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NFL Skinny: Wounded Pride

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

Also See: Sunday Scene | Damage Report

This week, I'm being read by a much smaller audience. That's just the reality of fantasy football this time of year. Week 13 and Week 14 are common regular-season stopping points in most leagues, so only playoff-bound owners and misery-wallowers are likely tuning in at this point. Speaking of misery, one of my fantasy teams was taken down in the first round of playoffs in Week 14 – unfortunately, the 40-point performance from Cedric Benson on Monday night that I needed never materialized. And the notable part of this loss is that it was a squad blessed with LaDainian Tomlinson's presence. Tomlinson did his usual thing on Sunday, scoring three more touchdowns to surpass Shaun Alexander's single-season touchdown record of a year ago, but let me be proof that man does not win fantasy championships by LaDainian Tomlinson alone. And for those owners attempting to take out fantasy's most supreme being, a concerted effort by all your starters can do the trick, as it did against me. So, while you are battening down those hatches, let's take a look at some noteworthy events from Week 14:

Week 14 Update: Need-to-know info from the past few days

Detroit RB Kevin Jones suffered the most fantasy-impactful injury of Week 14. Early reports are that he has either a fracture or a dislocation of his foot, or both. He's being ruled out of next week's game against Green Bay, and it seems highly likely that he is done for the year, and potentially part of next season, too. In a Mike Martz system that elevated Jones' receiving numbers to elite status among running backs, Jones was enjoying a nice rebound season after a disappointing '05 campaign. His schedule down the stretch was pretty nasty to begin with, so the silver lining here for Jones owners is that the injury takes away the temptation to start him against the likes of Chicago and Dallas in Week 16 and Week 17, respectively. Of course, those same Jones owners were probably hoping that he could have at least helped them make it to a championship game with that soft matchup with the Packers this coming week. Instead, it looks like Arlen Harris will get the opportunity to beat on the Pack. He's rushed 20 times for 67 yards and a TD in spot duty behind Jones. Available in most all Yahoo! leagues, consider Harris a one-week plug-n-play only.
In a league where there are few guarantees, there's at least one thing you can hang your hat on – running backs are going to have a field day when facing the Indianapolis defense. Jacksonville's Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew took a trip down Indy's easy street on Sunday, and each walked (ran?) away with over 100 rushing yards, contributing to the majority of the Jaguars' 375 rushing yards on the day. For the Colts, the two 100-yard rushing performances became the seventh and eighth that they've allowed this season. In the past three weeks, Indy is allowing nearly 71 percent more fantasy points to running backs than the league average. And while you can bet the team will effort all week long to plug the holes in the run defense, the fact is that Indy has been a bad run defense from Week 1, and it's unlikely that a miracle cure will be found this late in the year. Looking at the Colts' upcoming schedule, they can at least breathe a sigh of relief that they won't face LaDainian Tomlinson – now that would surely be a vigorous stress test for the Yahoo! Sports live stats database. Instead, Rudi Johnson, a resurrected Ron Dayne and Ronnie Brown (if healthy) will meet the Colts, in order, from Week 15 through Week 17. Dayne, a key player in a fantasy championship? Could be …
Speaking of the unpredictability of the NFL, do you think when Dallas was game planning for stopping Drew Brees that they may have overlooked fullback Mike Karney as a viable accomplice? On Sunday night, the Arizona State product scored three touchdowns from six yards or closer, much to the dismay of Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush, Marques Colston and Devery Henderson owners. Talk about your wasted hat tricks. As of Sunday morning, Karney's ownership in Yahoo! leagues read "0.00." But, I'm willing to bet at least a couple leagues – family and friends of Karney, and such – own the Saints fullback … Speaking of wasted fantasy points, Artose Pinner, please stand up. Talk about getting duped – I had Ciatrick Fason down as the Viking back du jour on Sunday after he rushed 11 times for 75 yards against Chicago a week earlier in place of an injured Chester Taylor. Against Detroit, with Taylor still out, I expected the road would be even easier to hoe. And, I was right about that, but way wrong about the man swinging that hoe. In what was supposed to be a running back-by-committee afternoon, Pinner impressed head coach Brad Childress early on in the game against Detroit, so Childress decided to ride Pinner to the tune of 125 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns … I don't really know what to say about Devin Hester and his two return touchdowns on Monday night, giving him an NFL record six return TDs for the season. I guess what he has me thinking most is, how in the heck did 56 players go before him in April's NFL Draft?
For a rundown of the Week 14 injury news be sure to check out Christopher Harris' Damage Report.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues
QBJeff Garcia, Phi
Garcia went into Week 14 with six touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his three games since taking over for an injured Donovan McNabb. He also went into Sunday available in 73 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He added two touchdowns, on an efficient 15-for-23 passing, giving him eight touchdowns without and interception in four games. If you can still grab Garcia, do it as soon as possible. In Week 15 he'll face a New York Giants defense that has allowed the fifth-most passing yards to opposing quarterbacks and the second-most fantasy points overall to QBs.

RB – Ron Dayne, Hou
Dayne was here last week, but he was still available in 94 percent of Yahoo! leagues heading into Week 14 action. Shame on you if you need running back help and didn't heed the advice last week. Now you'll be fighting the rest of your fellow playoff owners for a back that has picked up 182 rushing yards (4.7 ypc) and two rushing touchdowns in his past two games. Admittedly, Dayne doesn't have a great matchup at New England in Week 15, but Sammy Morris did just hang 123 rushing yards and a TD on the Patriots on Sunday. And if you can get through next week, with Dayne active or on the bench, the former Heisman would then face that, oh so, generous Indianapolis defense. Party on, Ron!

WRMarcus Robinson, Min
Robinson had just 45 yards in Week 14 (no scores), but he's available in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and his next three opponents (vs. NYJ, @ GB, vs. StL) all rank in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points allowed to WRs. In particular, the Packers (Week 16) lead the league in TDs allowed to WRs (17) – so Robinson faces them during many league's fantasy championship game. As a plug-n-play these final weeks, you could do worse than this big red zone target.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Marc Bulger, StL, QB – Yeah, he had three interceptions in Week 13, but he also tossed a couple TDs and threw for over 300 yards, too. And on Monday night, he threw three TDs (only 1 INT) and topped 300 yards again, and this time it was against a stingy Bears defense. It appears he is emerging from that dark hole he fell into a few weeks back.

Julius Jones, Dal, RB – His team was blown out, and he only received 10 carries, but he turned them into 116 rushing yards and a touchdown. More notably, Marion Barber III was a complete non-factor in the loss.

Marty Booker, Mai, WR – The top fantasy wideout for the past three weeks? That's right, Booker. Numbers during that span include 20 catches, 279 yards and four touchdowns.

Matt Leinart, Ari – He's been better than Peyton Manning over the past five weeks, accounting for 7 TDs (2 rushing) and completing 60 percent of his passes in that span.

Mike Furrey, Det, WR – For the season, he's the 11th-most targeted receiver. And in the past two weeks, he's combined for 18 catches, 207 yards and a TD.

Edgerrin James, Ari, RB – Perhaps Marcel Shipp went back into hiding to emerge again four years from now in St. Louis for a third TD hat trick, but James was not vultured at the goal line on Sunday, scoring a seven-yard TD to go with his 115 rushing yards – the second-consecutive week that he has reached that yardage total.

Braylon Edwards, Cle, WR – Edwards has scored in the past two games, which followed a sideline altercation with QB Charlie Frye in Week 12. Edwards finished with 86 yards on Sunday, in addition to his TD (45 yards).

Drew Bennett, Ten, WR – Edwards has scored in the past two games, which followed a sideline altercation with QB Charlie Frye in Week 12. Edwards finished with 86 yards on Sunday, in addition to his TD (45 yards).

Jon Kitna, Det, QB – Kitna's yardage numbers have been nice, but he's killing owners that are in leagues that deduct for turnovers – He's thrown an interception in 11 straight games, including six in the past two weeks.

Deion Branch, Sea, WR – While D.J. Hackett is starting to emerge in Seattle's passing game, Branch is shrinking out of view. He's scoreless in his past three games, averaging just 38 receiving yards in that span.

Carnell Williams, TB, RB – For Cadillac, things are getting as serious as a cracked head gasket. He's failed to score in 10 consecutive games, and Sunday marked the eighth game in which he finished with less than 50 rushing yards.

Tom Brady, NE, QB – It's hard to be too concerned about Brady, but it should at least be pointed out that he has thrown 8 INTs in his past six games compared to 6 TD passes. And, while he didn't throw a pick on Sunday, he also didn't throw a TD pass and he finished with 78 passing yards.