Things got weird Sunday night.
The Patriots and Broncos played for 73 windy minutes, and were 118 seconds away from the second tie of the day. In between was Denver blowing a 24-point halftime lead, Bill Belichick letting the wind take him where it may, Peyton Manning throwing for his fewest yards in a game that mattered since Nov. 30, 2008 and not one, not two but 11 fumbles, six of which were lost.
The first belonged to Stevan Ridley, who put the ball on the ground 5:06 into the first quarter. Von Miller returned it for a touchdown, and Ridley returned to his underground lair on the sideline, never to be seen again. That’s 68 game minutes Ridley spent on the bench, and three hours and 43 minutes in real time.
So the question is, what’s next for the internet’s favorite viral Crisco pitchman? Ridley has now lost the ball in three straight games. Belichick was forgiving the first time. A little less so the second. The third? There’s no telling what might be in store for Ridley in Week 13, but there’s one thing that can probably be ruled out: A feature role.
There are a few things working in Ridley’s favor. LeGarrette Blount lost a fumble of his own against the Broncos, and the Patriots appear loath to feature Shane Vereen as a true work-horse back. The problem? Brandon Bolden took the rock 13 times for 58 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Bolden’s season YPC now rests at a sparkling 5.15. And though Vereen didn’t do a whole heck of a lot with his 10 totes (31 yards), he continued to do his job as a receiver (despite another drop on a wheel route), making eight grabs for 60 yards. Vereen is now up to 23/183 in just three games as a pass catcher.
So while Ridley is conceivably off the hook with Blount — who’s an even bigger fumbler than Ridley is — the Patriots still have Bolden as a competent back-up plan, and Vereen to change the pace. With the good work Bolden has done, the Patriots could easily be emboldened to swap him in for Ridley straight up, leaving Vereen to preferred passing-down duties.
It’s highly unlikely that Ridley will be flat-out inactive against the Texans. But it’s quite possible, if not probable, that he’ll start out as a mere changeup off the bench. Barring any clarifying statements from Belichick this week — which we know is about as likely as your Thanksgiving turkey getting up off the table, walking into the living room and turning off the Cowboys game — that’s the safest assumption for fantasy owners. That means Ridley can’t be trusted as more than a boom-or-bust FLEX option, and that Bolden is worth an add for anyone mining the running back scrap heap.
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1. Mike Glennon
The Bucs have won three consecutive games, and Glennon is a big part of the reason why. Although he hasn’t lit up the box scores, Glennon has been a stabilizing presence under center, providing the kind of competence that eluded Josh Freeman his final 10 months in Tampa. Glennon has posted a 5:1 TD:INT ratio since the Bucs went streaking, completing 69.2 percent of his passes in the process. Granted, he hasn’t been asked to do more than manage the game — Glennon is averaging just 22 pass attempts over his past three starts — but has been surprisingly accurate on his longer throws, and put the offense on his back Sunday when the Lions erased Bobby Rainey and the run game. Glennon isn’t going to win you many fantasy weeks — particularly in Week 13 against the fearsome Panthers — but is on the up and up in Dynasty formats, and very well may be saving coach Greg Schiano’s job.
2. Josh Gordon
Maybe now you’ll believe in Josh Gordon? After he had the second best game by any receiver in the NFL this season? After he posted his second consecutive 100-yard effort, third in four starts and fifth in nine games? After he set a new Browns single-game record for receiving yards? After he vaulted to fifth in the league in receiving despite missing the season’s first two games? After he continued to dominate despite yet another quarterback change? Skeptics will continue to poke holes in Gordon’s dominance (it wasn’t a close game!). Winners will keep on starting him.
3. Nate Burleson
Burleson was not eased in against the Bucs, playing 72-of-80 snaps while drawing 10 targets. He turned them into seven catches for 72 yards. A candidate for release last offseason, Burleson has now caught at least six passes in all four games he’s appeared in this season, and cleared 77 yards in 3-of-4. He’s far from the player he once was, but is the No. 2 option in an offense that revolves around Calvin Johnson. This means he’s never going to hurt for clean looks, and is a safe, if low upside, WR3 in standard formats. He’s a borderline WR2 in PPR leagues. Feel free to fire Burleson up on Thanksgiving.
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