Chris Wesseling

The Morning After

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Foul Weather Phenoms

Monday, December 13, 2010


Since arriving in New England in 2000, Bill Belichick is 10-0 in snow games. While Tom Brady merits a lion's share of the credit, it's also a testament to Belichick's innovation and willingness to think outside the box. In the copycat world of the NFL, there may not be another coach who realizes that it pays to operate a pass-oriented attack in the snow.

It certainly helps that the Pats offense is so well suited to the elements. The games of Wes Welker and Deion Branch are certainly not reliant on speed. They separate from defenders with quickness, impeccable route running, and quarterback chemistry. A sleeveless Welker set the tone in the wind and snow at Soldier Field, proving the Patriots could move the ball in near blizzard conditions with five receptions on the first two drives. Branch added a career regular-season high 151 yards, highlighted by a surprise 59-yard TD that had Tom Brady "almost laughing" as time expired in the first half. Both starting receivers hauled in eight passes while combining for 266 yards.

You don't need me to tell you that Brady is playing quarterback as well as the position can be played. The numbers are illustrative, however. Over his past eight games, Brady has thrown 19 touchdown passes while pushing his streak to 268 consecutive passes without an interception. Only Bernie Kosar and Rich Gannon have enjoyed longer streaks. Brady also joins the late Don Meredith as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to produce six consecutive games with two or more touchdowns and no interceptions.

Wait, there's more. Brady is the only quarterback ever with three straight games over 300 passing yards plus two or more touchdowns and no interceptions since 1950. He also pulled off that feat in 2007. The Patriots are the first team since 1970 with no turnovers in five straight games, and the first team in NFL history with 30-plus points and zero turnovers in five straight games. Brady is 118-of-164 (72.0 percent) for 1,572 yards and a 15:0 TD-to-INT ratio in those five games, never falling below Sunday's 113.4 passer rating in the snow.

Needless to say, Brady and the Pats are coming off one of the greatest five-game stretches any of us have ever witnessed. Though his 2007 completion percentage (73.9) was slightly better, Brady is actually stretching the field better the past five weeks without Randy Moss.

Not convinced this is the best team in the NFL? Three of New England's victories in this impressive five-game run have come against division leaders. The Pats have dissected those would-be contenders to the tune of 120-36, with two of the games played outside of Foxboro. Brady, the slam-dunk MVP pick, now has 108 wins with Belichick, passing Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll for the second-most by a QB-head coach tandem all time (Dan Marino and Don Shula are first with 116 wins).

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Game Balls

Darren McFadden - It was with matchups like this one in mind for the fantasy playoffs that I recommended targeting McFadden back in late October. The Jaguars tried to stack the box, but McFadden actually fared better against eight-man fronts Sunday that he did against nickel and dime packages. The 209 yards from scrimmage edge out his 196 yards in Week 7 for a career high. Even better, McFadden became the third player since 1950 with two rushing TDs of at least 35 yards and a receiving TD of at least 60 yards in the same game. Clem Daniels (1963) is the only other Raider with a 50+ yard TD run and a 50+ yard TD reception in the same game.

Despite missing two games, McFadden has a chance to bypass Napoleon Kaufman (1,294 yards in 1997) for second place on the Raiders' single-season rushing chart. He needs to average 101 yards per game against the Broncos (most fantasy points allowed to opposing backs), Colts (sixth-most), and Chiefs (15th-most) over the final three weeks. If he stays healthy, that's the Masterlock pick of the week.

The DeSean and LeSean Show - As @Chetrazzball points out, DeSean Jackson averaged "over half a football field per catch" last night. Thanks to an explosive 91-yard touchdown catch-and-run, Jackson racked up 210 yards on just four catches. Only two other players in NFL history, Gary Clark of the Redskins (1991) and Choo Choo Roberts of the Giants (1949), have hit 200 yards on four or fewer catches. Jackson vaulted back into the top-12 in fantasy scoring with the dynamic performance.

Teammate LeSean McCoy, lost in Michael Vick's shadow, highlighted the Eagles' offensive balance. Shut down in the first half, Shady killed the clock in the final four minutes, picking up four first downs while sealing the victory. Leading all running backs in receptions (70) and receiving yards (538), McCoy is also knocking on the door to 1,000 rushing yards (972). In his first season as a starter, McCoy is fourth in running back fantasy points.

Maurice Jones-Drew - The Jaguars have morphed into the 1970s Nebraska Cornhurskers, running for 207, 258, and 234 yards the past three weeks. Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings both topped 100 yards, just the third tandem in franchise history to accomplish the feat in the same game. With six straight games over the century mark, MJD is your new NFL rushing leader (if only temporarily, with Arian Foster playing Monday night).

With C Brad Meester, LG Vince Manuwai, and fill-in RT Jordan Black all grading out as elite run-blockers in Pro Football Focus' player rankings, the mauling offensive line has the Jags averaging 157.8 yards per game at 4.75 yards per attempt. The good times should roll throughout the fantasy playoffs with matchups at Indy (sixth-most points to opposing backs) and home to the Redskins (10th-most) the next two weeks.

Ryan Torain - With Mike Shanahan failing to name a starter heading into Week 14, Ryan Torain was rightfully left on the majority of fantasy benches. Torain not only started, but gashed the Bucs defense for 121 rushing yards in the first quarter, the most in the NFL since Marshall Faulk in 2001. His 158 yards at the half were the most since Tiki Barber's 171 in 2005.

Though he didn't look particularly fast or elusive, Torain broke arm tackles and ran through gaping holes at the second level. The Redskins offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage to the point where Torain didn't even have to stop to move his feet or change direction. The Redskins failed to pick up a first down in the third quarter, however, and Torain ended up being replaced at the goal line by Keiland Williams. With the obvious health caveat, Torain is a RB2 with upside against the Cowboys and Jaguars the next two weeks.

Michael Turner After his third career game with at least three touchdowns, Turner has now scored 10 times in his last seven games. With the Seahawks (fifth-most fantasy points allowed to opposing backs), Saints (18th-most), and Panthers (third-most) left on the docket, Turner has even odds to bypass Arian Foster for the NFL touchdown lead by the end of the season.

Jay Feely - A kicker scored Arizona's first touchdown in three games. With a five-yard run, Feely became the fourth kicker in 40 years to run for a touchdown and the first since Dallas' Tim Seder in 2001. Impressive as the touchdown was, Feely also matched his career best with five field goals, including a career-long 55-yarder. Feely was responsible for six consecutive scores (screenshot) as the Cardinals ended a seven-game skid with their largest margin of victory since 1993. In many fantasy leagues, Feely was the third-highest scorer of Week 14.


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
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