It's easy to get excited this time of year when you see a big performance from a player on the waiver wire. You think "THIS is the guy who's going to jump-start my team!" Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. There's a difference between picking up a streaking player and someone who just had a big week for whatever reason. So proceed with caution through Targets & Touches. And of course, have a happy Thanksgiving, full of fantasy points in as much abundance as there will be food on your table.
Just when we thought the Texans backfield was a Ben Tate-only situation, here comes Dennis Johnson. With 15 touches Sunday (including 14 rushing attempts), he was a bigger part of the game plan than Tate (12 touches, but just seven rushes). We told you a couple of weeks ago on NFL Fantasy Live to stash away Johnson, and hopefully his performance won't raise too many eyebrows in your league and you can still grab him. This is another example of where fantasy meets reality: Tate is a walkaway free agent after the season. With Arian Foster's health a concern, Houston will want to see what they have in Johnson so you can expect him to continue to contribute the rest of the season.
Is there clarity in the Patriots running game or not? Judging by Sunday night, once Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount put the football on the ground they became dead to Bill Belichick, who divvied up the responsibility between Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen. Vereen had 18 touches overall while Bolden had 14. The rushing responsibilities were split, with Bolden getting three more carries than Vereen, but Vereen had a whopping eight receptions on the night. While a lot of them were due to the Patriots playing catch-up, this proves what we've said all season long: Ridley is too fumble-prone to trust, while Vereen -- as long as he stays healthy -- is a very good flex option. Bolden is getting there but is a bit of a weaker flex play than Vereen. And Ridley? Well, he's a flex too, because you don't know how much he's going to touch the football (5 times against Denver).
What can I say about Josh Gordon? He's putting together a monster season that would likely have him over 1,000 yards had he not missed the first two games due to suspension. He's going to be one of the first five WR's selected in your draft next season behind Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, and maybe Julio Jones. On the flip side, Jordan Cameron had 11 targets but just three receptions. Cameron has just ten receptions in the last three games, and has just one touchdown since September. He's lost his must-start status however he's still a low-end No. 1 fantasy tight end.
Welcome back to fantasy relevance -- or at least on the list to be considered for fantasy relevance -- Mike Wallace. I think before the game Ryan Tannehill and Wallace may have met for the first time. With 10 targets as part of his big day against the best pass defense in the league, there's hope for Wallace to be able to contribute as you approach the fantasy playoffs. True, the byes are over but Wallace has terrific matchups against the Jets, Steelers, Patriots and Bills the next month. It's exciting to think about, but let's be realistic: is Wallace worth a flex play next week? Sure. But no more than that until he proves he can do it two weeks in a row.
Cecil Shorts proves what we've been saying all season long: when a wide receiver says "Give me the football" you have to play him in fantasy because the team always gives it to him. A team-high 11 targets on Sunday -- which included one near-miss TD -- and Shorts is back among the fantasy living. He's a flex, but if the Jaguars passing game continues to flow towards him, watch out the next month. You have to think of him as you do Kendall Wright -- a guy who gets the yards without the touchdowns. Can it happen the final month? Sure, but be responsible in where you have him rated.
Have we seen enough to regard Jarrett Boykin as a solid flex or No. 2 fantasy WR play? Since Week 6 Boykin is averaging 10 fantasy points a week, but more importantly, he's done well catching passes from Aaron Rodgers, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn. Sort of a poor man's Josh Gordon who does well no matter who is throwing him the ball, you can be confident in Boykin, as it doesn't look as if Randall Cobb will return to the Packers before the fantasy season ends.
Two of the players who will garner a ton of interest on the waiver wire are Cordarrelle Patterson (11 targets) and Nate Burleson (10). However you're chasing fantasy points with these two, and I can't recommend picking them up. For all of Patterson's attention, he did catch eight passes but they only went for 54 yards. The Vikings offense isn't dynamic enough to think he can approach double-digit fantasy points on a regular basis. As far as Burleson goes, almost all of his production came while Darrelle Revis was covering Calvin Johnson. Once Revis left the game due to injury, Johnson turned back into the Megatron we know and love. Burleson is interesting, but he's been in the league too long to think this will suddenly be a breakout. Matthew Stafford will divvy up his non-Calvin pass attempts between Burleson, Kris Durham and the sometimes-reliable Brandon Pettigrew.
Jason Smith writes fantasy and other pith for nfl.com. You can see him as the host of NFL Fantasy Live that airs Sunday through Friday on NFL Network at 5pmET/2pmPT and also at 1amET/10pmPT. Listen to him on the NFL Fantasy Live podcast available at nfl.com and on itunes. Reach out to him on Google plus or 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.