Instant Impressions from Week 11
The Philadelphia Eagles still haven't won a game as recently as the Philadelphia Phillies (look it up), and their season hit a new level of decomposition Sunday as Nick Foles played as poorly as his numbers looked (21-of-46 for 204 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs), Jeremy Maclin caught zero of three targets, DeSean Jackson caught two of nine targets (for five yards), Brent Celek allowed a ball to bounce off his hands and into a defender's arms for the second time in two weeks, and worst of all LeSean McCoy was carted off the field late with a concussion.
This is a fantasy crusher. Shady had been Philly's sole highlight Sunday, with 112 yards from scrimmage on 15 carries and six catches, but he lost a fumble deep in his own territory and then with about two minutes left in garbage time he took a blasting shot from Madieu Williams. McCoy was obviously woozy and the team took the precaution of rolling him into the locker room. The Eagles play at home against the Carolina Panthers next week and Bryce Brown should be added in most leagues; Chris Polk apparently injured a toe in practice a couple weeks ago, and Dion Lewis hasn't touched the ball from scrimmage all year. Brown, a seventh-round rookie, has a checkered off-field history but blue-chip ability at 223 pounds and sub-4.5 speed. He probably wouldn't be a must-start of the McCoy variety (i.e., top-five fantasy draftee) if he's named the starter, but as a fill-in he'd be worth a look. We'll await word on McCoy's concussion tests this week.
Let's look at Sunday's other top storylines:
• Rob Gronkowski had his typical massive game (seven grabs for 137 yards and two TDs), but left the field late in the game with an apparent injury. His fantasy owners hoped that this was purely precautionary, that Gronkowski was perhaps in the locker room perfecting some new, quasi-insane end-zone celebration, but late Sunday word filtered from New England Patriots beat reporters that Gronk broke his right forearm and will probably miss at least a month. This is an absolutely crushing blow to both the Pats and fantasy owners: Gronkowski was on pace for 1,196 receiving yards and a cool 16 TDs. Aaron Hernandez -- who sat out his third straight contest Sunday with a bad ankle -- sounds likely to return for Thursday night's game, and that could make him a top-two fantasy option quite soon. But Hernandez isn't available in any fantasy leagues, so Gronk's owners will simply have to make do with waiver-wire flotsam. Like McCoy's injury, this has the potential to be a landscape-altering situation for fantasy.
• Willis McGahee left Sunday's win early in the second quarter after getting tackled at the San Diego Chargers' 5, because of a twisted knee. He didn't return. Ronnie Hillman had 11 carries after McGahee's injury and Lance Ball had five. These numbers might've changed had Ball not lost a fumble on a second-quarter reception, but just watching them play, it's pretty obvious Hillman is the more valuable fantasy commodity. He might not have the size (5-foot-10 but only 190 pounds) to consistently thump between the tackles, but he fits the Peyton Manning mold of being a dangerous player in space. He'd conceivably be tough to deal with in the screen game. McGahee is headed for an MRI Monday; if he misses time, Hillman figures to be at the head of a platoon with Ball.
• Matt Ryan was able to pull the Atlanta Falcons' fat out of the fire late Sunday, but the same can't be said for his fantasy owners. Ryan threw five picks, and while three of them involved his receivers tipping the ball into the hands of opposing players, he had accuracy problems all day. The fact that Julio Jones reinjured his ankle and had to leave the game didn't help (though it certainly aided Roddy White in getting 123 yards on 13 targets and eight catches), but let's be fair: Ryan's grand total of two fantasy points in standard ESPN leagues is pathetic. That's three bad games in his past five (one against the Oakland Raiders, one against the Dallas Cowboys) and it's fair to wonder if something is wrong. A trip to face a bad Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary in Week 12 could help, however.
• While Julio Jones' medical woes continue to plague him and his fantasy owners, his 2011 top-six draft classmate A.J. Green just keeps on trucking. He caught six passes for 91 yards and yet another TD. Amazingly, that's Green's ninth straight contest with a receiving score. That's four games shy of Jerry Rice's record 13-game streak in 1986-87. It's arguable that Green could be a fantasy MVP candidate; despite Calvin Johnson's monster production the past two weeks (a combined 17 grabs for 350 yards and two TDs), Green remains fantasy's top WR through 11 weeks, pending Brandon Marshall's Monday night output.
• Speaking of wideouts earning their keep, Tony Romo wasn't lying about the light going on for Dez Bryant. Twelve catches for a career-best 145 yards against a Cleveland Browns defense minus Joe Haden sounds OK, but it truly was impressive to watch. He was all over the place, drawing multiple pass interference penalties and playing smart and physical throughout. His two bad statistical games in the past eight came when he was questionable before the game because of an injury; take away those limited outings, and Bryant has averaged eight catches for 100 yards in that span. Hey, he could easily do something incredibly dumb on national TV Thursday, but Bryant has emerged to the point where he's a must-start on most teams.
• On SportsCenter last week, I strongly advised sitting Rashad Jennings because I feared how tough the Houston Texans' defense is. Ahem. Right recommendation, wrong reason. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who'd averaged 14 points per game heading into Week 11, somehow scored 37 Sunday and managed a respectable 86 yards rushing. But Jennings racked up minus-1 yard on three carries. The Jags apparently had seen enough of the struggling Jennings, and started journeyman Jalen Parmele, who got 27 touches from scrimmage. Against the Tennessee Titans next week, I have to assume Parmele will be the starting rusher. It sounds like the earliest Maurice Jones-Drew will return is Week 13.
• Truthfully, though, Parmele didn't have all that much to do with the Jaguars' valiant overtime loss. Blaine Gabbert took a blow to his throwing elbow early and Chad Henne entered the game. Henne went ballistic to the tune of 354 yards and four TDs. Jacksonville made big play after big play, as Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts starred. Blackmon, in particular, went loopy. He came into Week 11 with 250 yards receiving; Sunday he produced 236, including an 81-yard TD. Shorts has been the steady player in this WR corps -- he has double-digit fantasy points in four of his past five games -- but obviously Blackmon (the No. 5 pick in April's draft) has the pedigree. Most important, there's no way Jacksonville can go back to Gabbert under center. Expect Henne to start next week. (Oh, and hey, thanks for playing, Mike Mularkey. With less than three minutes remaining in OT on a fourth-and-10 on the Texans' 47, Mularkey went for it. Nice. Houston won two plays later.)
• On ESPN Radio in Houston last week, the guys asked if I could see starting Matt Schaub. I said it would be awfully difficult, not because he's bad, but because he typically isn't asked to do very much throwing. Well, he sure had to throw a bunch Sunday. Schaub had 55 attempts and produced 527 passing yards, tying for the second-most in a single game in NFL history. One doubts this carries over into Thursday's game, but it sure was fun.
• In a blowout loss, Marcel Reece continued his momentary, from-nowhere fantasy stardom. The Raiders' erstwhile fullback had 103 yards on 19 carries and 90 more yards on four catches. This New Orleans Saints victory featured a whole mess of garbage time, but listen, at some point don't you have to proclaim that Reece is doing stuff that Darren McFadden wasn't? I'm going to take a good long look at this week's tape, with special focus on the offensive line, because remember when it was so awful and such a bad fit for Run-DMC's style? I'm guessing that hasn't been a problem the past couple weeks. Nobody has any real notion of whether McFadden will return in Week 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals, but don't you kind of wonder if he should bother?
• At my gym Sunday morning, I ran into my neighbor Mark, who asked whether he should start Rashard Mendenhall or LaRod Stephens-Howling. I said I was 60-40 Mendy, simply because LSH is so little and when he gets hit he usually falls directly to the turf. Alas, apparently the Falcons didn't get that memo. Stephens-Howling busted out of the gates fast, taking advantage of Ryan's first turnover with a red-zone TD and then breaking an untouched 40-yarder soon thereafter. Then right before halftime, LSH rattled off another biggie, a 52-yarder. Take away those two chunks and he had 35 rushing yards on 20 carries, but I still must say to Mark: Oops. Sorry. The Arizona Cardinals expect to get Beanie Wells back in their starting lineup in Week 12 against the St. Louis Rams.
• Robert Griffin III definitely bounced back from two subpar outings, though don't get carried away. He threw four TDs which is awesome, but two of them were the result of impossibly poor Eagles defense. (Aldrick Robinson was uncovered on a bomb, and Santana Moss scored on a double-teamed heave RG3 never should've thrown.) Griffin's incredible stat line read 14-of-15 for 200 yards and four TDs. That's pretty clearly not sustainable, but the great thing was that RG3 also had 12 carries for 84 yards. That's really what I wanted to see, after Griffin was shut down on the ground by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 8 and then fairly limited by the Carolina Panthers in Week 9. He's a clear and safe fantasy starter, even if the passing numbers won't be this great very often.
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• Matt Cassel proves again and again that when the Patriots drafted disappointing Patrick Chung with the second-round pick they acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs for Cassel, they still did pretty well for themselves. Cassel was benched after another terrible half of play, though of course Brady Quinn was little better in the second stanza. Most important for fantasy owners is the fact that Dwayne Bowe suffered a neck injury near halftime and never returned. The game was a blowout late, which could explain why Bowe didn't play, but his fantasy owners should be prepared for missed time. Considering Bowe hasn't exceeded 80 yards receiving or found the end zone since Week 4, that actually might not be heartbreaking.
• The Twitter trolls were out in full force Sunday night, proclaiming how dumb I am for not endorsing the Patriots D/ST. Yes, I truly am a moron. Coming into Week 11, New England was 25th in total yards allowed and 29th in passing yards allowed, plus were facing an Indianapolis Colts offense that allowed opposing defenses to score 6, 1, minus-3 and 5 fantasy points over the past month. True enough, the Pats' D exploded for 24 points as a result of four turnovers, a sack, a pick-six and a punt return TD. And if you'd like to continue to ride this unit, you're welcome. I'm a Pats fan, and I still wouldn't touch 'em. (Well, maybe against the New York Jets on Thursday )
• There's nothing like planning all week, agonizing over your lineup, settling in to watch the action and seeing obscure and mostly unowned players racking up fantasy points. Here's a highlight reel of Week 11's offensive TD vultures: Keshawn Martin, Garrett Graham (times two), James Casey, Bilal Powell (times two), Ben Watson (times two), Nate Byham, Darrel Young, Aldrick Robinson, Logan Paulsen, Delone Carter, Julian Edelman and Juron Criner. Yeah, I started all those guys, too. We're so smart.
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It's a busy week in fantasy football, with all the byes done, the fantasy trade deadline passing, Thanksgiving games, and lots of playoff positioning.
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Bell Injury Blog
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• Monday: Week 11 breakouts
Countdown to Trade Deadline
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