Well, this week was a tad disappointing after last week. The injury bug has officially hit the NFL. Several big name players got banged up this week, including rookies Julio Jones and A.J. Green. Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel may be out for the year. Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee both got hurt and Moreno is out for the year with an ACL tear. Roethlisberger broke his thumb. Vick broke his ribs. Stafford broke a finger. Frank Gore continues to get nicked. It was a super tough week.
With all that said, we did have some quality performances from rookies. And we have a new number 1 on our rankings. That’s right, Cam Newton has been replaced. Some may argue that the Cam still deserves the top spot. However, I feel like the new number 1 is very deserving. Without further ado.
1. DeMarco Murray RB Dallas Cowboys (Last week #4)
To put it mildly, DeMarco Murray is hot. His last four games are for the ages. If you counted only his last four games, he would be 13th in the NFL in rushing. So, in four games he’s rushed for more yards than Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall, Beanie Wells, Chris Johnson, Ahmad Bradshaw and DeAngelo Williams (okay you get the point) have for the whole season. His yards per carry over the last 4 games is 8.0. His yards per carry on the season is 6.7. That’s more than a full yard higher than the next best RB that has 100 carries or more. Perhaps the most encouraging news is that even though Felix Jones is supposedly coming back this week, Murray is officially the starter. Plus the Cowboys are 3-1 with Murray as their starter and 2-3 when he’s not. This kid is good. Crazy thing is that his cards aren’t that high yet. A lot of that is because he’s not a short print in any product. This is a guy who can really help move products because he’s super easy to get. As good as Newton is, it is very difficult to get autographs of him. This makes a huge difference.
2. Cam Newton QB Carolina Panthers (Last week #1)
Cam finally looses his place atop the rankings. He wasn’t terrible this week. However, he certainly wasn’t good. It was his second worst game in terms of QB Rating. It was also his second worst game in terms of passing yards. Plus, it was his first game this season without a rushing or passing touchdown. He’s still having a great season. He still ranks 7th in passing yards with 2 guys ahead of him not having had their bye yet. His QB Rating is 84.0 which is still very respectable for a rookie. The biggest problem I have is that his team is 2-7 and got absolutely destroyed this week. As I’ve said before, it’s not all his fault. But, losing a game at home to the 4-4 Titans 30-3 isn’t going to help him. The Panthers absolutely have to be better if his cards are going to maintain their value.
3. Andy Dalton QB Cincinnati Bengals (Last week #2)
Dalton drops a spot this week thanks for Murray. He had an okay game, but not great. The good news is that he kept his team in a game against Pittsburgh. The bad news is that he threw 2 picks and wasn’t quite good enough to help his team win. He completed only 50% of his passes and needed 30 passing attempts to get to 170 yards. He did have 2 nice TD passes. Let’s hope that A.J. Green is healthy or Dalton could be in trouble. The schedule doesn’t get any easier this week with a game at Baltimore. He does still has the Bengals in a decent position to make the playoffs.
4. A.J. Green WR Cincinnati Bengals (Last week #3)
Green only had one catch, but made it count. It was a great reception in triple coverage that went for a touchdown. The bad part about it was he hyperextended his knee and had to leave the game. Initial reports seem to think he’ll be fine for this week. Assuming that’s true, I don’t see him dropping any further than 4th for the rest of the year.
5. Julio Jones WR Atlanta Falcons (Last week #5)
Jones had another hamstring problem this week. He only had 1 catch for 9 yards before he had to leave the game. And he did drop a touchdown pass. However, I’m leaving him at number 5 because we’ve all seen what he can do when he is healthy. If he sits this upcoming week, I’ll have no choice but to drop him. For now, he stays at number 5.
6. Kendall Hunter RB San Francisco 49ers (Last week #10)
Hunter moves up to 6 for two reasons. Number one is that he scored his 2nd touchdown on the season and led the 49ers in rushing. Number two is that Gore is banged up and may be limited (or not play at all) this week against Arizona. Hunter has more than shown he is capable of carrying the load at running back. He’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry which is actually a tad higher than Gore. He definitely has some talent and just needs more time to show it off.
7. Denarius Moore WR Oakland Raiders (Last week unranked)
Moore had a huge game on Thursday night against the Chargers. And with Jacoby Jones out, he should be in line for more action. The last two games with Carson Palmer at the helm have been very nice for Moore. He has 9 catches for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns over the last two games. I like Moore’s potential for the remainder of the season. For the year he has 396 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. Not bad at all for a guy most people wrote off.
8. Blaine Gabbert QB Jacksonville Jaguars (Last week #9)
I moved Gabbert up one spot this week. He had one of his better games so far this year. He only threw for 118 yards, but that was actually his highest total in the last four games. His QB Rating of 77.1 was his best since week 5. Maybe these numbers tell you how bad Gabbert has been, but at least it’s improvement. Plus the Jaguars got their 3rd win of the year. Gabbert certainly isn’t playing great, but he’s keeping the Jaguars in games and giving them a chance to win. He only has 7 turnovers through 8 games. His completion percentage is still below 50%, which is awful. Hopefully he’s getting a little better each week and will get his numbers up by the end of the year.
9. Greg Little WR Cleveland Browns (Last week #11)
Little had his best game of the year. He still hasn’t scored on the season, but he finished with 6 catches for 84 yards. He’s been a solid contributor all year long. He’s not doing anything spectacular, but he’s been solid. He has at least 2 receptions in all buy 1 game and at least 4 receptions in all but 3 games. I like his productivity for a team with a young QB and serious turmoil at RB.
10. Torrey Smith WR Baltimore Ravens (Last week #8)
I dropped Torrey just a tad this week. He had an okay game, but he hasn’t been much of a deep threat the last few games. He has been a little more consistent lately with 3 or more receptions in 5 straight games. I still like Smith in the long run, but I think the next few games will be a little rough for him. I imagine the Ravens are going to get back to pounding the ball with Ray Rice. They only ran the ball 5 times with Rice and they lost to the Seahawks. I expect that will change this week. The glimmer of hope is that the Bengals lost Leon Hall for the year, so Smith might find some openings against the Bengals this week.
11. Roy Helu RB Washington Redskins (Last week #7)
In perhaps the strangest move of the NFL season, Shanahan inexplicably started Ryan Torrain instead of Helu. Torrain did absolutely nothing and was replaced by Helu. Helu then proceeded to carry the ball 6 times for 41 yards and caught 3 balls for 13 yards. We can only hope Shanahan realizes it was a dumb move and goes with Helu this week. Helu is somehow 11th in receptions among RBs even though he’s played significantly less snaps than the majority of RBs in the league. Helu is a legit threat and needs to get more opportunities. Honestly, what do the Redskins have to lose?
12. Christin Ponder QB Minnesota Vikings (Last week #6)
It’s hard to fault Ponder too much for the game last night. Let’s face it, the Vikings never really had a shot. With that said, he did nothing to improve their chances. He threw an interception and was sacked 3 times. He also completed less than half his attempts. His QB Rating was an abysmal 52.3. Again, I don’t totally fault Ponder, but he needed to do more. Green Bay had looked weak against the pass coming into the game. Just last week Rivers threw for 385 yards and 4 touchdowns. So, I was hoping for a little more out of Ponder. Plus it was the 2nd time Ponder faced this defense in a month. It was obvious that Green Bay made better adjustments than Ponder did.
13. Titus Young WR Detroit Lions (Last week #15)
Young had a very nice game this week. He had 7 receptions for 74 yards. He’s still wildly inconsistent, but the potential is definitely there. Calvin sounds like he is okay, but if he happens to miss time, Young could be in for a big game. The Lions need to start winning again so that Young can potentially make an impact later in the year.
14. Doug Baldwin WR Seattle Seahawks (Last week #12)
Baldwin had only 1 catch for 50 yards this past week. I’ll give him a pass since he played against the Ravens and because he got hurt. If he’s healthy, he could be big in the next few weeks as Sidney Rice got hurt as well. We’ll see in practice if either of them are ready to play this week. I’m guessing they both will be, but you never know.
Baldwin STILL has no cards. Absolutely amazing.
15. Randall Cobb WR Green Bay Packers (Last week unranked)
Cobb moves back onto the list with a very nice punt return TD. It’s becoming more and more clear that Cobb is a very explosive returner. He may not ever amount to a star in the passing game, but he’s destined to be a star on special teams. He did set his career high with 3 receptions and had his 2nd most receiving yards. However, Finley, Nelson, Driver, Jennings, James Jones and Starks all seem to be ahead of him in terms of targets. So, it’s going to take an injury or two for him to become an integral part of the offense.
16. Mark Ingram RB New Orleans Saints (Last week #13)
Ingram came back from injury this week. I’m not sure if that was a good or a bad thing. He finished with 11 rushing yards on 8 carries. Not good. I don’t know if he wasn’t completely healthy or if he just had a bad game. But, this is not what the Saints were hoping for when they drafted him in the 1st round. His lack of explosiveness is really starting to become an issue. Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles have been much more effective so far this year.
17. Daniel Thomas RB Miami Dolphins (Last week #17)
Thomas was very similar to Ingram this week. He also came back from an injury. And just like with Ingram, I’m not sure if that was a good or a bad thing. He rushed 17 times for 42 yards. He continues to be outplayed by Bush. If Thomas doesn’t get his act together, the Dolphins are going to stop giving him chances. Thomas is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry so far and is not a part of the passing game. Compare that to Bush who is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and is a very big part of the passing game. In addition to all of this, the Dolphins have won the last 2 games and nearly won the 2 before that since Thomas has been displaced by Bush. Not good signs for Thomas.
I hate to say it but this was not a very productive week for rookies. DeMarco Murray was really the only rookie to have a really good game. Injuries hurt Jones and Green this week. Newton, Dalton, Gabbert and Ponder all had okay weeks at best. We did get some production from a few of the lower tier rookies like Denarius Moore and Kendall Hunter. However, guys like Ingram and Daniel Thomas have been big time disappointments so far. Honestly they are both staying on the list because of their potential only.
Delone Carter and Patrick Peterson dropped out this week. Carter continues to be out-played by Donald Brown. That’s not exactly what you want to hear about a rookie. Peterson was a guy who had a great special teams game last week, but was never a huge threat to move up the rankings.
Vincent Brown had a nice game for the Chargers and could move into the rankings with another game or two like that. I thought that Jonathan Baldwin might be heading toward the rankings, but he regressed big time this week and now has lost his QB for the forceable future. Overall, the rookies have still been very solid this year. We still have four QBs starting and that’s a great thing. And he’s a potential sleeper for you. T.J. Yates on the Texans could become their starter if Matt Leinart is not effective. Kubiak seems to like Yates. Plus it is looking more and more like the Texans will win their division. If Yates ended up playing well in a playoff game or two, he could shoot up the list super fast.
Have a great week everyone. Enjoy the Thursday night game.