Brown's coming out party (USP)
For those who took Denver in survivor this week, it wasn't exactly smooth sailing, despite holding Brady Quinn to a 49.8 QB Rating…After a poor throw, Dan Dierdorf actually said that Peyton Manning's return from injury is "a work in progress." Yeah Dan, the guy who ranks second in the NFL in YPA and third in QB Rating and is on the short list if not the frontrunner to be the league MVP has really been slow to recover…Dwayne Bowe got just 3.4 YPT, as his quarterbacks continue to destroy his fantasy value…I was on board with going big on FAAB last week to acquire Ronnie Hillman, so it was pretty surprising to see Knowshon Moreno, who hadn't even been active since Week 2 and has been a huge disappointment throughout his career, get the start Sunday. But that nominal detail often means nothing, so it was downright shocking to see Moreno then take on a full workload, racking up 24 touches. I get that Hillman lacks trust in pass protection, but who saw him actually seeing fewer touches with Willis McGahee out? Moreno isn't explosive, but in a good offense and as apparently the clear lead back, he'll absolutely be worth using in fantasy leagues (until his next injury), especially with an upcoming Week 14 matchup against the Raiders.
With 4:31 left in the fourth quarter, the Colts intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick only to lose a fumble during the return. It didn't matter ultimately, and in a one score game, you can't fault the DB for trying to return it, but you'd like to see less risk there…Fred Jackson needs to be benched until further notice, as C.J. Spiller has rightfully taken over as lead back, although his fantasy owners also have plenty of reason to ask for even more work than Sunday's split. Spiller could very well break the NFL record for YPC this season…Ryan Fitzpatrick completed just 51.5 percent of his passes while getting only 5.5 YPA against a vulnerable Indy secondary, but you don't need me to tell you he's not Buffalo's long-term answer at quarterback…With 12 seconds left in the second quarter on 2nd-and-goal from the Bills' three-yard line, Andrew Luck threw a two yard pass to Reggie Wayne. The Colts didn't have any timeouts. Rich Gannon then proceeded to heap a ton of praise on Luck for his wherewithal to hurry to the line and (just barely) spike the ball with one second left. I'm a huge fan of Luck, but I thought the opposite of praise was called for during this sequence.
This elevator prank is pretty ingenious.
As if the Pittsburgh backfield situation wasn't murky enough, four different runners lost a fumble Sunday and none had more than 10 carries, which wasn't exactly ideal considering the team started Charlie Batch at quarterback and planned on competing with a ground-heavy attack. Ultimately, the Browns eked out a win while forcing a whopping eight turnovers...After catching just one of his seven targets Sunday, Mike Wallace has now averaged 15.7 receiving yards over the past three games and apparently is in Mike Tomlin's doghouse…Trent Richardson has gotten only 3.6 YPC this season, but he's totaled 526 yards over his last four games and is on pace to score 10 touchdowns while battling injuries and playing on a team that has averaged just 305.2 yards per game, which is the fourth lowest in the NFL (and remarkably, more than the Bears).
This clip is old but is nevertheless worth watching, as the biggest kid in the history of peewee football wrecks shop.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis entered Sunday as the second lowest graded running back by Pro Football Focus (with Darren McFadden the only RB worse), and that was actually with a positive blocking rating for The Law Firm. His anemic 2.0 YPC after contact is tied for 46th among all backs in football. Naturally, he ran for 129 yards and a score on just 19 carries against the Raiders, getting 6.8 YPC. If you take out rushes by Andy Dalton, the Bengals got 7.2 YPC, which is especially crazy considering they were up 24-0 at halftime, meaning they were in obvious running downs for the majority of the game. It's pretty tough not to call the Raiders the worst team in the NFL right now…A.J. Green caught just a third of his targets, yet he also got 12.3 YPT. That has to be pretty rare. Having said that, I have Green in a fairly big money NFFC league and was facing Mohamed Sanu this week. Really?!...It's been a small sample, but if you prorated Marcel Reece's stats over a full season since taking over as lead back, you'd get a season's pace of 2,133 total yards, although that would also come with no touchdowns…Matt Giodarno's attempt to tackle Jermaine Gresham before the tight end easily entered the end zone late in Sunday' game was truly pathetic. Oakland seems to have given up on the season…Denarius Moore caught a touchdown (on a nice pass from Carson Palmer who tossed it while getting blitzed up the middle before Moore broke free), but he somehow has just two receptions for 29 yards on 11 targets over the past two weeks.
This looks like pretty much the best TV show ever.
Russell Wilson entered Sunday getting 8.4 YPA with an 11:0 TD:INT ratio at home compared to 6.3 YPA and a 4:8 TD:INT ratio on the road, so it was nice to see him play so well in Miami (8.3 YPA, 2:0 TD:INT). And after throwing five picks with just one touchdown over his past two games, it was encouraging to see Ryan Tannehill bounce back, getting 9.7 YPA against a tough Seattle secondary, albeit one that might soon be without both starting cornerbacks…It appears Brian Hartline's monstrous Week 4 performance is going to go down as a true anomaly…Davone Bess is on pace to finish with 80 catches and just one touchdown this season…Even as someone who made the Dolphins my "best bet" this week, I acknowledge just how questionable the penalty on Earl Thomas was hitting Tannehill well after he threw an interception (it didn't affect the play). Miami then proceeded to score a touchdown immediately afterward. Then again, it's hard to feel bad for Seattle after the Green Bay situation earlier this year.
Man sues wife for being ugly…and wins.
Fantasy owners who rolled the dice on a hobbled Julio Jones were sure rewarded, including a big 80-yard score. Let's hope he can finish the year healthy down the stretch…Over the last three games, Michael Turner has run for 78 yards on 41 rushing attempts, good for a microscopic 1.90 YPC mark. Jacquizz Rodgers isn't really anything special, but he does appear to be Atlanta's best running back…Speaking of low YPC, Doug Martin got just 50 yards on 21 carries, although he hit pay dirt twice, more than salvaging his fantasy day, and it was clear the Falcons focused their defensive game plan on stopping him…Atlanta isn't a fraud, but it's also safe to say they probably aren't as good as their 10-1 record suggests, having won seven games by a touchdown or less so far this year. Winning at Tampa Bay is actually pretty impressive these days, but looking back at the Falcons' schedule, it's hard not to criticize beating the Panthers by two points, the Raiders by three points and the Cardinals by four points — all at home…While questionable, I don't have a problem with Greg Schiano attempting a 56-yard field goal on 4th-and-7 down one point with 3:32 left. However, with all three of his timeouts remaining, he didn't use a single one until AFTER the two-minute warning, revealing an embarrassing lack of knowledge in time management.
Here's Phil Simms saying "football" approximately 185,000 times during the Houston/Detroit Thanksgiving game.
Even against a strong Bears run defense with a quarterback getting 3.7 YPA while missing Percy Harvin as an offensive weapon, Adrian Peterson still got 6.0 YPC in Chicago. I know most would disagree, but I'm beginning to think he was born with superior genetics…Matt Forte reinjuring his ankle was a blow to both his fantasy owners and the Bears. Michael Bush has been pedestrian at best, but for those who handcuffed him, at least he'll be the clear new workhorse and get all the goal-line work…I have Brandon Marshall in a lot of leagues, and he's been awesome this year, but for some reason he really struggles catching passes in the end zone, including letting a would-be 50-yard TD go right through his hands late in the fourth quarter Sunday. He got 5.4 YPT against the Vikings, so it wasn't exactly his best game (although that means nothing to fantasy owners, who love the 17 targets).
I was going to go crazy about how much Mike Mularkey must love trolling fantasy owners after seeing Rashad Jennings getting all the touches early on Sunday before I found out Jalen Parmele got hurt, but either way, being invested in Jacksonville's backfield has been beyond a miserable experience this year…Chris Johnson's 80 rushing yards was actually his lowest total since Week 5…What's going on with Chad Henne? Over the last two weeks, he's gotten 10.4 YPA with a 6:1 TD:INT ratio. Everyone knew Blaine Gabbert was bad, but when a previously poor QB like Henne replaces him in the same system and puts up numbers like this, maybe we underestimated just how awful Gabbert truly was. Of course, it's a tiny sample, but Henne's presence appears to have made both Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon weekly fantasy options.
Well, that's a very unfortunate name.
If you prorated Ryan Mathews' stats over a full season, he'd be on pace to finish with close to 1,500 yards from scrimmage, but he's scored just one touchdown and continues to frustrate fantasy owners…The Ravens have won five games this year by three points or fewer…I'm sure you are all aware of it now, but with less than two minutes remaining down three points on 4th-and-29, Ray Rice made the play of the year, catching a pass close to the line of scrimmage and then picking up the first down on a truly remarkable effort, especially at the end. Rice and the Ravens deserve full credit, but it was also such a Chargers way to blow a game. Seriously, there's nothing at this point that could surprise me when it comes to them. How do they let that happen? And if that wasn't bad enough, the review of the play took seemingly 10 minutes, and the refs "overturned" the initial ball placement (that resulted in a first down), and yet, after remeasuring it, it was still first down. The last time a 4th-and-29 (or more) was picked up in the league was back in 2001 — a Rob Johnson to Peerless Price connection…San Diego totaled just 111 yards over the final three quarters…It may have seemed obvious to most, but it was still refreshing to see a team do the right thing when Baltimore took three straight kneel downs at the end of overtime, burning two of the Chargers' timeouts and another 40 seconds off the clock, helping ensure a tie in case their ensuing FG attempt was missed.
Elk banished from ranch after falling in love with cow. "He had a huge rack but was too well-endowed by chromosomes." Well then.
Ladies and gentlemen, Ryan Lindley! He's now thrown two pick sixes and lost another fumble returned for a score over the past seven quarters, all while accounting for zero touchdowns himself. Remember when most said (myself included) Larry Fitzgerald was safe to draft this year since his QB situation certainly couldn't be any worse than last season, when he was still relatively productive? He's gotten 5.47 YPT this year…Sunday marked the Rams' first takeaway in their last six games, preventing them from setting an NFL record…After starting the season 4-0, Arizona has gone 0-7…I get the Beanie Wells hate, but he does have 12 touchdowns over his past 18 games, most of which he was playing far less than 100 percent (of course, health is his biggest issue)…I buried Steven Jackson a few weeks back and have been proven dead wrong. I didn't see this coming and admit I need a full serving of crow.
Here's my latest NBA column, for hoops fans or for even those who just want more random links.
The beginning of a new era? (USP)I'm an Alex Smith apologist and genuinely feel bad for what's happened to him — he led the NFL in completion percentage and ranked third in QB Rating before being benched. Smith's winning percentage stacks up among any QB in the league over the past 1.5 years as well. But Colin Kaepernick so clearly has more upside, and as much as I love Jim Harbaugh, his handling of this situation through the media hasn't been ideal, although I can appreciate his stance that there's no real incentive to reveal a starter (other than preventing the media from constantly questioning it, which sounds like the reason Harbaugh has changed his tune and will announce a starter this week)…Troy Aikman thought David Thomas didn't score a touchdown because his knee was down before crossing the end zone even though he was clearly not touched by a defender. Aikman probably suffered some brain damage during his playing days, but huh?...What's up with David Akers? Most expected him to regress this year, but to this extent?...Frank Gore has gotten 6.4 YPC in the fourth quarter this season — the best in the NFC.
Pierre Thomas has averaged 4.8 YPC and has gotten 8.4 yards-per-catch during his career. He rarely fumbles and is also a plus blocker. In fact, Pro Football Focus graded him as the fifth best running back in the NFL entering Sunday; this with him getting just 273 snaps, which was the 29th most in the league. Since Joe Vitt has returned, Thomas has averaged 5.0 carries per game...Vernon Davis was held to another goose egg on just one target (in which he suffered a bad drop), although he did have a nice gain wiped out thanks to a penalty. Still, it looks like the QB change won't be a savior to his fantasy value necessarily…I can't believe Marques Colston (thankfully) was able to return to the game after his awkward fall onto his head. Looked potentially brutal…Speaking of injuries, the 49ers lost both Kendall Hunter and Kyle Williams for the season not only on the same play but thanks to the same Saints defender (Delanie Walker also was hurt, so this was a costly victory for SF). Before Williams departed, it was ironic (I always berate people who misuse this word, so I'm reluctant to use it myself, but I do believe it's apropos here) to see him replace Ted Ginn on punt returns after Ginn muffed one…Seriously, how good is Kaepernick?! It's so cute the NFL is going to go ahead and play out the rest of the schedule with the Super Bowl outcome already known.
This halftime relay race is oddly intoxicating, with a must-see ending.
If my life depended on the Giants winning a game, is it not unreasonable to prefer their opponent be an elite team opposed to a doormat? Eli Manning entered with a 0:4 TD:INT ratio over his past three games and proceeded to toss three scores with zero picks, which could have been even better had Ahmad Bradshaw not been tackled at the one during the team's first scoring drive. Andre Brown, who punched in the TD from the goal line afterward, suffered a broken leg, which is actually a pretty decent loss for this team. Having said that, while I generally like Cris Collinsworth, him calling Brown "a fantasy football player's dream" revealed quite a bit of disconnect…The Packers haven't had a 100-yard rusher in 38 games…I implore anyone who has this game on DVR to go back and watch Tramon Williams during the aforementioned Bradshaw 59-yard catch, especially the replay. He literally goes out of his way to avoid attempting to tackle Bradshaw and blocks a Giant like he's on offense. It's beyond bizarre, to say the least…To be clear, I think it was the right move, but it was nevertheless a bit surprising to see the Giants going for it on 4th-and-2 up 38-10 with 8:44 left in the fourth quarter and then later again at the one-yard line during the same drive, when Al Michaels openly talked about how that affected the over/under. Love that. It was essentially the opposite of how Mike McCarthy coached.
Black Friday prank at the dollar store.
After consistently playing below their perceived talent levels for years, it's pretty crazy what's happened to the Eagles, Chargers and Cowboys this season. It's almost as if all three decided to go all in when it comes to their dysfunction, like we weren't impressed enough by their past actions. It really is pretty insane that the Phillies have won a game more recently than the Eagles have…While there was legitimate criticism for why Juan Castillo was hired as defensive coordinator in the first place, his scapegoat firing continues to look worse and worse. Check out the splits from before and after his firing. To say the Philly secondary has communication issues right now would be an understatement…While not totally egregious, I didn't agree with Andy Reid going for two with 41 minutes left in the game, but he got a reprieve when Graham Gano missed an extra point up eight, leaving it a one score game. Of course, that ultimately didn't matter…Where's that been all season, asks every Cam Newton fantasy owner.
Longread of the week: "The Man Who Charged Himself With Murder." Pretty harrowing stuff.
I know it's lame to complain about fantasy losses, especially ones in which I entered Monday night down big with only Bryce Brown left and facing DeSean Jackson, but this was especially annoying in the Stopa Law Firm league since there's a $5,000 payout, and all I needed from Brown was two yards over the final 8:35 — a span in which the Eagles ultimately didn't have one snap on offense. But I digress. Brown was highly impressive, although he obviously needs to start protecting the ball better, or he'll soon find himself on the bench. He was formerly a top recruit out of high school (which incidentally was the last time he started a football game before Monday night) and even quit Kansas State last year. But man was his talent apparent, as it's clear his physical skills would've warranted an early round pick (instead of Philly taking a flier in the seventh) if not for all the off field stuff. I'm not sure what it says about LeSean McCoy (whom I really like, but his style really wasn't the best fit for this year's offensive line), and it's worth noting Carolina doesn't have a good run defense, but Brown stood out Monday night (he matched McCoy's rushing TDs this season over the first three quarters). Faster than you'd expect for his size, Brown could be a huge difference maker down the stretch. This is clear speculation on my part (and I hope I'm wrong for obvious reasons), but I'd say there's less than a 50 percent chance McCoy plays another snap this season. If that's the case, only fumbles could prevent Brown from putting up top-10 production from here on out.