By Kenn Ruby
Cedric Benson will have season-ending surgery after injuring his ankle Sunday. New Chicago starter Adrian Peterson didn't have much success running the ball, gaining only 45 yards on 17 carries, but he scored a big touchdown in the fourth quarter and also had five receptions. Garrett Wolfe is also slated to see some action backing up Peterson.
The big news in Kansas City last week was the retirement of Priest Holmes, giving third-stringer Kolby Smith a chance to strut his stuff against the weak Oakland front seven. Smith didn't disappoint, scoring twice and gaining 150 yards on 31 carries. It's doubtful Smith will ever approach those numbers again this season, but Larry Johnson's foot injury could linger for awhile. If Smith hasn't already been snatched up in your league, obviously go get him.
With Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward both out of Sunday's game with injuries, Reuben Droughns started and carried 15 times for 46 yards. Droughns scored on a 1-yard run, but the Giants faced a big deficit most of the game and abandoned the run. Ahmad Bradshaw played well in limited duty, but Droughns will continue to be the workhorse until Jacobs or Ward returns.
Chester Taylor had 31 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown Sunday, but more important, Adrian Peterson was back practicing only 10 days after spraining his LCL. Peterson should return this week, but the Vikings will go easy on him his first week back -- it would not be a shock to see Taylor get the ball more than Peterson.
Denver reached deep into their pool of running backs Sunday. Travis Henry and Selvin Young both missed the game with injuries, and Andre Hall left the game with a high ankle sprain. Hall was going strong before he got hurt, finishing with 181 all-purpose yards and a touchdown, and Cecil Sapp had seven carries for 28 yards and a touchdown of his own. If the last several weeks have been any indication, whoever plays in Denver's backfield has a strong chance of being productive -- and getting hurt. Young could return this week, but Hall's strong performances in the last two weeks should cut into Young's playing time, provided Hall is able to play at all.
Joseph Addai suffered a neck injury last week, but returned in the second half, finishing with 10 carries for 44 yards and a score. Kenton Keith got plenty of action while Addai was out, gaining 74 yards on 17 carries. Addai should be fine this week, but if not, Indianapolis has a more-than-capable backup.
In a reverse of last week's equitable split of carries, Rudi Johnson got the ball 25 times Sunday while Kenny Watson toted the rock only four times. Johnson had his first rushing touchdown of the season and his 88 yards were the best we've seen from him in a long time. Despite the continued low yards/carry for Johnson, the Bengals look committed to giving him the ball.
Anthony Thomas suffered a strained calf Sunday, and with Marshawn Lynch probably out again this week, Buffalo could turn to Fred Jackson or Dwayne Wright against Washington. Jackson had 10 touches Sunday and has moved ahead of Wright on the depth chart, but he might be better suited as a change-of-pace back.
Michael Pittman aggravated his ankle injury during his Nov. 18 return, causing him to miss last week's game. Earnest Graham had just 75 yards on 21 carries, but he scored again and received every running back carry for Tampa Bay. He should have no significant competition for lead-back duties even when Pittman returns, which could be as early as this week.
Reggie Bush continues to struggle, though it should be said that last week's performance was probably more due to his bruised shin than anything. With the Saints comfortably ahead most of the second half, Bush had just 12 touches, finishing with 32 rushing yards and 30 receiving yards. Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas both saw more action than Bush on Sunday, but Bush should be close to full strength this week.
No offensive player has been hurt by the absence of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth more than LenDale White. The Titans defense can't seem to stop anyone with Haynesworth out of the game, which means fewer opportunities for White to run the ball as Tennessee plays catch-up. White had just eight carries for 27 yards Sunday, and has just 29 carries for 81 yards in his last three games. Chris Brown also had eight carries, and will be on the field much more often when Tennessee is forced to pass.
Backup A.J. Feeley nearly did the impossible Sunday, but three costly interceptions kept Philadelphia from beating the undefeated Patriots. Donovan McNabb's ankle and thumb will probably keep him out of this week's game as well. Outside of a the interceptions, Feeley had a nice game, throwing for 345 yards and three touchdowns.
Coach Dick Jauron announced Monday that Trent Edwards will be the starter from now on, ending J.P. Losman's reign as Buffalo starting quarterback. Neither Losman nor Edwards has impressed this year, but Buffalo is ready to make the switch as it looks toward 2008.
Marc Bulger was knocked out of Sunday's game with a concussion and was relieved by Gus Frerotte. Bulger passed his CAT scan Monday, so it's still possible that he'll play this weekend, but it's unlikely the 2-9 Rams will take the chance of putting him back behind center. Frerotte threw a second-quarter touchdown pass, but couldn't get any points out of the last nine St. Louis drives.
Carolina really wanted to start Vinny Testaverde on Sunday, but back stiffness forced the Panthers to go with David Carr, who was not up to the task. Carr was picked off twice and threw for just 95 yards against one of the league's worst pass defenses. Matt Moore replaced him, and though his stats weren't a whole lot better than Carr's, at least he has the excuse of being a rookie. The Panthers are counting on Testaverde's back to improve, but otherwise will go with Moore this week.
An early back injury knocked Jeff Garcia out for nearly the entire game last week, but the good news is he returned. Garcia has been banged up quite a bit this year, but so far hasn't missed a game. Bruce Gradkowksi played most of Sunday's game and is in line to start if Garcia can't play this week.
Coach Lane Kiffin stated last week that he doesn't plan on starting JaMarcus Russell at all this season, but may play him in games where he could be set up to succeed. With both Josh McCown and starter Daunte Culpepper healthy, time is running out for Russell to have any impact this season.
Joey Harrington was back running the show last week, and though he hooked up with Roddy White for a nice 48-yard touchdown, it was otherwise another disappointing game for Harrington and the Falcons. Harrington was intercepted twice and threw for just 155 yards (with only 85 yards after the first two drives). Byron Leftwich missed the game with a tailbone injury, but he could return this week in a backup role.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
Marvin Harrison continues to be out, but Indianapolis got a nice Thanksgiving boost from the return of Anthony Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who had only two catches in the last six weeks, finished with six receptions for 105 yards. Although Aaron Moorehead is done for the season with a back injury, the Colts hope to have their passing offense at nearly full strength this week against Jacksonville.
D.J. Hackett suffered an ankle injury Sunday and will not return for at least two weeks. The wide receiver threesome of Hackett, Deion Branch and Bobby Engram has rarely been healthy his season, but the Seattle offense has hardly missed a beat. While Hackett is sidelined, Nate Burleson might see a few more balls thrown his way, and Branch and Engram will see an increase in targets as well.
A sprained ankle kept Laveranues Coles out of the Dallas game, giving Brad Smith a spot in the starting lineup. Unfortunately, Smith, Jerricho Cotchery and Justin McCareins couldn't benefit from Coles' absence. The Jets offense never got on track against the Cowboys, as the three wide receivers combined for just six catches for 84 yards.
Javon Walker returned to action last week but was not targeted once. He should see a few more passes next week, but Brandon Marshall and Brandon Stokley have played well in his absence. Walker will eventually go back to being the top dog, but it may not be as soon as his fantasy owners would like.