We know it's impossible to be right 100 percent of the time, so we try to present our opinions and some informational nuggets that will allow you to better understand our logic for the recommendations. If you agree, awesome, and if not, well, that's mighty cool, as well.
With that said, the longer the season progresses, the less impactful this type of column can be. NFL players are very much defined into their roles by this point and those players who do experience changes in their roles get mentioned in the more visible columns like Matthew Berry's weekly pickup column, so continuing this column past this point in the season becomes overkill. Therefore it should come as no surprise that today's column will mark the final Trendspotting of the season.
It's been an awesome ride taking you through the regular season by trying to at least make you aware of some of the statistical variations. As early as Week 4, this column recommended that if you owned Frank Gore, you should look to see if you could get Peyton Hillis for him. And, while there were many that panned that recommendation as flat-out insane, the fact of the matter is that if you followed such a path, you likely got Hillis AND something valuable for Gore, which means you were sitting pretty long before Gore found his way onto the injured reserve.
The following players are averaging seven targets per game or more over the past four weeks:
Note: For those of you not familiar with the best way to interpret the standard deviation data, all you have to know is that players with large standard deviations (e.g., Dwayne Bowe) likely have at least one game that is significantly altering their average, whereas those with small standard deviations (e.g., Terrell Owens) have received basically a similar number of targets in each game.
A look inside some of this week's receiving performances:
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons (16 targets; 7 receptions, 74 yards): While the numbers are respectable for White, much praise should be given to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' secondary, which made White look human despite not having Aqib Talib for most of the game.
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (15 targets; 6 receptions, 68 yards): Next season, this Mike Williams is going to be poised to be a real steal. He is developing a real nice chemistry with Josh Freeman, and they both have the physical gifts to grow significantly. He'll be on my early target list.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (11 targets; 4 receptions, 61 yards): Perhaps the only thing worse for Fitzgerald than Derek Anderson is that John Skelton potentially could find himself as the Cardinals' starting quarterback sooner than later. Of course, if you own Fitz, you likely aren't playing for much this weekend anyway.
Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers (11 targets; 5 receptions, 72 yards): Does anyone else think it's a complete shame that the Vincent Jackson-A.J. Smith dispute couldn't get resolved? Can you imagine the type of numbers that Jackson could have compiled in this offense? If Vincent Jackson doesn't play another down again this season and somehow returns to San Diego, I think Jackson will be one of my top five wide receivers entering 2011.
Brandon Lloyd, Denver Broncos (11 targets; 2 receptions, 31 yards): After a completely disappointing Sunday for Lloyd, the engineer of his success, Josh McDaniels, gets canned. As the interim head coach is the running backs coach, it'll be interesting to see if Eric Studesville calls a more conservative, run-oriented game.
Benjamin Watson, Cleveland Browns (11 targets; 10 receptions, 100 yards: Yes, that Benjamin Watson finally had another monster day. Monster for a tight end, anyway. As long as Jake Delhomme hasn't been yanked, Watson is a viable spot-starter.
Anthony Armstrong, Washington Redskins (10 targets; 6 receptions, 97 yards): Next season, when names like Mario Manningham are coming off the board, you should be keying in on this guy. Manningham is good, but he'll remain buried. Armstrong, on the other hand, has a clear path in front of him and, unlike most receivers on bad teams, he's virtually guaranteed to have the same head coach and offensive coordinators next season.
Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers (10 targets; 3 receptions, 54 yards): This was a game of two Jimmy Clausens. The first one, on the Panthers' first drive, looked both competent and confident. The second didn't. If Clausen can make some throws, Smith might actually find the end zone for the first time since Week 2.
Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns (9 targets; 7 receptions, 22 yards): Dude is an all-around stud and needs to start being valued more highly in point-per-reception leagues. It'll be very interesting to see where he gets slotted overall in next year's drafts.
Terrell Owens, Cincinnati Bengals (9 targets; 6 receptions, 47 yards): He'll likely be one-and-done in Cincinnati, which from a production standpoint is unfortunate. He's re-emerged as a reliable fantasy option, and although he's no longer the dominant player he used to be, it would be interesting to see what he could attain in a second year in the same offensive system.
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis Colts (8 targets; 8 receptions, 56 yards): He finally looks to be the receiver everyone thought they were getting when they called his name on draft day. He's a must start the rest of the season.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs (3 targets; 0 receptions and 0 yards): The Denver Broncos schemed Bowe out of the game by blanketing him with Champ Bailey. Well, that and by opening giant holes in their defensive line that allowed Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones to walk right through. Bowe will be huge again.
Big Plays and Up Close
The following players had had at least three rushes that went for 10 or more yards (Big Play Rushes) in Week 13: Knowshon Moreno (6), Jamaal Charles (5), Maurice Jones-Drew (5), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (4), Brandon Jacobs (4), LeGarrette Blount (3), Ahmad Bradshaw (3), Tashard Choice (3), Matt Forte (3), Tim Hightower (3), Chris Ivory (3) and Michael Turner (3).
Tashard Choice looked solid this week, except for inside the Colts' 10-yard line. There he had four rushes for a total of 1 yard.
Jamaal Charles has only eight carries all year inside his opponents' 10-yard line. He has one fewer touchdown than Marion Barber does from within that range. Barber has 19 carries inside his opponents' 10.
Only nine players have converted more than 35 percent of their rushes inside their opponents' 10-yard line into scores: Peyton Hillis (62 percent), Javarris James (50 percent), Adrian Peterson (45 percent), Rashard Mendenhall (44 percent), Mike Tolbert (41 percent), Aaron Rodgers (40 percent), Brandon Jacobs (38 percent), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (38 percent) and Arian Foster (37 percent).
Thank you for reading this column this year. I wish you well in all of your upcoming playoff games and hope you've enjoyed the information provided half as much as I enjoyed researching and presenting it to you. Happy holidays.
Ken Daube is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. His ESPN.com fan profile is available at: http://sportsnation.espn.com/fans/kend17.