Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NFL WEEK 10 – T & R (thoughts and revelations)

Several stunning upsets and many crucial injuries -- Week 10 in the NFL this season could be remembered as the one that altered the seasons of two very competitive franchises, while also sealing the deal on the future of some coaches.

Perhaps what Greg Cosell has said is true. Is Eli Manning nursing some kind of injury? He's thrown two interceptions only twice this year, but both those games happened in the last four weeks. He has zero touchdown passes in the last three games, and though he completed 67 percent of his attempts Sunday, he did so with a 4.67 average. There's something wrong in New York, whether they're telling us or not. Keep that in mind. As for Cincinnati, I never left the Andy Dalton bandwagon and won't. He's just too talented, and has changed the Bengals franchise to maybe not a Super Bowl contender, but a perennial playoff contender. Fantasy wise, Dalton is maybe a couple of pieces away from being an every week starter. The team still doesn't have a reliable running presence, although at this point I'd love to see them give Cedric Peerman more carries. He did get six this past Sunday, but in my estimation the BenJarvus Green-Ellis experiment has shown its colors. He's a standard runner who would be great in a backup role. If they can get Dre Kirkpatrick back to full health along with Taylor Mays, and maybe add another offensive lineman, this team could be a strong contender by next year.

Chris Johnson's smile is not as big as his owners
Consistency isn't everything. It's the only thing. For the Miami Dolphins and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, his growing pains were a big part of the difference on Sunday. For Chris Johnson, his sudden return to the runner we once knew is making the Titans much more competitive. With
Mike Munchak on the hot seat, the Titans punched the Dolphins in the mouth on a day where Jake Locker went 9-for-21. Chris Johnson raked the Miami defense. The Dolphins committed four turnovers, three of which led to points, and the Titans took their third win in five games. Let me say Chris Johnson's run in the first quarter was the stuff that reminds us what talent he has. Where it's been for a good part of the last two years one can only speculate. However, I will state for the record how wrong I was on this call. While it certainly helped that Miami couldn't get out of their own way, Johnson's first TD run was stellar. I still worry about his efficacy with a QB that completes nine passes in 21 attempts. Right now, that is Jake Locker, much as I wrote. He's got a cannon arm but it's a weapon that is in need of calibration.

Give Leslie Frazier and his staff credit; Christian Ponder threw the ball to anyone with a pair of hands: running backs, tight ends, parents, friends, I think even his dog was tossed a ball Sunday. Ten different pairs of hands were targeted, and Ponder was even targeted once himself. Adrian Peterson continued the most remarkable comeback season of any player in history with another 171 yards rushing (he had just 51 going into the fourth quarter) and a touchdown. As has been typical of Detroit, particularly of their losses, they trailed after the first quarter and in this game, and never had the lead. Wide receiver Jarius Wright had his first three NFL receptions, as well as his first touchdown in his first extensive action. The Vikings have their bye next week, and if Percy Harvin returns from his ankle issue after that, Wright's value might not increase much. However, know that Jerome Simpson has been his typical disappointing self, and that Michael Jenkins, while solid, is not a big playmaker. Wright may get some more opportunities as the Viking face some fierce rushing defenses: Chicago twice, Houston, Green Bay twice and St. Louis. That's five games against current top ten rushing defenses, and St. Louis' 17th ranked group. That means Ponder may have to throw more down the stretch and Wright's importance could easily grow. As a note, Joique Bell was all but forgotten in the run game, but finished second to only Calvin Johnson (who scored his second TD) with seven catches and 44 yards.

It's Spiller time
The game was closer than anyone expected, and the Bills involved Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller much more than in the previous game. Both had four receptions each. Jackson finished with 115 total yards and Spiller with 131. Jackson scored twice, making this the first game Jackson owners could actually celebrate the third or fourth round pick they spent on him. However, don't get too excited as Jackson is out with a concussion and won't play in this Thursday's contest with the Miami Dolphins. That means C. J. Spiller will be watching Chris Johnson's game tape and trying to provide Buffalo with the same type of performance. Ryan Fitzpatrick had his third game this year throwing over 300 yards, but as it always seems to with the Bills' QB, it comes down to turnovers. When Fitzpatrick had a chance to win the game, he threw an interception instead. In PPR leagues, it should be noted that Danny Woodhead has surpassed Aaron Hernandez in terms of receptions and yards, and tied him with two touchdowns. Hard to say whether he'll continue to have as much impact when Hernandez returns to full health, but Woodhead figured in two red zone possessions this game. He has become the new Kevin Faulk, who honored this past Sunday after announcing his retirement.

I made a case for this outcome, but I can't say I believed it totally. However, the Falcons lost WR Julio Jones for a part of this one and it mattered. Give New Orleans credit for completely dominating the rushing game. They shut down the Falcons running game while manning up one of their own. Michael Turner ran 13 times for 15 yards – not the kind of performance you want when you'd like to keep the Saints offense off the field. Chris Ivory's first touch yielded a 56 yards run. His next six garnered him 16. I consider him still an anomaly for now. He's gotten you a couple of TDs, but I don't expect that to continue based on recent history. He's also incredibly delicate so far. Better news is that Jimmy Graham has now had two solid games in a row and has touchdowns in four straight. He's beginning to look like the dominant player he was last year.

The Chargers offense did keep Doug Martin in check, holding him to 68 yards on 19 carries. Yet, Martin is running with zest and purpose. However, as I wrote a few weeks ago, Josh Freeman's continue to rise. It's his fourth straight game without an interception, and sixth straight game with two touchdown passes or better. Vincent Jackson had five receptions for 59 yards versus his former club, but it was Tiquan Underwood and TE Dallas Clark that scored for Tampa Bay. For San Diego, Philip Rivers showed once again his carelessness with the football, throwing two terrible interceptions. However, he has made Denario Alexander a true receiver again. Alexander had five catches for 134 yards and a touchdown, only his second 100-yard receiving day of his career, and first since last September. Tampa Bay will face Carolina next week, the same Carolina Panthers team that managed just seven points on Denver. They could be in for another strong offensive output. 

Speaking of Carolina, having the Broncos come to town wasn't a cure for what ails them. In fact, the Broncos defense never let up on Cam Newton, sacking him seven times, the most of any game in his career. Greg Olsen was indeed the one highlight for the Panthers, as he hauled in a career best 102 yards. Meanwhile, the Broncos against fell behind, as has been their tendency, only to regroup and deliver a 17-7 halftime lead and 24-7 lead entering the fourth quarter. Peyton Manning threw for 301 yards, his fourth game out of five with over 300 yards passing. The Denver defense has climbed into the sixth spot overall, and with two games with Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego and Cleveland on their schedule, make a terrific defense to own down the stretch.

It was one thing to expect the Raiders running game sans Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson to falter, but the Ravens Ray Rice wasn't able to do much either.  This should have been a scenario that would have favored the Raiders. Shutting down Rice is the top priority for any team wanting to take one from the Ravens. Instead the old Raiders showed up, taking penalties at crucial times, and then turning the ball over. This led to a 27-10 halftime deficit and Baltimore never looked back. For fantasy purposes though, the Raiders passing game is alive and well. The Raiders' offense is now the 13th best offense, putting up over 356 yards per game, and they are fifth overall in passing. They get New Orleans next which means more opportunities for strong numbers for Denarius Moore and Darius Heyward-Bey.  Note that in terms of the depth chart, Marcel Reece ended up as the top runner, disappointing Taiwan Jones owners. 

While I expected Golden Tate to have a good game in the receptions department, I certainly didn't project he'd get credit for a touchdown pass. Tate finished the game with just two receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown, but added a 23-yard touchdown strike to Sidney Rice that put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks ran up 172 yards on the ground, with Marshawn Lynch gaining 124 of them. To give you an idea of just how bad it went for the Jets, Russell Wilson had 12 completions, and the shortest one went for 27 yards. As for the Jets, well, at least Rex Ryan is in the best physical shape of his life, right? Ryan continues to back Mark Sanchez, and we all have seen the statistical nightmare Tim Tebow provides, but it seems like Ryan could be without a job if he doesn't make some sort of a change. The Jets were coming off a bye and supposed to be focused and ready. Instead, they failed to score a single point on offense and turned the ball over three times.

Fantasy owners no longer need to wait for the day Nick Foles makes his debut. Michael Vick suffered a concussion in the midst of another Philadelphia debacle, and Foles played from the end of the first quarter on. And it wasn't so pretty. While Foles did make some nice reads and plays, his biggest problem seemed to be throwing with confidence. The rookie QB seemed intent on floating the ball to its target more often than not and often his wide receivers paid for it. However, in one case Jeremy Maclin simply let a pass go by him in an effort to avoid contact. He ended up getting hit anyway, but if anything showed everyone watching what being part of the Eagles team is about this year – himself. It was not only an insult to Foles, who was out there trying to find any rhythm he could, but to the team itself. Everything about the Eagles appears to be falling into disarray. Watching their special teams only added emphasis to that. As for the Cowboys, if you took a chance on Philip Tanner, he was relegated to special teams only while Lance Dunbar played second fiddle to Felix Jones. Jones actually had a decent game, with 71 yards rushing (93 total yards) and a touchdown. It appears Tanner's usefulness is over for the time being.

We know he can run, but can he thorw?
The Rams and 49ers played to a regular season tie, something that really isn't good for anyone, including the fans. Amazingly enough, the loss of Chris Givens (non-injury related) and return of Danny Amendola changed the Rams offense into a dynamic one. The Rams first two possessions resulted in touchdowns, something that hadn't happened all season for St. Louis, nor had San Francisco yielded two straight scores to start a game. Amendola caught 11 passes for 102 yards – I think we can officially declare him of good health. It took 29 carries but Steven Jackson made it to 101 yards and a TD. It was his highest output of the year. The 49ers lost QB Alex Smith to a concussion, and he will be evaluated for next week in the coming days, but if he can't play Colin Kaepernick will get his first regular season start. Unfortunately for he and fantasy owners, it's against the Bears, meaning you'll have to consider just how much faith you want to put in a rookie against one of the best defenses in the league.


How quickly can you go from being 'overrated' to officially 'back' in the NFL? Ask Houston, a team that was blown out by the Green Bay Packers in Week 7 only to come back and destroy Baltimore before narrowly defeating the Bears. I'm sure this is noteworthy as all three quarterbacks that played the game threw for less than 100 yards. If you can find when the last time that happened was I'd be grateful. The best QB out there wasn't even the starters on this night. It was Jason Campbell, who posted the best YPA with 4.9. Campbell is a more than capable backup and would start for a lot of NFL teams. Remember, before he was injured last season and then summarily replaced by Carson Palmer, Campbell led the Raiders to a 4-2 record, which included wins over rival Denver, and future AFC South champ Houston. He couldn't pull out the victory on Sunday, but he may in fact boost this offense further along than Cutler can. Brandon Marshall gained over 100 yards receiving for the fifth time this season. Arian Foster managed over 100 yards rushing and scored the only TD of the game on a pass from Matt Schaub.


Leftwich will be under center in Baltimore
The Pittsburgh Steelers' season may be far from over, but it sure took a hit in the gut Monday when the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger left with an injury to his right shoulder in the third quarter. With Byron Leftwich likely the start next week, the Steelers RBs will get more opportunities while the Steelers receivers just became dead weight. It's not that Leftwich can't throw. He's actually quite accurate. The problem is that he requires time and the room to step forward and throw. He went 7-for-14 for 73 yards on a night where the Steelers offensive line was average at best. You can bet Baltimore will do everything next week to impede him from stepping up in the pocket. If he can't step, he can't deliver. The good news unlike this week is that Leftwich will get a week's worth of practice, and it's likely Todd Haley won't have him throwing on third and long so often, but let's face reality here – if you own Steelers wide outs or Heath Miller, their value is compromised until Ben returns. For Jamaal Charles, and more so the Chiefs offensive line, this was a strong game. Charles amassed 65 yards by the end of the half and had a 12-yard TD run. For Matt Cassel, he's learned again how quickly one can go from hero to goat in the span of three minutes of an NFL game.