Chris Wesseling

The Morning After

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Thirty Minute Man

Monday, October 17, 2011


The Dominoes’ 1951 chart topper Sixty Minute Man” was one of the first R&B albums to gain mass appeal as a pop hit, playing a pivotal role in shaping rock and roll. It will never be used as Dez Bryant’s entrance music.

Bryant has been the Cowboys’ thirty-minute man, failing to record a second-half catch for the third time in five games at New England in Week 6. In fact, he’s recorded just two catches for 50 yards in four second-halves this season. What’s bizarre is that Bryant has often looked unstoppable in traffic and after the catch in first halves. Reacting to Bryant fighting through tackles and refusing to go down in the second quarter of Sunday’s game, FOX color analyst Troy Aikman declared, "I've never seen anything like it." Bryant was shut out after Aikman’s praise, drawing just two targets the rest of the way.

Without the coaches’ tape, we can’t say with any confidence whether Bryant was open or not, but there were multiple occasions where Tony Romo should have looked his way against one-on-one coverage. Although Bryant was visibly frustrated on the Dallas sideline, he downplayed the issue after the game.  

"You have to understand who we have on this offense," Bryant said by way of explanation. "We have a lot of great players. Each and every last one of us can make plays. Whenever our number is called on, we just have to do our job. That's it."

When asked if the Patriots tried a different strategy in the second half, Bryant turned to temmate Kevin Ogletree. "They were playing the same coverages, right?" Bryant asked. After Ogletree nodded his head in the affirmative, Bryant responded, "Same coverages throughout the game."  

Whether it’s the result of poor conditioning, lingering soreness in his quad, or a Romo connection that needs tightening, Bryant is a good bet to reverse the trend next week against a Rams defense that has allowed the most points to opposing fantasy receivers. First-half game tape shows that his acceleration and physicality after the catch may be the most impressive the league has seen since Terrell Owens was in his prime. If the second half can catch up, Bryant will be a difference-maker the rest of the way.

Game Balls

Frank Gore - Alex Smith couldn’t move the offense through the air, so the Niners turned to Gore for a season-high 141 yards. According to ESPN Stats & Info, 138 of those yards came between the tackles as the 49ers took advantage of an aggressive Detroit pass rush. The offensive line opened lanes wide enough that Gore averaged 8.3 yards before first contact on rushes up the middle. After failing to top 60 rushing yards in each of the first three weeks, Gore has exceeded 125 in each of the past three at 8.74 yards per carry. He’s back in the top-12 among fantasy backs entering the Week 7 bye.

Fred Jackson - His fan club once consisted of just Rotoworld’s Gregg Rosenthal and the folks at Pro Football Focus. Now Jackson has NFL Network calling him the game’s most underrated player on a weekly basis. He broke off a career-high 80-yard touchdown run against the Giants, the longest by a Bills back since Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas in 1990. F-Jax remains fantasy’s No. 1 back with his third game over 160 yards in the past four weeks. C.J. Spiller, considered a threat to Jackson’s job in August, didn’t receive a single carry and played the majority of his snaps at receiver.

Michael Turner - Despite underwhelming game film and a per-carry average of 2.75 over the past three weeks, Matchups guru Evan Silva warned that Turner would score multiple touchdowns” against Carolina’s laughable run defense. The Panthers couldn’t handle Turner’s power, and the result was 139 yards and two touchdowns behind a 35:22 run-to-pass ratio. Turner has positive matchups against the Lions and Colts wrapped around the Week 8 bye. He’ll be a prime “sell” after the Week 9 game at Indy.

Rashard Mendenhall - Give yourself the Barry Horowitz pat on the back treatment if you bought low on Mendenhall last week. Max Starks’ return has stabilized a once-crumbling offensive line, and Mendenhall proved to be over his hamstring injury with a brilliant open-field first-half run of 68 yards. Mendenhall ended up gashing the Jaguars for 146 yards and a touchdown despite entering the game with just 173 yards on the season.

Jimmy Graham / Marques Colston - In just his third season of organized football, Graham has emerged as the most dynamic tight end in the NFL. With a team-high 124 yards on seven receptions and 11 targets, Graham joined future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez as the only tight ends in history with 100+ yards in four consecutive games.

While Graham stole the headlines, Colston reclaimed his No. 1 wide receiver role with a series of remarkable catches -- including a 38-yard touchdown and a 31-yarder in heavy traffic at the end of the second quarter to salvage a field goal. Colston is back to every-week starter status just in time for a matchup against a Colts defense that hasn’t come close to stopping big, physical receivers this season.

Aaron Rodgers - Despite three first-half touchdowns and 11.1 yards per attempt, Rodgers’ passer rating actually dropped to 122.5 after Sunday’s game. Last week, Rodgers became the first quarterback in NFL history to start a season with five straight games of a 110+ passer rating. Behind a 119.6 rating against the Rams, he extended that record to six. Rodgers is the offensive MVP to Ravens DT Haloti Ngata’s defensive MVP after six weeks.

Hard Luck Story

Mario Manningham’s bad luck reached comic proportions with four near touchdowns against the Bills. Cornerback Drayton Florence grabbed him from behind for a pass interference call on what would have been a sure score. Manningham bounced back with a 7-yard touchdown only to have it overturned when replay showed that his knee touched down just shy of the stripe. He came back with yet another end-zone grab only to have it ruled a non-catch when the ball was ripped out of his hands after he hit the ground. Manningham had one last chance for a score late in the game only to have the ball knocked away at the goal-line. On the verge of a breakout, Manningham is a nice buy-low target entering the Week 7 bye.

By rule, Eli Manning shared in Manningham’s hard luck story. The passing game’s pain was Ahmad Bradshaw’s gain, though. Against a defense missing three key starters, Bradshaw scored on a trio of identical 1-yard runs with a lead blocker paving the way behind a stacked offensive line.  

The hard luck of Roddy White and Matt Ryan didn’t reach Manningham proportions, but the two did draw two defensive pass interference calls in the end zone setting up first-and-goals on both occasions. Though disappointing for fantasy purposes, Ryan produced a season-high 92.5 Total QBR. It’s interesting to note that Ryan’s 12 games with a QBR of 90 or higher are the second-most in the NFL since the start of the 2008 season.


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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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