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Carson Palmer to return?

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer (9) gets off a pass as Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson (95) is blocked by Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Collins during the second quarter of their NFL football game in Baltimore, Maryland January 2, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Giza (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Marvin Lewis seems to confirm Palmer’s return in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Will Carson Palmer be back? Barring a major change in heart, which looks unlikely to happen, one of Lewis’ major priorities will be finding complementary parts for Palmer.

“It’s important to recapture the spirit of our football team,” Lewis said. “I told him (Palmer) yesterday privately that it’s important to me that I will help him be the player that I know he is and I believe in him and he’s important to me.”

This is good news for a few of my early sleepers heading into the 2011 season: WRs Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley and TE Jermaine Gresham, who is just the 7th tight end in league history to catch 50+ passes in his rookie season. Palmer played pretty well with this group over the final two games, throwing for 574 yards and five TDs against two pretty good defenses (San Diego and Baltimore). It appears that he may be better off if he doesn’t have his wideouts chirping in his ear.

I’m not sure how much longer Simpson will be a sleeper after the third-year wideout caught 18 passes for 247 yards and three TDs over his final two games of the season. If both Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are gone next season, Simpson is a good bet to finish as a top 15 or 20 fantasy WR. Caldwell and Shipley are going to hold more value in PPR leagues, and they could cancel each other out if the Bengals go to a more run-oriented attack.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Looking ahead to the 2011 fantasy season

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 23: Jonathan Stewart  of the Carolina Panthers runs with the ball during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 23, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

I know, I know, with championship games still hanging in the balance, it may be a little early to start looking forward to next season, but there were a few late-season performances that got me thinking about 2011. After all, it’s never too early to find a few sleepers.

Jonathan Stewart
All right, he doesn’t qualify as a sleeper, but with DeAngelo Williams’ future in Carolina in doubt — he’s a free agent and the Panthers may not want to pony up to keep him — Jonathan Stewart could emerge as a first- or second-round fantasy RB next season. “The Daily Show” was handed the keys in Week 8 and really disappointed fantasy owners with just 30 yards on 14 carries against the Rams. He looked pretty good on just five carries (for 30 yards) against the Saints before being knocked out for two games with a concussion. But after returning in Week 12 against the Browns, he rattled off five quality rushing performances, averaging 106 rushing yards and an eye-popping 5.5 yards per carry over the last five games. Granted, the Seahawks, Browns and Cardinals were all in the bottom third against the run, but the Falcons were 13th and the Steelers were 1st, and Stewart averaged 7.4 and 3.9 ypc, respectively. (The Steelers only gave up 3.0 ypc on the season, so 3.9 is actually impressive.) The fact that Stewart was able to run like this despite zero threat of a passing attack is also encouraging. If the Panthers can find a QB (or the light goes on for Jimmy Clausen), and Williams is elsewhere next season, Stewart could be in for a big 2011.

Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham
There’s a lot of talk about the Bengals cleaning house this summer, and that includes Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. Both guys can still play, but the spend-a-lot-of-money-on-receivers strategy hasn’t worked in recent years and the franchise might do well to start fresh with Simpson, Caldwell and Shipley, who have all performed well in stints during their short careers. Simpson and Caldwell are both third-year players, while Shipley is a rookie. After getting the start against a good Chargers pass defense, Simpson caught six passes for 124 yards and two TDs. He has great size and could be a solid starter if given the opportunity. Caldwell had a good sophomore season (51-432-3) as the de facto WR2 in 2009, when Laveranues Coles’ production was less than expected. His targets fell off a cliff when Owens came to town. Shipley seems destined for a long career in the slot a la Wes Welker or Danny Amendola. As for Gresham, the rookie has quietly put together a really solid first season. His 52 receptions mark just the seventh time in league history that a rookie TE has caught 50+ passes. The Bengals can save $2.5 million if they cut ties with Ochocinco and T.O. is a free agent, so the Cincinnati receiving corps could look very different next season. Of course, these wideouts aren’t going to have much success if there isn’t a good QB throwing the ball The franchise has to decide what it wants to do with Carson Palmer, who has had his ups and downs this season (but looked awfully good throwing to this crew against the Chargers on Sunday).

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NFL Week 12 ROY power rankings

It’s turning out to be a pretty awesome rookie class.

1. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams—Turning out to be a very strong rookie campaign—on pace for 3586 yards, 25 TDs and 13 picks. And the upstart Rams are now in a tie for first with the Seahawks.

2. Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions—Suh is like Albert Haynesworth—doesn’t put up huge numbers, but teams have to game plan around him. Just think how good he’s going to be in five years.

3. Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks—Leads all NFL safeties with 5 picks, and averaging 6 tackles a game.

4. Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns—Averaging almost 200 yards a game and has a stunning 63.8 completion percentage. If only he didn’t get hurt, we would be putting him up there with Bradford.

5. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys—Let’s see if Jon Kitna gets him the ball a bit more today.

6. Devin McCourty, New England Patriots—Funny how Bill Belichick manages to lose guys like Asante Samuel and replaces them with rookies.

7. Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Bucs—Strong start and will hopefully finish strong and move up. He has the talent.

8. Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs—Numbers are fading, but that might be because no one is throwing in his direction.

9. Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals—Give him a couple of years, he’s going to be a star.

10 (tie). Aaron Hernandez/Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots—Combined, here are their numbers—61 catches, 772 yards, 9 TDs.

NFL Week 11.1 ROY power rankings

Every week, I have to add a new name to this list, and that’s really saying something as players have to make major adjustments to the NFL game their first year.

1. Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions—Hung in tough against Patriots, racking up another sack and three tackles. Not huge numbers, but it’s more his presence in the middle.

2. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams—Hung tough in Atlanta despite a loss; but who was really expecting Rams to win that or to be still in contention at Thanksgiving?

3. Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks—55 tackles and 5 picks through 10 games after a fine game in a losing effort at New Orleans.

4. Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns—Of all his numbers, the 63.8% completion percentage as a rookie is the most impressive, especially because you probably can’t name more than one of his receivers.

5. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys—He made it clear on Thanksgiving that he wants the ball more, as his 0 catches proves. And maybe he should get the ball more.

6. Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Bucs—Continues to put points up on a team that might surprise with a postseason berth.

7. Devin McCourty, New England Patriots—61 tackles, including 30 in his last four games; and 5 picks, most notably two on a national stage this past Thursday.

8. Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs—Don’t look solely at his numbers, just watch the kid play on Sunday.

9. Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals—Slowed recently, but still a bright spot on a crappy team.

10. Jordan Shipley, Cincinnati Bengals—A tough TD against the Jets on a national stage surely won’t hurt his chances here.

NFL Week 10 ROY power rankings

This is turning out to be a fine rookie class, isn’t it? There are game-changers on both sides of the ball:

1. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys—On pace for 73 catches, 958 yards, and 9 TDs; but also he’s averaging a ridiculous 14.4 yards on punt returns with 2 scores. Absolutely electrifying.

2. Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions—A monster in the middle, and something Detroit has not had in a long, long time.

3. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams—It’s not like he’s throwing to Roddy White or Hakeem Nicks or Antonio Gates. In fact, I don’t know who this kid is throwing to.

4. Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks—47 tackles and 4 picks through 9 games. That’s a full season for many safeties.

5. Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns—If the Browns had beaten the Jets, and they almost did, we’d be talking potentially squeaking into the playoffs. And this kid is a huge reason the Browns are playing with confidence.

6. Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Bucs—DUI might hurt his chances for the top spot, but still no denying his numbers (40, 627, 5).

7. Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals—Give it a year or two, and this dude will be fawned over the way Jermichael Finley was this year.

8. Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs—He’s going to make life miserable for whoever is quarterbacking the Cardinals these days.

9. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions—Slowed after a fast start and injury, but finally Megatron has defenses paying attention to someone else.

10, Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs—If he hadn’t hurt his ankle, this Ole Miss product might be higher on this list.

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