Adam Levitan

Football Daily Dose

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Saddled Bronco

Friday, December 07, 2012

There are certainly some benefits to being a healthy scratch for eight straight games. Knowshon Moreno looks like the freshest -- and hungriest -- player on the field.

Moreno put in an epic performance in Thursday night‘s 26-13 win over the Raiders, rushing a career-high 32 times for 119 yards with a touchdown. He added four catches for 48 yards. Yes, that’s 36 touches -- and in the fourth quarter, he was still pushing the pile and popping up after tackles.

At this point in the NFL’s climate, it’s really just a mere footnote that Moreno tore his ACL on November 13 of last year. Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles have proven that. But to me, it’s still a factor. Moreno’s inactivity for the last two months has allowed his knee to heal even more, giving him confidence to make the cuts and run with the power he needs to.

Moreno now has the full trust of the Broncos’ staff and Peyton Manning. Over the last three weeks, he’s touched the ball 28.0 times per game. When you’re the starting running back in Manning’s hurry-up offense, you rarely come off the field because there isn’t time to sub. Moreno is also the goal-line back, as evidenced by his three carries from inside the 2-yard line on Monday night.

To me, the strangest part of this whole thing is that Ronnie Hillman’s workload has actually gone down since McGahee’s injury. In those eight games when Hillman was active and Moreno wasn’t, the rookie averaged 6.1 touches per game. In the last three games, he’s getting 4.0 touches. Lance Ball has a total of two touches over that span.

Now Moreno has 10 days to prepare for a Week 15 game at Baltimore. He’s making a Bryce Brown kind of impact on the 2012 fantasy playoffs.

* Darren McFadden looked about 80 percent healthy in his return. He was targeted on two passes to start the game, scored a touchdown on a pretty goal-line screen play and found the edge for a 36-yard run to start the second half. Everything was going well until he aggravated his ankle sprain in the fourth quarter and was unable to finish. The Raiders said after the game they don't know how bad the aggravation is. Cue the "McFadden is soft" fan club.

If McFadden misses Week 15 and/or 16, look for Marcel Reece to draw the start. He'll have plenty of value in full-PPR leagues. But as we saw in Week 13, Jeremy Stewart is going to mix in plenty as a ball-carrier.

* Demaryius Thomas gave owners a scare when he hurt his shoulder/neck in the first half and went to the locker room. He ended up returning in the third quarter and looked 100 percent.

* Champ Bailey didn’t shadow anyone. He played sides, which meant he ended up on Brandon Myers for a deep post in the end zone early on. Bailey ended up picking off the pass and Myers was a virtual non-factor after that.

* Brandon Stokley (hip) was active and played in plenty of three-wide packages, but he saw zero targets. Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen combined for nine targets.

* Denarius Moore was out of the doghouse and played well as an every-down wideout.

The Jaguars are 2-10 and seemingly decades away from competing for a Super Bowl. But they’ve become something of a cult figure in fantasy circles of late.

My highest-stakes league this year was a 16-team, full-PPR format. I was the 16th team to take a quarterback on draft day, rolling with Jake Locker and backing him up with Matt Hasselbeck. I made the switch to Chad Henne three weeks ago and haven’t looked back.

However, Henne’s stock is fluttering this week thanks to the strange saga of Cecil Shorts. Shorts sustained a concussion very late in last week’s loss to the Bills. He was spotted laughing with teammates in the locker room after the game, hinting at a mild grade. Then on Wednesday, coach Mike Mularkey said Shorts had passed his NFL concussion protocols, but was still feeling symptoms. He didn’t practice that day or Thursday.

Players normally have to be completely symptom-free in order to get clearance to play in game. So perhaps Mularkey misspoke. Or maybe Shorts was cleared for only one phase of the protocol, not the whole thing. Either way, it looks like Henne is going to be without his most explosive weapon against the Jets Sunday. That leaves Kevin Elliot out wide and Jordan Shipley in the slot. Antonio Cromartie will be shadowing Justin Blackmon. Yikes.

The running game is in equally as much disarray. With Rashad Jennings (concussion), Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and Jalen Parmele (groin) all sidelined, special teamer/fullback-type Montell Owens is going to start. He’ll be backed up by Richard Murphy and Jordan Todman. Owens is a good bet for 10-15 touches, but there’s not much upside to this situation.

Michael Turner is dealing with a minor elbow issue. Perhaps it will give the Falcons an excuse to scale back his workload even more. … LeSean McCoy (concussion) doesn’t appear close to practicing. At this point, it would be a surprise if he returns this season. … Ben Roethlisberger (ribs) is ready to return. … Jonathan Stewart (ankles) isn’t back yet. It’s the DeAngelo Williams show again. … DeMarco Murray came out of his return in good shape. He’s ready to rock.

Danny Amendola (heel) has ditched his walking boot and is practicing on a limited basis. He’s shaping up as a game-time call. If he’s active, I’d downgrade Chris Givens in a big way. … Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) missed practice Thursday. Owners need to line up backup plans. … Brandon LaFell (foot, toe) isn’t going to play this week. Louis Murphy will draw the start. … Jordy Nelson (hamstring) remains sidelined. Greg Jennings is looking at an every-down role. … Hakeem Nicks popped up with a sore knee again. He can’t shake this thing.

The Packers coaches have confirmed that newly signed Ryan Grant will have a minor role behind starter Alex Green Sunday.

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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