Eric Decker grins at your uncertainty.
You're allowed to be impressed with Josh Gordon's second straight massive output. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Gordon was sitting on nine grabs for 166 yards and a TD, which would've been a tremendous day considering it looked for a time that he'd been knocked out with a possible concussion. And then Gordon topped it off with a 95-yard TD that momentarily gave the Cleveland Browns a lead. But as good as Gordon's day was, most sane fantasy owners were hopefully already starting him no matter what.
That wasn't necessarily the case with Decker. He'd spent the past four games tormenting his fantasy owners, culminating in Week 12, when he caught one of four targets for 5 yards. From Weeks 8 to 12, Decker caught a combined 13 passes for 170 yards and no scores. Sunday, he had eight catches for 174 yards and four TDs. Unfortunately, many of his fantasy owners' faith had wavered. If you benched Decker, it's tough to blame you. Clearly, the Denver Broncos' plan involved picking on rookie Kansas City Chiefs corner Marcus Cooper, who continually let Decker get behind him, but it was tough to know that beforehand. I suppose the lesson is that none of Peyton Manning's primary weapons should ever be counted out. (I'm looking at you, Wes Welker owners, who are frustrated by Welker's current four-game skid of a combined 18 catches for 162 yards and no TDs.)
Remember: Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @CHarrisESPN for more analysis during the week. For now, let's look at Sunday's other top storylines:
• Not to be outdone by his wide receiver brethren, Chicago's Alshon Jeffery pulled a nutty in Week 13: 12 grabs on 15 targets for 249 yards and two scores. (Bears wideout Brandon Marshall had nine targets, five catches, 45 yards and no TDs.) Jeffery's first TD was a relatively short pass in which he simply exploded up the field, outrunning the Minnesota Vikings' secondary for an 80-yard score. The second TD was a bomb down the left side that Jeffery had no business catching except he somehow did, dragging his body across the goal line and tapping his toes in bounds. (Heck, maybe the day should've been better: Jeffery had 234 yards receiving by the third quarter, and this Chicago Bears game went into overtime!) Anyway, I'm not ready to say this represents a changing of the guard; I'll still have Marshall rated ahead of Jeffery in Week 14. But Jeffery is absolutely knocking on the top-10 door right now. He can still have quiet days if Marshall really has it going, but he's had nine fantasy points or more in seven of his past nine contests. That's elite production.
• See that, Ben Tate owners? There was nothing to worry about after all. A week after several poor first-quarter results got Tate benched in favor of Dennis Johnson, Tate was solid (if unspectacular) against a bad New England Patriots run defense. Tate carried it 22 times for 102 yards and looked powerful from in close on all three of his TDs. (Granted, you could've driven a truck through the hole on all three TDs, but still.) Meanwhile, Johnson played purely to spell Tate, and touched it just four times. The Jags aren't a pushover matchup for Tate on Thursday night; after all, it was Jacksonville that stuffed him early in Week 12, which led to his benching. But you can bet that'll be on Tate's mind. I ranked him as a high-end No. 2 back Sunday, and that's what he'll remain for the first round of the fantasy playoffs.
• C.J. Spiller just keeps putting his fantasy owners in the torture chamber. Coming out of a Week 12 bye, the assumption was that Spiller's injured ankle would finally be healthy, and he sprung a 77-yard run in the first quarter, only to be tripped up from behind on the dead run by Desmond Trufant. (He lost the opportunity for a short TD rush to EJ Manuel on that possession.) Two touches later, Spiller came hobbling out of the game and looked for all the world as though he'd miss the rest of the contest because of his ankle problem, but he re-entered and in the fourth quarter got around the right side for a 36-yard TD scamper. His final numbers in an overtime loss: 15 carries for 149 yards and two catches on four targets for 8 yards. Fred Jackson was just as involved, with 15 touches for 78 total yards, a 4-yard rushing score and a TD reception, plus he played on third downs. I guess we just keep using these guys in Week 14 against a tougher Tampa Bay Buccaneers rush defense. But will it surprise anyone when Spiller shows up on the injury report this week?
• Let's maybe not get out the anointing oil for Donald Brown just yet. He was stuck on eight carries for 8 yards before the Indianapolis Colts' late fourth-quarter drive. Then, fortunately for those who started him, Brown took over, racking up 46 yards on six carries. It almost backfired for Brown, as his heavy workload on that crucial drive caused him to need a blow, allowing Trent Richardson to get a tote from the Tennessee Titans' 4. But T-Rich predictably got stuffed, and Brown scored on the next play. Richardson did convert a fourth-and-1 in this game in Titans territory, but overall had only five carries and zero targets. This is a legit depth-chart reshuffling. Richardson is now droppable in all leagues. How could you feel good about using him in your fantasy playoffs?
• It was a pretty good day for Lamar Miller, all things considered. He was facing an elite New York Jets run defense and his 14 first-half carries produced only 30 yards, but he did show some life on a few of those totes. It took garbage time for Miller to rack up some better stats: He had 24 yards on six carries after the game's outcome was no longer in question, which helped him get to 72 yards on 22 carries overall. There was frustration for sure: Mike Gillislee got a carry inside the Jets' 5 followed by Charles Clay getting one (neither scored, and on fourth down from the 1, Ryan Tannehill overthrew Clay), and on that last garbage-time drive, Miller was initially ruled in the end zone but replay (correctly) reversed the call. Yet without Daniel Thomas in the mix, Miller was finally a true feature back. Entering the fantasy playoffs, Miller will play Pittsburgh (away), New England (home), Buffalo (away) and the Jets (home). Only that Jets rematch looks truly daunting.
• The production continues to be there for Nick Foles. I ranked him No. 9 among QBs this week, so I'm complicit in this thing we're all seeing. But any objective observer has to admit that mirrors are involved. A couple of times Sunday he did his thing where he throws it up in the air deep into double coverage and once again didn't get burned. He also threw what would've been his first interception of the season on an awful toss late over the middle in the fourth quarter, which would've breathed life into the Arizona Cardinals, but Tyrann Mathieu was called for a super-shaky defensive holding call away from the play. Still, the bottom line is that box scores are what you care about, and his box scores continue to be good; Sunday he went 21-of-34 for 237 yards, three TDs and zero INTs. Foles has had a way of throwing the ball late over the middle into bracket coverage, but shooting into the super-tight window just beyond a linebacker's outstretched fingertips. (He victimized Daryl Washington like that multiple times Sunday.) I watch a lot of film, and don't see many QBs make those kinds of attempts week-to-week and not throw picks. So far, Foles has avoided them. Here's hoping he keeps it going. His schedule: Detroit (home), Minnesota (away), Chicago (home) and Dallas (away) -- looks quite favorable.
• How did it go for the Patriots' offensive madness? Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski remained trustworthy. Everyone else? Who the heck knows? Stevan Ridley was a healthy scratch because of his continued fumbling problems. Brandon Bolden got the start as the team's early-down back, but only wound up with three carries for 2 yards. LeGarrette Blount had a decent first-quarter series, and after that took over, winding up with 12 carries for 44 yards (meh!) and a rumbling TD (yay!). Shane Vereen scored his first TD of the season, on a 9-yard catch, and also got 10 carries but was only able to produce 38 yards on them. (He did have 37 receiving yards.) You should probably stay away from everyone here, except maybe Vereen in a PPR league. Adding to the confusion, Julian Edelman saw 12 targets to Danny Amendola's five, continuing a trend that restarted in Week 12. Does this mean Edelman is now more valuable than Amendola? I guess. I'm not sure. The Pats change things up so much week to week, it's hard to promise anything. I guess use Edelman next week if you're feeling adventurous. But it won't be a shock if he disappears off the stat sheet once more.
• Ah, stability. After a couple of weeks of masquerading as a controlled QB, Carson Palmer played like Carson Palmer. He fumbled early and then threw a bad pick in the first quarter. He saw Rob Housler commit a horrendous drop that would've kept an important drive going. He threw into double coverage but had Larry Fitzgerald make a sweet grab and then accept a hit and stay on his feet to score his ninth TD of the season. He found a wide-open Michael Floyd for another TD. But he misfired on a deep shot, underthrowing Andre Roberts and allowing Cary Williams to pick him off. Palmer's fantasy day looks OK almost through sheer force of will (and volume): 24-of-41 for 302 yards, five sacks, three TDs and two picks. But in ESPN parlance, his QBR was 27.8. And that seems about right. Palmer is never dull, but he's a wild man, and sometimes it bites him and the Cardinals.
• DeAngelo Williams was inactive because of a lingering quad injury. How did Jonathan Stewart perform versus the Bucs in D-Willy's absence? Honestly, he looked slow. There was a second-quarter carry inside the Tampa 10 in which it appeared there was a flash of daylight and Stewart saw it, but he couldn't get through it quickly enough, and was tackled. Mike Tolbert subsequently came in, and that was the pattern: Tolbert played in almost all high-leverage situations. (Kenjon Barner played a bit, too.) Stewart touched it 16 times Sunday, but is still way, way off the playoff fantasy radar, regardless of Williams' status.
• Roddy White came to life Sunday, with a fairly sweet stat-sheet performance: 10 grabs on 14 targets for 143 yards. I'll admit I saw very little of his day in real time, and look forward to dissecting the tape to see what White really looked like. You can bet we'll talk about it on the Fantasy Underground podcast on Tuesday.
• The Jets had 39 total yards of offense in the first half. Geno Smith was benched at halftime. These two facts are related.
• After two straight games in which Chris Ogbonnaya was their lead back, the Browns returned to Willis McGahee, who led the team in backfield snaps. McGahee made his fantasy day early in the first quarter by converting a 1-yard TD. Obie also got looks from in close, and Fozzy Whittaker is involved, but the bottom-line message here is you can't count on any of these guys.
• Brandon Weeden suffered a concussion Sunday and Jason Campbell suffered one last week, which leaves the Browns' QB situation up in the air for Week 14. So far as I know, Alex Tanney, whom Cleveland signed off the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad last week, is the only other QB currently on the Browns' roster. Obviously, for those of us relying on Josh Gordon, this is a significant issue. Christian Ponder also was concussed and lifted for Matt Cassel. Delanie Walker left in the first quarter with his own concussion. And both Julius Thomas and Jordan Reed were unable to suit up Sunday, Thomas because of lingering knee troubles, and Reed because he felt headaches related to his own concussion in warm-ups.
• You want to kill your own momentum, Colts? Right after Robert Mathis gets a sack/forced fumble, line up and give a reverse to Darrius Heyward-Bey. (DHB lost 11 yards on the play.) Heyward-Bey had already committed offensive pass interference, and on Indy's next possession, committed the week's worst drop in the open field deep in Titans territory. Nice.