According to head coach Bruce Arians, Rashard Mendenhall will start Sunday for the Cardinals. But he also said that his goal is to get rookie running back Andre Ellington about 20 touches a game from here out. This is certainly a conundrum for fantasy owners to detangle. But it sounds like this is a committee for the rest of the season, as it has been. Maybe Ellington will get more attention than the 8.1 touches he’s received to date. Hard to see how Mendenhall could start while the backup receives that much work. Either Mendenhall is not the starter anymore, or Arians is designing the perfect game plan for an eighty minute game. Either way, we can all agree he looks like Waldo.
Roddy White is listed as questionable, but said that he will play against Seattle. His first game back will be against Richard Sherman and company, and that’s certainly not good news. Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez may need to remain very involved if the Falcons have any shot at slicing up this defense.
E.J. Manuel is in line to start Sunday at Pittsburgh. That’s bad news for a nation of Jeff Tuel owners, but good news for everyone else. Thad Lewis will serve as backup. Stevie Johnson should get a boost in value because of the upgraded quarterback and the fact that rookie receiver Robert Woods is doubtful to play. Woods did not practice Friday.
Jonathan Stewart played his first game of 2013 last week, reuniting with handcuff back DeAngelo Williams. Probably no pair of teammates exists with more talent and less fantasy value, except possibly the Buffalo backfield. In last week’s win over Atlanta, Stewart received 12 touches for 65 yards, while Williams was given 15 touches for 54 yards. Neither scored. If you have better options of running backs who may touch the ball more often, go for it. Mike Tolbert scored from the 4-yard line in the first quarter last week, and leads all Panthers backs in touchdowns (4). The rest of the team has combined for five rushing touchdowns, with quarterback Cam Newton accounting for four, and Williams for one.
Jay Cutler will start against Detroit Sunday, which is excellent news for Brandon Marshall owners. Marshall is on pace for 106 receptions, 1,294 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best seasons have all come with Cutler throwing the passes.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Dez Bryant may be dealing with a bulging or herniated disc in his back. It sounded as though the problem could be severe. But Dallas executive vice president Stephen Jones said Friday that the issue is muscle related, and not related to a disc problem. Bryant practiced Thursday and Friday, and said, “I feel good and I’m playing on Sunday. That’s all y’all need to know.” Miles Austin is doubtful for Sunday Night Football, after missing practice Friday. DeMarco Murray will start again, after the Cowboys setting a franchise low in rushing attempts (9) in their week nine victory over Minnesota. Murray rushed four times for 31 yards, and caught six passes for another 19 yards. The change in play caller for the Cowboys hasn’t changed anything in 2013; Dallas still love to pass the ball. Only the Atlanta Falcons have fewer rush attempts per game in 2013 (18.6 rushes per game). Dallas has run 20.3 times per game, and ranks tenth in pass attempts with an average of 38.4 passes thrown per contest.
Aaron Rodgers is expected to miss four to six weeks with a broken collarbone. In backup Seneca Wallace’s first game action of the year, he completed 11 of 19 passes (57.9 percent complete) for 114 yards and an interception. Hopefully a week of practice with the first team will help a little, but don’t expect much from this passing game in the interim. Rookie Eddie Lacy may face a lot of stacked boxes on defense, but he appears to have the talent to overcome that. With Rodgers out of the game last week, Lacy ran 22 times for 150 yards and a touchdown. Since he returned from concussion symptoms to play week five, no one has come close to his workload. Lacy has made 119 rush attempts during that span, which is 17 more than the next best. Jordy Nelson and James Jones deserve significant downgrades in value, and Jarrett Boykin should return to fantasy free agency.
Arian Foster will not play Sunday, and may require surgery. Backup Ben Tate should earn 20 or more touches, stepping in to start against Arizona. Tate has averaged 4.5 yards per rush this year, and 4.9 yards per attempt for his career.
Trent Richardson missed two practices this week, but did suit up Friday. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said, “I just have to find ways to creatively get the ball to Trent. A lot of different ways, not just out in space, but do a better job with run schemes that feature his instincts. But he’s gotten better each week, and we expect that he’ll continue to make big plays for us.” The former third overall pick from 2012 is averaging just 3.1 yards per rush this year, but did face very unusual adversity, having to learn his third NFL playbook and blocking schemes before his 19th career game. Donald Brown should remain involved while Richardson continues to acclimate. Expect more of T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener with Reggie Wayne done for the year.
Justin Blackmon was suspended indefinitely during Jacksonville’s week off. Cecil Shorts should see an uptick in targets as a result. He was already on pace for 92 catches, 1,130 yards and two touchdowns.
Darren Sproles passed all concussion tests earlier in the week, and will play Sunday night against Dallas. Marques Colston is questionable for the game with a knee injury. The eighth year veteran missed last week’s loss to the Jets. Should he miss any more time, Jimmy Graham and the remaining wide receivers should continue to garner more attention. In week nine, Brees attempted 12 passes to Jimmy Graham, 10 each to Lance Moore and Pierre Thomas, five apiece for Robert Meachem and Kenny Stills, and four for Nick Toon. No one else received more than one target.
David Wilson was placed on injured reserve this week, ending his season. Andre Brown will be active for the first time in 2013. He led all Giants in 2012 with eight rushing touchdowns. Peyton Hillis will be the primary back against Oakland, though Brown said, “I’m pretty sure they are going to switch us in, switch us out.” Eli Manning will be lining up across from the 25th ranked passing defense. Upgrade the values for Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, and Hakeem Nicks because of this great matchup. Oakland will also be playing their third East Coast game in as many weeks, having just traveled to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Darren McFadden will not play Sunday with a pulled hamstring. Owners surprised by this news may also be surprised to know the sky is blue and the Raiders plan to wear silver and black this week (more news to come). McFadden has never played more than 13 games in a season, and this year is shaping up no differently. With the starter on the sideline last week, Rashad Jennings ran 15 times for 102 yards and a score. That is exciting news for owners who recently picked him off waivers; Jennings ran for just 2.8 yards per carry last year in 101 attempts with Jacksonville. The Giants are ninth against the run this year, allowing 102.3 yards per game.
Nick Foles threw an NFL record seven touchdown passes in Oakland week nine. That hadn’t happened since eight weeks prior, when Peyton Manning tied the mark in the first game of the season. Don’t expect a quarterback change anytime soon, as Foles has completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. Riley Cooper appeared to be the main benefactor of the quarterback change, reeling in five of six targets for 139 yards and three scores. In the four games that Foles has played significantly, Cooper has averaged 4.8 targets for 3.8 receptions, 86.8 yards and a touchdown. In his remaining games, the fourth year receiver has only 4.6 targets for 2.0 catches, 21.2 yards and 0.2 scores per week.
Doug Martin was placed on season-ending injured reserve this week. In three games of substantial action, rookie sixth round draft pick Mike James has run 52 times for 242 yards. He has yet to score a touchdown in his young career. The Buccaneers will be facing Miami’s 22nd ranked rush defense on Monday Night Football.
Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and footballguys.com.
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