Inside Week 12

Mike Harmon
Dallas Cowboys
Incumbent: Julius Jones
Challenger: Eddie George
Outlook: Jones piled up 150 yards and two scores in his coming out party on Thanksgiving Day against the Bears. Eddie George could do nothing but stand and watch Jones handle 33 carries. Though he did get three carries in garbage time, George will see no more significant carries unless Jones gets hurt or he pulls a Woody Hayes on him while scampering down the sideline.
Minnesota Vikings
Incumbent: Onterrio Smith
Challenger: Michael Bennett, Mewelde Moore
Outlook: "We'll try to define a role for Mike." That's the quote from head coach Mike Tice after this weekend's win over Jacksonville. That's hardly an endorsement of the former starter. Onterrio Smith is firmly penciled in as the start, with Bennett serving as his primary backup until Mewelde Moore returns from injury.
St. Louis Rams
Incumbent: Marshall Faulk
Incumbent: Steven Jackson
Outlook: Faulk is clearly not playing at 100 percent, battling through sore knees. Jackson showed great vision against the Packers on Monday, averaging five yards per carry. Unfortunately, the game got out of control in a hurry, forcing Mike Martz to rely solely on Marc Bulger's arm for the bulk of the game. Faulk is always a viable receiving threat, averaging more than four catches per game. The Rams get the opportunity to add to the misery of the 49ers in Week 13. I expect big days from both Jackson and Faulk.
Washington Redskins
Incumbent: Clinton Portis
Challenger: Ladell Betts
Outlook: There's no chance that Betts overtakes Portis for the feature role, but the continued pathetic efforts of the offense have Joe Gibbs looking for any angle. Betts has proven to be a solid receiver out of the backfield, meaning he'll continue to see time and steal a handful of carries. The Giants and Eagles are on the schedule next, and both have fared well againstt Portis earlier in the season.
Cleveland Browns
Incumbent: Lee Suggs
Challenger: William Green
Outlook: Now that Butch Davis is out the door, it'll be interesting to see what happens with this situation. With Suggs continuing to battle through injury, look for the equitable split of carries to continue short-term.
San Francisco 49ers
Incumbent: Kevan Barlow
Challenger: Maurice Hicks
Outlook: Barlow has failed to average four yards per carry in a single game since Week 2. In six games, he's averaged less than three. What's that mean? With the race for the No. 1 pick in hand, the 49ers will take a long, hard look at the cost-efficient Hicks. Barlow was nearly non-existent in the second half of Sunday's debacle against Miami.

Also see:Waiver Report

In case you missed it, Brett Favre and the Packers obliterated the Rams on Monday night to keep pace with the Vikings for the NFC North lead. The 45-17 score would indicate that Favre, Javon Walker and Ahman Green went off. So, for those Walker and Green fans disappointed by the results, I'm sorry. But Favre didn't disappoint in his 200th-straight start. He finished with three TD passes and 215 passing yards. More impressive (dare I say this?) were the performances turned in by Najeh Davenport (178 yards, 1 TD) and the defense, which turned in two scores.

Is anybody else frightened that only five teams in the NFC have winning records? How about the fact that nine teams in the NFC are more than two games under .500?

The top target among receivers this week was Isaac Bruce, who ran wild against the Green Bay prevent defense. His two fumbles were costly and pushed the Rams a game behind a disappointing Seattle squad in the NFC West.

For the second straight week, Julius Jones leads the pack of running back touches. He topped 30 touches again on Thanksgiving Day, rumbling for 150 yards and two scores. His brilliant performance overshadowed the questionable handling of the QB position and Drew Henson's one-half appearance.

Actually, going back to the second point for a second, perhaps the Cowboys can run the table and reach playoff glory. Well, maybe not.

Washington Redskins wide receiver Laveranues Coles has been targeted 125 times by the QB tandem of Mark Brunell and Patrick Ramsey. That's a crazy 11.36 looks per game. However, the QB's and Coles have connected on just 46 percent of those pass attempts and he has tallied just one TD this season.

Alge Crumpler celebrated the signing of a six-year contract extension by catching a game-winning TD with seconds remaining on Sunday. It's fitting that during a time of coaching upheavals and mediocrity that a TE steals a headline. Crumpler leads the Falcons' second receiver (Peerless Price) by almost 300 yards and has six TD's to Price's two. Here's to the continued dominance of the TE.

After sitting near the top of the Touches chart for most of the season, Clinton Portis had just seven touches in Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh. Joe Gibbs expressed concern about the tough stretch of the schedule, handing carries and reps to backup Ladell Betts.

Finally, coming out of the snow in Denver, Kerry Collins deserves another look-see in fantasy leagues after two strong performances. Collins has thrown six TD passes in the past two weeks and has the Chiefs' porous defense on tap for Week 13. The Chiefs have kept opponents under 20 points only once this season (Week 7 vs. Atlanta).

Let's get deeper into Week 12:

Shouldering the load: Most active RB's (carries+catches)

Week 12 Touch Leaders
1 Julius Jones, DAL 34
2 Jerome Bettis, PIT 33
3 LaDanian Tomlinson, SD 31
4 Corey Dillon, NE 30
4 Willis McGahee, BUF 30
6 Reuben Droughns, DEN 29
7 Rudi Johnson, CIN 27
7 Deuce McAllister, NO 27
9 Edgerrin James, IND 26
9 Michael Pittman, TAM 26
9 Nick Goings, CAR 26

Attention getters: Top intended targets (looks)

Week 12 Look Leaders
1 Isaac Bruce, STL 17
2 Marvin Harrison, IND 16
3 Chad Johnson, CIN 13
3 Derrick Mason, TEN 13
3 Anquan Boldin, ARI 13
6 Michael Pittman, TAM 12
6 Antonio Bryant, CLE 12
6 Tony Gonzalez, KAN 12
6 Laveranues Coles, WAS 12

Trainers table: Updates on the wounded in action

  • Jamal Lewis is expected to return to practice this week after missing Sunday's game against New England. He's listed as questionable to start the week.
  • Kansas City tailback Priest Holmes will likely miss one more game with the knee injury that has sidelined him since Week 9. Derrick Blaylock and Larry Johnson will continue to share duties until Holmes' return.
  • Staying in Kansas City, Trent Green is nursing sore ribs after taking a hit against the Chargers. He is questionable for Week 13 at Oakland.
  • Chad Pennington continues to make great strides in his recovery from a strained rotator cuff. Herman Edwards says that Pennington's chances of playing this week are 50/50.
  • Tyrone Wheatley of the Raiders left Sunday night's game against Denver with a hamstring injury. The hit was awkward and appeared to be a more serious knee injury initially. Amos Zereoue and Justin Fargas are expected to split carries this weekend.
  • Late in the first quarter against the Jets, Emmitt Smith left the game with a sprained toe. He'll miss 2-3 weeks, with Larry Croom getting the starting nod from Coach Dennis Green.
  • Laveranues Coles aggravated a hip injury in Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh. He limped noticeably during the contest and may miss some practivce time this week.
  • Travis Henry sustained a season-ending broken leg in Week 12. Willis McGahee has been dominant in Buffalo, so his loss isn't damaging to fantasy lineups. We'll see him in another uniform next season.
  • Chris Brown was a late scratch for the Titans amid a number of conflicting reports. Antowain Smith has filled in admirably for Brown during his absence. Brown should return to action in Week 13.
  • Ahman Green sat out Monday's blowout win over St. Louis. Najeh Davenport dominated the Rams' porous defense in his stead. Green will be back on the field for Week 13's showdown with Philadelphia.
  • Bears starting QB Craig Krenzel will miss a month with a severely sprained ankle, paving the way for the NFL return of Jeff George. Chad Hutchinson will start for the Bears this week, with George standing as his backup.
  • Lee Suggs missed out on the big fun in Cincinnati with turf toe. He should be back against New England this week, running for Dave Campo.
  • Baltimore Ravens TE Todd Heap sat out yet again with the ankle injury that has sidelined him since Week 2. He expects to play this week against Cincinnati. It's too bad that Heap has missed so much of the "year of the TE."
  • Steelers back Duce Staley was a late scratch against the Redskins and watched Jerome Bettis run for another 100 yards. Staley is expected back for Sunday night's game against Jacksonville.