SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 24, DENVER BRONCOS 16
With the change at quarterback, it was no surprise Frank Gore (29-118-1, 1-7) handled the ball on 60 percent of the Niners’ offensive plays. And Troy Smith acquitted himself quite well, completing 12 of 19 passes for 196 yards and a TD and adding a rushing score as well.
It’s quite obvious the Broncos have become a passing team; Kyle Orton’s 28-40-369-1-1 and 18 rushing yards accounted for 75 percent of Denver’s yardage. And it’s quite obvious Brandon Lloyd (7-169-1) is the receiver he trusts the most; Lloyd’s 12 targets nearly matched the 14 of Jabar Gaffney (4-54), Eddie Royal (4-34), and Demaryius Thomas (1-31) combined.
FANTASY IMPACT: Of the 41 Denver yards that didn’t funnel through Orton, 40 were rushing yards from Knowshon Moreno (11-40, 4-19). However, the other yard went to Tim Tebow (2-1-1) at the stripe, something that could become a significant issue for Moreno’s value in TD-heavy scoring systems going forward. Smith’s pass distribution was split equally between tight ends and wide receivers; Michael Crabtree (3-53-1) led the latter group, while Delanie Walker (5-85) stepped in after Vernon Davis (1-12) left with an injury and headed up the former. Should Smith hang on to the starting job, the fantasy values of Crabtree and Davis (when healthy) don’t look as if they’ll be significantly impacted.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 35, DALLAS COWBOYS 17
You’ve heard of post-hypnotic suggestion; perhaps the Jaguars employed post-concussion suggestion with David Garrard (17-21-260-4), who looked far more worthy of last year’s Pro Bowl honors than he has for most of the past three seasons. Garrard’s big stat line got everyone involved, leaning heavily on Mike Sims-Walker (8-153-1) but also including Mike Thomas (4-41-1) and Marcedes Lewis (2-51-2). And if the four TD tosses weren’t enough, Garrard added a two-yard bootleg for a TD to cap off Jacksonville’s scoring.
The four INTs sully Jon Kitna’s otherwise solid 34-49-379-1-4 stat line, but at least two and probably three of the four weren’t his fault; they glanced off the brick hands of his receivers into the waiting arms of Jacksonville defenders. While Miles Austin (7-117) remained the go-to guy, Kitna’s presence for the second straight week meant Jason Witten (10-97-1) saw improved numbers. Kitna received no help from the Dallas running game, which split the workload and minuscule production between Felix Jones (8-22) and Marion Barber (9-16-1).
FANTASY IMPACT: With Kitna under center for the foreseeable future and Witten seeing an increase in attention, something has to give in the Cowboys passing game. Through two games that appears to be Roy Williams (1-21), who was targeted just three times for the second straight game. Dez Bryant, meanwhile, was targeted nine times and produced 84 yards on seven catches. While Jacksonville’s passing game was firing on all cylinders, Maurice Jones-Drew was anything but ignored. In fact, he handled the ball more than half the time with 27-135 on the ground and 2-13 as a receiver. However, he was ineffective and ignored in the red zone, touching the ball on four of Jacksonville’s 10 snaps inside the 20 and producing four yards on four carries.
MIAMI DOLPHINS 22, CINCINNATI BENGALS 14
The Dolphins used kicker Dan Carpenter like Mariano Rivera, closing out five of Miami’s six trips into Cincinnati territory with field goals. Aside from that there were few highlights in the Miami box score as Chad Henne (24-37-217-0-1) was ordinary, with receivers to match, and the running game effective as a sum but lacking much fantasy oomph individually as Ronnie Brown carried 16 times for 61 yards and Ricky Williams added 47 yards on nine carries. Williams was also credited with a touchdown, though it’s unsure whether or not he actually crossed the goal line.
The Bengals also lacked much star power save for Terrell Owens (5-65-2), who remains the most targeted member of Cincy’s diva receivers. It might also be worth noting that one of TO’s TDs was essentially handed to him by a Miami defender who bobbled a sure interception in the end zone before batting it up in the air into Owens’ waiting arms. TO also failed to finish a route at the end of a game, leading directly to an interception that sullied Carson Palmer’s statline (17-38-156-2-1) and killed Cincy’s chances at a comeback.
FANTASY IMPACT: Cedric Benson (20-69) continues to be a sled dog and Chad Ochocinco (3-34) continues to be essentially an afterthought; both are becoming tougher and tougher to trust with a regular fantasy start. Brandon Marshall (5-64) isn’t providing the consistent big games his fantasy owners had hoped, but at least he’s sharing; Davonne Bess (7-53) continues to produce in PPR leagues, and this week Brian Hartline (5-53 plus one carry for 30 yards) helped out as well.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 13, BUFFALO BILLS 10 (OT)
The Chiefs dominated Buffalo on the ground, with Jamaal Charles (22-177, plus 4-61 as a receiver) and Thomas Jones (19-77) combining for 254 rushing yards. But it still took them all 15 minutes of the extra session to pull out a win. Matt Cassel (14-26-152-1) was unable to take advantage of Buffalo’s secondary, as Charles was his leading receiver.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (24-48-223-1-1) had his worst showing of the season, but at least he remembered to go to Steve Johnson (5-37-1) at the goal line for what was at the time the tying touchdown. Fitz also fed Lee Evans (5-56) and got Roscoe Parrish (4-66) involved as well, but once again he received little help from the running game; in fact, Fitzpatrick’s 43 rushing yards were second most on the team and he only needed six carries to reach that number, contrasted with Fred Jackson’s 20-64.
FANTASY IMPACT: C.J. Spiller (6-17, 4-28) is getting a little more involved every week. With Buffalo 0-7 and starting to think about draft position instead of playoff possibilities, it’s only a matter of time before he’s getting 23 touches and Jackson 10 or less. Though the Chiefs didn’t pass the ball much—or well—they kept to the formula of feeding Tony Moeaki (3-45) and Dwayne Bowe (3-16-1); that and Charles’ four catches accounted for all but a smattering of KC’s receptions.
DETROIT LIONS 37, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 25
Matthew Stafford (26-45-212-4-1) was paying attention to what worked for Shaun Hill: throw the ball to Calvin Johnson (9-101-3), with Nate Burleson (7-47) and Brandon Pettigrew (2-8-1) as backup plans. Against the Redskins, that was enough.
In retrospect, benching Donovan McNabb (17-30-210-1-1, 4-45 rushing) for Rex Grossman (4-7-44 and a game-clinching fumble Ndamukong Suh returned for a TD) maybe wasn’t the best idea; after all, he did account for 255 of the team’s 334 yards. But while Santana Moss (6-56) and Chris Cooley (4-48) got theirs, Anthony Armstrong (3-92) emerged as the team’s top receiver on the afternoon.
FANTASY IMPACT: Ryan Torain (9-10, 3-19-1) had the decency to score before exiting with a hamstring injury. Enter Keiland Williams (6-25-1, 3-28), the latest Shanahan project who’ll siphon off backfield looks in DC. Torain owners, prepare to open your free agent wallets. The running game in Detroit took a curious turn as well, with Kevin Smith (12-51, 2-16) nearly matching Jahvid Best (12-48, 5-31) in both touches and production. Maybe Best’s toe is bothering him more than he’s letting on?
SAINT LOUIS RAMS 20, CAROLINA PANTHERS 10
The Rams didn’t get nearly the day they expected from Steven Jackson (23-59), but against the hapless Panthers they didn’t need him to. Sam Bradford’s numbers (25-32-191-2) were a bit off as well, but he hit Daniel Fells (4-35-1) and Danny Amendola (6-28-1) with scoring strikes—and that was more than enough.
Matt Moore (23-37-194-1-3) back under center meant that Steve Smith (9-85) was back on the radar—and David Gettis (three targets, no catches) off of it. In fact, it was Carolina’s other rookie receiver, Brandon LaFell, who played second fiddle to Smith to the tune of 4-40-1. As for the running game sans DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart (14-30) mustered just 2.1 yards per carry with a long gain of eight yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: Smith’s fantasy fate lies in the hands of Moore, as Jimmy Clausen was unable or unwilling to find him. If the Panthers start playing for next year and give Clausen the starting job, what little value Smith clings to will transfer to Gettis. The Rams have been looking for a go-to wideout since Mark Clayton went down; Amendola is far more wingman than WR1. Brandon Gibson (6-67) led the team in receiving but drops too many balls to be relied upon; Laurent Robinson (5-33) might be the more likely candidate, if there is a WR1 on this roster.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 9, NEW YORK JETS 0
It wasn’t pretty, but three Mason Crosby field goals was more than enough for the Pack to pull the upset in New York. Among the dim highlights were Greg Jennings’ 6-81 effort against one of the better CB tandems in the league and Jordy Nelson (5-55) stepping up with Donald Driver hampered once again by a quad injury and James Jones plagued by the dropsies.
The Jets’ mighty ground game never got going; LaDainian Tomlinson cobbled together 16-54 on the ground and 5-37 as a receiver, but the Jets ended three drives in Green Bay territory with turnovers and capped their only red zone trip with a shanked field goal. Asked to carry the offense, Mark Sanchez (16-38-256-0-2) put up respectable numbers but was picked twice.
FANTASY IMPACT: Dustin Keller (2-45) remained the lone constant in the Jets’ passing game as Jerricho Cotchery (4-89) outshone both Santonio Holmes (3-43) and Braylon Edwards (3-43). And clearly the Jets are better off when the onus is on the ground game and not Sanchez. The Packers continue to struggle to find a running game; Brandon Jackson’s 15-55 and 2-17 were of little consequence, and John Kuhn took eight carries (and 21 yards) off his plate. Meanwhile, those rumblings for James Starks and Dimitri Vance continue to swell.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 33, TENNESSEE TITANS 25
Apparently the Chargers were going for degree of difficulty, letting the Titans build a 19-7 lead before kicking into gear behind Philip Rivers (27-36-305-2). And as per usual, Rivers leaned heavily on Antonio Gates (5-123-1) with a smattering of help from seven other receivers.
Vince Young (10-21-253-2) couldn’t get the monkey of beating San Diego off his back, though he wasn’t around to finish the deal after exiting with an ankle injury. Kerry Collins (8-15-52) led a late rally but dearly missed Kenny Britt, who left the game with a hamstring injury before recording a catch. Nate Washington (4-117-1) stepped up in Britt’s absence and would be the likely fantasy beneficiary if Britt is out for any length of time.
FANTASY IMPACT: Once again Chris Johnson (15-59-1, 5-24) got his, albeit a smaller slice than per usual. If Young’s injury sidelines him it might mean a sliver more passing under Collins, but unless the Titans fall way behind this offense still runs through CJ. The San Diego backfield was surprisingly effective against Tennessee, though that productivity was fractured three ways—yes, three: Ryan Mathews (15-43-1, 3-11) had the most touches, but only slightly more than Mike Tolbert (11-63-1, 4-27), and Darren Sproles (4-41, 4-36-1) continues to carve out fantasy help as San Diego’s third down back. So much for Mathews consolidating the workload, eh?
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 28, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 18
The last time the Patriots faced Minnesota they barely bothered with the running game; this time around, New England got on the board with a Danny Woodhead (6-13-1, 5-45) TD run before taking over in the second half behind 17-112-2 from BenJarvus Green-Ellis—with 108 of those yards coming after the break. Not that Tom Brady (16-27-240-1) didn’t help move the chains—or throw a key deep ball to Brandon Tate (3-101-1).
Yes, Brett Favre (22-32-259-0-1) answered the bell, and played better than the stats might suggest before exiting after taking a helmet to the chin. Tarvaris Jackson (4-6-36-1) was able to polish off the scoring drive Favre started, but he couldn’t muster any late heroics of his own. Even his two-point conversion completion was far more great play by Percy Harvin (6-104) than great throw by Jackson.
FANTASY IMPACT: Adrian Peterson (25-92-1, 5-50) shouldered the load early, but we’re seeing more and more Toby Gerhart (2-0, 5-67) each week. What we didn’t see much of was Randy Moss (1-8), in no small part because Favre was unlikely to hold up to many seven-step drops behind the Vikings’ shaky offensive line. Tate used a 65-yard TD to shine in Moss’s place, while expected replacement Deion Branch (1-21) was limited to one catch. Wes Welker (3-24) barely fared better as the Patriots continue to play small ball.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 38, ARIZONA CARDINALS 35
The Bucs used something old—Josh Freeman (18-25-278-1) to Mike Williams (4-105-1)—and something new—LeGarrette Blount’s breakout 22-120-2 performance—to back up Raheem Morris’ statement that his team is the best in the NFC. Didn’t hurt that they borrowed a couple of errant Arizona passes and brought them all the way back for scores.
Max Hall (8-16-71-1-2) lasted long enough to throw three TDs—one to Larry Fitzgerald (6-72-2) and two to the Buccaneers. Derek Anderson (16-24-234-1-2) came on and fared slightly better, though he too found Aqib Talib at an inopportune time. Anderson also found Steve Breaston (8-147) frequently; in fact, with Anderson at the helm Breaston saw seven targets for 6-131 while Fitz was targeted six times for 3-42.
FANTASY IMPACT: Despite their quarterback problems, the Cardinals once again resisted the temptation to overwork their ground game. Chris Wells (16-50-1, 1-14) was on his way to productivity, but he did lose nine touches to the likes of LaRod Stephens-Howling (4-41-1), Tim Hightower (1-0, 1-11), and even Jason Wright (3-19). Is it possible the Bucs have found their “Big Three”? Freeman seems well on his way to becoming everything Tampa Bay had hoped for when they drafted him, and Williams is unquestionably his go to guy. While Carnell Williams (4-10, 3-26) is still around, Blount has usurped the backfield workload and survived a fumble to keep getting carries down the stretch. In other words, the Bucs seem to trust him; so should you.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 33, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 3
Oakland Raiders, offensive juggernaut? On the strength of three 50-plus-yard completions, Jason Campbell (15-27-310-2) put up his biggest numbers since Week 13 of last year—and he did it without including usual top target Zach Miller (1-8). Instead, Darrius Heyward-Bey (5-105-1) made a play and running backs Marcel Reece (2-32, 3-90-1) and Michael Bush (9-51-1, 1-55) flashed versatility to pad Campbell’s stat line. Speaking of stat lines, though Darren McFadden didn’t score, he rolled up another big yardage day with 21-111 on the ground and 2-24 as a receiver.
Yes, it was every bit as ugly as three points against the Raiders suggests. How ugly? 162 total net yards, that’s how ugly.
FANTASY IMPACT: It’s tough to discern much of anything from such an abysmal showing. Regular fantasy helpers Marshawn Lynch (9-7) and Mike Williams (1-27) laid eggs, and aside from Matt Hasselbeck’s 13-32-160-0-1 no single Seahawk accounted for more than 47 yards. It’s tough to accept the Raiders’ passing game as a consistent fantasy helper, especially with Bruce Gradkowski expected to take back the starting job when he gets healthy. The ground game, on the other hand, looks to be producing not just McFadden as a fantasy starter but also maintaining Bush as a contributor as well.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 20, PITTSBURGH STEELERS 10
Now that’s the Drew Brees (34-44-305-2-1) fantasy owners have been waiting for. With no ground game to speak of—when you give Julius Jones seven carries, you know you’re desperate—Brees took up the slack. While he spread the ball around yet again (nine different Saints caught passes), he focused most of his attention on his wideouts; Robert Meachem (6-76), Marques Colston (6-75-1), and Lance Moore (7-54-1) accounted for more than half of Brees’ targets, two-thirds of his yardage, and both of his touchdowns.
Pittsburgh was reasonably effective in the running game, not just with Rashard Mendenhall (15-71-1, 2-14) but also Mewelde Moore (2-19) and Isaac Redman (3-19), but trailing for much of the second half they were forced to pass—and that’s where the turnovers got them. Ben Roethlisberger (17-28-195-0-1) threw a pick and Heath Miller (2-39) coughed up the ball after a long completion, highlighting an ineffective passing game that couldn’t boost a single receiver past 50 yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: Don’t put too much stock in the shaky numbers of Pittsburgh’s passing game; the Saints’ secondary has been top-notch all season long. But the addition of Antwan Randle El (3-33) to the receiving rotation, matching the catch numbers of fantasy regulars Mike Wallace (3-43) and Hines Ward (3-15), is a little disconcerting; it would be preferable to see those digits collected under the Wallace/Ward umbrella, with a smattering of Miller mixed in. The Saints can’t wait to get Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas back; in addition to Jones’ (7-16, 3-20) non-contribution, New Orleans got nothing from Ladell Betts (3-8, 1-0) and Chris Ivory (7-7) as well.