BALTIMORE RAVENS 30, ARIZONA CARDINALS 27
The Ravens’ Monday night malaise carried over for another half of ugly offensive football, but a 51-yard drive right before the break netted a field goal. Then Baltimore stormed out of the locker room with three TDs on their first four possessions; Anquan Boldin (7-145) did much of the legwork against his former team with 117 second-half receiving yards, but it was Ray Rice (18-63-3 rushing, 7-36 receiving) cashing the checks at the goal line.
Arizona used a 66-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald (3-96) to set up a field goal, then tallied back-to-back-to-back touchdowns thanks to a pair of Baltimore turnovers in their own territory and a Patrick Peterson 82-yard punt return. The Cardinals could muster just 56 yards of offense after halftime, which is how they squandered a three-touchdown lead.
FANTASY IMPACT: Beanie Wells (22-83-1) needed two cracks from the one-yard line to get his touchdown, but the fact remains: he ground out a solid fantasy day on the road against a good defense. Of course, we also learned that his knee injury will bother him all year long. Same old Beanie. Amid pleas to get Rice more touches than he had on Monday, Joe Flacco (31-51-336-0-1) directed the comeback effort primarily on the strength of Boldin’s revenge game, though he also made a money throw to Torrey Smith (3-57) to set up the game-winning field goal. Heavily involved in the offense were tight ends Ed Dickson (6-46) and Dennis Pitta (6-44).
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 24, CAROLINA PANTHERS 21
No, those aren’t typos. Percy Harvin (3-16-1 rushing, 4-58 receiving) and Adrian Peterson (21-86-1 rushing, 5-76-1 receiving) played a little role reversal, with Harvin taking a handoff from the tailback spot and bursting through the line for a 10-yard TD and Peterson leading the Vikings in catches and yardage while taking a Christian Ponder (18-28-236-1) aerial to the house. No other Viking accounted for more than 37 yards of offense.
All the things you knew would happen, happened: Steve Smith (7-100-1) had his way with the Vikings even though another TD was overturned as he was down inches shy of the goal line; Cam Newton passed (22-35-290-3) and ran (6-53) all over the Vikings; and tight ends Greg Olsen (4-73-1) and Jeremy Shockey (1-1-1) were largely uncovered. Only a shanked 31-yarder from Olindo Mare prevented these teams from playing extra time.
FANTASY IMPACT: Jonathan Stewart (13-49, 2-10 receiving) edged DeAngelo Williams (7-26, 2-13 receiving) in the battle for second-best runner on the Panthers while Legedu Naanee (5-49) outdueled Brandon LaFell (1-44) for WR2 honors. All that says is that these guys are unpredictable and don’t offer much reward for the risk. Ponder is beginning to make the Minnesota passing game relevant, though like the Panthers the duties are shared: Visanthe Shiancoe (3-37) and Kyle Rudolph (2-15) at tight end and Michael Jenkins (2-30) and Devin Aromoashodu (2-20) as Harvin’s complement at wideout.
HOUSTON TEXANS 24, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 14
This one didn’t feel like a close game, perhaps because the Texans held a 10-minute time of possession advantage and doubled up the Jaguars in total yardage. Arian Foster (33-112-1, 1-12 receiving) did most of the damage, while Matt Schaub (16-30-225-1 plus 1-2-1 rushing) relied heavily on tight ends Owen Daniels (4-60) and Joel Dreessen (2-19-1) to prop up the Andre Johnson-less passing game.
Maurice Jones-Drew (18-63-1, 1-11 receiving) scored a late touchdown to keep the Jaguars surprisingly close as well as salvage an otherwise hum-drum fantasy performance. Fortunately, Jones-Drew is about the only Jaguar starting in most self-respecting fantasy leagues.
FANTASY IMPACT: With Blaine Gabbert (10-30-97-1-2) stuck in double-digit passing yards for the second straight game, there wasn’t much going on amongst Jacksonville receivers. Jason Hill (1-5-1) made his only catch useful, while Marcedes Lewis (4-45) had his most productive game since signing his fat new contract. With Johnson missing yet another game, Kevin Walter (5-70) and Jacoby Jones (3-59) had one more chance to shine; clearly, sunscreen was not necessary.
NEW YORK GIANTS 20, MIAMI DOLPHINS 17
When the Giants eschewed a long field goal on their opening drive but failed to convert on fourth down, it didn’t seem like a big deal. And when they settled for a field goal to answer Miami’s subsequent touchdown drive, there was only mild concern. But a Mario Manningham (6-63-1) TD grab just before halftime failed to ignite the Big Blue offense and it took a late Victor Cruz (7-99-1) score to pull the Giants’ bacon out of the proverbial fire.
Daniel Thomas was out with his perpetual hamstring injury, so Reggie Bush (15-103, 4-17 receiving) took on the offensive burden. However, the Dolphins gave Steve Slaton (5-7-1) the goal line shots and Matt Moore (13-22-138-0-1 plus 5-31-1 rushing) pilfered another score set up by a long Bush run.
FANTASY IMPACT: What little passing game Miami mustered ran through Brandon Marshall (4-55), with a smattering of Davonne Bess (3-43) and Bush. However, after their opening two drives the Dolphins were able to string together multiple first downs on the same possession only once the rest of the game so there was little offense to be spread around. Eli Manning (31-45-349-2) kept all his targets happy, though Hakeem Nicks (6-67) left with a hamstring injury. Even Jake Ballard (4-55) stayed involved. Ahmad Bradshaw (13-50, 5-38) was a big more disappointing, though he returned for more stats after exiting the game for X-rays on a foot injury. In his absence Danny Ware (2-1 rushing, 1-5 receiving) saw just as much work as Brandon Jacobs (4-10, 1-0 receiving), who has clearly fallen out of favor in Gotham and is merely playing out the string.
SAINT LOUIS RAMS 31, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 21
While the win was a team effort, Steven Jackson (25-159-2, 4-32 receiving) was unquestionably at the epicenter of this earth-shaking upset. It took a while for the Rams to get rolling, but their defense kept the Saints off the board and then set up two touchdowns with a blocked punt and an interception. That left Jackson to work his magic and A.J. Feeley (20-37-175-1) to do just enough to keep the Saints at bay.
This was supposed to be a walkover, but the St. Louis defense didn’t get the message and the Saints’ offense underwhelmed dramatically. Pierre Thomas (7-23-1) dribbled his opportunity sans Mark Ingram right down his leg, and the Saints gave just-activated Chris Ivory (6-18) ineffective touches as well. Drew Brees (30-44-269-1-2) salvaged his consecutive games with a touchdown streak by hitting Lance Moore (8-82-1) with six seconds left.
FANTASY IMPACT: Darren Sproles (6-16, 6-60 receiving) made it three backs unable to replicate what DeMarco Murray did to the Rams the previous week, and the “start everybody” passing game failed to produce viable numbers for weekly big tickets Jimmy Graham (4-39) and Marques Colston (3-50). So much for the predictability of the NFL. At least Brandon Lloyd (6-53-1) seems to be a constant, pacing his new team in receiving for the second straight week. Those numbers would have been better had he not dropped a slant that had him running at full speed with little between him and the end zone.
TENNESSEE TITANS 27, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 10
It didn’t take much to beat the winless Colts, which was fortunate for the Titans because they didn’t offer much offensively. Nate Washington (1-3-1 rushing, 4-34-1 receiving) stepped into the role of playmaker since no other Titan—most notably Chris Johnson (14-34, 3-17 receiving)—seemed willing. Matt Hasselbeck (22-33-224-1) carried what little offense there was, with Damian Williams (4-60) and Jared Cook (2-40) his primary downfield targets.
As garbage-time games for winless teams go, Curtis Painter (26-49-250-0-2 plus 7-79 rushing) was pretty productive. More importantly, he got Peyton Manning’s usual targets Dallas Clark (6-77) and Reggie Wayne (5-61) as involved as they’ve been this season. Of course, by now fantasy owners have bailed on them, and maybe even Pierre Garçon (7-66) as well.
FANTASY IMPACT: Joseph Addai was active but didn’t play a snap, leaving the work to Delone Carter (9-46, 2-1 receiving) and Donald Brown (10-33-1, 1-1 receiving). That’s three guys sharing one unproductive role on a bad team. Speaking of unproductive, all indications are that Johnson is now officially in a job share with Javon Ringer (14-60, 5-42), who accounted for 51 more yards of offense at a significantly lower price. If you’ve been clinging to CJ hoping for him to regain form, that boat has officially sailed.
BUFFALO BILLS 23, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 0
A novel approach from Ryan Fitzpatrick (21-27-262-2-1): you get paid, and then you produce. Fitz had plenty of help from Fred Jackson (26-120, 3-74 receiving) and touchdown machine Scott Chandler (2-35-2), not to mention the Buffalo defense.
Fred Davis (8-94) was all we expected with Chris Cooley officially out of the picture and bullpen quarterback John Beck (20-33-208-0-2) now at the helm, but he was the lone bright spot in the first shutout of Mike Shanahan’s coaching career.
FANTASY IMPACT: Ryan Torain (8-14) housed all the running back carries for the Redskins, but that production isn’t going to win him any friends in the fantasy or coaching communities. Hard to tell what Roy Helu (3-20 receiving) if he’s not getting any carries. Steve Johnson (6-57) continues to be the Bills’ go-to wideout, but David Nelson (4-47) is also carving out respectable numbers. Naaman Roosevelt (1-22) and C.J. Spiller (2-9) are covering for Donald Jones; it will be interesting to see what happens with that role when Jones returns from his injury.
DETROIT LIONS 45, DENVER BRONCOS 10
Matthew Stafford (21-30-267-3) found a wide—and I mean WIDE—open Titus Young (4-66-1) for a 41-yard TD to cap the Lions’ first drive, and the rout was on. Calvin Johnson (6-125-1) took his share off the top, and there wasn’t much left in the way of table scraps save for a touchdown for Tony Scheffler (3-38-1). Detroit didn’t need their ground game to be effective, and Maurice Morris (13-58-1, 1-7 receiving) and Keiland Williams (11-25, 1-5) responded appropriately.
Once again, Tim Tebow (18-39-172-1-1, 10-63 rushing) waited until the fourth quarter to get the ball rolling—only this time it was against a good team so his heroics weren’t nearly enough. When he wasn’t running for his life (the Lions sacked him seven times) he went away from old friend Demaryius Thomas (1-10), relying instead on Eric Decker (6-72-1, plus another TD correctly wiped out after further review) and Eddie Royal (6-41).
FANTASY IMPACT: The Broncos received surprisingly decent production from their ground game, with Knowshon Moreno (14-69, 1-5 receiving) and Lance Ball (6-63, 1-4) sharing the work. Maybe Tebow still has a copy of his old spread option playbook laying around. While the Lions were successful offensively, the numbers of Young and Sheffler came at the expense of more likely fantasy starters Nate Burleson (4-23) and Brandon Pettigrew (3-8). A good problem for the Lions, a frustrating one for fantasy owners.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 25, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 17
It looks like somebody has been studying some film, because the Steelers seemed to know exactly where the Patriots were vulnerable—and that was over the middle, a hole exploited by Heath Miller (7-85) early, then later by Antonio Brown (9-67-1), Mike Wallace (7-70), and Emmanuel Sanders (5-70. Ben Roethlisberger (36-50-365-2-1) ran the show, dropping back to pass on 55 of 78 snaps.
Who would have thought this iteration of the Steel Curtain would have the kryptonite for Tom Brady (24-35-198-2)? He seemed to be squeezing throws into tight windows all game, as only Rob Gronkowski (7-94) managed a gain of more than 19 yards. Fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez (2-9-1) and Deion Branch (4-36-1) found the end zone, but they were the least productive members, catch-wise, of the New England attack.
FANTASY IMPACT: The return of Kevin Faulk (6-32 rushing, 5-20 receiving) to the New England backfield mix spells trouble; BenJarvus Green-Ellis (5-9 rushing) saw a hugh dropoff in workload, while Danny Woodhead didn’t touch the ball and Stevan Ridley didn’t even see the field. The Pittsburgh ground game still centered around Rashard Mendenhall (13-70, 3-22 receiving), but Mewelde Moore (1-16, 2-29-1 receiving) scored and Isaac Redman (7-11, 1-5 receiving) stole touches as well.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 34, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 12
The Bengals got up early and coasted home, their last two touchdowns coming via punt return and interception return. But Andy Dalton (18-29-168-2-2) did enough up front to overcome two late picks of his own. Fellow rookie A.J. Green (4-63-1) was his go-to guy, while six other receivers caught balls but none amassed as much as 50 yards. With Cedric Benson suspended Bernard Scott (22-76, 3-0 receiving) got the start and was adequate against an underrated Seattle run defense.
Charlie Whitehurst (4-7-52) got the start but couldn’t get the Seahawks’ offense started, so Pete Carroll went to Tarvaris Jackson (21-40-323-0-1), who put up big numbers but only directed one touchdown drive. Jackson’s insertion into the lineup ignited Sidney Rice (7-102), with Ben Obomanu (4-107) and Doug Baldwin (5-73) brought along for the ride.
FANTASY IMPACT: Marshawn Lynch (16-24-1) averaged a paltry 1.5 yards per carry against a solid Cincy run D, but a well-blocked two-yard TD run salvaged his fantasy stat line. That he kept getting carries despite the ineptitude was a slap in the face of Leon Washington (2-34) and his 17.0 yards per carry average. With Jermaine Gresham a late scratch for the Bengals, Donald Lee (3-44) stepped into the tight end catches. Among Cincy’s secondary receivers Jerome Simpson (1-14-1) scored, but Andre Caldwell (4-31) was more targeted.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 20, CLEVELAND BROWNS 10
This one didn’t feel nearly as close as the score indicates, perhaps because San Francisco drove into the red zone on its first four possessions but was held to a field goal once and turned over on downs on another. Frank Gore (31-134-1) ravaged the Browns all afternoon, while Alex Smith (15-24-177-1) completed passes to offensive and defensive tackles as well as Michael Crabtree (5-54-1) and Braylon Edwards (4-42).
Colt McCoy (22-34-241-1-1) kept the Browns hanging around long enough that it was a one-possession game inside of the two-minute warning. Cleveland accomplished this despite no real standout offensive performances: Ben Watson (3-64) and Josh Cribbs (2-46-1) were the team’s top receivers while Chris Ogbonnaya (11-37 rushing, 5-24 receiving) stepped in for the injured Montario Hardesty (2-6) and the inactive Peyton Hillis.
FANTASY IMPACT: While Greg Little (4-28) was more targeted (11), Cribbs seemed to be the guy coming up with the big plays. Ogbonnaya was signed off of Houston’s practice squad less than two weeks ago; pending the results of the MRI on Hardesty’s calf, he may be the Browns’ feature back when they head back to Houston to face the Texans next week. Vernon Davis (3-27) posted subdued numbers after spending time on the sidelines with an arm injury; also dampening his stat line were multiple jumbo packages that had Smith throwing to offensive tackle Joe Staley (1-17) and nose tackle/blocking back Isaac Sopoaga (1-18). To their credit, both big fellas made their catches.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 34, DALLAS COWBOYS 7
Football Night in America belonged to LeSean McCoy, who carried 30 times for 185 yards and two scores and chipped in 2-15 receiving for good measure—all this against the league’s top-ranked run defense. Michael Vick (21-28-279-2, 7-50 rushing) softened them up through the air, spreading the ball amongst Brent Celek (7-94-1) and Jeremey Maclin (3-54-1) and mixing in a little Jason Avant (5-74) as well. About the only Eagle who didn’t go off as expected was DeSean Jackson, whom the Cowboys held to 3-31.
It took a late 70-yard touchdown toss from Tony Romo (18-35-203-1-1) to, of all people, Laurent Robinson (5-103-1) for Dallas to avoid the shutout and Romo to salvage any fantasy value from an otherwise ugly game. Dez Bryant (3-28) didn’t even show up in the stats until the fourth quarter and Miles Austin (3-27) did little as well. Even the usually reliable Jason Witten (4-28) was, on this night at least, a fantasy dog.
FANTASY IMPACT: Not a bad follow-up for DeMarco Murray (8-74, plus one catch for minus-two yards receiving), though with the Cowboys on the short end of a 42-18 time of possession split he simply didn’t see many opportunities. No reason, however, to think he’s anything but legit. Philly came out of the bye week with everything clicking offensively, taking their first six drives inside the Dallas 15 and coming away with points each time; they didn’t punt until midway through the fourth quarter, at which point they were up by 34. Vick still doesn’t have a rushing score on the season, but if he’s as accurate the rest of the way as he was Sunday night the yardage for Philly receivers will pile up like discarded bones at 25¢ wing night.