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JUMbotron Friday Huddle: Week 12
John U. Miller
November 25, 2011

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way.  I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.” – Jon Stewart

“Thanksgiving, man.  Not a good day to be my pants.” – Kevin James

“Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday.  People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year.  And then discover once a year is way too often.” – Johnny Carson

Prediction A:  RB ____ _____ will rush for 100+ yards and at least 1 TD against the struggling _____ rush defense that ranks 29th in the league.

Prediction B:  The _____ defense will open a can of whoop-ass at home vs. _____ and new QB ____ _____.

This holiday season makes me think of both blessings and tragedies.  Last week there was a huge tragedy in the NFL as Bills RB Fred Jackson broke his leg and has been placed on injured reserve.  It breaks my heart because Fred electrified not just fantasy owners, but the entire Buffalo fan base with his stellar every-down play.  He was on pace for about 1,500 rushing yards, 700 receiving yards, and double-digit TDs.  Jackson was the No. 1 fantasy RB for about a 6-7-week stretch and projected to be one of the best 7th-round picks in a decade (I still laugh about Knowshon Moreno going a full 3 rounds ahead of Jackson).  But enough about fantasy – Let’s talk about reality.  Jackson was going to get a nice extension at the end of the season – not a huge one, given he’s almost 31 years old – but a nice one.  Now, I’m not so sure.  You see, Jackson still has one year left on his deal with a measly $1.83 million salary and I’m betting that Buffalo rides it out.  Again, he’ll be 31 and coming off a fractured fibula.  Jackson can’t catch a (ahem) break because he’s always fallen through the (ahem) cracks.  In 2009 he was coming off a great year as Marshawn Lynch’s caddy and had produced a whopping 888 total yards on only 167 touches.  Jackson was better than Lynch, frankly.  But instead of hitting free agency in 2009 and landing a big contract, Buffalo exercised the rarely-used “exclusive rights free agent” tag on him that February, meaning he couldn’t negotiate with or sign with another team once the Bills made that 1-year $460,000 offer.  Then and only then – two weeks before the season when free agency was long since over – did the Bills sign him to a puny 4-year, $7.5 million deal.  The one he’s playing out now.

Kyle Orton to the Chiefs.  It’s a good fit, but will Dwayne Bowe-owners get a chance to enjoy the little boost?  HC Todd Haley went ahead and confirmed that Tyler Palko will start vs. Pittsburgh Sunday.  You know, frankly I don’t see any difference in Bowe with Cassel-or-Palko-or-soon-to-be-Orton.  The Chiefs lost safety Eric Berry in the opener and their defense ranks 23rd or lower in four of six major categories.  My point is, they’ll almost always play from behind after the second quarter -- and it’s not like Bowe’s ever had Drew Brees anyway.  Bowe is Bowe, a sturdy reception guy who can score TDs in bunches. He’s hovering around the fantasy top-12 so unless he’s injured you shouldn’t burden yourself with whoever is playing quarterback.  I will say this:  The Chiefs’ home matchup vs. Green Bay in Week 15 is enticing for so many reasons.  1) Green Bay might be scaling back some snaps for key veterans (Charles Woodson?) if the #1 seed is in their grasp.  2) Kyle Orton will surely be starting by then and have a month of practices under his belt. 

Lions fans, don’t place all of the blame on Ndamukong Suh.  Yeah, he lied through his teeth on national television (dude, you expect us to believe that?).  Yeah, he’s a hyper-aggressive SOB that adds a little extra love when the play’s over.  But he’s not the ringleader.  It’s Jim Schwartz.  Schwartz is the Crown Prince of Dirty Coaches, second only in rank to Jeff Fisher who mentored Schwartz in Tennessee from 2001-2008.  And just like Fisher’s Titans defense, this Lions defense has been given the green light to act wild.  Suh is playing the role he’s been anointed by his coach, the same bully role that Albert Haynesworth had in Tennessee.  Detroit ranks 6th in the NFL in team penalties and last year they ranked 2nd.  When Schwartz was the defensive coordinator at Tennessee they ranked 2nd in 2008, 8th in 2007.  What Schwartz fails to understand is that you’ll get away with a lot more when you’re the top dog.  Detroit still isn’t good enough to be a bully.  Now they’ve lost 4 out of 6 games with a trip to New Orleans coming up. 

From the Aug. 16th JUMbotron:  “Ryan Mathews is being taken in the 4th or 5th round right now even though he was overwhelmed as a rookie and his body wasn’t ready.  As we speak the injury bug keeps buzzing around his legs and feet.  Looking back, I still say ‘Really?’ when I remember Mathews being taken in the late 1st round last year…Why, because the Chargers drafted him in the 1st round?  I got news for ya, these NFL scouts totally whiff left and right just like we do.  Hypothetically, if the Chargers had passed on Mathews at #12 and he fell all the way to #30 – maybe around the Donald Brown/Trung Canidate range – would we still place Mathews up on a pedestal?  I say call it like it is:  Mathews is the second best tailback on his own team and he’s got ‘Maroney’ written all over him.  Mike Tolbert is the guy.  Get over it.”

I love that Calvin Johnson snagged a TD with seconds to go, and I love it for all you Megatron-owners that started him. I hope it helped salvage what could have been a disappointing Turkey Day.  I’ll reiterate what I’ve said 50 times before at The Huddle:  You start a healthy Megatron no matter what the weather is or the opponent, or who the quarterback is.  Drafting him has a calming effect on fantasy owners because they have one less “Who do I play?” question every week for that starting slot.  Johnson is the premier TD-maker at the WR position with 41 TDs since 2008 (and it should be 42 if not for that bogus call at Chicago last year).  Larry Fitzgerald is next at 37, by the way. 

Mariah Carey…. Then… and… Now.

We’re in crunch time so I cherry-picked some “Who do I play?” questions from The Huddle Forums.  Hopefully these will answer some of your own dilemmas: 

Dcat asks “Andre Johnson or Boldin?”
First off, I know Anquan Boldin played last night so this piece is really directed at all you other “Andre Johnson or _____?” people.  Andre Johnson practiced in full on Thursday and would seemingly be in the clear after missing 6½ games with a busted hamstring tendon.  But Gary Kubiak keeps dropping these annoying, cryptic remarks that make me cringe.  Kubiak started the Thursday press conference with, “He’s fine, he’s ready to go.”  Okay, STOP.  Stop there Gary, we’ve heard enough… but no, he had to add this: “I would imagine he plans on being in there.  Andre tells me what his play count is.  He won’t go out there and play 60, 70 plays this weekend.  We’ll pay attention to what’s going on.”  Part of me thinks that Kubiak is throwing out a little gamesmanship, trying to keep the division-rival Jags guessing – but what good would that do?  Jacksonville is fully aware that Johnson had a hamstring tendon surgically repaired and missed basically half the season.  They know he’s not quite there yet.  No, I think Kubiak is speaking the facts.  I think Johnson can run at 85% speed and make specific cuts, but not all of them.  I think he’s too risky in Week 12.  Matt Leinart is not a liability in my opinion, by the way.  He’ll be fine.  If AJ makes it through this game with no setback then I’ll sing a different tune next week vs. Atlanta.

Bluetooth asks “Fred Jackson out! Now who do I start?
My thoughts on Jackson led off today’s column.  I haven’t felt this bad for an injured NFL player since Falcons RB Jamal Anderson blew out his ACL in 1999, coming off a breakout 1,846-yard season.  You Jackson-owners are in a pickle.  Bluetooth has an especially ugly group to choose from now – Toby Gerhart, Donald Brown, Shonn Greene, Pierre Thomas – and I would imagine that most of you in competitive 12-team leagues don’t have much better either.  First off buddy, I’d rule out Donald Brown.  I know he had 14 carries and 4 targets two weeks ago – but they’ve had a bye week and Joseph Addai is healthy again.  I know this because RB Darrell Evans went back to the practice squad.  No Colts RBs in your lineup in this crucial fantasy week.  Next I’d rule out Pierre Thomas, simply because the Saints RBs – other than Darren Sproles – are a crap shoot.  No crap shoots in this crucial fantasy week.  So it’s down to Shonn Greene vs. Toby Gerhart.  Here’s where I zig while most fantasy analysts zag.  I say Gerhart.  Adrian Peterson was still in a walking boot as of Thursday morning.  Gerhart gets the start and his potential is more inviting to me: We know what Shonn Greene will give you – 17 carries, 65 yards, 2 receptions, 11 yards – but we don’t know what Gerhart can do.  I’d rather take a shot at the great unknown than let Greene make me chew fingernails for three hours.

deadrabbits asks “Can someone help me not feel like crap on Monday?”
Santana Moss or Damian Williams is his dilemma, and I’d bet that 30% of you reading this are staring at Moss on the end of your bench.  Moss is back after busting his hand and having surgery on Oct. 24.  He was originally supposed to be out for five-to-seven weeks but has practiced in full all week.  He’s ready.  It’s not like it was his Achilles’ or a torn MCL, people.  As much as I love Damian Williams – he’s contributed 4 flex-player TDs over the last 7 weeks – you have to give Moss the nod here.  Rex Grossman is capable of a hot streak that pours stats all over the place.  In their last 7 full games together Grossman and Moss have connected for an average of 6 receptions, 68 yards and scored 4 TDs.  Williams can’t replicate those receptions/yardage numbers.  Now, a lot of you are asking, “What about Moss vs. _____?”  Let me offer my opinion on a few possible dilemmas:  I’d go Moss over Deion Branch, Moss over Sidney Rice, Moss over Meachem or Moore, Moss over any Raiders WR, Moss over Manningham, and Moss over Reggie Wayne.

snoop2 asks “WDIS BenJarvus or McGahee?”
Three weeks ago this was a no-brainer because McGahee was on a tear – a top-5 fantasy RB over a 6-week stretch – but then he pulled his hammy.  Meanwhile Green-Ellis is back in rhythm again, coming off a 21-touch/106-total yard game vs. the Chiefs.  Green-Ellis was almost useless for 4 straight weeks and may or may not have had a sprained toe.  This week it’s New England vs. Philly’s 24th-ranked defense vs. fantasy RBs and Denver vs. San Diego’s 15th-ranked defense vs. fantasy RBs.  McGahee’s reportedly healthy again after making it through last week with no setbacks.  I’m going with the karma play here because McGahee was just named a Broncos team captain (since Kyle Orton was waived).  John Fox loves the 8-year vet and I think McGahee’s queued up for 18-22 carries at San Diego.  I can’t say the same things about Law Firm with confidence.  The Patriots’ playbook is a crazy piece of literature that often ignores certain RBs for chapters at a time.  In fact, if your league’s trade deadline isn’t up yet I’d trade Green-Ellis right now while his stock has thickened up.  

Things I’ve Noticed That Perhaps You Haven’t:

--Cedric Benson has rushed for 100 yards or more in 3 of his last 5 games vs. Cleveland.
--Denarius Moore (foot) will be missed.  He ranks 7th in the NFL with 83.3% of his catches going for 1st downs.
--Matt Moore’s QB ratings in his first 4 games: 67.3, 41.8, 92.6, 58.5.  In his last 4 games:  147.5, 75.2, 133.3, 99.5.  He’s found a home.
--Michael Bush is the No. 1 fantasy RB over the last 3 weeks.
--Laurent Robinson (counting Thanksgiving’s 2-TD delight) is the No. 1 fantasy WR over the last 5 weeks, barring some massive production from Vincent Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, or Victor Cruz this week.
--Michael Crabtree has caught 6+ passes in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
--Eli Manning is on pace for about 4,700 passing yards (which would be a career-high by a mile) and 29 TD passes.  Let’s say he hits those exact marks:  That would give him a 3-year rolling average of 4,241 yards and 29 TD passes.  He’s knocking on the door of the Fantasy Elite.
--Matt Hasselbeck has cooled off after a great start (top-8 fantasy QB for the first 5 weeks) but still leads the NFL with a 125.2 QB rating in the red zone.  With no threat in the backfield.  He’s still got it.
--Anquan Boldin has crept into the top-20 fantasy WRs.  He’s really only had three “bad” games and has Cleveland & Indianapolis up next.
--Calvin Johnson has only dropped 4 of 109 passes thrown his way.  Roddy White has dropped 11 of 99 passes. 
--James Starks started on Thanksgiving but aggravated the knee injury.  He disappeared quickly.
--Packers LBs A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop both suffered calf injuries against the Lions and the early vibe is that they are both out vs. the Giants in Week 13.  Hawk and Bishop are the two signal-callers for the defense.
--The Patriots have two guys in the top-12 in sacks – DE Andre Carter & DE Mark Anderson – and they’re both NFC castoffs.  Carter was a Redskin, Anderson was a Bear.
--The Packers have 4 DBs with at least 3 INTs, the only team in the league to make that claim:  Charles Woodson (6), Charlie Peprah (4), Tramon Williams (4), and Morgan Burnett (3). 
--The Redskins rank last in rushing avg. gains “up the middle” at 2.91 yards.
--QB leaders in avg. length of pass:  Eli Manning 10.09, Cam Newton 9.87, Matt Moore 9.65, Christian Ponder 9.43, B. Roethlisberger 9.40. 
--Only 9 players have a reception of 80+ yards this year and Jordy Nelson & Mike Wallace are the only ones with 2.  Here’s the list in order of length:  Wes Welker 99, Mike Wallace 95, Jordy Nelson 93, Pierre Garcon 87, Jordy Nelson 84, Jerome Simpson 84, Mike Wallace 81, Kenny Britt 80, Jared Cook (the only tight end) 80, Julio Jones 80, Jacoby Jones 80.
--Steven Jackson is inching up into the top-10 fantasy RBs.  I’ve never been so wrong about a player than him the last few years.  If his legs don’t betray him he goes out and punishes.  And for all the talk about his injury history, he’s only missed 6 games since 2008. Jackson also just passed Terry Allen for 32nd all-time with 8,697 rushing yards.
--LaDainian Tomlinson (knee) will probably miss Week 12 but he should be back next week.  He just needs 92 yards to pass Jerome Bettis for 5th all-time with 13,663 yards.  He’ll probably to settle for 5th however, because Curtis Martin is comfortably in 4th with 14,101.  L.T. won’t catch him.
--Tom Brady needs 5 TD passes to pass Johnny Unitas for 7th all-time with 291 TD passes.  Then one more and he passes Warren Moon for 6th place at 292.  Then 9 more and he passes John Elway for 5th all-time with 301.  Unbelievable.  It’s all happened so fast. 
--Only one of Sunday's games – Chicago at Oakland – pairs two teams with winning records (Thanks to Peter King for that one).
--Matt Ryan has been in the shotgun a season-high 54 times in back-to-back games.  It is a coincidence that he’s thrown for 667 yards and Roddy White has 209 yards in those 2 games?
--Last week Marcedes Lewis played a season-high 65 snaps.  He set season-highs in targets (11), catches (7), and yards (64). 
--Jeremy Maclin (shoulder/hamstring) is likely out again.  Last week with Maclin out the WR snap counts were Riley Cooper 65, DeSean Jackson 55, Jason Avant 42, Steve Smith 7.
--Sebastian Janikowski (hamstring) is no longer on the injury report.  He’s a sneaky start in a potential FG-fest vs. the Bears.

Here’s Alexis Bellino of Real Housewives of Orange County from an early photo shoot back in 2003, six years before she joined the show.

These RBs have the most touches over their last 4 games:  DeMarco Murray 109, Arian Foster 109, Steven Jackson 107, Marshawn Lynch 106, Michael Bush 105, Matt Forte 98, LeSean McCoy 96, Michael Turner 92.  No one else has more than 85 touches in their last 4 games.

Team Red-Zone Trips Leaders:

Team Red-Zone Trips Leaders
Team Trips TDs
New Orleans 47 24
Green Bay** 46 29
New England 45 28
Philadelphia 45 20
Houston 40 19
Detroit** 39 23
Carolina 38 18
San Francisco** 38 16
Atlanta 37 20
San Diego 37 18
** 11 games instead of 10

From the Nov. 11th JUMbotron:  “BUY: Cowboys WR Laurent Robinson.  They’re reporting Miles Austin will miss 2-4 weeks with his aggravated hamstring but we all know that’s misleading.  When the hammy re-pops and he grabs his buttock for the second time in one season, you know it’s bye-bye for 4 games, period…  Robinson is the absolute top-dog #1 WR pickup this week.  Big fan.  Did you know he’s the 24th-ranked WR over his last five games – and that’s with Austin on the field for 4 of those games!?!  Now with Austin swept into a dustpan the floor is clean enough for Robinson to eat off it.”

Random Thought #1:  These players have really hurt fantasy teams this year and I notice them plugged in starting lineups over and over and over – like they’ve earned a longer leash or something…. TE Vernon Davis, QB Matt Schaub, RB Ryan Mathews, RB Chris Johnson, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Santonio Holmes, and K Rob Bironas.  Several of these guys have something in common… a career year in 2009.  Davis, Schaub, Johnson, Jackson, Holmes, they all had career years in 2009.  Weird.  Mathews?  Not sure what he ever did to deserve the benefit of the doubt.  Bironas?  He was huge a few years ago but now he’s barely a top-20 kicker.

Random thought #2:  I think that Ravens OC Cam Cameron is holding back a tremendous collection of skill players and offensive linemen.  When I watch a Ravens game it’s never easy for them to move the ball – and even when the engine is firing it feels forced, like they never find a loose, fun rhythm.  Cameron tries to jam a square peg in a round hole: Ray Rice had 21 carries vs. the staunch 49ers defense, but 9 carries vs. St. Louis in October.  And he features different personnel in wild fluctuations:  TE Ed Dickson had 14 targets in Week 10 but only 5 combined in the last two weeks.  There’s a lot of youth on the offensive side of the ball – Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Ed Dickson, OLs Michael Oher/Ben Grubbs average 24.7 years old – and I just hope their primes aren’t wasted by a less-than-superlative playbook. 

Why won’t the Raiders come out and say it?  Darren McFadden’s mid-foot sprain ended his season in Week 7.  He went down on Oct. 23 and used one or two crutches (while in a walking boot) to get around for 19 days. That’s some serious sprainage, folks… probably a Lis Franc sprain if you ask me.  I said it two weeks ago.  Strangely, I’ve found no one on the internet to even speculate McFadden has that dreaded injury, except this medical expert from Yahoo! Sports.  Let’s just assume for a second that McFadden is Lis-Franked and he faces that long, grueling rehab.  In this situation it’s not a stretch to suggest McFadden opens 2012 on the 6-week PUP and isn’t completely back to normal until 2013, when he’ll suddenly be 26 years old.  But hey, it’s not a problem – even the worst-case McFadden scenario – because Oakland has Michael Bush, right?  He’s a premier every-down back and aside from that 2006 broken leg at Louisville he’s proven to be a very durable guy.  Whoops!  Bush is a free agent in 2012 so the only way to keep him is to use the franchise tag at a beefy $7.7 million guaranteed for one year; though tagging Bush could easily result in a nasty holdout.  Plus, do they want to pay him almost 8 mil guaranteed (average of the top-5 RB salaries)?  No one franchises a backup player…and where would that leave Oakland on the salary cap?  Okay, maybe they let Bush walk – use the franchise tag on safety Tyvon Branch – and just draft a blue-chip RB to hedge against McFadden’s foot.  Whoops!  Can’t do that, they gave their 2012 1st-round pick to Cincinnati for Carson Palmer!

Last-minute injury news:  Sidney Rice (knee) is likely out; Jacoby Ford (foot) ditched the boot but isn’t expected to be ready; Beanie Wells (knee) has been limited but will start; Deion Branch (hip) was added to the injury report Thursday; Montario Hardesty (calf) has practiced quite a bit and HC Pat Shurmur said he’ll start over Chris Ogbonnaya “if he can go(?).”  I don’t understand that one.  Let Ogbonnaya have the ball, dammit!

JUMbo Cheerleader Series:

Meagan of the Buccaneers heard she was bumped to No. 2 on the JUMbo Power Rankings for the Cowboys’ Amy Reese so she sent me this picture.  Meagan, I can’t believe I doubted you even for a second.  You’re back at #1 honey and in tribute to you I’m unveiling a new 5-pic exclusive gallery:  Meagan 1, Meagan 2, Meagan 3, Meagan 4, Meagan 5

And don’t forget Marlana, who’s hovering at No. 3 on my rankings.  Actually, many of you have communicated to me that she should be No. 1.  Hmmm… a case could be made

JUMbo Tunes of the Week:

Nada Surf:  Weightless (very underrated band, always refused to write easy hits)
Dinosaur Jr:  Feel The Pain (live from 2010 reunion tour, you’ll wanna turn it up)
Queens of the Stone Age:  The Bronze (I can’t believe this song is 13 years old)

Prediction A:  RB Cedric Benson will rush for 100+ yards and at least 1 TD against the struggling Browns rush defense that ranks 29th in the league.

Prediction B:  The Raiders defense will open a can of whoop-ass at home vs. Chicago and new QB Caleb Hanie.

Good Luck This Week!

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