BEARS WR: Earl Bennett had an opportunity to shine Sunday with Devin Hester out with a calf injury. Instead, he caught just one pass for six yards while Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu combined for 13 catches for 159 yards and each caught a touchdown pass. Both (particularly Aromashodu) likely earned larger roles in the offense in the final weeks of the season.
BROWNS RB: Although Jerome Harrison was active Thursday against Pittsburgh, he had just nine yards on seven carries while Chris Jennings and Josh Cribbs stole the show in an upset win over Pittsburgh. Cribbs probably doesn’t qualify at running back in most leagues, but he had eight carries out of the Wildcat formation and rushed for 87 yards. Jennings got a whopping 20 carries and gained 73 yards and the first touchdown of his career. He has the Chiefs this week, so he’s worth picking up for your playoff roster.
CARDINALS WR: Larry Fitzgerald returned to the game after departing with a knee injury. He'll have an MRI on Tuesday, but it may just be precautionary. Fitzgerald finished with just two catches for 22 yards in Monday's loss to Arizona, while the Cards' high-powered passing attack struggled against the San Francisco defense. If Fitzgerald ends up sitting out against the Lions in Week 15, Steve Breaston is in line for an expanded role.
JETS QB: Kellen Clemens may have had his first – and final – start of the year Sunday. Regular starter Mark Sanchez was upset he had to sit out with a knee injury and should return this week. Even if Clemens starts one more, the Jets’ ball-control offense will prevent him from doing much fantasy damage.
LIONS QB: Daunte Culpepper started in place of Matthew Stafford (shoulder) Sunday, but considering that Detroit lost to the Ravens by 45 points and that Culpepper threw two interceptions, Stafford may be coming back soon. If Culpepper is auditioning for a 2010 job, he may need another game to show that he’s still got it.
LIONS RB: Kevin Smith suffered a “significant” injury Sunday and may be done for the season. Maurice Morris and Aaron Brown will try to pick up the slack, but considering how poor the Detroit offense looked against Baltimore, neither make an interesting pickup this week. Brown is the upside play, but wait and see if the Lions tip their hand during the week regarding the replacement starter.
PANTHERS RB: After Jonathan Stewart’s big game on Dec. 6, DeAngelo Williams owners were noticeably nervous about how the carries would be split up when Williams returned from a one-game absence On Sunday, Williams had 13 rushes to Stewart’s seven and outgained him 82-29. D-Williams will be fine, but the Panthers' offensive line may be without right tackle Jeff Otah in Week 15.
RAIDERS QB: The season might be over for Bruce Gradkowski, who partially sprained ligaments in both knees Sunday. It’s too bad, because the Oakland offense looked much better under Gradkowski the last few weeks than it ever has under JaMarcus Russell. Russell was sacked six times and otherwise threw up his usual stat line Sunday: 10-for-16 for 74 yards, one interception, and zero scores. Charlie Frye could start this week against Denver, but it’s more likely that Russell will get another shot.
RAMS QB: Keith Null was the surprise starter behind center for the Rams Sunday and he lived up to his name by throwing five interceptions. Null, a rookie out of West Texas A&M was playing in the first game of his career. Kyle Boller was expected to start but with the Rams sitting on one win for the season, they had nothing to lose by throwing out the rookie. Null threw for 157 yards and a touchdown in the 47-7 loss to Tennessee.
RAVENS WR: Mark Clayton missed Sunday’s game with knee and hamstring injuries, and he could be out for another week or two. Kelley Washington was expected to see an expanded role with Clayton got, but the running game was all Baltimore needed Sunday, so Washington wasn’t targeted even once. Demetrius Williams, who caught two passes for 45 yards, should see a little more action as well.
REDSKINS RB: Quinton Ganther started Sunday and got the plum assignment against the sieve-like Oakland defense. Ganther’s numbers were pedestrian – 14 carries for 50 yards and three catches for 43 yards – but he scored a pair of one-yard touchdowns in the fourth quarter to give his fantasy owners (who had probably never heard of him a couple of weeks ago) a nice bonus. Rock Cartwright has just one carry for zero yards, so it looks like Ganther has the job for now.
SAINTS RB: The New Orleans running back merry-go-round took another turn Sunday as Mike Bell sat out the game with a knee injury. Pierre Thomas, who nearly everyone seems to think is the best back on the team (yet why should we second-guess a coach of a 13-0 squad?) had 100 yards from scrimmage (13 rushes for 47 yards and six catches 53 yards). Reggie Bush scored twice on his six receptions, and he also had six carries for 33 yards. Whoever the Saints throw back there, the team is humming right now, so if someone is ever named the indisputable lead back, start him with confidence.
SEAHAWKS WR: Nate Burleson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seattle’s top two receivers, both suffered injuries Sunday. Burleson is scheduled for an MRI on his ankle Monday while Housh had a minor neck injury. The Seattle offense needed something Sunday, so they could struggle even more with one or both out against Tampa Bay this weekend. Next on the depth chart: Deion Branch, Deon Butler, and Ben Obomanu who have combined for just 46 catches this season. Branch is the one to target if either of the starters sit out against the Bucs.
TEXANS RB: Houston is still looking for an every-down back, especially now that Steve Slaton is done for the season. Some fantasy owners thought Chris Brown would be the feature back, but savvier owners looked for undrafted rookie Arian Foster, who led the Texans with 13 carries Sunday. Ryan Moats had 10 carries for 43 yards and a touchdown, but a fourth-quarter fumble was his last carry of the game, possibly opening up an opportunity for Foster to start this week.
TITANS QB: Vince Young left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury in the second quarter, so Tennessee invited back old friend Kerry Collins to finish up against the Rams. Collins threw for 154 yards and a touchdown in the 47-7 victory, but it looks like Young’s injury is mild enough that Collins will probably not be needed this weekend against Miami.
Article first appeared 12/15/09