Brandon Marshall: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Brandon Marshall can sustain amid any Orton clunker: Go ahead and throw out his pedestrian outing from Week 11 (when Chris Simms was the starter). No matter the weather, regardless of the opponent, Marshall (6 catches, 86 yards) is a lock for a 100 total yards and/or one TD in Weeks 13 (@ Kansas City), 14 (@ Indianapolis) and 15 (vs. Oakland). For Week 16, unfortunately, you may have to set your sights a little lower -- like 90 yards and/or one touchdown. HA!
Knowshon Moreno is a viable keeper candidate in 2010: We're not suggesting that Moreno (297 total yards, 1 TD in his last three games) is a better keeper option over Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Steven Jackson, Michael Turner, Ray Rice, Matt Forte, Randy Moss, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Drew Brees next season. But for 12- or 14-team leagues, you could certainly do worse than a rookie who's already established himself as the franchise go-to back by Week 12. And for those owners who believe that only running backs are worth holding on to, why wouldn't you want a back with 1,200-yard potential (rushing) in 2010, who gets to play AFC West teams six times -- along with four easy-cheesy clashes with the NFC West? (Nothing beats a good rhetorical question, eh?)
It may be time to jump ship on Brandon Jacobs: Fantasy owners should no longer be stuck between a rock and a hard place with Jacobs (57 total yards vs. Denver). It's clear where he stands now with the Giants. After all, what's the point of starting a power running back who only averages 12 carries per game? It's not like Jacobs is Matt Forte, Frank Gore or even Justin Forsett, guys who can survive and flourish in small stretches on receiving yards alone. Jacobs is a commodity who must be fed constantly, he's a bulldozer who needs repetitions to eventually break down a defense. In other words, if your trade deadline hasn't occurred yet, it's time to sell for whatever you can -- something in the neighborhood of 65 cents on the dollar.
Dallas 24, Oakland 7
Jason Witten MAY have resurfaced from the NFL's witness relocation program: In any other year, Witten's 5-catch, 107-yard, 1-TD outing would be celebrated, while serving as more justification for his top-3 standing among tight ends. But now, in a season that's wrought only one 100-yard day (Thursday), we're stuck between calling this a "breakout" and an "aberration." In PPR leagues, Witten has essentially been a mortal lock for 5-6 catches per game -- earning him lower-tier starting status from week to week. But his increased blocking duties on the O-line have prompted a considerable dip in total yardage. All this begs the question: If the Cowboys' offensive line is still racked with injuries, how can Witten's great Turkey Day be viewed as anything more than a one-time occurrence?
Darren McFadden needs more than nine touches in Weeks 13-16: Unless the Oakland coaches are purposely using D-Mac (66 total yards) as a decoy, there's absolutely no excuse for the best athlete on the field seeing less than 10 touches in a now-blowout affair. Taking it one step further, there's simply no justification in D-Mac getting one-half the carries as Justin Fargas (12 carries, 63 yards). Now, to be fair, the previous comments were made with a tinge of self-serving bemusement (since we own/start McFadden in four leagues for Week 12) ... but why would the Raiders even bother spending millions upon millions on a part-time back? One last thing: If D-Mac is healthy enough to execute double-moves on deep pass routes ... he's certainly limber enough to handle 5-8 short passes, as well. Seriously, would it kill Oakland to run a bubble screen every now and then?
Tony Romo might be the Julius Jones of fantasy QBs: Simply put, Romo (309 passing yards, 2 TDs vs. Oakland) is lights-out at home in fantasyland circles ... and a budding disappointment on the road, even in games where few real-world mistakes are made. If you have the QB depth to put Romo on the shelf for Weeks 13 and 16 -- and then reinstitute starting privileges in Week 14 (and maybe 15) -- then you've unlocked the true secret to Romo's fantasy bliss down the stretch.
Darrius Heyward-Bey will be an excellent fantasy asset ... As soon as he learns to catch the ball with two hands. And if it seems cruel that we're knocking him just hours after DHB's first career TD, we can only respond by saying: At what other time should he get special mention here? Just like coffee is for closers ... Revelations are only for guys who produce in the red zone -- and not just at the Oakland-Alameda Track Club during the offseason.
Green Bay 34, Detroit 12
Aaron Rodgers is a top-5 QB during the fantasy playoff weeks: On paper, Green Bay may have the NFL's most difficult slate from Weeks 13-16 (vs. Baltimore, @ Chicago, @ Pittsburgh, vs. Seattle), including four potential bad-weather games. But we're not going to abandon anyone that's racked up at least 292 total yards and/or three TDs in seven of their last eight games -- including the 353 total yards/three TDs on Turkey Day. Here's another comforting thought: In his last five games of 2008, Rodgers averaged 288 passing yards and 2.2 touchdowns.
Donald Driver has earned our full respect: Oh sure, Driver's 7-catch, 142-yard, 1-TD day can be partially attributed to the Lions' porous defense (brought on by a stunningly ineffective pass rush); but there's no doubting his standing as the Packers' No. 1 receiver (for this year, at least). Yes, Greg Jennings (4 catches, 53 yards) sees more targets on a per-game basis and James Jones (4 catches, 35 yards, 1 TD) may have a slightly better nose for the end zone. But Driver has become Rodgers' ace in the hole during crunch time this season; hence, Driver is an absolute must-consideration from Weeks 13-16 -- and probably a great start on Dec. 27 vs. Seattle.
There's still time to trade for Ryan Grant (we think): Even if Grant lacks the classic explosion of Chris Johnson or Frank Gore when logging carries, it's impossible to argue with the results -- 103 total yards against Detroit, without any real standout plays (minus the creative shovel-pass catch/run from Rodgers). In our book, that makes him the perfect sneaky-good commodity to acquire ... without mortgaging one's playoff future. In fact, any club that has Grant as its RB3/flex should automatically contend for a championship in the coming weeks.
Calvin Johnson gets a mulligan -- with a caveat: Just because we're giving CJ a free pass for Thursday's sluggish outing (2 catches, 10 yards, 1 TD), doesn't mean he's a worry-free asset down the stretch (especially in shallower leagues). Yes, he'll get 10 days to rest his ailing knee (before facing the Bengals), and yes, he's a lock for 15 targets whenever Stafford is taking snaps under center. But the clock is ticking on the following mystery: Which will come first -- the season ending or Calvin dragging his battered body to the sidelines for extended R&R? And if you think that's a farce, just remember the 2-9 Lions have (sadly) accomplished the majority of their preseason goals. From this point forward, everything else might be gravy for the Turducken.
Here's a sad, but true commentary on my hard-luck fantasy season: Excluding Drew Brees, three quarterbacks have thrown for exactly five TDs in one game -- Carson Palmer, Kurt Warner, Matthew Stafford. And in each 5-TD instance, I had the aforementioned QB benched in one of my two ESPN leagues. Bummer, huh?
In my defense, Carson only had eight TD passes (through six games) leading up to his Week 7 onslaught against Chicago. Warner had been (fantasy) benched for Week 9, immediately after his 5-interception calamity against Carolina. And Stafford, bless his No. 1-QB-in-2012 heart, was coming off his own five-pick game against Seattle just two weeks before the legendary Browns affair (422 yards passing).
The only silver lining here: At least I know one of my quarterbacks will throw for 5 TDs in Week 13 (the odd-week trend) ... and now, I just have to guess right on who it'll be.