From the Film Room - Week 12
by Sigmund Bloom
November 21st, 2012

Every week, I'll review every play of three games to give you the underlying storylines and points from beyond the box score that you need to get an edge in your fantasy league. This week, we'll focus on the NFC South:

Green Bay Packers / Detroit Lions

Observations on Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers certainly disappointed his fantasy owners, but a strong defensive performance by the Lions front seven and unimaginative game plan made him very conservative in this game. His offensive line did him no favors by exposing him to a pass rush too often. His accuracy and improvisation abilities were still there, but there was nothing coming open downfield (even the touchdown to Randall Cobb was "throw it up and see if Cobb can go get it" type of play). Rodgers was never comfortable, but if the Packers go back to a more pass-heavy attack and fewer runs on first and second down, he should improve.

The coaches didn't sound too happy with James Starks, but he didn't look too much different than Alex Green has to my eyes. He ran hard with good leg drive and some burst to the outside, but the offensive line got little to no push all day. He was better on pitch and stretch plays running outside of the tackles, but only marginally. Starks broke multiple tackles and won some collisions, so I wouldn't fault him too much for the struggles of the running game. The reality is that this rush offense won't get going with Cedric Benson, although he might not return until week 17 or even the playoffs.

Maybe it was just the conservative gameplan, but Randall Cobb looked like a clear number one target for Aaron Rodgers. Early, he got a carry and target out of the backfield, and then was the focus of the passing game on short routes. Rodgers leaned on him in the two-minute drill, and Cobb did a great job keeping the offense viable while the running game sputtered. The game-winning touchdown was the kind of arcing 50/50 ball a quarterback would throw up for Calvin Johnson. Cobb backed under it like it was a punt, and just made a much better play on the ball than either Lions defender in the area.

I wouldn't trust Jermichael Finley's one-week resurgence. The touchdown came on a busted coverage, and his long catch-and-run happened when three Lions defenders somehow could not bring him down at the sideline. He still looks nothing like the unstoppable player he was at the beginning of 2010.

Observations on Detroit

Matthew Stafford got off to a slow start because of drops from a myriad of receivers, and never had any sustained success on this afternoon after that. He overthrew Calvin Johnson open deep twice after he hit him deep to get the offensive going. Stafford made a terrible decision on his first interception, and the second one was on him and Tony Scheffler combined because of a poor throw and drop. His touchdown to Johnson should have been picked as Stafford lived dangerously all day. The Packers put more pressure on him as the game went on, although Stafford was able to make a few nice throws to give the team a chance to go up 10 points late in the game. The playcalling in the red zone was weak, and they settled for a field goal, putting the Lions up six, and vulnerable to a Packers touchdown. Stafford wasn't as bad as his numbers suggest, but he wasn't good either.

Mikel Leshoure was cutting sharply and getting a lot of runs out of the shotgun formation. He ran hard in the red zone which gave him a first-half touchdown, and he also found a few escape routes to the outside as the game went on. Leshoure still stuck mostly to north-south running and was reasonably effective on the day. The Lions did make the error of giving him two carries on goal-to-go downs even though they weren't really close enough for the runs to work.

Calvin Johnson got open deep often enough to have a 200+ yard day with at least another touchdown. He had a few drops early, but by the end of the game, Johnson was dominating in the passing game and seeming to deserve a "Randy Ratio" share of the targets. Since his knee started acting up, Johnson has been the best wide receiver in fantasy football.

Titus Young's struggles were well-known after the game, but during the game, lining up in the wrong spot and mouthing off about not getting the ball were the least of his troubles. He failed to get open on a quick slant in the end zone that forced the Lions to settle for a field goal late, and he also had a drop on a key back shoulder throw. Wonder how much the Lions regretted taking Young over Cobb two years ago after this game?

Tony Scheffler might be a sneaky pickup for Rob Gronkowski owners. He had a drop on a poorly thrown ball behind him that resulted in the Packers' pick six, but he also got a ton of targets, including one catch inside of the five-yard line. Scheffler was getting open and Matthew Stafford was looking his way. Success wasn't there most of the time, but targets will lead to fantasy points if they keep coming for Scheffler. Brandon Pettigrew continues to make meek plays on the ball in flight and after the catch, so Scheffler may offer more than he does in an offense without a true #2 receiver.

Cleveland Browns / Dallas Cowboys

Observations on Cleveland

Brandon Weeden didn't really look much better than he did in his week 1 debacle against the Eagles. He was off all day, mostly high, and he didn't exhibit good pocket presence or willingness to stand tall the few times the Cowboys did get pressure on him. He should have been picked three times, including twice deep in his own end in the second half. He lost a fumble deep in his own end that could have lost the game, but Tony Romo obliged with one of his own. Weeden looked more comfortable in the two-minute drill than he did at any other point in the time, and he did respond with a good touchdown throw to Ben Watson after the Browns got the ball back in the last two minutes in great field position. Overall, this was the kind of performance that will make the new regime in Cleveland more likely to feel like the quarterback position is not solved.

Trent Richardson gave the Browns everything he had. He fought hard on every run and absorbed a lot of punishment. At first, he found a lot of room to run inside, but those holes shrunk as the game went on. His hands was sure as a receiver out of the backfield, and Richardson was fast and elusive in space. The Browns correctly built their offensive gameplan around Richardson, and he and the pass rush almost did enough to get the win on the road. Montario Hardesty also had good feet and a great burst on a few of his runs to spell Richardson. We shouldn't completely write him off in dynasty leagues if he can stay healthy.

Not only did Greg Little not drop any passes, he skied twice for high Weeden tosses and made excellent hands catches. With improved play from Weeden, his dynasty stock could rise soon. Josh Gordon wasn't involved in the deep passing game, but he did set a career high in catches on some short and intermediate routes like quick slants. He didn't show great my ball mentality and bobbled one of his catches, but Gordon is still probably ahead of schedule considering that he had a year away from football. Ben Watson showed good ball skills as he too went high for a Weeden pass early in the game for a touchdown. He also ran tough after the catch, but did have a drop in the red zone. Jordan Cameron got two end zone targets, including one on fourth down with the game on the line. He made a great catch on it, but he was out of bounds.

Observations on Dallas

Tony Romo was all over the place with his accuracy early, then he was all of the place trying to elude constant pressure for most of the rest of the game. He did come alive in overtime and made the downfield throws in the second half to wake up the sleeping Cowboys team and home crowd. Romo and Dez Bryant were getting a very good thing going in the second half, as Romo was delivering the ball on time on short routes, letting Bryant have great run after catch opportunities. That opened up the deeper routes, which eventually resulted in a long touchdown. Bryant also just missed a 50/50 ball deep that would have made his career-high in yards even higher.

While Bryant has emerged as the number one receiver as of late, Miles Austin did his part in this one, especially in overtime. He wasn't running many downfield routes, but he was effective on slants and helped keep the Browns defense off balance. Kevin Ogletree got banged up late in the game, and Dwayne Harris ended up drawing two big pass interference calls in his place, including one that gave the Cowboys the chance to tie the game in the last minute. Harris also had a punt return in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.

Felix Jones is quietly getting on track, showing good quickness, decisiveness and strength on his runs. The Cowboys offensive line was manhandled, but holes were opening up draws and delayed run. Jones broke a few tackles and ran very tough at the goal line to get his touchdown. Lance Dunbar also displayed a nice burst and leg drive in overtime to help the Cowboys on the game-winning drive.

Jacksonville Jaguars / Houston Texans

Observations on Jacksonville

Blaine Gabbert got off to a nice start with a few timing throws, then got on the elbow, fumbled, and left the game. Chad Henne came in and wasn't nearly as good as his stat line suggests he was. He was almost picked right away, then settled down and got in a groove throwing downfield to Justin Blackmon. He followed up his next near pick later in the game with a long throw to Blackmon that he turned into a touchdown when the Texans couldn't tackle him. Henne still can't put any touch on short throws and missed a key third down because of it, but later one converted one in overtime with a good decision and throw. Overall, it was a very uneven performance, but bad tackling in the Texans secondary and a nice catch on a high ball by Marcedes Lewis gave Henne some amazing numbers. The Texans were back to looking like the hapless pass defense they have been in the past with Johnathan Joseph banged up.

Jalen Parmele played like a third-string back. Hungry, but not very talented. He ran strong with choppy steps and his shoulders always squared to the line of scrimmage. There was no subtlety about his style, and Parmele often ran with his head down, bracing for contact. He didn't generate enough power to score on his goal line carries, but he did have the stamina to break off a long run in overtime to set up a game-tying field goal. He'll be an adequate flex until Maurice Jones-Drew returns.

Justin Blackmon finally attacked the ball in the air the way he did back at Oklahoma State. His big day started by snatching a low ball without breaking stride and turning it into a long gain. He had a gorgeous twisting leap for a touchdown that he couldn't secure after rolling on the ground, but more than made up for it with multiple deep catches, strong running after the catch, sticky hands in traffic, and the quintessential "my ball mentality". This is exactly what the Jags were picturing when they moved up to take him fifth overall, it just took a quarterback who was willing to throw downfield and give him a chance to make plays, keeping him engaged and playing hard for the entire game.

Marcedes Lewis was given a chance to use his "above the rim" skills on his first touchdown, but otherwise was not a big part of the pass offense. Still, his involvement in the red zone later on a play action touchdown is encouraging. Cecil Shorts only got targets within 10-15 yards of the line of scrimmage, but he broke a tackle and eluded a linebacker downfield to somehow score again. It's clear that he's a secondary receiver, but until he stops producing, he's worth a WR3/flex play. Laurent Robinson looks like just as big a free agent bust as Robert Meachem. He isn't making strong plays on the ball in the air, and dropped a pass that could have kept a key drive going.

Observations on Houston

Matt Schaub reminded everyone that he can sling it in a wide open offense with the best of the them in this game. Early on he feasted on a Jacksonville defense that was overplaying the run. Play action passes were wide open all over the field, like taking candy from a baby. Schaub had an interception on a miscommunication and the Texans were behind in the fourth quarter. He responded by completing 17 in a row once Houston went to a spread offense. His rhythm, field vision and accuracy were outstanding, although Jacksonville's poor secondary deserves an assist. Schaub is still only a high floor backup fantasy quarterback, but the Texans might have discovered a new dimension to their offense to use when opponents aren't expecting it in the playoffs.

Don't get worried about Arian Foster's stat line. He had a terrific burst on his decisive cuts and found was what there most of the day. There were a few ankle tackles from behind that prevented big plays, and Foster had a slight stumble on a goal line carry or he would have scored. He was stacked up by a stout Jacksonville front when he got three straight goal line carries and had a fumble on a big loss that had him going backwards, but Foster still had a ton of energy in overtime and does not appear to be wearing down in the least bit. Justin Forsett was a nice change of pace with his quickness and pace through the hole. He looked like the dynamic back he was back in Seattle for a bit for the first time since he joined the Texans.

Andre Johnson caught three passes for 74 yards on the first three plays of the game and only seemed to get better from there. If he has lost anything from his heyday, you could not tell it in this game. He actually could have well over 300 yards if it wasn't for a good pass breakup and a drop on two well-placed deep balls. He was playing edge and getting open with ease. Johnson is back to being a player you never bench. Keshawn Martin flashed some nice speed and moves on some very big returns in this game, although it bears pointing out that punter Bryan Anger paid off on his third-round price tag by tracking down Martin in a spot that most punters would have easily failed. The tackle prevented a touchdown and the Jaguars got a huge interception on the very next play.

Garrett Graham made a splash, but not until the second half. He moved very well on two long seam route catches, and also took a big hit to make a catch during the Texans comeback. He grabbed both of his scores on play action passes, so it doesn't seem like he has become a primary option around the goal line, but you have to be encouraged by this performance if you own Graham in a deep dynasty league.

As always, thanks for reading. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome to bloom@footballguys.com.

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