Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 12.
1. Maurice Jones-Drew carried 21 times for 113 yards and caught 4 passes for 9 yards in the 24-20 loss to the Giants.
Huddle Up: The abdomen injury that had us all worked up proved to be another phony ‘questionable’ as MJD touched the ball 5 times on the opening drive, generating 43 total yards in 4 minutes. However, he was gassed by the time they had 1st and goal so backup RB Rashad Jennings banged it in. Later in the game the Jags got back down to the 5-yard line -- but David Garrard tried to hit Mike Sims-Walker twice before running it in himself on 3rd and goal. Jones-Drew is in the midst of a workhorse stretch like he’s never had before: For the first time in his career he has handled 25+ total touches in 4 straight games. This has helped him rise to 6th in the NFL with 1,263 total yards from scrimmage. Pocket Hercules is back! Weeks 13-16 are laid out nicely for MJD, with the 4th easiest schedule in terms of fantasy points allowed to RBs: at Titans, vs. Raiders, at Colts, vs. Washington. Note: This week the Titans might be without 3 of their 7 rotating defensive linemen - DE Dave Ball (concussion), DT Jason Jones (knee), and DT Tony Brown (knee).
2. Dwayne Bowe caught 13 passes for 170 yards and 3 TDs in the 42-24 win at Seattle. Jamaal Charles carried 22 times for 173 yards and 1 TD.
Huddle Up: This column is about numbers and no one makes more of them than Bowe. He just became the third receiver since 1990 to record 13 receptions, 170 yards, and 3 TDs in one game. Jimmy Smith did it with Jacksonville in 2000, and Jerry Rice did it twice for San Francisco in the 90’s. What jumps out at me is how easy some of Bowe’s scores have been the last few weeks. On his third TD at Seattle look how far off CB Kelly Jennings is lined up. And where’s the safety? It’s like a 9-on-7 drill. Meanwhile, Bowe and Jamaal Charles are feeding off each other, each making play after play to generate 1st downs – thereby creating more offensive snaps in which to make more plays. KC is ranked in the top-8 in yards per play, 1st downs per game, and time of possession. Charles is quietly 2nd in the league with 1,380 total yards from scrimmage behind Arian Foster’s 1,600. Note: Bowe faces the injury-riddled Broncos secondary (who just got tagged by the Rams) in Week 13.
3. Darren McFadden carried 8 times for 2 yards and caught 7 passes for 63 yards in the 33-17 loss to Miami. WR Jacoby Ford caught 4 passes for 108 yards and 1 TD, had a 101-yard kickoff return TD, and added one rush for 13 yards.
Huddle Up: Raiders beat writer Jerry McDonald thinks “the coaching staff is concerned that he’s not running as he did before.” I’m not ready to write off McFadden after one game with only 8 carries. McFadden was still targeted a whopping 10 times in the passing game and made guys miss a couple times. Raiders Samson Satele was getting pulverized by Dolphins NT Paul Soliai and the running lanes were clogged. McFadden tried to bounce it outside a couple times but the Dolphins contained. “You have to win your individual blocks and we didn’t do a very good job of that the last two weeks,” said Tom Cable. Jacoby Ford was simply the star of the NFL in Week 12, with 306 all-purpose yards and 2 scores. He was also targeted in the end zone two other times, one of them an easy 35-yard TD if Bruce Gradkowski throws it a half-second earlier. However, isn’t Ford sort of like a tree falling in the fantasy forest? No one got those points. Are you really gonna pick him up and chase those points? Not me.
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 23-of-45 passes for 265 yards and 1 TD with 1 INT in the 19-16 overtime loss to Pittsburgh. Fred Jackson put up 163 total yards and 1 TD.
Huddle Up: You won’t find a quieter fantasy quarterback but Fitzpatrick definitely belongs in starting lineups in most 12-team leagues. Since he took over in Week 3, he’s averaging 22.83 fantasy points per game, ahead of such names as Tom Brady and Eli Manning. If Steve Johnson holds onto that 40-yard overtime TD pass or four other drops on the day, Fitzpatrick is well over 300 yards again - and suddenly 4th or 5th among all QBs in fantasy points per game. In Week 13 he gets to play indoors at Minnesota who might be without DE Ray Edwards (ankle). If the Bills are smart they will give Fitzpatrick a solid 3- or 4-year extension worth some $20 million, roll with him in 2011, stop thinking about QB Andrew Luck (Stanford) and go draft linemen on both sides of the ball. Pick QB Ricky Stanzi (Iowa) in the 3rd round and groom him. Fred Jackson is the hottest fantasy RB in the league over the last 3 weeks with 462 total yards and 5 TDs.
5. Aaron Rodgers completed 25-of-26 passes for 344 yards and 1 TD (0 INT), in the loss at Atlanta, adding 12 carries for 51 yards and another TD. He also lost a fumble at the goal-line otherwise he would have had 2 rushing TDs. Greg Jennings caught 5 passes for 119 yards.
Huddle Up: Rodgers’ day wasn’t as good as it sounds. He piled up 88 passing yards and a TD in the final three minutes, including a 35-yard completion to Jennings with :02 left against a prevent defense with 4 Falcons DBs waiting at midfield. However, that’s what the good fantasy QBs do… they manufacture numbers no matter what. Rodgers has now amassed 300 total yards – pass and run – in 18 of his last 32 games. There are 299-, 293-, and 292-yard games in there too. Even Mr. Automatic, Peyton Manning, only has 17 in his last 32 games. Jennings used that last-second gimme at Atlanta to climb over the 100-yard mark for the 3rd time 6 games. He has 51 catches for 822 yards and 9 TDs and is currently the 6th or 7th best WR in most fantasy leagues. Note: In the post-game presser Mike McCarthy mentioned Jennings sustained a foot injury (was it on that final play?) and will miss practice time this week. We’ll monitor closely.
6. Jay Cutler completed 14-of-21 passes for 247 yards and 4 TDs in the 31-26 win over Philadelphia. He didn’t throw a pick and added 17 yards on the ground.
Huddle Up: Cutler is heating up with 9 TDs and only 3 INTs in his last 4 games. Amazingly, this spike in numbers has occurred while he’s only averaging 28 pass attempts. Balance is the key. In these last 4 games Cutler’s handed the ball off 29 times per game – in his previous 6 games he handed it off 16 times per game. I predicted it a month ago and I’ll repeat it: The return of RG Roberto Garza from a knee scope has stabilized this offense. Garza’s a cagey 10-year vet, and plus his return allowed Chris Williams to move to left guard where he’s best suited. Cutler’s schedule is a mixed bag – at Detroit, vs. New England, @ Minnesota, vs. NY Jets – but at least those two “hard” games are at home. For what its worth and probably not much, I’m starting Cutler (over Roethlisberger) and Johnny Knox (over Miles Austin) this week. Note: Here are the Bears receivers’ target counts over the last 3 weeks – Knox 20, Hester 17, Bennett 14, Olsen 13.
7. Philip Rivers completed 19-of-23 passes for 185 yards and 0 TDs in the 36-14 win at Indianapolis.
Huddle Up: His worst fantasy performance in a full 60-minute start since Week 11 of 2008, when the Chargers lost 11-10 to the Steelers. Rivers wasn’t bad in this game, it was just the way things played out. “Indianapolis wouldn’t let us get a play thrown up the field, with their coverage they were not gonna let us get a big passing play… but it did allow us opportunities to run the football,” said Norv Turner after the game. Run they did, with Mike Tolbert banging away all night. The Chargers had 17 plays in the red zone and ran the ball on 11 of them. Drives stalled at the 3, 10, 12, 15, and 32-yard lines and became Nate Kaeding field goals. You do have to wonder if a couple of those would have been Antonio Gates touchdowns if he was healthy. Rivers is at home facing Oakland in Week 13. I watched Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha last Sunday vs. Miami and trust me, his ankle is a mess. He couldn’t plant and cut, and allowed three completions of 20+ yards to Davone Bess and Brian Hartline.
8. Michael Turner carried 23 times for 110 yards and 1 TD in the win over Green Bay. Matt Ryan threw for 197 yards and a TD with no INTs.
Huddle Up: Turner smashed the vaunted Dom Capers defense to pieces. He could have had a second TD but couldn’t stuff it in on two tries from the 5-yard line. Turner is officially the best home-field running back in the NFL, with an average of 102 rushing yards and 23 TDs in his 19 games at the Georgia Dome. Turner’s next 3 games are on the road but those opponents – TB, CAR, SEA – rank 23rd, 26th, and 28th against fantasy RBs. Turner is the 10th-ranked fantasy RB, though over the last 5 games he ranks 5th. Matt Ryan has only been sacked 4 times in his last 190 drop-backs. To put that in perspective Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 16 times in his last 190 drop-backs.
9. Bucs CB Aqib Talib had 5 tackles, 2 passes defenses, and 1 INT in the 17-10 loss to Baltimore.
Huddle Up: Talib’s interception was one of the all-time great thefts, when he burst in front of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and trapped the ball between his legs as he somersaulted. Talib is tied for 2nd in the NFL with 6 INTs (despite missing a game) and he’s a big reason why the Bucs defense has allowed a league-low 26 pass plays of 20+ yards. However, Talib is under investigation by the NFL for his role in a profanity-laced argument with an official during the Ravens game. Talib reportedly got into it with the official after teammate Myron Lewis was called for pass interference. “You made a p---- call,” Talib allegedly shouted. “You play like a p----,” replied the official. “I’ll hit you in your b---- ass mouth,” Talib shot back. I’m just glad Talib didn’t spout off at Ed Hochuli or he would have earned two tickets to the Gun Show.
10. Mike Tolbert carried 26 times for 103 yards and 1 TD, and caught 2 passes for 15 yards in the win over the Colts. He’s the 16th ranked fantasy RB with more points than Steven Jackson or Cedric Benson.
Huddle Up: Million of fantasy hearts sank when Darren Sproles carried the ball on the final drive of the first half, and NBC’s Andrea Kremer said Tolbert went to the locker room to get his hand X-rayed. Tolbert returned after halftime and you couldn’t detect any kind of injury. Sadly, on the drive before his touchdown run he had two cracks from the 3-yard line and couldn’t score. Tolbert is 2nd in the NFL with 23 rushing attempts from the 10-yard line and in – despite barely playing in Weeks 1, 6, and 7 when Ryan Mathews was the primary ball-carrier. Mathews (ankle) was in street clothes again, and even if he’s active (I doubt he will be) in Week 13 vs. Oakland, Norv Turner had some telling remarks about how he views Tolbert. “He just fits with our offensive line,” Turner said. “They fit well with him, they know where he’s gonna be.”
11. Mario Manningham caught 3 passes for 61 yards and 1 TD in the win over Jacksonville.
Huddle Up: Manningham is creeping into the top-25 fantasy WRs despite being a No. 3 guy on his team for the first 8 games. He had a 2nd-quarter touchdown negated by a holding penalty on Kevin Boss. He was also wide open three other times (by my count) where another 30-40 yards was available for the taking. Manningham has scored in 4 of his last 6 games and this week he’s at home vs. the 29th worst pass defense, the Washington Redskins. Hakeem Nicks (leg) and Steve Smith (pectoral) are both out again this week and there’s no guarantee they’re back for Week 14 either. The next busiest WR in the Jaguars game was Derek Hagan with only 4 targets (2 catches for 21 yards). TE Kevin Boss was targeted a season-high 8 times and caught 3 passes for 74 yards and 1 TD.
12. Derrick Mason caught 8 passes for 87 yards and 1 TD in the win over Tampa Bay. He was targeted a season-high 13 times. Mason is playing through a surgically-repaired pinkie finger that he re-fractured two weeks after the operation.
Huddle Up: Over the last 4 weeks Mason has 19 receptions and 3 TDs, with a team-high 30 targets. Anquan Boldin has 13 receptions and 1 TD, off of 22 targets. Boldin was bracketed all day by the Bucs, hence his continued absence from box scores. Boldin was also flagged for a block in the back which negated a 76-yard TD reception by Ray Rice. “There’s no reason to do that,” said John Harbaugh. “You just can’t block a guy in the back. I don’t care what the situation is.” Todd Heap caught a career-long 65-yard TD vs. the Bucs. “If they make a movie about Todd Heap’s 2010 season, he should be played by Brad Pitt because he appears to have aged backward in the offseason as though he was Benjamin Button,” wrote Kevin Van Valkenburg of the Baltimore Sun. The 8-3 Ravens host the 8-3 Steelers on Sunday night for sole possession of the AFC North. Baltimore is 5-0 at home. They beat Pittsburgh earlier in the year but have only swept them once since their Super Bowl season in 2000.
13. Hines Ward caught 7 passes for 107 yards in the win at Buffalo. Rashard Mendenhall carried 36 times for 151 yards and 1 TD. He was targeted once and did not catch it.
Huddle Up: Ward also had 2 catches for 38 yards negated by penalties. The “old” fella has been wildly inconsistent this year with three 100-yard games but also 6 games with 3 or less receptions. Mike Wallace was strangely invisible with 3 catches (5 targets) for 33 yards and 0 TDs. Emmanuel Sanders played a lot of snaps for the 3rd straight week and was targeted 5 times, catching 2 passes for 27 yards. Mendenhall had a 42-yard run wiped out by a penalty on G Chris Kemoeatu. Kemoeatu was called for 4 holding penalties, 3 of which were accepted. Mendenhall has moved into 7th in rushing with 962 yards and he’s the 9th best fantasy RB in most leagues. His schedule is pretty jagged – Week 13 at Baltimore, Week 14 vs. Cincinnati, Week 15 vs. NY Jets – but if you can get to Week 16 with Mendenhall in tow, he’s got Carolina at home.
14. Sam Bradford completed 22-of-37 passes for 308 yards and 3 TDs with 0 INTs in the 36-33 win at Denver. He hit 9 different receivers.
Huddle Up: An absolute beast of a prospect in Dynasty leagues, Bradford is having one of the best rookie QB seasons ever. He’s on pace for 3,587 yards with 25 TDs and 13 INTs despite losing his top WR Mark Clayton early in the season. In fact since Clayton went down Bradford has thrown 11 TDs and 1 INT. Peyton Manning had 3,739 yards with 26 TDs and 28 INTs as a rookie. He completed 56.7% of his passes, Bradford’s currently at 60.5. Bradford is actually getting better even though opponents have a bunch of film on him by now: In his last 4 games he’s hitting 68% of his passes with a 100.1 QB rating. Note: Rams WR Danario Alexander (coming off his 5th knee operation in 3 years) returned to catch 4 passes for 95 yards. Alexander only played 20 snaps – compared to 60+ by Danny Amendola – but I swear, if this kid can stay healthy he’ll be the next Marques Colston. A true fantasy gambler looking for a spark will plug in Bradford this week against a beat-up and demoralized Cardinals defensive line.