HOUSTON TEXANS 28, CINCINNATI BENGALS 17
Is there a quarterback hotter than Matt Schaub? He tore up a Cincy secondary that had been faring quite well to the tune of 392 yards and four touchdowns in directing the Texans to a road win. Andre Johnson fought off bracket coverage for an 8-135 afternoon, but it was Owen Daniels with two touchdowns—one of them a diving one-handed stab—who stole the show. Steve Slaton added 102 receiving yards and a TD catch-and-run to 43 rushing yards.
No comeback magic for the Bengals, who dug their own hole by abandoning the run; Cedric Benson (16-44-1) had just four carries for 10 yards in the second half as Cincy lost the time of possession battle 22:06 to 7:54. Their six second-half possessions resulted in three three-and-outs and three turnovers. Carson Palmer contributed a solid 259 and one, with Chad Ochocinco (5-103) handling the yardage work and Laveranues Coles (4-40-1) hopping off the milk carton for a score.
Fantasy Impact: Six games in, it’s apparent these are no longer the pass-happy Bengals of yore. However, Palmer is still contributing enough yardage to make Ochocinco a solid performance league play, and Andre Caldwell (6-57) has become the most consistent secondary option for a spot start. The Texans didn’t have any goal line opportunities this week, and Slaton carried on two of Houston’s three running plays in the red zone. But while Chris Brown (9-45) still lurks, the real go-to guy in the red zone was Daniels; he was targeted on three of Schaub’s five throws in that area, catching two of them for touchdowns.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 26, DETROIT LIONS 0
Aaron Rodgers carved up the Lions all afternoon, completing 29 of 37 passes for 358 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He spread the wealth; nine different Packers caught passes and four of them topped 50 yards. Donald Driver (7-107) led the way, but the touchdowns went to secondary targets James Jones (2-55-1) and fullback John Kuhn (1-1-1). Ryan Grant could have been more productive; his 24-90 rushing and 3-17 receiving were helpful in performance leagues, but despite 17 yards he failed to score on three red-zone carries.
No Calvin Johnson? No offense. Daunte Culpepper stepped in for an injured Matthew Stafford and was underwhelming before leaving with a hamstring injury early in the second half. He and Drew Stanton combined to complete 11 of 25 passes for 105 yards while throwing three picks. Kevin Smith did his part with 61 rushing yards on 15 carries; he simply wasn’t given an opportunity to contribute more.
Fantasy Impact: Sans Megatron, the Lions had zero downfield presence. Dennis Northcutt paced the receiving corps with five catches for 40 yards; Bryant Johnson (2-27) was the only other Lion to catch more than one ball. Greg Jennings continues to disappoint; his 6-64 day was okay, but he hasn’t been the Packers’ most productive fantasy wideout since that game-winning touchdown against the Bears in Week 1.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 33, BALTIMORE RAVENS 31
Of course, a game featuring two highly-regarded defenses produced 64 points and 874 total yards. The Vikings marched to quick touchdowns on their first two drives, then did nothing until after halftime when they took four straight drives inside the Baltimore 22—and settled for three field goals. Adrian Peterson (22-143) showed flashes, including a 58-yard run, but it was Brett Favre’s efficiency (21-29-276-3) and the speed of Sidney Rice (6-176) that propelled the Vikings to victory. For the fifth straight game Favre completed passes to at least seven Vikings, with Visanthe Shiancoe (4-48-2) and Bernard Berrian (3-18-1) finding the end zone.
Once Joe Flacco (28-43-385-2) figured out that Pro Bowl corner Antoine Winfield was out of the game, he went to work on backups Karl Paymah and Bennie Sapp. Derrick Mason (7-97-1) and Mark Clayton (3-57-1) took turns abusing the Vikings’ overmatched corners, with little help from the safeties. Todd Heap (3-51) and Kelley Washington (3-48) weren’t exactly blanketed, either—and none of the four led the Ravens in receiving. That honor went to Ray Rice, who caught 10 passes for 117 yards to augment 10 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Fantasy Impact: The Ravens only ran two plays inside the Vikings’ red zone, and both were passes. That limited the carries for Willis McGahee (7-3); four of his seven totes came inside his own 10-yard line. And after Rice’s performance Sunday, it’s not as if Baltimore has a reason to get McGahee or Le’Ron McClain (one carry for one yard, one catch for minus-two yards) involved. Rice has asserted himself as Favre’s favorite downfield target, but the real swing spot appears to be the target of choice underneath. When Percy Harvin (2-10 while nursing—and eventually aggravating—a shoulder injury) is healthy and defenses aren’t all over the bubble screen, Favre likes to go to him; if that option is taken away, it opens the middle of the field for Shiancoe.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 48, NEW YORK GIANTS 27
All Drew Brees needed, apparently, was a challenge. After back-to-back shutouts against lesser opponents, Brees toasted the (formerly) top-ranked pass defense for 369 yards and four touchdowns. Marques Colston (8-166-1) and Lance Moore (6-78-1) did the bulk of the damage, but Robert Meachem (2-70-1) was once again a downfield target and no Saint enjoyed besting the Giants more than Jeremy Shockey (4-37-1). The ground game wasn’t to be ignored, either; Pierre Thomas (15-72) and Mike Bell (15-34-1) split most of the carries, while Reggie Bush (6-17-1 and 1-7 receiving) also contributed and Heath Evans (1-2-1) stole another touchdown.
The Giants found themselves down 14-0 early and were never able to get back within single-digits. As such, the ground game was limited to 17 carries between Ahmad Bradshaw (10-48-1) and Brandon Jacobs (7-33), with only five of them in the second half. The offensive burden was too much for Eli Manning, who completed just 14 of 31 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown before giving way to David Carr. Mario Manningham (4-50-1) got his numbers early; once it went to garbage time Hakeem Nicks (5-114-1) stepped to the fore and Steve Smith (4-44) attempted to salvage his day.
Fantasy Impact: Jacobs appeared to suffer a stinger, though it may have been the score and not the injury that limited his workload in the second half; both Giants backs were effective (4.8 yards per carry), but the score dictated a pass-heavy second half. Speaking of the New York passing game, who’s your No. 1? Nicks has been the top fantasy producer the past two weeks; Smith held that honor the two previous weeks, while Manningham was the top dog in the first two games. The Saints’ backfield is no less of a fantasy mess; Thomas was by far the most productive at almost five yards per carry, yet he handled roughly 40 percent of the touches while Bell and Bush didn’t even hit three yards per carry. And all three had carries inside the 10. That makes it extremely tough to start any Saints back with any degree of confidence.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 27, CLEVELAND BROWNS 14
If not for four turnovers—three in a span of four offensive plays, sandwiching a pair of Cleveland fumbles—the Steelers would have won this game handily thanks to 557 yards of offense. Much of that came, somewhat surprisingly given the Browns' struggles to stop the run, via the air; Ben Roethlisberger threw for 417 yards and two touchdowns, boosting both Hines Ward (8-159-1) and Santonio Holmes (5-104) over the century mark. There was enough left over for Heath Miller (5-80-1) to extend his hot streak and third receiver Mike Wallace (2-50) to pad his stats as well. Despite somewhat limited opportunities, the ground game was effective when Rashard Mendenhall (17-62-1) carried the ball; not so much with Willie Parker (7-26) taking carries.
The Browns once again unleashed their most effective offensive weapon; if only they could line up in kick return formation more frequently. Joshua Cribbs not only led the Browns in rushing (6-45), he produced his third return touchdown (two kicks, one punt) and was almost as effective a passer as Derek Anderson (9-24-122-1-1). Cleveland also got a rare offensive touchdown, though it’s unlikely Lawrence Vickers (1-1-1 as a receiver) was in any fantasy lineups.
Fantasy Impact: Anderson, who fumbled twice and threw a pick, now has 11 completions in two games, making it extremely difficult to bank on Mohamed Massaquoi (5-83) for fantasy help. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that with the departure of Braylon Edwards Massaquoi has emerged as the Browns’ primary receiver. By contrast, almost everyone is in play in Pittsburgh. The exception might be Parker, who didn’t look fast in his return from turf toe and fumbled one of his eight touches. His saving grace might be that Mendenhall followed up Parker’s fumble with a fumble of his own on the Steelers’ very next offensive snap.
CAROLINA PANTHERS 28, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 21
In the battle of which run defense was less porous, the Panthers reprised their Week 14 gashing of Tampa Bay with 267 rushing yards and three touchdowns. DeAngelo Williams (30-152-2) once again inflicted the bulk of the damage, including the game-winning score in the game’s final minute, but Jonathan Stewart (17-110-1) added fantasy value himself in scoring for the second straight week. That was about all the Carolina offense had going for it, as Jake Delhomme (9-17-65-1-2) was brutal once again.
Tampa Bay’s offense peaked with Carnell Williams (16-77-1) going 20 yards for a touchdown on their first offensive series. After that it was a 97-yard kickoff return by Sammie Stroughter (3-65 as Tampa’s leading receiver) and a Bucs defensive touchdown that kept this one close. Josh Johnson (11-17-147-0-1, 8-45) posted a third straight game with at least 40 rushing yards, which isn’t exactly ideal for your quarterback; neither are five fumbles, though the Bucs recovered four of them.
Fantasy Impact: Good luck finding consistency in the Tampa Bay passing game; Kellen Winslow followed up last week’s big numbers with just three catches for 29 yards, while Antonio Bryant (2-37) also took a step back from last week’s season-high 62-yard effort. That Johnson rushed for more yardage than all but one of his pass-catchers tells you something about the direction of that offense. Steve Smith’s only bad games against the Bucs had come with backup quarterbacks at the helm. That ended Sunday when he caught just one pass for four yards. He was targeted deep on each of Carolina’s first two possessions, but he didn’t have a reception until midway through the fourth quarter. He appeared to be injured at one point, but it may have also been simply frustration. At any rate, he’s scores for the season and in serious danger of following Terrell Owens off the fantasy radar.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 14, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 6
Don’t let the score fool you, there were no touchdowns in this snoozer. In fact, there wasn’t much of anything offensively. At least Matt Cassel (17-32-186) was kind enough to devote the bulk of his attention to Dwayne Bowe (6-109) to provide the Chiefs with some fantasy relevancy.
Entering the game the thinking was that the Chiefs had let everyone other than the Raiders pass all over them, and the Redskins’ passing game couldn’t possibly be as bad as the Raiders. Oops. Jason Campbell threw for 89 yards and a pick before being pulled for Todd Collins, who completed his first pass for 42 yards to Santana Moss (his only catch of the game)—then went five-for-13 for 32 yards. Clinton Portis (15-109 and 3-15) left the game with an apparent ankle injury, then returned and broke off his longest run of the year. However, despite having Mike Sellers in front of him and only one man to beat, he still managed to be tackled before reaching the end zone and the Redskins couldn’t punch it across.
Fantasy Impact: Portis managed to escape the easiest portion of his schedule with just one 100-yard game and one rushing touchdown. He won’t see another legitimate cupcake until the Raiders in Week 14, and with the Washington offense looking dead in the water it’s extremely difficult to get excited about his fantasy prospects. The same could be said for Larry Johnson (23-83 and 3-12), who has neither a 100-yard game nor a touchdown this year despite averaging better than 20 touches per game. However, at least the Chiefs have five soft run defenses (Oakland, Buffalo, Cleveland, and the Chargers twice) cued up over the next two months.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 23, ST. LOUIS RAMS 20
Here’s hoping you didn’t hit the panic button on Maurice Jones-Drew after his limited touches over the past two games. MoJo kicked off the soft spot in his schedule with 188 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. That should have been enough to ensure an easy win, but instead the Jags made it difficult with three turnovers—two in the red zone. David Garrard stayed hot at home, throwing for 335 yards; both Mike Sims-Walker (9-120) and Torry Holt (5-101) were beneficiaries.
Once again, Steven Jackson was the lone bright light with 128 yards of offense (50 rushing, 78 receiving). Marc Bulger (22-34-213-1) returned to the lineup but completed only one pass down the field, a 21-yarder to Keenan Burton (5-37); Jackson had a 38-yard catch-and-run for the Rams’ longest gain of the afternoon.
Fantasy Impact: Donnie Avery should have been in line for a big day against a Jacksonville secondary that hadn’t shown much acumen in covering wide receivers; instead, he was targeted only three times—six other Rams, including two tight ends and two running backs, saw at least as many throws—and caught one, though it was the Rams’ lone offensive touchdown. That’s about all the proof you need that there is zero downfield element to whatever version of the West Coast offense the Rams are running. Mike Thomas (7-52) saw more attention from Garrard and could be nosing his way onto the fantasy radar. He’s definitely behind Sims-Walker and Holt in the pecking order, but it won’t be surprising to find Jacksonville facing the need to play catch-up—putting them in position to use their three-receiver set, which in turn puts Thomas on the field.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 13, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 9
On the one hand, you take away the 86-yard touchdown to Zach Miller (6-139-1), aided by abysmal tackling in the Eagles secondary and sweet downfield blocking from Louis Murphy (no catches on the day), and it was the same old JaMarcus Russell (17-28-224-1-2). Or maybe not: it was Russell’s 13-yard completion on third down that iced the win for the Raiders. The Miller score being the only touchdown in the game, there was little else of fantasy import here. Justin Fargas (23-87) usurped Michael Bush (6-22) as Oakland’s primary ballcarrier, and Gary Russell (five catches for 55 yards, including that clinching third-down grab) was the only other Raider with any yardage of note.
Everyone knew going in that Oakland’s strength was its pass defense—everyone except maybe Andy Reid, who called 52 passes (against 11 handoffs), leading to a six-minute loss in the time of possession battle and an even more embarrassing loss to the Raiders. Brian Westbrook amassed 141 yards from scrimmage, 50 of them on just six carries. Donovan McNabb (22-46-269) lost his left tackle early in the game and spent the rest of the afternoon misfiring as he tried to run away from Richard Seymour. At least DeSean Jackson (6-94) was back on the radar, and Brent Celek (4-75) never left. And that’s the end of the highlights from Philly’s visit to the Bay Area.
Fantasy Impact: The Eagle offense looked dramatically out of sync, and not just when Reid tried to rush Michael Vick (one carry for -4 yards) onto the field. Issues along the offensive line and the staunch refusal to run the football played directly into the Raiders’ hands. Speaking of hands, the Raiders completed twice as many passes to wide receivers as last week; yep, they finished with two catches for a whopping six yards. Miller put up nice numbers this week, but there is absolutely nothing in the Oakland offense that can be trusted on a weekly basis.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 27, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 3
Kurt Warner (32-41-276-2-1) completed his first 12 passes, and the rout was on. Larry Fitzgerald (13-100-1) did the heavy lifting, but Steve Breaston (7-77-1) played second fiddle while Anquan Boldin (6-54) stayed in the shadows. Tim Hightower (13-32-1 plus 4-26 receiving) continues to hover on the fringe of fantasy relevancy. Chris Wells (12-29 and 1-7) saw almost as much work, but the 25 running back attempts is a season high and only the second time this year Cardinal backs have seen more than 15 carries in a game.
Before Seattle even ran an offensive play they were down 14 points, and they were never able to recover. They crossed midfield once, on their third series, thanks to a 42-yard completion by their punter; the drive stalled, and they had to settle for a field goal. The Seahawks ran 25 fewer plays than Arizona, averaged two yards less per play, and held the ball for a miniscule 17:10. As you can imagine, the individual stat lines weren’t pretty. Matt Hasselbeck (10-29-112-0-1) was sacked five times and missed open receivers when he was actually given time to throw, laying an egg at home against a defense that entered the game ranked third in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. John Carlson’s 55 yards on two catches (one of them the aforementioned 42-yard gain) led Seattle’s receiving corps.
Fantasy Impact: The Cardinals came into the game having allowed a 100-yard receiver in three straight contests; Nate Burleson (2-40) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (4-34) couldn’t even combine for that much. With no ground game to speak of (Julius Jones led the way with five yards on five carries) and and an injury-riddled offensive line that allowed five sacks to an Arizona defense that hadn’t had any since Week 2—at home, no less—a Seahawks’ passing game that had looked so good with Hasselbeck at the helm in two previous games now appears as if it can no longer be trusted. It’s evident Arizona can’t change its spots. That means Wells’ fantasy value going forward is nil, at least until he learns how to pass protect well enough to see significant playing time when the Cards aren’t holding a two-touchdown lead.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 59, TENNESSEE TITANS 0
Neither snow nor the Titans’ 31st-ranked pass defense could slow Tom Brady, who threw five touchdown passes in the second quarter and finished with 380 yards and six scores before giving way to Brian Hoying. It wasn’t all Brady; Laurence Maroney capitalized on an early injury to Sammy Morris by rushing for 123 yards and a touchdown, and Hoying capped the scoring with a touchdown dive of his own. In between, Randy Moss (8-129-3) and Wes Welker (10-150-2) abused Tennessee’s rookie corners before making their own early exits.
Chris Johnson carried 17 times for 128 yards. Hey, they got lit up 59-donut; there's nothing to see here.
Fantasy Impact: The 0-6 Titans turned to Vince Young again, and he put up better numbers than Kerry Collins. That’s not saying much: Young threw one pick in two passes (the other was incomplete); Collins also threw a pick (one of five Tennessee turnovers, two of which Collins was personally responsible for) and completed two of 12 passes for a net of negative seven yards. The Patriots did whatever they wanted to Tennessee, so take Maroney’s big game with a grain of salt; after all, BenJarvis Green-Ellis added 67 yards on six carries. But if Morris is out for any length of time, and with Fred Taylor already on the shelf, all of a sudden Maroney has some fantasy value.
BUFFALO BILLS 16, NEW YORK JETS 13
The number that kept the Bills in this game is five. Not the five-for-five passing for Trent Edwards before he was knocked out of the game with a concussion. No, it was the five picks Mark Sanchez threw, keeping the Bills around long enough to pull off the upset. From a fantasy perspective there were few bright spots. Buffalo rushed for 142 yards, but it was largely split between Marshawn Lynch (19-61) and Fred Jackson (15-52). Lee Evans paced the passing game with four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown, but he was the only Bill with more than 35 receiving yards. And while Ryan Fitzpatrick kept the Bills in the game, his 10-25-116-1-1 was hardly enough to set the waiver wire on fire this week.
The Jets’ ground game was very very good; Thomas Jones set a franchise record with 210 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, while Leon Washington chipped in 99 on 15 totes. Washington also led the Jets in receiving with three catches for 46 yards, but that was trumped by five Mark Sanchez completions to the Bills’ secondary. Sanchez (10-29-119-0-5) wasn’t helped by a couple of drops by Braylon Edwards (3-40), one of which he tipped up into the air for an INT. Now that’s the Edwards Cleveland remembers.
Fantasy Impact: Clearly, the anointing of Sanchez as the next Namath was premature. But if the Jets are to get back into the AFC East race it will be on the strength of their ground game anyway. The key will be for Sanchez to be a better game manager; five drive-killing INTs might mean a call to the bullpen for Kellen Clemens. The Bills also need to rely on the run, which might mean enough of a workload to make both Lynch and Jackson fantasy relevant. The loss of Edwards for any length of time won’t help. If Terrell Owens (3-13 plus one carry for nine yards) thought Edwards was the worst quarterback he’s played with, wait until he spends some quality time with Fitzpatrick.
ATLANTA FALCONS 21, CHICAGO BEARS 14
While the usual suspects did the damage for Atlanta, numbers were subdued across the board. Michael Turner saw only 13 carries, but his 30 yards included a five-yard touchdown run. Neither Roddy White (4-56-1) nor Tony Gonzalez (4-52-1) posted gaudy digits, both found the end zone. As a result, Matt Ryan’s 19-33-185 was bailed out with a couple scoring strikes to offset his two INTs.
Each game reinforces the point that when Chicago traded for Jay Cutler (27-43-300-2-2) they took the offensive onus off of Matt Forte and placed it on their passing game. To be sure, Forte didn’t help his cause with a pair of goal line fumbles, but he touched the ball 20 times and produced 60 yards. Cutler not only accounted for more than twice the offensive plays, he also outrushed Forte 34-23. Of course, his two picks—one in the red zone—proved every bit as costly as Forte’s fumbles.
Fantasy Impact: If the Bears have a No. 1 receiver, it’s Devin Hester, whose 6-83 paced the Chicago passing game. But with Cutler throwing so much, there will frequently be enough to go around. Sunday night, for example, Johnny Knox (3-34-1) and Greg Olsen (5-57-1) both scored while Earl Bennett (4-57) put up numbers that would be of use in larger performance-scoring leagues. Fantasy owners who entered the Sunday night game with a Falcon on their roster and a moderate deficit on their hands likely got what they needed. The only other Falcons with a whiff of fantasy value are Michael Jenkins and Jerious Norwood; the former caught just two of the six passes directed his way, while the latter left with a hip flexor injury after 33 yards on six touches.