Will Carroll
Monday November 15th, 2010

Early in the second quarter of the Colts-Bengals game, Dan Dierdorf made a connection between Edgerrin James and his first cousin, Javarris James. What caught my attention was that Dierdorf referred to the elder James as a "future Hall of Famer." I had this discussion a couple years back with Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders and he agreed. Look, I'm not denying that James was a very good running back that helped build the Colts into a perennial contender, but Hall of Fame? Did anyone ever watch James and think they were watching someone that was among the best ever? His stats do indicate that he's likely to be enshrined, but if the standards remain the same, you could say "future Hall of Famer" about a lot of players.

It's not just LaDanian Tomlinson, but how about someone like Clinton Portis or Thomas Jones, players that rank in the top 25 all-time for rushing yards? If you go a bit further down the list, at No. 30, you'll find a name that will surprise even hardcore football fans: Ricky Williams. It's pretty astounding that despite an increase in passing and offense over the past decade, we have a bunch of players that should join Edgerrin James in Canton, especially someone like Adrian Peterson, who will likely play most of his career in an 18-game NFL. Let's fast forward around the league:

Given the craptacular performance of the Cowboys up to this week and Jon Kitna being, well, Jon Kitna, the expectations were pretty low all around. Instead, Jason Garrett gets a big win in his first head coaching game, making me openly wonder just how much difference a head coach -- or a head coach's attitude -- makes for a team. It still remains to be seen if the Cowboys' talent level can sustain a surge, but the passing game at least has options. The Cowboys have given Kitna four solid options out there, and he seemed to find all of them. Kitna put up a huge +13 on the week and should find himself high on the pick-up boards this week. If Garrett can open up something resembling a running game, Kitna might put up numbers like this for the next few weeks, especially given the Cowboys' schedule. Other breakouts include Mike Thomas, whose Hail Mary catch we'll talk about later, but rode that one play to a +16 and Mike Goodson (+9) showing that his talent level might not be as far below DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart as most thought. Thomas I like, as he's emerging as the real 1A option to Mike Sims-Walker, but don't buy too high on Goodson. Williams is expected to return next week, meaning Goodson will split carries at best.

Nik Bonaddio from numberFire checks in with the bust of the week, Thomas Jones:

"It may not be fair to call out Thomas Jones as this week's bust because really, his performance (or lack thereof) was due to the truly horrific start the Chiefs had against the Broncos. Being down 35-0 doesn't bode well for the fantasy usefulness of your pound-it-out back, and Jones' mere four carries certainly is a testament to that. Looking beyond this week though, his owners must be feeling more than a little concerned as his dwindling carries and general lack of opportunism when given the chance. He's starting to look every bit like the asset the Jets knew it could move in lieu of the younger Shonn Greene; it's certainly within reason that Scott Pioli is coming to the same conclusions in lieu of the younger, more spry Jamaal Charles. It's hard to recommend moving him right now; if you've got him as his value couldn't get much lower, but it's a situation worth monitoring. The official advice is to hold on to him until he shows a little bit more life -- the attractively average Arizona and Seattle are in successive weeks -- and then be swift on a deal."

I couldn't agree more and think that Charles and Greene are good targets for teams, as is Ryan Mathews.

Who did exactly what they were expected to do in Week 10, earning the theoretical Dew trophy? I have to give this week's honor to Steven Jackson, a guy who's turning into this generation's Barry Sanders. He's an incredible physical talent, works well within the various offenses he's been given, and has done it despite a series of injuries. He's pretty opposite to Sanders in that he'd rather initiate contact than juke around it, but even in a low-scoring offense that's been built to protect Sam Bradford and has lost more of the receiving talent they expected to have. Every week, the Rams know what they're going to get and each year -- even when injured and missing some games -- Jackson's put up 1,000 yards of rushing every year -- save his rookie season. He's getting to the stage in his career where some decline can be expected, but not this year and maybe not for the next couple. I'll take that and pending the QB situation in Minnesota, we have to at least talk about Jackson as being one of the top four RBs for 2011.

The Dolphins have a real issue at QB. Chad Pennington re-injured his chronically injured throwing shoulder in his first series. Chad Henne came in and left in the third quarter with what's being reported as a possible season-ending knee injury. That leaves Tyler Thigpen, some guy off the street at backup, and a short week of practice coming up because their next game is Thursday against Chicago. I have to think Tony Sparano is going to have a fever and the only cure will be more Wildcat. C.J. Spiller left the Bills' win early with a hamstring strain. Percy Harvin had a nice day, but re-injured his ankle. Jerricho Cotchery made a heck of a play after injuring his leg, hobbling, then diving to make a key catch during overtime. We'll watch all these injuries and get you the best info on Thursday.

Normally, I ask fantasy players to give me their big lesson, but the ending of Jags-Texans gives us everything we need. Look, a part of this game is luck. You don't start David Garrard because he might throw a 50-yard Hail Mary TD to win the game. You start him because he's been pretty good, had a nice matchup against a weak defense and seems to have a good connections with Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas. Garrard ends up with a 24-for-31 day for 340 yards and two TDs. That's 24 points in standard leagues. And 23 for 31 for 280 with just one TD isn't a bad day, either, but it's not the big game that wins leagues for players that had to reach down and use Garrard. On the whole, Garrard isn't a good play this season, but maybe you had Philip Rivers on bye and had to go with him. So here's the lesson -- good luck happens. So does bad luck. Over a big enough sample, luck equals out, but talent does not. Take the win if Garrard got it for you, but don't kick yourself too hard if you left him on the bench, either. One pass that ended with one amazing highlight doesn't change anything about what we know.

Let's also be clear -- knocking it down was the right play. Just as with Garrard, one fluke play shouldn't change the intent to make a high-percentage play. I do wonder if coaches will start saying knock it straight down or out of the line of play. It should also be mentioned that one play really changed the fantasy value of Mike Thomas, perhaps more than it did for Garrard.

Bernard Scott took a kickoff on Sunday a couple yards deep in the end zone and ran it out to the 22-yard line. If he'd taken a knee, he'd have only given up two yards total. Sure, Scott might have broken one off and gone to the house, but he also might have fumbled. It's very difficult to quantify things like this, but some tools like expected point value can give us some indication. The converse was also seen later in the game as Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham struggled for extra yards and was stripped. There's no way the extra yard or two was worth the chance of losing the ball. (Same thing happened to Chansi Stuckey in overtime against the Jets.) Fumble recovery is a random event, making literal the phrase "that's how the ball bounces." We've also seen defensive players putting more emphasis on stripping the ball or, at times, trying to spike it out. As they do that, the runner goes for a couple more yards. It's not much and obviously the fumble is worth more than a couple yards, but we don't yet have a good way of quantifying this. If we can't quantify it, even roughly, we're seeing a strategy based on highlights rather than sound principle. You don't get on the highlights shows without a big highlight. I'm all for strippers, but I'm even more for good, fundamental football.

After seeing penalty after penalty -- especially ones that called back TDs (and fantasy points!) -- during today's games, I'm beginning to wonder if yardage is enough. This is also an issue for defensive pass interference. ESPN.com writer Bill Simmons asked earlier this season if an offensive game plan could be based around DPI (answer: no), but I might have something that would help both issues and possibly improve the game. My simple solution is that a penalty would be considered "stopping the clock" and that the penalized player would have to leave the field for one play. It's easy to track, and it might create real matchup- and strategy-situations within the game, which could change the game without really changing the game. Depth would certainly be tested. I'm curious what you think about the idea, so tell me on Twitter.

You can read Will Carroll's Fast Forward every Sunday and Monday.

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