BUFFALO BILLS 31, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 24
All the Bills needed to down the “Dream Team” were five takeaways and 196 yards from scrimmage from Fred Jackson (26-111-1 rushing, 6-85 receiving). Ryan Fitzpatrick (21-27-193-1-1) was efficient, which is a nice way of saying he didn’t have to take many chances and didn’t screw up much. No receiver (aside from Jackson) topped 50 yards, and the leading pass-catcher (aside from Jackson) was actually Naaman Roosevelt (5-41), who replaced Donald Jones (2-25) after Jones suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter.
The box score says Michael Vick ((26-40-315-2-4, plus 5-90 rushing) threw four picks, but three of them can be directly attributed to Philly’s injury-ravaged offensive line (a tipped pass, Vick hit while throwing, Vick pressured into throwing early) and the fourth was a drop by Jason Avant (9-139). The Eagles’ o-line also erased a Vick touchdown run thanks to a hands to the face call. While Avant housed the yardage, it was DeSean Jackson (5-86-1) and Jeremy Maclin (6-54-1) who found the end zone.
FANTASY IMPACT: If the Eagles hadn’t been playing from behind the entire game, LeSean McCoy (11-80-1, 4-27 receiving) would have touched the ball more. Perhaps Andy Reid’s new game plan might include more rushing to prevent opposing defensive lines from gearing up to come after Vick. Nah, makes too much sense. Steve Johnson (4-29) was mostly quiet on the afternoon and slot receiver David Nelson (1-6-1) was almost invisible. Early word is Jones might be down for a while, and the seven targets Roosevelt saw in limited action make him an intriguing bye week fill-in play. Brad Smith (4-12-1 rushing) ran out of the “wildcat” formation at the goal line, essentially stealing a touchdown from Jackson. Worse, if you’re holding C.J. Spiller (2-13 rushing, 2-3 receiving), Smith is taking a direct bite out of what little is left over for the former first-round pick.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 30, CAROLINA PANTHERS 27
The Saints took their first six drives into Carolina territory but settled for field goals thrice; then they required a late 89-yard drive capped by a touchdown pass to lightly-used Pierre Thomas (7-18 rushing, 3-24-1 receiving). Once again the attack featured big numbers from Drew Brees (32-45-359-2-1), with Jimmy Graham (6-129) housing most of the numbers; eight other receivers caught Brees aerials, none of them topping 70 yards.
Cam Newton (16-31-224-2-1, plus 7-27-1 rushing) continues to pile up the individual numbers, even as the Panthers fall to 1-4. As usual, Steve Smith (3-79-1) was his favored target, with an assist from Greg Olsen (3-21-1). The bonus came from DeAngelo Williams (9-115-1), who busted off a 69-yard touchdown run—because he knows he’s not seeing the ball at the stripe.
FANTASY IMPACT: While Williams flashed moves and speed and got in the end zone, it’s tough to get excited about the Carolina running game. D-Will has to score from distance, because Newton isn’t giving up the ball at the stripe. Take away the big run and it was another “why didn’t they use him more” 8-46 afternoon for Williams. Jonathan Stewart (6-20 rushing, 1-13 receiving) was invisible. New Orleans has a different backfield conundrum, and Jed Collins (1-0 rushing, 1-1-1 receiving) isn’t helping after swiping a goal line touchdown for the second straight week. Mark Ingram (9-32-1 rushing, 2-17 receiving) also found the end zone, but it’s still Darren Sproles (11-51 rushing, 5-40 receiving) seeing the bulk of the work.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 25, HOUSTON TEXANS 20
Al Davis’ fingerprints were all over this win—three 50-yard field goals from Sebastian Janikowski, the touchdown grab by much-maligned first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey (7-99-1)—as well they should be given his role in the Raiders’ organization. Oakland needed a little help from the defense in this one, as their offense went three-and-out on more than half of their possessions.
So much for compensating for the loss of Andre Johnson with a heavy dose of the ground game; Arian Foster (22-68 rushing, 5-116 receiving) was more effecting catching the ball and Matt Schaub (24-51-416-2-2) accounted for more than 80 percent of the team’s yardage. Backs and tight ends comprised the majority of the yardage, with Joel Dreessen (5-112-1) stepping into the void created by James Casey’s injury and Owen Daniels (7-89) also contributing.
FANTASY IMPACT: With AJ out the Texans tried to go to his replacement, with Jacoby Jones seeing 11 targets. However, he mustered but one catch for nine yards. Kevin Walter, on the other hand, caught five balls for 81 yards and a score. Remember Darrius Moore (six targets, zero catches)? How about Jacoby Ford (seven targets, 3-36 receiving)? They were afterthoughts on DHB’s big day, with Chaz Schilens (2-25-1) horning in on the action as well. Could the Raiders all of a sudden have too many receivers?
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 28, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 24
The Chiefs went three-and-out on three of their first four drives; then the offense started clicking and they ripped off 70-, 80-, and 93-yard drives on three of their next four possessions. Dwayne Bowe (7-128-2) and Steve Breaston (4-50-2) spearheaded the attack, but it was Jackie Battle (19-119, 2-21 receiving) and Thomas Jones (10-55, 2-7) gouging the interior of the Indy defense that kept the drives churning.
Curtis Painter (15-27-277-2) continued his torrid affair with Pierre Garçon (5-125-2), with the occasional glance at Reggie Wayne (4-77) and a brief flirtation with Austin Collie (2-50). He got little support from his ground game, where Joseph Addai (6-19 rushing, 1-6 receiving) left early with a hamstring injury and Delone Carter (12-22, 2-12 receiving) and Donald Brown (8-38) weren’t able to pick up the slack.
FANTASY IMPACT: Wayne and Dallas Clark (1-7) are approaching unusable with Painter at quarterback, if they’re not already there. Garçon is clearly his big-play guy, and there’s not nearly enough to go around after that. Matt Cassel (21-29-257-4) benefitted from a strong ground game and great after-catch efforts from Bowe and Breaston; it was likely the Colts’ defense that made Cassel and Battle look so good, but the latter is at least worth stashing on a roster until that’s proven to be true.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 30, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 20
The Bengals sandwiched some seriously inept football—a net negative-nine yards, two punts and an interception—in between 12- and 10-play touchdown drives in the first half, then required a pair of poor Jacksonville punts and one solid Cincy punt return to set up two late scores. Andy Dalton (21-33-179-2-1) directed the attack, leaning heavily on A.J. Green (5-90-1); Cedric Benson (24-53) was the only other Bengal with more than 40 yards of offense.
Maurice Jones-Drew (19-85-1) started off well, as did the Jags. However, settling for field goals twice inside the five-yard line in the second quarter ultimately proved to be their undoing—that and an offense that, aside from a 74-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Jason Hill (5-118-1), mustered all of 20 yards in the second half to go along with five punts and two fumbles.
FANTASY IMPACT: Blaine Gabbert (15-28-221-1) isn’t playing poorly, but he isn’t playing that well, either. Here’s a question: why not let him throw the ball to his best player? MoJo had zero targets in this game, but fellow RBs Deji Karim (3-27), Greg Jones (1-10), and Brock Bolen (1-4) were targeted a total of six times. Leaning on the tight end isn’t working: Marcedes Lewis (1-6) had two critical drops, one of them a sure touchdown. Cincy isn’t exactly taking chances with its rookie quarterback either, though Dalton did hook up with Green on a 37-yard touchdown. In Fact, Green was responsible for five of the Bengals’ six longest gains; only Jerome Simpson (4-40) and Brian Leonard (1-10) also contributed plays of double-digit yardage. Dink and dunk much?
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 34, ARIZONA CARDINALS 10
Recipe for a fast start: begin your five first-quarter drives, on average, at the opponent’s 37-yard line; give the ball to Adrian Peterson (29-122-3). And that was all the Vikings really needed to do, as Arizona mounted little in the second half while Minnesota mustered two second-half field goals.
Recipe for digging a hole you can’t get out of: run 12 plays in the first quarter for a net of 19 yards, punt three times and turn the ball over in your own end twice. To their credit, the Cardinals didn’t abandon the ground game, giving Beanie Wells 20 carries that allowed him to carve out 60 yards and a touchdown. But their inability to find Larry Fitzgerald (4-66) on a more consistent basis against a secondary that was already substandard before deactivating top cornerback Antoine Winfield prior to game time is downright inexcusable.
FANTASY IMPACT: Kevin Kolb (21-42-232-0-2) couldn’t even do garbage-time right, in part due to four sacks surrendered by his offensive line. He did throw 16 times at Early Doucet (8-92), just a share of the 40 Arizona passes not directed at Fitzgerald—begging the question: why? Bernard Berrian may have punched his ticket out of Minnesota; he was inactive this week, replaced by Devin Aromashodu (2-81) as the deep threat the Vikings need to stretch the field for Peterson. Not that Donavan McNabb (10-21-169, 4-4-1 rushing) will hit him with any regularity.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 36, NEW YORK GIANTS 25
Not that Tarvaris Jackson (15-22-166-1-1) has been anything special, but when he was forced from the game in the third quarter few expected Charlie Whitehurst (11-19-149-1) to lead Seattle on three fourth-quarter scoring drives culminating with a road win in New York. Both quarterbacks exploited blown coverages for touchdown tosses to Doug Baldwin (8-136-1) and Ben Obomanu (6-51-1), and Marshawn Lynch (12-98-1) busted off one big play and enough little ones to keep the Seahawks in this one.
With Brandon Jacobs inactive it all seemed primed for a monster outing for Ahmad Bradshaw; instead, Bradshaw (17-58 rushing, 2-27 receiving) touched the ball just 19 times for 85 yards. That left Eli Manning (24-39-420-3-3) to carry the offensive load for the Giants, with predictable results: big yardage, but a drive that stalled inside the 10 and ended with a field goal followed by two interceptions in the final 68 seconds.
FANTASY IMPACT: Mario Manningham (5-56) may technically be the starter, but Victor Cruz (8-161-1) is Eli’s big-play guy. His juggling 68-yard TD catch almost made up for the bobble (technically ruled a catch and fumble) the Seahawks returned for the final points of the game. Don’t worry, Hakeem Nicks (4-65-1) is still the go-to guy, but Eli is becoming more comfortable spreading the ball around. The Seahakws also got more targets involved, but Sidney Rice (4-38) saw as many throws as tight end Anthony McCoy (1-20) and significantly fewer than either Baldwin (nine targets) or Obomanu (10). Evidently Whitehurst doesn’t feel that same bond towards Rice that T-Jax did.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 38, TENNESSEE TITANS 17
No Rashard Mendenhall? No problem. Ben Roethlisberger (24-34-228-5-1) limped to a five-TD afternoon, spearheaded by a pair of scores from Hines Ward (7-54-2), one from Heath Miller (3-46-1), and a typical contribution from Mike Wallace (6-82-1). Isaac Redman (15-49) was supposed to pick up the slack on the ground, but a 76-yard burst from Jonathan Dwyer (11-107) made his numbers look a little jucier.
Tennessee took the opening drive and marched 73 yards to a first-and-goal, but after Nate Washington (5-69) dropped a touchdown pass and Matt Hasselbeck (29-49-262-1-1) took a sack it was all downhill. The Titans settled for a field goal, the Steelers ripped off 28 unanswered points, and Tennessee was left with a garbage-time score from Chris Johnson (14-51-1, 3-14 receiving) and a serious beatdown.
FANTASY IMPACT: After Johnson opened the game with a 21-yard run he went 13-30; clearly the Titans' ground game struggles have not yet been solved. Damian Williams (6-66-1) stepped up into the WR2 role, and Jared Cook (4-59) was targeted nine times, second only to Williams' 11; if Johnson doesn't right the ship and the Titans are forced to throw, at least Hasselbeck now has a couple alternatives to Washington. Mendenhall was active but did not play, and aside from Dwyer's one run neither replacement did much to earn additional action once Rashard is healthy. Redman flashed short-yardage potential, converting a third-and-one, but he failed to punch in a first-and-goal from the one-yard line so he's no lock to bogart that role.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 48, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 3
Yes, offensive juggernaut, that's exactly what we were thinking of this year's 49ers. They ran fewer plays and held the ball for a shorter time than the Bucs, but they took every drive that didn't end a half into Tampa Bay territory and punted only once. Frank Gore (20-125-1, 2-18 receiving) was once again on top of his game, with an assist from Kendall Hunter (9-65). Alex Smith (11-19-170-3) was replaced by Colin Kaepernick (3-3-35), but not for incompetence; unfortunately for Josh Morgan (5-75), he played long enough into garbage time to fracture his ankle.
There was really no silver lining here; the beatdown was thorough. About the only Buc who performed as expected was Kellen Winslow, whose 5-54 was a typical fringe fantasy contributor.
FANTASY IMPACT: The Niners' run defense is legit; just ask LeGarrette Blount, who was limited to 34 yards on 10 carries. And the pass defense made Josh Freeman (17-33-187-0-2) look utterly discombobulated; so much for that breakout game for Mike Williams (4-28). Smith was loving his tight ends in the red zone; Delanie Walker (2-37-1) scored San Fran's first touchdown, and Vernon Davis (3-39-2) tacked on two more later in the rout.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 29, DENVER BRONCOS 24
The Chargers made this more work than it probably needed to be, settling for three red-zone field goals, throwing a pick-six to the Broncos, then easing up on the defense in the final half of the fourth quarter before tacking on a final field goal. The backfield finished the game all kinds of banged up, but not before Ryan Mathews (24-125, 1-7 receiving) put up big numbers while Mike Tolbert (5-24, 3-25 receiving) and Jacob Hester (11-57, 2-13 receiving) chipped in as well. With Champ Bailey draped all over Vincent Jackson (3-34), Philip Rivers (18-29-250-1-1, 3-10 1 rushing) locked in on Malcom Floyd (3-100-1)
A late rally will feed the legend of Tim Tebow (4-10-79-1, 6-38-1 rushing), but it was really the Denver defense and a late surge from running backs Willis McGahee (16-125) and Knowshon Moreno (3-40-1 receiving) that put the Broncos in position to win. No other Bronco produced more than 50 yards of offense.
FANTASY IMPACT: No official announcement yet, but you would think Tebow will be the Broncos' starting QB when they return to action in Week 7. What does that mean for Brandon Lloyd (1-20) and Eric Decker (2-(-4))? Consider that Tebow had more rushing attempts than completed passes, that it took an amazing catch for Lloyd to get his stats, that Moreno did most of the work himself on his TD grab... in short, it doesn't look particularly great. The Chargers have an extra week to get everyone healthy, and there's a chance Antonio Gates could return to action as well. Both backs could use the time off, as could Jackson and Floyd, who have been nursing various ailments most of the season.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 30, NEW YORK JETS 21
The Patriots dominated the box score, holding a seven minute advantage in time of possession and an almost 200 yard advantage in total yards, yet it took a late field goal to ice the victory. Tom Brady (24-33-321-1-1) wasn't his usual self; he threw his first home red zone INT ever (with help from Aaron Hernandez) and failed to throw multiple touchdowns for the first time in 15 games. Picking up the slack was BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who carried 27 times for 136 yards and two scores, with one catch for another 13 yards as well.
There was little going on offensively for the Jets. They tried to go back to their "ground and pound" roots and very nearly achieved perfect balance between the run and pass. Shonn Greene (21-83-1, 2-9 receiving) made it easier to stick to the run by averaging four yards per carry. Mark Sanchez (16-26-166-2) found surprisingly little room down the field, with just two completions of more than 20 yards. Santonio Holmes (4-60-1) had one midway through the fourth quarter as the Jets pulled to within a touchdown; rookie Jeremy Kerley (3-35-1) had the other.
FANTASY IMPACT: Part of the reason was New York's return to the run, but Dustin Keller (1-7) appears to be heading down the same path as last season--one where he got off to a fast start, then failed to score for the final three-plus months of the season. Plaxico Burress (3-42) was the most targeted Jet, but converted just three of his eight looks into catches. Wes Welker (5-124) spent much of the day battling Darrelle Revis; 73 of his 124 yards came on a play where Revis was expecting safety help and released Welker, then ran him down from behind when Welker eluded the safety. Hernandez (5-56) made his return to the lineup and, while he was targeted more than twice as much (nine to four), only marginally outgained Rob Gronkowski (4-31). With Revis paying attention to Welker, Deion Branch (7-74-1) returned to fantasy relevancy as well.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 25, ATLANTA FALCONS 14
Green Bay settled for field goals early on, then decided to show up--and proceeded to carve up the Atlanta defense. Aaron Rodgers (26-39-396-2) used a dozen different receivers, half of them for just one catch each. Greg Jennings (4-82-1) was actually targeted less frequently than James Jones (5-140-1), Jermichael Finley (4-67), and Jordy Nelson (3-17), but more productive than all except Jones, who seemed to be this week's deep ball favorite.
Atlanta started well, running the ball at least somewhat effectively with Michael Turner (16-56-1) and working the short passing game efficiently. But after their first two drives ended in touchdowns the Falcons managed 14 total yards and five punts in their next six drives. Matt Ryan (18-32-167-1-2) took some shots at Julio Jones (1-16), most of them unsuccessful, and directed more than half his throws at the veteran tandem of Tony Gonzalez (6-60) and Roddy White (6-50-1).
FANTASY IMPACT: Ryan looked anything but comfortable against the Packers. He was sacked just once but missed receivers and generally failed to make the necessary throws. Credit the Green Bay defense, but Ryan was supposed to be thriving with an upgraded arsenal of weapons and fantasy owners have yet to reap the benefits. Just as we were getting comfortable with Nelson as Green Bay's fantasy WR2, Jones puts up a game like this. At least we're reasonably sure Donald Driver (1-6) is out of the mix; rookie Randall Cobb (2-26) was on the field at crunch time in Driver's place.