For the most part, Thursday Night Football was entertaining this week. Hallelujah for that. It's fun to see football in the rain, John Madden on the sidelines, lead changes. It's encouraging to see a winless team get off the skids. The game's final drive was a glorious comedy of errors, too.
But from a fantasy perspective, Oakland's 24-20 victory remained a somewhat frustrating exercise. The Raiders and Chiefs clearly have some talented players who aren't seeing the ball as often as they should.
Oakland tailback Latavius Murray was the star of the game, ripping off 112 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries, a historic performance. Have a look at his 11-yard TD scamper over here, and then feast your eyes on this gorgeous 90-yard scoring jaunt. The Chiefs' defense, you'll recall, hadn't allowed a single rushing touchdown before Thursday night.
Murray, a second-year running back, had just 10 carries entering the game. It simply doesn't make any sense. Despite an 0-10 record, Oakland's remained committed to stumbling veteran Darren McFadden – the same guy who's averaged 3.4, 3.3 and 3.3 yards per carry the last three years. When you're in rebuilding mode, why sign aging free agents like Maurice Jones-Drew? Shouldn't you be in evaluation and development mode with your young players?
To be fair, Murray was a mere sixth-round draft pick in 2013. He's an upright runner who checks in at 6-foot-3; he's always going to take a lot of contact. But it's not unusual to see unheralded running backs blossom into starters, and Murray flashed some ability over the summer. And it's not like McFadden or Jones-Drew will be the centerpiece of Oakland's next contending club.
Watch Murray's scoring runs again. Appreciate the way he bounced outside on the first touchdown, and catch the change of direction on the home-run. Do you think McFadden or Jones-Drew can make either run in 2014? Me neither.
Alas, the Murray story stopped short on his fourth carry, when he suffered a concussion. And Oakland's remaining schedule is a mess: Rams, 49ers, Chiefs, Bills, Broncos. But maybe we'll have a fantasy story to root for down the stretch, concussion protocol pending. Surely the Raiders can't ignore Murray any longer.
I grabbed one Murray share this week, but didn't put it into action. Looks like I'm in good company. Murray is currently owned in 22 percent of Yahoo leagues, but he was only 3 percent started on Thursday.
A different forgotten back did the driving on Oakland's go-ahead march: fullback Marcel Reece (nine touches, 45 yards). He's never going to make anyone forget Marcus Allen, but he's another player the Raiders have buried during their crummy season. He's posted a snappy 4.7 YPC during his five-year career, offering brief fantasy value in 2012 and 2013. Reece isn't a fancy runner, but he's often an effective one.
As for the Chiefs, the offensive story was familiar. Tailback Jamaal Charles was terrific (122 total yards, one TD), quarterback Alex Smith maddening (6.5 YPA, forever careful), the wide receivers next to useless. And then there's the ongoing story of tight end Travis Kelce, a breakout star who's continually held back by his own offense.
Although the Chiefs were trailing most of the evening and have a sorry collection of wide receivers, Kelce only drew five targets. Four of them were completed, for 67 yards. For all the complimentary things we can say about head coach Andy Reid, his handling of Kelce has been strange and counterproductive to his football team. It might have cost the Chiefs a victory on Thursday night.
The Chiefs' fantasy defense was also a disappointment (one sack, one takeaway), but maybe that's not a major surprise. Despite the lousy record, Oakland hasn't been a giveaway for opposing D/STs. Entering Week 12, the Raiders were merely 16th in points allowed to that position, a testament to Derek Carr's ability to avoid negative plays. Give him a tip of the cap.