Baltimore Ravens 34, Cleveland Browns 3
The Ravens dominated this game as expected, though they opted to do it through the air rather than on the ground. Not that Baltimore had trouble running: Ray Rice turned limited touches (14) into 75 yards and a touchdown, while Willis McGahee continued to do his LenDale White impersonation with two more touchdowns. But it was Joe Flacco who stole the show with 342 yards and a long touchdown to Derrick Mason, whose 5-118-1 was just one catch more than his usual line; of course, that one catch was a 72-yard score.
Jerome Harrison was the lone highlight for Cleveland; filling in for the injured Jamal Lewis, Harrison contributed 92 yards from scrimmage—almost half the team’s total. Brady Quinn was yanked after completing six of eight passes to teammates and one to the Ravens; Derek Anderson tossed three to the other team on 11-of-19 passing as the Browns amassed just 126 passing yards. There was nothing else to see here.
Fantasy Impact: After a dazzling preseason, James Davis looked to be not just Lewis’ backup but sooner-rather-than-later replacement; however, the rookie received just five carries for 10 yards as Harrison handled the bulk of the workload. Some of it was situational, as the Browns were playing catch-up most of the game, but Harrison took first-team reps in practice and is still a large part of Eric Mangini’s offensive plan—assuming, of course, Mangini has a plan. Flacco now has two 300-yard games in the first three weeks, but it’s tough to see the Ravens as a passing team; they simply don’t have the receivers to make passing a priority. That said, they have enough good-not-great receivers that Flacco may be entering every-week fantasy starter status.
Detroit Lions 19, Washington Redskins 14
Yes, the Lions are finally off the schneid. And while it wasn’t all that impressive of a win, at this juncture Detroit will take any victory. What was impressive was that the Lions pulled off the feat even though Kevin Smith left with a shoulder injury midway through the third quarter; Smith had already topped 100 yards rushing, and what hurt even more was seeing Maurice Morris (8-10-1) steal his touchdown. Calvin Johnson (5-49) didn’t contribute much, either, as Matthew Stafford (21-36-241-1) targeted Bryant Johnson (4-73-1) 11 times, four more than Calvin.
The box score offers a little salve, as Jason Campbell’s 340 yards and two touchdowns would seem to indicate the Redskins had a passing game. But those numbers evolved primarily from 41 passing attempts (vs. 14 runs, including a 21-yard scramble from Campbell) as the Redskins trailed the entire game. Clinton Portis (12-42) was supposed to beat up a bad Lions’ run D; instead, he couldn’t even convert a fourth and goal run from the one and was a complete non-factor. And more than half of Campbell’s yardage went to Santana Moss, whose 10-178-1 might prevent him from appearing on the fantasy waiver wire this week. Moss was targeted more than any three other Redskins combined.
Fantasy Impact: Laying an egg against the Lions is likely the final straw for any fantasy owner with a Redskin on their roster, as there is simply no consistent entity in this lineup; Portis can no longer be trusted, Moss’s numbers feel more like a fluke, and Chris Cooley (3-38) is dependent on Campbell’s passing and Jim Zorn’s play-calling to put up helpful stats. Calvin Johnson’s struggles are frustrating, especially since he didn’t seem to have trouble putting up numbers with last year’s revolving door of subpar quarterbacking. And if Smith’s injury has him down for any length of time, the 22 yards from scrimmage (on nine touches) and 1.2 yards per carry Morris produced strongly suggest he’s not worthy of consideration. Aaron Brown (5-6 on the ground, 1-9 as a receiver) wasn’t much better, but at least there’s some potential there; we already know Morris is nothing special.
Jacksonville Jaguars 31, Houston Texans 24
The Jaguars wanted more big plays, and Maurice Jones-Drew delivered. His 23-119-3 rushing included a 61-yard scoring scamper, and four other Jags produced plays of more than 20 yards. David Garrard not only threw a couple of big plays—28 yards to Mike Sims-Walker (6-81) and 27 yards to Torry Holt (3-57)—he also ran left for a 30 yard gain and scrambled right for a two-yard touchdown. Despite the shootout-type score, that was the extent of the significant fantasy contributions.
Steve Slaton partially redeemed himself, amassing 113 yards from scrimmage on 15 touches. Maybe the Texans should have given him one more—at the stripe, where goal-line back Chris Brown (8-19) fumbled inches away from what would have been the tying touchdown. The passing game enjoyed the return of Kevin Walter, who posted 7-96-1 in his first game of the season. Andre Johnson (4-86) was relatively quiet, but eight different Texans caught passes as Matt Schaub rang up 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Fantasy Impact: If Brown’s fumble doesn’t make Gary Kubiak rethink his goal line personnel, perhaps the fact that Brown went 0-for-3 on converting carries inside the five-yard line will. Notable on that drive is an apparent TD toss from Schaub to Joel Dreessen that was waived off due to a questionable offensive pass interference call against Walter. The Texans might also want to scheme to get the ball into Johnson’s hands a little more frequently, as both Walter and Owen Daniels (5-38-1) were targeted seven times, same as Andre. An early interception as Schaub attempted to force the ball to Johnson in double coverage may have given him cold feet. In Jacksonville’s quest for big plays, they ran Mike Thomas twice on end arounds—once for 22 yards, once for 13 with an additional 15 yards tacked on for unnecessary roughness at the end. A fake end around also influenced the defense on Garrard’s 30 yard run, so look for the play to remain in the Jacksonville rotation.
New England Patriots 26, Atlanta Falcons 10
The Patriots were without Wes Welker and lost Laurence Maroney late in the first quarter. The former meant Randy Moss (10-116) was the focal point of the passing game, amassing more receiving stats than any three other Pats combined; the latter meant Fred Taylor got a rare-for-the-Patriots 21 carries, which he turned into 105 yards and a touchdown. Tom Brady’s numbers were subdued (25-42-277-1), and at crunch time he turned to his tight end; sadly, it was Chris Baker (2-42-1)—who popped up on the radar with two preseason touchdowns but was quickly replaced by Ben Watson and two scores in the regular season opener—and not Watson (1-23) who provided the fantasy help.
Atlanta got a touchdown from Michael Turner (15-56-1), but didn’t get him the 20 carries necessary to ensure a Falcons victory (they’re 12-1 when he hits that number). And the rest of the offense failed to take advantage of a depleted New England defense. Matt Ryan (17-28-199) had little success finding Roddy White (4-24) or Tony Gonzalez (1-16), so he turned to Michael Jenkins (5-78). Unlike Peyton Manning on Monday night, Atlanta was unable to overcome the almost 20 minute difference in time of possession.
Fantasy Impact: Atlanta ran just 15 plays for 78 yards in the 6:21 they possessed the ball in the second half. Not only will they have trouble winning on the road if they’re only going to run their feature back three times in the second half, Turner may have to hand in his every-week fantasy starter card. While Taylor certainly seems to be the go-to back (or what passes for one) in New England, note that Mauroney missed the final three quarters with an injury. On the other hand, it’s not like Mauroney doesn’t have a track record of missing time...
Green Bay Packers 36, St. Louis Rams 17
This was more like the high-octane offense the Packers showed us in the preseason. Aaron Rodgers (13-23-269-2) worked down the field, getting help from a great catch from Donald Driver (4-95-1) and the return to the box score of Greg Jennings (2-103). Rodgers also helped himself with his feet, carrying eight times for 38 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Grant ran clock, carrying 26 times for 99 yards, but John Kuhn swiped both a rushing score and a red-zone passing score that might usually go to the tight end.
On the bright side, Steven Jackson was heavily involved with 27 carries for 117 yards and a team-leading 5-46 as a receiver. The rest of the St. Louis highlights came from backups, as Marc Bulger was knocked from the game with a shoulder injury after four passes. Kyle Boller (16-31-164-2-1) apparently hadn’t been introduced to any of the first-teamers because he only had eyes for fullback Daniel Fells, who scored both of the Rams’ touchdowns.
Fantasy Impact: Jackson touched the ball 32 times and was targeted another three times, meaning more than 50% of the offense ran through him. Given the state of the Rams, that’s how it should be. And Laurent Robinson’s run as St. Louis’ go-to receiver may be coming to an end; he was targeted just three times by Boller before exiting with a leg injury just prior to halftime. Meanwhile, the likes of Donnie Avery (7), Keenan Burton (5), and Fells (5) were brighter blips on the radar. Rodgers was sacked twice and found himself frequently on the run. It didn’t seem to hurt him much against the Rams, but it’s not the best way for the Packers’ offense to function and could eventually take a toll not only on Rodgers but on the numbers of Jennings and Driver as well.
New York Giants 24, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0
Anything the Giants wanted to do against Tampa Bay, they did. Brandon Jacobs ran for 92 yards and a touchdown, while Ahmad Bradshaw reached triple digits despite getting just 14 carries to Jacobs’ 26. Eli Manning threw a pair of touchdowns; Steve Smith (7-63-1) got one, but those who broke the bank to pick up Mario Manningham (4-55) had to be disappointed that Sinorice Moss stole the other on his only catch of the day.
When you have 86 yards of total offense and don’t get your first first down until late in the third quarter, there are no offensive highlights. Byron Leftwich threw for 22 yards before getting the hook, and Derrick Ward backed up the war of words he’d been having with his former team with an underwhelming two yards on five carries, with another seven yards on two catches.
Fantasy Impact: Josh Johnson took over for Leftwich midway through the fourth quarter and led the Bucs into the red zone. Though the drive stalled out, notable was Johnson’s fondness for Sammie Stroughter. You know, just in case the Bucs decide to start playing for next year. As for the Giants, this is the offense we expected: 40 rushing attempts (and 196 yards) split between Earth and Fire, with Manning throwing just enough to keep defenses honest. Granted, they won’t often run into defenses as soft as what the Bucs are serving up these days, but it’s nice to know the blueprint. So it’s also worth noting that despite Smith having more yards and a touchdown, both he and Manningham were targeted seven times.
New York Jets 24, Tennessee Titans 17
Eight minutes into the game, the Jets were up 14 and it looked as if they would coast to 3-0. Didn’t quite workout that way, but Gang Green mustered enough offense to rally and keep their record unblemished. The ground game was not surprisingly ineffective against Tennessee, with Leon Washington (12-46) and Thomas Jones (14-20) once again splitting touches. And Mark Sanchez wasn’t dominant, but he was more than just a game manager with 171 yards and two touchdowns plus a 14-yard TD run. The play-action to Ben Hartsock was a thing of beauty, effective because of the Jets’ commitment to the run—and Tennessee’s commitment to stopping it. And Sanchez also went frequently to Jerricho Cotchery (8-108-1), including late in the third quarter for the game-winning score.
Chris Johnson proved he can get his against anyone, carrying 22 times for 97 yards against the Jets and using his one catch to reach triple-digits in yards from scrimmage. And LenDale White redeemed himself somewhat with an impressive five-yard touchdown run that saw him break multiple tackles. But Kerry Collins, under the same duress Tom Brady faced last week, looked like the Kerry Collins of old—and in a bad way, with two picks and just 15 completions on 37 attempts. With that kind of passing-game success, there was little of fantasy import among the Tennessee receivers.
Fantasy Impact: Nate Washington was hampered by a hamstring injury in the opener; since then he’s proved to be Collins’ go-to guy in the red zone, coming up with a second touchdown in as many weeks—though with no catch longer than 16 yards, he has yet to provide the deep threat the Titans anticipated. The Jets, as expected, are winning with defense. And as evidenced by 31 rushes despite just 83 yards, they aren’t going to abandon the running game. A similar recipe put teams like the Ravens and Titans in the playoffs last year, and while it didn’t yield a bevy of fantasy stars in the passing game go-to receivers like Derrick Mason and Justin Gage proved worthy of fantasy attention. Cotchery looks to be a similar boat this year, with perhaps a little more upside.
philadelphia eagles 34, kansas city chiefs 14
No Donovan McNabb? No Brian Westbrook? No problem for the Eagles, thanks in no small part to a very forgiving Chiefs defense. Kevin Kolb (24-34-327-2 plus a touchdown run) posted his second straight fantasy helper in place of McNabb, while LeSean McCoy (20-84-1 plus 1-9 receiving) picked up Westbrook’s slack. And while seven different Eagles caught passes, the bulk of the offense once again funneled through DeSean Jackson (6-149-1, including another long touchdown) and Brent Celek (8-104-1).
One of the knocks against Matt Cassel’s handling of the New England offense last season was his unwillingness and/or inability to successfully throw down the field. Different personnel, same issue for Cassel as his longest completion was for 13 yards—half the distance of wide receiver Mark Bradley’s toss to Jamaal Charles on a trick play. Bradley also caught a touchdown pass, as did Bobby Wade, but without Dwayne Bowe in the lineup the Chiefs never approached anything threatening.
Fantasy Impact: Larry Johnson averaged two yards per carry on 19 totes, and his second-half fumble killed what little momentum the Chiefs had generated to that point. Charles, meanwhile, averaged six yards per carry on six attempts and also caught three balls for 34 yards—one week after being a healthy scratch. Michael Vick made his much-anticipated debut, but his limited use—two incomplete passes, one carry for seven yards—and Kolb’s success in place of McNabb suggest that Vick will have little to no fantasy value in Philly.
Minnesota Vikings 27, San Francisco 49ers 24
While Adrian Peterson had a significantly better showing than the last time he faced the 49ers, his 85 yards on 19 carries was still a bit shy of what most were expecting. Instead, the Vikings had to turn to their quarterback—and because that quarterback was Brett Favre and not Tarvaris Jackson, things worked out okay. For every dagger Favre stuck into the Purple’s heart during his tenure in Green Bay, his game-winning hook-up with Greg Lewis with 0:02 left salved all wounds. Favre’s 24-46-301-2-1 effort was the first 300-yard game by a Viking since the days of Daunte Culpepper, and while he leaned heavily on Chester Taylor (7-70, plus 6-16 as a runner) he also completed four passes for at least 50 yards to each of his three top wideouts.
The Niners lost Frank Gore to an ankle injury one carry in, but that didn’t force Mike Singletary to abandon the run; instead, Glen Coffee carried 25 times for 54 yards as San Francisco tried to keep the Vikings defense honest. If it pinched the safeties even a half-step closer to the line of scrimmage then it worked, because Vernon Davis split Minnesota’s defense for seven catches, 96 yards, and two touchdowns. Davis’ contribution constituted the bulk of Shaun Hill’s 15-25-195-2-1 effort.
Fantasy Impact: Early word on Gore is that he’ll miss two weeks, leaving Coffee as the go-to guy. Don’t let the two yards per carry against a very good Minnesota defense dissuade you; it’s obvious Singletary will run, even if it’s not working. And it’s bound to work better against lesser defenses. In Minnesota, Favre threw his first interception as a Viking but also completed passes Minnesota QBs haven’t even attempted—and of course there was that miracle comeback Viking fans have been on the other end of too many times to mention. Percy Harvin dropped a pass, but he also returned a kickoff 101 yards to extend his streak of NFL games with a touchdown to three—or, every one he’s ever played in.
New Orleans Saints 27, Buffalo Bills 7
Drew Brees didn’t throw a touchdown pass; in fact, he didn’t even crack 200 yards. So the Saints used 214 rushing yards and three rushing scores—along with a defense that allowed only a fake field goal touchdown—to win on the road. With Brees’ numbers subdued, the stat lines of Marques Colston (4-67), Jeremy Shockey (6-48), and Devery Henderson (3-40) were also underwhelming. The ground game split carries between Reggie Bush (a relatively ineffective 13-64 on the ground and 3-17 as a receiver), Lynell Hamilton (whose first-quarter TD had to frighten Mike Bell owners), and Pierre Thomas, who did absolutely nothing in the first half but ripped off 126 yards and two scores after the break.
Trent Edwards didn’t throw a touchdown; despite five targets, Terrell Owens didn’t even catch a pass. Fred Jackson (18-71 on the ground, 4-26 as a receiver) was the Bills’ lone offensive bright spot, unless you’re a family member of Josh Reed (6-60) or tight end Derek Fine (5-34).
Fantasy Impact: The Bills get Marshawn Lynch back next week, but with Jackson playing well it remains to be seen how touches will be divvied up. Speaking of touches, do you think we’ll hear anything from Owens this week about his lack of touches this week? Through the first two games the Saints used the ground game to run clock after Brees’ aerial circus had built a healthy lead. This week, they relied on the run to win the game. That likely downgrades Brees from Dan Marino status, but it’s tough to see him getting shut out on a regular basis.
Chicago Bears 25, Seattle Seahawks 19
The transformation of the Bears from a running team to Jay Cutler’s personal plaything continues. Cutler carved up a depleted Seattle defense, completing 21 of 27 passes for three touchdowns. This week he involved all the Chicago receivers in the fun: Earl Bennett led the way with 80 yards and caught a two-point conversion; Greg Olsen and Devin Hester each scored as part of their respective five-catch afternoons; Johnny Knox took his one catch to the pilon; and Matt Forte combined a six-catch, 40-yard effort with 66 rushing yards on 21 carries.
Just like last year, Seneca Wallace stepped in for the injured Matt Hasselbeck and performed admirably; his 26-44-261-1-1 very nearly was enough. Nate Burleson (9-109) was his primary target, but 10 other Seahawks caught passes—including Julius Jones, who continued to provide fantasy value with 3-38-1 as a receiver and 19-98 on the ground. If you’re looking to pin the goat horns on someone try Olindo Mare, who missed two of his six field goal attempts.
Fantasy Impact: Be it the quarterback change or an injury that knocked him from the game for a while, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (4-35) is not living up to either his free agent contract, his fantasy expectations, or his Madden ranking; at present Burleson is outperforming him. With the good comes the bad, and Cutler fumbled once and threw a pick. But the Bears’ ground game produced 3.3 yards per carry, so the alternative was turn the game over to Cutler. That looks like Chicago’s recipe for the season, as Forte is averaging 2.5 yards per carry thus far.
Cincinnati Bengals 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 20
The Bengals didn’t post a bunch of gaudy stats against the Steelers, but they weren’t expected to. Of course, they weren’t expected to actually beat the Steelers, either, but that’s just what they did. Among the more unexpected developments was Cedric Benson rushing for 76 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown on 16 carries. Carson Palmer’s 20-37-183-1 was underwhelming, except for the touchdown toss to Andre Caldwell with 14 seconds left. Caldwell (6-52-1) horned his way into Palmer’s clique of favorite receivers, joining Chad Ochocinco (5-54) and Laveranues Coles (5-34) as the only Bengals with more than one catch on the afternoon.
Ben Roethlisberger was once again the story for the Steelers; he threw for 276 yards and a touchdown and scored Pittsburgh’s other TD on a quarterback sneak. But it wasn’t Hines Ward (4-82) or Heath Miller (5-20) or Santonio Holmes (a meager 1-18) that captured Big Ben’s attention; rookie Mike Wallace 7-102 was the favored target, while Willie Parker scored on one of his two receptions. Parker added a surprising 93 rushing yards on an equally surprising 25 attempts.
Fantasy Impact: While Parker was touching the ball 27 times, Mewelde Moore handled the rock just twice and Rashard Mendenhall didn’t even crack the stat sheet. Limas Sweed (1-5) would have made more of an impact as well, but he dropped a potential touchdown pass. Cincinnati’s receivers aren’t offering quite the consistent fantasy help they have in the past, in part because at least three wideouts are involved on a weekly basis and in part because Benson is giving the Bengals more help in the ground game than expected. The belief was that he’d been beating up lesser defenses, but a 4.8 yards per carry average against the Steel Curtain suggests that maybe, just maybe, Ced is the real deal.
Denver Broncos 23, Oakland Raiders 3
So much for Richard Seymour filling the black hole in the Oakland run defense; Knowshon Moreno carried 21 times for 90 yards and a touchdown while Correll Buckhalter added 108 yards on 14 carries. As a result, neither Moreno’s late fumble nor Denver’s vertically-challenged passing game prevented the Broncos from reaching a quite unexpected 3-0. Brandon Marshall (5-67-1) reappeared on the radar, but Kyle Orton’s 13-23-157-1 wasn’t big enough for any supporting cast members—and still didn’t complete a pass of longer than 24 yards.
The ground game whiffed, with Darren McFadden leading the way with a mere 45 yards on a dozen carries. The passing game was worse, as JaMarcus Russell threw for just 61 yards and completed two passes to the other team. At least Sebastian Janikowski made his only field goal attempt.
Fantasy Impact: Russell’s inaccuracy has taken virtually every member of the Oakland passing game off the fantasy table. And if the ground game is going to split 20 attempts—and worse, 75 yards—three ways there’s not much to see there, either. When you sit down to breakfast check your milk carton for Eddie Royal’s picture; he was targeted three times and caught just one pass for four yards. Meanwhile, despite Buckhalter being more productive it’s Moreno who continues to get more carries. An injury that limited the rookie during practice didn’t change that this week; we’ll see if the fumble has any impact going forward.
San Diego Chargers 23, Miami Dolphins 13
Philip Rivers continues to prove he’s more than capable of carrying the Chargers in LaDainian Tomlinson’s absence. Not only did Rivers throw for 303 yards, he led six drives into the red zone and finished one himself with a five-yard quarterback draw. Nate Kaeding capped three of the other four, and the last one ended on downs as San Diego ran out the clock. While Antonio Gates (5-64) remained a favorite target, Rivers also took copious shots down the field that resulted in Vincent Jackson (5-120) and Malcolm Floyd (2-65) both posting better yardage.
Like the Chargers, Miami struggled in the red zone—twice driving inside the 10 before settling for field goals. Unlike San Diego, the Dolphins didn’t produce as many opportunities; they also shot themselves in the foot on their first drive, marching to the Chargers’ one-yard line before fumbling out of the end zone for a touchback. Miami moved the ball well on the ground using both Ronnie Brown (18-75 plus 3-40) and Ricky Williams (8-55-1 and 4-29), but neither Chad Pennington (8-12-54) nor Chad Henne (10-19-92) in relief of the injured starter could spark the passing game.
Fantasy Impact: Ted Ginn was coming off a monster game on Monday night—so of course he was held without a catch here, despite six targets. Davonne Bess (7-54) was the lone bright spot in the passing game; Greg Camarillo (2-13) might have laid claim to that honor, but his apparent 79-yard touchdown grab was nullified because Henne had crossed the line of scrimmage before throwing the ball. Sans LT—as well as a pair of starting offensive linemen—the Chargers continued to struggle in the ground game. Darren Sproles averaged 2.2 yards per carry and the Bolts actually gave Michael Bennett (8-18) an ineffective test drive as well.
Indianapolis Colts 31, Arizona Cardinals 10
The Colts actually got some semblance of a running game from Joseph Addai (13-63, plus 3-8-1 as a receiver) and Donald Brown (14-40 plus a 72-yard reception), but most of it came as Indy tried to kill clock thanks to the lead Peyton Manning provided for them. Manning (24-35-379-4-1) spread the wealth, hitting four different Colts for touchdowns, but Reggie Wayne (7-126-1) and Dallas Clark (7-62-1) continued to do the heavy lifting.
Kurt Warner’s stat line (30-52-332-1-2) is relatively fantasy friendly, but don’t let it mislead you to think he looked comfortable. With zero help from the running game—Tim Hightower (9-22 and 5-39 as a receiver) and Chris Wells (two carries for an embarrassing negative-two yards) did absolutely nothing against a Colts defense that everybody runs on—Warner was left to pad the stats of Steve Breaston (7-94), Anquan Boldin (6-83-1) and Larry Fitzgerald (7-76). But that’s about all Arizona’s offense could do: pad stats.
Fantasy Impact: As you might expect given the 56 dropbacks, Warner took a beating. Fantasy owners need to brace themselves for the very real possibility that all throw and no run behind Arizona’s existing offensive line could lead to Matt Leinart running the show sooner rather than later. The Colts apparently have no need for Anthony Gonzalez to hurry back; Manning seems perfectly comfortable with Pierre Garcon (3-64-1), who scored his second touchdown in as many games, and Austin Collie (3-47).