Week 14 surprises
It was Jerry Rice's last home game as a member of the 49ers and a vision of how short Cade McNown's tenure as a starting NFL quarterback would be. I was amazed by the relative ease with which Owens piled up receptions against soft Chicago coverage. As a Chicago native, the sole consolation I could take out of the game was that I received a cool flip book of the Joe Montana-Dwight Clark "Catch."
On Sunday, we watched Brandon Marshall of the Broncos make short reception after reception against the Colts. Marshall finished the game with 21 receptions for 200 yards and two five-yard touchdowns.
Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton performed nicely in this game, operating the offense efficiently. Orton passed for 277 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and three sacks. He's averaging 223.4 passing yards per game and has thrown twice as many touchdowns as interceptions this season.
Mike Bell was inactive for Sunday's game, and we expected to see a ton of carries for Pierre Thomas. Thomas did post a solid effort, but Reggie Bush was the story of the day out of the backfield. Bush carried the ball six times for 33 yards with six catches for 46 yards and two touchdowns. He emerged from Sean Payton's doghouse to score twice, points that were likely left on most fantasy owners' benches.
Dallas Clark was a red zone beast against the stout Denver pass defense. The cornerbacks did a fine job containing Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, but there was no answer for Peyton Manning's trusty tight end. Clark caught five passes for 43 yards, three of which put him in the painted grass. He now has eight touchdown receptions this season and needs 98 receiving yards to reach 1,000 for the year.
Jamaal Charles was my "lock of the week" for Week 14, so I'm certainly not surprised that he provided a strong effort against Buffalo. However, I didn't expect to see him amass 181 total yards with one touchdown on 27 touches. Charles has now scored in five consecutive games while averaging 114 total yards.
The Texans turned to Ryan Moats early in the demolition of Seattle. He carried the ball 10 times for 43 yards and scored on a four-yard run. He then lost a fumble and ceded carries to Arian Foster. It appears that Foster will be the lead back going forward.
Were we surprised that Andre Johnson torched the Seahawks for 11 receptions, 193 receiving yards and two touchdowns? No. I just didn't think he'd have wreaked that much havoc before halftime. Seriously, Johnson caught just one pass for nine yards after the break.
John Carlson ranks among the biggest fantasy disappointments this season. He did, however, provide the lone highlight for the Seahawks in that embarrassing loss to the Texans. Carlson caught three passes for 24 yards and scored for only the second time since Week 1.
Carolina receiver Steve Smith scored early on a 41-yard pass from Matt Moore and finished the game with two grabs for 83 yards. Smith hasn't dominated this season, but he's scored four touchdowns in his past five games and has topped 75 receiving yards in three of his past four starts. He'll face off with Antoine Winfield on Sunday night when Carolina faces Minnesota.
The Bears took another loss in Week 14, and Jay Cutler tossed two more interceptions. I'm still trying to get the image of the second pick out of my head. With Devin Hester sidelined, Cutler needed other receivers to step up and make plays. Speedster Johnny Knox caught five passes for 83 yards while Devin Aromashodu racked up eight catches for 76 yards. We all know about Knox, but Aromashodu likely earned himself additional looks with a strong performance. He's a fourth-year player out of Auburn who can make plays downfield (he was mighty intriguing in the preseason). Standing 6-foot-3, Aromashodu will be auditioning for a role in 2010 down the stretch.
Jason Campbell posted another solid effort against the Oakland pass defense. The Raiders have been sieve-like against the run (I'll get there in a moment), but have been solid against opposing quarterbacks for the most part. Campbell passed for 222 yards with two touchdowns and three sacks.
Second-year tight end Fred Davis caught three passes for 50 yards, including two touchdowns, in the blowout win over the Raiders. Davis has scored in three consecutive games and has caught multiple passes in seven straight.
Quinton Ganther was a popular waiver pickup in Week 14, and he delivered in a big way. Ganther carried the ball 14 times for 50 yards with two touchdowns, adding three receptions for 43 yards. He'll be front and center again in Week 15 against a Giants defense that has lost its identity.
Finally, the Philadelphia defense and special teams ended up turning in one of the top Week 14 performances among all players and positions. They scored two touchdowns — one on a fumble recovery and one on a DeSean Jackson punt return — and generated four turnovers. Domenik Hixon's fumble at the end of the first half might have been insignificant in the game overall, but fantasy owners were sure happy to pick up another two points.