It’s do or die time–don’t choke now. There’s only one or two more weeks until the advent of this season’s fantasy football playoffs, so you best be double- and triple-checking your roster, making the appropriate adds and drops, and looking ahead at your matchups in Weeks 14-16. ETB’s weekly Stock Report is here to make this stressful time of the season oh so much easier for you.
Read on for updates on the latest gridiron heroes and zeroes from Week 12; we suggest cherishing every single word as the Stock Report is becoming increasingly close to going the way of the Dodo, at least for this season. We have a game on Saturday with loads o’ fantasy implications–Green Bay at Dallas–so make sure you set your roster accordingly.
And hey, don’t be a turd–even if your team has been eliminated from the playoffs, keep up with your roster until the very end. You owe it to the rest of your league. Yes, you.
Kolby Smith, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: We’re kicking off this week’s edition of the Stock Report with three backup running backs who were administered big booster shots of fantasy relevance on Sunday. The first is Smith, a rookie out of Louisville whom Andrew pegged as one of this year’s Waiver Wire Revelations all the way back in August. (At the risk of over-padding his swelling ego, I might also mention that Peterson, below, was his other pick.) While it’s probably too late for Smith to be considered a top-10 waiver gem, anyone who started him this week in light of Priest Holmes’ long-overdue retirement are certainly singing his praises. The Raiders rush defense is just pitiful, but no matter who the opponent is it takes more than chopped liver to rush for 150 yards, 2 TDs, and a healthy 4.8 YPC. Smith should clearly be owned in all leagues and is a solid flex-play as long as Larry Johnson is out nursing his foot injury.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Chicago Bears: After begging to see the original AP in full-time duty for about, oh, two months now, a possible season-ending ankle injury to incumbent
plodder starter Cedric Benson will finally grant our wish. Peterson didn’t exactly set the world on fire after taking over against Denver in the team’s 37-34 overtime victory, rushing 17 times for 45 yards for 1 TD, but his pass-catching ability out of the backfield (5 receptions, 41 yards) and superior speed should make him a more viable fantasy commodity than Benson has been. The Bears have some tough fantasy playoffs matchups (@ MIN and vs. GB in Weeks 15 and 16, respectively), but Peterson should be a decent flex-play option for owners strapped for depth.
Andre Hall, RB, Denver Broncos: When veteran Travis Henry was named Denver’s starting back heading into the ’07 season, many feared we’d be “cheated” out of Mike Shanahan’s near-annual ritual of unearthing some no-name RB and elevating him to fantasy stud status. Various issues with Henry have changed all that, with Selvin Young becoming the first undrafted rookie to make a splash, and now Andre Hall the second. The 5-10 rookie from South Florida earned his first career start on Sunday with Young inactive, and responded well on the road with 26 carries for 98 yards, 2 catches for 69, and 1 TD. It’s too early in the week to tell if Young will be back for this week’s juicy matchup against the Raiders, but if he’s out Hall becomes a must start. **UPDATE** Shanahan has confirmed that Hall suffered a high-ankle sprain on Sunday, which will likely put him on the shelf for at least this Sunday. If Young and/or Henry is not available either, Cecil Sapp will likely carry the load.
Chad Johnson, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: Last week one of our readers was debating who to start on Sunday between D.J. Hackett and Ocho Cinco given the former’s impressive stretch since returning from injury and the latter’s loooooong streak of failing to score (eight games straight). With a little reassurance he went with Johnson, and we can safely say that was the right call after Johnson awoke to the tune of 12 receptions, 103 yards, and 3 TDs against the stumbling Titans. After this week’s away game in Pittsburgh, the Cincy passing attack draws a most favorable slate of matchups for the fantasy playoffs: vs. STL, @ SF, and vs. CLE. The Bengals have nothing left to play for except stats, but that’s just fine for anyone with Palmer, Johnson, and Houshmandzadeh on their roster.
Minnesota Vikings DEF: This unit hasn’t gotten the credit they deserve all season long, but after making Baby Eli, below, look like a high-school quarterback on Sunday, the Vikings DEF has now surpassed the New England DEF as the top-scoring unit in ETB’s fantasy league. After taking three interceptions to the house this week, they now lead the NFL in defensive touchdowns with 7 and are tied for fifth overall in picks with 13. Owners should feel comfortable plugging them in for the rest of the season with a slew of turnover-prone teams coming up in Detroit, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington.
A.J. Feeley, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: It seems like Feeley does this once every season or so, and often in an unfavorable situation. With an injured Donovan McNabb on the sideline wondering about his future (or lack thereof) with the Iggles, Feeley led his 24-point underdog squad into New England and performed better than anyone could have expected. Sure, the early and late Asante Samuel picks hurt, but considering the opponent and circumstances it’s hard to quibble with Feeley’s performance: 27-42, 345 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs. Is it enough to keep a healthy McNabb out of the starting lineup? Probably not. Should you start him against Seattle at home if he gets the nod again this Sunday? No. But keep an eye on this situation, and if worse comes to worse and he’s still in there come Week 16 at New Orleans, and your starter (and backup) suffers some kind of horrific injury, hey, maybe Feeley is your guy. Hope not, though.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers: It’s too late for Frank to erase his name from our 2007 All-Fantasy Bust Team, and his owners may have just thrown their hands up and benched him this week, but those who stuck with him and hoped for the best were rewarded with his best overall performance of the ’07 season by far. In the ‘Niners high-scoring 37-31 win in Arizona, Gore looked every bit the fantasy stud he was touted as coming into the season, rushing 21 times for 116 yards, catching 11 passes for 98 yards, and scoring twice. San Francisco doesn’t have much on offense, so if this is a sign that Gore is healthy again he should be in store for a similarly heavy workload from here on out. He’s a solid RB2 this week at Carolina, but that Week 15 home game against Cincinnati is one that could see him bust out in a big way again.
Jamal Lewis, RB, Cleveland Browns: Look, we don’t think he’s a very good running back. I don’t think either one of the ETB dons have ever drafted him, and we most definitely will never do so in the future. But Lewis apparently has not forgotten that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and is running like a guy who wants a two-year deal with a reasonable salary. After pounding the Texans on Sunday (29 carries for 134 yards, 1 TD), Lewis now has 6 TDs in his past four games, though you should remember that four of those were goal-line plunges in one game where he posted a putrid 37 rushing yards and a 1.9 YPC. The Browns have one of the softest schedules during the fantasy playoffs (@ NYJ, vs. BUF, @ CIN, and vs. SF if your leagues stretches to Week 17), so Lewis should probably stay in your lineup.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants: And what did Baby Eli have to say for himself after throwing four picks, three of which were taken all the way back, on Sunday in Minnesota? “I’m just disappointed,” Manning said. That articulate quote from the former first-overall pick fell just slightly more flat than his performance, which ended at 21-49 for 273 yards, 1 TD, and 4 INTs. Tom Coughlin, assuming he’s still the head coach next year, should seriously consider turning to The Chubby Funster, Jared Lorenzen, or whomever the backup is next time the Giants face Minnesota. Manning has now been picked eight times in the team’s last two meetings; four of those were returned for touchdowns. Can you recall any game this season that Manning can be credited with single-handedly winning it for his team? We can’t, but he’s certainly lost a few.
LenDale White, RB, Tennessee Titans: Funny how one significant injury on the defensive side of the ball can have a trickle-down effect on the entire team. Ever since DT Albert Haynesworth started sitting out, the Titans’ once-tough rush defense has severely faltered, the secondary has been exposed and scored on, and the team’s offense has been tasked with putting up big points on the board just to keep pace. At this point, scoring quickly and often is not something they excel at, and it’s a situation that’s really been killing White’s fantasy value. After establishing himself as a weekly starter midway through the season, the Stay Puft second-year back has rushed for just 81 yards in the past three weeks combined and failed to score. We still like him in the Week 16 matchup at home against the Jets, but it’d be nice to see a return to form over the next few weeks. Right now, it just ain’t happening.
Arizona Cardinals DEF: Well, that’s just a shame. We’ve been sticking up for the underrated Cardinals defense for some time now, and then they go out and allow the toilet-bowl offense of the 49ers to go off for 37 points. Indeed, it hardly inspires confidence when The Rotund Wonder, Trent Dilfer, throws for 250 yards and 2 TDS on you, and when a running back who has done diddly-squat all season long has his best day of the year. This unit has come a long ways and with a few tweaks in the offseason, they could be a real sleeper next season. But they’ll be facing a string of high-powered offenses over the next three weeks (Cleveland, Seattle, New Orleans), and make for too risky of a start with the fantasy playoffs looming.
Mark Clayton, WR, Baltimore Ravens: After teasing us in Week 10 with 8 catches for 107 yards, the third-year wideout has quietly resumed his fantasy bust status, catching a total of just 4 passes for 24 yards over the past two weeks. Obviously, the situation at quarterback is contributing to his miserable season, but some of it is most definitely on him, too, seeing as how teammate Derrick Mason is still finding a way to get his despite sub-par play from the office of Boller & McNair. With no touchdowns all season long and matchups against two very good pass defenses in New England and Indianapolis the next two weeks, it’s safe to drop this dud back onto the waiver scrap heap once again.
Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins: Nothing lands a player in their coach’s bad graces quicker than a case of fumblitis, and that fact held true on Sunday as Portis turned the ball over on two of the offense’s first three plays from scrimmage. After two massive weeks in which he rushed for a combined 333 yards and 1 TD, Portis has followed it up with a combined 104 yards and 0 touchdowns over the past two. The fumbles against Tampa Bay probably played a part in his backup, Ladell Betts, getting more touches (11) than he has since Week 1. Betts looked good, too, posting a very strong 5.9 YPC and tacking on 3 catches for 32 yards. Portis will remain the RB1 in Washington, but Betts could become more involved in the coming weeks.
Laurence Maroney, RB, New England Patriots: Why on earth did the Pats wait until the second half to get Maroney involved? He was the second-best offensive player on New England’s roster last season. But for some unknown reason he’s been in Belichick’s doghouse all season and has failed to find any sort of rhythm as a result. Logic says they’re saving him for the playoffs, but if that’s the case it’s a strategy that’s backfired, at least as far as we can see. Maroney looks hesitant out there, like a guy who’s thinking that if he doesn’t rip off a long run, or misses an assignment, or fumbles, or looks at Belichick the wrong way that he’ll be on the sideline for two or three series. And, basically, that has been the case. Yes, he scored last night, but didn’t do much else and remains a risky start for your playoffs-bound fantasy squad.
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