JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 36, BUFFALO BILLS 26
David Garrard put his road woes to bed for at least a week, looking downright efficient in completing 16 of 20 attempts for 178 yards and three touchdowns. Jacksonville’s running game was also solid, even with Maurice Jones-Drew (19-84, 2-9) missing time after suffering a wrist injury; Deji Karim (15-70) filled in admirably before MJD returned.
Maybe the Bills have found their quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was 20-for-30 for 220 yards and three scores—albeit against one of the league’s softer pass defenses. After hitting Lee Evans (5-87-1) early, Fitzpatrick went back to Steve Johnson (5-46-2) multiple times in the red zone, ultimately producing the two TDS.
FANTASY IMPACT: Fred Jackson (12-73) was the initial beneficiary of the Marshawn Lynch trade, though those numbers still aren’t providing the opportunity you might expect from a Chan Gainey team. C.J. Spiller (5-31, 1-3) is still an afterthought, but starting 0-5 might put the Bills on the “let’s see what we got” plan sooner rather than later. We keep doubting the staying power of Marcedes Lewis (4-54-2) as a fantasy helper, and he keeps sticking it in our faces. There’s no question he has first-round talent, and he continues to outproduce Mike Sims-Walker (4-46-1) and Mike Thomas (4-51). After five weeks, it’s time to call it a trend.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 31, DENVER BRONCOS 17
Welcome back, Ray Rice! Just when nervous fantasy owners were reaching for the panic button, you reward their patience with 27-133-2 on the ground and 4-26 as a receiver. It almost didn’t matter that Willis McGahee (10-67-1) and Joe Flacco (5-20-1) vultured rushing TDs. At least Flacco got the rushing score; Rice’s heavy workload limited Flacco to 14-25-196 via the air.
Conversely, if you can’t run—and to the surprise of no one, Laurence Maroney (6-27) and Correll Buckhalter (5-13) couldn’t against the Ravens—you have to pass. Thus it was that Kyle Orton took on the league’s top-rated pass defense and produced 314 yards and two touchdowns. Sure, a portion of that total were garbage time numbers, but they don’t distinguish in the box score.
FANTASY IMPACT: So long as Orton keeps throwing, Brandon Lloyd (5-135-2) keeps catching. While the Denver receiver rotation continues to confound—Jabar Gaffney (9-87) was a PPR helper, Eddie Royal (4-31) a mild contributor, and Demaryius Thomas (2-12) an afterthought—Lloyd’s production seems to remain consistent. The Ravens seem to be an either/or proposition on offense, and since Rice was on it meant severely subdued numbers for Anquan Boldin (1-8) and Derrick Mason (3-47).
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 19, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 9
Who had money on this game producing only one touchdown—or that Mike Hart (11-50-1, 1-5) would score it? The Chiefs’ secondary proved they’re legit by shutting out Peyton Manning (26-44-244-0-1) and capping the Colts’ receivers across the board; Reggie Wayne’s 6-75 was the top total, and Dallas Clark (3-20) was nearly invisible. Instead, Indy relied on their defense and a running game that saw Joseph Addai contribute 17-50 (plus 5-39 as a receiver) to the effort before suffering a shoulder injury.
The Chiefs marched their first drive inside the Indy 10 before turning it over on downs, then proceeded to take four of their next six drives into Colts territory—though only once into the red zone. Once they fumbled, thrice they settled for field goals, and ultimately they couldn’t overcome a 10-minute time of possession deficit.
FANTASY IMPACT: On the bright side, KC’s backfield distribution finally matched the productivity: Jamaal Charles (16-87, 3-14) produced 101 yards on 19 touches while Thomas Jones only saw eight carries and generated just 19 yards. Let’s hope Todd Haley doesn’t equate Charles getting carries with losing and Jones getting carries with winning. No early word on Addai’s shoulder injury, but with Donald Brown nursing a bum hammy Hart could be an intriguing short-term pickup; the Colts aren’t going to overwhelm you with their running game, but they’ll do enough to make a single back a decent fantasy play.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS 16, GREEN BAY PACKERS 13 (OT)
The Redskins matched the potent Packers’ offense yard for yard (well, almost; it was 427-373) and score for score; the latter was surprising primarily because Green Bay couldn’t turn the yards into points. Donovan McNabb (26-49-357-1-1) made one big play down the field to Anthony Armstrong (3-84-1) and enough little plays to Santana Moss (7-118) and Chris Cooley (7-69) to set up a pair of Graham Gano field goals. And surprisingly, that was enough.
How much did Aaron Rodgers (27-46-293-1-1) miss Jermichael Finley, who suffered a knee injury and did not record a catch? Plenty. Eschewing Donald Driver (4-58) and Greg Jennings (2-22), Rogers completed nearly half his passes to secondary wideouts James Jones (4-65) and Jordy Nelson (3-42) and backup tight ends Andrew Quarless (4-51) and Donald Lee (2-22-1). Even the backs were more involved, led by Brandon Jackson’s 5-25 as a receiver.
FANTASY IMPACT: So you bailed on Jackson amid talk that James Starks or Dimitri Nance might be stealing his job; don’t let the 10-115 on the ground fool you, he’s still the same mediocre back. What he did better this week was capitalize on a Redskins’ D focused on the pass; the 71-yard run which accounted for the bulk of his production came on a sprint draw, as did much of his remaining 44 yards. He’ll be a popular pickup (again) this week, but you can bet opponents are aware of that play now. Speaking of overhyped backup backs, the Ryan Torain express never left the station as 16 carries produced just 40 yards. Torain did add 4-27 as a receiver, but a) Keiland Williams (1-1, 1-9) is back on the active roster and b) remember, Mike Shanahan is still the coach.
DETROIT LIONS 44, SAINT LOUIS RAMS 6
It can’t be overstated: Shaun Hill (21-32-227-3) understands the Lions’ offense. Jump ball to Calvin Johnson (4-54-1)? Check. Feed tight ends Brandon Pettigrew (4-26-1) and Tony Scheffler (4-41)? Check. Plenty of touches for Jahvid Best (18-67, 4-37)? Check. The touchdown to Nate Burleson (4-56-1) was a bonus.
Sam Bradford (23-45-215-0-2) looked like a toddler without his security blanket after Mark Clayton (1-6) left the game with a knee injury. Danny Amendola (12-95) did his best to comfort the rookie, and Steven Jackson (24-114, 1-12) provided his usual support, but sans Clayton the Rams mustered just two field goals. Against the Lions.
FANTASY IMPACT: Jackson’s aversion to the end zone continues, but don’t blame the Rams’ offense for not getting him close: three of their first five drives took them to the St. Louis 10 or closer, but they fumbled once and settled for two field goals. You can blame the play-calling, though; on nine snaps from the 15 and in, Jackson handled the ball just twice. Do you think the Lions will feel the need to rush Matthew Stafford back? Hill has been more than competent in holding down the fort, to the point of becoming a viable bye-week plug-in play.
CHICAGO BEARS 23, CAROLINA PANTHERS 6
The best coaching decision the Bears could have made was taking the ball out of Todd Collins’ hands and putting it into Matt Forte’s. Don’t get used to seven and a half yards per carry, as it had more to do with the ineptitude of the Panthers, or the hefty workload. But given the opportunity, Forte consistently produced solid gains en route to 22-166-2 on the ground and 2-22 in the air to account for almost two-thirds of the team’s offense.
Move along, people; there’s nothing to see here.
FANTASY IMPACT: It’s not that the Panthers’ tandem backfield of DeAngelo Williams (12-51) and Jonathan Stewart (8-30) isn’t effective; this team is so putrid they just aren’t getting the opportunities. Three drives in the Panthers were down 14 points, which is why they let Jimmy Clausen (9-22-61-0-1) and Matt Moore (5-10-35-0-2) throw 32 passes and handed off just 20 times. Speaking of nothing to see here, the Bears passing game sans Jay Cutler has been nothing short of abysmal. Todd Collins (6-16-32-0-4) was benched, leaving Caleb Hanie (2-3-19) to mop up. Hurry back, Jay!
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 24, CINCINNATI BENGALS 21
You always want to pair your franchise quarterback with a stud go-to receiver, and if the Bucs had any questions about whether or not they’d found theirs in the fourth round of this year’s draft they were answered Sunday by the performance of Mike Williams (7-99-1). Josh Freeman (20-33-280-1-1) put the ball up in the end zone with the game on the line and Williams simply went up and got it. Freeman made another big-time throw to Michael Spurlock (3-35) to set up the game winning field goal at the end of regulation.
Cedric Benson (23-144) was more than a sled dog, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. However, despite being in relative control for most of the game the Bengals insisted on letting Carson Palmer (21-36-209-2-3) throw 36 times. His first pick was returned for Tampa’s first points; his last two set up the Bucs’ tying and winning scores.
FANTASY IMPACT: Terrell Owens (7-102-1) had another big day, and Jermaine Gresham (4-24-1) found the end zone as well. Noticeable by his absence was Chad Ochocinco, who managed just 20 yards on three catches—as many as Bucs’ defenders had. While Carnell Williams (11-33) was underwhelming once again, neither preseason hype Kareem Huggins (1-4) nor more recent waiver-wire wonder LeGarrette Blount (4-3) did anything to justify the talk. In fact, fullback/tailback Earnest Graham (3-65-1) was far and away the most productive Buc back.
ATLANTA FALCONS 20, CLEVELAND BROWNS 10
Atlanta’s offense was somewhat underwhelming in producing just two field goals through the first half, but their defense kept things close until Roddy White (5-101-1) could wriggle free for the go-ahead score. With Matt Ryan (16-28-187-1) posting subdued numbers, Michael Turner (19-140) put the offense on his back and carried the load.
Try as they might, the Browns just can’t come up with offensive production outside of Peyton Hillis (10-28, 4-49-1). Seneca Wallace (11-15-139-1) was maybe on his way to producing something prior to injuring his ankle, but Jake Delhomme (13-23-97-0-2) failed to pick up the torch.
FANTASY IMPACT: Mohamed Massaquoi (5-55) was the Browns’ top receiver, but those aren’t particularly helpful fantasy numbers. About the only auxiliary fantasy help came from tight end Ben Watson, whose 5-45 isn’t a bad haul for a bye week tight end in a PPR league. There’s no mystery to the Atlanta offense. You’ll get your Turner carries, you’ll get your White catches, you’ll get your Tony Gonzalez (5-41) catches... and aside from the occasional Jason Snelling (6-18, 2-2) contribution as a change of pace to Turner, that’s it. Sunday that trio accounted for 80 percent of Atlanta’s yardage and 100 percent of their offensive touchdowns.
NEW YORK GIANTS 34, HOUSTON TEXANS 10
There’s no question the Giants knew Houston could be had through the air; despite averaging a solid four-plus yards per carry and two Eli Manning INTs, the Giants continued to throw. Manning went 27-for-42 for 297 yards and three TDs in addition to the two picks, but despite the volume only Hakeem Nicks (12-130-2) and Steve Smith (6-89-1) put up helpful fantasy numbers—though Kevin Boss (4-40) continues to border on relevancy.
Was it the Giants’ defense? Or have the Texans lost their identity somewhere between last season’s top-ranked passing attack and this year’s ground-heavy game plan? This week neither worked; a nicked-up Andre Johnson (5-95) and a still-hobbled Owen Daniels (3-45) were only part of the reason Matt Schaub (16-34-196-0-1) struggled. And Arian Foster (11-25, 2-2) not only did little with the small workload he handled, he gave up his only touchdown opportunity to Derrick Ward (1-1-1, 1-12).
FANTASY IMPACT: Thankfully, the Texans won’t host any more NFC East teams this season after scoring a combined 23 points in two games against the Giants and Cowboys. But there should definitely be concern about Foster getting Kubiaked in back-to-back weeks, as well as just when Johnson and Daniels will be fully healthy. And after watching the Chiefs shut out Peyton Manning this week, it doesn’t appear as if the road gets any easier. Despite the predominant passing game, the Giants’ running game was effective as well. Ahmad Bradshaw (16-67, 3-22) continues to see the bulk of the workload, but Brandon Jacobs (10-41-1) stole his touchdown. In fact, even after Bradshaw took a carry from the six to the one the Giants trotted Jacobs out; his three-yard loss may mean that won’t be the automatic move down the road, but it’s certainly food for thought for Bradshaw owners.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 30, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 20
The Cards couldn’t manage an offensive touchdown, unless you include tackle Levi Brown falling on a fumble after Max Hall got his helmet taken off on a scramble. In fact, they managed very little offense at all. Chris Wells took 20 carries all of 35 yards, and in his first NFL start Hall mustered 168 yards and an INT. At least Hall knew where his bread was buttered, with more than half of his yardage going to Larry Fitzgerald (7-93).
Um... didn’t these guys just win the Super Bowl? The Saints looked like anything but world beaters in Arizona, turning the ball over four times—the final two being brought all the way back for the deciding 14 points. Despite the three picks, Drew Brees (24-39-279-2-3) managed to find Marques Colston (7-97) and tight end Jeremy Shockey (3-30-1), who is developing into one of his more reliable targets. Devery Henderson (4-61) was on the radar and Robert Meachem (4-57-1) showed up with one of his rare big games, but Lance Moore (1-8) was this week’s afterthought.
FANTASY IMPACT: The tandem of Chris Ivory (10-39) and Ladell Betts (10-44) has been adequate, but the Saints clearly miss Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush. Bush is still a month away; you would expect Thomas to be back sooner, seeing as he returned to the field in the same game as the initial injury, but right now that’s no certainty. While Hall can claim a win in his first NFL start, it appears he has killed the fantasy value of all Cardinals save for maybe Fitzgerald. At least Hall’s 62% completion percentage allowed him to hook up with Fitz for season high catch and yardage totals.
TENNESSEE TITANS 34, DALLAS COWBOYS 27
Vince Young (12-25-173-2) wasn’t anything special, but a couple early touchdowns oped the door for the Titans’ beloved ground game as Chris Johnson turned loose for 131 yards and two TDs on 19 carries. Sans Justin Gage, both Kenny Britt (4-86-1) and Nate Washington (1-24-1) found the end zone for the third time this season.
The Cowboys shook up their backfield rotation, giving most of the carries to Felix Jones (15-109) and leaving table scraps for Marion Barber (6-19). That wasn’t enough, so they turned to Tony Romo for 406 passing yards; he leaned heavily on Miles Austin (9-166-1), continued to find Roy Williams (6-87-1), and reconnected with old flame Jason Witten (5-84-1). However, three second-half picks led to 10 Titans points and snuffed out a final Dallas drive.
FANTASY IMPACT: Jerry Jones got his wish, and Felix responded with 126 yards from scrimmage. The temptation would be to kick MB3 to the curb, but you know he’s one Jones turned ankle or tweaked hammy from being back in the saddle. On the other hand, you’ll want to ride Felix for the next couple of weeks until that injury happens. Young seems to have shed his reliance on the tight end; all six of his TD tosses have gone to wide receivers. While the yardage is still suspect, Washington and Britt are beginning to become semi-reliable fantasy producers in TD-heavy scoring systems.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 35, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 27
The Raiders’ special teams kick-started the scoring—literally—with a pair of blocked punts and a field goal to stake Oakland to a 12-point lead. That allowed them to give Michael Bush (26-104-1, 3-31) 26 carries, including the go-ahead touchdown with three minutes remaining. It also helped Jason Campbell (13-18-159-1) step in for the injured Bruce Gradkowski (1-7-14), though the way Gradkowski was playing he may have been ticketed for the bench anyway.
You can blame Philip Rivers (27-42-431-2) for his two fumbles, but his arm kept the Chargers in the game when everything else was failing. The Oakland secondary was unable to find Malcolm Floyd (8-213-1), but Rivers certainly did; he also connected with Antonio Gates (5-92-1), but could have used more help from the running game—or more specifically, a rethink of the decision to give Mike Tolbert (12-11-1, 2-24, and a critical fumble) more work than Ryan Mathews (9-59).
FANTASY IMPACT: Rivers has settled on Floyd and Gates as the go-to guys; the remainder of the Chargers had just one more catch than Floyd/Gates and less than a third of Rivers’ yardage total. Hopefully Mathews’ ankle is healthy enough that the running game can similarly settle on a workhorse; he looked sharp, while Tolbert put another one on the ground. Campbell’s return to the field also meant an uptick for Zach Miller (6-62-1); while Louis Murphy (2-61) had one big catch, he was the only Oakland wideout with a grab all afternoon. Should Darren McFadden remain out, don’t overlook Bush’s contributions as a receiver—especially with “Checkdown” Campbell at the helm.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 27, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 24
Kevin Kolb (21-31-253-1) didn’t go long like Michael Vick did, though he did have 20-plus yard completions to his tight end and both starting wideouts. But aside from a lost fumble on a sack he played a relatively error-free game, getting the ball to LeSean McCoy (18-92-1, 5-46) and making enough plays in the passing game to secure the victory. DeSean Jackson (2-24) was less effective than Jeremy Maclin (6-95), but it was Brent Celek (3-47-1) whom Kolb turned to when it mattered.
Alex Smith (25-39-309-3-2) was nearly booed off the field before rallying the Niners for a pair of late touchdowns, though his night ended on a sour note when he was pressured into a game-ending interception. Smith got both of his primary playmakers from last year heavily involved, producing triple-digit evenings for both Michael Crabtree (9-105-1) and Vernon Davis (5-104). While Smith took the brunt of the blame, perhaps the most disappointing showing belonged to Frank Gore (18-52, 4-21-1), who produced just 73 yards from scrimmage and fumbled twice.
FANTASY IMPACT: Despite his down game, Gore did manage to find the end zone. And despite the booing and miscues, Smith got both Crabtree and Davis back on the fantasy radar. It will be interesting to see if, at 0-5, he’ll be given the chance to keep on keeping on or if it’s David Carr time. Kolb got the win and was solid, but with Atlanta up next for Philly and Vick getting healthier it’s QB controversy time. McCoy should be fine either way, though he’ll likely see more catches (and less goal line vultures) if Kolb keeps the job. And heading into next week, the Vick/Kolb decision dramatically impacts what you can expect from Maclin and Celek.