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Fantasy Game Recaps - Week 4
John Tuvey
October 5, 2009
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Chicago Bears 48, Detroit Lions 24

Despite the domination on the scoreboard, Chicago’s stats aren’t that gaudy. How is that possible? Because the average starting field position on the Bears’ 11 drives was the Detroit 46. Really. After starting their first drive at their own 27, Chicago started no worse than their own 39 (once), and five drives began in Lion territory. So the Bears didn’t have that far to go, which is how Jay Cutler can throw two touchdowns (and run for another) despite just 141 passing yards. Matt Forte’s 37-yard TD run in the fourth quarter accounted for the most significant fantasy portion of his 12-121-1 outing, but Earl Bennett’s 32 yards led all Bears receivers. Johnny Knox opened the second half with a 101-yard kickoff return and also caught five passes, but he left the game with an apparent shin injury.

The Lions’ usual suspects put up some very nice fantasy numbers. Kevin Smith scored twice despite just 51 yards from scrimmage and a 1.5 yards per carry average, while Calvin Johnson caught eight balls for 133 yards and added another dozen yards on an end around. Matthew Stafford flashed some of his skills as well, throwing for 296 yards and a touchdown before leaving with an apparent knee injury and turning the reins over to Daunte Culpepper.

Fantasy Impact: Smith continues to find the end zone despite poor efficiency, suggesting that Jim Schwartz won’t abandon the run and Smith can remain a reasonably safe fantasy start. Brandon Pettigrew (4-64) was the Lions’ second-leading receiver on the day, and when you consider that backup tight end Will Heller added three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown, when Pettigrew finally takes over the role full-time there should be fantasy value there. Knox is beginning to look more and more like the Bears’ go-to receiver, though there were also mitigating factors: Devin Hester left the game with a shoulder injury and Greg Olsen did score a touchdown on his lone catch.

Cincinnati Bengals 23, Cleveland Browns 20

Quite frankly, more was expected of the Cincinnati offense, though were it not for a blocked field goal attempt and a missed extra point this one would have been over in regulation. Carson Palmer’s numbers look very nice, 230 yards and two touchdowns, and Chad Ochocinco was on the business end of both scores despite just three catches for 24 yards, but good luck finding fantasy help amongst the other eight Bengals who caught passes; none topped 44 yards, and the leading receivers were fullback Brian Leonard (six grabs) and tight end Daniel Coats (four). The biggest disappointment was Cedric Benson, who carried 18 times for 74 yards against one of the league’s softest run defenses.

Maybe the move to Derek Anderson was warranted. While his 26-48-269-1-1 outing wasn’t overly impressive, it did pave the way for some helpful fantasy performances. Jerome Harrison, filling in for the injured Jamal Lewis and James Davis, carried 29 times for 121 yards and added another 31 yards on five catches. Rookie Mohammed Massaquoi was Anderson’s go-to receiver with eight catches for 148 yards, but it was tight end Steve Heiden (5-33-1) who caught the touchdown toss. Braylon Edwards was targeted five times and dropped at least one; he failed to record a catch on the afternoon.

Fantasy Impact: Even if Lewis returns to the lineup, Harrison should be getting a Leon Washington-type share of the action. Alonside Joshua Cribbs, who had a 58-yard kickoff return and 50-yard punt return among his 222 return yards, Harrison is the only Brown that throws any sort of scare into opposing defenses. After teasing us with solid play thus far, Benson was a dog against a Cleveland defense he should have owned. His performance suggests more than ever that the Bengals are Palmer’s team, and that the quarterback will put up some very nice passing game numbers despite a receiving corps that appears to be Ochocinco and a bunch of two- and three-catch guys.

Houston Texans 29, Oakland Raiders 6

Here’s why you stick with the run: through seven carries Steve Slaton had six yards and a fumble. Then he busted off a 32-yard touchdown run, followed that up with an 18-yard touchdown catch-and-run, and all of a sudden he was a fantasy hero once again. Houston also shied away from Andre Johnson after hitting him early with a 62-yard completion. Owen Daniels (2-48) and Kevin Walter (1-41) also had long completions, but the Raiders were so inept offensively that had Houston quit after recording a safety and Jacoby Jones returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown they still would have won.

Nothing of any value to see here. JaMarcus Russell completed 12 of 33 passes for just 126 yards, which mean that Zach Miller (3-33) and any other receiver on the roster suffered for it. And a ground game with three talented backs could do nothing against one of the softer run defenses in the league; Darren McFadden finished with negative-three yards on six carries, Michael Bush had 10 on three totes, and Justin Fargas paced the effort with 10 carries for 24 yards.

Fantasy Impact: Miller entered the season as a fringe fantasy starter and helper in TE-mandatory PPR and performance leagues. But Russell’s woes have severely limited his opportunities, to the point where he simply can’t be trusted in a fantasy lineup. Whether it was the fact that Oakland’s offense posed no threat or that Houston built a 20-6 lead by halftime, opportunities for the Texans’ passing game were limited. Schaub’s 22 attempts were his fewest in a full game since the 2007 season, and no Texan caught more than two balls.

Indianapolis Colts 34, Seattle Seahawks 17

Peyton Manning is dialed in. The league’s leading pitchman topped 300 yards for the fourth straight game with a 31-41-353-2-1 stat line. He spread the wealth, with usual suspects Dallas Clark (8-80) and Reggie Wayne (6-74-1) leading the way but newcomers Pierre Garcon (3-71) and Austin Collie (6-65-1) getting involved as well. And don’t overlook the running game, where Joseph Addai (12-46-1 plus 7-50 receiving) and Donald Brown (9-33-1 and 1-13) both found the end zone.

Talk about your garbage time. Seneca Wallace rolled up 114 passing yards on Seattle’s final two drives, when they were down by 31 points. Take that—plus a touchdown toss to Owen Schmitt and a seven-yard TD scramble—off his 33-45-257-1 final line and it was an abysmal afternoon. The Seahawks were down so quickly they couldn’t mount any sort of ground game, leaving Julius Jones just 14 touches with which he produced 35 yards. T.J. Houshmandzadeh was Wallace’s primary target, catching eight balls for 103 yards; Deion Branch (6-49), John Carlson (5-39), and Nate Burleson (4-31) all had adequate catches but didn’t do much damage down the field.

Fantasy Impact: Housh is just starting to get comfortable with Wallace... which of course means Matt Hasselbeck should be back any time now. Justin Forsett (three catches, eight yards) was used primarily on Seattle’s final two drives; prior to that it was Jones (three catches, 10 yards) handling the backfield duties. Edgerrin James (4-16, 1-6) was worked in as a token for an appreciative Indy crowd. The Colts backfield is still a job share, but it’s also producing. Sadly, at present there appears to be no rhyme or reason to the division of touches, so it will take an extremely cushy matchup or an injury to one of the backs for either Addai or Brown to be worthy of serious fantasy consideration.

Jacksonville Jaguars 37, Tennessee Titans 17

Helped by the Titans' early struggles (see below for details), Jacksonville tallied points on five of their first six possessions and had their way with the Tennessee defense. David Garrard spearheaded most of the damage, completing 27 of 37 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns. Maurice Jones-Drew touched the ball just nine times, producing 40 yards and a touchdown; Mike Sims-Walker was Jacksonville’s weapon of choice with a career-high seven catches for 91 yards and two scores.

Tennessee never got rolling, opening the game with four three-and-outs on their first five drives, then turning the ball over each of their next three. By that point the burden was on Kerry Collins (29-48-284-1-2) instead of the ground game, and the Titans couldn’t recover. Rookie Kenny Britt (7-105) and free agent acquisition Nate Washington (7-66-1) continue to steal the spotlight from Justin Gage (1-15) in Tennessee’s passing game.

Fantasy Impact: Chris Johnson (16-83) averaged just under five yards every time he touched the ball, but the Titans threw 48 passes and gave Johnson just 16 carries and another three receptions, limiting his opportunities for big plays. You want to talk limited: LenDale White carried twice for two yards and had one seven-yard reception. Jacksonville had this one salted away so early that they gave Rashard Jennings (9-53) a test drive in place of Jones-Drew. Greg Cook (3-20) got some touches as well, making this a best-case scenario for both Jacksonville and MoJo’s fantasy owners in that he got them a score and the Jags won but with just the nine touches it was almost an off day for Jones-Drew.

New York Giants 27, Kansas City Chiefs 16

Steve Smith (11-134-2) took the first two bites with a pair of early touchdowns, and after that there wasn’t much left to go around. The Giants’ ground game produced 156 yards but no touchdowns, and the split between Brandon Jacobs (21-92) and Ahmad Bradshaw (12-64) didn’t leave either with much fantasy value. Kevin Boss (4-41) was the only Giant besides Smith with more than one catch; Mario Manningham made his a big one with a 43-yard gain, but Hakeem Nicks’ 51-yarder was bigger—and it resulted in a touchdown. In all Eli Manning rolled up 292 yards and three touchdowns before leaving with an apparent heel injury.

Garbage time numbers count the same, so don’t beat up Matt Cassel (15-32-127-2) just because his scores came after his team fell behind 27-3. Sean Ryan (5-58-1) paced the Chiefs in both catches and yardage, while Bobby Wade (2-8) accounted for the second scoring strike. Larry Johnson touched the ball 21 times (18 carries for 53 yards, three catches for one yard), but the Chiefs’ offense was mostly ineffective; aside from the field goal that resulted from a turnover in Giants’ territory, the Chiefs didn’t cross midfield until the fourth quarter.

Fantasy Impact: It’s beginning to look more and more like the Chiefs have nothing to offer fantasy owners. Maybe Dwayne Bowe (1-11) if and when he’s fully healthy, or Cassel if you’re desperate, but the running game isn’t producing and no receiver is threatening to emerge as a consistent go-to guy. The Giants didn’t generate a touchdown in the ground game, but the Jacobs/Bradshaw tandem averaged 4.7 yards per carry and continues to provide enough work for two fantasy-worthy backs in performance and yardage leagues. Interesting to note that NIcks’ return seemed to cut into Manningham’s numbers more than Smith’s.

New England Patriots 27, Baltimore Ravens 21

The Patriots didn’t exactly light up the Ravens; Tom Brady’s numbers (21-32-258-1) were subdued, though they were helped by a rushing score. And while Baltimore’s streak of not allowing 100-yard rushers remains intact, New England used a committee of backs—Fred Taylor (7-25), Kevin Faulk (5-22), Sammy Morris (6-21-1 plus 5-35 as a receiver), even Laurence Maroney (7-6)—to balance their offense. Wes Welker returned after a two-game absence and caught six balls for 48 yards, while Randy Moss was limited to just three catches but turned them into 50 yards and a score.

Looking at the numbers suggests the Ravens did what they wanted to do offensively. Ray Rice rushed for 103 yards on 11 carries and added another 49 on five receptions, while Joe Flacco threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Derrick Mason (7-88-1) was the primary beneficiary, though Todd Heap (4-46), Mark Clayton (5-45), and Kelley Washington (4-31) also got in on the fun. But a combination of lousy field position—the Ravens started on average at their own 22—and a failure to finish—one red-zone drive ended with an INT, another with Clayton’s fourth-down drop—doomed the Ravens just as much as a fumble on the opening kickoff.

Fantasy Impact: Willis McGahee continued his scoring spurt with a touchdown grab despite just six touches for 24 yards. And Mason (11 targets) and Clayton (10) split the go-to receiver duties—though Clayton’s key drop might cost him a few clutch looks down the road. The Patriots aren’t nearly the juggernaut they were in 2007, and that may be by design. New England won the time of possession battle in every quarter by anywhere from one and a half to three and a half minutes thanks to their committee-led backfield. Four backs with at least five carries won’t help fantasy folks; worse, fewer snaps and fewer throws actually hurts the value of the Patriots fantasy owners actually care about.

Washington Redskins 16, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

After a sluggish start the Redskins took five straight drives into Tampa Bay territory; the first four resulted in two picks, a punt, and a field goal before Washington finally got into the end zone. The turnovers and inability to finish kept the home team from making this one easy, though it didn’t seem to dramatically hurt the production of the few fantasy-friendly Redskins. Santana Moss (2-74-1) had another big play, a 59-yard touchdown, while Chris Cooley (5-65-1) was the primary target of Jason Campbell (12-22-170-2-3). More was expected of Clinton Portis (26-98) against a soft Bucs defense, but maybe we’re supposed to be happy with the fact that he’s even playing at all.

Josh Johnson’s first NFL start wasn’t a disaster, though his 13-22-106-1-1 didn’t exactly have fantasy owners beating down the door to pick him up. Johnson got a huge assist from Carnell Williams, who carried 16 times for 77 yards and added 22 yards on four receptions. Antonio Bryant also showed up, shaking off his lingering injury to pace the Bucs with four catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.

Fantasy Impact: With Johnson at the helm, more was expected from tight end Kellen Winslow (2-21). The real problem will come when Derrick Ward returns to split the ground game production with Cadillac. Unless Johnson only has eyes for Bryant going forward, it will be tough to start any Buc with confidence in all but the largest of fantasy leagues. At least the little offense the Redskins are generating is winding up in the hands of Cooley, Portis, and Moss—the guys fantasy owners care about. But against Tampa Bay, those numbers should have been much gaudier; Carolina and Kansas City offer up similar resistance, and if that’s all we can expect from Washington’s offense then they’ll become bench fodder once those NFC East foes start popping back up on the schedule.

Miami Dolphins 38, Buffalo Bills 10

Ronnie Brown took almost as many snaps as Chad Henne; okay, maybe not, but the Dolphins ran plenty of Wildcat and used a ground game that produced 250 yards to overwhelm the Bills. Brown did the heavy lifting, carrying 20 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns, while Ricky Williams chipped in 16 carries for 85 yards and touchdown of his own. Henne threw just 22 times (against 45 rushing attempts for the Fins), completing 14 for 115 yards and a touchdown to Brian Hartline (2-17-1). Greg Camarillo (4-42) was the favored target in Miami’s minimalist passing game.

Terrell Owens caught a pass—three, in fact, for 60 yards—while Lee Evans had 60 yards on two catches, but it was Josh Reed who scored a three-yard touchdown on his only grab. The beleaguered Bills were down yet another offensive lineman, which certainly didn’t help the ground game; neither did a 15-minute difference in time of possession, Trent Edwards’ three interceptions, or a 14-point halftime deficit.

Fantasy Impact: The much-ballyhooed Buffalo backfield battle saw Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch split touches almost right down the middle, with Jackson (9-42 and 3-26 receiving) significantly more productive than Lynch (8-4 on the ground but 5-43 as a receiver). A mere 46 yards of rushing isn’t nearly enough to split between two backs. Miami, on the other hand, is putting up more than enough on the ground to make not only Brown a fantasy stud but Williams a reasonable plug-in play as well. And with Henne at the helm, that’s unlikely to change.

New Orleans Saints 24, New York Jets 10

Drew Brees (20-32-190) hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in two weeks, and yet the Saints won the battle of the unbeatens—with defense, of all things. Pierre Thomas punctured the Jets on the ground (19-86-1) and in the air (4-46 as the Saints’ leading receiver), though New Orleans didn’t get an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter. Jeremy Shockey pitched in 4-34, but as a group Saints’ wide receivers managed just seven catches for 74 yards.

The Jets’ recipe had been to win with defense and a dominant ground game, leaving Mark Sanchez to manage the game. Instead, two of Sanchez’s four turnovers left Gang Green with a 17-point deficit and took much of the running game off the table; Thomas Jones (13-48-1) and Leon Washington (4-17 and 4-24 as a receiver) combined for just 17 carries and 65 yards. Left to carry the offense and make up for his mistakes, Sanchez completed just over half of his 27 passes for 138 yards and three picks. The passing game yardage was consolidated between Washington, Jerricho Cotchery (5-71) and Dustin Keller (3-31).

Fantasy Impact: In addition to the undressing of Sanchez, this game featured the first NFL carries for rookie running back Shonn Greene (4-23). While the Jets want to run the ball significantly more than the 27 times they did against New Orleans, that doesn’t mean there will be enough carries to feed three fantasy backs. It’s too early to tell at whose expense Greene’s carries will come, though if this week is any indication it will be Washington. Thomas should only be getting paid for the second half of games; through two quarters this week he had five yards on four carries before busting out with 15-81 after the break. More importantly, Reggie Bush touched the ball just nine times and Lynell Hamilton was nowhere to be found. In other words, this looks like it’s Thomas’ gig, and all of a sudden the Saints don’t need to be an aerial circus to win.

Denver Broncos 17, Dallas Cowboys 10

Once again the Broncos used a late long pass to pull off a victory, only this time it wasn’t flukey. Brandon Marshall had a pedestrian 3-40 stat line before taking a Kyle Orton toss and weaving his way through the Dallas secondary for a 51-yard touchdown. The play also padded Orton’s stats, giving him a respectable 20-29-243-2 afternoon. The brunt of the offense was carried by the running backs; Correll Buckhalter turned 11 touches into 92 yards, while Knowshon Moreno carried 14 times for 65 yards and also caught two balls, turning one into a nine-yard touchdown.

After punishing teams on the ground, Dallas found the going much tougher in Denver. Marion Barber hardly looked limited in rushing 11 times for 41 yards and a score and adding 2-27 as a receiver, while Tashard Choice added 14-33 on the ground and 5-47 via the air. That left the offensive onus on Tony Romo (25-42-255-0-1) who turned to Sam Hurd (3-62) much more than expected, including multiple times in the end zone—without success—as the Cowboys attempted to send the game into overtime.

Fantasy Impact: With no go-to guy in the passing game, six different Cowboys caught at least three balls: Choice, Jason Witten (4-31), Hurd, Roy Williams (3-35), Miles Austin (3-19), and Patrick Crayton (3-16). Tough to hang your hat on a fantasy go-to guy when the ball is being spread around like that. Marshall was demonstratively frustrated on the Broncos’ field goal drive; he opened the possession with a 16-yard catch-and-run, then was ignored—specifically on third down, when Orton threw right to Moreno for a two-yard gain while Marshall was virtually uncovered on the left. Marshall’s TD catch and run was a thing of beauty; maybe it will finally spur Orton to look for him more frequently, or for Josh McDaniel to make him a larger part of the offense.

San Francisco 49ers 35, St. Louis Rams 0

The 49ers defense scored more than enough points to win this game, but the offense made contributions as well. Shaun Hill (14-24-152-2) continued his solid play with a pair of scoring strikes, one to new favorite target Vernon Davis (3-43-1) and one to Josh Morgan (2-39-1) proving that San Francisco receivers still have a pulse. Glen Coffee touched the ball on 28 of the 49ers’ 57 plays, producing 106 of the team’s 228 yards.

The Rams have been shut out in half of their games thus far this year. Never has the phrase “nothing to see here” seemed more appropriate.

Fantasy Impact: Steven Jackson accounted for 85 yards on 26 touches; the rest of his Rams teammates amassed 92 yards on 31 snaps. With Laurent Robinson done for the year, Donnie Avery may get his No. 1 receiver role back. Of course, this week all that meant was three catches for 47 yards. It’s clear Coffee is no Frank Gore, but with the San Francisco playing as well as they are he’ll continue to get the bulk of the touches. While fullbacks Moran Noris (2-8) and Delanie Walker (1-16) were more productive than Coffee’s three yards and a cloud of dust, there are no other backs on the horizon to usurp Coffee’s carries.

Pittsburgh Steelers 38, San Diego Chargers 28

The Steelers have been living by the pass this season, and Ben Roethlisberger didn’t disappoint with 333 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers. But Pittsburgh also got a significant contribution from the ground game for a change, as Rashard Mendenhall stepped in for the injured Willie Parker and delivered 165 yards and two touchdowns against a soft San Diego run defense. Heath Miller (8-70-2) was the receiving star, though Hines Ward (8-113) contributed as well and four other Steelers caught at least two passes for 26 or more yards.

San Diego’s flight was late arriving, as the team didn’t show up until halftime. By then the hole they had dug was too deep, though the tag team of Philip Rivers (21-36-254-3) and Antonio Gates (9-124-2) made the Steelers sweat. Due in part to the score, in part to the Steel Curtain, and in part due to its own issues the Chargers running game was non-existent in totaling 16 yards on eight carries. Gates drew most of Rivers’ attention, but Chris Chambers (4-39-1) and Vincent Jackson (4-56) were hardly ignored.

Fantasy Impact: Seems like a familiar refrain, but it still feels like it’s too early to write off LaDainian Tomlinson. Coming back from injury, traveling cross country, and facing a stout defense added up to an abysmal—though hardly unexpected—performance for LT. He should be healthier after the bye, and there are still dates with the Browns, Raiders, and Chiefs (twice) on the docket. Conversely, optimism should abound for Mendenhall, who has the Lions and Browns lined up before a home game against Minnesota ends the projected gravy train run. Mewelde Moore (2-2, 3-31-1 as a receiver) will handle third-down work, but just hope Parker doesn’t heal up and start taking some of Mendenhall’s touches.

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