For fantasy owners, there were plenty of players to give thanks to in Week 12. With a Monday night game still left to be played, there were six 300-yard passers, 10 100-yard rushers and 11 100-yard receivers in the books as Sunday came to a close. But fantasy isn't always about the big performances. My fantasy opponent in Week 12 will be just as thankful for the 36 yards that Laveranues Coles gave him on Sunday night to award him a one-point victory over my squad as he was when Alge Crumpler started his week off with two touchdowns and 100-plus yards. As I fight through the bitterness of a tough loss, here are a few observations from where I was sitting on Sunday.
OK, I'll make it official: Cadillac is back. Last Sunday, I tried to temper any enthusiasm surrounding Carnell Williams' 116-yard rushing performance by pointing it out that it came against an Atlanta defense that allowed 4.6 yards per carry and had been torched by several running backs previously. In Week 12, though, Williams posted 84 rushing yards (20 carries) against a Chicago defense that many consider the best in the NFL. Against the Bears, Williams showed no signs of injury. In fact, his ability to cutback and his start-stop moves were in better form than the previous week, and his 84 yards was the third-best total against Chicago this season. As an owner who has kept Cadillac in the garage for several weeks, it feels good to once again give him a green light.
Kansas City TE Tony Gonzalez had just four catches for 63 yards on Sunday. It wasn't a bad performance for a tight end, but it could have been so much better. Gonzo was targeted nine times by QB Trent Green against New England, including three times inside the Patriots' five-yard line. The pair just narrowly missed on touchdown throws twice as contested passes slipped through Gonzalez's hands.
Props to Sam Gado, who apparently ignored those that had declared his 15 minutes of fame over after he had a costly fumble and managed just seven yards on 10 carries in a close loss to Minnesota this past Monday night. Gado made up for his Week 11 shortcomings by handling 26 carries on Sunday for 111 yards and a stellar 33-yard TD run in which he broke a tackle, made a 360-degree spin move and busted free to the end zone. Gado has four TDs in his past four games, and it's time to take him seriously again.
Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook had his first 100-yard rushing effort of the season on Sunday – 21 carries, 117 yards and a TD. He had a 27-yard scoring run in the first quarter in which he took an inside handoff and darted behind one blocker after another until he saw an opening that he could use to dash to pay dirt. He was hardly touched on the play. Westbrook is the only thing that Philadelphia has going on offense now that Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens are out for the season. Therefore, it's hardly surprising that he received a season-high 21 carries. His workload should continue to land in the 25-30 Touches per week.
If the St. Louis' offense can turn a no-name from Northern Iowa like Kurt Warner into the NFL MVP, perhaps it can make a viable fantasy commodity out of a third-string rookie QB from Harvard like Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick filled in for an injured Jamie Martin (head) and led the Rams to a come-from-behind victory against Houston by completing 19-of-30 passes for 310 yards and three TD passes. He also ran three times for 23 yards. Martin suffered blurred vision after taking a hit to the head, and he went to the hospital for further tests. If he can't go next week, Fitzpatrick has to be considered for fantasy employment. He has too many weapons to ignore, and he was able to utilize them all on Sunday, as Steven Jackson, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Kevin Curtis all found pay dirt under Fitzpatrick's direction.
David Carr and Andre Johnson appear to be trying to make up for lost time. Carr targeted his go-to wideout 17 times on Sunday, completing 12 of those passes for 159 yards and a TD. The receiver missed three games earlier this season because of a hamstring injury, but he has 31 catches in the four games since his return. He won't likely face an easier matchup than the Rams' squad that he faced in Week 12. St. Louis is woefully inexperienced in the secondary and the unit allows the most fantasy points to opposing receivers. Still, you have to be excited if you own Johnson. He's seeing a ton of attention right now.
Jamal Lewis had his first 100-yard rushing day of the season against Cincinnati. He carried 23 times for 113 yards and a TD, and also caught a season-high five passes for 36 yards. Lewis managed just 37 rushing yards on 14 carries in the first half, and most of his success came after his team dug itself into a gaping hole – 54 of his rushing yards came after Cincinnati went on top by a score of 34-0 five minutes into the third quarter. Lewis owners shouldn't feel like this is the turning point to better things for the Baltimore back, because the circumstances on Sunday had a heavy hand in Lewis' success. But he does have a date against Houston in Week 13, and the Texans have surrendered 100-yard rushing games to eight backs this season. Lewis should be in line for another fine fantasy effort.
Rudi Johnson has been one of the steadiest backs this season, finishing with no worse than 65 rushing yards in any of his games. But he was drawing the ire of his fantasy owners for not finding pay dirt often enough. With two touchdowns on Sunday, he should no longer be a target of his owners' disdain. He now has two touchdowns in back-to-back weeks, and five in his past three games.
Jacksonville backup QB David Garrard seems to pop up on the radar screen at some point every year. In his rookie season, he ran for 71 yards and two TDs in his first taste of significant playing time. In a two-game stint last season, he combined for two TD passes and one TD run. On Sunday, filling in for Byron Leftwich, who broke his ankle, Garrard ran six times for 61 yards and a TD. In case you haven't picked up on it yet, his rushing skills are outstanding. But, while he does have a strong arm, he's not nearly as accomplished as a passer. Going forward, fantasy owners may want to think of him as a poor man's Michael Vick. His passing line of 12-for-26 for 115 yards is going to be close to a normal afternoon for Garrard, but he's capable of putting up running back numbers behind center. And that's probably worth a backup roster spot in many fantasy leagues.
Jeremy Shockey was a monster against Seattle on Sunday, catching 10 balls for 127 yards a TD and a two-point conversion. It seemed that every time Eli Manning needed to convert a crucial play, Shockey's number was called. Despite playing with a sore chest that he was seen was seen rubbing often during the game, Shockey was thrown to 16 times and the TE had no problems hurdling his body into harm's way. He now has a TD in seven of 11 games, including four of his past five.
Joe Jurevicius' first of two TDs on Sunday exemplified why his height and outstanding hands can be so dangerous. Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck threw a 35-yard lob pass to Jurevicius, who went right over the top of CB Corey Webster and stole the ball out of his grasp despite Webster having superior positioning on the play. After that score, Seattle seemed to forget about Jurevicius for a while. After throwing his way six times in the first quarter, Hasselbeck didn't look to Jurevicius again until midway through the third quarter. But Jurevicius was used heavily down the stretch, as he saw seven more passes, and another score. He finished with 13 pass targets, and eight catches for 137 yards.