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Guess this Peyton Hillis guy is pretty good, eh?
The Denver Broncos shocked the Jets in the Sunday rain in New Jersey, with Hillis and Jay Cutler leading the way, each taking different paths to justify their fantasy status. Hillis, that other Arkansas rookie running back who went in the 2008 draft, ran for 129 yards and a touchdown against a very good run defense that had stymied big names all season. The only quarterback with more fantasy points than Cutler on Sunday was Aaron Rodgers. Cutler had reached 20 fantasy points just once since Week 2, so this 20-point fantasy effort, on 357 yards and two touchdowns, was certainly welcomed.
Even though Cutler had been a bit overrated since September, fantasy owners weren't listening. They were starting him anyway, as a mere four quarterbacks were active in more ESPN.com leagues. There were 35 running backs active in more leagues than Hillis, a seventh-round pick who was a college teammate of first-rounders Felix Jones and Darren McFadden. Hey, who thought Hillis would run for 100 yards on the Jets, when nobody else had reached 75? This guy is still available in nearly 40 percent of ESPN leagues. Ricky Williams and Fred Taylor are owned in more leagues.
Hillis rumbled over right tackle for 19 yards on Denver's second offensive play, as the Broncos did what others -- like the Tennessee Titans, for example -- had failed to do and established the run, and had 58 yards by the end of the first quarter. It was clear he was on his way to a decent game, despite cold and rainy conditions. Consider the Jets have faced some decent running backs this season -- LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshawn Lynch, Ronnie Brown among them -- and none ran even close to as well as Hillis did. It hardly matters that Hillis, a fullback by trade, wasn't the first choice -- or second or third, for that matter -- to carry the rock for foe-of-fantasy Mike Shanahan this season. With 15 or more fantasy points in four of the past five weeks, and escalating yardage performances each week, Hillis is the man in Denver now, and even the most optimistic Selvin Young owners can move on. Nobody else even received a carry until Cutler started kneeling at the end.
Don't assume the Jets have turned into the Detroit Lions defensively, just because Hillis had a career day -- and one of the top Week 13 performances by a running back this week -- but it is time fantasy owners trust the most valuable Peyton from Sunday. Shanahan admitted postgame that the Broncos have adjusted the offense to more of a power running attack to tailor to Hillis' strengths. By the way, the Kansas City Chiefs are up next. The Chiefs are a sieve against the run. Look for Hillis to be very popular in Week 14.
Speaking of that other Peyton, what a bad time for the Indianapolis Colts quarterback to deliver his worst effort of the season, as many fantasy owners finished up their regular season. Peyton Manning led his team to nary an offensive touchdown -- only the second time in Manning's career the Colts won in such an instance -- and got picked off twice, ending up with a mere one fantasy point overall in ESPN.com standard leagues. Joseph Addai and Reggie Wayne didn't fare much better. You won't see these Colts in the "down" column of the Player Tracker to the right, however, as we're still buying, especially with the Bengals and Lions up next. Manning should top his Week 13 total of 125 passing yards in the first quarter.
The top fantasy performance from Sunday's action came from Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who did his Brian Westbrook impression from Thanksgiving night and scored four touchdowns. Williams accrued 32 fantasy points, tying his season best from Week 5 against the Chiefs, though a four-game streak of topping 100 rushing yards was broken. Somehow we'll forgive him and carry on. Williams entered Week 13 a point away from being a top-10 running back for the season, and he's entered that class now. How soon before he gets into the top five? By the way, he's the first player since the NFL merger in 1970 to score on four 1-yard runs in a game. We'll take 'em.
Speaking of top 10 running backs, the Giants' Brandon Jacobs sat out Week 12 and was a bit iffy for Sunday, but he answered the call in Washington with 71 yards and his 12th touchdown of the season. Jacobs was active in 65.7 percent of ESPN leagues, as his owners remained cautious. They were oddly more confident in another running back battling injury, Clinton Portis, who was active in 81.6 percent of leagues and was stifled by the Giants defense for season lows of 22 rushing yards and three fantasy points.
|This Week In Fantasy Football History|
By Neil Tardy
2005: Before Peyton Hillis, before Selvin Young, before Tatum Bell, before Reuben Droughns, before Clinton Portis, the back flourishing in Denver's zone-blocking scheme was Mike Anderson. A sixth-round pick out of Utah, the rookie became the starter when Olandis Gary was felled by a season-ending injury in Week 1, and he regained the job only after Terrell Davis' brief comeback ended in Week 11. Anderson was massive down the stretch, with 10 scores in his final five games. This week's performance against the Saints at the Superdome would be his career-best: 37 carries, 251 yards and four touchdowns. He finished 2000 with 1,656 yards from scrimmage and 15 scores. After playing three seasons as a backup and losing another to injury, Anderson resurfaced with a 13-touchdown campaign in 2005.
The wonderful Tyler Thigpen run came to a crashing halt, though the Chiefs did manage to win a game. Thigpen shouldn't get dropped in fantasy from one bad game, but if Larry Johnson is back, who knows what the Herm Edwards game plan will be moving forward. Nice game for Tony Gonzalez, the lone tight end to reach fantasy double digits Sunday. Always trust Gonzalez. Willie Parker was able to play, but sharing carries with Mewelde Moore -- who ran just as well as Parker, as each averaged more than 5 yards per carry -- isn't good for fantasy value. What's worse is Gary Russell taking the short touchdowns. Randy Moss looked terrible, dropping a few Matt Cassel passes, one that would have been a touchdown. Thomas Jones continues to amaze, scoring for the sixth consecutive game. Who would have guessed Brett Favre would be the Jets' fantasy disappointment this late in the season? LaDainian Tomlinson tied Marshall Faulk for fifth place on the NFL's all-time touchdown list. We just didn't think LT would suffer a similar decline as Faulk. Revenge for Michael Turner in San Diego! Remember when LT used to get 31 carries? Turner had more carries (31) than Tomlinson had rushing yards (24). Ronnie Brown should have gone nuts against the Rams. He did score, to salvage a double-digit day, but why is Ricky Williams getting nearly as many touches? Not that Torry Holt was ever open, but even if he was, Marc Bulger couldn't do anything about it. Paging a young quarterback to St. Louis, stat. I think the Ravens can get used to Le'Ron McClain running this well, but be careful as the Baltimore schedule toughens. You won't see the name Willis McGahee in the box score this week, though we will in future weeks. Still own Cedric Benson? This was the third time Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Bengals in rushing in a game. Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch ran for 134 yards, second best of anyone for the week, but the Bills couldn't find the end zone at home against the 49ers. Really? The 49ers? A week after scoring 54 points? Don't lose trust in Lynch. And Rian Lindell just had one of those days. Even running on a Colts defense sans Bob Sanders, Jamal Lewis still couldn't earn his first 100-yard game of the season. The Panthers ran for five touchdowns. Just take note that the Packers have allowed eight rushing scores in two weeks. Next up: Steve Slaton, Maurice Jones-Drew and Matt Forte. Eli Manning threw for a season-high 305 yards, and in tough conditions no less. No, I don't think he'll miss Plaxico Burress at all, actually. Hope you enjoyed being home for Thanksgiving more than NFL teams on Sunday. Road teams were 10-2 Sunday, tying the league mark. It's yet another reason why home/road splits for fantasy players are irrelevant.
Mark Clayton, WR, Ravens
Only one wide receiver topped 20 fantasy points this week. Would you have guessed that one was Clayton? With Joe Flacco enjoying picking apart what fronts as the Bengals "defense," Clayton caught a touchdown for the third game in five weeks, and also threw one to Derrick Mason. Don't get too excited, however, with the Redskins and Steelers up next. Plus, he is Mark Clayton.
Matt Cassel, QB, Patriots
Four quarterbacks actually cost fantasy owners points on Sunday. Three were Marc Bulger, Ken Dorsey and Jordan Palmer. The fourth was Cassel, who went from consecutive 400-yard passing games and 69 fantasy points in two weeks to 169 yards, four turnovers and -2 fantasy points. You can thank the Steelers and Mother Nature for that performance. Cassel should get back to double-digit performances during a relatively weak December schedule.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: The rookie continues to amaze as he avoids turnovers. He threw two touchdown passes in San Diego, and for the fourth time in five weeks and eighth time in 12 games he did not throw an interception. Unlike fellow rook Joe Flacco, Ryan's December schedule shouldn't change his season-long success.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams: The fact he played at all after missing three games and helping nobody in fantasy since Week 7 is a good sign, but he also ran well for 94 yards on 21 carries. It would be nice if the Rams could ever score a touchdown -- it's only happened in one of the past four weeks -- but it's not too late for this fantasy first-rounder to help win titles.
Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints: It was hardly a record day on the ground, but he got most of the team's carries and caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees. The Deuce McAllister fadeout continues, and Reggie Bush is just not a factor running the ball.
Amani Toomer, Domenik Hixon, WRs, Giants: We're probably not going to see Plaxico Burress on a football field anytime soon, and these fellas are the clear targets for Eli Manning, combining for 10 catches and 156 yards Sunday. It's time to forget about New York's Steve Smith.
Bernard Berrian, WR, Vikings: A bust since Week 9, but then Gus Frerotte throws one up from the 1-yard line and that 99-yarder was all Berrian needed to break into the top five for the week at his position. Amazing.
Chad Pennington, QB, Dolphins: Seven points are not exactly what we had in mind going up against the awful Rams. Pennington's schedule remains enticing, but we should remember he's thrown an actual touchdown pass in only two of the past five games.
Warrick Dunn, RB, Buccaneers: Well, he is, after all, Warrick Dunn. He got you seven fantasy points, but you were probably expecting more. Don't expect more at Carolina and Atlanta the next two games.
Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: He's still obscenely talented, but we kept annoyingly pointing out all week that Justin Fargas was the Oakland starter. Fargas had a nice game against the sad Chiefs run defense, but McFadden only averaged 1.9 yards on his seven carries.
Braylon Edwards, WR, Browns: He caught two passes and now faces matchups in Tennessee and Philadelphia with the third-string quarterback slingin' it. How old is Brian Sipe these days? Throw Kellen Winslow and Jamal Lewis into the down column as well.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins: The Giants weren't a good matchup for him or the Redskins, but he's topped five receptions only once since Week 4. The Ravens are up next, but even if he faced the Bengals next, should we expect a noteworthy game?
Buffalo's Trent Edwards seemed to be a solid start after scoring four touchdowns in Week 12, especially since the 49ers had to travel cross-country to his stadium. But Edwards wasn't exactly on his way to a big game when he left early with a pulled groin. J.P. Losman replaced him, but didn't deliver a touchdown.
While the Bills have a veteran backup quarterback who has had worked well with receivers like Lee Evans, the Browns are down to No. 3 Ken Dorsey after Derek Anderson left in the final minute with a sprained left knee ligament, which could end his season. Brady Quinn is already done for the season. Dorsey is a veteran, just not one who has had much success. The Browns also lost tight end Kellen Winslow with a sprained left ankle. He left the stadium wearing a walking boot. The Titans are up next, by the way.
The Thursday schedule continues as the Raiders travel south to San Diego. The Chargers took a 28-18 decision in Week 4 in Oakland, as LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns, his top fantasy game of the season. Man, his owners could use one of those now! JaMarcus Russell gets to face the league's worst pass defense again; the first time, he threw for 277 yards. For perspective, he's averaging fewer than 150 passing yards per game overall. I wouldn't use him against the Chargers, or anyone.
NFC East rivals Philadelphia and New York met less than a month ago, and Brandon Jacobs was terrific, running for 126 yards and two scores. Brian Westbrook ran for 100 fewer yards that day. Look for a better performance this coming week from the apparently healthy Westbrook, who had a big Thanksgiving night with four touchdowns.
The same Week 10 day the Giants beat the Eagles, the upstart Falcons put up 34 points against the Saints. Better yet, the Falcons allowed only 20. Drew Brees should never sit in fantasy; even in the loss, he threw 58 times for 422 yards, and let's just say he doesn't play any worse at home. Michael Turner, who began Week 13 as the top running back in fantasy this season, ran for 96 yards and a score against the Saints, and Jerious Norwood had more than 100 yards -- 88 of them receiving -- and a score.
Winless Detroit hasn't had a close game in a month, but remember Week 6 in Minnesota? The Lions had chances to win, eventually falling 12-10. The story of that one for fantasy wasn't the Lions losing, but how the Vikings didn't give fantasy owners great numbers. Adrian Peterson -- always a play -- did rush for 111 yards and Bernard Berrian hauled in an 86-yarder for a touchdown. Look for the Vikings to score quite a bit more against an even weaker Lions crew. For Detroit, Calvin Johnson, who scored in Week 6, is about the only viable fantasy option.