1. Demaryius Thomas – DEN (vs. NE)
Thomas was targeted 10 times against San Diego, which brings him to eight 10-plus target games this season. Manning likes to spread the ball around, but Thomas remains his No. 1 target. Same as when these two teams met in Week 12, Thomas can expect to be shadowed by Aqib Talib. Thomas was held to four catches for 41 yards and one score on nine targets in that game. For what it’s worth, Talib shadowed T.Y. Hilton on Saturday, lining up across from him on 59 of Hilton’s 60 snaps. Talib did a nice job on Thomas the first time around, but he’s far from impenetrable. Thomas is your top wide receiver bet in non-PPR formats.
2. Julian Edelman – NE (@ DEN)
Another week saw yet another episode of Edelman handling an insanely high percentage of Brady’s targets. Edelman has now seen eight or more targets in seven consecutive games. That may not seem like much, but consider that it works out to 31 percent of the team’s targets. That includes 41 percent of the targets over New England’s last three games. Edelman caught nine of 11 targets for 110 yards and two scores in the first meeting between these teams. Moving all around the formation, it’s hard to nail down who he’ll see in coverage. Denver has used Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as a shadow corner on occasion and that could make sense here with Edelman seeing so much work. If not, 34-year-old Quentin Jammer figures to be on him the most. Jammer is replacing standout Chris Harris Jr., who tore his ACL during Sunday’s win. It would be a clear plus matchup for Edelman. Consistently Brady’s No. 1 target, Edelman is your top bet at wide receiver in PPR and arguably No. 1 in standard.
3. Eric Decker – DEN (vs. NE)
With five targets, Decker was last among Denver’s “Big Four” in the category on Sunday. Of course, with Peyton Manning under center, that may just mean he’s in line to lead the unit against New England. Decker’s 140 targets on the season are second-most on the team and trails Thomas by only eight. It’s worth noting that Decker has seen six or fewer targets in a game six times this season. All six of those occasions came during the team’s last nine games. Blanketed by Logan Ryan (and some Alfonzo Dennard) in the first meeting, Decker hauled in just one of four targets for five yards. Dennard figures to cover him most often this time around.
4. Wes Welker – DEN (vs. NE)
Back after a three-game absence due to a concussion, Welker hauled in six of his nine targets for 38 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Welker now has 11 scores in 14 games this season. He’ll continue to be a near every-down player in Denver’s high-scoring offense. Shadowed by Kyle Arrington, Welker caught only half of his eight targets for 31 yards in the first meeting. Arrington was seemingly benched in favor of Logan Ryan during Sunday’s win, but Ryan usually plays outside. That made sense at the time with Talib handling Hilton in the slot. Assuming Arrington returns to his normal role, he’ll be on Welker all game long.
5. Anquan Boldin – SF (@ SEA)
Boldin continues to rack up enormous target totals despite the presence of Michael Crabtree. Kaepernick looked Boldin’s way 12 times on Sunday, which worked out to 42 percent of the team’s targets. The 33-year-old is now averaging nine targets per game since Crabtree’s return. Boldin managed only one catch for seven yards on four targets when these teams met in Seattle in Week 2. He rebounded for a six-catch, 93-yard performance on eight targets in Week 14. Similar to Edelman, Boldin lines up all over the field. He’ll see Walter Thurmond III most often in coverage, but Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell will be in the mix, as well. All three corners are playing well this year. Sherman mostly stuck to his side (left corner) in both meetings. He lined up opposite Boldin 25 times in each game.
6. Michael Crabtree – SF (@ SEA)
Crabtree and Boldin have swapped the team-lead in targets nearly each week since the former returned in Week 13. Crabtree is averaging 7.1 targets per game in those seven affairs, which works out to a very respectable 27 percent of the team’s targets. He didn’t play when these teams last met in Seattle, but caught four of his eight targets for 40 yards in the second meeting. Crabtree barely lines up in the slot and is usually to the left of Kaepernick. He’ll see Maxwell most often in coverage, with Sherman on him about 30 percent of the line. The two faced off 19 times in Week 14.
7. Percy Harvin – SEA (vs. SF)
Appearing in only his second game of 2013 this past weekend, Harvin lasted only19 plays before suffering a concussion. He was plenty involved, however, running 12 routes and carrying the ball once. Despite leaving the game after 35 team snaps, Harvin still managed to see 25 percent (four total) of the team’s targets. Tentatively expected to play this week, he’ll again see a large workload. He won’t have much trouble getting open against San Francisco slot man Perrish Cox. Harvin is obviously a very risky play, but the ceiling here is enormous.
8. Danny Amendola – NE (@ DEN)
Prior to Kenbrell Thompkins leaving Saturday’s game with a head injury, he had played 38 snaps to Amendola’s 27. Although that doesn’t provide a ton of optimism for Amendola going forward, he gets a slight edge due to Thompkins’ questionable status for Sunday. Although Amendola only saw five targets in the win, it worked out to a healthy 22 percent of Brady’s looks. New England’s primary slot man can expect to see Champ Bailey in coverage on a majority of his routes this weekend. Amendola was targeted six times, but caught only three balls for 17 yards when these teams met in Week 12.
9. Kenbrell Thompkins – NE (@ DEN)
As mentioned, Thompkins was working as New England’s No. 2 wide receiver prior to a head injury that knocked him out of the game. While active, however, he was unable to haul in any of his three targets. Thompkins caught six of nine targets for 56 yards when these teams met in Week 12. If he plays (and Aaron Dobson remains out), Thompkins makes for a high-risk, high-reward option.
10. Golden Tate – SEA (vs. SF)
Prior to Harvin’s premature exit on Saturday, the Seattle wide receiver snap split was as follows: Doug Baldwin – 25 (of 35 team snaps), Tate – 24, Jermaine Kearse – 19, Harvin – 19. Clearly, Seattle is rolling with a committee attack at the position. Harvin is the best playmaker and Kearse is an excellent run blocker. The committee approach limits Tate’s upside, but he did see 25 percent of the targets in the win (four total). He caught only one of two targets for 19 yards in the Week 2 meeting in Seattle, but bounced back for six catches for 65 yards on eight targets in Week 14. Tate can expect to see plenty of Tarell Brown in coverage. If there’s one potential saving grace, with teams avoiding the team’s standout linebackers, wide receivers tend to be targeted more than they normally would against the 49ers. There’s not much appeal here unless you’re convinced Seattle will be playing from behind.
11. Doug Baldwin – SEA (vs. SF)
Baldwin totaled four catches for 87 yards on five targets against the 49ers during the regular season, but note that Sidney Rice was active in the Week 2 meeting. Same as Tate, there’s not much to love here with the Seahawks running the ball so often while also rotating wide receivers.
12. Jermaine Kearse – SEA (vs. SF)
13. Quinton Patton – SF (@ SEA)
14. Austin Collie – NE (@ DEN)
15. Andre Caldwell – DEN (vs. NE)
1. Julius Thomas – DEN (vs. NE)
Making his first career playoff start, Thomas was targeted a healthy seven times against San Diego. Manning looked Thomas’ direction on 19 percent of his throws. That’s the highest percentage he’s seen since Week 5 and his third-highest total of the year. Thomas was out of action when these teams faced off in Week 12, but replacement Jacob Tamme caught all five of his targets for 47 yards and a touchdown. Teams love throwing to the tight end against New England and that doesn’t figure to change this week. Primed for eight or so targets in the league’s top offense, Thomas is easily the tight end to own this weekend.
2. Vernon Davis – SF (@ SEA)
Of all players with 12 or more end zone targets this season, no one has caught a higher percentage than Davis (52.6 percent). He’s been targeted while inside the confines of the end zone 19 times, which is fifth-most in the NFL, including the playoffs. He’s caught 10. Davis caught only one of four targets against Carolina, but – go figure – it was an end zone target resulting in a touchdown. The Seattle defense did a relatively nice job slowing Davis during the regular season, holding him to five catches, 41 yards, and one score on eight targets. Tight ends actually fare pretty well against Seattle with game plans built to avoid the outside corners. With Boldin and Crabtree seeing bulk of the targets, Davis will bite you if he doesn’t score. Of course, not many players are better bets to find pay dirt.
3. Zach Miller – SEA (vs. SF)
Miller quietly handled a healthy 15 percent of the Seattle targets and scored five touchdowns during the regular season. But, with Harvin back in the mix, the veteran tight end is certain to see a dip in his workload. He was targeted only once during Saturday’s win over New Orleans. Miller was ineffective as a receiver in the two regular season meetings with San Francisco, hauling in three of seven targets for 35 yards.
4. Michael Hoomanawanui – NE (@ DEN)
Hoomanawanui played all 74 snaps on Saturday. That’s about all he has going for him. In four games since Rob Gronkowski’s season-ending injury, Hoomanawanui has seen only five targets.
5. Virgil Green – DEN (vs. NE)
Green has yet to eclipse two targets in a single game this season. He’s a situational blocker and well off the fantasy radar.
6. Luke Willson – SEA (vs. SF)
Wilson failed to haul in his only target when these teams last played in Seattle, but he actually led the Seahawks in receiving in the second meeting. He went for three receptions, 70 yards, and a score on four targets in the loss. Snaps will be harder to find this time around with Harvin back in the mix.
7. Jacob Tamme – DEN (vs. NE)
8. Vance McDonald – SF (@ SEA)
9. Garrett Celek – SF (@ SEA)
10. Matthew Mulligan – NE (@ DEN)
1. Seahawks (vs. SF)
2. 49ers (@ SEA)
3. Broncos (vs. NE)
4. Patriots (@ DEN)
1. Matt Prater – DEN (vs. NE)
2. Stephen Gostkowski – NE (@ DEN)
3. Steven Hauschka – SEA (vs. SF)
4. Phil Dawson – SF (@ SEA)