Redzone Report Week 8

The Redzone Report takes a weekly look at redzone usage and matchups to identify top options and sleepers for touchdowns in the given week of NFL action. This is a touchdown-centric piece, and the yardage outlook for the highlighted players isn’t a consideration.

Running Backs

Week 7 Touches Leaders

You can’t see it, but I’m wearing my shocked face to see Todd Gurley atop the redzone touches leaderboard for Week 7 with seven. With last week’s effort he’s pushed his season lead to 50 redzone touches. Second to Gurley on the season is Alvin Kamara with 38, and the explosive second-year back was also part of a three-back tie for second in redzone touches with six. Kareem Hunt was one of the other two backs tied for second, and he parlayed three of his six redzone touches into touchdowns. The surprising back in the trio is rookie Kerryon Johnson. He failed to convert any of his six redzone touches into touchdowns despite his otherwise monster line. LeGarrette Blount once again punched in a short touchdown on one of his three Week 7 redzone touches. Marlon Mack stood alone in fifth with five redzone touches and turned one into a 20-yard rushing touchdown (he scored a second touchdown, but it wasn’t of the redzone variety coming on a 29-yard reception). The Chiefs pounded the Bengals, and backup running back Spencer Ware got in on the redzone touches fun with four, but he failed to score. It’s worth noting he has touches the ball in the redzone in each of the last four games, so he should poach a touchdown or two from Hunt at this rate. The other back I want to specifically highlight on the leaderboard is rookie Ronald Jones II. He received four redzone touches and converted one into a two-yard touchdown run. Peyton Barber reverted back to being completely ineffective after a good game against Atlanta’s leaky run defense, but the changing of the guard at running back is likely on the horizon in Tampa Bay. In the mean time, it looks like Jones could be a touchdown-dependent flex hailmary with redzone touches in each of Tampa Bay’s last three games.

Top Option
Kareem Hunt (Chiefs) vs. Broncos
YTD Redzone Touches – 22 Week 7 Redzone Touches – 6

Spencer Ware (Chiefs) vs. Broncos
YTD Redzone Touches – 8 Week 7 Redzone Touches – 4

If I were really just picking one top option to score a touchdown (or touchdowns) to wager on, Gurley would be the no-brainer selection regardless of opponent due to his volume of work and attachment to the Rams world-beater offense. That’s not fun, and you’d all get sick of reading him featured every week. Will I occasionally highlight Gurley as the top option? Perhaps. I have previously. This week, though, I’m choosing my favorite non-Gurley back. Coincidentally, I love this back’s backup, too. The Chiefs host the Broncos after playing them in a barnburner contest just a few weeks ago in Denver. The Broncos consciously took away the deep ball from Patrick Mahomes and allowed Hunt to feast for 121 yards rushing and a touchdown on 19 carries. Hunt’s touchdown was a game-winning four-yard score. His 22 redzone touches this year are the third most among backs, and I think he reaches pay dirt against the Broncos again.

The game’s spread is 10 points favoring the host Chiefs at most Vegas sports books as you can see here.The enhanced chance of garbage time coupled with Ware’s recent redzone usage makes him a sneaky pick to score a touchdown this week. Denver is tied for the third most rushing touchdowns allowed (seven) to running backs this year, per Pro-Football-Reference, and they’ve yielded a receiving score to them, too. I like the odds of both of Kansas City’s backs scoring touchdowns in a beatdown of the visiting Broncos.

Wide Receivers

Week 7 WR Targets Leaders

Jarvis Landry led the way in Week 7 redzone targets among wideouts with four, and he turned one into a 16-yard touchdown reception. Corey Davis and Julian Edelman tied for second with three redzone targets. The former has basically been little more than a tease this year and failed to turn any of his targets into touchdowns. The latter didn’t have the most dynamic overall line, but he got the scoring started between the Patriots and the Bears with a nine-yard touchdown grab on one of this three redzone targets. A whopping 15 receivers tied for fourth with two targets. The pile up of wide receivers features some of the best in the game. Among them is Alshon Jeffery. He’s been targeted two times or more in the redzone in all four of his games, has scored four receiving touchdowns this year, has reached pay dirt in back-to-back games, and has scored a touchdown in three of four games played. He’ll have a challenge keeping his touchdown scoring roll going against a Jacksonville defense that’s yielded only five touchdowns to receivers this year. John Brown is another of the 15 receivers who was targeted a pair of times last week, and he turned one of his two redzone targets into a touchdown and is in the midst of a big year in his first with the Ravens. T.Y. Hilton returned from injury and was uber efficient hauling in both of his redzone targets for touchdowns.

Top Option
Adam Thielen (Vikings) vs. Saints
YTD Redzone Targets – 11 Week 7 Redzone Targets – 2

After delivering a touchdown for us last week as my top option, I’m going back to the well. For full transparency, Thielen’s touchdown wasn’t scored in the redzone and came on a 34-yard grab. He was targeted two more times in the redzone, though, and one of those times Kirk Cousins misfired behind an open Thielen, or he would have added a second score. This week, he draws a Saints defense that’s tied for the third most touchdowns allowed to receivers with 10. As an added bonus, Thielen should avoid Marshon Lattimore’s sticky coverage from the slot.

Marvin Jones Jr. (Lions) vs. Seahawks
YTD Redzone Targets – 9 Week 7 Redzone Targets – 1

Jones isn’t enjoying a big year by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s scored three touchdowns in six games and is a favorite of Matthew Stafford’s in scoring territory. Jones was targeted once in the redzone last week, and he’s been targeted at least one time in the redzone in every game the Lions have played this week. The Seahawks are tough on wideouts, but I’ll take a chance on a guy who gets a look in the redzone on a weekly basis.

Tight Ends

Week 7 TE Targets Leaders

Seven tight ends tied for top redzone targets honors last week with two. Among the noteworthy names are Zach Ertz, teammate Dallas Goedert, George Kittle, and Trey Burton. More surprising names include Chris Herndon IV, Michael Roberts and Jonnu Smith. Herndon turned one of his two targets into a touchdown and has scored touchdowns in back-to-back games. The Lions don’t often use their tight ends, but Roberts made the most of his rare chances and parlayed both is redzone targets into touchdowns. Roberts has caught four passes all year and three have gone for scores. Smith has been a monumental disappointment for the measurables truthers who thought he’d shine in the wake of Delanie Walker’s season-ending injury suffered in the opener, and he didn’t score on either of his redzone targets.

Top Option
OJ Howard (Buccaneers) at Bengals
YTD Redzone Targets – 4 Week 7 Redzone Targets – 0

Cameron Brate (Buccaneers) at Bengals
YTD Redzone Targets – 3 Week 7 Redzone Targets – 0

Apparently the unintentional theme of this week’s Redzone Report is teammates. As I did at running back, I’m featuring a pair of teammates as my top option and value/sleeper play to reach pay dirt at tight end. Neither Howard nor Brate were targeted in the redzone last week, but in Jameis Winston’s first start of the year in Week 6, Brate was targeted once and Howard was targeted twice in the redzone. Winston loves his tight ends in the redzone. Brate has scored three touchdowns on his four redzone targets this year and Howard’s scored one touchdown on his three redzone targets. Both get a soft matchup against a Bengals defense that’s tied for the second most touchdowns coughed up to tight ends this year with four. Brate’s a viable touchdown-or-bust punt in daily games this week.

Josh Shepardson, fantasy sports pundit who's written and/or podcasted for a wide variety of websites that include The Hardball Times, Baseball Prospectus, RotoGraphs, Daily Fantasy Cafe and FantasyPros -- among other places. He's an avid Twitter user who typically tweets about sports but has occasionally been known to tweet about music, craft beer, and other non-sports things.

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