Rex Grossman, Redskins
I know – it’s hard to drink the Rex Kool Aid so I’ll be quick (occasionally, that line works on my wife). In the last two games, he’s thrown for 603 yards with four touchdowns and three picks. He also chipped in a rushing touchdown in Week 11 against the Cowboys. He could do a face plant at any time but after the Jets this week, he gets the Patriots (32nd ranked pass defense), Giants (26th and slumping) and Vikings (29th). The schedule is definitely on his side and having Santana Moss back in the line up at wide receiver helps.
Kyle Orton, Chiefs
He’s gotta be in and that’s all I have to say about that.
Tyler Palko, Chiefs
After the Chiefs close loss to the Steelers this week, head coach Todd Haley said he wasn’t sure if the recently acquired Kyle Orton would start at quarterback rather than Palko. With Palko tossing six interceptions and losing in fumble over the course of two games (including four turnovers to a Steelers defense that had accumulated just six over the first ten games of the season), here’s guessing there’s not much to think about. Of course, Haley somehow thought the noodle armed, accuracy challenged Palko was good enough to be an NFL backup so maybe these decisions aren’t quite as obvious as they seem. I guess Palko as a backup isn’t quite as offensive as Ron Jaworski saying that he had an opportunity to be the next Kurt Warner.
Roy Helu, Redskins
Last week, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan opined that Helu wasn’t ready to be the team’s starting running back. Fantasy owners everywhere made sure Helu was sitting on their bench. Sure enough, Helu gets a whopping 30 touches against a stout Seahawks run defense and gains 108 rushing yards, 54 yards receiving and finds the end zone on a nice 28-yard run. And, oh yeah, he was in the starting line up. It’s a mixed bag of run defenses on the horizon (Jets, Patriots, Giants and Vikings over the next four weeks) but given Shanahan’s lack of consistency, it’s hard to start Helu over a guy like the Saints Darren Sproles who is guaranteed to get 10-15 touches every week. That being said, the Redskins aren’t getting to the playoffs, Helu is coming off a monster game and he has topped 100 total yards in all three games that he received at least 13 touches so doesn’t Shanahan have to start him?
LeGarrette Blount, Bucs
After topping 1,000 rushing yards in 2010 despite getting significant playing time in just 11 games, the expectations for Blount this season were pretty high. Unfortunately, he’s had a couple of bad games as well as two performances where he barely saw the field because the Bucs were trailing and he doesn’t contribute in the passing game. However, Blount has been rolling over the past two weeks, topping 100 rushing yards in each game and even chipping in a career-high 56 receiving yards this week against the Titans.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
It’s been touchdown or bust for Lynch in 2011 and it was nice to see him get on a run of six consecutive contests with a rushing touchdown prior to this week’s game against the Redskins. There was no rushing touchdowns this week but Lynch did top 100 yards rushing (24 for 111) for the third time in four games and also catch a pass for a 20 yard touchdown. He’s rolling at just the right time for his fantasy owners.
Mark Ingram, Saints
Absolutely loved the MNF comment attributed to Saints head coach Sean Payton that the only thing holding Ingram back from being the Rookie of the Year was Payton’s play calling (i.e. not enough touches for Ingram). Yeah, right. That and his atrocious 3.7 yards per carry and 3.6 yards per reception averages heading into Week 12. Giving credit where credit is due, Ingram arguably had a “career game” (little bit of sarcasm there, folks) with 13 carries for 80 yards and a score as well as two receptions for 14 yards. Maybe next week he will top 100 total yards for the first time in his career.
Steven Jackson, Rams
I was high on Jackson as the Rams entered the easier portion of their schedule but the team’s poor passing attack and absolutely devastating injury situation along the offensive line has made it tough sledding for the big Rams back. After three straight 100-yard rushing performances, Jackson has been mostly shut down over the last two weeks by the Seahawks and Cardinals as they stacked the box, limiting Jackson to 139 total yards and no touchdowns in those games. The Rams reshuffled, makeshift offensive line reads, from left to right, Adam Goldberg, Jacob Bell, Tony Wragge, Jason Brown and Harvey Dahl.
C.J. Spiller, Bills
As I said in my column on Fred Jackson’s season-ending injury, Spiller is ill-equipped to handle major touches and hasn’t done much during his first two years in the league. Sure enough, the Jets shut him down easily this week with Spiller gaining 55 yards on 19 carries and catching three passes for 15 yards. He just hasn’t shown anything to suggest that he is a capable NFL starter and his dancing in the backfield leads to far too many negative plays or minimal gains.
Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
With Reggie Bush stringing together a nice stretch of games, Thomas has seen his touches go down in games where the outcome is in doubt. After topping 16 or more touches in each of his first four games, Thomas has had two games with seven touches over his last four contests. And despite entering the league with a reputation as a solid short yardage option, the 228-pound former Kansas State product has found the end zone just once in his rookie season and that was on a pass reception.
Chris Ogbonnaya, Browns
Peyton Hillis made a surprise appearance in the Browns starting line up this week, essentially torpedoing Ogbonnaya’s fantasy value. With Hillis getting a workmanlike 21 touches (and, no, he didn’t do much with them, gaining just 71 yards), Ogbonnaya barely saw the field, gaining 20 yards on four touches. Ogbonnaya’s not the most talented back in the league by any stretch but he did top 100 total yards in each of his last two games and with Hillis unlikely to be re-signed, it seems curious that the Browns gave Hillis so many touches.
Arian Foster, Texans
Just acknowledging that the presence of one T.J. Yates in the starting line up will impact Foster’s production. He’s still a top 10, maybe even top 5 running back the rest of the way but a monster performance may not be in the cards.
Matt Forte, Bears
With the fantasy playoffs just around the corner, Forte has put up his second and third worst fantasy performances over the last two weeks, gaining 85 and 84 total yards in the process and failing to find the end zone. This week, the Bears inexplicably gave backup Marion Barber ten carries to Forte’s 12. Figure that one out. Is injury the issue? Who knows? Either way, Caleb Hanie starting with Jay Cutler out doesn’t help matters. The sad sack Chiefs are up next followed by the Broncos, Seahawks and Packers for the fantasy playoffs.
Johnny Knox, Bears
Let’s connect the dots. In the games that Jay Cutler started, Knox was averaging 4.3 targets, 2.4 receptions and 5.4 fantasy points per game. With Caleb Hanie under center this week, Knox had ten targets, catching four passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. Looks like the backup quarterback likes throwing to his former backup wide receiver. Hopefully offensive coordinator Mike Martz took notice but we all know that Mad Mike works to the beat of his own drummer.
Laurent Robinson, Cowboys
This week against the Dolphins, Robinson hauled in seven receptions for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns. With that performance, he has now caught 21 passes for 302 yards and five touchdowns in his four starts this season. While Miles Austin is expected back in the starting line up this week after missing three games with an injured hamstring, it’s hard to see the Cowboys relegating Robinson to a pure backup role. Consider him a low end WR3 but worthy of a flex start if your league uses that position.
Roddy White, Falcons
White tested the patience of his fantasy owners for much of 2011 but their patience has been rewarded over the past two weeks with White putting up his two best performances of the season. He had 147 receiving yards in Week 11 against the Titans and topped that this week against the Vikings with ten receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown. And look for that production to continue as the coaching staff has been feeding him the ball (27 targets over the past two weeks). Julio Jones was active this week but not fully healthy. Regardless, White is on a roll and the rookie’s presence isn’t expected to change that.
Percy Harvin, Vikings
In another case of “It’s About Time”, how about the Vikings Percy Harvin? Harvin was a dud over the first nine games of 2011, topping 100 total yards once and finding the end zone just once. He scored his second touchdown in Week 11 against the Raiders and totaled 94 yards. This week, he scored again and put up 106 total yards. That gives the multifaceted Harvin 344 total yards and three scores over the past four weeks.
Brandon Lloyd, Rams
I’m guessing that Lloyd likes St. Louis and his fantasy owners like him in St. Louis. In six games with the Rams, Lloyd has 71 targets (that’s 11.8 per game and just one game where he didn’t hit double digit), 31 receptions, 396 yards and four touchdowns. With 10.6 points per game, he rates as a high end WR2 with upside should the Rams somehow find a way to get the offense clicking.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles
Alligator Arms Jackson dropped not one but two potential touchdown passes this week in a must win game for Philadelphia at home against the Patriots. Both catches were plays that teams expect their top wide receivers to make and both times Jackson came up short. The worst one came on a crossing route at the goal line where Jackson dropped an easy catch at the goal line in order to protect himself. If you want to get paid like a superstar, come up big in a big game like a superstar. Kudos to head coach Andy Reid for nailing his so-called superstar to the bench in the fourth quarter.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
Tyler Palko is absolutely horrendous and figures to be replaced next week by Kyle Orton, who will have had a week and a half to learn the playbook. That hurts Bowe as does his disappearing act this week against the Steelers at the end of the game. With the game on the line and less than a minute remaining, Bowe raised his arm for the ball to come his way. It did. Bowe jumped. And in order to protect himself, he didn’t bother to raise his arms, pirouetting in the air with his arms at his side. Steelers interception, game over. Another so-called superstar wide receiver who doesn’t get it.
Andre Johnson, Texans
Johnson’s a stud and you have to start him every week no matter who is at quarterback for Houston. However, I’m guessing that T.J. Yates was “trending” big time on Sunday after Matt Leinart suffered a suspected broken collarbone. It’s one thing to go from Matt Schaub to Leinart and quite another to go from Leinart to a rookie 5th round pick from North Carolina. Whether it is Yates or veteran retread Kellen Clemens, Johnson’s value is sinking unless the Texans find a veteran signal caller to spearhead the offense (Brett Favre anyone?).
Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars
Suffice it to say that Lewis owners have been sorely disappointed with his performance in 2011, after he posted a career year in 2010 with 700 receiving yards and ten touchdowns. Hard to believe but the seven reception, 64 yard performance Lewis had in Week 11 was his best stat line of the year and his four reception, 47 yard outing this week was his second best performance of the season. So, he’s trending up. Maybe next week, he will catch his first touchdown of the year (ugh).
Jermichael Finley, Packers
Let’s pretend Finley’s Week 3 explosion (seven receptions for 85 yards and three touchdowns) against the Bears never happened. Here’s what Finley’s stat line would read: ten games, 29 receptions, 428 yards, two touchdowns, 5.5 points per game. And 5.5 points per game is Heath Miller territory. Think low end TE2.