CAROLINA PANTHERS 33, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 20
Cam Newton was accurate, explosive, and versatile in throwing for 256 yards and a TD and rushing for 59 yards and another score. Newton also shared, handing off 24 times to Jonathan Stewart (14-68-1) and DeAngelo Williams (10-35) and throwing to Steve Smith (7-143) and Brandon LaFell (2-39-1).
The story of the Redskins’ first half was field goals and fumbles; by the time they got around to scoring touchdowns in the second half they were playing catch-up. John Beck (22-37-279-1-1, plus 3-10-1 rushing) lost Santana Moss (2-17) early on, meaning more work for Fred Davis (6-80-1) and Jabar Gaffney (4-68)
FANTASY IMPACT: Rough day to be a Redskins’ running back—or a fantasy owner of one. Ryan Torain, expected to start, carried just twice for negative-five yards. That meant big things for Tim Hightower, likely on your bench with his 17-88. And he’ll likely stay there, as early reports are the knee injury he suffered is a season-ending ACL tear. The Carolina backfield continues to be a conundrum, though Stewart getting another goal line carry would seem to push him ahead of Williams on the “start with confidence” meter. However, after the shot Newton took on a keeper inside the five, don’t be surprised if 20-plus carries for his backs becomes a more regular occurrence. For now, set Stewart as “reasonable bye-week plug-in” and Williams at “desperate measure”.
CLEVELAND BROWNS 6, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 3
You’d think holding the ball for 43 minutes, running 84 plays, the Browns could come up with more than six points. But for all those snaps Cleveland didn’t even get into the red zone until late in the fourth quarter, when they had a second field goal blocked. Colt McCoy (20-35-178-0-1, plus 8-31 rushing) directed the dink and dunk, with Montario Hardesty (33-95, 2-27 receiving) grinding out 2.8 yards per carry.
This was supposed to be a big game for Marshawn Lynch against the Browns’ run defense, but a back injury in pregame warmups turned him into a spectator—too late for fantasy owners to do anything about it. With the minimal time of possession and offensive plays, as well as backup Charlie Whitehurst (12-30-97-0-1) at the helm, no Seahawk accounted for as much as 50 yards of offense. The closest they came to a touchdown was Sidney Rice (2-38) stumbling out of bounds with no one between him and the stripe.
FANTASY IMPACT: : In Lynch’s unexpected absence Leon Washington (7-39, 4-10 receiving) and Justin Forsett (6-23) split the workload. Ugh. As for Doug Baldwin, who had an apparent bond with Whitehurst the last time Seattle played, he was targeted three times without a catch. Peyton Hillis sat this one out with his hamstring injury (or maybe at his agent’s request), leaving the utterly ordinary Hardesty with the carries. But it’s worth noting that Chris Ogbonnaya led the Browns in receiving with five catches for 43 yards and also had 15 yards on three carries. If you’re keeping score, that’s twice the yardage per touch that Hardesty averaged. And since Hardesty has hands of stone, he’ll be at minimum Cleveland’s third-down back going forward—with or without Hillis.
ATLANTA FALCONS 23, DETROIT LIONS 16
The Falcons have gone back to running the football, and it’s no coincidence they’ve won back-to-back games in the process. Michael Turner (27-122) did the heavy lifting, though Matt Ryan (20-34-218-1-2, plus 3-2-1 rushing) stole his touchdown for the second straight game. Ryan also leaned on familiar faces in the passing game, with Tony Gonzalez (5-62) and Roddy White (5-52-1) leading the way.
Calvin Johnson (5-115-1) got his, but that was pretty much the extent of the offense for the Lions as they stumbled to a second straight lost. Worse, Matthew Stafford (15-32-183-1) hobbled off after the final series and will get MRIs on his knee and ankle.
FANTASY IMPACT: Jahvid Best’s absence led to Maurice Morris (9-50, 2-13 receiving) and Keiland Williams (9-44) splitting the workload, but don’t let the numbers deceive you; the Lions couldn’t sustain a drive of double-digit plays and were just one-for-twelve on third downs. And that was with Stafford; cross your fingers the injury bug hasn’t bitten him again. Ryan, who dodged an injury himself after having his ankle crushed but returning to action shortly thereafter, is getting comfortable throwing to Harry Douglas (4-62) in Julio Jones’ spot. That bodes well if/when Jones gets healthy and returns to the lineup.
DENVER BRONCOS 18, MIAMI DOLPHINS 15 (OT)
Guess who? The Broncos did little offensively, at least until the fourth quarter when it became Tebow Time once again. Tim Tebow threw (13-271-161-2) and ran (9-65, plus the game-tying two-point conversion) Denver back into the game, and while the numbers weren’t pretty you can’t argue with the results.
The Dolphins scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, but a three-and-out with five minutes left only set the stage for Tebow’s heroics and Miami managed just 30 yards in overtime before fumbling the ball away and allow Denver to kick the game-winning field goal. Across the board the individual numbers were meh, with Matt Moore (22-33-197-1) helming an offense that saw only Brandon Marshall (6-61) top 60 yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: After two nice games to start his career, Daniel Thomas (19-53, 2-0 receiving) has been ordinary the last two. He’s opened the door for Reggie Bush (10-42, 2-4 receiving) to keep getting touches, but neither did enough to be anything more than a plug-in fantasy play. Tebow spread his completions among seven different players, with Demaryius Thomas (3-27-1) far and away the most targeted with 10 looks. Willis McGahee (18-76) offered a complement to Tebow in the running game, but early reports are that a fractured hand will cost him some playing time; enter Knowshon Moreno (7-28, 2-10 receiving) back into the fantasy picture.
NEW YORK JETS 27, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 21
Plaxico Burress predicted an offensive explosion, then personally delivered with three touchdowns grabs as part of a 4-25-3 afternoon. A couple field goals, a big day from Shonn Greene (20-112 plus 1-5 receiving), and a second-half shutout from the defense and the Jets had themselves a comeback win.
The Chargers appeared to take control of the game in the second quarter with 76- and 80-yard touchdown drives, but after that they punted three times before Philip Rivers (16-32-179-1-2) melted down with two fourth-quarter picks and an embarrassing two-minute drill to end the game. Antonio Gates (5-54-1) was back in the mix, but Vincent Jackson (1-15) was nearly invisible.
FANTASY IMPACT: Ryan Mathews (13-39, 4-26 receiving) was in and out of the game due to an injury, leaving more work on the table for Mike Tolbert (11-58-1). Unless the injury turns out to be significant, expect the division of carries to swing back in favor of Mathews—though Tolbert continues to get goal-line shots. Mark Sanchez (18-33-173-3-1) glommed on to Burress in the red zone, but elsewhere he spread the ball around with six different Jets making catches. Santonio Holmes (2-24) had a great diving TD wiped out by a holding penalty. How much do the “ground and pound” Jets trust their short-yardage ground game? Plax’s TDs were of 3, 4, and 3 yards.
CHICAGO BEARS 24, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 18
Matt Forte (25-145-1, 2-38 receiving) made it look easy early, and the Bears got enough from Jay Cutler (17-32-226-1-2) and the passing game to hold off the fast-closing Bucs. Cutler worked the ball downfield effectively, with Roy Williams (4-59-1), Johnny Knox (3-53), and Devin Hester (4-46) all averaging better than 11 yards a catch.
Already without LeGarrette Blount, the Bucs lost Earnest Graham (2-13, one catch for negative-two yards) with an apparent Achilles’ tendon injury. Kregg Lumpkin (8-15, 6-37) wasn’t much of a fill-in, but Josh Freeman (29-51-264-2-4) shook off three early picks to find a fourth-quarter groove and bring the Bucs within a field goal with seven minutes to play—before another pick ended the Bucs’ hopes.
FANTASY IMPACT: Mike Williams (6-75) saw 11 targets and was reasonably productive, but Kellen Winslow (4-25-1 on 12 targets) and Dezmon Briscoe (6-73-1 on 10) got in the end zone. Arrelious Benn? MIA, with no catches on one target; he also had a carry for two yards and recovered what officially became a non-fumble following a Freeman interception. With Graham out and Blount no lock to return after the bye, look for the Buccaneers to have a cattle call of running backs coming through once they return stateside. Could this be the landing spot for Ronde Barber's twin brother? While Forte was dynamic, it took a 32-yard TD for him to get into the end zone. Marion Barber (6-39-1) stole his thunder at the stripe—again.
HOUSTON TEXANS 41, TENNESSEE TITANS 7
This just in: Arian Foster (25-115-2, 5-119-1) is pretty good. He was so good on Sunday that not only did he single-handedly carry your fantasy team, he made room for Ben Tate (15-104) and Matt Schaub (18-23-296-2) to have fantasy relevancy. But unless you were scraping the tight end barrel for Joel Dreessen (2-31-1), that was about all the Texans had to offer.
When Javon Ringer (3-31, 1-17 receiving) is the only guy on your roster within sniffing distance of 50 yards of offense, you know it’s been a bad day. How bad? Matt Hasselbeck (14-30-104-1-2) gave way to Jake Locker (1-1-12) for some garbage-time game action.
FANTASY IMPACT: We’ve been waiting for Chris Johnson to live up to—well, take your pick: his contract, expectations, his lofty fantasy draft pick. With the bye week and a preseason’s worth of regular season games, this was his chance to start paying dividends; instead, he absolutely crapped the bed with 18 yards on 10 carries, with a long run of three yards. Six catches for 27 yards salvaged some PPR value, but Johnson’s elite RB membership card has been officially revoked. Meanwhile, Foster was picking up all the offensive slack in Houston created by Andre Johnson’s prolonged absence. Owen Daniels (4-71) also chipped in as once again it was tight ends and running backs, not wide receivers like Kevin Walter (3-35) and Jacoby Jones (2-27) Schaub was turning to.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 32, ARIZONA CARDINALS
Ben Roethlisberger (25-38-340-3) was back in business, carrying a Pittsburgh offense that couldn’t get the running game started. Mike Wallace (3-118-1) got back into triple digits, as well as the end zone, and Antonio Brown (7-102) and Emmanuel Sanders (5-46-1) came along for the ride as well. Even Heath Miller (3-38-1) got into the end zone and accounted for more yardage than any of Pittsburgh’s running backs.
Arizona didn’t run the ball effectively either, and they didn’t have Big Ben to fall back on. Instead, Kevin Kolb (18-34-272-2-1) attempted to pick up the slack by throwing to Early Doucet (5-30-1) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (2-76-1). With Beanie Wells (12-42) exiting due to injury, Alfonso Smith (5-17-1) joined Stephens-Howling in stealing an RB TD otherwise earmarked for Wells.
FANTASY IMPACT: Kolb just can’t seem to make a love connection with Larry Fitzgerald, who was targeted 10 times but managed just four catches for 78 yards and failed to match Doucet and Stephens-Howling in the touchdown department. Andre Roberts (1-8 on five catches) had similar hook-up issues with Kolb. This should have been an easy matchup for Rashard Mendenhall to take advantage of; instead, his 13-32 (with 1-5 receiving) not only forced Roethlisberger and the passing game to carry the offense, it also opened the door for carries from Isaac Redman (6-29, 2-1 receiving) and Mewelde Moore (6-26). Yes, put them together and their 12-54 was marginally more effective than Mendenhall.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 28, OAKLAND RAIDERS 0
For a 28-0 win, the Chiefs’ offense was pretty uninspiring; of course, half the points came on passes thrown by the Raiders. In fact, if the officials had bothered to review the LeRon McClain “touchdown”, all four Kansas City touchdowns would have been scored by non-“skill” position players.
On the bright side, both Carson Palmer (8-21-116-0-3) and Kyle Boller (7-14-61-0-3) threw touchdowns; problem was, both went to Chiefs who took them back the other way. Darren McFadden (2-4, 1-3 receiving) left the game with a foot injury, opening the door for Michael Bush (17-99, 2-12 receiving)—and a few garbage-time yet very intriguing touches for explosive rookie Taiwan Jones (3-18 rushing, 1-30 receiving).
FANTASY IMPACT: Palmer said after the game he had a grasp of about 10 percent of the playbook, and with McFadden unavailable that number was likely even smaller. He’ll have an extra week to get up to speed with Oakland on the bye next week, but it’s worth noting that despite all the quarterback issues Darius Heyward-Bey (5-89) posted his fourth consecutive productive game. Jackie Battle (16-76) appears ensconced as the lead back in Kansas City’s committee, but it was McClain getting the goal line carry—though the “non-fumble” might make that a moot point going forward. Dexter McCluster (10-38, 1-(-3) receiving) also saw touches, as did Thomas Jones (9-19); neither were effective. Matt Cassel (15-30-161-0-2) was kind enough to consolidate the bulk of his stats with Dwayne Bowe (6-76, with a TD overturned on review) and Steve Breaston (5-64).
DALLAS COWBOYS 34, SAINT LOUIS RAMS 7
Tashard Choice (2-8) took the first carry of the game and was the intended receiver and/or ballcarrier on two more plays on the Cowboys’ first drive that were wiped out by penalties. Then DeMarco Murray took the next carry 91 yards for a touchdown and Choice was bumped to afterthought as Murray set a club record with 253 yards on 25 carries. The Cowboys’ ground game domination was so thorough that Philip Tanner (6-34-1) became relevant in garbage time. At least Tony Romo (14-24-166-2) snuck in a couple touchdowns.
Sans Sam Bradford, the Rams tried to lean on Steven Jackson (18-70-1, 4-3 receiving), but with the deficit mounting they had to have A.J. Feeley (20-33-196-0-1) throw more than they would have liked—with somewhat predictable results.
FANTASY IMPACT: So what if he’s been with the team less than a week; Brandon Lloyd (6-74) quickly rose to the top of the receiver heap, seeing twice as many targets as any other pass-catcher. Feeley did stay true to his Eagle roots in targeting tight ends, with Michael Hoomanawanui (3-44) and Billy Bajema (2-20) more heavily involved than usual. The Cowboys didn’t need to throw much, but Dez Bryant (5-90-1 on eight targets) made plays in both halves and Jason Witten (5-35-1) was wide open on a play-action call from the one. Miles Austin (2-16) was only lightly used.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 33, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 27
Aaron Rodgers (24-30-335-3) toyed with the consecutive completion record, but mostly he toyed with a Vikings secondary depleted by injury and the justice system. As per usual Greg Jennings(7-147-1) had his way with Minnesota's defense; they didn't have much of an answer for James Jones (4-63) or Jordy Nelson (4-52) either, though it was Jermichael Finley (2-13-1) and John Kuhn (1-2-1) doing the scoring.
Despite the loss, Christian Ponder (13-32-219-2-2, plus 4-31 rushing) made his first start a memorable one. He opened with a 72-yard pass to Michael Jenkins (3-111-1), and a late scoring strike to Visanthe Shiancoe (4-45-1) pulled Minnesota to within a touchdown. For the game, 12 of Ponder's 13 completions went for first downs or touchdowns, and seven came on third downs (stat courtesy 1500 ESPN).
FANTASY IMPACT: Having an effective passing game complement is a big plus for Adrian Peterson (24-175-1, 1-0 receiving). And in an intriguing development, Peterson's backfield complement may just be Percy Harvin, who had two carries for eight yards in addition to 2-15 receiving. Problem is, the oft-injured Harvin left prematurely after aggravating the rib injury that has plagued him all season. Green Bay's ground game did little... at least until it mattered most, at which point James Starks (13-75 plus 3-24 receiving) carried six straight times for 55 yards, picking up three first downs and preventing Ponder for one last shot at completing the comeback. Intriguing that the team trusted Starks with those critical carries; prior to the final series, Ryan Grant (9-29) had seen just as many touches.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 62, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 7
Drew Brees (31-35-325-5) had three touchdowns in the first quarter as the Saints scored on their first nine drives, then added a defensive touchdown for good measure. Marques Colston (7-98-2) and Jimmy Graham (6-54-2) led the receiving parade, but the rout helped make all the backs fantasy-relevant, from Darren Sproles (12-88-1 rushing, 6-19-1 receiving) to Mark Ingram (14-91, 1-6 receiving) to Pierre Thomas (10-57, 5-68 receiving) to touchdown vulture Jed Collins (1-1-1 rushing).
Delone Carter (10-89-1) kept the Colts from being shut out and didn't look awful in relief of Joseph Addai (2-8, 2-11 receiving), who left after aggravating his tender hamstring; neither did Donald Brown (9-47), but given that the Colts played the entire game down by double-digits the Saints weren't too focused on stopping the run. Peyton Manning was calling the plays, but he had to be sick about how Curtis Painter (9-17-68-0-1) and Dan Orlovsky (3-5-35) executed them.
FANTASY IMPACT: Simply put, the passing game was putrid. Pierre Garçon (3-31) was once again the most targeted, but it barely mattered. Reggie Wayne (3-36) was nearly invisible; Dallas Clark (zero targets) must have been. All the rout did was reinforce what we know about the Saints: Colston is the one wide receiver to be trusted, Graham is an unstoppable red-zone force, and Sproles is the best fantasy back option. Oh, and Jed Clampett is an irritating fantasy vulture for anyone who owns one of the New Orleans RBs.