Rookies headlined Week 9 (USP)
Not only did Andrew Luck set an NFL rookie record with 433 passing yards (he had a career-high 273 by halftime, and this included T.Y. Hilton dropping a perfectly thrown would-be 40-yard TD), he did so while committing zero turnovers and against a Miami defense that entered having allowed just 6.8 YPA with an 8:8 TD:INT ratio. Maybe even more impressively, he took just one sack and got 9.0 YPA on a whopping 48 pass attempts. There's a pretty strong argument that two rookies are among the five most valuable commodities in the NFL right now. Luck's monstrous game was actually bittersweet for me, as while I started him in multiple other leagues, I benched him in my big money NFFC one, instead going with Ben Roethlisberger. My third QB in that league is Carson Palmer. So if you're scoring at home, my two benched QBs totaled 78.15 points, while Big Ben let's just say wasn't quite on par. I know no one cares about my fantasy team, but bear with me here as I need some catharsis, as the decision was a true coin flip for me, so when it turns out so lopsided it's extra frustrating…What an 18-yard touchdown run by Reggie Bush. One of the better plays of the day. Speaking of which, I don't think Terry Bradshaw was trying to be racist, but this wasn't too good…Ryan Tannehill has been solid this year and better than expected, but when members of the CBS pregame show Sunday morning called him the best rookie QB, you wonder how much of that stuff is actually mandated as opposed to real personal opinions (at least I hope that's the reason).
Matt Schaub's 39-yard TD pass to Owen Daniels was executed well, but the credit belongs to a terrific play call. Daniels looked like a future star in 2008, but injuries or performance have made him anything but since then. Still, despite playing for a predominantly run-heavy team, he's on pace to finish with 74 receptions for 956 yards and 10 touchdowns…Speaking of pace, Arian Foster is in line for 384 rushing attempts, which would be the most since 2006. Got to love the touchdowns, but Foster totaled 119 catches for 1,221 receiving yards over the past two years (29 games), yet he's on pace to finish with only 24 receptions for 154 yards in 2012…Ryan Fitzpatrick ranks 32nd among quarterbacks in AirYPA, which should come as no surprise, as few QBs attempt more underneath passes. It really was nice to hear the Bills' GM admit the team needs to look for a quarterback of the future moving forward, despite the contract they recently gave Fitzpatrick.
The Jimmy Kimmel Halloween Candy challenge, part two.
Trent Richardson ran for 105 yards and also led the Browns in targets with nine, as he continues to impress when healthy. He's a top-10 commodity in keeper leagues…After averaging 317.3 passing yards (8.1 YPA) and totaling eight touchdowns over the first four games this season, Joe Flacco has averaged 180.3 passing yards (6.0 YPA) while getting just three touchdowns over the last four contests…Torrey Smith has reached 60 receiving yards in two of eight games this year, which wasn't something I expected…Dennis Pitta has gained exactly 33 receiving yards in each of the past three games.
This prescient moment by a high school football announcer is even crazier when you consider the 54-0 score.
Peyton Manning's reaction to what looked like a possible serious injury to Demaryius Thomas was not dissimilar to mine. Thankfully, Thomas returned shortly thereafter, although he then took a backseat to Eric Decker, who now has seven touchdowns over the past five games…After getting 5.1 YPC in Week 1, BenJarvus Green-Ellis hasn't reached 4.0 in any of the following seven games. The Bengals haven't won since Week 4…Greg Gumbel's "Hello Newman" comment was pretty sweet (thanks to an excellent delivery)…Peyton Manning's two interceptions were poorly thrown, but he's actually on pace to finish with 4,808 passing yards (which would be a career high) and 40 touchdown passes (which would be the second most in his career). His 8.2 YPA and 69.5 completion percentage both lead the NFL. Pretty crazy for a 36-year-old who's coming off four neck surgeries and has supposedly lost some velocity while also joining a new team. Manning would be my pick for MVP at the season's halfway point.
I finally tried Sriracha, and I may view my life in a prism of before and after that moment from now on…I also recently discovered Alt-J, which is a group that just released its first album that was five years in the making, and I can't recommend them enough. Here's just a small sample: Breezeblocks, Fitzpleasure, Tessellatte and Dissolve Me.
Over the past six games, the Bears have scored eight defensive/special teams touchdowns, including two Sunday. But that's actually underselling it, as Devin Hester was tackled at the Tennessee 8-yard line after a 44-yard punt return, and Kelvin Hayden was tackled at the Titans' 4-yard line after returning a fumble recovery. In other words, the Bears defense was extremely close to scoring four touchdowns Sunday. Charles Tillman forced four fumbles himself! Tillman has also held opposing QBs to a 57.4 rating on passes his way this season, as he's emerged as a contender for DPOY, although J.J. Watt remains the overwhelming favorite...Jay Cutler had 18 passing yards when the Bears went up 28-2. That's not exactly easy to do…Chris Johnson lost two fumbles and aside from one play, gained 65 yards on 19 touches. However, the aforementioned one other play was an 80-yard touchdown run, more than salvaging his day against a Bears defense that entered having allowed the second fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
This MMA fighter's "King Hippo" defense strategy didn't exactly go as planned.
In a game that saw the Lions score 31 points, Matthew Stafford owners had to be awfully disappointed, as three second quarter TD runs by Mikel LeShoure and a Joique Bell rushing score late in the fourth quarter accounted for all four of Detroit's touchdowns. Stafford played well, getting 8.6 YPA and completing 66.7 percent of his passes while taking just one sack and committing no turnovers. But in fantasy terms, things certainly didn't go his owners' way, including a horrendous drop by Titus Young in the end zone…Since taking over for Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings has 50 carries for 148 yards (although in fairness, he has added 16 catches for 121 yards)…Calvin Johnson had one catch for 28 yards combined over the first half of his previous three games, but he had six receptions for 111 yards by halftime Sunday (although then admittedly had a quiet second half). It was at least nice to see him suit up and play mostly a full complement of snaps after entering iffy with a knee injury. Johnson has been tackled at the 1-yard line four times this season and another time at the 2-yard line, so his low TD total is fluky.
I wanted to blast the Packers for playing Jordy Nelson, who was highly questionable with his hamstring injury, in a game in which they were the biggest favorites of the week with an upcoming bye, but the ankle injury appears completely unrelated to his hamstring ailment. But adding insult to injury, the catch in which he hurt his ankle was later overturned by review. Fantasy owners got the worst of both worlds — a big squadoosh and yet another injury to deal with…I was able to grab Beanie Wells in a few leagues last week, and with Arizona having an upcoming bye, it still may be possible for you to do the same. I'd easily prefer him over LSH from here on out…Randall Cobb actually had a pretty lackluster game, getting just 4.1 YPA, but fantasy don't care since he hit pay dirt twice…Not sure what to make of the Packers' backfield, but I'd rather own James Starks than Alex Green moving forward. But neither is likely to be worth even flex plays in most leagues.
An impatient driver suffers the consequences.
DeAngelo Williams' 30-yard touchdown run was probably the oddest play of Week 9. He cut to the outside, but after a ref blew the whistle thinking he stepped out of bounds, some of the Redskins defenders stopped playing (however, it's certainly not clear they would have tackled him either way), yet after reviewing the play and (rightfully) concurring Williams didn't step out of bounds, they ruled it a TD. Huh? I'm all for getting it right, but even as egregious as it was, the whistle was blown…Props to Mike Shanahan, who continues to be one of the more aggressive coaches in the league. He went for it on three fourth downs in the first half alone Sunday, converting the first two before failing on the third. Of course, I'm judging this on process not results, and all three were absolutely the right calls, including the failed attempt…Steve Smith's touchdown was his first of the season…I admit I would have recommended buying Jonathan Stewart last week, totally believing the rhetoric that he was going to be Carolina's lead back (and supposedly DeAngelo Williams said some things about the coaching staff that put him in the doghouse), but he got just 10 carries in game that saw the Panthers up 21-6 at one point against a team that had struggled badly against the run in recent weeks. No thanks…I didn't expect the Redskins to be held to six points at home against a poor Carolina defense inside 1:30 left in the game, and as an RG3 and Alfred Morris owner, I sure didn't expect the first TD to be scored by Evan Royster. Please forget what I said about Mike Shenanigans above.
My latest hoops column (featuring more random links for those who are into that sort of thing).
Martin's historic performance welcomed with open arms in Oakland (USP)If last week's big game in Minnesota was Doug Martin's coming out party, his follow up wasn't too bad, as he ran for 251 yards and four touchdowns. It actually should have been better, as he lost 14 yards on his final three runs when Greg Schiano called his number during obvious run plays when three kneel downs would have had an equal effect of ending the game (I guess it's somewhat explicable considering how he has his own defense react to the "victory formation"). Over the last four games, Martin has totaled 739 yards while averaging 6.6 YPC and scoring seven touchdowns. The loss of Carl Nicks will eventually be felt, but for one game Sunday it certainly wasn't. There were some big holes by an embarrassing Raiders run defense, but Martin took full advantage, was explosive, and his broken tackle at the end of his 67-yard TD run was impressive, even causing an injury to a safety who clearly had the right angle to bring him down. He became the first player in NFL history to have three touchdown runs for 45 yards or more in the same game. Martin will definitely be a first round pick in fantasy drafts next year…When Tampa Bay held a big lead before Oakland made its comeback, the Bucs actually spelled Martin, with LeGarrette Blount coming in for a series, which resulted in him losing a fumble. There was a time I actually thought Blount was a future star. I couldn't have been more wrong.
This dog sure has a strong preference between going for a walk and taking a bath.
I was going to complain about me dropping Mike Goodson in a bunch of leagues after holding him for a while right before Darren McFadden goes down with an injury, but then Goodson left hurt himself. That led to Carson Palmer throwing for 414 yards and four touchdowns on a whopping 61 attempts. His two-point conversion was a highly impressive throw, but his three picks were mostly brutal. Nevertheless, what a monstrous fantasy game, and I respect him demanding to go for it down 11 points (a FG there would have made it a one possession game) on 4th-and-2 with 4:28 left and picking up three yards himself on a run…Darrius Heyward-Bey's 46-yard one-handed catch while he was also being interfered with was one of the best plays of the week…Pretty crazy this game was 10-7 at halftime. The final score was 42-32. All four of Tampa Bay's losses this season have been by seven points or fewer. With Josh Freeman (8.1 YPA this season), Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and Doug Martin to go along with a run defense that has allowed an NFL-low 3.4 YPC, the Bucs' future is quite intriguing.
I participated in a midseason best ball draft last week, and I took Adrian Peterson with the third pick, so I was happy to see him go off Sunday (Percy Harvin's no show/injury on the other hand, not so much). There were 4-6 defenders attempting to tackle Peterson while he was dragging them into the end zone for his one-yard score. I'm not sure there's a stronger player in sports. The Seahawks entered the game allowing 3.7 YPC before AP gashed them for 10.7…Russell Wilson now has a 9:0 TD:INT ratio while getting 8.1 YPA over four starts at home this season…Blair Walsh's 55-yard field goal was actually snapped with zero seconds left on the play clock, so Pete Carroll's beef was legit. Regardless, Walsh is now 5-for-5 on 50+ yard field goals this season (and is 19-for-20 overall). Furthermore, kickers throughout the league are making a whopping 67 percent of FG attempts from 50+ yards this year. To give some perspective, they were 53 percent from 2000-2010.
Brothers claim $5 million lotto jackpot six years after winning.
Mike Wallace's 51-yard touchdown catch was one of the most impressive showcases of speed I've ever seen. As far as I can tell, he ran approximately 80 yards in 7.3 seconds while having to cut in a 90-degree angle! Unbelievable…I didn't love they did so with a fake FG attempt, but I was on board with the Steelers going for it with 10:30 remaining in the 4th quarter from the Giants' 3-yard line. It's just the latest example of why kicking from inside an opponents' three is generally a mistake, as New York's playbook shrunk and predictably, resulted in a three-and-out and Pittsburgh getting the ball back at midfield. Forget this specific instance, as there was also a big argument among the FOX panelists at halftime stating how dumb it was for Mike Shanahan to go for it on 4th-and-goal from a similar spot. This has officially reached sabermetric vs. old school levels of debate in baseball, with facts and objective statistics apparently getting in the way of nebulous things like "feel" and "momentum." Do people realize that even if a team going for it on fourth down at the 1-yard line fails, it's equivalent to them making the field goal and then allowing the ensuing kick return to the 45-yard line? And that's with them FAILING to score from three feet out!
Ben Roethlisberger's fumble returned for a touchdown was quite interesting, as he lost control of the ball before his arm started moving forward, but when the ball actually left his hand it was most definitely moving forward. Phil Simms was adamant it would be ruled incomplete, but I agreed with the ultimate call (fumble, although the refs missed a clear block in the back by JPP on Heath Miller allowing the return to score). To Simms' credit, not only did he admit he was wrong, but he also dropped a "My Cousin Vinny" quote saying he needs thicker glasses. Well played sir…One takeaway from this game is that Andre Brown is the Giants' main goal-line back…Pittsburgh committed three penalties in the second quarter, which isn't necessarily significant. The fact two of them went for a combined 87 yards, however, is…Eli Manning is on pace to be sacked just 14 times this season…I confessed my love for Jonathan Dwyer last week (only to be disappointed by him unable to suit up), but Isaac Redman looked great Sunday and don't forget he got a strong 3.1 YPC after contact last season. Rashard Mendenhall has one of the better spin moves for someone his size I've ever seen, but there's a pretty good case he's the team's third best running back even when fully healthy, despite pedigrees (he's also a free agent at season's end, so there's no incentive for the Steelers to return him to a full time role). Pitt's backfield looks like a mess in fantasy terms moving forward.
Last week, I watched 12 straight episodes of "Breaking Bad." And I mean literally in succession in one day. I'm still behind (so please no spoilers) but finally up to the latest season (five). Mind = blown…I also saw "Argo" this weekend, which I thought was really good. Such a crazy story, and you know it's done well (remarkable how good of a director Ben Affleck has become) when even if you know the outcome, it remains extremely suspenseful.
Tony Romo was 19-2 in November while Julio Jones had some of the craziest home/road splits you'll ever see before Sunday night's game, which should reinforce just how little these backdating stats mean…Entering SNF, Jason Witten had 43 catches over his last four games, which tied for the most in a single season's span in NFL history…Maybe Atlanta has been somewhat lucky to be undefeated, and I imagine few would argue they are the clear cut best team in the league, but it's worth noting they have been the least penalized team in football…Matt Ryan is now 30-4 at home during his career…Dez Bryant was allowed to stay out past midnight, which was headline worthy…Jason Garrett might be the most predictable coach in the NFL. After failing to draw the Falcons offsides when they clearly had no intention of running a play on 4th-and-1, why would the Cowboys call a timeout at the 49-yard line? Would the 5-yard penalty hurt their ensuing punt attempt? As perplexing as that decision was, it pales in comparison to the refs, who chose to review the spot of the ball AFTER said timeout (and 29 seconds of the play clock run off). And it wasn't even a particularly close call. Very odd (the original ruling stood)…Felix Jones' 39-yard catch on the last play of the game with Dallas down just six points was the definition of unwarranted stat padding, but it counts all the same and really salvaged his fantasy day.
Longread of the week: The Island Where People Forget To Die.
So apparently the Darren Sproles injury isn't going to benefit Pierre Thomas much. The committee approach certainly didn't hurt New Orleans on Monday night. The Saints have four running backs on their roster who are better than any on the Packers…What a game by LeSean McCoy, although it could have been even bigger, and the end zone continues to elude him this season. His lateral ability and elusiveness make him easily one of the most exciting backs in the league to watch…Damn you DeSean Jackson. Your 77-yard TD catch made my aforementioned Big Ben over Andrew Luck decision officially cost me a win. That could cost me quite a bit of money down the road. Ugh…Seriously, how bad is this Eagles offense in the red zone? Scoring 13 points in primetime against a defense that had previously been historically bad (and in a controlled environment on turf, which should cater to Philly's roster) might be the nail in the coffin for both Andy Reid and Michael Vick (although to be fair to the latter, the team's O-line really was awful)…I was surprised to see Lance Moore get just two targets on the night. I actually thought he might benefit the most from Sproles' absence…Apparently Mike Tirico doesn't realize the ball can touch the ground and still be considered a catch. That rule was changed way back when a similar situation might have cost Tampa Bay the NFC Championship game against the Rams in 2000…What an awesome play when Riley Cooper hid in the end zone. It would have totally worked too if not for the poor across the field throw.