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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Sunday Game Recaps - Week 3
John Tuvey
September 22, 2008
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Falcons 38, Chiefs 14

As Col. Hannibal Smith used to say, “I love it when a plan comes together!” The Falcons ran the ball 36 time, with Michael Turner Overdrive takin’ care of business to the tune of 104 yards and three touchdowns while Jerious Norwood pitched in 105 yards from scrimmage; Matt Ryan took just a couple shots downfield, hitting Roddy White for a 70 yard touchdown; and Atlanta beat up a weaker team at home. It works against the Lions and Chiefs, a combined 0-6; it may not work again until a Week 17 date with the Rams, so enjoy it while you can.

Kansas City’s sinking ship of a fantasy team bobbed to the surface briefly, with Larry Johnson showing a little something with 121 yards and a touchdown and Dwayne Bowe hauling in a Tyler Thigpen toss for a score. Johnson was in the process of being relegated to afterthought for the second straight week when he broke off a 48-yard run to open the second half; he then carried on six of the next eight plays and punched across his first touchdown of the season. Tony Gonzalez was Thigpen’s other target, as he and Bowe combined for eight of the Chiefs’ 14 completions and

Fantasy Impact: It’s obviously a sell-high moment for LJ, as the Chiefs can expect to play catch-up most of the rest of the season and Johnson isn’t part of the passing game; a generous view of the upcoming schedule has at most five favorable matchups for KC’s ground game, and LJ has been reduced to a matchup play. But you might also want to look into selling high on Turner as well; his schedule has a similar number of positive plays, with the rest shaping up to more closely resemble last week’s 14-for-42 than the two home layups he’s taken advantage of.

Bills 24, Raiders 23

Once again, the Bills stuck to their blueprint—except this one required a little more from Trent Edwards at the end of the game, and he delivered: a 17-play touchdown drive at the start of the fourth quarter, then a seven-play drive after the Raiders answered with a score of their own, and then following a defensive stop the drive that culminated with Rian Lindell’s game-winning field goal as time expired. Edwards had plenty of help on the final drive from Marshawn Lynch, who padded the stat line on his two-touchdown day by picking up 19 of his 83 rushing yards on the Bills’ final five plays from scrimmage prior to the field goal. The Buffalo quarterback also spread the wealth in the passing game, with four different receivers catching four or more balls paced by Josh Reed’s six for 72.

The Raiders stayed true to form, running the ball 30 times and throwing just 19 passes. Don’t let the 84-yard touchdown from JaMarcus Russell to Johnnie Lee Higgins fool you; that play was a short slant after which Higgins split the safeties and raced the bulk of the distance post-catch. Russell went deep on just four of his 19 throws, with Darren McFadden (three catches, six yards) his primary receiver and Javon Walker the only other Raider with more than one grab. McFadden and Michael Bush split the carries, and for a guy who entered the locker room in a walking boot Run DMC’s 42 yards on 14 carries against a tough Bills’ D wasn’t all bad.

Fantasy Impact: There are no elements of the Raider passing game who warrant a spot on a fantasy roster right now, unless you include McFadden’s PPR potential. As for the Bills, that’s now three straight games with 200-plus yards and a touchdown for Edwards. Those aren’t game-changing fantasy digits, but with the bye weeks descending upon us he’ll be a solid plug-in play. Edwards continues to get Lee Evans involved, though it feels like four catches for around 80 yards is what you can expect on a weekly basis. However, after scoring in three of Edwards’ final five starts last year he’s still looking for that first TD of 2008.

Buccaneers 27, Bears 24

It’s good to be Brian Griese right now. Jettisoned in favor of… well, whatever the Bears are trotting out at quarterback these days, Griese rolled into the Windy City and dropped 407 yards and two touchdowns on his former mates, leaving with an overtime upset win. Griese threw 67 passes, fifth-most in NFL history, as Chicago’s defense held Warrick Dunn and Earnest Graham to 47 yards on the ground. Griese did throw three INTs on the day as well, but the tying and winning drives are pretty good salve for any wounds those may have left. With Joey Galloway sidelined by a sprained foot Antonio Bryant stepped up, catching 10 balls for 138 yards. The Bucs also worked in Jerramy Stevens, back from a two-game suspension; the big tight end caught five balls for 61 yards and split out wide left in a mismatch with Hunter Hillenmeyer to score the tying touchdown at the end of regulation. Ike Hilliard (6-57-1) and Michael Clayton (5-54) also saw some love; Griese attempted to get the ball to Maurice Stovall as well, but Stovall failed to catch two of the four passes directed his way and fumbled one of the two he did catch.

Kyle Orton threw his first touchdown pass of the year as well as his first interception of the year; trouble was, they came on the same play when Gaines Adams pilfered a dumpoff and went 45 yards the other way. Orton made up for the miscue by locking in on Brandon Lloyd for six catches, 124 yards and a touchdown. To the surprise of no one, though, the Bears’ offensive workhorse was once again Matt Forte: 27 carries for 89 yards and seven catches for 66 yards and a score. If there had been any questions about Forte’s status as an every-week fantasy starter, 155 yards from scrimmage against the Bucs should clear them up.

Fantasy Impact: Before you strip down to your Speedo and dive into the free agent pool in pursuit of either Bryant or Lloyd, pause for a reality check. Bryant’s numbers came with Galloway sidelined and due in no small part to the extra frame (where his 38-yard catch set up the game-winning kick); however, Galloway certainly isn’t getting any younger and if you toss out OT Bryant’s 8-for-93 showing indicates he may deserve some attention. On the other hand, Lloyd took advantage of Devin Hester’s absence as well as an aberration of an afternoon from Orton, who had thrown for multiple scores or 200-plus yards just twice previously in 20 NFL starts. It was also just his fourth foray beyond the 30-attempt barrier. In other words, don’t get used to these passing numbers from the Bears—especially with Forte looking so good.

Vikings 20, Panthers 10

The Vikings’ first drive provided a glimpse at everything else that’s wrong with the team beyond the quarterback position: an Adrian Peterson first-down run was nullified by a Ryan Cook penalty; Visanthe Shiancoe dropped a potential first-down catch over the middle two plays later; and then the Vikings’ play-callers took the ball out of Peterson’s hands by calling five straight passing plays and throwing on 10 of the next 13 snaps. Only when the defense stepped up with an Antoine Winfield sack/strip/return for a TD and Minnesota put the ball back into the hands of the running game did the Vikings hammer out their first win of the season. Peterson played through a hamstring injury, carrying 17 times for 77 yards, while Chester Taylor saw a little more work and contributed 66 yards on 14 touches. The change at quarterback did exactly what it needed to, as Gus Frerotte moved the chains and stretched the field with key deep completions to Bernard Berrian and even to Shiancoe, who actually held on to one of Frerotte’s tosses for a 34-yard touchdown.

In a battle of a power running game against a dominant run defense the Panthers blinked, abandoning the run after just 19 attempts (for 47 yards) from their backs. Neither Jonathan Stewart nor DeAngelo Williams broke off a carry for double-digit yardage, though Stew salvaged his fantasy day by punching in a short touchdown. Forced to the air, Jake Delhomme found little time to get Steve Smith involved; he connected with him on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage but on just three of eight more targets—a surprisingly small number considering the Vikings didn’t shadow Smith with Winfield and relied heavily on Cedric Griffin, rookie Tyrell Johnson, and their Cover-2 against the mighty midget. The biggest problem for Delhomme was time to throw, as the Vikings blitzed frequently in addition to getting a strong push from Kevin Williams up the middle and Jared Allen late in the game. Aside from a 29-yarder to Smith the Panthers didn’t complete a pass longer than 19 yards, with no secondary receiver stepping forward to help out Smith and the Panthers.

Fantasy Impact: Smith and Delhomme didn’t pick up where they left off prior to Delhomme’s elbow injury last season, and it’s somewhat surprising that only a third of Delhomme’s tosses were directed at Smith. Expect the kinks to be worked out quickly, with a couple favorable matchups against the Falcons and Chiefs on Carolina’s upcoming schedule. As for the Vikings, their pass-happy start may have set the table for their forte, running the ball—exactly the reason they signed Berrian in the offseason.

Dolphins 38, Patriots 13

Well, that was unexpected. It was all Ronnie Brown all the time, as the Dolphins unveiled a direct snap formation that led to two of Brown’s four rushing touchdowns—and also set him up for a 19-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Fasano. Note that if you’re a hardcore Team QB type, those scores count towards Miami’s Team QB stat line by virtue of the direct snap. Chad Pennington was no slouch himself, dinking and dunking to the tune of 17-for-20 with 226 yards. Fasano reappeared on the fantasy radar after taking last week off, totaling 66 yards and a score on his three catches, while Greg Camarillo and Ted Ginn led the fight for table scraps. Lost in Brown’s big day—he also contributed 113 rushing yards—were 119 combo yards from Ricky Williams as the Fins snapped the Patriots’ regular season winning streak in decisive fashion.

The team that set the NFL mark for most points in a season has now mustered 49 in three games; that’s less than the Lions and Raiders and only four more than the Ravens—who have already had their bye. The running game was non-existent without Laurence Maroney, as Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan combined for 49 yards on 15 carries, and Matt Cassel was utterly ordinary before being replaced late by Kevin O’Connell. How bad was it? Randy Moss’s longest gain on his four catches was seven yards; the only deep shot Cassel took at Moss was picked, though the play was nullified by a roughing the passer penalty. Wes Welker was Cassel’s primary target and the only other recipient of a deep ball; that's right, the Patriots trailed most of this game yet took just two shots down the field. Jabar Gaffney posted a better fantasy day than either Moss or Welker with 51 yards and a touchdown.

Fantasy Impact: First, there’s little question Brown has beat the typical timetable and is all the way back from last year’s knee injury; if he can do what he did to the Patriots he belongs right back near where he was ranked amongst fantasy contributors before the injury prematurely ended his 2007 season. As for Moss and the Patriots… well, let’s just say unless there are some major changes brewing between Bill Belichick’s ears you’re in serious danger of seeing the disinterested, unproductive Randy Moss who killed fantasy owners for two years as a Raider.

Giants 26, Bengals 23

Shouldn’t that have been a whole lot easier? The Bengals served notice they weren’t about to go belly up by holding Brandon Jacobs to nine yards on his first five carries; though Jake did salvage his fantasy day with a one-yard TD plunge his 35 yards on 14 carries was well below expectations. Derrick Ward contributed 80 yards on nine carries as the change-of-pace back, but Cincy didn’t let this one turn into a run-out-the-clock fest and Eli Manning threw 43 passes (against just 25 running plays), completing 26 for 289 yards. The wealth was spread around with six Giants catching at least three balls each, none bigger than Amani Toomer’s acrobatic grab along the sidelines to set up the game-winning field goal.

Welcome back, Carson Palmer! After a two-game start to the season that had the Bengals ticketed for an implosion, Palmer survived six sacks to reconnect with T.J. Houshmandzadeh 12 times for 146 yards and a touchdown. Antonio Chatman was Palmer’s number two target, catching six balls for 70 yards, while Chad Ocho Cinco was persona non grata for the first 28 minutes of the game and ultimately targeted on just seven of Palmer’s 39 throws—catching three for just 29 yards. Chris Perry extended a pair of streaks: 60 carries this season without an injury, and touchdowns in back-to-back games. Perry’s 3.7 yards per carry in this game is his best outing to date and brings his season-to-date mark to 3.0.

Fantasy Impact: Ocho Cinco has now scored in two of his last 17 games and currently ranks 40th amongst NFL wideouts in catches and 56th in yardage. Not only is he no longer an every-week starter he is dangerously close to a trip to the free agent pool. Perry, on the other hand, continues to defy the track record he had established coming into this season with 42 DNPs in five pro seasons. It smacks of a “get out while the gettin’s good” situation, but maybe this is finally the year the former first-round pick lives up to his draft position.

Titans 31, Texans 12

To the surprise of no one the Titans ran the ball 36 times and accumulated 154 yards on the ground. Actually, that’s a somewhat subdued total given the expectations for Chris Johnson and LenDale White against the Houston defense. Johnson’s 79 yards from scrimmage were mildly disappointing, while LenDale again proved to be a basic scoring monster with two more rushing touchdowns. With Justin Gage out Justin McCareins stepped up to be the beneficiary of Tennessee’s renewed downfield passing game. Kerry Collins connected wit McCareins for 90 yards on four catches, but it was Bo Scaife who hauled in Collins’ lone touchdown toss. In fact, tight ends Scaife and Alge Crumpler combined for five of Collins’ 14 completions and 52 of his 189 yards.

Matt Schaub set the tone for the Texans early on: on his first eight dropbacks he fumbled once, was sacked once, threw an interception, and fired five incompletions. As a result, Houston turned a pair of turnovers, some great field position, and Steve Slaton’s 50-yard run into just two field goals. Slaton topped the century mark by halftime with 104 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries; he found a little less running room in the second half, taking nine carries a total of 12 yards and failing to convert a fourth-and-goal carry from the two-yard line. Michael Griffin was Schaub’s second-favorite receiver with two grabs while Courtland Finnegan’s 99 yards was the most yardage anyone went with a Schaub aerial; trouble is, Finnegan and Griffin both play for the Titans. Owen Daniels paced the Texans with four catches for 71 yards while Andre Johnson was almost non-existent with two catches for just 29 yards. It certainly wasn’t for lack of looking, however, as Johnson was targeted a dozen times; eight fell incomplete and Schaub’s final two passes intended for Andre were intercepted.

Fantasy Impact: With Houston’s bye behind them, Ahman Green’s role with the Texans diminishing by the second, and a handful of matchups with softer run defenses on the horizon, Slaton certainly warrants a look-see. In two games—against the Steelers and the Titans, two fairly stout defenses—he’s touched the ball 38 times and produced 173 yards and a score. If he’s still kicking around in your free agent pool, go ahead and toss him a ring buoy.

Redskins 24, Cardinals 17

Now this is more like the Jim Zorn offense Redskins fans were expecting. Jason Campbell wasn’t perfect but he was relatively sharp, didn’t turn the ball over, and used his feet to pick up yards and a first down along the way. Campbell’s attention was split evenly between Santana Moss, who scored for the sixth straight game (including the playoffs last season) and finished with seven catches for 75 yards, and Chris Cooley, whose similar 7-for-72 included a key first down late in the game that allowed the Skins to run out the clock. However, Todd Yoder stole Cooley’s red zone score. Clinton Portis was again the load carrier, with 87 yards on 23 touches.

While the Cardinals weren’t exactly bad at any point, they did lack finish: in the fourth quarter, with three possessions giving them the opportunity first to take the lead and later to tie the game, Arizona could muster but one first down. Formerly turnover-free, Arizona’s two miscues proved deadly: an Edgerrin James fumble set up a Redskins field goal while Kurt Warner’s first INT of the year led to the winning touchdown. Aside from that it was mostly business as usual for the Cards: Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin both scored, with Fitzy having the bigger yardage day; Edge doing the bulk of the work on the ground (18 for 93) with Tim Hightower changing pace and catching balls out of the backfield to the tune of 51 yards on eight touches (but alas no goal line looks this week).

Fantasy Impact: Fears of a lengthy learning curve for Zorn’s WCO, stemming from their relatively inept performance in the season opener, appear to have been assuaged. While Campbell himself isn’t yet a fantasy regular he’s keeping the Redskins’ primaries—Portis, Cooley, and Moss—productive and is likely worthy of a spot start himself at some point during the stretch of byes we’re about to enter.

Broncos 34, Saints 32

You wanted a shootout? Jay Cutler and the Broncos delivered. While Jay’s 264 and two may have actually been a bit below expectations given the opponent, it marks Cutler’s third straight multiple-touchdown outing and lowers his per-game average to a mere 304 passing yards. Brandon Marshall was again the main target, though at times it appeared Cutler would simply locate Saints cornerback Jason David and then throw in his direction. Marshall caught just a third of the balls he did in his 2008 debut but topped 150 yards and scored for the second straight tilt. Tony Scheffler and Eddie Royal were less involved than in previous weeks; Nate Jackson swiped Scheffler’s short touchdown and Scheff later fumbled in the red zone giving the Saints one more shot. Denver’s ground game picked up the slack with 105 yards on just 24 rushing attempts; Selvin Young led the team in both carries and yards, but Michael Pittman doing the fantasy damage with a pair of short touchdown runs.

The Saints certainly have an offensive blueprint: Drew Brees throws a bunch, most of it to Reggie Bush, and if New Orleans has the ball last they have a shot to win the game. Actually this week they had two shots, but Brees overthrew Bush on a two-point conversion and Martin Gramatica missed a 43-yard field goal attempt that would have sent the Saints home victorious. It would have helped had the Saints not dug themselves a 21-3 hole, but 502 yards of offense helped them make it interesting. Bush was his usual combo-yardage stud, with 73 and a touch on the ground and 11 catches for 75 yards and a score via the air. Pierre Thomas capped two drives with short touchdown runs but was stopped on fourth and a foot on one other occasion, a situation that ultimately resulted in the Saints’ defense getting a safety. Jeremy Shockey (eight for 75) and Lance Moore (seven for 78) were also heavily involved, and Robert Meachem made another appearance with a 74-yard grab that saw him pulled down inside the 10. As you might imagine, it all added up to a healthy fantasy day for Brees, who finished with 421 yards and a touchdown.

Fantasy Impact: There’s little question Pittman is the Bronco back to have if you’re in a touchdown-heavy league, but Thomas is making a push for consideration as more than just a handcuff to Bush. He’s unquestionably going to get opportunities and has converted three inside-the-10 situations in the past two weeks. In fact, you could make a case for Bush/Thomas as a fantasy backfield similar to that of Tennessee’s Chris Johnson and LenDale White—and with bye weeks coming up, starting both in the same lineup isn’t out of the question.

49ers 31, Lions 13

Frankly, I expected Mike Martz to put a little more boot to the throat of his former squad. Frank Gore’s 162 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown might have been enough, and J.T. O’Sullivan kicked in a pair of scoring strikes as part of a relatively mild 189 and two. Typical of a Martz offense there were plenty of cooks in the kitchen, and unfortunately for those who played the matchup and last week’s hot hands Bryant Johnson had just one catch while Isaac Bruce totaled 19 yards—though he did find the end zone. Digging deep down the roster, O’Sullivan found tight end Delanie Walker three times for a team-high 44 yards and a touchdown. And on a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, it was an end-around to Allen Rossum that put the finishing touches on the Niners’ second straight 2-1 start.

This one was every bit as ugly as the box score might lead you to believe. Jon Kitna completed just half his passes before leaving with a sprained knee late in the fourth quarter. Six of his 15 completions went to Calvin Johnson (four for 40) and Roy Williams (two for 18), and the only pass play longer than 15 yards was a screen to Rudi Johnson which he took 34 yards to the house. In fact, Rudi was the lone Lions’ bright spot, replacing Kevin Smith early on and finishing with 83 yards on 14 carries and 48 more on three catches. There was no indication Smith was injured, so perhaps the rookie is the new fall guy for Detroit’s offensive woes… seeing as apparently it wasn’t Martz’s fault.

Fantasy Impact: Johnson could very well be taking over as the Lions’ new feature back. And while any feature back is worthy of a roster spot, keep this in mind: next week is Detroit’s bye, after which they’ll face a stretch of 10 games that includes only one defense ranked in the bottom half of the league (Houston in Week 7) and features two games each against the Bears (4th against the run) and Vikings (3rd). Oh, and if Kitna’s knee injury is serious Dan Orlovsky will be helming the squad.

Seahawks 37, Rams 13

When you’re playing the Rams, you can do things like bring in receivers off the street and still win by 24. It certainly helps when you get 245 rushing yards: 140 and a touch from Julius Jones, 79 and a pair of shorties from T.J. Duckett. With the running game moving the ball at will Matt Hasselbeck had time to introduce himself to his receivers, doling out 12 completions to seven different Seahawks. Mike Bumpus caught Hasselbeck’s lone money ball and Billy McMullen paced the club with four grabs for 76 yards. Hasselbeck’s previous favorite receiver, tight end John Carlson, was limited to 36 yards on two grabs—not by the defense, more by the fact that Seattle didn’t need to throw.

Here’s a silver lining: Steven Jackson cobbled together 128 yards from scrimmage. And… that’s about it. Marc Bulger posted a third straight clunker and has now thrown multiple touchdowns in two of his last 16 starts. While Jackson’s five catches and 62 yards led all receivers, it wasn’t he who caught Bulger’s second touchdown pass of the season. Nor was it Torry Holt, who managed four grabs for 37 yards. Instead, Dane Looker’s lone catch went for the Rams’ second offensive touchdown of the 2008 season.

Fantasy Impact: Will the Seahawks try to work Maurice Morris into the mix once he returns from his injury? Sure, Jones has feasted on creampuff matchups but his 267 rushing yards (at 5.5 yards a pop) and two touchdowns are about all Seattle’s offense has going for it right now. That’s more than can be said for the Rams, who limp towards their Week 5 bye; wonder who’ll be calling the shots when they reconvene for a Week 6 trip to D.C.?

Ravens 28, Browns 10

No reason to mess with a successful formula, right? The Ravens merely asked Joe Flacco to not lose the game for them, and despite a pair of interceptions he was more or less successful—completing 13 of the 17 passes that weren’t picked off and handing off to Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain 32 times. That’s right, McGahee was back in the mix and for the early portion of the game was Baltimore’s primary ball carrier, turning his 15 totes into 64 yards and a touchdown. Later Baltimore battered the Browns into submission with McClain, who finished with 66 yards and two scores on his 17 carries—10 of them in the fourth quarter. Ray Rice saw just five rushing attempts and appears to be an afterthought in this committee. As you might imagine in an offense that ran the ball 44 times against 19 passes, there was little to note amongst Raven receivers. Derrick Mason’s four grabs and 42 yards led the way, like a one-eyed man amongst the blind.

The Browns now have five offensive touchdowns in their last six games and have scored 26 points thus far in 2008; eight teams are averaging that per game, including noted offensive juggernauts like the Falcons, Giants, and Bills. The only items of note here are how pathetically each of the Browns’ fantasy entities performed. Derek Anderson completed just 14 of 37 passes, with the Ravens catching as many as any one Brown could muster—including Braylon Edwards (three for 27) and Kellen Winslow (two for 14). At least Edwards’ injury status led many fantasy owners to bench him for this tilt. Jamal Lewis accounted for 77 of the team’s 169 offensive yards, but it was backup Jerome Harrison who scored Cleveland’s lone TD on his only touch of the game, a 19-yard catch and run from Anderson.

Fantasy Impact: The Ravens seem to be following the new backfield model of a battering ram (like McClain) used for short yardage situations but also to wear down defenses between the 20s. McClain is certainly an intriguing pick-up in TD-heavy scoring systems, but you have to wonder just how many opportunities Flacco and the Ravens will give him against better opposition than the Bengals and Browns. Plus, this being McGahee’s first game back from injury there’s still a possibility he’ll work his way into a larger share of the workload.

Jaguars 23, Colts 21

If anyone knows where to attack the Colts it’s Jacksonville, who used a combined 296 yards from scrimmage from Maurice Jones-Drew (107 on the ground, 59 in the air) and Fred Taylor (121 rushing, nine receiving) to hang with Indy and a late Josh Scobee 51-yard field goal to earn their first win of the year. David Garrard did nothing downfield; every gain of longer than 12 yards came from a running back, either on the ground or on a swing pass. Mix in a couple timely interceptions—one returned for a touchdown—and the Jags leave Indy winless in their new building.

Considering that he didn’t even get the ball in the fourth quarter until there were less than three minutes left, Peyton Manning almost pulled off another miracle. It helped to get 78 rushing yards and a pair of rushing scores from Joseph Addai, especially as Indy’s defense was being chewed up and spit out by the Jacksonville ground game. Manning spread the ball around effectively, with 13 of his 15 completions going to Reggie Wayne (3-74), Dallas Clark (4-47), Marvin Harrison (4-40 and Peyton’s lone touchdown toss), and Anthony Gonzalez (2-37). And after he moved the Colts 77 yards in a minute and a half, capped by Addai’s second score, it appeared he had done enough. But ultimately his first sub-250 yard outing against the Jaguars in the past six matchups fell short.

Fantasy Impact: Already without left tackle Tony Ugoh, Indy lost yet another offensive lineman (RG Dan Federkeil); in other words, despite the two rushing scores the Colts’ ground game shouldn’t expect to be getting significantly better any time soon. On the flip side, case you hadn’t noticed you can run all over the Colts again; through the first three games Indy has allowed four 100-yard rushers. Following the Colts’ Week 4 bye that bodes well for Steve Slaton, Willis McGahee, and Ryan Grant. And don’t even get me started about what Tennessee’s Thunder and Lightening might be capable of in Week 8.

Eagles 15, Steelers 6

Donovan McNabb was knocked out of the game, then returned; Brian Westbrook left and didn’t come back. Sans Westy, who suffered an ankle injury early in the second quarter, the Eagles turned to Correll Buckhalter; the General responded with 43 rushing yards and another 44 via the air, including a nice run-after-catch for the lone touchdown of the game. Reggie Brown returned for this game, though you wouldn’t know it by the box score; McNabb did target him, but Brown seemed to be a step slow in getting to the ball and didn’t record a catch. Hank Baskett was the big winner in this week’s “Who’s the Eagles’ Top Receiver” roulette, catching eight balls for 85 yards; DeSean Jackson was held under triple-digits for the first time in his pro career, finishing with five grabs for 40 yards.

Ben Roethlisberger was in one piece after the game, but just barely after absorbing eight sacks (Byron Leftwich was sacked once in relief duty) and exiting late in the fourth quarter with an apparent hand injury. Big Ben stood in against a ferocious rush to complete 13 of 25 passes for 131 yards, favoring Nate Washington (5-51) and Heath Miller (4-63) over Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, who combined for seven catches and 66 yards. Willie Parker couldn’t get the ground game going and was limited to 20 yards on 13 carries. Those numbers aren’t surprising considering the Steelers never got closer than the Philly 19-yard-line, which they reached on their opening drive before settling for a field goal.

Fantasy Impact: Obviously the loss of Westbrook for any length of time would be a huge blow, both to the Eagles as well as to his fantasy owners. And while we were led to believe that the Eagles signed Lorenzo Booker to step into Westy’s shoes should something like this happen, it was Buck who touched the ball 16 times (to Booker’s 7) and demonstrated the most production. As for Big Ben, he is now on pace to be sacked 64 times… if he lasts that long. Moreover, the porous line is limiting the shots Roethlisberger can take down the field; while that doesn’t pinch Ward’s value much it takes a huge bite out of what Holmes brings to the table.

Cowboys 27, Packers 16

Tony Romo’s numbers were ordinary by comparison with what he’s done to date, and Terrell Owens was nowhere to be found—on the stat sheet, at least, thanks to a blanket job by Charles Woodson. Credit T.O. for other contributions, though, including running down Nick Collins 61 yards later on an interception return and throwing two downfield blocks on Felix Jones’ 60-yard touchdown run. So, did no T.O. spell big trouble in Big D? Hardly. Marion Barber picked up the slack with 157 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, while caddy Jones kicked in another 79 and the aforementioned score. And with safety coverage rolling T.O.’s way Romo went long to Miles Austin—twice—for 115 yards and a touchdown. Jason Witten was still heavily involved, with seven catches for 67 yards, and for the second straight week rookie tight end Martellus Bennett was worked into the mix for a big play—in this case a 37-yard gain.

The Packers ended too many drives with three points instead of seven—great if you have Mason Crosby in your fantasy league, not so great if you’re trying to keep up with the Cowboys on the scoreboard. After feasting on the two worst pass defenses from a year ago Aaron Rodgers stepped up in class and fared quite well, with 290 yards but no passing touchdown for his efforts—though fantasy owners won’t mind his rushing score. Greg Jennings (eight for 115) and Donald Driver (four for 76) topped Rodgers’ reads, though rookie Jordy Nelson (4-42) is seeing more time and tight end Donald Lee hung around for five catches and 41 yards of his own. Ryan Grant’s 13 for 54 wasn’t bad, but a fumble on his first carry set the tone and he only touched the ball five times after halftime.

Fantasy Impact: With Patrick Crayton’s only contribution to the stat sheet an incomplete toss towards T.O., it may be time for fantasy folks to look at Austin as the complementary option to have. Witten is still Target No. 2 and both Barber and Jones factor into the mix, but if safeties continue to roll towards T.O. it appears as if Austin has the wheels to make them pay—and the vote of confidence from Romo to throw him the ball.

 

 

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