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Andy Behrens

Thursday recap: Jennings, Cribbs, sacks bury the Steelers

Andy Behrens
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Let's hope you didn't need a big night from…well, from anyone involved in Thursday's tilt between the Browns and Steelers. Joshua Cribbs(notes) was the game's dominant figure in terms of yardage, finishing with 96 from scrimmage and 104 via kick return. From a fantasy perspective, however, Cleveland running back Chris Jennings(notes) was the story.

Jennings, not Jerome Harrison(notes), dominated the rushing workload for the Browns. He finished with 73 yards on 20 carries against the NFL's stingiest run defense and he scored the game's only touchdown. Harrison started for Cleveland, taking the game's first three touches and handling most of the first-half carries (all of which seemed to be 1-yard gains).

But in the final three minutes of the second quarter, Jennings took over:

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Of course few people actually benefited from that performance, other than the Browns. Jennings was started in only one percent of Yahoo! PLUS leagues, and there are more than a few deadbeat owners contributing to that percentage. If you happened to be among the few fantasy managers who deliberately started Jennings – a man who entered the day second on the depth chart, facing the worst possible matchup – then please gloat in comments. You've earned it.

The rest of us need to re-think our position on Browns generally and on Jennings specifically. In Weeks 15 and 16, Cleveland will face two of the NFL's more generous defenses, as the Browns travel to Kansas City (27.2 PPG, 143.8 rush YPG allowed) then host Oakland (23.5, 158.7). You can't reasonably expect Harrison to disappear from Eric Mangini's plans (although it's happened before), but Jennings just surged past him in the backfield hierarchy. Jennings is clearly a Week 15 waiver add.

(Stand down, hostile commenters. No one's telling you to start Jennings over the elite fantasy backs who carried you to the playoffs).

And what are we supposed to make of Pittsburgh's six-point performance?

The Steelers gained just 216 total yards against a team that allows an average of 386.1. Pittsburgh has now dropped five games in a row, including three to dreadful opponents. It's tough to blame the frigid conditions for Thursday night's loss, because A) the Steelers have faced such conditions before, B) the weather didn't sack Ben Roethlisberger(notes) eight times, C) the weather didn't close down all the running lanes and D) the weather didn't blanket the Steelers' receiving corps.

Cleveland's defense was impressive; Pittsburgh's offense was inept.

While it seems likely that a 9-7 franchise will sneak into the AFC playoffs, it appears rather unlikely that the Steelers will be that team. They've got a pair of tough Ds ahead on the schedule (Green Bay and Baltimore), so it won't be easy to trust them in the most important weeks on the fantasy calendar.

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