Credible analysts have speculated that the Patriots might wish to deal Brady -- the reigning NFL MVP and two-time Super Bowl MVP -- and retain Matt Cassel as the starting QB for 2009. Marshall Faulk hammered away at this topic on the NFL Network's pregame show.
Brady, 31, is on everyone's list of all-time quarterbacks; Cassel, 26, was very good in Weeks 11 and 12.
On Sunday, Cassel failed to deliver a decent Tom Brady impression. Pittsburgh dominated in New England, winning 33-10 and limiting the Patriots to 267 net yards. Cassel threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. (James Harrison forced them both. That's him drilling Cassel in the image above. Not pictured: Matt Light). Randy Moss dropped a touchdown pass, so the numbers could have been a bit better. But still, you can expect the trade-Brady/sign-Cassel talk to quiet down...at least for one week.
New England finishes the season with matchups against Seattle, Oakland, Arizona and Buffalo, so Cassel will be a strong fantasy play down the stretch. He'll also be the subject of more irrational debate.
Pittsburgh faces Dallas, Baltimore, Tennessee and Cleveland in Weeks 14-17. Right now, the last thing you want to see next to any name on your fantasy roster is "@Pit." The Steelers D entered this week holding opponents to just 14.5 points and 235.4 yards per game.
• Every week, Jay Cutler makes three or four throws that no one should make...except him, apparently. He'll roll right, then rifle the ball across the field into coverage. This invariably works for him, as it did today on a 24 yard third quarter completion to Tony Scheffler. Cutler finished with 357 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Peyton Hillis carried 22 times for 129 yards and one TD (a second was negated by a holding penalty). He appeared to be injured late in the fourth quarter, however. It may have been the right wrist or hand.
The Raiders used many different looks on offense, with Darren McFadden lining up at receiver and quarterback and even taking a pitch from Ronald Curry after a short pass for a hook-and-lateral to set up a field goal on Oakland’s first possession
...but he finished with just 63 combined yards. Justin Fargas carried 18 times for 82 yards, and he finally found the end zone.
It wasn't enough for Oakland, though. The Chiefs won 20-13, and Larry Johnson delivered a useful fantasy day (92 yards, one TD). That hadn't happened since Week 4 against Denver -- and KC gets the Broncos again in Week 14.
• Michael Turner gained 120 yards on the ground, Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes, and Roddy White gave you another triple-digit yardage game. (I'm just going to cut-and-paste this bullet into all future Sunday Scenes).
“(Jackson) was gassed,” Haslett said. “His leg was starting to bother him. We told him before the game to go as far as he could go.”
So that's another situation we'll follow in the days ahead.
Posted at 9:10 ETThird Quarter
• Thomas Jones is having yet another huge day against a bad defense. Jones went 59 yards untouched on a first quarter touchdown run, then added a 29 yard TD early in the second quarter. The Broncos lead the Jets 27-14 at half in a game where the officials refuse to blow any play dead, ever.
Brandon Marshall has at least two drops, one of which should have been a touchdown reception. Peyton Hillis has 12 carries for 86 yards and a TD at the break. Eddie Royal (toe) was not only active, but heavily involved. He had a four yard reception on the Broncos first play from scrimmage, then scored later in the first quarter on a 59 yard reception (where he just managed to stay inbounds).
• Matt Cassel isn't quite on a 400 yard pace today. He's 11-for-21 with 113 passing yards against the league's best defense. Sammy Morris has a two-yard touchdown run, and Santonio Holmes has a 19 yard TD reception for the Steelers.
• With 8:55 remaining in the third quarter at San Diego, Michael Turner has outgained LaDainian Tomlinson on the ground, 70 yards to 20. But LT2 has the game's only rushing touchdown. Matt Ryan made a serious NFL-quality throw to TE Justin Peelle for an 18 yard TD in the second quarter.
• Kansas City DB Maurice Legget had the only first half touchdown in the Raiders-Chiefs game. It happened on a disastrous fake field goal early in the second quarter. Shane Lechler pitching to Sebastian Janikowski is a bad idea, and it ended exactly as you'd expect.
Anderson, starting in place of the injured Brady Quinn, sprained a knee ligament in the final two minutes and is likely done for the season. Browns coach Romeo Crennel said Ken Dorsey will start next Sunday at Tennessee.
Posted at 6:15 ETSecond Quarter
• Mark Clayton took a third quarter handoff from Joe Flacco, caught Leon Hall peeking into the backfield, then fired a strike downfield to Derrick Mason for a 32 yard TD. Trickery highlights here, via NFL.com. Two minutes later, Clayton hauled in a 70 yard TD, burning Hall in a more traditional way.
The Ravens schedule is rough down the stretch (WAS, PIT, at DAL), so you're probably not going to be using Clayton, Mason, Flacco or Le'Ron McClain in the fantasy playoffs. Those four were useful against the Bengals today, however. Willis McGahee was not (zero touches).
Late update No. 3: Here's John Harbaugh on the McGahee situation:
"It's strategic," coach John Harbaugh said of the decision to keep McGahee on the sidelines. "We've got a plan, and we've got a plan for Willis, I guarantee you. And he's going to be a big part in December, no question about it.
"Willis can play, and he will play," Harbaugh said a little later.
Hope that clears things up. To summarize: There's a McGahee plan. It's strategic. The plan is to [profane] fantasy owners.
• JP Losman replaced Trent Edwards to begin the second half in Buffalo. Edwards reportedly suffered a groin injury, although it wasn't clear when or how it happened. Edwards finished 10-for-21 with 112 yards passing. Losman wasn't really any better: 11-for-17, 93 yards, three sacks. Marshawn Lynch had a nice day (16 carries, 134 yards), but kicker Rian Lindell was a disaster. He missed two field goals, the first of which was a 20 yard chip that he doinked off the left upright. The second miss was a 40 yarder in the fourth quarter.
• Derek Anderson checked out of the Browns' 10-6 loss on the final series with a likely left knee injury. He needed assistance to leave the field following a Robert Mathis sack. Ken Dorsey replaced Anderson, throwing two incompletions and an interception to finish the game.
Dorsey actually didn't look as bad as the numbers suggest. His first pass hit Braylon Edwards in the hands -- it would have been a great catch, but it was certainly possible. Dorsey's final throw was briefly possessed by Edwards, but Antoine Bethea ripped the ball away for the pick.
• That Indianapolis-Cleveland game was a complete fantasy mess. Peyton Manning finished with just 125 passing yards and two interceptions; Joseph Addai rushed for just 57 yards, and he lost a fumble on the Colts' first play from scrimmage. Reggie Wayne had an opportunity to snag a touchdown, but the ball was knocked away in mid-air.
• Drew Brees finished with nearly 300 passing yards, per his usual, but the Bucs intercepted him twice in the final three minutes and managed to win, 23-20. Carnell Williams carried just four times for Tampa Bay, but he scored his first touchdown since Week 3, 2007. Congrats to Cadillac.
For fantasy purposes, I'd rather own Pierre Thomas. He led the Saints in carries today with 11, and he added a 20 yard reception.
• DeAngelo Williams had yet another excellent fantasy day (21 carries, 72 yards, four TDs). His final two scores were set up by long Jake Delhomme-to-Steve Smith completions. Smith caught four passes for 105 yards in the second half, and Carolina needed a late comeback to win a game they'd led 21-10.
• Brandon Jacobs (knee) carried 21 times for 71 yards and a TD in his return, and Eli Manning passed for 300-plus yards for the first time this season. The Giants are now 11-1, and we need to seriously consider the possibility that they'll be resting players in the final week(s).
• Ryan Grant apparently bruised his hand against Carolina. It's not a surprise to hear that he bruised something; no running back takes as many shots as Grant. The nine percent-owned Brandon Jackson was effective and decisive in Grant's absence. He carried 11 times for 80 yards. Jackson is a nice speculative add right now.
Posted at 5:05 ETFirst Quarter
• Carolina's first play from scrimmage should have been a spectacular success, but instead it ended with a turnover. Jake Delhomme handed off to DeAngelo Williams, who took one step, then flipped the ball back to his quarterback. Muhsin Muhammad found himself entirely alone downfield, but Delhomme badly under-threw him. The pass gained 44 yards, but Muhammad was quickly hit by Tramon Williams, who separated Muhammad from the ball. Charles Woodson recovered the fumble.
If the throw had been stronger, that could have been a 13 point play for Muhammad (70 yards, plus the TD).
• We often fret over the health of safety Bob Sanders and the impact that his absence has on the Colts defense. But Indy lost LB Gary Brackett today to an apparent right ankle injury, and that has the potential to be equally significant.
• It was a vintage first quarter for Reggie Bush at Tampa: one carry for -3 yards, three receptions for 17.
• Yet another nice gain for the Panthers ends in a fumble. At least they recovered this time. On third and short from the Green Bay 46, Jonathan Stewart took the handoff, ran left, picked up the necessary half-yard, then discovered that he had a clear path to the end zone. No Packers in view. If that's DeAngelo Williams with the ball in his hands, it's a house call, no question.
But Stewart isn't quite that fast. He was caught from behind by both Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson, and you could just see the strip coming over the final 15 yards. Stewart fumbled at the two yard line. The ball bounced around for a few seconds before lineman Travelle Wharton (pictured above) recovered -- and he'd obviously run a long way to track down the fumble. Two plays later, Wharton's block cleared the way for a Delhomme rushing TD.
And later, with 34 seconds remaining in the half, Wharton wiped out two Packers, allowing DeAngelo Williams easy access to the end zone. It's early, but Carolina has a 21-10 halftime lead, and Wharton is looking like a strong candidate for a game ball.
• Conditions are miserable in Tampa. They have rain, wind, zombies...all sorts of issues to deal with. You're lucky to have the TD, Drew Brees and Lance Moore owners.
• Steven Jackson is looking very strong for the Rams. At halftime, he'd already carried 15 times for 72 yards, and he added a 16 yard reception. Ronnie Brown has that game's only TD, however. As predicted by fantasy experts everywhere, Dolphins WR Davone Bess is having a useful game (five receptions, 47 yards).
• Le'Ron McClain is getting the full rushing workload for Baltimore so far. He's carried 15 times for 52 yards so far; no Willis McGahee sightings yet. Cedric Benson is giving his owners everything they could have reasonably hoped for, given the matchup: five carries, 12 yards.
Posted at 2:55 ET
As if start/sit decisions weren't difficult enough, we've got weather to deal with this week, everywhere. Here's a link to the Week 13 forecasts. Conditions are OK in San Diego, Oakland and the domes, but it looks like rain and/or snow may impact every other game.
Please join us over at Fantasy Football Live at noon ET for Brad Evans' five-day forecast.
Photos via AP (Harrison/Cassel, Clayton), US Presswire (Jones, Wharton) and Getty Images (snow).
- Matt Cassel
- Tom Brady