If you told me last week I'd be writing about Ryan Mathews, I would have outright laughed in your face. Now, not only am I writing about him, but I owe Akbar Gbaja-Biamila lunch because we wagered on NFL Fantasy Live he would have 100 yards rushing and a touchdown this past week. Matthews wasn't the only surprise in Week 7, as there looks to be a new lead dog in the Jets backfield and yet another waiver-wire pickup of the week at the tight end position. I hope you like falling in love, because at the tight end position, it happens a lot. To Targets & Touches we go.
Steve Johnson's 13 targets really came out of nowhere, considering his lack of production the last few weeks due to a combination of general ineffectiveness and injury. But this is the Steve Johnson we know and love/hate. By that I mean he's teased us with his talent for years, yet never quite puts together a complete fantasy season where you can rely on him consistently as even a flex play. He's just as capable of a two catch for 24 receiving yards day as he is of ripping off 10 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. And he doesn't reach the 100-yard plateau that often (eight times in 70 career games). Can you give him a whirl during bye weeks? Sure. But that's as far as I can go recommending him for your lineup.
It wasn't what Jacquizz Rodgers did running the football, but what he did in the passing game that is worthy of note. Rodgers remains extremely valuable as a flex play as he led the team in targets Sunday with nine. Without Julio Jones, and with Roddy White still suffering from nagging injuries, Matt Ryan has turned to Rodgers and the third year man has responded with consecutive two touchdown games. He is by far the Falcons best remaining playmaker. Even when Steven Jackson returns -- which is anyone's guess at this point -- Rodgers has to remain a focal point of the offense. Think Darren Sproles but with a little more responsibility.
You want the next Julius Thomas? Okay, that may a little bit of a stretch for now, but how about Jordan Reed in Washington? He had a team-leading nine targets from Robert Griffin III (and caught every one of them) against Chicago as part of his breakthrough fantasy day. He's big, athletic and has had six targets or more in four of the last five weeks. If you're going with a plug-and-play strategy at tight end, be sure to make Reed a high waiver-wire priority this week. He's going to continue to be a big part of the offense moving forward.
It's time to officially move on from Miles Austin, and treat Terrance Williams with the correct amount of fantasy respect. Williams had six catches on seven targets Sunday, compared to no catches on three targets for Austin. Williams is gaining more and more of Tony Romo's trust, and the Cowboys aren't afraid to go to him in big situations. He's eminently more reliable than Austin, who went his second straight week without catching a pass. In fact, Austin has just five catches in the last four weeks. Granted, he has been dealing with a hamstring injury all season, but he is disappearing from the Dallas offense even as he becomes healthier. Williams is a very good No. 3 fantasy wide receiver or flex play.
Don't look now, but Ryan Mathews has quietly delivered back-to-back strong fantasy performances, as he had 21 touches and scored a touchdown on Sunday. I know, Mathews getting a red zone carry comes around about as often as Michael Fabiano buys lunch (which is not often), but you can't deny he's starting to become the focal point of the running game. Against Indianapolis two weeks ago, he had 22 touches (all rushing attempts) compared to 14 for Danny Woodhead (nine carries). Sunday against the Jaguars, Woodhead carried the ball nine times with 14 touches overall. Mathews is the bell cow -- for now -- and Woodhead is the change-of-pace back. Mathews has earned his way into being a good flex play following next week's bye. If he's on your roster, you should be playing him Week 9 against Washington.
Finally, Chris Ivory has arrived on the fantasy radar. His eye-popping 35 total touches (34 carries) are a signal of a changing of the guard from Bilal Powell to Ivory, the New York Jets big offseason acquisition. Powell touched the football just three times Sunday, and sat on the sideline for the most part as Ivory sledge-hammered his way carry after carry against the Patriots. On the off chance he's available, grab him. But if you have him stashed on your bench and are wondering if it's time to dust him off, it's time. He's a matchup-based starter for right now, with the possibility of much more as the season progresses. Powell? Hopefully you sold high on him when you could, because it has been three straight games of five or less fantasy points for the Louisville product.
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.