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Reggie Bush's Benching

Cut Candidates: NFC North

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Nick Mensio highlights 14 players from the NFC North who may be salary-cap casualties this offseason

Reggie Bush was benched in Detroit’s latest come-from-ahead loss. Maybe it was the fumble(s). Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was a little bit of both, as coach Jim Schwartz claimed to the FOX broadcasting crew. Whatever it was, we know this: It was stupid.

The Lions have Calvin Johnson. The world’s best receiver has caught 35 passes for 746 yards and seven touchdowns over his past four games. He is crazy good. Gobsmackingly brilliant. A create-a-player with all 99s. But besides Megatron? Detroit doesn't have many weapons to offer Matthew Stafford, who continues to do his best Kurt Warner impression at the tender age of 25. There’s Kris Durham, Stafford’s college pal who can occasionally win a 1-on-1. There’s Brandon Pettigrew, a drop-prone underperformer who will likely be playing elsewhere next season. There’s Joique Bell, who can do some of the things Reggie Bush does — and did on Sunday — but is no Reggie Bush. Then there’s … not much else.

Why would a team deprive itself of its second best weapon when it’s staring its seventh win right in the face? Someone the opposing defense actually has to account for? Bush touched the ball seven times in the second half Sunday, and only twice before Bell departed with a minor leg injury late in the third quarter. This would be the same second half where the Lions were held to zero points, and Johnson without a catch. The same second half where instead of scheming to get a playmaker out in space, the Lions attempted an idiotic fake field goal that put their punter in position to lose a fumble of his own. The same second half where the soggy conditions likely would have benefited — not hurt, as Schwartz claimed on Monday — one of the league’s most vicious jump-cutters against an aging defense that couldn’t possibly hope to square Bush up in the rain. No matter how you slice it, leaving a healthy Reggie Bush on the sideline is not a smart thing to do.  

Of course, the Lions didn’t lose just because they benched Reggie Bush. There were many other factors at play in a mind-numbing defeat for a team that’s grown accustomed to them. Stafford’s receivers committed a string of costly drops, while the gunslinging quarterback forced a ball to a triple-covered Megatron for an interception. The Steelers also simply played better than they did in a second quarter where they got out-scored 27-0.

So it can be debated how much of an effect Bush’s limited workload had in Schwartz’s latest choke job. What can’t be debated is that the Lions lost a game where they didn’t give themselves their best chance to win. That’s because, no matter how well Bell was playing, the Lions are not a better football team when Bush is on the sideline and Durham, Pettigrew and lord knows who else are on the field trying to pick up the play-making slack.

The Lions aren’t going to repeat their mistake in Week 12 against the Bucs. There’s a zero percent chance they’ll further punish one of the league’s total-yardage leaders in a must-win game. But the damage has already been done. A winnable game lost. Another way to lose a game found. One more Sunday to haunt the Lions if they miss the playoffs for the 13th time in 14 years seared in the memory bank.  

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 12. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.

Three Up

1. Bobby Rainey

The Bucs went into Week 11 planning to “ham and egg” their backfield with Rainey and journeyman third-down back Brian Leonard. They exited it with Rainey smoking the Falcons for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 32 touches. That’s compared eight touches, 37 yards and no scores for Leonard. Rainey’s already had his best fantasy game. There’s no way he’s going to improve on Sunday’s 34.7 points. But you’d better believe he’s now an every-week FLEX option, and a potential fantasy savior at a time of year where the wire has grown thinner than Lane Kiffin’s résumé.   

2. Rashad Jennings

After stinging the Texans for 150 yards on 22 carries Sunday — highlighted by this 80-yard touchdown — Jennings now has 57 carries for 340 yards and two touchdowns over his past three games. That is not to mention the 11 catches for 91 yards he’s contributed as a receiver. The man he’s filling in for, Darren McFadden? He has 437 yards on the season, and is averaging 3.59 yards per carry to Jennings’ 5.16. Coach Dennis Allen made it clear Sunday that Jennings won’t simply be sliding back to No. 2 duties upon DMC’s (hamstring) return. "(Jennings has) been a guy we've called on to come in and run the ball and he's done a great job at it,'' Allen said. "As he continues to run the ball like he's doing, he's going to continue to get opportunities to run the ball.'' With McFadden without a return date and Tennessee's bottom-12 run defense on deck for Week 12, Jennings will remain a high-end RB2 for at least one more game.

3. Carson Palmer

Yes, it was the Jaguars, but Palmer’s 400-yard effort Sunday was the first by any Cardinals quarterback since Kurt Warner in 2008. Since getting bullied by the Seahawks in Week 7, Palmer has gone 79-of-110 (71.8 percent) for 952 yards (8.65 YPA), seven touchdowns and only two interceptions during Arizona’s three-game winning streak. Palmer has feasted on bad competition in the Falcons, Texans and Jags, but it’s still an impressive streak for a player who appeared just north of done against Seattle. Palmer will be tested by the Colts in Week 12, but is back up to mid-range QB2 status for the stretch run, which is much more than could have been imagined a month ago.

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Three Down

1. Gary Kubiak

If there’s a viable defense for Kubiak pulling Case Keenum, I’ve yet to hear it. Keenum wasn’t lighting the world ablaze at the time of his third-quarter benching — he was 13-of-24 for 170 yards, one touchdown and an interception — but that’s still a far better line than Matt Schaub managed at almost any point this season, and better than Schaub did in relief. Schaub went 12-of-25 for 155 yards, with both his and the Texans’ afternoon ending on four failed plays inside the Raiders’ 10-yard line. Schaub earned a tongue lashing from Andre Johnson for his efforts. Now Kubiak has an unneeded controversy on his hands, and lent an air of even-greater desperation to the Texans’ Hindenburg of a season. That’s not going to help him when owner Bob McNair decides what course he wants to take in January.  

2. Colin Kaepernick

A good portion of the blame for Kaepernick’s fantasy struggles this season can be laid at the feet of circumstance. Namely, an almost total lack of weapons in the passing game, and blowouts where the 49ers haven’t had to force the issue on offense. Injuries haven’t helped matters. But Sunday? Kaepernick had no one to blame but himself, particularly on the 49ers’ ill-fated final drive. Kaep appeared rattled for a good portion of the afternoon, but never more so than he did on San Francisco’s final possession, where he: 1. Took a nine-yard sack on first down. 2. Narrowly avoided both an intentional-grounding penalty and a safety on second down. 3. Ran out of bounds to stop the clock on third down as the 49ers were simply trying to get into better position to punt. It was a terrible sequence that will be hard to get off the brain for Kaep’s owners. The good news is, he gets the Redskins in Week 12, who are allowing the fourth most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. It will be a golden opportunity for Kaepernick to get his season back on track before the fantasy playoffs.    

3. Cecil Shorts

Shorts has just four catches for 64 yards in two games since Justin Blackmon was suspended for the season, and he isn’t happy about it. "I have to say something and sit down with (coach Gus Bradley and Chad Henne) because it's getting ridiculous in my opinion," Shorts said afterward. "To have one target until seven minutes left in the game, that's (expletive) dumb. That's dumb, period." We don’t disagree, but it’s not just a matter of Chad Henne struggling to find his No. 1 receiver. It’s also quite likely that Shorts is having trouble with his newfound defensive attention. Shorts produced well in Blackmon’s absence in Weeks 1-4, but that was also before he picked up the litany of minor ailments he’s been playing through of late. Shorts is down, but a long way from out. Here’s guessing the squeaky wheel will get greased in Week 12.


1. Maybe Jamal Lewis could jumpstart his career against the Bears?

2. Hey, whatever works, amirite Andy Dalton?

3. How quickly can left collarbones heal? The Packers are asking for a friend.

Stats of the Week

Andy Dalton became just the ninth player in league history to throw for three touchdowns in a game where he managed less than 100 yards.

The Chiefs don’t have a single quarterback hit in the past two weeks, let alone a sack.

C.J. Spiller and Lamar Miller combined for 23 yards on 17 carries.

Calvin Johnson’s 746 yards over the past four weeks would rank 19th on the season.

Mike Wallace has fewer receiving yards than Doug Baldwin.

The Eagles are 6-5, which includes a 1-4 record at home.

Matthew Stafford threw for 327 yards in the first half … and 35 in the second. As we outlined earlier, it wasn’t all Stafford’s fault, but that’s hard to do.

Josh Gordon has four 100-yard performances in eight games this season.

Awards Section

Week 11 Fantasy All Pro Team: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Bobby Rainey, RB LeSean McCoy, WR Calvin Johnson, WR Antonio Brown, WR Michael Floyd, TE Garrett Graham

The Blink And You Missed It Award: Knowshon Moreno spent a large chunk of Sunday’s game on the bench, but still finished with a season-high 27 carries. In hindsight, it’s pretty clear the Broncos were just trying to make sure Moreno’s workload didn’t get out of hand.

The Now I’ve Seen It All Award: Matt McGloin — the same Matt McGloin who completed 57.3 percent of his passes in three years as Penn State’s starter — is being added in fantasy leagues.

Least Valuable Player, Non-Chad Henne Division: Geno Smith had four turnovers and eight completions Sunday. Really, this award could be given to the entire Jets team, which continues to look like a playoff contender at home, and No. 1 pick contender on the road.  

Most Absurd Moment of Week 12: Maybe it was the weather in Chicago, but it was probably this. Or possibly this.

Please welcome Colts OC Pep Hamilton to Twitter.

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