The 3M Report: Week Twelve

Jeff Haverlack


Welcome to the week twelve edition of the 3M report.

By week twelve, things usually begin taking shape for the NFL playoffs.  Instead, outside of a few teams, we have a bit of a quagmire in multiple divisions.  I’m not sure whether to call this league parity or the have and have-nots as it feels like some teams just aren’t competitive, while during other weeks the games are hotly contested.

How is it that the NFC South, sporting the Saints, Falcons and Panthers don’t have a single team above .500?  The NFC is led by the underrated Arizona Cardinals at 9-2.  I can’t decide if they are truly underrated or, again, that the competition isn’t up to historical standards.  That said, the Cards are fresh off a loss in Seattle, who seemingly have their swagger back on defense.  I’m anxious  to see Logan Thomas get a shot at quarterback but don’t expect we’ll see him unless the injury bug bites.  The continued fade of Michael Floyd is noteworthy.  With Larry Fitzgerald’s unpalatable contract in 2015, what will the Cards do?

Often times when writing this piece, I’ll simply sit at the computer and take notes as the Red Zone channel spins me from game-to-game.  By the end of the second slate of games, along with one sore neck from craning to watch the action, I have a framework from which to complete the article. Today, however, I set upon a new method of enjoying the day – from the comfort of my couch with good ol’ fashioned technology, a pen and a notepad.  I simply jotted down notes from the day’s games as they unfolded, notes which would jog memories and conjure thoughts.  Running a fantasy football site as we do here, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the wash of multiple screens, Twitter storms and various other technological leashes that tie us to scores, news and notes.  This was the first day in many years that I felt like a fan again, rear end firmly affixed to my couch and enjoying Sunday as I used to.

What in the heck was Matt Stafford thinking? I haven’t heard any commentary of his fourth down scamper as of yet, but I fully expect to.  Needing ten yards for a first down, Stafford ran left toward the sticks and slid down a yard short, certain to have made a first down should he had have lowered his shoulder or even turned it back to the inside.  He simply just shut it down and gave up.  The Lions were soundly beaten by the Patriots and there was little hope of staging a comeback, but the message sent shouldn’t be well received.  Across the field, the agile mind of Belichick again was able to shut down his opponent’s greatest threat, holding Calvin Johnson to four receptions for 58 yards.  As expected, Golden Tate picked up the slack, but there simply wasn’t any offensive consistency for the Lions.  And let there be no mistake, as if there is any confusion about this fact – Bill Belichick doesn’t care what a player has done yesterday, it’s all about today.  Case in point:  Jonas Gray.  After running for over 200 yards and four touchdowns last week, Gray’s cell phone died and he was late for a team meeting on Monday, being turned away from the facility when he arrived.  The response was a zero-touch workload on Sunday.  Instead, freshly reqacquired LeGarrette Blount played the Jonas Gray role, rushing for 78 yards and two touchdowns.  Hope you enjoyed your day in the sun Mr. Gray.  The forecast for the weeks to come is mostly cloudy.

Josh Gordon is from another planet.  The Browns look like a different team with him on the outside.  Just back from suspension, if you thought there was any rust to be knocked off, it sure didn’t take long to do so.  Gordon was targeted a team high 16 times, converting on eight of them for 120 yards.  Despite the productive day, Gordon did commit one gaffe when he didn’t go up to challenge for a high pass, instead allowing it to be intercepted.  With his athleticism and ability to high-point balls, lack of effort like this shouldn’t be accepted – that can be the difference between a win and a loss in a one-and-done scenario.  Browns fan should be happy to have Gordon back, nonetheless.

I feel badly for the Falcons because they’re simply terrible.  As I wrote recently, I think head coach Mike Smith is one of the nicest coaches in the league, but he’s certain to be done following the season.  In fact, I think the entire Falcons’ front office is made up of quality people and I have high regard for owner Arthur Blank.  The defense is in shambles and the offense badly misses the presence of Tony Gonzalez but the real issues exist on defense, as they don’t have one.  There’s a lot of work to be done here.

I was happy to see LeSean McCoy have his second best rushing performance of 2014 by posting 130 yards and a touchdown.  The Chip Kelly offense is all about pace and number of plays and McCoy’s role has changed from what he became accustomed to.  But, he’s quietly averaged roughly 21 rushes per tilt and while he’s not finding the end zone as often, he’s still a productive young back.  Stick with hin.  Speaking about youth, Jordan Matthews looks like he’s going to be a great receiver for a long time.  He’s only 22 years of age, has an outside chance of eclipsing 1,000 yards as a rookie and has solidified himself as a starter, all in his rookie year.  We knew 2014 was going to be a good year for rookie receivers, but we didn’t know it was going to be as good as it is turning out to be.  Matthews was likely taken toward the bottom of the first round in many rookie drafts and that’s looking like a steal.

As a person, I love Norv Turner.  I always have.  When I was a huge Cowboy fan, he just seemed to be perfect for the job.  He’s not fiery, at least not publicly.  He’s a quiet thinker, a strategist …. likely pragmatic to a fault.  And dare I say the league has passed him by.  I’ve never had trust in Turner’s ability to win the big game and he always seems to pull the horns in when they should, instead, be brandished.  The NFL has turned into a quick-twitch, fast-paced and even more up-tempo game and away from Turner’s strengths.  I simply don’t feel that he has the necessary mindset to be successful again.  I will give credit to the Vikings for hanging tough against the Packers on Sunday, falling by the score of 24-21.  Teddy Bridgewater looked about as he has.  His odd sling-type release seems to be more pronounced to me and the ball doesn’t arrive to the receiver as is typical from stronger armed quarterbacks, this much is obvious.  That’s not to say that he can’t be successful, but I wonder if the offense is going to need to be designed more around him.  Again, I’m not sure this is something that Norv Turner can accomplish.  And I’m not sure Head Coach Mike Zimmer can get it done either.  Time will tell.  And when do we start panicking about Cordarrelle Patterson? He’s not getting better and his targets are dropping.  Could it be that he’s just not dynamic enough as a receiver to get into a position to catch the ball?  He’s ultra-dynamic as a runner, but a receiver must excel at route-running to get the ball into his hands.

Well, it’s about time to turn out the lights on Trent Richardson.  He looks slow, indecisive and single-dimensional.  It’s more than obvious Richardson’s lack of running ability is well understood by the coaching staff.  Daniel “Boom” Herron out-rushed Richardson, though Trent did score a short touchdown.  The gamble has failed and it’s time to fold.

What are the Broncos going to do in the off-season?  They have three running backs and it appears as though C.J. Anderson has the most ability for the offense being run.  After piling up another 167 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, there is simply no reason for Anderson not to be the full-time starter when Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball return.  In fact, it may be that one of them will be a trade candidate during the off-season.  Montee Ball is still young and the running back position doesn’t carry the contract premium it once did.

Let me wrap up with a name that was a hot topic this past week:  Duron Carter.  The receiver, who also just happens to be the son of Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, is playing in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the Montreal Alouettes.  Carter has been receiving NFL interest of late and there’s talk that he’ll sign his first contract early in 2015.  Still the property of the CFL, Carter cannot formally commit until 2015, but can hold discussions following the completion of the CFL season later this month.  Carter, who is 6’5″/205 lbs. has flashed major ability for the Alouettes, scoring seven touchdowns on the year to go with 75 receptions and 1.030 yards.  This week, however, the Alouettes were eliminated from the playoffs.  And for the second game in a row, Carter had a sub-par game, this time hauling in three receptions for 25 yards.

The emergence of Duron Carter highlighted the free agency acquisition process of many a fantasy league, including a couple I participate in.  Carter was undrafted out of college, put in time at a couple NFL camps before ultimately being released and signing in the CFL.  As it sits currently, Carter isn’t even eligible to sign in the NFL. But as he has been through the NFL process, should he be available for immediate free agency acquisition within your league?  Much like Chad Johnson or any other number of athletes that are now playing in the CFL, are they not, too, available immediately to any team for addition?  Tread carefully with situations like this and use this example to test your rules and policies.  It’s not cut and dried and each commissioner should give this situation special attention before it’s too late.  As a commissioner of a dynasty league, you must determine when players are available to be added to a roster, whether they exist in the player database or not and under what circumstances they are not.  While Carter’s situation is rare, that is not to say similar situations will follow.

Follow me on Twitter: @DLF_Jeff

jeff haverlack