The top news from this past week surrounded two running backs that weren't even on the radar in most fantasy football drafts.
Kolby Smith (27 points) and Andre Hall (21 points) both made some serious noise in Week 12. Smith took over as the Chiefs' featured back in the absence of Larry Johnson and the retirement of Priest Holmes and went off for 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Oakland. There's been no word on when (or if) L.J. will return this season, so Smith should be considered a viable fantasy starter.
Smith and Hall are still available in some NFL.com leagues, so look to add them now.
The other tale of the weekend was the unexpected impact of A.J. Feeley. The veteran started in the absence of an injured Donovan McNabb and threw for 345 yards and three scores in a loss to New England. Despite the performance, Eagles coach Andy Reid said he will continue to start McNabb once he returns from ankle and thumb injuries. That scenario makes Feeley less attractive as an option off the waiver wire.
Drew Brees (32 points) led all quarterbacks (and all positions) in Week 12. He threw for 260 yards and scored four touchdowns in a win over Carolina and now has 30-plus fantasy points in three of his past five starts. Brett Favre (31 points) continues to snicker in the face of Father Time, as he threw for 381 yards and three scores in a Thanksgiving Day win in Detroit. Based on his current totals, Favre will finish with 32 touchdowns and a career best in passing yards. Philip Rivers (27 points), Carson Palmer (27 points) and Peyton Manning (26 points) rounded out the top five quarterbacks.
The unpredictable Rivers threw three touchdown passes in a win over Baltimore, but it was his first impressive performance since Week 8. As a result, I wouldn't rush to start him in Week 13 at Kansas City. Palmer and Manning have had their share of ups and downs in recent weeks, but both led countless fantasy footballers to wins.
Kurt Warner (25 points) threw for 484 yards and two touchdowns in an overtime loss to San Francisco, and his line would have been even more impressive if he hadn't surrendered six fantasy points due to turnovers. Feeley (25 points) was solid against the Patriots, and Trent Dilfer (23 points) and Jay Cutler (23 points) also made some noise. Dilfer still has little value, but Cutler has put together consecutive solid starts.
Tom Brady (22 points) threw for 380 yards and still had his worst point total of the season. That tells you how ridiculous his numbers have been.
The biggest disappointment at the quarterback position had to be Vince Young (5 points), who enticed fantasy owners with a solid performance against Denver only to fold in Cincinnati. Daunte Culpepper (6 points) was also a dud one week removed from a nice stat line, and Eli Manning (8 points) threw four interceptions and has faltered in recent weeks. Marc Bulger (minus-1 point) sustained a concussion and could be out for Week 13, so Gus Frerotte could have some value in larger formats.
The top running back of the week was Frank Gore, who had an impressive 214 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in an overtime win over Arizona. His scores came on runs of 11 and 35 yards and were his first trips to the end zone in nine weeks. Here's the real kicker: Because of his recent (and extended) lack of production, Gore was active in fewer than 70 percent of NFL.com leagues.
Kolby Smith and Andre Hall were second and third at the position, while Justin Fargas (20 points) and Jamal Lewis (20 points) were also stellar. I admit that I was down on Lewis in the preseason, but he has proven to have plenty left in the tank. He'll be a stud for owners in the fantasy football postseason.
Ryan Grant (19 points) continued his run as one of the season's top sleepers, and veterans Fred Taylor (17 points), Marion Barber (17 points) and Kevin Jones (17 points) also helped owners take home an all-important win. Steven Jackson (16 points) is back to 100 percent for St. Louis and has re-emerged as a must-start runner across the board. Anthony Thomas (14 points) was solid in Jacksonville, but his run as the Buffalo starter could be at an end if Marshawn Lynch returns from an injured ankle. The same can be said of Chester Taylor (14 points), who will fall back to second on the depth chart if Adrian Peterson returns in Week 13.
Another Adrian Peterson, the one in Chicago, will see a far more prominent role with Cedric Benson out for the season. Peterson totaled 86 all-purpose yards and one touchdown in a win over Denver, and he'll start in Week 13 against the New York Giants. He's a free agent in most NFL.com leagues, so now is the time to add him off the waiver wire.
DeShaun Foster had the worst performance among runners with minus-1 point, and LenDale White (2 points) has fallen into a serious funk. That was evident in his 27-yard performance in Cincinnati. He has averaged a mere 2.3 fantasy points over the past three weeks, and the presence of Chris Brown has hurt his value. Until he turns it around, White should be considered no more than a flex starter in most formats. Thomas Jones (5 points) and Clinton Portis (5 points) also failed to produce nice stat lines, and Reggie Bush (6 points) was limited with an injured shin.
Chad Johnson (28 points) awoke from an extended statistical hibernation with 12 catches, 103 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Tennessee. Johnson, whose three scores equaled the total from his previous 10 starts, found the end zone on connections of 10, 2 and 3 yards with Carson Palmer. Larry Fitzgerald (27 points) put on a show against San Francisco with nine catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns. The former Heisman runner-up increased his seasonal pace to 1,500-plus yards and nine touchdowns. Greg Lewis (20 points) was a surprise member of the top five, while Greg Jennings (18 points) and Roddy White (16 points) rounded out the best performances from the position.
Deion Branch (15 points) had his best week since his return from an injured foot, and his role could expand if D.J. Hackett misses significant time due to an injured ankle. Plaxico Burress (15 points) broke out of a statistical slide in a loss to Minnesota, while Brandon Marshall (15 points) and Marques Colston (15 points) continued to be consistent and productive options. Sidney Rice (14 points) and Jabar Gaffney (14 points) also had their share of success, but neither warrants serious consideration in most formats. The same can't be said of Donald Driver (14 points) and Wes Welker (14 points), both of whom shined in their respective contests.
Overall, a number of big-name wideouts failed to produce in the box scores. Javon Walker (0 points) returned from an injured knee but saw limited work and failed to record even one reception. Santana Moss (1 point) did little against a hardened Tampa Bay defense, and Joey Galloway (2 points) was invisible in the same contest. Roy Williams (3 points) has been one of the most inconsistent wideouts in fantasy football, as he did zilch in a loss to Green Bay. Williams has double-digit fantasy points in two of his past eight starts, and 56 percent of his yardage totals have come in three games.
However, the biggest disappointment at the position might have been Andre Johnson, who seemed destined to thrive in Cleveland but was limited to seven targets and three points.
The top tight end of the week was Antonio Gates (22 points), who went for 105 yards and two scores in a win over Baltimore. Kellen Winslow (16 points) continued his rise as an elite fantasy tight end, and Chris Cooley (15 points) was the lone stud for a Washington offense that struggled against the Buccaneers. Tony Scheffler (14 points) had his best stat line of the season and should now be considered a nice low-end No. 1 fantasy tight end. He's a free agent in close to 60 percent of NFL.com leagues. Owen Daniels (12 points) scored his first touchdown of the season and is on pace for more than 70 receptions this season.
Donald Lee fell back to earth with a one-point dud in Detroit, and Benjamin Watson (1 point), Randy McMichael (2 points), L.J. Smith (4 points) and Jeremy Shockey (4 points) all had difficult weeks. Tony Gonzalez (4 points) was also a disappointment, and Todd Heap continued to miss time due to an injured hamstring. His status for Week 13 remains uncertain.
Jason Hanson and Josh Scobee tied for the lead among kickers with 19 points. Scobee, who has returned from an injured quadriceps, should now warrant consideration in leagues with 12-plus teams. Nate Kaeding (17 points) had his best stat line of the season, but he still ranks an unimpressive 23rd among kickers on NFL.com. Robbie Gould (14 points) and Matt Bryant (14 points) round out the best performances. Two rookies, Mason Crosby (13 points) and Nicholas Folk (11 points), also shined on Thanksgiving and proved that the value of kickers can be hard to predict.
The biggest disappointments came from Matt Stover (2 points), who has been horribly inconsistent in recent weeks, and David Akers, who mustered four points in New England. Jeff Wilkins (5 points), Shayne Graham (5 points) and the Browns, Josh (5 points) and Kris (5 points), had disappointing games. Neil Rackers (7 points) would have had a better week had he not missed a late field goal for Arizona.
Minnesota (33 points) scored three touchdowns and recorded three sacks and four interceptions in a win over the Giants to lead all defenses. Dallas (27 points) found the end zone once and sacked Kellen Clemens three times last Thursday afternoon, and New Orleans (23 points) made mincemeat of an awful David Carr and a Carolina offense without an identity. Seattle (20 points) and Tampa Bay (20 points) rounded out the top five defensive performances of Week 12. Chicago (18 points) and San Francisco (18 points) were also productive, and San Diego bounced back from a bad week to score 16 points against Kyle Boller and the Ravens.
Speaking of the Ravens, their defense posted a big fat zero in a loss to San Diego and has become a middle-of-the-road option due to injuries and without LB Adalius Thomas. Detroit (2 points), Carolina (2 points) and Arizona (3 points) also failed in their quest to produce, and Tennessee (3 points) continued to fall with DT Albert Haynesworth on the sidelines. Philadelphia (3 points) had a hard time in New England (but most defenses do), and the Giants (6 points) struggled against a mediocre Minnesota offense.
News & Notes
» J.P. Losman had another terrible performance in a loss to Jacksonville, so Bills coach Dick Jauron has decided to turn back to rookie Trent Edwards as his No. 1 quarterback. Edwards had gained the confidence of his teammates in earlier starts, but he was injured back in Week 8 and lost the role to Losman. Neither quarterback warrants much consideration in most fantasy leagues, but the move to Edwards could hurt the value of Lee Evans, who was inconsistent with the Stanford product under center.
» Reports out of Minnesota indicate that Adrian Peterson will return to action in Week 13. The rookie out of Oklahoma did some pregame warmups before Sunday's win over the Giants, but the team erred on the side of caution and held him out one more week. While Peterson could lose some carries to Chester Taylor, who was solid in his absence, chances are that A.P. will see most of the work for a Vikes team that now has a chance at a postseason berth. Barring setbacks, he should be active in all formats against Detroit.
» Ricky Williams, who hasn't been in an NFL contest since 2005, was activated by the Dolphins but Jesse Chatman was expected to get the start Monday night in Pittsburgh. While his best and more productive seasons are in the rearview mirror, Williams now warrants a roster spot in most fantasy football formats. He's available in over 40 percent of NFL.com leagues headed into the week.
» Reports out of Dallas indicate that Patrick Crayton should return to action in Week 13. He missed Thanksgiving Day's game against the Jets with an injured ankle, but the rest allowed him time to heal and recover. Veteran Terry Glenn continues to be sidelines with a problematic knee, and some reports have him out of action until the postseason. When (or if) he does return, Glenn won't be used as a starter, as Crayton seems to have secured that role. Unless you're in a deeper league, there's no reason to hold onto Glenn.