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http://a323.yahoofs.com/ymg/ept_sports_fantasy_experts__8/ept_sports_fantasy_experts-746033378-1228698451.jpg?ym_KWrAD1sohhuPDHouston quarterback Matt Schaub returned to action today, but the situation did not seem ideal. He hadn't played since injuring his knee on November 2, the temperature at kickoff for the Texans-Packers game was just three degrees, and the Green Bay defense was allowing only 187.6 passing yards per game.

If you left Schaub on your bench in Week 14, the decision is easily explained.

Let's just hope it didn't cost you a playoff win.

Schaub led all quarterbacks in fantasy scoring in Week 14, torching the Packers for 414 yards and two touchdowns. He could have had a third TD, but tight end Owen Daniels lost a fumble near the goal line in the second quarter. Schaub made some terrific throws on the move, and he directed a game-winning drive that began with him passing from his own end zone. It was an outstanding effort from a quarterback very few of us trusted. He was started in just nine percent of Yahoo! PLUS leagues (and zero percent of my leagues).

Schaub is widely available right now, and his receivers are obviously among the NFL's best. If your league goes the full 17 weeks, you'll definitely want him rostered at the end of the season for the home match-up with Chicago. The Bears have one of the more generous pass defenses in the league (240.5 passing yards per game). 

And if you're checking out of the fantasy playoffs because Schaub's 25 points were buried on your bench, well...you're not alone. In fact, you're in the company of accredited experts.

Let's all try to move on...

Fourth Quarter

If you were an impartial observer of the Pittsburgh-Dallas game, then you weren't disappointed. The Steelers' 20-13 win did not lack drama. But if you needed a big day from anyone, then you're probably not too happy. Tony Romo was intercepted three times and he lost a fumble. His only touchdown pass was an improvised 12-yard completion to Terrell Owens in the third quarter. That play saved TO's day, but Romo finished with just seven fantasy points.

Either Romo or Jason Witten made a spectacular mistake on Deshea Townsend's fourth quarter interception return TD. Witten appeared to accept the blame on the field; Romo blamed himself after the game. (Highlights here). Those two were also involved in a game-ending fourth-down incompletion, and Owens is no doubt still screaming at someone, somewhere. 

Tashard Choice ran hard all day, finishing with an impressive 166 total yards. Still, Pittsburgh held an opponent below 14 points for the eighth time this season. 

JP Losman offered a miserable fantasy line in the indifferent/neutral-site matchup with Miami: 13-for-27, 123 passing yards, one INT, 53 rushing yards, one fumble. We regret ever blogging about him. That won't happen again. Unless he accidentally shoots himself in the leg while in the VIP lounge at a Buffalo club.

http://a323.yahoofs.com/ymg/ept_sports_fantasy_experts__8/ept_sports_fantasy_experts-841531467-1228706415.jpg?ymNLWrADdQoP1F4o If you somehow find yourself in need of a quarterback for Weeks 15 and 16, please consider Shaun Hill. He'll get the Dolphins and Rams in the weeks ahead. He remains only 35 percent owned in PLUS leagues, despite throwing at least one touchdown pass in every game he's played over the past two seasons. Hill led the Niners to a 24-14 win today over the Jets -- the team everyone seemed to think was the AFC's best just two weeks ago -- and he finished with 285 passing yards and two TDs.

The bigger story from that game, of course, is the Frank Gore ankle injury. The early word is that X-rays were negative, but that certainly doesn't mean he'll be ready next week.

IDP leaguers will note that Jets LB David Harris finished with 12 tackles.

Deion Branch had an unexpected huge day with Seneca Wallace at quarterback (four receptions, 88 yards, two TDs). This was just Branch's fifth game this season, and it was his best by far. He gets the Rams and Jets in Weeks 15 and 16.

Wes Welker had an excellent game for the Patriots (12 receptions, 134 yards, two-point conversion), rebounding well from the huge hit he took in Week 13.

Steve Breaston remains relevant, as promised. He led the Cardinals in receptions and yards this week (seven for 90), but Larry Fitzgerald and Tim Hightower scored the offensive touchdowns. Congrats to the Cardinals for winning their first division title in a thousand years. Darnell Dockett offered this fabulous quote following the game:

"My coach was like, 'Act like you’ve been there before, act like you’ve been there before.' I said 'Coach, I ain’t been there before. I don’t know how to act right now.'" 

Posted at 10:20 ET

Third Quarter

http://a323.yahoofs.com/ymg/ept_sports_fantasy_experts__8/ept_sports_fantasy_experts-978948005-1228690145.jpg?ymuKWrADjSytxcHo Unbelievable. Yet another Denver running back goes down. This from the Associated Press:   

Broncos rookie running back Peyton Hillis left Denver’s game against Kansas City late in the first half Sunday after straining his right hamstring.

Hillis, who rejuvenated the Broncos’ banged-up backfield since moving over from fullback last month, is the sixth tailback to go down for Denver this season. He was replaced by Tatum Bell, who was signed last month.

Hillis was hurt when he went up high for a pass from Jay Cutler and was hit by two defenders as he came down with the 11-yard reception at the Chiefs 34. He walked gingerly off the field after staying down a minute.

The blurb above fails to mention the fact that Tatum Bell was working at Mobile Solutions at the Aurora Mall just a few weeks ago. If you're still pursuing an NFL dream, we strongly recommend holiday retail employment somewhere in the Denver area.

At least Hillis produced for fantasy owners prior to the injury, carrying eight times for 58 yards and one touchdown. Clearly you could have done without the 11-yard reception.

Late update No. 1: In his postgame comments, Mike Shanahan didn't sound too optimistic.

“Any time it’s a hamstring and they come off the field like he did today, normally it’s a month at best,” Shanahan said. “It didn’t look good. I’m hoping it’s not quite as bad as I anticipate, but I was not pleased watching him walk off the field.”

More disastrous injury news here, via the AP:

Running back Frank Gore was helped off the field with an apparent left leg injury early in the second half of the San Francisco 49ers’ game against the New York Jets on Sunday.

Gore, among the NFL’s leaders in yards rushing and all-purpose yards, was hurt when a pile of tacklers fell on his leg as he stretched to reach the first-down marker on the second play of the second half. He kept his weight off his left ankle as two trainers helped him to the bench, and he left the field sitting in the passenger seat of a cart moments later.

This one doesn't look good at all. DeShaun Foster is delivering his typical two-point-something yards per carry in Gore's absence. Like Hillis, Gore was delivering quality numbers before the injury. He'll finish with 65 combined yards and a TD.

Following halftime, Jason Witten remained in the Dallas locker room with an apparent ankle injury chest soreness. He's back on the field now, however.

Calvin Johnson continues to produce, regardless of the quarterback or the opponent. He finished with three receptions for 84 yards and a TD. The Lions were at least competitive in this week's loss, so good for them.

Steven Jackson is having an acceptable fantasy day (67 combined yards, one TD), but he's fumbled twice, and the second was returned for a touchdown by Arizona's Darnell Dockett. 

Posted at 6:30 ET

Second Quarter

http://a323.yahoofs.com/ymg/ept_sports_fantasy_experts__8/ept_sports_fantasy_experts-302822274-1228685700.jpg?ymrKWrADKY6KQPWA In the final minutes of today's Fantasy Football Live, Brad Evans became unusually animated -- even by his standards -- while arguing on behalf of Pierre Thomas. Hopefully you listened...and you weren't too frightened by the Jeffrey Goines-as-fantasy-expert thing that was happening onscreen.

Thomas finished with 16 carries for 102 rushing yards, and he scored two fourth quarter TDs in New Orleans' 29-25 win. That's Thomas in the picture over on the right, speeding away from Atlanta DT Grady Jackson (not surprisingly, an alleged StarCaps consumer).

Over his past four games, Thomas has six TDs, and he's reached double-digit carries each week. The Saints face Chicago and Detroit in Weeks 15 and 16, so no one's likely to argue with Brad about Thomas again.

Roddy White (10 catches, 164 yards) and Matt Ryan (315 yards, one TD) had big games in the loss, and Michael Turner was useful again, too. The Burner finished with 61 rushing yards and one TD.

Big news from the New York-Philly game, via the New York Daily News' Giants blog:

Brandon Jacobs suffered an injury to his left knee in the third quarter and was at least temporarily removed from today’s game.

Jacobs injured his knee when he fell on it at the end of a 5-yard run. He got up and began hopping up and down on his right leg before falling to the turf. After doctors and trainers examined him for a few minutes he was able to jog off the field.

However, he did not immediately return.

Brutal news there for Jacobs owners, though we obviously don't yet know the severity of the injury.

Late update No. 2: Jacobs predictably downplayed the seriousness of his injury. Here's what he said after his team's 20-14 loss:

"Didn't cause any more damage to it, just a little pain,'' Jacobs said. "It wasn't frightening because I knew what it was, I do it almost every game, that time I just did it real good.''

Jacobs said he could have come back into the game. "Could have, but why?'' he said.

Why, indeed. Brandon Jacobs could lose an eye, a lung and both femurs, and still he'd tell reporters that he could have returned if the game circumstances had been different. You can't trust this guy's postgame comments, ever.

Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook delivered another spectacular fantasy line (39 touches, 203 combined yards, two TDs), but receiver Kevin Curtis was concussed. I'm all out of Westbrook pessimism; you'll have to look elsewhere.

We mentioned this earlier in the week, and we'll say it again here: The Giants are going to miss Plaxico Burress, at least on the field. Eli Manning threw for just 123 yards, and Domenik Hixon had a tragic drop.

If you're a Bengals fan, the best thing you can say about today's 35-3 loss is that it was quick, and the defeat was never really in doubt. The game was literally over by 3:46 ET, but it ended for all practical purposes when Daniel Coats dropped that touchdown pass. Cedric Benson finished with the stat line that should be named in his honor: 16 carries, 57 yards, no TDs.

Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes evenly split the rushing workload for the Colts, and Rhodes scored a touchdown on a slick, multi-cut first quarter run. Peyton Manning threw for a relatively easy 277 and three TDs. 

Matt Schaub and Aaron Rodgers overcame the low temperatures in Green Bay and combined for 709 passing yards (414 of those yards belonged to Schaub). The game ended with a 40-yard Kris Brown field goal, and both Kevin Walter and Steve Slaton broke triple-digits for the Texans, yardage-wise. Ryan Grant overcame the thumb injury and delivered a useful line: 19 carries, 104 yards, one TD. 

Posted at 5:05 ET

First Quarter

http://a323.yahoofs.com/ymg/ept_sports_fantasy_experts__8/ept_sports_fantasy_experts-923229152-1228680761.jpg?ymrKWrADrPz8mYQw The Detroit defense has intercepted just four passes this year, and Gus Frerotte is  responsible for three of them. Frerotte suffered a lower-back injury today while making a tackle following his second pick, so Tarvaris Jackson is now your Minnesota QB.

Winless Detroit held a 6-3 halftime lead, and they received the kickoff to begin the third quarter. Then they committed a penalty, threw an incompletion, took a sack, and suddenly gave Minnesota the ball in excellent field position. Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor took over, and soon Minnesota led 10-6. 

If you were at all concerned about Reggie Bush's knee, the highlight of his 43-yard first quarter run should make you feel better. Curiously, he ran directly into the tackler, but he caught a 5-yard TD two plays later. 

With 18 seconds remaining in the first half at Chicago, Kyle Orton made a pretty throw to Greg Olsen on a seam pattern. Olsen caught the pass at the 1 yard line and just stretched the ball over the goal line as he was being tackled by Reggie Nelson. The play was upheld after review. It would have been impossible to overturn the original call, because apparently there were no cameras on the goal line. You'll recall that Chris Chase discussed the goal line camera issue earlier in the season.

On Houston's first series, Matt Schaub didn't seem like he was affected by either the weather or the four-week layoff. Here's the play-by-play from the box score:

1st-10, HOU 25, 14:55 M. Schaub passed to V. Leach to the right for 5 yard gain

2nd-5, HOU 30, 14:19 S. Slaton rushed to the left for 12 yard gain

1st-10, HOU 42, 13:30 M. Schaub passed to K. Walter to the left for 58 yard touchdown. K. Brown made PAT

Schaub was under heavy pressure and he under-threw Walter, but the receiver made a nice adjustment. A pair of Green Bay DBs collided, and Walter had an unobstructed path to the end zone. Highlight here, via NFL.com.

It sounds like Denver will sit Champ Bailey again, so Dwayne Bowe gets to enjoy the generous coverage of Dre Bly.

Congratulations to Fred Taylor for passing both OJ Simpson and Corey Dillon on the career rushing yardage list today. Taylor is currently No. 16 on the list and climbing.

There are many variables impacting the value of your OJ memorabilia right now, so don't sweat this Taylor thing too much, collectors.

LenDale White and Chris Johnson are splitting the carries evenly against Cleveland, and the pair has combined for over 100 rushing yards. White has his usual short-yardage TD. Jamal Lewis has carried just five times for three yards.

The Giants had no business being within three points of Philadelphia at halftime, but they blocked a field goal at the end of the second quarter, and Kevin Dockery returned it 71 yards for a score. Domenik Hixon had a brutal drop on what could have been a long TD. Brian Westbrook was having a quiet day until he plowed into the middle of the line late in the second quarter, bounced through traffic, then motored into the end zone from 30 yards away.

Posted at 3:20 ET

Pregame

OK, this week is a must-win, and some of us have fantasy portfolios that are too big to fail. Let's huddle up and give Drew Brees our full attention...

Thanks, Drew. Your swagger is noted. If you can just deliver modest numbers over the next three weeks -- maybe 1,300 passing yards and 10 TDs -- that would be greatly appreciated. 

As usual, Scott Pianowski and I will be chatting over at Fantasy Football Live beginning at noon ET. Please stop by with start/sit questions.

Gameday weather forecasts can be found here. It's five degrees in Green Bay right now, which is five more degrees than those cheeseweasels deserve. 

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Photos via US Presswire

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