It was another solid week from the rookies. I think the best news is that most of the guys are healthy and playing again now. Health is a major concern at this point of the season (just ask the Bears), so that’s a major plus. The top guys continued to produce, other than Dalton. The one negative is that the weather is starting to become a factor. This can often negatively affect passing stats. We saw that in the Ravens/Browns game this week.
On a side note, good luck to all of you in the fantasy football playoffs. I’m sorry I haven’t kept up the fantasy football article. I’ll try to do one this week, but have been busy with holiday stuff recently. Either way, good luck. On to the rankings.
1. Cam Newton QB Carolina Panthers (Last week #2)
Newton is back in the #1 spot. He had a monster game this week. He finished with 204 passing yards, 54 rushing yards and 4 total TDs. He also caught a pass for 27 yards. The best news is that he went another game with no turnovers. Plus his team won their second straight game. Newton has zero turnovers in the games that Carolina has won. Every game they have lost he’s turned it over at least once. So, it’s pretty obvious what he needs to keep doing. The most amazing thing about Newton is that he leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns. You heard that right. He has 13 rushing TDs and the next best is LeSean McCoy with 12. That’s pretty amazing. He’s already set the record for rushing TDs in a season by a QB.
2. DeMarco Murray RB Dallas Cowboys (Last week #1)
Murray drops a spot this week. Some of it was his fault, some of it was not. The Cowboys absolutely have to get him the ball more. Sure he only averaged 3.2 yards per carry, but he only got 12 carries. That’s simply not enough. The Cowboys lost the game to the Cardinals and I have to believe they regret not giving the ball to Murray more. Romo had a very solid game, but they still should have run the ball more. Look for more production from Murray this week against the Giants.
3. A.J. Green WR Cincinnati Bengals (Last week #4)
He’s finally passed his teammate in the rankings. Green had a very solid game against the Steelers. I can’t say the same for the rest of his team. Green finished with 6 receptions for 87 yards and a TD. He also ran the ball once for 15 yards. Green is getting close to 1000 yards on the year. He also has 7 TDs. He’s clearly the best playmaker on his team. There’s not much doubt about that.
4. Andy Dalton QB Cincinnati Bengals (Last week #3)
Dalton has not been quick as effective in the last 4 games. His Bengals have lost 3 of the last 4. Granted the 3 losses were to Pittsburgh twice and Baltimore, but those are the teams the Bengals need to beat. He didn’t turn the ball over against Pittsburgh this week, but he needs to make more plays. His 45.8% completion percentage is way too low. As is his 5.6 Y/A. Both of those numbers represent very little production in the passing game. The Bengals schedule gets easier now with games against St. Louis and Arizona on the horizon. So if Dalton can turn it around and hold onto a wild card spot, that would be a great accomplishment for his rookie year.
5. Roy Helu RB Washington Redskins (Last week #6)
Roy had another great game this week. He ran the ball 23 times for 100 yards and a TD. His receiving skills also continued as he caught 4 balls for 43 yards. Helu now has 456 rushing yards and 309 receiving yards. He’s proven to be a very versatile back. I’d say he’s been well worth the 4th round pick the Redskins used on him. In fact, I think he’s clearly the second best rookie running back right now. Hopefully Shannahan doesn’t do anything stupid and let’s him play the rest of the way.
6. Christian Ponder QB Minnesota Vikings (Last week #7)
I can’t totally blame Ponder for the Vikings loss this week. He did throw 2 interceptions and lost a fumble. 3 turnovers is too much for any game. And one of the interceptions was a pick six. However, he did throw for 381 yards and 3 TDs. His yearly QB rating is up to 76.6 after 2 consecutive good games. He’s providing a spark for the Viking for sure. He certainly needs to cut down on his turnovers, but I love his potential.
7. Torrey Smith WR Baltimore Ravens (Last week #5)
Torrey didn’t have a great game this week. He only had 1 catch for 32 yards. However, the conditions were bad and Flacco was even worse. So, I can’t totally blame him. I’m expecting a big rebound this week against the Colts. If he doesn’t have a monster game this week, he’s going to drop big time in the rankings next week.
8. Julio Jones WR Atlanta Falcons (Last week #9)
Julio had a nice rebound game. He caught 6 balls for 68 yards. However, the last drive showed that he still needs a lot of work. First he ran a deep pattern and failed to rush back to the line of scrimmage. This cost the Falcons at least 5 seconds. Next he ran out of bounds before catching a pass and was called for an illegal touching penalty. Finally he dropped what would have been a game tying TD pass as time expired. Jones has immense talent, but the Falcons drafted him to make these big plays and not to screw it up.
9. Mark Ingram RB New Orleans Saints (Last week #11)
Ingram is slowly getting better and better. He appears to be the Saints feature running back when they want to pound the ball. Sadly, he has no role in the passing game. And the Saints LOVE to pass the ball. So, his value is always going to be a little limited. However, he runs really hard and like to inflict punishment on his opponents. Ingram had 16 carries compared to 4 for Sproles and 2 for Pierre. He scored a TD and led the team with 54 rushing yards. Ingram still doesn’t break a lot of long runs. However, he very rarely gets stopped before getting at least a yard or two.
10. T.J. Yates QB Houston Texans (Last week unranked)
Yates had a more than solid first game. He finished with 188 yards and 1 TD. His completion percentage was pretty poor at 48%. However, he won a game against a quality opponent. He certainly did enough to warrant the starting job for quite some time. I like Yates potential because he has a strong arm and a superb running game. This should help him out tremendously. The Texans has a really easy schedule ahead too. He’s not a superstar, but there’s no reason he can’t lead the Texans into the playoffs.
11. Greg Little WR Cleveland Browns (Last week #8)
Little didn’t do a whole lot this week. He only caught 3 balls for 18 yards. However, the weather was terrible and he was facing a very tough defense. I still like Little’s potential. The Browns just don’t have a lot of talent on offense. So, that makes it much hard for Little to really showcase his skills. If the Browns can get their offense turned around, I could see Little becoming a very solid starting receiver.
12. Daniel Thomas RB Miami Dolphins (Last week #17)
Thomas moves up quite a bit this week. A lot of that is because most of the rookies ranked from 10 to 17 didn’t do much this week. Thomas had his best game since week 3. He ran the ball 13 times for 73 yards. That was the good news. The bad news is that Reggie ran for 100 yards again and got almost all the carries when the game actually mattered. Thomas does have over 500 rushing yards on the season now. Assuming he averages around 50 yards per game, he’ll finish with over 700 rushing yards. Not bad for a rookie who missed 3 games and was the second running back on his team.
13. Doug Baldwin WR Seattle Seahawks (Last week #10)
Baldwin didn’t do much of anything this week. He finished with only 1 catch for 21 yards. Baldwin continues to ride the inconsistency train. Baldwin should get some chances with Sidney Rice out. It is really up to the Seahawks quarterbacks to get him the ball. He definitely has a future, I just think it’s more as a #2 or #3 receiver.
14. Titus Young WR Detroit Lions (Last week #14)
Young was off to a solid start on Sunday night. He had 2 catches for 60 yards before he was benched. He drew a personal foul penalty early in the 3rd quarter when the Lions had driven the ball all the way down to the 1 yard line. He barely saw the field after this play. Now, I’m not saying he didn’t deserve to be benched. And I’m not saying he wasn’t really stupid. However, why do the Lions pick and choose who they punish? Stefan Logan and Brandon Pettigrew both had penalties that were just as bad. However, neither of them were benched. Jim Schwartz is a complete moron in my opinion. Either way, I think Young has a bright future as a slot receiver.
15. Blaine Gabbert QB Jacksonville Jaguars (Last week unranked)
Gabbert showed signs of life this week. He had his best game since week 5. It still wasn’t a great game, but it was certainly better than what we had been seeing. Gabbert has 3 easy games left, so he needs to show significant improvement over the remaining 4 games. If he does not, he could find himself back on the bench for next year.
16. Kendall Hunter RB San Francisco 49ers (Last week #12)
Hunter had a pretty poor game. He ran the ball 5 times for only 4 yards. He did catch 2 balls for 24 yards, which was nice. However, he really wasn’t very productive at all. I have been hoping that Hunter would break out one of these days. Unfortunately, he seems to be going the other way. Hunter hasn’t had more than 40 rushing yards since week 5. I still think there is some potential there, but Gore is healthy and Hunter is not a major part of the offense right now.
17. Randall Cobb WR Green Bay Packers (Last week #16)
Cobb wasn’t much part of the offense this week. That’s a little discouraging since Rodgers threw for 369 yards. However, he continues to make an impact on special teams. He’s currently 7th in the league in kickoff return average and punt return average. He’s one of only six players to have over 1000 total return yards. Green Bay really struggled in the return game last year, so it’s been a big help for them to have Cobb this year.
As you can see, it was another solid week for the top players in the rankings. However, the bottom players continued to struggled a bit. The two players to drop from the rankings were Denarius Moore and Patrick Peterson. Moore sat out another game this week. He needs to get healthy quickly. Peterson only had 1 punt return for 1 yard. He did make an impact on defense, but this list has never been about defense.
Look for the top players to continue to dominant this week. Newton, Murray, Green and Dalton all seem to be pretty consistent at this point. All of them have very bright futures in the NFL. Ranks 5 through 9 are all very solid players. They all have a chance to become really good. What they lack right now is consistency. The players from 10 on all seem to come and go. One week they’ll go off and then the next week they’ll do absolutely nothing.
The last few weeks of the season are always very important for rookies. At this point they are all pretty comfortable with their systems. The last few weeks give them a chance to go into their sophomore seasons on a high note. This can make a big difference in their career paths.
I hope everyone has a great week.