The second game of the Colin Kaepernick era is now in the books, and the kid is 2-0.
Last week, he shredded one of the league's top-ranked defenses. This week, he was at the controls as the Niners won on the road, beating Drew Brees and the Saints. Kaepernick gained an average of 9.2 yards per attempt at New Orleans, passing for one score and rushing for another. His decision-making and mobility were on display — check the highlights — as was his arm strength. (CK has a mid-90s fastball, just for the record).
Basically, Kaepernick seems to have the full Alex Smith skill set, with a few key upgrades.
If there was a case to return Smith to the starter's role in Week 12, it rested on the fact that he'd been nearly perfect over his previous two games (25-for-27, 304 yards, 4 TDs). But Kaepernick has now starred in a pair of high-visibility match-ups, each difficult for different reasons, so the argument on behalf of Smith — if anyone is still making it — gets weaker by the minute.
As of this writing, Kaepernick is the week's sixth highest-scoring fantasy QB, narrowly edging Andy Dalton (20.94 to 20.90). He remains unowned in 65 percent of Yahoo! leagues, however, which is more than a little absurd. Even if you're rolling with Rodgers, Manning, Brady or some other elite, established QB, you should still consider snagging CK as a depth add, thus keeping him off a rival's roster. The schedule ahead for San Francisco isn't exactly a minefield (at STL, vs. Mia, at NE), and the rushing component to Kaepernick's game should allow him to overcome the occasional low-attempt passing effort. You have to like his O-line as well as his weapons. Fantasy wise, it would be nice if Kaepernick weren't supported by such a badass defense, but we can't have everything.
I'm already invested here, owning CK in four leagues, starting him in two. (The Rivers-for-Kaepernick drop was easily my favorite of the year). Add as needed, gamers. Or add even if you don't need.
• So yeah, the Niners defense wasn't too shabby on Sunday afternoon. They held the Saints to fewer than 300 total yards, which is no small achievement, and they sacked Drew Brees five times while pick-sixing him twice. Brees managed to put up a respectable fantasy total, as he connected with his own receivers for three scores and 267 yards. Darren Sproles had a nice enough day in his return from injury, catching seven balls for 65 yards on nine targets.
• With Willis McGahee sidelined by injury, most of us figured that Ronnie Hillman would receive more work, not less. Instead, veteran Knowshon Moreno got the start for Denver on Sunday, and he dominated the backfield touches. Moreno carried 20 times for 85 yards against KC, adding four catches for 26. Hillman was little more than a footnote in the box score, finishing with three carries for just nine yards.
You might recall that Moreno was actually inactive last week (not a rare occurrence for him this season) while Hillman carried 12 times for 43 yards. This week, we saw nearly a full role reversal. Pass protection is the priority for Denver backs — that team will go as far as Peyton Manning can take them — and clearly Hillman hasn't earned the full trust of his coaching staff. We learned early on Sunday that Moreno was likely to draw the start for the Broncos, discussing it at length on Fantasy Football Live ... but that didn't stop me from starting Hillman in a pair of leagues. So it goes. My long history of misreading John Fox continues. Let's hope you veered away from this orange mess.
Denver's passing game was productive enough, as Peyton threw for 285 yards and two scores. (He usually gives us three TDs, but whatever. Today, 285-2 felt like 400-4). The Succops Chiefs did little of note, gaining just 263 total yards, scoring only nine points. Brady Quinn gave us the classic Brady Quinn stat line (13-for-25, 126 yards, INT) and Jamaal Charles had as good a day as could be expected, rushing for 107 yards on 23 carries.
Also, Kansas City probably leads the league in punting following timeouts, no? If someone can please confirm, that would be great.
• Pittsburgh's offense was a big steaming pile of turnovers on Sunday, as Charlie Batch tossed three picks and four different running backs lost fumbles. Chris Rainey had this one nice run, but that's the only Steelers highlight I've got for you. Trent Richardson had a beastly game (85 yards, TD), facing a Pittsburgh defense that entered the week ranked fifth against the run. Brandon Weeden reportedly suffered a concussion in Cleveland's win, which is a not-so-trivial concern. The Browns have an exceedingly friendly match-up on deck at Oakland, and Weeden would have been a recommended add.
• Buffalo successfully pulled Indy into its swirling vortex of ugly football in Week 12, yet the Bills still couldn't get a win. TY Hilton visited the end zone twice more for the Colts — once on a punt return, once as a receiver — giving him five TDs in his last four games. Hilton remains only 43 percent owned, available to most of you. Andrew Luck didn't have a monster day, yet he still finished with 240 passing yards, leaving him on pace for 4,662 this season. He's set to destroy Cam Newton's single-season rookie record, if you care about such things.
CJ Spiller more than doubled up Fred Jackson's carries, finally, finishing with 107 rushing yards on 14 totes. He'll face the Jags in Week 13, so expect another significant fantasy number.
• It's almost a shame that Sam Bradford couldn't play all-time quarterback in the Rams-Cards game, because Ryan Lindley was a wreck. He was pick-sixed twice by Janoris Jenkins, intercepted twice more, and he connected with Larry Fitzgerald just three times on 12 targets. There are no right answers at the quarterback position for Ken Whisenhunt right now, and the least-bad option (Kevin Kolb) only recently resurfaced at practice. Beanie Wells returned from the IR with a solid fantasy line, rushing for 48 yards and two scores in a losing effort for Arizona. His schedule takes a few brutal turns however, as the Cards still have games remaining against the Seahawks, Bears and Niners.
• If that was an injured version of Julio Jones torching the Bucs on Sunday ... well, wow. That was somethin'. Julio accounted for 147 of Matt Ryan's 353 passing yards, hauling in six balls on nine targets, including this 80-yarder. (When you watch that clip, note the effort by the safety while the ball is in the air. Not a clinic, that play). Jacquizz Rodgers ran well for Atlanta, delivering 49 yards and a TD on 10 carries, but the zombified Michael Turner again led the team in carries (13 for 17 yards, TD). The Falcons face New Orleans in Week 13 on Thursday night, then head to Carolina for another appealing match-up. Keep starting your birds.
Josh Freeman had a few misfires for Tampa Bay, gimme-putts that should have resulted in a respectable fantasy day. Instead, he finished with 256 yards and no scores. Mike Williams owners are fuming. Doug Martin salvaged an unimpressive yardage day (21 for 50) by breaking the plane twice, accounting for the Bucs' only touchdowns.
• The biggest news from this week's Seattle-Miami tilt emerged after the game, when we learned that Seahawks corners Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are both facing four-game PED suspensions. That's gonna leave a mark on an excellent defense, if appeals are denied. (Bears fans, you have a week to get those "U ENHANCED BRO?" t-shirts printed). All things considered, this was really an awful day for Pete Carroll's team, as Seattle dropped a winnable game, allowing 17 fourth quarter points to the 'Fins. (Granted, the Earl Thomas roughing penalty was ... well, rough. Not sure how he's supposed to avoid contact there). Reggie Bush had his first useful fantasy day in forever, rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Marshawn Lynch, on the other hand, wasn't his usual beastly self. Miami held him to only 46 yards on 19 carries — perhaps not a huge surprise, since that defense entered the week allowing just 3.8 YPC.
• I had high hopes for a shootout in Cincinnati between the Raiders and Bengals, but only one team's offense was up for it. That offense was the one not led by Carson Palmer. Oakland managed to score only 10 points, on a long field goal from Sea Bass and a 20-yard touchdown reception by Denarius Moore (his only catch). Otherwise, the Raiders were quiet, gaining just 218 net yards. Andy Dalton tossed three touchdown passes for Cincy, connecting with Mohamed Sanu for two more scores. That's four TDs in three weeks for the Rutgers rookie, who's taking full advantage of the attention drawn by AJ Green. Even though Green's TD streak finally ended this week, he still gave his owners 111 yards, so they've got nothing to gripe about.
That is, unless they also own this guy...
• Matt Forte had a disastrous day in the Bears' 28-10 win at Soldier Field. We discussed the basics earlier, and the team hasn't yet offered specifics on any of Sunday's injuries. Don't expect meaningful details from Lovie Smith and you won't be disappointed. Prepare to add Michael Bush if he happens to be available in your league. Forte made a slow walk to the locker room in the second half, dragging an injured ankle, and he never returned to the field.
The list of players injured in the Vikes-Bears game is so long that it might actually be easier to name the guys who weren't hurt. Chicago's injury report includes Devin Hester (concussion), Charles Tillman (ankle) and Lance Briggs (ankle), in addition to Forte; Minnesota's includes Kyle Rudolph (concussion) and Harrison Smith (concussion).
Among the uninjured, Brandon Marshall was targeted 17 times and he caught 12 balls, yet he finished with just 92 yards and no scores. Not everything you'd expect from a 17-target game. Adrian Peterson rushed for 108 yards on 18 carries and caught six passes for 30, though he also lost an early fumble. AP has now topped 100 rushing yards in five straight games, which is silly when you consider where he was 11 months ago.
• Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon both crossed the goal line for Jacksonville in the win over Tennessee, combining for 167 yards and nine catches. That pair, along with quarterback Chad Henne, could prove useful again next week, as the Jags travel to Buffalo. Running back Jalen Parmele suffered a leg injury on Sunday, limiting him to just nine touches and 52 yards. Entering in relief, Rashad Jennings was his usual inefficient self (2.7 YPC), but he did manage to break the plane on an early 1-yard score.
• This week's Ravens-Chargers clash was something less than a fantasy buffet, as the teams combined for just 29 points. But the game was made watchable by two ridiculous plays: Torrey Smith's nifty grab of a back-shoulder throw in OT — highlight here at the 2:15 mark — and Ray Rice's insane 30-yard catch-and-run on fourth-and-29. Ray hauled in that catch near the line of scrimmage, left three would-be tacklers in a pileup, got a huge block from Anquan Boldin, then steamrolled two defenders to pick up the first. Sensational individual play, leading to one of those weary, disgusted Norv faces, the kind that lets Chargers fans know that absolutely nothing will be OK...
EARLY ADDS FOR WEEK 13
QB Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco (at STL)
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (vs. Jac)
QB Chad Henne, Jacksonville (at Buf)
RB Knowshon Moreno, Denver (vs. TB)
RB Michael Bush, Chicago (vs. Sea)
RB Bilal Powell, NY Jets (vs. Ari)
RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta (vs. NO)
RB Daniel Thomas, Miami (vs. NE)
WR Danario Alexander, San Diego (vs. Cin)
WR Ryan Broyles, Detroit (vs. Ind)
WR Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati (at SD)
WR TY Hilton, Indianapolis (at Det)
WR Dwayne Harris, Dallas (vs. Phi)