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Apart from Peterson, rookie class comes up short

There's no way to sugarcoat it.

Take Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson out of the equation and you're left with the fact that this has been a brutal year for rookies in fantasy football.

When Peterson has been healthy he's been special. Though he's missed the last two games, he still leads the NFL with 1,081 rushing yards, has a pair of 200-yard games, the NFL single-game rushing record, and has scored nine times.

After that, you're left with scraps.

Like Peterson, Buffalo's Marshawn Lynch has missed the last two games with an injury after rumbling for 751 yards and six touchdowns in his first nine games, including a 153-yard game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

From there, no first-year player has rushed for more than the 385 yards piled up by Denver's Selvin Young. Only five others have triple-digit rushing yardage for the season.

No rookie entered this week's action with more than four scoring receptions and only Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe and Detroit's Calvin Johnson, both first-round draft picks, had reached that number.

Bowe, the 23rd overall pick who held out during training camp, has come on lately with 20 catches for 232 yards in his last three games, including nine grabs for 105 yards against the Denver Broncos in Week Nine.

Johnson, selected second overall, had his best game as a pro on Thanksgiving Day with seven catches for 83 yards and a score against Green Bay. But he hadn't caught more than four balls in any of his first nine games.

It goes without saying that rookie quarterbacks haven't been a factor. Buffalo's Trent Edwards, back in the starting lineup Sunday against the Washington Redskins, has one TD pass, five interceptions and a 69.9 passer rating in his first five NFL games. He's the only rookie quarterback to have fired a touchdown pass, but not the only rookie Bill. Lynch threw an 8-yarder to tight end Robert Royal against Cincinnati.

A couple of rookie tight ends have been contributing, including Chicago's Greg Olsen (29 catches for 308 yards and two TDs) and Oakland's Zach Miller (2 8/2 5 5/1 ). Pittsburgh's Matt Spaeth scored three times in his first four NFL games but has just one catch for 6 yards in his last five contests.

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Sorting the Bills

The Bills have won four in a row against the Redskins, by a combined 120-47 score. In three of those games, the Bills had a running back crack the century mark -- Travis Henry (167 in 2003), Darick Holmes (122 in 1996) and Thurman Thomas (129 in 1993).

But aside from New England's Tom Brady and Dallas' Tony Romo, who combined for seven touchdown passes against Washington, this year's Redskins haven't been very generous to opposing fantasy players.

Washington ranks among the top half in all the important defensive categories -- ninth in total defense (310.7 yards per game), 11th in rushing defense (97.5), 13th in passing defense (213.2) and tied for 14th in scoring defense (21.8 points per game).

The 'Skins have allowed just one back to hit 100 yards, Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook in Week 10, and just one receiver, Dallas' Terrell Owens with four TDs among his eight catches for 173 yards in Week 11.

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Since you asked

>Q: Is it worth picking up Kansas City Chiefs running back Kolby Smith for my playoff run?

A: Why not? With workhorse running back Larry Johnson hobbled by a foot injury and backup Priest Holmes' unexpected retirement, the rookie from Louisville figures to be the man until L.J. returns. Smith carried 31 times for 150 yards and two TDs against Oakland in Week 12 and if he gets even half that workload Sunday at home against San Diego, he's certainly worth a shot. The Chargers rank just 21st in rushing defense (113.9 ypg) and have surrendered 500 rushing yards in their last two road games.

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Week 12 eye-popper

Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith and Chad Greenway all returned Eli Manning interceptions for touchdowns in Minnesota's 41-17 victory over the New York Giants. That gave the Vikings seven return TDs this season, by seven different players. Minnesota and New England each have an NFL-best seven return TDs.

e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com

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