We got an early start to Week 12 with two Thanksgiving Day games. There were a number of notable fantasy performances on the day, but none more surprising than the late-scratch of Tatum Bell and the smallish workload for Mike Anderson (11 carries for 31 yards and a lost fumble). His struggles opened the door for a huge day for the much-maligned Ron Dayne, who showed great bounce in aiding the Broncos to victory.
I know, just what we needed, another back in the mix in Denver.
In any event, there are a number of stories and injuries to review for Week 12. Let's break it down.
- Tatum Bell practiced this week despite a bruised chest, but he wasn't able to hit the field for Thursday's overtime thriller in Dallas. Bell was replaced in the lineup by Ron Dayne, who rumbled to 98 yards and a score on seven carries, including the game-clinching 55-yard run in the second play of the OT period. With 10 days before the Broncos' next game at Kansas City, Bell is expected back into the lineup.
- Kevin Jones began his Thanksgiving game appearance with a tremendous 20-yard run, but carried the ball only three more times before leaving with a quad injury late in the first quarter. He did not return, and watched Artose Pinner and Shawn Bryson split the limited backfield workload following his departure.
- Pro Bowl TE Antonio Gates returned to practice on Thursday after spraining his foot in Sunday's win over Buffalo. According to all reports, he ran well and made all cuts, and will most assuredly be in the lineup against Washington.
- Ben Roethlisberger went through his first full practice since his surgery on Wednesday, and reported no problems with his mobility. He did, however, admit that he still experience pain following the procedure. Roethlisberger will be back under center on Monday night against the Colts, who will bring the heat to test his leg strength.
- Domanick Davis expects to play Sunday against the Rams, despite missing Wednesday's practice. Davis tallied 110 total yards and a touchdown in his first game back from his knee injury against the Chiefs. The Rams rank dead last in the NFL at 30 points allowed per game, so Davis may actually remain a factor throughout this contest.
- Erron Kinney was held out of practice on Wednesday with an injured calf and is currently tagged as questionable for Sunday's game against San Francisco. With Ben Troupe and Bo Scaife also available to Jeff Fisher, I would be hestitant to put Kinney into the lineup this weekend, even in what appears to be such a strong spot.
- The shift of the workload in the Ravens backfield appears on hold, as Chester Taylor appears on the injury report at the end of the week with an ankle injury. For now, it looks like Jamal Lewis will shoulder the load against a Cincinnati defense that allows 121 yards per game on the ground. Those carrying Lewis in a bench position should watch this closely, as this stands as one of his strongest opportunities for a serviceable game if he's left alone in the backfield.
- Bryant Johnson will remain sidelined for at least one more game with his injured shoulder. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald continue to rack up Looks and yardage, and LeRon McCoy has performed well in Johnson's absence.
- The 7-3 Chicago Bears will welcome Rex Grossman back to the sidelines on Sunday against Tampa Bay. Grossman hasn't played in a regular season game since suffering a knee injury in Week 3 of the 2004 season. He'll start the game as the emergency QB behind rookie Kyle Orton and Jeff Blake.
- Miami QB Gus Frerotte practiced through a sprained right indez finger and will start against the Raiders. Frerotte completed a weak 4-of-18 attempts against the Browns in last week's 22-0 defeat.
- Warren Sapp appears as doubtful on this week's injury report after hurting his shoulder in last week's win over Washington. His absence against the Dolphins suggests that Nick Saban will pound the ball through the middle with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
- Mewelde Moore, RB, Min: Moore ran for 122 yards in the Monday night game to reclaim the starting tailback role for the Vikings. Even with Mike Tice's history of confusing the backfield situation, Michael Bennett's ineffectiveness in Week 10 gives Moore a little more room for error. He figures to see 20 or more Touches this week, as Minnesota tries to continue its resurgence against Cleveland.
- Joe Jurevicius, WR, Sea: The update on Darrell Jackson's health sent owners back to the waiver wire for the big red zone target Jurevicius. Though his yardage totals have been minimal in recent weeks, the fact that Matt Hasselbeck tosses at least one pass in his direction around the goal line each game makes him a fantasy favorite. This week presents a difficult matchup against the Giants, but the Seahawks then face lackluster pass defenses for three straight weeks (Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tennessee).
- Mark Brunell, QB, Was: Despite being shut out of the end zone for the third time in four weeks, owners flocked to Brunell on the waiver wire this week after losing Marc Bulger to injury and after Donovan McNabb was finally placed on IR. Brunell hits a nice stretch of games against weaker pass defenses for the next month, starting with this week's matchup against San Diego. The Redskins then face St. Louis, Arizona, and Dallas.
- Jamal Lewis, RB, Bal: Fantasy owners have been steadily kicking Lewis to the curb over the past several weeks, but continuing injuries to backs and the emergence of platoon situations have led them back to Lewis, despite his own battle with Chester Taylor. News of a late-week injury to Taylor (outlined above) sent owners to the wire for Lewis en masse.
- Marc Bulger, QB, STL: News that Bulger would miss the next 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury had many owners dropping him to the waiver wire. Others in their respective leagues were happy to snap him up. Naturally, Jamie Martin has also been a popular pickup in his absence with Houston on the docket for this week. Save a Week 13 date with Washington, St. Louis finishes the season with five solid plays for all involved in the passing game.
- Joe Horn, WR, NO: He has only 30 catches this year, and hasn't seen the end zone since Week 2, but his 17 Looks in the Week 11 loss to New England has fantasy owners intrigued. After all, it's not often that a No. 1 receiver returns to the waiver wire this late in the year. New Orleans does face a tough test this week against the Jets, where Horn will draw Ty Law.
- Samkon Gado, RB, GB: He was the hottest thing this side of Google stock a week ago. Now, fantasy owners are diving off a la Enron. Gado gained seven yards on 10 carries in the Monday night loss to Minnesota, and didn't touch the ball again after an early second-half fumble. With Tony Fisher back in the lineup and seemingly fully recovered from his rib injury, Gado's role for the final six weeks is in question.
- Nate Burleson, WR, Min: Burleson was inactive for the Monday night tilt with Green Bay due to a variety of injuries. He was expected to top his brilliant '04, and has fallen woefully short. Burleson has not caught more than three passes in a single game this year, and has caught just one TD pass. With former Seattle receiver Koren Robinson on the rise in Mike Tice's eyes, Burleson will likely need to settle for a meager role upon his return.
- Duce Staley, RB, Pit: After two strong outings in a row, Staley was again reduced to the role of spectator in Sunday's loss to Baltimore. Owners are tired of the yo-yo season in the Pittsburgh backfield, and the health of Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis will keep Staley at bay.
- Jerramy Stevens, TE, Sea: In a strong spot against the 49ers, Stevens caught only one pass for 27 yards. He hasn't found the end zone since Week 5, and has recorded fewer than 30 receiving yards in three of his past five games. With Shaun Alexander dominating the goal line touches and the receiving corps returning to health, Stevens' role and fantasy value has been reduced tremendously.
- Philadelphia Defense: In addition to all of the problems for the Eagles off the field, injuries have plagued the secondary (Michael Lewis and Lito Sheppard are but two examples). Owners have been patient with this outfit, but the series of big point totals and minimal turnovers have proven too much.
- Brian Finneran, WR, Atl: Michael Vick has become a certified passing threat over the past month, but the veteran receiver Finneran hasn't seen much of the action. He's among the most dropped players for the second straight week, and figures to land there for a third time after failing to catch a single pass against the Lions. Rookie Roddy White has supplanted Finneran in Vick's eyes.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Jamie Martin, QB, STL
Martin performed well in relief of the injured Marc Bulger in Week 11, tossing for 161 yards and a score in a failed comeback against the Cardinals. He has a full complement of healthy receivers and a favorable matchup against the Texans on the schedule. Houston allowed three passing TDs to Trent Green a week ago.
DROP OF THE WEEK
Antonio Chatman, WR, GB
Chatman was virtually non-existent for the third straight game, watching Brett Favre hook up with Donald Driver on a consistent basis (and throw repeatedly in his direction). On Monday, he caught a single pass for 14 yards in the loss, and with Robert Ferguson expected to take on a bigger role against Philly, Chatman's place in the offense is undefined. Add to that upcoming games against Baltimore and two against Chicago, and this receiver's stock plummets.
HOT AND COLD
Reuben Droughns, RB, Cle: Other than the usual suspects (Tomlinson and Alexander) and Larry Johnson, Droughns stands as the hottest back in the game. He's recorded five straight games with 99 or more total yards and his 75-yard TD run last week will be a contender for play of the year. Owners were certainly happy with the yardage output, but Droughns kicked it up another level by scoring in two straight weeks. He's a must start this week against the Vikings.
Jerry Porter, WR, Oak: Porter failed to find the end zone in the Raiders' first six games of the year, prompting many owners to cut him loose. Over the past four weeks, he's demonstrated his big-play ability once again and finds himself back on the radar. Porter has recorded two 100-yard games and scored four touchdowns in the last four games (a three-catch, 27-yard day was mixed in). With Zach Thomas and Junior Seau out with injuries for the Dolphins this week and Randy Moss still battling injury, Kerry Collins figures to test the middle of the Miami pass defense.
Michael Vick, QB, Atl: OK, so the club on Dre' Bly's hand certainly aided Vick's final stat line, but all that matters is who has possession at the end of the play. Vick turned in another solid fantasy outing this week, throwing for two TDs to his favorite target, Alge Crumpler, and added 57 yards on the ground to get him over 200 total yards on the day. Vick has thrown multiple TD passes in three straight games.
Byron Leftwich, QB, Jac: Leftwich turned in his biggest performance of the year in Week 11, accounting for four TDs in the 31-28 win over Tennessee. He's scored in all but one game this year, and has turned in multi-TD performances in three of his last four starts. Save a Week 14 game against Indianapolis, the schedule is set up for a huge finish to the year for Leftwich. He'll face Arizona, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Houston before finishing the season with another matchup against Tennessee.
Roy Williams, WR, Det: The Lions got trounced by the Falcons and may have lost a coach in the process, but they did get a third consecutive solid outing from Roy Williams. Williams has appeared in only seven games this season and has caught a pass of 29 or more yards in five of them. Despite the looming shakeup of the coaching staff, Williams remains a big-play threat when healthy. He'll next face a Vikings pass defense that is susceptible to the deep passing game.
Terry Glenn, WR, Dal: Glenn rolled to three 100-yard games in the first five weeks of the season, but hasn't topped 65 since. His 56-yard output agains Denver marked his hightest yardage total since Week 8. He's also found the end zone just once in the last six weeks, watching fellow wideout Keyshawn Johnson shine.
Jake Plummer, QB, Den: Plummer made a beautiful throw to Rod Smith for an early score, but had a rough outing against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving the rest of the way. Plummer's much-heralded interception-less streak of eight games ended in the second quarter. In any event, Plummer threw for a meager 162 yards and one TD in this contest, his third straight game with one or fewer TD passes.
Curtis Martin, RB, NYJ: Barring injury, Martin should approach another 1,000-yard season despite the problems at QB for the Jets. He was limited to a mere seven yards on four carries in Week 11. Martin has topped 80 rushing yards only once all year. So, despite the four-game scoring streak (Weeks 5-9), fantasy owners have had to approach the veteran back with caution.
Kevan Barlow, RB, SF: Put the injuries aside for a moment. In three November games, the SF tailback has averaged 1.9 yards per carry on 47 attempts. This three-game rough patch follows a solid run of performances at the end of October, during which he ran for over 99 yards twice and score his second TD of the season.
Jake Delhomme, QB, Car: After a five-game streak with multiple TD passes, Delhomme has just two TD strikes in three November games. He's also thrown two picks in two straight games and faces a normally strong Buffalo pass defense this week. Will his forcing of the ball to top target Steve Smith sink owners down the stretch?
SWOOPING VULTURES: Goal-Line Backs
Each week, we'll review the players earning their living around the goal line.
- Mike Alstott continued his resurgence in Week 11, scoring a touchdown in his third straight game. During those contests, Alstott has contributed 14 carries for 30 yards and four TD runs (and the controversial two-point conversion). The veteran fullback has caught at least one pass in each of the Buccaneers' games. This week, Tampa Bay welcomes the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears.
- T.J. Duckett ran the ball 19 times for 72 yards in the 27-7 Atlanta win on Thanksgiving Day, and assumed his normal role of battering ram at the goal-line. Duckett scored for the second straight game, and appears fully recovered from the leg injury that sidelined him for several weeks in the middle of the season.
- Jerome Bettis inexplicably carried the ball only two times in Sunday's loss to the Ravens. Bettis netted zero yards on the day. He figures to be a bigger part of the attack with Ben Roethlisberger returning to action against the Colts.
- He's a man that goes virtually unknown in the fantasy realm, but Chargers fans and LaDainian Tomlinson owners should certainly know him well. Lorenzo Neal plays the role of true fullback for the Chargers, and was rewarded for his yeoman-like work in Week 11 with a TD reception against the Bills. Neal doesn't merit a roster spot in the fantasy world, but I thought it appropriate in this Thanksgiving week to give credit to a guy who has helped fantasy owners amass multiple wins over the course of the year while rarely touching the ball.
SAFETY VALVES: Surveying the Tight Ends
The Tight End is often the young or struggling quarterback's best friend. Sometimes, he's so dominant that he can't be denied. Here are several players making noise at the position.
- How's that for a Thanksgiving feast? Alge Crumpler has always been the safety valve for Michael Vick, but Thursday afternoon he played the role of No. 1 receiver. Crumpler hit new season-high marks with seven catches for 104 yards. And, of course, two of them went for touchdowns. Though the outcome probably wouldn't have changed, I can't help but think of the final stat lines if Dre' Bly hadn't been wearing the club and had been able to corral those errant Vick passes. But, I digress …
- Crumpler was the man of the hour in the early game, and fellow TE Jason Witten shone for Dallas in the OT loss in the nightcap. Witten caught a season-high nine passes for 82 yards and a score, placing himself back in the mix for that second level of tight ends. Whether they expected a huge fantasy game from Witten or just wanted a player in the lineup in a nationally televised game, Witten was one of the most popular waiver wire pickups this past week.
- After a relatively slow start to the season, Dallas Clark has come on strong for the Colts. Clark has scored in two straight contests, and dominated (six receptions for 125 yards and a TD) in the marquee matchup against Cincinnati.
Y! Friends & Family League
Providing a glimpse into our managerial efforts:
A win is a win. Proving that you don't need a big scoring days to roll up W's, team KFFL Deliminator retains first place in the West despite having scored the lowest number of points in the entire league.