ATLANTA FALCONS 39, CINCINNATI BENGALS 32
It was the usual suspects for the Falcons, who built an early lead, gave it away on a couple turnovers, then took it back for good. Matt Ryan (24-33-299-3-1) continued to be money at home, with no receiver more money than Roddy White (11-201-2). Brian Finneran (2-8-1) swiped Ryan’s other touchdown, and among the Falcons expected to contribute only Tony Gonzalez (2-27) disappointed.
Down 21 by halftime, the Bengals couldn’t get Cedric Benson (20-70) going. That left Carson Palmer to do the heavy lifting, and he responded with 36-50-412-3. Both diva receivers scored, with Chad Ochocinco (10-108-1) narrowly outpointing Terrell Owens (9-88-1). But it was rookie slot receiver Jordan Shipley (6-131-1) who put up the biggest numbers, thanks primarily to a 64-yard catch-and-run TD.
FANTASY IMPACT: Palmer has taken some heat this season, but he completed 72 percent of his passes and didn’t throw any picks—plus he put up gaudy yardage and three TDS. The Bengals would still prefer a more balanced attack, but Palmer is playing his way back towards at least warranting weekly fantasy consideration. Michael Turner (23-121-2) took some hits in PPR drafts, and while his 2-23 doesn’t exactly make him Roger Craig it proves he’s staying on the field in passing situations. And his consistent rushing production more than makes up for his PPR shortcomings.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 23, MIAMI DOLPHINS 22
It’s a good thing Ben Roethlisberger (19-27-302-2) is back because the running game was nowhere to be found, mustering just 58 yards on 27 attempts and paced by Rashard Mendenhall’s 15-37 effort. Roethlisberger featured the usual suspects, working Hines Ward (7-131-1) underneath and Mike Wallace (2-53-1) down the field.
For the second straight game the Dolphins eschewed the Wildcat formation; in fact, against the Steel Curtain they mostly abandon the run altogether. Ronnie Brown (9-14, 2-20) and Ricky Williams (11-48) mustered just 82 yards from scrimmage between them, leaving Chad Henne (23-36-257-1) to carry the load.
FANTASY IMPACT: The Steelers made things more difficult for Henne by holding Brandon Marshall to five catches for 57 yards, so Henne went to Davonne Bess (6-66-1) and Brian Hartline (5-57) instead. While Hartline’s contributions can’t be counted on, Bess has scored in three straight and has at least five catches in five of six this season. Hope you all followed JUM’s advice re: Bess a few weeks back. While Mendenhall couldn’t get Pittsburgh’s ground game going, they did receive some unexpected productivity from Mewelde Moore (4-11 rushing, 4-48 receiving). Don’t get used to it; the 48 yards match’s Moore’s biggest receiving yardage day as a Steeler. When Roethlisberger wants to throw underneath he has Ward and Heath Miller (3-33) to choose from.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 37, BUFFALO BILLS 34 (OT)
The Ravens were supposed to run all over one of the worst rush defenses in the league, but the stat lines of Ray Rice (16-72, 1-1) and Willis McGahee (11-64-1, 1-10) were hardly jaw-dropping. In fact, Baltimore spent most of the first half playing from behind; that put the game into the hands of Joe Flacco (16-31-250-3) who in turn looked to Anquan Boldin (6-92-1) and Todd Heap (3-59-2).
Is it time to accept Ryan Fitzpatrick (29-43-374-4-2) as a legit NFL quarterback? He put an Abe Lincoln on the top-ranked pass defense in the league, feeding Lee Evans (6-105-3) and Steve Johnson (8-158-1)—two more names that, if Fitz is legit, have to be considered among viable fantasy wideout options as well.
FANTASY IMPACT: A further effect of Fitzpatrick’s passing success is a hit to the productivity of the running game, specifically Fred Jackson (23-73, 1-4). Will it be long before C.J. Spiller (7-33) starts seeing more work? Surprisingly absent in the Ravens’ passing game was Derrick Mason (2-48), who was targeted just three times—10 fewer than Boldin. T.J. Houshmandzadeh was targeted twice but did not record a catch, in case there were any questions about the passing game pecking order.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 42, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 20
The Chiefs have had success running the ball this season, so it was no surprise they opted to take it to the Jags via that route. Thomas Jones (20-125-1) rode a 70-yard run to a big afternoon, though on that particular series he ceded the touchdown to Jamaal Charles (15-71-1). That left little for Matt Cassel (13-18-193-2) to do except be efficient; he, in turn, focused on Dwayne Bowe (3-81-2).
Give Todd Bouman (18-34-222-2-2) some credit; he had the Jags in this game until an ill-advised INT in the third quarter turned a one-point game into a rout. You’d think sticking the game that long would have allowed Jacksonville to keep Maurice Jones-Drew more involved, but he saw just 16 carries and rushed for only 47 yards; fortunately for MoJo’s long-suffering owners, he stepped up in the passing game with five catches for 74 yards and a touchdown as Bouman’s safety valve.
FANTASY IMPACT: Not that the Jaguars’ downfield passing game is ever that impressive, but with the rusty Bouman at the helm it was virtually non-existent. Wide receivers Mike Sims-Walker (3-38-1), Tiquan Underwood (2-30), and Mike Thomas (one target, no catches) accounted for just eight of Bouman’s 34 targets; the rest went to tight ends (Marcedes Lewis had 3-44 on nine targets) and backs. It’s a sad but true fact: when Jones carries more, the Chiefs win. And for a game at least Jones was more explosive with that 70-yard tote; Charles’ longest gain was 18 yards. But fantasy owners of both backs wouldn’t be upset with a consistent dose of 15-plus touches.
CLEVELAND BROWNS 30, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 17
You look at the Browns’ box score and you wonder how in the world they won. The secret: they capitalized on two short fields to get up 10 points, then turned two Drew Brees interceptions into touchdowns. That and 16-69-1 from Peyton Hillis was about all Colt McCoy (9-16-74) needed to pull off a win in his second NFL start.
Drew Brees’ 37-56-356-2-4 stat line isn’t that bad... until you get to that “4” at the end. He received no help from the running game, which was led by Chris Ivory (15-48) and couldn’t produce a run longer than eight yards. The passing game was typically spread out amongst nine different receivers, though Marques Colston’s 10-112-1 was rivaled by David Bowens’ 2-94-2; problem is, Bowens is a Browns‘ linebacker.
FANTASY IMPACT: While Ivory saw the vast majority of the carries, Ladell Betts appeared as a receiver with eight catches for 48 yards and Julius Jones (1-6, 1-1) did a little of each. Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas can’t get back fast enough. Scrambling to the waiver wire to pick up the Browns’ newest rushing sensation? That’s punter Reggie Hodges with one carry for 68 yards. Hey, he’ll have more of a fantasy impact than Mike Bell (five carries for negative-three yards).
WASHINGTON REDSKINS 17, CHICAGO BEARS 14
It was more of the same from the Redskins: they got a solid outing from Ryan Torain (21-125), the passing game went primarily through Santana Moss (5-63-1) and Chris Cooley (7-52), and Donovan McNabb (17-32-200-1-2 plus a couple fumbles, though he recovered both) made some mistakes. This time around, however, they had the added bonus of Jay Cutler throwing to DeAngelo Hall, which resulted in the deciding touchdown.
It’s par for the course with Mike Martz and Jay Cutler: along with the good—26-40-281-1—you get the bad—four interceptions, including the one returned for a touchdown. In fact, while Johnny Knox (6-86-1) had a solid game and Earl Bennett (4-76) and Greg Olsen (3-43) were fringe contributors, Hall (4-92-1) was Cutler’s most productive target—and he was going the other way.
FANTASY IMPACT: Surprising that the Bears didn’t give Matt Forte (10-41, 5-32) more opportunities, especially with Forte averaging a gaudy (for him) four yards a carry. At least Forte’s fantasy owners haven’t had to worry about Chester Taylor (3-20, 2-10) taking much off his plate. Anthony Armstrong (2-42) is being positioned as the Redskins’ deep-shot guy, but he was targeted just four times and produced catches of 22 and 20 yards. That’s less than one-fourth of the targets Moss and Cooley combined for, making him a risky guy to count on for fantasy help.
CAROLINA PANTHERS 23, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 20
It took a late pick against a backup quarterback and 216 yards from a pair of rookie receivers, but the Panthers finally got into the win column. Playing from behind most of the game—and losing Steve Smith (4-50) to an injury in the third quarter—Matt Moore (28-41-308-2-1) turned to his young guys. Brandon LaFell contributed six catches for 91 yards, and David Gettis atoned for dropping a potential game-winning TD with a scoring grab one series later to cap an eight-catch, 125-yard, two-touchdown effort.
Alex Smith (9-19-129-1) hit Vernon Davis (4-74-1) for an early score, but after Smith went down with a shoulder injury the Niners’ offense consisted of Frank Gore (19-102 on the ground, 4-57 receiving) and little else. David Carr (5-13-67-0-1) was a non-factor until his late interception gave the Panthers a shot at their first win of the season.
FANTASY IMPACT: Things to keep in mind if Smith is down for any length of time and the Niners need to depend on Carr: prior to the INT, after which the Panthers were in desperation mode, the playcalling was heavily tilted towards the run 12 plays to eight. And of the eight passing plays, one was a sack and four were incompletions. Carr’s only throw to Michael Crabtree (4-31, all from Smith) was intercepted. The Panthers tried to get their running game on track, with DeAngelo Williams getting 19 carries (for 44 yards) and Jonathan Stewart getting 14 totes (for 29 yards). The resulting 2.2 yards per carry should have fantasy owners in full write-off mode for Stewart and pretty darn close to unload at any price for Williams.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 18, SAINT LOUIS RAMS 17
The Bucs trailed most of the game, but you’re already starting to get the feeling that with Josh Freeman (23-40-212-1) pitching and Mike Williams (5-82) catching Tampa Bay always has a shot. Freeman also used ol’ reliable Kellen Winslow (5-44) and plenty of underneath stuff to Carnell Williams (4-12 rushing, 8-34-1 receiving)—including the game winner.
You knew the Rams’ offense would run through Steven Jackson (22-110, 2-35), and he didn’t disappoint. The passing game, on the other hand, was woefully short on targets for Sam Bradford (13-26-126-2); Danny Amendola (3-29-1 plus 1-21 rushing) and Michael Hoomanawanui (2-12-1) were his most targeted receivers, who along with Brandon Gibson (1-11) all saw five balls come their way.
FANTASY IMPACT: Last week’s flavor of the week Danario Alexander (targeted twice, 1-6) was barely a blip on the Rams’ radar; hope you weren’t banking on him replacing Mark Clayton’s numbers. Caddy owners, treat Williams’ receiving TD as a parting gift; with 11 carries for 72 yards (to Caddy’s 4-12), it’s evident LeGarrette Blount is taking over in the Tampa Bay backfield. Don’t bail on Williams in a PPR league, however, as he has 20 catches in the last four games—and that includes one game in which he didn’t have any.
TENNESSEE TITANS 37, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 19
Maybe the rest of the Titans need to involve themselves in mid-week bar brawls; it sure worked wonders for Kenny Britt, who shook off the slap on the wrist of not starting to post a career-high 225 yards and three touchdowns. That not only padded Kerry Collins’ statline (17-31-276-3-2), it also covered for an off day from Chris Johnson (24-66, 2-7). In fact, Britt accounted for nearly two-thirds of the Titans’ yardage.
Kevin Kolb (26-48-231-1-2) dinked and dunked Philly to a 19-10 lead, with a 37-yarder to Riley Cooler (3-51-1) the Eagles’ only offensive play of more than 20 yards. Jeremy Maclin (5-42) couldn’t get deep, Jason Avant (6-60) doesn’t run those routes, and LeSean McCoy (16-48 on the ground, 6-54 as a receiver) is an outlet valve. And following their final field goal, Philly managed a net of negative-six yards on their final four drives.
FANTASY IMPACT: Michael Vick will be back as the starter when Philly returns from its bye; if he has DeSean Jackson back, both Jackson and Maclin can reclaim their fantasy value. Brent Celek (2-8) didn’t get the sendoff from Kolb many were expecting; he’ll be superfluous with Vick back under center. Thus far Britt has managed to hold his value through Tennessee’s revolving quarterback situation. With Vince Young, though, his upside seems limited as Young isn’t likely to throw for more than 200 yards.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 22, ARIZONA CARDINALS 10
The Seahawks built an early lead—10-0 at halftime, 16-0 before the Cards got on the board in the third quarter—and coasted home behind a bevy of hum-drum statistical showings. Marshawn Lynch (24-89) and Justin Forsett (9-41, 2-31) milked clock in the running game, while Mike Williams (11-87-1) handled the brunt of the workload in the passing game.
Officially, Max Hall (4-16-36-0-1) left the game due to an injury, but it was clear he wasn’t up to the task of being an NFL quarterback on this particular day. Neither was Derek Anderson (8-17-96), really, but he was all the Cardinals had in the tank. That duo combined to kill what little fantasy value Larry Fitzgerald (3-30) is clinging to.
FANTASY IMPACT: The Cards desperately want to turn this team over to Chris Wells (14-54-1) and the ground game, but Wells 3.8 yards per carry were underwhelming; in fact, Tim Hightower (6-59, 1-4) was more productive with fewer touches. This is still too much of an unproductive quagmire to provide consistent fantasy points. If you thought Williams’ 15 targets last week was an aberration... well, you were wrong; this week, Matt Hasselbeck looked his way 16 times in 38 throws.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 23, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 20
These are not the Patriots that regularly rolled up 50-point games and put Tom Brady (19-32-159-1) in the record book. In fact, there wasn’t a notable fantasy contribution to be found on the New England side of the ledger. Sans Randy Moss, Wes Welker (4-25) is a slot guy without a deep threat—unless you count Aaron Hernandez (5-54) or Deion Branch (4-39). Hernandez isn’t even the most productive tight end on his team’s roster, not with fellow rookie Rob Gronkowski (2-10-1) scoring his third touchdown of the season.
Philip Rivers (34-50-336-1-1) keeps attempting to drag the Chargers kicking and screaming to a victory, but he’s getting no help whatsoever. Ryan Mathews (8-15, 2-7) was a non-factor and spent most of the second half watching Darren Sproles (2-7, 9-70) and Mike Tolbert (2-5-1, 1-13) steal his touches. Antonio Gates (4-50-1) played hurt and didn’t have a catch until late, while Patrick Crayton (7-82) and Craig Davis (6-53) didn’t fill in for Malcolm Floyd nearly as well as they did last week.
FANTASY IMPACT: Mathews has been a flat-out fantasy bust thus far, losing goal line looks to Tolbert and further playing time to Sproles as the Chargers attempt to pass their way back into games. There’s at least a glimpse of salvation in the schedule; after next week (vs. Tennessee), three of San Diego’s next four games are against bottom-feeding run defenses. The Patriots’ backfield has generally provided decent fantasy production, it’s just been splintered among too many players to matter. For the moment it’s down to just two, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis (11-24-1) and Danny Woodhead (8-24, 3-28) were off a bit this week. As long as Fred Taylor or Sammy Morris (1-2) don’t start taking bigger bites, BJGE and Woodhead should still be usable.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 59, DENVER BRONCOS 14
Darren McFadden estimated his chances of playing at 70/30 as late as Friday, and his injury history didn’t instill much faith in his ability to overcome even those odds. So his career effort of 16-165-3 on the ground and another 2-31-1 as a receiver may have caught some off guard—or worse, on a fantasy bench. But it wasn’t just McFadden who was running all over the Broncos; Michael Bush (15-52-1, 1-13) and fullback Marcel Reece (7-39-1, 1-19) joined in the fun as well. It was almost irrelevant that Jason Campbell (12-20-204-2) overcame a knee injury to prevent the Raiders from foisting Kyle Boller upon us.
The Broncos were down 38 points before breaking their scoring maiden on the day, as they underwhelmed in all facets of the game. Kyle Orton (12-29-198-2-1) got nothing started down the field, and his vaunted receiving corps combined for a meager eight catches.
FANTASY IMPACT: Denver’s only highlights of the afternoon were provided by Knowshon Moreno, whose 14-53 in the ground game was nothing special; however, Moreno scored twice on 3-37 receiving, which unfortunately will make it that much more difficult to buy low on him as he gets healthy and the Broncos churn towards a fantasy playoff schedule very favorable against the run. The Raiders didn’t need to do much passing, but when they did they threw to Zach Miller (3-65-1). The stat line is skewed by a 43-yard touchdown that came on busted coverage, but there’s no question he’s the go-to receiver—at least when Campbell is at the helm.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 28, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 24
For Aaron Rodgers (21-34-295-2-2), it wasn’t about which receiver to throw to; it was about which one wasn’t covered by Antoine Winfield, because all the other ones were generally open. Greg Jennings (6-74-1) took his turn, as did James Jones (4-107); Donald Driver was hampered by his sore hamstring otherwise he may have joined in as well. The Packers also got a touchdown—well, at least it was ruled a touchdown—from Andrew Quarless (2-16-1) as he and Donald Lee (2-27) continued to fill in for the injured Jermichael Finley.
The Vikings got a dominant performance from Adrian Peterson (28-131-1 on the ground, 2-41 as a receiver) and continued production from Percy Harvin (5-65 as a receiver, 3-41-1 rushing). But Randy Moss (3-30-1) was relatively quiet, Visanthe Shiancoe (3-30) had a touchdown taken away by instant replay, and Brett Favre (16-29-212-1-3) made too many mistakes for the Vikings to steal another win in Lambeau.
FANTASY IMPACT: After throwing three picks, one of which was brought back for a touchdown, and taking a few more shots to his ankle it’s beginning to look as if the magic has run out for Favre. While he’s indicated that he’s committed to the team, with a possible suspension looming and his body taking a consistent beating, those with Moss, Harvin, and Shiancoe need to brace for the very real possibility that at some point Tarvaris Jackson will be throwing the ball at or near their receivers. Brandon Jackson scored a rushing TD early and was used effectively on draws and screens, which apparently caught the Vikings by surprise even though every team runs those plays against them. And it’s noteworthy that Jackson’s touchdown was a one-yarder, the kind that had previously been usurped by John Kuhn (7-12). With 16 touches for 104 yards and a score against a respected run defense, Jackson may yet hold off the likes of Dimitri Vance and James Starks.