Fantasy Football Strategy, Advice, and Commentary
By: Dave Stringer — December 21, 2010 @ 4:07 pm
Rex Grossman, Redskins
In torching the Cowboys this week for 322 yards and four touchdowns, Grossman threw for more touchdowns in a single game than Donovan McNabb did all season, so he must be doing something right. The question is: Is Grossman that good, or is the pass defense of the Cowboys that bad? While it’s a bit of both, it’s worth noting that Grossman has been in the league eight years and he’s started the majority of a season exactly once. His schedule should be the determining factor in deciding Grossman’s value, and the Jaguars 25th-ranked pass defense is up next.
Tim Tebow, Broncos
Tebow had a solid debut this week against the Raiders, throwing for 138 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 78 yards and a score. The Broncos appear set to give him starts in the remaining two games, and the Texans are on tap next in a home matchup. Houston’s pass defense ranks a lowly 29th, so Tebow has a shot to top 200 yards passing, and he seems a solid bet to add to his fantasy point total each week with his running exploits. For the truly desperate (and with a number of quarterbacks injured or benched, there are owners desperate for help at quarterback), Tebow could be worth a look. He rates below Grossman, but not by as much as you might think.
Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks
Hasselbeck was pulled during the Seahawks loss to the Falcons this week and was expected to be benched for the remainder of the season. Remarkably, head coach Pete Carroll will stick with Hasselbeck despite his 10-for-17, 71-yard, three-turnover disaster in Week 15. Over his last four games, Hasselbeck has turned the ball over 13 times, and the team has won just twice in their last seven games. The Seahawks travel to Tampa Bay this week, followed by a home game against the Rams in Week 17. The only explanation for Carroll sticking with Hasselbeck is that Seattle will capture the NFC West if they win both of their remaining games…as if that’s going to happen.
Charlie Whitehurst, Seahawks
If your head coach won’t bench the guy ahead of you despite 13 turnovers in four games, you have a pretty good idea where you stand. Think career backup.
Sam Bradford, Rams
After a solid six-game stretch where he threw for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns with just one interception, Bradford has gone cold. Over his last three games he has 599 yards and no touchdowns with five picks. Looks like Bradford has hit the rookie wall at exactly the wrong time for the Rams, and offensive coordinator Pat Shumur has no answers against opposing pass defenses.
Donald Brown, Colts
Brown has been a huge bust for the Colts since being taken with the 27th pick in the 2009 draft, but he came through in a must-win game this week against the Jaguars, topping 100 rushing yards for the first time in his career. Brown had 129 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries in his finest performance to date. With Joseph Addai’s return looking more unlikely with each passing week, Brown figures to start in the Colts backfield for the balance of the regular season.
Bengals' ground game should get a workout the last two weeks.
Cedric Benson, Bengals
Benson ripped off a 150-yard, one-touchdown game this week against the Browns, topping 100 yards for just the third time this season on his way to his best fantasy performance of the year. His efforts gave him over 1,000 rushing yards for the second consecutive season. He has been roundly criticized throughout the season, but the Bengals’ poor play has been a large part of the reason for Benson’s drop in production. While there has been much speculation that Bernard Scott should have a bigger role, that hasn’t happened, proving that the Bengals coaching staff is confident in Benson’s abilities.
Ray Rice, Ravens
Like Benson, Rice has been a bit of a disappointment in fantasy circles, particularly given his high draft position. And just like Benson, Rice had his best fantasy performance of the season this week, compiling 153 rushing yards, 80 receiving yards, and a pair of touchdowns against the Saints. That likely appeased his owners who are still in the fantasy playoffs but were expecting more of those breakout performances in 2010.
Maurice Morris, Lions
Morris was essentially splitting time with Jahvid Best in Weeks 13 and 14, but he assumed the lead role this week, gaining 109 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries against the Bucs. His schedule isn’t great with the Dolphins and Vikings up next, and it’s anybody’s guess as to how the workload will be divvied up. That relegates Morris to flex status and a bit of a desperation play as a RB2, but at least he’s coming off his best game of the season.
Toby Gerhart, Vikings
Adrian Peterson sat out Week 15 with knee and ankle injuries, causing him to miss his first game of the season—also his first missed game since his rookie season in 2008. Gerhart stepped into the starter’s role against a tough Bears run defense, gaining 77 yards on 16 carries and 18 yards on three receptions. Impressive stats, especially considering that the Vikings were forced to play rookie quarterback Joe Webb for much of the game. If Peterson can’t go in Week 16, Gerhart makes for a decent flex option against the Eagles.
Lance Ball, Broncos and Derrick Ward, Texans
If Knowshon Moreno and Arian Foster can’t go, these guys are in.
Peyton Hillis, Browns
Hillis had been averaging an impressive 19.1 fantasy points per game during the first 11 games of the season, but he has slowed down considerably over the past three weeks. Despite having reasonably decent matchups against Miami, Buffalo, and Cincinnati, Hillis averaged just 9.3 points per game against those teams, gaining 224 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards while failing to find the end zone. With 311 touches, he has eclipsed his career-high in that category (82 in his rookie season in 2008) and looks as though he has hit a wall. The Ravens and the Steelers are up next, so the schedule doesn’t offer him any relief.
Mike Goodson, Panthers
Jonathan Stewart took back his lead role in Week 13, though touchdowns in Week 13 and 14 allowed Goodson to put up decent points. However, Goodson failed to find the end zone this week as he gained just 21 yards on ten carries against a fading Cardinals team. With the Steelers and the Falcons up next, Goodson won’t get many touches for the remainder of 2010 unless Stewart gets hurt, so he needs to be nailed to your bench in all formats.
Reggie Bush, Saints
Since returning from a broken fibula in Week 12, Bush has gained just 136 yards on 35 touches (3.9 yards per touch) and has failed to find the end zone. It looks like the effects of the injury are hurting his performance as he was especially awful this week against the Ravens, with only 32 yards on 11 touches. Stay away.
Danny Amendola, Rams
With seven receptions for 60 yards this week, Amendola put himself on pace to finish with a whopping 86 receptions. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s also on pace to finish with the lowest average yards per reception for any wide receiver in league history with 60 or more catches. In PPR leagues he’s still very useful and a great dynasty prospect, but he’s not much use in standard scoring formats.
Mario Manningham, Giants
If there’s a more inconsistent wide receiver than Manningham, please let me know who it is. Manningham has big games as the team’s third receiver, but he fizzles when both Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith are out. And just when you’ve finally given up on him, he goes and has a big game this week against the Eagles in place of Smith, catching eight balls for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s clearly talented but doesn’t always show up. What else is there to say?
Santana Moss, Redskins
Grossman looked his way 13 times this week, with Moss catching eight passes for 72 yards and a pair of scores. That gives him 15 receptions for 154 yards and three touchdowns over the last two games. With the Jaguars on tap, Moss is due for another big game in Week 16.
Brandon Lloyd, Broncos
Many fantasy football enthusiasts were waiting for Lloyd to bust, and it seemed as though that was happening after he posted four receptions for 63 yards and no touchdowns through Weeks 14 and 15. Sure enough, despite having Tim Tebow under center, Lloyd responded this week against the Raiders with four receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown. While his chances for a huge game are reduced with Tebow replacing Kyle Orton at quarterback, his production this week proves that Tebow won’t be the albatross many imagined.
Terrell Owens, Bengals and Austin Collie, Colts
T.O. was Moving Down last week and now he’s done for the year—just as Collie should be. Given his uncertain future, Owens has little value in dynasty leagues. Collie’s value is also on the decline after he suffered his third concussion of the 2010 season on Sunday.
Anquan Boldin, Ravens
With 813 yards through 14 games, Boldin is in danger of missing the 1000-yard mark for the first time since his injury-plagued 2007 season. He has topped 1,000 receiving yards in five of seven seasons—he missed the mark previously in 2004 when he played in just ten games. Let’s go ahead and conclude that his move to the Ravens was not the fantasy elixir that Boldin owners had hoped for. Over his last six games, he has 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with 141 of those yards and one touchdown coming in Week 13. This week he had one reception for two yards. Looks like a 1000-yard season isn’t in the cards—nor may be a fantasy championship if you’re relying on Boldin.
Sidney Rice, Vikings
With the Vikings down to rookie third-round pick Joe Webb (their third-string quarterback), Rice makes for a risky play in Week 16 when Minnesota goes on the road against the Eagles. Webb looked clueless during Monday night’s loss to the Bears, unable to read coverages or avoid negative plays. That doesn’t bode well for the touchdown opportunities of any of the Vikings’ skill position players.
Jimmy Graham, Saints
Go figure—the Saints have found another stud offensive weapon to add to their arsenal. The rich get richer. Graham is certainly talented, and he came through this week, catching five of seven targets for 29 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Ravens. Over his last five games he has 17 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns, which translates to 6.7 points per game. He offers great dynasty league potential and is worth using this year if you don’t have better options.
Antonio Gates, Chargers
He was Moving Down last week and he’s there again courtesy of speculation that he may sit out until the playoffs—if the Chargers even get there.
By: Dave Stringer — December 17, 2010 @ 12:46 pm
1. Week 15, Titans–Texans, Johnson–Finnegan: The Sequel. With the NFL watching closely, and any extracurricular activity guaranteed to result in hefty fines (think six digits), don’t expect another round of hockey-style fisticuffs between Johnson and Finnegan. My money’s on Johnson having a huge game, with Texans head coach Gary Kubiak feeding his stud receiver a huge amount of targets and with Johnson embarrassing the feisty Titans cornerback.
2. Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen has struggled during his rookie season, and with Carolina currently sitting last in the league standings, speculation has swirled that the team may consider using the first pick in the draft on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, just one year after taking Clausen in the second round. Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith added fuel to the fire this week, suggesting that Clausen has “a lot to learn.” That qualifies as stating the obvious since Clausen sports an 0-7 record as a starter and has just one touchdown pass on the season, yet has seven interceptions and a 51.3 completion percentage. However, Smith is a veteran who should know to support a rookie quarterback rather than tear him down. Perhaps Clausen should remind Smith that he had a lot to learn as a rookie as well. A third round pick, Smith had just ten receptions for 154 yards and no touchdowns during his rookie season in 2001.
3. The Buccaneers were handed a pair of gifts this week, but they may not matter given their current injury situation. Tampa Bay walked away with a win in Washington when Redskins holder Hunter Smith failed to catch the snap on what should have been a game-tying, final-minute point-after attempt. Also, the Bucs benefitted from the Packers loss to Detroit, as Green Bay’s offense sputtered with quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the sideline with a concussion. The Bucs and the Packers both sit at 8-5, one game behind the Giants in the race for the final wild-card spot in the NFC, but the Bucs hold the tiebreaker advantage. However, Tampa Bay lost defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Quincy Black to season-ending injuries this week, marking the third consecutive game in which Tampa Bay has had to place two starters on IR. Last week they lost cornerback Aqib Talib and center Jeff Faine, and the previous week they lost right guard Davin Joseph and rookie safety Cody Grimm.
4. With their win over the Packers this week, the Lions snapped a 19-game losing streak against teams in the NFC North.
The Broncos-D had no answer for Feely.
5. How many fantasy owners lost in the first round of the playoffs because they were going up against Cardinals kicker Jay Feely this week? Playing in one of the NFL’s worst offenses, Feely was ranked in the bottom third of the league’s kickers. But his owners got an early Christmas present when he kicked five field goals and had a five-yard touchdown run in Arizona’s 43-13 thrashing of the Broncos. No doubt many teams lost because of Feely’s 25-point explosion (which included four extra points, as well). His touchdown run marked just the fourth time in the past 40 years that a kicker has run it in for six points.
6. The Bengals have been a doormat for most of the last two decades, including having the worst record of the 1990’s, but they surprisingly set a new record for futility this week. Despite winning the AFC North last year, the Bengals have foundered this season, and this week’s loss to Pittsburgh marked their tenth in a row, establishing a new franchise record for most consecutive losses.
7. Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been a major star since bursting onto the scene in the 2008 season. Jackson has regularly burned opposing defenses for big plays, averaging a healthy 18.3 yards per reception during his career. Interestingly, though, Jackson has not fared well against division rival Dallas. Prior to this week, he had 13 receptions for 232 and no touchdowns in four games against the Cowboys. But he changed all that on Sunday night, catching a 91-yard touchdown pass en route to a four-reception, 210-yard performance against Dallas.
8. In the preseason, the Chiefs expressed confidence in quarterback Brodie Croyle as the team’s backup behind Matt Cassel for the next several years. After his dismal performance against the Chargers in Week 14, look for the Chiefs to move in another direction. Croyle is not signed beyond this season, and it seems likely that Kansas City will look to either free agency or the draft to replace him for the 2011 season.
9. Sticking with the Chiefs, while Croyle might not be a part of the team’s future, Jamaal Charles will be, courtesy of the five-year, $32.5 million contract extension he signed prior to this week’s game. Thomas Jones is signed through 2011 but will be 34 years old before the 2012 season starts, making him an unlikely candidate to be re-signed by Kansas City. Dynasty leaguers shouldn’t just assume that Charles will take on a workhorse role in 2012, however, since Jones’ original signing seemed a clear indicator that management was concerned about the 5’10”, 200-pound Charles staying free of injury if used in such a capacity. While a workhorse role may be in the offing for 2012, it seems more likely than not that the Chiefs will acquire another running back, either in the draft or through free agency, to compliment Charles.
10. The Buffalo Bills poor personnel decisions have been well documented, and one often overlooked area where they have failed miserably in recent years is in acquiring a solid pass-catching tight end. While most of the rest of the league has been placing an increased emphasis on the position, and while several teams feature solid pass-catching threats at tight end, the Bills have been unable to adequately fill the position despite using several draft picks trying over the last decade. Buffalo has not had a tight end top the 50-reception mark since the 2001 season when Jay Riemersma caught 53 passes. Since then they have used reasonably high draft picks on Mark Campbell, Kevin Everett, Derek Fine, Derek Schouman, and Shawn Nelson, as well as acquiring free agents Robert Royal and Michael Gaines—but they have come up empty. This has to be particularly distressing for Bills fans during a season in which division rivals New England drafted not one but two excellent tight end prospects in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski and in which the Jets will likely send Dustin Keller to the Pro Bowl.
11. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is having his finest season with New England, currently the odds-on favorite to capture the Super Bowl despite entering the season with several question marks on defense and having to deal with disgruntled wide receiver Randy Moss. Belichick should be considered the front-runner to win the league’s Coach of the Year award despite solid turn-around seasons by Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay, Todd Haley in Kansas City, and Steve Spagnola in St. Louis. It is worth noting that despite predictions the sky was falling on the team after Moss was traded, the Patriots have tallied an impressive 8-1 record since. The teams that acquired Moss, Minnesota and Tennessee, are 1-8 when he has been in the lineup.
12. St. Louis running back Steven Jackson lost an opening-quarter fumble in the Rams loss to the Saints this week. It was his first lost fumble in 562 touches, going back to Week 5 of the 2009 season. On the play, Jackson went over 1,000 rushing yards for the sixth consecutive season, becoming the first Rams running back to accomplish the feat.
13. With the Jets scoring just nine points in their last two games (both losses), fans chanted for the ousting of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer after this week’s home loss to the Dolphins. Interesting that less than a full season removed from being praised for his offensive play calling in helping the Jets get within a game of the Super Bowl, Schottenheimer is being scorned by the team’s fans. Quarterback Mark Sanchez should be the target of Jets fans’ derision, given his play in recent weeks. Over the team’s last three games, Sanchez has completed 50 of 105 passes for 546 yards with one touchdown against five interceptions. The low completion percentage is even more startling considering the Jets’ reliance on short and intermediate plays. Head coach Rex Ryan chimed in this week that he will bench his second-year quarterback if he deems it necessary. Sanchez currently ranks 24th in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks with eight or more starts, a distressing situation for his dynasty league owners who were hoping that the addition of Santonio Holmes at wide receiver would allow Sanchez to develop into an upper-tier backup for fantasy purposes.
14. With his touchdown in Week 14, 49ers tight end Vernon Davis had caught touchdown passes in five consecutive games, while averaging 64 receiving yards per game, with Alex Smith starting at quarterback. During Troy Smith’s five starts, Davis had caught one touchdown and averaged 50 receiving yards per game. Unfortunately for Davis owners, the 49ers threw it to him only once in Week 15, and his touchdown streak with Smith at quarterback ended.
15. How fitting that in the game in which Brett Favre’s consecutive-games-started streak was snapped at 297 his replacement suffered a season-ending injury. Tarvaris Jackson suffered ligament damage in his toe, forcing the Vikings to place him on injured reserve. As for all the commentary about Favre’s streak being the most impressive in all of sports history and unlikely to be beaten, don’t buy it. With 205 consecutive starts, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning needs five full seasons and 13 games of a sixth season to break the record. Are you betting against him? I’m certainly not. Here’s my vote for the most impressive consecutive game streak: the 502 consecutive games Blackhawks goalie Glenn Hall played between 1955 and 1962. Goalies didn’t even use masks back then, and if you count Hall’s time in the minors, he played in 881 straight games beginning in 1951.
16. The Giants placed wide receiver Steve Smith on injured reserve this week with cartilage damage in his knee that will require complex microfracture surgery as well as a mosaicplasty procedure. His recovery time is expected to be between six and nine months, which puts his availability for training camp in doubt. With medical procedures becoming more sophisticated, recovery times for major surgeries have been reduced. The Patriots Wes Welker started slowly this year but has been solid, despite suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 17 last season. However, Smith’s surgery is more complex and comes at an inopportune time given that he is in a contract year. The situation increases the dynasty league value of Mario Manningham, a player who has generally produced when given an opportunity.
By: Dave Stringer — December 14, 2010 @ 1:13 pm
Alex Smith, 49ers
Alex Smith was back in the saddle this week after Mike Singletary came to the realization that Troy Smith’s upside and leadership abilities weren’t going to help him secure his place as the team’s head coach in 2011. So in steps Smith for San Francisco’s home game against a Seahawks defense that struggles mightily against the pass. The 49ers quarterback didn’t disappoint, throwing for 255 yards and three touchdowns.
Kerry Collins, Titans
After a dismal Week 13 performance against a suspect Jaguars secondary in his first game back from a calf injury, Collins put up a solid game this Thursday night during the Titans’ 30-28 loss to the Colts. Despite not getting much production from his wide receivers (including Kenny Brit, who was back in action), Collins went 28 of 39 for 244 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Up next are the Texans and their league-worst pass defense, followed by a Chiefs team that is struggling to slow down opposing quarterbacks.
Jason Campbell, Raiders
Campbell has had an up and down first season in a Raiders uniform, but this week against the Jaguars he put on a show, playing his best game of the season. With the running back duo of Michael Bush and Darren McFadden playing well (McFadden also chipped in with a 67-yard touchdown reception), the Raiders were able to effectively use play action against the Jaguars. At the end of the day, Campbell had 324 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Rodgers got the Moving Up designation last week due to his outstanding performance this season and because there weren’t any performances that warranted inclusion in that category. This week, he’s Moving Down due to the concussion he suffered in the Packers road loss to the Lions on Sunday. Rodgers went out in the second quarter, after being used as a human yo-yo by Lions defenders Landon Johnson and Amari Spievey. The concussion is his second of the season (the other came in Week 5 against the Redskins) and that increases the likelihood that he won’t start in Green Bay’s Week 15 game against the Patriots. No doubt that many of his owners lost this week due to his meager production, but those that survived may have to rely on their backup next week—and it’s safe to assume that most Rodgers owners didn’t invest heavily in an upper-tier backup.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
With his subpar performance this week against the Bengals (258 passing yards and no touchdowns), Roethlisberger has now been entirely average for three straight games. Over that span, he has thrown for a respectable 757 yards but has just one touchdown pass and hasn’t padded his fantasy point totals with much rushing production. Worse yet, those performances have come against the Bills, Ravens, and Bengals, a trio of mid-tier passing defenses.
Brodie Croyle, Chiefs
I warned you in my “Dave’s Take” column that he was 0-9 as a starter entering this week’s game against the Chargers. In case you missed that debacle, he’s now 0-10 as a starter, and if he gets the nod in a road contest against the Rams in Week 15, you can bet that will move to 0-11.
Ryan Torain, Redskins
It’s been my position ever since Torain stepped in for Clinton Portis that he is the best young pure running back on the team’s roster, and he proved it again this week. Sure, he can’t seem to stay healthy, which limits his upside in dynasty leagues, but he has been productive when in the lineup. This week he gashed the Bucs for 172 yards on 24 carries. That marks the third time that Torain has topped 100 rushing yards in the five games that he has started when he has played the entire game. The Redskins will enter the 2011 offseason with plenty of needs, and head coach Mike Shanahan has a history of using unheralded running backs, so Torain will likely enter next season atop the team’s depth chart at running back, with a mid- or lower-round draft pick looking to unseat him. With Dallas and Jacksonville up next, Torain has a chance to further entrench himself as the team’s starter and help his fantasy owners win some championships.
Brian Westbrook, 49ers
I figured Westbrook would get the majority of the work when Frank Gore was lost for the year, but the team has basically split the work between Westbrook and rookie sixth-round pick Anthony Dixon. No matter, as Westbrook apparently plays better when he can stay fresh. Both players had 15 touches this week, but Westbrook was the better performer, gaining 23 yards on the ground to go along with six receptions for 87 yards, which included a 62-yard scamper for a touchdown. Two factors are working in Westbrook’s favor. One, Alex Smith is in at quarterback, and he’s more of a check-down artist than Troy Smith, who likes to throw it down the field. Two, the 49ers remain in the playoff hunt, so there’s no reason for them to give Dixon more work.
Tim Hightower, Cardinals
Chris Wells was expected to be the man for the Cardinals this season, but injuries and ineffectiveness have prevented that from happening. While his owners keep expecting Wells to step to the forefront of the Cardinals backfield, it appears—if the last five weeks are any indication—Hightower will remain the team’s starter. Over that five-week span, Hightower has 69 touches to just 24 for Wells, and he had a solid game this week against Denver with 148 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns.
Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
Jacobs and Bradshaw both have three touchdowns and 200 or more rushing yards over their last two games. Let’s just say the Giants running game is rolling and both players are safe plays in your starting lineup.
Rashad Jennings, Jaguars
Jennings has exploded onto the scene over the last three weeks, moving from a handcuff with almost no value to a solid flex play. This week against Oakland, he had the first 100-yard game of his career and scored on a 74-yard touchdown run. He also had a 16-yard run where he was stopped just shy of the end zone. Jennings has now scored a touchdown in three straight games, hitting double-digit fantasy points in each contest.
Javarris James, Colts
Do I think he’s that good? No. Do I think he will start for the rest of the season? No. Basically, I don’t think much of him, but here are the numbers: six touchdowns in his last six games. If you use him as your flex and he scores, you’re smiling. If he doesn’t score, you’re kicking yourself. That’s where it’s at with James. Up next are the very average run defenses of the Jaguars (15th against the run and just gave up 209 total yards and three touchdowns to Darren McFadden) and the Raiders (21st against the run and just gave up 234 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground to the Jaguars).
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
I gave Lynch a lukewarm Moving Up last week, courtesy of his 83-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance against the Panthers. Sure enough, he had a stinker this week, gaining just 29 yards on ten carries against the 49ers. He did chip in seven receptions for 37 yards to come away with a respectable fantasy point total, but his lack of ability to make big plays has to be a concern for Seattle management. It remains to be seen whether Lynch has done enough to earn a starting role in 2011 and prevent Seattle from using a high draft pick on the position.
Chris Ivory, Saints
Ivory looked good against the Rams this week, gaining 47 yards on just seven carries before leaving the game with a hamstring injury. That injury coupled with Pierre Thomas’ return to the lineup significantly reduces Ivory’s value. While he had the potential to be a low-end RB2 with Thomas out, Ivory now rates as nothing better than a low-end flex option in leagues that employ the position. That is an unfortunate turn of events for an undrafted free agent who leads all rookie running backs in rushing yards, carries, and touchdowns.
Reggie Bush, Saints
Is it permissible to have two Saints players Moving Down at one time when their offense is rolling? We’ll find out. In his three games since returning from a broken fibula, Bush has been a disappointment. He has been used sparingly in both the running and the passing game, with just 15 carries for 66 yards and nine receptions for 34 yards. At this point, he’s a risky flex play at best.
Thomas Jones, Chiefs
Jones hasn’t found the end zone in three weeks, and with the Chiefs playing from behind early this week against the Chargers, he finished with three rushes for one yard. That was his fewest touches in a game this season. If Matt Cassel isn’t a go at quarterback, Jones could be in for a rough ride in this week’s road contest against the Rams, who have been solid against the run this season (12th overall).
Arrelious Benn, Buccaneers
With Mike Williams slowing down, Benn stepped to the forefront of the Buccaneers passing game, having easily his best game of the season this week against the Redskins. He caught all four of his targets for 122 yards, upping his yards-per-reception average to 16.4. That is an impressive figure considering that Benn has been used mostly on short throws and screens, and it appears as through Tampa Bay is ready to expand his role. Benn has questionable value over the remainder of 2010 but is a great prospect in dynasty leagues.
Steve Johnson and David Nelson, Bills
With Lee Evans likely out for the season with what may be a high ankle sprain, the Bills will move Nelson into the starting lineup. He caught a touchdown pass this week and has looked good when given an opportunity this season. Johnson has slowed down recently, failing to find the end zone in the last three weeks and gaining just 146 yards in those games. That begs the question: Will opposing defenses be able to shut Johnson down now that Evans isn’t starting across from him? I think that Johnson is good enough to remain productive, despite the added attention, and he should benefit from the extra touches.
Malcom Floyd: A high end WR2.
Malcom Floyd, Chargers
It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for Floyd since his return in Week 11 from a hamstring injury. He caught two passes and had a touchdown in his first game back, followed that up with a doughnut, and then caught four passes for 72 yards last week. This week against the Chiefs he snagged four balls for 51 yards and a pair of touchdowns and likely would have lit up the stat sheet had the Chargers not gotten out to such a big lead. With Vincent Jackson being used sparingly and Antonio Gates iffy, Floyd is Philip Rivers’ go-to guy, especially in the red zone. He’s a high-end WR2 from here on out.
Ruvell Martin, Seahawks
Ruvell who? Unless you’re an NFL diehard, Martin isn’t somebody you’ve heard of, and he’s not likely somebody you will here from in 2011. The Seahawks were without their top two receivers in Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu this week and then lost Deon Butler to a season-ending injury. So Martin stepped up, catching four passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. If you’re desperate, Martin is worth a look, particularly if Williams and Obomanu are out again this week.
Randy Moss, Titans
Benched. No targets. Fantasy value: zero.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
No receptions against the Broncos’ Champ Bailey is allowed. A single reception for three measly yards against the Chargers secondary isn’t. Bowe has always been a streaky receiver, and the odds of him being on the wrong side of that equation go way up if Brodie Croyle is under center again this week.
Terrell Owens, Bengals
T.O. has had a productive year with the Bengals, although his fantasy points belie his true value on the field. He and quarterback Carson Palmer haven’t been on the same page on several plays this season, and the two had a somewhat animated sideline conversation about just that this week. With the end of the season nearing and Owens having played well enough to justify a contract somewhere in 2011, he seems to have grown disinterested in Cincinnati and has put up just ten receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown over his last three games. Not exactly the type of production his fantasy owners were banking on.
Jason Witten, Cowboys
Witten has been a bit of a sleeping giant at tight end in recent years, posting solid yardage totals but having a tough time finding the end zone. He’s bucked that trend in 2010, especially over the last two weeks with three touchdowns. With six touchdowns on the year, he is one shy of matching a career-high set in 2008, and he appears a solid bet to get there. Over the last three games, Witten has caught all 22 of his targets—as well as 26 of his last 27. With Dez Bryant out and Roy Williams apparently not part of the game plan, Witten is in line for plenty of looks over the balance of the season.
Antonio Gates, Chargers
When he’s in, he’s great, but it’s nearly impossible to figure whether he’s actually going to play. This week, the Chargers play in the Thursday nighter, so the start/sit call is an easy one. In Weeks 16 and 17, when San Diego plays in the late afternoon, that’s going to be much tougher to figure out.
By: Dave Stringer — December 7, 2010 @ 5:10 pm
Aaron Rodgers, Packers
I’m loath to have a guy who was my preseason pick as the top fantasy quarterback Moving Up, but it’s an extremely dry week for solid performances by mid-tier players at the position, so Rodgers gets the nod. With 1,232 passing yards, 11 passing touchdowns, no interceptions, 152 rushing yards, and a touchdown in his last four games, Rodgers is peaking at just the right time for his fantasy owners.
Manning's INTs make his fantasy owners sad.
Peyton Manning, Colts
In standard scoring leagues, Manning is running smoothly, collecting 83 fantasy points over his last three games. In leagues that penalize interceptions, it’s an entirely different story. Manning has thrown four interceptions in consecutive games and has 11 picks in his last three games, both firsts in his career. In leagues that deduct two points for interceptions, his totals for the last two weeks are 14 and 18.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
After racking up a healthy 23.5 points per game over his first eight games, Fitzpatrick has fizzled out with 29 combined points in losses to the Steelers and the Vikings. The Minnesota game represented his second-worst fantasy performance of the season, and the state of the team’s offensive line reduces his chances of bouncing back. The Bills lost starting center Geoff Hangartner and backup Kraig Urbik this week. With both players likely out for the season, Buffalo will start Mansfield Wrotto, who was signed off the street in October, at right tackle.
Kyle Orton, Broncos
Orton is coming off his worst game of the season, and with head coach Josh McDaniels fired this week, the probability that Tim Tebow will get a start or two for the Broncos increases. McDaniels was fighting to return in 2011, so he was obligated to play Orton in order to secure as many wins as possible. Now that he has been replaced by former running backs coach Eric Studesville—and with the Broncos fans in a serious state of discontent—it won’t be a surprise to see Tebow inserted into the starting lineup to accomplish two things: appease the team’s fan base, and get Tebow some valuable playing time. I predict that Tebow starts in Week 16.
James Starks, Packers
Meet Green Bay’s new lead running back. Incumbent Brandon Jackson may continue to get the nod in the starting lineup, but—make no mistake about it—Starks will lead the team in carries over the remainder of the season, barring injuries or fumbling issues. Starks put up 73 yards on 19 carries in the Packers win over the 49ers, with Jackson getting only eight total touches in the backup and pass-receiving roles. Starks’ upside is limited somewhat with John Kuhn likely to continue getting the goal line work, but Starks is the Packers back to own in the fantasy playoffs. With Ryan Grant turning 28 before the start of next season, coming off an injured ankle, and due $5.75 million in the final year of his contract in 2011, Starks is an excellent prospect in dynasty leagues.
Tashard Choice and Felix Jones, Cowboys
With Marion Barber out against the Colts and their sad-sack run defense, Choice and Jones stepped up with their best games of the season. Choice had 19 carries for 100 yards and a score while Jones gained 83 yards on 22 carries, along with three receptions for eight yards. With Barber expected to be released after the season, these guys are the Cowboys’ running back duo of the future. And with the playoffs out of reach, there’s no need to bring Barber back into the picture. Up next are the Eagles (ranked 12th in run defense), the Redskins (26th), and the Cardinals (28th).
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
Lynch has been mostly atrocious since joining the Seahawks (273 rushing yards and two touchdowns through seven games before this week) but had his best game in a Seattle uniform this week against a Panthers run defense that has ranked near the bottom of the league for the entire season. Lynch ran it 22 times for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns and also chipped in 17 yards with a reception. If this sounds like a lukewarm endorsement, it is. But having the second-most fantasy points of the week at running back gets you Moving Up.
Chris Ivory, Saints
One week he’s losing touches to Julius Jones, the next week he goes off for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Great flex option, but difficult to rely on as your RB2.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews was healthy enough to play but never saw the field this week against the Raiders. The list of reasons for his lack of productivity is a lengthy one: injuries, poor pass protection, inadequate receiving skills, game situations dictating the use of Mike Tolbert or Darren Sproles. At this point, Tolbert is the guy running it and Sproles is the guy catching it. Mathews is the guy sitting on the bench.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
For the first half of the season, LT was the feel-good story of the year because of his surprising production as the Jets’ lead running back. Since then, he’s fallen off and his fantasy owners are starting to wonder when he will find the end zone next. He has now gone six games without scoring, hasn’t topped 60 yards rushing in any of those games, and has hit double-digit fantasy points only twice during that span. Basically, he’s fallen to RB3 status.
Keiland Williams, Redskins
After two games as the Redskins’ lead runner, head coach Mike Shanahan ditched Williams in favor of the former Brown, James Davis. Williams is a serviceable pass catcher out of the backfield, but he’s not explosive in that capacity and he leaves plenty to be desired when running the ball. I doubt he even makes the team in 2011.
Mike Goodson, Panthers
Goodson was solid when given an opportunity. Jonathan Stewart was not. With both players healthy, who did head coach John Fox give the nod to last week? Stewart. Good luck figuring that one out.
Sidney Rice, Vikings
It looks like those of you who held on to Rice hoping he would be productive in the fantasy playoffs are about to be rewarded. He torched the Bills this week for 105 yards and a pair of scores on five receptions. He’s a startable commodity from here on in.
Roy Williams, Cowboys
Dez Bryant is out for the year with a broken ankle, so Williams will resume a more prominent role in the Cowboys passing attack. Williams has been mostly forgotten since Week 4, but prior to that he was productive. Over the first quarter of the season, he had 18 receptions for 278 yards and three touchdowns. That’s solid WR3 production, and there’s little reason to suggest he can’t post those types of numbers again with Bryant out.
Earl Bennett, Bears
When the Bears decided to cut back on Devin Hester’s snaps at receiver so he could concentrate on his return duties, Bennett’s opportunities increased. This week he took advantage of that to the tune of a career-best 104 yards and matched his career-high in receptions with seven. Last week, he had four receptions for 56 yards and a pair of touchdowns, so he is peaking at just the right time for his fantasy owners. He has caught 11 of his 13 targets over the past two weeks, so a bigger role might be in the offing.
Deion Branch, Patriots
In his first game back with the Patriots, Branch was solid in a win over the Ravens, but he followed that up with three stinkers. Since then, with Tom Brady on fire, Branch has had 71, 70, 113, and 74 yards, with two touchdowns in Week 12 and one this week against the Jets. That’s steady production and it means that Branch should be a reliable starter in the fantasy playoffs.
Mario Manningham, Giants
With Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks out of the lineup, Manningham was expected to be Eli Manning’s go-to guy at wide receiver. That hasn’t happened, and recently signed journeyman Derek Hagan got most of the looks during this week’s blowout win over the Redskins. Manningham has been a disappointment over the last three games, with just eight receptions for 121 yards and a score.
Steve Smith, Panthers
With a favorable matchup against the porous Seattle secondary, Smith caught just three of ten targets for 54 yards. That was just his second game in his last nine with more than 50 yards receiving, and he hasn’t found the end zone since Week 2. Smith will be 32 by the start of next season, and his yards per receptions went from 18.2 in 2008 to 14.8 last year to 12.8 this season. How much of that relates to Smith’s declining abilities and how much of it relates to poor play at quarterback is difficult to determine, but the bottom line is that he is no longer a big-play threat at wide receiver.
James Jones, Packers
Jones has been up and down like a yo-yo in 2010. With Donald Driver back to health this week, Jones surprisingly took a back seat, getting just four targets and catching two balls for eight measly yards. With his work this season, Jones shapes up as a solid prospect in dynasty leagues, but he’s a risky start for the remainder of 2010.
Brandon Pettigrew, Loins
Steady as she goes for Pettigrew. With five receptions for 36 yards this week, Pettigrew became the first tight end in Lions history to catch 60 passes in a season. He’s a dynamite prospect in all dynasty leagues but especially so in PPR formats. With 33 targets over his last four games, Pettigrew has emerged as a consistent receiving threat in a Lions passing offense that’s been surprisingly productive and should be even better in 2011.
Ed Dickson, Ravens
Todd Heap pulled a hamstring early in the Ravens’ loss to the Steelers, and after the game head coach John Harbaugh said the team’s young tight ends would have to step up. Dickson figures to take over for Heap, and he has the talent to make some plays in the passing game—although he has displayed questionable hands thus far in his rookie season. His seven targets after stepping in for Heap on Sunday night show that he will get an opportunity. Let’s see if he can take advantage of it.
Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings
It’s been four games since Shiancoe has found the end zone, and he has only 106 receiving yards during that stretch. With three targets in two of the last three games, he isn’t getting many opportunities, and that’s hurting his production.
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 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 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
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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.
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