Jonas Gray, we hardly knew ye. Last week, I had astutely pointed out that “Jonas Gray may become what LeGarrette Blount was (for the Patriots) during the playoff run last year.” Well, it turns out that LeGarrette Blount may become what LeGarrette Blount was last year, as the Patriots re-signed the man who was cut by the Steelers last week. How Belichickian it all is, they let Blount walk during the offseason after a fine 2013 campaign, received a compensatory pick from the Steelers for him, and re-signed him just in time for the stretch run, as the Pats are sitting at 9-2, and in the driver’s seat in the AFC East, and possibly the AFC generally.
Elsewhere, the emergence of Oakland’s Latavius Murray in Thursday’s upset over their division rival K.C. Chiefs was a sight to behold. Murray rushed for 112 yards on just four carries, including touchdown runs of 11 and 90 yards. Murray became just the first player in NFL history to run for over 100 yards and earn two scores with less than five carries in a game. Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill split time for the Bengals, Justin Forsett ran wild in New Orleans, and the Bills backs helped push their team back into the Wild Card hunt after a tough matchup against a staunch Jets D.
The Bye Weeks are through, so it’s all hands on deck for this, the final week of the regular season for most Fantasy leagues. Buckle up!
Anthony “Tony” “Boobie” Dixon (12 rush 54 yds. 1 TD; 1 rec. 8 yds.)
Fred Jackson (10 rush 32 yds. 1 TD; 3 rec. 13 yds.)
Bryce Brown (6 rush 20 yds.)
Notes: A somewhat underwhelming day statistically for the top two backs whose lines would be peaked had they each not scored. Dixon scored on a 30-yard run late in the game, which masked his true ineffectiveness against the stout Jets defense. This was a game In which the Bills’ D/ST pretty much controlled the Jets’ offense the entire time, and dictated much of the flow of the game. Going forward, Jackson should maintain his role as the primary back as he gets healthier, and Dixon/Brown will serve as his caddy and strictly changes of pace. The Browns are up next for the Bills at home, and should be a favorable matchup given Cleveland’s strength in the pass rush, and their formidable secondary, which will give Kyle Orton fits all day.
New York Giants
Rashad Jennings (19 rush 52 yds. 8 rec. 68 yds.)
Andre Williams (10 rush 35 yds. 1 TD; 1 rec. 12 yds.)
Notes: Aside from Odell Beckham’s transcendent catch in this one, there wasn’t much to like for a Giants fan. Though, for Fantasy owners of their backfield, it wasn’t that bad. Both Jennings and Williams proved their value going for double-digit Fantasy points apiece. With a tilt against Jacksonville on the docket for Week 13, it could be just what the doctor ordered for a team that has now lost six straight games. I consider myself bullish on Jennings as a RB2, perhaps a low-end RB1 this week, but would only start the touchdown-dependent Williams in the most desperate situations.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin (11 rush 27 yds. 1 rec. 4 yds.)
Charles Sims (6 rush 22 yds. 2 rec. 11 yds.)
Bobby Rainey (1 rush 3 yds. 4 rec. 18 yds.)
Notes: Yuck. All of it, just yuck. All value is sapped from these three so long as the three are getting playing time. I had thought Sims would ascend to the top of the heap since the Lovie Smith regime had drafted him, but Doug Martin came back to earn the most carries in this triumvirate of woe. None are start-worthy, and I would say none are worth daily plays even for upside at low prices. Avoid like the plague.
St. Louis Rams
Tre Mason (16 rush 62 yds. 1 rec. 26 yds.)
Tavon Austin (3 rush 27 yds. 1 TD 3 rec. 11 yds.)
Benny Cunningham (4 rush 18 yds. 2 rec. 11 yds.)
Notes: Mason once again paced the backfield platoon in carries, though he lost out to Austin on a 6-yard TD run in the second. Mason will clearly retain lead duties going forward and should be owned in all leagues for the stretch run. What’s more, he even looked good in the passing game, going for 26 yards on his lone reception, a catch-and-run through traffic that showed he’s elusive and dangerous with the ball in his hands. The Rams have a juicy matchup against the surging Raiders who are undefeated in their last one game (ha ha), and Mason is a must-start as a quality RB2 option.
Isaiah Crowell (12 rush 88 yds. 2 TD;
Terrance West (14 rush 62 yds. 1 rec. 9 yds.)
Notes: An even workload for the Brownies’ backs, but once again Crowell looked like the more explosive, more determined runner. His first scoring play was a very smart 11-yard run, but his second score on the day was the real treat. Late in the third, Crowell took the ball 26 yards, weaving in and out of Atlanta defenders, running sideline to far hash mark and back to zigzag his way to pay dirt. He’s a very savvy runner and should continue as a FLEX play going forward. Even if I bought into the idea his performance earned him more touches, the Browns get the Bills on the road this week, and they’re as strong as any defensive unit upfront and will likely wreak havoc on Brian Hoyer this week. They’ll be in the Browns backfield for much of the afternoon, and this will be another game where the Browns will realize just how much they miss Alex Mack. If you’re in a situation where you need a W to get into the playoffs, it’s going to be really difficult to trust Crowell or West this weekend as anything more than a shot in the dark.
New England Patriots
LeGarrette Blount (12 rush, 78 yds. 2 TDs)
Shane Vereen (8 rush 12 yds. 8 rec. 48 yds.)
Jonas Gray (Not a single snap played)
Notes: Making any sense of this backfield is impossible. A week after his magical performance against the Colts, Jonas Gray didn’t step foot on the field for the Patriots, who instead favored a known malcontent (Blount) that they signed off the street after his banishment from Steel City. In his defense, Blount ran hard, ran well, and punched in two scores to help his cause. Shane Vereen was thought to be the safer play given the Lions’ ability to control inside running lanes with their formidable front 4, and Vereen’s skills as a pass-catcher, and outside sweep runner. WRONG. Blount was a smash mouth warrior all day, and the Patriots’ offense is as formidable as they come with him in the fold. I never thought they should have let him walk in the off-season, but it’s hilarious how things work out sometimes. As stated in the intro, the Pats retained their man (essentially) for the playoff run, which we all knew they’d be headed on, are paying him a league minimum deal, and received a compensatory pick from the Steelers when they signed him away last off-season. You just have to shake your head sometimes at those dang Patriots.
Additional Notes: Ryan Mathews returned from his latest injury and came out blazing, running for 105 yards and a score on just 12 carries. Of course, Mathews left the game with an injury and did not return, though reports are that he’ll be fine for this week’s game against the Ravens. After the performance by the Ravens D in New Orleans, I would strongly consider benching a fragile Mathews in favor of better options. Branden Oliver pitched in as a reliever, but totaled just 40 yards on 10 touches. … Joique Bell rushed for 48 yards on 19 carries against the Pats, dominating the workload for the Lions. If Reggie Bush is healthy enough to play in Week 13, it’ll be interesting to see how things change for Bell. For now, at least, he remains a mid-range RB2. … Bishop Sankey had just 37 yards on 10 carries, though the Titans ran the ball only 19 times on a day that they were down almost immediately. Shonn Greene punched in a score for Tennessee, making the whole affair even more bothersome. This is another backfield that is just too frustrating to rely on. Sankey is a hold for keeper and dynasty leagues, but nothing more than bench fodder in re-drafts down the stretch. … “”Boom” Herron came out of the woodwork to lead the Colts this past weekend with 12 carries for 65 yards, and added 31 yards on five catches. He out-touched backfield mate Trent Richardson 17-13 on the day and looked far more explosive throughout. Herron is a must-add for anyone who missed the boat last week, and I’d look for him ahead of Blount on the waiver wire this week, but behind Mason.