While you were huddled around the grill contemplating which cheese topping deserved the privilege of garnishing your meat, several tasty fantasy tidbits crawled off the wire. To make sure you remain at the top of your game heading into Week 1, here's a bulleted rundown of what you missed:
• Aside from Peyton Manning's neck and, more recently, Arian Foster's hammy, no body part has captivated the attention of fanatics more than Maurice Jones-Drew's surgically repaired knee. On Thursday, owner worries were finally calmed as the popular early-round pick ran uninhibited over two series against the Rams. He finished with 14 yard on five carries. Post-game he made a pointed comment to skeptics who've questioned his Week 1 preparedness. From the Times-Union:
"If they don't see it now, I don't know what to tell them."
MoJo better be ready.
On Friday, teammate Rashad Jennings, felled by a knee injury of his own, was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. The handcuff was expected to help ease MJD's workload, presumably taking on 10-12 carries per game. However, with the Liberty product officially toast, promoted third-stringer Deji Karim will now fill that void. Jack Del Rio is confident the former sixth-round pick, whose full name (Abdul-Gafar Olatokumbo Ayodeji Lamar Karim) would force any fifth-grade spelling bee champ to his/her knees, is prepared to tally more carries than vowels. From ESPN.com:
"I feel great about our backfield. I think we have depth. I think we have productive guys that will step up and play big for us. Deji is one of them. I think you'll see an increased role with Montell (Owens), an increased role with Brock (Bolen). But Deji in particular has been very explosive this preseason. He's got some real quicks, he's got great vision and he's been improved in all facets of his game. And the thing that stands out is the explosive element that he brings."
Since Karim is limited to a change-of-pace role, he is nothing more than another bench back one leg twist away from a value explosion. But because Jones-Drew has eclipsed 330-plus touches in consecutive seasons and is coming off major surgery, the chances of that happening might be better than you think.
• Todd Haley is a riverboat gambler. He a man who's never shied away from chasing the river. However, in his most recent attempt to score a flush, he failed. Miserably. Matt Cassel, who was smashed into the ground by Packers buffet closer Howard Green in the SECOND QUARTER in Thursday's preseason finale, is very questionable for Week 1's battle versus Buffalo due to a rib injury. Genius.
Inexperienced backup Tyler Palko, who has never started an NFL game, could be pressed into action, damning news for Dwayne Bowe. Last year, the wideout grabbed three passes for 16 yards and a TD against the Bills with Cassel. Without him, Bowe might be lucky to show up in the box score. Drayton Florence, one of the league's more physical corners, was effective against top targets last year limiting them to just 61.8 yards per game.
As for other key Chiefs, particularly Jamaal Charles, one would think against one of the league's softest run defenses a ground-heavy gameplan would be implemented. Maybe, just maybe, the JC of KC could surpass 20 touches, an event that happened only four times last year. But, knowing Haley, Thomas Jones, Dexter McCluster and Le'Ron McClain will probably total 40 carries. Still, based on the favorable matchup, the explosive Charles is a top-five play this week. Remember last year he rolled up 238 total yards on 26 touches against the Bills. Don't worry too much about the stacked boxes.
(UPDATE: Good news. Cassel returned for a portion of KC's practice Monday morning. His chances of starting Sunday have increased significantly.)
• To the casual observer, Arizona's acquisition of Chester Taylor may raise a red flag for Beanie Wells. After all, during his tenure in the desert, Ken Whisenhunt has supported a committee backfield. Once Taylor gets acclimated to his new surroundings he will play a role, but, make no mistake, Beanie will be the beast of burden.
Motivated by those who've repeatedly panned him for his being physical soft, Wells has a giant chip on his shoulder. He consistently ran angry this preseason, showcasing impressive speed, power and determination. As Whisenhunt told the Arizona Republic over the weekend, the 23-year-old is "accelerating on contact" and "carrying guys downfield." If that attitude carries over into the regular season, Wells will be a strong RB2, possibly finishing inside the position's top-15 (And I've been one of Beanie's biggest critics). Undoubtedly, Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald will stretch defenses, creating exploitable opportunities for the ground game.
Because blitz pickup is still a bugaboo for Beanie, Taylor will eventually seize duties on third downs. But the former first-rounder will be the primary early-down and goal-line back. If the third-year back can avoid the infirmary, he could very well finish in range of 1,250 total yards and 8-10 touchdowns. And, based on Arizona's very friendly early season slate (Car, @Was, @Sea), it wouldn't be a shock if he (or Kolb for that matter) stormed out of the gates. The generous defenses ranked sixth, eleventh and seventh, respectively, in fantasy points allowed to rushers a season ago.
• Peyton's ongoing neck saga has everyone in Fantasyland freaking out (Read Behrens' rundown here). Though his potential early season loss is devastating for Indy, it doesn't mean all Colts skill players should be purposely avoided in drafts or auctioned off for a six-pack of Keystone and a bag of Rold Gold.
Yes, it's true Kerry Collins once traded beaver pelts alongside Native Americans in the Old Northwest Territory centuries ago, but, if given adequate time, the graybeard can still chuck it. Last year in a less potent Titans offense he averaged 216 yards per game, 6.8 yards per attempt and notched a solid 12:7 TD:INT split over seven starts. Since he's only been with the club for two weeks, his loose grasp of the offense is an issue, but Week 1 don't expect him to drop back into the pocket and immediately collapse into the fetal position. The Texans' secondary, which added Jonathan Joseph and Danieal Manning, is improved, but still vulnerable. For now, Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon and Dallas Clark receive only a slight downgrade.
One other note, Jim Caldwell could turn more to Joseph Addai and bowling ball Delone Carter to help minimize pressure on Collins. Obviously, the backfield's success directly correlates with how well Collins performs, but if the grizzled veteran can at least be average, the tandem stands to benefit. Keep in mind the Texans and Browns, Indy's first two opponents, allowed a combined 106.6 rushing yards per game to RBs last year.
(UPDATE: Here is Jim Irsay's statement on No. 18. Based on the owner's unreadable tweets, be thankful it wasn't written in shorthand. The most disturbing part: "As of now Peyton continues to deal with a complicated neurological recovery, the end date of which is unpredictable.")
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Images courtesy of US Presswire
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