Monday Morning Takeaway – Week 13

New Orleans 13, Atlanta 23

Saints

In what was pegged as a shot out in the Georgia Dome, Drew Brees owners must be shaking their heads as the normally rock steady QB1 delivered an absolute stunner failing to score a passing touchdown for the first time in 54 games. Brees even did us one better tossing five interceptions on the night. Not that Brees didn’t have his opportunities as normally sure handed Lance Moore dropped a clear score, while Darren Sproles walked into the endzone after a dump off pass negated by a Jimmy Graham penalty. Chalk this one up as one of those nights.

The Saints continue to prove that trusting any New Orleans running back is a complete roll of the dice. Over the past three weeks we’ve seen a steady rotation typically led by Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory. This week it was Pierre Thomas out of a nowhere pacing the team in rushing attempts at 14 for 84 yards. Fortunately for Ingram owners the second year runner punched in a one yard score after Pierre Thomas was dropped on the one yard line. Best to avoid all three if possible.

We should also note the complete absence of Darren Sproles from the rushing statistics. However, what Sproles lacked in carries he made up for in targets with nine on Thursday night. Those numbers typically equated with a low end WR2, further solidifying Sproles as the only Saints RB worthy of starter consideration.

Falcons

Fortunately for fantasy owners the “good” Michael Turner decided to show up marching straight down the field on the opening drive to score a touchdown. Even the announcers are pointing out how different Turner looks in this game, calling it “back to the future”. Turner has been amongst the league’s more pedestrian runners (to put it kindly), however after scoring four touchdowns over the past five games it’s hard to argue with production. Keep him in your lineup and pray he finds paydirt.

Fantasy owners have been flooding social media after the game with complaints about Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White. However, with Brees chucking up interceptions like beads on Mardi Gras, along with an early lead, the Falcons never had the urgency to move the football through the air, instead choosing to grind out the clock on the ground. Hard to blame a guy for poor fantasy production when his team wins the game.

 

Jacksonville 18, Buffalo 34

Jaguars

It’s tough to decipher through the television, but the weather report indicates rain and 20 mph winds impacting this game. That could be to blame for Chad Henne sailing passes, while the wide receivers weren’t helping maters with a number of critical drops. Combined with untimely penalties, the Jags couldn’t sustain drives and keep their offense on the field leading to poor statistics all around.

Cecil Shorts III amazing season continued finding the zone on a five yard touchdown catch. However, Shorts would be forced to leave the game after suffering a concussion giving fantasy owners concerns as we make our playoff preparations. Monitor this situation closely.

As for the running game, which usually prospers in poor weather, Rashad Jennings managed just 20 yards on eight carries before leaving the game with a concussion of his own in the game early 2nd quarter. More of a straight line plodder with the inability to make defenders miss, Jennings could find himself on the bench even if he returns next week.  In his place stepped Montell Owens  with seven carries for 29 yards. Falling behind early in this game killed Owens changes of making an impact, but the seventh year player did flash a better skill set than Jennings. I’m going way out on a limb, but I believe Owens will retain the job so long as Maurice Jones-Drew is sidelined. He is worth a long shot should you be devastated at the running back position.

Bills

Where the Jags failed to run the ball, the Bills prospered as evident by 46 rushing attempts compared to just 17 passes. Every week we read statement from head coach Chan Gailey; “CJ Spiller will get the ball more often”, and every week its Fred Jackson leading this team in touches. This game F-Jax tooted the rock 29 times for 109 yards as compared to Spiller’s 14 carries for 77 yards. Jackson was also the preferred red zone back while getting valuable junk time carries in clock killing mode. Fortunately for Spiller owners he was able to break a 44 yard touchdown around the left side late in the game while giving Jackson a breather.  Spiller is impossible to sit, but Jackson will continue cutting into his production

Stevie Johnson was able to strike gold on a back shoulder catch for a touchdown in the early third quarter. However, Johnson would leave the game soon after, seen going to the locker room under his own power after his hamstring tightened up. Already a yellow flag injury risk, Johnson practice status throughout the week will give us better definition as to the severity of his injury.

 

Seattle 23, Chicago 17

Seahawks

Russell Wilson came of age in this game marching his team down the field for a touchdown in with 24 seconds on the clock to take the lead for Seattle. After Chicago miraculously tied up the game, the ever poised rookie quarterback opened the extra period equaling his late game drive capping off a Seattle win with his second touchdown of the day. On top of his 293 yards and two touchdowns, Wilson added 71 rushing yards for 29 fantasy points. Hard to trust as an every week starter, Wilson is a very high end QB2 should you need desperate help.

Golden Tate is a pure athlete catching the ball underneath and working through seven Bears defenders before leaping into the endzone for the go ahead score in regulation. Like so many borderline starters, Tate is hard to recommend, but the production is undeniable topping 15 fantasy points in three of the past four weeks making Tate a lower WR3.

Seattle’s number one wide receiver Sydney Rice delivered once again with 99 yards and one touchdown. Owners beware as Rice was knocked silly after a vicious hit at the end of the game. He’s already taken to twitter and informed us he passed his postgame concussion tests.

Bears

Brandon Marshall was the Bears entire offense on Sunday hauling in 10 of his 14 targets for 165 of Jay Cutlers 233 passing yards.

As expected Matt Forte was held in check by the strong defensive line of the Seahawks. On the plus side was Forte breaking open on a twelve yard touchdown reception while playing the entire game without an injury setback. Impossible to keep out of our lineups when healthy.

 

Indianapolis 35, Detroit 33

Colts

Andrew Luck is an absolute phenom tossing for 391 yards and four touchdowns. Most impressive is the poise to lead his team back from a 21-33 deficient in fourth quarter with two scoring drives, including a game winning touchdown to Donnie Avery as time expired. Even more impressive was Andrew Luck running down to lay down a block on the final play. Owners starting Luck in the fantasy postseason are a legitimate threat as he is a QB1.

Throughout the season fantasy owners have been confused which of the Colts secondary wide receivers (Donnie Avery or TY Hilton) could emerge as a viable fantasy starter. This game the answer was both as Hilton hauled in six passes for 100 yards. Not to be outdone was Avery catching five balls for 91 yards and two touchdowns. The difficulty is trying locate a discernible difference between the two. Hilton has been the more productive player of late, while Avery has better numbers on the season. Both are considered startable as a low end WR3.

The Vick Ballard vs Donald Brown conundrum isn’t getting any clearer as the two continue to split time in the backfield. We should also note with the game out of hand the running attack was rendered moot. However, it was Ballard scoring the Colts only rushing touchdown as he remains the better of the two Colts running backs, but still risky high end RB3.

Lions

After the benching of Titus Young it was rookie wide receiver Ryan Broyles thrust into the starting lineup. Coming off his 126 yard Thanksgiving day performance, the rookie was expected to play an expanded role in the Lions offense. That was cut short after suffering a “extensive” knee injury early in the game. With Young ruled inactive before the game, Mathew Stafford turned to tight end Brandon Pettigrew as his second read resulting in 43 yards and touchdown. As for Broyles, although no official word, reading between the lines it would appear his fantasy season is done.

 

Minnesota 14, Green Bay 23

Vikings

Let me describe this game for you; “Handoff to Adrian Peterson, up the middle for a big gain”. When the dust settled Peterson racked up 210 yards highlighted by a beast mode 82 yard touchdown run. Coming off a late season knee surgery Peterson should be a case study for medical students.

Kyle Rudolph is the only other player of note from the Vikings offense. With Percy Harvin missing his third straight game, Ponder has made Rudolph his preferred outlet force feeding the ball into the big bodied tight end on third downs and in the red zone. Three touchdowns over the past three games should have Rudolph cemented into our lineups for the foreseeable future.

Packers

Who are these Packers? Is Vince Lombardi calling plays? For the first time since I can remember the Packers actually ran the football more times than they threw it. In this game James Starks carried the ball 15 times for 66 yards scoring the Packers first rushing touchdown since week five. Alex Green handled the ball another 12 times grinding out a solid 58 yards of his own. An even distribution of playing time makes either running back a risky proposition as both should be viewed as a mid RB3.

With Greg Jennings returning, and a run heavy game plan, the passing attack was a complete mess for fantasy owners. The target distribution reads; Greg Jennings 8, Jermicheal Finley 7, Randall Cobb 6, James Jones 2 and Jordy Nelson 1 (?). The good news for fantasy owners is the return of Greg Jennings as he is now worthy of starter consideration.

How Mason Crosby still has a job is beyond me? Crosby managed to doink his first field goal off the upright, a mere 30 yard a chip shot. He then proceeded to kick the ball out of bounds on the opening kickoff to the second half. If the Packers are holding kicker tryouts this week, fantasy owners need to run for the hills.

 

Houston 24, Tennessee 10

Texans

Similar to the Saints / Falcons game, the Texans fantasy production was marred by Titans turnovers. Handing the ball over six times the Texans went into ultra conservative mode for much of the game as evident by Matt Schaub’s 207 yards and two touchdowns.

With the game firmly in hand Arian Foster (14 touches 53 yards and one touchdown) was relegated to more of a backup role. With Foster resting it was Justin Forsett racking up 14 carries totaling 64 yards. Even Ben Tate was put into the mix with three carries. Examining the distribution of work we can conclude that Forsett has surpassed Tate as the primary backup. Foster owners should have Forsett handcuffed just in case the Texans clinch home field advantage early.

The Texans DST must have got a wakeup call after being drummed by the Jags and Lions the past two weeks. Although an impressive performance, topped by six turnovers and six sacks, should have been much better after a scoop-and-score on a CJ fumble, but for some reason the refs blew the whistle. Despite the reemergence to dominance, owners should beware the impending matchup with New England next week downgrading Houston to a very low end DST1.

Titans

Encouraging to see Chris Johnson running hard in a tough matchup. However, the Texans stifling defense was too much as Johnson had his worst fantasy outing since week five totaling seven fantasy points. Breathe easy as a matchup with the Colts is forthcoming.

Jake Locker had an absolutely atrocious game throwing three interceptions while putting the ball on the turf an added two times. Locker should be given somewhat of a pass playing an inspired Texans team in Houston. In this game his preferred targets were Kendall Wright (10 targets) and Jared Cook (12 targets), but Kenny Britt was the recipient of the lone passing score. Hard to know which Titans wide receiver to trust with our championship hopes on the line.

 

Carolina 21, Kansas City 27

Panthers

Starting in place of the injured Jonathan Stewart was fellow Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams. Carrying the rock a team high 12 times for 67 yards, Williams looked like the player of old busting through the line with a number of big gains. Unfortunately 12 touches just won’t get the job done, while Cam Newton is arguably the Panthers best runner as made clear by his seven carries for 78 yards. As we also know, Newton will take a majority of the goal line looks rendering D-Will a mid RB3, despite the status of J-Stew.

Just as Steve Smith’s name starts to slide down the player rankings he comes through in a big way posting 120 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs. Take note that Smitty’s stats were padded by a 53 yard hail may as the game expired. Scoring just his second touchdown of the season, Smitty is still amongst the ranks of the mid / upper WR3, but does have favorable matchups in weeks 14 (San Diego) and 15 (Oakland).

Chiefs

After Sunday’s tragedy in KC, this team played inspired as Brady Quinn had the best outing of his professional career. Normally erratic, Quinn looked poised in the pocket while throwing accurate passes to a number of his targets including a back of the endzone score to tight end Tony Moeaki. The member of the Chiefs passing game fantasy owners are most concerned with is Dwayne Bowe. Targeted eight times, Bowe managed a meager 64 yards meaning he has not topped seven fantasy points in eight straight games. With Joe Haden up next on the schedule, it’s time to plant Bowe on the bench (if you haven’t already).

 

San Francisco 13, St. Louis 16

49ers

Is it possible the Rams found a copy of the 49ers playbook? In two meeting this season the St. Louis defense has taken it too the NFC West’s most dominant team.

Colin Kaepernick had his worst since becoming the San Fran starter unable to find the endzone for the first time in three games. He was able to reward fantasy owners with 84 yards on the ground totaling 17 fantasy points. In his defense, the Rams were able to generate constant pressure, uncharacteristic for stiff 49ers offensive line. Kaepernick will likely be given the start next week against a middle of the road Dolphins defense as the young signal caller remains an upper QB2.

In Kaepernick’s debut three weeks ago it appeared that Vernon Davis would be making his resurgence into fantasy starting lineups with 14 fantasy points. However, since that game Davis has scored one miserable point over the past two games. When it comes to sitting a stud, it’s your call to make. However, he wouldn’t be in my lineup with the playoffs now upon us.

Rams

The prominent player of note for the Rams over the past two weeks has been wide receiver Chris Givens. With Danny Amendola hobbled, Givens has become Sam Bradford’s security blanket all over the field. More than doubling every other member of the Rams passing game in targets, Givens makes for an intriguing WR3. I’d defiantly be starting him over the likes of Dwayne Bowe.

 

New England 23, Miami 16

Patriots

Writing about the Patriots is a broken record. We’re all starting Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Steven Ridley and Aaron Hernandez. Rob Gronkowski is still injured. The only possible change coming from this game was a foot injury sustained by Julian Edelman. Used primarily as a blocker in the running game, Edelman was spotted exiting the locker room dawning crutches, indicating an injury that will cause him to miss playing time.

Dolphins

Funny to watch two teams going in opposite directions as the Dolphins are rebuilding while the Patriots are serious Super Bowl contenders.

Brian Hartline showed up in this game with five receptions for 84 yards. Hartline was also seen running open up the middle of the field for what surely would have been a touchdown, but barely overthrown by quarterback Ryan Tannehill. On pace for nearly 1200 yards, Hartline remains deadlocked on one touchdown for the season. Hartline’s lack of consistency makes him a very tough starter, while being off the board next week heading to San Francisco.

For some strange reason the Fins coaching staff decided they would make Reggie Bush the feature running back in this game giving him the ball 15 times compared to just five rushes for Daniel Thomas. Averaging 4.3 yards per carry, Bush still lacks red zone work making him a risky start in the realm of an upper RB3.

 

Arizona 6, New York 7

Cardinals

This game was an absolute carnival looking more like two drunks fighting. We went out on a limb last week calling Larry Fitzgerald a “sit”, and those notions are proving correct. Piss poor quarterback play has rendered this one time beast mode wide receiver a high end WR4 (ouch).

Jets

Of course the big news coming out of this contest was the benching of Mark Sanchez in favor of Greg McElroy after Sanchez tossed three interceptions. Although McElroy wasn’t much better, he did manage a touchdown drive hooking up with Jeff Cumberland. Fantasy owners shouldn’t be affected as this passing game has been avoided for weeks.

A developing RBBC over the past three weeks, Rex Ryan again shifted gears allowing Shonn Greene to tote the rock 24 times facing the 24th ranked Cards rush defense picking up 104 yards. Don’t get me wrong, Bilal Powell was in the game plan taking 12 carries for 58 yards. All told the Jets ran the ball 43 times as opposed to 28 passing attempts. If your absolutely desperate, Greene would appear to be the best option.

 

Tampa Bay 23, Denver 31

Buccaneers

Last week the Falcons laid down the game plan on how to defeat the Buccaneers by loading the box and selling out to stuff the run. The Broncos followed suit as Doug Martin was held in check daring Josh Freeman to throw the football.

All week we’ve been reading about the history of Champ Bailey shutting down Vincent Jackson dating back to their days playing in the AFC West together. Therefore it should be no surprise of V-Jax struggles causing Freeman to lean heavily on Mike Williams who was able to accumulate 93 yards and junk time touchdown. All that will change next week as Tampa Bay has a very tasty matchup with the burnable Eagles secondary. V-Jax is a must start while Freeman has mid QB1 value with Williams a mid WR3.

Scoring his third touchdown in the past four games Dallas Clark hasn’t produced less than a six fantasy points over that same stretch. It’s time to add Dallas Clark and consider him a lower TE1 moving forward. In fact Clark is severely outperforming the likes of Vernon Davis and Jermichael Finley. Who’d a thunk it?

Broncos

For the second straight week it was Knowshon Moreno carrying the load for the Broncos with an OK performance considering the tough matchup. Producing 83 yards on 24 touches Moreno workload suggest a high RB2 status with the very friendly Oakland Raiders next on the schedule. We should also note that Ronnie Hillman did see the field, but only taking five carries further solidifies Moreno’s status as the lead pony.

 

Cleveland 20, Oakland 17

Browns

So much for the typhoon that was predicted to hit Oakland.

I’m never one to gloat, but I just can’t help myself. While most were jumping off the Josh Gordon (116 yards, one touchdown) bandwagon, I was driving the carriage. In a plus matchup I recommend the rookie wide receiver as a high upside WR3 after suffering through four tough matchups, including a week eight rain out against San Diego. Don’t worry there is still plenty of room to climb aboard as Cleveland faces the malign secondaries of Kansas City and Washington in the next two weeks. If Gordon was dropped in your league, and you need WR3 help, he could be a nice addition.

To the dismay of Trent Richardson owners, the Browns abandoned the run heavy game plan they’ve stuck to for much of the season allowing Brandon Weeden to open up the passing game. The rookie quarterback connected on 25 of 36 passes totaling 364 yards and one touchdown. I highly doubt this is a sign of things to come as Weeden is a very predictable mid QB2.

Raiders

Just as a Patriots are highly predictable, so are the Raiders, mainly because their defense is playing so bad the offense is forced to put the ball in the air for much of the game. That was the case this week as Carson Palmer finished that game with 54 pass attempts producing 351 yards and two touchdowns. With Denver forthcoming, Palmer will be relegated to QB2 value. After that are couple of plus matchups on the horizon including Kansas City and Carolina.

With passes flying around like confetti, it was Brandon Myers becoming the beneficiary of 15 targets, 14 receptions, 130 yards and one touchdown. Over the past six weeks Myers ranks an astounding second amongst all tight ends. Up next is the Broncos league’s worst defense at guarding tight ends. Myers has emerged as a near must start TE1.

It appeared Palmer was force feeding the football to Denarius Moore early in the game. However, in a sudden turn of events Moore was benched by the coaching staff for “performance reasons”. After a solid middle of the season, Moore has been in a free fall over the past three games. Up next is Champ Bailey, thus relegating Moore back to our bench as a high WR4.

 

Cincinnati 20, Sand Diego 13

Bengals

Andy Dalton and the Bengals went straight down the field on the opening possession to find Jermaine Gresham for quick touchdown. After that the offense went dry for the next three quarter before Dalton ran in a touchdown with four minutes remaining in the game. Fortunately for Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis the Chargers never built a lead allowing Cincinnati to stick with their rushing attack. As a result the Law Firm had another solid outing with 118 yards on 25 carries. One of the few three-down-backs in the league, Green-Ellis is a solid RB2.

Chargers

San Diego is a complete mess as the only player on this roster worth every week starter consideration is newcomer Danario Alexander (six receptions, 102 yards). If you are counting on Phillip Rivers to win your league championship, better have a rock solid team around him, or start your 2013 draft preparation now.

 

Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 20

Steelers

Check-Down-Charlie-Batch was at it again as the game manager continually hooked up with underneath targets for much of the contest. This time it was Health Miller prospering with 97 yards and the lone receiving touchdown on the day.  Returning from a three game absence after a high ankle sprain, Antonio Brown was the primary threat in the Steelers passing game leading the team with 10 targets. In typical Brown fashion, he failed to find the endzone making him a risky low end WR3.

Of course an ultra conservative game plan killed the fantasy value of Mike Wallace as Batch missed the wide open receiver in the back of the endzone badly overthrowing him. Like Larry Fitzgerald or Vernon Davis, Wallace can be a stud, but unless Big Ben returns next week. recent production suggests we find alternate options.

The Steelers backfield has been more confusing than fruit cake. One week after all four running backs touch the football, this game it was Jonathan Dwyer taking the lead role with 19 touches for 57 yards and a touchdown. A fluid situation from week-to-week, Dwyer would be the most likely running back to start. However, my gut tells me we will be burned at some point making Dwyer a risky proposition.

Ravens

After the loss of Ike Taylor early in the game, the Ravens tried to find Torrey Smith with a bevy of deep passes. Unable to connect, Flacco then turned his attention to Anquan Boldin hooking up the big bodied wide receiver for five receptions, 81 yards and one touchdown. With the beatable Redskins secondary next on the schedule, Smith should be inserted back in our lineups, while Bolden is a sketchy WR3.

It’s my belief that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron should have been fired years ago for not finding way to get the ball in the hands of Ray Rice more. Averaging 6.4 yards per carry against the Steelers, Rice broke free for a 34 yard touchdown late in the third quarter giving the Ravens a 20-13 lead. Rice wouldn’t touch the ball the entire fourth quarter as the Ravens squandered their lead, ultimately losing the game. Mind boggling.

 

Philadelphia 33, Dallas 38

Eagles

Bryce Brown proved that his week 12 performance was no fluke ripping through the Dallas rush defense for 183 yards on 28 touches. Although Brown has certainly carved out a role in the Eagles playcalling, now two weeks removed from his concussion we are expecting to see LeSean McCoy return to the starter’s role next week. Brown will be a compliment to McCoy, but a projected 12 touches is hard to rely on.

As with most rookie quarterbacks, Nick Foles play is improving with each start. Foles was efficient with the football totaling 251 yards and one touchdown against a pretty solid Cowboys pass defense. Being asked to play the role of a “game manager” with short to intermediate passing routes, Foles will remain a QB2 moving forward.

Foles favorite player on the night was tight end Brent Celek with seven receptions for 74 yards. Celek has been a disappointment this season so don’t go chasing this recent performance, he is still a high TE2.

Cowboys

DeMarco Murray made his triumphant return to the lineup after missing six games. Murray still looks a tad bit gimpy going down way to easy while preferring to run out of bounds rather than grinding out tough yards. On the plus side, Murray finished the game 27 touches for 102 yards and touchdown giving fantasy owners a high upside running back just in time for the playoff push. Please be aware that Murray has a very stiff matchup in week 14 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As usual Jason Witten and Dez Bryant dominated the Cowboys passing game as Miles Austin was quiet for most of the game before making a big splash with a 27 yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. A mere two targets should be concerning for the injury prone player as Austin is still nothing more than a mid / lower WR3.

 

“All it takes is all you got”

Marc Davis

About Eric Hartvigson