Mystery Offenses

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Fantasy owners are all about getting reliable production from their starting lineup. Knowing that Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Adrian Peterson will consistently give you solid statistics week-in and week-out is why you pay such a high price for them.

What fantasy owners hate, is the unexpected. Which is why we owners always cringe when we think about starting a Mike Shanahan or Bill Belichick running back.

Who among us hasn't been messed with by one of these two coaches while trying to figure out which of their running backs will a) start and b) be the primary weapon that week.

This year is no different with Shanahan using three backs to varying degrees - Tim Hightower, Ryan Torain and Roy Helu. In New England, Belichick has used BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Kevin Faulk.

Lately, however, the situation has expanded to other teams and coaches.

In Tennessee, Javon Ringer was getting as much work over the past few games as first round draft choice Chris Johnson. Some people even started Ringer this week because he had been out-performing "CJ2K." So what happened on Sunday was that Johnson got 20 touches and combined for 110 yards from scrimmage while Ringer saw just five touches.

Out in Denver, the problem is in the receiving corps. Figuring out who Kyle Orton likes to throw to used to be easy - Brandon Lloyd. Tim Tebow is much harder to get a fix on. First of all, he'd rather run the ball than pass it - not a good trait for a quarterback. But when he does throw, its been about equal between Decker and Eddie Royal.

Further west Carson Palmer has taken over the starting Oakland quarterback role and he has mixed up all the wide receiver expectations. Darrius Heyward- Bey had averaged almost 11 targets-per-week over the last three games, but saw the ball just once on Sunday. Meanwhile, Denarius Moore saw a team-high 12 targets against the Broncos. Jacoby Ford was second on the team with six targets, Marcel Reece saw five looks and newcomer T.J. Houshmandzadeh saw four. It will be interesting to see if this is the new "order" for Raiders receivers.

Here are a few more statistics that may surprise you and force you to take a different view of various players.

Greg Little is the No.1 receiver in Cleveland, ahead of Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs. He's been targeted 38 times in the past four weeks after just 21 in the team's first four games.

Pierre Garcon has almost as many targets (75) as his more well-known fellow starter Reggie Wayne (77) and has more than Wayne over the past four games.

Since their bye week, Rob Gronkowski has more looks than Wes Welker (24-18). After a scalding hot start, teams are keying on Welker and Gronkowski could be a better play in the second half of the season. He's also great in the red zone with six touchdowns.

Over the past five games, Victor Cruz has seen the ball more than Mario Manningham (44-38).

Jeremy Maclin is having a much better season than his counterpart DeSean Jackson. He's got 40 receptions in 54 targets versus 27 of 50 for Jackson.

Joe McKnight had almost double the rushing attempts of LaDainian Tomlinson. LT, however, is the guy in the red zone and will get more touchdowns than McKnight or Shonn Greene.

Julio Jones is out-performing Roddy White. Jones is averaging 81.5 ypg while White is averaging just 62.6 ypg.

Daniel Thomas was healthy, but Reggie Bush got the majority of the carries and Bush's performance (13-92-1) should earn him a continue primary running back role.

Roy Helu got the start in Washington and showed a great deal of ability in the passing game. Besides averaging 4.1 yards on the ground, he caught 14 balls for 105 yards. He should be a very active name on the waiver wire this week.

With better known receivers like Mike Wallace and Hines Ward, it's Antonio Brown who leads the Pittsburgh Steelers in targets and is a great play in the second half of the season. With little notoriety, the price to get him should be reasonably and you should attempt to trade for Brown.

One of the keys to winning your league is the ability to spot trends and take advantage of them. Time is running out...get to work and make the moves to win a championship.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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