NFL fantasy football: How to catch a championship
By Jason Smith
Published: Dec. 17, 2012 at 12:18 p.m.
There's not much I can tell you about half of the guys on the list of Targets and Touches that you don't already know. Still, Championship Week is on the horizon. And if you're like me, you'll think all week long about your WR2 or flex plays. So let's sort through the question marks so hopefully you won't wake up in a sweat like I did this past weekend saying "Dez or Shorts?" (True story.)
Brandon Lloyd and Antonio Brown are too risk/reward for me to play them this coming week. Brown for certain, but I at least have some pause for Lloyd, who's come out of a long slumber to post nearly 40 points in the last two weeks. He has a good matchup against the Jaguars (who doesn't?), but it's impossible to know if he's going to get the football or not. Aaron Hernandez is the surest thing on the Patriots roster right now, and even Wes Welker has fallen into mediocrity as Tom Brady continues to spray the ball around.
Michael Crabtree has become pretty consistent the past three weeks, as he's Colin Kaepernick's favorite target by far. Is he a flex? Next week, San Francisco travels to Seattle who, yes, got torched a bit by Steve Johnson (more on him in a minute), but is still a difficult matchup. I can play him if I have no other real options at flex, but I'm not expecting a big day.
No matter who's throwing the football, Pierre Garcon is the top WR option on the Redskins, and needs to be in your lineup this coming Sunday. No, he didn't have a ton of production, but Kirk Cousins had tunnel vision for him all afternoon long. Garcon also drew a couple of penalties on plays that prevented him from bigger yardage. Playing at Philadelphia is a terrific matchup for Garcon, whoever is playing QB (unless it's Rex Grossman).
Danny Amendola returned to the Rams lineup and produced like he never left. More importantly, he draws a Buccaneers defense that is dead last in passing yards this season, as they're the only team in the league allowing an average of over 300 yards per game. I know they'll be hopping mad after the blowout loss to New Orleans, but still, all the motivation in the world isn't going to fix that defense. Amendola is a solid flex and a low-end No. 2 WR.
Steve Johnson also had 12 targets Sunday, as his performance fell under the category of "Well I didn't see that coming." Against Seattle? With the best pass defense in the league? And now you have a question for Week 16. I don't think he's an automatic start, but I don't think he's an automatic sit, either. If you have someone as a flex option (which is what Johnson is) you think can get you double-digit points, go with him over Johnson. Because he's a little more capable of a five-catch, 65-yard day than he is 100 yards and a TD.
Just off the list, with 11 targets, is Eric Decker. He's firmly back in Peyton Manning's good graces (or at least as one of his top options to get the football to). Decker had one TD overturned by replay officials despite a lack of irrefutable evidence, and he and Manning nearly hooked up for another long TD that was batted away at the last second. If you had questions about Decker, have them no more. Playing at home against Cleveland in Week 16, it's likely Demaryius Thomas will draw Joe Haden, leaving plenty of fantasy points for Decker. He's at worst, a No. 2 WR.
I know, you're looking for more from Matt Forte, who had 25 touches in Week 15, ranking fourth overall. He's solidly averaging 12-15 points over the last three weeks, and he's got the Cardinals looming in Week 16, who are giving up over 136 yards per game on the ground (29th overall). Don't expect dominance, just another really nice week from Forte, who's become more solid than spectacular.
You're asking the same question I am about Knowshon Moreno: when will the bottom fall out for him? 30 carries a week ago, and 24 more touches Sunday against Baltimore. Can he maintain this for one more week, or will he come up empty against the Browns when I need him the most? He was replaced by Ronnie Hillman for most of the fourth quarter after getting dinged up a little bit, but it looked to be more precautionary than anything else. But Denver is showing a marked propensity to run the football more than they have at any time previously this year - Moreno is a terrific flex play for your championship tilt.
Jason Smith hosts NFL Fantasy Live on the NFL Network and writes fantasy and other pith for NFL.com. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca, and listen to him on the NFL Fantasy Live podcast with Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison every week on NFL.com. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.