The San Francisco 49ers have their first winning season since 2002, and they’re not done yet. The Green Bay Packers remain undefeated, and both teams play on Thanksgiving. It’s like a feat of my favorite teams who are both atop the entire NFL.
My Packers this week play a team who used to be a dangerous 5-0 until the 49ers exposed them, gave them their first of 3 losses, but this past weekend produced the #1 QB and #1 RB of the week. Will the Harbaugh brothers (Jim Harbaugh, 49ers coach, and John Harbaugh, Ravens coach) have a strong defensive game on Thanksgiving when they face each other? This will be the first time in NFL history two brothers square off as head coaches of their respective teams.
Thanks to Adrian Peterson, Ryan Mathews, and Fred Jackson (IR now) all having crappy games, I lost my 3rd game of the season in one of my money leagues. Ugh! Thanks a lot, guys. But on to the guys who gave their teams big points:
- Matthew Stafford – He’s ranked #5 overall this year, although it may surprise you since he hasn’t made headlines in some time. His 29 fantasy points were his season’s best, however. Stafford threw for 335 yards with five touchdowns and a pair of interceptions in Sunday’s 49-35 win over the Panthers. After last week’s awful game at Chicago, Matthew clearly had something to prove. Surprisingly, none of Stafford’s touchdowns went to Calvin Johnson, as the young quarterback hooked up with five different pass catchers. It probably helped Stafford that the Lions finally found a running game.
- Cam Newton & Jay Cutler & Rex Grossman – All 3 quarterbacks scored 24 points for their teams.
Cam Newton completed 22-of-38 passes for 280 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions Sunday against the Lions. He also added seven carries for 37 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Newton obviously didn’t throw the ball well, but the two rushing touchdowns surely had to make fantasy owners happier than they would have been without them. The rookie quarterback connected with seven different receivers, but was only able to find his favorite target, Steve Smith, five times for 41 yards. Cam is the 2nd overall QB this year.
Jay Cutler, 16th ranked, completed 18-of-31 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and added five rushes for 11 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Chargers. Cutler’s lone miscue came on an interception when Johnny Knox slipped and fell down, but he was otherwise highly impressive. Jay had his way with the Chargers’ secondary as they focused on shutting down Matt Forte. The Bears are now winners of five straight heading into Week 12’s game in Oakland. The downside? Cutler is expected to miss 6-to-8 weeks with a broken thumb, as a result of this game.
Seriously? Wow. Rex Grossman threw for 289 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in Sunday’s overtime loss to the Cowboys. Rex was fantastic on the game-tying touchdown, going 8-for-10 during the 89-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Donte Stallworth to force overtime. The Redskins nearly won the game in the extra period, but Graham Gano missed a long field goal attempt. Grossman also did a great job spreading the ball around, connecting with nine different receivers. He’s likely earned at least another start for the Redskins. Rex is available in pretty much every fantasy football league, and is worth a look if you’re in need, after his performance places him 27th overall.
- Aaron Rodgers & Tony Romo – Both QBs gave their NFL team a victory, and your fantasy team 23 points.
Rodgers has 10 consecutive games of 21 or more fantasy points, but now he faces his most challenging matchup all year, the league’s No. 5 pass defense. Will he be able to continue the streak, and stay #1 QB for the year? Aaron threw for 299 yards against the Bucs, with 3 touchdowns (31 total) and an interception, his 4th of the year.
Tony Romo was sharp again Sunday, completing 23-of-37 passes for 292 yards and three TDs with no INTs. He hasn’t broken the 300-yard mark in over a month but Romo has an 8:0 TD:INT ratio over his last three games, and appears to be in a zone right now. Start him with confidence. Despite his wild side, Tony Romo is the 6th best QB for fantasy.
- Kevin Smith – Where did he come from? Where is he going? Who cares, the Detroit Lions have finally found the running game they’ve been looking for all year. Smith carried 16 times for 140 yards (including a 43-yarder) with two touchdowns and added four catches for 61 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s win over the Panthers. With Jahvid Best still out, Kevin has presumably seized the Lions’ starting RB gig with his huge effort Sunday. Don’t expect three TDs every week, but assuming he’s available in your league, go get him, as he could be a big factor for Detroit down the stretch. Smith added 38 fantasy points, and after 1 start is the 42nd running back of the year.
- Ray Rice – A nice workload of 20 carries for 104 yards with a pair of touchdowns, with five catches for 43 yards in Sunday’s win over the Bengals. Rice was held in check outside of a nice 59-yard scamper, but after getting just five carries last week, it was nice to see him get so much work Sunday. Ray is your 2nd overall RB this year in the musical chairs game, with 26 fantasy points.
- Chris Ogbonnaya – With a name that’s harder to spell than Ben Roethlisberger, he had a career-high 115 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown in Sunday’s win over Jacksonville. Ogbonnaya wasn’t doing much in the first half yardage-wise, but ripped off a couple of nice runs in the second half, including a 40-yard scamper. It may have been a bigger gain on that 40-yard run if not for the fact that he came up a little lame, holding the back of his leg as he stepped out of bounds. Fortunately for him it wasn’t anything serious, as he immediately came back in the game, running the ball a few more times in the closing minutes. It remains to be seen what type of role Chris will have when Montario Hardesty returns, but for now, Ogbonnaya is getting all the work. Thank goodness there’s no Peyton Hillis around. His 18 fantasy points gives him 43rd overall RB this year.
- Maurice Jones-Drew – MJD ran for 87 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s loss to the Browns. He also had four catches for 31 yards in the loss. Maurice had 21 carries Sunday while Jags’ quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw the ball 41 times. Jones-Drew leads the league in carries, so this may be a sign the team is starting to focus more on the pass to ease MJD’s workload. His 17 points makes him 8th overall RB.
- Michael Bush & Cedric Benson & LeGarrette Blount – I hate it when the 5th spot for the weekly top-5 goes to 3+ players. Either way, these guys each gave their team 16 fantasy points.
Bush had a game-high 30 carries for 109 yards with a touchdown and caught two passes for 20 yards in Sunday’s 27-21 win at Minnesota. It pays to not have Darren McFadden around, doesn’t it? He also had a fourth-quarter fumble that led to a Vikings’ touchdown, and helped them get back in the game. Bush is the 10th overall RB.
Benson finished Sunday’s loss at Baltimore with 41 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. Cedric doubled his touchdown output for the year with the two scores he punched in. He’s not an explosive, high-yardage back, but this is the type of production he can bring to the table. The Bengals’ offense has been better than expected in 2011 and Benson should continue to get opportunities to find the endzone. Benson is the 23rd overall RB
Blount had 18 carries for 107 yards, including a spectacular 54-yard touchdown, in Sunday’s loss at Green Bay. LeGarrette’s long run was ridiculous, as he broke multiple tackles while keeping his balance and running away from defenders. The Bucs were able to stay in the game against the Packers, allowing Blount to receive 18 carries. Blount is still getting pulled for Kregg Lumpkin on most passing situations, but he’s a major weapon when he’s given the work. Blount shows us what he had last year, making him the 27th overall RB.
- Jordy Nelson – So many weapons on the Packers offense, and it seems the breadwinner rotates around weekly. Nelson caught six passes for 123 yards with a pair of touchdowns in Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay, making him the 3rd best wide receiver of the year. Greg Jennings might be Green Bay’s best receiver, but Nelson is a quality receiver in his own right, and has been on a roll lately with five touchdowns over the last three games.
- Nate Washington – Nate caught rookie quarterback Jake Locker’s first two touchdown passes of his professional career in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons. This was clearly the best game Washington has had all season, again, all thanks to Kenny Brit’s season-ending injury. Washington surpassed the century mark in receiving yards (115), on nine caught passes, for the first time this season. This may get him involved some more into the Titans’ passing attack, but he is far too inconsistent to trust him in any starting fantasy lineup, even though he is the 16th best WR in fantasy.
- Vincent Jackson & Torrey Smith – Both wide receivers gave their teams a strong 22 fantasy points.
Jackson led the Charges with seven receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown in Week 11 at Chicago. It was a great bounce-back game for Jackson who managed to get open repeatedly despite the fact fellow starter Malcom Floyd missed his third straight game. VJ is your 6th best fantasy wide receiver.
Smith caught six passes for a game-high 165 yards with a touchdown in Sunday’s win over Cincinnati. Torrey routinely got behind the Bengals’ defense, hauling in grabs of 49 and 38 yards. Veteran Lee Evans finally made his return to the field Sunday, but was held without a catch on just one target. Unless Smith really struggles, expect him to be more involved than Evans moving forward, even when Evans gets back into the flow. The rookie is 13th overall in fantasy points.
- Victor Cruz – Another rookie making his mark! Victor is 9th overall this year in fantasy football, after 18 points against the Eagles. Cruz led the Giants with six catches and 128 yards on 10 targets, including a 24-yard touchdown. He has been a fantasy revelation in 2011, and has developed from a practice squad player last year, into Eli Manning’s go-to guy. In each of the last four games, he’s posted at least six receptions and 84 yards, scoring twice over that span. Cruz has proven the test of time at this point and needs to be started in all leagues.
This week’s tight-end shout-out goes to Rob Gronkowski, again, the #1 TE of the year with his 21 fantasy points — 4 receptions for 96 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Chiefs.
2 more weeks to go in most fantasy football leagues, and 5 more for the season. Good luck out there!