Instant Impressions from Week 13
You've already heard me apologize for my summer doubt of AP. I was as low as anyone on the rehabbing royalty, despite how much I've loved him during his career, and I hate all the "superhuman" talk because it devalues his hard work. In a losing effort Sunday, Peterson produced 210 rushing yards in three quarters, then saw his team fail to get him a touch in the final stanza. Nevertheless, through 12 games, he's got 1,446 rushing yards, which puts him on pace for 1,928. Let the AP2K talk begin! With a decent final month, you'd have to think that Peterson will be fantasy's MVP of 2012 simply because of where he was drafted. He's also primed to win his second career rushing title, and he's doing this with a below-average quarterback who has no viable outside receivers.
And how about that Megatron? Johnson's unbelievable five-game run (45 catches for 790 yards and four TDs!) has now put him on a pace for 1,904 receiving yards, which would break Jerry Rice's single-season record (1,848) from 1995. There are many, many superstitious people on planet Earth who believe all kinds of interesting things, but can we please, please, please stop asking serious questions about whether the Madden Curse exists? Megatron is living proof that it does not.
Let's look at Sunday's other top storylines:
• I don't want to do it, it's not a particularly fantasy-relevant situation, but I feel I'm contractually obligated to make a really big deal about the New York Jets. They changed their quarterback about two months too late, and actually won a game. Mark Sanchez seriously might not have been able to play worse; if it were Titus Young back there, you'd almost swear passes were intentionally being fluttered so Arizona Cardinals defenders could intercept them. Finally, stubborn (some might argue cement-headed) Rex Ryan made the switch, but Tim Tebow has injured ribs so Greg McElroy took over and led the Jets on their only scoring drive. After the game, Ryan reportedly wouldn't speculate on which QB would start Week 14. If Tebow gets the call -- at this point we have no idea if he'll be healthy enough -- he would be a must-add in all fantasy leagues. McElroy is far less exciting.
• Another running QB, Colin Kaepernick, played poorly against the St. Louis Rams, and was hamstrung by a prototypical San Francisco 49ers offensive game plan. It was dink-and-dunk throughout, the kind of attack that has driven Alex Smith owners crazy throughout the years. In addition, Kaepernick botched a pitch deep in his own territory leading directly to a Rams defensive TD, plus inexplicably ran out of bounds as the Niners were driving for what should've been the game-winning points in regulation. But he also produced a jailbreak 50-yard run to make that late score possible, and didn't make any mistakes throwing the ball. It appears that the wide-open game plan we saw from San Francisco against the Chicago Bears a couple Mondays ago isn't going to recur, which will put a severe cap on Kap. But because he's exciting with his legs, he'll continue to be borderline startable in most fantasy leagues.
• There are many, many fantasy owners in this great nation who owe ESPN's Adam Schefter a debt for his early Sunday reporting on Darren McFadden. (As if we didn't all already owe Schefty our right arms!) He put out the word well in advance of the early games that DMC was unlikely to play in Week 13, which allowed folks to get the brittle RB out of their lineups. I do an ESPN Radio segment with Adnan Virk and Eric Allen in the middle of those early games, and we talk about the late contests, and I'll bet it was quite funny listening to E.A. and me trying to tap-dance around McFadden's, um, fortitude issues. (Incidentally: Eric Allen = Hall of Famer. Make it so.) In DMC's absence, Marcel Reece produced only 56 yards from scrimmage on 12 touches, his worst outing since McFadden's injury, as Jeremy Stewart took over running back duties in the second half. Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen told reporters he expects DMC to play Thursday night against the Denver Broncos. And nobody has ever said that before and been wrong.
• Speaking of vexing Raiders, it's been two-and-a-half weeks since I wrote about the fact that Denarius Moore was being overrated by the fantasy intelligentsia. In the three games since combined, he's caught four passes for 60 yards and one TD, and according to Allen, Moore was benched Sunday for "performance reasons." It couldn't be clearer that Moore isn't ready to carry a passing offense on his back. His speed is impressive, his route-running is OK, but he makes too many mental errors and doesn't beat single coverage enough. I doubt I'll have Moore inside my top 25 WRs for a matchup against Denver's tough defense. Meanwhile, Brandon Myers caught 14 passes for 130 yards and the ultimate garbage-time TD (with two seconds left in the game), and is a must-start in all leagues.
• Bryce Brown's reign of terror continues. Sure, he gave away a huge fumble (for a Dallas Cowboys defensive TD) in the fourth quarter, but he racked up another 183 yards from scrimmage and two more TDs, rescuing LeSean McCoy owners from certain doom. Did you know that Brown made my Super-Deep Sleepers list way back in August? He did. In fact, if you peruse that list, Sunday was a pretty good day for some of those dudes. Anyway, we don't really know yet whether McCoy is close to returning from his concussion, but if I'm a betting man, I'm betting he isn't.
• While Peyton Manning was solid and Demaryius Thomas continued his stellar play, Eric Decker continues to be left behind, even against a vulnerable Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary. In his past four games combined, Decker has 10 catches for 119 yards and one TD, which is a major comedown from his prior pace (through eight games, he had 46 catches for 583 yards and seven TDs). We don't have any indication that this is an injury problem; rather, Decker has 19 targets in those four games (an average of 4.8, compared to 8.6 in his prior eight). He's had a few drops, but not enough for the offense to completely lose faith in him. I don't have an easy explanation, but for the time being, he's off the must-start list.
• DeMarco Murray appeared to make it through Sunday night's game with his injured foot intact. He saw 27 touches to Felix Jones' seven, and while there appeared to be a hitch in his giddyup at times, totaling 102 yards and a TD is just fine for a guy who hadn't seen the field since Week 6. Unless we hear something negative early this week, I think we can assume he's back to a borderline top-10 fantasy RB moving into Week 14's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
• We all had a good chuckle at Charlie Batch's expense after Week 12, so let's give him some credit for a big road win against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday. He wound up 25-of-36 for 276 yards, one TD and one INT, and it should've been much better: Emmanuel Sanders just flat-out dropped the ball as he was already running downfield for what should've been a 70-plus-yard TD, plus Batch himself blew a deep throw to an absolutely wide open Mike Wallace near halftime. But when it seemed the Ravens were ready to put the Pittsburgh Steelers away, Batch just kept bringing his team back with throw after throw, and not always the dinky variety. This is likely a last hurrah for Batch as starter, as Ben Roethlisberger is reportedly expected to take the reins back in Week 14, rescuing the Steelers' offensive weapons from fantasy obscurity. But give Batch a pat on the back; he played a real-life big-league game Sunday.
• C.J. Spiller had 15 touches for 84 yards and a 44-yard score Sunday, so his fantasy owners aren't complaining, but his reign as the Buffalo Bills' unquestioned starter may already be over. First of all, Fred Jackson was the clear choice any time the Bills got near the goal line. Second of all, Jackson was given 27 touches for 119 yards from scrimmage. Now, it's possible some of that was the game situation; Buffalo had a big second-half lead, and Jackson had an 18-to-6 advantage over Spiller during that second half. Plus the weather stunk, and maybe Jackson is a better "mudder," and Spiller still has the jumpy explosiveness that makes him a terrific every-week fantasy option. But I had Jackson at No. 34 among RBs this week, and that was probably too low. I expect to push the two RBs just a bit closer for Week 14.
• Let's also acknowledge that Arian Foster didn't exactly get his normal workload, either. He had 14 carries for 38 yards and five catches for 15 more, and salvaged his day with a red zone TD, but in the meanwhile Justin Forsett had 14 carries himself and Ben Tate chipped in with three. And don't chalk this up as some kind of garbage-time arrangement; Forsett got the lion's share of two first-half series to himself. But I can't get completely freaked out about this. I mean, Foster is still on pace for 19 total TDs, and if this is a "bad game," it's still pretty good. If we see a dramatically lessened workload in a big Monday night matchup against the New England Patriots next week? OK, I'll think about changing my ranks. But Foster will be No. 1 on my Week 14 RB list.
• Vernon Davis is making folks angry. He was just about the best tight end going for four out of the season's first five weeks, and since then he's produced exactly one fantasy-relevant day. The advent of Kaepernick seemed like a possible breath of fresh air for Big Vern, but he has four targets and two catches for 15 yards in the past two games combined. Gross. He's not hurt. He occasionally looks open (though I'd like to watch Sunday's game film again before I promise that's true). But he's just not getting the ball. The problem is that the entire TE position is a wasteland of unreliable folks who go off one game and then disappear the next. With Rob Gronkowski out, this is a level plateau and I don't know whether to tell you No. 2 or No. 20 in any given week. If you want to bench Davis going forward, I completely get it, and I'm going to lower him in my ranks next week. But sit down with a pencil and paper right now and try and come up with your own list. My point is that 2012 has been the furthest thing from the Year of the Tight End imaginable, and Davis is a leading victim. I don't know what the heck to do with him.
• Sunday, Rashad Jennings lasted eight carries (for 20 yards) before taking a thunderous blow to the head that concussed him and sent him to the locker room for good. In his place, Montel Owens saw the Jacksonville Jaguars' only backfield work, and he was predictably uninspiring. If Maurice Jones-Drew doesn't return next week (which seems like a safe bet), we could see Owens split time with Jordan Todman and/or Richard Murphy. You don't want any of them in your fantasy playoffs, unless you're the most desperate you've ever been.
• Cecil Shorts also suffered a concussion Sunday, and on his game-winning overtime catch, Sidney Rice sure looked like he suffered one, too. Jordy Nelson pulled a hamstring and didn't return, potentially thinning the Green Bay Packers WR corps with Greg Jennings back in business. Dustin Keller suffered a high-ankle sprain and is probably gone for multiple weeks. Brandon LaFell dropped a long would-be touchdown and then later suffered a foot sprain. And sleeper Ryan Broyles (whom I mentioned as a really interesting player for 2013 in last week's Fantasy Underground podcast) hurt his right knee and didn't return. Early indications were that the injury may be serious, which would be a major bummer because Broyles just recovered from an ACL tear in his left knee.
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