BUFFALO BILLS 14, DETROIT LIONS 12
The Bills committed to the running game—helps that they were facing the Lions—and Fred Jackson helped deliver their first win of the season with 25-133-1 on the ground and another 6-37-1 via the air. And that was pretty much the extent of the offense for Buffalo.
You can’t fault Shaun Hill for a lack of effort; he completed 29 of 50 passes for 323 yards and a touchdown that put Detroit in position to tie the game late in the fourth quarter; you can, however, quibble about throwing the ball out of the end zone on the two-point conversion. And has been his MO, Hill went primarily to Calvin Johnson (10-128-1), with a smattering of Brandon Pettigrew (4-50) and Nate Burleson (4-47) worked in.
FANTASY IMPACT: Fantasy owners expected a whole lot more from Jahvid Best, who mustered just 35 yards on 17 carries and four more yards on four catches; his long gain of the day was nine yards. If he can’t get going, the Lions will be forced to have Hill throw 50 times a game on a consistent basis. Not that that’s a bad thing, fantasy-wise. Hope you enjoyed the Fred Jackson Show, because it’s being cancelled. No, the Bills aren’t finally going to give C.J. Spiller (2-14 before leaving with a hamstring injury) a shot; Buffalo has the toughest remaining schedule against the run of any team in the NFL. So if you’re thinking about selling high on Jackson, here’s your chance.
CHICAGO BEARS 27, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 13
Da Bears capitalized on an extremely short field—their average start was the 44-yard line and six drives initiated in Vikings territory—to move into a first-place tie in the NFC North. Jay Cutler (22-35-237-3-2) enjoyed solid protection from his much-maligned offensive line; he was sacked just once and spread the ball around to nine different receivers led by Johnny Knox (5-90). Devin Hester also chipped in 4-38-1 as a receiver and 146 return yards as well.
Last week the Vikings used the no-huddle offense to rally for a victory and help Brett Favre produce a career high in passing yardage. So of course Minnesota steadfastly refused to use the no-huddle until the final 4:24 of this game, with the result being a pedestrian 18-31-170-1-3 line for Favre. Without Sidney Rice (not activated from the PUP list) and Bernard Berrian (aggravated his groin injury and missed the entire game), Favre had only Percy Harvin (4-64-1) and Visanthe Shiancoe (4-29) to throw to.
FANTASY IMPACT: Where did Adrian Peterson go? He usually kills the Bears, especially in Chicago, but a combination of the Bears defense and the Vikings coaching staff limited AP to 51 yards on 17 carries; he also contributed 24 more yards on four receptions. A third of Peterson’s carries came on the Vikings’ first two drives, both of which lasted double-digit plays and resulted in field goal attempts. After that the Vikings got pass-happy, largely ignored Peterson... and subsequently didn’t have a drive of more than five plays until the final five minutes. With Chicago wideouts not named Johnny Knox failing to thrive in Mike Martz’s offense, tight end Greg Olsen (3-31-1) is at least retaining fantasy value in touchdown leagues. He’s on pace for career 16-game lows in both catches and yardage, even though they still might be highs for a Martz TE.
NEW YORK JETS 26, CLEVELAND BROWNS 20 (OT)
For the second straight week the Jets had to work overtime against a team widely regarded as a bottom-feeder. Despite three Nick Folk missed field goals, however, the Jets pulled out a win when Mark Sanchez (27-44-299-2-1) connected with Santonio Holmes (5-76-1), who slipped through a trio of Browns defenders to score a game-winning 37-yard TD. Sanchez spread the wealth, with eight different Jets catching passes and four of them—Holmes, Braylon Edwards (4-59), LaDainian Tomlinson (18-57, 6-53), and Jerricho Cotchery (3-43-1)—all surpassing 40 yards.
Peyton Hillis is a stud. His 19-82-1 on the ground against the league’s top run defense was impressive, and he chipped in 4-27 as a receiver as well. Usually that’s where the Browns’ offensive contributions end, but Ben Watson (5-74) carved out a pretty nice afternoon. And while it wasn’t a big fantasy day, Colt McCoy’s 18-31-205-1 was impressive nonetheless.
FANTASY IMPACT: Josh Cribbs (1-14 rushing, 1-37 receiving) needs to touch the ball more, but more than that the Browns need a playmaking receiver as Chansi Stuckey (4-27) and Mohammed Massaquoi (2-8-1) just don’t cut it. A.C. Green, anyone? The Jets’ ground game saw a change at the top with Shonn Greene (20-72, 3-22) getting more carries than Tomlinson, though touch-wise and production-wise LT was still the leader. Both sets of numbers were impressive against the Browns’ top-five run defense.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 23, CINCINNATI BENGALS 17
The Indy offense seemed to sleepwalk through this one: Peyton Manning (20-36-185) went scoreless, Reggie Wayne (3-34) was outperformed by a diminutive rookie free agent playing in his first NFL game, and the team’s leading fantasy contributor, Javarris James (10-26-1) averaged less than three yards per touch. If not for a defense that scored one touchdown of its own and set up the Colts for 10 more points, Indy might have found a way to drop this one at home.
It wasn’t pretty, but Carson Palmer (31-42-292-2-3) managed to cobble together a decent fantasy game. He switched up his targets this week, with Chad Ochocinco (7-86-1) and Jermaine Gresham (9-85-1) leading the way. Terrell Owens (4-64) was also involved, but both he and Ochocinco had extended periods of disinterest and bouts of alligator arms that helped contribute to Palmer’s struggles.
FANTASY IMPACT: So much for being able to run on Indy, at least for Cedric Benson (14-24, 5-27) as fullback Brian Leonard (1-42, 2-8) didn’t seem to have as much trouble. Maybe the revolving door receiving corps is finally getting to Manning. While Jacob Tamme (7-73) continues to do a spot-on Dallas Clark impression, Wayne is being smothered by secondaries who don’t respect the leftovers. Even Pierre Garçon (5-37) isn’t able to wriggle free when it’s the aforementioned Brady James (4-36) and Gijon Robinson (1-5) in the flight pattern instead of Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 31, HOUSTON TEXANS 24
It took a while for the expected shootout between the two most beatable secondaries in the league to develop; in fact, in the second quarter it appeared as if the Jaguars would use Maurice Jones-Drew (24-100-2, 2-23) and the running game to pound Houston into submission. Not that David Garrard (24-31-342-2, plus 7-35 on the ground) wasn’t a factor, especially when the Jaguars needed to respond to 21 second-half points from the Texans. But it all came down to a Hail Mary that might not have even happened had not the Texans jumped offsides one play earlier and moved Garrard just close enough to heave the ball into the end zone—where it was batted down into the waiting arms of Mike Thomas (8-149-1) as time expired for the game-winning score.
With Arian Foster (15-56-1, 1-4) surprisingly quiet, the Texans turned the clock back to 2009 when they fielded the league’s top passing game. That meant Matt Schaub (22-32-314-2) to Andre Johnson (9-146-1), with a sidekick turn from Kevin Walter (6-90-1). It sure looked to be enough to send the game into overtime.
FANTASY IMPACT: Walter’s return was a surprise, since he had done virtually nothing for the past month. Even more surprising were non-contributions from Jacoby Jones (1-5) and tight end Joel Dreessen (2-24) as the Texans proved this is still essentially a two-man passing game. Even before Thomas’ fortuitous right place at the right time snag he was having a solid day (7-99 prior to The Catch). He got some help from Marcedes Lewis (5-53), though Zach Miller (4-79-1) capitalized on a completely busted coverage to lead the team’s tight ends in receiving. Mike Sims-Walker (3-26) was the intended receiver on the final play, but like most of the rest of the afternoon—which included some sideline time after getting his leg rolled up on—he ultimately wasn’t that involved.
MIAMI DOLPHINS 29, TENNESSEE TITANS 17
Four Dolphins attempted passes, six took snaps, both Chads left the game with injuries... yep, it was that kind of game. Want more weird? Ronnie Brown (12-11) scored but ended the game averaging less than one yard a carry while Ricky Williams (11-64, 2-6) led the ground game. Anthony Fasano (5-108-1) and Brian Hartline (5-98) were the team's leading receivers. Patrick Cobbs (1-1, 3-35-1) had a touchdown grab while Brandon Marshall (3-34) and Davonne Bess (4-29) didn't. Down was up, left was right, and the Dolphins won in Miami.
Like Miami, injuries forced the Titans to use multiple quarterbacks; unlike the Dolphins, both starter Kerry Collins (9-20-51) and a gimpy Vince Young (9-18-92-1-1) were ineffective. That spelled doom for the receiving corps, where Randy Moss's biggest contribution wasn't a lone 26-yard catch but a 33-yard pass interference penalty. Nate Washington (3-26-1) filled Kenny Britt's role as designated touchdown catcher, but it was tight end Bo Scaife (7-51) who led the team in receiving.
FANASY IMPACT: With the passing game in such disarray, you would have thought the Titans might find a way to get Chris Johnson (17-117-1) more involved. The Dolphins did hold a six-minute edge in time of possession, but the teams ran essentially the same number of plays. Johnson needs to touch the ball on more than a quarter of them. Chad Pennington's first start of the year lasted all of two passes (1-2-19) before he suffered what could be a career-ending shoulder injury; Chad Henne (19-28-240-1-1) stuck around a little longer, but he too fell victim to the injury bug. That leaves the Dolphins in the hands of Tyler Thigpen (4-6-64-1), which can't be good news for Marshall and Henne—though maybe it will be for Fasano and Brown.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 31, CAROLINA PANTHERS 16
Yes, the Bucs have reached a stage where they can actually coast through a game and still win handily. LeGarrett Blount (19-91-1) was a man among boys, but Cadillac Williams (5-62-1, 2-33) made the most of limited touches and siphoned off some fantasy value of his own. Josh Freeman (18-24-241-2) continued his development into a quality NFL (and fantasy) quarterback, getting an array of receivers involved including Mike Williams (4-68), Arrelious Benn (2-29-1), and Kellen Winslow (6-65-1), who scored his first touchdown in 17 games.
Maybe the problem wasn't the offensive line; otherwise, how could Mike Goodman (23-100, 3-13) succeed where DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart failed? Even Jimmy Clausen (16-29-191) wasn't awful, though he couldn't get a receiver over the 50-yard mark.
FANTASY IMPACT: We have a Steve Smith sighting... if you call a team-high 3-47 a sighting. And what's with fullback Josh Vaughan (3-7-1) stealing Goodson's touchdown? Don't look now, but the pieces are falling into place for a very productive Tampa Bay offense. Freeman is in his second year, while Blount, Benn, and Williams are all rookies. With that core in place, the Bucs can focus their offseason personnel moves on their offensive and defensive lines knowing that the skill position players are in place. If any of those four are available in your dynasty league, snap them up now.
DENVER BRONCOS 49, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 29
Usually teams shoot off fireworks at the end of the game, but Denver changed things up and exploded early. Kyle Orton (22-34-296-4) threw three of his career-high four TDs in the first quarter and the Broncos were up 35-0 before the Chiefs knew what hit 'em. As you would expect from such a gaudy Orton stat line, Brandon Lloyd (6-90-2) had a big day, but Jabar Gaffney (3-57-1) and Demaryius Thomas (3-51) were involved as well.
A 35-point first-half deficit kind of eliminated the Chiefs' opportunity to unleash both barrels of their ground game against the league's worst run defense; here's hoping you had the Jamaal Charles (14-41, 5-80-1) half of the equation and not the Thomas Jones (4-3, 1-19) portion. On the bright side, playing from behind requires plenty of throwing—and Matt Cassel responded with 33-53-469-4.
FANTASY IMPACT: There's just no stopping Dwayne Bowe (13-186-2), especially when Cassel is forced to throw 53 passes. Bowe extended his scoring streak to five games, including three multi-TD games in that span. With a very fantasy-friendly schedule sprawling out before him, Knowshon Moreno (22-106, 3-50-1) put together a solid combo effort. It's notable, however, that his last three touchdowns have come on receptions. Wonder if that has anything to do with Tim Tebow (1-1-3-1 passing, 2-2-1 rushing) stealing goal line looks?
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 36, ARIZONA CARDINALS 18
The Seahawks moved the ball at will in Arizona, taking 10 of 12 drives into Cardinals territory, but it wasn't until after halftime when they put the boot to the throat. Matt Hasselbeck (22-34-333-1) played well enough to not only feed three Seahawk wideouts—Mike Williams (11-145), Deon Butler (4-66-1), Ben Obomanu (4-60)—but also build a big enough lead that Seattle could afford to give more game action to Charlie Whitehurst (4-6-53-0-1).
Things started well for the Cardinals with Tim Hightower (13-39-1, 2-23) scoring the game's first touchdown, but after that it was mostly downhill. On the bright side, Derrick Anderson (23-45-322-1-1) completed more than half of his passes (barely) and only connected once with the other team. However, Larry Fitzgerald (7-91) owners can't be happy that their boy's dominance of the targets is being contested by both Steve Breaston (4-98) but also Early Doucet (6-71-1).
FANTASY IMPACT: With Doucet healthy, the Cardinals have a formidable trio of pass-catchers. And while they're not going to rival what Fitzgerald/Boldin/Breaston did in their prime with Kurt Warner at the helm, with no running game to speak of there should be enough opportunities for all three to be fantasy helpers. The Seahawks should have been able to run much more successfully against the Cardinals than they did. Actually, Justin Forsett (9-64-1, 3-31) fared well with his limited workload, significantly better than Marshawn Lynch (13-29-1, 2-33) produced with his. Could this lead to, if not a changing of the guard, at least a more even backfield split?
DALLAS COWBOYS 33, NEW YORK GIANTS 20
No one every questioned the Cowboys had talent, but they absolutely mailed it in last week against the Packers. Few expected them to show up in Gotham this week, but a Brian McCann interception return produced a 14-point swing and all of a sudden everything started clicking. Behind Jon Kitna's 13-22-327-3-1, the Cowboys not only got contributions from Dez Bryant (3-104-1) and Miles Austin (2-68-1) but their backfield shows up as well: Felix Jones (14-51, 3-85-1) flashed the wheels that make him such a fantasy temptress and Marion Barber (8-47) actually finished on the positive side of the ledger.
The Giants jumped up to an early lead, but they were forced to settle for a field goal. But the moment it really, truly all went south came in the second quarter with New York driving for the tying touchdown. Gotham's running game took the ball to the two-yard line twice due to penalties, at which point they turned to the pass—and Eli Manning (33-48-373-2-2) hit Bryan McCann going 101 yards the other way. That 14-point swing put the Giants in full-on catch-up mode, which was nice for Eli's numbers and those of Mario Manningham (10-91-1), Hakeem Nicks (5-82), and even Kevin Boss (5-81-1).
FANTASY IMPACT: The aforementioned penalty not only took away a potential Brandon Jacobs (5-17, 2-11) touchdown, it also essentially took Jacobs off the field. That led to a big yardage game for Ahmad Bradshaw (20-73, 6-62), but an early fumble put him on the sidelines for a handful of plays and just before the INT TD Bradshaw took himself off the field with the Giants knocking at the door. After three games of some serious flirting and downright hooking up with Jason Witten, Kitna opted to go long this week and ignored his tight end to the tune of just one catch for seven yards. Even Roy Williams (2-33) and Martellus Bennett (1-31) outperformed him.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 23, SAINT LOUIS RAMS 20 (OT)
Apparently the Niners had the wrong Smith at the start of the season; with Alex still sidelined, Troy Smith stepped up with 17-28-356-1, the "1" being a laser to Michael Crabtree (4-61-1) that erased the pain of two previous apparent fourth-quarter touchdowns (one to Crabtree) being wiped out by penalties. Of course, he had plenty of help from the centerpiece of the San Francisco offense, Frank Gore (22-87-1, 3-67).
The Rams matched San Francisco blow for blow, with their final punch being an 11-play, 70-yard drive that resulted in the game-tying field goal. Ultimately it wasn't quite enough, but that wasn't the fault of San Bradford (30-42-251-1) or Steven Jackson (20-81-1, 8-67, including a fantastic sideline catch on that game-tying drive).
FANTASY IMPACT: It's still tough to picture Danny Amendola (7-51-1, 2-12 rushing) as a go-to receiver, but he's all the Rams have right now. Down the road he looks like a very nice complementary piece, maybe a poor man's Wes Welker. But St. Louis will need to upgrade in the WR1 department from Brandon Gibson (8-72). Not only did Smith lead an inspired performance that included overcoming the negated touchdowns, he also involved a few more Niners in the flight plan including Vernon Davis (4-79, a stat line that would have looked better had his TD grab not been overturned), fellow TE Delanie Walker (4-80), and Josh Morgan (1-65).
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 39, PITTSBURGH STEELERS 26
Who needs to go deep? Tom Brady completed only one pass longer than 25 yards, but hitting on almost 70 percent of his attempts allowed him to post 30-43-350-3. That volume of throws brought Wes Welker (8-89) back from the land of the missing, made Deion Branch (7-71) a fantasy contributor... and made designated scorer Rob Gronkowski (5-72-3) a fantasy deity. Building that big a lead on the Steelers also let BenJarvus Green-Ellis roll up a surprising 87 rushing yards on the Steel Curtain; combined with his 4-36 receiving, Law Firm topped triple-digit yards from scrimmage.
This wasn't how it was supposed to work at all. Rashard Mendenhall (11-50, 2-5) was supposed to rush for about twice what he did against a "soft" Patriots run defense, and Ben Roethlisberger (30-49-387-3-1) wasn't supposed to be sacked five times. By the time the Steelers had shifted to Plan B they were down 20 points heading into the fourth quarter and even four late touchdown passes weren't enough—especially when one of them went to the Patriots going the other way.
FANTASY IMPACT: The Steelers lost Hines Ward to either a neck injury or a concussion on what would have been his first catch of the evening; the helmet-to-helmet hit (that went uncalled) forced Ward to drop the ball and also gave the Patriots time to challenge the play, which was initially ruled a reception but ultimately overturned. With Ward out, Big Ben focused on Mike Wallace (8-136-2) but also needed contributions from Antwan Randle El (5-66), Heath Miller (5-60), and Emmanuel Sanders (5-41-1). Even third-down back Mewelde Moore (4-14, 5-79) got in on the action, most notably with two two-point conversions.