BEARS QB: I was interviewed before the season started and asked to make one surprise prediction, and after struggling to come up with something, said, ďJay Cutler will fall on his face.Ē Unfortunately, I was right. Sundayís performance was the last straw, as a tough Baltimore defense limited him to just 10-for-27 for 94 yards. Another three interceptions were added to Cutlerís season total before Caleb Hanie was brought in to replace him. Hanie wasnít any better (2-for-5 for eight yards and an interception of his own), but with the Bears looking at a long winter of hibernation, he may get another shot this week.
BROWNS RB: Owners of Chris Jennings had to be licking their chops at the chance to see what he could do against the flimsy Kansas City defense, but it was a different Cleveland running back who shined on Sunday. Jerome Harrison, seemingly left for dead a few weeks ago, had an astonishing performance against the Chiefs, running for a franchise-record 286 yards and scoring three times. Itís safe to say heíll get the start against the Raiders this weekend, and itís very likely heíll be available for you to pick up. Which you should do. Right now.
BUCCANEERS RB: Derrick Ward finally got a starterís share of the carries, running 19 times for 67 yards and scoring on a six-yard reception. Cadillac Williams only had 12 rushes, but he nearly equaled Wardís rushing total and also caught a 22-yard scoring pass. Williams has had between 10 and 17 carries in each of his last 11 games, while Wardís usage has been up-and-down all year. It looks like Tampa wants Ward to have the job, but theyíre going to keep driving the Caddy as well.
CARDINALS RB: Beanie Wells is starting to put some distance between himself and Tim Hightower on the depth chart. While Hightower has been more productive overall this season, Wells had 17 carries Sunday while Hightower had just six. More importantly was what Wells did with those carries: 110 yards and an 18-yard score. Hightower is still used more in the passing game (as evidenced by his six targets Sunday), but Wells looks like the guy who will be getting the majority of the carries the rest of the way.
CHIEFS WR: Dwayne Bowe returned from a four-game suspension Sunday, but he may have been replaced as the alpha dog on the Kansas City receiving corps. Chris Chambers was strong again, catching five passes for 114 yards and one score. The extra attention paid to Chambers could ultimately help Bowe, as he should be able to beat single coverage if his team can get him the ball.
FALCONS QB: Matt Ryan was definitely rusty in his return Sunday after missing two games and most of a third. Though he didnít turn the ball over and he threw a game-winning touchdown, his numbers were lackluster (16-for-34 for 152 yards). Chris Redman heads back to the bench.
FALCONS RB: Michael Turner gave it his best shot, but he left the game after just one carry Sunday. His ankle injury is just not going away, and it wouldnít be a surprise to see him get another week off. Jason Snelling was definitely better than Jerious Norwood Sunday, and Snelling is far more likely to get the start in Week 16 if Turner canít go.
JETS QB: Fighting for a playoff spot, the Jets brought Mark Sanchez back into the starting lineup after he sat out a game with a knee injury. He continued to be plagued by turnovers (he had three more interceptions Sunday), as the Jets lost a game they really needed. In his defense, Sanchez had to deal with wintry conditions he didnít see too often at USC. Barring injury, heíll start the last two games of the season.
LIONS QB: With Matthew Stafford still out, the Lions went with Daunte Culpepper again on Sunday, but he was replaced in the second half by Drew Stanton. It wasnít exactly a stellar performance for Stanton (10-for-19 for 72 yards), but he did get into the end zone himself once. Stafford may return in Week 16, but if not, Stanton has a better chance of starting than Culpepper.
LIONS RB: If there were any question as to who would get the carries after Kevin Smithís season-ending knee injury, Maurice Morris answered them emphatically. Morris ran 17 times for a 126 yards Sunday, highlighted by a 64-yard score in the third quarter. Morris also led the Lions with five catches for 35 yards.
PANTHERS RB: An ankle injury limited DeAngelo Williams to just six carries Sunday, but the Panthers didnít miss a beat with Jonathan Stewart in the lineup. As usual, when Stewart gets the carries, he delivers. Stewart had 109 yards rushing on 25 rushes and scored two touchdowns (one on the ground and one in the air). With the playoffs out of reach and Williams at less than 100 percent, itís possible that Stewart will get the start this week.
RAIDERS QB: Charlie Frye Ė and not JaMarcus Russell Ė got the starting nod Sunday with Bruce Gradkowski out with a knee injury. However, Frye was knocked out of the game with a possible concussion, so the Raiders were forced to turn to their prodigal son. Russell led the Raiders on a last-minute touchdown drive for a 20-19 victory, so at least he has that going for him, but Frye will get the start against Cleveland in Week 16 as long as heís healthy.
RAIDERS RB: The Broncos were supposed to run all over the Raiders on Sunday, but Oakland Ė most notably Michael Bush Ė turned the tables on Denver in an upset win. Justin Fargas tweaked his knee early in the game, and Darren McFadden and Bush took over the rest of the way. Bush had 18 carries for 133 yards while Run-DMC was 12-for-74. With Fargas banged up and Bush and McFadden looking so much better, it would be a shock to see Fargas in the starting lineup in either of Oaklandís remaining games this season.
SAINTS TE: Jeremy Shockey continued doing what he does best: disappointing his fantasy owners. After practicing on Thursday and Friday and seemingly being on track to play against Dallas Saturday, Shockey sat out the game with a toe injury. David Thomas was targeted a whopping 10 times and caught eight passes for 77 yards. Shockey should be back this weekend, but Thomas may give New Orleans second thoughts.
SEAHAWKS WR: One of the most pleasant fantasy surprises this year, Nate Burleson has 63 catches for 812 and is one of the most heavily-targeted wideouts in the league. Unfortunately, Seattle didnít have him against Tampa Bay as they suffered an embarrassing 24-7 defeat. Deion Branch took over Burlesonís job on Sunday and was targeted 10 times. Burleson has a high ankle sprain, which is not usually an injury that heals quickly. He may not return this season.
TEXANS RB: Arian Foster was a popular choice at RotoWire HQ, but he laid a major egg on Sunday, running only twice for seven yards and fumbling once (thanks for the negative points you got me against my nemesis, Mr. Foster!). Ryan Moats had an unspectacular 13 carries for 46 yards, but with Steve Slaton done for the year and Chris Brown only getting three carries Sunday, Moats is the closest thing Houston has to a workhorse.
Article first appeared 12/22/09