Instant Impressions from Week 10
Well, you may not have Michael Vick to kick around anymore.
Vick was quite strong on the Philadelphia Eagles' first drive Sunday, marching his offense 81 yards and tossing a short score to Riley Cooper, but on his third series he took a couple of big hits, one of which reportedly led to a concussion. He didn't return, and Nick Foles was underwhelming in relief; Foles hit a big score to Jeremy Maclin on a completely blown coverage but overall his accuracy was poor, he threw a terrible interception that was negated by a defensive penalty and committed two turnovers for Dallas Cowboys touchdowns. I find it difficult to imagine he'd be any sort of fantasy option should Vick miss Week 11 or beyond.
Vick has been a lightning rod, and even as I've stuck by him the past few weeks I acknowledged that he's still the NFL's biggest injury risk. Now the Eagles are cooked at 3-6, Andy Reid is a dead man walking and Vick probably won't be back in the City of Brotherly Love next year. I still say a guy who'd rushed for 154 yards while throwing for 874 in his past three contests combined deserved a bit more fantasy love than he was getting, but perhaps missed games would be a blessing in disguise for his fantasy owners. It would take the decision of whether to accept the risk of starting Vick out of your hands. I'm of the (minority) opinion that Vick has been a rather valiant player in '12 and has made more from less better than any other QB might've done. His O-line is awful and Reid's and Marty Mornhinweg's play calling -- so frustrating for so many years -- has finally caught up to them. I don't think this is it for Vick in Philly quite yet, but if it is, his Eagle Era will be remembered as a frustrating one of mega-hype and disappointing results. I do think it also should be remembered for some valor.
Let's look at Sunday's other top storylines:
• Two other QBs suffered game-ending concussions Sunday: Alex Smith and Jay Cutler. Smith finished out the series on which he was injured by throwing a TD pass but couldn't return thereafter, ceding the huddle to second-year man Colin Kaepernick. Cutler scrambled up the middle Sunday night and got blasted by Tim Dobbins, and couldn't come out of the locker room for the second half; Jason Campbell filled in for Cutler. Smith and Cutler (and Vick) will have to pass neurological tests this week before they can be cleared for action. The backup who'd be most interesting as a fantasy spot starter would be the athletic Kaepernick, who ran well both on scrambles (66 yards and a TD on eight carries) and also extending plays to give his receivers extra time. However, he'd face the Chicago Bears next Monday night, so he likely wouldn't be a recommended play.
Fantasy Focus Football
Nate Ravitz and Matthew Berry recap Week 10 including advice on backup QB options for Eli Manning owners.
• Speaking of the San Francisco 49ers, in Friday's Hard Count I called my shot and promised Vernon Davis would produce 60 yards receiving and a touchdown. Oops. At least Big Vern didn't get completely shut out, as he did versus the Seattle Seahawks a few Thursdays ago. But his five targets Sunday resulted in four catches for 30 yards, as once again Michael Crabtree was a more essential part of the Niners' pass attack. That's not good. In his past four games, Davis now has nine catches for 101 combined yards. I need to watch the tape to see if the St. Louis Rams did anything different to contain Davis; in Week 9 I saw him open several times but Smith didn't seem to look his way. I just don't know what is up with that.
• On last week's Fantasy Underground podcast, and in one of the many segments I do for ESPN Radio programming, I also brazenly proclaimed that C.J. Spiller would finally separate himself from Fred Jackson in Sunday's game against the New England Patriots. That call didn't turn out exactly accurate, either, though I feel better about it. It's true that Jackson was the Buffalo Bills' red zone workhorse, which resulted in two rushing TDs and 115 yards from scrimmage on 20 touches. But Jackson also lost one crucial fourth-quarter fumble at the Patriots' 1, and almost lost another very late on a play during which Brandon Spikes knocked him out of the game. Jackson reportedly may have suffered a concussion. Meanwhile, frustratingly, Spiller had 13 touches, but he converted them into 131 yards and once again was just lightning. There's no guarantee Jackson will be ready to play Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins, and if he can't, Spiller becomes a top-five fantasy RB. He's that good.
• As of this writing, Danny Amendola is still available in about half of ESPN.com leagues, but it's time for that to change. He made a big difference in his return from a collarbone injury: 11 catches on 12 targets for 102 yards, looking quick and dangerous all over the field. Amendola almost won the game for the St. Louis Rams in overtime, catching a 79-yard bomb that would've taken the ball down to the 49ers' 5, but St. Louis didn't have a wideout covering the end of its formation. In a PPR league, Amendola is a monster, possibly a No. 1 fantasy option at his position, and even in standard leagues he's well inside the top 30 WRs. On many fantasy squads that's going to make him a must-start every week.
• Reggie Bush lost a fumble midway through the first quarter deep in his own territory Sunday and was never heard from again. The good news is that he wasn't hurt. The bad news is that he's digging himself quite a hole in the Dolphins' doghouse. One of my preseason flag players, Daniel Thomas, was Bush's replacement, and he had 10 touches for 55 yards (and Lamar Miller had five touches for 15 yards). This was an out-of-control game after Ryan Tannehill threw a pick-six early in the second quarter, so we probably can't draw too many conclusions about this backfield. I'd expect Bush to reassume the No. 1 job. But Thomas has been actively involved going back three straight games and looks like Miami's goal-line back. Bush can't be considered anything close to a must-start right now.
• So much for Taiwan Jones. The Oakland Raiders practiced with Jones as part of their first team last week but that must've been misinformation, because Sunday he was barely out on the field. He had two carries and one reception. Meanwhile Marcel Reece was actually treated like a halfback, with 13 carries for 48 yards and seven catches for 56 yards. Unknown Jeremy Stewart (lately off the practice squad and a Stanford alum) was Reece's backup. After Oakland's embarrassing blowout loss, coach Dennis Allen admitted he can't give Jones more playing time because he's not convinced Jones knows what he's supposed to do out there. My assumption is that Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson will miss Week 11's sweet matchup against the New Orleans Saints, but it's now awfully doubtful Jones will help your fantasy team. Reece will be the guy to start as a flex, or perhaps as a No. 2 RB in a PPR league.
• I'll bet Chris Johnson's owners are happy they held onto him. CJ1K has 652 rushing yards in his past six games, after producing 210 in his first five. He also scored Sunday for the fourth time in four contests. As I've been saying and writing all year, the skills hadn't gone anywhere. This was an offensive line in disarray, and even a casual perusal of the tape illustrates how far they've come. In particular, focus on center Fernando Velasco, who now is just killing people in the running game. The Tennessee Titans are living proof that it's possible to change an underperforming unit during the season, as Sonic the Hedgehog had huge alleys to run through on multiple occasions against a tough Dolphins run defense. The Titans are off in Week 11, and Johnson's owners can only hope the time away doesn't cool him down.
• Eli Manning definitely needs a bye, as he submitted yet another crummy performance. Unbelievably, Eli now has produced single-digit fantasy points in three straight games, and hasn't topped 13 points in standard ESPN leagues since Week 5. It's true that Victor Cruz dropped a sure touchdown that might've changed things, and it's also true that Hakeem Nicks looked as spry as he's been in a while. But Manning is simply riding the wave that New York Giants fans have seen for this guy's entire career. He goes through bouts of wildness and pathetic decision-making that would make Blaine Gabbert blush, and he's done it for his entire NFL life. The difference between Manning and Gabbert, of course, is that eventually Eli snaps out of his funk and becomes Robo-Manning. The Giants' Week 11 bye will be welcome, but I'm going to have a hard time putting Eli back in my QB top 10 the following week against the Green Bay Packers. I believe he'll return to form, but we need to see it happen.
• Rex Ryan doesn't deserve to be fired because the New York Jets are a woeful, moribund 3-6. Ryan is a flashpoint for criticism, but he's earned goodwill in reaching back-to-back AFC title games. No, instead he deserves to be fired for his vexing, inexplicable loyalty to Mark Sanchez. Once again, the Sanchize went out there and soiled himself, leading the Jets to zero offensive points against the Seattle Seahawks, yet Ryan says he's sticking with his guy. Do I think Tim Tebow is any NFL franchise's long-term QB solution? Probably not. Do I think the Jets have learned enough about Sanchez to let Tebow prove me wrong? I sure do, especially since the Jets' brass could legitimately have job-security questions considering how tone-deaf they've been this year. OK, Sanchez doesn't have great weapons. But 9-of-22 for 124 yards and two more turnovers can't simply be explained away by pointing at the surrounding cast. Watch him play, and you see a guy who'll never get it. He isn't accurate. He doesn't consistently know where to throw it. He turns it over too much (13 times in nine games). It should be Tebow Time right now, and the fact it's not could wind up costing Ryan his job.
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• Chris Ivory's 56-yard TD run Sunday will be a finalist for the best rush of the season, reminiscent as it was of the Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch scamper that helped vanquish Ivory's Saints in a playoff game after the '10 season. Did it do anything to change the fantasy fortunes in the New Orleans backfield? It might have. I'd say Ivory is probably at least worth a speculative add. Nobody really knows how close Darren Sproles is to returning (he could be back in Week 11), but in his absence it hasn't been Pierre Thomas, who's seen a usage uptick; it's been Ivory and Mark Ingram. Frankly, Ivory's crazy TD scamper aside, I'd say Ingram has been the best Saints RB over the past two weeks, and it's shown with 134 yards from scrimmage on 25 touches in that span. We'll have to check in on New Orleans in advance of Week 11's game versus the Raiders, but Ivory and especially Ingram have my attention.
• Forget Robert Meachem. The bust-o-licious San Diego Chargers receiver was essentially benched in Week 10's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as Danario Alexander played the entire game. DX scored on a pretty lucky 80-yard catch-and-run after a horribly missed Tampa tackle, and wound up with 134 yards on seven grabs. He's definitely ownable in fantasy leagues, though Philip Rivers won't have many matchups sweeter than the one he took advantage of Sunday.
• Julio Jones scared his fantasy owners leaving Sunday's contest in the first quarter with a lower leg injury, but luckily he returned after halftime and caught a 52-yard bomb. He might be limited in practice during the week, but we should assume he'll be OK for Week 11.
• Any more questions about why I've been so low on Michael Turner all year? The Erstwhile Burner has next-to-nothing left, and only makes big gains when the defense is almost literally looking in the other direction. Sunday, the Saints didn't look away, and Turner wound up with 15 yards on 13 carries. Worse, he got three totes from the New Orleans 1, and couldn't convert on any of them. He's supposed to at least be decent in short yardage, but he's not. Jacquizz Rodgers didn't get the ball enough; he had seven touches for 62 yards. I've got doubts he'd be any good on an opponent's goal line either, but it's time for the Falcons to find out.
• Next week's byes -- the final byes of the 2012 season -- belong to the New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings. Plan your week accordingly.
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