TENNESSEE TITANS 29, NEW YORK GIANTS 10
Chris Johnson (32-125-2) was back to being Chris Johnson, and with the Giants imploding that’s really all that was needed. The passing game generated just 118 yards, though Vince Young only threw 16 passes.
The Giants took four drives inside the Tennessee 10 and came away with just one touchdown to show for it thanks to a fumble and a pick. They also missed two field goals, though yardage leaguers had to be happy with the Giants’ individual performances. Eli Manning spread 386 yards amongst his receiving corps: Steve Smith (9-103), Mario Manningham (6-78), Hakeem Nicks (7-56)... even tight end Kevin Boss returned from taking a week off due to a concussion and produced 88 yards on three carries.
FANTASY IMPACT: Ahmad Bradshaw cost the Giants two points when he chopped an onrushing linebacker in the end zone; on the bright side, with 15-88-1 on the ground and 5-30 as a receiver he proved that he can have fantasy value even when Eli throws the ball 48 times. Young has improved as a passer, as his 10-for-16 would indicate, but the Tennessee passing game is still a crapshoot when it comes to fantasy points. No single receiver topped 40 yards, and while Nate Washington (3-30 on five targets) and Justin Gage (3-39 on four) were the top targets it was Kenny Britt (2-26-1 on two targets) who had the most (actually, had any) fantasy value.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 20, CAROLINA PANTHERS 7
Cincy demonstrated plenty of offensive balance, though it certainly helped that the Panthers presented little scoring threat of their own. Thus, they were afforded the luxury of a pedestrian 3.0 yards per carry average from Cedric Benson (27-81-1, 2-9-1 receiving), but don’t get used to that receiving score as it was the first of Ced’s career.
Carolina’s offense remains mired in neutral; DeAngelo Williams (10-64) ran well but had limited opportunities while Jonathan Stewart (8-13-1, 2-18) offset his touchdown with a costly fumble.
FANTASY IMPACT: Maybe Jimmy Clausen (16-30-188-0-1) didn’t get the memo; Steve Smith (3-22 on five targets) should be the focal point of the passing game, not lumped in with three other schlubs who received as many or more targets. Mike Goodson (4-47 on eight targets)is understandable as a dump-off guy, but... David Gettis (3-32 on five targets)? Brandon LaFell (1-44 on six)? Really? The Cincy passing game appeared balanced, but Chad Ochocinco (4-34 on a dozen targets) and Terrell Owens (4-42 on nine targets) received the bulk of Palmer’s attention—if not his accuracy. Palmer had more luck connecting with secondary targets Jermaine Gresham (4-59 on six looks) and Jordan Shipley (3-37 on three).
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 38, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 13
The big game from Rashard Mendenhall (19-143-1) wasn’t entirely unexpected, what with the Steelers down to a scrapheap quarterback. And when Charlie Batch threw one of his two INTs on his first pass attempt, we figured to be in for a runfest. But Batch completed 12 of his remaining 16 throws for 186 yards and three touchdowns, with 100 yards and two scores going to Mike Wallace on just three catches.
The Buc mustered nothing against the Steel Curtain, failing to reach the end zone until their final drive when reserves dotted the lineup. That’s why LeGarrette Blount (6-27-1) will be showing up near the top of your free agent sort this week.
FANTASY IMPACT: It may look as if Arreleous Benn (3-33) is creeping into the Bucs’ receiver mix, but two catches and 23 of those yards came on the garbage time drive helmed by Josh Johnson; Mike Williams (5-55) and Kellen Winslow (3-24) were Josh Freeman’s most targeted downfield receivers. While it’s unlikely (and that’s being extremely kind) Batch will have another passing line like the one he posted here, it’s time to start thinking about the fantasy value of Steelers’ receivers once again because Ben Roethlisberger’s return is just around the corner. Wallace blew up your chance to buy low, but Hines Ward (3-34-1) and Heath Miller (2-25) didn’t necessarily wow anyone and could be buy-low candidates.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 38, BUFFALO BILLS 30
That the Patriots put up 38 points on Buffalo was hardly surprising; that they actually needed most of those points to win was. Tom Brady (21-27-252-3) and the passing game did most of the heavy lifting, though rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez (6-65) was both the most targeted and most productive receiver. Randy Moss made his three targets count, turning two of them into 42 yards worth of touchdown grabs.
At least Ryan Fitzpatrick (20-28-247-2-2) put up some numbers, even dragging some Buffalo receivers kicking and screaming with him into fantasy relevancy. Problem is, Lee Evans (5-54) is the only Bills receiver even remotely likely to be in a fantasy lineup—and he was outproduced by both Roscoe Parrish (5-83) and Steve Johnson (3-66-1).
FANTASY IMPACT: Just when you bailed on C.J. Spiller (4-29, 3-10-1 receiving) he drops a couple touchdowns on you, including a 95-yard kickoff return. He still received fewer touches than Marshawn Lynch (13-79, 1-7) and Fred Jackson (4-8) was still involved, so there’s no new hierarchy of Buffalo backs—or at least one Chan Gailey has shared with us yet. New England always runs the ball well against Buffalo, but those who expected Fred Taylor (6-16) to reap those benefits were doubly burned by Bill Belichick as BenJarvus Green-Ellis (16-98-1) saw the bulk of the carries and even recent addition Danny Woodhead (3-42-1) outproduced Taylor. Oh, and Sammy Morris (6-19) saw touches as well. So much for the Laurence Maroney trade and Kevin Faulk injury clarifying the Patriots’ RBBC situation.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 24, CLEVELAND BROWNS 17
Someone forgot to tell the Ravens they were supposed to run all over the Browns. Fortunately for them, someone also forgot to tell the Browns they were supposed to cover Anquan Boldin (8-142-3), who accounted for the bulk of Joe Flacco’s productive 262 and 3 afternoon. No other Raven found the end zone, and while Ray Rice’s 15-80 on the ground and 4-16 as a receiver wasn’t bad it was far lower than expectations—though in Rice’s defense, a sprained knee may have contributed to dampening those digits.
You don’t run for 144 yards and a touchdown on the Ravens, especially if you’re supposed to be in a job share. But with Jerome Harrison out of the lineup the Browns loaded up Peyton Hillis with 22 carries and he produced the best rushing numbers a Brown has ever had against Baltimore; for good measure, he chipped in seven receptions for 36 yards as well. That, however, was the extent of the Browns’ offense.
FANTASY IMPACT: Not that it will get much better if/when Jake Delhomme returns, but the Cleveland passing game under Seneca Wallace was non-existent. Josh Cribbs (5-58) was the only wide receiver to record a catch; Mohamad Massaquoi was the only other wideout even targeted. Ben Watson (5-47-1) found the end zone, but you have to believe at least some of those looks would have gone to Evan Moore had he been healthy.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 31, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 10
The Chiefs had their way with the San Francisco defense, but of particular note was the first good game of the year by Matt Cassel and the passing game. Sure, Cassel’s 16-27-250-3-1 was aided by a flea flicker, an amazing one-handed catch, and a ton of YAC, but after watching him stumble through the first two weeks Todd Haley and Charlie Weis have to be pleased. So, too, do fantasy owners of Dwayne Bowe (2-61-1) and those racing to pick up rookie tight end Tony Moeaki (4-44-1).
Frank Gore handled the ball 24 times and accounted for 145 yards from scrimmage; the remainder of the 49ers’ offense consisted of 19 incomplete passes, five sacks, and 14 other plays netting 130 yards. Ugh.
FANTASY IMPACT: If you’re thinking about cutting bait on Michael Crabtree (3-37), these numbers won’t make you feel any better: Josh Morgan’s only catch of the game resulted in the first WR TD by a Niner this year and something called Dominique Ziegler (3-38) had better stats. On the bright side, Crabtree’s eight targets were second only to Gore’s 13. Jamaal Charles (12-97, 3-57) continues to be the most electric player on the field, but he’s losing touches in both the running and passing games. Worse, this week he also lost scores—toThomas Jones (19-95-1) and Dexter McCluster (3-69-1 receiving). And with KC a surprising 3-0, there’s no reason for Todd Haley to succumb to logic and get Charles the ball more frequently.
DALLAS COWBOYS 27, HOUSTON TEXANS 13
How desperate were the Cowboys for a win? Well, they actually ran the ball for a change, with Marion Barber (17-55-1) posting fantasy-relevant stats for the first time this season and Felix Jones (7-43) doing just enough to keep his fantasy owners mildly interested. They also went away from Miles Austin to... Roy Williams? The much-maligned wideout caught five of his six targets for 117 yards and two TDs to help Tony Romo record 284 yards and two TDs.
The passing game shootout never materialized, in part because both teams ran the ball effectively—Houston of course being led by Arian Foster’s 17-106 (with 4-20 as a receiver as well). But that wasn’t all that subdued Matt Schaub’s (23-32-241-1-2) statline; stud receiver Andre Johnson (4-64) missed chunks of the game with an ankle injury.
FANTASY IMPACT: With Johnson limited at times, Kevin Walter (3-34-1) once again stepped up with a score. The Houston passing game also got some statistical help from Jacoby Jones (5-51), who posted his second consecutive decent outing. While Austin’s 2-20 was more than a little disappointing to his fantasy owners, especially considering what the Houston secondary has given up thus far this season, it’s nice to know Jason Witten (7-56) and Dez Bryant (4-50) haven’t been forgotten.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 24, DETROIT LIONS 10
The Vikings got their offense back on track courtesy of Adrian Peterson, who abused the Lions for 160 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries while adding 5-30 as a receiver. That bailed out another multi-pick performance from Brett Favre (23-34-201-1-2), who lost yet another go-to guy when Visanthe Shiancoe (1-7) was sidelined with a leg injury.
It certainly didn’t help the Lions when rookie Jahvid Best (7-26, 2-13) left the game with a toe injury—especially when the alternative was giving touches to Maurice Morris (6-5, 5-36). Shaun Hill (29-43-237-1-2) leaned heavily on tight ends Tony Scheffler (7-60-1) and Brandon Pettigrew (6-44), but after Scheffler’s early touchdown all the Lions could muster in three red zone trips was a field goal just before halftime.
FANTASY IMPACT: Calvin Johnson (6-56) was the victim of unfortunate timing here, as the Vikings got both of their bigger, more physical cornerbacks—Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook—back from injury. Between their coverage and the sure tackling of Antoine Winfield, Megatron’s impact was severely limited. With no Shiancoe, no Sidney Rice, and no Vincent Jackson, Favre was left to cobble together targets. Percy Harvin (6-62-1) remains his favorite downfield receiver, but after that it was a real hodge-podge that included Greg Lewis (3-30), Greg Camarillo (2-16), Bernard Berrian (2-11), and Hank Baskett (1-18)—none of whom are threatening to fill the gaping void left by Rice’s absence and the non-trade for Jackson.
ATLANTA FALCONS 27, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 24 (OT)
Though they had to work overtime to do so, this one essentially followed the Falcons’ blueprint. Matt Ryan (19-30-228-2) was interception-free, Michael Turner hammered out 114 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, and Roddy White (5-69-1) was on the business end of the go-ahead score. But perhaps most important was the return to prominence of Tony Gonzalez, who had been limited to just two catches in each of the first two games.
Usually when you get 6-149-2 from a guy (Lance Moore) who’s your third or fourth receiver it’s all good. But Drew Brees coupled his 365 and three with two INTs and Christopher Ivory coughed up a fumble at the most inopportune time; then Garrett Hartley shanked a potential game-winning kick in overtime, and the Saints’ mojo at home was gone. With Reggie Bush out, Pierre Thomas (9-30, 6-61) saw more activity in the passing game than on the ground; he also suffered what at first appeared to be a pretty serious leg injury late in the fourth quarter, but he returned in overtime and looked just fine.
FANTASY IMPACT: Brees continues to be the ringmaster of the Saints’ passing game, but the main act continues to rotate almost randomly. This week it was Moore, with a smattering of Jeremy Shockey (8-78-1) and minimal contributions from Marques Colston (4-25) and Devery Henderson (2-23). Of course, about the time you write off Robert Meachem (1-5), guess who’ll be the next Saint to go off? Those of you who scooped Jason Snelling (14-62, 1-8) off the waiver wire had to be disappointed with Turner’s workload. However, he’ll see a smattering of touches and might be startable in a bye week with the right match-up—and of course, he’ll be of value to the Turner owner via trade.
SAINT LOUIS RAMS 30, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 16
The Rams built an early lead on the running of Steven Jackson (10-58-1, 1-6), then gave up the lead and lost Jackson to an injury when the Skins made a wish with his legs at the bottom of the pile. And then a funny thing happened: the Rams rallied with Kenneth Darby (14-49-1, 1-8) and Keith Toston (11-22) as their primary ball-carriers and Mark Clayton (5-85) and Danny Amendola (6-56) as their top receivers, scoring the final 16 points to give Sam Bradford (23-37-235-1-1) his first NFL victory.
Washington’s “new and improved” offense looks a whole lot like the unit that got Jim Zorn run out of town last year. The passing game consists of Santana Moss (6-124-1) and Chris Cooley (5-53)... and that’s about it. Donovan McNabb (19-32-236-1-1) hit five other receivers a total of eight times, but none more than twice or for more than 14 yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: They don’t call them “Shanahanigans” for nothing. Clinton Portis (7-44, 1-14) was acquitting himself quite well, but that didn’t stop the Redskins from going to the bullpen for Ryan Torain (7-44), elevated from the practice squad late in the week. Oh, and Keiland Williams (2-14) was involved as well. Enjoy your Redskins RBBC. The Rams, on the other hand, did anything but panic after Jackson left the game. Darby looked competent and would likely be the replacement if Jackson is down for any length of time, though obviously you could expect Toston to see a few touches as well.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 28, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 3
It’s Michael Vick’s world, we’re just renting space. One week after blowing up the Lions Vick abused another feline species with 291 passing yards, three TDs, and another rushing score. Vick played to his strength—the deep ball—with connections of 61 and 42 yards to DeSean Jackson (5-153-1) and 45 yards to Jeremy Maclin (4-83-2). His accuracy was typical Vick—17 for 31—but between his home run strikes and the copious YAC from his wideouts, it didn’t matter.
If there was a silver lining in Jacksonville’s abysmal offensive showing, it has eluded us. Maurice Jones-Drew produced 88 yards on 22 carries and caught two passes for a total of one yard. David Garrard’s 13-30-105-1 was underwhelming to say the least, and no other Jaguar accounted for more than 34 yards, and obviously there were held without a touchdown.
FANTASY IMPACT: MoJo owners, it has to get better. Three of Jacksonville’s next four games are home to Indy, at Buffalo, and at Kansas City. On paper, they should be favorable matchups, opportunities for Jones-Drew to live up to that top-five pick you spent on him. But you’ll get no arguments here if you want to use that as a selling point in your trade talks. One week after feeding LeSean McCoy (11-54, 2-7) for three TDs, Vick essentially ignored his backfield mate. Sadly, we’re more inclined to believe this week’s results will be the more common scenario; Vick isn’t going to check down (witness Brent Celek’s 4-42) when he can go deep, and he isn’t going to hand off when he can run them in himself.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 27, DENVER BRONCOS 13
Already without Anthony Gonzalez, the Colts left Pierre Garçon in Indy and Reggie Wayne (4-65) spent the afternoon wearing Champ Bailey. What was Peyton Manning to do? Only complete 27-of-43 for 325 yards and three scores, repeatedly hooking up with Austin Collie (12-171-2) and making former practice squader Blair White (3-27-1) soon to be a popular pick-up candidate. All in a day’s work for Manning.
Say this for Kyle Orton: he stared down Peyton Manning in a shootout and didn’t blink, completing 37 of 57 throws for 476 yards and a TD (as well as a pick). The problem was in Denver’s red zone execution, as they took five drives inside the 20 and emerged with just six points to show for it. But hey, between the 20s they were all over the place, especially Brandon Lloyd (6-169-1) and Jabar Gaffney (12-140).
FANTASY IMPACT: What do you get when you cross the Broncos’ legacy for backfield committees with Josh McDaniels’ penchant for all things Patriots? You get Laurence Maroney’s 12-24 and 2-40 in place of the injured Knowshon Moreno. Erstwhile backup Correll Buckhalter contributed just 4-12 and 6-33, and you know this situation isn’t going to get any clearer even if Moreno ever gets healthy. A week with minimal contribution from the running game likely revealed a more accurate representation of what we can expect from Joseph Addai (13-29, 2-10) and Donald Brown (7-12) going forward: a 2-to-1 split favoring Addai, though even the majority share of 51 yards is nothing to write home about.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 24, OAKLAND RAIDERS 23
You want to talk about winning ugly, this was the epitome. Derek Anderson completed just 12 of 26 passes for only 122 yards, but he found both Steve Breaston (4-41-1) and Larry Fitzgerald (2-26-1) for touchdowns. Beanie Wells made his 2010 debut and looked solid in providing 75 yards on 14 carries, but it still took two missed field goals in the fourth quarter for the Cardinals to pull off the home win.
It’s kind of weird to say about the Raiders, but with Bruce Gradkowski (17-34-255-1-1) under center the 5-119 from Louis Murphy wasn’t totally unexpected. Gradkowski also got Zach Miller (4-64-1) involved and even made room for Darrius Heyward-Bey (3-49).
FANTASY IMPACT: Darren McFadden (25-105-1, 2-17) continued to run hard and well, as the return of Michael Bush (3-13) hardly took a bite out of McFadden’s numbers. It may take an injury or a serious bout of ineffectiveness for Run DMc to lose his gig, though you would think Bush’s touches will increase at least a little over the next few weeks. Arizona has its own backfield dilemma, with Tim Hightower (11-40, 1-0) clinging to fantasy relevancy after Wells averaged better than five yards per carry in his first game back from knee surgery. You’d think Hightower would retain value in the passing game, but Anderson’s inaccuracy might make that point moot.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 27, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 20
On a day when Justin Forsett (17-63, 3-31) established himself as chair of the Seahawks’ backfield committee, it was Leon Washington’s two kickoff return touchdowns that put the most fantasy points on the board and sparked the Seahawks to a win over the Chargers. Aside from special teams the Seattle offense did little; Matt Hasselbeck (19-32-220-1-1) spread his completions among five receivers, none of whom topped 61 yards. That total belonged to John Carlson (5-61-1), who also nabbed Seattle’s lone offensive TD; Deion Branch (5-60) very nearly had a TD grab as well, but he was stripped of the ball just shy of the goal line and fumbled out of the end zone for a safety.
Mike Tolbert (17-73, 3-17) wasn’t a bad stand-in for the injured Ryan Mathews, but he was among three Chargers who put the ball on the ground. Worse, despite 455 yards and two TDs, Philip Rivers contributed a pair of picks and San Diego simply couldn’t overcome the turnovers. With so much yardage all of the passing game principals posted solid numbers, led by Antonio Gates’ 7-109-1. Malcolm Floyd chipped in 6-97-1, while Craig Davis (3-82) and Patrick Crayton (3-57) were decent secondary contributors. Legedu Naanee (4-53) had a TD wiped out by a penalty but did score the game-tying two-point conversion.
FANTASY IMPACT: If Tolbert continues to fumble he’s going to lose his share of the goal line duties once Mathews gets healthy. After he accounted for 27 yards on a drive to the two-yard line, he was ignored on the next three plays; San Diego scored, but you have to wonder how much the coaching staff trusts him at the stripe. That Washington carried once from scrimmage and Julius Jones was targeted once but didn’t touch the ball at all bodes well for Forsett, who averaged 4.7 yards per touch. Seattle will need to cure the home/road Jekyll and Hyde act for Forsett to be considered a viable every-week fantasy play, but with bye weeks upon us he can at least be tossed into the mix.
NEW YORK JETS 31, MIAMI DOLPHINS 23
For a running team the Jets sure pass the ball pretty well. Mark Sanchez looked solid for the second consecutive week, completing 15 of 28 for 256 yards and three TDs. He’s developing a bond with Dustin Keller (6-98-2), and drunk driver Braylon Edwards (2-87-1) sat for a quarter before announcing his presence with authority with a 67-yard TD catch and run on his first grab of the night.
Chad Henne (26-44-363-2-1) probably didn’t expect to get into a shootout with the Jets, but he hardly fell short. It was no surprise that Brandon Marshall (10-166-1) was his primary target, but there was enough to make Davonne Bess (6-86) and Brian Hartline (5-84) fantasy helpers as well.
FANTASY IMPACT: Not that fantasy owners were expecting much from Ronnie Brown (11-54) against the Jets, but the pass/run split was a bit surprising. At least Brown, who also threw an incomplete pass and caught two balls for minus-one yard, continues to see more touches than Ricky Williams, who carried seven times for 28 yards. In the battle of the Wildcats, Brad Smith (3-41, 1-11) was more effective than his Miami counterparts. In fact, he was more effective than Shonn Greene (10-36) as well, as LaDainian Tomlinson (15-70-1, 3-18) saw the majority of the touches and a key goal line look for the second straight week.