Five things to know for Week 14: Kolb sinking Fitzgerald's fortunes
It looks safe to say that Kolb is not the franchise quarterback the Cardinals hoped for when they traded for him in the offseason. There must be at least 20 better quarterbacks this year.
Despite facing a schedule that has combined to allow 130 passing touchdowns while forcing just 90 interceptions, Kolb has just nine touchdowns compared to eight interceptions, not to mention three lost fumbles, in the eight games he has played.
What's amazing is that in those eight games, Fitzgerald has just 38 catches for 658 yards and two touchdowns, which projects to 76 catches for 1,316 yards and four touchdowns. Those would be acceptable numbers for the vast majority of receivers, but not Fitzgerald. They'd would be the worst numbers he has posted since his 2004 rookie season.
Even with the likes of Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton and Richard Bartel throwing him the ball in '10, Fitzgerald managed to finish with 90 catches for 1,137 yards and six touchdowns. Moreover, Fitzgerald has 17 catches for 285 yards and four touchdowns in four games with Skelton and Bartel this year, which is a rather big improvement over his production with Kolb in the lineup.
It's doubtful Fitzgerald's fantasy value should be downgraded much in light of this. Particularly in dynasty and keeper leagues, Fitzgerald gets big points for durability and year-to-year reliability. But Kolb really needs to take a page out of the Todd Bouman book and start throwing the ball Fitzgerald's way more often.
Bouman briefly made a name for himself in '01 when he threw for 791 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions over a three-game span. Like Kolb, Bouman lacked the skills to post big numbers on his own merits. But unlike Kolb, Bouman recognized that he had a dominant receiver on his team who would catch just about everything thrown his way. Randy Moss caught 22 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns in those three games, with the latter two numbers providing half or more of Bouman's production in those respective categories.
Kolb should strike up a similar dynamic with Fitzgerald, who is responsible for just 33.7 percent of Kolb's yardage and 22.2 percent of his touchdowns. Fitzgerald is one of the rare receivers who can be counted on to catch the ball even when he appears covered, but Kolb threw him the ball just seven times against Dallas on Sunday. The Cowboys are weak at every position in the secondary, so opportunities were certainly missed.
If Kolb wants to last more than two years as the Arizona starter, he needs to find a way to get the ball in the end zone without LaRod Stephens-Howling bailing him out. Having some faith in Fitz and throwing the ball up more often is his only hope.
"Never say never" has rarely been more appropriately said, but it looks like even Shanahan can't slow Helu at this point. Only the richest of fantasy owners have the luxury of leaving him on the bench.
Helu continues to demonstrate that he should have been Washington's workhorse all along, with Sunday's showing against the Jets (lost fumble aside) perhaps serving as his strongest showing yet. Despite facing a Jets defense that has allowed just 3.9 yards per carry this year, Helu ran for 100 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries while adding four catches for 42 yards. That's especially impressive considering Rex Grossman (19-of-46 for 221 yards and an interception) gave the Jets every reason to focus solely on stopping the run.
Even if Helu has some rough days as a runner due to opponents ignoring the passing game, his standout abilities as a receiver ensure that he will remain relevant regardless of the game scenario. If Washington is still in the game, he should get carries. If Washington is getting lit up, Grossman and/or John Beck should check down to him a lot since they're generally not able to throw the ball to receivers.
Murray has seen a sharp drop in his numbers lately, but expect a bounce-back performance for the Cowboys' running back against the Giants.
Jason Garrett, unsurprisingly, abandoned the run too quickly in a close game Sunday, calling 18 carries (12 for Murray) compared to 44 dropbacks for Tony Romo, but look for the play-calling to be a bit more balanced against the Giants. After giving Murray just nine carries against the Eagles in Week 8, Murray was given 89 carries over the next four weeks (not to mention 20 receptions)
In addition to that consideration, it's worth mentioning that fullback Tony Fiammetta is expected to return against the Giants. In the four games Fiammetta played before missing time with a mystery illness, Murray averaged 8.0 yards per carry. In the three games without Fiammetta, Murray averaged 3.4 yards per rush.
Thomas has a lot going for him as a receiver prospect. He's huge (6-foot-3, 235), he's an excellent athlete and has big mitts (10.5-inch). He was hugely productive at Georgia Tech, too, totaling 1,144 yards and eight touchdowns in his junior year on a team that threw for just 1,774 yards and 11 scores. Still, he's unlikely to have much value in redraft leagues at the moment.
His stat line from Sunday's game against Minnesota (four catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets) was impressive, but a bit too similar to the sort of production he posted in Georgia Tech's triple-option offense. More specifically, the low target volume means it took an unsustainable yards-per-catch average to get there.
Unfortunately, unless Tim Tebow starts to throw to ball better and more often, Thomas' target volume in Denver will result in a great deal of inconsistency. And though Thomas is undoubtedly the more physically talented receiver, Eric Decker is still a good player who will steal a fair amount of the already limited targets.
Michael Crabtree isn't going anywhere and Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn have been surprisingly useful for the 49ers, but those who dig deep in dynasty leagues might want to look at Kyle Williams.
The Arizona State product offers more elusiveness than Crabtree and Morgan, and more receiving skills than Ginn, so he's fairly redundancy-proof at the moment. Also, he's due for a bigger role after posting nice numbers lately.
He pulled in seven of the last eight passes that were thrown his way, taking those catches for 120 yards in touchdowns over the last three weeks. He was given a carry against St. Louis on Sunday, as well, indicating that he's at least slightly getting the attention of Jim Harbaugh.