The NFL is always one hell of a ride. People step up on a weekly basis, while others go down with a whimper or injury. In what follows I will highlight a few of the outstanding performers from Week 6 – players like Aaron Rodgers and Shonn Greene – but more so than that there is a troubling trend in the backfield where a myriad of teams are now being forced to turn to backups be it because of injury or poor performance. We'll investigate the situations with the Bills, the Cardinals, the Colts, the Cowboys and the Jets.
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Eli Manning had a tough matchup with the Niners, an in the end he passed the pigskin for just 193 yards. Why is that significant? It ended his run of 24-straight games with at least 200 passing yards, the second longest streak in league history. He would have easily gone over the 200 yard mark of the Giants hadn't just run out the clock late as they were in total control against the Niners. Speaking of the club from San Francisco...
Please tell me you didn't buy into the Alex Smith type. After throwing for 300 yards and three scores in Week 5, people seemed to think that Smith had “arrived” after year upon year of being merely a game manager. That belief came to a screeching halt in Week 6 as the Niners offense was beaten down by the Giants defense. Smith completed 19 of his 30 passes but he threw for only 200 yards, took four sacks, and tossed three interceptions. That last number is pretty noteworthy for a guy who threw all of five interceptions during the 2011 season. In fact, prior to the game against the Giants, Smith had thrown a total of six interceptions in his previous 21 regular season games. The three interception outing also snapped a string of 26-straight starts without throwing two interceptions which had been tied for the third longest streak since the AFL/NFL merger in the 1960's.
Had to touch on Aaron Rodgers (of course). Rodgers became just the 4th player in history to throw for 330 yards, six scores and no interceptions Sunday night (Tom Brady has done it twice, Mark Rypien and Y.A. Tittle one time each). Rodgers is fine folks. His six game game pace would equate to 4,365 yards and 43 touchdowns in 16 games.
THE RUNNING BACK
Bills RB Situation
When is too much of something just too much? When you are the Bills and you have Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in the backfield. From a real world perspective the club from Buffalo is in a dynamite position, but in the fantasy game the usage of the players pretty much limits the value of both to low level RB2/Flex options. Just look at how their efforts broke down in Week 6:
Jackson: 16 carries, 53 yards one score. Five receptions, 30 yards
Spiller: 12 carries, 88 yards, one score. Four receptions, 22 yards
Again, a wonderful day, but a fantasy owners nightmare. I seem to slightly favor F-Jax most weeks, but it's a disaster attempting to predict how the touches will be divvied out.
Cardinals RB Situation
LaRod Stephens-Howling “started” for the Cardinals in Week 6, but it's time for everyone to forget about that. It's not baseball where the “starter” on the hill pitches 70 percent of the game. Starting in the NFL means nothing – it's merely a ceremonial honor, not a barometer of how a player will be utilized. Look no further than Howling's outing. LSH carried the ball 11 timers for 22 yards and, disappointingly, didn't catch a single pass (awful). William Powell not only had two more carries (13), but triple the yardage (70 yards). Powell looked solid in the game against the Bills and appears to be the back you will want to take a chance on in this backfield – at least until Beanie Wells returns in Week 12 (don't forget about Alfonso Smith who might also get some work in the coming weeks).
Colts RB Situation
Vick Ballard had a woeful first start in the NFL as he carried the ball just eight times for 25 yards. Blame his teammates that were slaughtered by the Jets 35-9 as much as anything. The Colts had to abandon the run early as they fell behind leaving Ballard precious little to do. Ballard should still have at least one more week as the lead back in the Colts backfield as he and his mates will face the Browns (Donald Brown could be back in a week or two), a team they should be able to keep up with leaving them the option to move the ball on the ground. Ballard will likely be a decent flex option in Week 7 as a result.
Cowboys RB Situation
Oh boy did the Cowboys lay it on the Ravens on the ground. Some facts.
The Cowboys ran for 227 yards in the game.
It was the most yards the Ravens have allowed on the ground in franchise history.
Still, the Ravens became the 4th team in the history of the NFL to allow 200-yards rushing in back-to-back games and win both outings (how's that for some history)?
The Cowboys had two runners go for 90 yards on the ground: DeMarco Murray (14 carries for 93 yards) and Felix Jones (18 carries for 92 yards and one TD). So everything is right in the world. Wrong. Murray injured his foot and there is no certainty at this point that he will be available to play in Week 7. "I wouldn't necessarily rule him out of anything," owner Jerry Jones said. "It obviously was good enough to keep him off the field." Murray, for his part, tried to talk his way back into the game with no success. Murray will undergo testing Monday to determine the severity of the situation, but at least x-rays were negative for a fracture.
If Murray were to miss time we would see a bit of Philip Tanner, and perhaps some Lance Dunbar, but the majority of the work would likely be given to Felix Jones. Stop me if you've heard this before, but Jones cannot be trusted. Talented? Without a doubt. The guy has averaged a healthy 5.1 YPC for his career. However, his body might be made out of wax paper on top of cellophane. There is no more injury prone player at the running back position in the game. You can add Jones if you are looking for some depth at RB, and if Murray is out Jones just might be a wonderful fill-in, but he might also leave you crying in your soup when he is injured... and it will happen at some point, trust me.
Jets RB Situation
Shonn Greene have a day. Greene rumbled for the best effort of his career as he carried the ball 32 times for 161 yards against the Colts. That effort means he had more rushing yards than the following players, combined: Reggie Bush (17 yards), LeSean McCoy (22 yards), Steven Ridley (34 yards), Frank Gore (36 yards) and Trent Richardson (37 yards). The five-some ran for 146 yards. The yards alone would have made Greene's day one for the record books. But that is just the start of the story with Greene as he didn't score just one, nor two, but three touchdowns. Three (how many of you, such as me, had him on the bench this weekend? I feel your pain). How about this factoid to close out the Green story. Greene's three rushing scores, in addition to the 150 yards rushing, make him one of two Jets to ever hit both totals in the same game. Who is the other back to have pulled off the trick? You will never guess unless you have a computer from Apple installed in your head. The other back was Emerson Boozer. Who knew?
With Bilal Powell at less than 100 percent, his shoulder injury will likely sideline him for at least one week, and with Joe McKnight (ankle) also less than 100 percent (he'll have an MRI to confirm that there is no significant danger), get used to seeing a lot of Mr. Greene in the coming weeks. He's still nothing more than a low end RB2, but for now his touches seem secure, and that's what matters most when it comes to the outlook of Greene.
THE WIDE RECEIVER
Brian Hartline entered Week 6 of the NFL season with 52 targets, the 7th most in the league. He didn't receive a single target in Week 6. None (he did have two, unofficially, as one was on a penalty an another on a pass interference penalty). What possible explanation could there be to address his total lack of usage? HC Joe Philben offered the following, and prepare yourself to be stunned by the depth of his thought. "Listen, they had us out of rhythm...We just never got in a position where we were real effective moving the football." Uh Joe, isn't it your job to figure out a way to move the football? Granted they Fish only threw the ball for 185 yards, but the did attempt 29 pass plays and NONE went to their #1 wide receiver? I'll say it. Shame on you Philben. It's inexcusable and the fantasy world paid the price in Week 6. By the way, removed Week 4's effort (12 receptions, 253 yards), Hartline now has five receptions for 100 total yards in three of his last four games. Despite his breakout effort in Week 4, Hartline is barely a WR3 option right now.
THE TIGHT END
How about a good old fashioned look at some targets for the tight end.
11 – Kyle Rudolph led the way leading to six receptions, 56 yards an a score.
9 – Aaron Hernandez returned to action and received one more target than the mighty Ron Gronkowski. Each end caught six balls with Hernandez scoring the touchdown.
7 – Brandon Pettigrew caught only three of his seven targets, the same effort that was offered by Jermaine Gresham. The Bengals' tight end went for 68 yards an a score while the Lions' end went for 38 yards and no scores.
2 – Martellus Bennett caught one ball for nine yards. Guess his knee was more of an issue than we were led to believe. Bennett has caught a mere five balls for 41 yards the past three weeks.
1 – Dallas Clark didn't catch his lone target. So much for his move to Tampa rekindling his pass catching spark. Through five games he has nine receptions for 81 yards. In Week 1 of the 2010 season he caught 11 balls for 80 yards an a touchdown.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Thursday at 7 PM EDT and Friday's at 9p-12a EDT. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.
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