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What Did We Learn – Week 12

Andre Johnson went off again.
Johnson followed up last week’s dominant performance against Jacksonville with another big game, catching nine balls for 188 yards. That makes 23 receptions, 461 yards, and a touchdown in the past two weeks. He’s clearly healthy, and the Houston running game provides enough of a threat to keep opposing defenses honest. Matt Schaub will continue to look for him going forward, and I anticipate we’ll see Johnson maintain his current production, provided he can stay healthy.

The Washington offense is better than advertised.

Robert Griffin III started off strong, but seemed to fade for a few weeks there. In the past two weeks, he’s thrown for 511 yards, eight touchdowns, and just one interception, while running for another 113 yards. Add to that fellow rookie running back Alfred Morris and his stunning rookie campaign, and there’s a youth movement in Washington. Santana Moss has returned to fantasy relevance, and Pierre Garcon is finally getting healthy. Add to it the raw speed of another rookie, Aldrick Robinson, and the Redskins offense is shaping up midseason. The Redskins will end up playing spoiler in the NFL over the next few weeks, and Griffin III and company will provide a similar boost to fantasy teams.

Michael Bush may take over for an injured Matt Forte.
Forte and Bush have combined to be a decent running back this season. But Forte has been slowed by injuries and Bush has vultured touchdowns. Bush is stuck, once again, behind a more talented, but injury-prone back. On Sunday, Forte ran for 42 yards on 14 carries before re-injuring an ankle, forcing Bush into the lead role once again. Bush ran 21 times for 60 yards and a pair of short touchdowns on the day. He’s more than capable of carrying the load, and he’ll be a volume play with touchdown potential going forward, but don’t expect big rushing totals.

Andy Dalton is a fringe QB1.

This is tough for me, because I’m not a huge Dalton believer, but his numbers have been really good lately. On Sunday, against an admittedly poor Oakland defense, he threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns. In his last three games, he has 639 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions. While A.J. Green didn’t score for the first time since Week 1, Dalton spread the ball around effectively. He’s no Tom Brady or Drew Brees, but Dalton is a decent alternative if your starter has a tough matchup.

Knowshon Moreno is back on the fantasy map.
Moreno hadn’t been active for a single game this season. But with Willis McGahee out for the season, the Broncos decided that putting a more reliable pass blocker in the backfield would be more important than a dynamic runner. Ronnie Hillman ended up getting the short straw, while Moreno started, shouldered the load, and posted 111 total yards on 24 touches. Most importantly, he protected Peyton Manning, and that will make him a fantasy starter for as long as he can remain healthy.

It’s time to take Cecil Shorts III seriously.
Who is this guy, and where did he come from? His productivity began with Blaine Gabbert under center, and it’s continued with Chad Henne. On Sunday, he caught four passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, his third straight game with a score. He’s become the big play threat on a team that desperately needs one, and with Laurent Robinson on Injured Reserve with concussion issues, Shorts will become a bigger part of the offensive game plan, and I like his chances of producing with a better quarterback now at the controls.

Joe Flacco’s stat line from Sunday is hollow.
I admit it. I am not a Flacco believer. You might even go so far as to call me a hater. I just don’t think he’s all that good. This week, it was a tale of two halves, as he started out 8-for-16 for 59 yards in the first, but finished 30-for-51 for 355 yards and a score. But again, he gets his completions via checkdowns. The 4th-and-29 check-down to Ray Rice was gutless, as he was only saved by Rice’s skill and aided by a terrible spot. I know that his numbers are decent, but I can’t bring myself to trust or even recommend him. Matt Schaub, Josh Freeman and even Colin Kaepernick are better options in my opinion, but it’s also possible that I am just completely biased, incapable of a rational opinion regarding Flacco. Oh, well.

Speaking of Kaepernick, he’s not bad.
His numbers against a poor New Orleans defense weren’t spectacular, but they didn’t have to be. He threw for 231 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and also ran for 27 yards and another score. The San Francisco offense doesn’t need him to make big plays. They need him to be athletic, make a few plays and ultimately manage the game. He and Alex Smith are fairly similar right now, which speaks volumes about Smith. It also speaks to why head coach Jim Harbaugh would make the switch, seeing more upside with the younger quarterback. I like Kaepernick to continue to improve, much like his fantasy outlook from this point forward.

Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells is relevant; Larry Fitzgerald is benchable.
Wells ran 17 times for 48 yards and a pair of scores. With Ryan Lindley filling in for Kevin Kolb at quarterback, the Rams had no reason to fear a passing attack, so they doubled up on Fitzgerald and loaded up against Wells in his return to action. It’s good to see, and he makes for an interesting RB2/3 going forward. But the quarterback situation isn’t going to address itself, and head coach Ken Whisenhunt seems to think Lindley is a better option than John Skelton. Fitzgerald has to be the most frustrated player in the league, as he watches his immense talents wasted on incompetent quarterbacks. With Lindley in the game, Fitzgerald might not even be a reliable WR3 or flex play.

Eli Manning and the New York Giants offense are back.
Manning had been brutal in the past few weeks prior to the Giants’ Week 11 bye. In three games, he’d thrown for just 532 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions. Rumors had surfaced that his arm was tired, that he lacked the arm strength to make certain throws. Apparently, the bye week did the trick, as Manning returned to action on Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers, throwing for 249 yards, three scores and no interceptions. His receivers are getting healthy at the right time, and I like his upcoming schedule: at Washington, vs. New Orleans, at Atlanta, at Baltimore, vs. Philadelphia.

Good luck in Week 13.

Drew Magyar is a staff writer and can be reached at “What Did We Learn” will be posted each Tuesday morning during the season, and “Rock and a Hard Place” will be posted each Friday morning.

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