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Four Quarters: Few owners cash in with Brown

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Thanks to the marketing department at shipping conglomerate UPS, the world will forever be haunted by the slogan, "What can brown do for you?"

Up until Sunday I honestly didn't think many Americans gave a hoot. But now the Colts and Fantasy Football owners have an answer to the riddle.

Third-year running back Donald Brown rushed for a career-high 161 yards, including a game-clinching 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, giving us a pretty good idea what Brown can do for you.

"I think the world of him, as a football player, more as a person," quarterback Dan Orlovsky told reporters of Brown. "He is a guy I feel gets better with every carry. He starts to run better as the game goes on. His eyes, I think get better. I don't know how to play running back, but I feel when he gets the touches he can make plays. He continues to do that."

But up until 2011 the former UConn standout and 2009 first-round pick has been more of a Fantasy bust than boom. Plagued by injuries and uninspiring play, Brown entered this season third on the depth chart behind Joseph Addai and rookie Delone Carter.

Brown didn't even get a carry this season until the fifth game against Kansas City, when a hamstring injury befell Addai. If it weren't for that injury, then Brown still might be meddling in obscurity.

Brown still had to wait patiently behind Carter, but once the rookie started experiencing fumbling issues, Brown struck when the iron was hot and hasn't looked back.

Orlovsky's former teammate at Connecticut averaged 4.8 yards per carry in October, 4.6 yards per carry in November and is now averaging 5.9 yards per carry in December. He also has a rushing touchdown in five of his last nine games.

Durability has been Brown's key to success this season. Being able to stay off the trainer's table has allowed Brown to finally live up to his potential and become a complete package for the Colts and Fantasy owners.

First Quarter -- Surprises of the Week

Matt Ryan was just the second quarterback in the last nine games to throw multiple touchdowns against the Jaguars ... Michael Vick was just the fourth quarterback this season with 20-plus Fantasy points against the Jets ... Cam Newton was just the second quarterback with 20-plus Fantasy points against the Texans, joining Drew Brees ... C.J. Spiller racked up 28 Fantasy points against a Miami defense yielding 12.7 Fantasy points per week to running backs ... Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert combined for three rushing touchdowns against a Baltimore defense that allowed a total of six rushing touchdowns to running backs in its first 13 games ... Reggie Bush continued his remarkable December with a career-high 203 rushing yards against Buffalo. He now has 406 rushing yards in three December games and just might end up being the key to many Fantasy championships this year. That's just weird to say ... Who would have thought that the week Adrian Peterson returns to the lineup is the week Toby Gerhart gets his first career multi-touchdown game ... Only 12 percent of owners started Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey during his career-best performance (155 yards) against Detroit, who have allowed only four receivers to surpass 100 yards this season ... Browns rookie Greg Little finally had the breakout performance (131 yards) we have been waiting for all season ... Brent Celek took advantage of a Jets secondary missing safety Jim Leonhard to lead all tight ends with 156 receiving yards Week 15 ... Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez also took advantage of a secondary in distress as Broncos safety Brian Dawkins was out Sunday due to injury. That freed up Hernandez to finish with 19 Fantasy points against a defense coming into Week 15 yielding just 5.3 Fantasy points per week to tight ends.

Second Quarter -- Duds of the Week

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Matt Hasselbeck became just the second quarterback, joining rookie Blaine Gabbert, to record less than 10 Fantasy points against the Colts this season ... Eli Manning stunned his Fantasy owners with a three-interception, no-touchdown performance against Washington. He had less Fantasy points than Caleb Hanie, Dan Orlovsky and Jake Locker, who played less than seven minutes in the fourth quarter ... Many Fantasy owners started Texans backup running back Ben Tate as a No. 3 Fantasy running back or flex option in Week 15 against a beleaguered Panthers run defense yielding 24.1 Fantasy points per week to running backs. Tate rushed for a disappointing 26 yards on seven carries ... Marion Barber followed up his 108-yard rushing performance in Week 14 with 33 yards on the ground in Week 15 ... Brandon Jacobs cooled off after three straight strong Fantasy performances to rush for no touchdowns and 33 yards against Washington ... Kevin Smith returned from an ankle injury in Week 15 to face one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL. He managed just 43 rushing yards against a Raiders defense yielding 21.2 Fantasy points per week to running backs ... Percy Harvin finally settled down, and it surprisingly came against a Saints defense yielding 23.5 Fantasy points per week to receivers ... Jordy Nelson stepped into the starting lineup in place of the injured Greg Jennings. Nelson responded with two Fantasy points in a loss to Kansas City ... The Bucs' Mike Williams has been bad this year, but he hit a new low with no targets Saturday against Dallas ... Falcons veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez saved his worst performance (one Fantasy point) for when owners needed him most.

Third Quarter -- Injury Report

Bengals rookie receiver A.J. Green played through a Grade 3 sprain of his right shoulder Sunday. He needed a cortisone injection to make it through the game against St. Louis, but Green said afterward that he won't let this injury keep him out the last two games ... Bills receiver Steve Johnson suffered a groin injury late in the game Sunday against Miami ... Giants tight end Jake Ballard suffered a knee sprain on his only reception in Week 15. He tried to play through it, but was unable.

Fourth Quarter -- Early Look Ahead

Most of the games in Week 16 will be played on Christmas Eve (Saturday), so keep that in mind before taking a break for the holidays ... Thanks to the Giants loss to the Redskins and the Eagles rout of the Jets, the NFC East race is interesting again. Left-for-dead Philadelphia still has a chance for the playoffs if it can knock off division rival Dallas in Week 16 and the Jets can defeat the Giants. That would make Week 17 very interesting ... Arizona at Cincinnati isn't a marquee matchup, but both teams are still clinging to playoff hopes. Although, this could be a defensive battle since neither team has scored more than 24 points in its last seven games ... Oakland at Kansas City also has playoff implications for the wild AFC West ... San Diego at Detroit has the makings to be the game of the week. San Diego has won its last three games and hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 16 points in four straight games. Detroit has struggled defensively in the second half of the season, allowing 27 or more points in six straight games. This could be a quarterback duel between Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford ... The Monday night game in Week 16 is an NFC South showdown between Atlanta and New Orleans. The Falcons will head to the Superdome looking to avenge an earlier overtime loss at home this season to the Saints.

Overtime -- Q & A

I've got Marshawn Lynch, however, next week he's at San Francisco. Do I keep him in or plug in Felix Jones (vs. Philadelphia) or Rashard Mendenhall (vs. St. Louis)? --Ben Robles (Facebook)

MH: I understand your dilemma. The Eagles and Rams are two of the worst teams in the NFL against the run, allowing 19 or more Fantasy points per week to running backs, while the 49ers are stout against the run and have yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season.

Lynch rushed for just 33 yards and no touchdowns on 13 carries against the 49ers in Week 1. However, he has been a different running back since then. He has a rushing touchdown in all but one of his last 10 games. And in the game he didn't rush for a score, Lynch had a receiving touchdown. That's 10 games in a row with a touchdown.

The only back I would entertain starting over Lynch is Jones, who is coming off consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. However, he has no touchdowns in either game and has lost two fumbles.

Despite the tough matchup, I will not be the guy that tells you to bench Lynch, who has 10-plus Fantasy points in nine of his last 10 games.

I have a decision to make in my championship game in Week 16. Choose one of these three running backs: Frank Gore vs. Seattle, Beanie Wells vs. Bengals or Michael Turner vs. Saints. --John Schmitt (Facebook)

MH: I'm going with Turner. He hasn't scored in his last two games against New Orleans, but he rushed for 96 yards in their earlier matchup this season and has had less than 61 yards just once in six games against New Orleans since he joined Atlanta.

Turner also has four rushing touchdowns in those six games and the Saints are yielding 17.9 Fantasy points per week to running backs this season. The Seahawks and Bengals are allowing 16.4 or less Fantasy points per week to running backs.

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
Bears sign DE Austen Lane
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Bears have signed defensive end Austen Lane, Pro Football Talk reports.

Lane will fill the roster spot of defensive end Willie Young, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Lane was with the Bears during the preseason but didn't survive the final cuts. He's managed three sacks in 30 career games.


Cardinals' Thomas starts practice 'shaky,' finishes 'pretty strong'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians indicated that Week 17 starting quarterback Logan Thomas was "shaky" at the beginning of Wednesday's practice but finished "pretty strong" as he developed an understanding of where to throw his passes, ESPN.com reports.

"He's worked, fundamentally, extremely hard and gotten much better," Arians said. "But putting those fundamentals to use in the offense, that's two totally different things."

Thomas has just three days of practice before facing the 49ers in a game that has the possibility of landing his team with a first-round bye with a win and help from other results.

"It wasn't the greatest, but as it went on, it got better and better," Thomas added. "It just comes with reps and comes with time."

The Cardinals are a 6-point underdog in San Francisco Sunday.


Seahawks' Russell Okung, Max Unger practice Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung (lung) practiced in full Wednesday, while center Max Unger (ankle) was able to return to practice in a limited fashion.

Okung is on track to return in Week 17 after missing last week's game with a bruised lung. Unger hasn't played in any of the team's last five game due to a high ankle sprain. The Seahawks will earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win Sunday, and it's possible Unger suits up for the crucial game.

The Seahawks are a 12 1/2-point favorite at home against the Rams in Week 17.


Raiders QB Derek Carr practices Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was able to practice Wednesday despite dealing with an illness.

"I got here early to work out and see how I would feel during that and after that and I felt pretty good," Carr said at a press conference Wednesday. "So, felt good at practice today, obviously not 100 percent but it felt good to practice and be out here."

Carr has been able to start every game for the Raiders this season, completing 58.6 percent of his passes while racking up 3,112 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Raiders are a 14-point underdog in Denver in Week 17.


Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman practices in full Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman was able to practice in full Wednesday for the first time since suffering a left foot injury on Nov. 9, ESPN.com reports.

"We've had a chance to watch him all week, participate and he's obviously further ahead than he was this time a week ago," head coach John Fox said after Wednesday's practice. "And the fact we're on grass, not on Astroturf, lot of variables, but I like what I see."

Hillman has been able to practice in a limited fashion during the last two weeks but hasn't been active on gameday since the injury occured. The Broncos are a 14-point favorite at home against the Raiders in Week 17.


Falcons RB Steven Jackson (quad) expected to miss Week 17
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Falcons running back Steven Jackson (quad) is not expected to play in Sunday's Week 17 matchup with the Panthers, ESPN.com reports.

Jackson missed practice Wednesday and the team promoted running back Jerome Smith from the practice squad. Jacquizz Rodgers and Devonta Freeman are expected to share the workload in the critical regular-season finale if Jackson is indeed sidelined.

The Falcons are a 4-point favorite at home against the Panthers.


49ers RB Carlos Hyde still sidelined
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) 49ers rookie running back Carlos Hyde missed practice again Wednesday with an ankle injury. He sat out Week 16 and appears likely to miss Sunday's game against Arizona, too.

With Hyde out, veteran Frank Gore went off for 158 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries against San Diego. Gore should see another big workload against the Cardinals.


Michael Crabtree doesn't sound eager to return to 49ers
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Impending free-agent receiver Michael Crabtree was asked Wednesday if he wants to return to the 49ers next season. "It depends," Crabtree said, per the San Francisco Chronicle. "I don't even want to talk about it."

Crabtree is finishing up a disappointing season. He's played every game but has only 64 catches for 657 yards and four touchdowns, a far cry from the 85 grabs, 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns he put up in his last full season, 2012.


Ravens LT Eugene Monroe bothered by ankle injury
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Ravens starting left tackle Eugene Monroe, who hurt his ankle Week 16 against Houston, missed practice Wednesday, reports ESPN.com. His status is uncertain for the regular-season finale at Tennessee.

If Monroe can't play, undrafted rookie James Hurst likely would start, the website said.


Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (shoulder) unable to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe, who sprained his shoulder in last week's loss at Pittsburgh, was unable to practice Wednesday, reports ESPN.com. Bowe leads Chiefs wideouts with 57 catches for 724 yards.

Kansas City hosts San Diego on Sunday as a 3-point favorite.


 
 
 
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