Patrick Daugherty

Football Daily Dose

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Ben Won't Break

Friday, December 09, 2011

There are only five other people in the world who could have played through Ben Roethlisberger's ankle injury last night, and all of them are Bond villains.

Roethlisberger’s latest act of “heroism” (he’s a regular Sully Sullenberger) helped to solidify an already steely (on the field) reputation, and kept the Yellow and Black in the hunt for the their fourth AFC North title in five seasons.

Although Big Ben’s performance did prove you can literally beat the Browns on one leg, it also raised a host of questions, namely: will he play in Week 15? Adrenaline was able to power Roethlisberger through last night’s game, but it should be in much shorter supply by the time the Steelers travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers’ nasty defense next Monday.

Yes, Pittsburgh would like to keep winning, but with a spot in the playoffs all but assured, why force its quarterback to play through the latest in an innumerable line of left foot injuries? For a first-round bye? For home-field advantage? Those things are undoubtedly important, but as the 2005-06 Steelers would tell you, they aren’t everything. “Everything” in this case would seem to be the good health of a quarterback who’s piloted his team to three AFC titles before the age of 30.  

As Chris Wesseling notes, it’s unlikely we’ll get an answer regarding Roethlisberger’s Week 15 status any time soon. Logical reasoning tells us the Steelers will give every consideration to benching their seemingly pain-immune signal caller and focus on the bigger picture: getting him as healthy as possible for the playoffs. History, however, strongly suggests we shouldn’t over-think this one: Roethlisberger will play.

While Roethlisberger was playing through his latest major injury, Colt McCoy (knee) was playing through his latest minor one. That is, until James Harrison decided to knock him back into next week with a hit so vicious and uncalled for that it will almost certainly earn him his first suspension.

The early word is that Harrison’s hit may have McCoy adding “concussion” to his lengthy list of ailments (though he did stay in last night’s game).

That’s a pity. An even bigger one, though, is McCoy’s play. A “scrappy leader” type coming out of the University of Texas, McCoy fell to the third round for two reasons, his 6-foot-1 frame and a weak arm.

The latter was on full display on his third of three interceptions last evening. With less than four minutes remaining and the Browns in the red zone looking to take the lead, McCoy woefully undershot Mohamed Massaquoi on a back-corner fade in the end zone, essentially ending Cleveland’s upset bid.

Although one bad throw can always be forgiven, there’s another number that cannot: 209. That was how many yards McCoy threw for last night. It was also his highest total in four games.

No matter how few weapons you have around you, that simply will not cut it in today’s NFL. Already with 21 career starts under his belt, McCoy has been given ample opportunity to prove himself, and he has — as a future backup.

If you were one of the lucky owners to survive the first 13 weeks of the fantasy season and qualify for the playoffs, odds are you didn’t do so in one piece. Every team could use some waiver wire magic this time of year, or perhaps dust off someone who’s been gathering lint on their bench. Here are five players who are shrewder plays for the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16) than you may realize.

Shonn Greene KAN, @ PHI, NYG
Coming off his most productive two-game stretch of the season, Greene gets three run defenses ranked in the bottom half of the NFL, and two of them at home. If you’re in a shallower league where you’ve been taking Greene game-by-game, now might be the time to make him an every-week starter.

Damian Williams NOR, @ IND, JAX
The Titans’ most targeted receiver over the past month, Williams gets a Saints defense ranked 30th against the pass and Colts and Jaguars secondaries that have been racked by injury and ineffectiveness of late. He won’t be anything more than a WR3, but how often has your WR3 won or lost you a week this season? Probably more than you’d like to admit.

Johnny Knox @ DEN, SEA, @GB
If there’s one good thing to come out of the Caleb Hanie “era” in Chicago, it’s his commitment to a wideout who has been criminally neglected in OC Mike Martz’s system. Knox’s 18 targets are 10 more than any other Bears receiver the past two weeks, and now he’ll get three pass defenses ranked in the bottom third of the league. Like Williams, Knox isn’t suddenly going to become a WR1/2, but if you’ve been desperate for answers at an ever-frustrating position, he could be an excellent start down the stretch.

Santana Moss NWE, @ NYG, MIN
Yes, Moss is going to draw increased defensive attention in the absence of Fred Davis. Thankfully, he’ll get the league’s 32nd pass defense before facing its fourth worst and a Vikings secondary among the thinnest in the league. Washington’s WR1 should be a low-end WR2 in fantasy leagues for the three most important weeks of the season.

Rex Grossman NWE, @ NYG, MIN
Which brings us to the man who will be throwing Moss the ball. Yes, the very idea of starting Grossman in a two-QB league seems counterproductive, but that would be to ignore the fact he’s thrown for at least 250 yards in three of five starts where he’s faced a passing defense ranked in the bottom half of the league. He should be able to do just fine in the fantasy playoffs against three ranked in the bottom seven.

Adrian Peterson (ankle) returned to Vikings practice, albeit in a limited fashion. Coach Leslie Frazier hinted that what he’s able to do on Friday should go a long way toward determining his status, but also that he won’t have to be at 100 percent health to suit up against the Lions. … Raiders coach Hue Jackson suggested Denarius Moore (ankle) and Jacoby Ford (foot) will not play against the Packers if they do not return to practice this afternoon. … James Starks (ankle) missed another practice, and is expected to be held out against the Raiders. … Willis McGahee (knee) missed another practice, but all involved expect him to be ready for Sunday. … Josh Freeman (shoulder) turned in his most extensive practice in two weeks, and is on track to start against the Jaguars. … Dallas Clark (fibula) turned in his second straight full practice, and will be active for the first time in four games. He’ll be a TE2 against the Ravens. … Wes Welker (knee) was limited for the second straight day, and spotted with a soft cast on his right wrist. As usual, however, he’s expected to play through the pain this weekend. … Sam Bradford (ankle) and A.J. Feeley (thumb) again sat out of practice, setting the stage for Tom Brandstater’s primetime debut on Monday. … Mark Ingram (toe) and Kevin Smith (ankle) both missed another practice. Neither is a particularly great bet to suit up for Week 14, but Smith’s chances are looking better. … Christian Ponder (hip) isn’t expected to start vs. Detroit.  

Big game: Giants 28, Cowboys 24
In the battle of two teams who love to lose big games, the Giants make the fewest mistakes.

Big game II: Packers 42, Raiders 14
After last week’s scare from the Giants, the Packers white-wash a walking-wounded Raiders team.

Upset of the week: Titans 27, Saints 21
The Saints remain hard to figure on the road while the Titans put a little heat on the Texans in the AFC South.
The I really don’t have a clue but will pretend I do game: Chargers 48, Bills 17
The Bills breathe their last breath while the Chargers keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

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