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Four Quarters: Didn't count on Smith

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Driving to work Sunday morning I imagined the possibilities another glorious day might have presented.

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I was hoping boxer Manny Pacquiao finally got tired of all the jabs Floyd Mayweather's camp has directed at him and accepted Mayweather's challenge for arguably the fight of the decade.

I was hoping that something would spark the United States' diminishing economy and there would be a glimmer of hope for this country getting back to normalcy.

And for the love of all that is human, I mean it's been way too long since Kim Kardashian has cluttered my news feed with her monumental life decisions. It's not like I need to be reading about news that actually affects my everyday life.

But one thing I didn't account for Sunday was oft-injured running back Kevin Smith deciding have to career resurgence this late in the season.

"I think the NFL will be hard-pressed to find a better story than Kevin Smith today," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said after Smith torched the Panthers for a career-high 140 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards and three total touchdowns. "This is a guy who has a lot of talent but has been set back by injuries. The talent didn't go anywhere. He looks a little different in that No. 30, but I think we will keep that on him for a while."

It was a bit of an odd surfacing for Smith, who was signed prior to Week 10 and has spent the last weeks mostly working with the third-team offense. But kudos to the 1 percent of Fantasy owners in CBSSports.com leagues who gambled and started Smith -- Week 12's Fantasy running back leader with 38 points (standard formats).

Watching Smith on Sunday brought back flashbacks from his rookie season (2008) in Detroit, when he rushed for 976 yards and eight touchdowns. Unfortunately, Smith had trouble staying healthy the following years. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2009 and didn't recover his previous burst before ending up on season-ending injured reserve again in 2010 with a thumb injury.

Smith was unemployed this season until Detroit came a calling, largely in part to the uncertain situation facing Jahvid Best, who hasn't played since suffering his second concussion of the season Week 6.

Well, Smith might have just solved Detroit's rushing problem, and with another strong performance on Thanksgiving against the Packers, the Lions could finally feel comfortable putting Best on injured reserve.

All that is left for Fantasy owners this week is to decide whether or not to put a waiver claim in for Smith or Toby Gerhart, who is in line to see significant carries in Minnesota if Adrian Peterson (ankle) is sidelined.

First Quarter - Surprises of the Week

What has gotten into Matt Moore? The Dolphins quarterback has a pair of three-touchdown games in November, totaling six touchdowns and one interception this month ... Chris Ogbonnaya became just the third running back this year to rush for 100-plus yards against the Jaguars, joining Rashard Mendenhall and Arian Foster ... LeGarrette Blount also became just the third running back to rush for 100-plus yards against Green Bay, joining Willis McGahee and Adrian Peterson ... Cedric Benson became the first running back to have more than one rushing touchdown in a game against Baltimore ... No one envisioned three of the Packers' offensive touchdowns Week 11 coming from B.J. Raji, Tom Crabtree and John Kuhn ... Nate Washington had his first 100-yard and multi-touchdown game this season thanks to rookie quarterback Jake Locker ... It took Roddy White, who was an early round Fantasy pick, 10 games to produce his first 100-yard performance of the season ... Kellen Winslow had his first 100-yard game in more than two years and was the first tight end to eclipse 100 yards against Green Bay this season ... Vernon Davis is getting back to Fantasy respectability with a score in two straight games ... Charles Clay's first career touchdown thrust him into the mix as a top 5 Fantasy tight end for the week.

Second Quarter -- Duds of the Week

John Skelton's two-game hot streak came to a screeching halt Week 11 with a three-interception performance against the 49ers that got him benched in favor of Richard Bartel ... Ryan Fitzpatrick threw up another dud, this time against a Miami defense yielding 20.3 Fantasy points per week to quarterbacks -- seventh-highest in the NFL ... Mark Sanchez became the first quarterback to fail to throw a touchdown against Denver this season ... Eli Manning came into Week 11 with four touchdown passes in each of his last two games against the Eagles, who were yielding 19 Fantasy points per week to quarterbacks, which was eighth-highest in the NFL. Manning completed half of his passes, turned the ball over twice and threw one touchdown ... Maurice Morris was activated in 51 percent of leagues for a matchup against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. But as we highlighted in the lead, Kevin Smith stole the spotlight and likely Morris' job ... Greg Jennings didn't even account for one Fantasy point against the Bucs ... Vincent Brown was one of the most added Fantasy players last week after opening November with nine catches for 176 yards and one touchdown. He was activated in 23 percent of Fantasy leagues and delivered one catch for 8 yards against Chicago ... It's an even worse story for Denarius Moore, whose starting percentage skyrocketed from 6 to 85. He totaled one catch for 14 yards against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL in Minnesota ... Brandon Marshall didn't record any Fantasy points against a Bills defense yielding 23.6 points per week to wide receivers, which was seventh-highest in the NFL.

Third Quarter -- Injury Report

During his big performance against the Chargers, Jay Cutler fractured the thumb on his throwing hand, which could keep him out the rest of the regular season. His injury might overshadow Adrian Peterson's ankle woes as the biggest injury news of the week ... Matt Hasselbeck suffered an elbow injury Sunday and watched rookie Jake Locker have success off the bench. However, Titans coach Mike Munchak squashed any speculation after the game by calling Hasselbeck his starter when healthy ... James Starks sustained a knee sprain against Tampa Bay ... Fred Jackson ended up with a calf injury against Miami, but X-rays came back negative ... Shonn Greene hurt his ribs early against Denver on Thursday, but he is hopeful of playing Week 12. He practiced on the side during the team's early session Monday ... Darrius Heyward-Bey had to be carted off the field after getting hit in the head against Minnesota, but thankfully had total movement in his limbs ... DeSean Jackson left the stadium in a walking boot Sunday, but has been diagnosed with a foot contusion ... Although he finished out the game Week 11 despite suffering a first-half elbow injury, it's worth keeping tabs on Jermichael Finley's status leading up to Week 12.

Fourth Quarter -- Early Look Ahead

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The Thanksgiving Day schedule has the makings of one of the best in history, so make sure to carve out some time on Turkey Day to watch Green Bay at Detroit, Miami at Dallas and San Francisco at Baltimore ... Arizona at St. Louis will feature two teams struggling to find an identity on offense. Perhaps the Cardinals and Rams DSTs will both be sleeper Fantasy options for Week 12 ... Philadelphia's upset of the Giants and strong defensive performance in Week 11 means the Eagles are players again heading into a Week 12 showdown with the Patriots ... The Giants will be looking to end a two-game losing skid, but they will have to go on the road to New Orleans for a Monday night showdown. We could see a lot of yards and points in this game, so make sure to get your Giants and Saints players active Week 12.

Overtime -- Q & A

Should I trade Carolina's Steve Smith for Michael Vick ? My other quarterbacks are Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer -- Richard M. (@CBSFantasyFB)

MH: I wouldn't. Smith is the third-highest scoring receiver (standard formats), and while he hasn't been great to start November, his remaining schedule is favorable. Left on the docket is Indianapolis, Tampa Bay (twice), Atlanta, Houston and New Orleans. Only the Texans rank in the bottom half of the league in Fantasy points allowed to receivers.

As for Vick, I know the potential, but you also get the injury headache. I think you can get by with Palmer, who faces Chicago, Miami, Green Bay, Detroit, Kansas City and San Diego the rest of the way. Only one team -- Detroit -- ranks in the bottom half of the league in Fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.

Please give your opinion of Earl Bennett and his potential impact for the remainder of season. --Eric Campbell (@CBSfantasynews)

MH: Obviously the injury to Cutler changes Bennett's outlook for the remainder of the season. Bennett's November rise has been because of his familiarity with Cutler dating back to their days at Vanderbilt. But despite Cutler's absence, I'm still not down on Bennett. Remember, he caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Hanie, who will replace the injured Cutler, in the NFC Championship game last year against Green Bay.

Looking at Bennett's remaining schedule, he will face the Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos, Seahawks, Packers and Vikings. Only one team -- Seattle -- is in the bottom half of the league in Fantasy points allowed to receivers. I'm optimistic that Bennett could finish the season as a reliable No. 3 Fantasy wide receiver, despite the absence of Cutler.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow us on Facebook. You can also follow Michael via Twitter @CBSHurc

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Player News
Eagles coach Chip Kelly: 'Everybody's in competition' for QB spot
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(11:10 am ET) Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez will actively compete for the top quarterback spot this season, per ESPN.com.

“Everybody’s in competition,” Kelly said, “and the best players play.”

Sanchez played in nine games for the Eagles last season, passing for 2,418 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Bradford missed all of last season due to an ACL tear.


Ravens DE Timmy Jernigan on replacing Ngata: 'Big shoes to fill'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:50 am ET) When the Ravens traded away Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata it shocked a lot of people, including defensive end Timmy Jernigan, according to NFL.com.

Jernigan will play a huge role as Ngata's replacement this upcoming season. 

"It's definitely something I've been waiting for for a long time," Jernigan said. "I've known I'm more than capable of doing the job. Now it's just a point of proving it. Last year, I showed flashes. You've got to be able to do it consistently day in and day out. It's huge shoes to fill."

Jernigan recorded 23 tackles and four sacks last season in 12 games as a rookie.


Ravens WR Steve Smith: 'I will not be playing until I'm 40'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:32 am ET) Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith has other things to do outside of the gridiron, and the 36-year-old has no plans on still being in pads when he's 40, per NFL.com.

Smith was asked this week if he had any desire to play into his 40s like the great Jerry Rice.

"Jerry Rice is obviously the greatest wide receiver to ever play, and I really don't have the family structure to chase 40, to be honest," Smith said. "I have got a lot of things on my to-do list that don't have anything to do with football. I'm going to take it day-by-day, but I will not be playing until I'm 40."

Smith, who's heading into his 15th NFL season, caught 79 passes for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns last season.


Bengals' Jeremy Hill expects balance attack with Giovani Bernard
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:20 am ET) The Bengals have weapons at the running back position. With Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, the team has a pair of more than capable rushers at its disposal.

It seems as if the Bengals are going to use both of them as much as possible, per ESPN.com.

"Obviously there's going to be a balanced attack," Hill said. "I don't think he's got to wear either one of us out, so that way we can make it through all 16 games for a playoff push."

Hill rushed for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns last season as a rookie, while injuries limited Bernard to 680 yards and five touchdowns. The duo plans on coming back even stronger next season.

"We want to lift ourselves to the next level and earn the respect of this league," Hill said. "We have the guys in the [running back] room to do that."


Giants QB Eli Manning is expecting best pro season next year
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:06 am ET) Giants quarterback Eli Manning is an accomplished 11-year veteran. There isn't much for the two-time Super Bowl MVP to prove, except that he will have his best season ever as a pro next year, according to NFL.com.

"I am," Manning said when asked if he was expecting his best season ever. "I like the guys we have in the locker room, I like our talent, I like how everybody's approaching this season, I'm looking forward to it."

Manning will certainly have the weapons at his disposal for a fantastic season. Wide receiver Odell Beckham, the 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year, is as talented a player there is. A healthy Victor Cruz will scare opposing defenses. And Rueben Randle has improved every season in the league. 

"I think he can have a dominant season," Cruz said. "I think that with the type of offense we have, and the way that we all can click come September and all that good stuff, I think it's gonna make for a very, very dominant type of offense where we could go and put up 28, 35 points at a clip, and really do some fun things this year."

Manning will have to try to eclipse last season's performance, when he threw for 4,410 yards and 30 touchdowns.


Packers QB Rodgers could have more control after play-calling change
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(9:44 am ET) Aaron Rodgers was at the helm of the league's highest-scoring offense last season, and he could now have even more control of that offense this season, per ESPN.com.

Rodgers, who won the his second NFL MVP award while helping the Packers score 30.4 points per game, will probably be more involved in every facet of the offense this year -- including some play-calling.

"He has," Packers quarterbacks coach, Alex Van Pelt, said when asked if Rodgers could call plays. "He could. Sure. Definitely."

The official play-calling duties are in the hands of associate head coach Tome Clements, after coach Mike McCarthy passed them down before last season. The switch is what can give Rodgers more freedom than ever when it comes to the play selection.

"I've always had a lot of freedom," Rodgers said. "It's just occasionally the personnel groupings restricts some of the checks you can make. But that's kind of a natural progression for a quarterback who's been in a system for a long time, if they can handle it to do more things. I have always liked a good starting point for a play, and then have the ability to get us in a better play if you can do it quickly and it’s clean."

Rodgers passed for 4,381 yards and 38 touchdowns in 16 games last season.


Falcons DT Jackson hires personal chef to lose weight, fit into defense
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(9:27 am ET) Falcons defensive tackle Tyson Jackson can sit back and relax after signing a five-year, $25 million deal with the team last season, but he's showing more dedication than ever.

Jackson, who currently weighs 318 pounds, hired a personal chef with the goal of slimming down to 305 pounds, per ESPN.com.

"I just started recently, and constantly, week by week, I want to trim down," Jackson said. "I got my personal chef at the end of March. I know Matt Ryan used her, and a couple Falcons in the past have used her, too."

Jackson wants to slime down because the Falcons' defensive schemes will be much different this year. Last season he was encouraged to be as big as possible because the team pictured him as a run-stuffer. This year's defense is a more complex version of last season's 4-3 scheme and it incorporates a lot of 3-4 principles, so Jackson's big frame isn't an ideal fit.

"Playing this 4-3 style of defense, there's no reason to be heavy because you're not two-gapping no more," Jackson said. "Everything is ball, key and get-off. So, that's pretty much the reason for [losing weight]."

Jackson started all 16 games for the Falcons last year and recorded 22 tackles.


Texans' Louis Nix 'trying to move forward' in sophomore season
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Texans nose tackle Louis Nix spoke about his lost rookie season this week in OTAs, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"A lot went on my first year here. It was a lot to deal with," said Nix, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery during the preseason and eventually was placed on season-ending injured reserve. "It was difficult to maintain it with all the issues. But I'm happy about now, and that's what I'm worried about. I'm just trying to move forward and do the best I can."

Coach Bill O'Brien expressed frustration with Nix earlier this offseason.

"Bill is Bill. He challenges everybody," Nix said. "Sometimes you guys make it more than what it is. … He wants guys to be better. I take no offense to it. I know he just wants me to be the best player that I can be. He sees potential, and I see it in myself. I'm starting to get back in a groove of things. I'm just going to keep trying to do the best I can."

Nix is finally healthy and working his way into game shape.

"Make it through a practice, man," Nix said. "That's my goal."


Eagles' Earl Wolff, Marcus Smith limited in OTAs with injuries
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Eagles safety Earl Wolff and linebacker Marcus Smith were limited in OTAs with injuries, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Wolff is recovering from knee surgery. Coach Chip Kelly said the safety has been cleared to return, and the team is waiting for him to reach full participation in OTAs. Smith has been dealing with a pulled leg muscle.


Packers' Casey Hayward dealing with foot injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Packers cornerback Casey Hayward is dealing with a foot injury and doesn't expect to return to action until training camp, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"I’ll probably take it easy into camp right now," Hayward said. "I have a minor foot thing right now. We’ll probably take it easy into camp."

Hayward said the foot "flared up" on him earlier in the offseason. He finished with 42 tackles and three interceptions last season.


 
 
 
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