MIAMI DOLPHINS 23, GREEN BAY PACKERS 20 (OT)
In retrospect, maybe single coverage from someone other than Charles Woodson on Brandon Marshall (10-127) wasn’t such a great idea. He didn’t score, but Davonne Bess (5-37-1) and Anthony Fasano (1-22-1) did to give Chad Henne (23-39-231-2-1) a decent looking stat line.
Hey, look; we found Greg Jennings (6-133-1)! Maybe it was the absence of Jermichael Finley that prompted the extra attention from Aaron Rodgers (18-33-313-1-1), as replacement tight ends Tom Crabtree (1-33) and Andrew Quarless (1-23) didn’t really fill the void. Rodgers was also the team’s most effective runner with four carries for 14 yards and a touchdown; John Kuhn (5-9) went 0-for-2 from a yard out before Rodgers took matters into his own hands, and Brandon Jackson (12-53) was ordinary.
FANTASY IMPACT: While Jennings showed up in a big way, Donald Driver (3-31) didn’t see the boost in his stats expected with Finley out of the mix. In fact, Jordy Nelson (4-64) outperformed him. While Ronnie Brown (19-73) saw a season-high number of carries, he still ceded 40 percent of the workload—and 45% of the yardage—to Ricky Williams (13-64). It’ll be tough for Brown to be trusted with a weekly fantasy start if he’s barely half of the Dolphins’ ground game, especially with Henne and the passing game taking a larger bite than in previous seasons.
SAINT LOUIS RAMS 20, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 17
Steven Jackson (29-109-1) found the end zone and Sam Bradford (18-31-198-1) found undrafted rookie Danario Alexander (4-72-1) to help fill the void created by Mark Clayton’s injury. That was the extent of the offensive highlights for St. Louis, as they used a sack-happy defense to hand San Diego their fourth loss.
This was supposed to be a walkover for the league’s most prolific offense; instead, Antonio Gates (2-12) left early with an ankle injury and Malcolm Floyd (2-15) was a non-factor before exiting in the fourth quarter with a bum hammy. Sans his regular targets, Philip Rivers (22-37-249-1-1) turned to Patrick Crayton (6-117) and Craig Davis (3-39-1) to pick up the slack.
FANTASY IMPACT: On the bright side, there shouldn’t be too much more hand-wringing about the division of carries in the Chargers’ backfield; Ryan Matthews (12-64, 3-12) saw three-fourths of the carries. However, it’s clear from Mike Tolbert’s 3-3-1 that he’s staked a claim to the goal line carries, which could bite into the rookie’s touchdown total. It’s yet to be determined if Alexander’s performance makes him the heir to Clayton’s numbers; both Brandon Gibson (3-33), Danny Amendola (3-19), and tight end Billy Bajema (3-34) were targeted just as often as Alexander.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 23, BALTIMORE RAVENS 20
Who needs a breaking in period? Deion Branch (9-98-1) acted as if he’d never left, matching Randy Moss’s season total for catches in his first game as a Patriot in four years. Wes Welker’s numbers (7-53) were subdued sans Moss, but Aaron Hernandez (4-61 plus 1-18 on the ground) continued to impress and Danny Woodhead added an unexpected 11-63 on the ground to his 5-52 as a receiver.
The Ravens didn’t jump out to nearly the lead they held in last season’s playoff game; though Ray Rice (28-88, 8-38) put up good numbers the ground game didn’t dominate, so Baltimore had to turn to the air. Joe Flacco (27-35-285-2) responded with a solid outing, feeding Derrick Mason (8-100) but finding Anquan Boldin (4-63-1) and Todd Heap (3-49-1) in the end zone.
FANTASY IMPACT: Rice appears to be the only constant in Baltimore, as Flacco can fluctuate between barely helpful in a run-first offense and living up to the more lofty expectations placed on him heading into this season. He’s capable; he’s just not always called upon. Just when it appeared as if BenJarvus Green-Ellis (10-20-1) was set to be the Patriots’ primary ballcarrier, Bill Belichick pulls the ol’ switcheroo and gives Woodhead 11 carries. Oh, and Fred Taylor may be healthy soon.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 28, CLEVELAND BROWNS 10
If there was any rust on Ben Roethlisberger he didn’t show it in throwing for 257 yards and three touchdowns. He spread the love, feeding Hines Ward (5-54-1) underneath and going up top for Mike Wallace (3-90-1); even Heath Miller (2-50-1) got involved. And there was even enough to go around for Rashard Mendenhall, who carried 27 times for 84 yards and a touchdown and added 3-15 as a receiver.
Not only was Colt McCoy (23-33-281-1-2) not overwhelmed by the Steelers, he was actually pretty doggone good. Just six of his completions went to wide receivers, but he got 20-plus-yard receptions from Ben Watson (6-88-1), Evan Moore (4-84) and Peyton Hillis (12-41 on the ground, 6-49 in the air).
FANTASY IMPACT: You can’t blame McCoy entirely for not going down the field, not when his top two downfield targets, Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs, were both knocked out of the game by helmet-to-helmet hits from James Harrison. Still, if he holds onto the job in Cleveland it will be a boon for tight ends Watson and Moore and a further bust for the likes of Massaquoi and Cribbs. The opposite is true for the Steelers now that Roethlisberger is back; he got everyone involved in the passing game and will raise the fantasy values of both Wallace and Ward—not to mention take Miller’s fantasy value off of life support.
HOUSTON TEXANS 35, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 31
Houston’s offense took the first two-plus quarters off, then scored touchdowns on four straight possessions—including the game-winner with 28 seconds left to Andre Johnson, capping an eight-catch, 138-yard, one-TD performance. Matt Schaub (25-33-305-2) looked much more like the architect of last year’s top-ranked passing offense; it helped to have both Johnson and Owen Daniels (5-79) looking healthier than they have in recent weeks. However, backup tight end Joel Dreessen (1-5-1) stole Daniels’ touchdown.
The Chiefs continued to run the ball extremely well, with Thomas Jones (19-100-1, 1-10) regaining the upper hand in the carries battle and Jamaal Charles (16-93, 4-24) also productive. The big change for KC was an outstanding game from Matt Cassel (20-29-201-3) that hinged on Dwayne Bowe’s biggest outing of the year: six catches, 108 yards, and two scores.
FANTASY IMPACT: Bowe’s downfield production made the Chiefs multi-dimensional; it wasn’t their offense that let them down this week. Unfortunately, the carries pendulum swung back towards Jones this week, and his productivity—five yards per carry and a touchdown—will do nothing to dissuade Todd Haley from continuing to siphon off fantasy value from Charles. The Texans’ ground game looked to be equally frustrating when Derrick Ward (3-58-1) swiped another touchdown from Arian Foster. However, Foster scored twice and finished with 97 yards from scrimmage (71 rushing), which should be enough to salve the pain of that lost TD.
NEW YORK GIANTS 28, DETROIT LIONS 20
The Giants did just enough to win, and not a whole lot more. Eli Manning (20-30-177-2) was efficient despite a down game from Hakeem Nicks (3-8); Steve Smith (6-70) and Mario Manningham (4-51-1) picked up the slack. In the running game, Ahmad Bradshaw (19-133, plus 2-10 receiving) did all the heavy lifting but ceded the money shots to Brandon Jacobs (9-35-2).
Shaun Hill (9-15-91-1) had the Lions in this one before exiting with a broken left arm; Drew Stanton (19-34-222-1-1) very nearly completed the upset using a similar formula of getting the ball to Calvin Johnson (5-146-1) and tight end Brandon Pettigrew (7-61). Nate Burleson (6-50-1) continues to contribute as well since returning from his injury.
FANTASY IMPACT: Maybe it’s the toe, maybe it’s the defense, but for whatever reason Jahvid Best (12-16, 6-31) hasn’t been all that effective since suffering his injury in Week 3; the flashy rookie’s longest gain of the day was a mere 10 yards. Jacobs has taken to his goal line job, and it appears he’ll keep it regardless of how effective he is. The two TDs are nice, but he failed to convert on two shots from the one-yard line; the Giants eventually opted to pass and scored on the next play.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 31, ATLANTA FALCONS 17
Philly’s plan early on was to get the ball to DeSean Jackson, and it worked to perfection as Jackson scored on a 31-yard run and a 34-yard catch. It could have been an even bigger day but Jackson was knocked out of the game with a severe concussion suffered on a helmet-to-helmet collision. Sans Jackson, Kevin Kolb (23-29-326-3-1) did the unexpected: he went to Jeremy Maclin, who turned in a seven-catch, 159-yard, two-TD outing. That was more than enough to hold off the Falcons.
Surprisingly, the Falcons couldn’t get their ground game going against a Philly defense that hadn’t put up much of a run D thus far this year. That left Matt Ryan (23-42-250-2-1) to pick up the slack and while he received a pair of Tony Gonzalez (3-19-2) touchdowns and a surprising 5-99 from Michael Jenkins, the 6-83 from Roddy White was a bit disappointing.
FANTASY IMPACT: So far this year when the Atlanta running game has worked the passing game has as well. But while Ryan did his part, Michael Turner (15-45) was a road no-show. And here we thought he’d busted out of that rut with back-to-back 100-yard games on the road. Kolb played well enough to keep the job for at least another week; whether he does, or if Michael Vick is healthy enough to reclaim his starting gig, remains to be seen. But sans Jackson, who is unlikely to return until after Philly’s Week 8 bye, Maclin is back on the fantasy radar regardless of quarterback.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 23, CHICAGO BEARS 20
Pete Carroll cobbled together quite an offense, from a variety of unlikely sources—on the road, no less. Newest Seahawk Marshawn Lynch (17-44-1, 3-9) touched the ball more than any of his teammates, but his arrival didn’t preclude Justin Forsett (10-67-1, 1-9) from having a role in the offense as well. Matt Hasselbeck (25-40-242-1) directed a passing game that leaned heavily on Mike Williams (10-123) and compensated for the loss of Deion Branch by hitting Deon Butler four times for 47 yards and a score.
The Bears hosted one of the league’s shakiest secondaries—one that doesn’t travel well—and couldn’t even generate a passing score. Jay Cutler (17-39-290) was sacked six times, though it didn’t prevent him from throwing downfield to Johnny Knox (5-120). In fact, it was a 58-yard pass interference penalty on a deep shot to Devin Hester (2-26 plus a punt return TD) that set up Matt Forte’s most productive play, a six-yard touchdown run.
FANTASY IMPACT: It’s possible Cutler came back too soon, or maybe teams have figured out how to disrupt Mike Martz’s offense by pressuring the Bears’ Swiss cheese offensive line. But the inability to record a passing touchdown on the Seahawks makes it virtually impossible to trust any Chicago receiver with a fantasy start until they’ve provided at least a couple week’s worth of reasons otherwise. Seattle’s offensive outburst is nice, but aside from Hasselbeck it’s a revolving door of where will the production come from next. The backfield looks to be a committee, and until their offensive line comes together it’s not productive enough to warrant regular starts for either.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 31, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 6
The problem with the Saints seemed to be the lack of a ground game, and with both Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas out again it appeared New Orleans was ill-equipped to take advantage of the Bucs’ weakness in that area. And then Chris Ivory stepped up with 158 yards on 15 carries (plus a catch for another 17 yards). Ladell Betts (6-20 -1, 1-6) stole the touchdown, but it was Ivory who made the Saints tick. And with the ground game covered, Drew Brees (21-32-263-3-1) was at his spread-it-around best, hitting 10 different receivers including Robert Meachem (4-71-1) and Lance Moore (2-57-1) on 40-plus-yard touchdowns.
The Bucs didn’t enter the red zone until midway through the fourth quarter, and by that time it was too little, too late. Josh Freeman’s stat line (25-43-219-1) didn’t look all that bad, but it was Carnell Williams (10-18, 7-63 receiving) and Sammie Stroughter (3-51) doing the heavy lifting in the passing game rather than Mike Williams (4-45) and Kellen Winslow (7-43). As noted by Caddy’s 1.8 yards per carry, however, the rushing game failed to ignite as it did in last year’s upset of the Saints.
FANTASY IMPACT: The Bucs keep threatening to shake up their backfield, but Caddy keeps getting the bulk of the carries. Kareem Huggins (3-7, 1-7) received a brief audition and LeGarrette Blount was inactive, so apparently the experimentation continues. Those who had Marques Colston (5-53) and Devery Henderson (targeted once, zero catches) in their lineups couldn’t have enjoyed the Brees merry-go-round, but it’s become the rule rather than the exception. Even Jeremy Shockey (2-21) was sniped by fullback Heath Evans (1-4-1).
NEW YORK JETS 24, DENVER BRONCOS 20
The Jets’ most important offensive play was a 46-yard pass interference penalty that set up LaDainian Tomlinson’s go-ahead touchdown with just over a minute left. And aside from LT’s two scores, which accompanied 16-55 on the ground and 2-12 as a receiver, there wasn’t a stat line in the Jets’ box score that set any fantasy owner’s heart aflutter. Mark Sanchez (17-30-198-1-2) spread his minimal yardage among three wideouts, LT, and tight end Dustin Keller, who paced the receiving corps with 3-75.
After tearing into the Ravens’ top-ranked pass defense last week, the assumption was that Kyle Orton was making Denver’s passing game bulletproof. Instead, he struggled to a 14-34-209-1 line that rendered all his receivers—yes, even Brandon Lloyd (4-74)—fantasy dead spots. In fact, Lloyd’s TD was swiped by Demaryius Thomas on his only catch.
FANTASY IMPACT: Back in the lineup after his second hamstring injury of the year, Knowshon Moreno (12-48) fumbled the first time he touched the ball. And it went downhill from there, with Laurence Maroney (7-18) and Correll Buckhalter (6-20) stealing carries and Tim Tebow (6-23-1) inserted at the stripe. That sound you heard was Moreno’s value springing a Titanic-sized leak. No clarity to the Jets’ receiver rotation this week, with Braylon Edwards (4-46-1) seeing the most targets but being outgained by both Keller and Santonio Holmes (4-47). Jerricho Cotchery remains in the mix as well, though he turned seven targets and four catches into just 18 yards.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 17, OAKLAND RAIDERS 9
Game two of the Mike Johnson era saw more of the same: heavy doses of Frank Gore (25-149) and a passing game zeroed in on Michael Crabtree (4-57-1) and Vernon Davis (4-35-1). And really, that’s all it took to beat the Raiders and get San Francisco off the schneid.
Sebastian Janikowski scored all their points and the Raiders lost to a winless team; how do you think it went? Jason Campbell (8-21-83-0-2) was abysmal, sucking down with him a passing game that had only one player (Zach Miller, 2-48) produce more than 20 yards. The ground game was no better, with Michael Bush (20-47) brutal and very nearly lapped by wide receiver Louis Murphy, who gained 43 yards on his lone carry.
FANTASY IMPACT: So much for the thought that Campbell could keep this offense humming along at a pseudo-competent level. The Raiders need Bruce Gradkowski back to fire up the downfield passing game and Darren McFadden to provide some burst in the backfield. How bad is it that we’re clamoring for Gradkowski and Campbell? From time to time Josh Morgan (3-49) might provide a little something, but it’s clear the new direction of the offense lends itself to three viable fantasy players: Gore, Crabtree, and Davis. Oh, and from time to time, Alex Smith (16-33-196-2).
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 24, DALLAS COWBOYS 21
The return of Randy Moss (5-55) to the Metrodome was anticlimactic; even though he paced all of Minnesota’s receivers it wasn’t the big bang Vikings fans were looking for. Of course, Brett Favre only threw 19 passes, competing 14 for a subdued 118 yards and one touchdown so it wasn’t as if there were much to go around. Instead, the Vikings focused on being mistake-free, which for the most part they were, and on limiting the shots on Favre, which they were less successful in doing. That explains the 24 carries for Adrian Peterson, which he turned into 73 yards and a touchdown.
Tony Romo (24-32-220-3-2) threw three TDs, but it was the two INTs that doomed the Cowboys—that, the absence of Miles Austin (2-12), and the futility of their running game. Felix Jones (14-32) saw more carries once again, though Marion Barber (10-31) picked up a bigger share than last week; neither broke off a run longer than six yards. At least Jones (10-61) added something in the passing game.
FANTASY IMPACT: With Austin a non-factor—unless you count his excessive celebration penalty for leapfrogging Roy Williams (3-28-2) following his first touchdown or wiping out his own 68-yard touchdown with an offensive pass interference penalty—Romo threw a bunch of screen passes and found Williams in the end zone twice. He also hit Dez Bryant (1-31-1) on a nice sideline pattern for a score—a play you’re bound to see again, given Bryant’s physical advantages over most quarterbacks. The Vikings’ offense looked anything but rejuvenated despite a home date and Moss in purple; it took a Percy Harvin (2-18 rushing, 3-21 receiving) kickoff return touchdown just to get the ball rolling and two INTs and another drive that began in Dallas territory for Minnesota to put any points on the board. In other words, despite the win and the Moss band-aid, all is not right in Minnesota just yet.
INDIANAPOLIS COLS 27, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 24
The 25-38-307-2 from Peyton Manning, that was to be expected; the 17-128-1 from Joseph Addai before he left the game with a possible concussion, that wasn’t in the script. But it was Addai’s running that held things together for the Colts through some brutal drops and one hellacious one-handed catch from Pierre Garçon (4-103-1) while Reggie Wayne (6-71) and Dallas Clark (6-52) and Austin Collie (7-57-1) did their usual.
You knew the Redskins would try to run it down the Colts’ throats, and Ryan Torain (20-100-2) did just that. And when he gave way late in the game for third-down back Keiland Williams (2-12, 4-19-1), he scored as well. But while Donovan McNabb’s dink-and-dunk passing game generated 246 yards on 45 throws, there was nary a completion longer than 19 yards—even to downfield threat Anthony Armstrong (5-46).
FANTASY IMPACT: Santana Moss (8-77) was no surprise as the Redskins’ leading receiver, but Armstrong is gaining traction. And Fred Davis (3-23) could emerge depending on how serious the concussion Chris Cooley (5-37) suffered turns out to be. After all, it’s pretty obvious McNabb isn’t going deep. Addai’s injury looked significant as well, especially since it’s the second week he’s left the game prematurely with an injury to the head and neck area. Mike Hart (11-43) was ordinary in Addai’s place, but he’ll have fantasy value if he gets the bulk of the opportunities.