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What Did We Learn – Week 11

Kevin Smith is the Detroit running back to own.
Didn’t see that coming, did you? Just two weeks ago, Smith was at home watching games, but on Sunday he received the bulk of the carries in Detroit’s backfield, and torched the Carolina Panthers for more than 200 total yards and three scores. Playing in a high octane offense, especially one with such a dynamic passing game, Smith makes for the top pickup this week.

Jordy Nelson is for real.
When the season began, Nelson was a sleeper candidate as the third target in Green Bay behind Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley. Nelson now appears to have elevated himself to the No. 2 option, behind only Jennings. Aaron Rodgers, who is playing better at a near perfect level, looks for him whenever defenses are focused on Jennings. Nelson gets targeted on deep balls and is also physical enough to make plays after the catch to pick up extra yards and touchdowns. On Sunday, he posted six catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He’s now on pace to catch 64 balls for 1,200-plus yards and 14 scores. If you have him, he’s a must-start.

The Buffalo Bills have hit a wall.
It appears that the Buffalo Bills are once again remembering who they are. Two weeks after giving Ryan Fitzpatrick $59 million, he rewarded them with 209 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Fred Jackson, who had been a Top 5 running back thus far, looks to be slowing down, as he ran seven times for 17 yards, and caught five passes for 50 yards. Stevie Johnson caught just two of his eight targets for 16 yards. They’ll all look to get back on track when visiting the New York Jets next Sunday.

Percy Harvin is a reliable fantasy option.
With all of the uncertainty at quarterback in Minnesota, I’ve been slow to buy in to Harvin this year. While he hadn’t scored a receiving touchdown until Sunday, he’d become more and more involved in the offense as rookie signal caller Christian Ponder gets his feet wet. He rewarded owners with six catches for 73 yards and a score this week, in addition to five rushes for 21 yards. With the Adrian Peterson injury, I actually think that Harvin will gain even more value going forward.

Jabar Gaffney is Grossman’s favorite target.
With Rex Grossman taking the offense back from John Beck, the vertical passing game is back in D.C. Grossman will throw downfield, sometimes when he shouldn’t, so that shouldn’t have been a surprise. But with Santana Moss and Chris Cooley out, who would he throw to? Gaffney was his teammate back at the University of Florida, and he’s a trusted target now, as he caught 7-of-10 balls thrown his way for 115 yards and a score. Gaffney will continue to get looks from Grossman, and there’s no reason to think he can’t be effective.

Torrey Smith is the new DeSean Jackson.
Smith busted onto the scene back in Week 3 with five catches for 152 yards and three scores. This past Sunday, he blew up once again, with six catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. Smith is the vertical threat that the Baltimore Ravens have been looking for to stretch the field and keep defenses honest. Joe Flacco has the big arm to go deep to him, and Smith has been making the most of his opportunities. His numbers remind me a lot of Jackson’s, in that he needs to score to really be effective. Also, it seems that with Smith, when it rains, it pours.

Michael Crabtree continues to impress.
On a typical Sunday, Vernon Davis will lead the San Francisco 49ers in targets. But Crabtree was tied for the team lead with 10 targets on Sunday. The team and coaching staff have insisted that Crabtree is at a point where he’s ready to make a leap, and he’s starting to back them up on the field. On Sunday, Alex Smith targeted him 10 times, as Crabtree caught seven balls for 120 yards. He only has one touchdown right now, but his production is picking up at the right time for fantasy owners looking for value in the playoffs.

Chris Johnson is still a mess.
Apparently that Week 10 explosion against the Carolina Panthers was just a false alarm. Johnson followed up his 27-carry, 130-yard performance with 12 carries for 13 yards against the Atlanta Falcons. Johnson has repeatedly disappointed owners who drafted him in the first round. At this point, it’s worth wondering if he should even be played going forward?

Jay Cutler’s injury impacts all Chicago Bears.
Last week, it was Matt Schaub. Now it’s Cutler. And it really is sad that Cutler will miss several weeks, possibly the rest of the season. But isn’t it ironic that his injury came not while throwing a ball or getting sacked, but while trying to make a tackle on an interception? Cutler has actually been a stabilizing force for the Bears recently, but it now looks as though they’ll look to backup Caleb Hanie to fill that role. This impacts all Bears’ receivers, especially Earl Bennett. Bennett had burst onto the scene with Cutler at the helm. Matt Forte also takes a hit, as opposing defenses will load the box to stop him.

Vince Young is once again relevant.
Sunday night’s game against the New York Giants put Vince Young back on the map. The three interceptions notwithstanding, Young eluded a fantastic Giants’ pass rush, found open receivers and made throws when needed en route to 258 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. In vintage form, he managed the game well enough to get a win for his team. With Michael Vick’s return uncertain, Young makes for a great start against New England next week if he gets the nod.

If you’re in the Jacksonville area and can get to a radio around 8:50 a.m. on Fridays, I’m now a weekly guest on 1010XL’s Sports Final Radio with Jeff Prosser. This week, however, we’ll be doing the segment on Wednesday morning.

Drew Magyar is a staff writer and can be reached at

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