Chargers 34, Raiders 7
The Chargers were operating on autopilot, but against the Raiders that’s usually enough. Set up by a defense that forced four turnovers and didn’t let Oakland inside the 40-yard line, Philip Rivers hit a big fly to Vincent Jackson for a touchdown and let Darren Sproles add some YAC to a couple short balls for his other two touchdowns. His 214-yard, three-TD performance looks more impressive on paper than it really was, as he completed just 10 of 22 attempts. LaDainian Tomlinson capped the Bolts’ first drive (set up by a fumble) with a touchdown run, but he too looked barely interested with 91 yards on 25 carries. Antonio Gates and Chris Chambers played; you just wouldn’t know it by the box score.
The 95 percent of the country that doesn’t get the NFL Network didn’t miss a thing. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any uglier than JaMarcus Russell and his 68 yards and two picks, he was knocked out of the game with an ankle injury. Enter Andrew Walter, who went 8-for-17 for 61 yards and a pick of his own. Zach Miller accounted for almost half of Oakland’s receptions and yardage with eight grabs for 64 yards. Justin Fargas gained 50 yards on a dozen carries; between he and Miller they accounted for 75 percent of the team’s meager 163 yards of offense. The only score came on a Justin Miller kick return. Darren McFadden touched the ball three times and picked up eight yards.
Fantasy Impact: Unless Oakland’s offseason involves a thorough revamping of their offensive line, Miller and maybe Fargas are the only Raiders you’d want anywhere near your fantasy squad. McFadden has shown us less than either of his Arkansas backfield mates, and he’s mired on a dramatically crappier club. The Chargers are certainly one of 2008’s larger disappointments, but going forward Rivers appears to be solidifying his status as a top-tier quarterback—especially if LT is as done as he’s looked this year.
Bears 23, Jaguars 10
Nothing about the Bears overwhelmed, but between Matt Forte’s 106 yards from scrimmage and a pair of Kyle Orton touchdown passes to his tight ends they put this game out of reach early. Devin Hester paced the club with five catches for 80 yards but it was Greg Olsen (3-52-1) and Desmond Clark (2-8-1) who found the end zone. Orton completed 20 of 34 passes for 219 yards, a pick, and the two TDs against a largely disinterested Jaguars defense.
If the defense was disinterested, what was the offense? They held the ball longer than the Bears, gained more yards, only turned the ball over once… and took just four of 13 drives into Chicago territory. Maurice Jones-Drew produced the only touchdown and led the team in both rushing (12-55) and receiving (7-47-1), while Fred Taylor chipped in with 59 yards from scrimmage. David Garrard completed half of his 38 passes for 178 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, but no receiver other than MoJo mustered anything of fantasy note.
Fantasy Impact: Who will the Jags find to replace Matt Jones’ three catches for 34 yards if his suspension gets handed down next week? Marcedes Lewis (4-43) seemed to be Garrard’s next-favorite downfield target; his totals nearly matched that of the three other Jaguar wideouts who caught balls on Sunday. Forte continues to be a force, though his lack of a touchdown was disappointing. Orton appears to be back in the groove after throwing three picks last week, effectively spreading the ball around to backs (five catches), tight ends (five), and wideouts (10).
Vikings 20, Lions 16
The Vikings did their best Plaxico Burress impersonation, consistently shooting themselves in the foot with interceptions, fumbles and penalties. In the end Tavaris Jackson, on in relief of Gus Frerotte (who was injured making a tackle after one of his two picks), directed a second-half comeback by completing eight of 10 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. Adrian Peterson reached triple digits again with 102 yards on 23 carries but dropped the ball four times; twice it went out of bounds, one was reversed after the replay showed he was down, and he fell on the other. He also left the field just often enough to give up a touchdown to Chester Taylor. With Frerotte inaccurate and ultimately in the locker room the Vikings downfield passing game was non-existent; however, Visanthe Shiancoe stepped up with 65 yards and a touchdown.
Give the Lions an “I Tried” ribbon—one that could have very easily been their first victory of 2008 had they been able to turn three first-half trips inside the 10 into more than a couple field goals. Daunte Culpepper flashed some of the skills he had when he was in purple, avoiding the rush and letting would-be tacklers bounce off him as he got his roll on with a 70-yard touchdown to Calvin Johnson while completing 14 of 24 for 220 yards and no picks. Ultimately, Detroit’s 3-for-11 performance on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down doomed them to another L.
Fantasy Impact: Kevin Smith produced 90 yards from scrimmage, including 63 rushing yards against a Vikings front that included the suspension-fighting Williams Wall. Assuming the Lions take advantage of Matt Millen’s departure to upgrade their talent in the offseason, he has all the makings of a solid contributor. Fellow rook Gosder Cherilus, however, may have to spend the rest of his career looking over his shoulder after taking out Jared Allen at the knees with a low blind-side block. Twice a year, that’s gonna get real interesting—especially if Cherilus ever moves to the left side to go head-on with Allen. Peterson’s 102 was nice, but he’s already ceding third-down touches to Taylor; he certainly doesn’t need to give up late-game looks as well due to ball security issues.
Colts 35, Bengals 3
That’s a little better. One week after laying a stinkbomb in Cleveland Peyton Manning got back in the saddle with 277 yards and three touchdowns on tight 26-of-32 passing, getting everyone involved as seven different receivers caught at least two balls. Marvin Harrison (3-78-1), Anthony Gonzalez (3-27-1), and Dallas Clark (4-29-1) all reached the end zone; Reggie Wayne (5-48) was not only left out of the scoring, he also had fewer catches and yards than Gijon Robinson (6-69). It’s a good thing Manning was on because the running game was not; Dominic Rhodes slipped some shoddy Cincy tackling on a 17-yard TD run and finished with 31 yards on 10 carries while Joseph Addai was knocked out of the game twice and returned twice but mustered just 26 yards on his 10 totes.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s only touchdown toss went to Kelvin Hayden, who plays for the Colts. He and Jordan Palmer combined for three picks and 200 yards, with Chad Johnson (5-79) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (8-75) contributing lightly. Cedric Benson’s 57 rushing yards on 16 carries is impressive… for a Bengal. Contractually I'm obligated to write more about the Bengals, I guess, though thankfully you can stop reading about Cincy's putrid performance at any point. Hey, how about that Chris Henry? Who woulda thunk a guy with such a track record of good judgement would pick up a stupid late-hit penalty?
Fantasy Impact: Johnson and Housh were off the board in the first three rounds of most leagues, and clearly that hasn’t worked out. Given the nature of Palmer’s injury and the fact that one or both wideouts may not be in stripes next season, will any Bengal be drafted as a fantasy starter in 2009? About a month ago astute fantasy owners bought low on Addai and Wayne with an eye towards their favorable playoff schedule. Both would-be studs have disappointed mightily; while Wayne will likely remain in lineups the rest of the way, Rhodes’ presence and Addai’s lack of production could make him a spectator for many fantasy clubs.
Eagles 20, Giants 14
Brian Westbrook says he’s as healthy as he’s felt all year, and after watching him carry 33 times for 131 yards and a score—while adding six catches for 72 yards and a score through the air—I’m inclined to believe him. Westy was all the offense the Eagles could muster, though, as no other player produced more than 45 yards. Donovan McNabb was 19 of 30 for 191 yards and a score, but it may have been his footwork that was most valuable as he scrambled five times for 20 yards and on Westbrook’s TD grab kept the play alive by moving around in the pocket.
The Giants were beaten—and soundly—at their own game. They lost the time of possession battle by 10 minutes and lost Brandon Jacobs to a knee injury in the third quarter, which certainly didn’t help. Eli Manning completed fewer than half his passes (13-of-27) for just 123 yards and a touchdown, but it didn’t help that Dominek Hixon did his best Braylon Edwards impersonation on a long would-be completion that might have helped the Giants offense get into the end zone before their final drive.
Fantasy Impact: Giants tight ends have scored in six of the last seven games; unfortunately for Kevin Boss fans, Darcy Johnson has pilfered two of the last three scores. If the Giants, who clinched the NFC East thanks to the Cowboys’ loss, keep Jacobs under wraps until the playoffs it will obviously mean a larger role for Derrick Ward (8-39) and Ahmad Bradshaw (5-9) the rest of the way. Entering the game Philly wide receivers as a collective ranked seventh in the league in fantasy scoring. Two problems: those digits are fractured between at least five different players who are consistent only in their inconsistency; and against the Giants the wideouts were outperformed by both Westbrook (6-72-1) and L.J. Smith (6-44).
Titans 28, Browns 9
The Titans were uncharacteristically sloppy, with three turnovers and 13 penalties. And yet they outgained the Browns 390-178 and won handily. Kerry Collins offset his two touchdowns (to Justin Gage and to former Marine Ahmard Hall) with a pair of picks as the Titans threw 23 times. Not surprisingly, they ran it a whole lot more: Chris Johnson produced 136 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries (and was also the team’s leading receiver with four grabs for 30 yards) while LenDale White rumbled 24 times for 99 yards and a score of his own.
The Cleveland game plan probably wasn’t for Ken Dorsey to throw 43 passes in his first start since 2005. But an ineffective ground game that was paced by slashback Joshua Cribbs (6-24 and an incomplete on his only pass) wasn’t accomplishing a thing, with none of the four running backs who received carries reaching double-digit yardage or averaging more than one yard per carry. At least Jason Wright brought a little something to the table as a receiver, leading the club with five grabs for 40 yards. San Kellen Winslow Steve Heiden made four catches as well, while Braylon Edwards exceeded expectations with three catches for 38 yards (I had him pegged at two for 26).
Fantasy Impact: There is absolutely nothing to see fantasy-wise in Cleveland the rest of the way, with the possible exception of Heiden as a spot start in Week 16 against the Bengals, who couldn’t find the tight end in coverage with a map and a flashlight. Truth be told there’s not much to start on the Titans side of the ledger either, other than the obvious backfield tandem. That may be tested, however, by a Week 16 visit from the Steelers.
Saints 29, Falcons 25
For a passing team the Saints sure rely on their running backs—and Sunday both delivered. Reggie Bush produced 106 yards from scrimmage, including 80 on the ground, and scored on a reception; Pierre Thomas added 109 and two scores, his rushing TD set up by an 88-yard kickoff return by… Pierre Thomas. Thomas also sealed the win and reached the century mark on the ground with a crucial four-yard gain on third-and-three late in the fourth quarter. Don’t worry, Drew Brees owners, he got you yours as well with 230 yards and a pair of scores. But his backs had the touchdowns and Devery Henderson (3-72), Lance Moore (3-35), and Marques Colston (3-26) combined for 10 catches and no scores. Jeremy Shockey (5-64) also contributed, at least in performance leagues.
Though Atlanta didn’t pull off the win, those with Falcons in their fantasy lineups got theirs. Matt Ryan completed 24 of 33 for 315 yards and a touchdown and added a rushing score as well. Roddy White (10-164) was his primary target, though Michael Jenkins (5-69 plus a two-point conversion) and Brian Finneran (2-8-1) contributed as well. Michael Turner’s 61 yards may have been a bit disappointing, but he reached paydirt to salvage his fantasy day.
Fantasy Impact: It’s amazing how much Mike Mularkey’s offense looks like the one he directed in Pittsburgh, with Turner as Jerome Bettis and White as Plaxico Burress without the handgun. Jenkins is making a case to be Hines Ward, and Ryan is already head and shoulders above either Kordell Stewart or Tommy Maddox. The return of Bush and the success of Thomas likely mean Deuce McAllister has played his last game for the Saints. It makes for an interesting dilemma heading into 2009 as well, specifically: can a passing team such as the Saints produce two backs worthy of being every-week fantasy starters?
Texans 24, Packers 21
How do a bunch of Texans stay warm at Lambeau? With an offense that’s on fire, heating up to the tune of 549 yards—enough to overcome four turnovers and pull out a victory thanks to a game-winning drive that started on their own one yard line. Matt Schaub showed little rust in his first game back from a knee injury, throwing 42 times for 414 yards and two touchdowns. Kevin Walter’s numbers (6-146-1) were the bigget thanks to a 58-yard touchdown in which two Green Bay defenders collided as Walters made the grab, but Andre Johnson (4-55-1) and Owen Daniels (6-65) contributed as well; in all, seven Houston receivers caught at least two balls and five had at least 40 yards. The ground game was hardly neglected, with Steve Slaton carrying 26 times for 120 yards and adding 40 more on three grabs.
A look at the Packers stat sheet suggests they did everything necessary to win. Aaron Rodgers completed 19 of 30 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns, while Ryan Grant carried 19 times for 104 yards and a touchdown. Donald Driver (3-75) and Greg Jennings (2-74) didn’t score, but Donald Lee (3-48-1) and Jordy Nelson (3-25-1) did. The Pack capitalized on Texan turnovers, turning three of four into touchdowns, but struggled to produce when they weren’t given a short field.
Fantasy Impact: With the Packers’ playoff hopes fading, they may at least be tempted to sit Rodgers and his ailing shoulder and get a look (showcase?) their rookie backups. And those banking on Jennings and/or Driver down the stretch have to be concerned that six other Packers combined for 14 catches and neither of Rodgers’ TD tosses went to a starting wideout. Concerns that Slaton may not be capable of being an every-down back at the NFL level seem to be going right out the window; he’s a great fit for Gary Kubiak’s system and might just be an RB1 in PPR leagues as early as next season.
Dolphins 13, Bills 3
As the Dolphins have done most of the season, they received a little bit from a lot of different players that added up to a sixth win in the past seven games. Chad Pennington was efficient as usual, completing 23 of 29 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Fasano (3-36-1) caught his touchdown but Davone Bess (9-74) was his primary target—at the expense of Ted Ginn, who had 157 fewer yards than the last time he faced Buffalo. The ground game was splintered just enough between Ronnie Brown (16-70, plus 2-18 as a receiver) and Ricky Williams (11-40, 2-2) that neither was particularly helpful fantasy-wise.
If J.P. Losman was auditioning for a starting job—in Buffalo or elsewhere—in 2009, he’d better brush up on his clipboard-holding skills after completing 13 of 27 passes for 123 yards and no touchdowns and one interception. More specifically, one interception on a jump ball underthrown to 5-foot-4 Lee Evans. Okay, maybe 5-5 in cleats. Didn't they draft James Hardy for exactly this kind of situation? If Losman leaves Buffalo Josh Reed (5-58) might be sad to see him go, but that’s about it. Marshawn Lynch would have been better served had this game been played in the snow in Buffalo instead of on the fast track indoors in Toronto; at least the slow going would have excused his 31 yards on 13 carries.
Fantasy Impact: The Bills didn’t offer much fantasy-wise when Trent Edwards was in the lineup; with Losman at the helm and both Evans and Lynch consistent only in their inconsistency, fantasy folks would do well to avoid Buffalo the rest of the way. In Miami, on the other hand, there’s just enough offense to lure folks looking for fantasy help in for a look; more often than not, however, you wind up chasing last week’s box score as the Dolphins find a different producer on an almost weekly basis.
49ers 24, Jets 14
If Mike Singletary winds up scratching the “interim” from his job title in the offseason, he owes it to Shaun Hill to be his 2009 Opening Day starter. Hill was solid once again, completing 28 of 39 passes for 285 yards and two scores, directing the Niners to 10 fourth-quarter points and the win. Hill again leaned on Isaac Bruce (6-70) but got 10 different receivers involved. He also would have had a third score had Jason Hill (4-39) not fumbled at the one; Niners’ OT Joe Staley recovered, though, so San Fran got the benefit even though Hill owners did not. Frank Gore was solid, with 52 yards on 14 carries and 13 yards and a touchdown on three catches; however, he was carted off with a left ankle injury and did not return, leaving the final 16 carries (and 35 yards) to DeSean Foster.
Thomas Jones has been on a roll, so how does he wind up with just 10 carries despite a 5.6 yards-per-carry average? Well, the Jets had the ball for just 20 minutes thanks to their inability to sustain a drive; just once did they keep the ball for more than five consecutive plays, and a Brett Favre scramble (and that’s really doing a disservice to the word “scramble”) from the two swiped Jones’ shot at a TD. Favre played dink-and-dunk ineffectively, completing 20 of 31 for 137 yards and no touchdowns; his longest completion was a quickie to Chansi Stuckey, who tacked on YAC to the tune of a 24-yard gain. Laveranues Coles (1-5) and Jerricho Cotchery (1-10) were largely invisible as Leon Washington (6-31) and Stuckey (4-43) accounted for half of Favre’s completions. Jones eventually got his touchdown on a 17-yard run but the only time he touched the ball in the decisive fourth quarter was on a dump-off from Farve that lost a yard.
Fantasy Impact: Remember back in August when the debate was which Jets receiver would benefit more from Favre’s arrival? I do, but I don’t recall Stuckey or Washington being in the conversation; at least Dustin Keller (2-14) was mentioned, but he laid an egg at a most inopportune time as well. As for Gore, between his hobble off the field and his cart ride to the locker room there may be a scramble to pick up Foster—if only for that Week 16 date with the Rams.
Patriots 24, Seahawks 21
New England didn’t turn the ball over, held an eight-minute advantage in time of possession, and had only one penalty. So what’s their excuse for barely beating the Seahawks? This week they actually tried to get the ball to Randy Moss, though Matt Cassel connected on just three of the nine passes directed that way. Cassel was much more comfortable throwing underneath to Wes Welker, who caught 12 balls for 134 yards and a two-point conversion. Welker accounted for exactly half of Cassel’s yardage and almost half of his completions as Tom Brady’s fill-in rebounded from last week’s struggles against the Steelers to complete 26 of 44 tosses for 268 yards and a score. The running game was an amalgamation of mediocrity, paced by Sammy Morris’s 36 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
It’s a sure sign that your secondary is in tough shape when Seneca Wallace carves you up. With Matt Hasselbeck nursing a bad back, Wallace stepped in and completed 20 of 28 balls for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Yes, against a Patriots team coached by defensive genius Bill Belichick. Evidently a dozen injuries in your secondary is more than even Belichick can overcome, as Deion Branch (4-88-2) made his former mates look like grade-schoolers. And he wasn’t even Wallace’s favorite target on the day: tight end John Carlson caught eight balls for 69 yards and a touchdown. Wallace paced the Seattle ground game as well with 47 yards on three carries, outdistancing Maurice Morris (14-39), Leonard Weaver (5-32), and even T.J. Duckett (4-16). Julius Jones was active but did not play; how much did they give him in the offseason again?
Fantasy Impact: Mike Holmgren certainly didn’t envision going out like this, but as the Seahawks limp at least between Wallace and Hasselbeck maybe they’ll provide a little bit of a passing game spark. It’s not as if next week’s opponent, the Rams, is a step up defensively from the Patriots… are they? And speaking of the Pats and next week’s opponent, will shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha take Moss or Welker? Wouldn’t the smart move be to blanket Welker and bank on Cassel misfiring on two-thirds of his deep ball attempts?
Broncos 24, Chiefs 17
The Broncos didn’t exactly roar out of the gates in this one, spotting KC a 10-point lead thanks to a Jay Cutler pick six. However, they settled down after that and somehow used a pass-heavy offense to build a 12-minute time-of-possession advantage. Cutler completed 32-of-40 passes (there’s your answer, just seven incompletes; that keeps the clock rolling) for 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns to long-lost friend Brandon Marshall. Marshall was up to his old tricks with 11 catches for 91 yards and the aforementioned pair of scores, easily leading Denver receivers; not that Tony Scheffler (5-61) and Eddie Royal (6-42) didn’t chip in. Peyton Hillis added a catch as well as 58 rushing yards and a touchdown, but it was that grab—which resulted in an apparent hamstring injury—that proved most costly; Hillis did not return to the game, leaving the ground game in the capable (?) hands of Tatum Bell (11-52)
It’s a shame the Chiefs weren’t playing darts on Sunday, because then their close would have counted for something. As it was, Tyler Thigpen’s quarterback draw on fourth-and-goal with just over four minutes left in the game fell a hair shy of the end zone and left KC losers for the 10th time this season. Thigpen completed 17-of-32 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown, as usual leaning almost exclusively on Tony Gonzalez (5-73-1) and Dwayne Bowe (7-96); only three other Chiefs caught balls, a total of five catches for 18 yards. Larry Johnson didn’t have quite the game against Denver he had in the previous meeting, mustering just 36 yards on 11 carries.
Fantasy Impact: Leave it to Larry to dribble down his leg in a matchup he should have owned—and did own, previously. You can’t fault Herm Edwards for the lack of carries, as KC held the ball for just 23:22 and ran 20 fewer offensive snaps than the Broncos. As for Denver, hope you enjoyed your Hillis ride. It sounds as if his hammy injury might end his season, and while Bronco backs are notoriously plug-and-play do you really want to trust Mike Shanahan to give Bell all the carries—or Bell to do anything with them against the Panthers and Bills the next two weeks?
Cardinals 34, Rams 10
The Arizona offense got outscored 3-0 in the second half; good thing a) their defense scored 14 points and b) their offense had already built a double-digit lead. This one was over early as Tim Hightower capped the opening drive with a touchdown plunge and Larry Fitzgerald caught a first-quarter TD as well. Hightower didn’t quite live up to his last date with the Rams, settling for 32 yards and the touch on a dozen carries; the Cards worked J.J. Arrington (5-22) and Edgerrin James (3-11) into the mix as well as the second half was mostly garbage time. Fitzy finished with 73 yards on six catches—better than Anquan Boldin (5-62) but worse than Steve Breaston (7-90). Add it all up and Kurt Warner’s 24-33-279-1-1 was, for him, rather pedestrian.
Steven Jackson was most likely the only Ram in fantasy lineups, and he didn’t disappoint. Okay, maybe his 19-carry, 64-yard rushing output was disappointing, as was the fumble he coughed up that Arizona returned for a score; at least his four-catch, three-yard receiving day netted a touchdown. Torry Holt had what for him now passes as a big day with 61 yards on five catches, but none of the eight other Rams to catch a pass managed more than two grabs. Marc Bulger’s 22-37-228-1-1 nearly matched Warner’s line; that and a ticket will get him into Arizona’s home playoff game in January.
Fantasy Impact: Donnie Avery (2-18) has all but vanished; maybe it’s the rookie wall, maybe it’s just a bad Rams’ offense, but whatever the reason he should be on fantasy mothballs until 2009. Warner’s case for MVP has tailed off as his stats have returned to human levels; perhaps the most frustrating aspect of that is that in TD-heavy scoring systems you can no longer start all three Arizona wideouts with confidence.
Steelers 20, Cowboys 13
It’s a good thing Pittsburgh’s defense showed up on time, because the offense didn’t arrive until late in the third quarter. Prior to the 12-play, 71-yard drive that ended when Gary Russell was stopped on fourth-and-goal (an aside: Gary Russell? Really? That’s your money guy on fourth-and-goal from the one?), Pittsburgh’s only offensive pulse had come on their first two drives—a missed field goal after a pick of Tony Romo and a seven-play, 31-yard drive that led to a punt. Strangely, the Cowboys’ goal line stand seemed to inspire the Steelers; a 35-yard punt return by Santonio Holmes (3-82) set up a field goal, and on the next drive Ben Roethlisberger (17-33-204-1) hit Nate Washington (4-58) three times for 51 yards to set up a Heath Miller (3-20-1) touchdown. Pittsburgh’s ground game was completely stymied; Willie Parker’s 12 carries for 25 yards paced a running back trio that amassed 53 rushing yards. With overtime looming, however, the Steelers picked Romo for a third time and didn’t give the offense a chance to screw up, taking it all the way back for a game-winning touchdown.
Don’t feel bad for the Cowboys about missing Marion Barber here; rookie Tashard Choice filled in spectacularly with 88 rushing yards—most against the Steelers this season—and another 76 through the air as the Cowboys’ leading receiver. By ground was the safest route for Dallas, with Tony Romo throwing three picks as part of a 19-36-210-1 afternoon. Not surprisingly Jason Witten was a favorite target, with six catches for 62 yards. Terrell Owens caught a touchdown but finished with three catches (on nine targets, two of which were intercepted) for 32 yards; he was demonstratively unhappy on the sidelines as time ran down, presumably with everything except his performance. Can’t wait to hear the postgame comments.
Fantasy Impact: Maybe the Cowboys will keep Choice as their primary back; after all, as the NFL Network’s Deion Sanders noted of Choice’s receiving ability, “This is an element that Marion Barber really don’t give you in the passing game”. Evidently he missed MB3’s 128 receiving yards in Week 6. Or his six catches in Week 8. Or his six catches in Week 11. Or his seven catches in Week 12. Is he even watching these games? The Steelers are going to need something from their running game to augment their defense in the postseason. Parker wasn’t having a great day but you have to think he gives you a better chance on fourth-and-goal than Russell.
Ravens 24, Redskins 10
If it wasn’t over when Le’Ron McClain scored on an eight-yard run three minutes into the game (capitalizing on an Ed Reed interception), it was definitely over when Reed returned a Clinton Portis fumble 22 yards for a 14-point cushion just over 10 minutes in. After that the Ravens coasted, feeding McClain 20 times for 61 yards and Willis McGahee 11 more times for 32 yards. Joe Flacco threw just 21 passes and completed only 10 for 134 yards; one went to Derrick Mason (3-60-1) for a touchdown, and Todd Heap’s two for 54 comprised the bulk of the rest of the Ravens’ passing game numbers. As expected, this one played to the under with little in the way of offensive fireworks—but when you’ve got Baltimore’s defense and running game, who needs fireworks? Just bludgeon your opponent into submission—like the Ravens did with 11 straight running plays on their final scoring drive, after which they play-actioned to Mason for the touchdown.
Washington’s ground game was non-existent, as are most ground games against the Ravens; Clinton Portis carried 11 times for 32 yards, comprising more than half of his team’s 62 rushing yards. That put the onus on Jason Campbell, who completed 21 of 37 for 218 yards and a score to Antwaan Randle El. That score didn’t come until the fourth quarter, though, as the Redskins capitalized on a short field thanks to a Willis McGahee fumble, and by the time they got the ball back again they were down two touchdowns with 3:35 left in the game.
Fantasy Impact: Portis continues to play through injury, but he was no match for the Ravens’ defense on this night. Maybe next week against the Bengals… Speaking of banged-up running backs, McGahee suffered an apparent knee injury on his fumble late in the game. If he’s down for any length of time Ray Rice, who turned five touches into 40 yards against the Skins, would stand to inherit his carries. Before you hit the waiver wire too hard, however, note that the Ravens face Pittsburgh next week and Dallas the week after that.