Adam Levitan

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Gonzo Gone Wild

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tony Gonzalez says he’s going to retire after this season. What’s next? Apple ceasing production of iPhones? Boardwalk Empire shutting down filming? Cows refusing to produce any more milk for cheese?

At age 36, Gonzalez is making a serious bid to finish the season as fantasy’s No. 1 tight end. After Monday night’s 4/58/1 line in the Falcons’ 23-13 win over the Saints, Gonzalez is up to 73 catches and seven touchdowns in 12 games. And the sick part is that he’s doing it despite a glaring inability to separate.

That’s right, Gonzalez just doesn’t have the athleticism, speed or agility to get open anymore. Instead, he relies on an uncanny ability to make catches with defenders draped all over him in the end zone. I would say it’s a fluke that won’t last, but he’s been doing it like this for four years running now. In the previous three seasons, T-Gonz averaged 77.6 catches for 799.3 yards and 6.3 touchdowns.

It certainly helps that Roddy White and Julio Jones draw so much attention on the outside. When safeties get on top of them, Gonzalez runs up the seam one-on-one against linebackers. And Matt Ryan takes what the defense gives him.

So retire when you’re the top fantasy player at your position? That’s un-American, Tony.

* Don’t be fooled by Michael Turner’s 12/83/1 line. The Saints have the worst run defense in the league and it showed as Turner waddled through cavernous holes in the first quarter. He also fumbled while the Falcons were trying to run out the clock deep in the game.
* Darren Sproles owners should be sick. He had a touchdown called back at the end of the first half by a weak interference call on Jimmy Graham.
* Lance Moore is a much better receiver than he gets credit for. But the easy drop on a slant route in the end zone during the first half is going to haunt him and owners.
* Tough night for Drew Brees owners to swallow. It’s his first career five-interception game and his 54-game streak with at least one touchdown pass was snapped. No excuses – he made a lot of bad throws and decisions. He also missed an open Jimmy Graham a ton in the first half.
* Julio Jones had an uneventful night working against Patrick Robinson. He had one bad drop on an early-third down play, but Matt Ryan stuck with him for eight targets. There were just no opportunities for big plays.
Darren McFadden ruined the season of his owners by mustering two touchdowns and averaging 3.27 yards per carry in eight games. Now he’s on the verge of ruining the seasons of owners that shrewdly added Marcel Reece.

After a three-game absence due to an ankle sprain, McFadden has returned to practice this week and looked 100 percent. Will he get a true workhorse share of touches this weekend? Probably not. Will he play behind Reece? Probably not. We’ve got some kind of timeshare on our hands.

"Marcel has earned the right to carry the ball some,'' Coach Dennis Allen said. "We'll use him in that capacity.''

Allen went on to say that Reece will stay in a halfback role as McFadden works his way back into shape. Expect McFadden to start and get about 60 percent of the early-down work. Reece is going to handle a lot of passing downs. Neither can be trusted as much more than a flex this week. Sigh.

Jonathan Stewart is dealing with sprains on both ankles. He’s very doubtful for Sunday. … Matt Forte (ankle) is trending up. However, we can’t expect a full workload with backup Michael Bush so capable. … DeMarco Murray (foot) is reportedly looking really good at practice. He’s on track to share the load with Felix Jones Sunday. … Kyle Rudolph (shoulder, concussion) will be a full go. … LeSean McCoy (concussion) is nowhere near getting cleared. It’s the Bryce Brown show. … Cedric Benson (foot) is done for the season. … Mikel Leshoure (ankle) returned to practice. Expect his usual 12-15 carries and goal-line work.

Percy Harvin continues struggling badly on his ankle. Consider him doubtful for Sunday. … Greg Jennings (groin) is ready to rock, but he admitted he’ll be on a snap count. … Michael Vick’s concussion symptoms are reportedly getting worse. Nick Foles is a good bet to start each of the final five games. … Danny Amendola (heel) was in a boot and is headed for a game-time call. Avoid. … Miles Austin (hip) got in another limited practice. He should play, but the risk of in-game aggravation is very real. … Both Justin Blackmon (groin) and Cecil Shorts (hamstring) were strangely absent from practice. Stay tuned. … Ben Roethlisberger’s arm strength isn’t where it needs to be. Expect Charlie Batch again.

Riley Cooper – not Damaris Johnson – is expected to take DeSean Jackson’s spot in the starting lineup. Extreme desperation option only.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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