Based on a quick scan of C.J. Anderson's bio, you wouldn't call him an obvious candidate for fantasy stardom. He shared the rushing workload for a three-win team in his final collegiate season at Cal, then failed to dazzle at the scouting combine (4.60 speed). Two months ago, Anderson was merely another name on the depth chart for Denver — an undrafted second-year back, the handcuff to the handcuff.
And then injuries hit the Broncos backfield. We're now three weeks into Anderson's reign as the featured runner, and no opposing defense has managed to hold him below 100 scrimmage yards. He ripped off 163 at Oakland, then 115 at St. Louis, and he shredded Miami's defense for 195 on Sunday.
"Big fellas did a great job up front," he said, like a seasoned pro accustomed to huge rushing totals.
Anderson is a powerful back with vision and tackle-breaking ability, tied to an ideal offense. Congrats to those who own him, because you appear to have won the 2014 waiver lottery. With Ronnie Hillman on a bad wheel, it's tough to imagine Anderson fading in the final weeks.
If we were redrafting for December, he'd be an easy first-rounder.
We should note that as of this writing, the Miami-Denver game has actually produced four of the week's top-five fantasy commodities. It's not unusual to see Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas atop the leader boards at their positions, and only a modest surprise to find Anderson among the scoring leaders at his. But Ryan Tannehill beat even the most generous forecasts by a wide margin. Tannehill tossed three touchdown passes and ran for another, completing 26 of 36 throws for 228 yards. He threw one pick, but it was a ball that skipped through the hands of his intended receiver. All things considered, it was an impressive and on-target performance. Tannehill will rank as a viable starter next week, in a favorable Monday matchup against the Jets.
• You guys, the insane catch made by Odell Beckham Jr. on Sunday night is too damn good to be compared to other receptions, or to any other athletic feats. We should only be comparing it to other items on the short list of the greatest achievements in human history. Like, if you want to say the moon-landing was more impressive, fine. (You'd be wrong, but fine.) Odell is ridiculous. Seriously, he caught this thing...
• It was not a great day for the McCownists in Chicago (there are many, as the Bears managed to win a tight, terrible game. Chicago's offense was mostly inert, except when Matt Forte was involved — he accounted for more than half of the team's 204 total yards. Tampa Bay basically gave away the game, turning over the ball four times. McCown passed for 348 yards, but he was sloppy and mistake prone; the tape is almost certainly going to show that he missed a dozen-or-so open receivers. Just an ugly day all around, in the rain. The Bucs' backfield is a fantasy sinkhole, now that Doug Martin is back in the mix. Martin carried 11 times for 27 yards, per his usual, and Charles Sims finished with six totes for 22. STAY AWAY.
• Let's hope you didn't get swept up in the Josh Gordon pregame snap-panic on Sunday. Despite reports that Gordon would see only 20-30 plays in his season debut, he was on the field for 13 of his team's first 16 snaps. He finished unofficially with 51 snaps, and he was targeted a game-high 16 times. Sixteen, you guys. Brian Hoyer had a funny-bad afternoon at quarterback, full of misfires, but it's awfully tough to screw up 16 targets. Gordon ultimately hauled in eight balls for 120 yards. Of course he did. When the game-winning field goal cleared the crossbar, it was all good between Hoyer and Gordon...
Hoyer to Gordon when it looked bad: "Don't give up on me." Gordon: "Brian's so hungry, man."— Steve Doerschuk (@sdoerschukREP) November 23, 2014
The Browns seemed just a bit too eager this week to tell us Gordon's usage would be limited, didn't they? As if NFL coaches are ever willing to share details from the game script. Gordon is clearly a No. 1 fantasy receiver, rest of season. He appeared to run just about every route in the playbook following the long layoff. Gordon's presence on the field is a boost to basically all elements of the Cleveland offense, because he's such a nightmarish coverage assignment.
Isaiah Crowell feasted in this week, breaking the plane twice on his 12 carries, gaining 88 yards. He rarely fails to pass the eye test. Terrance West was useful in flex-ish way, handling 15 touches and gaining 71 yards.
• So TY Hilton had himself a pretty fair day, what with the baby and the 1,000-yard season and the long, highlight TD. It's assumed you started Hilton in fantasy this week, unless your receiving options were ridiculous. The actionable info from Indy's 23-3 win over Jacksonville is this: Dan Herron drew the start at running back for the Colts, not Trent Richardson. Herron led the team in rushing (12 carries, 65 yards), and he added 31 receiving yards on five catches. Richardson saved his fantasy line with a short-yardage TD, but he was out-gained and out-touched by Herron. So it's possible Indy's coaches see the same things that the rest of us see from T-Rich.
• Philadelphia and Tennessee gave us a game filled with hilarity (five TOs) and yards (813) and points (67). Zach Mettenberger had a nice statistical day in defeat, going 20-for-39 for 345 yards and two scores. Justin Hunter made a triumphant return to the end-zone while Delanie Walker led the Titans in receiving (155). Mark Sanchez was exquisitely Sanchezy, finishing with 307 passing yards and two picks. LeSean McCoy looked exactly like a guy who deserved to be a top-three fantasy pick, juking with impunity and rushing for 130 yards and one score.
• Deep leaguers, let's not sleep on Minnesota receiver Charles Johnson. He only caught three of his 11 targets on Sunday, true, but one of 'em went for a 22-yard score. Johnson has some explosiveness in his game, and he was impressive in the loss at Chicago last week (6-87). I'm not urging you to invest heavily in the Vikes offense down the stretch (rough schedule, low-yield team), but maybe keep an eye on this one kid, depending on the size/shape of your league.
• For at least one week, Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard both handled significant workloads for Cincinnati. They each took 19 touches on Sunday at Houston, gaining 96 and 67 yards respectively. Hill added a touchdown, followed by a an unnerving dance. It seems unreasonable to expect two backs to combine for 38 touches with regularity, but it could certainly happen again in Week 13, when the Bengals travel to Tampa.
• Credit the Patriots for simply going where the matchup takes 'em. Facing Denver's excellent run D two games ago, Tom Brady put the ball in the air 53 times. Last week at Indy, New England gave us 44 rush attempts (most of them by Jonas Gray). This week, again facing an elite run defense, Brady again attempted 53 passes, finishing his afternoon with 38 completions for 349 yards, two TDs and one pick.
Gray didn't play a snap this week, which is pretty much the most Belichickish thing of all time. We all should have assumed this was a strong possibility, following Friday's practice fail. New arrival LeGarrette Blount carried 12 times for 78 yards and two short scores, so he's re-entered the fantasy discussion.
We can't very well wrap the Lions-Pats game without noting that Matthew Stafford was pretty terrible. He completed just 18 of 46 throws for 246 yards and one pick, which obviously isn't great. And then there was this horrendous non-first-down. Not good — no, not good at all. Still, Stafford faces an exceedingly friendly schedule down the stretch (Chi, TB, Min, at Chi), so you can't eliminate him from your fantasy plans. (Well, maybe you can, but I cannot.)
• San Diego's offense got right against the Rams on Sunday, as Ryan Mathews rushed for 105 yards on 12 carries, and Philip Rivers passed for 291 and one score. Keenan Allen hauled in six balls on nine targets, finishing with 104 yards and a touchdown. The Bolts barely pulled out a win (mostly because Shaun Hill was a mess), but fantasy owners don't care about such things. We're just pleased to see Rivers back above the 200-yard mark.
• Not that you didn't know it already, but Anquan Boldin is a bad dude. He was tremendous in San Francisco's narrow win over Washington, catching nine passes for 137 yards and a TD on 12 targets, accounting for more than half of Colin Kaepernick's passing yardage. Even when he appears to be a defenseless receiver taking a huge shot, he somehow delivers all the punishment.
• Mike Smith chose to ice Billy Cundiff on a 60-yard field goal attempt to end the first-half in Atlanta, which was hysterical. And after Cundiff missed the first try — with Devin Hester waiting for a potential return — Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine actually tried it again. Cundiff missed short (of course), and Hester came thisclose to running back the errant kick for a score. Well played all around, fellas.
In the end, Smith was responsible for bigger coaching gaffes, in critical moments. The clock management over the final minute-plus was breathtakingly poor. Break the game down for us, Coach...
Here's a gem from #Falcons coach Mike Smith: "The score was not what we wanted it to be."— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) November 23, 2014
Very sorry, Bird lovers. But the Smith era might be entering its final weeks.
EARLY ADDS FOR WEEK 13
QB Alex Smith, KC (vs. Den)
QB Ryan Tannehill, Mia (at NYJ)
RB Latavius Murray, Oak (at STL)
RB Dan Herron, Ind (vs. Was)
RB LeGarrette Blount, NE (at GB)
WR Justin Hunter, Ten (at Hou)
WR Charles Johnson, Min (vs. Car)
WR Jarvis Landry, Mia (at NYJ)
WR James Jones, Oak (at STL)
DEF NY Giants (at Jac)
DEF St. Louis (vs. Oak)
DEF Indianapolis (vs. Was)