MINNESOTA VIKINGS 38, BUFFALO BILLS 14
Brett Favre (0-1-0-0-1) went down with a shoulder injury one series in—just long enough to throw a pick. Enter Tarvaris Jackson (15-22-187-2-3), who promptly proved he’s been studying under No. 4 by throwing a pick six of his own. Then the Vikings went back to what they do best, feeding Adrian Peterson (16-107-3, 1-1 receiving); the result was a three-TD day for Peterson, offsetting three picks from Jackson as the Vikings rolled a disinterested Bills club. Toby Gerhart (12-54, 1 for negative-2 receiving) saw plenty of work as this one got out of hand; you can expect that (the workload, not the “out of hand”) to continue as Minnesota keeps the ball on the ground and out of the hands of its injury-prone quarterbacks.
The Bills generated zero offense until this one was well out of hand. The running game never got going, which isn’t surprising for a visiting team in Minnesota. But Ryan Fitzpatrick (15-25-158-1-1) couldn’t do anything via the pass, either; Stevie Johnson (2-36) was nonexistent (karmatic justice for calling out a higher power?) and Lee Evans (3-72) only slightly better.
FANTASY IMPACT: So much for being able to count on Fitzpatrick to Johnson. The Bills remaining schedule against the pass certainly isn’t brutal—Cleveland, at Miami, and New England over the next three weeks—but it wasn’t as if the Vikings were expected to present such an obstacle, either. Much—nay, all—of Jackson’s passing success can be pinned to two fantastic touchdown catches from Sidney Rice (5-105-2). Jackson reads a defense like it’s in Braille; his only play is the throw-it-up-and-pray, which Rice answered twice for him. It may pick up Rice’s fantasy numbers the rest of the way, but it isn’t going to earn him any converts among the Minnesota fans. Also note that if Jackson continues in Favre’s stead you can kiss any PPR bonus you’ve been getting from Minnesota running backs good bye.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 34, CINCINNATI BENGALS 30
Another week, another 30-plus points for the Saints offense. Drew Brees (24-29-313-2-1) was efficient, especially in directing the Saints to a game-winning touchdown—which came after he drew the Bengals offsides on a fourth-and-two inside the 10-yard line. Once again Brees used all his targets, going deep to Robert Meachem (3-106-1) for a score and short to Marques Colston (3-65-1) for the game winner (in front of Jonathan Joseph, who was giving a four-yard cushion at the three-yard line); Brees also included rookie tight end Jimmy Graham (3-72) and Lance Moore (6-36) in the reindeer games.
Kind of a microcosm of the season for the Bengals, who put up decent numbers all around but always seemed to fall one play shy of sealing the deal. Carson Palmer (23-33-249-1) was solid against the league’s top pass defense, feeding both Chad Ochocinco (5-96) and Terrell Owens (6-47-1)—though both also left plays on the field through the course of the game.
FANTASY IMPACT: Bernard Scott (6-43) ran well, but it was Cedric Benson (19-49-2, long gain of seven yards) who capped a pair of fourth-quarter drives with short-yardage plunges. It will be interesting to see if Scott gets more of an audition down the stretch as the Bengals play for 2011. The Saints have backfield issues of their own, as Pierre Thomas sat out another game and Reggie Bush (5-26, 3 catches for zero yards) was lightly used once again. Chris Ivory (15-117-2) picked up the slack and appears to have claimed at minimum the role Lynell Hamilton turned into fantasy usefulness last season.
CHICAGO BEARS 24, DETROIT LIONS 20
The Bears once again used some help from the officials, this time an unnecessary roughness call against Ndamukong Suh that kept alive a drive resulting in the game-winning touchdown. Prior to that the Bears were more efficient than electric against Detroit’s defense, with Jay Cutler (21-26-234-1) leaning heavily on slot man Earl Bennett (7-104) before going to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna (2-23-1) for the game winner.
Drew Stanton (16-24-178-1) wasn’t awful, though once again his stats were padded by a long hook-up with Calvin Johnson (3-66-1). Hey, they all count, right? Besides Johnson, Stanton connected with Brandon Pettigrew (5-36) and Nate Burleson (3-27).
FANTASY IMPACT: Signs of life from Jahvid Best (9-65, 1-32 receiving), who flashed more zip this week thanks perhaps to a few extra days of rest for his ailing toes. Best definitely outshone Maurice Morris (10-37, 1-3 receiving) against a solid Bears run defense. Chicago didn’t run quite as much as they’ve been doing recently, but they mixed and matched decent performances from Matt Forte (13-64-1, 2-36 receiving) and Chester Taylor (9-33-1, 5-31 receiving).
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 10, DENVER BRONCOS 6
Not quite as much offense as the last time these clubs met—more than 60 points less, in fact—but the Chiefs did establish the run behind Jamaal Charles (21-116, 2-20 receiving) and Thomas Jones (11-53, a team-leading 4-54 receiving). And while neither was able to finish a Kansas City drive with a touchdown despite averaging better than five yards per tote on five red zone carries (actually, Charles did have a two-yard TD run wiped out by a motion penalty), the running game did set up a wide-open two-yard touchdown for backup tight end Leonard Pope on his only catch of the day.
The Broncos matched the Chiefs in the rushing department, with Knowshon Moreno (23-161, 1-14 receiving) stepping up with a career-best performance. Moreno outgained the vaunted Denver passing game by almost 50 yards, with Kyle Orton completing just 9 of 28 passes for a mere 117 yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: As you might expect, subdued numbers for Orton meant subdued numbers for Brandon Lloyd (2-31 despite 11 targets) and the rest of the Denver receivers. Could a larger dose of Tim Tebow be in the offing, and if so what might that do to the fantasy values of Lloyd et. al. down the stretch? Oh, and remember Champ Bailey? Dwayne Bowe sure does after the veteran brought Bowe’s seven-game scoring streak to a screeching halt by shutting him out completely (on three targets). No Bowe meant an off game for Matt Cassel (17-31-196-1) as well. With a matchup against the second-ranked pass defense next week, is Bowe’s ASYS status in jeopardy?
CLEVELAND BROWNS 13, MIAMI DOLPHINS 10
Peyton Hillis (18-57, 7-22 receiving) was merely mortal, leaving the Browns with very little offense to speak of. Yet somehow Jake Delhomme (24-34-217-1) avoided throwing an interception and Ben Watson (10-100-1) monopolized the receiving stats to produce Cleveland’s lone touchdown. In other words, the Browns hung around long enough until the Dolphins made a killer mistake... which they did 59 minutes and 50 seconds into the game.
The smarter move would have been to keep slogging away on the ground with Ronnie Brown (16-50, 2-27 receiving) and Ricky Williams (10-48, 2-19 receiving), because when Chad Henne (16-32-174-1-3) started looking downfield he mostly got himself in trouble. Henne’s first pick was directed at Brian Hartline (no catches, four targets); his other two were intended for Davonne Bess (6-67); aside from a nine-yard catch by Roberto Wallace, all of Henne’s remaining completions went to backs and tight ends.
FANTASY IMPACT: It was INTs that got Henne benched earlier in the year, and it was Henne’s INT that cost Miami this game. It isn’t difficult to do the math about where that likely leaves Henne in the Dolphins’ future plans. Delhomme’s return to the lineup has also marked a mini-resurgence for Mohamed Massaquoi (4-81). It ain’t much, but it’s more than other quarterbacks were getting out of Cleveland’s wide receiving corps. And it’s an added bonus that Delhomme remains connected with the tight ends as well.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 34, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 16
It wasn’t so much Aaron Rodgers (21-30-298-3) throwing as it was Greg Jennings (6-122-2) and Donald Driver (4-73-1) making 49ers would-be tacklers look like pylons as they bounced around and through them en route to the end zone. Not that Rodgers didn’t look sharp, but after answering a pair of 49er field goals with some long catch-and-run his afternoon was a whole lot easier.
Troy Smith (10-25-194-1-1) rediscovered Vernon Davis (4-126-1) just before halftime, though the bulk of both their productivity came on one long 66-yard touchdown catch-and-run. At this point, though, beggars can’t be choosers.
FANTASY IMPACT: Here’s hoping you didn’t pin all your hopes to hot free-agent pickup Brian Westbrook (9-31); Anthony Dixon (9-33, 1-4 receiving) was slightly more productive, but neither did much against a legit run defense—unlike what the Cardinals offered up last week. Things should be better against Seattle this week. Brandon Jackson (4-13, 4-63 receiving) hasn’t been impressing anyone on the ground, so the Packers debuted rookie James Starks (18-73). He’ll be the sneaky play in Week 14 against the Lions.
NEW YORK GIANTS 31, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 7
The way the Giants ran the ball down the Redskins’ collective throats it’s a wonder they passed at all—a point emphasized by a red-zone pick from Eli Manning (15-25-161-0-1) that was about the only thing stopping New York’s runaway train. Brandon Jacobs (8-103-2) opened the onslaught with a first quarter TD run, then punctuated the rout with another score in the third quarter. In between, “backup” Ahmad Bradshaw (25-97-2) got his fill as well.
By the time Donovan McNabb (26-55-296-1-2) hit Anthony Armstrong (6-97-1) with the Redskins’ lone bright spot of the afternoon, it was all over but the shouting. Santana Moss (2-24) was an afterthought as Chris Cooley (6-61) provided the only other semblance of a passing game.
FANTASY IMPACT: Next up in the Mike Shanahan backfield sweepstakes is James Davis (9-40, 3-41), the Browns castoff who follows Clinton Portis, Ryan Torain, and Keiland Williams to the podium. Not that Williams (5-29, 2-2) was ineffective, but his contribution to the Redskins’ six fumbles (four lost) certainly didn’t help. Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks both hope to be back for the Giants’ Week 14 game in Minnesota, which means Mario Manningham (2-36) goes back to third receiver and Derek Hagan (7-65) goes back to being an afterthought.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 17, TENNESSEE TITANS 6
The Jaguars raced out to a 17-point halftime lead behind a pair of rushing touchdowns not from Maurice Jones-Drew (31-186), then made MoJo do all the heavy lifting in the second half en route to a career yardage day. The vultures included Rashad Jennings (10-44-1, 2-10 receiving) and David Garrard (14-19-126, 10-19-1 rushing), who are making a habit of pilfering Jones-Drew’s touchdowns.
Evidently Kerry Collins (14-32-169-0-2) wasn’t the cure-all for this offense. While he added a little zest to the passing game—after Rusty Smith’s showing last week, a pulse would be considered zestier—he couldn’t provide much help for Chris Johnson (13-53, 2-14 receiving), who posted another serious clunker at the most inopportune time.
FANTASY IMPACT: Jared Cook (4-47) is moving to the fore of the Tennessee tight ends, if for no other reason than Bo Scaife (1-7, including a brutal drop of a potential touchdown) has hands of stone. The Jacksonville passing game has also become TE-centric; Marcedes Lewis (3-36) you know about, but he’s seeing his numbers trimmed by backup Zach Miller (3-34). And both, obviously, are cutting into the potential numbers Mike Thomas (4-31) might be putting up.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 28, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 13
The rebirth of the Raiders running game caught the Chargers by surprise—just like a perfectly executed naked bootleg by Jason Campbell (10-16-117-1, 7-37-1 rushing) for Oakland’s first score. Both Michael Bush (23-95-1) and Darren McFadden (19-97-1, 3-30 receiving) found the end zone, and both nearly outgained a Raiders’ passing game that still managed to get Jacoby Ford (1-4-1) into the end zone.
San Diego was supposed to be the team that did all the running; instead, Mike Tolbert (7-16, 6-47 receiving) was awful and Ryan Mathews didn’t even make it to the field. No matter, right? Philip Rivers (23-39-280-1-1) was on pace to blow up Dan Marino’s single-season yardage record so he could pick up the slack. And while Rivers did reconnect with Antonio Gates (6-73-1), it wasn’t enough to get past the Raiders.
FANTASY IMPACT: While Gates remains the alpha dog in the San Diego passing game, Malcolm Floyd (5-72) looks to be the top wideout when healthy—and as long as Vincent Jackson isn’t around. Of the remainder, Seyi Ajirotutu (2-44) was slightly more effective than Legedu Naanee (1-14). True to form, Campbell completed seven passes to backs and tight ends and just three to wideouts—the TD to Ford and two to Louis Murphy (2-36). Good thing Oakland rediscovered the run, eh?
ATLANTA FALCONS 28, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 24
New week, different city, same Falcons. Matt Ryan (18-36-205-2-2) had to work a little harder than he does at home, and he turned the ball over for the first time in more than a month. He also had to work beyond his usual suspects to get into the end zone, with Ovie Mughelli (3-32-1) and Michael Jenkins (3-30-1) turning the tricks rather than Roddy White (7-74) and Tony Gonzalez (3-38). At least Michael Turner (24-88-1) kept doing what he does.
For a while the Bucs went toe-to-toe with the division leaders, buoyed by a strong showing from rookies LeGarrette Blount (20-103-1) and Mike Williams (5-59-1). The Bucs used a little trickery as well, with Earnest Graham taking a handoff and then throwing to backup tight end John Gilmore for the touchdown. Ultimately, it came down to Josh Freeman (19-38-181-1-1, 4-28 rushing) coming up just a big short on his last throw, leading to the pick.
FANTASY IMPACT: This wasn’t supposed to be one of Blount’s big games, so he’s ahead of the curve with Washington, Detroit, and Seattle—softies all—on the docket. Those defenses should also help Freeman finish strong, but he’ll need to look outside Williams to get his numbers up to fantasy starter status. This week Sammie Stroughter (6-48) stepped up, but no other Buc topped 30 receiving yards. The Falcons don’t need anyone else stepping up; in fact, fantasy owners would prefer to see White and Gonzo remain atop the receiving box score. They would, however, like to see those tick marks in the TD column next to White and Gonzo instead of other Falcons.
SAINT LOUIS RAMS 19, ARIZONA CARDINALS 6
The Rams spotted Arizona two field goals, then took over the game behind a workmanlike effort from Steven Jackson (28-102-1, 1-13) that actually included a visit to the end zone. Aside from a rare mistake, Sam Bradford (18-29-187-0-1) was workmanlike as well in directing four scoring drives and involving eight different Rams in the passing game.
Arizona marched eight and nine plays to kick two field goals, then totaled 61 yards on their next 23 offensive snaps. In all three quarterbacks gave it a shot for the Cards, with Derek Anderson (7-20-93-0-1) starting and John Skelton (3-6-45) finishing; they took turns throwing near Steve Breaston (3-62) and Larry Fitzgerald (4-61), though from the score it’s pretty obvious things weren’t all that successful.
FANTASY IMPACT: The lost season of Chris Wells (3-24) continues; despite his gaudy yards-per-carry average he was once again overshadowed by Tim Hightower (15-81). If and when Wells’ big fantasy game does come this year, it’s quite likely going to happen while he’s sitting on your bench. The Rams’ search for a consistent go-to receiver continues; Danario Alexander (2-20) got a red zone shot, and while Brandon Gibson (6-54) was more productive both saw seven targets on the afternoon.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 31, CAROLINA PANTHERS 14
After watching the Panthers give a ground game demonstration the Seahawks thought they’d try it themselves. Behind the strength of Marshawn Lynch (21-83-3, 1-17 receiving), with an assist from Justin Forsett (6-60) and some sweet field position due to a Leon Washington punt return, Seattle roared back for the win.
Carolina ran the ball effectively early, with Mike Goodson (3-19-1) and Jonathan Stewart (21-92-1) capping two of the Panthers’ first four drives with touchdowns. But their next six drives netted a total of 24 yards, and they didn’t return to Seattle territory until their final drive of the game. As a result, aside from Stewart’s day and Goodson’s touchdown there was little of note on the Carolina side of the ledger.
FANTASY IMPACT: We have a Steve Smith (3-54) sighting! Smith led the Panthers in both catches and yardage, and while the result was underwhelming the fact that Jimmy Clausen (18-34-169-0-1) targeted him 10 times suggests there’s hope. Matt Hasselbeck (17-30-229-0-2) certainly missed his main target after Mike Williams added an ankle injury to his foot issues and made an extremely early exit from the game. In his stead it wasn’t Ben Obomanu (2-40) but rather Deion Butler (4-43), Brandon Stokley (4-47), and tight end Cameron Morrah (3-69) who stepped up.
DALLAS COWBOYS 38, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 35 (OT)
Like most teams do to the Colts, Dallas had tremendous success running the football; behind Tashard Choice (19-100-1) and Felix Jones (22-83, 3-8 receiving) the Cowboys dominated the first quarter. And like teams have been doing of late to the Colts, Dallas used a pair of pick-sixes to pad their lead. That was more than enough for the Cowboys to survive a down game from Jon Kitna (18-26-167-1), who couldn’t get a single receiver over the 50-yard mark.
Peyton Manning (36-48-365-2-4) giveth, as he marched Indy back from a 17-point deficit and sent the game into overtime; and Peyton Manning taketh away, throwing a pair of pick-sixes for the second straight week plus another INT that set the Cowboys up for the game-winning score in overtime. With no ground game to speak of once again—three backs carried 15 times for 30 yards, though Javarris James (6-18-2) vultured two short touchdowns—Indy was once again all about the receivers, primarily Reggie Wayne (14-200-1) and Pierre Garçon (8-56-1).
FANTASY IMPACT: The Colts continue to operate with reserve receivers in key roles, which may explain why their offense has become so predictable—and pickable. Jacob Tamme (4-47) is looking less and less like a Dallas Clark clone, and Blair White (4-32) is a far cry from Austin Collie. The Cowboys lost Dez Bryant (1-14) to a fractured ankle, which could be good news for the fantasy prospects of Miles Austin (4-47) and Roy Williams (2-32). Jason Witten (5-42-1) should also benefit, though Martellus Bennett (3-24) is horning in on his action.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 13, BALTIMORE RAVENS 10
You shouldn’t have expected much offensively from this matchup; if you did, you went away sorely disappointed. Ben Roethlisberger (22-38-253-1-1) was more brave than fantasy helper, and there was nary a Steeler regular who chipped in with anything a self-respecting fantasy lineup would have wanted to be sporting; Mike Wallace (5-76) and Rashard Mendenhall (19-45, 3-18 receiving) were the only Steelers to generate more than 50 yards of offense.
Joe Flacco (17-33-266-1) made some big plays early on, specifically hitting Anquan Boldin (5-118-1) for a 61-yard gain and then a TD; he went back to Boldin later on, but eventually the Steel Curtain got to him and forced a fumble that set up Pittsburgh’s game-winning TD. Aside from a deep ball to Donte Stallworth (1-67), that was the extent of the Baltimore offensive productivity.
FANTASY IMPACT: It was a good week to bench Ray Rice (9-32, 2-18), who touched the ball just 11 times against the Steel Curtain. Boldin’s uptick in productivity may have come in part due to the early (one play) exit of Todd Heap with a hamstring injury, though it was rookie Ed Dickson (3-21) who replaced Heap at tight end. Roethlisberger shook off both his injured foot and a broken nose suffered early in the game to carve out adequate numbers. And while Big Ben got Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders (3-49) involved, Hines Ward (1-13, four targets) was a virtual non-participant. Heath Miller (1-9) also left early after suffering a concussion on an uncalled “defenseless receiver” shot to the head, so tight end David Johnson (3-37) saw a spike in his numbers as well.