Bears 23, Panthers 22
Soldier Field (Chicago)
- All the usual suspects went about their appointed rounds, though the ability to finish was at a premium—especially for the Bears, who trailed in the fourth quarter before waking up. Matt Forte (15-70-1, 5-24 receiving) found the end zone early, which essentially proved to be the difference. Jay Cutler only had eyes for Brandon Marshall, whose 14 targets and 9-98 accounted for fully half of Cutler’s targets and yards. Steve Smith went Marshall two better, turning 16 targets into 7-118—but a dropped touchdown proved costly. Cam Newton threw for 314 yards, but he fumbled at the goal line (Panthers WR Louis Murphy recovered in the end zone for Carolina’s only touchdown) and threw the game-winning touchdown to Bears CB Tim Jennings.
- Extra points: Jonathan Stewart’s debut as the “feature” back in Carolina was about as scintillating as his earlier performances this season. Stew finished with 17-42 on the ground and 4-38 receiving, while DeAngelo Williams’ demotion resulted in 11-33 on the ground… Michael Bush’s vanishing act continues; he touched the ball three times while Forte handled the bulk of the Bears’ backfield duties… Greg Olsen’s homecoming of sorts was barely a blip on the radar, as he finished with three catches for 23 yards. His Chicago counterpart, Kellen Davis, scored a 12-yard touchdown on his only target of the afternoon.
Browns 7, Chargers 6
Cleveland Browns Stadium (Cleveland)
- Sloppy conditions took the bite out of two hot quarterbacks, with Brandon Weeden and Philip Rivers combining for 283 yards and no touchdowns against a pair of defenses that had been quite hospitable to opposing quarterbacks over the past month. That opened the door for Trent Richardson, who played through a rib injury to produce 24-122-1 on the ground—the only touchdown of the game—and add another catch for 12 yards.
- Extra points: Ryan Mathews flashed the productivity (24-95 on the ground, 2-9 receiving) that boosted his preseason stock; he also fumbled, which may have played a role in Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle combining for 14 touches… It was back to business as usual for the Cleveland receivers as they caught just half of Weeden’s 10 targets. Josh Gordon’s 3-46 led all Browns receivers… Worth noting is that Cleveland tight ends were targeted 11 times; however, Ben Watson, Jordan Cameron and Alex Smith caught just one ball each.
Lions 28, Seahawks 24
Ford Field (Detroit)
- Matthew Stafford threw 49 times, enough to generate 352 yards and three touchdowns and a return to fantasy relevancy—surprisingly, too, against a pretty good Seattle defense. The good news is, that floated the boats of Titus Young (9-100-2), Brandon Pettigrew (7-74) and even Ryan Broyles (3-37-1). The bad news is that despite Stafford’s largesse all Calvin Johnson could muster was a meager 3-46.
- Extra points: Marshawn Lynch (12-105-1) flashed plenty of burst on his 77-yard touchdown gallop, but the Seahawks’ game plan isn’t a 2:1 pass-run ratio… Russell Wilson looked good in throwing for 236 yards and two touchdowns, with Sidney Rice (6-55-1) stepping up to look like the feature receiver Seattle needs him to be. Golden Tate (7-64) wasn’t bad, either… Zach Miller (2-22-1) made a fantastic grab in the end zone. With five targets maybe he’s emerging as the tight end the Seahawks need—and Miller can be, given the opportunity.
Packers 24, Jaguars 15
Lambeau Field (Green Bay, WI)
- Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings took the afternoon off, and the rest of the Packers’ offense very nearly followed suit as Green Bay attempted to merely show up to win on Sunday. They squeezed just enough out of Aaron Rodgers (186 yards, 2 TDs) and added a blocked punt touchdown to squeak by the Jags. James Jones (7-78) led the receivers but it was Randall Cobb (5-28-1) and Donald Driver (2-10) who found the end zone.
- Extra points: Evidently it wasn’t the defenses, it was Alex Green being merely ordinary. He turned a third straight 20-carry outing into a third straight mediocre outing, finishing with 22-54 on the ground and 4-28 receiving… Blaine Gabbert chucked the ball 49 times, producing 303 yards and a touchdown and reviving the dormant fantasy value of Justin Blackmon (4-67) while Cecil Shorts (12 targets, 8-116 receiving) continues to make a case for not just a fantasy roster spot but a regular WR3/flex gig… Rashad Jennings is not Maurice Jones-Drew, as evidenced by a pedestrian 17-59 on the ground. However, his 6-56 receiving salvaged some fantasy value in many scoring formats.
Dolphins 30, Jets 9
MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, NJ)
- The Dolphins lost their starting quarterback on their second possession and didn’t have a 60-yard rusher, a 50-yard receiver, or a 150-yard passer—and yet they somehow thoroughly demolished the Jets. Matt Moore’s 131 passing yards helped no one, though he was kind enough to direct his lone score to bye-week plug-in TE Anthony Fasano. Just like the last time Miami saw the Jets, it was more the Dolphins coaches than the Jets’ defense that limited Reggie Bush, who touched the ball 15 times for 65 yards.
- Extra points: Even with 54 attempts Mark Sanchez (283 yards, one touchdown) couldn’t deliver fantasy value. He targeted three Jets 11 times each: Dustin Keller (7-67) and Jeremy Kerley (5-43) were at least somewhat expected; Clyde Gates (7-82) was not… Brian Hartline and Davonne Bess were targeted on 15 of Miami’s 24 passing attempts, yet mustered just eight catches (four each) and 69 yards. The biggest plays in the Miami passing game were long completions to Marlon Moore (1-37) and Jabar Gaffney (1-30)… Shonn Greene broke off a 36-yard run to inflate his final stat line, which otherwise would have read 14-41. Not surprisingly, he looked slow on that 36-yarder, which was timed in 6.5 seconds. Joe McKnight aggravated his ankle injury, but Lex Hilliard (3-15) and Jonathan Grimes (1-5) weren’t involved in the offense.
Falcons 30, Eagles 17
Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia)
- Matt Ryan sparked the Falcons to 7-0 with touchdown passes on Atlanta’s first three possessions; the first two, to DJ Davis and Jason Snelling, helped no one but the 63-yard bomb to Julio Jones (5-123-1) put the exclamation mark on both Ryan’s and Jones’ fantasy days.
- Extra points: After three touchdowns the Falcons turtled, but that just meant three field goals for Matt Bryant… There was a moment in the second quarter where Philly was on the two-yard line and LeSean McCoy was on the sidelines getting checked out. A timeout allowed McCoy back on the field and led to the first of two Shady touchdowns that salvaged an otherwise forgettable day with 67 yards from scrimmage… Speaking of forgettable, Michael Turner averaged less than 2.5 yards per carry but nonetheless saw 24 totes. He was outgained by Jacquizz Rodgers (8-60), whose 80 yards from scrimmage might be enough to save his roster spot in fantasy leagues where he had underwhelmed his way onto the bubble.
Steelers 27, Redskins 12
Heinz Field (Pittsburgh)
- As much as Ben Roethlisberger’s three touchdowns put this one in the win column for Pittsburgh, it was a Steelers defense that thoroughly bottled up Robert Griffin III and the Redskins offense. After a Santana Moss touchdown early in the second quarter, the Skins didn’t return to the red zone. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, took each of its first six drives into Washington territory, and five of them ended with points.
- Extra points: Jonathan Dwyer (17-107) made a strong case for Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman picking splinters when they return from their respective injuries. He was thwarted at the stripe, however, by both the Redskins defense and three Big Ben touchdown passes that covered a total of nine yards… When a quarterback says he’s going to get his tight end into the Pro Bowl, best to listen—and add him to your fantasy team. Heath Miller is living up to Roethlisberger’s promise, posting another fantasy helper with 46 yards and a touchdown… RG3 couldn’t get started against the Steel Curtain; he ran six times for just eight yards with a long of seven and completed less than half his passes for just 177 yards. We’re at the portion of the program where defenses have a good amount of film on Griffin; now he gets to adjust to them, or follow the frustrating path of Cam Newton… My eyes! My eyes! Do not adjust the vertical hold on your television; that is the Steelers’ actual uniform. And now they return to the hive, where the queen bee awaits.
Patriots 45, Rams 7
Wembley Stadium (London)
- The Patriots spotted St. Louis a 50-yard touchdown pass to Chris Givens (who with four 50-plus yard catches in five games has to be called “Deep Threat” from here on out), then ripped off 45 consecutive points. They scored by ground, with Shane Vereen’s early score eliciting bad language from Stevan Ridley owners before Ridley rebounded to finish with 127 rushing yards and a score of his own. They scored by air, with Brandon Lloyd maximizing two catches by taking both to the house and Rob Gronkowski handling just about everything else. And after the early score, the Rams didn’t threaten until this one was all but in the books.
- Extra points: Gronk celebrated an 8-146-2 showing—essentially combining his usual numbers with the absent Aaron Hernandez’s—with the best TD celebration of the year, a Buckingham Palace guard march, and perhaps the most visually disturbing TD celebration of the year, one that his porn star friend may have had a hand in planning… While we're on the topic, the changing of the guard may be coming early in St. Louis, as Daryl Richardson (7-53) not only split carries with Steven Jackson (7-23), he doubled his production and added four receptions (albeit for negative-three yards). The trade deadline is Tuesday, and Jackson’s contract now expires at the end of this season. Hmmm… Anyone else think the Brits may have been insulted by the league sending over a team named for the group of people who embarrassed their hometown Redcoats some 231 years ago? What next, sending the Lions to play in the Coliseum in Rome?
Colts 19, Titans 13 (OT)
LP Field (Nashville, Tennessee)
- The Colts took every drive except their final one of regulation into Titans territory, but through 50 minutes of football had ony field goals to show for it. Then Andrew Luck directed a pair of 80-yard touchdown drives, running his passing yardage total dangerously close to 300 yards and giving Indy a surprising road win within the division.
- Extra points: Donald Brown returned just two weeks removed from knee surgery to carry 14 times for 80 yards, but it was Delone Carter who stole a goal line touchdown and Vick Ballard (12-55) who took his lone catch of the afternoon 16 yards to paydirt—the final three in the air, twisting and stretching just inside the pylon for the game winner to salvage the day for fantasy owners not expecting such a big bite from Brown… Kenny Britt (3-34) lost a potential touchdown on a ticky-tack offensive pass interference call; a couple plays later, Kendall Wright (4-47-1) got away with a more blatant push to swipe Britt’s score… Chris Johnson celebrated his last favorable matchup for a month with 99 rushing yards. Isn’t it just like CJ to leave you in the stinkhole like that?
Raiders 26, Chiefs 16
Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, MO)
- The Chiefs couldn’t generate anything offensively—what, you expected something different from the quarterback tag-team of Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel—and eventually the Raiders simply wore down Kansas City through field goals and 33 rushing attempts. That’s not what you typically get from the boom or bust Raiders, and yet there was Darren McFadden grinding out 114 yards on 29 carries and Carson Palmer salvaging a 209-yard outing with two passing scores and Sebastian Janikowski pounding four field goals, all from inside of 40 yards. Not your typical Raiders showing.
- Extra points: Darrius Heyward-Bey (1-32-1) scored on his only catch, but it was Denarius Moore (5-96-1) who sparked the Oakland passing game. Palmer tried to include Rod Streater, but he caught just one of five targets... Tight ends Brandon Myers (3-49) and Tony Moeaki (4-57) should be appearing on your fantasy radar, especially with three bye weeks to go… Peyton Hillis returned to see five touches, resulting in 28 yards. More surprising: Jamaal Charles with four yards on five carries. At least Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel had a good reason for his most dynamic playmaker touching the ball just eight times in a winnable game: "Now, that I'm not exactly sure either." Okay, so he didn’t have a good reason.
Giants 29, Cowboys 24
Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, TX)
- You know what they say about big hands? In the case of Dez Bryant, the officials correctly said his left hand was about a half inch too large as it landed just on the end line to wipe out what would have been an amazing game-winning catch. As it was Bryant was one of three Cowboys with triple-digit receiving yards (finishing with 5-110), almost making amends for a costly fumble and a mental error that contributed to one of Tony Romo’s four interceptions. Oh yeah, the Giants played as well, hanging around capitalizing on Dallas mistakes while Lawrence Tynes kicked five field goals and Jason Pierre-Paul caught more touchdowns than Witten, Austin, Bryant, Nicks, and Cruz combined.
- Extra points: Romo tooketh away with the four picks, one returned for a touchdown, but he also gaveth with 437 passing yards on 62 attempts. That’s how he got Bryant, Miles Austin (9-133) and Jason Witten (18-167) all into triple digits… The Giants could barely get one receiver to the half-century mark, and it wasn’t Hakeem Nicks (4-46) or Victor Cruz (2-23); it was Rueben Randle (2-68)… Felix Jones was abysmal with 19 yards on 13 carries, but he managed to find the end zone. On the Giants’ side Ahmad Bradshaw saw the bulk of the work with 22 carries for 78 yards, but Andre Brown stole the Giants’ lone offensive touchdown on one of his three carries.
Broncos 34, Saints 14
Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver)
- Peyton Manning showed up for the expected shootout in Denver and delivered a fifth straight 300-yard game and fifth straight outing with multiple touchdowns—fourth straight with three TDs. Drew Brees apparently slept through the alarm, however, as it took a garbage-time TD toss to Jimmy Graham to salvage a 213-yard, two-TD effort.
- Extra points: Why split hairs on Bronco receivers? They're both fantasy studs. DeMaryius Thomas led the catches and yardage parade with 7-137-1, but Eric Decker found the end zone twice as part of his 4-43-2 outing… Willis McGahee joined the fun, rushing for 122 yards and a score and adding 33 as a receiver. There was even time for Ronnie Hillman (14-86) to get some playing time as well… Graham returned to action after missing time with an ankle injury and rewarded those who kept him in their fantasy lineup with the aforementioned late TD capping a 5-63-1 day. The rest of the Saints, however, were dragged down by Brees’ surprisingly low totals; Marques Colston (5-63) was merely serviceable and Darren Sproles offset negative rushing yardage with 56 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.