Heading into Week 11 Jacksonville had one goal on defense, shut down Arian Foster. They ended up being the first team to keep him out of the end zone this season, holding him to 93 total yards on 31 touches. Mission accomplished, right? Not exactly. By selling out completely to stop Foster they forced Matt Schaub to beat them.
He did so in spectacular fashion, throwing for 527 yards (tied for second most in NFL history) and five touchdowns in their 43-37 overtime victory. The main beneficiary was Andre Johnson, who hauled in 14 of 19 targets for 273 yards and the game winning score. Fantasy owners undoubtedly cashed in on the huge performance by Johnson, but a majority got to watch Schaub outscore half of their team from the bench.
Games like this tend to make Fantasy owners really start second-guessing their starting lineups. Before you go making a knee-jerk reaction, here are a few things you should know about Schaub. Heading into this week his season-high for pass attempts in a game was 37, and he ranked 23rd in the league in pass attempts with 275. He also didn’t have a game in which he threw for over 300 yards.
The Texans are a run first team that typically plays with a lead, meaning in most weeks Schaub won’t be asked to do much more than manage a victory. Don’t get cute and go starting him next week against Detroit over an elite option because of the monster numbers he posted this week. Remember, heading into this week 22 quarterbacks scored more points than Schaub in standard scoring leagues. Nine games of average play speak more than one fantastic game.
With both Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson dealing with high ankle sprains suffered in Week 9, Marcel Reecehas taken full advantage of his playing time as a starter. He racked up 193 total yards on 23 touches in Oakland’s loss to the Saints, and actually led the team in both rushing (103) and receiving (90). The versatility he has exhibited along with the results he has laid out on the field mean that Reece is going to continue to see 10-12 touches a game after McFadden returns. He has likely also usurped Goodson as the backup. High ankle sprains typically take three to four weeks for running backs to return from; so Reece will likely get at least one more week of heavy work against the Bengals. Trot him out there with confidence.
The Patriots may have blown out the Colts in impressive fashion this week, but it looks like they lost their biggest weapon in the process. Early reports out of New England have Rob Gronkowski suffering a broken forearm in the fourth quarter. The typical timeline for an injury of this nature is four-to-six weeks. From a Fantasy perspective, that basically renders the top scoring tight end in the league useless for the remainder of the season; a huge blow to all of his owners. For the Patriots, though, life must go on. Aaron Hernandez (ankle) has been practicing in a limited fashion for two weeks now. Expect him to be active next week (Thursday) against the Jets to help pick up the slack. The Pats will undoubtedly miss Gronk most in the red zone. After all, we are talking about a guy who has 37 touchdowns in 42 career games. Right now, I am expecting the biggest beneficiary from his absence to be Brandon Lloyd. His ability to go up and make an acrobatic grab in traffic is a recipe for red zone success.
Larry Fitzgerald saw seven targets against the Falcons and managed to haul in just one for 11 yards. For the season, he has gone over 100 yards receiving just once, and for all intents and purposes has been a disappointment. When you have the illustrious triumvirate of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley throwing you passes, it isn’t hard to understand what exactly the problem has been. I stayed away from Fitz this year because I hated this quarterback situation and am thanking myself for it. Fantasy owners who keep trotting him out there on a weekly basis need to come to the realization that this isn’t the guy they drafted. A quick look at Arizona’s remaining games reveals that there isn’t a plus matchup remaining on their schedule. If you own quality alternatives, I wouldn’t fault you one bit for planting Fitzgerald on your bench down the stretch.
Green Bay eeked out a win in Detroit on Sunday, and did so in interesting fashion. Aaron Rodgers attempted only 27 passes, his lowest total of the season. The Packers offense has had a different look and feel this season. His 27 touchdown passes leads the league through 10 games, but he ranks 10th in yardage (2,619) and 12th in yards per pass attempt (7.40). While it’s hard to complain about a guy still posting elite numbers, they definitely have fallen off this season. I see two reasons for this. First, Rodgers has been sacked a league- high 32 times. The constant pressure he has seen in passing situations has led to more short and mid-range pass attempts. Second, opposing defenses have employed a two-deep look against the Packers on early downs and short yardage situations. This has limited his ability to take shots down field as well, because the Packers current backfield of James Starks and Alex Green is unable to make opposing defenses pay. Rodgers is obviously still a weekly must-start, but Fantasy owners looking for huge weekly scoring outputs down the stretch need to reel in those expectations. The yardage just isn’t there this year, and as we all know, touchdowns can be fickle.
It was assumed that upon gaining full health, Donald Brown would take back his role as the lead back for the Colts. After coming out of Week 10 without further injury and outperforming Vick Ballard, I for one, thought we would see an increase of work for Brown against the Patriots this week. He went on to see just six touches to Ballard’s 17 in Indy’s loss. There was no word of any type of setback to his knee, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why he spent the majority of the game on the sidelines. What I do know is that Ballard started this game and was utilized like a featured back. Next week’s game against Buffalo is going to go a long way towards figuring out how this backfield is going to shake out for the remainder of the season. My money is on Ballard becoming at the very least the lead half of a committee. He runs hard, can pass block, and most importantly, stays out of the trainer’s room.
Heading into this summer, Ryan Mathews was being mentioned as a guy that could be drafted as early as fourth overall in Fantasy drafts. Boy, how the mighty have fallen. He has appeared in eight games this season and has yet to rush for over 100 yards with only one touchdown. Between injuries and fumbling woes early in the season, to just plain awful offensive line play now, there isn’t anything to suggest Mathews will snap out of this slump anytime soon. As I mentioned above with Larry Fitzgerald, this is the time of year when you have to play the guys that are performing. You can’t hold on to hope when you are fighting for a playoff berth. Plant this guy on your bench unless you are really hurting at running back.