GREEN BAY PACKERS 31, CLEVELAND BROWNS 3
The Packers took a while to get going and actually trailed 3-0 in the second quarter—at which point Spencer Havner took over. Who? Green Bay’s third-string tight end, on because of an injury to Jermichael Finley, went 45 yards for the Packers’ first touchdown and the rout was on. Ryan Grant did the heavy lifting with 148 rushing yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, while Aaron Rodgers needed just 20 passes—15 completions—to roll up 246 yards and three touchdowns. Greg Jennings (5-52) was his primary target, but Donald Driver (2-84-1) and Havner (2-59-1) had the big plays.
Ummm... Billy Cundiff made a field goal.
Fantasy Impact: While Derek Anderson (12-29-99-0-1) completed more passes this week than in the previous two combined, there is still nothing on the Cleveland roster that any self-respecting fantasy owner wants in his or her lineup. Mohamed Massaquoi was targeted eight times and caught one; Brian Robiskie was targeted five times and failed to record a catch. The Packers were firing on all cylinders, though Driver continues to outperform Jennings fantasy-wise. Of note: Donald Lee caught three balls for 39 yards and would stand to be in line for increased production if Finley is out for any length of time.
HOUSTON TEXANS 24, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 21
It was the best of halves, it was the worst of halves. Matt Schaub (20-30-264-2) and tight end Owen Daniels (7-123-1) played 100 yards worth of catch in the first half and Steve Slaton (18-67-1 on the ground, 4-22-1 as a receiver) scored twice as the Texans raced to a 21-0 lead. The second half wasn’t quite as friendly; Andre Johnson (2-62) left the game with a chest contusion that eventually led to him being hospitalized, and all the Houston offense could muster was a 50-yard field goal.
The Alex Smith era, version 2.0, began after Shaun Hill (6-11-45) was pulled at halftime. Smith had clearly been watching the Schaub-to-Daniels show, because he locked in on Vernon Davis (7-93-3) for three touchdowns. Smith finished 15-for-22 for 206 yards, but he was picked with 36 seconds left to seal the loss.
Fantasy Impact: Frank Gore returned from his ankle injury, but you wouldn’t know it from his stat line: 13 carries, 32 yards. Also notable is that he was targeted just once in Smith’s 22 attempts. Conversely, Michael Crabtree (5-56) saw equal looks from Hill and Smith while Josh Morgan (4-62) didn’t have a catch from Hill and Isaac Bruce (2-23) was targeted twice without a catch by Smith. While Chris Brown (4-14, 1-4) still touched the ball, it was Slaton getting both a goal-line carry (which he didn’t fumble and, unlike Brown, actually converted) and a TD reception inside the 10-yard line. With Johnson’s contribution limited, Schaub worked underneath; 18 of his 25 non-Andre targets went to tight ends and running backs.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 37, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 7
Vincent Jackson tore up Arrowhead Stadium in the first half, accumulating the entirety of his stat line—five catches for 142 yards and a touchdown—as the Bolts built a 20-0 lead. Philip Rivers cruised with 268 yards and three scores on 18-for-30 passing, but while Antonio Gates (5-55) matched Jackson for the team lead in catches the money shots went to Darren Sproles (3-58-1, all of the yardage coming on a long TD catch-and-run) and Malcolm Floyd (2-9-1).
The Chiefs never got anything going: not Larry Johnson (16-49) on the ground against the soft Chargers run D, although with Jamaal Charles (4-33) and Dantrell Savage (5-15) chipping in KC totaled 121 rushing yards. The passing game couldn’t even reach triple digits, with Bobby Wade (4-66) catching more passes than any two other Chiefs combined and accounting for more than two-thirds of the team’s receiving yardage. That’s correct, Matt Cassel amassed all of 97 yards on 10-of-25 passing while snapping his interception-less streak with a flurry of three second-half picks over a span of eight KC snaps.
Fantasy Impact: While there wasn’t much in the way of quantity, Dwayne Bowe continues to provide what little quality there is to the KC aerial attack with a TD as part of his two-catch, 11-yard afternoon. For a half, at least, we saw some vintage LaDainian Tomlinson: 66 yards on 14 carries. In the second stanza, however, it was more of LT Lately: nine carries, four of them for no gain or negative yardage, none of them longer than five yards, and four straight fruitless carries at the goal line after an apparent two-yard touchdown run was nullified by a penalty. No excuses: the one-time sure thing at the strip had four cracks from the seven yardline—three from the two and in—and couldn’t convert.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 42, ST. LOUIS RAMS 6
Mercy kept Peyton Manning (23-34-235-3) from extending his streak of 300-yard games to six, so he had to settle for three touchdown passes as the Colts rolled the Rams. Reggie Wayne (7-83-1) was his target of choice, though he was less productive after leaving briefly with a strained groin; by the time Wayne returned, Dallas Clark (3-44-1) had already scored and the throwing was limited by Jim Caldwell’s sympathy. Indy also turned to the ground game, giving Joseph Addai 20 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown. Donald Brown carried twice (for 58 yards) but left after injuring his shoulder; Chad Simpson (3-35-1) replaced him and capped the scoring with a 31-yards TD run.
Steven Jackson (23-134) keeps going and going and going, though he’s still looking for his first TD of the season. That and a 50-yard completion to Donnie Avery (2-58) constituted the highlights for the Rams—unless you’re into field goals.
Fantasy Impact: Aside from the deep ball to Avery, Marc Bulger (14-26-140-0-2) threw almost exclusively underneath. That Danny Amendola (5-39) and Keenan Burton (3-28) were the Rams’ leading receivers tells you everything you need to know. With Anthony Gonzalez getting close to a return, fantasy owners may be looking to decide how much value Austin Collie (4-36-1) and Pierre Garcon (3-24) will retain. Despite fewer catches Garcon was targeted more frequently (eight to Collie’s six), but it was Collie with the money shot. At the rate Manning is firing, there may be enough to go around for everybody.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 35, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 7
Tom Brady picked up where he left off, hopping the pond and throwing for 281.6 meters (308 yards) and three touchdowns against the hapless Buccaneers. Randy Moss (5-69) was quiet, leaving Wes Welker (10-107-1) to pick up the slack while making room for both Sam Aiken (2-66-1, 54 of them on a long TD catch-and-run) and Ben Watson (one catch, for a 35-yard TD). Laurence Maroney (13-43-1) handled the bulk of the rushes as this one was over early enough that seven different Patriots carried the ball.
Maybe years from now, Londoners can say they were there at the very beginning of the Josh Freeman era. At least his 2-4-16 stat line was interception free; the same cannot be said of Josh Johnson, who completed nine of 26 passes to teammates and three to Patriots. New England safety Brandon Merriweather was Tampa Bay’s second-leading pass-catcher with two, and both he and Antonio Bryant (2-51-1) found the end zone.
Fantasy Impact: Not that anyone cares much about the Bucs fantasy-wise at this juncture, but Derrick Ward (13-48, 1-8) is back in the RBBC picture alongside Carnell Williams (11-29, 2-28). And Kellen Winslow (2-9) was held to three or fewer catches and 30 or fewer yards for the third time in four games. Still concerned about Brady as an elite fantasy QB? Not only did he complete better than 70 percent of his passes for the second straight game, he also topped 300 yards for a second consecutive week and has multiple TD tosses in three in a row. Oh, and despite the four-touchdown laugher, New England still threw 32 times and ran just 28 times (including four quarterback scrambles).
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 27, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 17
Maybe news of Antoine Winfield’s absence failed to reach Pittsburgh; aside from an effective no-huddle drive at the end of the first half and a 40-yard completion to Santonio Holmes (2-59), Ben Roethlisberger (14-26-175-1) did not have anywhere near the success most expected. The NFL's leading receiver, Hines Ward, was held to one catch for three yards, while Heath Miller led the Steelers with six catches but amassed just 38 yards against the most fantasy-friendly secondary in the league. The only Steeler who seemed to exploit Minnesota’s backup corners was Mike Wallace (3-72-1), who not only led the team in receiving and scored their only offensive touchdown but also was the second-leading rusher with two end-arounds for 19 yards.
It’s not as if the Vikings had trouble moving the ball against the Steel Curtain; Brett Favre threw 51 times, completing 34 for 334 yards, while Adrian Peterson rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown and added 60 receiving yards as well. In all, the Vikings held a 13 minute advantage in time of possession, got a kickoff return touchdown and 49 combo yards from Percy Harvin, and received yet another monster contribution from emerging wideout Sidney Rice (11-136). Oh yeah, and they turned the ball over twice en route to potential game-tying field goals (or go-ahead touchdowns)—turnovers the Steelers converted directly into 14 points.
Fantasy Impact: It wasn’t just the pass that went off Chester Taylor’s hands and was returned for the deciding touchdown; Peterson’s four catches—second-most on the team—suggest the Vikings have found a way to not only keep him on the field in passing situations but also take advantage of his ability to run in space. Ask William Gay how he feels about taking on All Day head on. In Pittsburgh, the best offense was a good defense as they turned two Favre miscues into long defensive touchdowns. Also notable: Rashard Mendenhall’s 10-69 effort against a very good run defense—and Willie Parker’s one carry for two yards.
BUFFALO BILLS 20, CAROLINA PANTHERS 9
The Bills did very little of fantasy note. Against one of the worst run defenses in the league, Marshawn Lynch mustered just 40 yards on 17 carries—though he did score a touchdown to salvage his fantasy day. Ryan Fitzpatrick (11-22-123-1) was about as mediocre as expected; the surprise was how successful he was at getting the ball to Lee Evans, who paced the offense with five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. The other guy—remember Terrell Owens?—caught three balls for 27 yards and was thwarted on a key third-and-two end-around that netted just one yard.
Against a team that ranks dead-dog last in the NFL in rush defense, with two able-bodied first-round backs, the Panthers were able to rush for just 116 yards. DeAngelo Williams led the way with 89 yards and a score on 16 carries, and he added 50 more on five receptions; Jonathan Stewart rushed for 25 on seven carries and added 20 more on four grabs. Despite averaging 4.6 yards per carry, for some reason the Bills felt inclined to have Jake Delhomme throw 44 passes—with predictable results. Okay, so maybe the 325 yards were a welcome surprise, but the three interceptions were par for the course.
Fantasy Impact: Apparently, all it takes for Steve Smith (6-99) to have fantasy value is for Delhomme to throw 44 times—and target him a quarter of the time. Even with that workload Smith barely outshone something called Gary Barnidge (3-77). So much for Fred Jackson clinging to any fantasy value in the Buffalo backfield. He touched the ball five times and gained two yards.
NEW YORK JETS 38, OAKLAND RAIDERS 0
Mark Sanchez (9-15-143-1) is a really good quarterback... when his team rushes for 316 yards and his defense allows zero points. The Jets’ passing game was largely unneeded, with David Clowney’s four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown comprising the majority of its stats; no other Jet had more than two catches or 26 yards. All the heavy lifting was done on the ground, where Thomas Jones carried 26 times for 121 yards and a touchdown but was overshadowed by rookie Shonn Greene. On for the injured Leon Washington, Greene turned 19 totes into 144 yards and two touchdowns.
Mercifully, the Raiders only had the ball for 24 minutes. Justin Fargas was surprisingly adequate, with 67 yards on eight carries. Louis Murphy lit it up for the Oakland wideouts—and for Oakland wideouts, that means four catches for 58 yards.
Fantasy Impact: Those of you who had been starting fantasy defenses against the Raiders because of the colossal ineptitude of JaMarcus Russell (6-11-61-0-2) will be relieved to know that Bruce Gradkowski (10-19-97), who replaced Russell after halftime, wasn’t any better. Both lost fumbles, and neither could direct Oakland’s offense into the red zone until a late Gradkowski drive stalled at the two-yard line. For the Jets, Washington’s loss is a blow in multiple areas; while Greene can obviously pick up his share of the carries, it remains to be seen if either he or Jones can step up as a receiver out of the backfield. And the Raiders didn’t give the Jets much of an opportunity to test out kick returners to replace Washington, either; cornerback Dwight Lowry’s 17-yard effort hardly staked a claim on the role.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 45, CHICAGO BEARS 10
No question, Cedric Benson got his revenge. However, before he could cap a career day of 37 carries for 189 yards with a one-yard TD run, Carson Palmer (20-24-233) threw five touchdowns. The bulk of the production went directly to Chad Ochocinco, who caught half of Palmer’s completions for 118 yards and two scores. But Laveranues Coles (2-37-1) and Chris Henry (2-26-1) both found the end zone, as did little-used tight end J.P. Foschi for his very first career touchdown.
The Bears failed to answer Cincinnati’s touchdowns on their first four drives, finally awaking just before half with a field goal to cut the lead to 31-3. The deficit completely removed the ground game from the equation, as Matt Forte carried just six times for 24 yards; his 4-25 as a receiver was little salve. Devin Hester (8-101-1) was the loan bright spot in the passing game, doubling the output of any other teammate.
Fantasy Impact: Jay Cutler throwing 37 passes for 251 yards should have meant quality fantasy production from the Chicago receivers. Instead, Hester bogarted the bulk of the numbers; Earl Bennett (4-48), Johnny Knox (4-42), Greg Olsen (4-24), and Forte all had four catches but little to show for them. The Bengals similarly spread the wealth; after Ochocinco took his share off the top, Cincy’s other wideouts split six catches for 82 yards. Everyone knew Benson would get ample opportunity to show up his former team, but the Bengals did find room for Bernard Scott to get seven touches. His 6-17 on the ground was underwhelming, but he did add a 14-yard receptions.
DALLAS COWBOYS 37, ATLANTA FALCONS 21
The Cowboys keep forgetting they’re a running team. Sometimes that gets them in trouble, but against the Falcons it worked like a charm. Tony Romo sliced up the Falcons to the tune of 311 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to his new favorite receiver Miles Austin (6-171-2). Patrick Crayton not only made his limited catches count (2-9-1), he added a touchdown on a punt return as well. That left little for both former Romo BFF Jason Witten (5-53) or the once-highly regarded Dallas ground game of Marion Barber (14-47, 1-1), Felix Jones (8-37, 2-6), and Tashard Choice (no carries, one catch for 23 yards).
The day started well with an 80-yard march to a Roddy White (6-50-1) touchdown; after that it was pretty much downhill, with three punts and two turnovers before halftime. To Atlanta’s credit they didn’t bail on the run—not yet, at least—as Michael Turner (18-50-1) opened the second-half scoring. Two straight three-and-outs sandwiched between three Cowboy scoring drives took Turner out of the game, though, and Matt Ryan (19-35-198-2-2) wasn’t up to the task.
Fantasy Impact: Once again White and Tony Gonzalez (4-37) comprised the bulk of the Atlanta receiving corps numbers. No other Falcon had more than two catches, and only Eric Weems’ late 30-yard TD grab carried any fantasy value. On the Dallas side, Roy Williams continues to slide into oblivion. He was targeted five times—more than any Cowboy other than Austin (8) or Witten (7)—but managed only one catch on the day. With Austin taking over the role of deep threat and both Witten and Martellus Bennett (3-32) working underneath, there’s little domain left for Roy to roam.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 46, MIAMI DOLPHINS 34
To many teams, a 21-point deficit in the second quarter would spell doom; to the Saints, it was merely a challenge. Drew Brees’ day (22-38-298-1-3) was somewhat disappointing by his lofty standards; however, he called his own number twice at the goal line, scoring two rushing TDs but adding yet another wrinkle to the already messed up New Orleans backfield. Jeremy Shockey (4-105) enjoyed the Miami homecoming, while Marques Colston (5-72-1) was far and away the most targeted and would have had a second score had not his knee touched the ground just before he thrust the ball across the plane for what would have been the Saints’ first touchdown.
Ricky Williams upstaged Ronnie Brown with three touchdowns, including a 68-yard dash as part of a 9-80 afternoon. Brown’s 16-48-1 day wasn’t nearly as impressive, though the touchdown certainly salvaged some fantasy value. Miami’s rotation of receivers churned Brian Hartline (3-94, primarily on the strength of a 67-yard catch-and-run) and Greg Camarillo (5-55) to the top; at least they didn’t drop passes like Anthony Fasano (3-21) and Ted Ginn (2-16) did.
Fantasy Impact: The Dolphins don’t want Chad Henne (18-36-211-0-2) throwing 36 passes; getting him into a shootout with Brees is like bringing a slingshot to a gunfight. The ground game still produced 137 yards but was unable to close out the aforementioned three-TD lead thanks in no small part to Henne’s two interceptions being turned into Saints defensive touchdowns. The New Orleans backfield remains a fantasy nightmare. Mike Bell (12-80) was the most productive despite not getting a first-half carry. Reggie Bush carried three times but it took a double reverse and an acrobatic dive for him to get into the end zone and salvage a day in which he amassed just 26 yards from scrimmage. Pierre Thomas saw four carries in each half but mustered only 30 yards. And, of course, Brees sniped both of the goal line scores.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 24, NEW YORK GIANTS 17
The Cardinals received three touchdowns from their running backs and none from their wideouts; while that may not be their typical blueprint, it was certainly effective in a surprising road win in New York. Kurt Warner (20-36-231-1-1) was adequate, Larry Fitzgerald (6-83) was okay, and Anquan Boldin (3-75) was in obvious pain; the lone passing score went to sometimes-third-down back Jason Wright, while both Chris Wells (14-67-1 and 3-10 as a receiver) and Tim Hightower (4-9-1 and 2-11 through the air) reached the end zone. Not exactly how we’ve come to expect the Cards to win—but then again, the expectation has usually been that they don’t travel east well, either.
The Giants had 66 rushing yards and a 14-10 lead at halftime; you’d think they could feed Brandon Jacobs (13-76-1) and Ahmad Bradshaw (12-32) in the second half and grind out a win. Instead, Jacobs and Bradshaw combined for just 32 yards on 12 carries after the break, Eli Manning (19-37-243-1-3) threw a pair of picks, and the Giants could only muster a field goal over the final 30 minutes.
Fantasy Impact: The debate over New York’s No. 1 receiver continues: Hakeem Nicks (4-80-1), on a flukey tipped ball, scored the touchdown—though scores in four straight games suggests maybe it’s more than just luck; Steve Smith (4-69) seemed to be the go-to guy as the Giants attempted to make their move in the second half; and Mario Manningham (4-47) would have put up the best numbers had he not let a potential touchdown bounce off his hands. As if that weren’t complicated enough, tight end Kevin Boss (3-35) also reappeared in the game plan. Warner spread the ball around to nine different receivers, led of course by Fitzgerald. But Boldin spent most of the game hobbling and clearly was not able to get deep late in the game. Nonetheless, Steve Breaston (1-23) caught Warner’s first pass before disappearing for the rest of the game. Some of that had to do with Wells, who fumbled again yet also displayed a killer stiff arm and flashed the skills that earned him a first-round draft slot. The Cardinals aren’t about to turn into a grind-it-out squad, but it looks as if Wells could give them options.