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What Did We Learn – Week 15 Edition

Maurice Jones-Drew is unbelievable. In a road game against a Top-10 run defense, Jones-Drew rushed for 112 yards on 17 carries. He leads the league in rushing, despite seven or eight-man defensive fronts on nearly every play. Blaine Gabbert has been miserable all year long, giving defenses very little to worry about in the passing game, and prompting some to ask whether the Jaguars should consider a quarterback all over again. Jones-Drew silenced those at the beginning of the season who thought he might not be fully healthy, and has reasserted himself as a top back. If only he had more of a supporting cast. Speaking of…

Ditto for Steven Jackson. Like Jones-Drew, Jackson has very little help. It’s nothing new to him, but he’s been reasonably healthy this season, all while taking a beating as the only consistent player on the football equivalent of a train wreck. On Sunday, Jackson led his team in both rushing and receiving, rushing for 71 yards and catching nine passes for 72 yards. He continues to be a focal point of the St. Louis offense, and is a must-start. It would have been interesting to see him on a contender with a decent supporting cast.

Peyton Hillis showed signs of life. Yes, it was against a porous Cardinals defense, but Hillis looked pretty good, grinding out 99 yards and a score on 26 carries, reminding us all of why he was a high pick this past season. But Hillis has fought nagging injuries all season, as he is prone to do. Finally healthy, he looked like the Hillis of yesteryear, running hard between the tackles. Unfortunately, he’ll get a cranky Ravens defense next week.

Matt Moore has made Brandon Marshall relevant again. There was a year or two where critics claimed that Marshall had lost a step, that he wasn’t the playmaker he once was. As it turns out, the problem might not have had anything to do with Marshall at all. Marshall was targeted eight times, and while he only caught three of those passes, one of them was a 65-yard touchdown. He has 1,000 yards already this season, and has five touchdowns. For as long as Matt Moore is his quarterback, Marshall will remain a Top-15 receiver.

Donald Brown looked like an NFL running back. I know. I was as surprised watching it as you are reading it. Brown has been a disappointing first round pick for the Colts, but seems to be rounding a corner this season. Brown ran for 161 yards on 16 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run. He’s not a feature guy, and will quickly go back to a role player next season, but he’s actually been surprisingly un-terrible. Just sayin’.

Kyle Orton provided a spark for the rudderless Chiefs. For some reason, teams keep giving up on Kyle Orton. Then he moves on someplace else, and plays really well, before that team gives up on him, too. Orton made his first start for the Chiefs on Sunday, and looked really good against an opportunistic Packers defense, throwing for 299 yards. He didn’t throw any touchdowns, but he didn’t throw any interceptions either, and he gets a great matchup against the Raiders in week 16. With all the weapons he has on offense, plus the fact that Kansas City’s stud running back Jamaal Charles is out for the season, Orton may be a quarterback worth watching next season. He’s a top-15 guy next season, with some upside given an offseason with his receivers.

Tim Tebow is a jerk. And I haven’t been struck by lightning…yet. Ok, he’s not really a jerk. But he definitely cost me a spot in one of my fantasy Super Bowls this week with his crap offense. I know that fantasy owners shouldn’t care how the stats are earned, but watching Tebow play quarterback is nauseating, as he routinely misses open receivers and even got sacked for a 29-yard loss on Sunday. However, he ends up making enough plays, especially with his legs, to make himself an extremely valuable fantasy commodity. Against a really bad Patriots’ secondary, Tebow threw for 194 yards and no touchdowns, but added 93 yards rushing and a pair of scores on the ground. He’s a great bet for at least 15 points every week, but you might have a heart attack watching it. Try to watch another game while he’s playing.

LeSean McCoy will be the #1 running back on my board next year. He’s been fantastic all year long, as he’s consistently been among the league leaders in rushing and touchdowns. With Michael Vick healthy, McCoy is once again showing what he can do, running for 102 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns, giving him 20 (17 rush, 3 receiving) for the season. Assuming Andy Reid keeps his job, McCoy is the most dynamic back in the league, and given their offensive firepower, I love him for a encore performance in 2012.

Calvin Johnson has gotten back on track. Johnson hadn’t scored since Thanksgiving day against Green Bay, but Megatron took over the game, catching 9 of 14 targets for 214 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Matthew Stafford has gotten back on track as well, with this becoming a true “Chicken or the Egg” scenario. Johnson has paid huge dividends this season, rewarding fantasy owners with his 1,335 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’ll once again be a top wide receiver next season.

San Diego’s offense catching fire in December is salt in owners’ wounds. Luckily, I was able to dodge the Chargers the season. But if you drafted any of them prior to the season, I’m sorry. Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, and the entire receiving corps have been inconsistent this season, but over the past few weeks, they’ve now come alive. On Sunday night, the Chargers took on a stout Ravens defense, but received big performances from pretty much everyone. It may be too late to save Norv Turner’s job, so this offense may be in for some turnover this offseason.

If you’re in the Jacksonville, FL area and can get to a radio around 8:50 am on Fridays, I am now a weekly guest on 1010XL’s Sports Final Radio with Jeff Prosser.

Good luck.

Drew Magyar is a staff writer and can be reached at

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