There are lots of positive takeaways and overreactions from the Patriots trouncing of the Steelers today. So, rather than do that here let’s just say it was positive to see Gronkowski bounce back from a hit to his thigh that looked like it might keep him out, and to see him in the endzone again. The same thing goes for Danny Amendola who scored his first touchdown as a Patriot and found himself running free on numerous occasions. For me, though, the most exciting part is the budding rapport between Brady and Aaron Dobson.
With Kenbrell Thompkins a healthy scratch New England made Dobson’s seizure of the X receiver role official though it had been apparent for some time. Dobson drew nine targets and made another nice back-shoulder touchdown catch before sealing the game with an 81 yard touchdown over the top of Pittsburgh’s defense. Dobson’s development on the outside and Rob Gronkowski’s return to take the top off the defense led to plenty of room for Danny Amendola to operate underneath the defense. When all parts are clicking, this offense is an entirely different beast.
Again, today’s performance doesn’t necessarily mean that all of these guys (along with Stevan Ridley, who lost a fumble but scored twice) deserve massive bumps in our rest of season rankings but the fact that they hung 55 points on a Steelers defense that was giving up just 12.33 fantasy points per game to opposing QBs and 15.1 to WRs is a strong statement. Brady threw for 432 yards and four TDs but the most enticing number is a season high 69.7% completion percentage with no interceptions. New England is finally healthy on offense heading into their bye and should get Shane Vereen back in the mix… that’ll cut into Ridley’s work but won’t curtail all of his value coming out of it. Anyone who stayed the course with their Pats is looking at an arrow pointing up come week 11.
- When he’s right, DeMarco Murray is a beautiful runner – he hits the hole with speed and vision you don’t see in too many other backs. His 27 yard first quarter run was long gone had he not got caught up behind a blocker. He had just three carries in the first half, despite a ypc average of 10. Dallas wasn’t interested in running the ball at all against the Vikings though, they put the ball in the air 51 times compared to just nine rushes in this one and It nearly cost them the game. They didn’t leave us too much fantasy excitement unless you are a Jason Witten or Cole Beasley investor.
- Shonn Greene scored a 5 yard TD after the Rams gave the Titans a chunk of yards in penalties on their opening drive and had a productive day for Tennessee, but in the end we received validation that Greene and Johnson can co-exist in the Titans backfield. In fact, they may actually accentuate each other’s value – Greene scored the TD in a two back set with Johnson. At the end of the day, CJ finished with 23 carries for 150 yards and two scores, adding 20 through the air. As Jake Locker (though he struggled today against an imposing St. Louis pass rush) progresses, he should see more room to run – as evidenced by his 19 yard scamper to seal the victory, Johnson’s feet still move very quickly.
- Adrian Peterson scored a heroic touchdown for the second consecutive week, dragging a pile of defenders into the endzone with him. This week the Vikings wisely fed their best player the ball, giving him 25 carries, one fewer than he’d had in the two prior games combined. That fact (and Dallas’ disinterest in running the ball) helped them win the time of possession battle and nearly gave them the win.
- Jimmy Graham’s 51 yard touchdown suggests his ankles are holding up just fine. Last week we saw him score a couple of short ones, which pay the bills, but it’s nice to see him getting open down the field. Brees underthrew him on his first of two scores and he looked fully, healthy adjusting well and staying on his feet while dragging Jones into the endzone.
- Jamaal Charles posted 96 total yards, the first time he has been held under 100 all season. Dwayne Bowe, meanwhile, saw 12 looks against the most generous fantasy matchup for wide receivers and posted just 67 yards on seven catches. The volume this week is enticing for Bowe owners, but, that kind of stat line won’t win you any games.
- San Diego didn’t trail until the fourth quarter but the team used Danny Woodhead almost exclusively in the second half – Mathews saw just one carry. He ran well early for San Diego but the team is willing to get away from him early which is a concern in matchups where it doesn’t look like they’ll be running down the clock late.
- Coach Rivera’s Riverboat Ron nickname was well earned again this week as the team went for it on 4th and 1 inside Atlanta territory while the game was still in question, but instead of calling a run the team dialled up a bootleg that left Greg Olsen wide open for a 14 yard touchdown. Cam Newton made a few mistakes in this one after playing very efficient football in October, but still posted a nice fantasy game with multiple scores for the third time in the last four weeks.
- I only saw a couple of Chris Ivory’s runs but he obviously had a nice game against his former team. To go with the touchdown he doubled Bilal Powell in carries and went for 139 on 18. Much like their matchup with the Patriots, Ivory was the biggest reason (on offense) for New York’s victory today and that fact alone should keep him as the top end of the timeshare in New York. Like Mathews, though, his limited use in passing situations makes him a risky start in any game where the Jets could find themselves trailing.
- In a game that they lost by 24 points the Steelers kept Le’Veon Bell relevant with 20 touches and 139 total yards, while Ben Roethlisberger was winging the ball around a ton – throwing 48 passes for 400 yards. Jerricho Cotchery’s production was largely a result of those 50 pass attempts but it should be noted that this is the third game in which Cotchery has scored a touchdown, and posted more than 9 fantasy points in standard leagues. Today’s 28 won’t happen again, but he should be on the radar as a WR 4/5.
- Steven Jackson looked a lot better in his second game back for the Falcons, and while the game context led to just 13 carries he posted 57 yards on the ground he would have had a respectable fantasy day if not for a first quarter TD called back on a hold. Clearly his upside is limited by what has become a woeful situation in Atlanta but at least he was able to string together a couple of decent runs against a strong Panthers defense this week.
- Zac Stacy had 16 carries and a catch in the first half after concerns about his health heading into the game, and while part of his volume had to do with Richardson’s deactivation, it still was a bit of a shock after the uncertainty all week. He finished with 33 touches, 178 yards and two scores. With Kellen Clemens under center the Rams will lean heavy on the rookie back.
- C.J. Spiller’s day was enigmatic to say the least. He reeled off a number of chunk runs against a tough Chiefs defense and looked spry while doing so, however, he limped off a couple of times – including toward the end of the game, not returning. It was a nice statement game from Spiller but he still clearly isn’t 100% and will always be an in-game injury risk until he gets right.
- Steve Johnson was wide open on Jeff Tuel’s pick six, but the undrafted QB elected to throw to Robert Woods with a man draped all over his back. Marquise Goodwin added another long TD for the Bills but with just two catches and four targets he’s hard to justify as a start in even the deepest of leagues.
- Darrel Young scored three times and had at least one other carry inside the 10. While Alfred Morris crossed the goal line from the five and had 25 carries on the game, goal line attempts for Young will continue to limit his upside. A few weeks ago it was Roy Helu, and clearly Young’s use will limit his flex utility as well, but while Morris remains an RB1 play he’ll never enjoy his full complement of touchdowns.
- While Tampa Bay giving Seattle a scare at home is a story in its own the tale of the game has got to be Mike James’ effort as a ball carrier. With 28 carries for 158 yards he kept the chains moving for Tampa. The team got away from the run a bit in the second half and it allowed Seattle to get back into the game. James also threw an extremely awkward jump-shot touchdown to Tom Crabtree who was lying on his back for half the play. Only three rushers have gone over 100 yards against Seattle this season… two of them rookies in the last two weeks.
- With Sidney Rice out for the Seattle Doug Baldwin was the Seahawks’ most effective receiver. It will be interesting to see how he’s used when Percy Harvin returns.
- Nick Foles threw more touchdowns than incompletions this week with seven scores on 28 passes. We’d talked about the impact that Foles’ re-insertion into the starting lineup would have on Riley Cooper, but no one saw today’s effort coming from either player. Today’s 49 points are far on the other side of the spectrum relative to their 0TD efforts of the last two weeks it’s hard to trust, but if Foles can deliver a game half this productive on a regular basis all of the fantasy relevant players in Philly get a boost – Foles included.
- During the Raiders/Eagles broadcast Tim Ryan pointed out a number of instances where Terrelle Pryor still looked like an unseasoned QB, particularly when rolling to his left versus his right, but his legs kept him fantasy relevant for another week. While Pryor wound up with two interceptions – one was off the hands of his receiver – he had nearly 100 yards rushing and 300 passing, very useable statistics even without a score. McGloin was throwing passes late, but, it seems to have had more to do with the score than it did with any injury to Pryor.
- Josh Gordon was quiet again after a scoring TD last week. Davone Bess scored and Greg Little did the heavy lifting, but the take away is that Jason Campbell played good (real, and) fantasy football for the second straight week.
- Ray Rice struggled again for the Ravens and while the entire offense underwhelmed against a strong Browns D, Rice owners simply can’t use him as an RB1 any longer. His 11 carries for 17 yards mark the 7th straight game that he’s been held under four yards per carry.