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Depth Chart Watch: This Colt is Back

Kenn Ruby

Kenn has been writing and editing for RotoWire since 2003. Though he attended Northwestern with the co-founders of RotoWire, he is not considered a made member of the RotoWire Northwestern mafia, as he can't trace back all of his ancestors to Dan Okrent.

BENGALS WR: With both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco out of the lineup Sunday, it’s amazing that Carson Palmer was able to get anything done; but he put up huge numbers thanks to the players who filled in, notably Jerome Simpson. Simpson caught six passes – including two for scores – for 124 yards. Fellow starter Andre Caldwell had a respectable 87 yards on four receptions, and Jordan Shipley caught a three-yard touchdown. The Bengals have several young receivers who appear ready for a bigger role, so some big decisions will have to be made regarding the team’s starting wideouts.

BILLS WR: Wide receivers have been dropping like flies in Buffalo all season; and on Sunday, the Bills lost another. David Nelson, like Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish before him, is now done for the season. There are not many options left, but fortunately the season will be over in a week. Donald Jones and Naaman Roosevelt will pick up the slack for Week 17; and after being very active Sunday, they could see even more looks in the finale. Those in very deep leagues should take note.

BRONCOS RB: For the second week in a row, Knowshon Moreno started but couldn’t finish. The difference last week was his caddies were ready for action. Lance Ball had 38 yards on five carries, but it was Correll Buckhalter who totaled 92 yards from scrimmage and scored twice. If Moreno is too banged up to go this week, Buckhalter could be a sneaky Week 17 option.

BUCCANEERS WR: Arrelious Benn left Sunday’s game with a neck injury in the first quarter, but with the way Josh Freeman was winging the ball, the Bucs didn’t miss a beat in Benn’s absence. Maurice Stovall, Micheal Spurlock, Preston Parker, and Dez Briscoe all caught passes for the Buccaneers on Sunday. Stovall, who scored on a two-yarder, would probably become the starter if Benn can’t go this week.

CHARGERS RB: Ryan Mathews showed nice burst on his 23-yard score on Sunday, but he otherwise wasn’t able to take advantage of Mike Tolbert’s neck injury. Tolbert’s injury looked worse than it was – he was carted off the field but was diagnosed with only a sprain – but he’s iffy for the finale, especially with San Diego out of the playoff hunt. If you drafted Mathews early this year and you’re still somehow playing meaningful games in your league, Mathews could have one more shot to pay off in Week 17.

COLTS RB: Joseph Addai returned Sunday after a two month layoff. He did not start the game, but he did run for 45 yards and a score. There were other surprises in the Indianapolis backfield: Donald Brown, fresh off a strong game last week, started but only received six carries; Javarris James, who was the featured goal-line back for several weeks, was a healthy scratch. Most surprising of all, however, was Dominic Rhodes, who was playing in only his second game all year. Rhodes had 17 carries for 98 yards, both team highs. It’s anybody’s guess who Indy trots out there this week, but the Colts appear to have a quartet of backs (and that’s not even including Mike Hart) who are capable of providing fantasy value.

COWBOYS QB: The Cowboys finally made the move to put Tony Romo on IR last week, but the more pressing matter was the loss of Jon Kitna on Saturday. Kitna suffered hip and oblique injuries in the loss to Arizona and was replaced by Stephen McGee, who was respectable in relief. McGee threw for 111 yards and a score and finished with a sparkling 102.8 quarterback rating in his NFL debut. Kitna’s status for the finale has yet to be determined, but the Cowboys might as well keep McGee behind center to see what he can do with a week of practice. Those who have been relying upon Kitna should have another option in mind.

COWBOYS RB: Although the return of Marion Barber didn’t knock Felix Jones out of the starting lineup, it certainly took a bite out of his value, and it made Tashard Choice almost non-existent. Jones led the team with 16 carries for 77 yards, but Barber had eight carries for 58 yards and was the only one of the three-headed running back to score. Choice had just four carries for 16 yards. Expect a similar breakdown this week.

COWBOYS WR: Roy Williams was back, which only meant one thing: Miles Austin had his best game in a long time. Austin caught six passes for 115 yards and a score while Williams was targeted only twice and did not catch either pass. Sam Hurd went back to a reserve role, but he was more active than Williams on Saturday.

49ERS QB: San Francisco’s game of Musical Smiths continued Sunday, as Troy Smith went back to starting…until he was benched for ineffective play and replaced by Alex Smith. Neither has been consistently good this year, and Sunday was no exception. With Arizona on the schedule in the finale, whoever gets the call could have a decent game. Just don’t count on him necessarily finishing the contest.

JAGUARS RB: Jacksonville’s running back situation affected plenty of Fantasy Super Bowls the last two weeks, as Maurice Jones-Drew, who carried plenty of teams into the playoffs, was quiet in Week 15 and sat out last week. Rashad Jennings was a popular pickup against the woeful Washington defense, but he couldn’t get anything done, gaining just 32 yards on 15 carries. If you relied on either of them this week, chances are it won’t really matter who is able to play in Week 17.

JAGUARS WR: With Mike Sims-Walker hobbled, Jason Hill got a rare start and delivered season highs with four catches and 77 yards. Houston is up next, so Hill could best his numbers if he fills in for Sims-Walker again. Sims-Walker did play Sunday, but he was targeted only once.

LIONS QB: Drew Stanton wasn’t bad in his recent three-game stint as the Lions’ starter, but the team still had to be happy to see Shaun Hill back for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. Hill threw two touchdown passes and led the team to a comeback victory, which will likely earn him the starting nod in Week 17 as well.

LIONS WR: Right now the Lions are calling Calvin Johnson “day-to-day” with an ankle injury, but he sat out the fourth quarter of Sunday’s close game, so it might be more serious than that. Megatron can win fantasy matchups all by himself, so his owners should be paying close attention to Johnson’s status this week. If he does not play, bump Nate Burleson and Bryant Johnson a tad for Week 17.

PACKERS QB: Aaron Rodgers missed one game and most of another after suffering a concussion a couple weeks ago, but he returned in a big way Sunday, torching the Giants defense for 404 yards and four touchdowns. Rodgers is probably the best fantasy quarterback this side of Michael Vick.

SEAHAWKS QB: Matt Hasselbeck suffered an “unusual” hip injury while running for a touchdown in the first quarter, which resulted in him being replaced by Charlie Whitehurst for the second straight week. Whitehurst doesn’t look like a starting NFL quarterback just yet, but he could find himself in a big situation this week if Hasselbeck is forced to sit out. Hasselbeck is not going to practice this week, but it’s still possible he’ll play in the game that will determine the NFC West.

TEXANS WR: Jacoby Jones started in place of an inactive Andre Johnson and responded with one of the best games of his career, gaining 115 yards on five catches. Kevin Walter, probably not accustomed to being covered by the opposition’s best corner, couldn’t do much against Denver’s Champ Bailey and caught just one pass. Johnson may miss this week’s game as well, but Walter should find the going a bit easier against a porous Jacksonville secondary.