George Winkler recaps the action from Week 13 and what the weekend’s developments mean going forward.
Note: This article is part of our series that highlights quality content from premium subscription sites. SportingNews has been gracious enough to share a weekly article with our users for free. For additional insight from SportingNews, you can visit SportingNews.com.
Adrian Peterson (21 car., 210 yds., 1 TD; 1 rec., 10 yds.) provided one of the biggest fantasy scores of the day, and it was fitting with the playoffs on the line in most leagues. Because Peterson was the guy who required some faith in order to draft him this year. So, of course, he delivered a command performance at just the right time in a season when he has done plenty of things against all odds.
We officially throw out the book on anything when it comes to Peterson. Obviously, he is superhuman, the kind of stud player who can’t be constrained by norms. Who were some of the other studs stepping up in Week 13? And what about the ones who failed us? Timing was everything for these guys when it came to whether we’d have fond memories of them in years to come.
Like Peterson, Calvin Johnson (13 rec., 171 yds., 1 TD) rose to the occasion for his owners. Johnson started slowly this season with just one TD in his first eight games, but he has scored in each of the past four games and has scored double-digit fantasy points in the last five. Guess we should change his nickname from Megatron to Closer, because that is what he’s doing in fantasy leagues.
Hopefully, Peterson or Johnson were able to offset a stinker like Drew Brees put up. Yes, we’re going back to Thursday night to dredge that one up, but it is worth reliving since Brees was so uncharacteristically awful: no touchdowns, five interceptions, 3.6 fantasy points. Unbelievable how that happens. Some might say a wasted first-round pick, but that would be unjust. After all, Brees probably got you to where Week 13 mattered to your team.
Tom Brady wasn’t as bad as Brees, but he too tossed up his worst fantasy output of the season at the wrong time. Brady (24-for-40, 238 yds., 1 TD, 1 INT) had 13.8 fantasy points, his lowest total since the 18.5 he had in Week 2 against Arizona. Brady and the Patriots toyed with the Dolphins until finally putting them away. It wasn’t the dominant blowout Brady owners are used to seeing.
Andrew Luck wasn’t a first-round pick in fantasy, but he played that way Sunday. He scored his highest output of the season with 36.9 fantasy points on 391 yards passing, 33 yards rushing and four TD passes that offset three interceptions. Luck’s walk-off TD pass to Donnie Avery gave the Colts a dramatic win, too. Luck proved for one game at least that it’s OK to wait on a QB in your draft.
1. Rams have 49ers’ number. San Francisco might win the NFC West and even get a first-round bye, but it won’t be because of the Rams, who went 1-0-1 against the 49ers this season. Greg Zuerlein kicked two field goals from 50-plus yards to help St. Louis force overtime, then win in overtime with 30 seconds to spare.
Some pundits might immediately blame Colin Kaepernick (21-for-32, 208 yds., 9 car., 84 yds.) for the loss because of his ill-advised pitch that resulted in a fumble and a touchdown for Janoris Jenkins that helped tie the game. But Kaepernick made throws and a 50-yard run that arguably Alex Smith would not have been able to make.
The Rams might have out-coached the 49ers in this one, too. San Francisco sometimes gets too cute on offense as was the case with the Kaepernick pitch deep in their own territory. Plus, the Rams did a good job of limiting everyone not named Michael Crabtree (7 rec., 101 yds.) in the passing game. And Chris Givens (11 rec., 92 yds.) stepped up nicely for the injured Danny Amendola, who was inactive.
The Rams went with a safe game plan on offense, and that limited the 49ers’ chances of making big plays. Credit goes to Jeff Fisher for a big win.
2. Greene takes a knee. A truly awful 7-6 game won by the Jets over the Cardinals fittingly ended two plays after Shonn Greene took a knee at the goal line and passed up an easy TD. Greene still had a great day with 24 carries for 104 yards, his second 100-yard game of the season. Plus, Greene doubled up Bilal Powell‘s carries and reversed a trend that had seen Powell cutting into Greene’s work at an increasing rate. But that kneel-down really burned fantasy owners.
The Jets play Jacksonville next week, giving Greene a chance to notch his third 100-yard game of the season. He’s the only thing fantasy owners can count on in the Jets’ offense right now, and that’s not saying much, because Greene is nothing more than a low-end RB2 even in a favorable matchup.
3. Plug-and-play tight ends. It was a good day for waiver-wire tight ends. Scott Chandler (1 rec., 11 yds.), Dallas Clark (3 rec., 21 yds.), Coby Fleener (1 rec., 26 yds.) and Brandon Myers (14 rec., 130 yds.) all got into the end zone, and Jacob Tamme (9 rec., 89 yds.) led the Broncos in receptions.
Finding these lesser-owned options and playing them at the right time has been a key move this season. The TE position has not panned out like many had thought it would following last year’s strong showing.
Peeking ahead to next week we see Myers (vs. DEN), Fleener (vs. TEN), Tamme (at OAK), Martellus Bennett (vs. NO), Marcedes Lewis (vs. NYJ) and Brent Celek (at TB) all have good matchups, according to our fantasy points allowed tables. They could be plug-and-play options for owners without a stud at tight end.
4. Cornered? Hardly. Seattle cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner both played against the Bears while appealing their four-game suspensions for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. But it did not matter for Brandon Marshall, who had a season-high 165 yards on 10 receptions.
Marshall has averaged 15.5 targets and 11 receptions and has scored two TDs in the two games since Jay Cutler returned from a concussion. Next week Marshall gets a rematch with the Vikings, whom he torched in Week 12.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks face the Cardinals next week, so it might not matter whether their corners are suspended by then given how poorly Arizona has played on offense. Cardinals rookie QB Ryan Lindley can’t move the ball, period, no matter who is playing defense against him.
5. Sunday night shootout. Tony Romo (22-for-27, 303 yds., 3 TDs; 3 car., 14 yds.) went 10-for-10 in the second half and threw two of his three TD passes to Dez Bryant (6 rec., 98 yds.), who also starred in the Cowboys’ 38-33 win against the Eagles. DeMarco Murray (foot) came back for his first game in seven weeks and was effective with 102 total yards and a touchdown on 27 touches. Jason Witten had 108 yards on six receptions, and the Dallas defense returned a fumble for a TD to salvage its fantasy score.
That fumble was by Bryce Brown and was his third in two games. That marred an otherwise strong performance for Brown, who had 183 total yards and two touchdowns. Nick Foles had his best game with 251 yards and a touchdown on 22-for-34 passing with no interceptions. The Eagles special teams got a 98-yard TD return by Damaris Johnson to salvage what was otherwise another poor game.
UP to the booth
T.Y. Hilton continued to come on strong for fantasy owners just when they needed a playoff push. For the fourth time in five weeks he compiled double-digit fantasy points, catching six passes against Detroit for 100 yards. Over the course of this torrid five-week stretch, Hilton has averaged 12.9 fantasy points per game. Hilton is in play as a WR3 next week against the Titans.
Cam Newton did not get the win against an emotional Chiefs squad, but he has averaged 38.3 fantasy points over the past two weeks. Granted, those games came against opponents like the Chiefs and Eagles, who aren’t playing airtight defense these days, but Newton (15-for-27, 232 yds., 3 TDs, 7 car., 78 yds.) is proving to be more like the multi-talented star we saw last season than the dud we witnessed earlier this year.
It couldn’t have come at a better time for fantasy owners, who also saw Steve Smith (5 rec., 120 yds., 1 TD) revived today. Smith scored for only the second time this season, and it was also just his second 100-yard game. Meanwhile, DeAngelo Williams (12 car., 67 yds., 1 rec., 1 yd.) was not all that impressive in a bigger role with Jonathan Stewart (ankles) inactive. Carolina plays host to Atlanta next week.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (25 car., 118 yds., 4 rec., 14 yds.) rolled off his third straight 100-yard game as he and the Bengals continued to have the hot hand in a win over the Chargers. Green-Ellis has averaged 16.6 fantasy points per game the past three weeks. This coming after Green-Ellis had just two double-digit scoring days in the first seven weeks.
Cincinnati plays host to Dallas next week, and the Cowboys have been relatively tough against RBs this year. But you can’t sit Green-Ellis now; he clearly is an RB2 in that matchup.
DOWN to the field
Mark Sanchez (10-for-21, 97 yds.; 1 car., 2 yds.) was benched after throwing three interceptions against the Cardinals, but not for Tim Tebow, who was inactive because of cracked ribs. Instead it was Greg McElroy (5-for-7, 29 yds., 1 TD; 4 car., 5 yds.) who came on in relief and led the team to the win. Rex Ryan was noncommittal when asked about his QB situation after the game. The Jets play Jacksonville next week.
Ryan Mathews (9 car., 26 yds.; 3 rec., 25 yds.) extended his string of single-digit scoring games to seven in a loss to the Bengals, and the hope of stopping that skid is not high as the Chargers head to Pittsburgh. It’s safe to say that if you drafted Mathews early you might not be playing next week, anyway, when the fantasy playoffs start.
Rashard Mendenhall was a healthy scratch against the Ravens, a nod to Jonathan Dwyer, who rushed 16 times for 49 yards and one TD. Dwyer also had three receptions for 8 yards. It might finally be time to drop Mendenhall if you were one of those holding out hope for a late-season push.
Jordy Nelson left Sunday’s game against the Lions because of a hamstring injury and did not return. Nelson has been hampered by hamstring problems all season and can’t be counted on as a safe play moving forward. With Greg Jennings back, Nelson’s injury gives James Jones and Randall Cobb a chance at extended life in your fantasy lineups.
Rashad Jennings left with a concussion and did not return to the game against the Bills. Jennings will have to pass baseline tests to get back to work this week. Special teamer Montell Owens came on in relief of Jennings and would be a worthy waiver pickup. Nobody knows when Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) will make it back.
Stevie Johnson went to the locker room in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return for the Bills. Fantasy owners will need to monitor practice reports this week to see if Johnson can make it back in time for the Week 14 game against the Rams. Initially, he said he would.
Ryan Broyles left the game against the Colts with a knee injury and did not return. So Broyles couldn’t take advantage of another game in which Titus Young Sr. was a healthy scratch. Perhaps Broyles’ injury will force the Lions to bring Young back. Otherwise, look for Mike Thomas to get more work at wide receiver.
Cecil Shorts sustained a concussion late in the game against the Bills, which is too bad. Shorts has been great down the stretch and had seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown against the Bills before the injury. If he is active, Shorts should be in your lineup against the Jets next week, but he’ll have to pass all his tests.
Julian Edelman left Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with a foot injury. He had just one catch for 13 yards before getting hurt. Edelman is a desperation play most weeks anyway, so fantasy owners should look for another option for next week.
Donald Brown left late in the Lions game with an ankle injury. If he misses next week’s game against the Titans, it would make Vick Ballard an even more appealing option. Ballard (9 car., 41 yds., 1 TD; 3 rec., 21 yds.) outplayed Brown (6 car., 13 yds.; 2 rec., 10 yds.) against Detroit anyway, so fantasy owners were already leaning in that direction.
FIND OR FLUKE
Joique Bell, RB, Lions. Bell has provided the Lions with a change-of-pace back to Mikel LeShoure (21 car., 57 yds., 1 TD; 2 rec., 16 yds.), and he was at it again on Sunday versus the Colts. Bell had 102 total yards, including 81 rushing. Though 67 of those yards came on one carry, Bell has actually used at least three big runs to bolster his double-digit scoring outputs in the past two weeks. He is still better used as a handcuff to LeShoure than anything else, but definitely worth having on a roster. Ruling: Find.
James Starks, RB, Packers. Starks (15 car., 66 yds., 1 TD; 2 rec., 16 yds.) showed his best burst of the season getting to the corner to score on a 22-yard touchdown against the Vikings. But Starks continues to share touches pretty evenly with Alex Green (12 car., 58 yds.; 1 rec., 12 yds.), so it was the TD that put him in the category of a fantasy starter. That’s a tough way to live week-to-week, and we’ve been let down by Starks before. Don’t trust him next week against Detroit. Ruling: Fluke.
If your team didn’t make the playoffs, it’s time to graciously step aside while the contenders battle for waiver-wire pickups. Because unless there is a points title at stake that counts games in Weeks 14-16 for everyone, there’s no reason for non-playoff teams to be making moves. Don’t be the owner who makes spiteful moves as a way of getting back at people for a bad season. It will only hurt your chances of returning to the league.