Full disclosure, I’ve been saying ‘If Kendall Wright could only find the endzone he’ll have a huge game’ all season so I’m not going to get too excited about this week’s start/sit column, but, I remain plenty excited about Wright. The Titans’ receiver shook off an injury to stay relevant for four quarters. Wright made six catches for 103 yards and the game winning score. If you didn’t see it, you’ll want to. You’ll want to watch a little tape on Wright, too. The kid is lightning quick and displays great hands, getting in and out of his breaks as well as any receiver I’ve noticed. Wright is inside the WR top 20 in targets and top 10 in catch rate and receptions. We’re not going to treat this week’s touchdown as some opening of the flood gates, but, it will get Wright some much needed attention.
Did you take the jump to that start/sit column? If so, I hope you ignored the sit Rivers, Moreno and Bennett bits… though, there were some actionable nuggets in there… anyway, I digress…
Wright has been a PPR star all season and with Tennessee playing sound offensive football and finding themselves in the thick of the playoff race he could be a big contributor down the stretch. Wright is owned in a surprisingly low 61% of Yahoo! leagues and has got to be on the top of most waiver queues if he happens to be out there in yours, but, responsible owners were on this ages ago. Needing to play their way into the playoffs – if they should be so fortunate (and thus, resting no one) – Tennessee draws Denver in Week 14 and Jacksonville in Week 16 two defenses on the user friendly side of the ledger. Don’t sleep on Justin Hunter, or Ryan Fitzpatrick depending on your league structure either, for that matter.
- Tavon Austin picked up right where he left off… after Zac Stacy gouged the Bears for 16 yards on two carries to start the game, as expected, Austin took a carry for 65 yards. I loved seeing the way he changed directions on the reverse and got up to full speed again quickly. Acceleration, as much as speed, kills. While Austin wound up with just three touches, he did have five pass targets suggesting that the commitment is there to keep him involved. That commitment should only grow after another explosive play this week.
- Zac Stacy left after just 12 carries on what could have been a great game, fantasy wise. He didn’t do anything to hurt his owners, though, and after his departure Benny Cunningham picked up right where he left off, icing the game after a Michael Bush TD brought the Bears close. Between them, Stacy and Cunningham ran for 196 yards. Good for Cunningham, bad for the Bears D, and good for owners of Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray who will take on Chicago over the next two weeks.
- Credit Maurice Jones-Drew for remaining fantasy relevant despite his team’s offensive struggles. He scored for the 3rd straight week today. He hasn’t been running particularly efficiently, due largely to the context around him, but he is remaining productive all the same. This week was actually his strongest game of the year, totalling 144 yards and rushing for an average of six per carry. Again, context limits him but recent games are showing a more competitive Jaguars team that should keep MJD relevant to close the season.
- Showing that they weren’t overly excited about seeing Geno Smith get picked again this week, the Jets opened the game with a pass to Smith thrown by Josh Cribbs. Smith wound up with eight fewer receiving yards than passing yards in the first half (2/7, 21) and finished the game with 127 yards passing, two interceptions and a fumble lost. A rough season has gotten much worse in recent weeks for Smith and the Jets are mulling a QB change. I’m not interested in anyone in this lineup, until I see who is at QB and how they play in Week 13, though.
- Mike Wallace’s 53 yard TD came on an awful throw. In fairness, Ryan Tannehill threw it while on the run, but it was a bit surprising to see the Carolina DB look so bad against a well underthrown ball given how strong they have been this season. Wallace finished the game with 127 receiving yards and the score. Meanwhile, with Mike Pouncey on the sidelines again, Lamar Miller got nothing done as a runner. 10 carries, eight yards.
- If you ever needed to be convinced about the importance of matchups, you had your example this week in Ray Rice. Rice finally had a strong game last week against the Chicago Bears, but as we’ve illustrated with our discussion of St. Louis’ backfield, they are simply a very beatable unit. Rice faded right back to obscurity today. No one has run particularly well against the Jets this season, but this underscores what we’ve been saying here inside the Locker Room for weeks. Rice is a matchup play down the stretch, at best. Rice had 16 carries for 30 yards against New York, another sub 2.0 YPC notch on his belt and lost three yards on a reception. He simply isn’t usable except in the softest of matchups (like against Chicago last week). He’s an option at FLEX next week against the Steelers and I’d start him in Week 14 against the Vikings but otherwise I don’t have any interest in Rice during the fantasy playoffs.
- On Detroit’s first scoring drive, it was the Nate Burleson show. He scored the TD to cap it, but, dominated in the middle of the field as well. Kris Durham did a fair job of filling in, but, this offense is entirely different with Burleson in it. He’ll be a PPR monster the rest of the year, and particularly useful in game’s like this week where top corners face off against Calvin Johnson. With Burleson in the lineup, the Lions offense that much better. Matthew Stafford played a very uneven game, but still posted numbers. He’ll be a weekly top 5 QB moving forward as a result… the bullet holds, but I’d written it before the Lions underwent yet another second half collapse.
- Antonio Brown way outperformed my rank this week. Staying involved throughout the game, and beating Joe Haden a number of times, including on his second quarter touchdown against Haden’s single coverage. This game was a snowy mess, but didn’t seem to impact the way Big Ben was throwing the ball. Things went okay for Josh Gordon, too. If you faced him this week, the second half of this game very likely cost you a game. Gordon finished with a whopping 14 catches on 17 targets from a combination of Quarterbacks, doing most of his damage with Brandon Weeden in the game. His 237 yards bring Gordon up to just about 1000 on the season – remember that he missed the first two games of the year. The Browns have a mixed-bag schedule over the next four weeks but should continue to feature Gordon heavily the rest of the way.
- Case Keenum’s game was pretty ugly and the Keenum-Johnson mystique wore off a bit this week. I’m not sure who we’ll see at QB for Houston in Week 14. Garrett Graham, it should be noted, was targeted nine times and caught five balls. His 32 receiving yards were disappointing coming off of last week’s game, but, at least they kept him involved. For the Jaguars, Mike Brown was a surprise deactivation and Ace Sanders was able to build off his week 11 game with a four catch 61 yard effort – most of them came on one play and otherwise he was quiet.
- Keenan Allen’s injury was rendered a moot point this week, as was the matchup against Kansas City. He was targeted 12 times and made nine catches going over 100 yards for the fourth time this season – he was fairly quiet in the second half while everyone else went off, though. Philip Rivers was way off my starting QB radar this week, as well. With the injury to Allen, coming off a quiet stretch, and taking on the Chiefs defense I didn’t see much coming. Instead, 400 yards, 3 tds (and a win) later… don’t sleep on TE Ladarius Green who seems to be getting the work that once went to Vincent Brown (did not appear on the boxscore and is probably droppable at this point).
- Ryan Mathews had another nice game for the Chargers and while his workload is unpredictable, he’s getting it more often than not. He left this game with a hamstring injury and you’ll have to watch his status as the week progresses but he went over 12 fantasy points this week and scored a rushing TD for the third time in five games after a drought to start the season. He’s a usable RB2 the rest of the way, as long as he is healthy.
- DeMarco Murray ran well against the Giants, picking up 86 yards (in addition to 40 through the air) but again his use was less than it could have been – he had just four first half carries. Miles Austin returned and was quiet, catching just one ball and dropping his other two targets. His return did limit Terrance Williams who saw just two looks. Neither player topped 20 yards.
- Cam Newton’s legs made up for a tough fantasy day, as he added 11 points via 51 yards rushing and a score. His second half was a masterpiece but the first half left plenty to be desired. Still, the QB is dialled in and is playing great ‘real’ football right now, which should lead to great fake performances as well. He kept Steve Smith involved, with a season high 69 yards on eight targets against a tough fantasy WR matchup.
- Mike Glennon followed up a 20/23 outing with a strong encore, posting a 138.4 QB rating against the Lions and doing damage without making Vincent Jackson his sole focus (disappointing news for Jackson owners). In all but three of his eight starts Glennon has thrown for multiple touchdowns. Bobby Rainey had an ugly day with 18 carries for 35 yards against a tough Lions front seven. His true performance lies somewhere in between this week’s dud and last week’s masterpiece. The good news is that he saw plenty of work again.
- Ben Tate came into the week with one of the best conceivable RB contexts on the books and Jacksonville completely shut him down. He was swapped out for Dennis Johnson early and the rookie rusher fared well. Tate should hang onto starter’s duties moving forward but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Johnson cut into his carries a bit as the season closes, particularly if he gets the hot hand.
- Jamaal Charles had a great game for Kansas City but saw surprisingly limited use, particularly in the early going. His two TDs are huge for owners though, who are hoping that he has reclaimed his scoring touch heading into the fantasy stretch run. Charles finished with 18 touches, so, nothing to sneeze at with the workload but it did feel like there were more opportunities to use him.
- Dwayne Bowe, after I lambasted him last week for a low catch rate, had a much more legitimate fantasy impact this week. Catching five balls on five targets for 51 yards and a score. In the right matchup (and if Kansas City’s defense comes back down to earth a bit necessitating Alex Smith taking a few shots) he may have a productive game or two left in him.
- Michael Bush hasn’t been used in a goal line capacity this year for the Bears after specializing in those duties in recent seasons. Today, Chicago went for a fourth and goal at the one, and handed the ball to the bruiser. He was blown up for a loss of four. Bush later got two more cracks from the one, and was stuffed on the first but punched it in for the second. Forte’s lost fumble and the Bush vulture marred what was otherwise a strong fantasy day (seven receptions, 117 total yards). Bush hasn’t really been a threat all season and I wouldn’t read this as a long term concern.
- Denard Robinson, the former college QB, took a snap with Chad Henne split wide against Houston and delivered a great throw… it was well defensed and hit the ground, intended for Cecil Shorts, but it really had the look of a nice play.
- Adrian Peterson’s groin is just fine. Or, at least it was coming into the week. Perhaps he’s feeling worse for wear after the Vikings gave him 33 touches – which he turned into 148 total yards. Some of those came in overtime mind you but it was still a full workload. Don’t let the injury concern you. Cordarrelle Patterson maintained his starter’s role and played well. While he didn’t break any long gains as a receiver, he made eight catches on an impressive 11 targets which suggests he’ll continue to be used as the season closes.
- Scott Tolzein started off strong, going 4/5 on the opening drive and rushing in a touchdown but from there things fell apart. Matt Flynn played well in relief, sparking the offense and earning Green Bay the tie. No one posted a line to blow you away but it is clear that Flynn can keep the offense moving (like Tolzein had tried to do coming into the week) so no major downgrades need to be made to your Packers if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t return to the field this week.
- Eddie Lacy had his best game as a rusher since Rodgers went down, and maintained a huge workload. He had 31 touches, 158 total yards and scored a TD. That bodes well, and noting that he should be getting his QB back in short order, there should continue to be room for Lacy to run. Lacy gets Atlanta, Dallas and Pittsburgh in weeks 14-16 and could find himself on more than a few fantasy championship rosters.
- More than 50% of the seven touchdowns the Giants have given up to Tight Ends have gone to Jason Witten.
- Don’t look now, but, Carson Palmer has avoided an interception in consecutive weeks after handing them out like Hallowe’en candy (full sized chocolate bars, too) over the season’s first 10 weeks. His 300 yard, 2 TD performance was fantasy relevant in it’s own right but it is also the type of performance that helps make everyone else relevant. Larry Fitzgerald is scoring TDs again, and Michael Floyd caught all over his seven targets for his second consecutive 100 yard game. Rashard Mendenhall acquitted himself nicely, too.
- Trent Richardson doesn’t even deserve a bullet anymore, so, we’ll make this about the Indy offense in general. This was a tough matchup for both the run and the pass, but, it continues to be apparent that the offense is a below average unit without Reggie Wayne. No one is stepping up to fill that void, and everyone is suffering as a result. You’re still starting Hilton and probably Fleener most weeks, plus Donald Brown is a reasonable flex play but there isn’t much out. Even Andrew Luck is a matchup play down the stretch.