top-5 wide receiver. If I were the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, I'd be lobbying HBO to return to our training camp because it seems that the more cameras that surround Ochocinco, the better he performs.
Fred Davis, Washington Redskins (10 targets; 8 receptions; 78 yards): You read the introduction above, right?
Antonio Bryant (9 targets; 2 receptions; 51 yards) and Sammie Stroughter (8 targets; 3 receptions; 63 yards), Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Obviously it's a really small sample size, but you should know that of the 17 targets split between these two receivers, only one came in the two drives led by Josh Freeman. That throw was incomplete to Stroughter.
Lee Evans (9 targets; 5 receptions; 75 yards) and Terrell Owens (7 targets; 3 receptions; 27 yards), Buffalo Bills: While many will point to Evans' production as proof that Ryan Fitzpatrick feels more comfortable going to him, Fitzpatrick went Owens' direction almost as frequently. I'm not saying that T.O. is usable, just trying to provide a dose of reality for those jumping on the Evans bandwagon.
Devin Hester, Chicago Bears (9 targets; 8 receptions; 101 yards): Got this interesting comment regarding Hester on my ESPN Profile Comment Wall from Pete1625 following last week's column: "If you remove the game against the Detroit Lions in which he was knocked out early, he's averaging 7.25 targets per game (over the previous five weeks). That number would now be at 8.5 (past four games not including the Lions game)."
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers (6 targets; 5 receptions; 56 yards): It obviously helped that the 49ers fell behind 21-0; only two of his targets came before the team found itself in that situation. Crabtree is an amazing talent, but rookie wide receivers are rarely very productive, so temper your expectations, even though the 49ers still have to play five games against teams that currently rank among the eight worst passing defenses.
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (6 targets; 5 receptions; 30 yards): McCoy isn't Westbrook lite, he is Westbrook. The Eagles will use him just like they use Westbrook, if Westbrook is out for any amount of time. If McCoy is on your roster, he's almost a must-start in any week when Westbrook isn't playing.
Big plays and up close
I'm not usually a "revenge" guy, but let's call a spade a spade as we evaluate the absolute thumping Cedric Benson delivered to his former team, the Chicago Bears. On Sunday Benson finished second in the NFL in Big Play Rushes (rushes greater than 10 yards), with five.
New York Jets rookie Shonn Greene made the most of his opportunity against the Oakland Raiders. Greene converted six of his 19 carries into first downs, including two touchdowns. He posted four Big Play Rushes while also converting his only carry inside the Raiders' 10-yard line into an 8-yard score.
Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown had three combined carries inside the New Orleans Saints' 10-yard line. The result was two touchdowns for Williams and one for Brown. If the Saints are really going to earn the moniker of best team in the NFL, they'll need to do much better than rank 27th in terms of rushing touchdowns allowed.
Has anyone pointed out that a certain running back who is over 30 years old failed to score on six carries from inside his opponent's 10-yard line? No, I'm not talking about LaDainian Tomlinson, whom everyone is still too quick to bury in my book (he failed to score on eight goal-line tries, although a ninth that resulted in a score was nullified by a penalty); I'm talking about Thomas Jones. Of course, Jones actually scored on his other carry in that situation, but I've seen a ton of positive press on Jones following his Week 7 output. That being said, until Nick Hardwick returns, Tomlinson is going to be hard-pressed to have success near the goal line.
Sizing up the schedule
If you are looking at either Kevin Smith or Ryan Grant and hoping for some fantasy goodness, be forewarned: Each of them has five games remaining against top-10 rush defenses. Smith is fortunate enough to play two bottom-6 defenses in the next four weeks, while Grant faces the 27th-ranked Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 9.
Want to know who has the most ridiculously easy rush schedule the rest of the way? It's the pass-happy New Orleans Saints. They don't face a single team in the top half of rush defense and play eight of their remaining games against teams in the bottom 10. While many are viewing the Pierre Thomas/Mike Bell situation as a time-share, I am sticking with Pierre Thomas. Bell didn't receive his first carry until the 5:59 mark of the third quarter. I don't know of many time-shares in which one back isn't utilized at all during a team's first 10 possessions. It wasn't until the Saints' 11th possession that Bell was given a carry.
Cedric Benson has a bye this week followed by two tough matchups against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. Following those two games, Benson faces on average the 24th-best rush defense the rest of the way. Considering the way he just torched the Chicago Bears, I'll be bending over backward to add Benson to my rosters.
If you own Miles Austin or are developing a man-crush on Tony Romo because of what Austin has meant to Romo's value, here's a reality check: Over their remaining schedule the Dallas Cowboys have six games against teams in the top 10 in pass defense. In fact, this week's upcoming game against the Seattle Seahawks is the lone game they have remaining against a team that ranks in the bottom half of pass defense.
Eli Manning's 92 fantasy points are good enough to place him 12th among quarterbacks at this point in the season. That ranking has many owners feeling comfortable with him as a starter, but they shouldn't. Over the final 10 weeks of the season, the New York Giants play five games against teams in the top 10 in pass defense and also have their bye. Their Week 11 tilt against the Atlanta Falcons is their only game against a team in the bottom 10.
Finally, Matt Ryan's nickname of Matty Ice is going to be put to the test. The Falcons have no games remaining against the bottom half of pass defenders. Of most concern should be in Weeks 9, 10 and 11, when their three opponents all rank in the top 3 in pass defense. Ryan is likely slated as a backup on most rosters, so if he's on yours, start thinking about offering him up for a lesser name with a better schedule.
Ken Daube is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. His ESPN.com fan profile is available at: myespn.go.com/KenD17.