Michael Crabtree, 49ers at Panthers
Since Michael Johnson took over as the offensive coordinator in San Francisco three games ago, Crabtree has 18 receptions for 220 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He is also averaging just under nine targets per game, which means quarterback Alex Smith has regained his trust in Crabtree.
It’s night and day since Jimmy Raye was fired.
Carolina has the fifth-ranked pass defense, and tight end Vernon Davis is suffering from a knee injury that will likely result in him seeing fewer targets. However, the Panthers have given up seven touchdowns in five games, so look for Crabtree to find the end zone once again in Week 7.
Johnny Knox, Bears vs. Redskins
At this point, Knox is officially the go-to guy in the Bears' passing offense. Devin Hester hasn’t produced as well as Knox and tight end Greg Olsen doesn’t have a catch in the last two games.
Meanwhile, Knox was targeted 11 times last week and turned those targets into five receptions for 120 yards. For the season, Knox has been targeted 34 times, catching 18 passes for an eye-opening 392 yards, an average of 21.8 yards per reception.
While he hasn’t yet found the end zone, that should change this week against a Redskins secondary that ranks second-worst in the league and which has given up the third-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs vs. Jaguars
With six catches, 108 yards, and two touchdowns last week against the Texans last-ranked pass defense, Bowe proved that he can exploit a weak secondary.
The Jaguars have the fifth-worst secondary in the league but have given up the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. That makes Bowe a solid start for the second week in a row.
Derrick Mason, Ravens at Bills
Full disclosure on Mason: I seem to be in the minority who think he will put up some decent numbers over the balance of the season. Perhaps not what he did last year, but enough to be a decent option as a WR3.
This week, he gets a Bills pass defense that, although talented, has been burdened by the team’s poor pass rush. While the Bills pass defense ranks 10th in the league, they have given up a whopping 11 touchdown passes in five games.
Brandon Lloyd, Broncos vs. Raiders
Lloyd has been a revelation in 2010, coming out of nowhere to finally fulfill the promise he displayed in brief glimpses early in his career. He was in a battle for a roster spot when training camp opened, but he currently leads the league with 663 receiving yards.
This week, the Broncos take on the Raiders and Lloyd generally lines up on the side of the field occupied by Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. That’s not good.
In addition, the Broncos want to get Demaryius Thomas more involved. Also not good. If there was ever a week to bench the NFL’s leading wide receiver, this might be it.
Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars at Chiefs
Let’s review Sims-Walker’s season to date: six games, two games with no receptions, two games with two receptions, 218 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Not pretty.
This week, the Jaguars go on the road to race the Chiefs and Sims-Walker is a notorious for his road no-shows. Not to mention that Todd Bouman may start at quarterback.
I don’t need much support to put him in the Sit ‘Em category, but there’s plenty of it for him to be on my bench this Sunday.
Deion Branch, Patriots vs. Chargers
Nice little story last week about returning to your roots and having a big game as Branch caught nine passes for 98 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens.
Baltimore’s secondary had performed well in 2010 but it played poorly in that contest and Branch isn’t likely to benefit from a poor secondary performance against San Diego.
The Chargers have the league’s top passing defense and have given up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. I see no reason why the 31-year-old Branch can buck that trend.
Lee Evans, Bills at Ravens
Once again, Evans is struggling in Buffalo, having to get by with uneven quarterback play and an offensive line incapable of pass protecting long enough to allow deep plays to develop.
And when your game is mostly about getting deep, those factors are going to result in poor production with Evans currently the 64th-ranked fantasy wide receiver.
I was down on him in the preseason, but that ranking for a player with his talent is hard to believe. Evans has put together just one solid performance in 2010 and that came against a poor Jaguars secondary.
There is no reason to think he will produce on the road against a Baltimore pass defense that ranks third in the league, giving up 175 passing yards per game and just four touchdown passes in six games.