For most of you, it's semi-final week, which means trusting players who you haven't been riding for most of the season. Changing your lineup becomes difficult. I get it. I hemmed and hawed for FOUR DAYS last week between Stevie Johnson and Malcom Floyd. Four days! So with today's Targets and Touches, we will be ruthless with our recommendations for this week and - hopefully for you - beyond. Hey, it's the playoffs. You have to draw the line somewhere.
Jeremy Maclin may be the most maddening player in all of fantasy. He disappears for large stretches, and then comes through once in a great while. He had 15 fantasy points in Week 1 and then just 12 points the next four weeks. Then he exploded for 19 in Week 6. The next three weeks he had six points total. But 15 in Week 10! Then just nine the next three weeks before 16 on Sunday against the Buccaneers. So I've seen this movie too many times to expect a different ending. He's too much of a risk/reward to play in your lineup in the playoffs.
Justin Blackmon and Jason Avant dented the TNT list this week, but they're very similar to Maclin in the "Risk/Reward" category. I thought Blackmon was going to break out after those two big weeks but he's returned to irrelevancy. It's possible the return of Cecil Shorts may raise his game a bit, but he's too rocky even as a flex.
Very quietly, Steve Smith has put together two pretty good weeks in a row, and to no one's surprise, he's doing it during Cam Newton's resurgence. Newton looks to be playing without any sort of weight on his shoulders any more and is nearly matchup-proof again. And Smith is back to being a solid flex option for you this week and next, as the Panthers close at San Diego and at home for Oakland.
Josh Gordon also had 12 targets Sunday, and he's pretty intriguing. He had a great three-game stretch in Weeks 5-7, but hadn't done much until his 116 yard game a week ago. True, his 86 yards Sunday wasn't a terrific day, but he's become a focal point of the offense again. With a home game against Washington this week, the streaking Browns could be poised for a big day. I'm not saying he goes right into your lineup, but if you're filled with guys like Stevie Johnson or Malcom Floyd on your bench, Gordon deserves a long look for Week 15.
The trio sitting with 11 targets each are all headed in different directions: Larry Fitzgerald is beyond useless in fantasy right now. No, it's not his fault but you don't play the Cardinals offensive line or quarterbacks. So you can't put him out there this week at all. I don't know if you can the rest of the season. Danario Alexander has become a very good flex option in taking over the number one wide receiver slot in San Diego. Yes, Malcom Floyd had a touchdown Sunday but it was his only catch. Michael Crabtree has become someone you can realistically expect close to double digits every week. The change to Colin Kaepernick has done wonders for him, and while he's not a lock-down I-must-play-him flex, he's in your conversation for the spot.
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Julio Jones, Mike Wallace and Roddy White also had 11 targets apiece. Wallace, especially is worth noting after his lack of production and team discipline over the last few weeks. Now that Ben Roethlisberger is back under center, Wallace's best ability - making something out of a broken play - will be used again. He's safe to get back into your lineup as a No. 2 wide receiver.
The 25 touches Ryan Mathews had Sunday are pretty deceiving. All San Diego did was try to take time off the clock and so they gave it to Mathews who provided a robust 6.5 fantasy points. I've seen enough to keep him on my bench the rest of the playoffs. He doesn't get in the end zone and even when the Chargers finally gave him the ball over 20 times, he couldn't even crack 70 yards rushing.
Despite DeMarco Murray averaging less rushing yards than Mathews on Sunday (2.5), his 25 touches were galvanizing to owners. He gave you over 13 fantasy points, and more importantly, got in the end zone, which is not Murray's specialty. He was playing against a Bengals defense that's been among the best in the league the last few weeks, and he still came through. I think he goes bananas from here on out stat-wise. He's a No. 2 running back right now at worst.
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.