Cullen: Peterson, Jones, Cousins, Wilson star in NFL Week 15

Scott Cullen
12/17/2012 4:13:49 PM
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Can anyone stop Adrian Peterson? Green Bay's receiving depth pays off, same goes for Washington's rookie QB depth, the Seahawks are increasingly dangerous and more in Scott Cullen's Week 15 NFL Recap.

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson continued his assault (212 YDS, 24 carries) on opposing defences. Peterson has now rushed for a career-high 1812 yards on the season, needing 294 in the last two games to eclipse Eric Dickerson's record of 2,105 rushing yards, set in 1984.

Coming into the season, the Green Bay Packers knew they had a deep receiving corps, but headliners Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson were slated to be the top targets for QB Aaron Rodgers.

Injuries to Jennings and Nelson, however, created opportunities for those considered depth receivers at the start of the season. Randall Cobb (6 REC, 115 YDS at Chicago) ranks 13th among all receivers with 77 catches and 20th with 892 receiving yards.

James Jones, who has 51 catches for 822 yards, leads all NFL receivers with a dozen touchdowns after scoring three against Chicago. That's one touchdown for every 4.25 receptions, the best rate among any receiver with at least five touchdowns (Bengals rookie WR Mohamed Sanu had four touchdowns on 16 catches before landing on IR).

When the Washington Redskins drafted Baylor's Robert Griffin III second overall in the 2012 draft, then selected Michigan State's Kirk Cousins in the fourth round, there was puzzlement about why the Redskins would use a fourth-round pick for a backup quarterback. A short version of the answer could be witnessed Sunday when Cousins started in place of an injured Griffin and was very productive (26-for-37, 329 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT) in a win at Cleveland.

That's the kind of production that could net the Redskins more future value should they attempt to trade Cousins, who has now shown that he's capable of performing in the NFL.

Russell Wilson keeps improving for the Seattle Seahawks. The rookie quarterback played a big part (14-for-23, 205 YDS, 1 TD; 92 YDS, 3 TD, 9 carries) in Seattle's blowout win over the Bills in Toronto Sunday.

In his last six games, Wilson has thrown 11 touchdown passes and just one interception, but Sunday's three rushing touchdowns were his first on the ground all season.

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch tore it up (113 YDS, 1 TD, 10 carries) against the Bills too, the second straight game in which he's surpassed 100 yards rushing with fewer than a dozen carries.

Lynch sits second in the league with 1379 rushing yards, but he's been largely overshadowed by Peterson, who leads by 433 yards.

After years of mediocre production with Alex Smith at quarterback, 49ers WR Michael Crabtree (7 REC, 107 YDS, 2 TD at New England) appears to be a more favourable target for QB Colin Kaepernick. In the last three weeks, Crabtree has 23 catches for 301 yards and a pair of scores, the most productive three-game stretch in his four-year NFL career.

Colts RB Vick Ballard had the first 100-yard rushing game of his career (105 YDS, 18 carries) in Indianapolis' loss at Houston and has gained 209 yards from scrimmage over the last two weeks as he has turned into the Colts' most consistent backfield option.

Texans WR Andre Johnson had another productive game (11 REC, 151 YDS, 1 TD) against Indianapolis, giving him 1360 receiving yards for the season, 215 yards back of his career high, 1575, set in 2008.

Johnson has just four touchdowns on the season, so his ratio of yardage-to-touchdowns, 340:1, is among the worst for wide receivers. Miami's Brian Hartline (1002:1) and Davone Bess (778:1), the Jets' Jeremy Kerley (768 YDS, 2 TD = 364:1), Carolina's Steve Smith (1056 YDS, 3 TD = 352:1) and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson (700 YDS, 2 TD = 350:1) are the only wideouts with at least 600 yards receiving with a worse yardage-to-touchdown ratio than Johnson.

Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno continued his strong play (118 YDS, 1 TD, 22 carries) at Baltimore, giving him 487 yards from scrimmage in the last four weeks, good enough to rank ninth among all running backs in that span. Not bad for a guy who was an afterthought until Willis McGahee was injured.

Broncos WR Eric Decker delivered another productive (8 REC, 133 YDS, 1 TD) game at Baltimore. Decker now has 72 catches for 923 yards and nine touchdowns as the Broncos' second wide receiver option, behind Demaryius Thomas.

The only other team to have a second wide receiver with more production would be Atlanta, where Julio Jones has 69 catches for 1071 yards and nine scores.

Bills RB C.J. Spiller (103 YDS, 1 TD, 17 carries) had his second-most carries in a game this season and, predictably, finished with more than 100 yards. After 161 carries this season, Spiller is averaging 6.50 yards per carry. Adrian Peterson (6.3) is the only other qualified back averaging more than 5.2 yards per carry, yet he doesn't have to ask for more touches, he just gets them.

Ravens RB Ray Rice has been used less this season, which seems an odd choice for a 25-year-old in the prime of his career. Rice has averaged 20.3 touches per game in 2012, down from 23.0 per game last season and 23.1 per game in 2010.

Even with a new offensive co-ordinator, Rice had just 15 touches (12 carries, three catches) against Denver, the fourth time this season he had 15 or fewer touches in a game.

Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (7 REC, 125 YDS, 2 TD) had his best game as a pro and has delivered a strong season, ranking sixth among tight ends in total fantasy points.

The Jaguars got WR Cecil Shorts (6 REC, 101 YDS) back in the lineup against Miami and it was the fourth time in his last seven games that Shorts went over 100 yards receiving. The more highly-touted Justin Blackmon, a rookie first-round pick, also had a strong game (6 REC, 93 YDS), posting his second-best yardage total in a game this season.

The unpredictability of the New Orleans Saints backfield took another turn on Sunday when Mark Ingram had his most productive game (90 YDS, 1 TD, 14 carries) as a pro. That's not the loftiest total, especially for a 2011 first-round pick, but putting those numbers up against Tampa Bay's top-rated run defence might offer some reason for optimism for Ingram's future.

Relegated to a time-share or second-string role for most of the season, Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (144 yards, 1 TD, 24 touches) has been taking advantage of the opportunity presented with Jonathan Stewart hurt, accruing 256 yards from scrimmage the last couple weeks.

Maybe it just took a matchup against Kansas City to get the Raiders on track. Running backs Darren McFadden, (149 YDS, 34 touches) and Mike Goodson (103 YDS, 14 touches) both went over 100 yards from scrimmage.

After gaining 140 yards from scrimmage in the season opener, it looked like a breakout season was coming for second-year Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray, but injuries intervened. He's been decent when healthy, but Sunday's effort (112 YDS, 18 touches) against Pittsburgh was his best yardage total since Week One against the Giants. That it came against a Pittsburgh defence that doesn't give up yards easily is a promising sign for the Cowboys as they push for a playoff spot.

49ers RB Frank Gore isn't likely to ever duplicate his second season, when he amassed 1695 rushing yards, but after Sunday night's production (117 YDS, 23 touches) against New England, there is a pretty good chance for Gore, who has 1118 rushing yards this season, to surpass his second-best rushing season, last year's 1210 rushing yards.

Patriots RB Stevan Ridley had scored a touchdown in six straight games before Sunday night's loss to San Francisco, a game during which he struggled (23 YDS, 9 carries, 1 lost fumble), leaving the Pats to give more touches to Danny Woodhead (84 YDS, 2 TD, 17 touches) who had the second two-touchdown game of his career.

While he's been generally underwhelming as a deep threat this season, Patriots WR Brandon Lloyd had a monster game (10 REC, 190 YDS) Sunday night against San Francisco, giving him 17 catches for 279 yards in the last two weeks. Lloyd may not have been such a prominent part of the game plan if the Patriots hadn't fallen so far behind, but his production the last couple weeks could be an indication that he has some trust built up with QB Tom Brady.

J.J. Watt, DE, Houston (10 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 FF)
Chad Greenway, OLB, Minnesota (14 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FR)
Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia (6 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF)
Earl Thomas, FS, Seattle (5 tackles, 57 YD INT TD)
Chris Clemons, DE, Seattle (5 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF)
Rashad Johnson, SS, Arizona (3 tackles, 53 YD INT TD)
Wallace Gilberry, DE, Cincinnati (2 tackles, 1 sack, 25 YD FR TD)
Rob Jackson, OLB, Washington (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF)
Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina (5 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF)
Josh Bynes, ILB, Baltimore (13 tackles)

Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego (shoulder)
Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami (knee)
Henry Melton, DT, Chicago (chest)

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