Gregg Rosenthal

The Morning After

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Smith & Johnson

Monday, December 15, 2008

Don't Panic

1. So Matt Ryan can't solve a Monte Kiffin defense. A lot of veterans can't either. Ryan still averaged nine yards-per-attempt and should bounce back the next two weeks against Minnesota and St. Louis.

2. It was a disappointing game for Shaun Hill, but the 49ers still moved the ball at will. They held on to the rock for 38 minutes and had 24 first downs, to only eleven for the Dolphins. They bogged down in Miami territory, which seems to happen too much with Mike Martz teams, but it wasn't a performance that made me lose faith for this year. We are a long way from Hill even having the job next year.

Some Panic is Acceptable

1. Eli Manning's receivers can't seem to get open against single coverage. His offensive line is having a hard time protecting him. Did the Eagles give the rest of the league a blueprint or is this just a slight swoon by a team that doesn't need to win?

2. I'd panic if I was Terrell Owens. He's now been held under 40 yards eight times this season, and Sunday's win was a good example that football is a team game that doesn't always need highlight-reel plays by a diva wideout. Life doesn't get easier against Baltimore next week. At least T.O. gave us this classic Ed Werder bitchslap. As Chris Russo would say: Good job by Owens! Good job by Kremer!

3. No matter what you hear in the practice reports this week, it will be next to impossible to roll with Marion Barber against Baltimore. No so long ago fantasy heads considered him the best back in the land, but he ran out of steam. Just like Frank Gore, Brandon Jacobs, and Clinton Portis.

4. Willie Parker has scored one touchdown since Week 1.

5. Warrick Dunn is catching the passes, but he's now getting fewer carries than Cadillac Williams.

6. Remember the beginning of the season when we all marveled at the maturation of Jason Campbell? Now you have to wonder if he's going to be learning another offensive system next year.

7. We don't blink an eye anymore when LaDainian Tomlinson is held to 39 rushing yards against one of the worst defenses in the league. LT2 is barely a top-15 fantasy running back anymore. He's certainly not a top-20 NFL running back. One wonders where this goes from here.

8. Tim Hightower hasn't topped 40 rushing yards in six straight starts at running back, the longest such streak since I took this job in 2003. Edgerrin James is still Arizona's leading rusher this season despite having 15 fewer carries than Hightower.

9. Running for 56 yards on 21 carries against Jacksonville won't help Ryan Grant quiet the whispers that he may not be the long-term solution in Green Bay.

10. Larry Johnson has failed to top four yards-per-carry in successive matchups against Oakland, Denver, and San Diego.

Playoff Miracles

1. Give Marshawn Lynch all the credit in the world for racking up 140 yards from scrimmage against the Jets despite the J.P. Losman effect. With that said, this isn't the same Jets rush defense we feared early in the year. Kris Jenkins looks tired when he's actually on the field.

2. At this point, it's a mild surprise when the Jets receivers don't deeply disappoint. Laveranues Coles gained 82 yards, while Jerricho Cotchery had 34 yards and a touchdown. Brett Favre and this passing game has grown worse as Favre has "learned the playbook."

3. Darren McFadden finally had another nice game just in time for no one to notice or use him. McFadden won't finish among the top-five rookie backs this year, but he was the first one off the board in August. Slap me before I get excited about any offensive prospect on the Raiders again.

4. Torry Holt's halfway decent finish (299 yards, including 64 and a touchdown Sunday) will have some hoping for a rebound in 2009. I'm not totally sold: he still has fewer yards and fantasy points than Devery Henderson and there is no magic solution to the Rams offense.

5. Vincent Jackson had 37 yards before the Chiefs muffed an onsides kick and gave San Diego the ball one last time. The 52 yards and a touchdown he added in the final minute probably won some fantasy playoff games. Philip Rivers had 98 yards in the first half; 195 yards with two scores in the fourth quarter. Good job by them!

They're real and they're spectacular

1. Matt Cassel has conditioned us to his high level of play so we don't even blink when he throws for four touchdowns. Remember when the talking heads were crushing the Patriots for not upgrading their backup spot after Cassel's poor preseason? The seventh-round pick now has 3,270 passing yards, 18 TDs, 11 INTs, to go with 232 rushing yards and two more scores on the ground.

2. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have also spoiled us. They combine for 140 rushing yards and two scores against Denver and we think: Is that all?

3. Michael Turner has grown past the point he only performs in plus matchups. Of course, most backs will perform when they are given over 30 carries. That's the third time since Week 8 he's topped the number. With 332 carries thus far and a playoff race going on, Turner could be staring at the curse of 370 in 2009.

4. Tony Gonzalez topped ten standard fantasy points for the fourth straight week. He's one of the ten most valuable fantasy players of the season because of the insane gap between him and the next best tight end. Gonzalez has 142 points in standard formats. No other tight end is over 100.

This week in Megatron

Before Sunday, the Colts were the toughest team for wideouts to score fantasy points against. God bless Dan Orlovsky for not caring that Megatron was double covered on every play because he still kept throwing in his direction. Johnson made a number of excellent leaping grabs in traffic on his way to nine catches for 110 yards and a score.

Getting Greedy

It's a cliché to say that fantasy football isn't fair by now, right? Everyone has a sob story. Here are a few.

1. Peyton Manning watched two receivers get tackled at the one-yard line, only to hand the ball off the following play. Reggie Wayne came up a yard short of his first touchdown since Week 10. Wayne has one touchdown in the last nine games.

2. In a close game, Chris Johnson only had 15 touches. Kerry Collins threw 33 passes.

3. Johnson is one of the many notables who were outscored by LaMont Jordan and Cedric Benson this week. By a lot. An incomplete list: Clinton Portis, Marion Barber, Matt Forte, Thomas Jones, Ryan Grant, Ronnie Brown, LenDale White, and Reggie Bush.

4. Add up the whole season and Jay Cutler is a top-five quarterback. Brandon Marshall is a top-ten wide receiver. But the rollercoaster to get there has been maddening. Cutler's 172-yard, one score effort in Carolina was another downer. This team needs a running game badly to help the mop-topped one.

5. As great as Antonio Bryant was Sunday, all 108 of his yards came in the first half.

6. Steven Jackson recorded an excellent day worthy of a top-ten pick, but he gained only 20 yards from scrimmage after halftime despite the Rams playing with a big lead. Whatever the reason, he's faded the last two weeks as the game wears on. The old S-Jax, playing on the old Rams squads, keeps it rolling and doesn't blow a huge lead to Seattle.

7. The Vikings scored 35 points, and All Day didn't have a touchdown?! Peterson is completing my preseason prediction that he'd win the rushing title, but his relative lack of scores (9) and receiving yards (109) had prevented total fantasy dominance. Not that his owners should be complaining considering the other land mines early in drafts.

8. Receiver groups are built on depth because you can't expect them to explode each week. But a team who started three of the following Sunday had perfect depth and didn't get any results: Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, Brandon Marshall, Greg Jennings, Eddie Royal, Terrell Owens, and Lee Evans. This came on a day when Dennis Northcutt had 127 yards and a touchdown. It happens.

Boldin's slow December has been especially heartbreaking. His fumble was the difference in Aaron Gleeman winning his matchup, so there's your silver lining.

Gregg Rosenthal has directed Rotoworld's football content since 2003. He co-hosts the NBC Fantasy Fix and covers the NFL for and Catch him on Twitter.
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