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Andy Behrens

Sunday Scene, Week 13: The case for Jerome Harrison

Andy Behrens
Roto Arcade

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On your first day at fantasy expert qualifying school, they warn you not to recommend Browns. Bad habit. Rarely ends well. You can lose your tour card.

So it is with great trepidation that we offer Cleveland running back Jerome Harrison(notes) as a necessary fantasy pickup.

Harrison has been buried on the Browns' depth chart since early-October, but the season-ending injury to Jamal Lewis(notes) presented him with an opportunity to start in Week 13. He took full advantage, gaining 97 total yards on 17 touches against San Diego and finding the end zone twice. His first TD featured a nifty move to shake linebacker Stephen Cooper(notes), then a full-extension stretch across the goal line. Highlight here.

Harrison actually became the first Cleveland player to score two touchdowns in a game this season – which of course hints at why we're not supposed to promote Browns as fantasy adds. You're not investing in a high-yield offense. Cleveland entered Week 13 averaging just 11.1 points and an NFL-worst 230.6 yards per game. The Browns also face Pittsburgh on Thursday night, so the week ahead isn't too promising.

But in the fantasy playoffs, Harrison gets interesting. Cleveland will face Kansas City in Week 15 and Oakland in Week 16. Those defenses currently rank 27th and 31st in the NFL against the run, and they both allowed 100-yard performances by opposing backs on Sunday.

You don't have to feel great about adding Harrison – it's no picnic to suggest him, I can assure you. But sometimes the most painful pickups are also the most useful (see "Maroney, Laurence.") If you're speculating, Harrison is in play.

Fourth Quarter

Yeah, OK, it's preposterous that we led the Sunday column with Harrison on the day that LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) passed Jim Brown for eighth place on the career rushing yardage list. Tomlinson may not be the fantasy asset that he used to be, but he's clearly among the greatest athletes of your lifetime. He gained 85 total yards on 21 touches against the Browns and scored career touchdown No. 150 (in just his 137th career game, which is insane). Tony Dorsett is now 418 yards away.

Alex Smith set a career-high in passing yardage on Sunday, going 27-for-45 with 310 yards and two TDs. He should have had at least 16 more yards and another touchdown, too, but his receiving corps picked a bad time for a work stoppage (3:10 remaining in the fourth). Michael Crabtree(notes) appeared to duck out of the way of a ball that grazed his helmet. Curiously enough, Frank Gore(notes) was barely a rumor against Seattle, even though the Niners never trailed by more than seven points. You might recall that Gore ran for 207 yards against the Seahawks back in Week 2.

Philip Rivers(notes) has topped 300 yards in two straight games, yet he didn't throw 30 passes in either of them. He's on an efficiency binge. Antonio Gates(notes) hauled in eight catches for 167 yards against Cleveland, leaving him just six yards short of the second 1,000-yard season of his career.

Here's a sentence we never expected to write: Brandon Jacobs(notes) caught a 74-yard touchdown pass on Sunday. He had only six receptions all year in 2008. Jacobs entered Week 13 as one of the most disappointing pieces on a disappointing team, but he crossed the goal line twice against Dallas and totaled 113 yards on 14 touches. What were the odds that he and Roy Williams would each score two TDs in the same game?

In an effort to save on bullets, here are three additional notes from the Giants win: 1) For a guy with no healthy legs, Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) sure looked explosive on his 29-yard cutback run in the fourth quarter. 2) Domenik Hixon's(notes) punt return TD was a blocking clinic. Video here. 3) Steve Smith dropped a sure touchdown in the fourth quarter on a perfectly thrown pass from Eli Manning(notes). That play knocked me out of the playoffs in at least one league. Thus, Smith gets my LVP vote.

Matt Schaub's(notes) left shoulder injury was apparently a dislocation, but according to coach Gary Kubiak, "[Trainers] were able to get it back and in and he wanted to come back out to play." Schaub banked a few toughness points in Week 13, passing for 207 yards and one TD after the injury. Still, the Texans lost at Jacksonville, dropping their record to 5-7. Kubiak's decision to allow Chris Brown to throw an option pass on first-and-goal could very well cost him his job. Brown's toss was easily picked off by Gerald Alexander(notes), who referred to the interception as a "layup."

Troy Polamalu(notes) is apparently the most valuable defensive player in the history of the NFL. With him, Pittsburgh's defense is dominant. Without him, the Steelers have lost to Kansas City, Baltimore and Oakland.

Sherman Lewis was a punchline when he took over play-calling duties in Washington, but the 'Skins have averaged 20.8 points per game since their Week 8 bye. They scored just 13.7 PPG over the first seven weeks of the season against an amazingly soft schedule. Jason Campbell(notes) threw for 367 yards and three scores against New Orleans, and two of the TDs were caught by second-year receiver Devin Thomas(notes).

Posted at 10:35 pm ET

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Third Quarter

Say what you will about Cedric Benson(notes) – and some of us have said, um…a lot – you can't argue with his workload. Benson returned from the hip injury and carried 36 times for 110 yards against Detroit in Week 13.

That seems like an unnecessarily large workload considering the game circumstances. But if you were at all worried about the possibility that Larry Johnson(notes) might poach carries from Benson, today's effort was more than encouraging. LJ had two touches, gaining four yards. He's no immediate threat.

Typically, when Tony Romo(notes) throws a pass to Roy Williams in the end zone, No. 11 drops it like a burning coal. But not this day. Williams caught a 4-yard score over Corey Webster(notes) in the second quarter in New Jersey, giving Dallas an early 10-0 lead. Video evidence here. The Giants answered with a pair of touchdowns in the final two minutes of the second quarter, however. The box score says that Brandon Jacobs ran for a 1-yard TD, but that can't possibly be correct.

Update: Wait, no. It really happened. Jacobs actually scored. Highlight here.

Alex Smith torched the Seahawks' D for 193 yards and two touchdowns in the first half at Seattle. It should surprise no one to learn that Vernon Davis(notes) has 82 of the yards and one of the scores. Matt Hasselbeck(notes) has passed for a pair of TDs as well, one of which went to Justin Forsett(notes). Julius Jones(notes) is receiving most of the carries for Seattle, though, delivering another sub-4.0 YPC performance.

Denver simply mauled the disinterested Chiefs in Kansas City. The Broncos put up 44 points as their offense gained 413 total net yards. Knowshon Moreno(notes) and Correll Buckhalter(notes) combined for 33 carries and 199 rushing yards; Moreno broke the plane twice. Brandon Marshall(notes) finished with seven catches for 94 yards and one score. Jamaal Charles(notes) managed to find the end zone for Kansas City for a fourth straight week, but he also coughed up a fumble that was returned for a score.

In case you missed the update on Fantasy Football Live, Michael Silver expects Kurt Warner(notes) to start against Minnesota in the Sunday night game. Silver is tight with the Warner clan; he's a trusted source here.

Posted at 6:20 pm ET

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Second Quarter

Michael Vick(notes) entered Week 13 as little more than a harmless distraction. In his nine games, he'd only completed three passes for six yards and he'd carried 15 times for 65. His primary responsibility has been to disrupt Donovan McNabb's(notes) rhythm.

But in Vick's return to Atlanta, he suddenly became a factor. He ran for a 5-yard touchdown and passed for another score. Those are the first two TDs he's been involved with this season.

On behalf of McNabb owners everywhere, I'd like to file a formal protest. Donovan was useful, throwing for 238 yards and one TD, but most of us expected more against the Falcons' user-friendly pass defense. Vick isn't getting enough work to justify an add in most formats, but he's definitely emerged as a problem.

Bruce Gradkowski(notes) led Oakland to an improbable 27-24 road win at Pittsburgh, throwing for 308 yards and tossing three TD passes in the fourth quarter. The final two scores were caught by Louis Murphy(notes); the first was hauled in by Chaz Schilens(notes). Pittsburgh really should have clinched the win when Gradkowski hit cornerback Joe Burnett(notes) between the numbers on Oakland's final drive, but the rookie couldn't hold onto the pick. And so ends the suicide pool.

Incredibly, New Orleans never led at Washington on Sunday until Garrett Hartley(notes) kicked the 18-yard game-winner in overtime. Drew Brees(notes) finished with 419 passing yards against a defense that entered the week allowing only 170.4 per game. Robert Meachem(notes) finished with eight catches for 142 yards and two scores (one on a fumble recovery, as detailed below). Mike Bell(notes) outcarried Pierre Thomas(notes) 16-to-6, but PT had eight receptions to partially save his fantasy day.

Sean Payton coached another fantastic game, by the way. He called a timeout in OT to force the booth to review a Mike Sellers(notes) fumble. (The fullback was originally ruled down after a 1-yard gain, but replay revealed the fumble). He also twice brought his offense back onto the field after Jim Zorn called timeouts to ice Hartley – once at the end of the fourth quarter, once in OT.

It was a brutally frustrating day for Devin Hester(notes) owners. After an encouraging start (see below), Hester couldn't quite get both feet inbounds on what should have been an early TD reception. Then in the third quarter, he exited for good with a calf injury. He finished with one catch for 48 yards and one carry for -4.

Tom Brady(notes) had a respectable fantasy day (352 yards, two TDs), but he threw a pair of fourth quarter picks, including a red zone interception by Miami corner Vontae Davis(notes). Laurence Maroney(notes) failed to find the end zone for the first time since October 11.

Roddy White(notes) gave his owners a garbage time score, catching a touchdown pass from Chris Redman(notes) on the final play of Atlanta's humiliating loss to Philly. It's worth noting that Redman and White worked well together during Roddy's breakout season in 2007. Perhaps it should be no surprise that White put up a useful fantasy line in Week 13 (9-104-1).

Kevin Smith(notes) was also a garbage time hero, rushing for a 2-yard score in the final two minutes of Detroit's 23-13 loss at Cincinnati. Matthew Stafford(notes) aggravated the injury to his non-throwing shoulder, so Daunte Culpepper(notes) finished the game for the Lions.

In the first half at Jacksonville, Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) was stuffed by a wall of Texans on fourth-and-goal. Brian Cushing(notes), DeMeco Ryans(notes), John Busing(notes) and Xavier Adibi(notes) were all in on the hit. Video here. So far that's the collision of the day. MJD actually carried on four straight plays inside the 10-yard line; his owners can't complain.

Posted at 5:20 pm ET

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First Quarter

Prior to Sunday, Houston quarterback Matt Schaub had never started 12 games in any NFL season. Unfortunately, he went to the locker room with a left shoulder injury after one snap against Jacksonville.

Schaub was sacked by Derrick Harvey(notes) for a 1-yard loss and driven to the turf, shoulder-first. Rex Grossman(notes) replaced him and the results were as expected: Grossman's first pass was an incompletion and his second was intercepted.

Schaub managed to return to the game late in the second quarter, with the Texans trailing by 17. He led a drive that ended with an 8-yard Chris Brown touchdown. It appears that Schaub owners have dodged the injury bullet…barely.

Please stay tuned.

The Colts simply abused Tennessee's defense throughout the first half in Indy. Peyton Manning(notes) is on his usual 300-yard pace, Pierre Garcon(notes) already has 126 receiving yards and Joseph Addai(notes) has scored his 11th and 12th touchdowns. Vince Young(notes) has limped off the field twice, but he remains in the game. He hit Kenny Britt(notes) for a late 6-yard score.

Near the end of the first half in Washington, Robert Meachem scored what might be the season's most ridiculous touchdown. It can't be easy to update box scores when stuff like this happens:

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Drew Brees pump-faked a million times on the play, then back-pedaled to avoid a sack and eventually gunned the ball down the middle of the field into coverage. Karem Moore picked off the pass, but was stripped clean by Meachem on the return. Meachem then outran everyone to the end zone. Highlight here via NFL.com.

Devin Hester made a terrific play on the football, hauling in a 48-yard bomb from Jay Cutler(notes) on Chicago's second possession. That ball could have been picked by James Butler(notes), but the veteran safety tied himself in knots.

Ben Roethlisberger(notes) is apparently de-concussed enough to attempt sneaks on fourth-and-short. That's a good sign.

Tom Brady briefly left the field in the first quarter against Miami following his 58-yard scoring strike to Randy Moss(notes). No word on the nature of his malfunction. Brady quickly returned, so his owners don't have any reason to fret.

Sebastian Janikowski's(notes) 43-yard field goal looked like a Carlos Marmol slider. That's not natural. It appeared to have no chance, then took an abrupt left turn.

While we're talking kickers, take note of the fact that Garrett Hartley – not John Carney(notes) – is kicking for New Orleans. Hartley is an excellent add for obvious reasons. His team averages 37 points per game and he'll kick in the dome in Weeks 15 and 16.

Chad Ochocinco(notes) was absurdly wide open on his 36-yard score. Video here. Whenever you see that kind of separation in the NFL, you can assume the Lions' secondary is involved in the play. Ocho and Calvin Johnson(notes) have a nice duel going, as Megatron caught a 54-yard score in the first quarter. Matthew Stafford made an outstanding throw off play-action.

Posted at 3:00 pm ET

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Early injury updates: DeAngelo Williams(notes) will be INACTIVE in Week 13 according to multiple reports. (Here's one report; here's another). Jonathan Stewart(notes) is a must-start against Tampa, the NFC's worst run defense.

Elsewhere, Steven Jackson and Cedric Benson are ACTIVE. Steve Slaton(notes) and Michael Turner(notes) are INACTIVE.

Updated at 11:42 and 11:50 am ET

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Pregame

Man, that's one fired-up Bears fan pictured above. He fills us with hope. His enthusiasm is infectious. The return to glory begins now, Chicago. Woof.

It's a must-win week in the imaginary game, so please join us for last-minute updates and analysis over at Fantasy Football Live, beginning at noon ET. (My advice: Head straight for the live chat. Don't bother with Beil and his besuited gurus). Let's go clinch playoff spots, gamers. Last call on Eagles WR Jason Avant(notes) and Texans RB Chris Brown.

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Photos via AP Images (Harrison, Benson, Vick, Schaub) and Getty Images (Bear lover)

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