Andre Johnson, en route to a 273-yard day (Getty)
Hey, wait, hold up. Who invited the 2008 Texans to the 2012 season?
Houston's defense is no longer supposed to be a team weakness, but an asset. In fact, the Texans D entered the week ranked second in the NFL in yards-allowed (281.6) and third in points (15.9). Sure, they were destroyed by the Packers in Week 6, but they've still held six opponents to 14 points or less this season. Ever since the Green Bay loss, this defense has been absolutely dominant.
This isn't a team that finds itself in weekly shootouts anymore, as was the case early in the Gary Kubiak era. These days, Houston holds your offense to a low number and they steamroll your defense with Arian Foster. That's the formula. Game over.
Thus, when Jacksonville rolled into town in Week 11, most of us gave the Jaguars almost no shot to reach the 20-point plateau — forget winning, forget respectability. Jacksonville has been a fantasy sinkhole all year. And when the Jags lost starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert to an elbow injury in the first quarter on Sunday, whatever modest expectations we had for their miserable offense were dialed down.
That's when the Chad Henne-to-Justin Blackmon show began.
This ridiculous 81-yard touchdown reception was probably the best grab of Blackmon's day, but it was hardly the only highlight. The rookie finished with 236 receiving yards and one score on seven catches, nearly doubling his year-to-date yardage total, reminding us all why he was the unrivaled No. 1 collegiate receiver a year ago. Henne finished with 354 passing yards on Sunday ... which is maybe 180 more than I would have forecast for him, had I known he'd play. The Jags piled up 37 points and 458 total yards.
Nice day, rookie (USP)So obviously the Texans' defense — and the secondary in particular — did not have a good afternoon. They'll have just four days to get things corrected before traveling to Detroit for a match-up with a passing attack that's much, much better than the one that just torched them.
But the good news for Houston fans (and certainly for fantasy owners) is that it turns out your team can still win games, '08-style. As great as Henne and Blackmon were, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson were actually better.
Schaub delivered the second-highest passing yardage total in league history, throwing for an absurd 527 yards and five scores in the Texans' 43-37 overtime win. He had a streak of 17 straight completions during the comeback, finishing 43-for-55. This 48-yarder to Johnson sealed the deal. AJ had a career day — which is saying somethin', considering the quality of his career — catching 14 balls on 19 targets, gaining 273 yards.
So that's insane. The game featured 1,098 yards of total net offense, 640 of which belonged to Houston. The Jaguars defense seemed singularly focused on limiting Foster, and they more or less accomplished that one goal — Arian finished with 92 total yards on 31 touches. But the Jags stopped nothing else.
This post-game quote from Johnson (via the AP) neatly sums up the day for both sides...
''When I caught the [game-winner] and I saw how open I was, I was looking around like, 'Where are the defenders at?'''
Jacksonville's defense basically checked out for the season back in September. Houston will clearly need its D to resurface before January. For now, it's nice to know the Texans can still turn back the clock, as needed.
• One final Jags note, easily overlooked: Running back Rashad Jennings had only a minimal role in Week 11 (three carries, -1 yard), as Jalen Parmele got the start. Jennings has of course been a multi-week disappointment, so no fantasy owner should feel that their season is derailed by this news. If you were still hoping for a Jennings surge, your team was already cooked. Parmele carried 24 times for 80 tough (if not spectacular) yards. You have to figure he's the starter in Week 12, when the Jaguars host Tennessee. If you're a Maurice Jones-Drew owner, you should be eying the following week's match-up at Buffalo.
• If all you knew about Robert Griffin III's stat line was that he attempted only 15 passes, then you might reasonably assume that he didn't have a huge fantasy day. But then you'd be ignoring the fact that he's some sort of android visitor from the future who does things that weren't expected in the NFL before 2045. Griffin completed 14 of his 15 throws for 200 yards and four TDs on Sunday. Two of the scores were deep bombs — one to Aldrick Robinson, one to Santana Moss — that accounted for 110 passing yards. RG3 also rushed for 84 yards on 12 carries, because he's a menace. Pierre Garcon had a quiet day in his re-return (three catches, five yards), not that it mattered.
(Important: If any of you ask me how I'm feeling about the Griffin-for-DMC deal that I made several weeks ago, I will have your fantasy histories expunged. DO NOT CHALLENGE ME ON THIS).
Another week, another gut-punch for Eagles fans (USP)Nick Foles? Yeah, he was a dud, completing less than half his throws, tossing two picks. Philly was an all-phases disappointment. And then they left LeSean McCoy in the game in the final minutes, trailing by 25 points, and he was concussed. (As we mentioned earlier in the day, Bryce Brown is the pick-up). Honestly, the only good news I have for Eagles fans is that Andy Reid almost certainly won't be your coach in just a few short weeks. So there's that.
• Bad quarterback replaced by bad quarterback, Part I: The Chiefs pulled Matt Cassel at halftime in favor of Brady Quinn. This is not really actionable news in any way. Cassel led both scoring drives for Kansas City, but we're only talking about six lousy points. That won't pay the fantasy bills. Neither QB reached 100 passing yards. And Dwayne Bowe left Sunday's game with a neck injury, finishing without a catch. KC fans, please take the final sentence of the bullet above and substitute "Chiefs" for "Eagles" and "Romeo Crennel" for "Andy Reid."
Beyond that, um ... well, I got nothin'.
• It is my duty as a fantasy analyst/recapper to tell you that Brandon Gibson caught two TD passes for the Rams in Week 11, and Bilal Powell — not Shonn Greene — had a pair of rushing scores for New York. However, I have to admit that I never once checked in on that game, and I usually made a food run whenever RedZone flipped to St. Louis. If you want details on Gang Green(e), maybe try Salfino. I have very little tolerance for Jets football at this point, and I can't believe we're getting that team on Thursday night. We'll all feel 30 percent less thankful. If it were up to me, we wouldn't discuss this team again until next preseason, when Michael Vick is their quarterback.
(OK, one note from the Jets' win: Powell essentially fell into a rotation with Greene in the second half, when he began making house calls. He's back on the deep league radar, in a desperate-for-flex-help sort of way. Powell has dealt with injuries recently — shoulder, concussion — but he's clearly doing better).
• The Carolina Panthers lost yet another fourth quarter lead on Sunday. There's a sentence I can just clip and save for future blog posts. Despite leading Tampa by multiple scores late in Week 11, Carolina again couldn't shut the door. What was new about this week's loss? Well, Jonathan Stewart converted a goal-line carry, a novelty for him this season. And Cam Newton didn't turn the ball over (unless you count this feel-good giveaway). But a loss is a loss is a loss, and the Panthers now have eight of 'em.
Josh Freeman delivered another three scores (USP)The Bucs stubbornly refuse to concede their division, and Josh Freeman gave us another useful fantasy line: 248 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 27 rushing. He hit Vincent Jackson for a touchdown in the final seconds of regulation, then found him again for a game-tying two-point conversion. Then in OT, Freeman directed an eight-play scoring drive that ended with a way-too-easy Dallas Clark TD. (Not your best NFL moment, James Anderson). Doug Martin delivered another 138 rushing yards, though he also lost a fumble at the goal line (possibly after crossing, but the replay team didn't call it that way).
• James Starks had 25 carries for the Packers on Sunday, which is probably about 20 too many. He gained just 74 yards. Green Bay nonetheless won a tight game at Detroit, thanks in large part to Randall Cobb, who made a terrific adjustment on this late go-ahead score. Matthew Stafford wasn't exactly at his best for Detroit (17-for-39, 266, TD, pick-six), but Calvin Johnson still beasted (5-143-1).
The Lions gave us a coaching staff sideline skirmish late in the loss, so that should be fun to follow throughout the week.
• Tony Romo's day looked painful (seven sacks, fumble), yet he still passed for 313 yards on 50 attempts, and he found Dez Bryant for a fourth quarter TD. Dez finished with a career-high 145 yards on 12 catches, looking suspiciously like the receiver we've wanted him to be since 2010. He's delivered either 100 yards or a touchdown or both in three of his last four games.
• Bad quarterback replaced by bad quarterback, Part II: John Skelton was yanked, while his team was leading, following a 2-for-7 start. His replacement, sixth-round rookie Ryan Lindley, went 9-for-20 and finished with 64 yards. Arizona's two-headed quarterback abomination kneecapped Larry Fitzgerald, who caught just one pass for 11 yards on seven targets. LaRod Stephens-Howling accounted for 133 scrimmage yards for the Cardinals — an impressive total when you note that the team finished with just 178 total net yards. Despite the nice performance from LSH, we still have to downgrade him in Week 12, with Beanie Wells presumably returning.
"Let's never discuss this game again, OK?" (USP)If you needed a fantasy contribution from any Falcons this week, you were probably disappointed. That is, unless you started Matt Bryant. Or you're the one guy in a thousand who hasn't given up on Michael Turner (46 yards, goal-line TD). Matt Ryan had a bizarre day, throwing five interceptions (no luck whatsoever on tipped balls) and zero TD passes, yet still finishing with 300-plus yards and a win. Julio Jones caught three balls for 33 yards, but aggravated his ankle injury in the second half.
• Willis McGahee checked out early in Denver's home win over San Diego, due to a knee injury of as-yet-unknown severity. He'll have one of Monday's more interesting MRIs. The early word isn't too scary, so let's not panic just yet.
Update: OK, now you can panic. Disastrous news on McGahee. MCL. 6-8 weeks.
The preferred McGahee handcuff is Ronnie Hillman. Peyton Manning threw his usual three TD passes in Week 11 — he's now spun that number in six of his last seven games — connecting with Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Stokley and Eric Decker. Von Miller had a massive IDP day in the win, recording three sacks and two forced fumbles, destroying would-be blockers.
Chargers wideout Danario Alexander continued his multi-week binge, catching another seven passes for 96 yards and two second-half scores, propping up Philip Rivers. DX has topped 90 receiving yards in six of his 22 career games. We say it every week, but health is the only worry with that guy, not talent. Add and start, as needed. He'll get the Ravens next week.
• The Patriots decisively won their match-up with Indy, 59-24, but they managed to lose a player who's critically important to their offense, and to tens of thousands of fantasy rosters. According to the early reports — like this one from Tom Curran and this one from Adam Schefter — tight end Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm on the team's final extra point. Brutal, awful, no-good news. You can't remove everyone late in games, when you're up/down a zillion points, but ... well, wow. It's a violent game, on every snap. There was no obvious need for Tom Brady to be throwing in the late-fourth, up 28, but that's how the Pats play.
Gronk, spiking before the break (USP)Gronk had another huge statistical day before the injury, hauling in all seven of his targets for 137 yards and two scores. But now you have to assume he'll miss at least a month, if not more. There's no replacing Gronkowski's expected contributions from your league's free agent pool, so let's not pretend. Some of you can still grab Brandon Myers (39 percent owned) or Kyle Rudolph (50 percent); others will have to play the match-up game, beginning perhaps with Marcedes Lewis in Week 12 (vs. TEN). New England could get Aaron Hernandez back for Week 12, but we likely won't have clarity on that situation until game time.
We should note that Andrew Luck had a rough afternoon for the Colts, tossing three interceptions, including a pair of pick-sixes. But he put the ball in the air 50 times, so he still gave us a decent yardage total (334) while passing for two scores. His owners probably aren't complaining too much at the moment. TY Hilton hauled in both of Luck's TD passes, and he's likely looking at an uptick in targets, with Donnie Avery concussed. If you're still interested in the Colts backfield, you'll want to know that Vick Ballard dominated the touches, finishing with 17 to Donald Brown's six.
• The Saints defense gave up another 400-something yards to another opponent, yet New Orleans still cruised at Oakland. Drew Brees went 20-for-27, throwing three touchdown passes, yielding to Chase Daniel in the fourth quarter. Lance Moore caught just two passes on three targets, but both went for scores. And Jimmy Graham had his usual touchdown. And Mark Ingram was good again, carrying 12 times for 67 yards and a touchdown (flagged for taunting as he broke the plane. In fairness, the guy isn't accustomed to scoring long TDs, so he really has no idea how to behave in that situation).
Most of us were expecting a huge day for Oakland's Marcel Reece, facing the league's worst run defense, and he delivered beyond anyone's expectations. Reece again saw most of the backfield touches, leading the Raiders in both rushing (103) and receiving yards (90). Remember, he's a receiver-turned-fullback-turned-tailback, so he has a full skill set. Also, this: The Saints defense is still one of the more user-friendly in the NFL.
EARLY ADDS FOR WEEK 12
QB Jake Locker, Tennessee (at JAC)
QB Jay Cutler, Chicago (vs. MIN)
QB Chad Henne, Jacksonville (vs. TEN)
RB Vick Ballard, Indianapolis (vs. BUF)
RB Bryce Brown, Philadelphia (vs. CAR)
RB Beanie Wells, Arizona (vs. STL)
RB Ronnie Hillman, Denver (at KC)
RB Jalen Parmele, Jacksonville (vs. TEN)
RB Bilal Powell, NY Jets (vs. NE)
WR Danario Alexander, San Diego (vs. BAL)
WR Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville (vs. TEN)
WR TY Hilton, Indianapolis (vs. BUF)
WR Brandon LaFell, Carolina (at PHI)
WR Harry Douglas, Atlanta (at TB)
WR Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh (at CLE)
WR Alshon Jeffery, Chicago (vs. MIN)
TE Brandon Myers, Oakland (at CIN)
TE Garrett Graham, Houston (at DET)
TE Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville (vs. TEN)