Panthers 24, Falcons 9
This is how the Panthers want to play: 30 carries between DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart (though to be perfectly honest, I was expecting more than 109 yards from that tandem against the Falcons; losing both starting tackles to injury didn’t help the cause), freeing up Jake Delhomme to throw at his leisure. Delhomme got on the same page with Steve Smith, to the tune of 96 yards and a long touchdown, and when Smith drew too much attention Jake was more than fine with looking over to Muhsin Muhammad—whose 8-147-1 was a pleasant surprise. This will be Carolina’s blueprint going forward, though expect a little more than three and a half yards per carry from the ground game.
There’s a significant difference between playing cupcakes at home and playing divisional rivals on the road, and fantasy-wise that difference will show up in Michael Turner’s box scores. Limited to just six carries in the second half Turner was a non-factor as the Falcons were forced to play catch-up. And Matt Ryan’s 21-for-41 for 158 yards proves he’s not ready to excel in such a role. At least in either situation—run middle and throw deep when they’re ahead or abandon the run and throw deep when they’re behind—Roddy White’s opportunities should remain constant.
Fantasy Impact: Williams again received the most touches in the Carolina backfield, though Stewart again received the money shot. This would be a good time to sell high on Williams, as there’s little question Stewart is the better red zone back and his role elsewhere on the field will only increase as the season progresses.
Browns 20, Bengals 12
The good news is, Jamal Lewis sort of dominated and got in the end zone and Derek Anderson finally hooked up with Braylon Edwards for a score as well. But Jamal’s 3.2 yards per carry was far from pretty, Edwards managed just 22 yards on three catches, and Anderson’s 15-for-24 for 138 and one did nothing to quell the groundswell of support for Brady Quinn in Cleveland. Kellen Winslow's 5-54 led all Cleveland receivers, which at this juncture isn't saying much.
You’d like to give the Bengals a pass since we learned on Sunday morning Carson Palmer was out (“just some soreness” my backside) and Ryan Fitzpatrick would be running the show; however, they’ve done nothing to this point to deserve a pass. Despite the cushy home date with the Browns Chris Perry laid a gigantic 12-carry, 28-yard egg as the Browns no longer had to respect the Fitz-led passing game, which fared no better with T.J. Houshmandzadeh mustering just six catches for 50 yards and Chad Johnson salvaging yet another pathetic outing with a touchdown amongst his three catches.
Fantasy Impact: The fact that these clubs with all their fantasy weapons combined for 472 yards—barely more than the Cardinals and Saints compiled on their own in Week 4—might be the final straw; Anderson, Edwards, Housh, and Ocho Cinco are little more than matchup plays at this point and might just qualify for that embarrassing “get out while you can” kind of trade.
Jaguars 30, Texans 27
A glance at the team rushing stats indicates that, as per usual, Jacksonville had success on the ground against the Texans with 139 yards and two touchdowns. Hardly usual, though, was that Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor combined for a meager 57 yards (at 3.3 a carry) while David Garrard and Montell Owens scored the touchdowns—Owens coming on the suddenly en vogue direct snap. Garrard put up a line reminiscent of last year (23-32, 236 yards, one TD) and did much of the damage with his feet to help the Jags pull this one out in overtime. Despite the return of Jerry Porter from his hamstring injury, Matt Jones (5-71-1) continued to demonstrate he's the only Jaguar receiver worthy of fantasy consideration.
The Texans have yet to find their running game but they’ve definitely found their running back. Despite giving Chris Taylor carries early it was Steve Slaton who had the most success—primarily as a receiver, with eight grabs for 83 yards and a score to finish with 116 yards from scrimmage. With no ground game Matt Schaub picked up the slack, completing 29 of 40 tosses for 307 yards and three scores. Shockingly, very little of that production was added to Andre Johnson’s meager 3-38 stat line. Kevin Walter (8-76-2) and Owen Daniels (7-87) joined Slaton in pumping up Schaub’s numbers.
Fantasy Impact: Johnson is always Schaub’s most targeted receiver. He had been thrown at a dozen times each of the first two games, but as one of the pregame shows astutely pointed out there were a few catchable balls Andre failed to come up with. Did that play into his meager five official targets (and two more wiped out by penalty) this week? You’ll note that even including the two penalty plays three different Texans had more catches than Johnson had looks.
Chiefs 33, Broncos 19
It’s not rocket science. Larry Johnson touched the ball on 33 of the Chiefs 56 offensive plays and accounted for 198 of their 370 yards and two of their three touchdowns. And when KC throws the ball, it goes to Dwayne Bowe (7-85) or Tony Gonzalez (3-47-1). The 18 plays which didn’t involve the Chiefs’ big three resulted in just 43 yards. Fortunately for the Chiefs this week, Denver’s defense was unable to take LJ out of the mix, and as a result KC nearly matched their entire offensive output from the first three weeks.
Jay Cutler and his fantasy owners may be the only ones comfortable with Mike Shanahan’s decision to run the ball just 22 times against a defense that’s allowing 200 yards per game on the ground. In a matchup that sure looked fantasy-friendly none of Denver’s backs delivered even a modicum of assistance, leaving Cutler to do all the lifting. Jay did just that with 361 yards and a score, though he had to involve a few more receivers this week. Brandon Marshall was targeted 13 times but after the Chiefs picked Cutler on back-to-back throws directed towards Marshall he was forced to pay more attention to Eddie Royal (9-104) and Brandon Stokley (7-80). Tony Scheffler had just one catch and wasn’t even targeted after halftime.
Fantasy Impact: It’s tough enough to muster up the courage to brave the Shanahanigans and plug a Bronco back into your lineup; this week the matchup was in Denver’s favor, so certainly some took the plunge and put Selvin Young (11-49) or Michael Pittman (4-36) into their lineups—and were promptly Shanaslapped. It’s to the point where you almost trust the Chiefs to give LJ enough totes to put up his numbers over any Bronco back even with a creampuff matchup.
Saints 31, 49ers 17
The 363 and three from Drew Brees wasn’t unexpected. The 31 combo yards from Reggie Bush, the 101 and two from Lance Moore, the 20-73-1 from Deuce McAllister, however, came a little out of left field. Moore started, but so did David Patten (the Saints opened in a three receiver set); obviously, Moore was the go-to guy with seven catches—more than Patten, Devery Henderson, and Robert Meachem combined. Word on McAllister getting carries leaked earlier in the weekend, and he stole Pierre Thomas’ touches throughout the game—including nine carries in the fourth quarter as the Saints worked the clock. Don’t get too excited, though; if it’s even possible, Deuce looked slow diving over the pile from the one-yard line.
Frank Gore and “incomplete” were the Niners’ weapons of choice this week, accounting for 36 of San Fran’s 55 offensive plays. Gore amassed 113 yards from scrimmage, falling shy of Arnaz Battle’s 120 yards on seven catches. Isaac Bruce, a popular plug-in play this bye-heavy week, did manage to catch J.T. O’Sullivan’s lone touchdown toss. Tough to say this about a guy who was largely a double-digit round draft pick or free agent acquisition but… against the Saints secondary I expected more from JTO.
Fantasy Impact: Meachem was the deep threat, catching two balls for 99 yards and a touchdown. He’s turning out to be a big-play guy, one who’s difficult to rely on in fantasy leagues because of the limited looks but one who seems to be a steady source of “the big play”. He’s certainly worth keeping in mind while Marques Colston is out and while you’re searching for receiver help through the next couple months of byes.
Jets 56, Cardinals 35
Who woulda thunk Brett Favre had a six-touchdown game left in him? Getting minimal help from his ground game, Favre helped Gang Green put up an absurd 34 points in the second quarter alone; then, with Arizona actually mounting a comeback finished the Cards with 22 in the fourth. Laveranues Coles seems to have gotten over losing Chad Pennington; if not, his 8-105-3 should soothe the wounds for a while. Jerricho Cotchery got in on the fun with a couple scores and 67 yards, and Dustin Keller finished up with a 24-yard TD grab. About the only Jets not in on the fun were former favorite target Chansi Stuckey, whose three-game scoring streak was snapped, and Thomas Jones; more on Jones below.
Odd that in a game with three 100-yard receivers and 472 passing yards—and that’s just on the Arizona side of the ledger—Edgerrin James would get his first two touchdowns of the year. Maybe Ken Whisenhunt felt bad that with the Cards trailing Edge would get roughly half of his typical workload so he tossed him a couple short-yardage bones; whatever the reason, don’t get used to it. Thanks, though, to the Whizzenator for also tossing a shorty to regular goal-line guy Tim Hightower. Larry Fitzgerald (8-122-0) and Anquan Boldin (10-119-1) both put in a typical day’s work, but Steve Breaston (9-122) and Jerheme Urban (5-50-1) joined the fray as well. That’s what happens when you throw 57 passes; other folks get involved. Boldin was injured late in the game on a helmet-to-helmet hit and taken off on a stretcher, but word was he regained consciousness while still on the field and was talking with teammates and moving his extremities.
Fantasy Impact: Jones mustered just 69 yards from scrimmage in a contest that should have seen the Jets running the ball and the clock the entire second half. Can’t do that when the Cards are coming back and your feature back is averaging two and a half yards per carry. Jones’ stock soared with the Favre signing, with the prevailing opinion being defenses wouldn’t be able to focus on the run and Jones would have more room. Now, it appears the Jets are focusing on the pass and Jones isn’t providing enough to warrant regular fantasy attention.
Buccaneers 30, Packers 21
On the heels of throwing 96 passes last week, the Bucs opted to run the ball against Green Bay. They’re still mixing in plenty of Warrick Dunn—he posted 18 touches to Earnest Graham’s 21—and the tandem was effective Sunday, accounting for 200 of the Bucs’ 327 yards from scrimmage. Brian Griese didn’t provide nearly the fantasy burn as last week; his 149 yards and one touchdown (two, if you count the pick Charles Woodson took the other way) meant subdued numbers across the board for Tampa Bay’s receivers. Worse, Griese hit the wrong tight end (Alex Smith instead of hot pickup Jerramy Stevens) for his lone scoring strike. On a bittersweet note, kicker Matt Bryant’s three field goals provided the margin of victory; Bryant was kicking just days after his infant son passed away earlier in the week.
After feasting on last year’s two worst pass defenses in his first two pro starts Aaron Rodgers has found the going a little more tricky the past fortnight. Not that a couple touchdowns is anything to sneeze at, but the three picks and 165 yards did little to help fantasy fortunes. About the only positive is that most of Rodgers’ efforts were directed towards Greg Jennings, whose 6-109-2 aided many a fantasy squad. The rest of the Pack, however, did little—and I’m looking right at you, Ryan Grant. As if 20 yards on 15 carries (I’ll do the math for you; that’s 1.3 yards per carry) weren’t bad enough, you actually lost four yards on your two receptions.
Fantasy Impact: Rodgers left the game with a shoulder injury; he returned for a series, threw an incomplete and a pick, then gave way for the rest of the game to Matt Flynn, who completed two of five passes for six yards. No word yet on the severity of Rodgers’ injury; obviously, the fantasy fate of Jennings and the rest of Green Bay’s receivers hinges on the status of Rodgers’ wing.
Titans 30, Vikings 17
Who says you can’t run on the big bad Vikings? Chris Johnson raced around the Williams Wall for a pair of scores, though his 3.5 yards per carry were a step down from the usual. LenDale White also punched in a shorty thanks to a very favorable spot on a fourth-down completion to Justin Gage that set the Titans up inside the Minnesota one-yard line. Speaking of Gage, he returned to the lineup and his place atop Kerry Collins’ pecking order with five grabs for 92 yards. Collins finished with 199 yards and no scores as the Titans were outgained by Minnesota 333-275 but capitalized on untimely Viking turnovers to run their record to 4-0.
Who says you can’t run on the big bad Titans? Adrian Peterson, looking anything but questionable, scored twice and amassed 101 yards from scrimmage, 80 of them on the ground. A combination of the Tennessee defense and the Vikings play-calling, however, limited Peterson to 22 touches; instead, Gus Frerotte went up top 43 times, completing 25 for 266 yards. He was also picked once, sacked four times, and knocked from the game on two occasions, including a non-throwing hand injury late in the contest. Bobby Wade was his most reliable receiver, producing 75 yards on seven carries, while Bernard Berrian mixed a couple drops in with his five-catch, 78-yard afternoon.
Fantasy Impact: In case there was any question, Johnson and Peterson provided a reminder that no matter how stout that defense looks you don’t want to get away from starting your studs. Johnson was simply too fast; more importantly, his two touchdowns both came from inside the 10 as he’s virtually uncatchable running to the pilon. Peterson’s first score was a thing of beauty, a 28-yard burst off right tackle and down the sideline.
Chargers 28, Raiders 18
If you endured the first half of this game you probably spent intermission figuring out just what you’d take when you traded LaDainian Tomlinson away. Hope you didn’t pull the trigger too soon, as LT rebeounded from his five-carry, seven-yard first half to finish with 106 yard and a couple scores. That total was inflated by LT’s 41-yard touchdown run in the final 1:04 of the game, after San Diego stopped the Raiders on downs—but they all count the same, right? Philip Rivers didn’t rebound quite as nicely, though he did hook up with Antonio Gates for a touchdown as the Chargers scored 25 points in the final quarter.
Oakland unleashed JaMarcus Russell a little bit, with mixed results. Fifteen of his 22 completions were to backs and tight ends, but the 63-yard touchdown toss down the seam to Zach Miller is nothing to sneeze at. Russell finished 22-for-37 for 277 yards, but between Miller’s 95 and Michael Bush’s 80 not even a third of JaMarcus’ yardage went to wide receivers. With Darren McFadden still limited by his bum toe Bush totaled 128 yards from scrimmage.
Fantasy Impact: The plan is for McFadden to take advantage of Oakland’s bye and come back at full speed in Week 6; obviously, given the way toe injuries linger that’s not a certainty. Bush has been solid with additional carries due to Justin Fargas’ injury, and once Justin returns this situation could be a real mess. As for the Chargers’ backfield concerns, Darren Sproles had seven touches from scrimmage and his most important contribution of the day came on a kick return. So, it’s still LT’s world.
Bills 31, Rams 14
Yes, the Bills went to 4-0 for the first time since the Jim Kelly era, but given the caliber of opponent they were largely a fantasy disappointment this week. Marshawn Lynch did little of note, totaling 81 yards from scrimmage and ceding the Bills’ lone rushing score to Fred Jackson. Trent Edwards didn’t make it to the 200-yard mark, though at least he hit Lee Evans deep twice, the shorter of the two going for a 39-yard touchdown. At least Buffalo’s defense didn’t disappoint; despite a slow start that saw them surrender 14 first-half points to the lowly Rams, the Bills turned the tide of the game by opening the fourth quarter with a 33-yard interception return for a score.
For three quarters it appeared as if Trent Green might actually be the solution—aided by 99 first-half yards from Steven Jackson. Then Green threw a pick-six, the Rams stopped running the ball, and the Bills became the latest team to score 30 on St. Louis. Jackson resuscitated his fantasy value with 188 combo yards and a touchdown; when the Rams couldn’t move the ball on the ground in the second half (Jackson gained 11 yards on eight carries), they got him involved in the passing game with 72 receiving yards after halftime. And fantasy-wise, that was it for the Rams. Green completed a shade over half his passes for 236 yards but no scores and Torry Holt finished with 65 yards on four catches.
Fantasy Impact: Welcome back to fantasy relevance, Mr. Jackson! This was by no means a creampuff matchup, yet Jackson accounted for 188 of the team’s 380 yards and handled the ball more than the rest of the team combined (29 touches for Jackson, 15 incompletions, and the rest of the squad combining for 17 carries and catches). What other option do the Rams have?
Redskins 26, Cowboys 24
This isn’t the same offense we saw bumble and stumble in prime time on Kickoff Weekend. Jason Campbell looks confident and is successfully progressing through his receivers—witness touchdowns to secondary targets Antwan Randle El and James Thrash. However, Santana Moss is his primary target, accounting for 145 of the Skins’ 231 passing yards. The running game was not neglected, with Clinton Portis carrying 21 times for 121 yards and being spelled in the Texas heat by 11 Ladell Betts totes. Chris Cooley’s 4-28 was disappointing; even more disappointing was that Captain Chaos was targeted just twice in the first half and just seven times for the game.
If the Redskins’ strategy was to take Marion Barber out of the game, then consider them successful. Barber carried just eight times and finished with 37 yards on 10 touches. Didn’t help the Cowboys that they held the ball for just under 22 minutes. Tony Romo reached the 300-yard mark and threw three touchdowns, with Jason Witten’ 7-90-1 leading the parade. Terrell Owens (7-71-1) got his and Patrick Crayton returned from last week’s stat sheet absence with 87 yards on seven catches; however, Miles Austin took his touchdown. With the offensive balance so skewed to the passing game (47 throws versus just 11 runs), the only time Felix Jones touched the ball was on kick returns.
Fantasy Impact: Mr. Barber, please pick up the white courtesy phone. Paging Mr. Barber. Mr Barber? MB3 touched the ball three times in the second half, and the Cowboys had the ball for just 9:40 the entire second stanza. Overcompensating for last week’s 28-carry workload? Waiting to build a lead and use Barber to run clock and wear down defenses? Or just a flat-out mistake to fail to get their talented feature back into the mix?
Bears 24, Eagles 20
For a half it looked as if the Air Orton Chicago unleashed on the Bucs last week was to become a permanent fixture; Kyle Orton threw for 174 yards and three touchdowns as Da Bears built a 21-14 halftime lead. In the second half, however, the Bears managed just 60 yards of offense and relied on their defense to hang on for the win. Matt Forte was largely ineffective, with just 85 combo yards on 24 touches, but his key 10-yard gain on third down all but sealed the victory. Brandon Lloyd, last week’s go-to guy, left the game before halftime with a knee injury and five pass-catchers finished with between 23 and 35 yards; Forte led the way with 42. Orton’s scoring strikes were distributed amongst Greg Olsen, Marty Booker and Devin Hester.
The Eagles missed Brian Westbrook mightily. Correll Buckhalter wasn’t bad in relief duty, with 90 combo yards and a score, and rookie DeSean Jackson chipped in with 106 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown grab. But in the fourth quarter, with three shots from the one-yard line to take the lead, Philly came up empty; think Westy would have helped there? Donovan McNabb threw for 262 yards and a score but couldn’t get the Eagles into the end zone after halftime. Reggie Brown appears to have worked his way back into The Don’s good graces; he led Philly receivers with six catches for 79 yards.
Fantasy Impact: Not surprisingly, lacking Westbrook made the Eagles a different team. Word out of Philly was that were this any other player he would have been ruled out midweek, but Westy being as tough as he is they took him right up to game time before opting to sit him down and roll with Buckhalter. The General was also knocked from the game for a series, with Lorenzo Booker picking up a few touches, but despite decent production from Buck and McNabb’s solid numbers there’s no question: the Eagles need Westbrook.