Drew Stanton was taken out of Sunday’s game in Denver after suffering a concussion. He passed through some of the NFL testing, but not all. Stanton is officially questionable for this week’s game against Washington, and third-string quarterback Logan Thomas may get his first career start. In his first NFL action last week, the rookie completed one of eight passes for an 81-yard touchdown to Andre Ellington. Carson Palmer returned to Denver on Friday for another visit with Peyton Manning‘s nerve specialist. Head coach Bruce Arians said Palmer had been throwing at about 80 percent, but was still uncertain of who would lead his team this week. “Honest to God, for the first time in 20 years, I really don’t know who’s starting,” he told reporters Friday. The team is likely to lean heavily on Andre Ellington. Arizona’s lead back is averaging 18.8 touches per game, which is tenth-best in the NFL. Ellington also ranks eighth among running backs with 12.5 standard points per game. Washington has allowed 27.2 points each week, good enough for 26th in the league.
Bernard Pierce played last week for the first time since week two. In Sunday’s loss to the Colts, Pierce ran four times for 30 yards. Lorenzo Taliaferro ran five times for 18 yards, while Justin Forsett garnered 13 touches for 97 total yards (42 on the ground) and a touchdown. In the red zone, Taliaferro was given two carries, whereas Pierce and Forsett got one apiece. Forsett scored on his attempt, from the 11-yard line. Over the last three games, Taliaferro has rushed 38 times for 167 yards and two scores, while Forsett carried 31 times for 171 yards and two trips to pay dirt. Forsett brings an added receiving value lacking in his counterparts. For the year, Forsett has caught 23 passes for 118 yards, Pierce has one catch for seven yards, and Taliaferro has yet to be targeted. Within the opponent’s 5-yard line, Forsett has two carries, Taliaferro has four rushes for two scores, and Pierce has four attempts without a score.
Dennis Pitta left week three with a season-ending hip injury. In the two games since, Owen Daniels has made nine receptions for 113 yards. The former Texan scored twice in week two against Pittsburgh. Only Julius Thomas (4) has more touchdown catches from the tight end position this season.
Fred Jackson is questionable for Sunday’s game against New England. Buffalo beat reporter Joe Buscaglia said he’s “fairly confident he’ll play.” This season, Jackson is averaging 13.8 touches 86.2 total yards, while starter C.J. Spiller is getting 14.8 touches for 64.0 total yards. Each has one receiving touchdown, while neither has scored on the ground. Jackson has gotten all five of Buffalo’s rushes within the opponents’ 10-yard line.
Darrin Reaves has a page on Pro Football Reference, but still produces an error on search results. One step at a time. Since making his first NFL carries two weeks ago, the undrafted rookie has touched the ball 27 times for 88 total yards. He has yet to breach the end zone. The former UAB back is now battling a hip injury, but is listed as probable. The “DeAngelo and J-Stew Show” will return at a later time. Jonathan Stewart (knee) is questionable, and will be a game-time decision. DeAngelo Williams (ankle) did not practice this week. Greg Olsen scored two touchdowns last week after hurting his ankle in the game. “He was huge. He made some very big plays,” said head coach Ron Rivera. “He twisted his ankle, and for him to come back in and make the statement that he did, make the plays that he did, that just shows how important he is to us as a football team.” Olsen is officially questionable to play in Cincinnati. The Bengals rank 19th against the pass and have allowed the third-most fantasy points (12.3 points per game) to tight ends this year.
ESPN Bears reporter Michael C. Wright has been monitoring the lack of Brandon Marshall usage, and says head coach Marc Trestman is looking to remedy the situation. Wright says to “look for the Bears to make a concerted effort this week to make Marshall a focal part of the attack.” Atlanta ranks 23rd against the pass, and has allowed the 29th most points this season. During the first two weeks of the year, the 6-foot-4 receiver made 13 receptions for 119 yards and four scores. In the three games since, Marshall has caught six passes for 69 yards and another touchdown. If ever there was a great buy-low candidate, you’ve found him.
Another 6-foot-4 receiver, A.J. Green is unlikely to play Sunday against the Panthers. Only the Eagles have yielded more touchdowns to wide receivers (8) than Carolina (7). On Wednesday, Green re-aggravated the same toe that has troubled him since week two. Some have reported a potential long-term absence, though Marvin Lewis had a more hopeful outlook later in the week. “It’s day to day is what I was told today, which is a good thing,” the head coach said. “He’s feeling good. It’s positive.” For this week anyway, Mohamed Sanu will be Andy Dalton‘s top receiver. This season, Green has made 17 receptions for 314 yards and two touchdowns, while Sanu has caught 17 passes for 234 yards and two scores of his own. Giovani Bernard ranks sixth in the NFL with 20.5 touches per game, from which he is producing 101.3 total yards and 0.8 scores each week.
All eyes will be in Big D this week, as Dez Bryant faces off for a Texas-sized showdown with the league’s biggest mouth, Richard Sherman. So far this year, Dez is averaging 6.4 grabs for 75.2 yards and 0.8 touchdowns per week. DeMarco Murray is annihilating the rest of the league in rushing statistics. His 29.0 touches per game are 14.5 percent above Arian Foster, who ranks second with 24.8 touches. Murray’s 670 rushing yards are 23.4-percent above Foster’s 513 yards, and his 415 yards after contact are 42.7-percent above Le’Veon Bell‘s measly 238. The Cowboys rusher has caused 30 missed tackles, which are 36.7-percent higher than Marshawn Lynch‘s 19. Murray also ranks first with 5 rushing scores and 794 total yards. In his first three NFL seasons, Murray started just 31 games (10.3 games per season). Opportunistic owners will rarely find a higher peak for a sell-high candidate than this exact moment.
Beginning this weekend, Denver will play three games in 12 days. Montee Ball collapsed with a major groin injury during last week’s game. Even with a quick recovery, it is unrealistic to expect his return until after these three games. In the meantime, Ronnie Hillman is prepared to step up for his first NFL start. “Ronnie has played at different times, in different amounts, but when you’re the starting back and running out there in pregame warm-ups as a starting back, it’s a different hat that you wear,” Peyton Manning told Mike Klis of the Denver Post. “There’s no question he has a burst that is pretty unique when he gets the ball in his hands. It’s our job to give him space.” Last week, the 5-foot-9 back came in relief to post 64 yards on 15 carries. C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson will likely play a role as well, and some think a hot-hand approach may be in store. Denver travels to face the Jets this week, who rank sixth against the run. It should be noted, however, that their rank took a hit this week after allowing undrafted rookie Branden Oliver to create 182 total yards and two scores from his 23 touches.
Calvin Johnson has been plagued by a high ankle sprain recently. In the last two games, he has caught three balls for 19 yards. After being used primarily as a decoy in week four, Johnson suited up again week five, and re-aggravated the sprain. The four-time Pro Bowler is doubtful for this week, and may miss more time to recover. Reggie Bush is questionable, meaning Joique Bell will probably start and see a heavy workload for an offense missing key weapons. ESPN Lions reporter Michael Rothstein said to expect “somewhere in the realm of 15-to-18 carries” for Bell.
Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel believes that Eddie Lacy and James Starks may start to see more of a timeshare on offense. “The best rushing game of the season for the Green Bay Packers featured Eddie Lacy and James Starks each playing 50% of the offensive snaps,” Dunne reported. “In drilling the Minnesota Vikings for 151 combined yards, the two played 27 offensive snaps apiece.” Lacy has 15.0 touches for 68.4 total yards and 0.6 touchdowns per game, while Starks has been touching the ball 6.2 times for 26.8 total yards. Starks has yet to score this season. In the red zone, Lacy has 13 carries for three scores, compared with Starks’ three scoreless carries. Within the 10-yard line, Lacy has five carries to Starks’ one, and Lacy has the only three Green Bay carries within the opponents’ 5-yard line.
The Storm is brewing in Jacksonville! It actually begins this week in Tennessee, as Jaguars rookie rusher Storm Johnson is set to make his first NFL start. Starter Toby Gerhart has been ruled out for the game with a foot injury. Johnson has seen limited action to date, having gained 27 yards on his first four professional carries. Last year, the former UCF back rushed 213 times for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns. Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson will play a role as well. He has 31 touches for 95 total yards after five games. Jacksonville faces the Titans’ 26th-ranked run defense, who are also 27th in scoring, and 28th overall defense.
Knowshon Moreno is preparing to play his first game since exiting week two with a dislocated elbow. Lamar Miller has been converting 15.3 touches into 82.5 total yards and 0.8 scores each week. Moreno rushed 24 times for 134 yards in week one. Miami hosts Green Bay this week, who ranks dead last against the run (163.0 yards per game).
Eric Decker is likely to play Sunday against his former Broncos teammates. The wideout missed last week’s game with hamstring problems. Without Decker in the lineup, the Jets were embarrassed 31-0 in San Diego. When Geno Smith was pulled after completing four of 12 with one interception, Michael Vick came in and looked just as bad, connecting on eight of 19 passes. The two New York passers combined for 60 yards passing.
In his first extended action last week, undrafted free agent Branden Oliver outproduced the entire Jets offense. New York created 151 yards, while the Chargers back shined with 182 total yards. Oliver, who was fourth on San Diego’s depth chart just four weeks ago, gained 114 of those yards on the ground. The Jets left the game ranked sixth against the run. Donald Brown has been ruled out of Sunday’s game; he has yet to clear all requisite concussion tests.
Zac Stacy practiced Friday, and should be able to play Monday through his strained calf. Benny Cunningham will play a role from the bench. Zac Stacy is getting 15.8 touches for 81.5 total yards, while the backup has seen 9.0 touches for 43.8 total yards. Each has one rushing touchdown through four games. Stacy has made eight red zone carries, compared to Cunningham’s four. Within the opponents’ five-yard line, Stacy has all four of the Rams’ rushing attempts.
Shonn Greene (hamstring) is doubtful for Sunday’s game, opening the door for Bishop Sankey‘s first NFL start. This season, Greene has produced 38.0 total yards from 8.8 touches per week, whereas Sankey has garnered 7.0 touches for 36.4 total yards. Each has a rushing touchdown, while Greene has nine red zone carries to Sankey’s one.
Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, footballguys.com, profootballfocus.com, and fantasypros.com.
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