Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman established new single-game career highs in both pass attempts (51) and completions (29) in the London game against the Bears. These things tend to happen when A) a team falls behind by more than two touchdowns, and B) the top two running backs on its depth chart are injured.
"With [Earnest] Graham going out, we had to change our game plan completely," Freeman later said.
With the Bucs throwing as much as they did, it's no surprise to see Tampa Bay names near the top of the Week 7 target leader board at every position. Freeman of course had a messy game, gaining just 5.2 yards per attempt and tossing nearly as many picks (4) as he threw all of last season (6).
"The problem with us is we're too young," said Bucs coach Raheem Morris. "We're foolish. There's no excuses, no explanations, no travel excuses, no time zone excuses."
But really, I think Bears receiver Roy Williams summed up the game perfectly: "We had a squirrel on the field. We had a streaker on the field. So it was a great experience."
Indeed. When you have the three big S's working for you — squirrels, streakers, Sanzenbacher — you're going to be tough to beat.
Time for targets...
Yup, there's our first Bucs skill player (but not our last). Kregg Lumpkin was targeted eight times, hauling in six passes. He was the last back standing for Tampa Bay, after Earnest Graham suffered the Achilles injury. (Brutal news for Graham. Hoping for a full recovery; that guy carried many of us in the second half in '07). LeGarrette Blount isn't a lock to return from his knee injury following the Week 8 bye, so Lumpkin could be in line for another significant workload at New Orleans. He was fairly unimpressive against the Bears, however (8 carries, 15 yards), so you have to assume the Bucs will test drive a few unattached running backs this week. Still, Lumpkin should hold the third down/passing down role for the remainder of the season. He's on the PPR radar.
Chris Johnson did remarkably little with his six catches on Sunday, and he did even less with his 10 carries (18 yards). It's crazy (yet understandable) that reporters are asking if there are plans to bench CJ. At the moment, Johnson has just nine more rushing yards year-to-date than Delone Carter, and two more than Cam Newton. Insane. There's a combination of factors at work here — the player's readiness, the holdout, game flow, team run-blocking, opposing defenses, etc. — but Johnson had always been a player who could overcome any match-up, and he's no stranger to overloaded defensive fronts. If he doesn't put up a big number (or at least a useful number) in the Week 8 showdown with 0-7 Indianapolis, then it's absolutely time to panic. As things stand right now, only one out of six fantasy gurus is willing to declare him a buy-low.
With Marshawn Lynch sidelined against the Browns (back), Leon Washington shared Seattle's rushing workload with Justin Forsett. Those two backs combined to deliver Marshawn's usual 60-something rushing yards, while Washington hauled in all the passes. Lynch has yet to be ruled in or out for Week 8, when the Seahawks face the Bengals.
Mike Williams currently ranks sixth in the NFL in total targets (63), but he's only 61st at his position in per-game fantasy points. So that ain't good. There's plenty of blame to go around — Freeman gets a share, Williams a double-share, and bad luck has played a role — but the thing you need to note is that he's still drawing a high number of targets each week. He's seen eight or more targets in six of his seven games this season, and he's reached double-digits in each of the past two weeks. With a workload like that, you should expect a decent game (or three) somewhere down the line. I'd still hold Williams. No one will trade you much of anything right now, anyway.
The Rams didn't exactly ease Brandon Lloyd into the mix, did they? Those 12 targets were actually a season-high for Lloyd, so I think it's safe to assume that Josh McDaniels intends to lean on him heavily, just as he did last season. Lloyd was targeted 153 times in Denver last year, the fourth highest total in the league. ... Note the workload for Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was seeing his first action of the season. The problem there, obviously, is that Thomas' targets are not exactly of the highest quality; Tim Tebow was an absolute mess for most of day against Miami.
That's really an encouraging stat line for Antonio Brown, a receiver who should be owned in many more leagues. One of the two targets he failed to haul in was a near miss down the sideline, a pass that could have gone for serious yardage. Add as needed. ... Greg Little makes yet another appearance on the target leader board. It's a shame he was involved in such a dog of a game on Sunday. I can't help but think there's a big decent day coming here; Little has been targeted 27 times over Cleveland's last three games.
Fred Davis received a value bump due to the injury situation with Chris Cooley (broken finger, knee), and it can be argued that he'll also see a few more targets while Santana Moss (fractured hand) is sidelined. Of course he's also likely to see more defensive attention, so that's an issue. But in any case, he's a clear fantasy starter in the coming weeks. No need for debate. ... Jeremy Shockey's workload has been a great annoyance to those of us who've invested in Greg Olsen, and the problem certainly didn't go away in Week 7. Olsen saw just three targets against Washington, catching one. He's reportedly dealing with a mild case of turf toe, so that's a concern as well. ... Benjamin Watson was concussed last Sunday (and so was Mohamed Massaquoi), so you can expect Evan Moore to receive a serious workload in Week 8 at San Francisco. Moore has to be considered as at least a low-end starting option in yet another tricky bye-week at this position. (No Kellen Winslow this week, no Dustin Keller, no Tony Gonzalez, and no Jermichael Finley).
Little else needs to be said about Jimmy Graham's breakout season at this point; I'll just refer you to yesterday's post on all the passing and receiving records that may fall in 2011. First of all, look at where he is relative to the crossbar in that picture. That's ridiculous. And secondly, take note of the statistical pace he's on at the moment: 103 catches, 1,541 yards, 11 TDs. That may seem crazy, and possibly unsustainable, but I'll remind you again that four Saints tight ends actually combined to catch 103 balls last year. This season all the work is going to Graham, and he's simply handling the volume that belonged to a committee in 2010.
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