NFL Week 13: What Have We Learned?

Dan BentonCorrespondent IDecember 3, 2008


1.  You cannot predict the Baltimore running game.

If you were to tell fantasy owners during the preseason that Joe Flacco would be a better gamble than Willis McGahee, you would have gotten a lot of strange looks.

McGahee, after all, was the undisputed feature back, and Baltimore gave up a lot to obtain him from Buffalo.  Just a few weeks ago, McGahee looked like he would be, despite a threat from Ray Rice, the feature back to stay after a 25-carry, 112-yard game. 

Since then? 

Week 11: Nine carries for 18 yards; Week 12: Seven carries for 8 yards; Week 13: No carries.  Sure, McGahee has been struggling with an ankle injury, but McGahee did not even play a down.  Meanwhile, one cannot predict whether Le'Ron McClain or Ray Rice will receive the bulk of the carries.  For now, it appears to be McClain, who has rushed for over 80 yards in each of the past two weeks, but Rice's 21-carry, 154-yard performance in Week Nine cannot be far from the Baltimore coaches' minds. 

McClain is your best bet now, but Baltimore's situation is exactly why drafting handcuffs is so important in today's fantasy game.

2.  Cleveland's fantasy situation is a net loss now.

Brady Quinn—done.  Derek Anderson—done.  Braylon Edwards—huge disappointment.  Kellen Winslow—potentially done. 

Yes, Cleveland's situation is very dire.  About the only dependable Cleveland player is Jamal Lewis, but it is worth noting that Lewis's season-high rushing total in a game is 88 yards in Week Six. 

Now, with both Quinn and Anderson done for the season, it is hard to imagine that Edwards or Winslow (if he comes back) will have any fantasy impact for the rest of the season.  Edwards was not exactly playing inspired football when Quinn and Anderson were under center, so can anyone convince themselves that Edwards will step it up at any point this season with Dorsey at the helm? 

Fantasy owners cannot even depend on kicker Phil Dawson, who has only 12 FGs and nine XPs.  In other words, stay far, far away from any player with a CLE next to his name.

3.  Tony Gonzalez is a sure thing.

Everyone knows Gonzalez is a fantastic player and one of the best TEs ever.  That did not stop some from thinking Gonzalez could struggle to crack the top five for TEs this year, behind Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Dallas Clark, Kellen Winslow, and Chris Cooley or Tony Scheffler. 

In part, there was some concern about Gonzalez's age, but mostly, the concerns were over Kansas City's offense and its QB situation, both of which looked extremely bleak.  Gonzalez has certainly provided no doubt that he is one of the top three, and perhaps there should be no doubt that he is actually the top TE in fantasy football. 

The numbers are stunning:  73 receptions for 806 yards and six TDs.  Ever since Tyler Thigpen took over as QB, he has looked for old reliable, and the old man has responded in a big way, catching at least five passes every game since the Week Seven bye week and topping 90 receiving yards in four of those weeks.  Gonzalez is playing with a real vengeance right now and is about as sure a thing as any fantasy player.

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