A wide receiver other than Brandon Marshall has finally worked his way into Jay Cutler's trust circle.
In what was otherwise a gloomy day for the Chicago Bears, Alshon Jeffery caught five passes for a career-high 107 yards and a touchdown during a 40-32 loss to the Detroit Lions. With 18 grabs on the season, Jeffery is six short of matching his rookie total.
Now that Jeffery is a prominent player in Chicago's offense he deserves recognition among all fantasy owners.
While his previous week's effort did not pay such massive dividends, he reeled in seven catches for 51 yards. Over the past two weeks, Cutler has targeted Jeffery 19 times, while Marshall has received 22 looks. Marc Trestman has Cutler spreading the ball out more to Marshall, Jeffery and Martellus Bennett, which should benefit all parties.
Getting the ball obviously aides Jeffery and Bennett, but Marshall gets room to breathe with the threat of other receivers. It also helps that Chicago's defense has deteriorated this season, setting the stage for more shootouts reminiscent of Sunday's NFC North showdown.
The Bears currently rank 21st in the NFL with 384 total yards allowed per game. By putting up 40 points, Detroit forced Jay Cutler to attempt 47 passes, 11 of which went in Jeffery's direction.
Cutler, who has averaged 393 passing attempts over the last three seasons, is on pace to shatter that mark with 592 throws. He is also currently sporting a career-high 64.2 completion percentage. The Bears are opening up the aerial attack after replacing Lovie Smith, and Jeffery is a key benefactor of the change.
The young receiver's athleticism has also been utilized sparingly in the running game. Jeffery added a 27-yard run to this Sunday total, giving him 57 rushing yards for the season. Any yards he obtains on the ground are gravy, as it's more than other wideouts will earn.
Are you starting Alshon Jeffery this week against the Saints?
This week, Jeffery gets the New Orleans Saints, but don't let last year's results fool you into loving that matchup. The Saints boast a much-improved secondary that enters their Monday night game with the second-best passing defense in the NFL.
But since Chicago will likely be forced to pass often to keep up with New Orleans, Jeffery should at least garner plenty of catches, even if his final line resembles his Week 3 performance more than his breakout effort against Detroit. He's a decent, but not spectacular play for Week 5.
But after that, Chicago gets the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, two matchups that should help Jeffery flourish. The stuttering Giants have allowed three passing touchdowns in each of their past two games, while Washington's passing defense ranks 31st with 325 yards allowed per game.
Jeffery is growing into his role as a key factor for Chicago. At the very least, pick him up and save him on your bench this weekend if he remains available.