Kenn Ruby recaps the action from over the weekend and covers the players who either moved up or down on the depth chart.
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Jay Cutler certainly hasn’t lost his job – the Bears are hopeless without him – but he wasn’t at his best Sunday, completing just 22 passes in 44 attempts and throwing two interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown). Jason Campbell replaced Cutler when the latter left with a neck injury, and though Campbell played much better than he did last time he was on the field, the Packers are coming to town in Week 15, so Cutler will try everything possible to be on the field.
With the Bears missing Earl Bennett on Sunday, Alshon Jeffery and Devin Hester were fortunately able to return to action. Jeffery started, along with stalwart Brandon Marshall and the surprising choice of Eric Weems (who wasn’t targeted), and finished with three catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. Hester caught five passes himself, but the Bears completed 28 passes Sunday, which isn’t the usual occurrence, so don’t expect Hester to be that productive again anytime soon.
Kicking news isn’t usually a big deal, but when Mike Nugent misses a game with a calf injury and Josh Brown knocks down four field goals – including a 52-yarder – it’s worth noting. Nugent will probably return soon, but Brown may want to put Sunday’s game on his resume for the next time a team desperately needs a placekicker.
C.J. Spiller got a little more into Fred Jackson territory Sunday, but that could have more to do with Jackson’s knee injury and less to do with the Bills finally giving the ball to the right back. Not that Jackson has been bad during the rare times he’s been healthy, but he clearly hasn’t been better than Spiller, who finished with 37 yards on seven carries Sunday. Jackson, who probably has an MRI in his future, gained just 14 yards on nine attempts, but he also caught five passes. After the game, coach Chan Gailey said Jackson’s injury “did not look good,” which sounds ominous.
Donald Jones returned this week and finished with three catches for 33 yards, the exact same numbers as T.J. Graham, who started in Jones’ place last week. This author has been getting the two receivers confused all season, and Sunday’s identical statistics won’t make things any easier. Neither is a wideout you want on your active roster with the playoffs looming.
Good lord, was that a beatdown of epic proportions. The Cardinals were supposed to be a little bit better with John Skelton behind center instead of Ryan Lindley, but Skelton turned the ball over five times before finally giving way to Lindley, who to his credit only the turned the ball over once. Both quarterbacks were terrible, however, as the Cardinals lost 58-0. Kevin Kolb might be back soon, but he’d probably fear for his life playing behind the awful Arizona offensive line.
Dwayne Bowe was in so much pain after leaving Sunday’s game with a rib injury, he appeared to vomit on the field. There aren’t any good receivers in Kansas City to pick up the slack of Bowe’s absence, but our best guess is Jon Baldwin or Dexter McCluster might see a bit more action. Then again, the two combined for just two catches for eight yards Sunday. Terrance Copper and Jamar Newsome are also around, but would you bet your fantasy season on those guys?
Brent Celek suffered a concussion in the first quarter of Sunday’s victory over Tampa Bay, and given that the Eagles only have three games left before a long vacation, he probably won’t be rushed back. Clay Harbor saw plenty of extra action due to the injury, delivering six catches for 52 yards and an 11-yard score.
Montell Owens gave the best performance by a Jaguars back all season, finishing with 14 carries for 91 yards, highlighted by a 32-yard score. With Jalen Parmele (groin), Rashad Jennings (concussion) and Maurice Jones-Drew (foot), all hurt, it’s amazing Jacksonville had anybody available to play. Owens has been a special teams star, but Sunday marked his first NFL start. Next week looks like it’ll be start No. 2.
Kevin Elliott was the starter in place of Cecil Shorts (concussion) Sunday, and although he had 10 targets, his three catches for 38 yards were nothing to write home about. Jordan Shipley (five receptions for 55 yards) may have fared a little better, so it wouldn’t be surprising to him get a shot – rather than Elliott – if Shorts’ injury lingers.
The Jets ran a whopping 42 times Sunday, and Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell had nearly identical lines: 20 carries for 77 yards for Greene, 19 for 78 for Powell. Both scored, but Powell has been getting the ball more and more lately, and is taking advantage. In his last four games, he has 54 carries for 218 yards and four touchdowns. Greene isn’t Adrian Peterson, so it wouldn’t take much to unseat him. Powell may nearly be there already.
Stephen Hill came into Sunday’s game nursing a knee injury, and he suffered another knee injury Sunday and will have an MRI on Monday. He received just one target and was shut out, but the Jets were able to take care of the Jaguars nonetheless. Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens will probably have no problems absorbing Hill’s expected output, especially given the Jets’ commitment to the running game.
As Joique Bell gets more and more comfortable catching passes out of the backfield, Mikel Leshoure becomes less and less valuable. Sunday against Green Bay both backs ran for 49 yards (Leshoure on 14 carries, Bell on 12), but Bell also caught five passes for 47 yards while Leshoure wasn’t even targeted. Bell looks like the running back to own down the stretch.
As hard as it is to believe, the Lions have other wide receivers on the field besides Calvin Johnson. The problem is they just keep getting hurt. Ryan Broyles and Titus Young are both done for the season, so the unknown Kris Durham started Sunday night. He was targeted nine times and finished with four catches for 54 yards. You can do a lot worse.
Brandon Pettigrew left Sunday’s game early with an ankle injury and never touched the ball. Vet Tony Scheffler filled in, catching three passes for 20 yards and scoring early in the second quarter. We’re still waiting for Pettigrew’s breakout season, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be 2012.
Jordy Nelson missed Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, but with the elements not so good in Green Bay, he wasn’t really missed. The Packers completed just 14 on the night (half of those to Randall Cobb), and did most of their damage on the ground. It’ll be interesting to see what the Packers do when all four of their receivers are healthy at the same time, because Greg Jennings and James Jones need to get the ball too.
A chipped bone in his foot as well as turf toe kept Brandon LaFell on the sidelines Sunday, but the Panthers had no problems handling the tough Falcons, partially thanks to Murphy, who started in LaFell’s place. Murphy was targeted a season-high nine times and caught five passes for 36 yards, but Steve Smith remained Cam Newton‘s favorite target, finishing with seven receptions for 109 yards.
Darren McFadden missed more than a month with an ankle injury, and when he finally returned Thursday … he aggravated the injury. Fortunately he seemed to be fine after the game, and with a little extra time to heal, he should be ready for Week 15 against the Chiefs. Marcel Reece played well in McFadden’s absence, but went back to a complementary role Thursday, carrying just four times and catching only one pass. It’s a shame, because he helped a lot of teams make the playoffs with his late-season run, and then he contributed almost nothing against the Broncos. Mike Goodson (ankle) was also back, but not quite in action, as he didn’t record a single touch. At least Reece appears to have passed Goodson on the depth chart.
Rookie Robert Griffin III tore his ACL while he was at Baylor, so naturally the Redskins were concerned when he injured the same knee Sunday. “I know what an ACL feels like,” Griffin said after the game. The Redskins are calling it a sprain, but considering it occurred in week 14 to one of the best fantasy players in the league, thousands will be on the edge of their seats until Griffin’s MRI confirms the diagnosis. Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins led the Skins to an overtime victory over the Ravens on Sunday.
Just throw a dart at a dartboard already.
With three touchdowns and 285 yards passing, Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t bad in his return, though he completed barely more than 50 percent of his attempts and the Chargers easily beat his Steelers. Charlie Batch filled in ably while Big Ben was sidelined, but he’ll go back to being the backup he was born to be as the Steelers push toward the playoffs.
Jared Cook caught a touchdown – his fourth of the season – before leaving Sunday’s game with the a shoulder injury. He was already nursing a sore neck coming into the game, and when you throw the shoulder malady on top of it, his status is uncertain. Craig Stevens, who caught one pass Sunday and has 20 catches this season, is next in line.