BUFFALO BILLS 38, OAKLAND RAIDERS 35
The Bills took a while to get going; once they did they were unstoppable, scoring five second-half touchdowns—four of them in the fourth quarter, three in the last five minutes, the game-winner with 14 seconds left in the game. Buffalo received contributions across the board, from Fred Jackson (15-117-2, 2-23 receiving) on the ground to Ryan Fitzpatrick (28-46-264-3-1) in the air. Stevie Johnson (8-96-1) was his most favored target, but David Nelson (10-83-1) on the other side made a splash as well.
Oakland certainly got its money’s worth from Darren McFadden, who rushed for 20-72-1 and led the team in catches with 7-71-1 as well. But Al Davis’ beloved deep game was hitting as well, with Jason Campbell (23-33-323-2-1) leaning heavily on Denarius Moore to the tune of 5-146-1.
FANTASY IMPACT: Michael Bush (4-23-1) swiped a touchdown from McFadden, capping the Raiders’ first scoring drive with a one-yard run. He’s still the goal line guy, though McFadden’s five- and 12-yard touchdowns suggest Run DMC is still seeing plenty of red zone action. Scott Chandler (2-16-1) now has three touchdowns in two games, but before you drop Antonio Gatesfor him, consider that Chandler has now topped the Bills’ TE TD total for the previous two seasons combined. And with New England, Philly, and the Giants over the next month the schedule gets significantly more challenging.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 30, CAROLINA PANTHERS 23
After spotting the Panthers 13 points, Green Bay got serious about the offense. Aaron Rodgers finished with 308 yards and two TDs, one each to Greg Jennings (2-55-1) and Jordy Nelson (1-84-1), though Jermichael Finley (5-68) was his favorite target. Red zone efficiency would have pushed the score higher, but thrice in the third quarter Green Bay settled for chip shot field goals.
Okay, we get it. This offense is about Cam Newton and pretty much only Cam Newton. The rookie phenom became the sixth quarterback in history to throw for 400 yards in back-to-back games, finishing 28-46-432-1-3. He was also the team’s leading rusher at 10-53-1; in fact, non-Newtons accounted for just 18 of Carolina’s 503 yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: Steve Smith (6-156) and his fantasy value owe a big thanks to Newton, but DeAngelo Williams (5-13 rushing, 4-23 receiving) can’t be happy being chained to the Panthers for the next five seasons. Jonathan Stewart (6-5 rushing, 8-100 receiving) carved out some surprising value as a receiver. The Green Bay backfield was also background, with just 21 rushes. John Kuhn (1-1-1 rushing, 1-7 receiving) swiped another goal line look that should have gone to James Starks (9-85 rushing, 3-30 receiving). Ryan Grant (6-25, 3-14) is all but forgotten.
DETROIT LIONS 48, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 3
The Lions had just one score to show for their first five drives, but they made up for lost time by closing the first half with three scoring drives (one TD, two FG) and then the game with four consecutive touchdown drives. Matthew Stafford (23-39-294-4-1) directed the parade, with a modest contribution from Calvin Johnson (3-29-1) and a significantly larger contribution from Jahvid Best (16-57-1 on the ground, 6-66-1 receiving). Nate Burleson (7-93) was Detroit’s most targeted receiver, with Titus Young (5-89) seeing action as well.
Very little in the way of silver linings for the Chiefs. Matt Cassel (15-22-133-0-3) was awful, though he had the courtesy to direct the vast majority of his attention at Dwayne Bowe (5-101). Jamaal Charles (2-27) left the game with a season-ending knee injury, leaving Thomas Jones (12-40) to do the heavy lifting.
FANTASY IMPACT: Sans Charles (early reports are a torn ACL), expect the Chiefs to use plenty of Dexter McCluster (8-51 rushing, 4-(-2) receiving). He brings a similar explosive element to the Kansas City lineup, something that Jones’ 3.3 yards per carry does not. With the oft-injured Best handling 22 touches this week, running his season total to 47, it’s worth noting that Keiland Williams (9-25-1) saw more touches than Jerome Harrison (4-6).
CLEVELAND BROWNS 27, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 19
Slow and steady wins the race” isn’t just a fable, it’s the Browns’ game plan. They chewed up ground 3.5 yards at a time with Peyton Hillis (27-94-2, 4-23 receiving) and dink ‘n’ dunked with Colt McCoy (22-32-211-1). Surprisingly, given the sub 10.0 yards per catch average, Cleveland’s top three receivers on the day were wideouts: Mohamed Massaquoi (3-45), Josh Cribbs (3-41), and Greg Little (4-38).
When Peyton Manning is directing your offense, settling for field goals is okay. When it’s Kerry Collins (19-38-191-1-1), it’s a recipe for an 0-2 start. Collins did find Dallas Clark (4-32-1) for a garbage time score, but this is not the same Indianapolis offense.
FANTASY IMPACT: If you’re looking for a bright spot on the Colts’ side, check a running game in which Joseph Addai (14-64, 4-37 receiving) and Delone Carter (11-46) combined for more than 100 yards at better than four yards a pop. It’s not much, but it’ll have to do. McCoy continues to rely on his tight ends; though Ben Watson (2-16), Evan Moore (1-16-1), and Alex Smith (3-19) were less targeted than the wideouts, at least for this week, it was Moore who caught McCoy’s lone TD toss.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 24, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 20
Tampa Bay’s offense took the first half off, but they took all five second-half drives into the red zone and came away with 24 points, the last seven on an Arrelious Benn (1-25-1) touchdown from Josh Freeman (22-31-243-1-1, plus 3-16 rushing). But the real key for the Bucs was the ability to get LeGarrette Blount (13-71-2) involved in the offense.
Déjà vu all over again: the Vikings played a stellar first half, riding Adrian Peterson (25-120-2, 2-21 receiving) to a 17-0 halftime lead. The passing game was more effective as well, with Donovan McNabb completing 18 of 30 throws for 228 yards. But Minnesota could muster only one second-half drive of note, settling for a field goal, and proved unable to run out the clock with a field goal lead, six minutes to play, and the best back in the league on the field.
FANTASY IMPACT: Peterson is clearly the Vikings’ bread and butter, but they’re also trying to get the ball to Percy Harvin (2-18 rushing, 7-76 receiving). Harvin was also back to return kicks, though his first two opportunities were touchbacks; worse, on a key attempt with less than a minute to play, Harvin fumbled the kickoff and ultimately gained just two yards. Mike Williams (1-(-4)) was almost non-existent in the box score, though he did have an apparent 17-yard TD grab overturned on an illegal shift penalty. With Williams out of the picture, Preston Parker (6-98) came up big and Kellen Winslow (4-44) was also heard from.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 30, CHICAGO BEARS 13
The Saints spotted Chicago an early TD before fighting back with three field goals and a bomb to Devery Henderson (3-103-1), then putting the game away with a pair of late touchdowns. In between New Orleans tried to run the ball a little bit with Mark Ingram (14-51) and Pierre Thomas (9-41, 2-14 receiving), but when push came to shove it was Drew Brees (26-37-270-3) directing the show.
How much pressure was Jay Cutler (19-45-244-1) under? In addition to the six sacks, more than half of Cutler’s completions went underneath to Matt Forte (10-49 rushing, 10-117 receiving). In fact, Forte’s 166 combo yardage accounted for more than half of the Bears’ team total.
FANTASY IMPACT: Chicago’s porous offensive line, which lost Gabe Carimi to an injury, might actually be a benefit to Forte if their only option in the passing game is the dump-off. The Saints have the opposite problem: instead of one guy housing their offensive stats they have too many cooks in the kitchen. Henderson has been dynamite, but that’s likely to change if/when Lance Moore returns. Robert Meachem (4-10-1) was supposed to step into Marques Colston’s role, but instead it was tight end Jimmy Graham (6-79) seeing more non-red zone activity. One thing’s for certain, though: Darren Sproles (4-17 rushing, 8-43-1 receiving) has a consistent role in this potent attack.
NEW YORK JETS 32, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 3
The Jets came out throwing with a TD toss from Mark Sanchez (17-24-182-2-2) to Santonio Holmes (3-42-1), then settled into a smothering defense and just enough offense to keep the Jaguars at bay. Dustin Keller (6-101-1) was the primary target, extending his scoring streak to two.
Maurice Jones-Drew (18-88, 3-19) was more involved, but there just wasn’t much to go around as the Jags could muster only a field goal. Luke McCown went 6-for-19 for 59 yards with four picks before giving way to rookie Blaine Gabbert (5-6-52); the move may be long-term.
FANTASY IMPACT: Jason Hill woofed at Darrelle Revis, then took the afternoon off with a hip injury. That left Mike Thomas (3-29 on 10 targets) on Revis Island, where he picked up a nice tan but little else. You’d think in a blowout win like this the Jets would run more and milk the clock, but Shonn Greene (16-49-1, 2-6) didn’t make it to 20 carries. Take Sanchez’s scrambles out of the mix and Gang Green’s running game averaged less than 2.5 yards per carry—in part attributable to Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold leaving in the first quarter with an ankle injury. If the injury is serious, those numbers aren’t bound to turn around any time soon.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 24, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 0
As overwhelming as this win was—you can say “overwhelming” when you have 23 first downs to your opponent’s eight, outgain them 421-164, and hold a 17 minute edge in time of possession—there wasn’t a ton of statistical joy for the Steelers. Isaac Redman (10-49-1, 1-6 receiving) stole a touchdown from Rashard Mendenhall (19-66-1, 2-12 receiving), and Mike Wallace’s 8-126-1 was the only receiver stat line of note.
Um… Tarvaris Jackson (20-29-159, 3-12 rushing) didn’t throw a pick, so there’s that. But no receiver topped 35 yards, no rusher topped Jackson’s dozen, and the Seahawks hung a big ol’ donut on the scoreboard.
FANTASY IMPACT: The schedule might get a little easier, but the Seattle offense has demonstrated absolutely nothing that would warrant any Seahawk holding down a place on your fantasy roster. The schedule does get easier for the Steelers, but not until later in the season; it would behoove Pittsburgh’s patchwork offensive line to do a better job protecting Ben Roethlisberger (22-30-298-1, 5-8 rushing) until then, lest all the Steelers’ stat lines suffer.
TENNESSEE TITANS 26, BALTIMORE RAVENS 13
That the Ravens held Chris Johnson (24-53, 3-12) to 65 combo yards and zero touchdowns would be, you would think, a big indicator that the Titans lost this game. Instead, it opened the door for Matt Hasselbeck (30-42-358-1-1) to have a field day, brining Kenny Britt (9-135-1) and even Nate Washington (7-99) along for the ride. While six other Titans caught passes, none amassed more than 37 yards.
Maybe Baltimore left it all on the field last week in blowing up the Steelers, or maybe the Titans’ defense is better than we gave them credit for. Either way, the Ravens were nowhere near as impressive offensively; only Ray Rice (13-43 rushing, 5-53-1 receiving) found the end zone and/or mustered more than 50 yards of offense.
FANTASY IMPACT: Joe Flacco (15-32-197-1-2) was off, though he had some help in reaching that point from a Titans’ pass rush that sacked him three times and hit him an additional five times. Flacco was 5-for-12 throwing downfield to his wideouts, crimping the numbers of Anquan Boldin (3-46) and Lee Evans (2-45). That stood in stark contrast to the Titans, who did the bulk of their damage (265 of 432 total yards) throwing down the field to wideouts. Maybe this is Tennessee’s marking time plan until CJ is more 2K than 2.2 (as in his yards per carry on the day).
WASHINGTON REDSKINS 22, ARIZONA CARDINALS 21
The Redskins ran 30 more plays than Arizona and held the ball 17 minutes longer, but in the end it was what Washington accomplished in the final six minutes that turned this game around. That's when Santanta Moss (5-61) caught a touchdown pass from Rex Grossman (25-43-291-2-2) to cut the lead to two, and when a Graham Gano field goal sealed the win for the Skins. Grossman's ex-Gator mate Jabar Gaffney (5-62) was heavily involved again, as was the tight end position--though this time Fred Davis (6-86-1) had all the action while Chris Cooley (no catches on two targets) was invisible.
When the Cardinals traded for Kevin Kolb (17-30-251-2-1), they envisioned him hooking up frequently with Larry Fitzgerald (7-133-1). Wonder if they thought that Fitz's catch total would be as great as any three teammates combined, or that his yardage would surpass the rest of the team's receivers put together.
FANTASY IMPACT: Beanie Wells (14-93-1) did pretty much what the Cardinals drafted him to do and has now put together back-to-back decent games. Meanwhile, Chester Taylor (1-0) saw his first carry as a Cardinal and did nothing with it. On the other hand, Tim Hightower (20-96, 1-10 receiving) was a workhorse for the Redskins, though Roy Helu (10-74, 3-38 receiving) saw a significant uptick in his workload. Could this be the beginning of the dreaded Mike Shanahan "hot hand" approach?
DALLAS COWBOYS 27, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 24 (OT)
No Dez Bryant? No problem. Miles Austin (9-143-3) stepped to the fore with a monster game, catching touchdowns from both Cowboys quarterbacks. Jon Kitna (6-10-67-1-2) came on briefly in relief of Tony Romo, who suffered a fractured rib early in the game. But the much-maligned Romo returned to gut out a 20-33-345-2 performance that included directing the tying drive at the end of regulation and the game-winning drive in overtime. Jason Witten (7-102) wasn't forgotten, and reality TV star Jesse Holley (3-96) made the big play in overtime to set up the Cowboys' win.
After racing to a two-TD lead, the Niners mustered just five first downs and 10 points--both on short-field drives--the rest of the way. There was little offense to speak of; Frank Gore (20-47-1, 3-17) was the only 49ers with more than 40 yards from scrimmage, and while Alex Smith (16-24-179-2-1) made a couple plays his numbers were rather ordinary.
FANTASY IMPACT: San Francisco is desperately seeking pass-catchers. Michael Crabtree sat this one out again, and Braylon Edwards (1-21) left early with a knee injury. Ted Ginn (4-38) was the most targeted Niner, with Josh Morgan (3-35) also in the mix. Vernon Davis (2-18) was lightly used--and none too happy about it. Speaking of lightly used, the Cowboys split 22 carries between a couple wideouts and three backs, with Felix Jones (9-25, 1-5 receiving) the lead dog in the committee. So much for the annual Dallas plan about using the ground game more.
DENVER BRONCOS 24, CINCINNATI BENGALS 22
It was almost as if Keanu Reeves was at quarterback as the replacements for Knowshon Moreno and Brandon Lloyd carried Denver to the victory. Willis McGahee (28-101-1, 1-5) shouldered the workload with just a little bit of help from Lance Ball (6-28), while Kyle Orton (15-25-195-2) transferred his Lloyd love to Eric Decker (5-113-2).
Cedric Benson (16-59, 3-17) didn't make it to the magic 20-carry mark, so his day was largely a disappointment. Behind from the get-go, the Bengals turned to injured rookie Andy Dalton--and he resonded with 27-41-332-2 and darn near pulled off the come-from-behind victory. Dalton leaned heavily on fellow rookie A.J. Green (10-124-1), but Jerome Simpson (4-136) and Andre Caldwell (3-27-1) weren't ignored--at least not as much as Jermaine Gresham (2-8) was.
FANTASY IMPACT: Green has now scored in both of his first two pro games, and he was targeted a whopping 14 times on the week. Burgeoning hook-up? Yes, but keep in mind the Bengals' preferred method of winning is more Benson and probably more underneath throws to the tight end as well. In other words, he's not Ochocinco Junior just yet. Decker was huge, but once Lloyd returns he'll go back to being a complementary piece of Denver's offensive puzzle. That's not true of McGahee, who has turned goal line carries and a share of the workload into what will likely become the feature back gig because Moreno has been both ineffective and unable to stay healthy.
HOUSTON TEXANS 23, MIAMI DOLPHINS 13
Break up the Texans! After watching Tom Brady slice and dice them last Monday nightit was clear the Dolphins' secondary would be no match for Matt Schaub (21-29-230-2) and Andre Johnson (7-93-1). But not even the return of Arian Foster (10-33) to the lineup could bite into the passing game's productivity--and after Foster aggravated his troublesome hamstring, Ben Tate (23-103, 4-32 receiving) took over and became the first back in six years to reach the century mark in his first two NFL games.
Chad Henne (12-30-170-1-1) came crashing back to Earth, though Brandon Marshall (6-79-1) managed to cling to some fantasy value. The biggest development was that of rookie Daniel Thomas (18-107) snatching carries--and maybe even the feature back job--from an ineffective Reggie Bush (6-18, 1-3 receiving).
FANTASY IMPACT: So much for Henne becoming the next Dan Marino--not that anyone believed that would actually happen. But the rapid rise of Thomas in his first pro game after struggling this preseason is the most intriguing fantasy development. Thomas was expected to house goal line carries and spell Bush, but he appears to have expedited the Dolphins' timetable. No one is quite sure what the new timetable will be for Foster's return from the latest hamstring setback, but it's apparent there will be little if any dropoff with Tate taking carries. And so it goes with Gary Kubiak's merry-go-round.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 35, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 21
Proving he's every bit the quarterback Cam Newton is, Tom Brady (31-40-423-3) matched the rookie's fast start and became the seventh quarterback in NFL history to post back-to-back 400-yard games. Wideouts Deion Branch (8-129) and Wes Welker (7-81) compiled the yardage while tight ends Aaron Hernandez (7-62) and Rob Gronkowski (4-86-2) did the scoring. The ground game was mostly an afterthought until BenJarvus Green-Ellis (17-70-1, 1-5) sealed the win with a 16-yard touchdown romp.
Antonio Gates was shut out, targeted just once. So Philip Rivers (29-40-378-2-2) turned to Vincent Jackson (10-172-2) and his running backs. This week Ryan Mathews (12-64-1, 7-62 receiving) was the more productive Bolts back, though it wasn't for lack of trying; Mike Tolbert (9-10, 8-73 receiving) was turned away at the goal line and coughed up a fumble.
FANTASY IMPACT: Will Tolbert's struggles re-open the door for Mathews to tilt the carries scale in his favor? There still appears to be enough for both, and it's tough to fault Tolbert for struggling on the road against a tough opponent. The bigger concern might be where to find downfield targets if Gates can't shake free and the groin injury that knocked Malcolm Floyd (2-59) from the game turns out to be serious.The Patriots have backfield rotation issues of their own. After seeing a dozen or more carries in three of the past four games, Danny Woodhead (4-12, 2-15 receiving) had only a two-point conversion run to show for his fantasy efforts while Law Firm handled the bulk of the workload and scored a late touchdown. Oh, and Steven Ridley (2-9) saw his first two touches as a pro as well.
ATLANTA FALCONS 35, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 31
So much for explosive; to get the win, the Falcons went back to their tried-and-true recipe of running the football with Michael Turner (21-114-1, 1-32 receiving) and working the middle of the field with Tony Gonzalez (7-83-2). Matt Ryan (17-28-195-4-2) stood up to a hellacious pass rush to direct the show, which included only a smattering of Roddy White (3-23-1) and Julio Jones (2-29).
Michael Vick (19-28-242-2-1, 6-25) wasn't around to see this one through after banging his head on a teammate while being sacked; instead, the Eagles were left with Mike Kafka, who acquitted himself well in completing seven of nine passes for 72 yards. Jeremy Maclin (13-171-2) was the passing game star, but LeSean McCoy (18-95-2, 4-21 receiving) did plenty of work on the ground as well.
FANTASY IMPACT: No word yet on Vick's status, but if the Eagles are forced to roll with Kafka for the near future you can bet McCoy's workload will increase. And Maclin's performance has a way of endearing him to whomever is Philly's quarterback. Maclin's big game will force teams to direct at least some attention his way, which means DeSean Jackson (2-21) will be dangerous again. For all their new weapons, the Falcons seemed most comfortable trusting Turner and Tony. Jones converted just two of his eight targets into catches, There's no questioning his athleticism, but shoddy route-running cost Ryan an interception so there are clearly things Jones needs to learn.