Monday Night Musings: Gronk it up!
This column addresses some of the fallout from Sunday’s games and provides some notes into the Monday night action. This week, there are a few more significant injuries to touch on, a weird situation developing in the NFC East, and a couple standout Monday night performances to mention.
- The biggest injury news to come out of Sunday’s games (from a fantasy perspective) is either Adrian Peterson’s ankle or Jay Cutler’s thumb. We know now that Cutler is done for the next few games and possibly the remainder of the regular season, giving Caleb Hanie a shot in his stead. Many remember Hanie as the emergency QB who took over for a despondent Cutler during last season’s NFC Championship game and almost came back to beat the eventual Super Bowl Champion Packers. The Bears plan on running the ball a lot to compensate for his inexperience, but I’m not buying into this approach. The Bears have to throw the football to be successful, and throw the ball they will – regardless of who’s under center.
- The early word out of Minnesota is that Peterson will miss at least one game with a high left ankle sprain, since the MRI revealed some ligament damage. While it’s a Grade 1 sprain (the least severe), it’s tough to speculate how long Peterson will be out because of swelling and other factors. Toby Gerhart will be the top waiver wire add in most leagues this week.
- While it’s been a disturbing Monday for Peterson owners, the All-World Andre Johnson will likely be back for the Texans in their Week 12 tilt with Jacksonville. He’s proclaimed his hamstring good to go and barring any setbacks during practice this week, will be on the field (and hopefully in the end zone) on Sunday. It’s safe to drop Jacoby Jones now, folks.
- Fantasy owners counting on big games from Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrick (myself included) got a rude awakening from the Dolphins, a defense that’s come a long way since the first couple weeks of the season. Jackson was held to just 17 rushing yards but saved PPR leaguers with 5-50 receiving. Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, threw for just 209-1-2, repeatedly threw inaccurate passes, and saw receiver after receiver go to the turf with injuries. The Bills lost Donald Jones (out 3-6 weeks with an ankle injury) and David Nelson (who was vomiting during the game and missed a portion of the action while in the locker room), while Stevie Johnson (shoulder) played injured and contributed next to nothing (2-16-0) on offense. The Dolphins, on the other hand, played about as well as you could expect on both sides of the ball. They could be a major spoiler during the stretch run.
- It’s fairly obvious the Giants need a healthy Ahmad Bradshaw back – and soon. They’ve been careful thus far with him, but now that they’re in a tie with Dallas atop the NFC East, a spot where they held a two-game lead just two weeks ago, it’s crunch time. Brandon Jacobs is not a dynamic backfield option and doesn’t have the elusiveness of Bradshaw. It’s a predicament that makes the Giants offense a little too predictable, and keeps them from marching up and down the field with the alacrity they’ve become accustomed. Owners who needed a big game from Eli Manning were treated to a debacle of a performance (264-1-1, lost fumble) in what should have been an easy division win against an undermanned opponent. The latest on Bradshaw is still the old “wait-and-see” nonsense that’s characterized the past several weeks. And until he’s practicing and playing, he’s of no use to his team.
- Tom Brady and the Pats rolled through the Chiefs, although the first half was slow going. The Patriots won the game with a solid running attack, some well-timed throws and a defense that stepped up for the second straight week. Last week, the play of Rob Ninkovich and Andre Carter was the difference, and this time, they combined for 13 tackles, a bunch of hurries and 1.5 sacks, while inside linebacker Jerod Mayo made 11 total tackles and looks to finally be healthy.
- The Chiefs, on the other hand, simply kept themselves in the game with an effective slew of first-half blitz packages on defense. Tyler Palko seemed capable, but made a bunch of bad throws that resulted in picks, killing a few promising drives. I’d be wary of starting the lefty QB in any format (except maybe two-QB leagues), and even in the most desperate of situations.
- The Pats offense adjusted at the half with a bevy of useful substitutions at the skill positions (Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen ran well when BenJarvus Green-Ellis wasn’t dragging Chiefs tacklers 6-7 yards after contact) and with extra blockers like 6-8, 319-pound Nate Solder. The Pats 2011 first-round pick lined up as an extra tackle/TE and threw springing blocks on several key plays.
- Speaking of awesome blockers who can haul in a pass or two…Rob Gronkowski was a draft-day steal, huh? The guy continues to make enormous catches and is one of the best all-around TEs I’ve seen over the past three decades. He’s a great seal blocker and has excellent speed and agility for a man his size (6-6, 265). The two scores on Monday night – both great catch-and runs that he finished by diving into the end zone – put him at 10 on the season.
- Gronkowski (targeted seven times) has now reached 20 touchdowns in the fewest games (26) among tight ends in NFL history, and he’s tied with himself and a slew of other guys for 11th in the record books for most single-season receiving TDs by a tight end. The record is 13 – shared by Vernon Davis and Antonio Gates, who’s had at least 10 three times. With six games left, he stands a pretty good shot at breaking the single season record. He’s also racked up over 800 receiving yards. Had the dumb luck of finishing up a matchup with both Gronkowski and the Pats defense on Monday night, bolstering a lineup where I left out Nate Washington and Jabar Gaffney (started Maurice Morris at flex instead) and played Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of Josh Freeman. Sunday was not my finest hour, but Monday night was sublime. Hope the rest of you enjoyed that game as much as I did.
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