Inside Week 14

Mike Harmon
Yahoo! SportsDecember 14, 2004
Kansas City Chiefs
Incumbent: Derrick Blaylock
Challenger: Larry Johnson
Outlook: Or is it the other way around? Blaylock got the bulk of the work in the first half and was highly ineffective, save the three tries for the end zone inside the five. Johnson played most of the second half and ran wild, scoring on a play reminiscent of last Monday's Shaun Alexander TD scamper in the waning minutes against the Cowboys. Look for the split duty to continue against Denver. Be warned as you head to the playoffs – Denver allows just 96 yards per game on the ground.
Minnesota Vikings
Incumbent: Onterrio Smith
Challenger: Michael Bennett
Outlook: Though Smith continues to handle the bulk of carries, his disastrous fourth-quarter fumble signals a possible shift for the final three contests. Smith scored in the first quarter and ran for 56 yards on 14 carries, but carried the ball only twice in the second half. Michael Bennett finished with five carries and casts a shadow on this situation again, just as we suspected he would. Unfortunately, that's about all he does – mess up this picture for the playoff stretch.
Miami Dolphins
Incumbent: Travis Minor
Incumbent: Sammy Morris
Outlook: Morris returned from a two-week absence due to bruised ribs to carry the ball nine times for 36 yards and score. Minor averaged a paltry 2.4 yards per carry on 10 attempts. This will be a platoon situation for the remainder of the year, meaning that both hold little fantasy value. Look elsewhere with New England and Baltimore on the schedule.
Pittsburgh Steelers
Incumbent: Duce Staley
Challenger: Jerome Bettis
Outlook: This one hasn't been on the radar for awhile, but Staley hasn't been terribly productive since returning from injury (two straight 51-yard games). Meanwhile, Jerome Bettis can do no wrong – running people over, barreling his way to the end zone and even tossing a TD pass. Pittsburgh faces a Giants defense giving up 137.5 yards per game on the ground this week, meaning that Staley should have some success, but with your playoff life on the line and Bettis lurking, you should seriously be looking to the bench if you are a Staley owner.
Cleveland Browns
Incumbent: Lee Suggs
Challenger: William Green, Adimchinobe Echemandu
Outlook: You just have to leave this situation alone with top-ranked San Diego in Week 15. Suggs is still hurt, the QB position is in shambles and San Diego allows a miniscule 77.5 yards per game on the ground.
San Francisco 49ers
Incumbent: Maurice Hicks
Challenger: Kevan Barlow
Outlook: Even though Barlow plans to be ready to answer the bell for Week 15 against Washington, it'll be Hicks' show if he heals well enough from his injured ribs. Seeing the way that Washington effectively handled the juggernaut that is the Philadelphia Eagles offense, don't look for a repeat of Week 14's bust-out performance.
Tennessee Titans
Incumbent: Chris Brown
Challenger: Antowain Smith, turf toe
Outlook: Congratulations if you started Brown on the gut instinct that he'd play well against the Chiefs. My condolences if you needed him to stay on the field for the second half to earn you a victory. This weekly game of wait-and-see will occur for the rest of the season, and the Titans do play one more prime-time game. Antowain Smith should continue to see a full half of work each week while Brown receives treatment after Jeff Fisher's halftime speech.
Denver Broncos
Incumbent: Reuben Droughns
Challenger: Tatum Bell, Garrison Hearst, Fumble-itis
Outlook: With KC on the schedule for Week 15, Bell will do his best to play through the pain of a dislocated shoulder. For now, expect Droughns to see the bulk of carries, unless the pinched nerve in his neck acts up or the fumble problems continue. Then, Garrison Hearst suddenly leaps into the mix.
Atlanta Falcons
Incumbent: Warrick Dunn
Challenger: Vacant
Outlook: Arthroscopic surgery looms for the TD-machine Duckett this week. He's expected to miss the balance of the regular season. This news comes after his breakout performance against Oakland and after losing fullback Justin Griffith to a broken ankle. Stanley Pritchett slides into Griffith's role and the Falcons are looking to free agents Fred McCrary and Olandis Gary for insurance.

There's a lot of talk about adopting a new NFL scheduling mechanism to allow for the switching out of less compelling matchups. While last night's Tennessee-Kansas City matchup didn't hold a lot of influence on the NFL standings, how many of you can say that the 925 yards of total offense and 12 total touchdowns had no bearing on your league's results? Additionally, the 49-38 final of last night's game, coupled with the dramatic comeback win by the Cowboys over the Seahawks last week (43-39) marked the first time in the 35 years of the MNF franchise that two straight games saw both teams score 30-plus points.

In one of my leagues, a bevy of players underperformed on fantasy football's greatest stage (Kerry Collins, Javon Walker and Antonio Bryant did the greatest disappearing acts), leaving me in a huge hole with Drew Bennett as my lone remaining starter. Bennett gave me everything he had, gassed and defeated on the sidelines in the closing moments and I fell just short of a dramatic comeback. That fade to the back of the end zone just out of Bennett's reach had my older brother (my opponent in this improbable tale) jumping out of his seat. He was able to breathe a sigh of relief when Derrick Mason scored. But you know what, fantasy playoff and NFL standings aside, that was an entertaining game.

Not surprisingly, Drew Bennett is tied for top honors in the looks table alongside perennial top target Laveranues Coles. Coles averages a ridiculous 11 looks per game.

For the fourth straight week, Nick Goings topped the century mark. Goings has carried the ball a whopping 67 times in the past two weeks. He's been a key component of the Panthers' leap into the mess that is the NFC playoff picture.

Edgerrin James ranks second on this week's touches table behind Maurice Hicks of the 49ers. James leads the NFL with 1,395 rushing yards, maintaining a 10-yard lead over Shaun Alexander. Hicks averages more than one yard per carry more than 49ers starter Kevan Barlow. San Francisco washed their hands of Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens and signed Barlow to a big deal this offseason. Buyer's remorse?

With a 78-yard effort against the Bengals this week, Willis McGahee will hit the 1,000-yard mark for the season. That's not too shabby for a guy who didn't get his first start until Week 6.

Fresh off their terrorization of young Eli Manning, Ray Lewis and the Baltimore defense have their sights set on slowing down the Indianapolis Colts. Based on the default Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football scoring system, the Ravens defense ranks sixth overall in points scored with 165 (12.7 points per game). For what it's worth, Peyton Manning averages 25.3 points per game. That'll make a great end to the playoff weekend.

Let's get deeper into Week 14:

Shouldering the load: Most active RB's (carries+catches)

Week 14 Touch Leaders
1 Maurice Hicks, SF 39 76
2 Edgerrin James, IND 35 334
3 Deuce McAllister, NO 34 219
4 Kevin Jones, DET 33 197
5 Nick Goings, CAR 31 179
6 Chester Taylor, BAL 29 174
6 Willis McGahee, BUF 29 258
6 Domanick Davis, HOU 29 284
6 LaDainian Tomlinson, SD 29 339

Attention getters: Top intended targets (looks)

Week 14 Look Leaders
1 Drew Bennett, TEN 17 118
1 Laveranues Coles, WAS 17 149
3 Darrell Jackson, SEA 14 139
3 Anquan Boldin, ARI 14 86
5 Eric Moulds, BUF 13 130
5 T.J. Houshmandzadeh, CIN 13 89
5 Muhsin Muhammad, CAR 13 122
8 Michael Clayton, TAM 12 106
9 Joe Horn, NO 11 134
9 Jason Witten, DAL 11 91
9 Reggie Wayne, IND 11 100
9 Tony Gonzalez, KAN 11 114

Trainers table: Updates on the wounded in action

  • Marc Bulger targets a return from his sprained shoulder injury in Week 16. Given Chris Chandler's pathetic six-INT performance against Carolina, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce owners are holding a candlelight vigil in Bulger's honor.
  • Turf toe derailed a potential huge night for Chris Brown. Ok, the two lost fumbles in the first half didn't help. This looks to be a situation that will plague Brown owners for the rest of the season. Hopefully, your lineup is stacked with other healthy RB alternatives.
  • Steve McNair is jonesing to play next week against Oakland. McNair missed his fifth game of the season with a bruised sternum and watched Billy Volek dominate the Chiefs defense from the sidelines. Drew Bennett owners would like to see Volek in the huddle for the duration of the season.
  • Seattle's Grant Wistrom sustained significant ligament damage in his left knee. He will likely miss the remainder of the regular season.
  • Veteran Atlanta fullback Justin Griffith was lost for the season with a broken ankle in the NFC South-clinching victory on Sunday. His loss may derail the potent thunder and lightning combination of Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett.
  • Jamal Lewis carried the ball just eight times in his return from an ankle injury and then watched Chester Taylor carry it home as the Ravens nursed a comfortable 20-point margin. Lewis will be on the field in a key battle against Indianapolis.
  • Carson Palmer was on crutches and wearing a bulky brace on his injured knee. Palmer is listed as questionable on the injury report. I'll update his status later in the week. In the interim, Jon Kitna is worthy of an addition to your bench.
  • Brian Urlacher re-aggravated the hamstring injury that sidelined him early in the season and he will likely miss the remainder of the season. Look elsewhere in leagues using IDP's.
  • It's a final for Jeff Garcia in Cleveland this year, with a good chance that he seeks employment elsewhere this offseason. Garcia tore his left MCL in relief of the ineffective Luke McCown in the blowout loss to Buffalo. Since Kelly Holcomb is still recovering from cracked ribs, McCown will stand under center for the remainder of the season.
  • Steven Jackson was inactive for Week 14 against Carolina; Mike Martz could have used him. He and Marshall Faulk should be available for Week 15 against Arizona.
  • Tyrone Wheatley remains sidelined with a partially torn hamstring. With the current state of the Raiders backfield, avoid him and the entire lot.
  • David Givens was a late scratch for the Patriots with an undisclosed injury. This one broke just before game time, and his future availability is unknown. Given the Pats' generally secretive nature regarding injuries, don't expect much info to trickle out.
  • Giants No. 1 receiver Amani Toomer fought through an injured hamstring to play against the Ravens. As he's only caught more than three balls twice since Week 3 and has yet to hit paydirt, he really shouldn't be under consideration at this juncture.
  • T.J. Duckett expects to miss at least 1-2 weeks with arthroscopic knee surgery. Warrick Dunn will need to carry upwards of 20 times, as the Falcons are left paper-thin at running back.