Keith Jordan
Fantasy 411 - Week 9

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The Arizona Cardinals said this week that even if Rashard Mendenhall were to miss their game against Atlanta, Andre Ellington would still split time in the backfield. A quick look at Ellington’s stat line shows an impressive 154 yards for the rookie, but a closer examination shows that the Cardinals were true to their word. At 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, Ellington doesn’t have the frame or experience to be an every down back, just yet. On Sunday the Cardinals split their carries nearly evenly between Ellington and Stepfan Taylor. The stark difference in their stats is because Ellington reeled off an 80-yard touchdown run in the first half.

Ellington has the most talent of the running backs on the roster, but he appears to be destined for a time share, at least this season. I like Ellington and made a trade for him a few weeks back, but I only see him as a bye week fill-in or a dicey flex play as long as his touches are limited. While he is a shifty runner with the ability to take any touch to the end zone, his stats are pretty average if you take away the long score.

A week after Roy Helu found the end zone three times against Chicago, Alfred Morris owners had to be a little nervous given coach Mike Shanahan’s well chronicled liking for playing running back roulette. Those worries were all for nothing, at least for now. Morris was back in his normal spot on Sunday getting the bulk of the Washington Redskins’ carries. Helu only got five carries and one passing target. Morris was very effective, averaging 5.5 yards on 17 carries.

A lot of the talk in the offseason revolved around Morris being more involved in the Redskins passing game, but that has not been the case. Helu continues to be on the field for nearly as many snaps as Morris through Week 8. Morris has only eclipsed 100 yards rushing once so far this season, but he has flirted with the century mark in each of his last two games, turning in 95- and 93-yard efforts. I expect his rushing totals to steadily climb, but he will continue to give way to Helu on passing downs.

I don’t know if Drew Brees hates Marques Colston , but I know I’m starting to! Seeing that Brees went for more than 300 yards while tossing five touchdowns isn’t that unusual, but the fact that Colston wasn’t the recipient of any of those passing TDs is frustrating for fantasy owners. Colston only managed three catches for 18 yards and has been a disappointment all season long.

Lance Moore returned to the Saints lineup and hauled in a touchdown, and fifth-round draft pick Kenny Stills had a breakout performance, racking up 129 yards and two touchdowns. Colston only has one touchdown on the season and is not getting the red zone looks he needs to be effective on fantasy teams. Jimmy Graham is the go-to red zone target and Colston is not worthy of a starting spot unless he reclaims a more prominent role in the Saints’ offense.

Did anyone else forget that Dexter McCluster still played for Kansas City? Another “efficient” week for Alex Smith was due largely to the connection he had with McCluster against Cleveland. Smith’s role as a game manager is well discussed and much maligned. Simply put, Smith protects the ball, but he lacks the strength and precision to make long, downfield strikes. Dwayne Bowe ’s meager production is proof positive of this point. Bowe has only two touchdowns on the season and he hasn’t even come close to sniffing 100 receiving yards in a game. While being hobbled with a groin injury, he was only targeted twice on Sunday. The bad news for fantasy owners is that the Chiefs are 8-0, pushing towards the playoffs with no intention of changing their winning game plan. Bowe looks like a dud-play going forward.

Three targets, three catches, two touchdowns. That was all a hobbled Jimmy Graham needed to register a solid fantasy week. There’s not a lot to write about here … simply put, the connection that Drew Brees has with Graham is clicking so efficiently right now that if Graham is active you just have to have him in your starting lineup.

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are hitting their stride and won their third straight game last Thursday night. DeAngelo Williams found the end zone for the first time, but all of a sudden Jonathan Stewart is expected back and threatens to take carries from Williams. Over the last several weeks, Mike Tolbert has done a good job carving out a nice niche in the Panthers offense for himself as a pass catcher while getting a few carries. I look for Stewart’s return to cut more in to the production of Tolbert than Williams. The Panthers know that Stewart is habitually banged up and will want to protect him if they are going to make a playoff run. Stewart is the better receiving back and will see a lot of action on passing downs. The Panthers’ three-headed backfield positions them well, but for fantasy owners it only means that none of the three can be counted on to consistently produce for your team.