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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Sunday Game Recaps - Week 12
John Tuvey
November 24, 2008
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Steelers 27, Bengals 10

The Steelers took their own sweet time putting away the Bengals, spotting them a seven-point lead and marching all of 30 yards on their first three drives before getting serious. Willie Parker was little help, rushing for 37 yards on 14 carries before aggravating his knee injury. Ben Roethlisberger (17-30-243-1) did the heavy lifting, finding Heath Miller for a score and Santonio Holmes five times for 84 yards—though Holmes may not remember most of them after taking a shot from Chris Crocker on a crossing pattern. Hines Ward was almost invisible, catching one ball for 37 yards. Sans Parker, Mewelde Moore contributed 97 yards from scrimmage and Gary Russell vultured a short touchdown.

The absence of Chad Johnson limited the already offensively-challenged Bengals. For starters, without his running mate T.J. Houshmandzadeh received plenty of defensive attention and was limited to 20 yards on four catches. Glenn Holt scored Cincy’s lone touchdown and tight ends Reggie Kelly (3-41) and Ben Utecht (3-36) were the team’s top two receivers; not since Bob Trumpy have the Bengals been led by tight ends. Actually that may not be true, I didn’t bother to check, but seriously the Bengals usually treat their tight ends like Oscar voters treat Pauly Shore. As you might imagine, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s final numbers (20-37-168-1-1) were hardly impressive. Cedric Benson led the anemic running game with 35 yards on 16 carries, with a long gain of seven.

Fantasy Impact: It’s tough to envision a scenario where a playoff-bound fantasy team would want any Bengal in their lineup the rest of the way. Johnson is trying to make enough Cincinnati decision-makers angry that they’ll finally kick him to the curb, Housh doesn’t need to come back, and if Fitzpatrick is still at the helm next year you can write off the Bengals until 2010—at the earliest. Parker’s latest injury rewards fantasy owners who hung on to Moore but also clouds the outlook going forward; Russell’s short-yardage TD didn’t help, either. The late-season emergence of Limas Sweed (2-25) knocks Nate Washington off the fantasy radar, but Big Ben is spreading the ball around enough that all his receivers are iffy-at-best plays from week to week.

Ravens 36, Eagles 7

Ed Reed provided all the offense the Ravens needed with a 108-yard interception return, but just for fun Joe Flacco & Co. kicked in a little as well. Flacco played interception-free football for the fifth time in six games, completing 12 of 26 passes for 183 yards and a couple touchdowns. Not surprisingly, though, the Ravens kept things primarily on the ground Le’Ron McClain was the flavor du jour with 18 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown while Willis McGahee (7-8) and Ray Rice (8-7) were ineffective—though Rice contributed 42 receiving yards on three catches.

Donovan McNabb certainly didn’t have it—again—but Kevin Kolb wasn’t exactly the answer. McNabb’s 8-18-59 first half earned him a benching; Kolb’s 10-23-73 hardly made it a no-brainer who’ll start next week. The duo also tied in interceptions, with both tossing two. Brian Westbrook was a game-time decision, but maybe someone forgot to tell him the decision was that he should play; Westy touched the ball 16 times and produced 34 yards. DeSean Jackson (5-47) was the team’s leading receiver and, along with Jason Avant, produced Philly’s longest gain from scrimmage on the day: 15 yards. If it weren’t for Quintin Demps’ 100-yard kickoff return the Eagles would have been shut out.

Fantasy Impact: Is there an Eagle who’s useable down the fantasy stretch? Westbrook has done nothing of late and is obviously not 100 percent, no receiver is emerging as a reliable go-to guy and McNabb may spend the rest of the season in a parka and a stocking cap. The Ravens offer little more to fantasy folks, as John Harbaugh continues to mix and match his running backs based on the hot hand. Since usually the hot hand isn’t determined until after the game starts, good luck guessing which Baltimore back will be a fantasy helper from week to week.

Texans 16, Browns 6

Usually when you win the ball control battle by 15 minutes it’s because you’re running the ball well; Houston chose to keep running the ball despite not really being all that effective, as Steve Slaton (21-73) and Ahman Green (13-39) combined for just over three yards per carry. Sage Rosenfels (24-32-275-1-2) picked up the slack, with Andre Johnson (10-116) the primary target and Kevin Walter (7-93-1) a heckuva wingman. In fact, Walter’s grab was the lone touchdown in a game that featured eight field goal attempts and just 22 points despite 623 yards of combined offense.

The Browns did absolutely nothing well. A 42-yard grab by Braylon Edwards was the lone highlight of the afternoon for the Pumpkin-Helmeted Warriors; Edwards finished with 85 yards on five catches, and Jamal Lewis was the only other Brown to catch more than one ball. An ineffective Brady Quinn was replaced after 94 yards and two picks; at least he could blame a busted finger. Derek Anderson completed five of 14 passes for 51 yards and a pick in relief, though he was victimized by drops and Lewis’ second fumble of the game right after a Browns pick had Cleveland set up inside the Houston 30.

Fantasy Impact: Jerome Harrison carried seven times for 31 yards, and with Lewis putting the ball on the ground twice it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Harrison saw more activity down the stretch. Whether the Browns will roll with the dinged-up Quinn or showcase Anderson for an offseason move, however, remains to be seen. The Walter/Johnson Express continues to roll even with Rosenfels at the controls; Matt Schaub’s return is hardly imminent, so it’s reassuring to see the duo combine for 17 of Sage’s 24 completions and 209 of his 275 yards.

Buccaneers 38, Lions 20

The Bucs spotted Detroit 17 first-quarter points before showing up… then rattled off five straight touchdowns to keep the Lions winless. With two return touchdowns (punt and interception), the Tampa Bay offense didn’t need to do much. Jeff Garcia was an efficient 13-for-18 for 165 yards and two scores, including one to tight end Jerramy Stevens. Warrick Dunn carried just 14 times but produced 90 yards and a touchdown, and the Bucs also got to shake some of the rust off Cadillac Williams, who carried 16 times for 27 yards. Oh, and Caddy’s collision with Garcia in the backfield led to a fumble the Lions returned for a touchdown. So… yeah, still some rust.

Daunte Culpepper still knows how to throw the jump ball, and he threw one to Calvin Johnson for the Lions’ lone offensive touchdown. Unfortunately, Daunte completed just seven of his other 19 passes and was briefly benched for Drew Stanton. Kevin Smith continued to pile up impressive yardage in garbage time, carrying 16 times for 86 yards. Is he destined for a Barry Sanders-esque “if there were only some talent around him” sort of career?

Fantasy Impact: If the Lions do make a more permanent switch to Stanton, we’ll need to find out for sure he’s as willing to throw the jump ball to Calvin before keeping Johnson in fantasy lineups. Smith should stay there as well, so long as the Lions keep Rudi Johnson at the four-carry level. Williams’ workload may not have been particularly productive, but in addition to reacquainting him with the game it also lessens the wear and tear on Dunn, who the Bucs will lean on heavily down the stretch. Any garbage-time carry Dunn doesn’t have to take means he’ll be that much more effective down the road.

Bills 54, Chiefs 31

Trent Edwards seemed stuck at one touchdown a game… until Sunday, when he broke out in a big big way: two passing scores, along with 273 yards, plus two scrambles for touchdowns. Sure, Edwards received a little help from Marshawn Lynch (20-79-1 on the ground and another 25 as a receiver) and Lee Evans (5-110). And he received a lot of help from Leodis McKelvin, who returned a pick for a score, made another interception, and handed the Bills great field position all day with his kick returns. Buffalo’s average starting field position was just outside their own 48, and five of the six possessions they started inside KC territory yielded points (the sixth was a series of kneel-downs at the end of the game).

Not often do you put up 31 and still get beat by three touchdowns. Fantasy wise, though, it didn’t much matter as Tyler Thigpen continued his hot streak with 240 yards and three scores. He went to Tony Gonzalez (10-113-1), he went to Mark Bradley (2-52-1), he even went to Jamaal Charles out of the backfield (3-45-1). And when Quinn Gray came in to mop up he went to Dwayne Bowe (3-58-1). Even Larry Johnson had a solid return to the lineup; though he carried just seven times and caught two balls he produced 105 yards from scrimmage. However, he was caught from behind on a 63-yard run, turning a long LJ TD into a short Thigpen-to-Gonzo score.

Fantasy Impact: Johnson’s return had little impact on the fantasy roll Thigpen, Gonzo, and Bowe are on. However, you’d think that he would start seeing a few more touches based on the success he had in his first game back. Lynch continues to be an enigma; he should be putting up more yardage than he does, especially against teams like the Chiefs, but he seems stuck in a 60-to-80 yard rut. At least he’s scoring.

Bears 27, Rams 3

Matt Forte is playing his way into a top-five fantasy pick next year. He’s getting his yards and scores against everybody regardless of matchup, but it was particularly nice to see him blow up a defense he was supposed to blow up. Forte carried 20 time for 132 yards and two scores and kicked in a couple catches and 14 receiving yards as well. There wasn’t much left for the Bears to do, though Devin Hester chipped in 57 receiving yards to lead the team and another 32 rushing yards to boot.

Nothing to see here, though we are contractually obligated to inform you that through sheer volume and desperation Trent Green (on in relief of the injured Marc Bulger) threw 30 times, completing 16 for 219 yards and four interceptions. It got so bad the Rams gave Brock Berlin a spin as well. The team mustered 12 rushing yards in Steven Jackson’s absence, and Torry Holt’s four-catch, 84-yard afternoon couldn’t have been much more yawn-inspiring.

Fantasy Impact: The Rams are limping home, making it unlikely they’ll risk Jackson unless and until he’s completely healthy. That means the number of Rams you can rely on for fantasy help down the stretch falls to zero. Kyle Orton wasn’t required to do much on the day, and he complied with 139 passing yards and a touchdown. He did look frequently to Hester, which may come into play somewhere down the road when the Bears are actually threatened by a legitimate NFL team.

Jets 34, Titans 13

The uninformed fan might look at Gang Green’s big win and assume Brett Favre led the way—and his 25-32-224-2-1 line certainly didn’t hurt. But 96 rushing yards from Thomas Jones (along with another 21 and a touch through the air) and 82 rushing yards and a pair of scores from Leon Washington gave the Titans a taste of their own medicine, helping the Jets more than double up Tennessee in time of possession. Laveranues Coles’ 7-88-1 led a relatively quiet receiving corps, though PPR leaguers couldn’t find fault in the efforts of either Jerricho Cotchery (6-55) or Dustin Keller (6-42).

The past couple of weeks teams have forced Kerry Collins to beat them through the air, and Collins has complied. This week, though, the Jets stepped it up a notch; they held the vaunted Titans ground game to 45 yards on just 11 attempts (surely one of the lowest outputs a Jeff Fisher-coached team has ever produced) and kept Tennessee’s offense on the sidelines. Collins wasn’t helped by a rash of the dropsies, finishing 21-for-39 for 243 yards and a score. Four different Titan receivers finished at 40 yards or above, but none topped Justin McCareins’ 43—meaning there was nothing here for fantasy folks to concern themselves with.

Fantasy Impact: It wasn’t that long ago that fantasy owners could confidently start a Chris Johnson-LenDale White backfield and expect solid fantasy production with the upside of a game like their combined 300-plus yards against the Chiefs. Against the Jets, however, Johnson finished with 46 yards on 10 carries and contributed a costly fumble while White carried just one time for negative-one yards and also dropped a pass. On the other hands, with the Jets committing to the ground game over the past month a Jones-Washington tandem looks mighty appealing—especially with Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle still left on the schedule.

Patriots 48, Dolphins 28

Was it the game-tying completion in the Jets’ loss last Thursday? Or did the Pats just remove the restrictor plates? Whatever the reason, Matt Cassel started not only throwing more down the field but—most importantly—completing the mid-range and deeper throws. His second straight 400-yard game was still heavy on volume (30 completions in 43 attempts), but he had 20-plus yard completions to Randy Moss, Wes Welker (8-120) , and Jabar Gaffney (5-88). More importantly, he started finding Moss on a much more regular basis, particularly near the end zone; as a result, Moss’s 8-125-3 was reminiscent of last year and a welcome sight to his fantasy owners. The Pats didn’t abandon the ground game, though they split 23 running back rushing attempts almost equally between Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis; Faluk was most productive, with 53 yards and a score as well as 52 receiving yards.

Hard to fault the Dolphins for their efforts after putting up 392 yards and 28 points on the Patriots. However, the Wildcat was mild this time around, as Miami rushed for just 62 yards and Chad Pennington produced their only rushing score. Pennington accounted for most of the rest of the offense as well, throwing 41 times for 341 yards and three passing touchdowns. Ted Ginn (5-88) and Davonne Bess (5-87) led the way yardage-wise, while Ricky Williams and Casey Cramer caught just three balls between them but produced two scores. Greg Camarillo straddled the middle ground with 75 yards and a touchdown. Ronnie Brown? 10 carries for 37 yards and another catch for 10 yards, putting the "mild" in "Mildcat".

Fantasy Impact: Maybe the league is catching on to the Wildcat, as it hasn’t been effective much of late. Pennington, on the other hand, continues to put up solid numbers and is enjoying the development of Ginn and the emergence of Bess as a third target. New England’s ground game remains fractured, with Faulk’s receiving ability making him the most valuable entity of that group—at least for the moment. Cassel’s newfound ability to throw downfield, however, may mean less check-downs to Faulk; on the afternoon, wideouts accounted for 21 of Cassel’s 30 completions.

Vikings 30, Jaguars 12

A pair of Jacksonville turnovers spotted the Vikings a quick 14 points, and though at times they threatened to give away the good will the Purple made just enough plays to keep the Jaguars at bay. Gus Frerotte took a beating despite throwing just 20 passes, completing 12 for 120 yards and no scores; he was helped from the field three different times, but on Tarvaris Jackson’s lone snap he handed off to Bernard Berrian on an end-around. Actually, Berrian’s biggest contributions came on two end-arounds as he was limited to one catch for six yards on the afternoon. Chester Taylor got the start (Adrian Peterson evidently slept in Saturday morning and was late for a meeting) and scored an early touchdown, stealing just enough touches to prevent Peterson’s 17-80-1 afternoon from being bigger.

Down two scores less than two minutes into the game, the Jaguars had to all but abandon the run. While that took Fred Taylor (six carries, 20 yards) out of the mix it did little to prevent Maurice Jones-Drew from having a productive afternoon. In addition to three carries for four yards MoJo led the Jags with nine catches for 113 yards; he was also pressed into return duty after a pair of kicking-game fumbles dug Jacksonville a deep hole. David Garrard compiled big numbers by necessity, throwing 45 times (completing 27) for 317 yards, a touchdown, and a pair of picks. Reggie Williams scored the Jags’ lone touchdown and headed up the rest of the receiving corps with three catches for 44 yards.

Fantasy Impact: The Jaguars are not a passing team; they’re much better served when Garrard clocks in around 225-250 yards and MoJo is getting 15 touches in the ground game instead. Taylor actually received some carries inside the 10 yard line but reinforced his fantasy worthlessness by failing to capitalize. With Berrian throwing a pair of clunkers onto his stat pile the lone Vikings fantasy entity remains Peterson; even the disciplinary action from Childress couldn’t hold him down. However, if Frerotte continues to take beatings like the one Jacksonville administered Sunday we could see more Jackson before the season is over—a move that would kill what’s left of the fantasy values of Berrian and Visanthe Shiancoe and also put a crimp in Peterson’s value by virtue of the extra defender or two opponents could commit to stopping the run.

Cowboys 35, 49ers 22

The sad thing is, now it might appear as if Terrell Owens was right. Of course, the cupcake opponent and the improved state of Tony Romo’s pinky had as much to do with the improved output as TO’s latest comments, but the final result is that Owens caught seven passes for 213 yards and a touchdown and the Cowboys once again look like a team that can make noise in the postseason. Aided by Owens’ deep success, Romo finished 23-for-39 for 341 yards and three scores, with Patrick Crayton (2-16-1) and Martellus Bennett (1-1-1) catching the other touchdowns. That left Roy Williams (3-36) and Jason Witten (1-11) on the outside looking in fantasy-wise. Marion Barber was the team’s second-leading receiver with seven grabs for 50 yards to augment a 19-carry, 59-yard rushing day.

In the vein of Montana-to-Clark and Garcia-to-Owens, add… Hill-to-Bruce? Okay, so it wasn’t a playoff game, but it’s about as close as the Niners will come for quite some time and Shaun Hill had himself quite a fantasy day against the Cowboys with 303 yards and a pair of scores. Much of that went to Isaac Bruce, who caught eight balls for 125 yards and a touchdown; Bryant Johnson (4-56) was the next-leading pass catcher and DeShaun Foster scored the other TD on his lone catch of the day. Frank Gore was next to invisible with 14 carries for 26 yards and one catch for six.

Fantasy Impact: This was Gore’s second fantasy dud of the year; not coincidentally, both came when the Niners visited an NFC East foe. There are no more such trips on the San Francisco schedule. Not only does Owens’ big day demonstrate that Romo can be safely returned to the fantasy elite it may also quiet the squeaky wheel for a little while. Witten hasn’t had a real fantasy helper since Week 5, while Bennett has scored three times since then. The bum ribs aren’t helping, but it appears the rookie is drawing less defensive attention in red zone situations—and thus more attention from Romo.

Raiders 31, Broncos 10

Let’s bust out some phrases we haven’t heard for a while—like “Raiders offensive touchdown” or “efficient JaMarcus Russell” or “productive Ashley Lelie.” It was all of the above and then some on Sunday, spearheaded by Russell’s 10-for-11 passing for 152 yards and a touchdown to Lelie. Lelie actually hauled in four balls for 92 yards and a score against his former mates, with Zach Miller the only other Raider to catch more than two balls or top 15 receiving yards. The ground game was solid, with Justin Fargas carrying 24 times for 107 yards—only to set up Darren McFadden, who averaged 3.8 yards on 10 carries but scored twice from the one-yard line. The Raiders were most definitely helped by a Johnnie Lee Higgins punt return touchdown, as offensively they punted thrice and kicked a field goal on four first-half possessions. After Denver tied the game at 10 on the opening drive of the second half, however, the Raiders scored touchdowns on their next three possessions before ending the game with a 10-play drive that ate up the final 6:47.

It was all going so well for the Broncos… right up until Peyton Hillis fumbled inside the 10-yard line on Denver’s opening possession. The next four series resulted in a field goal, two missed treys, and a punt, and after Hillis redeemed himself with a touchdown run on a fourth-down play early in the third quarter the Broncos had let the Raiders stick around too long. Jay Cutler couldn’t find space in the Oakland secondary, completing just 16 of 37 passes for 204 yards and a pick. Brandon Marshall was held to four catches for 84 yards while Eddie Royal fared even worse with just two grabs for 22 yards.

Fantasy Impact: Evidently Nnamdi Asomugha shuts down more than just one half of the field as Cutler did little against Oakland’s secondary. And Hillis is still a fullback asked to play a feature back; his 17 carries for 74 yards included the touchdown but did little to loosed the Raider defense. Expect a panicked rush to pick up McFadden, assuming he was kicked to the curb in your redraft league. But if he’s the designated score for a team that entered this weekend with two offensive touchdowns in the past six games, asking for even a score a week is overly aggressive. Also keep in mind that only two teams have allowed more fantasy points to running backs than the Broncos, and that Fargas received more than twice the carries McFadden did and produced three times the yardage.

Falcons 45, Panthers 28

The score is a little deceptive; there were 30 points scored in the first three quarters, and then Atlanta outscored Carolina 28-15 in the fourth frame alone. The usual suspects turned the trick for Atlanta, led by Michael Turner’s 24-carry, 117-yard, four (yes, four) touchdown afternoon. Two of MTO’s scores came on fourth-down conversions as the Falcons found success running the football against a stout Carolina defense. Matt Ryan completed 17 of 27 passes for 259 yards but did not throw a touchdown; he did, however, keep Roddy White fantasy-relevant with 70 yards on four catches. The name you may not recognize is Harry Douglas, who contributed a little bit of everything: a seven-yard touchdown run on an end-around, a 27-yard punt return to set up a Turner TD, a 69-yard catch to set up another MTO score, and a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown to help seal the win.

Carolina took the first half off before showing up in the second half, at which point they produced 309 yards of offense and 25 points—just a little too late. DeAngelo Williams stayed hot, carrying 19 times for 101 yards and a score, but Jonathan Stewart’s five-for-15 didn’t help much. Jake Delhomme leaned heavily on Steve Smith, to the tune of eight catches for 168 yards, but it was Muhsin Muhammad who caught Delhomme’s lone touchdown toss. Jake’s 295 yards helped make up for a pair of back-to-back clunkers, and he tossed in a rushing score for good measure.

Fantasy Impact: Williams has 100 yards and a touchdown in four straight games and shows no indication of relinquishing his lead-dog role in the Carolina backfield; Stewart, meanwhile, has single-digit carries in three of the last four. After beating up softer defenses Turner took it to a good one on Sunday, doubling his output from the previous meeting with Carolina. That should give MTO owners a bit more confidence heading into a fantasy playoff run that includes dates with the Buccaneers and Vikings.

Giants 37, Cardinals 29

No Brandon Jacobs (a late scratch after initially being announced during the early pregame shows as active and playing)? No Plaxico Burress (out after a brief appearance with a hamstring injury)? No problem for the defending champions, who used 20 carries, 69 yards and a touchdown from Derrick Ward and an efficient 26-33-240-3 from Eli Manning to subdue the Cardinals. Kevin Boss (4-48-1) was a favored target, but so were Domenik Hixon (6-57), Steve Smith (4-45), Amani Toomer (4-30-1)… even Ward (4-30) and Madison Hedgecock (2-10-1). So, yeah, Manning spread the ball around a little bit.

Despite two short touchdown runs from Tim Hightower the Cardinals abandon the ground game early on, finishing with 23 yards on 15 rushes. That meant an even larger dose than usual of Kurt Warner, who threw 52 times, completing 32 for 351 yards but only one touchdown. Anquan Boldin (11-87-1) was the target of choice, though as you might imagine there was plenty to go around for Steve Breaston (6-86), Larry Fitzgerald (5-71), and even Jerheme Urban (5-69). Perhaps the most interesting play of the day, however, involved Neil Rackers attempting a free kick following a fair catch of a punt just before halftime; anticlimacticly, Rackers shanked the 68-yard attempt.

Fantasy Impact: Still debating who has more fantasy value, Boldin or Fitzgerald? Check this sequence from the Cardinals late in the fourth quarter, first and goal on the Giants five: pass short left to Boldin for no gain; pass incomplete short left to Boldin; pass short left to Boldin for five yards—touchdown. Think he has a favorite? Despite taking the lead with a minute to go in the first half and never trailing again, the Giants leaned heavily on Manning and the passing game as opposed to controlling the clock with the run. The absence of Jacobs had something to do with it, but Manning’s efficiency allowed the G-Men to match the Cardinals’ offense without giving them too many opportunities to catch up.

Redskins 20, Seahawks 17

Washington rolled up 386 yards of offense (to 228 for the Seahawks) and held the ball for 17 minutes longer. However, their first 27 plays resulted in three punts and a missed field goal; a pair of second-half drives finished inside the 10 with field goals instead of touchdowns; and clinging to a three-point lead late in the game Ladell Betts fumbled. That’s how this one was much closer than it should have been, what with Clinton Portis carrying 29 times for 143 yards (and Betts stealing a touchdown) and Jason Campbell completing 20 of 33 passes for 206 yards and a score. As per usual Santana Moss (4-72) and Chris Cooley (5-54) were the primary targets, but it was Antwan Randle El who caught Campbell’s scoring strike as part of a two-catch, 18-yard outing.

While Jim Zorn’s Redskins did everything they could to keep his former employer in the game, the Seahawks steadfastly refused the assistance. Three ugly three-and-outs enveloped the Seahawks’ one lone exciting offensive play of the day, a 44-yard run by Maurice Morris that set up a field goal. When a missed field goal and an interception on their first two drives of the second half weren’t enough to encourage the Redskins to run away with the game, Seattle used a good kickoff return and two of the three completions Matt Hasselbeck had to primary targets Deion Branch and Bobby Engram to set up a 10-yard scoring strike to John Carlson. Then, one play after Washington fumbled away an opportunity to seal the victory, Hasselbeck threw a pick that finished the deal for them.

Fantasy Impact: Morris used that 44-yard gain to notch his fourth career 100-yard game, finishing with 103 yards on 14 carries. Julius Jones had a 19-yard carry—and a two-yard carry, and that was it. At this juncture neither back is worth the risk that Mike Holmgren will go with the other one. And Hasselbeck is clearly a mere shell of his former self, with nearly twice as many picks as TDs on the year. Portis endured a bevy of injuries, yet refused to cede carries to Shaun Alexander. He did, however, give up the shorty to Betts; going forward, this could be a concern as Betts is certainly capable of finishing drives and the Skins will need Portis as close to 100 percent as possible for any postseason run.

Colts 23, Chargers 20

Leave Peyton Manning a minute and a half and you get what you deserve. After throwing yet another pick against the Chargers early on, Manning settled in and finished 32 of 44 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Yet it was his completion on fourth-and-inch to Marvin Harrison that set up Adam Vinatieri for the game-winner as time expired. Manning spread the wealth again, with Anthony Gonzalez (6-95-1) the lead dog on the day, followed by Harrison (6-44), Reggie Wayne (2-34), and Dallas Clark (6-30). Joseph Addai was solid on the ground with 70 yards on 10 carries and another 31 on seven receptions, but it was Dominic Rhodes who received multiple carries at the goal line—and then, when he couldn’t punch it in, was split out wide left on fourth-and-goal and thrown to for the score.

Philip Rivers matched Manning throw for throw, completing 24 of 31 for 288 yards and two scores. Like Manning, he spread the ball around—to Chris Chambers (6-61), Vincent Jackson (2-57-1), and Malcolm Floyd (2-54). Like Manning he threw a score to a backup running back, in Philip’s case Jacob Hester. Like the Colts the Chargers received a good-not-great effort from their elite back as LaDainian Tomlinson turned in 84 rushing yards on 21 carries plus another 30 as a receiver. Unlike the Manning and the Colts, however, Rivers and the Chargers didn’t have the ball in their hands for one last shot.

Fantasy Impact: Tomlinson continued his string of decent-yet-hardly-Tomlinsonesque outings against questionable run defenses; 24 touches for 114 yards isn’t bad, but LT now has two touchdowns in his last seven games. Manning, on the other hand, continues to have a quietly Manningesque year; he’s thrown multiple touchdowns in five straight and topped 240 yards in four straight and eight of 11 on the year.

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