Ravens 29, Raiders 10
Credit the Ravens for interjecting a little excitement into what promised (and delivered) to be a low-scoring, ball-control affair. Perhaps following Terrell Suggs’ suggestion Baltimore used Troy Smith in a Wildcat-like formation (I guess since Smith is actually a quarterback it's more accurately just called the shotgun) that produced 13 rushing yards for the backup quarterback as well as a 43-yard completion to… Joe Flacco? Aside from that bit of levity—and a 70-yard touchdown hookup from Flacco to Demetrius Williams—it was all running Ravens as Baltimore backs carried 38 times for 154 yards and ate up more than 36 minutes of clock. Wills McGahee averaged just over 2.5 yards a carry but scored on a one-yard run, while rookie Ray Rice was the Ravens’ most effective offensive weapon with 64 rushing yards on eight carries and another 37 yards through the air. Perennial PPR producer Derrick Mason managed just one catch for three yards as the Ravens completed ran 46 times and threw just 25 passes.
One might glance at JaMarcus Russell’s 228 yards and a touchdown and think he fared well against the Ravens’ defense, but the vast majority of that amount can be considered “garbage time” production. Oakland produced a net total of 35 first-half yards and was down 19-0 before they even crossed midfield. The running game, sans a deactivated Darren McFadden, produced just 47 yards on 19 attempts, and 13 of those yards came on a Russell scramble. A 60-yard completion to Chaz Schilens that set up a field goal and a two-yard touchdown catch by Justin Griffin constituted the highlight reel for Oakland’s offense, which couldn’t even cobble together a drive of more than six plays until its final possession.
Fantasy Impact: It was a nice run for Le’Ron McClain as a fantasy entity. On the Ravens’ first touchdown drive they started with the ball at the Oakland 17 thanks to a nice punt return; McGahee carried on four of the drive’s five plays (the other was a Wildcat snap to Smith), including a third-and-one from the eight and two goal-to-go plays from the four- and one-yard lines. If that’s not McClain territory, nothing is. The emergence of Rice in this game should further limit McClain’s workload the rest of the way.
Panthers 27, Cardinals 23
It took a while for the Carolina offense to get in gear, and they weren’t helped by an early Jake Delhomme fumble that set up Arizona’s first touchdown or a Muhsin Muhammad drop of a sure touchdown that left them trailing 10-3 at halftime. But in the third quarter Steve Smith took over, scoring first on a fade and then on a quick pass to the right in which he spun away from tacklers and tip-toed along the sidelines before breaking free for a 65-yard score. In between Carolina capitalized on an Arizona fumble for a DeAngelo Williams touchdown, the highlight of his 17-carry, 108-yard afternoon. Bouncing back from the fumble, Delhomme finished a tidy 20-for-28 with 248 yards and the two touchdown hookups with Smith.
For a while it looked as if the Cardinals were going to make Anquan Boldin’s return a triumphant one. Less than a month after absorbing a wicked shot that resulted in multiple plates inserted into his face and jaw Boldin was back on the field, scoring twice—once going across the middle in the back of the end zone, where he had to know a punishing safety hit could be lurking—and providing the highlight of the Cards’ running game with a 30-yard end-around in the first quarter. However, despite 381 yards (and those two touchdowns) from Kurt Warner—115 of them to Larry Fitzgerald, 63 to Boldin and a healthy 91 to Steve Breaston—two special teams miscues (a fake field goal attempt that fell short of a first down, a bobbled snap on an extra point) and a costly Edgerrin James fumble prevented Arizona from holding on for the road win.
Fantasy Impact: Williams is not giving up his lead-dog status in the Carolina backfield without a fight. He received 19 touches to Jonathan Stewart’s nine and was far more productive (123 yards to 10). In Arizona, however, rookie Tim Hightower appears to be looming large in James’ rear-view mirror. Of the few rushing attempts the Cardinals did have (Warner threw 49 times, while James and Hightower combined for just 13 carries), Hightower got the money shot (again) while James fumbled in the third quarter to set up Carolina’s second touchdown. From that point Arizona ran on only one of its subsequent 25 plays—despite the score being tied at 17.
Cowboys 13, Buccaneers 9
Tough to blame the boo birds in Dallas for expecting more, as the Cowboys produced the lowest yardage effort in a winning effort in franchise history. A Brad Johnson dump-off to Marion Barber for 14 yards was the team’s longest play of the day, and their only touchdown drive capitalized on four key penalties on the Buccaneers. Even in a third quarter that saw them start two of three possessions on the midfield star, Dallas could come up with only a field goal. The hard-charging Barber mustered just 71 yards on 25 carries, Terrell Owens (five catches, 33 yards) was kept in check, and Jason Witten left the game with bruised ribs after just one grab for eight yards. At least Roy Williams got involved, hauling in his first touchdown as a Cowboy late in the second quarter.
Despite outgaining the Cowboys, holding the ball longer, and turning it over just once the Bucs couldn’t overcome the locked door they encountered in the red zone. Six of the Bucs’ nine drives ended in Dallas territory, three of them in the red zone, but all Tampa had to show for it were three field goals. In fact, it was two first-quarter forays inside the 20, as well as a special teams form tackle by the Cowboys’ punter (seriously), that set the tone for the game. Aside from Jeff Garcia’s 227 passing yards, Earnest Graham (42 rushing yards, 22 as a receiver) was the only Buc who accounted for more than 45 yards of offense. Six different receivers caught at least three balls, but while the dink-and-dunk extended drives it couldn’t dent the much-maligned Dallas defense—now with more “hands-on” from Wade Phillips.
Fantasy Impact: Yawn. Sure, the Bucs are a solid defense but there was little life from a Dallas offense still littered with talent. Owens has now gone three straight without a touchdown and 12 straight (including last year’s playoff loss) without even hitting the 90-yard mark. Can you smell the implosion coming?
Redskins 25, Lions 17
The Redskins spent the first half playing down to their opponents level, as they turned four trips into Detroit territory into a fumble, a missed field goal, and just six points altogether. In the second half they turned to Clinton Portis (24-126 on the ground) and Santana Moss (nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown, plus a punt return for another score) to exit Detroit with the win. Jason Campbell became the sixth quarterback in the past seven games to post a career-best passer rating against the Lions; he completed 23 of 28 passes for 328 yards and a score. Chris Cooley joined Moss as Campbell’s favorite targets with six catches for 74 yards; between them they accounted for two-thirds of Campbell’s completions and yardage. A 10-minute time of possession advantage didn’t hurt, either, as Washington outscored their hosts 19-7 in the second half.
Detroit raced to its first lead of the season, capitalizing on the Redskins’ lone turnover with a Rudi Johnson touchdown run. A field goal on the next drive had this one looking like the Lions’ first win of the year, but five consecutive punts—on drives totaling 18 plays and 44 yards—put Detroit in a familiar position. A non-existent ground game—outside of Rudi’s 11-yard touchdown run he had seven carries for 10 yards; Kevin Smith added 12 yards on four carries—once again put the onus on Dan Orlovsky. His 223 yards included a touchdown toss to Calvin Johnson, but it wasn’t enough to carry this offense. Johnson finished with 57 yards and the score on four grabs, though he was targeted just six times in 35 attempts despite Skins corner Shawn Springs sitting this one out. Shaun McDonald led the team with five catches for 68 yards and the underused Smith added 50 yards on seven catches.
Fantasy Impact: Portis now has five straight games with 120 yards or better and has carried at least 21 times in every game this season. Will there be enough left in the tank in December? Shaun Alexander (six carries, 11 yards, long gain of four, a.k.a. “The Tiptoe Burgler” according to Neon Deion) doesn’t appear to be a viable option for carries, so Clinton’s fantasy owners have to be pleased that Ladell Betts is expected back after the Redskins’ bye; this is probably a good time to lock up that handcuff.
Dolphins 25, Bills 16
Ted Ginn entered Sunday’s game with 177 yards on the season; he nearly doubled that number in one afternoon, catching seven balls for 175 yards to help set up two touchdowns and a field goal. His speed and YAC also sparked Chad Pennington to a third straight game with at least 280 passing yards; this week he was 22 of 30 for 314 and a touchdown to Anthony Fasano. The Wildcat showed up a handful of times as well, producing 34 yards on seven snaps, but Ronnie Brown’s 14-43 afternoon was largely disappointing; moreover, Ricky Williams picked up the Phins’ rushing touchdown as part of an otherwise ordinary 7-16 outing—though a 47-yard catch helped push his combo-yardage total closer to the “helpful” range.
You got about what you expected from your Bills regulars: Trent Edwards passed for 227 yards, though he failed to throw a touchdown for the first time (discounting the Arizona game in which he was injured); Lee Evans caught seven balls for 116 yards, or more than half the team’s passing yardage; and Marshawn Lynch produced a touchdown and 95 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches. What wasn’t expected from the once-beaten Bills was a fourth quarter that opened with an Edwards interception, closed with a muffed punt, and in between saw Buffalo fumble three times—losing two, and recovering the other in their own end zone for a safety. Tough to make a comeback when you can’t hang on to the football.
Fantasy Impact: Lynch has now scored in two straight and five of seven this season, but for a feature back largely taken in the first or early second round of fantasy drafts his yardage has been disappointing. Only once this season has he reached triple-digit combo yardage, and his top rushing game (83 yards) came way back in Week 3. Fred Jackson’s 11 touches Sunday are also disconcerting.
Patriots 23, Rams 16
A little more every week, the restrictor plates are coming off. Matt Cassel took a few more looks down the field this week, completing 21 of 33 passes for 267 yards and the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter to Kevin Faulk. He received plenty of help from Wes Welker (7 for 79) and Randy Moss (7 for 102), but with both Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan inactive Faulk’s contributions—60 yards on 13 carries, 47 yards and the TD on four catches, and a crushing tackle on an interception) may have been the most important. Rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis saw the early workload and scored on a four-yard run, but after being stopped on third-and-one and fourth-and-one late in the third quarter Faulk received all the carries.
Remember when everyone mocked the Rams for making Donnie Avery the first receiver taken in April’s draft? Uh, the line to apologize forms behind Mel Kiper, Jr's hair. Avery continued to make Torry Holt an afterthough, catching six balls for 163 yards and a score and sparking Marc Bulger to his first 300-yard day since Week 10 of last year; it was his first trip beyond 200 yards since Week 16 of 2007. Antonio Pittman carried the mail in Steven Jackson’s absence and produced a serviceable 83 yards on 19 carries.
Fantasy Impact: A little more confidence in Cassel from Bill Belichick—and maybe even a little more self-confidence from Cassel himself—means Moss and Walker should continue to hold fantasy value. Green-Ellis’ inability to pick up a yard on two tries may or may not continue to cost him looks, but either way Faulk out-touched him 17-9 on the afternoon.
Saints 37, Chargers 32
The NFL’s plans for avoiding a slogfest like last year’s 13-10 match between the Giants and Dolphins were almost waylaid by rain once again—but then the skies cleared (okay, cleared as much as they can in London), and soon they were filled with pigskins. Drew Brees bounced back from last week’s dud against the Panthers with 339 yards and three scores, but his cast of characters was hardly the usual suspects. Sans Reggie Bush the Saints leaned on Deuce McAllister, who ground out 55 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Mike Karney chipped in with another shorty, while Mark Campbell (14 yards and a touchdown) and Billy Miller (7-82) stepped up their contributions with Jeremy Shockey limited to just one grab for six yards. Marques Colston at least made the box score with two catches for 56 yards, but it was Lance Moore (6-90-1) and Devery Henderson (3-34-1) who found the end zone. In a game that featured 81 passes and 860 yards of total offense, perhaps the difference was the turnover-free game the Saints played.
Unlike the Saints, all of the Chargers’ big-ticket items delivered on Sunday. Philip Rivers may have lost the war with Brees, the quarterback he replaced in San Diego, but 341 and three gave him a slight edge in the personal battle. With Chris Chambers still somewhat limited by injury, Vincent Jackson moved to the top of the wide receiver pecking order and produced four catches for 60 yards and a score. Antonio Gates led the Bolts with six grabs for 96 yards and a score, but the most welcome star sighting was likely the 105 rushing yards and 65 receiving yards (with a touchdown) produced by LaDainian Tomlinson.
Fantasy Impact: Is LT back? A 100-yard game against a Saints defense that has been playing quite well would seem to indicate as much, but perhaps the best sign was the stop-on-a-dime cut that led to Tomlinson scoring on a short pass from Rivers. Aaron Stecker seemed to take on most of Bush’s passing game workload with five catches for 27 yards, while Pierre Thomas received three rushing attempts (two Stecker’s two) and produced 28 yards. With McAllister facing a possible suspension, both backups appear to be poised for increased workloads for the next month or so.
Jets 28, Chiefs 24
If it weren’t for Leon Washington the Jets would have lost to the visiting Chiefs, thanks to a stunning lack of success running the football and three interceptions—one a pick-six that put KC up midway through the fourth quarter—from Brett Favre. Thomas Jones was to have run roughshod on a Chiefs defense that was left for dead by the Titans last week, but he carried just four times in the first half and needed a one-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter to salvage his fantasy day. Washington, in fantasy lineups because of the anticipated garbage-time stats, stole Jones’ thunder with a 60-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter—but that was hardly all. Leon also scored the Jets’ first touchdown on an 18-yard reception and set up the game-winning touchdown with a long punt return to finish with 274 all-purpose yards at better than 20 yards per touch. By force or choice, Favre went to the air and threw 40 times, completing 28 for 290 yards and a pair of scores—three if you count the pick-six. Jerricho Cotchery hauled in nine balls for 102 yards but didn’t score; instead, it was a one-handed grab by Laveranues Coles that gave Gang Green the win. Coles finished with 64 yards on seven catches.
For the first 57 minutes of this game Tyler Thigpen outplayed Favre—and it wasn’t even close. Thigpen completed his first 10 passes and finished 25-for-36 for 280 yards and a pair of touchdowns—and no interceptions. With Kolby Smith contributing nothing (11 carries, 15 yards) and Herm Edwards apparently unwilling to go to the bullpen for Jamaal Charles (45 yards on five carries), Thigpen turned to targets both expected (Dwayne Bowe, 6-102, and Tony Gonzalez, 6-79-1) and unexpected (Mark Bradley, 5-42-1, and Brad Cottam, 4-34). Had the Chiefs opted for anything other than three ineffective Smith runs—actually, his three carries produced nine of his 15 yards; how pathetic did he have to be prior to that?—with five minutes left while sitting on a three-point lead it’s entirely possible they would have escaped Gotham with a win.
Fantasy Impact: The fact that Thigpen had success on the road against a team that had been playing pretty good defense may not earn him a spot on fantasy rosters, but it at least allows those who are still banking on production from Bowe and Gonzalez to sleep easier at night. Washington’s success would suggest a larger role in the offense, likely at the expense of Jones carries. Jones still looks to be the goal line guy, but if Washington is scoring from 60 yards out that may limit the number of goal line looks.
Eagles 27, Falcons 14
It took the Eagles a little while to get their offense in gear; maybe they stayed up late to watch the Phillies the previous evening. But once they started feeding Brian Westbrook things got a whole lot easier. After missing two of three games with rib and ankle injuries Westy made a triumphant return with 167 rushing yards, another 42 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. The second score was a gift after a blown call on a muffed punt gave the ball back to Philly and Westbrook went 39 yards to ice the game, but it may have been a make-up for an earlier goal-line stuff that looked pretty dang close to a score. Same goes for Donovan McNabb, who failed to throw for a touchdown despite 253 yards but did run for one and was also stopped at the stripe on a very close call. Despite the return to the lineup of both Westbrook and Kevin Curtis (3-45), DeSean Jackson was the Eagles’ leading receiver with 72 yards on three grabs.
Michael Turner (17 for 58, 22 of them on one carry) and the Atlanta running game took another road trip off, leaving rookie quarterback Matt Ryan to face the Philly defense pretty much on his own. Okay, so he had fave target Roddy White in his scope at all times. White finished with eight catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns; he was also the intended target on both of Ryan’s picks. Aside from the picks and 21 incomplete passes in 44 attempts, Ryan was more than adequate with 277 yards and the pair of scores. Unless the contributions of Jerious Norwood (five catches for 55 yards and five more yards on four carries) or Michael Jenkins (three catches, 50 yards) do anything for you, it was the Ryan & Roddy Show and little else for the Falcons—and if not for the late muff call, it may have been enough.
Fantasy Impact: White is building on the success of last season, and he’s clearly become Ryan’s go-to guy. Even when nothing else is working for the Falcons these two are hooking up. Just think how effective they’ll be once they have a more consistent supporting cast. Maybe Westbrook can get a week off before every game, because while he admitted afterwards he was experiencing some pain it didn’t compare to the agony his 209 yards from scrimmage caused the Atlanta defense.
Browns 23, Jaguars 17
It wasn’t quite the Monday night machine, but it was a darn sight better than what the Browns have been throwing against the wall the other five games. Thanks in no small part to three completions of 40-plus yards, Derek Anderson finished with 246 yards and a touchdown. The deep game—improbably led by fill-in tight end Steve Heiden’s 73 yards on three catches—opened the middle for Jamal Lewis to carve out 81 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Braylon Edwards caught two of the eight balls thrown his way, including a 43-yarder, Syndric Steptoe turned a crossing pattern into a 53-yard gain, and Donte Stallworth found himself on the business end of Anderson’s only scoring strike. Thanks to some timely help from Shaun Rogers and a third straight turnover-free effort, it was just enough for a Browns win.
Sometimes Shaun Rogers shows up to play, and unfortunately for those banking on a big game from Maurice Jones-Drew or even a little something from Fred Taylor that day was Sunday. Rogers not only blocked a field goal attempt, he also plugged the middle of the line with nine tackles to help the Brownies limit MoJo to 29 yards on 12 carries and Taylor to 24 on eight; neither broke a run longer than five yards. Sans running game it was up to David Garrard, and he very nearly delivered. In addition to pacing the team with 59 rushing yards on seven carries Garrard completed 25 of 42 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns. He gave the soon-to-be-suspended Matt Jones quite a send-off, hooking up with him eight times for 117 yards and a touchdown. Garrard also went back to Jones twice in the end zone with the game on the line, including one near miss that bounced off Jones’ hands multiple times and was finally knocked away by a Browns’ defender’s helmet.
Fantasy Impact: Edwards still can’t be trusted, but Anderson is regaining some faith after spreading the ball around without having Kellen Winslow to fall back on. Garrard will dearly miss Jones, expected to be suspended for three games at some point in the near future. Reggie Williams reappeared on the radar with three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown and may be Garrard’s go-to guy while Jones is out.
Texans 35, Bengals 6
It’s almost not fair, letting legitimate NFL teams line up and take shots at this edition of the Bengals. The Cincy defense, which had actually been playing quite well, finally sunk to the level established by their offense. Take your pick, there was plenty to go around in Houston. Matt Schaub completed 24 of 28 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns—none of which went to Andre Johnson despite his 11 catches for 143 yards. Kevin Walter scored twice as part of his five catch, 70-yard afternoon, with his second touchdown coming when the Bengals neglected to touch him after he made a falling catch—so he got up and ran 20 yards for the score. Even David Anderson (2-28-1) and Jacoby Jones (a 73-yard punt return for a score) got in on the fun. Running game? Against the Bengals, of course. Steve Slaton carried 15 times for 53 yards and a touchdown, while Ahman Green added 41 yards on nine carries. The only Texan who didn’t have a good day was punter Matt Turk, who averaged 29.5 yards on his two kicks.
Highlights? Must there be? Cedric Benson wasn’t bad, with 49 yards on 13 carries and another 20 yards on two catches. T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught eight balls for 54 yards, while Chad Johnson added 44 yards on four catches. Ryan Fitzpatrick had better luck with his feet (42 yards on seven carries) than with his arm (20-32-155-0-2). And Cincy only had the ball for 24:49, limiting the amount of time we had to suffer through watching their offense.
Fantasy Impact: Schaub is living up to the lofty preseason expectations, thanks to both Johnson (the catch and yardage man) and Walter, who is becoming the Texans’ touchdown guy. The Bengals’ season is officially half over, which may be the best news there is in Cincinnati.
Giants 21, Steelers 14
Brandon Jacobs couldn’t punch it in from the one-yard line despite multiple attempts. Eli Manning finished under 200 yards. Plaxico Burress sat out the first quarter for yet another disciplinary reason (missed a therapy session for his neck injury) and managed just 15 yards against his former mates. The Giants took four drives inside the 10-yard line and came away with only three field goals to show for it. They mustered all of eight yards of offense on three third quarter drives. But thanks to key catches by Kevin Boss (4-34-1) and Amani Toomer (2-39), Big Blue generated 12 fourth-quarter points to escape with a win. There were no fantasy heroes in this game, unless you count John Carney and his four field goals.
In a game matching top-five defenses, where Ben Roethlisberger threw four interceptions while completing just 13 of 29 throws and finishing with only 189 yards, it was injuries to the Steelers’ punter and long snapper that made the difference in this game. Pittsburgh’s defense held for most of three quarters, but when a snap by replacement long snapper James Harrison sailed over hobbled punter Mitch Berger’s head and out of the end zone for a safety they could hold no more. The subsequent short field following the free kick yielded the Giants only touchdown, and Big Ben couldn’t rally his troops for one more score. Mewelde Moore used a 32-yard first-quarter touchdown run to fuel an afternoon of 94 yards from scrimmage on 21 touches. Despite just one official catch Nate Washington scored two long touchdowns; a penalty wiped the second one off the books. Even Heath Miller had a decent day, with 52 yards on three catches. The problem for Pittsburgh was that all but two of their total yards on the day came in the first three quarters; entering the final frame with a 9-7 edge the Steelers failed to record a first down and produced a net -29 yards of offense.
Fantasy Impact: Washington has long touchdowns in each of his last three games; if the line can continue to give Roethlisberger time to throw downfield it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Nate usurp Santonio Holmes in the Steeler receiver pecking order. It was Derrick Ward and not Jacobs who carried the ball inside the 10-yard line to set up the Giants’ go-ahead touchdown, and Ward also handled the rock on the team’s final drive. Ward finished with 13 carries and five catches for 80 yards, while Jacobs carried 18 times for 47 yards and added one reception for six yards.
Seahawks 34, 49ers 13
When Leonard Weaver is your go-to offensive weapon, odds are you’re in tough shape. Of course, every once in a while—like Sunday, for example—Weaver will put together the odd 116-yard day. Receiving. On four catches. With two touchdowns, from 43 and 62 yards out. Hey, why not? Instead of Julius Jones (six carries, nine yards) or Maurice Morris (11 for 16), it was Weaver (who added 13 rushing yards on two carries) and T.J. Duckett (one yard on eight carries, but a touchdown) who did the damage. Seneca Wallace’s stat line of 15-25-222-2 looks great thanks to Weaver and 98 yards of YAC; the leading contributors among his regular receiving corps were Bobby Engram (3-40) and Koren Robinson (4-31).
Don’t blame Frank Gore, who contributed 159 yards from scrimmage on 25 touches. The rest of the Niners, however, can all assume varying levels of culpability. J.T. O’Sullivan threw a pick-six late in the first half to send Seattle into the locker room with a 20-3 lead; Shaun Hill came out of the 49er locker room with the starting quarterback gig and put up 173 yards and a touchdown in the second half. No receiver caught more than four balls or amassed more than 53 yards, but Vernon Davis (4-29) managed to irk new coach Mike Singletary with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and spent most of the fourth quarter in the locker room.
Fantasy Impact: Maybe Weaver is the next Patrick Cobbs… but probably not. Aside from Mo Morris getting more touches than Jones and Duckett stealing a goal line look there’s little worth noting on the Seattle side, as it should all change (hopefully for the better) when Matt Hasselbeck gets healthy. In San Francisco it appears as if the guard has been changed at quarterback. Maybe Hill can offer the same spot-start fantasy success O’Sullivan did, at least until the league has some tape on him.