Trend-spotting: Garcon shining
Like Matthew Berry, I have always been a fan of comparing players by identifying them only as Player A or B alongside their statistics. By doing so it takes away other prejudicial items and allows you to focus on who is performing better. In the upcoming scenario, know that both players in the comparison are the third best receiving option on their teams and each has an elite quarterback under center. With that in mind, which would you prefer?
Player A has amassed 37 receptions for 574 yards and four touchdowns, good for 7.1 fantasy points per game. This player is owned in 35.8 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Player B has amassed 41 receptions for 573 yards and three touchdowns, good for 7.2 fantasy points per game (he missed one game due to injury). This player is owned in 78.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Over 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)||4||42||10.5|
|Steve Smith (CAR)||5||40||8|
With those numbers in mind and since the one of the keys of winning fantasy football is to identify trends before everyone else does, here's a closer looks into this weekend's box scores:
Roddy White (13 targets; 5 receptions; 57 yards) and Tony Gonzalez (12 targets; 9 receptions; 83 yards): The most significant part of these numbers are the fact that with Chris Redman in at quarterback, White and Gonzalez remained viable as elite level talent at their respective positions.
Calvin Johnson (12 targets; 2 receptions; 10 yards): The Green Bay Packers are sixth best against the pass, but Johnson has to be still heavily hampered by his knee for such poor performance.
Derrick Mason (12 targets; 7 receptions; 62 yards) and Mark Clayton (10 targets; 7 receptions; 129 yards): Both Baltimore Ravens wide receivers posted solid numbers against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that can only be described as mediocre when Tory Polamalu isn't active.
Danny Amendola (11 targets; 7 receptions; 55 yards): For those of you who remain alive but are desperate, I give to you Amendola. He won't be consistent, but then again, you don't find consistency on the waiver wire at this point of the year.
Kenny Britt (11 targets; 7 receptions; 128 yards) and Bo Scaife (10 targets; 5 receptions; 68 yards): Vince Young had historically been a tight end friendly passer, but his use of Britt during Sunday's win is encouraging to his long term development.
Laveranues Coles (9 targets; 2 receptions; 24 yards): In case you were wondering, it's safe to drop Coles. He's clearly lost it.
Fred Davis (9 targets; 4 receptions; 43 yards): With Chris Cooley finally placed on injured reserve, Davis will remain the starting tight end for the Washington Redskins for the remainder of the season. Expect him to average about five fantasy points per game the rest of the way.
Big plays and up close
Knowshon Moreno led the NFL with five Big Play Rushes (runs of 10 yards or more) this weekend. Over the course of the season, only six running backs -- Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams, Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner and Cedric Benson -- have more Big Play Rushes than Moreno.
To hear that Julius Jones will regain his role as starting running back for the Seattle Seahawks is discouraging. Justin Forsett has filled in admirably. He broke four Big Play Rushes and converted two of his carries inside the opponent's 10-yard line for scores.
What is it about Cincinnati that brings out the best in running backs that seemed to be on their last legs? Following in Cedric Benson's footsteps, Larry Johnson stepped in with a dominant performance which included four Big Play Rushes.
If you own Laurence Maroney and were concerned about Sammy Morris' return, there's reason not to be. Maroney was the clear No. 1 back for the New England Patriots on Monday night and Morris played more of a fullback/tailback hybrid role. In fact, the lone area of success for the Patriots against the New Orleans Saints was their execution of their stretch running plays in which Morris served as Maroney's lead blocker. Of course, seven touchdowns in the past six games doesn't exact hurt his cause either.
It's easy to pick on LaDainian Tomlinson and say he's lost a step, but I'm still not buying it. The San Diego Chargers offensive line is still a patchwork group and the running game is showing signs of improvement. When you consider that Tomlinson is averaging more yards per carry than everyone's golden child Darren Sproles, maybe Tomlinson's decline is more attributable to a lack of blocking than anything else. As center Nick Hardwick is on the verge of returning, my theory will be tested sooner than later.
Sizing up the schedule
As the schedule grows shorter, here's a look at the net favorable rushing and passing matchups the rest of the way. A favorable matchup is against a team ranked in the bottom-10 in the league, a non-favorable one features a top-10 team; all other matchups are considered neutral.
Rushing Favorability Rankings
|New Orleans Saints||4||0||1||3|
|New York Jets||3||1||1||2|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2||3||0||2|
|Kansas City Chiefs||2||2||1||1|
|New England Patriots||2||2||1||1|
|San Francisco 49ers||1||3||1||0|
|San Diego Chargers||2||0||3||-1|
|New York Giants||2||0||3||-1|
|St. Louis Rams||1||2||2||-1|
|Green Bay Packers||1||2||2||-1|
Passing Favorability Rankings
|St. Louis Rams||3||2||0||3|
|Green Bay Packers||2||3||0||2|
|San Francisco 49ers||3||1||1||2|
|San Diego Chargers||2||2||1||1|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2||1||2||0|
|New England Patriots||2||1||2||0|
|New York Jets||1||3||1||0|
|New Orleans Saints||1||2||2||-1|
|Kansas City Chiefs||1||1||3||-2|
|New York Giants||0||2||3||-3|
If you've sat on Fred Jackson this whole season, it looks like you are going to be handsomely rewarded. He's secured the Buffalo Bills starting job and doesn't have one unfavorable matchup the rest of the way.
The Brett Favre-for-MVP movement will be put to the test over the final five games. His Minnesota Viking face a challenging schedule against the pass and Favre will be put to the test in those contests. Also working against Favre is the generous rush schedule that the Vikings will face, which might just put Adrian Peterson back into the MVP conversation.
Isn't it a shame to see such a favorable passing schedule laid at the feet of Kyle Boller, Donnie Avery and Danny Amendola of the St. Louis Rams? I still like Avery in deeper leagues, but any elite level quarterback would be looking at a contract extension after that upcoming schedule.
Ricky Williams has had a brilliant run this season, but expect it to slow down immediately. His Miami Dolphins have the toughest schedule against the run for the rest of the season.
Ken Daube is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. His ESPN.com fan profile is available at: myespn.go.com/KenD17.