Monday Morning Takeaway – Week 11

Miami 14, Buffalo 19

Dolphins

The commotion for fantasy owners entering this game was the week 10 benching of Reggie Bush. As promised the Miami coaching staff opened with Bush in the backfield on Thursday night. However, that lasted all of two carries as Daniel Thomas was quickly inserted and once again surpassing Bush in carries for the second straight week. To make matters worse, Reggie doesn’t even sniff the field on passing downs or when Miami gets inside the 20 yard line. A free agent at the end of the season, the Fins coaching staff looks to be turning the page on Bush. Those owners holding out hope that Reggie would reemerge as a viable fantasy option by season’s end got a cold dose of reality.

The only other player of note for the Dolphins was wide receiver Davone Bess. Hauling in six receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown, Bess became Tannehill’s favorite target in comeback mode for much of the second half. Don’t go chasing this week’s performance as this was Bess’ first touchdown of the season, and on the third time he surpassed seven fantasy points all year.

Bills

Running back CJ Spiller started in place of injured veteran Fred Jackson, becoming the Bills entire offense totaling 130 yards on 25 touches. The coaching staff has promised an increased role, but with Fred Jackson likely to return next week Spiller returns to a mid RB2.

As great as Spiller played, the highlight of the night was the show put on by the Buffalo DST. The first punt of the game was instantly taken back for a touchdown by kick returner Leodis McKelvin. The defense then took over with two interceptions, one fumble, and three sacks while holding Dolphins under 200 yards of total offense. Nowhere near the elite defense they were touted before the season, the Bills do have intriguing matchup with the Jags in week 13 should you need a one week filler.

With Spiller controlling the clock, and the Buffalo defense locking down the Miami offense, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills passing game weren’t needed to win this football game. But owners of Steve Johnson should be a bit perturbed with three trips into the red zone resulting in three field goals (ugh).

 

Arizona 19, Atlanta 23

Cardinals

Three Matt Ryan interceptions in the first quarter led to 13 quick points for the Cardinals. Unable to convert good field position into touchdowns caused the Arizona coaching staff to suddenly bench starting quarterback John Skelton (six yards passing) in favor of rookie Ryan Lindley. Lindley didn’t fare much better only able to muster 64 yards in three quarters of play. Poor quarterback play naturalized the Arizona wide receivers who were led by Early Doucet with 28 yards. With the revolving Arizona quarterback now turning to the rookie, even Larry Fitzgerald (one catch, 11 yards) value is waning. Consider Fitz a mid WR3.

Despite the struggles of the passing game, LaRod Stephens-Howling pieced together a solid performance 133 yards on 25 touches. Before running out and adding LSH, be aware that preseason starter Beanie Wells will be returning from injured reserve in week 12. LSH will most likely return to backup duty giving him handcuff type value.

Falcons

Five Matt Ryan interceptions quickly turned the tables for the Falcons offense unable to sustain drives and produce fantasy points. Ryan did not play at his MVP level failing to find the endzone for the second time in three games, but still put 301 passing yards on the board. Ryan will bounce back heading to face the 32nd ranked Bucs secondary in week 12.

Michael Turner’s lead-footed running style is getting old as he was only able to accumulate 46 yards on 15 carries. However, his fantasy value was saved by a late game touchdown plunge after Tony G was stopped on the one yard line. If he scores you love him, if he doesn’t you’ll loath him.

We were warned before the game that Julio Jones (three receptions, 33 yards) would not be playing at 100% after suffering a week 10 ankle injury. Jones looked tormented for much of the game, and later seen limping off the field before calling it quits in the third quarter. Proceed with caution when projecting your week 12 lineup as Jones will likely be another “game time decision”.

 

Cleveland 20, Dallas 23

Browns

Trent Richardson owners should be ecstatic to see the Browns game plan of riding their workhorse running back every week.  In this game the rookie rumbled for 144 on 34 touches. He’s a stud.

Ben Watson came up in a big way targeted a team high eight times, hauling in four balls for 47 yards, two touchdowns including what should have been the game winner. The Browns coaching staff must have seen a matchup they wanted to exploit as Watson has averaged 2.6 fantasy points per game on the season.  Until he can repeat this performance, his fantasy value is along the lines of low end TE2.

Targeted seven times in this game, Josh Gordon continues to play a significant role in the Browns aerial attack. In a down matchup against the stout Cowboys pass defense, Gordon pulled in five balls for 53 yards. We should note Gordon has another tough matchup next week against the equally stiff Steelers secondary. After that the Browns will face Oakland, Kansas City and Washington. If Gordon was dropped in your league he could be worth adding for the stretch run as a high risk / reward mid WR3 should you need help.

Cowboys

The Cowboys offense took the opening three quarters off punting the football five times before picking up a field goal mid third quarter. However, in the fourth quarter Dallas got a wakeup call putting their foot on the throttle. As a result Dez Bryant had himself a career best 145 yards highlighted by a sick 28 yard touchdown. Start him with confidence.

Bryant’s expanded role in the Dallas offense has come at the expense of Miles Austin and Jason Witten. Austin was still targeted 12 times but hasn’t surpassed eight fantasy points in three straight weeks while Witten has failed to top six points in four of the past five games. With Bryant now emerging as the “go-to-guy”, Austin has fallen to a WR3 while Witten is a low end TE1.

Felix Jones led the way for the Cowboys on the ground picking up 43 yards on 14 carries, including a short yardage touchdown (a good sign for fantasy owners). However, for some reason Dallas turned to backup Lance Dunbar in overtime to grind out the game. We’re now reading that Jones suffered a “minor knee injury”. Nicknamed “Fragile Felix”, make sure to monitor this situation on a short week.

 

Green Bay 24, Detroit 20

Packers

The Lions defense came to play swarming Aaron Rodgers for much of the game. Also hindering Rodgers value was the Packers incessant attempts at getting the ground game jump started. On the plus side for Rodgers owners is an impending matchup with the 27th ranked Giants pass defense. Yeah buddy!

Hello Jermichael Finley. In this game the big bodied tight end had a coming out party with 66 yards and a touchdown, his first since week one. Finley’s lack of production on the season makes him tough to rely on in fantasy lineups. But as we know this offense can immediately propel any player into a fantasy starter. Should Finley reproduce these numbers next week he would be climbing out of the cellar and worthy of starter consideration.

James Starks has officially taken over the starting role in the Packers backfield after the mid-season struggles of Alex Green. Handed the football 25 times it is obvious Green Bay has re-anointed Starks the lead dog giving him lower RB2 value in favorable matchups.

Mason Crosby owners should running to the waiver wire as Crosby officially missed two field goals, but also missed a third as the Lions called a timeout to ice the kicker. I suspect Green Bay will be holding tryouts this week.

Lions

The Lions struggled to sustain drives as Mathew Stafford had arguably the worst performance of the week. In this game Stafford tossed two horrible interceptions, including a pick-six to Packers cornerback M D Jennings (some blame goes to Tony Scheffler).  Fortunately for Calvin Johnson owners, Stafford continues to throw the ball in to triple coverage giving the big play wide receiver 11 targets, five receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown.

Mikel Leshoure continues to carry the load in Detroit getting the rock 19 times for 84 yards including a one yard touchdown dive. He has a tough matchup pending with the normally stiff Houston rush defense. Consider Leshoure a very low end RB2. Most puzzling was the relegation of Joique Bell to the third string role as Kevin Smith was spotted repeatedly in the backfield on third downs. Bell had been creeping into high end RB3 value, but looks to have regressed in the Lions game plan.

 

Cincinnati 28, Kansas City 6

Bengals

This game was a good ol’ fashion butt kicking.  The Bengals absolutely worked over the Chiefs in all facets of the game as Andy Dalton, AJ Green, Jermaine Gresham, Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis and the Cincinnati DST all had starter worthy performances. Up next for Dalton and company is the pathetic Oakland defense as all the usual suspects should be started.

Chiefs

Kansas City is the worst team in football, and it’s not even close. In this game the Chiefs coaching staff made the decision at half time to replace Matt Cassel after going 8 of 16 for 93 yards. His substitution was Brady Quinn who completed 9 of 14 for 95 yards (is there a difference?). The reality is, the coaching staff needs to be replaced as the play calling is so damn conservative no member of the passing game has value, as even the mighty Dwayne Bowe is considered “sitable”.

Speaking of Dwayne Bowe, the big wide receiver was forced to leave the game with an apparent neck injury. With Brady Quinn likely the starter Bowe’s teetering value has now fallen to the very high end WR4 plateu with shutdown cornerback Champ Bailey next up.

 

New York Jets 27, St. Louis 13

Jets

This game started out like many Jets games with early mistakes an unable to punch in touchdowns while settling for field goals. We also saw a blocked field goal and fake punt unable to convert. However, the Rams failed to put points on the board allowing the Jets to stay conservative with a ground-and-pound game plan for much of the game.

Shonn Greene started the game for the Jets running hard on opening drive picking up yards in big chunks. The Jets turned away from Greene through much of the second quarter utilizing both Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell. Greene then opened the third quarter, but again succumbed to the RBBC. On the first Jets goal line series coming out of half, Greene took the first down handoff, McKnight carried the ball on second down, and Bilal Powell finally punched in the touchdown on third down. On the next scoring drive it was Powell handling the ball exclusively scoring from 11 yards out. Clearly the Jets are turning to three-headed-monster as the already slippery fantasy value of Shonn Greene is nose diving towards a mid RB3.

Rams

With the Jets double teaming Danny Amendola for much of the game, Sam Bradford looked more like Mark Sanchez. The Rams quarterback struggled mightily through much of this game with poor accuracy only able to squeeze out 170 yards, two touchdowns, but haunted by a terrible interception and a costly strip-sack-fumble. The up and down season from the former number one over pick is becoming costly to all members of the St. Louis offense.

Amendola’s poor stat line (seven reception, 41 yards) could be attributed to increased coverage from the Jets secondary hell-bent on not allowing the Jets version of Wes Welker to beat them. Foot Injury to Danny Amendola also sidelined him briefly, but he quickly returned. Continue to start Amendola a high end WR3.

Steven Jackson started once again in the Rams backfield pacing the team for the second straight week at 13 carries for 81 yards, a good sign for Jackson owners moving forward.  However in comeback mode for much of the second half St. Louis was forced to abandon the run. We also saw a considerable amount of Daryl Richardson in obvious passing down situations. Consider S-Jax a mid / low RB2 heading to Arizona in week 12.

 

Philadelphia 6, Washington 31

Eagles

Many will blame this loss on the quarterback play of new Eagles starter Nick Foles. I thought the rookie signal caller played well in his first official NFL start. This loss should be pinned on Eagles secondary for terrible pass coverage, untimely Philly penalties after big gains, dropped passes and terrible blocking. As for Foles, it was clear the Eagles had a game plan to throw a lot of short passes at or near the line of scrimmage to open the game for easy completions. I counted only one deep downfield shot all game, even in a blowout. Utilizing this game plan tailored to the talents of LeSean McCoy (21 touches, 112 yards), Brent Celek (five receptions, 42 yards) and Riley Cooper (five catches, 61 yards), but severely hinders the fantasy value of DeSean Jackson (two receptions, five yards) and Jeremy Maclin (zero receptions, zero yards). Reports are already surfacing that Micahel Vick should be back in the lineup for next weeks matchup with the middle of the road Panthers pass defense.

LeSean McCoy owners should note the stud running back suffered a significant concussion in the closing minutes of the game. The entire training staff hit the field as McCoy was carted to the locker room. With Philly playing on Monday night, he will have an extra day to heal. However, with so much attention being paid to head injuries, McCoy’s week 12 eligibility could be in doubt. Backup Bryce Brown would replace McCoy should he miss time.

Redskins

Robert Griffin to the third power didn’t play as well as his 200 yards and four touchdowns would suggest.  An early Brent Celek tip led to Redskins interception setting up a Griffin six yard touchdown to an uncovered Darrell Young. Griffin then hit a wiiiiiiiiide open Aldrick Robinson on a 49 yard bomb running free past the Eagles defenders on blown coverage. He later connected with the Santana Moss for a 61 yard score as the 5’ 10” wide receiver leaped over two defenders on a jump ball that should have easily been knocked down. The final passing touchdown came late in the game after Logan Paulsen had a sweet catch and run into the endzone. Lesson of the day, the Eagles secondary is really bad.

Fantasy owners will look at Alfred Morris 20 touches for 76 yards and wonder “what happened”? I’m here to tell you what the Eagles lacked in pass defense they made up for in run defense swarming the rookie sensation. Morris has two more tough matchups upcoming with Dallas and the Giants, so temper your expectations.

 

Tampa Bay 27, Carolina 21

Buccaneers

Coming out of the gates on fire, Josh Freeman hooked up with Nate Byham (I’ve never heard of him either) for a three yard touchdown on the second series of the game. After that the Panthers defense put the Bucs on lock down building a 21-10 lead until six minutes remained in the game. Tampa Bay then kicked it into high gear scoring 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and overtime. When the smoke cleared Josh Freeman had accumulated 248 yards and three touchdowns including a last minute scoring drive and two point conversion to Vincent Jackson. Freeman is amongst the most consistent quarterbacks over the past seven weeks and now amongst the ranks of the mid QB1.

Dallas Clark was the one player to emerge on the Bucs side of the ball as wily veteran found himself the recipient of seven catches, 58 yards and a touchdown. With 11 targets, Clark nearly doubled any game this season. Although the Tampa tight end has scored in two consecutive games, his usage is still amongst the mid TE2.

Panthers

Steve Smith’s one touchdown season continues as the Panthers number one wide receiver totaled 61 yards, a poor sign as Smitty had a plus matchup against the hapless Bucs secondary. Retaining his role as the most targeted Panthers player, Smith is amongst the mid WR3 type value.

Jonathan Stewart struggled to gain yards on the ground averaging 2.9 yards on 15 carries. However, fantasy owners will be pleased with his one reception for 30 yards along with a short yardage touchdown. A risky play every week, Stewart will remain a very low end RB2 with Philly next on the schedule.

 

Jacksonville 37, Houston 43

Jaguars

The shocker of the week without a doubt was the Jaguars stiffening up and giving the Texans all they could handle. Most of the offense was supplied by Chad Henne after replacing Blaine Gabbert who went to the bench holding his shoulder. Henne stepped in and treated the number one ranked Texans pass defense like a Pop Warner team to the tune of 354 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Knowing Henne’s past, I wouldn’t read to much into this performance just yet.

Justin Blackmon became Henne’s favorite target absolutely ripping the Texans secondary on numerous big plays resulting in a Calvin Johnson-esque 236 yards and one touchdown. Blackmon is difficult to evaluate after only surpassing seven fantasy points only twice this season. However, a possible change at quarterback could have the rookie playmaker on the rise, but still retains low end WR4 value until he can prove his worth against the porous Titans pass defense next week

Jalen Parmele, and not Rashad Jennings, started for the Jags at tailback. Parmele ran like a man playing for his NFL life tearing through the normally stiff Houston run defense for 80 yards on 24 carries. Although his yards per carry won’t excite fantasy owners, Parmele will absolutely be a member of the “must-add” list as an emerging three-down-back with the 31st ranked Titans up next.

Texans

What happened to the Texans defense? Ranked amongst the top defenses in numerous categories, Houston was abused like George Forman’s heavy bag. I’ll chalk this up as a trap game.

Failures by the Texans defense put the team in comeback mode for much of the game. At that point it was quarterback Matt Schaub entering the ring, putting his team on his back and coming up with the second highest yardage total in NFL history. Through five quarters of play, Schaub finished the shootout with 527 yards and five touchdowns.  Despite the amazing performance, I still see Schaub as a lower QB1 as the Texans will return to their roots next week.

Not to be outdone, Andre Johnson surpassed Blackmon as the most prolific wide receiver on the day with 273 yards and one touchdown. Is Johnson back? I’m ready to go that far, but I certainly wouldn’t sit him with Detroit up next.

The scoring breakdown looked like my wife’s grocery list before Thanksgiving.

 

New Orleans 38, Oakland 17

Saints

The Raiders ran into a buzz saw as Drew Brees carved up the Oakland secondary like a John Madden Turducken making it look easy on his way to 219 yards and three touchdowns.

 

The muddy water that is the Saints RBBC has gotten a bit clearer as Mark Ingram led the team in carries with 12 for 67 yards and touchdown. This is the second consecutive game in which Ingram has emerged the top dog in the New Orleans backfield. However, about to throw a wrench in the gears is Darren Sproles who is expected to return in week 12 facing the brick wall that is the 49ers rush defense (ugh).

Lance Moore was the most prolific Saints wide receiver. However, his stat line reads a little funny with three targets, two receptions 53 yards and two touchdowns. Moore remains a mid WR3 as a member of the high flying Saints.

Raiders

I would say that Carson Palmer did a most of his damage in garbage time, but this turned into garbage time for the entire second half.  In what was touted as a plus matchup, Palmer looked a bit off missing a number passes all over the field as evident by his two interceptions. Despite losing the game Palmer did salvage his fantasy day with 302 yards and two touchdowns.

Rising tight end Brandon Myers was targeted in the endzone on Oakland’s second possession but led to a tip interception. He would recover scoring his third touchdown in three games tacking on 55 yards. Considering the poor play from the Oakland defense, Carson Palmer will be throwing most games giving Myers mid / low TE1 value.

Fantasy owners who swooped up Marcel Reece were heavily rewarded as the Raiders third string running back went beast mode totaling 193 yards on 23 touches. It almost goes without saying, but Reece would remain a near must start should Darren McFadden remain sidelined in week 12 with the high ankle sprain.

 

San Diego 23, Denver 30

Chargers

The most telling stat from this game was the Chargers opening 11 drives ending in 10 punts and one interception. That’ pretty much all you need to know about the San Diego offense in this game, but I can’t help myself.

With Antonio Gates drawing the defensive attention underneath, and shutdown cornerback Champ Bailey marking Malcolm Floyd for much of the game, it was Week 11’s must add free agent Danario Alexander continuing his torrid pace with 92 yards, also tacking on two touchdowns. Alexander’s athleticism has never been in question, meaning so long as the knee holds up he’s worthy of a high end WR3 position, and climbing.

Ryan Mathews struggles continue as the supposed feature back in San Diego has only scored one touchdown on the season. Averaging eight fantasy points per game over the past six weeks, Mathews has settled in as a very low RB2.

Broncos

I won’t bore you talking about Peyton Manning, Eric Decker or Demaryius Thomas (best toe-tap in the game). You’re starting these guys every week, no questions asked. The one player of intrigue carving out a niche in the Broncos offense is slot wide receiver Brandon Stokley. Totaling 55 yards in this game, Stokley also added his fifth touchdown of the season while topping 10 fantasy points in three of his past five games. Moving forward Stokley should be viewed as a borderline WR3, only to be used when the right defensive matchup approaches.

The other bit of news coming from this game was an injury sustained by Willis McGahee after taking a helmet to the knee, causing him to miss much of the contest. On the plus side, McGahee was seen on the sidelines getting worked on by the trainers meaning a ligament tear is unlikely. However, an inability to return to the game indicates further testing will be necessary leaving next weeks game in question.

The next man up in the Broncos backfield was Ronnie Hillman who touched the ball 14 times gaining 59 yards. Hillman will take over as the lead back in Denver should McGahee miss an extended period of time giving him low RB2 value. Just be warned that Lance Ball is expected to also play a significant role as indicated by his nine touches for 56 yards against the Chargers.

 

Indianapolis 24, New England 59

Colts

Indianapolis showed gumption early in this game pushing the ball down the field and scoring two first quarter touchdowns. But the Patriots were just too much overwhelming the Colts and forcing them into a one dimensional attack. As a result rookie sensation Andrew Luck was pressed into action resulting in three interceptions, two of which ended in Patriots touchdowns. It wasn’t all bad as Luck also threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns, both of which found TY Hilton after fellow wide receiver Donnie Avery was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Luck has emerged as a solid QB1 while Hilton’s weekly value is dependent upon the playing status of Avery.

The other intriguing development coming from this game was a increased usage of Vick Ballard, and / or decrease usage of Donald Brown. Coming off a week 10 performance in which both players split carries down the middle, Ballard took the rock 16 times as opposed to Brown’s four carries. We can only assume the culprit was Browns ongoing knee issues which has caused him to miss multiple practices over the past two weeks since returning from surgery. The Colts backfield is a situation worth monitoring with the downtrodden Buffalo Bills coming to town. Should Ballard start he would be considered a mid RB2.

Patriots

You read that right, 59 points scored by the Patriots. Everybody in a Patriots uniform scored points. In fact, it’s almost easier to list the player who didn’t score a touchdown in this contest; Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. Most concerning is Lloyd who was touted as a preseason dream, but has transpired into a fantasy owners nightmare. Averaging just under six fantasy points per game over the past six weeks, I wouldn’t fault you for planting Lloyd on the bench until his production comes to form.

Even more surprising was the sudden increased volume of targets going the way of Julian Edelman. Producing his best outing of the season, Edelman collected five balls for 58 yards and touchdown, also tacking on a punt return for a touchdown. With every player on the New England roster listed as “questionable”, we can only speculate this was the Patriots game plan during the week. Edelman makes for an intriguing addition off the waiver wire, but still considered a low end WR4 until he can prove this game wasn’t a fluke.

Holy crap. As I’m writing this article I find out through ESPN’s Sports Center that Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm at the end of the game during a routine blocking assignment on the extra point. Gronk had already been pulled from the game, along with every other starter, but filling his role on the field goal team. Edelman’s value just raised one notch to a mid WR3, while Aaron Hernandez will likely be pressed back into action. Sorry Gronk owners.

 

Baltimore 13, Pittsburgh 10

Ravens

In a typical Ravens vs. Steelers fashion, this game was a low scoring slugfest. It began as Pittsburgh’s new shutdown cornerback Ike Taylor put the clamps on Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith. Ray Rice did his part, but still found tough sledding with 93 all purpose yards. Anquan Boldin had a decent performance with 79 yards. In fact, the only real highlight form the Ravens was the DST capped off by a 63 yard punt return from Jacoby Jones.

Steelers

The only player worth mentioning for the Steelers, and the lone offensive touchdown of the game, was Byron Leftwich 31 yard scamper for a touchdown on the game’s opening series. Leftwich was seen holding his shoulder after the scoring drive. He then proceeded to miss a number of open wide receivers that even Tim Tebow could have hit (same windmill throwing motion).

Mike Wallace owners should be running scared as Emmanuel Sanders become Leftwich favorite wide receiver hooking up downfield three times for 82 yards. With Cleveland up next expect a heavy dose of running the football, thus forcing Wallace down to the WR3 level.

The big question coming into this game was the return of Steelers starting running back Rashard Mendenhall. Opening the game in the backfield, Mendy quickly gave way to Isaac Redman who then suffered a concussion. Jonathan Dwyer then came into the game and was clear and away the most effective Pit runner picking up 81 yards on 15 touches as compared to 50 yards on 14 touches for Mendenhall. With the 21st ranked Browns rush defense next up, Dwyer looks to be a mid / low end RB2 while Mendy is a high end WR3.

The only thing worse for fantasy owners is these two teams locking horns again in two weeks (ugh).

 

“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal”
Vince Lombardi

 

About Eric Hartvigson