BUMPS, BRUISES AND BOWOUTS
Fozzy Whitaker – Leg
Stevan Ridley – Knee
Giovani Bernard – Shoulder
Theo Riddick – Hamstring
Eddie Royal – Rib
Victor Cruz – Torn patellar tendon
Darren Sproles – Possible ACL
More injuries and depth chart changes happened from week six and injuries to Victor Cruz and Stevan Ridley in particular are going to change fantasy rosters. Adding in that tight end Jimmy Graham is now expected to miss two or three weeks and fantasy league champions are not going to be the craftiest drafters. They’ll be the ones with the healthiest rosters and quick access to the waiver wire.
SHUFFLING THE DECK AGAIN
The Patriots relied on Stevan Ridley as their primary rusher but his knee injury gives everyone a bump on the depth chart. Ridley already had 94 carries this season and was the designated short yardage scorer. Shane Vereen is already a “co-starter” and will see an increase in workload. Brandon Boldin is next in line behind Ridley and at 5-11/220 he is the pure runner that the Pats need to replace. Vereen is smaller and mainly an injury-prone receiving back. The Pats might call up the rookie James White who impressed in the summer but Bolden is a three-year veteran. Expect Bolden to be a top free agent pick this week.
Matt Asiata replaced Adrian Peterson as the starting running back for the Vikings. In the four games to follow Peterson’s absence, Asiata ran 60 times for 221 yards and a 3.7 yard average. The 3.32 draft pick of Jerick McKinnon was given minimal work until a breakout game of 135 yards in the win over the Falcons but most of his work all came late in the already decided game. The two runners split a 2:1 ratio in the next game that favored Asiata. But against the Lions, Asiata only ran twice for a five yard loss while McKinnon not only gained 40 yards on 11 carries, he was the leading receiver as well with 42 yards on six receptions. Asiata has already been passed by the rookie.
The first game without Montee Ball made it very clear what the Broncos intend to do with their backfield for the next month or so while Ball heals from a groin injury. Facing very stout Jets defensive line, Ronnie Hillman gained 100 yards on 24 carries and added three receptions. Juwan Thompson carried eight times for 38 yards and caught one pass. Hillman carried eight times in the fourth quarter as opposed to just once for Thompson. C.J. Anderson was active but never touched the ball. Hillman is a strong starter for now and Thompson little more than the guy that now backs up Hillman.
The Ravens were without Bernard Pierce for two weeks. His replacement Lorenzo Taliaferro ran 18 times for 91 yards and a score in Cleveland, then 15 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. Justin Forsett was given a lighter role in those games. Then all three backs had about half a dozen carries in the loss to the Colts. But against the Buccaneers, Forsett (14-111) and Pierce (15-32, TD) shared even carries while Taliaferro carried only twice in the final offensive series as an afterthought. Barring an injury, the rookie is back on the bottom of the depth chart.
Ben Tate returned from his sprained knee in week five ran for 124 yards against the Titans. Isaiah Crowell (6-19) and Terrance West (7-31) both had equal work. But with Tate healthy, he not only received 25 carries for 78 yards and two scores in the win over the Steelers, Isaiah Crowell also scored on his 11 runs for 77 yards. But West was a no-show. He was a healthy scratch who no longer has a role on game day unless another injury occurs.
The Eagles just developed a problem. In the same evening that LeSean McCoy finally exploded for a big game over the Giants, they lost Darren Sproles to a left knee injury. The only other active running back is Chris Polk who is out for at least another week or more with a hamstring issue. To finish out the game, they used rookie tight end Trey Burton who at 6-3/235 is certainly big enough though playing well out of position. Keep an eye on the Eagles this week because they will be making a move either from the practice squad or free agent signing.
Andre Holmes is just another third-year wide receiver who never translated impressive play in the summer to the regular season. His first three weeks totaled only six catches for 74 yards. But week four against the Dolphins, he caught five of 12 targets for 74 yards and one score. And then again facing the Chargers he reeled off a career best 121 yards on four catches for two scores. With the rookie Derek Carr looking to establish chemistry with his receivers, Holmes is a strong buy from the waiver wire but hold off starting him until he shows up in a road game.
GEAUX DOLPHINS AND GIANTS!
The Dolphins used their 2.31 pick in the draft to snag Jarvis Landry who left LSU as one of the most productive wideouts in their history despite leaving as a junior. After averaging four catches for about 40 yards in the last three games, he topped the box score in the loss to the Packers. Landry turned eight targets into six receptions for 75 yards and added his first NFL touchdown. Mike Wallace remains the primary wideout but the Fins brought Landry in to eventually compete for the #2 spot manned by Brian Hartline who failed to catch either of his passes in the game.
The Giants had to wait until week five before they could use rookie wideout Odell Beckham because of a hamstring injury from the summer. In his first game, he caught four passes for 44 yards and one score in the win over the Falcons. The crushing loss to the Eagles dropped him to only two receptions for 28 yards. But this LSU product also left as a junior with more records than Landry and was the 1.12 pick in the NFL draft that comes in with a #1 receiver pedigree. Add that into the fact the Giants just lost their best wideout in Victor Cruz and Beckham will get every chance to make a difference for the rest of the season. Only Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans were drafted earlier than Beckham.
THE MANTRA OF JUST ONE MORE
It bears to be said – the Cowboys are both exceeding all expectations and lying while they do. The total carries for DeMarco Murray add up to a jaw-dropping level. Each week, HC Jason Garrett says he understands he needs to reduce his workload. But the weekly lure of winning means the Cowboys stick a “How ‘bout them Cowboys!” decal over Murray’s capacity warnings and just throw another 30 carries on his back. Coming into week six, Murray had 130 runs for 670 yards plus 15 catches for 124 yards. By the time he left Seattle, he had tied with Jim Brown for the only other season that started with six straight 100 yard games. And he had 29 more carries for 115 yards plus six catches for 31 yards. That establishes a new pace for 424 carries for 2093 yards and 56 catches for 413 yards.
As pointed out previously, Murray has never run more than 217 times in any season and he has never missed fewer than two games. This is either going to be a “Magic Season” which happens when a player turns in a tremendously better year than any other in his career. Or it is a really good time to own backup Joseph Randle who currently sports a 7.1 yard rushing average.
|IND 33, HOU 28||This was a great Thursday game though every non-Luck owner is tired of him every week posting stats like 370 yards and three scores. T.Y. Hilton caught nine passes for 223 yards and one score and a personal best. No other receiver had more than 49 yards. Both Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson scored even if they were light on yardage. Ryan Fitzpatrick (212, TD) was average as always though Andre Johnson (7-99, TD) had a freak good game for once. Arian Foster ran for 109 yards and two scores plus 32 more yards receiving. Lot’s of fantasy points for several players and in particular nice to see Hilton and Johnson both turn in big games. Now the 4-2 Colts host the Bengals and the 3-3 Texans host the Browns.|
|NE 37, BUF 22||The Patriots carried over their confidence from beating the Bengals to take down the Bills with ease. Tom Brady passed for a season best 361 yards and four touchdowns. Multiple receivers had big game including Brandon LaFell (4-97, 2 TD), Rob Gronkowski (7-94) and Julian Edelman (9-91). Tim Wright scored again but on his only catch. The rushing effort did nearly nothing and eventually lost Stevan Ridley to what is believed to be a torn ACL. Even Shane Vereen only ran for four yards on five carries. Kyle Orton passed for 299 yards and two scores and tight end Scott Chandler (6-105) had a rare nice showing along with Robert Woods (5-72, TD). But C.J. Spiller (6-19) and Fred Jackson (10-26, TD) both had trouble running. Now the 4-2 Patriots head home to host the Jets and the 3-3 Bills host the Vikings this week.|
|PIT 10, CLE 31||The Steelers barely beat the Jaguars the previous week and were manhandled by the Browns. Ben Roethlisberger passed for just 228 yards and one touchdown and only Antonio Brown (7-118) mattered as a receiver which is true just about every week. No other receiver gained more than 33 yards. Le’Veon Bell ran for 82 yards on 18 carries but LeGarrette Blount stole eight runs for only 27 yards. Brian Hoyer only threw for 217 yards and one score and mostly just to Jordan Cameron (3-102, TD). But the Browns rushing attack made the difference using just Ben Tate (25-78, 2 TD) and Isaiah Crowell (11-77, TD). Now the 3-3 Steelers head home to host the Texans and the 3-2 Browns travel the Jacksonville.|
|GB 27, MIA 24||Close game that the Packers pulled out with six seconds left to play when Aaron Rodgers (282 yds, 3 TD) connected for a score with Andrew Quarless (2-11, TD). As usual, Jordy Nelson (9-107, TD) was the lead receiver and Randall Cobb ended with 58 yards on five catches for one touchdown. But Eddie Lacy only ran for 40 yards on 14 carries and James Starks was given eight carries for 31 yards as the Packers make good on their threat to split the workload more in the backfield. Ryan Tannehill passed for 231 yards and two scores but with two interceptions. Mike Wallace (5-67, TD) and the rookie Jarvis Landry (6-75, TD) has over taken Brian Hartline’s place in the pecking order for at least one week and likely many more. Knowshon Moreno returned but only gained ten yards on six runs while Lamar Miller gained 53 yards and a touchdown on his 14 runs. Now the 4-2 Packers will host the Panthers and the 2-3 Dolphins head to Chicago.|
|DET 17, MIN 3||Pretty disappointing game from a fantasy perspective. Matt Stafford only passed for 185 yards and one score with Calvin Johnson on the sideline. Theo Riddick was the lead receiver thanks to a 41-yard catch and run and he ended with a score on his five receptions for 75 yards. Golden Tate (7-44) was next best but at least Joique Bell ran for 74 yards and a score with Reggie Bush out. Teddy Bridgewater was able to play but only threw for 188 yards and three interceptions and Jerick McKinnon took over as lead back with 11 runs for 40 yards and six receptions for 42 yards. Matt Asiata lost five yards on his two carries. The change in the depth chart is now official – McKinnon is the primary back now. And apparently the primary receiver for this week. This game made no fantasy owners happy other than Bell. Now the 4-2 Lions host the Saints and the 2-4 Vikings head to Buffalo.|
|DEN 31, NYJ 17||This was about what we expected. Peyton Manning only passed for 237 yards but had three touchdowns while Ronnie Hillman became the primary back with 24 runs for 100 yards and he was backed up by Juwan Thompson (8-38). Demaryius Thomas (10-124, TD) was the best receiver though Julius Thomas (4-51, 2 TD) made his obligatory trips to the end zone. Geno Smith passed for 190 yards and two scores which allowed Eric Decker (6-54, TD) to score on his old team. But the important part was the use of Jace Amaro (10-68, TD) as the primary receiver. The rushing effort by the Jets totaled 13 runs for 20 yards. Now the 4-1 Broncos host the 49ers while the 1-5 Jets head to New England.|
|BAL 48, TB 17||This could have been an astronomic beatdown since the Ravens led 35-0 at the start of the second quarter. Joe Flacco ended with 306 yards and five touchdowns and Steve Smith (5-110, TD) and Torrey Smith (4-51, 2 TD) had big efforts. Justin Forsett ran for 111 yards while Bernard Pierce scored once on his 15 runs for 32 yards. Thanks to 45 minutes of trash time, Mike Glennon threw for 314 yards and two scores. Louis Murphy (7-72, TD) and Vincent Jackson (4-66) all had easy yards at the end. Doug Martin only ran for 45 yards on 11 runs. This was just a beat that started at the kickoff and got out of hand almost immediately. The Ravens were nice by only scoring 48 points here. Now the 4-2 Ravens host the Falcons and the 1-5 Buccaneers go on their bye.|
|JAX 14, TEN 16||This game was pitiful in that it should have produced numerous fantasy stars as both defenses normally will. Blake Bortles passed for 336 yards and one score but it mostly went to Cecil Shorts (10-103) and Clay Harbor (3-91, TD). Storm Johnson was the starter but only gained 21 yards on 10 runs but did score once. Charlie Whitehurst only threw for 233 yards and no scores. Bishop Sankey had his first clean start and ran for 61 yards on 18 carries but the short touchdown was given to Jackie Battle. The NFL is better when good offenses face these teams. Not when they face each other. The 0-6 Jaguars host the Browns this week and the 2-4 Titans head to Washington.|
|SD 31, OAK 28||Why was this a game? The Raiders nearly won. Derek Carr had never passed for more than one touchdown in any game but threw four scores with his 282 yards. Andre Holmes (4-121, 2 TD) scored both on deep passes. James Jones (5-56, TD) was outdone by Brice Butler (3-64, TD) who only had 12 career catches over two seasons. Darren McFadden ran for 80 yards on 14 carries and even Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 30 yards on just four attempts. Philip Rivers threw for 313 yards and three scores but the only receiver of any note was Malcom FLoyd (5-103, TD). Brandin Oliver was the newest waiver wire scrape turned starter and paid off nicely with 101 yards and a score as a runner and four receptions for 23 yards as a receiver. The Chargers nearly got caught in this trap game. The 0-5 Raiders host the Cardinals this week and the 5-1 Chargers host the Chiefs.|
|CHI 27, ATL 13||This is bad news for the Falcons who normally win everything at home and lose everything on the road. But Matt Ryan only passed for 271 yards and one score and Julio Jones (4-68) was the top receiver. There was nothing happening in the rushing offense that ended with a combined 11 carries for 42 yards. Once again, Antone Smith made it five of six games by scoring on a 41-yard pass. He gets little workload and yet he scores a long touchdown in all but one game this year. Jay Cutler was good for 381 yards and one touchdown and both Alshon Jeffery (5-136) and Brandon Marshall (6-113) broke the century mark. Matt Forte not only ran for 80 yards and two scores, he added 10 more catches for 77 yards. The 3-3 Bears will host the Dolphins this week and the 2-4 Falcons heads to Baltimore.|
|WAS 20, ARI 30||While this game offered no monster performances, it held a lot of fantasy starters who at least turned in a decent game. Kirk Cousins had his normal three interceptions but threw for 354 yards and two scores. DeSean Jackson (3-115, TD) enjoyed being on the other side from Patrick Peterson but Pierre Garcon (4-31, TD) moved around enough to score once. Jordan Reed is back in a big way with eight catches for 92 yards, Alfred Morris only ran for 41 yards but at least and 14 yards on one catch. Carson Palmer was the starter despite the game the Cardinals played with all three quarterbacks supposedly in play. He passed for 250 yards and two score that included Larry Fitzgerald (6-98, TD) and Michael Floyd (4-47, TD). Andre Ellington ended with 93 total yards. Solid game with no real surprises. The 1-5 Redskins host the Titans this week and the 4-1 Cardinals go to Oakland.|
|DAL 30. SEA 23||This was the Game-o-the-week for the NFL. Hands down. No one comes into Seattle and dictates the game to the Seahawks. Until now. Tony Romo threw for 250 yards and two scores with no interceptions. Terrance Williams (2-70) made a critical catch in the game and Dez Bryant (4-63) even caught passes while Richard Sherman was trying to stop him. DeMarco Murray became the second player in NFL history to being the season with six straight 100 yard games (joins Jim Brown) when he went for 29 carries and 115 yards with one touchdown. He added six receptions for 31 yards. Russell Wilson only passed for 126 yards and one interception. Marshawn Lynch was held to 61 yards on ten carries. The only reason the Seahawks were in the game at all was special teams play that scored a touchdown on a blocked punt. The Seahawks might have over estimated their opponent since no one goes into Seattle and does that. Suddenly the 5-1 Cowboys have the best record in the NFC and host the Giants who were just shutout. The 3-2 Seahawks play in St. Louis this week.|
|NYG 0, PHI 27||All of the success of the Giants from the last few weeks just flew out the window. It may not be coming back any time soon. Eli Manning was held to only 151 pass yards and the best receiver was Rueben Randle (5-58) and worst yet the Giants have likely lost Victor Cruz for the rest of the season. Andre Williams (16-58) replaced the injured Rashad Jennings but this game was never in reach for the Giants, Nick Foles passed for 248 yards and two scores with two interceptions but no receiver had a big night. Riley Cooper was tops with just five catches for 59 yards. The real news was that Darren Sproles probably blew out a knee and yet LeSean McCoy finally showed up with 149 yards on 22 carries and finally looked like 2013. Now the 3-3 Giants head to Dallas and the 5-1 Eagles go onto their bye.|
HUDDLE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
T.Y. Hilton – After starting the season with games of 5-41 and 6-65, some questioned if his hot streak to end 2013 was just from a lack of other options for Andrew Luck. But Hilton was good for at least 80 yards in each of the three previous games and last Thursday finally scored while merely catching nine passes for 223 yards. It never hurts to play with the #1 fantasy quarterback in the NFL. And at least for last week, it can really pay off.
DRAMA 101 – SOMEBODY HAS TO LAUGH, SOMEBODY HAS TO CRY
|QB||Derek Carr||284||4||QB||Matthew Stafford||185||1|
|RB||Theo Riddick||81||1||RB||Eddie Lacey||40||0|
|RB||Ronnie Hillman||116||0||RB||Marshawn Lynch||61||0|
|WR||Andre Holmes||121||2||WR||Wes Welker||8||0|
|WR||Brandon LaFell||97||2||WR||Victor Cruz||18||0|
|WR||Robert Woods||78||1||WR||Keenan Allen||27||0|
|TE||Jace Amaro||68||1||TE||Jason Witten||24||1|
|PK||Graham Gano||13 pts||PK||Blair Walsh||3 pts|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 142||Huddle Fantasy Points = 37|
Sunday’s Couch Commentary
What to think? Are the Cowboys, Colts, Chargers and Eagles really that good? Can the Jets, Jaguars, Raiders, Redskins, Buccaneers and Rams do anything to salvage their seasons? Week six served up a few nice upsets and who doesn’t like watching a Super Bowl champion getting beaten in their own stadium? All the while looking like they don’t quite comprehend what is going on. We’re just about to crest the halfway point for the regular season in most leagues – how is your team? This season has been fraught with so many injuries, so many depth chart changes, so many players who are great only for one or two weeks.
All those rookie running backs that made us wonder if they would show up this year. The answer is probably yes for the first four rounds if only for one game. We’ve already seen rookie wideouts make an impact and that continues but now even the tight ends are showing up in box scores. Jace Amaro couldn’t catch a pass this summer and ended up as the highest scoring tight end this week.
The changes are refreshing but taking a lot of time to track. No more start ’em and let it ride anymore.
Panthers 37, Bengals 37
This is a great example of the state of the NFL. The Panthers seem to vary between being a great defense or just getting pummeled. The Bengals were the juggernaut of the AFC until the Patriots slapped them around and now they cannot even beat the Panthers in Cincinnati.
Cam Newton passed for 284 yards and two scores but had totaled only 24 runs for 42 yards over the first five weeks. So naturally he runs 17 times for 107 yards and one score. Greg Olsen (6-62, TD) was tops for receivers and Fozzy Whittaker only managed 25 yards on nine runs but did score once. Mostly the Panthers are back to all Cam, all the time. Apparently he is completely healthy again.
Andy Dalton passed for 323 yards and two scores but had two interceptions. With A.J. Green out, he turned to Mohammed Sanu (11-120, TD) with great effectiveness. Giovani Bernard racked up 137 yards on 18 carries thanks to a 89-yard touchdown when he turned into a blur down the left sideline. Jeremy Hill also scored but only had 22 yards on eight carries.
This game really heated up in the fourth quarter when Dalton found Sanu for a 34 yard touchdown catch with 11:46 left to play to tie it up. But then Newton hit Olsen for a 13-yard touchdown with only 4:58 left on the clock for a 31-24 lead by the Panthers.
Unfortunately for them, the kickoff was returned 97 yards and Jeremy Hill needed only one play to score for the 31-31 tie.
The Panthers then threw an interception to give the Bengals the ball on the CAR 24-yard line with 3:22 left to play. Jeremy Hill ran for a touchdown but it was called back on a holding penalty. The Bengals would settle for a field goal with 2:16 left to play to make it 34-31 for the Bengals.
Newton would then drive the field with short passes and with only five seconds left, the Panthers kicked a 44-yard field goal to send it into overtime.
The Bengals took the kickoff in overtime and drove to the CAR 24-yard line where they kicked a field goal which meant the Panthers had to have their turn. They would end with a 36-yard field to re-tie the score.
After 75 minutes of play, it all came down to an easy 36-yard field goal as time expired and Mike Nugent pulled it right. And now we have a tie.
Go cruise your waiver wire and rebuild that team. There is still plenty of time for teams to rocket back up in the standings and every week is draining players from other teams. The way this season is going, you can be 1-6 and still be in it. This has the look so far of a magic year for DeMarco Murray and they do happen. Look at Knowshon Moreno last year. Doug Martin the year before that. Ray Rice before that.
It’s just that none of them were remotely close to 424 carries. It keeps reminding me of Jamal Anderson in 1998 with the Falcons. He was never much more than a1000 yard, five touchdown kind of runner but he went off for 410 carries for 1846 yards and 14 touchdowns plus 319 yards and two scores as a receiver. He never had more than 290 carries before that or after but for one magic year – he was running like Murray.
Here’s hoping this can be your magic year.
Now get back to work…