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Week 12 Fantasy Headlines:
Thanksgiving Day Games:
Fantasy Focus – Houston Texans: The injury-depleted-and-worn-down Houston defense struggled for the second straight game, which opened the door for more offensive fireworks from Andre Johnson (9-188-0 on 15 targets) and company. The 461 receiving yards that Johnson amassed during the last two weeks is the largest total ever compiled in back-to-back games. Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant held Owen Daniels (4-20-1 on eight targets) in check most of the afternoon, but Daniels salvaged his fantasy outing with touchdown grab No. 6 on the season. After exploding for an 8-82-2 line against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11, backup tight end Garrett Graham (3-17-0 on five targets) came back down to earth as expected. Because the Texans had to shift into comeback mode for the second straight week, Matt Schaub (29/48 for 315-1-1) has passed for an insane 842 yards and six touchdowns during that stretch.
In the rushing department, Arian Foster (20-102-2 rushing and 5-15-0 receiving) notched his sixth 100-yard game of the season, and he has scored in 10 of 11 contests played. As you probably know, Justin Forsett (5-87-1 rushing and 0-0-0 receiving) scored on a controversial 81-yard touchdown scamper that shouldn’t have counted. Ben Tate (hamstring) was inactive, missing his fourth straight game.
Fantasy Tip: The loss of top cornerback Johnathan Joseph (hamstring) has been devastating to the Houston defense and explains for the most part why this unit has allowed a ton of passing yardage two weeks in a row. In addition, No. 2 cornerback Kareem Jackson is an average-at-best player and lacks Joseph’s talents. As long as the Houston defense is struggling, you can expect Johnson, Schaub and company to get into fantasy friendly shootouts. If Tate returns, look for the Texans to reduce Foster’s carries slightly. Heading into Thanksgiving, he was on pace for an insane 398 rushing attempts.
Fantasy Focus – Detroit Lions: The Detroit passing attack carved up Houston’s Johnathan Joseph-less secondary like a Thanksgiving turkey. Matthew Stafford (31/61 for 441-2-0 passing and 2-7-0 rushing) has been driving fantasy owners crazy with his up-and-down performances and that screwy sidearm delivery, but Stafford delivered a tasty Thanksgiving feast for his owners with a season-best outing. Although the Texans sacked him three times, Stafford didn’t turn the ball over. The scorching-hot Calvin Johnson (8-140-1 on 17 targets) has compiled at least 140 receiving yards and scored in three straight outings. The Lions deactivated Titus Young for this game as punishment for his on-the-field screw-ups and uninspired play last week. Rookie Ryan Broyles (6-126-0 on 12 targets) started in his place, racking up a season-best outing. Brandon Pettigrew (8-74-0 on 15 targets) posted one of his best outings of the season, but Pettigrew also lost a fumble in overtime that likely cost his team a chance to win the game.
The Houston defense contained the Detroit running game most of the afternoon, but Mikel Leshoure (12-32-1 rushing and 2-27-0 receiving) scored for the fifth time in the last month. Although backup Joique Bell (5-47-1 rushing and 0-0-0 receiving) also found the end zone, he played fewer snaps (10) than third-stringer Kevin Smith (3-6-0 rushing and 0-0-0 receiving on 19 snaps).
Fantasy Tip: If you own Broyles, hang onto him. The rookie made some plays, and the Detroit passing attack clicked with him in the lineup. I also suspect it’s going to take some time for Young to get back into the Lions’ good graces. I don’t think Smith will supplant Bell as Detroit’s backup tailback. He is a better blocker than Bell, which is probably the reason why he played more snaps.
Fantasy Focus – Washington Redskins: “The Arm” carved up the Dallas defense like a Thanksgiving turkey. Despite facing almost non-stop pressure from the Cowboys’ front seven, Robert Griffin III (20/28 for 311-4-1 passing and 6-29-0 rushing) tossed four touchdown passes. The rookie triggerman has thrown four scoring strikes in two straight outings, which is a new Washington franchise record, and completed 79.1 percent of his passes in that span. Although Pierre Garcon (5-93-1 on seven targets) says he isn’t fully recovered from a foot injury that forced him to miss Week 6 through Week 10, he played well enough to lead all Redskins in receiving. Garcon hauled in a 59-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, which was his first scoring grab since Week 1. Santana Moss (4-42-1 on five targets), Aldrick Robinson (1-68-1 on one target) and backup tight end Niles Paul (1-29-1 on one target) also caught touchdown passes.
Washington’s running game pulled its weight, too. Alfred Morris (24-113-1 rushing and 0-0-0 receiving) scored for the first time since Week 6. The Redskins jumped out to a 28-3 lead, which allowed them to feed Morris regularly. Although he lacks big-play ability and doesn’t catch many passes, Morris continues to receive the bulk of the carries, because he moves the chains and rarely turns the ball over. Griffin was the only other Washington player who toted the rock.
Fantasy Tip: Garcon says his troublesome foot is still hurting, but he displayed plenty of speed on his touchdown reception. Double check your free-agent pool to see if he is available. Unfortunately, Griffin continues to spread his passes around and doesn’t favor any receiver besides Garcon.
Fantasy Focus – Dallas Cowboys: Miles Austin departed for good in the first quarter due to a hip injury, sticking his fantasy owners with a zero. Dallas couldn’t get on track until the Washington defense relaxed a bit in the third quarter while nursing a 28-3 lead. Tony Romo (37/62 for 441-3-2 passing and 3-7-0 rushing) compiled a personal-best 411 passing yards and tossed a career-long 85-yard scoring strike to Dez Bryant (8-145-2 on 11 targets) late in the third quarter, which was the Cowboys’ first touchdown of the game. The red-hot Bryant has scored in three straight outings and has amassed 145 receiving yards in two consecutive contests. With Austin (hip) and Kevin Ogletree (concussion) both out, Cole Beasley (career-high 7-68-0 on 13 targets) and Dwayne Harris (4-71-0 on seven targets) played more snaps than usual. Although the Cowboys targeted Beasley heavily, he didn’t make many plays. The reliable-as-always Jason Witten (9-74-0 on 15 targets) led the Cowboys in receptions. He has caught at least seven passes in four straight games.
In the rushing department, DeMarco Murray (foot) missed his sixth straight game. Felix Jones (6-14-0 rushing and 3-47-1 receiving) didn’t find much running room against a rock-solid Redskins run defense in the early going, and the Cowboys had to abandon the run when they fell behind. Jones made up for the lackluster rushing stats with a receiving score. He has averaged 18 total touches, 70 total yards and one total touchdown per contest during the last three weeks.
Fantasy Tip: After teasing fantasy owners for weeks, the Cowboys finally admitted that they don’t know when Murray will return. He has not played since October 14th. If Austin misses some time, keep Beasley and Harris in mind.
Fantasy Focus – New England Patriots: No Rob Gronkowski? No problem. The Patriots offense still clicked on all eight cylinders, utilizing a balanced attack. Tom Brady (18/28 for 323-3-0 passing and 3-5-1 rushing) tossed multiple touchdown passes in his sixth straight contest, and the Patriots triggerman notched his third rushing score of the season. Wes Welker (7-71-1 on 10 targets) hauled in his first scoring grab since Week 6, and Julian Edelman (2-64-1 on three targets) found the end zone for the second straight week. It looked like Edelman was on his way to a solid fantasy outing before he departed for good in the third quarter because of a head injury. Alex Hernandez (2-36-0 on four targets) looked a bit rusty in his first game action since Week 7. Hernandez had a touchdown catch nullified, because he needlessly pushed off a defender. Brandon Lloyd (3-26-0 on six targets) posted his third straight weak fantasy outing. He and Brady just missed hooking up on what could have been a 71-yard touchdown pass.
Stevan Ridley (21-97-1 rushing and 0-0-0 receiving) paced the New England running game with a score in his fourth straight contest. Backup Shane Vereen (10-42-0 rushing and 2-91-1 receiving) turned a short catch from Brady into an 83-yard touchdown gallop in the second quarter, which was Vereen’s first receiving score of the season.
The Patriots defense played a huge role in New York’s second-quarter implosion. Steve Gregory scored on a 32-yard fumble return. On the ensuing kickoff just nine seconds later, Edelman found the end zone on a 22-yard fumble return. The Patriots also racked up two sacks, four recovered fumbles and one interception.
Fantasy Tip: With Gronkowski out, Hernandez and Welker are the two most likely candidates to receive extra targets. The chemistry between Brady and Lloyd still looks like a work in progress. Although Vereen has touched the ball 12 total times two weeks in a row, I wouldn’t trust him as anything more than a handcuff for Ridley, because Woodhead still is in the backfield mix.
Fantasy Focus – New York Jets: The Jets offense turned the ball over four times and struggled mightily against the Patriots before getting on track somewhat in garbage time. Mark Sanchez (26/36 for 301-1-1 passing and 2-2-0 rushing with one lost fumble) notched his second 300-yard passing game of the year (both have come against New England), but he turned the ball over twice and couldn’t move the offense when it counted. Although Jeremy Kerley (7-86-0 on a team-high 11 targets) played with nagging heel and hamstring injuries, he still topped all New York receivers. Dustin Keller (5-64-1 on seven targets) broke out of his two-game slump. He almost hooked up with Sanchez for a second scoring strike.
Although Shonn Greene (14-71-0 rushing and 1-9-0 receiving) is stuck in a full blown committee backfield and hasn’t scored since Week 7, he has been running the ball well. During the last three weeks, Greene has averaged 16 total touches per game. Backup Bilal Powell (12-40-1 rushing and 2-13-0 receiving) has scored in two straight contests and averaged 14 total touches per game during that stretch.
Fantasy Tip: Powell has received the goal-line carries two weeks in a row, so he is the Jets running back to own. Jets head coach Rex Ryan insists he will stick with Sanchez as his starter, which obviously bodes well for Kerley and Keller.
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