Atlanta Falcons 28, Carolina Panthers 20
There were few surprises from the Falcons here. Matt Ryan (21-27-220-3-1) focused on Tony Gonzalez (7-71-1) and Roddy White (28-105-1), as Atlanta’s dynamic duo accounted for 13 of Ryan’s 21 completions and both found the end zone. Michael Turner pounded away at the Panthers to the tune of 105 yards on 28 carries, finally busting into the end zone early in the fourth quarter. And for the second straight week, Gonzo and Turner lost a red zone score to a bit player; this week, it was Jason Snelling scoring on a 10-yard reception.
Carolina’s ground game was good, with DeAngelo Williams (16-79-1) and Jonathan Stewart (9-65) combining for 144 yards, but the Panthers would prefer to have the 25:42 run-to-pass ratio reversed. At least Jake Delhomme wasn’t color blind this week; his only INT came on a fourth-and-10 play late in the game as he had little choice but to force the action. Almost half of his 308 yards went to Steve Smith (8-131), but Dante Rosario swiped the lone passing score.
Fantasy Impact: Because the Panthers have played the bulk of their first two games from behind, they’ve been unable to use their two-back attack to control the tempo. Fewer attempts mean fewer opportunities for both Williams and Stewart; right now it’s killing Stewart’s fantasy value, as Williams has scored in both games (including a three-yarder this week) while Stewart has just 22 total touches—putting him on pace for fewer than last year, with zero TDs to offset the decline in yardage. For the Falcons, the only abnormality has been Ryan’s propensity to throw in the red zone. Gonzo’s scores are to be expected, but the touchdowns by Snelling and Ovie Mughelli last week come right off of Turner’s plate.
Minnesota Vikings 27, Detroit Lions 13
It took the Vikings a little longer than expected to take control of this game, but the tide turned for good when Minnesota ramped up the defensive intensity. One play after forcing a turnover Adrian Peterson bolted 27 yards for a touchdown and for all intents and purposes the game was over. Peterson (15-92-1) saw extensive work as a receiver (4-24), leaving Chester Taylor with just seven touches on the afternoon. Brett Favre (23-27-155-2) focused on getting Bernard Berrian (6-46) involved in the offense; he also looked to his blossoming favorite target, Percy Harvin, on a bubble screen at the goal line that resulted in the rookie's second touchdown in as many games.
The Detroit game plan was obviously to stick with the run, and Kevin Smith (24-83) was just productive enough to allow the Lions to do just that for most of the afternoon. Minnesota did a good job of taking Calvin Johnson out of the mix, as he was targeted just seven times-though he carried twice for 16 yards in addition to his 5-51-1 receiving. Rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew (4-40) made his first impact as a receiver, giving Matthew Stafford a nice option in the middle of the field
Fantasy Impact:Jim Schwartz’s commitment to the ground game is admirable; running the ball successfully will go a long way towards keeping Stafford upright and letting him ease into his role as savior of the franchise. And the fact that they’re trying to find ways to get the ball into Johnson’s hands is also worth noting—especially since he was targeted barely half as frequently as Week 1. Favre’s fondness for Harvin, especially in the red zone, is quickly elevating him to must-start status in TD-heavy leagues. Harvin is still getting single-digit touches, but he’s making them count—at the expense of red-zone scorers like Taylor, Peterson, and even Sidney Rice and Visanthe Shiancoe.
Cincinnati Bengals 31, Green Bay Packers 24
It wasn’t always pretty—the Bengals couldn’t score on concsecutive drives, turned the ball over twice and racked up 100 yards in penalties—but in the end the Packers didn’t have an answer for… Cedric Benson? Cincinnati ran Benson 29 times for 141 yards, though it was Carson Palmer (15-23-185-3-2) finishing each red-zone drive with one rushing score and three TD tosses. Chad Ochocinco (4-91-1) earned a Lambeau leap, though he had to work to find a couple friendly fans to jump into; no other Bengal receiver caught more than two balls or produced more than 26 yards.
We saw a little more of the Green Bay offense that teased us in the preseason, but they ran out of time before Aaron Rodgers could complete the comeback. Rodgers’ 21-39-261-1 came without benefit of a single catch from Greg Jennings, who was targeted five times but failed to crack the stat sheet. Donald Driver stepped up with 6-99-1, and tight ends Jermichael Finley (4-56) and Donald Lee (4-28) attempted to fill the void as well. Ryan Grant added 68 yards and a touchdown on 17 touches.
Fantasy Impact: Rodgers was sacked six times—five of them by Antwaan Odom, four of them after LT Chad Clifton left the game with an injury. He also scrambled four times for 43 yards, coming within nine feet of besting Grant as the team’s top rusher. The Pack obviously have some offensive line issues that need to be ironed out before Rodgers can live up to the potential he flashed this preseason. The Packers were expected to pose more of a challenge for Benson and the Bengals’ running game, but Ced nearly doubled his previous week’s total. Still, the true test should come next week against the Steelers. The Cincy receiving corps aside from Ochocinco continues to pose more questions than answers. Laveranues Coles scored but is not filling the T.J. Houshmandzadeh role as expected. Andre Caldwell is getting looks from Palmer, and the Bengals are even working some tight end into the mix as well.
Arizona Cardinals 31, Jacksonville Jaguars 17
The Cardinals didn’t travel particularly well last year, but whatever route they took this time around certainly worked for Kurt Warner. Warner tied a team record with 15 straight completions to open the game, then went on to set an NFL record for completion percentage in a game with 24 completions on 26 attempts. And he wasn’t checking down to the backs this week, with 17 of those completions to wideouts. Larry Fitzgerald (4-34-1) continues to find the end zone, while Steve Breaston (5-83) and Anquan Boldin (8-69) looked healthy.
Jacksonville couldn’t find the end zone until Arizona had built a 31-3 lead; though the Jags tried to keep Maurice Jones-Drew (13-66 on the ground, 4-17 in the air) involved, David Garrard needed to throw downfield. Marcedes Lewis (3-62-1) turned a short pass into the Jaguars’ first touchdown, and eventually Mike Sims-Walker (6-106-1, though four of the catches including the touchdown came in the garbage-time fourth quarter) found the end zone as well.
Fantasy Impact: Torry Holt (6-65) was more involved in Jacksonville’s regular passing offense, but despite the ending numbers—Garrard finished with 282 yards and a touchdown—it wasn’t all that impressive. Actually, the ground game hasn’t been all that great, either; in matchups with two of the more fantasy-friendly run defenses, MoJo has 206 yards and a touchdown. Not bad, but not exactly what those who spent a top-three pick were looking for. Please don’t be fooled by Tim Hightower’s final stat line of 15 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown. Six carries and 35 yards came in garbage time with Matt Leinart at the helm and the Cards simply running out the clock; the touchdown came one play after Chris Wells took Arizona to the one yard line but fumbled. Fumble aside, Wells (7-44) was dramatically more productive.
Oakland Raiders 13, Kansas City Chiefs 10
So, which of Oakland’s 166 yards of offense did you enjoy most? After gouging the Chiefs for something in the neighborhood of 250 yards last year, Michael Bush and Darren McFadden ran for a mere 35 yards each; at least McFadden had the decency to score the Raiders’ lone touchdown late in the game to salvage some semblance of fantasy value. Prior to the Raiders nine-play, 69-yard march for a game-winning touchdown, JaMarcus Russell had produced just 42 passing yards. Zach Miller, the Raiders’ best and most consistent pass catcher, was targeted just three times but failed to record a catch.
The Chiefs did many things right. Matt Cassel made his first start for his new team, and while at times he misfired and he was victimized by more than a couple drops he did produce 241 yards and a touchdown. Bobby Wade (6-72) stepped right into the KC offense (after Quinten Lawrence was injured early in the game) and provided Cassel with a possession receiver, while Dwayne Bowe continued to defy the odds by besting another solid pass defense for a score—though note that Nnamdi Asomugha was out of the game and Stanford Routt was (not) covering Bowe when he caught his touchdown.
Fantasy Impact: Larry Johnson (24-78, plus three catches for 41 yards) was decent, but the bigger surprise may have been the healthy scratch of Jamaal Charles; Jackie Battle carried five times for 19 yards as LJ’s backup. Russell has completed just over a third of his passes thus far this season; as evidenced by Miller’s goose egg, it’s virtually impossible to count on any portion of a passing game that inconsistent. Six three-and-outs in the first eight drives and a mere 21:21 time of possession prevented any element of the Raiders offense to provide fantasy value—and that doesn’t necessarily appear as if it will be an aberration.
New York Jets 16, New England Patriots 9
The Jets’ blueprint will be to win with defense and the running game, and there was plenty of the former and just enough of the latter against New England. Leon Washington (14-58, 2-18) was not only the more productive of Gang Green’s backs, he also received just as many carries as Thomas Jones (14-54, 1-(-1)) and more overall touches. Mark Sanchez was efficient, completing 14 of 22 passes for 163 yards and a nine-yard TD to Dustin Keller (3-22). He also found Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey four times each, though Cotchery (4-87) had more yardage on the 45-yard completion that set up New York’s touchdown than Stuckey (4-37) did for the entire game.
The last time New England was held without a touchdown was Tom Brady’s last regular-season lost, against the Dolphins in Week 14… of 2006. Brady had to operate without Wes Welker, who was inactive, though Julian Edelman (8-98) filled the role admirably—especially when you consider how little room Jets corner Darelle Revis gave Randy Moss (4-24) to operate. The lightly-used running game (just 19 carries for the entire RB crew) was again led by Fred Taylor, whose 46 yards on eight carries suggest that maybe the Patriots might want to run the ball just a little bit more.
Fantasy Impact: While the Pats may not have quite the same offense they fielded in 2007, they seemed to do okay with Welker on the sidelines and Moss rendered virtually impotent by Revis. They won’t run into many defenses as suffocating or motivated as the Jets, so if you survived Brady and Moss doing little this week, you’re in good shape the rest of the way. Gang Green, meanwhile, is looking a whole lot like Rex Ryan’s former team; run the ball, play great defense, and throw just enough to keep defenses honest. That bodes well for Jones, Washington, and Keller; not so much for Cotchery or Stuckey.
New Orleans Saints 48, Philadelphia Eagles 22
Dropping a 40-burger on the Lions was to be expected; nearly hitting 50 in Philly puts this Saints offense in rarified territory. Drew Brees continued his assault on the record books with 311 and three, leaning heavily on Marques Colston (8-98-2). The remaining cast of receivers continues to fluctuate based on the situation, though Lance Moore once again received the short end of the stick; he wasn’t even targeted. Pierre Thomas was active but lost four yards on his only touch; Mike Bell (17-86-1) again handled the heavy lifting and was surprisingly effective. Reggie Bush produced 75 combo yards and scored on a 19-yard run off left tackle.
Starting Kevin Kolb in place of the injured Donovan McNabb in a shootout against the high-powered Saints was like bringing a knife to a gunfight, To his credit Kolb kept up, completing 31 of 51 passes for 391 yards and two touchdowns; he also threw three picks, including a pick six to Darren Sharper that wrapped up the scoring. Desean Jackson produced his first touchdown from scrimmage, a 71-yarder that padded a 4-101-1 outing, but Kolb’s favorite targets were tight end Brent Celek (8-104) and Jason Avent (7-79-1).
Fantasy Impact: Brian Westbrook had 13 carries for the second straight game and produced 66 yards from scrimmage, giving him a two-game total of 32 touches for 138 yards. If 16 touches per game isn’t indicative of the Eagles limiting Westbrook’s workload, his 69 combo yards per game and one touchdown on the year suggest he’s no longer an elite fantasy back. The Saints have a very big kitchen, but there are still too many mouths to feed. Colston has re-established himself as the go-to receiver, leaving the likes of Jeremy Shockey (4-49 this week after two scores in the opener), Devery Henderson (3-71), Robert Meachem (1-11 plus 15 yards on an end-around), and Moore to battle for leftovers.
Houston Texans 34, Tennessee Titans 31
Last week the Texans couldn’t get their offense started against a smothering Jets defense that had Matt Schaub running for his life. This week, the Titans didn’t sack Schaub once; as a result, Schaub picked apart the Titans to the tune of 25-for-39 for 357 yards and four touchdowns. As you might expect, Houston leaned heavily on Andre Johnson, targeting him 16 times for a 10-149-2 afternoon. With Kevin Walter out Jacoby Jones (2-73-1) got in on the action; so did Owen Daniels, snapping a personal scoreless streak against the Titans with six grabs for 72 yards and the game-tying touchdown.
The knock on Chris Johnson is that you have to wait for him to hit a big play to get production. Sunday, Johnson’s fantasy owners hit the jackpot as he scored on runs of 57 and 91 yards and tossed in a 69-yard touchdown reception for good measure. The result was 197 rushing yards (at 12 yards a carry) and a team-high nine catches for another 87 yards. Unfortunately, the rest of the Titans could conjure up just 172 yards of offense, and Kerry Collins’ fumble took away the Titans’ opportunity for a game-tying field goal.
Fantasy Impact: Obviously Johnson was the Titans’ entire offense, but it was somewhat surprising that he was their entire passing game as well. He was targeted on a third of Collins’ 33 attempts and recorded more catches than any other two Titans combined. Justin Gage (2-27) was suddenly invisible, as Nate Washington (4-36-1) appeared to steal his thunder. Alge Crumpler (4-44) represented the tight ends with Bo Scaife out. For Houston, Steve Slaton has seen a couple of tough run defenses, but that’s not enough to explain 51 yards on 26 carries (a 1.9 ypc average, if you’re scoring at home). His six catches for 60 yards helps, but the fact that Chris Brown received eight carries suggests the Texans are beginning to lose patience with Slaton’s productivity.
Washington Redskins 9, St. Louis Rams 7
The Redskins were, ahem, expected to produce significantly more than three field goals at home against the Rams. Point to red zone futility as the culprit, as the longest of Shaun Suisham’s three field goals was a 28-yard chip shot. Clinton Portis ran for 78 yards on 13 carries outside the 10 yard line, but six totes inside the 10 produced a total of one yard. Jason Campbell wasn’t much more help, completing just one of four passes in the red zone. Overall his 242-yard day wasn’t bad, but Chris Cooley (7-83) was the only fantasy standout as seven Redskins split Campbell’s remaining 16 completions.
Don’t blame Steven Jackson for the Rams’ offensive futility; he produced 119 of the team’s 251 yards, including 104 rushing yards at an impressive 6.1 yards per carry against a pretty stout Redskins run defense. He also caught four balls, second-most in the moribund St. Louis passing offense. Laurent Robinson led the team with six catches for 54 yards and the game’s only touchdown.
Fantasy Impact: Don’t look now, but Robinson is easing past Donnie Avery as the Rams’ go-to receiver. Avery lost one fumble, came up with only one of six targets, and will be showing up in a free agent pool near you when drop/adds start on Tuesday. There is very little to like about the Redskins’ offense, but at least the team’s top two producers—Portis and Cooley—are getting it done on a consistent basis. Now if they could mix in a touchdown every once in a while…
Buffalo Bills 33, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
If you made a pit stop between the early games and the start of the Bills/Bucs tilt, it was probably 14-0 before you sat back down in your easy chair. Not surprisingly against a defense that was lit up by all kinds of Cowboy wideouts last week, both Lee Evans (1-32-1) and Terrell Owens (3-52-1) had big scoring plays against the Buccaneers. In between, tight end Derek Schouman (6-62) and Josh Reed (4-46) helped Trent Edwards put up a solid 230-yard, two touchdown stat line. The real star, however, was Fred Jackson; not only did he roll the Bucs for 163 yards on 28 carries, he chipped in another 25 yards on six catches.
The Bucs aren’t built to have Byron Leftwich throw 50 passes a game, but the running game never got started and Tampa Bay trailed by double digits before they could catch their collective breath. Carnell Williams (7-9) looked like a back with two surgically repaired knees, but the surprise was that he caught seven passes for 56 yards and a touchdown while Derrick Ward, the supposed third down back, added just one grab to go with his nine carry, 32-yard afternoon.
Fantasy Impact: The tight ends continue to be Tampa Bay’s top targets. Kellen Winslow caught seven balls for 90 yards and a touchdown, while Jerramy Stevens added 3-24-1; despite Leftwich’s near 300-yard day, the only wideout to top 27 yards or catch more than two balls was Maurice Stovall with a 3-80 line. In Buffalo, Marshawn Lynch may want to start looking for a good real estate agent. He has one more game left to sit; meanwhile, Jackson is stealing his job. At minimum, Jackson will remain in some sort of job share in the Bills backfield—and there’s no guarantee that Lynch’s array of off-the-field missteps haven’t already punched his ticket out of town, with a push from Jackson’s recent success.
San Francisco 49ers 23, Seattle Seahawks 10
Now this is what Mike Singletary had in mind: the Niners ran more than they threw, with Frank Gore (16-207-2, 5-39) having a big day and Glen Coffee (9-13, 2-16) spelling him. Shaun Hill was efficient, completing 19 of 26 for 144 yards, with veteran Isaac Bruce leading the downfield receivers with 35 yards on four catches. It’s not exactly an intoxicating cocktail, but it is certainly effective.
It’s not as if Matt Hasselbeck was tearing the Niners apart, though with a 10-18-97 stat line prior to leaving the game late in the first half with a rib injury he was on pace for a solid afternoon. Seneca Wallace (15-23-127-1-1) wasn’t bad in Hasselbeck’s stead, but what really killed Seattle was a nine-minute difference in time of possession. The Seahawks’ primary receivers were adequate, paced by T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s 4-62, but it was Justin Forsett who stole the day with 92 combo yards on 11 touches.
Fantasy Impact: There’s no word yet on how long Hasselbeck will be down. Seattle survived with Wallace at the helm last year; in fact, it was a boon to John Carlson’s numbers. We may also start seeing more of Forsett; though Julius Jones had the most carries and scored on a one-yard reception, he ended the day with an ineffective nine yards on nine touches. After averaging less than two yards per carry last week, Gore upped the average with 79- and 80-yard touchdown runs. There’s no question he’s the focal point of the offense Singletary wants to run. That’s not good news for the San Francisco passing game, which couldn’t even find Josh Morgan as Gore’s success on the ground brought the offense into a turtle shell.
Chicago Bears 17, Pittsburgh Steelers 14
Not surprisingly, the Bears struggled to run the ball against the Steel Curtain as Matt Forte was limited to 29 yards on 13 carries. That, however, is why they traded for Jay Cutler in the offseason and the new acquisition earned his keep with a solid—and perhaps most important, interception-free—home opener. Cutler completed 27 of 38 passes for 236 yards and two scores, working both down the field to Johnny Knox (6-70-1) as well as underneath to Forte (5-33). Perhaps most impressively, the Bears earned their first win without Brian Urlacher since the middle linebacker joined the team.
As if you needed any more proof that the Steelers are unquestionably his team, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 221 yards and a score and added a rushing score on Sunday. Hey, it’s not like he was getting much help from anyone else. Santonio Holmes (5-83) and Hines Ward (6-57) did what they could, and backup tight end Matt Spaeth was on the receiving end of Big Ben’s toss, but Willie Parker (14-47) paced a backfield that couldn’t dent the Urlacher-less Bears.
Fantasy Impact: With an almost two-to-one pass-to-run ratio the Steelers are rendering their entire backfield moot for fantasy purposes. Maybe Rashard Mendenhall’s 39-yard run will earn him more carries, because Parker and Mewelde Moore (2-13 and 3-15 as a receiver) did little. Then again, he yanked himself from the game after being pushed out at the two so maybe he doesn’t deserve our attention. Where’s the nose for the stripe? Last week’s leading Bear receivers, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester, were limited to six catches for 43 yards in favor of Knox, Forte, and Greg Olsen (3-41). That bodes extremely well for Cutler, who was picked four times in the opener trying to force the action down the field.
Denver Broncos 27, Cleveland Browns 6
Maybe it was momentum from last week’s 87-yard game winner. Maybe it was the home cooking. Maybe it was just that they got to play against the Browns. Whatever the reason, Denver’s offense looked markedly better this week—though in true Josh McDaniels fashion good luck finding a single standout fantasy contributor. Kyle Orton threw for 263 yards but just one touchdown—to Tony Scheffler for his only catch of the day. Jabar Gaffney (3-82) and Brandon Stokley (5-70) were the top targets, as Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal combined for six catches and 54 yards. The backfield was split as well; Knowshon Moreno got most of the work with 17 carries for 75 yards (and two catches for 22 more), but Correll Buckhalter was more productive with 76 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries and 30 yards on his only reception. Oh, and Peyton Hillis swiped a goal line touchdown as well.
The Browns kicked field goals on two of their first three possessions on a pair of drives totaling 69 yards; the rest of the game, all Cleveland’s offense could muster was six punts, two turnovers, and a total of 140 yards of offense. Bright spots? Maybe Braylon Edwards, who caught six of the seven passes thrown his way for 92 yards.
Fantasy Impact: Credit the Browns for at least trying to get the ball into the hands of Josh Cribbs, their most dynamic offensive player. However, his 11 touches (one rush, five catches, three kickoff returns and two punt returns) produced just 110 yards, the bulk of it coming in the return game. In Denver, the fantasy Shanahanigans continue under the direction of McDaniels. The only bright spot is that Moreno touched the ball almost twice as much as any other Bronco; maybe he’ll be the one guy who can emerge from this fantasy quagmire.
Baltimore Ravens 31, San Diego Chargers 26
The 31 points might confuse you, but this was much more like the Ravens’ football we’ve come to know and love than last week’s 300-yard passing game from Joe Flacco. The run-pass split was virtually even, though Flacco did account for a pair of scores as part of his 190-yard day. One went to Todd Heap, who is re-emerging as a legitimate fantasy helper—just as long as he can stay healthy. Kelly Washington (4-58-1) outproduced Derrick Mason (3-31) and Mark Clayton (1-20) combined. The ground game gave us plenty of Ray Rice (82 yards on 13 touches) but also a heaping dose of Willis McGahee, who posted his second straight two-touchdown game along with 79 rushing yards on 15 carries and a couple receptions for 10 yards.
Not that they would have had any more success against the Ravens even with a healthy LaDainian Tomlinson, but sans LT the Chargers’ ground game suffered drastically. Darren Sproles posted another game with a yards-per-carry average in the twos and Michael Bennett (4-19) didn’t help much. At least Sproles took a short pass 81 yards for a score, comprising the bulk of his 150 yards from scrimmage. Vincent Jackson sparkled, with 141 yards and a score on six catches, and when you add in Antonio Gates’ 5-78 it adds up to a juicy 436-yard, two-touchdown game for Philip Rivers.
Fantasy Impact: Much like last season, without LT it’s Rivers doing the heavy lifting on offense. San Diego’s pass-run ratio was more than two-to-one, despite the Bolts being within single digits for the vast majority of the game, as neither Sproles nor Bennett found any sort of success against the Ravens. In Baltimore, while Rice averaged better than six yards per touch it was McGahee who scored twice from inside the 10. And not only is Willis getting goal line touches, he had nearly twice the carries Rice received. The good news is, Baltimore’s M.O. suggests there will be enough backfield touches for both McGahee and Rice to have fantasy value.
New York Giants 33, Dallas Cowboys 31
It’s a new stadium, so maybe the teams got confused and were in the wrong locker rooms putting on the wrong jerseys. How else do you explain the Giants throwing for 330 yards while the Cowboys rushed for 251? The vaunted New York ground game never got rolling, with Brandon Jacobs limited to 56 yards on 16 carries and Ahmad Bradshaw kicking in 37 yards on nine carries and another eight on two receptions. Instead of on the ground the Giants went via air, with Eli Manning going up top 38 times for the aforementioned 330 yards. His attention was focused on Mario Manningham (10-150-1) and Steve Smith (10-134-1), who took turns making key catches while the rest of the G-Men could muster just five catches for 46 yards between them.
The Cowboys have the line and the backs to consistently pound the ball like they did Sunday night against one of the league’s better defensive fronts. Marion Barber inflicted the bulk of the damage with 124 yards on 18 carries, though he fell short of a second touchdown when he appeared to strain his left quad on a carry that was ticketed for the end zone but instead saw him drop inside the 10. Felix Jones cleaned up that score and finished with 7-96-1. The good thing about running the ball was that Tony Romo wasn’t throwing to the wrong team; one of his three picks was returned for a touchdown and another would have been had not the officials initially blown the call. He completed less than half of his 29 passes for just 127 yards, and as per usual BFF Jason Witten (5-33-1) was the primary target. The trio of wideouts who found so much success last week against Tampa Bay—Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and Patrick Crayton—tallied but three catches for 42 yards combined.
Fantasy Impact: No word yet on how badly Barber strained his quad, but the Cowboys won’t lose much giving Jones and Tashard Choice the carries. And as noted above, keeping the ball on the ground keeps Romo from making ill-advised throws. Also, the failure of the receiving corps to repeat any of its success from the opener suggests three things: the Bucs’ secondary is really bad (see what Lee Evans and Terrell Owens did to them today for confirmation); the Giants’ defense is pretty good (that’s not exactly a revelation); and replacing T.O. with the current crop of talent won’t be as easy as some might have thought based on those Week 1 results. The Giants don’t seem quite ready to go the pass-happy way of the Steelers, but if opposing defenses continue to gang up on their ground game then Smith and Manningham could find all kinds of room down the field. Between the two they are ably filling the possession role of Amani Toomer and the big-play shoes of Plaxico Burress.