Instant Impressions from Week 12
We may have answered the question that asks what would happen if I were an NFL quarterback.
Because I honestly think I'm as good as Charlie Batch. I'm a lefty and I'm a couple of inches shorter and 15 pounds lighter than Batch, but I've got a pretty good arm. I mean, would I stink? Of course. I just don't think I'd stink significantly worse than Batch did Sunday versus the Cleveland Browns.
I mean, 20-of-34 for 199 yards doesn't begin to describe it. Batch threw three picks and countless wounded ducks, misplaced dump-offs and "game-manager" check-downs, giving the Pittsburgh Steelers' passing game no chance whatsoever. The running backs were just as bad; Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer all lost first-half fumbles, and Chris Rainey lost one in the second half (for the game, the Steelers lost five of an unbelievable eight fumbles). Simply put, this Week 12 loss was the best imaginable advertisement for Ben Roethlisberger's MVP candidacy.
Batch had one fantasy point in standard ESPN leagues (also known as: one more point than I scored). Redman and Dwyer had minus-1 and Mendenhall had minus-2. Mike Wallace had one catch for nine yards on seven targets. Plaxico Burress had no catches on two targets. (Emmanuel Sanders did have five grabs for 75 yards.) There's reportedly a chance Big Ben can go in Week 13, and though he performed badly while hurt late in '11, the Steelers had better hope Roethlisberger can return. Without him, there isn't a single skill-position player here you can feel even remotely good about starting. Including me.
Let's look at Sunday's other top storylines:
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• I tried to sound the warning signal on Ronnie Hillman on last week's Fantasy Underground podcast, but I definitely didn't do it loudly enough and I still ranked him as a decent flex play for Week 12. I certainly didn't imagine he'd end Sunday with three carries and zero targets. Hillman isn't a good fit for between-the-tackles running, but that's not why the Denver Broncos didn't use him. Rather, the reason the Broncos issued is that Hillman isn't trustworthy in pass protection. So four-year veteran and former first-rounder Knowshon Moreno was the lead dog, seeing his first action since Week 2 and amassing 111 total yards on 24 touches. (Lance Ball didn't touch the ball.) Hey, this was a total misread based on how much the Broncos' front office appeared to hate Moreno over the past two months (he literally hadn't even suited up since Week 2!). But now you'd have to believe that Moreno is the best candidate to lead Denver in RB touches in the absence of Willis McGahee.
• Jalen Parmele also suckered in some fantasy owners, and lasted one carry (for 13 yards) before apparently pulling a leg muscle. He was seen on the Jacksonville Jaguars' sideline for the next couple of quarters while Rashad Jennings scored a short TD. Then Parmele returned just before halftime and actually got another 32 yards on seven carries; alas, he seemed to reinjure the same leg early in the fourth quarter. Jennings wound up with an inglorious 45 total yards on 17 touches, continuing his mediocre play, but with Maurice Jones-Drew still highly questionable to go in the next couple of weeks, we'll see how Parmele's health progresses for Week 13. Based on how the two Jags RBs played Sunday, Parmele should still be the starter if he's able.
• Andre Brown was doing his customary vulture thing to Ahmad Bradshaw on Sunday night, and in a blowout of the Green Bay Packers had also maintained a respectable overall workload: 13 carries for 64 yards and a TD. But in the fourth quarter he came out of the contest after getting his leg rolled, an injury that was later diagnosed as a broken left fibula. Brown is at least done for the regular season (though the New York Giants haven't ruled out a return for the NFL playoffs), and can be dropped in all fantasy leagues. The impact is big for the fragile Bradshaw: For as long as he lasts, it's unlikely he'll come out in goal-to-go situations now, as the Giants simply don't seem to trust rookie David Wilson enough. Brown's loss is Bradshaw's big-time gain.
• Matt Forte was bent over backward on a 3-yard gain partway through the third quarter and had to leave the game. He reportedly reinjured his right ankle, the same injury that caused him to miss Week 3. He's a tough kid, so I don't rule out the possibility that he goes Week 13 versus the Seattle Seahawks. But Michael Bush found the end zone twice Sunday and we know he can handle the mail in a starter's absence.
• Julio Jones was considered quite questionable entering Sunday's game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of an injured ankle that forced him out of his Week 11 game. But anyone who saw Jones sprinting around the field in Week 12 knows he was feeling much better. Not only did he catch a bomb and evade a defender for an 80-yard TD, he also scampered to tackle Ronde Barber after an early interception of Matt Ryan. If you didn't start Jones for fear of taking a bagel, I get that, though once he was active I figured he needed to be in most lineups. Going forward, however, Jones is back to being a must-start.
• Colin Kaepernick played well. We shouldn't go crazy, but it was a solid performance. For the most part, you didn't see the downfield heaves he threw against the Chicago Bears last Monday, and the San Francisco 49ers bogged down on offense several times. Take away two interceptions returned for TDs by the 49ers, and you're looking at 17 scoreboard points. But Kaepernick did score a rushing TD, which he's wont to do, plus I wouldn't say that his mediocre passing numbers (16-of-25 for 231 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT) were the result of shabby play. The Niners just didn't ask him to do that much. Kaepernick produced 11 fantasy points with his arm and eight with his legs. The good news is that he's capable of doing that with his legs. The bad news is that he's almost certainly going to have some crummy games with his arm. Listen, the 49ers are a good team and you aren't typically able to add a Super Bowl contender's starting QB late in the season. As I've said a million times this year, if you can get a legit running QB who can keep defenses honest with his arm, his weekly floor is usually going to be pretty high. But if you're ready to make Kaepernick an elite fantasy option at this moment, you're overreaching, if only because it seems unlikely San Francisco will ask him to throw it 40-plus times a game.
• If you only look at the box score, it looks like the Buffalo Bills finally figured out the correct way to proceed with their backfield. Fred Jackson had only seven touches for 24 yards, while C.J. Spiller had 17 touches for 103 yards. But it was frustrating to see how frequently Jackson stayed in on passing downs while Spiller did not split out wide, but rather waited on the sideline. Yes, the workload distribution was probably about right, and it's understandable that Chan Gailey trusts the bigger Jackson more in pass protection. Still, it's not enough to merely give your best player the ball more. You have to have him on the field more, too.
• Speaking of Buffalo: Here's why we watch film and remain flexible with our opinions. If you're still living with the idea that the Bills' run defense is the league's worst, you're behind the times. Beginning a couple Thursdays ago against the Miami Dolphins and continuing into Sunday versus the Indianapolis Colts, the Bills have grown significantly stouter. Against Miami, they allowed 60 yards rushing and 2.5 yards per carry. Versus the Colts, they gave up 87 rush yards and 3.0 yards per carry. Those who bought into Vick Ballard as a fantasy starter were already probably overly optimistic, as Donald Brown is too big a drain for that to be a good idea, but on Sunday, Ballard produced only 41 yards on 13 carries (six of which went for two yards or fewer). It should have already gone without saying that you shouldn't invest heavily in the Colts' running game; now it's becoming clearer that you shouldn't automatically target the Bills' run defense, either.
• Somebody get me a Beanie Panini! Beanie Wells scored two first-half TDs against the St. Louis Rams, including an impressive 12-yard scamper around the right corner. Though he produced only 48 yards rushing on 17 carries, Wells ceded only four carries to other RBs, and was able to take advantage of the limited opportunities a Ryan Lindley-led offense is going to produce. The Arizona Cardinals have a horrifically bad offensive line and the fact that they desperately need Kevin Kolb to return speaks volumes. Plus their December schedule looks like the league's toughest. But Wells is addable for all fantasy players.
• Cecil Shorts has now reached double-digit fantasy points in five of his past six contests. Of course, that's reflective of the fact that he has scored a touchdown in four of those games, including Sunday, but he's also reached at least 79 yards receiving in those same five contests. Justin Blackmon deserves credit for following up his immense Week 11 production with five grabs for 62 yards and a red zone TD, and each player benefits from Chad Henne under center. But Shorts is the more impressive, more consistent contributor here.
• Danny Amendola scoffs at your "doubtful" tag. The Rams' beat reporters universally proclaimed it highly unlikely Amendola would play against the Arizona Cardinals until Sunday morning, when whispers began that he'd try to warm up and convince his coaches he could go. Amendola only produced a single catch for 38 yards, so his fantasy owners aren't heartbroken they sat him, but this casts a shady light on Jeff Fisher, who normally isn't known for double-dealing with his injury list.
• Weirdly, the six highest-scoring players of Week 12 as of Monday morning all played on Thanksgiving: Tom Brady, Robert Griffin III, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Dez Bryant and Arian Foster. (In standard-scoring leagues, Foster tied the pick-six-happy 49ers' defense.) This probably doesn't mean anything, except that if you faced some combination of those stars on Turkey Day, your fantasy Week 12 was pretty much over early.
• Aaaaaaand as of Monday morning, Week 12's leading fantasy tight end is the Miami Dolphins' Charles Clay. Of course he is. Clay caught six passes for 84 yards and a 29-yard TD. He's a big guy and a good athlete, but he's not a fantasy option, at least not yet. (Before Sunday he had seven catches all season.) What this proves most of all is what an annoying year this has been for TEs. The six players at this position to score in double digits so far this week? Clay, Dustin Keller, Kyle Rudolph, Jacob Tamme, Jermaine Gresham and Dennis Pitta. Thanks for playing.
• ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday night that both Seattle Seahawks starting corners -- Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner -- are facing four-game suspensions for violating the NFL's PED policy. Sherman and Browner are appealing the penalties, but if they miss time, it will absolutely crush Seattle's defense and potentially make the Seahawks a viable matchup for opposing QBs. Much of what Seattle does on D involves variations on man-to-man coverage on the outside and Sherman and Browner are among the biggest and most physical corners in the league. Stay tuned.
• For the first time in 10 games, A.J. Green didn't score a touchdown. Slacker.
Fantasy Football Week 13
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