It's hard to believe, but in most Yahoo! leagues just two weeks remain until the fantasy playoffs. Seems like just days ago that The Skinny traded Willis McGahee for Reggie Wayne after Week 2 in a deal that at the time felt like a difference-maker. Turns out it was, of course, just for the wrong team. This owner isn't second-guessing himself, however. To call this season unpredictable would be an immense understatement. Week 12 was no exception, but The Skinny managed to keep score again just the same:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- NFL teams average about 4.1 yards per rushing attempt and a touchdown every 35 carries. Keeping these numbers in mind, it's hard to find two more reliable running backs to start from week-to-week than Julius Jones and Willis McGahee. Jones and McGahee are two of four NFL backs who have carried the ball 30 or more times in consecutive games (only Jones' streak is current). Carries add up to points, even on a team like Dallas that simply can't run the football. Through Week 12, the 30-carry plateau has been reached 27 times. The results: 22 touchdowns and 23 100-yard games. Jones rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns Thursday despite gaining two or fewer yards on 16 of 33 carries.
The other half of Thursday's rookie showcase was a disaster. The last time Drew Henson played a game that mattered, the BCS was nothing more than a twinkle in some computer geek's eye and Cindy Margolis was the hottest thing on the internet. The rust showed. He labored just dropping back to pass, never connected with his top target Jason Witten and was a spectator by halftime. Dallas fans weren't happy, but fantasy owners had to breathe a sigh of relief when Vinny got the call. Testaverde immediately threw two passes in Witten's direction and he connected with Keyshawn Johnson five times in the second half. Bill Parcells was right. Henson is not ready. Witten, Jones and Keyshawn will be fine under Testaverde. Though we'll see more of him this season, the next time Henson's name will come up in fantasy circles is in preparation for 2005 drafts.
- Jeff Garcia has never been known as a wide receiver-friendly quarterback. That understood, it is not surprising that Cleveland wideouts received an unusual amount of attention Sunday in Kelly Holcomb's first full game as quarterback. Garcia rarely throws 10 total passes to wide receivers in a given week. Sunday Holcomb targeted Antonio Bryant alone 10 times. Bryant responded with 131 yards and two touchdowns, clearly his best game as a Brown. Tight end production did not suffer. Steve Heiden was thrown to 11 times and he had a career day with seven receptions, 82 yards and 3 TD's.
Holcomb's 400-yard, five-touchdown feast leaves Cleveland coach Butch Davis with an interesting dilemma. Garcia's sprained shoulder has drained him of arm strength he can't afford to lose. Sure he's mobile, but Holcomb was sacked only three times Sunday by a Cincy defense that had dropped Ben Roethlisberger seven times in Week 11. Garcia has openly criticized Davis' system and play calling. NFL coaches like to talk about starting the guy that gives his team the best chance to win. Right now in Cleveland that's Holcomb. This endorsement comes with two fantasy qualifications. First, Garcia threw four touchdowns against the Bengals earlier this year and it hardly catapulted his season. Second, the Browns face two premier pass defense in New England and Buffalo in Weeks 13 and 14.
- A pair of Week 11 stars went in very different directions Sunday. Maintaining his fantasy momentum was Carolina's Nick Goings, who continued to answer critics who doubted his ability as an every-down back. Goings rushed for 106 yards – 77 in the second half – as Carolina continued its second-half resurgence. Still a free agent in many leagues, Goings will rightfully find his way into a lot of starting lineups next week against a New Orleans team that ranks last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (150.6/game).
Returning to earth was Mark Campbell, proving once again that you never can tell with tight ends. Campbell scored three touchdowns in Week 11. Sunday he was targeted only three times by Drew Bledsoe. Granted two of those looks came in the red zone, but he finished with three relatively inconsequential receptions for 31 yards. Surely Heiden and Tennessee's Erron Kinney (53 yards, 2 TD's) will be this week's hot tight end pickups.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Kerry Collins, QB, OAK
Right now, fantasy owners are either resigning themselves to giving Collins another shot or reciting the old "fool me once" mantra. In conditions reminiscent of the 2002 Tuck Rule game, Collins put together his best game as a Raider Sunday. Since Oakland's Week 10 bye, he has thrown for 566 yards and six touchdowns. You have to like two things about his Week 13 matchup. One, the game will be played in December and Collins generally puts things together in the season's final month (career 39 TD's/24 INT's). Second, it's against Kansas City, and the Chiefs have yielded eight touchdown passes in their five road games.
- Maurice Hicks, RB, SF
It was Hicks, not fantasy bust Kevan Barlow, who the Niners turned to when in need of a late score in Sunday's loss to Miami. Coach Dennis Erickson told the San Francisco Chronicle he has "run out of matches," trying to light a fire under Barlow. Lately, the shift of carries between backs has been as much about productivity as motivation. Barlow hasn't rushed for more than 2.2 yards per carry in San Francisco's last three games. Hicks, meanwhile, accounted for 77 total yards and a touchdown Sunday and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry on the season. Hicks, rookie wideout Rashaun Woods and possibly even quarterback Cody Pickett all stand to get extended looks as the season continues.
- Ronald Curry, WR, OAK
Curry occupied this very spot last week, but The Skinny couldn't get fantasy owners to bite. As of kickoff Sunday, he remained available in close to 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Sunday night's results may or may not change that. Statistically Curry was overshadowed by Jerry Porter (135 yards, 3 TD's), which may force some fantasy owners to overlook the more consistent performer. Let them make that mistake. Curry has at least four catches and 58 yards in each of Oakland last three games. His jaw-dropping touchdown Sunday was his second in as many weeks. He got nine looks to Porter's 10. Both stand to gain if Kerry Collins continues his improvement, but Curry is the better play right now.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Chad Hutchinson, QB, CHI – Will start Monday with Craig Krenzel on the shelf with a high-ankle sprain. Don't get too excited about the matchup with Minnesota. The Vikings have allowed only four touchdown passes and one 250-plus yard game in six home dates.
Larry Croom, RB, ARI – The Arizona Republic reported Monday that Emmitt Smith will miss at least a week and likely more with a sprained left toe. Croom was Arizona's most effective backup Sunday, though Josh Scobey will likely get the start at Detroit.
Brian Griese, QB, TB – Threw for 347 yards and two touchdowns Sunday against a Carolina team that had yielded only six scoring throws through Week 11. Michael Clayton remains his favorite target, but the return of Joe Jurevicious has keyed Tampa Bay's offensive resurgence.
Larry Johnson, RB, KC – Johnson had runs of 13, 11 and six yards during a second-quarter scoring drive, the final carry resulting in his 2nd career touchdown. Coach Dick Vermeil decided before the game to give Johnson a series in the second quarter and he made the most of it.
Jamaar Taylor, WR, NYG – Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer continue to sleepwalk and Tim Carter is out for the season, leaving a big-play void this rookie may well fill. Sunday he was targeted only four times, but he hauled in two passes for 102 yards.
Brian Westbrook, RB, PHI – Since the infamous "Desperate Housewives" tease aired, Terrell Owens has 219 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Westbrook has 157 receiving yards and three touchdowns to go along with nearly 200 rushing yards and two more scores. Maybe Nicollette was chasing the wrong guy.
Lee Evans, WR, BUF – Evans was targeted nine times Sunday, allowing him to haul in a career-high six passes for 70 yards and his second touchdown in four weeks. Buffalo plays three of its final four games away from the miserable climate of Orchard Park.
Keary Colbert, WR, CAR – Back in the end zone after a six-week hiatus, Colbert hauled in three passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns Sunday.
Nate Burleson, WR, MIN – Randy Moss returned and Burleson's four-game touchdown streak ended. Coincidence? No. With Moss back and Jermaine Wiggins playing a larger role every week, Burleson will have to make the most of his looks. He was thrown to five times Sunday (2 rec./21 yards).
Clinton Portis, RB, WAS – Portis carried the ball twice in the second half Sunday as coach Joe Gibbs leaned on Ladell Betts (7 carries) and tight end Chris Cooley (thrown to 10 times) after intermission. Portis has just 54 rushing yards in the last two weeks.
Jabar Gaffney, WR, HOU – Gaffney's value peaked after a three-game stretch with 80-plus receiving yards in each week. Since then, he has a total of three receptions. Carr threw his way three times Sunday, but he was held without a catch for the second consecutive game.
Trent Green, QB, KC – The yards are still there, but turnovers continue to dig into Green's fantasy production. Since Week 8, Green has thrown six interceptions to offset six TD's.
Roy Williams, WR, DET – Has himself to blame for a dropped touchdown pass Thursday, but his steady fantasy decline since Week 7 has been helped along by the deteriorating play of quarterback Joey Harrington.
Eli Manning, QB, NYG – Won't fill up the score sheet unless your league features hurries, sacks and knockdowns as scoring categories.
Emmitt Smith, RB, ARI – Already slowed by a bum ankle, Smith left Sunday's game with an undisclosed toe injury. He has just 47 rushing yards in Arizona's last two games.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
45.8 Percentage of teams ranked in the Top 500 on the Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football PLUS leaderboard who own Peyton Manning. No other player approaches this frequency. Terrell Owens ranks second at 29.8 percent.