BALTIMORE RAVENS 24, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 10
It was everything you expected: the Ravens outgained Indy more than two-to-one, held the ball for 12 minutes more than the Colts, and dominated the game from start to finish. Ray Rice (26-103-1, 6-46 receiving) did most of the damage, but Joe Flacco (23-31-227-2-1) and the passing game made a surprise contribution as well—though it was spread amongst a multitude of receivers.
The Colts were as expected as well. Despite 20 targets, neither Pierre Garçon (5-46) nor Reggie Wayne (4-41) could find the end zone; in fact, it was backup tight end Jacob Tamme (1-13-1) who tallied the garbage time score. Ultimately, no Colt outside of Dan Orlovsky (17-37-136-1-1) was responsible for even 50 yards of offense.
FANTASY IMPACT: Simply put, Colts are unstartable. They don’t face a favorable passing matchup the rest of the way, and the running game saw three backs split 16 carries at a paltry three yards a pop. The next Colt you put in your fantasy starting lineup might very well be Andrew Luck. While Anquan Boldin (5-57) led Baltimore receivers, it was rookie Torrey Smith (5-48-1) and second tight end Dennis Pitta (3-29-1) who found the end zone. Smith (9) was targeted more than Boldin (5) as well; same for Pitta (4) and starting tight end Ed Dickson (2-19 on two targets).
ATLANTA FALCONS 31, CAROLINA PANTHERS 23
Michael Turner (21-76) was inexplicably unable to get it going against the bottom-feeding Carolina run defense—but there to pick up the slack was Matt Ryan (22-38-320-4) and the passing game. Julio Jones turned eight targets into 3-104-2; Roddy White (7-84-1) and Tony Gonzalez (7-82) were more efficient with the 11 targets apiece they saw.
Carolina rolled early, but after a Greg Olsen (2-53-1) touchdown grab with 3:03 left in the first half the Panthers didn’t return to Atlanta territory until midway through the fourth quarter—and even then they were unable to put points on the board. Cam Newton was more of a factor throwing (19-39-276-2-2) than running (7-36), which benefitted both Steve Smith (6-125) and DeAngelo Williams (7-87-1).
FANTASY IMPACT: If not for Williams’ 74-yard touchdown run—where he was untouched through a gaping hole on the right side and no Falcon was even in the frame for most of the play—Panther running backs would have combined for just 42 yards on 14 carries. Williams (1-4 receiving) and Jonathan Stewart (8-29, 4-27 receiving) didn’t bring much to the passing game, either. Olsen and Jeremy Shockey (2-10-1) both found the end zone for Rob Chudzinski’s TE-friendly offense. The most efficient back for Atlanta was Jacquizz Rodgers, who carried one time for four yards but caught two balls for 39 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown. Jason Snelling (3-6 rushing, one catch for minus-one yard receiving) saw as many touches but offered little help.
HOUSTON TEXANS 20, CINCINNATI BENGALS 19
So much for that “game manager” thing; playing from behind for most of the game, T.J. Yates threw 44 times, completing 26 for 300 yards and two TDs, including the game winner to Kevin Walter (6-76-1) with two seconds remaining. Yates’ game bailed out Arian Foster (15-41, 4-33 receiving), who struggled mightily against the Bengals’ stout run defense. In fact, Ben Tate (8-67, 3-30 receiving) was more productive—except for his goal-line fumble.
The Bengals held the ball for less time and put up fewer yards than Houston, yet thanks to a solid showing from Cedric Benson (21-91, though 92 of them came in the first half; that’s right, eight carries for minus-one yard after halftime) and an efficient but hardly exciting effort from Andy Dalton (16-28-189-1) Cincy held the lead for much of the game. Ultimately, two drives into the red zone where the Bengals settled for field goals sealed their fate.
FANTASY IMPACT: While A.J. Green (5-59) was Cincy’s leading receiver, the down day for Dalton transferred to his numbers as well. Jerome Simpson (2-38) took his touchdown, but once again Jermaine Gresham (3-45) was right behind Green in the receiving pecking order. The Texans once again split their tight end work, with Owen Daniels (7-100) piling up yardage but Joel Dreessen (3-22-1) stealing the touchdown. Walter saw the bulk of the wideout work, but Jacoby Jones (3-39) would have had much nicer numbers had he not dropped a long potential touchdown on the Texans’ first offensive play.
DETROIT LIONS 34, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 28
Less than 10 minutes into the game the Lions had 21 points on the board and looked to be running away with things. However, their offense could muster only two field goals the rest of the way and they needed an assist from a disinterested officiating crew to slip away with the win. It was no surprise Matthew Stafford (20-29-227-2) had his way with the Minnesota secondary; what was surprising was that Calvin Johnson (3-29 on just four targets) played such a small part. Third receiver Titus Young (4-87-1) and tight end Brandon Pettigrew (6-57-1) picked up the slack.
Christian Ponder (11-21-115-2-3) played hurt, having missed much of the practice week with a hip pointer; his play also hurt the Vikings, as he lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and also threw a pick six. Ultimately the Vikings went to the bullpen for Joe Webb (12-23-84-1, 7-109 rushing), who used a 65-yard touchdown run to set a franchise record for quarterback rushing yards and had Minnesota in position for a game-winning touchdown when he was facemasked and stripped on the game’s final play.
FANTASY IMPACT: Again without Adrian Peterson, the Vikings turned to Percy Harvin (10-69-1 receiving, 4-40 rushing) and Toby Gerhart (19-90 rushing, 3-19-1 receiving) to carry the offense. Harvin was targeted 15 times, but Devin Aromashodu (4-47) continues to see looks as well with 10 against Detroit. The Lions couldn’t get a ground game going once again; Kevin Smith was out and Maurice Morris (4-13 plus 1-3 receiving) was ordinary; Keiland Williams (12-43 plus 2-17 receiving) wound up with the bulk of the work.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 41, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 14
This day belonged to Maurice Jones-Drew (27-85-2 rushing, 6-51-2 receiving), as no other Jaguar touched the ball more than five times. Marcedes Lewis (2-77) came close, but all his 62-yard reception did was set up another MoJo TD.
Following a 13-yard run by Josh Freeman (16-30-181-0-2, 4-26 rushing) early in the second quarter, the Bucs actually led 14-0. And then they didn’t get back across midfield until midway through the fourth quarter. Oh sure, Tampa Bay generated a couple touchdowns—they just went to the Jaguars on fumble recoveries.
FANTASY IMPACT: The good news is, LeGarrette Blount (18-74-1) didn’t completely dribble this softball matchup down his leg. He was, however, the only Buc to muster as much as 35 yards of offense. You could call it a breakout by Blaine Gabbert (19-33-217-2-2), but like the rest of the Jags he relied on Jones-Drew to do the heavy lifting. Among the wideouts, Jarret Dillard (5-45) was the closest thing to productive.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 26, MIAMI DOLPHINS 10
The return of Michael Vick (15-30-208-1-1) was triumphant on the scoreboard but not much to look at on the stat sheet. He got a couple touchdowns out of LeSean McCoy (27-38-2, 3-33), but the 1.4 yards per carry weren’t much help. DeSean Jackson (4-59-1) paced the passing game; no other Eagle generated as much as 40 yards.
Matt Moore (11-19-95-1-1) took advantage of a short field, throwing a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall (4-27-1) to put the Broncos up 7-0 on their opening drive. And then it went downhill quickly. Of their 16 subsequent drives, 11 failed to yield a first down and only one saw the Dolphins string together more than two first downs. Of Miami’s 264 total yards, Reggie Bush (14-103, 5-27) was responsible for almost half.
FANTASY IMPACT: Moore was knocked from the game with a head injury, leaving the Dolphins in the hands of J.P. Losman (6-10-60). That doesn’t bode well for the fantasy prospects of Marshall, who is pretty much the entirety of the Miami passing game. Jeremy Maclin (1-13) aggravated his hamstring injury and exited early, but neither Jason Avant (2-35) or Riley Cooper (1-29) was able to take advantage.
NEW YORK JETS 37, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 10
The Jets took the opening drive 77 yards for a Mark Sanchez rushing touchdown and were never threatened after that, tacking on three more touchdowns before halftime. Sanchez vultured another score at the stripe, adding 2-4-2 rushing to his 13-21-181-2 passing line, though he left the heavy lifting for Shonn Greene (24-129-1, 3-58 receiving) as a 42-21 run-pass split signified the return of ground and pound.
There was nothing redeemable about the Chiefs’ offense. Tyler Palko (16-32-195-1-1) wasn’t in your starting lineup anyway, nor was Jerheme Urban (2-28-1), who scored KC’s lone touchdown. Dwayne Bowe (6-69) was far and away the most productive Chief, but the matchup with Darrelle Revis likely kept him out of your lineup as well.
FANTASY IMPACT: If you’re keeping track, Jackie Battle (10-33, 2-26 receiving) saw more work than Thomas Jones (5-12) and Dexter McCluster (4-1), while Steve Breaston (4-44) and Jonathan Baldwin (2-28) were targeted equally. But with Palko at the helm none have much if any fantasy value. The Jets went extremely running back-heavy this week, with Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson (9-14 rushing, 2-50-1 receiving) accounting for more than half of the team’s receiving yards as well. Santonio Holmes (2-12-1) got in the end zone, tight end Dustin Keller (4-34) saw the most targets, and Plaxico Burress was shut out on two targets.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 22, TENNESSEE TITANS 17
Despite solid yardage all around, the Saints couldn’t crack the end zone until the fourth quarter—at which point Drew Brees (36-47-337-2) connected twice with Marques Colston (7-105-2) to put the Saints up top. The rest of the New Orleans attack was typically diversified, with nine different Saints catching passes and three different running back all seeing at least five carries.
Matt Hasselbeck (5-7-44) left with a calf injury, opening the door for rookie Jake Locker—who promptly threw for 282 yards and a touchdown despite completing just 13 of 29 passes. Locker also led the team in rushing with 6-36-1 as Chris Johnson (11-23, 5-43 receiving) reverted back to “bad” CJ.
FANTASY IMPACT: Maybe Nate Washington (6-130-1) should sprain an ankle more often, as he paced the Titans receiving corps and made several clutch plays. Damian Williams (2-62) was more targeted and would have joined Washington in the scoring column had he not been yanked down by the facemask on a 54-yard gain. With Mark Ingram out, Chris Ivory (13-53) leapfrogged to the head of the Saints’ backfield rotation. Darren Sproles (5-33 rushing, 7-58 receiving) was still the most productive; he also had an 80-yard punt return touchdown called back on a penalty. Jimmy Graham (5-55) played hurt but still led the Saints with nine targets.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 34, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 27
It wasn’t exactly Tom Brady as usual—not with a sideline spat following an end zone pick—but his 22-37-357-3-1 felt pretty normal after he hit Wes Welker (7-86-1) for the game-winning touchdown. Also normal: Rob Gronkowski (6-160-2) blowing up the stat sheet.
Kudos to the Redskins for sticking around as long as they did, though much of the credit goes to the New England secondary. Rex Grossman (19-32-252-2-1) very nearly directed a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter, but Santana Moss (3-81-1) tipped the ball up for an interception and the ballgame was over. The loss overshadowed another strong showing for Roy Helu (27-126, plus 2-6 receiving), though Evan Royster (6-44 rushing, 2-6) saw a little more work this week as Mike Shanahan prepped fantasy owners for yet another ill-timed switcheroo.
FANTASY IMPACT: With no Fred Davis it was all about the wide receivers for Washington. Jabar Gaffney (6-92-1) and Donte’ Stallworth (4-96) put up big numbers alongside Moss (whose touchdown came on a reverse pass from Brandon Banks (1-49-1)), while David Anderson (2-12-1) found the end zone as well. As fractured as the New England ground game was, with Danny Woodhead (8-41, 1-4 receiving) leading the pack’s paltry stats, the passing game was clustered around Welker, Gronk, and Aaron Hernandez (5-84), who accounted for 27 of Brady’s 37 targets and contributed all but four catches and 27 yards of production.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 21, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 19
Kevin Kolb (1-1-2) was forced from the game early, which turned out to be a blessing for the Cardinals as John Skelton (19-28-282-3-2) had the touch. While much of “the touch” mean throwing the ball up for Larry Fitzgerald (7-149-1) to make a play on, Skelton also found Early Doucet (3-73-1) for a long touchdown and Andre Roberts (2-8-1) for the game winner.
Usually the San Francisco defense makes settling for field goals hold up; on this day, driving inside the Arizona thrice and coming away with treys proved costly. Following a 37-yard Frank Gore (10-72-1) touchdown run set up by a Ted Ginn (2-14) punt return on the first drive of the second half, the Niners failed to cross midfield the rest of the game.
FANTASY IMPACT: Alex Smith (18-37-175) was back to his old form statistically, which mean there was little for Michael Crabtree (7-63) and Vernon Davis (1-32) to share). Beanie Wells (15-27, 1-3 receiving) was utterly ineffective, but once again Skelton saved the day with 25 rushing yards on six carries.
DENVER BRONCOS 13, CHICAGO BEARS 10 (OT)
The Denver offense took three quarters off once again, then unleashed Tim Tebow at Tebow Time™ for 21-40-236-1-1 passing and 12-49 rushing. Another late touchdown drive, this one finding Demaryius Thomas (7-78-1) for the score, then a drive to set up a second 50-plus-yard field goal for Matt Prater. And then… well, you know the rest.
For about 58 minutes, Marion Barber (27-108-1, 2-32 receiving) carried the Bears’ offense, accounting for their lone touchdown and more than half their yardage. But two huge gaffes down the stretch—running out of bounds to allow Denver to stop the clock in regulation, then fumbling in overtime—opened the door for Tebow Time™
FANTASY IMPACT: Between Barber’s 140 yards from scrimmage and another 64 from Kahlil Bell (9-40 rushing, 5-24 receiving), it was clear Chicago didn’t trust Caleb Hanie (12-19-115) to do much. Some drops from his receiving corps didn’t help. The Broncos has similar issues moving the ball, with Willis McGahee (17-34, 1-2 receiving) surprisingly little help. A surprise contributor was Matt Willis (4-75), who saw more targets than even Eric Decker (3-33).
GREEN BAY PACKERS 46, OAKLAND RAIDERS 16
Just to shake things up, the Packers found a couple guys on their roster who hadn’t scored yet and got them in on the action. Ryan Grant, who hadn’t done a dang thing all year, took his first carry 47 yards for a touchdown and finished with 10-85-2 plus 1-13 receiving. So much for Brandon Saine, who exited with a head injury after 1-7 rushing and 2-14 receiving. Also getting in on the fun was rookie tight end Ryan Taylor, whose 1-4-1 was one more catch than Jermichael Finley had on the day.
The Raiders were down 34 points before they got on the board, with Michael Bush (23-78-1, 3-19 receiving) salvaging an otherwise lost afternoon. Carson Palmer (24-42-245-1) took a late break from throwing to Packers to hit Kevin Boss (5-43-1) with a touchdown, in most leagues barely offsetting those four picks.
FANTASY IMPACT: Darius Heyward-Bey (5-78) and Louis Murphy (4-70) were heavily targeted but only mildly productive; that’s likely to change if/when Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford return to action. The Packers saw eight different players catch passes, with Jordy Nelson (3-81-1) the most productive. Notable are the contributions of Donald Driver (4-75), Randall Cobb (2-45), and James Jones (2-29), who will need to step up with Greg Jennings (2-20) going down with an apparent sprained knee.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 37, BUFFALO BILLS 10
The San Diego offense we saw firing on all cylinders last week returned, with Philip Rivers (24-33-240-3) directing the show that primarily starred Ryan Mathews (20-114 rushing, 6-34 receiving) and Antonio Gates (7-68-2), with a guest appearance from Vincent Jackson (5-55). Bit roles went to Mike Tolbert (6-21-1) and Patrick Crayton (3-37-1), who siphoned touchdowns from Mathews and Jackson or Malcom Floyd (2-29), respectively.
At least Ryan Fitzpatrick (13-34-176-0-2) consolidated the bulk of his production with Stevie Johnson (4-116); no other Bill pass catcher produced as much as 30 receiving yards. The running game was stuck in neutral, with C.J. Spiller (12-46 plus 3-10 receiving) spinning his wheels.
FANTASY IMPACT: The Bills are falling apart in front of our eyes, led by Fitzpatrick—whose only touchdown on the day was a pick-six to San Diego’s Steve Gregory. Tyler Thigpen (2-3-19-1) came on in relief, but Fitzpatrick’s contract says he’ll keep getting the ball. So long as he keeps throwing it primarily to Johnson there’s some fantasy value to the Buffalo passing game. Rivers and Gates are up to their old tricks, but aside from one drive in which he caught three balls Jackson was relatively quiet. He should have a free agent push in him, as it’s unlikely the Chargers franchise him again in 2012.
NEW YORK GIANTS 37, DALLAS COWBOYS 34
You wanted a shootout, and Eli Manning (27-47-400-2-1) was happy to oblige. Hakeem Nicks (7-154) was his primary weapon, with a healthy dose of Victor Cruz (7-83), but it was Jake Ballard (4-52-1) and Mario Manningham (2-62-1) with the money shots. Manningham should have had a second but dropped a sure touchdown late in the game.
The Cowboys were equally prepared for a scoring fest, as Tony Romo (21-31-321-4) welcomed back Miles Austin (4-63-1) to action. There was still more than enough for Laurent Robinson (4-137-1) and Dez Bryant (1-50-1) to be fantasy helpers as well, with Jason Witten (3-12) the odd man out on this evening.
FANTASY IMPACT: Felix Jones (16-106, 6-31 receiving) stepped in seamlessly for the injured DeMarco Murray (5-25, 1-6), who will miss the rest of the season with a fractured ankle. The move leaves Dallas woefully thin at running back; look for them to make a waiver wire move for help behind the fragile Felix. Julio Jones, anyone? The Giants have backfield issues of their own—like why Brandon Jacobs (19-101-2) stinks when given full-time duties while Ahmad Bradshaw (8-12, 1-7 receiving) is out with an injury, then lights it up when Bradshaw returns to the lineup? Fantasy owners may even be willing to stomach more of Jacobs’ adults-only touchdown celebrations if he keeps running like he did Sunday night; just start planning now how to explain the strawberry smell to the missus.