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Depth Chart Watch: Finally, the Clear Starter

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.

BEARS QB: A broken thumb on Jay Cutler's passing hand has ended - at the very least - Cutler's fantasy season, so the Bears were forced to turn to Caleb Hanie on Sunday. Take away Hanie's three interceptions, and it wasn't a bad game for the youngster, as he finished with 254 passing yards, 50 rushing yards and two scores. Unfortunately, you can't take away those three interceptions (well, the Raiders could), so Hanie remains a work in progress. The Bears hoped to get Kyle Orton back after he was cut by Denver, but the Chiefs had first dibs. The Bears picked Josh McCown up instead.

A.J. Green returned and finished with 110 yards on three catches, relegating Andre Caldwell (three catches for 24 yards) and Jerome Simpson (two catches for 15 yards) back to also-ran status. Simpson left the game briefly with a knee injury, but he returned later.

Before Sunday, Fred Jackson had never missed a game in his NFL career, but his season ended last week with a broken bone in his leg. The Bills turned to C.J. Spiller, and while his numbers were nothing special, the offense playing its best game in several weeks in a 28-24 loss to the Jets. Spiller has 19 carries for 55 yards, but Johnny White and Tashard Choice combined for just three carries, so it looks like Spiller has the job to himself.

The Bills lost Donald Jones to the IR as well last week, and with David Nelson staying in the slot and Naaman Roosevelt out with a shoulder injury, Brad Smith had a big game Sunday. Smith had four catches - including a 36-yard score - for 77 yards and was targeted seven times. The former quarterback might be worth a look.

It was a strange week in Cleveland, as Peyton Hillis was ruled out early in the week and coach Pat Shurmur said he expected Montario Hardesty to return and start, despite the recent strong play of Chris Ogbonnaya. Then, late in the week, suddenly Hillis was back in play and became a game-time decision. When it came time for that decision, Hillis was deemed ready to go, but Hardesty didn't feel right so he sat out one more week. Hillis, fueled by a platelet-rich plasma injection, started and ran for 65 yards on 19 attempts, while Ogbonnaya ran just three times. As long as Hillis stays out of Shurmur's doghouse, he should be the starter in Cleveland.

Joseph Addai has been sort of active the last few weeks, but he hasn't touched the ball since the Week 7 beating at the hands of the Saints. He started Sunday, but it might have just been a seniority thing, as he finished with only seven carries for 23 yards while it looks like Donald Brown has taken over the top job for good. Brown ran for 80 yards on 14 carries. Delone Carter did not even receive a touch Sunday, and it looks like he's fallen out of favor in Indianapolis.

Jeremy Maclin sat out again Sunday, but the bigger news was the late non-injury benching of DeSean Jackson. He may have caught four passes for 73 yards, but Jackson has been a real headache for Andy Reid this year, so the coach might have been making a statement in taking him out of the game. Riley Cooper had good numbers (three catches for 71 yards) in Maclin's place again, and Jason Avant cleaned up in the second half, finishing with eight catches for 110 yards, but most of that yardage came in garbage time. It's possible that neither Jackson nor Maclin plays in Week 13 (though it's far more likely that both play), so Avant and Cooper are at least worth considering.

Although Julio Jones returned from a one-game absence due to yet another hamstring injury, you wouldn't know it from the box score, as he wasn't targeted once by Matt Ryan. On the other hand, Ryan and the Atlanta offense were humming Sunday, and Jones may have been the decoy that helped lead to big games from Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, who combined for 19 catches and 189 yards. Harry Douglas, who started in Jones' place last week, also caught a nifty touchdown. Jones should be better in coming weeks.

Gabbert, who completed 13-of-29 passes for 136 yards with an interception in Sunday's loss to the Texans, was yanked in favor of Luke McCown with about seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, trailing 20-10. It'll be interesting to see how Jacksonville spins this, but it's worth noting that Gabbert wasn't yanked during a blowout. McCown was pretty bad as a starter earlier this year, but Gabbert has been arguably worse. We hear David Garrard is still available.

Coming on the heels of his 201-yard performance last week, Kevin Smith started on Thanksgiving and looked good early before leaving with a high-ankle sprain. While he'll get extra time to heal, he's probably not likely to play in week 13. Maurice Morris, who had been getting most of the action while Jahvid Best has been out with a concussion, will probably go back into the starting lineup. Best, by the way, is probably heading to the IR soon.

The good news is Darrius Heyward-Bey played Sunday after taking a nasty hit last week. The bad news is the Raiders were without Jacob Ford (again) and Denarius Moore. Carson Palmer and the Oakland offense struggled getting the ball into the end zone without their full slate of receivers, so Heyward-Bey (10 targets), Chaz Schilens (eight targets) and Louis Murphy (four targets) were the only Oakland wideouts to see the ball Sunday. Ford and Moore could return in week 13, so the Raiders might not have to count on Sebastian Janikowski kicking six field goals again.

Is it over? Is it finally over? Has Mike Shanahan finally seen the light and determined that Roy Helu is the best running back on his roster? If Sunday is any indication, he most certainly has. After cutting Tashard Choice and signing Evan Royster earlier in the week, the Redskins gave the ball to Helu on Sunday early and often. Helu finished with 23 carries for 108 yards and seven catches for another 54 yards. Meanwhile, previous Shanahan darling Ryan Torain didn't receive a single touch, and Royster had just one carry. You never know what's going to happen with these guys, but for the time being, Helu looks like the man in D.C.

Santana Moss finally returned Sunday (he'd been out since week 7), and though his numbers were modest (four catches for 29 yards), Washington's offense moved the ball pretty well against a tough Seattle defense. Jabar Gaffney appears to still have some value, as he led the team with 72 receiving yards, but what little value Donte Stallworth had appear to be gone, as he was shut out Sunday.

Sidney Rice suffered a head injury - likely a concussion - early in Sunday's game with Washington and finished without a catch. Seattle wideout watchers know the drill by now: Doug Baldwin, Ben Obomanu, Mike Williams, Golden Tate. Baldwin has been decent this year (he had five more catches Sunday), but the rest have been more "miss" than "hit" this year, even when given the opportunity.

For years the Texans have been almost good, and now that they are legitimately one of the league's best teams, they're relying on ... T.J. Yates. With starter Matt Schaub now done for the season with a Lisfranc injury, the Texans turned to Matt Leinart, who lasted all of two quarters Sunday before suffering what could be a season-ending collarbone injury. The Texans auditioned a number of quarterbacks (including Jeff Garcia and Trent Edwards) last week before finally settling on Kellen Clemens, but they might need to bring back another quarterback this week, because Yates and Clemens are probably not going to get Houston to the Super Bowl.

Houston, fortunately, welcomed Andre Johnson back into the fold Sunday after he missed two months with a hamstring injury, but he was only targeted three times, catching two passes for 22 yards. Thanks to the mess at quarterback, Johnson might not be the fantasy stud he once was, but it'll be hard to keep him on your bench if you've waiting this long for him to return. Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter, the main beneficiaries of Johnson's absence, combined for just three catches for 25 yards Sunday. This is definitely a run-first team now.

A high-ankle sprain has landed Adrian Peterson in a walking boot and has made the season even more miserable for Minnesota. The Vikings hung tough against Atlanta on Sunday, but still came up short despite the best efforts of Percy Harvin, who carried the ball a season-high five times and also made significant contributions both on special teams and in his usual role as wide receiver. Toby Gerhart started in Peterson's place, and though he scored a touchdown, he had just 44 yards on 17 carries and doesn't look like starting material. The Vikings might have no choice, however, since Peterson could miss another game or two.