NEW YORK JETS 27, BUFFALO BILLS 11
The Jets self-destructed in the first half, turning the ball over twice and going one-for-two on field goal attempts. They found more success in the second-half and capitalized on good field position (average second-half start: their 46-yard line) to score touchdowns on three straight drives and put the game away. Shonn Greene (19-76) led the “ground and pound” until getting knocked out of the game on a head shot; that left LaDainian Tomlinson (5-18-1, 3-30 receiving) and John Conner (2-8-1) to swipe his touchdowns. After an end zone interception on the opening drive, Mark Sanchez (20-28-230-1-1) directed an efficient and balanced passing game led by Plaxico Burress (5-79).
That the passing game struggled against Darrelle Revis and the Jets wasn’t surprising, though Steve Johnson (3-84) did take Revis for a 52-yard grab, the longest the Island has given up this season. The Bills had hoped to get more from Fred Jackson (18-82, 3-38 receiving); instead they got a lost fumble and a couple dropped passes. Only a late garbage-time touchdown and a two-point conversion run salvaged the fantasy afternoon for Ryan Fitzpatrick (15-31-191-1-2, 2-9 rushing).
FANTASY IMPACT: With Johnson blanketed by Revis, David Nelson (4-36-1) was more frequently targeted and ultimately snagged the score. Donald Jones (1-6) returned to action but is splitting looks with Naaman Roosevelt (1-3). Santonio Holmes (3-29-1) found the end zone and has an asterisked four-game scoring streak; last week’s TD was overturned on a replay review. Dustin Keller (4-64) led the team with seven targets despite missing a chunk of the game after leaping over a defender and landing hard on his back. Jeremy Kerley (4-23 on five targets) continue to fill the Derrick Mason role, an odd fit given his speed and breakaway ability.
DALLAS COWBOYS 23, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 13
The Cowboys took two first-half drives inside the Seattle five but came away with field goals both times; they also fumbled deep in Seahawk territory as well. The second half treated them much better as Tony Romo (19-31-279-2) tossed a pair of scores and DeMarco Murray (22-139, 4-47 receiving) moved chains and rendered Felix Jones to the bargain bin.
Seattle fell into the same first half field-goal trap as the Cowboys; the difference was that in the second half while Dallas was scoring touchdowns the Seahawks were missing field goals and turning the ball over. Tarvaris Jackson (17-30-221-0-3) reverted to the form that punched his ticket out of Minnesota; at least he consistently found the guy he brought with him, Sidney Rice (3-69).
FANTASY IMPACT: One week after a 1.5 yards per carry turd, Marshawn Lynch tore up a solid Dallas run defense with 23-135-1 on the ground and another 1-8 receiving. However, Seattle’s passing game failed to complement him effectively as Jackson hit eight different receivers, none more than three times and only Rice mustered more than 45 yards. While Dez Bryant (4-76) was Romo’s most targeted receiver with nine grabs and Jason Witten (4-71-1) got his, the big news was Miles Austin (2-53) limping off after aggravating his hamstring injury. Laurent Robinson (5-32-1) was an effective fill-in and makes a solid replacement for Austin, both fantasy and otherwise.
HOUSTON TEXANS 30, CLEVELAND BROWNS 12
Houston’s second rushing touchdown—neither by Arian Foster—put the game away for the Texans just past the midway point of the first quarter. Foster (19-124-1, 5-26 receiving) ultimately got into the end zone himself, but Ben Tate (12-115-1) took a big bite out of his action and Matt Schaub (14-23-119-0-1, plus 3-0-1 rushing) swiped a score for himself. The passing game didn’t see any receiver top Owen Daniels’ 3-32.
The Browns fumbled on their first play from scrimmage, took their second drive into Houston territory for a field goal, then didn’t return until late in the third quarter. In between they mustered 52 yards on 22 plays. Only a garbage-time touchdown pass from Colt McCoy (14-22-146-1-1) to Josh Cribbs (5-50-1) salvaged respectability—and even that’s questionable.
FANTASY IMPACT: It wasn’t much of a homecoming for Chris Ogbonnaya (13-28, 1-13 receiving), who fumbled on the first play and never got the Cleveland ground game going. Worse, they didn’t take advantage of his best trait, pass-catching, throwing to him just the one time. Instead, McCoy threw eight balls at Greg Little, who caught two for 33 yards. Curiously, McCoy completed all his other throws, except one miss at Mohamed Massaquoi. The Texans ground game continues to roll. Not only is Tate a whole life insurance policy for Foster, he’s startable in his own right. Notice how other players with hamstring issues are aggravating theirs while Foster isn’t? Maybe it’s because the Texans are spelling him early without a drop in production. Which would you rather have, five more carries a game for Foster—with the risk of a setback and him missing time again—or Arian’s consistent production in every game the rest of the way?
ATLANTA FALCONS 31, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 7
Not surprisingly the Falcons hammered Indy early with a Michael Turner (19-71-1, 1-7 receiving) touchdown—but then they switched into the fast-break offense they wanted to run earlier in the season as Matt Ryan (14-24-275-3-1) hit Julio Jones (3-131-2) for touchdowns of 50 and 80 yards. The former was a beautiful diving catch between two baffled Colts defenders; the second was a short pace Jones turned into a footrace which he won easily.
Indy’s only touchdown came on a short interception return. Curtis Painter (13-27-98-0-1) was so bad he was benched. The lone bright spot may have been Donald Brown’s 16-70 rushing as Joseph Addai was active but did not play.
FANTASY IMPACT: Add Austin Collie (4-32) to the receiver mix, further sapping what little fantasy value Reggie Wayne (4-30) and Pierre Garçon (3-22) may have had. Dallas Clark (2-21) left with an injury, but as if Indy’s passing game hadn’t already been rendered moot Painter was benched for Dan Orlovsky (4-6-20). Andrew Luck, please pick up the blue and white courtesy phone. Despite Jones’ monster day Roddy White (4-76) led the team with nine targets and Tony Gonzalez (4-36-1 on six targets) found the end zone. In relief of Turner—and in fact getting touches early in the game as well—Jacquizz Rodgers produced 10-44 on the ground and 1-16 as a receiver, very nearly reaching the end zone himself.
MIAMI DOLPHINS 31, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 3
Matt Moore (17-23-244-3) threw three touchdowns. Let that one sink in, because it’s not a common occurrence. Alright, let’s move on. Reggie Bush followed up his second career 100-yard rushing day with 13-92-1 on the ground and another 3-50 receiving, and Brandon Marshall housed the passing game with 8-106-1. This team hardly looked like one in contention for the first overall pick in the draft.
The Chiefs marched the opening drive into field goal territory and took a 3-0 lead. When they next returned to scoring territory they were down 28-3 and two garbage-time drives ended on downs inside the Dolphins 5. At least Matt Cassel (20-39-253) had the decency to feed Steve Breaston (7-115) and Dwayne Bowe (6-88); no other Chief had more than one catch.
FANTASY IMPACT: Jackie Battle (14-40, 1-9) couldn’t get the Chiefs’ ground game going; neither could Dexter McCluster (7-36, 1-8 receiving) or Thomas Jones (3-5). Last week’s phenom, Jon Baldwin, was targeted five times—twice in the red zone—but registered just one catch and had a late touchdown wiped out by an offensive pass interference call. Daniel Thomas (7-12) was only lightly used as Bush continued to run well; it’ll be tough to bank on the rookie fantasy-wise going forward. Moore’s first two touchdowns went to tight end Anthony Fasano (2-38-2), who is talented and productive but too inconsistently targeted to be a fantasy factor.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 27, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 16
The Saints rolled up 189 yards of offense on their first three drives, finishing two off with Drew Brees (27-36-258-2-1 plus 1-20 rushing) touchdown passes, then alternated punts and turnovers with scoring drives to finish off the Buccaneers. It was the usual smorgasbord of Saints receivers, with eight different pass-catchers paced by tight end Jimmy Graham (6-78) and running back Darren Sproles (5-57-1 receiving plus 4-42 rushing). The ground game was similarly splintered; though Chris Ivory (15-67) was less effective than either Sproles or Pierre Thomas (6-66-1) or even Brees, he received the most work.
After a game-opening three-and-out the Buccaneers took each of their eight subsequent drives into New Orleans territory. However, they didn’t score until their fourth foray across midfield and settled for field goals on their first three scording drives. A Kellen Winslow (4-29-1) touchdown cut the lead to eight with five and a half minutes to go, but the defense couldn’t get a stop and a final futile drive expired on the Saints’ 41.
FANTASY IMPACT: LeGarrette Blount (13-72, 2-8 receiving) returned to action and was effective early, but he put the ball on the ground once and took the team out of touchdown range with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty; those actions may have cost him a shot at redeeming himself when the Bucs went to the hurry-up offense in the fourth quarter, as he watched Kregg Lumpkin (2-7, 4-31) get those looks. Note the absence of any wide receiver mentions thus far. Preston Parker (3-56) was the team’s top pass catcher, Mike Williams (6-46) was ordinary, Dezmon Briscoe (1-46) had one big play, and so much for Arrelious Benn (2-22) getting more involved. Preston Parker (3-56) was the team’s top pass catcher. Same could be said for the Saints wideouts, who were led by Marques Colston (5-52), though Lance Moore (3-20-1) scored the touchdown. Devery Henderson (2-13) was lightly targeted; Robert Meachem had but one ball thrown his way.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 19, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 11
The Niners kept their kicking game busy, punting on three of their first four drives and capping their first two scoring drives with field goals. Their only touchdown drive was a one-play strike following a Redskins fumble, the 30-yard Alex Smith (17-24-200-1) to fullback Bruce Miller (1-30-1) constituting the highlight of the passing game. Frank Gore (19-107, 1-7 receiving) kept the ground game churning and topped the century mark for the fifth straight game.
The only scoring Washington could muster through the first 58 minutes of the game was a 59-yard field goal just before halftime, so it seems odd the Redskins eschewed three-point attempts on two closer drives that ended on downs. By the time John Beck (30-47-254-1-1) hit Jabar Gaffney (4-40-1) for a late touchdown and Leonard Hankerson (4-34) for the two-point conversion, the Skins were out of time.
FANTASY IMPACT: Just when you thought Mike Shanahan was out of ways to screw fantasy owners, he reached into his bag of tricks and brought out—no, not Ryan Torain (1-2 rushing, 1-7 receiving), but rookie Roy Helu. The surprise starter fared quite well in a tough matchup with the stout San Francisco run defense, averaging 4.1 yards per carry with 10-41 on the ground. The stunner was his 14-105 receiving, accounting for nearly half of Beck’s completions. Not that Beck checking down is a shock—tight end Fred Davis (4-42) was his next most-targeted receiver. Let the rush for Helu—and the countdown to Redskins practice squader Evan Royster’s first NFL start—begin. Michael Crabtree (5-51) continues to cobble together numbers in San Francisco’s stagnant passing game, most likely at the expense of Vernon Davis (4-41), whose numbers have dropped since Crabtree returned to the lineup. Didn’t help VD’s fantasy numbers that he dropped a potential touchdown pass.
DENVER BRONCOS 38, OAKLAND RAIDERS 24
At halftime the Broncos had 116 yards in offense, four punts, a missed field goal, and a botched punt snap that set up Oakland’s first touchdown. Whatever was in the FRS worked for Tim Tebow (10-21-124-2, 12-117 rushing), who was a tidy 4-5-76-1 passing in the second half to go along with 7-69 rushing. He must have shared with Willis McGahee (20-163-2), who had 18 yards on eight carries at halftime but busted TD runs of 60 and 24 yards in the second frame.
A look at the box score would suggest the Raiders did just fine without Darren McFadden. Michael Bush (19-96 rushing, 2-33-1 receiving) did a serviceable Run DMC impression while Carson Palmer (19-35-332-3-3) seemed to have a more complete grasp of the playbook. But Palmer tossed three picks in Denver territory and the offense went belly-up after a third-quarter scoring drive re-established their 10-point lead.
FANTASY IMPACT: As far as anyone knows, Darrius Heyward-Bey (one target, no catches) isn’t hurt; apparently, over the bye week he was leapfrogged on the depth chart by… well, pretty much everybody. Jacoby Ford (5-105-1) played the part of DHB and made a couple very nice catches, including the acrobatic touchdown grab, while Denarius Moore (4-61) was targeted a dozen times. Even recent signee T.J. Houshmandzadeh (1-28) was more involved than Heyward-Bey. The post-game company line, according to coach Hue Jackson, was that DHB wasn’t in specific position groups, but stay tuned; there has to be more to this story than the Raiders are letting on. The revolving receiver door in Denver swung the way of Eric Decker (3-47-1) early, then Demaryius Thomas (1-29) had a catch, and then Eddie Royal (2-25-1) finished with a TD catch and a go-ahead 85-yard punt return touchdown. Good luck figuring out where it’ll spin next.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 24, TENNESSEE TITANS 17
The Bengals started slowly, punting on five of their first six drives. Then they strung together a pair of second-half scoring drives behind Andy Dalton (22-39-217-3), added a late field goal, and if the season ended today would be the top seed in the AFC. Seriously.
A couple early three-and-outs didn’t sidetrack the Titans for long as they ripped up three drives of at least nine plays and 63 yards en route to 17 first-half points. Even Chris Johnson (14-64 rushing, 4-46 receiving) seemed to be firing on at least most cylinders. But the Titans left their game in the locker room at halftime, mustering just 24 yards of offense before a final frantic drive fell about 30 yards short.
FANTASY IMPACT: With Johnson housing the running game—Javon Ringer (4-11 rushing, 1-14 receiving) had a greatly reduced role—it was the passing game that splintered. Matt Hasselbeck (24-41-272-2) hit nine different receivers. Psuedo-WR1 Nate Washington (3-28) battled a hip injury most of the game, opening the door for Damian Williams (4-34-1) and Lavelle Hawkins (5-63-1), though the latter also missed time after dislocating a finger. A.J. Green (7-83) was the Bengals’ primary pass-catcher, but it was Jerome Simpson (3-43-1) and Andre Caldwell (5-22-1) who did the scoring. With Jermaine Gresham sidelined once again, Donald Lee (3-49) and Colin Cochart (2-7-1) picked up the tight end slack. Cedric Benson (20-78) was… well, Cedric Benson.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 19, SAINT LOUIS RAMS 13
With John Skelton (20-35-222-1 plus a team-leading 4-38 rushing) at the helm the Arizona offense sputtered frequently and nearly negated the two field goals it produced by taking safeties on consecutive possessions. But Skelton found Larry Fitzgerald (4-43-1) for a late score, and in overtime dynamic rookie Patrick Peterson brought a punt back 99 yards for the game-winning score.
The Rams won the battle of field goals early, capping three of their five first-half drives with three points. However, their first five possessions coming out of the break ended in punts; the real killer came with two minutes remaining, however, when they failed to convert on fourth down at the Arizona 35. St. Louis got the ball back but had a field goal blocked as time expired, then did nothing on their first drive in overtime except set up Peterson for his heroics.
FANTASY IMPACT: Despite his best efforts, Steven Jackson (29-130, 1-12 receiving) can’t do it alone. He received a little help from Sam Bradford (23-36-255-0-1), who proved just as comfortable with Brandon Lloyd (5-80) as A.J. Feeley did. However, the Rams will have to break in a new slot receiver after Greg Salas (7-59) broke his leg; Austin Pettis (4-43) is the early favorite for the role that made Danny Amendola a household name. While Fitzgerald salvaged his fantasy afternoon with the score he trailed both Early Doucet (6-76) and Andre Roberts (5-55) in the box score despite having just one fewer target than their combined 13. Beanie Wells (10-20 plus 2-13 receiving) regressed, but it was Chester Taylor (2-8, 1-8 receiving) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (1-4 rushing) with the change of pace work and not Alfonso Smith; keep that in mind if this turns out to be Wells’ knee causing more problems than initially let on.
NEW YORK GIANTS 24, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 20
For a half the Giants and Patriots channeled their inner LSU/Bama, playing to a scoreless tie. The Giants took their next two drives into the red zone, settling for a field goal on the first and extending their lead with a Mario Manningham (3-33-1) touchdown on the second. Then Eli Manning (20-39-250-2-1) tried on the goat horns with an end zone pick before switching to a hero hat in directing the Giants to two touchdowns in the final three minutes.
Hard to call this a clunker for Tom Brady (28-49-342-2-2), but despite 17 fourth-quarter points that is back-to-back losses for the Patriots. Brady found the usual cast of characters, led by Wes Welker (9-136) and the tight end tandem of Rob Gronkowski (8-101-1) and Aaron Hernandez (4-35-1); he even tried to include Chad Ochocinco, targeting him five times but connecting on none.
FANTASY IMPACT: Kevin Faulk was inactive, leaving BenJarvus Green-Ellis (12-52 plus 1-11 receiving) and Danny Woodhead (7-26, 3-34 receiving) to split the backfield work; even Steven Ridley (3-10, 1-2 receiving) got involved. Yep, it was as big a mess as it sounds. The Giants adapted to life without Ahmad Bradshaw by giving Brandon Jacobs (18-72-1, 4-28 receiving) 22 touches and spelling him with Danny Ware (7-23). And with no Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz (6-91) was targeted a team-high 11 times and drew a pass interference penalty to set up the game-winning touchdown. Ramses Barden (2-24) filled some of the void, but tight end Jake Ballard (4-67-1) was the big target and pulled down the deciding touchdown.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 45, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 38
Green Bay didn’t punt until the final five minutes of the game, but they still needed two pick-sixes and an interception in the final seconds to nail down a win in this shootout. Of course, if you’re in a shootout there’s no better weapon to have at your disposal than Aaron Rodgers (21-26-247-4-0). He narrowed his targets this week to just seven, top-loading with Greg Jennings (6-46-1), Jordy Nelson (5-105-1), and Jermichael Finley (5-44-1); the rest of the Packers combined for 5-52-1.
Philip Rivers (26-46-385-4-3) bested Rodgers by throwing six touchdowns; unfortunately for the Chargers, his second and third scoring strikes were pick-sixes to the Packers. In between throwing to the other team Rivers hit Vincent Jackson (7-141-3) and Antonio Gates (8-96-1) repeatedly; with Malcom Floyd out, rookie Vincent Brown (4-79) stepped up his game to fill the void.
FANTASY IMPACT: No Ryan Mathews meant more Mike Tolbert; he responded with 19-83-1 rushing and 4-59 receiving, ceding just one carry to Jacob Hester (1-3, 1-2 receiving). He’s likely reclaimed his goal line and third-down roles, as the team has stated publicly they don’t want to overwork the fragile Mathews. Rodgers also propped up the Packers running game with 8-52, trailing only James Starks (13-66, 1-9 receiving) in the rushing race. Ryan Grant (4-16) started but was on the short end of the workload once again.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 23, PITTSBURGH STEELERS 20
The Ravens looked to be off to the races one play in, but a long Ray Rice (18-43-1, 5-43 receiving) touchdown run was negated by a holding call on Torrey Smith (5-71-1). Smith also dropped a potential game-winning touchdown late, but before the goat horns had been securely strapped to his head he hauled in a 26-yard touchdown to put the Ravens on top for good. It was at least the third great throw by Joe Flacco (28-47-300-1) on the final drive, but the first that wasn’t dropped; even Anquan Boldin (7-88), the go-to guy in the fourth quarter, biffed a throw that would have set up the Ravens for at minimum a tying field goal.
The Steelers seemed happy to play Bama to Baltimore’s LSU (or vice versa?), settling for field goals on their first two trips into Ravens’ territory. Their next red zone trip resulted in an interception, but following that Ben Roethlisberger (20-37-330-1-1) directed back-to-back touchdown drives; Rashard Mendenhall (13-52-1, 1-3 receiving) capped the first with a one-yard plunge, and a frustrated Mike Wallace (4-68-1) cut in front of Antonio Brown (5-109) to snag the second. If Wallace wasn’t frustrated, he should have been; Brown was targeted 11 times to Wallace’s six despite Wallace breaking wide open on at least two occasions where Big Ben didn’t get him the ball.
FANTASY IMPACT: Heath Miller (5-73) continues to carve out a role in the Pittsburgh passing game. That role may continue to expand depending on the availability of Hines Ward, who took a non-flagged helmet-to-helmet shot from Ray Lewis on his only target of the night. With both Ward and Emmanuel Sanders unavailable, Jerricho Cotchery (3-44) got some unexpected looks. While Boldin and Smith were the stars, tight ends Dennis Pitta (5-46) and Ed Dickson (2-8) did the heavy lifting across the middle; the duo combined for 13 targets despite drawing extra attention from the Steelers defense.