November 20, 2011
Following his team's 27-point loss to Miami on Sunday, Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey may have established a new NFL record for uttering the phrase "I don't know" or its equivalent. You'll find a condensed version of his postgame press conference right here. Listen as often as you like, but you won't hear Gailey detail any easy fixes for the Bills' many issues.
"If I knew exactly what the problem was right now, I'd solve it," he told reporters.
The highlight of Gailey's presser may have been his attempt to explain the difference between "a runaway train," and whatever sort of train the Bills have become.
"We're goin' the wrong direction on that train," he said, "but I don't think it's run away."
When asked to discuss his defense, Gailey offered this: "I don't ... I ... Today I don't have a lot of answers for you. I wish I did."
"We're baffled at what's happened the last three weeks," he said, echoing his coach.
Buffalo is 0-for-November, losers of three straight. The team has been outscored 106 to 26 so far this month, with one game left to play. The Bills were 0-for-12 on third down on Sunday. Injuries are certainly part of the story in this remarkable collapse — injuries to the O-line, the defense, the receiving corps, and now to centerpiece Fred Jackson(notes) (see below). But when a franchise's head coach and its $62 million quarterback can't say what's wrong, then it's probably safe to say that everything is broken.
Fitzpatrick has thrown seven interceptions and just two touchdown passes (one of them in garbage time) over his last three games. His line is damaged, his receivers can't separate, and too often he finds himself directing a one-dimensional offense. Jackson carried just 13 times in Week 10 and seven times against Miami. There's a conspicuous lack of play-makers on this team, particularly at receiver. Stevie Johnson(notes) is nice enough, sure, but he's playing hurt right now — and even when he's at full health, Johnson isn't really a guy who can erase mistakes. Donald Jones(notes) suffered another ankle injury on Sunday, and CJ Spiller's(notes) last memorable play was ... hmmm ... (thinking) ... maybe last August, during the preseason.
There's just no obvious reason for hope right now. If there were, then Gailey would surely share it with us. With a loss to the Jets next week, the wrong-way train becomes a wreck.
• Vincent Jackson(notes) is the worst kind of great player. Entering the week, he'd scored nearly two-thirds of his 2011 fantasy points in just two games. Jacskon had a huge afternoon on Sunday against the Bears (7-165-1), one week after a miserable effort against the Raiders (1-22-0). He's a binge-or-bust fantasy asset. There's no such thing as a reasonable forecast with this player; you either get the floor or the ceiling, never anything in between.
Despite the big line from V-Jax, the Chargers still lost their fifth straight game. Philip Rivers(notes) threw a pair of fourth quarter interceptions— the second was absurd, an attempted throw-away — and he's now up to 21 turnovers on the year, matching his career-high. If you're a Rivers owner looking for a silver lining, you can at least feel OK about the fact that San Diego's patchwork offensive line protected him. A steady diet of screen passes seemed to help.
And now for the very, very bad Bears news, after an otherwise excellent win...
• According to multiple reports, Jay Cutler(notes) fractured the thumb on his throwing hand. The Sun-Times' Sean Jensen reports that "there is a fear that [the injury] could end his season." All breaks are different, obviously, so let's not compare Cutler's injury to Ben Roethlisberger's.(notes) The worry is that Cutler will need surgery. More tests upcoming. Caleb Hanie's(notes) name is next on the depth chart ... but let's not speak of him until it's absolutely necessary.
For now, we'll just say that every game will be in doubt with Hanie at the controls. Earl Bennett's(notes) fragile fantasy value will take a hit, and opposing defenses will focus on Matt Forte(notes) even more than they did in the season's first half. But obviously we're going to see a lot of Forte, and plenty of Marion Barber(notes), too.
Horrible, terrible, no-good news. Let's just move on...
• Marshawn Lynch(notes) crossed the goal line again in Week 11, his sixth consecutive game with a score. Lynch wasn't unusually effective if you look at the per-touch numbers (29 for 89 yards), but his workload guarantees fantasy production. He'll see the Rams again in three weeks.
• On Sunday, when faced with a tough Atlanta run defense, Chris Johnson reverted back to the cadaverous, useless player we saw earlier this season. CJ carried 12 times for just 13 yards against the Falcons. That's his worst rushing line of the season, which is really quite a statement this year. In previous weeks, he'd gone 9-for-24, 13-for-21, 10-for-18, 14-for-34 ... there have been a few lousy performances. Johnson's lifeless effort was countered by Michael Turner's(notes) punishing, hard-driving style on Sunday; the Burner carried 21 times for 100 yards and one score.
The actionable news coming out of Atlanta is that Titans rookie Jake Locker(notes) made his first appearance since Week 7, and it went fairly well. Locker entered in relief of an injured Matt Hasselbeck(notes) (elbow), throwing a pair of late touchdown passes to Nate Washington(notes). Locker moved well, threw with legit velocity, and generally looked like a competent QB. To no one's surprise, Hasselbeck received an endorsement from his head coach following the game, so this is not a loss-of-job event. But Locker impressed, and Hasselbeck's status for the Tampa match-up in Week 12 is unknown.
• Well, so much for the John Skelton(notes) surge. The Cardinals were mauled at San Francisco, as Skelton tossed three picks before he was lifted in favor of Richard Bartel(notes). (Undrafted player from an unknown school, Tarleton State. Pretty sure it's a culinary institute in Vermont). Bartel managed to hit Larry Fitzgerald(notes) for a late score, lobbing a pass into double-coverage. But that play was one of the few highlights for Arizona, on a day ruled by the Niners' defense. Alex Smith threw a season-high 38 passes, connecting seven times with Michael Crabtree(notes) for 120 yards. Frank Gore(notes) received arguably too much work, considering his medley of injuries (25 touches, 94 yards), and Kendall Hunter(notes) didn't receive enough (12 for 42). Jim Harbaugh is willing to wear out anyone who's healthy enough to play; I probably should've learned this fact during the Philly game.
Back in a moment with the early adds for Week 12. I first need to process this terrible Cutler news take something for this nasty case of CALEB HANIE FEVER.
-posted at 10:50 pm ET
OK, I'm better. Let's do this thing...
Early waiver plays for Week 12
QB Matt Leinart(notes) at Jac
QB Christian Ponder(notes) at Atl
QB Jake Locker vs. TB
QB Matt Moore(notes) vs. Dal
QB CALEB [expletive] HANIE at Oak (hell yeah)
RB Kevin Smith(notes) vs. GB (this guy is clearly the priority add)
RB Joe McKnight(notes) vs. Buf
RB Ryan Grant(notes) at Det (Starks is dinged and the Packers have a short week)
RB Toby Gerhart(notes) at Atl (rough match-up, nothing at all like AP. Meh)
RB Marion Barber at Oak
RB Montario Hardesty(notes) at Cin
RB CJ Spiller at NYJ (no, I'm not adding him. He might look good on your team, though)
WR Jerome Simpson(notes) vs. Cle
WR Santana Moss(notes) at Sea (may not return in Week 12, but end-of-year sched is friendly)
WR Nate Burleson(notes) vs. GB
WR Titus Young(notes) vs. GB
WR Chaz Schilens(notes) vs. Chi
-posted at 11:50 pm ET
Smith rushed for 140 yards and two TDs against Carolina, and he caught four balls for 61 and another score. In standard formats, Smith delivered 38 fantasy points — not bad for a guy who was signed just two weeks ago.
There's an injury history with Smith — he tore an ACL two years ago, late in a 45-point loss — but he was healthy on Sunday and ran exceptionally well. Smith consistently got to the second level, where he made tacklers miss. We've got something here, gamers. There's obviously no guarantee that we'll see Jahvid Best(notes) again this year.
Smith benefited from a friendly match-up this week, sure, but there are a few more on the horizon. During the fantasy playoffs, the Lions will face Oakland and San Diego, two defenses that rank in the bottom-third against the run. Make the add.
• I should probably mention that the second leading fantasy scorer in Week 11, as of this writing, is also a Lion. Matthew Stafford(notes) shrugged off his early miscues, finishing with 335 yards and five — yup, five — touchdown passes. Incredibly enough, Calvin Johnson(notes) didn't find the end zone, though he did lead Detroit in receiving yards (five catches, 89 yards). Cam Newton(notes) managed to put up a big fantasy total, thanks to a pair of rushing scores, but he misfired on several throws, made poor choices, and tossed four picks.
• Whenever Tony Romo(notes) drifts outside the pocket, buying time and waiting for a receiver to break free, you pretty much know the play is going to end with a Laurent Robinson(notes) touchdown. Those two seem to have a nice thing going. The Cowboys slipped out of Washington with an overtime win, as Romo was terrific again (292 yards, 3 TDs, no picks). He completed passes to nine different receivers, connecting with Robinson, Dez Bryant(notes) and Jason Witten(notes) for touchdowns. At his best, Romo is as comfortable and unhurried as any quarterback in the league when the pocket gets crowded. Felix Jones(notes) returned for Dallas, we should note, but did it quietly (six touches, 22 yards).
Jabar Gaffney(notes) had an impressive day for Washington (115 yards, TD) and Rex Grossman(notes) was better than anyone had a right to expect (289 yards, 2 TDs, only one terrible pick). The rushing committee was the usual mess, with Roy Helu(notes) as the only productive back on a per-carry basis (8-for-35).
• Kellen Winslow(notes) had a nice enough day in the box score (nine catches, 132 yards), but he had a shot at a much bigger fantasy line. Winslow dropped a potential game-tying two-point conversion, he was flagged for pushing off on a touchdown catch, and a throw skipped off his hands late in the fourth quarter, into the arms of Tramon Williams(notes). Mike Williams actually visited the end zone for the first time since Week 1, catching seven passes for 83 yards (both season highs). LeGarrette Blount(notes) topped 100 rushing yards for Tampa Bay, and 54 of them were absolutely insane (see below).
On the Green Bay side, we should note that James Starks(notes) suffered a late knee injury, initially referred to as a "sprain." So that could mean anything. Aaron Rodgers(notes) passed for 299 yards and three scores, two of which belonged to Jordy Nelson(notes). Rodgers posted a passer rating of 112.3, his second lowest mark of the year.
• Andy Dalton(notes) was without his top receiver on Sunday, on the road facing a relentless Ravens defense, yet he still managed to impress. Dalton passed for 373 yards and one touchdown, nearly directing a fourth quarter comeback. Jerome Simpson hauled in eight balls for 152 yards — this was the highlight grab — and Andre Caldwell(notes) caught a late 49-yard score. Baltimore countered with a big day from rookie Torrey Smith(notes) (6-165-1) and plenty of Ray Rice(notes) (20 carries, 104 rushing, 2 TDs). The injured Ray Lewis(notes) received way too much camera time.
On that first incompletion Gabbert overshot a wide-open Jason Hill(notes) by 10 yards, from 11 yards away. His fumble was actually an attempted throw-away to avoid a sack, but the ball traveled backwards, adding 15 yards to the field goal attempt. The Jacksonville-Cleveland game was just as ugly as you thought it would be, although the finish was relatively exciting (if you like dropped passes and questionable play calls). Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) was again the lone bright spot for the Jags (118 total yards, TD); he probably should have gotten the call on the final play, with the ball at the 1.
• X-rays on Adrian Peterson's injured ankle were reportedly negative, so that's a dose of good news. There's an MRI ahead, however. In relief of Peterson, Toby Gerhart carried seven times for just 18 yards. Christian Ponder led his team in rushing with 71 yards. If Peterson misses additional time, Percy Harvin(notes) could see an uptick in usage; he's getting a handful of carries in every game (5-for-21 vs. Oakland).
The much more serious real-life injury in the Oakland-Minnesota game occurred in the second half, when Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes) collided with EJ Henderson(notes). Heyward-Bey suffered a head/neck injury and he was taken off the field on a stretcher, an ugly scene. The good news is that Hue Jackson later said that DHB has feeling in his arms and legs, and may accompany the team on the flight home.
• One last injury note before we break: Fred Jackson tweaked his calf late in the lopsided loss to Miami, but he later said "I'll be OK." This is just a bruising, it appears. No need for panic ... unless of course you want to panic about Buffalo's total inability to score points or gain yards. Those are the worrisome issues. Over the Bills' last three games, Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown seven interceptions and just two TD passes.
-posted at 5:55 pm ET
OK, let's just begin by stating the obvious: None of the available running backs in your league's free agent pool are capable of replacing Adrian Peterson's fantasy production.
Peterson suffered a left ankle injury in the first half against the Raiders, while Michael Huff(notes) was dragging him to the turf. Here's the lowlight. He limped off the field, assisted by trainers, and was then carted to the Minnesota locker room for X-rays. Peterson is officially questionable to return, but he wasn't putting much weight on the ankle. This is basically a nightmare injury, a situation you can't easily manage around.
Toby Gerhart is Peterson's understudy, but he obviously doesn't possess AP's skill set, or anything close to it. Gerhart will be a popular waiver add, assuming Peterson can't return this week, but he's a fairly ordinary back with a difficult match-up ahead at Atlanta. Christian Ponder actually led the Vikes in rushing at halftime (54 yards) and Percy Harvin has four carries for 13 yards. (Harvin also had a nifty touchdown run negated by a holding penalty, a play that seemed to fit perfectly within the context of his season). Peterson managed to find the end zone before checking out, rushing for 26 yards on six carries. So at least his owners weren't shut out this week. Let's just hope he can make it back by Week 12.
• Aaron Rodgers entered the day with a completion percentage of 72.9, which is ridiculous. I'm pretty sure that another 7.1 percent of Rodgers' passes were deliberately thrown away to avoid sacks, and the other 20 percent have been dropped by James Jones(notes). If Jones woulda caught that perfect back-shoulder throw from Aaron Rodgers in the first quarter against Tampa, he could still be running. At half, Rodgers had 164 yards through the air against the Bucs, with TD passes to Tom Crabtree(notes) and Jordy Nelson.
• Maurice Jones-Drew carried three Browns defenders into the end zone on his 6-yard TD in Cleveland, then delivered a LeBron James/chalk toss celebration. Uncalled for. Seems deserving of a penalty, though I don't think you can actually draw a flag for taunting a city.
• This run right here by LeGarrette Blount is ... well, it's pretty badass. I counted six guys who legitimately should have tackled him and a seventh who had a shot at Blount's feet. That play could have gone for no-gain, but instead it's a 54-yard score.
• Up until last week, it seemed like the best fantasy scenario for the Bills' offense was a three-touchdown deficit. But when the Cowboys got Buffalo down by three scores, they buried 'em. We'll just see if the Bills can get anything going against Miami in the second half, trailing by 22. After two ugly quarters from Ryan Fitzpatrick (9-for-21, 2 INTs), I don't really have a good vibe. Reggie Bush(notes) and Daniel Thomas(notes) have evenly split the carries and the rushing yards for the Dolphins &mash; both players have eight for 23 — and Reggie has his second short rushing score in as many weeks. When he's getting carries inside-the-5, you basically have to start him. Matt Moore is having a day for Miami, passing for three scores in the first half. Brandon Marshall(notes) has been shut out thus far, but it's worth noting that he had a touchdown overturned by replay review.
• Here's your update on the Washington backfield: Ryan Torain(notes) got the start, Anthony Armstrong(notes) got the first carry, Tashard Choice(notes) got most of the first-half carries, Roy Helu got the first touch near the goal line, and Rex Grossman had the rushing score. Hope that clears things up. Helu, per his usual, looks like the liveliest of the bunch.
• Matthew Stafford is having another messy week, tossing a pair of early picks. The first interception didn't appear to be related to his fractured finger; it was just a miserable read. The second pick was off a tipped pass. The Lions trailed Carolina at half, 27-14, but they're getting an impressive performance from recently signed Kevin Smith. Check the tape. Smith scored off a screen pass early in the second quarter, darting 28 yards. He gained an even 100 yards on his first six touches. With Jahvid Best out indefinitely, Smith is clearly a pick-up of interest.
-posted at 3:05 pm ET
Well, thanks to Shonn Greene's(notes) one-point effort on Thursday night, many of us are comfortably in the driver's seat in Week 11. Way to deliver in prime time, Shonn. That was huge. Really took the pressure off.
But not everyone is so well-positioned for victory. Some of you are facing a critical battle, fighting to earn the little * next to your team name, indicating a clinched playoff spot. They look like this...
...and it feels pretty good when they show up, I'm not gonna lie.
For those with sit/start issues, we offer updated Week 11 position ranks and a full post-practice injury wrap. As always, we'll have last-minute updates and late-breaking injury info on Fantasy Football Live, beginning at noon ET.
The Eagles have already resolved two of this week's big injury questions, ruling out Michael Vick(notes) (ribs) and Jeremy Maclin(notes) (shoulder). Vince Young(notes) will lead Philly on the road against the Giants. Young's rushing potential obviously puts him in the fantasy discussion, but you'll recall that his lone pass attempt this season was ... well, it was uncommonly bad. Here's the clip. My forecast calls for a turnover or two and at least a 20 percent chance of Mike Kafka(notes). (But I hope Young is better than that, because I'm starting DeSean Jackson(notes) somewhere).
Please check back with Sunday Scene throughout the day for the usual updates. The first is typically posted in the third quarter of the early games. Remember, we're not here to deliver play-by-play, just fantasy spin. We'll end the day with an early look at waiver plays for Week 12. Let's go get a win, then reconvene in the fellowship hall for cake and punch...
Photos via US Presswire (Jackson, Smith, Giants fans) and AP Images (Cutler, Peterson)