Another week has nearly come to a close here in the NFL and with it, as per usual, has come another batch of story lines to examine. In Whooley’s Weekly Words , I, Bruno Boys Whooley , tackle just a few of the more interesting items to catch my eye from the weekend. This week, I’ll be discussing the return of Alex Smith, the rise of Miles Austin, and the running of Shonn Greene.
A Second Chance for Smith
Being a long-time San Francisco 49er fan , I can tell you with certainty that up until yesterday, the name Alex Smith was one met with disdain by Niner fans far and wide. Selected first overall by the Niners back in the 2005 draft, Smith was supposed to be the franchise savior, the man who would turn around the mess that the Niners had become in the early 2000s. However, heading into 2009, thanks to a quarterback rating of just 63.5 in 32 games played, it wasn’t even certain that Smith would be back with the team. After all, Shaun Hill was winning games—the wins may not have been pretty, but fans were just happy to be able to mark some tallies in the win column and Smith was due a hefty sum. Perhaps sensing that no other team would be interested, Smith reworked his contract to remain in the red and gold.
A quarterback battle ensued and despite improved play from Smith in the pre-season, Hill came out on top. In essence, the situation could not have worked out any better for Smith. Being in a back-up role, Smith was free of pressure just waiting in the wings until his chance came, and on Sunday, that chance presented itself.
With Hill lobbing up lame duck after lame duck to the tune of just 45 yards on 6 of 11 passes, head coach Mike Singletary , seeing a need to spark a fire in his team which was trailing 21-0, put Smith into the line-up. Smith came out ready to play. Showing zip on his passes that Niner fans hadn’t seen in some time, Smith demonstrated a nice rapport with WR Michael Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis, helping him to post 206 passing yards, three TDs, and one INT. When all was said and done though, Smith couldn’t bring the comeback to completion as the Niners lost, 24-21. Nevertheless, Smith’s play should make him the team’s starter moving forward and who knows, perhaps savior is next to come.
Fantasy football is all about what have you done for me lately. As such, many fantasy owners may have forgotten about Miles Austin heading into week seven as the Cowboys’ wide receiver (because they were on a bye), but he had 10 catches for 250 yards and two scores in week five against the Kansas City Chiefs . Austin though made sure he quickly reintroduce himself.
Thanks to his stellar week five outing, Austin worked his way into the Cowboys’ starting line-up and based on his week seven play, we think it’s safe to assume he’ll be staying around as the starting wide out. He notched six receptions for 171 yards and two TDs Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Cowboys have been looking for a go-to-guy all season long since parting ways with Terrell Owens this past off-season. Roy Williams, who was supposed to occupy that role, has failed to live up to expectations with just 230 receiving yards and one TD on the year. Austin now looks to be that guy. And in being that guy, Austin not only boosts his own fantasy value but, also that of QB Tony Romo and TE Jason Witten .
In the 6’3 214 pound Austin, Romo now has a big target that he can simply heave the ball up to with success. Don’t believe us? Well, before Austin established himself this season, Romo had just one fantasy performance of 20+ points in four games. Since Austin has risen his game, Romo has gone for 20+ fantasy points in back-to-back outings. As for Witten, the stud tight end has seen constant double teams throughout the 2009 season, which has resulted in less than studly numbers as he has yet to reach double digit fantasy points in any contest. If Austin is able to continue his play, the double teams will fade, allowing Witten to return to solid TE1 status.
With both Leon Washington and Thomas Jones ahead of him on the depth chart, playing time was few and far between for the Jets’ 2009 third round pick; running back Shonn Green. In fact, Greene rushed the ball just eight times during that span for a total of only 31 yards. As a result, no one was exactly naming him a “Rookie of the Year” candidate. However, experts agreed that the rookie runner had talent.
In football it’s all about getting an opportunity and running with it and that’s exactly what Greene did this Sunday. In the first quarter of the Jets match-up with the Oakland Raiders, Leon Washington fractured his fibula; a season ending injury. Taking over Washington’s duties, Greene rumbled to 144 yards and two scores on 19 carries. Considering the rookie’s yard per carry average was a phenomenal 7.6 yards per carry, it’s safe for fantasy owners to assume that the running back will see a solid work load the rest of this season as he’ll be the No. 2 to Jones’ No. 1 on New York. For fantasy purposes, he should be considered a solid flex option.
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