That may seem like an odd statement to make about a player who entered the week leading the NFL in receiving yards, but it's not simply the opinion of some rogue blogger. Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble(notes) offered these comments to the Boston Globe following Moss' one-reception performance on Sunday:
"We knew he was going to shut it down," Panthers corner Chris Gamble told me after the game. "That's what we wanted to do him. That's what we did. … He'd just give up a lot. Slow down, he's not going deep, not trying to run a route. You can tell, his body language."
Gamble continued … "I know everyone who plays against him, they can sense that. Once you get into him in the beginning of the game, he shuts it down a little bit."
New England defeated Carolina, 20-10, but Moss was barely a rumor. He finished with just 16 receiving yards and fumbled away the only ball he managed to catch. Moss moved at half-speed throughout the game and his indifference resulted in an early interception. And again, that's not simply the judgment of some internet hack. Here's Gamble:
As for Moss, the first ball thrown his way told Carolina what it needed to know about his effort. Gamble said that Moss was lazy with his route, telegraphed an out-cut, and that allowed him to break on and pick it off. And not soon later, the Panthers knew they had him for good.
Gamble said, "We know from watching film on Moss, once you get him out of the game early, he's gonna shut it down."
You'll recall that Moss was one of four Patriots players who were sent home by head coach Bill Belichick on Wednesday after showing up late to a team meeting. If you own Moss in a fantasy league, then you're also painfully aware that he's caught only six passes over his last three games.
Tom Brady(notes) spent a few moments with Moss on the sideline, apparently attempting to wake him up. Moss stared straight ahead, unroused. Belichick didn't directly address the Moss work-stoppage after the game, although it's tempting to interpret his praise for Wes Welker as subtle criticism:
"You know, Wes, he's got a lot of heart. He's a heckuva football player. He shows up every day to work and I know he's been banged up but he fights through it, returns punts, catches the ball, blocks. He gave us into-the- corner-after-the-puck, too, you know? He's not just scoring goals."
Lately, Moss does not show up every day to work, at least on time. When he's not scoring goals, Moss is completely disinterested.
• After today's win, the undefeated Colts have now clinched home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. This of course sets up the likelihood that Indianapolis will rest stars when we need them most.
Team officials refused to take questions from the fantasy community following the Week 14 victory:
“We've just got to take it game-by-game,” Colts Owner Jim Irsay said afterward. “We'd love to get to 16-0, but that's not the focus.”
And while an unbeaten season, and how much the Colts will play front-line players in the last three weeks of the regular season, was a topic afterward, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said it wasn't an issue that had been decided yet.
“Right now, we are really just going to try to celebrate and enjoy this moment,” Caldwell said. “I'll get to that business at some point. We'll talk about it here in the next 24 hours or so and make a determination on how we approach that.”
It's terrible that we're even discussing the possibility. Indianapolis is scheduled to face Jacksonville on Thursday night, in a must-win game for the Jaguars. The Colts then oppose the Jets in Week 16, in a must-win for New York. At some point soon, they'll rest a few of the players who've been carrying you. With that in mind, it's worth noting that Mike Hart(notes) received nine carries in Week 14. Donald Brown(notes) was inactive on Sunday due to a chest injury and, according to the Indianapolis Star, he "might be down for a while."
• This week, Chris Johnson was the easiest player to rank in the history of fantasy player rankings. He faced the Rams. Of course he finished with over 30 fantasy points. There was never any doubt. After gaining 186 total yards against St. Louis, Johnson now has 2,017 yards from scrimmage this year with three games left to play. Marshall Faulk(notes) holds the single-season record (2,429), but not for long. Johnson has topped 100 rushing yards in eight straight games.
• Quinton Ganther(notes) started slow, but finished huge. He broke the plane on a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, finishing with 93 total yards on 17 touches. Too bad he can't face the Raiders every week. Washington gets the Giants and Cowboys in Weeks 15 and 16, so Ganther may have just peaked.
• Hopefully Vincent Jackson's(notes) seven-catch, 120-yard performance answered whatever questions you had about his late season fantasy usefulness. He's an every-week play (important to note, with the Bengals up next).
• The Cowboys may have fallen into the traditional end-of-season malaise, but Tony Romo(notes) still delivered an acceptable line (249-2-0) thanks to a late, largely meaningless touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton(notes).
• Darren McFadden(notes) is scuffling through a second straight disappointing year, but he totaled 105 yards against Washington on Sunday. He'll get the Browns in Week 16, so he has a chance to close the season as relevant fantasy piece.
Not only will Smith miss the rest of this season, he could be a question mark going into next year's training camp.
Although there's no official diagnosis yet, Lions coach Jim Schwartz termed the injury "significant." If there's ligament damage to the knee, the resulting surgery likely would mean Smith will start next year's camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
"I tried to stop-and-start and got my foot stuck in the field," Smith said, adding that he never felt pain like that before. "Never in my life."
As we mentioned below, that game in the fourth quarter and well out of hand when Smith was injured. Maurice Morris(notes) follows Smith on the depth chart, but it would make all kinds of sense for Detroit to take a long look at rookie Aaron Brown.
Posted at 8:50 pm ET, updated at 9:05
Tennessee's Chris Johnson needed only two quarters against the Rams to reach the top of the Week 14 fantasy leader board. At halftime Johnson has 87 rushing yards, 69 receiving yards and two of the day's most impressive highlights. Here's the first; here's the second. The only thing you're concerned about as a Johnson owner is the possibility that he'll head to the bench at some point in the second half, as the Titans already lead 23-0.
Vince Young(notes) left the game after suffering a hamstring injury on a 44-yard run. He's presumably done for the day after completing six of eight passes for 132 yards and one score. Kerry Collins(notes) has taken over for Tennessee.
• Jamaal Charles(notes) had a massive day for the Chiefs, finding the end zone for the sixth time in five weeks. Charles totaled 143 rushing yards and added seven catches for 38. Check the speed on his 76-yard TD. As we've written before, Charles is basically Chris Johnson Lite. He's also in line for a big finish, with Cleveland on the schedule in Week 15.
• It's the Fred Davis(notes) show in Oakland! (And on my fantasy bench in at least one playoff matchup). Davis has caught both of Jason Campbell's(notes) touchdown passes. Flavor of the week Quinton Ganther has rushed five times for 16 yards and caught two passes for 39. Justin Fargas(notes) has six carries for just 12 yards, but he's scored Oakland's only touchdown.
He really had no chance on that final carry. San Diego took over, but Philip Rivers(notes) threw a horrid pass three plays later from his own 2-yard line. Terence Newman(notes) collected the easy pick, setting up the Cowboys in excellent field position…and they did nothing with the scoring opportunity, again. Nick Folk(notes) missed on a field goal attempt.
It's gotta be the holder.
Posted at 6:10 pm ET
At the beginning of the fourth quarter in Indianapolis, Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton(notes) had completed 21 passes, and 15 of them had been caught by Brandon Marshall(notes). It's not often that you'll see a quarterback so completely focused on one receiver.
Orton finished 29-for-41 with 277 yards and two touchdowns. Marshall accounted for 78 percent of the receptions (21), 72 percent of the yards (200) and 100 percent of the TDs. That was obviously a dominant performance by a brilliant receiver. His 21 catches were a single-game NFL record.
It didn't hurt that Marshall had an 8-inch height advantage over Tim Jennings(notes). The 5-foot-8 Jennings is really like a teacup corner; the 6-foot-4 Marshall destroyed him. Check the mismatch on Marshall's second score. That's unfair.
• Detroit running back Kevin Smith was carted off after suffering an ugly left knee injury in the fourth quarter at Baltimore. At the time, his team trailed 41-3. We don't have all the injury details yet, but the news will not be good. Maurice Morris and Aaron Brown are the backups.
• The Saints faked a short field goal attempt with 2:07 remaining at Atlanta, ahead by just three points. The play would have worked, but holder Mark Brunell(notes) chose to savor the moment a little too long. When he finally selected a receiver, his target was out of bounds. New Orleans nonetheless held on, beating the Falcons 26-23. If I lose a matchup this week because Garrett Hartley(notes) was denied the layup field goal, you're invited to join me in a class action suit.
• Here are three details from the Jets-Bucs game that we all could have predicted: 1) Thomas Jones(notes) delivered a huge fantasy line (99 yards, 2 TDs) against the NFC's worst run D (160.1 rush YPG allowed); 2) Josh Freeman(notes) threw three interceptions against New York's aggressive, ball-hawking defense; 3) Shonn Greene(notes) lost another fumble, his third of the year on just 71 carries.
• Willis McGahee(notes) poached a pair of late touchdowns as Baltimore saw no reason to wear down Ray Rice(notes) in a blowout. Rice finished with 166 rushing yards on just 13 carries; the Ravens finished with a ridiculous 308 rushing yards.
• Wes Welker(notes) had double-digit receptions for the sixth time in his 11 games this season. Randy Moss was absolutely sleepwalking, catching just one pass for 16 yards. New England actually ran the ball 40 times for 185 yards against the Panthers; Laurence Maroney(notes) had 22 carries, Kevin Faulk(notes) had 10 plus a TD and Sammy Morris(notes) had six, fumbling once. That was not a pretty game. The decisive play was a roughing-the-punter penalty.
• Despite pregame rumors that Cedric Benson(notes) would split carries with Larry Johnson(notes), Ced dominated the (unusually small) Cincinnati rushing workload. Benson finished with 16 carries for 96 yards; LJ carried three times for just four yards.
• If Torry Holt(notes) can get behind your defense, Miami, then you've got some problems. However, Holt's 63-yard reception provided nearly half of David Garrard's(notes) passing yards in a brutal 14-10 home loss to the Dolphins. Naturally, Holt failed to score on the long catch.
• Matt Schaub(notes) and Andre Johnson(notes) found themselves involved in a laugher, so they weren't required to pile up second half stats in Houston's 34-7 win. Schaub finished with 365 passing yards, though it would have been 565 if the Seahawks were competitive. Johnson caught 11 passes for 193 yards and two scores.
• The real Chris Chambers(notes) finally arrived in Kansas City, and he heard footsteps. He dropped a perfect pass from Matt Cassel(notes) on the Chiefs final drive that should have set up the team in the red zone, and might have resulted in a touchdown.
• Chicago's defense failed repeatedly to stop Green Bay running back Ryan Grant(notes). He opened the game with a 62-yard rushing score (untouched), then kept steamrolling. Video here. Grant finished with 20 carries for 137 yards and two TDs. Aaron Rodgers(notes) was oddly quiet (180-0-0); Jay Cutler(notes) was oddly noisy, though still sloppy (209-2-2).
Posted at 5:15 pm ET
Bonus update: Vince Young (knee) and Steven Jackson (back) are both reportedly ACTIVE, as expected. No need to panic. Also, Dallas Clark remains in the game for the Colts. Sorry if we scared anyone (see below).
Posted at 3:10 pm ET
Way to get us started, Andre Johnson. On Houston's first play from scrimmage, Matt Schaub hit Johnson down the sideline for a 64-yard score. Video here. That was Marcus Trufant(notes) in coverage, apparently asking for an autograph.
At half, Johnson has 10 catches for 184 yards and two scores. Schaub has completed 24 of 28 passes for 336 yards.
Again, those are halftime numbers. We're looking at a potentially record-setting day in Houston. The Texans lead 24-7 and the Seahawks are offering no resistance whatsoever.
• If the CBS in-game graphic can be trusted, Peyton Manning has now thrown 224 career red zone touchdown passes and just 23 interceptions. So that's impressive. Manning's first TD pass this week was a 5-yarder to Austin Collie(notes); Joseph Addai(notes) received looks on consecutive plays prior to Collie's score.
Indianapolis tight end Dallas Clark has a pair of TD receptions, but he was very slow to get up following the second score. Not sure of the nature of his injury just yet; Clark came off the line awkwardly on the TD.
• It shouldn't surprise you to learn that Ray Rice is shredding the Lions' defense, but the extent of the carnage is noteworthy: 204 total yards and one TD on 12 touches. Rice already has a pair of 50-plus yard runs, the second of which ended in a score. Highlight here. Fine tackling, fellas.
• Few quarterbacks move and re-set in the pocket quite as well as Drew Brees(notes). It's a clinic on basically every play, even on the incompletions. The undefeated Saints lead at half, 16-9. Reggie Bush(notes) and Marques Colston(notes) have the touchdowns.
• On Tom Brady's first quarter interception, Randy Moss made no obvious effort to get his hands on the football. Moss lost a fumble on the Pats' next possession, too. Moss has apparently down-shifted in recent weeks.
• Charles Woodson(notes) should have called for a fair catch on Jay Cutler's first quarter interception. Yikes. But late in the half, Cutler found Johnny Knox(notes) in the end zone for a 19-yard TD pass that would have made Ron Jaworski say "LASER!" at least 15 times. Video here. At least the Bears are competing.
• Brett Favre's(notes) 6,000th career NFL completion was batted by nearly every player on the field before it settled in Greg Lewis'(notes) hands. Later in the drive, Sidney Rice(notes) caught a jump-ball in the end zone, but Favre was two steps over the line of scrimmage when he released the throw so the TD was negated. The Vikes lead 16-7 at half and Adrian Peterson has 97 total yards on 16 touches. (Seriously: Favre has completed 6,000 career passes. That's crazy).
• Michael Jenkins(notes) had his league-leading 195th soul-crushing drop in the first half against New Orleans. Quarterback Chris Redman(notes) put a deep pass on Jenkins' fingertips, but the ball escaped.
Posted at 2:45 pm ET
Posted at 11:50 am ET
Welcome to Week 14, everyone. The eliminations begin. Steel thyself. He which hath no stomach to this imaginary fight, let him depart! We would not lose in that man's company!
Please join us for an hour of late-breaking updates and sit/start chat over at Fantasy Football Live, beginning at noon ET. Now, gamers, march away…
Photos via US Presswire (Moss), Getty Images (Yeti, Andre) and AP Images (Marshall, CJ, Colts fans).
- Chris Gamble