Things got weird Sunday night.
The Patriots and Broncos played for 73 windy minutes, and were 118 seconds away from the second tie of the day. In between was Denver blowing a 24-point halftime lead, Bill Belichick letting the wind take him where it may, Peyton Manning throwing for his fewest yards in a game that mattered since Nov. 30, 2008 and not one, not two but 11 fumbles, six of which were lost.
The first belonged to Stevan Ridley, who put the ball on the ground 5:06 into the first quarter. Von Miller returned it for a touchdown, and Ridley returned to his underground lair on the sideline, never to be seen again. That’s 68 game minutes Ridley spent on the bench, and three hours and 43 minutes in real time.
So the question is, what’s next for the internet’s favorite viral Crisco pitchman? Ridley has now lost the ball in three straight games. Belichick was forgiving the first time. A little less so the second. The third? There’s no telling what might be in store for Ridley in Week 13, but there’s one thing that can probably be ruled out: A feature role.
There are a few things working in Ridley’s favor. LeGarrette Blount lost a fumble of his own against the Broncos, and the Patriots appear loath to feature Shane Vereen as a true work-horse back. The problem? Brandon Bolden took the rock 13 times for 58 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Bolden’s season YPC now rests at a sparkling 5.15. And though Vereen didn’t do a whole heck of a lot with his 10 totes (31 yards), he continued to do his job as a receiver (despite another drop on a wheel route), making eight grabs for 60 yards. Vereen is now up to 23/183 in just three games as a pass catcher.
So while Ridley is conceivably off the hook with Blount — who’s an even bigger fumbler than Ridley is — the Patriots still have Bolden as a competent back-up plan, and Vereen to change the pace. With the good work Bolden has done, the Patriots could easily be emboldened to swap him in for Ridley straight up, leaving Vereen to preferred passing-down duties.
It’s highly unlikely that Ridley will be flat-out inactive against the Texans. But it’s quite possible, if not probable, that he’ll start out as a mere changeup off the bench. Barring any clarifying statements from Belichick this week — which we know is about as likely as your Thanksgiving turkey getting up off the table, walking into the living room and turning off the Cowboys game — that’s the safest assumption for fantasy owners. That means Ridley can’t be trusted as more than a boom-or-bust FLEX option, and that Bolden is worth an add for anyone mining the running back scrap heap.
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1. Mike Glennon
The Bucs have won three consecutive games, and Glennon is a big part of the reason why. Although he hasn’t lit up the box scores, Glennon has been a stabilizing presence under center, providing the kind of competence that eluded Josh Freeman his final 10 months in Tampa. Glennon has posted a 5:1 TD:INT ratio since the Bucs went streaking, completing 69.2 percent of his passes in the process. Granted, he hasn’t been asked to do more than manage the game — Glennon is averaging just 22 pass attempts over his past three starts — but has been surprisingly accurate on his longer throws, and put the offense on his back Sunday when the Lions erased Bobby Rainey and the run game. Glennon isn’t going to win you many fantasy weeks — particularly in Week 13 against the fearsome Panthers — but is on the up and up in Dynasty formats, and very well may be saving coach Greg Schiano’s job.
2. Josh Gordon
Maybe now you’ll believe in Josh Gordon? After he had the second best game by any receiver in the NFL this season? After he posted his second consecutive 100-yard effort, third in four starts and fifth in nine games? After he set a new Browns single-game record for receiving yards? After he vaulted to fifth in the league in receiving despite missing the season’s first two games? After he continued to dominate despite yet another quarterback change? Skeptics will continue to poke holes in Gordon’s dominance (it wasn’t a close game!). Winners will keep on starting him.
3. Nate Burleson
Burleson was not eased in against the Bucs, playing 72-of-80 snaps while drawing 10 targets. He turned them into seven catches for 72 yards. A candidate for release last offseason, Burleson has now caught at least six passes in all four games he’s appeared in this season, and cleared 77 yards in 3-of-4. He’s far from the player he once was, but is the No. 2 option in an offense that revolves around Calvin Johnson. This means he’s never going to hurt for clean looks, and is a safe, if low upside, WR3 in standard formats. He’s a borderline WR2 in PPR leagues. Feel free to fire Burleson up on Thanksgiving.
1. Case Keenum
In Week 11, Keenum was benched even though he was playing well. Sunday? Well you can probably see where this is going. Keenum was awful, making terrible throws to wide-open receivers, wilting in the face of pressure and failing time and again on third down. It didn’t help that Keenum’s “pass blocking” was there in name only, or that his receivers made two appallingly bad plays on the Texans’ desperation final drive, but this was not a quarterback who deserved to stay in the game. But he did, and now the Texans have to decide who will be under center in Week 13. Turning back to failed veteran Matt Schaub would make little sense in a lost season, but if the Texans want their “best chance to win” by the letter of the law, Schaub will be their man against the Patriots.
2. Ray Rice
This is your running game on the Bears defense. This is your running game on everything else. Unfortunately — and we say unfortunately because Rice’s struggles aren’t fun for anyone who loves fantasy football and the real-life players who have made it so much fun over the years — Rice’s Week 11 blowup was the matchup-based apparition we feared. His yards per carry is back under 3.0 (2.88), and his fantasy prospects back in the toilet. If Rice is the fourth or fifth man on your running back totem pole as you scramble for a playoff spot, it might not be the worst idea to cut him loose. It would feel Wrong with a Capital W, but anyone who’s seen Rice run this season knows it would be unlikely to haunt.
3. Trent Richardson
Always new depths. Richardson rushed seven times for 15 yards Sunday. That leaves him with 44 carries for … wait for it … 96 yards over his past five games. That comes out to 2.18 yards per pop. T-Rich hasn’t had a single rush go for longer than eight yards since Week 7. Sunday, St. Louis’ Benny Cunningham had five totes go for at least 10 yards. If you’re in a playoff-push roster crunch but are still worried about dropping your first-round pick, don’t be. It’s time to let go.
1. Does Aaron Rodgers’ left collarbone have a medical miracle in it?
2. Does Chuck Pagano and his staff know that coaching involves more than just writing some clichés on a whiteboard?
3. Miami, would it be helpful if we came in and broke down stuff like “who your good players are” for you?
Stats of the Week
Michael Bush had five carries from the Rams’ one-yard line. He scored one touchdown.
Louis Murphy caught his first touchdown of the season Sunday. In other news, Louis Murphy now has more touchdowns than Hakeem Nicks.
The Dolphins haven’t scored a fourth-quarter touchdown in six games. This is not a joke.
Per Adam Caplan, Calvin Johnson’s 861 yards receiving over his past five games are the most in a five-game span in NFL history.
Only Johnson is averaging more yards per game (119.8) than Josh Gordon (109.8). No one else is averaging more than 94.9.
The man averaging 94.9? Antonio Brown, who’s slipped ahead of the likes of A.J. Green and Demaryius Thomas. Think the Steelers made the right decision at receiver?
Dwayne Bowe has fewer yards than Eddie Royal, not to mention fewer touchdowns.
This exercise is never fair, but … that being said, if you remove Ray Rice’s Week 11 showing against the Bears, he’s rushed 131 times for 319 yards. That’s 2.43 yards per carry.
Three Browns quarterbacks have thrown for more touchdowns than Chad Henne. Henne has attempted more passes than any of them.
Peyton Manning is no longer on pace to break Drew Brees’ single-season passing record, though he does remain on pace to break the touchdown record.
Week 12 Fantasy All Pro Team: QB Philip Rivers, RB Knowshon Moreno, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Josh Gordon, WR Julian Edelman, WR Brandon Marshall, TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Jimmy Graham
The Junior Stevan Ridley Award: Part of a Broncos fumble for the second consecutive week (Week 11’s was dubiously credited to Peyton Manning), Montee Ball’s tenure as the Broncos’ No. 2 running back is in danger. He could be saved by Knowshon Moreno’s ankle injury, however.
Tweet Of The Week: From ESPN’s Tania Ganguli: Tate is asked if anyone understands why this is happening. "Maybe God?" he says. #Texans
Tweet Of The Week II: From Sir Adam Levitan: Jamaal Charles just catfished Manti Te'o in the hole. Sick 46-yard run.
Most Absurd Moment Of Week 12: How do you not go with the Scott Tolzien spin move?
Least Valuable Player, Non-Henne Division: Geno Smith is a second-round pick who’s playing like a seventh-round pick. If he keeps up at this rate, he’s going to end up making seven starts for the 2010 Arizona Cardinals.
Think of all the Black Friday deals the Vikings could have taken advantage of if only they hadn’t given Josh Freeman $2 million.