This week, Targets and Touches is all about peaking. Now is the time you look to the waiver wire, or to your bench, for players who are starting to string big games in a row together. At this point in the season, I like players who are trending upward instead of guys I hope can recapture their previous form. So if you can, please picture a red arrow going in the upwards direction next to most of these guys I spotlight below. I would suggest drawing them on the computer itself if you wanted to, but that could ruin your screen.
Look at Brandon Pettigrew making a big splash on TNT. Fantasy owners expected him to continue his breakout and become an elite fantasy tight end, but he's struggled so far this season. However, just about all of the tight ends have had a tough go. It's encouraging to see this from Pettigrew, who's had trouble holding onto the football this season, but is he worth a start? Here's who I would play over him this week: Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Owen Daniels, Jason Witten, Jermaine Gresham and Brandon Myers for sure, and possibly Heath Miller and Vernon Davis. But he's definitely in the mix with the likes of Antonio Gates and Dennis Pitta.
I think every week I'm going to be down on Andre Johnson and every week he's going to explode. He's had the best two-game stretch of any wideout in the history of the game, but again, don't expect this trend to continue (I know, I said the same exact thing last week). If I have him, I like him in my flex. But don't be surprised if those five and six point games re-surface in December. Funny how no one tweeted me about Dre Day the first two and a half months of the season, but now the critics are out in full force. But it's OK. For the two weeks he probably just won single-handedly for you, how much did he cost you the first ten?
Welcome back, Stevie. It's been a long time coming for Stevie Johnson, who took advantage of a great matchup to post a 106-yard day. He hasn't looked like the same player this season, and I think injuries were holding him back, but he seems to be getting better over the last couple of weeks. He's averaged nine fantasy points in the last three games so hopefully he, like Pettigrew, is getting hot at the right time.
Cole Beasley and Ryan Broyles (12 targets) are intriguing - but both are in crowded wide receiver scenarios that depend on the health (Miles Austin) and/or playing status (Titus Young) of others. But I'd hold off simply because we've seen it plenty of times: there's always a ton of points in the Thanksgiving Day games. Neither of them are in my list of top free agent pickups this week.
Andre Roberts also had 13 targets this week but he's still too much of a risk/reward player to pick up. However it's nice to see good games out of Hakeem Nicks and Torrey Smith. For Nicks, it was just a matter of time until he got healthy and now he looks the part, so he's safe to play with confidence from here on out. And Smith is viable on the road following Joe Flacco's first good game away from home this season. Smith had been a "home-only" player due to Flacco's struggles, and while you're still waiting to see Flacco do it again to trust him outside of Baltimore, Smith can at least be a flex for you in those contests.
Knowshon Moreno had 24 touches in Week 12, fifth overall for running backs. He ran with confidence and power after being inactive since Week 2. It's telling that this was the direction Denver wanted to go rather than entrust the running game to Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball. There was no division of labor, as Moreno earned every carry. Going forward, he looks to fill the void left by Willis McGahee and will be just as good a flex start as McGahee had been. He's your top free agent pick-up this week.
Michael Bush's 22 touches rank him 11th this week for running backs, but more importantly, Bush and Matt Forte had split the carries until Forte's injury in the second half of the Bears win. If Forte is out, Bush becomes a low-end No. 1 fantasy running back. If Forte can play, Bush is now a very good flex play, simply because you know he's going to get the goal-line carries for Chicago in addition to half the workload. Let's face it, Forte's been disappointing, and this wasn't a one-week thing to wake him up. They signed Bush in the off-season for this specific reason: to challenge Forte and to take over if Forte faltered. That time could be now.
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 his Fantasy Podcast with Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison every week on nfl.com. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.