By Kenn Ruby
Brandon Jacobs had 54 yards on the ground and 49 in the air Sunday before leaving the game with a hamstring injury. Reuben Droughns replaced him but didn't do much in his 11 carries. Droughns stands to become the starter if Jacobs is out this week, but Derrick Ward (who is battling an ankle injury) could also figure into the mix.
Ron Dayne filled in nicely for the injured Ahman Green once again last week, finishing with 89 rushing yards and 26 receiving yards. Green missing time with injuries shouldn't surprise anyone, but Dayne's production is a mild shock. Dayne has topped 110 yards from scrimmage for consecutive games, something he hasn't done since his glory days at Wisconsin back in the 1990s.
Michael Pittman's return stole a few carries from Earnest Graham, but Graham continued his strong play with 17 rushes for 102 yards, including a 26-yard scoring scamper. Pittman was no slouch, earning 44 yards on 10 carries. Pittman might continue to take a bite out of Graham's workload, but as long as Graham continues to play so well, he'll be the lead back.
Although Maurice Jones-Drew had just 33 yards on 12 carries Sunday, he got three straight goal-line carries, finally scoring from the 1. Greg Jones had stolen goal-line carries of late, but Jones didn't touch the ball once. Fred Taylor continues to play well, but the only chance he has of scoring a touchdown is if he breaks a long run.
The Vikings might miss Adrian Peterson, but Chester Taylor did a great Peterson impersonation Sunday, finishing with 22 rushes for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor, who also caught three passes for 38 yards, should get at least one more start while Peterson recuperates from last week's knee injury.
Although Priest Holmes carried the ball 19 times last week, he continues to have a hard time picking up yards. In the two weeks Larry Johnson has missed, Holmes has 39 carries for just 120 yards, and he hasn't even made much of a contribution catching passes, which was the one part of his game expected to be an improvement over Johnson. Johnson vows to return before the season's end, but until then, Holmes will be the workhorse, with Kolby Smith earning a few carries here and there.
Ryan Grant sprained his ankle late in Sunday's game, but the Packers expect he'll be able to go Thursday against Detroit. Grant, who has 86 carries for 376 yards in four starts, has been the only successful running back for Green Bay this year, so the Packers hope they won't have to dip into their reserve pool and pull out Brandon Jackson or Vernand Morency.
Anthony Thomas took over starting duties for the Bills on Sunday night, but he only had 11 carries for 31 yards due to Buffalo falling behind early. Marshawn Lynch's sprained ankle is serious enough that he could miss another game this weekend, giving Thomas a shot to redeem himself against Jacksonville.
Kenny Watson continues to look better than starter Rudi Johnson. Coach Marvin Lewis stubbornly gave the ball to Johnson 22 times on Nov. 11, with Watson receiving only nine, but Sunday the split in carries was more equitable. Johnson had just 25 yards on eight carries against Arizona, while Watson had 45 on nine carries. Johnson is clearly not playing well, so it's only a matter of time before Lewis comes to his senses and makes Watson the lead back.
Despite playing better than he has all season, Cedric Benson only carried the ball 11 times Sunday. He ripped off a 43-yard touchdown on his first carry, and went another 20 on his next one, but his playing time was limited by game situations. Adrian Peterson could cut into his time a little down the stretch, but Benson should get a few more carries this week.
Travis Henry was held out of Monday's game with a knee injury, and with the possibility of a suspension being handed down very soon, he might be done for the season. Selvin Young has played well subbing for Henry this year but suffered a sprained knee in Monday's game. He later returned, but his progress needs to be monitored this week. Andre Hall was impressive in limited action on Monday, but he was banged up as well.
Although Seattle hoped to have Shaun Alexander back last week, various injuries kept him out of action for the second week in a row. Maurice Morris started and scored for the second consecutive week. Coach Mike Holmgren likes what Morris can do catching the ball out of the backfield, so even when Alexander returns, Morris could still see some significant action.
With Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk limited with minor injuries and the Patriots up big, Heath Evans and Kyle Eckel combined for 96 yards on 20 carries Sunday. The main thing limiting Maroney's value are the frequent blowouts in New England. Sunday's touchdown was Maroney's first of the year, and it's been more than two months since the last time he topped 15 carries in a game. If the Patriots don't need to give him the ball anymore, there's no reason for you to keep him active either.
Donovan McNabb sprained his ankle in the second quarter Sunday and did not return. His replacement, A.J. Feeley, did not have to do much more than hand the ball off to Brian Westbrook, though Feeley did throw a touchdown pass to seal the victory against the Dolphins. X-rays were negative on McNabb's ankle, but combined with a swollen thumb on his passing hand, it's unlikely McNabb will play this week.
In a move that probably did not send shockwaves through any fantasy league, rookie John Beck started the first game of his career Sunday. He completed just 9 of 22 passes for 109 yards as Miami fell to 0-10. Beck only turned the ball over once, but the Dolphins struggled offensively once again. Cleo Lemon, who lost all four of his starts, will backup Beck.
Steve McNair will miss at least 2-3 weeks with a partially dislocated left shoulder, but more important, he may have lost his job permanently. Kyle Boller took over Sunday, and while he didn't do much (279 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions), McNair has been so banged up and ineffective this season that he might be finished as a Raven. Rookie Troy Smith will be the first backup for the time being.
Brodie Croyle started his first game Sunday, and though the Chiefs lost, 13-10, Croyle led a balanced attack that more or less kept the Indianapolis offense off the field. Croyle finished 19-for-27 for 169 yards and a touchdown, but a costly fumble late in the second quarter led to the Colts' first points of the game. On the bright side, Croyle, who struggled with interceptions in the preseason, has thrown only one pick in 74 regular-season attempts this year.
A strained forearm brought on by a separated shoulder sent Alex Smith to the bench last week. Although he was listed as active and could have played if necessary, Smith could only watch as Trent Dilfer led San Francisco to just nine points against the lowly Rams. Smith has been battling injuries all season, and coach Mike Nolan says he could be battling confidence problems as well. Regardless of who starts, the San Francisco offense does not look good, and neither quarterback is worth having on a fantasy roster.
Daunte Culpepper returned to Minnesota - and the starting lineup - Sunday, throwing for 344 yards in a loss to the Vikings. Josh McCown was inactive, mostly due to a bruised thigh, but also due to his ineffectiveness. Top pick JaMarcus Russell reportedly will make his NFL debut on Dec. 2, meaning he could start the final five games of the year. The Raiders have won four games the last two seasons, and aren't going to get any better with Culpepper or McCown running the show.
Byron Leftwich was good enough to start Sunday against Tampa Bay, but he wasn't good enough to finish. Leftwich, who missed the last couple of weeks recuperating from surgery on his ankle, turned the ball over four times and failed to lead Atlanta into the red zone, let alone the end zone. Joey Harrington played the last third of the game and threw for 139 yards and a touchdown. If Atlanta coaches think they brought Leftwich back too quickly, the job will be Harrington's again.
David Garrard, who missed three games with an ankle injury, returned Sunday to lead Jacksonville to a victory over the Chargers. Garrard threw for 189 yards and two scores while his fill-in, Quinn Gray, went back to holding the clipboard.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
Andre Johnson returned with a bang last week, hauling in a 73-yard touchdown pass and finishing the day with six catches for 120 yards. The values of Kevin Walter and Andre Davis will obviously take a hit with Johnson back on board after a seven-game absence, making neither of them solid fantasy options now that bye weeks are completed. Walter will stay in the starting lineup, with Davis being demoted to the third receiver.
Santana Moss' week off to rest a sore heel revitalized him to the tune of nine catches for 121 yards and his first touchdown of the season. The performance won't be enough to overcome such a disappointing season, but it could be the catalyst for a strong second half. Last week's star, James Thrash, was inactive with an ankle sprain.
A second quarter ankle injury sidelined Laveranues Coles for most of the game Sunday, and with only a few off-days before the Thanksgiving game with the Cowboys, it's unlikely he'll be able to play this week. Jerricho Cotchery, who caught just one pass Sunday, figures to benefit from Coles' absence the most, but either Justin McCareins or Brad Smith should get promoted to the starting lineup.
The long-awaited return of Deion Branch did nothing to lessen the impact of D.J. Hackett and Bobby Engram. Hackett scored for the third game in a row, and finished with nine catches for 136 yards. Engram caught eight for 84 yards, and Branch had four catches for 31 yards in his first game back from a foot injury. The Seattle running game has been shaky this year, but the passing game has been a pleasant surprise. Branch should take a little bit of value away from Engram when he gets up to speed, but it's not hard to envision all three receivers being starters in many fantasy leagues.
Steve Smith missed Sunday's game with a shin injury, giving Drew Carter the opportunity to put up his best numbers of the season. Carter caught five passes for 132 yards and a score, while Keary Colbert (six catches for 33 yards) and rookie Dwayne Jarrett (three catches for 39 yards) also made nice contributions. Smith's injury isn't too serious, so everyone should move back down on the depth chart this week.
With a short week to prepare and the possibility of Marvin Harrison, Anthony Gonzalez and Aaron Morehead missing the Thanksgiving game, Craphonso Thorpe could be in the starting lineup Thursday. Gonzalez and Harrison haven't been ruled out yet, but Gonzalez is closer to returning. The Colts need a healthy wide receiver badly, but Thorpe is probably not the answer.