To the dear readers of this blog, thank you for your patronage. I want to let you know how thankful I am for your patronage and want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. I also want to let you know that this blog will be taking the week of Thanksgiving to bask in the Boston cold with my wife, child and family. Your fantasy teams will miss my input, but feel free to send me questions on Twitter at @JphillipsJabo and I'll get back to you with my input faster than I can eat a turkey dinner. We'll see you on the flip side as we head down the stretch.
ARIZONA @ ATLANTA
Arizona is pesky all right, and their secondary made plays all day long against Matt Ryan, who looked like he had taken the day off and Stepford Matt Ryan had subbed in. Michael Turner was unable to get much going against Arizona’s weaker rush defense, but for some reason Mike Smith and Dirk Koetter weren’t willing to abandon him for Jacquizz Rodgers. Julio Jones left the game in the fourth quarter with an injured ankle, which took away from his impact in a key part of the game.
Arizona’s QB snags have reached a near epidemic proportion, so much so that rookie Ryan Lindley was tapped to lead the team midway through a road game against 8-1 Atlanta. Lindley completed just nine of 20 against Atlanta’s tenth ranked secondary. All this really means is until there’s someone regular behind center you can expect inconsistent numbers from all on the receiving end, not good news for fantasy owners of anyone Arizona.
CLEVELAND @ DALLAS
The good news in this typically bad Dallas performance is they got another game from Tony Romo of over 300 yards passing while having zero interceptions. He did have a turnover, but he was sacked seven times, The Browns exposed yet another problem with the Cowboys, which recently has been protecting Romo. In the last four weeks they’ve yielded 15 sacks. The Cowboys are 5-5, and despite their iniquities find themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot.
The Browns lost Josh Gordon to a knee injury, so if he’s on your team, monitor his status going forward. Trent Richardson continues to be the heavyweight this team relies on for yardage between the 20’s, and TE Benjamin Watson caught his third end zone pass of four attempts from Brandon Weeden this year.
JACKSONVILLE @ HOUSTON
The Jags have a new running back, at least until Maurice Jones-Drew is ready to return. Color me doubtful that MJD will find the field again this year though the Jaguars have yet to make any declaration on how much more time MJD will miss, but Jalen Parmele now seems to have the inside track to back him up and until then, act as the starter. Mike Mularkey’s game plan gave Parmele 24 carries against one of the top defense in the league. Rashad Jennings has never had more than 22. Either this was an experiment, and it certainly was an interesting time to throw Parmele in there, or it marks a clear shift in loyalties. Err on the side of the latter. The bigger question is just what do we take away from Chad Henne’s four touchdowns and 354 yards passing against one of the best defenses in the NFL with a receivers group that is everything but superior. Henne’s promise is well-known, but Miami simply gave up on him as a QB that made too many bad decisions.
As for Houston, TE Garrett Graham has arrived as a viable threat when Owen Daniels isn’t 100 percent. Both tight ends are signed through the 2013 season, and with the TE position now an essential part of any NFL offense, Graham’s increase in value could impact Daniels’. However, I say ‘could’ because at least for this year, no top notch WR2 has emerged. Kevin Walter is average and getting up there in age, so don’t be surprised to see Graham’s use increase as circumstances require. That doesn’t mean you necessarily want to pick him up yet, but keep an eye on Daniels’ injury.
GREEN BAY @ DETROIT
Matthew Stafford turned the ball over three times and the Lions again found a way to essentially give away a game on an Aaron Rodgers toss-up pass to his shortest receiver. Randall Cobb caught a 22-yard pass with less than two minutes to play in double coverage and that was the difference. The Packers seem to have all but abandoned the Alex Green experiment, giving James Starks 25 carries and 74 yards and one reception this past Sunday. Jermichael Finley may have revived his status among the offense temporarily, catching his second touchdown of the year and first TD since Week 1.
Mikel Leshoure had his second top five finish in three weeks, picking up 14 fantasy points in ESPN standard scoring leagues. However, his remaining schedule isn’t easy, including the likes of Houston, Green Bay and Chicago mixed in with Indy, Arizona and Atlanta. Atlanta might not be an easy day either because even with their subpar rushing defense, their offense has the capability of putting Detroit behind far enough to take away the running option. You may have to pick your match-ups wisely depending on your own depth chart.
BENGALS @ KANSAS CITY
BenJarvus Green-Ellis gave you 100 yards on 25 carries, his best output of the season in terms of yards and carries. Cedric Peerman gave you 75 yards on eight carries, 32 of which came on a fake punt, but don’t discount Peerman has still been making plays and now has 14 carries the last two games. Mohamed Sanu scored his second touchdown in the two games.
I made the case for an upset…. Clearly I was the only one who believed it. Romeo Crennel, approaching a point where desperation is setting in, elected to use QB Brady Quinn in the second half, and he managed no better numbers than Matt Cassel. For the second week in a row, TE Tony Moeaki had over 65 yards receiving and led all Chiefs receivers. Dwayne Bowe left the game with a neck injury and didn’t return. Expect the Chiefs will tread cautious with his injury.
NEW YORK JET @ ST. LOUIS
Bilal Powell scored his first two career touchdowns, and averaged 3.8 per carry to Shonn Greene’s 3.6. Mark Sanchez completed 15 of 20 attempts, making former Raiders WR Chaz Schilens his top performer of the day. Powell and Schilens both are legitimate threats to cut into the workloads of their depth chart peers. Greene’s history of disappointing numbers is well documented. As for Schilens, his biggest problem has been injury, but he was thought at one time to have the talent to be a starter for Oakland.
Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson averaged 6.2 and 4.3 yards per carry respectively, yet for all the work they did on the ground (107 yards worth), they couldn’t manufacture points. Danny Amendola received 11 targets and seven receptions for 41 yards. Austin Pettis received six targets, two of which netted 46 yards to lead the Rams, but don’t start assuming Pettis’ numbers were anything more than a one-week phenomenon. Brandon Gibson had just three receptions for nine yards, but two of those went for touchdowns. My recommendation of Lance Kendricks as a sleeper turned out to be full of hot air, though he did get two receptions for 14 yards on a light passing day for Sam Bradford.
PHILADELPHIA @ WASHINGTON
With Michael Vick on the sideline, the Eagles offense became even more anemic, and their experimentation with the offensive line, like starting lineman Jake Scott one week after signing him, proved no different in results. Foles was sacked four times and harassed plenty. Nick Foles started his first NFL game, and completed 21-of-46 for 201 yards, but threw two interceptions and fumbled three times (though he lost none). LeSean McCoy continued his disappointing season behind his porous offensive line, and even more detrimental to fantasy owners was the combined two catches for DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin (both by Jackson) for five total yards. Things aren’t likely to get a whole lot better for fantasy owners. Divest yourself of the receivers group until you get an amazing match-up like Tampa Bay, or Foles shows some improvement behind center.
For the Redskins, the return of Pierre Garcon didn’t yield great numbers for his owners, but did open the field up for the likes of Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss and Aldrick Robinson. Garcon had the second most targets of the day with three, but it was Moss and Robinson combining for 110 yards and two touchdowns on two total receptions. Moss’ 25th reception was for his sixth touchdown of the year, giving him his highest output since 2003 with the New York Jets. As long as Robert Griffin is under center, Moss is a strong WR3 each week.
TAMPA BAY @ CAROLINA
The Buccaneers appeared poised to have their way with the Panthers until Josh Freeman tried to make one play too many in the early going, and a fluttering pass found its way to a speedy Captain Munnerlyn who returned it for a touchdown. That seemed to light a fire under Panthers’ caboose and by the 10:34 mark of the fourth quarter they had a 21-10 lead. That deficit couldn’t hold back this Bucs offense, which turned around and scored 11 unanswered points to take the game to overtime, where they promptly disposed of Carolina on an overtime-ending TD pass to TE Dallas Clark. Clark now has touchdowns in consecutive games for the first time since 2010, and the Bucs seem to now be relishing whatever gas he has left in the tank. He led all Tampa Bay receivers this game with seven and tied Vincent Jackson will 11 targets for the day.
NEW ORLEANS @ OAKLAND
Marcel Reece was given a surprising 19 carries, even after fell behind 14-0, but in addition to his 103 yards rushing where Reece proved potent was in the passing game, amassing 90 yards on four receptions. Brandon Myers was indeed a huge part of the Oakland passing attack, scoring his third touchdown of the year, and third in the last three games. Most shocking was how well they kept WR Denarius Moore in check. He was held to just one reception and nine yards.
The Saints running back du Week was Mark Ingram, who 12 times for 67 yards and a touchdown. Chris Ivory wasn’t a total bust, averaging 4.6 yards per carry while gaining 37 yards. Lance Moore was targeted for a deep touchdown instead of Devery Henderson, and my feeling is that Henderson has lost out on the WR3 sweepstakes. With Joe Morgan more than capable of breaking on deep, and Marques Colston continuing to be a steady short and mid-range option, Henderson, with his 14 receptions all year is on his way out.
SAN DIEGO @ DENVER
One of my goals blogging was to try not to censor myself when I have a true insight into something. A week or so ago I wrote about whether or not the time had come for San Diego to consider parting ways with Philip Rivers. Now comes an article on ESPN’s website by Vince Verhei about that very question. Rivers threw another two interceptions on Sunday, as well as fumbled away a possession, which led to 16 Denver points. Danario Alexander may be the sole beneficiary of his relationship with Rivers, as he’s having career resurgence in San Diego and is a restricted free agent next year.
Obviously, the biggest news out of this game is the loss of Willis McGahee, who was on his way to his best season since 2007. With a torn MCL and compression fracture, you have to think that McGahee’s career may come to an abrupt end. The 31-year old can only hope that he’ll be ready again in time for training camp, assuming he wants to continue. The MCL isn’t nearly as severe a problem as a torn ACL, but it’s still a tough injury to rehab from, particularly if you’ve had previous damage done to the knee area. The door is now open for Ronnie Hillman to become the everyday back they hope they drafted. He’ll get every opportunity down the stretch and is worthy of starting right away.
INDIANAPOLIS @ NEW ENGLAND
Perhaps too much was made of this meeting pre-game, but then again, it was the hope of all of those involved, none more so than Indianapolis Colts’ fans, that Andrew Luck fill Peyton Manning’s shoes and renew a rivalry that very soon would take a turn in their favor simply because of the age factor. Instead, Tom Brady reasserted himself as the king of this contest, delivering 331 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Just when you thought you could count on Danny Woodhead, he received not one touch the entire game. Their newest acquisition, DB Aqib Talib paid immediate dividends, returning an interception for a touchdown. Naturally, the biggest news besides their victory was the loss of Rob Gronkowski to a broken arm. He had surgery and may miss the rest of the regular season, though there are expectations he could return sooner due to his tough nature. Aaron Hernandez is slated to play Thursday after being out a month.
T.Y. Hilton turned out to be more than just a deep target for a quick score, but instead posted his second 100-yard performance and first multi-score game of his rookie season. Dwayne Allen posted six receptions for 69 yards, further distancing himself from Coby Fleener this season. Vick Ballard is now noticeably deemed the RB1 for this Colts team. Donald Brown received just four carries and Delone Carter received two while Ballard toted the ball 16 times.
BALTIMORE @ PITTSBURGH
By all accounts this game went almost directly as I scripted it, except for Byron Leftwich running for a 30-yard touchdown pass. At the point he crossed the goal line, I checked the sky to see if the moon had fallen into the earth because by all accounts Leftwich scrambling for that long of a touchdown means the world is close to its end. The happiness wouldn’t last of course, as Leftwich’s arm showed quite a bit of rust, and when he did make plays, his receivers often failed him (see Mike Wallace’s early first quarter fumble and Jerricho Cotchery’s dropped pass after he took a hit that broke his ribs on the final drive of the game). Leftwich also broke his ribs during the game, meaning Charlie Batch will be the third Steelers’ QB in three weeks. The Steelers also signed Plaxico Burress to give them another red zone option, as well as former Patriots backup QB Brian Hoyer. For fantasy owners, the downgrades continue for the Steelers’ receivers and the Steelers running game is a mish-mash of viable threats. Isaac Redman left Sunday’s game with a possible concussion, so check his status as the weekend approaches.
For Baltimore, it’s hard to say there’s a lot of positives to take from this game other than they’re now 8-2. They stacked the box and forced the Steelers to throw more than they wanted to, and Jacoby Jones made a fantastic punt return for a touchdown which turned out to be the difference maker.
CHICAGO @ SAN FRANCISCO
Alex Smith didn’t play, and Colin Kaepernick turned in the kind of performance that left the 49ers fans pondering who should start while giving management a series of high class problems. First, do they actually demote Alex Smith for getting them this far along based on one performance? My take is no, it wouldn’t be smart, but you can’t deny that Kaepernick owned the Bears defense, one that up until Monday night had given up among the fewest points in the NFL. Aldon Smith delivered five and one-half sacks in one game, cementing himself as the NFL sack leader.
For the Bears, Brandon Marshall found the end zone once the game was already out of hand. However, his touchdown makes eight for the season and he’s scored in all but four contests. He’s now only second to Cincinnati’s A.J. Green in fantasy scoring in ESPN standard scoring leagues. Jason Campbell looked rusty in his first appearance in over a year. Matt Forte has already disappointed with his 25 receptions for the year (that’s just a little over two per game) and that number is not likely to increase with Campbell under center as he’s not a check down specialist. It’s hard to judge Campbell in a new offense on one performance. In fact, Alshon Jeffery may have increased value as Campbell is more likely to spread the wealth seeing as how he didn’t go to college with Marshall like Jay Cutler did.