Patrick Daugherty

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Between the horrifying scandal at Penn State, the kidnap of Wilson Ramos and the never-ending quagmire that is the NBA lockout, this has been one of those weeks that makes you wonder, “why do I devote so much of my time to sports?”

What better to remind you than an actual game. Squaring off in the first Thursday night contest since the Packers and Saints christened the season in epic fashion on September 8, the Chargers and Raiders staged an exciting, if maddening, divisional tilt last evening, racking up yards before bungling through a fourth quarter where neither team seemed ready or able to close things out.

Along the way, we were treated to a number of breakouts and awakenings.

Denarius Moore
One of the preseason’s most hyped sleepers, Moore appeared to be on his way to proving a lot of people right when he erupted for five catches, 146 yards and a touchdown in Oakland’s Week 2 loss to the Bills.

Six games and 127 yards later, his fantasy value was on life support. Thursday night, he resuscitated it in a big way. Before reeling in his third and fourth touchdowns of the season, Moore made one of the most ridiculous catches you’ll ever see. When it was all said and done, he’d come alive to the tune of five catches for 123 yards and two scores.

Three of his five receptions went for at least 26 yards, while he was clearly Carson Palmer’s favorite target on a night where the Raiders lost Jacoby Ford to injury in the first quarter.

Moore’s explosive Week 2 and subsequent disappearing act should be all the reason you need to remain cautious going forward, but with a new sheriff in town at quarterback in Palmer and and an old sideshow in Darrius Heyward-Bey affixed to the bench, Moore could be ready to make everyone who touted him in August look like geniuses in November.   

Vincent Brown
On a night where Vincent Jackson didn’t appear interested in playing the game of football, Brown gamely stepped in as Philip Rivers’ go-to receiver, tying Mike Tolbert for a team-high nine targets while hauling in five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown. His stat-line would have read “six catches, 130 yards, two touchdowns” had replay not overturned a 33-yard score in the third quarter.

Brown is not the burner Moore is, but in a receiver corps struggling to find pass catchers who can stay healthy or produce on a weekly basis, he’s officially worth a look in all formats after racking up nine catches for 176 yards in the past six days.

Michael Bush
Bush might not have the Raiders’ starting job, but he does have something no one else in franchise history does: the team’s single-game yards from scrimmage mark.

Bush’s 242 yards from scrimmage broke a 24-year-old Raiders record held by Bo Jackson. Able to reel off 5-6 yards every time he touched the ball, Bush punished the Bolts for 157 yards on 30 carries, adding 85 yards on three catches through the air.

If he wasn’t already, Bush’s big night has cemented him as the league’s top backup runner (sorry Ben Tate), and you can’t help but wonder if it convinced the Raiders to lighten Darren McFadden’s workload once he’s able to kick his foot injury.

Carson Palmer
Coming off back-to-back three-interception performances — one for each of the first-round picks (one being conditional, of course) the Raiders surrendered for his services — it was put up or shut up time for the player who begged his way out of Cincinnati.

To the great relief of his new employer, Palmer put up — way up, in fact — averaging an eye-popping 15.0 yards on his 20 attempts, finishing his night 14-of-20 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Just like it wasn’t time to deem his acquistion a colossal failure after only two games, it’s not time to deem it a grand success after only two good halves.

But if Palmer is able to play with the sizzle (his arm strength appeared as good as it has in years) and smarts he displayed last evening going forward, he should be an asset, both in real life and fantasy.

Playing behind an elite offensive line in an offense full of weapons, he has the tools for continued success.    

One day after practicing in full, Julio Jones (hamstring) was mysteriously added to the Falcons’ injury report. It’s quite possible Atlanta was just looking to get its young receiver some rest, but he’ll be the player to watch on Friday. … Frank Gore (left ankle) was limited in 49ers practice for the second straight day, but says he feels better than he did in Week 4, when he took a bum right ankle into San Francisco’s game against the Eagles. Gore, of course, ended his three-game, season-beginning slump that afternoon, erupting for 127 yards on just 15 carries. … Like Gore, Sam Bradford (ankle) was limited for the second straight day Thursday. Also like Gore, he’s fully expected to be in the starting lineup Sunday. … Joseph Addai (hamstring, knee) missed another practice, and appears destined for a second weekend as Indy’s “emergency” back. … Andre Johnson (hamstring) remains unlikely to return Sunday. … Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) has been declared out for Week 10 by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. That’s good enough for us. … Mark Ingram (heel) was again limited. Even if he’s active, he’s to be avoided against the Falcons. … Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) is trending in the wrong direction. He’s unlikely to play this weekend. … What Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) does in practice this afternoon could decide his Week 10 status.  

Philip Rivers’ 15 interceptions are four more than anyone else has thrown, and tied for his career-worst total. He has seven games left to play.

Sam Bradford has one more touchdown pass than Kerry Collins. He has two more than Shane Lechler. Matt Moore, Donovan McNabb, Chad Henne, Curtis Painter, Rex Grossman and Tim Tebow have all thrown for more scores than Bradford.

DeSean Jackson is averaging 2.6 catches for 31 yards over his past three games. He has seen his yardage total decline for four straight games, and surpassed three catches just three times this season.

Ben Tate is 10th in the NFL in rushing.

Chicken or the egg? To be or not to be? These are two of mankind’s most celebrated philosophical questions. This weekend, we’ll get the answer to a third: if an 0-9 team takes on a 2-6 team in Indianapolis, does it make a sound?

The Colts and Jags are 31st and 32nd in total offense. The Colts are averaging 282.8 yards per game, while Jacksonville rolls up an average of 242.6 yards.

Jacksonville’s average of 12.3 points is the worst in the league, while Indy’s 14.2 is good for third to last.

”Led” by rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the Jaguars average 142.6 passing yards per game, 45.2 fewer than anybody else.

There’s really no way to sugarcoat just how bad Gabbert has been. If Jimmy Clausen’s 2010 set the modern standard for quarterback futility, Gabbert could be pushing for a new benchmark this season. Consider:

-His quarterback rating of 62.0 is dead last in the NFL and 4.5 points worse than Rex Grossman’s. Gabbert could double his rating and it still wouldn’t match Aaron Rodgers’ 129.1 mark.

-He’s averaging 129.6 yards per game, 41.4 fewer than anybody else.

-His 5.24 yards per attempt is 0.49 worse than anybody else's.

-His 45.7 completion percentage is 7.6 percent worse than anybody else's.

As for his Indianapolis counterpart Curtis Painter...just put it this way: he hasn’t been much better. Things should be interesting in Indy on Sunday.
Big game: Falcons 28, Saints 27
Atlanta uses its home-field advantage to stay hot as New Orleans’ mid-season funk deepens.

Big game II: New York Jets 31, Patriots 17
The Patriots hit their low point as the Jets become the latest defense to disorient Tom Brady in a surprising rout.

Upset of the week: Bills 28, Cowboys 24
Buffalo scores a huge road win as the Cowboys suffer a devastating home loss.

The I really don’t have a clue but will pretend I do game: Broncos 35, Chiefs 14
Just when Todd Haley thought it was o.k. to relax, Kansas City’s second straight ugly defeat heats up his seat more than ever.

Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
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