Before getting too excited about DeAngelo Williams’ 15 carries for 61 yards, remember that 35 of those yards came on the game-clinching touchdown. Otherwise, he was just as bad as DeShaun Foster, who had 18 rushes for just 47 yards. On the other hand, 15 carries is reason for celebration among Williams fans, considering he only had 99 carries in 13 games coming into last week’s game. Williams hasn’t quite moved ahead of Foster on the depth chart, but he could see more touches than Foster in the last two games of the year. With a big game or two, he’ll head into training camp as the leader at the position.
Darren Sproles exploded for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries Sunday, but LaDainian Tomlinson – who had two scores of his own – has nothing to worry about. The player who should be worried is Michael Turner, who hurt his shoulder in the second quarter. Widely considered as the top backup running back in the league, Turner had just five carries for 28 yards in the blowout. San Diego has been reluctant to part with Turner in the past, but if Sproles is capable of such a performance – even against the Detroit defense – Turner could be traded in the offseason.
Another good fantasy game by Justin Fargas was spoiled when he left the game with a sprained MCL in the fourth quarter. Before departing, Fargas had 89 yards rushing and a touchdown. He was replaced by Dominic Rhodes, who was surprisingly active instead of LaMont Jordan. Rhodes had seven carries for 41 yards against his old team, and he’ll have the inside track to the starting job if Fargas can’t play this week. Jordan, who played well during the first month of the season, could also see significant action.
Darius Walker started last week, gaining 66 yards on 13 carries, but it was Ron Dayne again that led Houston in rushing, finishing with 11 carries for 67 yards off the bench. Dayne was iffy going into the game, thanks to a sore ankle, but he scored his fourth touchdown of the season. Walker will be involved in the running game during the final two weeks, but Dayne looks like he’ll head back into the starting lineup.
Travis Henry and Selvin Young continued to split carries last week, but neither was anything special against the Texans. Young had eight rushes for 34 yards while Henry was 10 for 27. Coach Mike Shanahan seems to like Henry more, and he’ll go to him more and more as Henry gets healthier, but neither back can be relied upon at this time as long as they share duties in this way.
In case you were worried about Fred Jackson stealing carries from Marshawn Lynch, Sunday’s game should put those fears to rest. Lynch, now fully healthy, had 21 carries for 82 yards while Jackson had just seven carries for 16 yards. The Bills are packing it in at this point, but they appear to be set at running back for 2008.
Tony Romo had his worst game of the season Sunday, throwing three picks and completing only 13 passes in 36 attempts. X-rays on his bruised thumb showed no breaks, and since he didn’t miss a play Sunday, it’s not considered serious. It’s been so long since anyone else threw a pass for Dallas that we had to look up Romo’s backup. It’s veteran Brad Johnson, in case you were interested.
Kellen Clemens threw only one pass Sunday – it was intercepted and returned for a touchdown – before leaving the game with bruised ribs. After wide receiver (and former college quarterback) Brad Smith played three plays behind center, Chad Pennington came into the game and played well enough to keep the Jets close to the vaunted Patriots. Pennington, who hadn’t played in seven weeks, threw for 186 yards and didn’t turn the ball over, which isn’t bad when you consider the opponent and the weather. Pennington will step back into the starting role if Clemens is unable to play this weekend.
If you looked at Jeff Garcia’s stats (15-for-25 for 109 yards, one touchdown, and one interception), you might assume he was one of the many quarterbacks affected by the poor weather conditions Sunday. You’d be wrong; it was 68 degrees and sunny when Garcia took the field for the first time in three weeks. His back was probably bothering him somewhat, but he made it through the game unscathed. The Bucs built a big lead against Atlanta and ran the ball almost exclusively in the second half, so they didn’t need a big game from Garcia. He should be fine going forward.
Kyle Boller suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter Sunday. Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith replaced him, and although Smith led the Ravens on two decent drives, Baltimore still lost to the previously winless Dolphins. With the season seemingly over in Charm City, there’s no reason to push Boller back into action. Smith will get a chance to prove himself while the Ravens play out the string.
Shaun Hill won his first career start last week, throwing for 197 yards and a touchdown. He added another touchdown on the ground and looked confident throughout the game. He won’t face Cincinnati every week, so temper your expectations. Still, Alex Smith is now done for the season, and Trent Dilfer and Chris Weinke are the only other quarterbacks on the roster. Hill likely won’t face any challenges to his starting role the rest of the way.
In the wake of Jason Campbell's knee injury, the Redskins turned to veteran Todd Collins, who hadn’t started a game in 10 years. Collins only completed eight passes in 25 attempts, but he threw for 166 yards and led the Redskins to a 22-10 victory. Collins should be a little better next week, as the Redskins make their push for the playoffs.
Mark Bulger returned to action Sunday, but unfortunately drew the Packers as his first opponent in three weeks. Bulger threw for 219 yards and a score, but also threw two picks and was sacked four times. Bulger gets points for his toughness, but unfortunately those points won’t help your fantasy team much. The previous week’s starter, Brock Berlin, went back to the third quarterback role as Gus Frerotte was healthy enough to return to his customary backup role.
Matt Moore made his first career start Sunday, beating the playoff-bound Seahawks, 13-10. While there was nothing special about his day statistically, Moore led a strong and balanced attack and was the first Carolina quarterback to show any rapport with Steve Smith in months. Vinny Testaverde will back up Moore the last two weeks of the season, giving Moore the opportunity to audition for Jake Delhomme’s understudy in 2008.
Miami, trying to avoid 0-16, gave the team back to Cleo Lemon Sunday. Lemon responded with 315 yards, a touchdown and, most important, a 22-16 victory over the Ravens. He’s not the future of this franchise – though it remains to be seen if John Beck is either – but at least Lemon saved the Dolphins from an embarrassing “perfect” season. He’ll likely start again this week.
After the coaching shakeup in Atlanta last week, Chris Redman remained the starter, with Joey Harrington moving up to No. 2, and Bryon Leftwich demoted to third string. Redman was awful Sunday, completing just four passes in 15 attempts for 34 yards and getting intercepted twice. After a performance like that, don’t be surprised to see interim coach Emmitt Thomas give Harrington yet another chance.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
Tight end Jeremy Shockey, a game-time decision Sunday night, probably should have stayed on the bench. Shockey fractured his left fibula in the second quarter, ending his season. Kevin Boss, who caught a touchdown pass Sunday, could be the main beneficiary of the injury, but Michael Matthews could pitch in as well.
Brandon Stokley missed last week’s game with a knee injury, giving Javon Walker one more chance to show that he’s the team's top receiver. Walker, while admittedly well below 100 percent, caught only two passes for 20 yards. Brandon Marshall had another big game, and with the rumblings from Denver that Walker won’t be invited back next season, Marshall could be poised for a very big fantasy year in 2008.
Anquan Boldin returned from a one-game layoff to have one of his best games of the season. Boldin led the suddenly crowded Arizona receiving corps with six catches for 83 yards. Bryant Johnson and Jerheme Urban, who did a fine job filling in for Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald recently, combined for just two catches (both by Johnson). The Cardinals have many options in their passing game, but now that Boldin and Fitzgerald are both reasonably healthy, they should receive the majority of targets the last two weeks of the season.
The Lions were forced to abandon the run yet again Sunday, giving Mike Furrey, Calvin Johnson, Shaun McDonald and even Brandon Middleton ample opportunities to pile up fantasy points. McDonald and Middleton each caught touchdowns, while Furrey and Johnson combined for 12 catches for 182 yards. The Lions face Kansas City indoors in Detroit this weekend, something to keep in mind when setting your roster.
Article first appeared 12/18/07