Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — November 30, 2010 @ 5:37 pm
Sam Bradford, Rams
The Rams’ boy wonder had the first 300-yard game of his career this week, tossing for 308 yards and three touchdowns against Denver. The performance further solidifies his standing as the overwhelming favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award. What had to excite Bradford owners is that he produced in a road contest for the second game in a row after having three subpar road games to start his career. Over his last six games, Bradford has thrown for 1,307 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception. The Rams’ next four games feature only one opponent that Bradford owners will want to stay away from—the Saints, in Week 14.
Tom Brady, Patriots
It took a while for Brady to adjust to the Patriots offense without Randy Moss, but he seems to be peaking now. After a slow start, he lit up the Lions on Thanksgiving Day for 341 yards and four touchdowns. Sure, most of the damage came against cornerback Alphonso Smith, who was clearly overwhelmed by whichever receiver the Patriots lined up against him. Brady now has multiple touchdown passes in four straight games, totaling 11 over that stretch. A few games after the Moss trade, Brady was looking like a matchup starter, but he now looks like he could finish the season in the top five at quarterback.
Jay Cutler, Bears
Cutler had his best game of the season this week, tossing four touchdowns and gaining 247 yards through the air against the Eagles. He took advantage of an Eagles secondary absent their best player, cornerback Asante Samuel. With nine touchdown passes in his last four games, it seems that Cutler may finally be picking up the nuances of the Mike Martz offense, and just in time to propel the Bears into the playoffs and solidify himself as week-in, week-out starter for fantasy purposes.
Troy Smith, 49ers
He’s followed up a pair of solid performances with a pair of duds. Over the last two weeks, Smith has just 277 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Smith’s problem is that he can’t make plays in the pocket, and with the loss of Frank Gore, the entire offense is likely to suffer. When you lose your stud running back, the team’s quarterback generally gets more opportunities to produce in the passing game, but I don’t see Smith taking advantage of that. More likely, he will struggle more than he already has.
Waiver wire darling for week 13.
Brian Westbrook, 49ers
After getting nine touches through the 49ers’ first ten games of the season, Westbrook was persona non grata for fantasy purposes and not even worth holding on to as Frank Gore’s handcuff. That all changed in an instant when Gore suffered a hip injury that is expected to land him on injured reserve. Westbrook figures to get the nod as the team’s starting running back, with Anthony Dixon getting an increased role as a backup since Westbrook can hardly be counted on to handle the workload Gore typically carries. Still, Westbrook is more capable of taking over for Gore because of the number of catches Gore gets out of the backfield. Westbrook looked great gaining 136 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries against an obviously disinterested Cardinals defense on Monday night. And only the Chargers in Week 15 represent a formidable foe over the next four weeks, so Westbrook is definitely worth grabbing if he’s on your league’s waiver wire.
Toby Gerhart, Vikings
Here’s another example of a handcuff barely worth owning suddenly getting a major uptick in fantasy value courtesy of an injury. Adrian Peterson apparently hurt not one but both ankles this week, and his availability for the upcoming game against the Bills’ 32nd-ranked run defense is in question. That makes Gerhart a potential great start this week, and AP owners need to grab him if he’s available since this one looks like it will be a game-time decision.
Julius Jones, Saints
Chris Ivory had the better fantasy stats, courtesy of his two touchdown runs, but it was Jones who had more touches this week (13 to 7). With just one reception on the season, the Saints clearly don’t trust Ivory in the passing game since he comes out in those situations, most likely due to his poor blitz recognition. Jones had a spring in his step this week, and with Pierre Thomas’ return still uncertain, he may be poised to grab a bigger piece of the workload in the Saints backfield.
Mike Tolbert, Chargers
He’s Moving Up again this week. Tolbert chalked up his second consecutive 100-yard, one-touchdown performance this week against the Colts. He has 271 total yards and a pair of touchdowns over the past two games (both Chargers wins), so there’s no reason to think Ryan Mathews will get the starting nod when he returns.
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
I’m lukewarm on this one. On the one hand, Stewart had his most productive game of the season against the Browns with 12 carries for 98 yards. On the other hand, Mike Goodson still had more touches, gaining 136 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. While Goodson deserves to keep the starting job, Panthers head coach John Fox befuddled the masses by starting Brian St. Pierre at quarterback a week after signing him, so reading the tea leaves on this one is not an easy task.
Chris Johnson, Titans
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines correlation as “a relation existing between phenomena or things or between mathematical or statistical variables which tend to vary, be associated, or occur together in a way not expected on the basis of chance alone.” You’re thinking, “Whoa, this is FF, dude. Ditch the English lecture.” Here’s the rub: Rusty Smith started the FIRST game of his career this week and Johnson had the WORST game of his career. There is a direct correlation between Smith starting and Johnson’s performance. And until Kerry Collins returns to the starting lineup, Johnson’s production is going to suffer.
Darren McFadden, Raiders
His paltry stats this week against the Dolphins marked McFadden’s second consecutive poor performance. He gained just two yards on eight carries against Miami’s middle-of-the-road defense a week after getting 14 yards on 10 carries against the Steelers. He now has gone four straight games without scoring and faces the Chargers’ stiff run defense in Week 13. Fortunately for McFadden owners, it’s the Jaguars (20th-ranked run defense), Broncos (30th), and Colts (29th) after that.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
With three touchdowns this week, Bowe continued his amazing stretch of superlative performances and now has 13 touchdowns over his past seven games. That has propelled him to the No. 1 ranking among wide receivers, a few fantasy points ahead of Brandon Lloyd. You could have made some major money in Vegas if you had bet on that prior to the season opener.
Danario Alexander, Rams
In his first game back since suffering a knee injury a month ago, Alexander was on fire against the Broncos. He didn’t seem to miss a beat in his return to action, gaining 95 yards on four receptions in limited play. Look for Alexander’s snaps to increase, provided he can stay healthy. The Rams have been spreading the ball around successfully in the passing game, but Alexander is their only wide receiver with enough size to be a consistent chain-mover on third downs. That should translate into more targets and more production in the coming weeks.
Wes Welker, Patriots
Welker was Moving Down after the Randy Moss trade, as he seemed to struggle with the added attention opposing defenses were giving him. That has changed though, with Welker gaining 237 yards on 21 receptions over the past three weeks and scoring three touchdowns over the Patriots’ last two games. While I’m not ready to anoint him WR1 material over the balance of the season, he is shaping up as a high-end WR2 from here on out.
Ben Obomanu, Seahawks
I told you last week in my “Dave’s Take” column that Obomanu was the Seahawks wide receiver to target—rather than Deon Butler—to replace Mike Williams. Sure enough, he went off for 159 yards and a touchdown on five receptions, giving him ten receptions for 246 yards and a pair of touchdowns over the last two weeks. If he’s still available in your league, grab him pronto.
Deon Butler, Seahawks
OK, this is just bragging, but Butler gained a paltry nine yards on two receptions despite getting a healthy nine targets. Butler has some potential in dynasty leagues, but he’s not worth owning in shallow redraft formats.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys
The bad news is that he was shut out. Perhaps the good news was that when he whined about not getting enough looks, the Cowboys started force feeding him the ball. In this case, the bad outweighs the good, so Bryant is Moving Down.
Randy Moss and Nate Washington, Titans
I’ll repeat what I said last week: “Rusty Smith is at quarterback. Enough said.” Kerry Collins isn’t guaranteed to be back this week and I would bench both of these guys if he can’t go.
Brent Celek, Eagles
I’ve been hammering him all year as the biggest bust of the season at tight end, so it’s only fair that he is Moving Up this week after having his best fantasy performance of the season with three receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles get the Texans’ 30th-ranked pass defense this week, followed by the Cowboys (22nd) in Week 14, so maybe it’s time to dust Celek off and give him a start.
Zach Miller, Raiders
Miller had a great start to the season, but he has fizzled out in a big way over the past four weeks. He suffered a torn plantar fascia, causing him to miss one game and gain just 23 yards on four receptions in the two weeks since. This week, he suffered a contusion to his lower right leg, meaning his prospects of turning his season back around just got dimmer.
By: Dave Stringer — November 26, 2010 @ 2:57 pm
1. Let’s start off by jumping into the coaching issues that will impact the 2011 season. In Dallas, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has handed over the reins to offensive coordinator Jason Garrett after firing Wade Phillips. At the time of Phillips’ firing, there were rumors that Jones would finally hire a general manager as well as a new head coach and hand over decision-making authority to the duo. That was wishful thinking. Jones has run the Cowboys with an iron grip save for two periods. First, when Jimmie Johnson was running the show; then, when Bill Parcells was in charge. Garrett is currently 2-1 as the team’s head coach, with a tough loss on Thanksgiving in a game the Cowboys should have won. If Jones’ end game is to retain his power within the organization, then it is easy to ignore his comment that the team has been contacted by Super Bowl–winning coaches about the Dallas head coaching position. While that may be true, hiring such a coach would lessen Jones’ control, and it therefore seems unlikely to happen. Look for Jones to soon hire Garrett as the team’s coach for next season, before a losing streak jeopardizes his ability to rationalize that hiring Garrett is the proper decision.
2. Over in Minnesota, Brad Childress was finally shown the door, less than a season removed from being a few plays from taking the Vikings to the Super Bowl. Quarterback Brett Favre cost Childress and the Vikings a chance to go to the Super Bowl last season and, with his poor play this season, Favre likely cost Childress his job. While many can argue that Childress’ time was up, we may never know how much say he had in the team’s decisions to bring back Favre for another season and to trade for wide receiver Randy Moss. One thing we do know is that with Childress gone, Favre will remain the starting quarterback for the balance of the season, barring injury. Interim head coach Leslie Frazier is essentially auditioning not only for the Vikings job in 2011 but also for other openings that will come up once the season ends. Because of that, he is going to field the team’s best lineup on Sundays, with no regard to grooming players for next season. That ensures that Favre will be under center in Minnesota.
3. Here is my list of coaches who may not be back with their current teams, in order of the most likely to go: John Fox in Carolina, Mike Singletary in San Francisco, Gary Kubiak in Houston, Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, Eric Mangini in Cleveland, and Josh McDaniels in Denver. Despite having underachieving teams, it looks like Jim Schwartz is safe in Detroit, as is Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona. In Tennessee, Jeff Fisher will likely decide his own fate if owner Bud Adams refuses to release the troubled Vince Young, but look for Adams to pick the proven track record of Fisher over the potential that Young offers at quarterback.
4. The Thanksgiving Day game between the Patriots and Lions offered a great contrast in the coaching philosophies of each team. In New England, head coach Bill Belichick has shown he isn’t afraid to bench players during a game if they aren’t performing, change the starting lineup on a weekly basis based on the performances from the previous game, or release players who have been productive in the previous year if they have had a bad training camp. Over in Detroit, the Lions have held on to several players far longer than they should have and refuse to give up on high draft picks, even if they have long stretches of poor play (although Schwartz has brought some improvement to that area). However, this week the Lions coaching staff left themselves open to much criticism by refusing to bench starting cornerback Alphonso Smith despite his horrendous effort against the Patriots. He was torched for three passing touchdowns—making little effort to shove Deion Branch out of bounds on one of them—and got steamrolled on BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ touchdown run in another evident lack of effort. Schwartz should be given credit for the improvement the Lions have shown during his tenure, but he needs to go a step further by making his players accountable.
Unstoppable? Matt Ryan is.
5. The Falcons have had a strong start to the season. While that wasn’t unexpected, their current position atop the standings in the NFC certainly is. A big part of the reason for their 8-2 record is their strong play in the Georgia Dome, and they enter this week’s home game against the Packers with a 5-0 home record. Simply put, quarterback Matt Ryan has been nearly unbeatable at home since entering the league. The Falcons have a home record of 18-1 when Ryan starts.
6. With the Broncos recent decision to give rookie first round pick Tim Tebow more playing time at quarterback, there has been some speculation the team may be planning to start him for a game or two at the end of the season. Don’t expect that to happen. When Denver drafted Tebow, they were well aware that he was a project at quarterback, and all indications are that they do not view him as a potential starter until the 2012 season. Incumbent Kyle Orton has played well and is signed for the 2011 season at just under $9 million, with $5.5 million of that amount guaranteed. While Tebow may get some spot playing time at quarterback in special packages, he is no threat to take over under center at any point this season.
7. Mark it down: the winner of the NFC West will finish the season with a losing record. The Seahawks currently lead the division with a 5-5 record and face three teams with winning records in their last six games. They also have to go on the road to face the 49ers, and they get the Rams at home, who they lost to 20-3 earlier in the season. As a whole, the division has a .375 winning percentage (15-25) with six of those wins coming in interdivisional games. That translates into a winning percentage of .321 (9-19). The NFC West division winner will be the fourth seed in the conference, with a matchup against the top wildcard team—and you can bet that the wildcard team will be heavily favored in that game.
8. Not a whole lot better over in the AFC West, where the division sports a .475 winning percentage. At least the winner of the AFC West will likely be favored in their home playoff game.
9. Current Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens has had a fabulous career that will one day land him in the Hall of Fame. What he apparently doesn’t have a future in is evaluating talent. T.O. declared this week that Darrelle Revis was an average cornerback, an outlandish statement given Revis’ earned reputation as one of the top two, if not the top cornerback in the league. On Thanksgiving night, the Jets cornerback tandem of Revis and Antonio Cromartie showed T.O. just how wrong he was by limiting him and Chad Ochocinco to a combined seven receptions for 58 yards.
10. The Giants decided this week they had had enough of Ahmad Bradshaw’s fumbling issues, and the first-year starter was benched in favor of the player he had replaced, Brandon Jacobs. However, Bradshaw isn’t the only Giant who has had issues with ball protection in 2010. Quarterback Eli Manning has received kudos for his passing and is on pace for career highs in yardage and touchdowns. However, that has been more than offset by his inability to protect the football; he has lost five fumbles and has thrown 16 interceptions so far this year. Given the state of the team’s receiving corps, it won’t be a surprise if he ends up with career highs in those categories as well.
11. With reclamation project Mike Williams likely on the shelf this week with a foot injury, Seahawks wide receiver Deon Butler is getting some attention as a suitable waiver wire addition. Butler has had a decent second season in the league, but Ben Obomanu has come on over the last two games, catching nine of 11 targets for 147 yards and a touchdown. He now has touchdowns in two of his last three games. Picked in the seventh round of the 2006 draft, Obomanu has always tantalized the team with his potential and playmaking ability in practice, but that has rarely translated into production on game day. With Butler perhaps better suited to playing out of the slot and with rookie second-round pick Golden Tate having a disappointing season, Obomanu is worth taking a flyer on in dynasty leagues—with an outside chance that he becomes a WR3 over the balance of the 2010 season.
12. With the Browns coming off a pair of solid outings, most expected them to go into Jacksonville this week and come out with a win. That didn’t happen, as they dropped a 24-20 decision to Jacksonville, despite the fact that the Cleveland defense forced six turnovers. It is rare for a team to lose when they generate that many turnovers and rarer still when they win the turnover battle by five (the Jaguars forced just one Cleveland turnover).
13. You have to hand it to the Houston Texans pass defense: This unit knows how to blow a lead every way imaginable. Two weeks ago, they lost on a final-second Hail Mary pass that was deflected by Glover Quin into the waiting arms of Jaguars wide receiver Mike Thomas. This week they lost on a last-minute drive by the Jets after kicking a field goal to go up by four points. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak took heat after the loss for his decision to call three running plays from the Jets’ 10-yard line rather than taking a shot in the end zone. While it’s hard to imagine a coach thinking that he needed to score a touchdown to go up by eight points rather than playing for a field goal with 45 seconds remaining, in this case the criticism might be justified. The porous Texans secondary promptly gave up 24 yards on a pair of passes to LaDainian Tomlinson before allowing Braylon Edwards to break free down the right sideline for a 42-yard gain to the Texans’ seven-yard line. With Houston sitting at 4-6 and 12th in the AFC, and with Kubiak almost certainly needing a playoff berth to return in 2011, these two last-second losses are likely the key moments of Kubiak’s demise.
By: Dave Stringer — November 23, 2010 @ 1:43 pm
Can Sanchez keep this up?
Mark Sanchez, Jets
With the Jets running game middling along, Sanchez has stepped to the forefront of the team’s offense and has provided a spark in the passing game. He seems to be meshing well with wide receiver Santonio Holmes and is on the hottest streak of his career. Over the past three games, Sanchez has thrown for 937 yards and six touchdowns while chipping in two scores on the ground. Over the next five weeks, the Jets face only one top ten passing defense, so maybe, just maybe, Sanchez will prove to be a worthy fantasy starter over that stretch.
Shaun Hill, Lions
Hill continued his run of strong performances this week, tossing for 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a loss against the Cowboys. In the games that he has started and not been injured in, Hill is averaging 290 passing yards and just under two touchdowns per game. Those are starter-worthy numbers. With the Lions on a short week and Matthew Stafford not expected to play, Hill gets the start this week against the Patriots’ 30th-ranked pass defense, a unit that just gave up 396 yards and four touchdowns to Peyton Manning despite the Colts being desperately thin at wide receiver.
Eli Manning, Giants
The news for Manning and the Giants went from bad to worse this week when the team announced that wide receiver Hakeem Hicks would likely miss three weeks with compartment syndrome. Steve Smith is also out with a torn pectoral muscle, and his return has been pushed back to Week 14. With Ramses Barden and Victor Cruz on injured reserve, the Giants were forced to sign Derek Hagan off the street last week, and he became by default their third wide receiver on Monday night. He will likely now move into the starting lineup, with undrafted rookie free agent Duke Calhoun serving as the team’s third receiver. Manning wasn’t able to overcome all the wide receiver injuries in Week 11, as he passed for only 147 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions against an average Eagles secondary. The schedule is favorable with Jacksonville and Washington up next, but expecting Manning to continue as a Top 10 fantasy quarterback is foolhardy.
Vince Young, Titans
Young’s season—and quite likely his career in Tennessee—is over, courtesy of the thumb injury he suffered this week. After his brouhaha with head coach Jeff Fisher, it appears that either the coach or Young will have to go. Initial reports indicate that owner Bud Adams wants the two to resolve their differences, but look for Fisher to nix that plan and for Adams to come to his senses and pick his future Hall of Fame coach over his head case quarterback.
Mike Goodson, Panthers
In Week 10, Goodson became the first Panthers running back to top 100 yards rushing in a game this year—and he followed that up with another 100-yard performance this week against the Ravens. In two games as the Panthers starter, Goodson has amassed 264 total yards, giving Carolina little reason to hand the starting position back over to Jonathan Stewart. The schedule looks decent with three solid matchups against the Browns, Seahawks, and Cardinals. You will likely want to sit him, however, against the Falcons in Week 14 and against the Steelers in Week 16. Unless the Panthers inexplicably bench him (hey, John Fox inserted Brian St. Pierre at quarterback after signing him a week earlier), Goodson should produce down the stretch.
Mike Tolbert, Chargers
Who needs Ryan Mathews? Not the Chargers, that’s for sure. With the team expected to have a full contingent of receivers next week, San Diego seems ready to go on another late-season win streak, which likely bodes well for whoever is at running back for the Chargers. Tolbert was the guy this week against the Broncos, and he got the fourth quarter mop-up work, gaining 111 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries and chipping in 42 yards on a pair of receptions. Expect Tolbert to be the guy from here on out, as well. The Chargers are winning, Tolbert is playing well, and with a healthy cast of receivers, there is a reduced need for big plays from the running back position.
Chris Ivory, Saints
Is Pierre Thomas ever going to return to the Saints backfield? If he does, will he get his starting job back? Here are my predictions: “Not this week” and “Likely, but there’s no guarantee.” On Sunday, Ivory torched the Seahawks for 99 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and with the Saints having a Thursday matchup on the road against Dallas, don’t expect Thomas back in the lineup just yet. While Ivory can hardly be considered an all-around threat at running back (he isn’t a good blocker and he has just one reception), all the Saints need from the position at the moment is some decent production, and he’s been supplying that.
Fred Jackson, Bills
The big man from little Coe College is Moving Up two weeks in a row. Last week it was because of an injury to C.J. Spiller and Jackson’s strong performance against the Lions. This week it’s because of his big game against the Bengals, where he had 116 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against a reasonably solid Cincinnati run defense. Week 12 doesn’t look pretty against the Steelers, but of the Bills other remaining games, only the Vikings looks like a questionable matchup for Jackson.
Maurice Morris, Lions
Watching Jahvid Best have his worst day as a pro this week against Dallas, it seems the rookie first-round pick’s toe injury is getting worse, not better. Best totaled just 15 yards on seven touches while splitting time with Maurice Morris and Aaron Brown. With Kevin Smith on injured reserve, Morris is next in line should the Lions decide to hold Best out due to the short week. Expect Detroit to finally sit Best, with Morris stepping in against a New England run defense that has been up and down in 2010.
Chris Wells, Cardinals
Only for the truly desperate. Wells got about 40 percent of the work this week and looks to finally be healthy, at least for now. The next two weeks don’t look promising with the 49ers and the Rams coming up, but Weeks 14 through 16 look like dynamite. On tap for the fantasy playoffs are the Broncos (the 29th-ranked run defense), Panthers (22nd), and Cowboys (20th).
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
There were rumblings the Giants wanted to reduce Bradshaw’s touches to lessen the amount of wear and tear on him in his first year as the starter. That reduction happened in Week 11, but it wasn’t to keep him fresh. After Bradshaw lost his fifth fumble of the season this week (he has fumbled six times), the Giants nailed him to the bench, and he ended up with just 13 touches—his fewest of the year. While he is expected to retain his starting role, look for Brandon Jacobs to see more use, at Bradshaw’s expense, in the coming weeks.
Pierre Thomas, Saints
As pondered above, will Thomas ever return from the ankle injury that has sidelined him for most of the season?
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
The concussion Stewart suffered in Week 9 may keep him out again this week, but there are no guarantees he will get his job back even if he returns. Stewart’s status in Carolina has taken a huge hit this season due to his poor play and his inability to stay healthy, and the Panthers may use the rest of the season to evaluate Goodson and Tyrell Sutton. If those two pan out, that will likely pave the way for the Panthers to trade Stewart in the offseason.
Clinton Portis, Redskins
Looks like one-and-done for Portis. The Redskins are expected to place him on injured reserve after he reinjured his groin in his return this week, after having missed five games. Washington needs more production from the running back position, and Portis looks finished. My guess is that he’s played his last game in Washington—and possibly in his career, since he doesn’t seem like a player who will accept a backup role.
Blair White, Colts
The news regarding Austin Collie’s removal from this week’s game against the Patriots is that he was taken out for “precautionary reasons”. If you buy that, I’ve got a used car or two to sell you. It defies logic that an organization with a solid history of taking care of its players would send Collie out onto the field a week after he almost certainly sustained his second concussion of the season. That means White will take over as the team’s slot receiver; and he has had decent production when given the opportunity during his rookie season. He had his best game of the season this week against the Patriots, stepping in to catch five of his seven targets for 42 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Santonio Holmes, Jets
It took a number of games for Holmes to get in sync with quarterback Mark Sanchez, but the duo have been one of the hottest quarterback–wide receiver combinations in the league over the past three weeks. Holmes has had game-winning touchdowns in each of the last two weeks and has hauled in 17 receptions for 316 yards and three touchdowns in his last three games. He has clearly emerged as Sanchez’s go-to guy at wide receiver and rates as a low-end WR1 or high-end WR2 over the balance of the season.
Nate Burleson, Lions
Burleson opened the season with a pair of bad games and suffered an injury that set him back, but since returning to the lineup, he has fulfilled his role in strong fashion. Over the past six weeks, he has hit double-digit points four times and has four touchdowns over that stretch. He has really come on over his last three games, snagging 18 passes for 257 yards and a pair of scores with a pair of 100-yard games, as well. That’s solid WR3 production, and he can likely be had for little in a trade and may even be on the waiver wire in shallow leagues.
Sidney Rice, Vikings
Rice wasn’t wildly productive in his first game of the season, catching just three passes for 56 yards and failing to find the end zone. The encouraging news is that he played in over 80 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, was targeted a hefty 10 times, and looked healthy. With a game under his belt and the Redskins 28th-ranked pass defense on tap this week, Rice is starter-worthy at just the right time of the season for his fantasy owners.
Pierre Garcon, Colts
More of the same from Garcon this week as he seems destined not to fulfill his immense potential in his third season in Indianapolis. Garcon is like bad pizza: you eat it because it’s there and because there’s really no such thing as bad pizza, but you don’t necessarily enjoy it. This week, Garcon caught five passes for 62 yards and no touchdowns. Here’s his season in a nutshell: one good game with 103 yards and his only touchdown of the year, four not-so-good games with 43 yards or less, and three ho-hum games with between 57 and 78 receiving yards.
Randy Moss and Nate Washington, Titans
Rusty Smith is their quarterback. Enough said.
Percy Harvin, Vikings
With Sidney Rice back in the lineup for his first game of the year, Harvin had just five targets, his lowest number since Week 1 when he was also thrown to just five times.
Joel Dreessen, Texans
Dreessen topped 100 receiving yards for the first time in his five-year career this week, with 106 yards and a touchdown on four receptions. With Owen Daniels struggling to recover from the torn ACL he suffered midway through the 2009 season (and now hobbled by a hamstring injury), Dreessen has played reasonably well when given an opportunity. Daniels is clearly the more talented of the two, but his future with the team is uncertain and his production is way off from last year. Dreessen may just finish the season as Houston’s starting tight end.
Michael Hoomanawanui, Rams
Hoomanawanui was generating quite a buzz with his play in the preseason, but he suffered an ankle injury during the Rams’ opening game and has been hobbled by back and rib injuries throughout his rookie season. This week, he put together his best game of the year, catching four of six targets for 46 yards and a touchdown. He would have had another score late in the game on a shovel pass, but it was picked off when he fell over the his own left guard. Hoomanawanui is a talented young tight end playing on a Rams team on the upswing with a solid stud-in-the-making at quarterback. Dynasty leaguers should take note.
Jimmy Graham, Saints
Another rookie tight end that is starting to produce is Graham. The team’s third-round pick had five receptions for 72 yards this week, bringing his total over the last two games to eight receptions for 121 yards and a score. There is a strong likelihood Jeremy Shockey won’t be back next year, and if that happens, Graham will move into the starting lineup for the Saints’ high-powered offense.
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
Gonzalez continued his string of uninspired performances this week, notching just 46 receiving yards and losing a touchdown to Justin Peelle. That’s what it’s come down to, folks. Gonzalez now has just two games of more than 46 receiving yards, which makes him useful only when he scores—and that’s only happened in two matchups this year.
By: Dave Stringer — November 19, 2010 @ 6:51 pm
1. The Giants offense has enjoyed a very productive campaign in 2010, ranking second in total offense, fifth in rushing offense, and sixth in passing offense. However, there are storm clouds on the horizon as the team’s offense has taken a major hit in the injury department in recent weeks. With wide receiver Steve Smith out another week (and likely longer) with a torn pectoral muscle and with Ramses Barden being placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, the team was forced to re-sign Derek Hagan. Hagan will likely be the team’s third receiver until Smith returns. In addition to those injuries, tight end Kevin Boss is having problems with his back, and the team may be down to their third-string left tackle for this week’s game against the Eagles. David Diehl is out with hip and hamstring injuries, and backup Shawn Andrews is dealing with a bad back. That may force untested second-year player William Beatty into the starting lineup in a crucial matchup against stud Eagles defensive end Trent Cole. Center Shaun O’Hara has missed the past two games with a foot injury, which has forced left guard Rich Seubert to slide over to center and has pushed unheralded Adam Koets to left guard. However, Koets was put on injured reserve this week with a torn ACL, leaving veteran journeyman Kevin Boothe to sub in this week. Add it all up and the injury situation on the offensive side of the ball for the Giants seems all but certain to limit the unit’s effectiveness for at least the next couple games.
2. The Redskins have been inconsistent on offense, and one of the main reasons for that has been their inability to sustain drives. They were horrendous converting third downs Monday night against the Eagles, failing to move the chains on any of their ten third-down attempts. They rank last in the league—by a wide margin—in third-down conversions. Look for head coach Mike Shanahan to target a big wide receiver either in free agency or through the draft. While former Arena League player Anthony Armstrong has enjoyed unexpected production starting opposite Santana Moss, it is unlikely the Redskins will enter 2011 relying on him in the starting lineup.
Injuries are taking a toll on Manning's numbers.
3. There were plenty of quarterbacks who had solid performances in Week 10, but the Colts’ Peyton Manning wasn’t one of them. He went a mediocre 20 of 36 for 185 yards and no touchdowns against the Bengals. That marked his worst full-game performance since Week 13 of the 2008 season. With his receivers dropping like flies and running back Joseph Addai still not in the lineup, it appears that Manning’s production is finally taking a hit due to the Colts’ depleted offensive unit.
4. Sticking with the Colts, the team’s two biggest question marks on offense entering the season were at guard. Jamey Richards and Mike Pollak, a pair of 2008 draft picks, won their respective battles to man the left and right guard spots on opening day, but both have been benched in recent weeks in favor of undrafted rookie free agents. Kyle Devan took over for Richards, and Jeff Linkenbach replaced Pollak this week. With the Colts also giving up on former second-round pick Tony Ugoh, drafted in 2007 to be the team’s fixture at left tackle, Indianapolis has done a very poor job of drafting along the offensive line in recent seasons.
5. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is enjoying a solid season and is on his way to posting career bests in passing yards and touchdown passes. Although his strong season has vaulted him into fantasy starter status as a top ten quarterback, he remains a much stronger play at home than in road games. He is averaging a very solid 23 points per game in home games, but that drops to a mediocre 17.5 in road matchups.
6. A running back to keep your eye on during the balance of the season is Packers’ rookie sixth- round pick James Starks. Starks was expected to compete with Brandon Jackson for the backup spot behind Ryan Grant, but he suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out of training camp and resulted in his being placed on the PUP list. Green Bay activated Starks last week and head coach Mike McCarthy commented this week that he looked “dang good” in practice. Jackson has been a steady performer but he hasn’t generated many big plays, and he has just two games this year of over 100 total yards. Neither John Kuhn nor Dmitri Nance have proven worthy of a bigger role in the Packers offense, so Starks figures to get a look at some point in the coming weeks.
7. Bills rookie running back C.J. Spiller hasn’t enjoyed much success on the field this year, despite being taken with the ninth overall pick in the draft. Things have gone from bad to worse over the past week. Against the Lions, during the Bills’ first win of the season, Spiller suffered a hamstring injury that will cause him to miss at least one game and possibly more. He followed that up by using a derogatory term toward gays on his Twitter account, which he quickly apologized for. Just one more example of a young player falling into the trap of using social media to increase his exposure when he should be focusing on getting better on the field.
8. And that brings us to Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams. An owner in one of my leagues commented recently that it would be no surprise if Williams fell off the wagon at any time. How prescient then to read that Williams was arrested on suspicion of DUI this week. Prior to the draft, Williams was often described as a player having first round ability but lacking the mental capacity to succeed in the league. Sure enough, he has proven both comments correct during his rookie season, as he is on pace to finish with over 1,100 receiving yards and nine touchdowns but is now facing the possibility of DUI charges. Monitor this situation and use Williams accordingly.
9. And that brings us to 49ers left tackle Joe Staley. Bringing back memories of former Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood playing an entire second half of a playoff game with a broken leg, Staley left this week’s game against the Rams with a leg injury, only to return to finish the last half of the fourth quarter in a game the 49ers came from behind to win. This week, the 49ers announced that Staley had suffered a broken leg and will be out four to six weeks. I’m not sure which is more amazing: Staley playing with a broken leg, or the 49ers letting him play with a broken leg.
10. Chiefs head coach Todd Haley created a minor furor this week by refusing to shake the hand of head coach Josh McDaniels after the Broncos soundly defeated the Chiefs 49-29 in Denver. While Haley has refused to divulge the reasons for not shaking McDaniels’ hand, it seems clear that he felt the Broncos ran up the score on offense. The tradition of NFL coaches shaking hands after a hard-fought contest seems out of place anyway. However, going back to the final game of the 2009 season, Haley’s Chiefs ran up the score on the Broncos in Denver, winning 44-24, and that makes his actions more than a little hypocritical. He is a known hothead, and it likely came as a surprise to no one in the Cardinals organization that the emotional Haley let his emotions get the better of him after a second consecutive loss to a divisional opponent.
11. With Chad Pennington on injured reserve and Chad Henne expected to miss several weeks with a knee injury, former Chief Tyler Thigpen may finish the season as the Dolphins’ starting quarterback. Henne has failed to progress this year, and Miami may be more interested in using the balance of the season to evaluate Thigpen. He was a bit of a dud this week against the Bears, missing several throws on his way to a 187-yard, one-interception performance against a solid Chicago defense in a game in which Brandon Marshall left just prior to half time. It’s worth noting that Thigpen struggled mightily when he first started for the Chiefs, before he rebounded to finish the season with a string of solid performances. Over his last ten starts in 2008, with a Chiefs offensive unit that was clearly lacking talent, Thigpen averaged 22.0 fantasy points per game. He is worth a look if you’re desperate for a backup.
12. Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown is likely to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, but he has done little in 2010 to warrant a new contract from Miami—or any other team. With just 454 rushing yards this season, he is on pace to have his worst full season as a pro. He has looked tentative hitting the hole, and his shifty style of running seems ill-fitted to the team’s current offensive line, which features larger, less athletic players. His current production combined with a broken leg and torn ACL in his past means that the Dolphins are unlikely to offer him a lucrative contract in the offseason, which also means he will likely have a new team in 2011.
13. Sticking with the Dolphins, their 39 rushing yards this week against the Bears was their lowest total since Tony Sparano took over as the team’s head coach. Don’t be surprised if Lex Hilliard gets a few carries in the coming weeks.
14. The Texans’ woes on defense have been well documented, particularly their inability to stop the pass, where they rank last in the league. They have given up 24 or more points in every game this season, and you have to go back to their Week 15 matchup last season against the Rams, who had the fourth-worst offense in the league in 2009, to find a game in which they gave up fewer than 24 points.
15. As it turns out, the controversy over the contract Donovan McNabb signed with the Redskins is little more than a tempest in a teapot. Inside the numbers, the contract gives Washington the option of jettisoning McNabb after this year, having paid out just $3.75 million as part of the contract extension. McNabb also gets a healthy salary in 2011, and the big money kicks in after that. In a nutshell, the Redskins gets a happy, motivated quarterback for the stretch run to the playoffs for under $4 million, with the option to lock him up for next season—and in each subsequent year—if he performs well. Seems like a good business decision to me. And that’s not something we’ve always been able to say about the Redskins in recent years.
By: Dave Stringer — November 17, 2010 @ 3:23 pm
Michael Vick, Eagles
After returning from injury, Vick appeared poised to finish 2010 as a top ten quarterback and perhaps a difference maker for his owners. That outlook rose dramatically this week after his blockbuster performance against Washington on Monday Night Football. With a great game plan laid out by Eagles head coach Andy Reid, Vick had the best fantasy performance of the season with 52 points. He did it with his arm (333 yards and four touchdowns) and with his legs (80 yards and two touchdowns). At this point, he is unstoppable. His running ability forces teams to employ a spy in the box, which leaves either DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin in single coverage. With Vick showing a deft touch on his long passes, the only thing that can slow down this Eagles offense is poor play along the offensive line. If they can avoid that, Vick will be the top-ranked fantasy quarterback over the balance of the season. And unlike in past years, he has been gold in leagues that punish interceptions—he has yet to throw a pick in 2010.
Kyle Orton, Broncos
There were plenty of solid performances at quarterback this week, and Orton’s 296-yard, four-touchdown outing against the Chiefs ranked near the top. Orton’s been doing it all year despite the naysayers (yours truly included) waiting for him to fall on his face. Likewise, Brandon Lloyd looks like he is a legit number one wide receiver (at least in 2010). Orton is on pace to finish with career highs in all every major passing statistic, and his upcoming schedule looks mighty attractive. After this week’s game against the Chargers, four of the Broncos’ next five opponents rank 18th or lower against the pass. The only exception is the Raiders, but they have allowed 16 touchdown passes and aren’t exactly a horrible matchup.
Matt Cassel, Chiefs
Cassel has been the quintessential matchup play at quarterback in 2010. In Week 9, he threw for 469 yards and four touchdowns against a Broncos secondary that was playing soft with a big lead. Against pass defenses ranked 14th or better, he has averaged 11.6 points per game. In his other matchups, he has 26.4 points per game. On tap are the Cardinals (26th), Seahawks (27th), Broncos (19th), Chargers (4th), Rams (18th), and Titans (24th). With the Chiefs struggling of late, Cassel is more likely to open it up in the passing game, which makes him less of a risk.
Chad Henne, Dolphins
Sure, he was benched and then he got hurt subbing for an injured Chad Pennington, so this is an easy call in redraft leagues. In dynasty leagues, as well, it may just be time to give up on Henne. His knock coming out of college was that he struggled with his accuracy, and if you’ve seen any Dolphins games this year, it’s easy to conclude that he hasn’t improved in that area. His 64.0 completion percentage is just as misleading as the fact that Pennington has the highest completion percentage in the history of the league: if an NFL quarterback is asked to dink and dunk, they should be well over 60%. Henne’s problem is that he can’t accurately hit the deep passes, and he struggles even on intermediate throws. Expect the Dolphins to look for a new quarterback in 2011.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
It looks like the hamstring problems that plagued Moreno in training camp and early in 2010 are a thing of the past. He has topped 20 fantasy points in two of the last three weeks, with a mediocre performance in London against the 49ers sandwiched between his two solid performances. Against the Chiefs in Week 9, he topped 100 rushing yards for the first time this season, and his schedule for the fantasy playoffs looks good. For Weeks 13 through 16, he gets the Chiefs, Cardinals, Raiders, and Texans. Of that group, only the Chiefs have played well against the run in 2010, yet they have somewhat struggled to stop the run in recent weeks.
Keiland Williams, Redskins
I’m a bit lukewarm on this one. While Williams had a nice outing on Monday night against the Eagles, he had a number of factors going for him. First off, both players ahead of him on the depth chart (Ryan Torain and Clinton Portis…yeah, that’s right, Torain ahead of Portis) were injured. Then the Eagles got out to a big lead, which further helped Williams’ cause. On the one hand, he put up solid fantasy production of 139 total yards and three touchdowns. On the other hand, I can’t say I’m all that impressed with his abilities. Torain certainly looks like a better pure runner, and Williams doesn’t seem to have much burst or ability to make tacklers miss. Then again, head coach Mike Shanahan has turned low-round draft picks and undrafted backs into solid players in the past, and he’s been known to shake up the depth chart at running back on a regular basis. I’m back and forth on this one, but there’s no quibbling that 31 fantasy points will get you Moving Up.
Fred Jackson, Bills
Jackson awoke this week from his season-long slumber to finally put up the type of numbers most expected of him (on a far more regular basis) in 2010. He entered this week’s game against the Lions with exactly one double-digit fantasy performance this season. Now he’s got two, courtesy of a 170-total yard, three-touchdown game. Better yet for Jackson owners, rookie first-round pick C.J. Spiller is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury, and the Bills’ upcoming schedule looks pretty decent, save for a Week 12 game at home against the Steelers.
Felix Jones, Cowboys
A few weeks ago, I checked out the Cowboys’ remaining schedule and decided to target Jones in two leagues. I couldn’t get a trade worked out in either case; I had enough at running back already, so I wasn’t willing to overpay, especially since Jones hadn’t put up a game to justify the move. But this week against the Giants he had that game, with 51 yards on 14 carries and three receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown. Up next for the resurgent Cowboys are the Lions (26th against the run), Saints (17th), Colts (29th), Eagles (12th), Redskins (25th), and Cardinals (28th). With it all but certain that Marion Barber will be jettisoned after the season, Jones figures to get plenty of work, so that the Cowboys can determine if they need to add depth at the position in the offseason.
Mike Goodson, Panthers
With both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart out with injuries, Goodson gained 100 rushing yards and 13 receiving yards against the Bucs. This week, the Panthers get the Ravens, who have been inconsistent stopping the run in 2010. If Williams and Stewart are both out, and if you’re desperate, Goodson is worth a look.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
When the Seahawks acquired Lynch, I wasn’t exactly drooling over his fantasy prospects in Seattle as many others were. In five games with the Seahawks, Lynch is averaging only 7.6 fantasy points per game on just 259 total yards and five touchdowns. He’s also averaging a paltry 2.9 yards per carry. Justin Forsett is averaging 8.1 points per game over that same stretch.
Three weeks and no TDs for L.T.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
I told you in my “Dave’s Take” column this week that the Jets planned to cut back on Tomlinson’s workload, and they followed through on that during this week’s overtime win against the Browns. LT had 18 touches to 23 for Shonn Greene, and he failed to find the end zone for the third consecutive game. New York is clearly concerned about overusing Tomlinson, and the plan seems to be to keep him fresh for the playoffs. That doesn’t bode well for his fantasy prospects the rest of the way.
Ray Rice, Ravens
Another ho-hum performance for Rice this week, with 102 total yards against the Falcons. Rice’s breakout year in 2009 was held back a bit by his inability to find the end zone in a major way (eight total touchdowns), and that has been a problem this season as well. In addition to that, he’s not racking up the total yards like he did in 2009, when he finished with over 2,000. This year, he is on pace to finish with just under 1,700 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns, not exactly the top-four performance his owners were expecting.
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
Just the numbers, baby, just the numbers. He was averaging just a tad less than 17 fantasy points per game without Ben Roethlisberger starting. With Big Ben under center, Mendenhall is averaging less than 12 points per game. His schedule is favorable, with four solid matchups in the next six weeks. But that won’t matter much if the Steelers continue to drop Roethlisberger back to pass 49 times like he did against the Patriots.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
Bowe continued his recent string of solid performances with a blockbuster effort this week against the Broncos. He was targeted early and often (18 times total), catching 13 passes for 186 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He has scored in each of his last five games, has eight touchdowns during that span, and has double-digit fantasy points in four of those games while topping 20 points twice and 30 points once. With nine touchdown receptions, he’s tied with Hakeem Nicks and Calvin Johnson for the league lead, so it’s safe to say Bowe has put his early-season struggles behind him. And, as noted with Matt Cassel above, the Chiefs face some pretty average pass defenses in the coming weeks.
Mike Wallace, Steelers
With Hines Ward out with a concussion, Wallace stepped up big against the Patriots this week with the best game of his two-year career. He caught eight passes for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as he was featured throughout most of the game. Wallace has topped 100 yards in each of his last two games (246 yards in total) while scoring twice, and he has five touchdowns in his last five games. The Steelers face some tough pass defenses over the next six weeks (none ranked lower than 14th), and Ward is expected back this week, but Wallace figures to remain productive and may even emerge as Pittsburgh’s go-to receiver by season’s end.
Mario Manningham, Giants
Steve Smith is out with a torn pectoral muscle and Manningham will start in his place for at least two more games, and likely more. This week against Dallas, Manningham caught 10 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets. Expect that high number of targets to stay steady until Smith returns. With Smith out and Ramses Barden on injured reserve, the Giants don’t have a solid third wide receiver, and tight end Kevin Boss has been lightly used in the passing game this season.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Original:Jon Kitna’s main man in the passing game is Bryant, so he’s moving up again this week. He just had his first 100?receiving yard game against the Giants, snagging three passes for 104 yards and a score. He would have had an even bigger game if the Cowboys hadn’t jumped out to an early lead. Bryant is averaging 14.2 fantasy points per game over his last four games and has five touchdowns in his last five games. He is a must-start every week from here on out.
Danny Amendola, Rams
The little engine that could is the best way to describe Amendola. He’s not a big play threat, but he leads the Rams in targets with 75—and that isn’t about to change anytime soon. Although he has only 141 total yards in his last three games, he has scored in each game, which gives him 32 fantasy points over that stretch. That’s WR3 production that just might be sitting on your waiver wire or is possibly available for trade at a bargain-basement rate.
Brandon Marshall, Dolphins
One measly touchdown in 2010. I debated benching him this week for Johnny Knox. I wish I would have. Fantasy points in his last four games: 5, 6, 3, 3. Starting quarterback for the Dolphins’ next game: Tyler Thigpen. Chances of Marshall imploding this week: much higher than the chances of him finding the end zone.
Lee Evans, Bills
Evans has always been a streaky performer, but he hasn’t blown hot in 2010 as much as he has in prior seasons. Save for a pair of solid games in Weeks 5 and 7, Evans has been a fantasy abomination, with just 233 yards and no touchdowns across his other games. Over his last three games, he has just 139 receiving yards. So, the question is: should you rely on a player who has a 22% (two of out nine) chance of producing? Only if you have to.
Roy Williams, Cowboys
Williams was productive early in 2010, but with the emergence of Dez Bryant, he has seen his role severely curtailed over the last five weeks. Williams is averaging three targets per game over that stretch, with a measly 17.6 receiving yards per game.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
The lesser-heralded of the Patriots’ rookie tight ends stepped to the forefront this week against the Steelers, having his best day as a pro with five receptions for 72 yards and three touchdowns. Aaron Hernandez has gotten most of the publicity due to his solid early-season performance, but over the last three weeks, Gronkowski has more targets with 16, topping the 14 that Hernandez has received. Maybe defenses are focusing more on Hernandez, or maybe Gronkowski has earned a bigger role. Either way, Gronkowski is worth grabbing as your backup tight end in larger leagues, and he is definitely worthy of a roster spot in dynasty leagues.
Anthony Fasano, Dolphins
Fasano is poised to have a career year in receiving yards, with 367 over the Dolphins’ first nine games. He had the best game of his career this week against the Titans, with five receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown. When Thigpen entered the game in the fourth quarter, he seemed to look Fasano’s way often, so Fasano could be in line for some additional targets over the second half of the season.
Brent Celek, Eagles
I had him Moving Down in Week 8 and he’s ready for another slap down. Vick simply doesn’t look Celek’s way often, and when he does, they don’t seem to be on the same page. The Eagles had an offensive explosion this week, but Celek wasn’t invited to the party, catching just two passes for eight yards. Over the past three games, he has caught four passes for 16 yards. At this point, Celek is the biggest bust among tight ends, and the competition’s not even close.
By: Dave Stringer — November 12, 2010 @ 3:18 pm
Doomed in Dallas.
The big news this week was the Cowboys belated decision to fire head coach Wade Phillips. At 1-7 and needing to win all of their remaining games to have a chance to make the playoffs, Dallas finally pulled the plug on Phillips’ tenure as head coach. He will go down as a figurehead of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, willing to follow the owner’s wishes in order to retain his coaching position. Phillips was never regarded as one of the league’s top coaches, and insiders have suggested he had no involvement in the team’s offense. His calling card was defense, but with the Cowboys having sprung several leaks on defense in the past few weeks, Phillips was doomed. In Dallas, the fans and media are questioning when Jones will fire himself as general manager, the consensus being that the Cowboys have benefitted over the past few seasons from the roster constructed by Bill Parcells. After such a disappointing season, amid aspirations of hosting and playing in the Super Bowl, there is a chance Jones will finally relent and bring in an established general manager to run the Cowboys.
2. Sticking with the Cowboys, Jones was forthright in suggesting that several Cowboys players will need to step up their performance to remain with the team beyond 2010. Although Jones is willing to spend to bring in and retain key personnel, he has also shown a penchant for releasing big-salaried veterans and for penny pinching at the bottom of the team’s roster. With the Cowboys underachieving, a number of high-priced veterans will likely be shown the door at season’s end. Among the players that could be looking for new teams in 2011 are running back Marion Barber, wide receiver Roy Williams, right tackle Marc Colombo, guards Leonard Davis and Kyle Kosier, and defensive ends Marcus Spears and Igor Olshansky. The team has also been disappointed in the play of some young veterans such as linebacker Anthony Spencer and cornerback Mike Jenkins, but those players are likely to be given another year to prove their worth.
3. Owners of LaDainian Tomlinson have likely enjoyed a healthy string of wins courtesy of grabbing LT late in their drafts or spending a few of their precious auction dollars on the former Chargers running back. After Week 6, Tomlinson was a top ten running back, but his production has leveled off over the past two games (180 total yards and no touchdowns). This week, Jets head coach Rex Ryan announced that he plans to lighten the load of his starting running back, resting him during the week and giving him fewer touches on game day. That limits LT’s upside and almost certainly relegates him to RB2 status over the balance of the season. It also increases the chances of Shonn Greene putting together another impressive late-season string of games, just like he had last year during his rookie season. Greene is built to pound the ball, which makes him more useful in the second half of the season as the weather gets worse.
4. Michael Vick has been on fire for the Eagles, and the key issue for Philadelphia’s management this offseason will be what to do at the quarterback position. Vick is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2011, and the team already has Kevin Kolb signed for next season at just $1.4 million. With the league and the players’ union unable to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement and the owners set to potentially lock out the players next season, Eagles management may be reluctant to offer Vick a lucrative long-term extension to remain in Philadelphia. However, allowing Vick to become a free agent and sign with another team will not sit well with the team’s fans, particularly if Kolb once again fails to impress as the starter. Look for the Eagles to slap the franchise tag on Vick, since it will meet the dual goal of ensuring he remains an Eagle while avoiding a long-term extension with a lockout looming.
5. With Terrell Owens becoming the main receiving threat in Cincinnati, Chad Ochocinco has seen his targets and his production decrease, and his frustrations boiled over last week against the Steelers. After spending the first half being used as a decoy, he slammed the ball to the turf following his first reception, earning himself a 5-yard delay of game penalty. It must have been irritating for Ochocinco to watch Owens take over his role as the lead receiver and then this week to watch him catch his 150th touchdown pass. Only Jerry Rice (197) and Randy Moss (153) have caught more touchdown passes than Owens.
6. Houston head coach Gary Kubiak is feeling the heat for his poor offensive game plan against the Colts and for allowing the road-challenged Chargers to come in to Houston to steal a victory. All seven of the head coaches who have been with their franchises at least as long as Kubiak has been with Houston have taken their teams to the playoffs at least twice. Kubiak has yet to accomplish that feat with the Texans. Of those seven teams, two have gone to the Super Bowl and one has won the Super Bowl. And this season the Bucs, Chiefs, and Rams have all made strides with head coaches in just their second year with their respective organizations. Simply put, given the parity in the league, a long rebuilding term is no longer required to turn around an organization, and Kubiak has had several years to get the Texans into the playoffs, without any success. If he doesn’t get them there this year, he is likely finished in Houston.
7. Another head coach clearly feeling the pressure to win now is the Dolphins’ Tony Sparano. Sparano chose to bench struggling third-year signal caller Chad Henne in favor of Chad Pennington, who hasn’t started since Week 3 of last season. However, Henne has not progressed as expected and has more interceptions than touchdowns for the second year in a row. With key matchups against the Titans and Raiders in two of the next three weeks, Sparano decided to make the switch now. Pennington is the most accurate passer in the history of the league, but he has accomplished that playing mostly in West Coast offenses that featured a short passing attack. Given that, it seems likely that Brandon Marshall will continue to struggle to post big numbers and score touchdowns in Miami.
8. The Panthers have struggled to run the ball for most of 2010, with running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart finding limited success due to the team’s poor play at quarterback and struggles along the offensive line. Carolina has been waiting for right tackle Jeff Otah to return from offseason knee surgery but finally gave up on that happening and placed him on injured reserve this week. Since being taken in the first round of the 2008 draft, Otah has been a key cog in the Panthers offensive line and a large reason for their success running the ball. He missed four games during his rookie season and three last year, and he will miss all of this season, making his durability a question mark and something the Panthers will have to address in the offseason. He has Pro Bowl potential when healthy, but he hasn’t been healthy frequently enough in the eyes of Panthers management.
9. Sticking with the Panthers, look for significant change in the depth chart at running back in 2011. Williams is scheduled for unrestricted free agency, and Stewart has been a big disappointment in 2010. With Tyrell Sutton and Mike Goodson ready to assume bigger roles, it is likely that either Williams or Stewart will be elsewhere next season. Look for the team to re-sign Williams and dangle Stewart during the draft in exchange for draft picks. With the roster in need of help in several areas, it makes little sense for the team to maintain a depth chart that has four solid players at running back.
10. When the Broncos acquired Laurence Maroney from the Patriots, the assumption was that the team would move to more of a committee approach at the running position. With Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter having split the work fairly evenly in 2009 and with Maroney being a more talented player than Buckhalter, that seemed a reasonable conclusion. However, with Moreno injured, Maroney has received extensive playing time but has struggled to find any running room, and Buckhalter has not been as productive in 2010 as he was last season. Over the last two games, Moreno has been the only Broncos running back to get a carry, and it now appears that he has assumed workhorse status for Denver. While game circumstances may have dictated Moreno getting most of the work to this point, the plan in Denver is to use him in a feature role. Head coach Josh McDaniels confirmed as much this week, stating that the goal is to get the running game going and that Moreno is the running back to make that happen.
11. Sticking with Denver, the team’s run defense has fallen flat in recent weeks after playing reasonably well early in 2010. In three of their last four games, Ray Rice, Darren McFadden, and Frank Gore have each topped 100 rushing yards. That has dropped the Broncos to 31st in run defense, and they now seem a solid bet to approach last season’s ranking, where they finished 26th against the run. In short, get your running backs in against a Broncos run defense that seems to be in free fall—much like the team’s record.
12. Another team struggling to stop the run is Seattle. With starting defensive tackles Red Bryant on injured reserve and Colin Cole out with an injury, the interior of the Seahawks defensive line has not held up, and teams are having much more success on the ground against them than they were having earlier in the season. The Seahawks run defense has plummeted in the rankings and is down to 19th overall. Look for that to drift even lower in the coming weeks.
13. LeGarrette Blount has added some life to the Bucs rushing attack, although he did come up short at the goal line late in the fourth quarter during the team’s Week 9 loss to the Falcons. With center Jeff Faine and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood expected to be healthy this week, Blount shapes up as a decent breakout candidate over the balance of the 2010 season. The Bucs are going to ease each player back into action, with Faine likely to get some time behind Jeremy Zuttah at center and Trueblood backing up James Lee at right tackle.
14. Looks like Bengals right tackle Andre Smith is going to miss the rest of the season. The 2009 first-round pick broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during practice this week and will likely be placed on injured reserve. This will mark the second consecutive disappointing season for Smith. While Smith has made progress this year, he remains inconsistent, but he will likely get one more year to convince the Bengals that he is the answer at right tackle.
By: Dave Stringer — November 10, 2010 @ 11:13 am
Eli Manning, Giants
Manning has been on fire over the past two games, torching the Cowboys and Seahawks secondaries in consecutive road games. He lit up the Cowboys for 306 yards and four touchdowns before piling on the Seahawks for 290 yards and three scores. The Giants face one top-ten pass defense over the remainder of the season. That comes in Week 14 when they play the Vikings 10th ranked pass defense in Minnesota but the Vikings may be in a position to mail that one in. As for his reputation of late season swoons, Manning put that to rest last year by averaging 26.1 points per game from Weeks 14 to 16.
Brett Favre, Vikings
Favre had easily his best outing of the season this week, going 37 of 46 for 446 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Cardinals. Bernard Berrian finally stepped up and contributed at wide receiver and Sidney Rice is apparently close to returning. Each factors bodes well for Favre. That being said, it was the Cardinals and he did throw a pair of picks which tempers my enthusiasm somewhat.
David Garrard, Jaguars
I’m a little late on this one but I should have given Garrard more credit for his four touchdowns and 260 yards in Week 8. However, I’m not totally sold since it came against the Cowboys. Garrard is Mr. Inconsistency this season. In his four good games, he has averaged 26.3 points per game. In his three bad ones, he’s averaged 7.9.
Tom Brady, Patriots
It’s official. Without Randy Moss, Tom Brady is not a top-ten fantasy quarterback. In four games without Moss, Brady has averaged 229 passing yards, thrown for five touchdowns and averaged 16.5 fantasy points per game. Not to mention that he benefitted during that stretch from getting an extra quarter from an overtime game against Baltimore. Surprisingly, Brady hasn’t thrown for 300 yards in a game since Week 13 of last season. With defenses clamping down on Wes Welker, Brandon Tate not providing the deep threat, and tight end Aaron Hernandez not piling up the yardage like many thought he would (yours truly included), Brady is likely to finish out of the fantasy top ten.
Schaub continues to disappoint.
Matt Schaub, Texans
Here’s another disappointment. I gave up on him this week and maybe you should too. With his 266 yard, no touchdown performance against the Chargers this week, Schaub dropped further down the rankings at quarterback and it’s past time to seriously consider whether his 4,844-yard performance last season was a fluke. Once Arian Foster opened the season on fire against the Colts, we knew the Texans would run it more. We just didn’t know that Schaub would also become less effective. Toss aside his 37 fantasy points in Week 2 against the Redskins and Schaub is averaging just 14.8 points per game.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants
Jacobs failed to hit double digits fantasy points this week, ending his streak of 10 or more fantasy points at four games. Nonetheless, he was still solid against the Seahawks, gaining 78 yards on 11 carries, and he would have had more than 10 points had Danny Ware not handled the fourth quarter mop up work (66 yards on 13 carries). With the Giants offense humming along nicely, Jacobs makes a solid option at the flex position and even as a low-end RB2 for certain matchups. That’s a big jump from his status after the first few games of 2010.
Chester Taylor, Bears
Matt Forte is Moving Down and Taylor is Moving Up. At a minimum, Taylor is going to get the goal line work and more time spelling Forte. Or maybe he takes over as the team’s starter over the next few weeks. More on this below…
Javarris James, Colts
Well, it was a slow week in terms of Moving Up for running backs so James cracked the list. With the Colts missing both Joseph Addai and Mike Hart, Donald Brown and James carried the load with James getting the short yardage work. He made the most of it, scoring two touchdowns in his four carries and gaining 12 yards. In deep leagues that use a flex, he might be worth considering since there are no indications when Addai will return and neither Brown nor Hart are good short yardage runners. James may hold down that role for a number of weeks and this just in, the Colts offense is good.
Matt Forte, Bears
Forte has been boom or bust in 2010, likely earning wins for his owners in Week 1 and Week 5 with 32 and 30 point performances. In his other six games, he has averaged 7.5 points per game. This week against Buffalo, the expectation was Forte would run all over the Bills 32nd ranked run defense but it didn’t happen as he finished with just 49 yards on 14 carries. Worse yet, Chester Taylor had his highest workload since Week 5 and took over the short yardage, scoring his first touchdown of the season. Could there be a changing of the guard going on in Chicago? Maybe and it doesn’t help that the Bears face run defenses ranked in the top half of the league five times in their next seven games.
Fred Jackson, Bills
Jackson put up a decent fantasy line this week but that was courtesy of scoring a touchdown against the Bears. He had just 16 yards on eight carries and 20 receiving yards on five receptions. The Bills have been getting rookie first round pick C.J. Spiller more involved over the last three weeks and with Jackson struggling to provide any big plays (he’s averaging 3.1 yards per touch over that stretch), look for Spiller to assume an even bigger role over the coming weeks. Jackson owners should be looking for help at the running back position if they are relying on him as a starter.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews actually looked good when he was in the game against the Texans, gaining 42 yards on nine carries and catching two passes for 18 yards. Then he got hurt… again. Apparently he was seen with a walking boot on his right foot to help his ankle recuperate. Luckily the Chargers have a Week 10 bye to help Mathews heal. However, at this point, it’s clear that Mathews can’t be relied upon to stay healthy long enough to assume a productive role in the team’s offense.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant is quickly emerging as the Cowboys top wide receiver – an astonishing accomplishment given Miles Austin’s production in 2009. Over the last three games, Bryant has been targeted 26 times, catching 20 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns. During that stretch, Austin has 12 receptions for 171 yards and no touchdowns on 26 targets. Move Bryant up to WR2 status over the remainder of the season.
Nate Burleson, Lions
With Calvin Johnson spending Week 9 on Revis Island, Burleson stepped to the forefront of the Lions passing attack to snag seven receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. That gives him 24 receptions on 34 targets for 266 yards and three touchdowns over the last four weeks. He’s had double-digit fantasy points three times over that stretch and is emerging as a low end WR2 or high end WR3. Johnson won’t get shut down like that over the balance of the season but Burleson is getting enough looks to keep producing on a consistent basis.
Jacoby Ford, Raiders
With the Raiders hurting at receiver, Ford got a chance to show off his speed during Oakland’s game against the Chiefs this week. And show off he did, catching six passes for 148 yards. The rookie fourth round pick from Clemson has wheels to burn and since neither Louis Murphy nor Darrius Heyward-Bey has proven able to produce on a consistent basis or stay healthy, maybe Ford will emerge as the Raiders go-to guy at wide receiver. He’s definitely worth a look in all leagues, especially in dynasty formats.
James Jones, Packers
In my Dave’s Take column this week, I incorrectly pegged Jordy Nelson as the Packers wide receiver to benefit from Donald Driver’s absence. Oops. Jones proved his worth, going off on the Cowboys, catching eight of his nine targets for 123 yards and a score. The Packers have a bye this week and Driver should return from his thigh injury for their Week 11 contest but James becomes a decent flex option in larger leagues.
A Word of Caution On….
Seyi Ajirotutu, Chargers
Arjirotutu won a few games for his fantasy owners brave enough to start him this week (I was on the wrong side of that equation) with his four receptions, 111 yards, and two touchdown performance against the Texans. However, if there was ever a perfect storm, this was it. He beat Texans beleaguered first round pick Kareem Jackson twice for long touchdowns and was only starting because Vincent Jackson is suspended, and Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee were injured. Plus, tight end Antonio Gates didn’t play and didn’t eat up any targets. The Chargers have a bye this week and Floyd and Naanee should be back for Week 11 with Jackson eligible to return from suspension in Week 12.
Steve Smith, Panthers
Removing the 2004 season when he missed most of the year with a leg injury, Smith is on pace for his worst production since his rookie season in 2001. He is projected to finish the year with just 636 receiving yards and four touchdowns, proving that wide receivers are a fickle beast in fantasy football – subject to a team’s ability to run the ball and, more importantly, the quality of the team’s play at quarterback. In Carolina, Smith has suffered from both factors in 2010. The team can’t run effectively and the quarterback situation has been abysmal. With a pair of rookies (Jimmy Clausen or Tony Pike) expected to finish the season starting, it’s doubtful that Smith will turn his season around any time soon.
Jacoby Jones, Texans
Jones was touted as a potential breakout wide receiver in 2010 but it hasn’t happened and it doesn’t look like it will. He put up a number of big plays in limited action last year but hasn’t responded to a bigger role this season. With Kevin Walter relegated to a backup role and tight end Owen Daniels struggling to recover from the torn ACL he suffered last season, Jones has had plenty of opportunities – he just hasn’t taken advantage of them. He is averaging 9.9 yards per reception and has only one touchdown – a far cry from last season when he averaged 16.6 yards per catch and caught six touchdowns. I’m not giving up on him in dynasty formats but he’s worth dropping in shallow redraft leagues.
Jacob Tamme, Colts
I told you he was moving up last week (okay, I like to toot my horn a bit) and this week, he’s moving way up, courtesy of his 11 reception, 108 yard, one touchdown performance this week against the Eagles. With Austin Collie out a minimum of one week and likely more with a concussion, Anthony Gonzalez on injured reserve and Blair White not likely manning the slot position, Tamme figure to get significant targets over the balance of the season. He won’t likely top the seventeen he had this week since that came about because the Eagles Assante Samuel effectively blanketed Pierre Garcon. However, he is a top ten tight end from here on out.
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
For the first time in his career, Gonzalez has showed signs of wear and tear. In eight games, he has topped 50 yards receiving only twice, a surprising statistic considering the Falcons were without Michael Jenkins for several games to start the season. In Week 9, he had eight receptions for 72 yards and if there is anything at all to wide receiver Roddy White’s knee injury, Gonzalez will see his role increased. The Falcons and White are saying there aren’t any issues with his knee but if there aren’t, then why did he sit out practice? Move Gonzo up your tight end rankings based on that news.
Dustin Keller, Jets
The touchdown well has run dry for Keller. After scoring four times in three games, he has failed to find the end zone over the Jets past four contests. During that stretch, Santonio Holmes returned from suspension and Keller’s has caught just 11 balls for 193 yards. His targets are down (30 in four games without Holmes and just 22 in four games with Holmes in the lineup).
By: Dave Stringer — November 5, 2010 @ 11:56 pm
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1. Jets head coach Rex Ryan did a masterful job in 2009 of bringing his team to within a game of the Super Bowl, succumbing to the Colts in the AFC Conference Final. However, he hasn’t had that same success this season. The team returned Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis to the starting line-up too soon after he injured his hamstring and it remains to be seen whether that decision will affect his performance over the balance of the season. At this point, the consensus is that he has not performed up to his 2009 standard. This week, Ryan released defensive tackle Howard Green knowing that the Jets opponent, the Green Bay Packers, were desperate for help along their depleted defensive line. Green stepped in for the Packers on short notice and played well in helping the Packers restrict the effectiveness of the Jets rushing attack. And finally, the Jets not only lost to the Packers at home, they were also shut out and that is inexcusable considering New York was coming off a bye week and two weeks to prepare. Ryan is a solid coach, just not as solid this year as last.
2. Speaking of bad coaching, Redskins head honcho Mike Shanahan, another coach who always thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, takes the prize this week for the biggest coaching blunder following his decision to bench quarterback Donovan McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman so Grossman cold run the two-minute drill. No, folks, that wasn’t a typo. Grossman in for McNabb. Grossman stepped in and promptly fumbled on his first play, leading to a fumble recovery and touchdown for the Lions Ndamukong Suh. Shanahan’s initial reasoning was that Grossman was more adept at running the team’s two-minute offense. When that rationale was questioned, he stated that McNabb was not conditioned well enough to run the two-minute offense. Hey, if you’ve already dug a hole for yourself, why not dig deeper? He forgot to mention that McNabb has engineered 25 fourth quarter comebacks in his career.
3. Lots of bad coaching this week so next up on the hit list is the Texans’ Gary Kubiak. Kubiak has done a fine job of turning around the Texans program but with a chance to make a statement this week by beating the Colts in Indianapolis and sweeping the season series with them, he fell flat in a big play. In the Texans Week 1 win over the Colts, running back Arian Foster ran wild, gaining 231 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries. In that game, quarterback Matt Schaub was a non-factor, passing for 119 yards. Despite that, Kubiak came out throwing on Monday night on the road in a loud Lucas Oil Stadium in left tackle Duane Brown’s first game back from a four-game suspension, squaring off against Dwight Freeney. It took all of three plays to figure out that Brown was no match for Freeney. However, Kubiak kept dialing up the passes and Schaub finished the first half 5 of 15. He reasoned to ESPN reporter Michelle Tafoya at half-time that they needed more balance and that they couldn’t pass protect one on one or in maximum protections. Frankly speaking, there was more than a little fiction in that statement since almost all of the pass protection schemes in the first half did not include running backs or tight ends. As for the comment about needing balance, that’s another fiction. The Texans won in Week 1 without any balance. They could have won last week without any balance. They just needed to give the ball to Arian Foster. He had 102 yards on 15 carries and 65 yards on nine receptions. The Texans threw it 38 times. That’s not balance. Kubiak clearly outthought himself in this one, despite having two weeks come up with a game plan.
4. Here’s to stating the obvious. Broncos Chief Operating Officer Joe Ellis, speaking on behalf of owner Pat Bowlen, was asked by the Denver Post to comment on head coach Josh McDaniels job security. Ellis refused to guarantee that McDaniels would be back in Denver in 2010. I guess when a head coach has lost 14 of his last 18 games and the team’s fans are hurling their fury at him, it’s no surprise when upper management refuses to guarantee the coach will be back the following year.
5. It seems like the Rams got it right with the selection of Sam Bradford with the first overall pick in the draft. Bradford has showed poise in leading the Rams to a 4-4 record that leaves them a half-game behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West Race. Despite having a wide receiver group missing Mark Clayton and Donnie Avery, Bradford has moved the ball effectively with an array of short passes. All the more impressive is that he has been able to accomplish that and avoid interceptions despite lacking a true deep threat. He has thrown 96 straight passes without an interception.
6. If the Rams hit the nail on the head with Bradford, the Lions did the same with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick in the draft. He has been a beast for the Lions and has already emerged as the team’s most disruptive defender less than halfway through his rookie season. This week, he scored on a fumble recovery to seal the Lions win over the Redskins, although he almost got caught hot dogging it too much Leon Lett style with Santana Moss nearly stripping him at the one-yard line. Suh has six and a half sacks on the season, tied for eight overall in that category. It’s not often that the top two selections in the draft prove themselves to be potential Hall of Fame players mere games into their careers but that seems to be the case with the 2010 draft.
7. How about those poor Buffalo Bills? Two overtime losses in a row. I don’t know if that’s a record but somehow it doesn’t seem all that surprising that it would happen to Buffalo. Maybe linebacker Shawne Merriman can bring some much needed pass rush to a Bills’ defense that struggles mightily in putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
8. Fantasy owners of Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles are disappointed by head coach Todd Haley’s refusal to insert Charles into the starting line-up over Thomas Jones. However, Charles has put up decent production in a backup role despite being used in a change of pace role and not getting any goal line work. It’s also encouraging that with their 274 yard rushing effort this week against the Bills, the Chiefs have now surpassed 200 rushing yards in three straight games.
9. Don’t look now but the Oakland Raiders have actually made their presence felt in the AFC West for the first time since Jon Gruden was coaching the team. They sit at 4-4 but are on a roll, having trounced the Broncos in Denver in Week 7 and the Seahawks in Week 8. This marks the first time they are playing .500 ball in November since the 2002 season. With 92 points over their past two games, the offense is clicking behind a solid rushing attack and big plays in the passing game on play action. Al Davis must be smiling in his grave. Err, he’s still alive, you say? Who knew Chiefs at Raiders would be a feature matchup in Week 9?
10. Keeping with the Raiders, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey showed some toughness for the first time in his career this week, playing through a shoulder injury he suffered during the game to haul in five passes for 105 yards and a score. He also had a 30-yard run to pad his fantasy stats. While it was nice to see him display some toughness, the production shouldn’t be emphasized too much since the Seahawks have a suspect pass rush and played the game without two of their top three cornerbacks.
11. Get your wide receivers in this week against Cincinnati. Their secondary is banged up and extremely thin heading into this week’s game against the Steelers. At cornerback, Adam Jones was placed on injured reserve two weeks ago and Jonathon Joseph will likely gut it out this week with an ankle injury. If he can’t go, Morgan Trent will step in. At safety, Nedu Ndukwe and Roy Williams will both try to play through knee injuries. If they can’t go, the Bengals will have to rely on inexperienced Tom Nelson to man one of the safety positions. The Bengals need a lot of things to break their way if they’re going to field a decent secondary over the next few weeks.
12. After watching wide receiver Donald Driver unsuccessfully try to play through a quadriceps injury for two straight weeks (no receptions in either game), the Packers quickly ruled him out for this week’s contest against the Cowboys. With the team having their bye in Week 10, that gives Driver two full weeks to recovery. Owners in deeper leagues likely have James Jones and Jordy Nelson stashed on their benches in the event Driver went down. Early this year, it looked like Jones had locked down the third receiver role but Nelson has been the steadier performer of the two over the past few weeks. Jones has the flashier numbers with 19 receptions for 284 yards and a score. However, it’s taken him 40 targets to reach that production and he has been prone to drops. Meanwhile, Nelson has caught 62.8% of his targets and is clearly the more sure-handed of the two.
13. IDP leaguers take note that Rams defensive end Chris Long is finally living up to his potential after being taken second overall in the 2008 draft. He has sacks in three straight games and four and a half sacks in his last five contests.
14. With Mike Tolbert topping 100 rushing yards this week, the Chargers broke a streak of 16 consecutive games without having a running back top the century mark.
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