Instant Replay: Welcome back, 'All Day'
So much for the knee problem ruining his rookie season.
Adrian Peterson -- and I mean the Viking, not the Bear, since we actually now need to differentiate -- bounced back from a torn lateral collateral ligament with a 116-yard, two-touchdown day in Week 13, slicing up a Detroit front seven that, to date, had actually been a top-10 unit. On an aside, clearly more surprising to me was that the Lions ranked ninth against the run entering the day, not that Peterson tore them up.
What's even more encouraging: When Peterson scored his second touchdown of the day, almost five minutes into the third quarter, giving his Vikings a 42-10 lead, his day was done. The Vikings chose to rest their franchise player after that point, meaning that had this battle of two playoff hopefuls been closer, he'd probably have offered you even more.
Still, if you watched Peterson scamper on Sunday, you saw little you couldn't have liked. He ran with fervor, was the go-to guy in the red zone and left defenders (I'm looking at you, Kenoy Kennedy) looking silly. Yes, folks, "All Day" is back.
That's great news to Peterson owners, and great timing, too, since most leagues are preparing to embark on their playoffs beginning in Week 14. The schedule, incidentally, is no less favorable for the rookie looking ahead, either. Of his four remaining opponents, the Redskins are the only ones who rank higher than 26th against the run, meaning that if you've been counting on this guy winning your league for you, you're in pretty good shape today.
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It was a long, arduous battle, 12 weeks long, in fact, but Thomas Jones finally got off the schneid in the touchdown department in Week 13, capitalizing on a fantasy-friendly matchup to score for the first time as a Jet. In a game that couldn't be described as anything but pure domination -- odd considering how many people were forecasting win No. 1 for the Dolphins -- the Jets' running-back duo tore up the now bottom-ranked Miami run D for 163 yards and three scores in a 40-13 victory. Jones finished with 75 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries, proving that even when he has a good game, there's a bone to pick with Jones. Leon Washington ran for 68 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
Not that we should read into that as a sign Washington is ready to challenge Jones for his job; half of Washington's 10 carries, 29 of the yards and one of the touchdowns came on the Jets' final drive of the game, when the team was up by 20 and there was no need to press the veteran any harder. Washington might become a hot fantasy pickup this week, but suffice to say, had the Jets had any plans of having him cut into Jones' number of touches, they'd have shown signs of doing so before now. Jones gets the Browns next, and that's another fantasy-friendly matchup. Ride the hot streak.
Marshawn Lynch's owners -- and the Bills as a team, certainly -- have been waiting patiently for the star rookie to get back from a high ankle sprain, but in Week 13, we saw that you can't simply ignore the rest of the team from a fantasy perspective. Starting because both Lynch and second-stringer Anthony Thomas (calf) were sidelined, Fred Jackson made the most of a golden opportunity, totaling 151 yards on 20 touches against the Redskins. Unfortunately for him, it might be a one-and-done, as Lynch hopes to return for Week 14, right in time for the fantasy playoffs. But if not, make sure you race to the waiver wire to pick Jackson up, accounting for rather fantasy-friendly matchups the next two weeks. The Bills get the Dolphins, now ranked last against the run, in Week 14, then the Browns, ranked 28th, making Jackson a nice flex consideration if he starts either week.
Nate Burleson, WR, Seahawks: He's been such a disappointment since a stunning sophomore season in 2004, but has actually offered some modest contributions this year in light of injuries to other Seattle receivers. With D.J. Hackett out, Burleson matters once more, and note his schedule is pretty favorable.
Reggie Bush, RB, Saints: He had a terrible history against the Bucs coming in, granted, but most troubling about the sophomore's recent performance is how much he clearly appears hampered by his shin injury. He doesn't look like a guy who is going to win his owners many fantasy titles.
Justin Gage, WR, Titans: He made the cut last week and he does again this week, coming off a string of four straight performances in which he has ranged from 64 to 98 receiving yards and totaled two touchdowns. When Jeff Fisher said he'd boost Gage's role in the offense, he wasn't lying.
Greg Olsen, TE, Bears: Though Olsen's garnering a similar number of targets to fellow tight end Desmond Clark, it seems Rex Grossman is looking to Clark so much more often in key situations. Chemistry is a big thing in football, and it seems Olsen's simply isn't as good with his new quarterback.
Kolby Smith, RB, Chiefs: An 83-yard rushing day might not seem particularly special, but when it comes in your second career start and in a game in which your team was trailing for much of the day, it's actually pretty respectable. Smith has looked up to the task of being a workhorse, and is now a solid No. 2/flex option.
Kevin Walter, WR, Texans: With the exception of days when the opposing defense keys on Andre Johnson -- as was the case in Week 12 -- Walter isn't going to get anywhere close to the number of looks as the more proven receiver. In Week 13, for instance: Johnson received 14 targets, Walter 3.
Stud: Peyton Manning (288 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT)
Honorable Mention: Luke McCown (313 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 34 rushing yards)
Dud: Jay Cutler (214 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs)
Dishonorable Mention: Eli Manning (195 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 1 fumble)
Stud: Adrian Peterson, Vikings (116 rushing yards, 2 TDs)
Honorable mention: LaDainian Tomlinson (197 total yards, 2 TDs)
Dud: Warrick Dunn (40 total yards)
Dishonorable mention: Joseph Addai (67 total yards)
Stud: Reggie Wayne (8 catches, 158 yards, 1 TD)
Honorable mention: Roddy White (10 catches, 148 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble)
Dud: Calvin Johnson (1 catch, 17 yards)
Dishonorable mention: Javon Walker (1 catch, 7 yards)
Stud: Dallas Clark (7 catches, 60 yards, 2 TDs)
Dud: Antonio Gates (1 catch, minus-1 yards)
Stud: Mike Nugent (4 FGs, 4 PATs)
Dud: Rob Bironas (4 PATs, 1 missed FG)
Team Defenses/Special Teams
Stud: Carolina Panthers (4 INTs, 2 fumble recoveries, 6 sacks)
Dud: Denver Broncos (1 fumble recovery, 0 sacks, 34 points allowed)
Quick thoughts on injuries not covered elsewhere. For detailed injury analysis, check out Stephania Bell's injury blog.
The Arizona Republic reports that Anquan Boldin left Sunday's game in the third quarter with a dislocated toe. With him perhaps sidelined and Larry Fitzgerald battling a groin problem of his own, Bryant Johnson might be the team's No. 1 receiver in Week 14.
Jesse Chatman left in the third quarter after aggravating his ankle injury. Things have gotten so bad for the Dolphins at running back, Samkon Gado might be pressed into starting duty, and Lorenzo Booker into a backup role, if Chatman can't return for Week 14.
Derrick Ward, who set a career high with 154 rushing yards in Week 13, broke his fibula, likely ending his season. With Brandon Jacobs also a question mark for Week 14 with a hamstring injury, Reuben Droughns might be the Giants' starter.
Roy Williams suffered a sprained knee in the second quarter and, despite returning for a series, was unable to play through the pain. If he misses Week 14, Mike Furrey would likely get the start, though Calvin Johnson and Shaun McDonald would benefit as well.
In a year where the rest of the team's offense looks entirely lost, Justin Fargas has been doing an incredible job for the Raiders since taking over the starting role in Week 9. With his 164 total yards and a touchdown, amounting to a season-best 21 fantasy points, he now has three 100-yard games and three touchdowns in five starts. The schedule might get a little tougher from here, with top-12 run defenses Green Bay (Week 14) and Jacksonville (Week 16) due up, but I've seen enough to trust this guy as a No. 2 throughout the fantasy playoffs. He sure looks as though he wants the starting role come next opening day.
JaMarcus Russell made only seven pass attempts in limited action on Sunday, but the little we saw of him sure looked more exciting than anything else the Raiders have employed under center to date, didn't it? This is a name you need to know for 2008.
When will John Fox give up being so hopelessly loyal to DeShaun Foster? Granted, Foster found the end zone in Week 13, but considering how soft the matchup was, one could have hoped for better than the 2.8 yards per carry he averaged. Meanwhile, DeAngelo Williams took off for 128 total yards on 18 touches, looking -- as usual -- like the more explosive player. In a way, I'm kind of hoping the Panthers slip out of the playoff race in the next week or two, in the hopes maybe Fox decides to get a look at Williams for a possible starting role in 2008. Of course, maybe I'm just getting my hopes up too high.
Speaking of more exciting backup types, Jerious Norwood is another player I'd love to see get a start or two before season's end, and frankly, with the Falcons now 3-9, I'd have to think they're in better position to try him out in that role. He had eight carries for 94 yards, while starter Warrick Dunn managed 40 total yards on the day. Dunn, entering the week, had been performing respectably, I'll give you that, but there's going to come a time when the Falcons need to get younger at the position. I'd have to imagine 2008 is going to be that time -- finally -- so wouldn't it help if Atlanta knew whether Norwood was up to the task?
Mike Shanahan is so incredibly frustrating, and I know that's nothing you didn't know already, but the way Selvin Young had looked stepping in for Travis Henry the past month, how could you not have seen him being at least a respectable flex play based on that cakewalk matchup both faced? Instead, Young was on the sidelines for a good chunk of the day, nursing injuries, and Henry was the guy in there at the goal line.
Now, we get to deal with not only Shanahan's complete unpredictability at the position, but the fact that this Henry suspension debacle continues to stretch on into December, helping play right into the coach's hands in terms of disguising his weekly lineup decisions.
Here's a fun one for you: Did you know that in the past four weeks, a Denver running back has notched 14 or more fantasy points each week, and the only one who has done it twice during that span is Andre Hall, who wasn't even active for Week 13? All that tells me is that, for all the talent in that backfield, I won't feel entirely safe trusting any of those three during my fantasy playoffs.
Note to Chicago: I don't want to see Cedric Benson back in the starting role come next opening day. No, the "other Adrian Peterson's" day wasn't an exceptional one for fantasy, but accounting for the fact that the Giants' front seven is rather strong, it was a fine effort in my mind. This kid has done nothing but shine in the few chances he's gotten, and I think come next September, there's going to be no question who should be starting.
But will Peterson get the job he deserves, or will Benson continue to get "second chances," which at this point I can't help but think has more to do with his high draft position and bloated contract than the raw talent he provides?
- In five career regular-season games against the Ravens, Peyton Manning has averaged 290.8 passing yards with nine touchdowns and three interceptions, and virtually all of that came against better Baltimore defenses than this year's model.
- In each of the past two seasons Eli Manning has battled the Eagles in December, and in those games he has totaled one touchdown and five interceptions.
- The last time the Falcons and Saints met up, in Week 7, Roddy White had a season-high eight catches for 110 yards and a score.
- Edgerrin James had 150 total yards and a score in Week 2 against the Seahawks, and he had 121 total yards and a touchdown against them in Week 14 last season, too.
- In 11 career meetings with the Cardinals, Shaun Alexander has 16 touchdowns. He also has averaged 93.8 rushing yards in those contests.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.