luck peyton2

There was a lot of crazy Sunday. Because it’s the NFL, you see, a place where you can throw an interception on your own 15-yard line and fumble down near the opposing end zone late in the fourth quarter, and still have a chance to win a football game (that happened). It’s also a place where you involuntarily execute a near-perfect front flip while going into the end zone (that happened).

There’s insanity sprinkled with care throughout this latest adventure in Sunday recapping/reviewing/moaning and groaning. But to kick off the festivities, I thought we’d focus on two especially whacked up games.

Redskins (45) vs. Bears (41)

1. Even including this offensive kaboom (complete with 11 total touchdowns), the Redskins are still averaging 20 points fewer per game (25.3), while Chicago is giving up just over 15 points fewer (29.4). Injuries to Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman led to more offense, while the Bears kept scoring despite Jay Cutler going down with a likely serious groin problem

2. Jordan Reed and Aldrick Robinson combined for 209 receiving yards, most of which came from Reed (134 yards). Prior to Sunday, Reed and Robinson had a combined 177 receiving yards all season.

3. Robert Griffin III before the Redskins’ Week 5 bye: 72 rushing yards. Robert Griffin II since the Redskins’ Week 5 bye: 161 rushing yards (at a pace of 8.1 per carry), including 84 today.

4. Roy Helu Jr. scored three rushing touchdowns on 11 carries. On his previous 173 career carries, he had scored exactly…three rushing touchdowns.

5. Matt Forte also scored three rushing touchdowns, and he did it on 16 carries. Over his previous 100 carries this year he had scored…three rushing touchdowns. We’re still one game shy of midseason, and Forte is already only two touchdowns short of his career single-season high.

Colts (39) vs. Broncos (33)

1. In the 94-year history of the NFL, this was the first game to finish with this exact score.

2. Peyton Manning was sacked four times, and he had only gone down five times over the Broncos’ six previous games.

3. While killing themselves softly with the aforementioned fourth-quarter turnovers, the Broncos scored less than 35 points for the first time all season. The loss — one in which Manning still threw for 386 yards with three touchdowns — ended the Broncos’ 17-game regular-season winning streak.

And thus begins another journey through the Sunday wilderness, with many digits that amuse and amaze.

Fun with numbers

  • Two of Tom Brady’s first six completions went to Rob Gronkowski for 42 yards. Prior to yesterday Michael Hoomanawanui was the Patriots’ leading tight end, and he was averaging 15.8 receiving yards per game. After one drive — one damn drive — Gronk already had the second most yards in a game for a Patriots tight end this season. Gronkowski did his Gronking immediately, finishing with 117 yards on eight catches in New England’s overtime debacle of a loss (more forthcoming) to the Jets, and he did it on 17 targets. Nope, no easing in here.
  • There were seven punts in just the first quarter of Eagles-Cowboys game that Dallas eventually “won”, and 18 in total (hashtag NFC Least). That’s a new all-time single-game “record“.
  • With his 81-yard punt return in the second quarter of the Bears’ loss to the Redskins, Devin Hester tied Deion Sanders for the most return touchdowns in NFL history (they both have 19 apiece). He remains the scariest returner to kick a ball towards.
  • With one game remaining in Week 7 there’s already been seven defensive touchdowns. Prior to today over the 92 total games played there had been 31 defensive touchdowns. So yeah, to have seven spread over 14 games is slightly ridiculous. Related: if you ever want to immediately question the hopelessness of it all, try to predict the NFL. For example…
  • Thanks for making me look like a complete jerk, Nick Foles. The Eagles quarterback who’s supposedly accurate and reliable and several other similar adjectives was absolutely horrific while completing only 37.9 percent of his passes after clipping along merrily at 71.0 percent a week ago against a Tampa secondary that’s far more intimidating because of guys named Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson. I hate you.
  • LeSean McCoy prior to Week 7: 105.0 rushing yards per game. LeSean McCoy in Week 7: 55 yards on 18 carries. I’m not much of a math guy, but getting 50 rushing yards less than your per game average is likely a problem.
  • With 294 more in a win over Philadelphia, Tony Romo now has more passing yards through his first 100 starts than anyone in NFL history.
  • Oh, and in that game with the crappy McCoy and the moderately less crappy Romo along with the really super crappy before he was injured Nick Foles who gave way to the unspeakably crappy Matt Barkley, the result was this: the Eagles lost their ninth straight home game, the longest such streak in franchise history.
  • This is easily the best Jaguars suck stat, and there’s a steaming pile of them. With their latest #fail coming during a loss to San Diego in which they posted only six points, the Jaguars now haven’t scored a touchdown at home since Week 16 of last year. No seriously, and they’ve now scored less than 10 points in four of their seven games.
  • C.J. Spiller has all of four more carries than Fred Jackson on the season. He was hobbling noticeably today during the Bills’ win over Miami, and this has now become a rare time when his fantasy owners — most of whom invested a top five pick — should hope Spiller gets shut down for a week, because he’s useless in his current state. He finished with only seven yards on nine touches today. Yep, and now if we take away an outlier of a 54-yard run two weeks ago, here’s the woe Spiller has given you: only 164 rushing yards over his last five games.
  • With 123 total yards today, Jamaal Charles now has a touchdown and at least 100 yards in each game this season. putting him on pace for 2,052 yards overall, which would be a new career high (he’s currently averaging an absurd 128.3 yards per game). Only some other running back named O.J. Simpson has a longer streak.
  • After a 66-yard touchdown reception today when Chris Johnson did what he does (turn a short screen into a long, home run gain), the Titans running back now has the most Chris Johnson stat line ever over the past four weeks. He has 275 total yards during that stretch, but 115 of them have come on just two touches. Johnson’s fantasy owners are conflicted, but mostly angry. He still has the ability and speed to bust one deep with ease, but far more often he’s getting stuffed while dancing in the backfield.
  • We get it, Ray Rice. Despite their cornucopia of other problems, the Pittsburgh Steelers generally still aren’t a fun team to run against. But you’ve been really bad, Ray, regardless of the opponent. With today’s 45 rushing yards on 15 carries Rice still hasn’t topped 50 yards on the ground yet, and while the 27 receiving yards on four receptions were nice (especially for those in PPR leagues), at nearly the halfway point of the season he still only has one game with over 100 total yards after eight such games last year. Throw in a yards per carry average that’s now down to 2.8 after a pace of 4.4 last year, and the spiral here has been downright startling.
  • OK, one more running back bitch fest. Late in the Sunday nighter with the Colts trying to put the game away, Trent Richardson sat on the sideline with a pretty sweet view, but little else. Instead Chuck Pagano asked Donald Brown to pound away after Richardson had been given 12 carries that he turned into only 36 yards. His YPC is now down to only 3.1.
  • For the third time this season we have only two +100 yard rushers with just Monday Night Football remaining in a week. Week 7 brought us easily the oddest couple too: Chris Ivory (110) and Ryan Mathews (104). Meanwhile, there’s been three receivers with at least 150 yards (A.J. Green, Calvin Johnson, and Eric Decker).

Troy Polamalu is not a patient man

This didn’t quite work out as planned

Polamalu almost certainly learned this from playing Madden. You see, angry teens who haven’t yet learned how to lose with pride either turn the console off with rage when they’re down by a sizable margin, or they start doing jerk-ish things, one of which is lining up directly in front of the kicker during an extra point attempt. There’s no real logic to it, because there never really is with adolescent angst.

With that venting oddness out of the way, we move onto the delightful overview of the day’s top performers, fantasy and otherwise (but mostly fantasy and not so much otherwise).

A.J. Green still catches a lot of long balls

A.J. Green’s usual running and leaping act today came complete with an 82-yard touchdown catch during the Bengals’ win over Detroit. It’s the second straight week he’s recorded a reception of at least 50 yards, and over the past two weeks he’s averaged 21.5 yards per catch.

He had 122 receiving yards on just the Bengals’ first eight plays

Andy Dalton is throwing a lot of long balls

Shhhhh, we’re not supposed to talk about it much, but Andy Dalton has been ballin’ out. Dalton completed 70.6 percent of his passes today — the second time he’s done that or better over the past three weeks — with 372 passing yards at a pace of 10.9 per attempt, three touchdowns, and a career single-game high passer rating of 135.9.

Harry Douglas is not just the next man, he is THE man

Harry Douglas was the living, breathing, catching and scoring version of football’s proverbial “next man up” philosophy taken to its logical extreme. With Julio Jones out for the season and Roddy White missing his first game ever due to an ankle injury, Matt Ryan was left with Douglas as his top receiver by default during Atlanta’s win over Tampa. Primarily a slot guy in the Falcon’s three wideout sets, Douglas has come up with catches of the long and deep variety when called upon sporadically (he had receptions for 40 and 50 yards prior to today), but he was still firmly buried behind White, Jones, and Tony Gonzalez in the search for targets.

That’s why he had only 219 receiving yards over five games before this week (an average of 43.8 per game). So what can he do as the top dawg? How about 140 yards in just the first half, which included a 54-yard catch, and a 37-yarder for a touchdown. He did pretty alright for a guy who was widely available on fantasy waiver wires a few days ago, finishing with 149 yards and 20 fantasy points.

Vincent Jackson only needs one hand to play football

Despite the toxic stink surrounding him at all times and a rookie quarterback throwing him the ball, Vincent Jackson is still putting together a fine season. As expected, he’s getting targeted a whole crapload each game, with now five double-digit target games, and yesterday that magnetizing between an inexperienced and raw rookie quarterback and his top receiver was stretched to its logical extreme. Jackson was targeted 22 times, which made him the intended destination on exactly half of Glennon’s throws.

Like Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon in Jacksonville, Jackson is the constant reminder that great players on awful teams are still great players. In fact, Jackson is more valuable as a fantasy commodity in his situation due to both a rookie quarterback becoming fixated on him, and the Bucs constantly trailing and needing to throw, and then throw some more.

Oh, and he does stuff like this…

Vincent Jackson touchdown against Falcons-b

(Gracias for the moving picture, The Big Lead)

Calvin Johnson has returned

The Mega man has been slowed by a knee injury in recent weeks, which started when he was surprisingly inactive in Week 5. Last week he was only physically present, and was most often a decoy while Matthew Stafford targeted college buddy Kris Durham much more often, and continued to put coins in the Joseph Fauria touchdown boogie dance machine when he was in the vicinity of the red zone.

But Johnson returned with two touchdowns, and seven catches for 155 yards during a loss to Cincinnati, a pretty fine average of 19.4 yards per catch which included two touchdowns, one coming on a 50-yard reception. Over his last 21 games dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season, Johnson now has eight weeks with 130 or more receiving yards.

The good Geno has resurfaced

Throughout this season Geno Smith has been exactly what most rookie quarterbacks not named Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III are each year: consistently inconsistent. So of course in the same game when he threw a pick six straight to the gut of Logan Ryan that was returned for 79 yards, Smith went runnin’, with two key scrambles in the third quarter for a combined 22 yards, one of which ended with him in the end zone after a head fake that sent underwear flying.

The Jets’ win over New England concluded in zany fashion, and cries of conspiracy everywhere on Twitter.com. Nick Folk missed a 56-yard field goal attempt in overtime, and the Patriots were then set up with great field position and the chance to complete a pass or two before kicking their own field goal, going home happy, and enjoying some show ponies. But then there was an odd but legit penalty call on rookie Chris Jones, who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he pushed a teammate into the Jets’ offensive line, which is a bit of a no-no while attempting to block a kick. Doom ensued, because for absurd reasons known only to the league’s head offices, Jones’ penalty is a 15 yarder. So basically, a freak call on a rule no one had heard of handed the Jets a win.

For the record, here’s the exact wording in the league’s rulebook (from Greg Bedard):

NFL rule

Also, Jones owned his mistake, another fact that should be noted for the public record…

But ANYWHO (terminate elongated digression), Geno was great when it really mattered. And with quarterbacks of any vintage, being great in mattering time is all anyone remembers. In only six career games he’s now led four game-winning drives, which is remarkable even with the gracious zebra help he received in the Jets’ latest win.

Colin Kaepernick is doing fast leg things again

That running swagger has returned. During a Titans trouncing Kaepernick decided that running is fun again, strolling along for 68 yards on 11 carries. That’s a part of his game that Kaep had drifted away from in recent weeks, and although the reality results were just fine (four straight wins now), the fantasy results had been less than fine (a decent and just OK 24 points over the past two weeks). Going back even further, over the 49ers’ last four games Kaepernick had rushed for only 74 yards.

Where did you come from?

Brandon Gibson gets all the style points

This

 

…looked a lot like this…

Points were deducted from Gibson for not sticking the landing.

Gibson later scored again, and quietly he’s having a pretty alright year, though his two touchdowns yesterday were his first two on the season. He’s had three games with 70 or more receiving yards, which is just fine for a receiver who’s firmly behind Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline in Ryan Tannehill’s target order, and sometimes even Charles Clay.

Chris Ivory made you very angry

I suppose we all should have seen this coming eventually, but many of you are not on speaking terms with Chris Ivory right now. Oh, you might be in a few days when you claim him in every league, but right now he’s been axed from your Christmas card list (and really, if you’re sending Christmas cards to platooning running backs, you have a problem).

Judging by their ownership numbers, it’s clear that the prevailing thought was that Bilal Powell will continue to see most of the carries in the Jets’ backfield, as he’s owned in 76 percent of Yahoo leagues while Ivory has fake employment in only 26 percent of leagues. Of course, that thinking was quite flawed today, as Ivory finished with 104 rushing yards on 34 carries. Yes, that’s a plodding pace of 3.1 per carry, a number which matters little for this discussion. What matters is that with no announced injury Powell touched a football only three times and he turned that into just six yards. Meanwhile, Ivory received 28 more touches, and over the past three weeks prior to today he had a combined 12 touches.

It’s all a clear indication that after being eased in following his return from injury — a perpetual state of being for Ivory — he’s just fine now, thanks, and a backfield shift can commence. Hopefully you found a sucker and sold high on Powell.

Case keenum surprisingly wasn’t horrible

I gave Keenum less than zero chance to have success as an undrafted rookie quarterback making his first career start on the road in Kansas City against a nasty defense that entered Sunday with 30 sacks (an incredible average of five per game). But because this is the NFL and up is down, left is right, and goldfish have pet cats, he was just fine.

Although he didn’t actually run much (three carries for 10 yards), Keenum was able to do something Matt Schaub couldn’t compute lately: escape pressure to extend plays. He was brought down five times, but often against the league’s best pass rush he squirted free to find an open target, or buy enough time for a target to get open.

In the end, that added up to a fine completion percentage considering the circumstances (60.0), 271 passing yards with a touchdown, and two of his 15 completions turned into +40 yard receptions (to Andre Johnson and DeVier Posey). All of that allowed the Texans to come within two points of handing Kansas City its first loss in a game when at one point both Arian Foster and Ben Tate went down.

Looking forward, Houston has a Week 8 bye, and then life will become much more difficult for Keenum against the Colts and then an underrated Cardinals defense.

Jarrett Boykin did his best Randall Cobb impression

We knew Jarrett Boykin would get targeted often with both Randall Cobb and James Jones out. We just didn’t know what he would do with said targets, and how he would fare against a Browns secondary allowing the fewest yards per pass attempt (6.0).

Welp, how about this: 103 yards on eight receptions with a touchdown. Those simple numbers are already impressive, but even better is the gap between Boykin and Jordy Nelson, who finished with only 42 receiving yards during the Packers’ 31-13 win.

Pictured: perfection

Already thinking ahead, this guy gets it. Somehow, the Broncos need to figure out a way to make Indianapolis its permanent quarterback farm.

Quote of the week

First we have some truth talk from Manning, who’s essentially responding to everyone who makes the most obvious observation in the history of observations every time he doesn’t throw a perfect spiral (it usually sounds something like this: “MANNING HAS A PASTA ARM NOW AND HE’S THE WORST!”).

Maybe it’s possible that his body is aging because he’s, you know, old. But despite tonight’s result, Manning has shown us over these first seven weeks that when the game is managed properly by both the quarterback and his offensive coordinator, success can be found easily, even when an arm gets a little noodle-like at times.

Also, this…

(Dap to Awful Announcing)

Ouch

Oh man, you should probably stay away from all ledges and sharp objects. There’s a lot of ungood coming up.

  • When he left with what was later called a groin injury, Jay Cutler couldn’t stand up straight, and he looked like 68-year-old Jay Cutler instead of 30-year-old Cutler. So it’s not surprising at all that he’ll have an MRI, and there are fears of alwful things forthcoming. With Josh McCown or, well, anyone else under center, every member of the Bears offense takes a massive fantasy gut punch. The exception will likely be Matt Forte, who would be leaned on far more as both a runner and pass catcher in space. But that Alshon Jeffery breakout you’ve been enjoying will end abruptly.
  • Then came the defensive combusting for the Bears, as Lance Briggs (shoulder) and Charles Tillman (knee) both left, leaving a crater-sized hole in a defense that normally makes life uncomfortable.
  • Doug Martin fell awkwardly and had his shoulder in a sling after Tampa’s loss to Altanta. That’s clearly not a good look for your first-round fantasy pick, but he insists it’s not dislocated. He’ll undergo further tests, but now the problem for both you and Martin is that the Bucs begin the dreaded quick turnaround before a Thursday night game this week, meaning there’s a very real chance he’ll sit out.
  • Big gulp. Sam Bradford was shoved from behind at the end of a run out of bounds and immediately collapsed in agony before being carted off. A late-night MRI then confirmed what was first feared: Bradford has torn his ACL, and his season is over. That means what little fantasy value was left in the Rams offense now evaporates entirely with Kellen Clemens chucking, and ultimately torpedoing.
  • Elsewhere in crushing year-long absences: Brian Cushing tore his LCL following a collision with Jamaal Charles, and he’ll be out for the season. The tear is in the same knee where is ACL ripped last year, though the injury isn’t quite as severe this time. Please recall that without Cushing the Texans’ run defense crumbled in 2012.
  • Oh but it didn’t stop there for the Texans and for you, because of course it didn’t. Arian Foster left early with a hamstring injury, and then Ben Tate promptly followed by going down too, though he later returned. Get those Cierre Wood claims in, you guys.
  • Jermichael Finley suffered the scariest injury of the day when he was hit by Browns safety Tashon Gipson, and he had to be taken off the field in a stretcher. Thankfully, he had feeling in his extremities, and as his agent later tweeted, football is a distant secondary concern for Finley right now.
  • First, Nick Foles was horrible while creatively whiffing on basic and routine throws.  Then he departed with a head injury which was a direct result of holding the ball far too long and getting his cranium hammered into the turf. If Michael Vick is healthy by next week (which is very possible), Chip Kelly’s quarterback decision is easy.
  • Leon Hall is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, but he doesn’t often get recognized as such because his name isn’t Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman. But now he won’t get a chance to be part of that conversation until next year, because he tore his ACL. It’s a crushing blow for the Bengals defense, and for Hall it’s his second ACL tear over just the last two seasons, poor luck which is accelerating the aging of his 29-year-old body.
  • Reggie Wayne left the Colts’ Sunday night win with what looked to be a knee sprain, and non-contact injuries are always the worst. We’ll know more later today, but at least Wayne has a well-timed bye week to heal now. Wayne hasn’t missed a game since 2001.
  • In the same game Champ Bailey re-aggravated the ankle injury that kept him out for the first five weeks.

Whew, that’s some deep depression right there. Like last week, I think we need to conclude with some pick me up tunes again.

There, all better.