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Cullen: Griffin, Rodgers and unexpected stars in Week 6

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Scott Cullen
10/15/2012 3:17:28 PM
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RG III continues to impress, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers make a statement, Shonn Greene has a big game, the Ravens defence suffers significant injuries and more in Scott Cullen's Week Six Recap.

Just when you think you're starting to figure out the NFL season, with teams starting to differentiate between contenders and pretenders, while players differentiate between productive and not-so-productive, many teams and players came up with performances that were wholly unexpected after five weeks.

It's one thing for Aaron Rodgers to stake his claim to the quarterback crown once again or for Arizona's offence to struggle, because these are things we've come to expect, but there were other instances that qualified as more surprising.

Consider that, of the five running backs to run for more than 90 yards in Week Six, four have been largely ineffective (Shonn Greene, DeMarco Murray, Chris Johnson) or altogether afterthoughts (Felix Jones) prior to this week, with Ahmad Bradshaw's second straight 100-yard rushing game the only effort coming from a player that hasn't been maligned through the first five weeks.

At quarterback, aside from Aaron Rodgers throwing six touchdowns, the next in line with three apeice were Seattle's Russell Wilson, Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton with three. Dalton has been enjoying a productive season thus far, but the same can not be said of Wilson and Freeman, so their Week Six success was somewhat unexpected.

UNSTOPPABLE GRIFFIN
One week after suffering a concussion against Atlanta, Redskins QB Robert Griffin III was a dynamic force against Minnesota. Even though he passed for a modest 182 yards (completing 77.2% of passes) and a touchdown, Griffin also ran for 138 yards and two scores.

His ability to throw the ball gives value to Redskins receivers -- even if that seems to be a revolving door from week to week -- but Griffin's transcendant ability gives Washington a chance to be competitive every week and that's a rapid improvement from one rookie quarterback.

In fantasy terms, Griffin's ability to run makes him the most valuable quarterback, already leaps ahead of Cam Newton last year.

RUNNING WITH THE PACK
If there is another quarterback to stake a claim to the most valuable title, it would be Aaron Rodgers, who held the heavyweight title coming into the season after throwing 45 touchdown passes in 2011, but then the Packers offence started the season relatively slowly, with Rodgers throwing for 1299 yards and 10 touchdowns in the first five games.

By no means was that a terrible start, but it wasn't up to par with Rodgers' 2011 level and the Packers struggled to a 2-3 start going into the Sunday nighter at unbeaten Houston.

Rodgers responded with an epic performance, throwing for 338 yards and six touchdowns and even suggested himself that the game ought to silence his critics. True, it probably has silenced critics but, prior to the Week Six win over Houston, any objective observer was completely fair to comment that Green Bay's offence wasn't as productive as it had been last year.

With Rodgers apparently returning to the height of his powers, even while WR Greg Jennings remains sidelined, that means a lot of opportunities for Packers wide receivers. Jordy Nelson hadn't done much this season before putting up nine catches for 121 yards and three scores at Houston; James Jones has emerged as a playmaker, scoring two touchdowns in each of the last three games; and Randall Cobb just delivered the first 100-yard receiving game of his career.

AIN'T EASY BEING GREENE
After a strong opening week, when he ran for 94 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo, Jets RB Shonn Greene was a non-factor the next four weeks, averaging 30.8 rushing yards per game. That was the backdrop before he shredded the Colts for a career-high 161 yards and three touchdowns, carrying the ball a career-high 32 times on Sunday.

Greene's lack of productivity was making it look like Bilal Powell might have a chance to earn a more significant role, but Powell suffered a shoulder injury which will leave him out of the lineup for some time and Joe McKnight, the number three option, also left with an ankle injury. The upshot of all of this is that Greene has salvaged some value heading into divisional games against solid run defences at New England and at home against Miami over the next two weeks.

COWBOY UP
Dallas RB DeMarco Murray has struggled since rushing for 131 yards in Week One against the Giants, being held under 45 yards in each of Dallas' next three game,s but he rebounded against Baltimore Sunday, running for 93 yards on 14 carries.

Dallas' running game received a boost by Felix Jones finally getting more than one carry for the first time all season. In fact, Jones ran for 92 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

When it comes to the Cowboys' passing attack, consistency has not been the hallmark of WR Dez Bryant, but after 13 catches for 95 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season against the Ravens, Bryant now has 21 catches for 200 yards over the last two weeks.

RAVENS PAY A HEAVY PRICE
It would be easy enough to think that Dallas' successful running game was helped by Ravens ILB Ray Lewis suffering a triceps injury, but Lewis was in on 14 tackles before getting hurt, so his injury status plays a bigger role in the future. If an MRI reveals a torn triceps, Lewis would miss time in the middle of the Ravens defence. To the Ravens' credit, they can make do with Dannell Ellerbe joining Jameel McClain on the inside.

While Lewis' injury could be significant, the bigger loss, from a talent perspective, is that of CB Lardarius Webb, who suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season. Webb has been one of the top corners in football this season and Baltimore's secondary can ill-afford to lose their top cover man. Second-year CB Jimmy Smith would get first crack to replace Webb in the starting lineup.

RAIDER OF THE LOST ART
For years, the Oakland Raiders were stereotyped as the team blessed with deep speed wide receivers and while it's been a long time since the days of Cliff Branch, Denarius Moore may be a modern-day representative.

Moore had five catches for 104 yards against Atlanta, the fourth 100-yard game of his career and he has quickly become the Raiders' most reliable weapon in the passing game.

WILSON'S BEST
After all the preseason hype surrounding rookie Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, the early returns weren't so outstanding, but Wilson delivered his best game against New England Sunday, completing 16 of 27 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns.

It bears noting because the Seahawks have some capable receivers, including Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate, any of whom might have value if Wilson is going to provide consistent yardage in the passing game.

VIKINGS AERIAL ASSAULT
While the Vikings are benefitting from a sound running game, thanks to Adrian Peterson's quick recovery, they are much improved thanks to second-year QB Christian Ponder, who was forced to air it out Sunday when the Vikings fell behind Washington early. Throwing a career-high 52 passes, Ponder passed for 352 yards and tossed two touchdowns for the fourth time in the last five games.

Ponder's emergence has expanded the number of weapons in the Vikings' arsenal. WR Percy Harvin is already one of the game's most productive receivers -- his 603 yards from scrimmage ranks third among wide receivers -- and second-year TE Kyle Rudolph had a career-high six catches Sunday, scoring his fifth touchdown in six games this season.

Beyond Harvin and Rudolph, there is value in the deep receiver that lines up across from Harvin. For most of the season, that has been Michael Jenkins, who had six catches for 67 yards and a touchdown against Washington, while filling in for Jerome Simpson who, due to suspension and injury, has only contributed in one game thus far, yet remains an intriguing option whenever he gets healthy.

HARDENED STEEL
Pittsburgh's running game appeared to get jolted in Week Five, with the return of RB Rashard Mendenhall, but Mendenhall suffered an Achilles injury after running for six yards on six carries against Tennessee. With Isaac Redman also leaving early with an ankle injury, that left rookie Baron Batch, who scored a touchdown, but has jsut 22 yards on 10 carries.

The good news for the Steelers is that Mendenhall's injury doesn't appear to be serious, so he has a shot at playing this week at Cincinnati.

RUNNING RAMS
The Rams split their backfield duties at Miami Sunday, giving Steven Jackson 15 touches (80 yards) while rookie Daryl Richardson gained 99 yards on 13 touches. While Richardson isn't going to supplant a healthy Jackson, the rookie's emergence makes Jackson less appealing in fantasy circles because the workload is set to be shared more than in previous seasons.

BUSH HURTING
Dolphins RB Reggie Bush got off to a fantastic start this season, gaining 312 yards from scrimmage in the first two weeks, then adding 62 yards from scrimmage in a half of action in Week Three, when he suffered a knee injury.

Since then, Bush has managed 200 yards from scrimmage in three games -- Sunday's 17 yards on 12 carries was offset somewhat by five catches for 44 yards -- production which isn't at the level that the Dolphins need from their one gamebreaking offensive player.

RAMS CATCHERS
Having lost Danny Amendola to a shoulder injury last week, the Rams turned to their other wideouts more frequently against Miami. Brandon Gibson led the way with seven catches for 91 yards while Chris Givens responded to his starting nod with three catches for 85 yards.

EAGLE EYES
Eagles QB Michael Vick continues to struggle with consistency, so it's not surprising that this week's effort brought both good and bad to the table. He threw for 311 yards -- his third 300-yard passing game this season -- and rushed for a season-high 59 yards on nine carries, but it was also the third time this season that Vick threw multiple interceptions in a game.

 

The plus side to Vick's passing acumen is that WR Jeremy Maclin enjoyed his best game of the season, catching six passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, an indication that Maclin may be over the hip injury that had slowed him since Week Two.

MONTARIO HELPS TRENT
With Browns RB Trent Richardson suffering a rib injury against the Bengals, backup Montario Hardesty stepped into the lineup and provided 65 yards from scrimmage on 16 touches. It was Hardesty's most touches in a game since recording 35 against Seattle in Week Seven last season.

Richardson's injury doesn't appear to be serious, so he should still be good to go next week, but Hardesty is valuable backfield insurance.

BLOUNT STATEMENT
While Buccaneers rookie RB Doug Martin had a career-best 131 yards on 15 touches against Kansas City, it's also worth noting that Tampa Bay's LeGarrett Blount brought in 58 rushing yards and a touchdown in seven carries against the Chiefs.

The strong running game for Tampa Bay helped free up QB Josh Freeman, who passed for 328 yards, his second-highest total in 45 starts.

INJURIES
Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland (ribs)
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas (foot)
Brandon Lloyd, WR, New England (shoulder)
Lardarius Webb, CB, Baltimore (knee)
Ray Lewis, ILB, Baltimore (triceps)
D.J. Smith, OLB, Green Bay (knee)
Jerrell Freeman, ILB, Indianapolis (concussion)
Brandon Bolden, RB, New England (knee)
Bilal Powell, RB, N.Y. Jets (shoulder)

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Aaron Rodgers (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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