Redzone Report Week 9

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 8 Touches Leaders

A surprise name topped the leaderboard for Week 8 redzone touches among running backs. Rookie change-of-pace back Nyheim Hines touched the ball six times in the redzone. He had gone two weeks without a redzone touch, but he did have multiple redzone touches (nine in all) from Week 2 through Week 4. His redzone touches drying up in Week 6 and Week 7 coincided with the return of Marlon Mack. Mack received just one less redzone touch last week and tied with three others (Alvin Kamara, Chris Carson and Christian McCaffrey) with five redzone touches. Doug Martin was the most surprising name among the six backs tied for sixth in redzone touches in Week 8 with four, but he failed to turn any of them into a score and watched David Carr sneak it in from one yard out after he was denied on back-to-back carries from the one.

Top Option
Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) vs. Buccaneers
YTD Redzone Touches – 16 Week 8 Redzone Touches – 5

As I noted last week, I could pick Todd Gurley every week for the top option, but that’s not fun. Gun to my head with my life riding on one back scoring a touchdown in Week 9, I’m picking Gurley. However, excluding Gurley from the options, CMC is my next favorite pick. The versatile second-year back is always at risk of having short touchdowns pilfered away by Cam Newton, but his versatility and fairly frequent usage in the redzone should lead to some positive touchdown scoring regression. He’s scored three touchdowns from the redzone this year, and his positive touchdown scoring regression began last week on a batted ball that he skied above the defense to corral for a score. This week, he draws a Buccaneers defense that’s allowed the third most rushing touchdowns (eight) to running backs, per Pro-Football-Reference. They’re also tied for the fourth most touchdown receptions (three) allowed to backs. Additionally, they haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown to a quarterback this year. Add it all up, and I like McCaffrey’s odds of scoring at least one touchdown this weekend.

Jordan Howard (Bears) at Bills
YTD Redzone Touches – 19 Week 8 Redzone Touches – 4

Jordan Howard has turned into a touchdown-or-bust type of player of late with the emergence of second-year back Tarik Cohen, but the good news for him is that he’s touched the ball in the redzone in all seven of Chicago’s games and received multiple redzone touches in six of seven. His salary has now dipped into the value category, hence his inclusion in this week’s piece in the Value/Sleeper section at running back. Buffalo’s seven rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs this year are tied for the fourth most. However, it is worth pointing out that they’ve also served up three receiving touchdowns to backs, so it’s possible both Howard and Cohen find pay dirt despite their very different skill-sets.

Wide Receivers

Week 8 WR Targets Leaders

There was a four-way tie atop the leaderboard for redzone targets at wide receiver in Week 8. Dede Westbrook, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Evans and T.Y. Hilton all were targeted three times. Both Westbrook and Fitz scored a touchdown on one of their three redzone targets. Evans also scored a touchdown, but it was a 72-yard reception from Ryan Fitzpatrick and not on one of his redzone targets. Hilton was unable to score a touchdown on any of his three redzone targets after corralling both of his Week 7 redzone targets for touchdowns. Hilton and the Colts are on bye this week, but with five redzone targets in his first two games back from injury and 11 redzone targets in six games, he’ll have ample touchdown scoring upside the rest of the season. There were 10 receivers who tied for fifth with two redzone touches last week, and two of them — Demaryius Thomas and Golden Tate — were traded to new teams before the NFL’s trade deadline at 4 PM ET Tuesday. Studs Adam Thielen and DeAndre Hopkins were among the 10 receivers with a pair of redzone targets, and both scored a touchdown on one of them (Hopkins added a 49-yard touchdown grab as well). Cooper Kupp is expected back this week, but gamers in deeper leagues or those in daily games who used Josh Reynolds were treated to a nifty two-touchdown grab on two redzone targets before he retreats to No. 4 receiver duties behind Kupp, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. Should the injury bug bite any of the Rams’ wideouts again, Reynolds will resurface as a viable fantasy option in daily and season-long formats (he was also targeted once in the redzone in Week 7).

Top Option
Cooper Kupp (Rams) at Saints
YTD Redzone Targets – 11 Week 8 Redzone Targets – 0

Kupp’s missed back-to-back games and missed a significant chunk of the game before that, yet his 11 redzone targets are tied for the 10th most at receiver. He’s a favorite of Jared Goff’s in scoring territory, and the Saints are tied for the second most receiving touchdowns (12) allowed to receivers this year. As if that’s not enough reason to like Kupp’s odds of finding pay dirt this week, there’s his projected matchup in coverage that Ian Hartitz tweeted about. There’s likely plenty of scoring to be done in the Rams at Saints showdown, and Gurley’s unlikely to be the only one reaching the end zone for the Rams this weekend.

Devin Funchess (Panthers) vs. Buccaneers
YTD Redzone Targets – 8 Week 8 Redzone Targets – 1

Funchess is right on the cusp of being priced outside the value area, and maybe some would argue he is priced outside of that range. I’ve taken the liberty of cutting myself some slack to use him as a value option due to listing a cheaper than usual pick as my top option in the form of Kupp. Funchess squares off with a Buccaneers defense that’s yielded more touchdowns (13) to receivers than any other club. He’s one of only three receivers to even garner a target from Newton in the redzone, and he’s reeled in five of his eight redzone targets with two going for scores. I like his odds of adding to his season touchdown total against the Bucs.

Tight Ends

Week 8 Targets Leaders

Jeff Heuerman led all tight ends with four redzone targets last week. He didn’t technically have a redzone target in Week 7, but that’s because he had a would-be touchdown grab erased by a questionable offensive pass interference call. He’s been targeted at least once in the redzone in six of eight contests this year and is a touchdown-or-bust punt at tight end who started his positive touchdown scoring regression last week with his first TD of the year on one of his four redzone targets. Jordan Thomas and Kyle Rudolph tied for second with three redzone targets each. Thomas converted two of them into touchdowns. He could be in store for a brief value boost with Will Fuller going down for the rest of the year and Demaryius Thomas likely in need of some time to learn the playbook after his acquisition by the Texans. David Grinnage and Travis Kelce were the only other tight ends with multiple redzone targets in Week 8 with two each.

Top Option
OJ Howard (Buccaneers) at Panthers
YTD Redzone Targets – 4 Week 8 Redzone Targets – 1

Fitzpatrick pulled the Buccaneers even with the Bengals late in the fourth quarter despite entering the game down 18. The game-tying touchdown was scored by Howard on an 18-yard touchdown reception. It was his only redzone target on the day, and he made it count. He’s caught three of his four redzone targets this season and scored touchdowns on two of them. The Panthers are tied for the sixth most touchdown receptions allowed to tight ends this year with four.

Hayden Hurst (Ravens) vs. Steelers
YTD Redzone Targets – 1 Week 8 Redzone Targets – 1

Do I feel great about this pick? In a word, no. The Ravens love to use their tight ends, though. The position has garnered at least one redzone target in all eight games the Ravens have played this year. The problem is, Baltimore rolls four deep at the position. Why Hurst instead of one of the others? He was the tight end who received a redzone target last week, and he hauled in a 22-yard touchdown grab last week. He also played a season-high 30 offensive snaps in Week 8, and the team thought highly enough of the rookie tight end to spend the 25th pick in this year’s NFL Draft on him. Just a few weeks ago offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was singing the rookie’s praises, and this is a dreamy draw for Baltimore’s tight ends. Pittsburgh has yielded four touchdowns to tight ends, a total that’s tied for the sixth most allowed to the position.

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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