ATLANTA FALCONS 31, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 17
A pair of early touchdowns allowed Atlanta the luxury of turning this game over to Michael Turner, who battered the Redskins for 166 yards and two touchdowns. The first helped the Falcons to a 24-3 halftime lead; the second stemmed the tide of a comeback that had pulled Washington to within a touchdown. Turner was responsible for 180 of Atlanta’s 306 yards of offense, leaving little for Matt Ryan (17-24-135-1-1) and the passing game. Tony Gonzalez (5-41-1) scored the Falcons’ first touchdown, while Roddy White (3-27) was nearly invisible.
Aside from an early pick-six that dug a deep hole, the Redskins’ offense was working as well as it has all year. Clinton Portis was knocked out of the game with a concussion, but Ladell Betts picked up the ground game with 70 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. After opening with two incompletes and a pick, Jason Campbell went 15-19 for 196 yards and a touchdown, spreading the ball amongst nine receivers. Fred Davis (2-26) was the popular fantasy replacement for Chris Cooley, but it was Mike Sellers (3-56) and Todd Yoder (1-3-1) who posted the better fantasy numbers.
FANTASY IMPACT: Despite Portis’ array of nicks and bruises and year-long ineffectiveness, the Redskins have refused to give Betts significant touches. His first extended action produced 93 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown and will likely earn him more work regardless of Portis’ health. Turner looks to have regained the burst that was missing in the early portion of the season, but here’s some better news: a schedule that prior to the start of the year looked significantly tougher than last year’s slate now holds four good matchups (top eight most fantasy-friendly run defenses) and none against teams ranking in the bottom quarter of the league.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 41, CHICAGO BEARS 21
Kurt Warner is who we thought he was, and he proved it by carving up the Bears for 261 yards and five touchdown passes. No Anquan Boldin? No problem; Larry Fitzgerald stepped up with 9-123-2, Steve Breaston chipped in 5-66-1, and the little-used Cardinals’ tight end position produced touchdowns for both Anthony Becht (1-15-1) Ben Patrick (2-15-1). Building a 34-7 lead, Arizona unleashed the ground game with a season-high 28 carries between Tim Hightower (15-77) and Chris Wells (13-72) to gain a six minute edge in time of possession.
Jay Cutler threw 47 passes; Bears running backs carried seven times. Certainly, a four-touchdown deficit had something to do with playing catch-up—and the Bears almost did, roaring back behind three Cutler-to-Greg Olsen scores to throw a scare into the visitors. As you might expect with so much pigskin in the air, there was plenty of fantasy help in the Chicago receiving corps; in addition to Olsen (5-71-3), Devin Hester (6-94) and Earl Bennett (7-93) scores points in PPR/performance leagues. Even Matt Forte augmented a forgettable 5-33 rushing performance with six catches for 74 yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: Cutler’s 369 yards is a high as a Bear, and his three TDs marks the third time in four home games he’s tossed multiple scores. So Bears fans can’t be too disappointed, right? Fantasy fans certainly aren’t, except for those who thought Forte’s performance last week was a bounce-back and not an aberration. With bye weeks in the rear view mirror for 30 of the 32 teams, the popular tack with Warner is to back him up with Matt Leinart. However, after the Cards went to Leinart with the game in hand and he tossed an interception on his first throw Arizona gave him the hook—and fantasy owners have to be rethinking that strategy.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 17, BALTIMORE RAVENS 7
Cedric Benson may not own the Ravens, but after taking them for 117 yards and a touchdown—his second such performance against Baltimore this season—he’s at minimum leasing with an option to buy. Benson’s 34 carries helped the Bengals build a 17-0 halftime lead and own a 20-minute edge in time of possession. The ground game’s success meant subdued, game-manager numbers for Carson Palmer (20-33-224-1)—which, in turn, led to same for Chad Ochocinco (5-66).
Ray Rice was the offense for the Ravens, accounting for 135 of the team’s 250 total yards (48 on 12 carries, 87 on a team-high eight catches) and Baltimore’s lone touchdown. There was nothing else of note; the remainder of Joe Flacco’s 195 passing yards were distributed amongst five other receivers, with none of them topping three catches or 31 yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: Rice’s two-yard touchdown run should just about spell the end of Willis McGahee’s run on fantasy rosters. Since his last touchdown back in Week 4 McGahee has carried 10 times for zero net yards and caught two passes for eight yards. Rice, meanwhile, has all four Ravens RB TDs in that span. Andre Caldwell (3-15-1) picked up where he left off, scoring the Bengals’ first TD after catching the game-winner in Cincy’s earlier win over Baltimore. And you can expect more from both Caldwell and Laveranues Coles (a team leading 6-72), as Chris Henry (1-20) suffered a broken arm and may be out for the season.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 20, HOUSTON TEXANS 17
Peyton Manning threw 40 passes by halftime, but despite 242 yards he could muster only one TD pass. He threw just 10 more in the second half, finishing 34-50-318-1-1 as the Colts barely hung on to remain undefeated. Much of Manning’s attention was directed at Dallas Clark, who caught 14 passes for 119 yards. Joseph Addai was also heavily involved, catching five passes for 49 yards and a score and carrying 14 times for 63 yards and another touchdown. Not that the downfield receivers weren’t involved—when you throw 50 passes, there’s enough to go around—but Reggie Wayne’s (8-64) biggest play was probably the interception he threw on a trick play.
The Texans held a nine-minute advantage in time of possession, though it wasn’t because they were grinding out a running game; new starter Ryan Moats (16-38) averaged barely two yards per carry and fumbled at the goal line, though he did contribute 3-15-1 as a receiver, while Steve Slaton added 17 yards and a touchdown on six carries and another 3-12 as a receiver. With Owen Daniels out, Jacoby Jones (4-67) and Kevin Walter (5-67) stepped up their games, but Matt Schaub (32-43-311) leaned heavily on Andre Johnson, who finished with 10 catches for 103 yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: Slaton owners had to be wondering where the hook was for Moats when he coughed up the ball at the stripe just before halftime; he received 11 more touches (for 18 yards) after the gaffe. However, Slaton—who up until that point had just one reception, received eight touches (for 22 yards and a TD) following the fumble. What does it all mean? It means that between Gary Kubiak and Kyle Shanahan, the backfield quagmire apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Manning topped 300 yards for the seventh time in eight games, but he has just one TD pass in the past two games combined. That hasn’t happened since Weeks 13-14 of the 2006 season; Manning threw four the following week. Just sayin’.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 24, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 21
The Jaguars held a 12-minute advantage in time of possession thanks to 29 carries by Maurice Jones-Drew, and they also received a dominant performance from wideout Mike Sims-Walker (6-147-1). But failure to turn a pair of nine-play second-half drives into points—and only getting three points on a 10-play possession—forced Jacksonville to sweat out a pair of onside kicks before getting the win. There were few tertiary contributors in the Jaguars offense; 184 of David Garrard’s 264 passing yards went to either Sims-Walker or Jones-Drew, and Garrard added 29 rushing yards.
Chris Chambers showed up midweek and walked right into the Chiefs’ lineup. With no running game to speak of, Matt Cassel thew 39 times for 262 yards and two touchdowns. While you maybe saw Dwayne Bowe’s 4-74 coming, the 8-74 from Lance Long and Chambers’ 3-70-2 were quite unexpected. And most of those numbers—all but 20 of Bowe’s yardage, all but 11 of Chambers, and 18 of Long’s—came in the game’s final 4:26.
FANTASY IMPACT: With Larry Johnson suspended, the Chiefs didn’t even bother to run the ball. Jamaal Charles (6-36 plus 3-19 receiving) was the most productive, adding a two-point conversion to his 55 yards from scrimmage; Kolby Smith (4-17, 1-4) and Dantrel Savage (2-4, 1-8) barely registered on the statistical radar. There’s no mystery to the Jacksonville offense; of the 50 plays where someone other than Garrard touched the ball (i.e. handoffs or completed passes), only 12 involved a Jaguar other than MoJo and Sims-Walker. Those plays did, however, average better than 10 yards each and included Rashard Jennings’ 28-yard touchdown run.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 27, MIAMI DOLPHINS 17
Despite solid numbers for the fantasy-relevant Patriots, three second-quarter forays into the red zone that yielded only field goals made this one closer than it should have been. That said, when the Dolphins opened the second half with a 10-minute drive that gave them the lead, New England responded with a 71-yard Tom Brady-to-Randy Moss touchdown to put the game out of reach. Moss was the target on 11 of Brady’s 37 passes, including two of his four on those ill-fated red zone drives, finishing with 6-147-1; he fell just shy of another touchdown on a great one-handed catch that set up Laurence Maroney’s score, then added a two-point conversion following his long TD catch and run. Another 10 targets went to Wes Welker, who caught nine for 84 yards; that didn’t leave much for the rest of the Patriots.
The Dolphins continued to give New England fits with the Wildcat. Pat White (6-45) pitched to Ricky Williams (7-33-1) for a 15-yard touchdown, while Ronnie Brown (15-48) didn’t do much on the ground but did throw a touchdown pass on the exact same play Miami used when they first unveiled the Wildcat against the Pats last year.
FANTASY IMPACT: Outside of the hit-or-miss components of the Wildcat, there is little of fantasy note in Miami. Greg Camarillo (5-71) and Davonne Bess (6-56) were the leading receivers, but Chad Henne didn’t have a touchdown among his 219 yards and backup tight end Joey Haynos (3-29-1) caught the only score. Maybe a ground game would help New England in the red zone. On those three second-quarter drives, the Pats attempted four passes (three incompletes) and took two sacks. While Maroney’s 20-82-1 outing looks impressive, there’s no assurance Bill Belichick won’t go right back to Sammy Morris as soon as he’s healthy—perhaps as early as next week.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 38, GREEN BAY PACKERS 28
All of a sudden the Bucs aren’t winless and Josh Freeman looks like a great draft pick. Certainly he received help, from a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and from three Aaron Rodgers interceptions. But it was Freeman who directed two fourth-quarter scoring drives, made a fourth-down connection with Sammie Stroughter (3-19-1)for the game-winning score, and who only turned the ball over once on the afternoon. He also received some YAC help from Derrick Ward (3-54-1), Kellen Winslow (4-57-1), and Maurice Stovall (3-46) and ground game assistance from Cadillac Williams (16-56).
Two and a half minutes in, this one looked well on its way to being the laugher everyone expected after Aaron Rodgers hit James Jones for a 74-yard touchdown on the Pack’s second play from scrimmage. Jones finished with 103 yards and Rodgers had 266 and two, but it was his three picks and six sacks that let the Bucs hang around and eventually pull out the win. Green Bay won the possession battle by more than 10 minutes behind 21-96-1 from Ryan Grant and another 6-45 from Ahman Green. Donald Driver (4-71-1) and Greg Jennings (5-61) also contributed, but ultimately the Packers were their own worst enemy; they alternated touchdown drives with turnovers that led directly to 14 Tampa Bay points, then scored on just one of their final 10 drives despite twice starting in Buccaneer territory.
FANTASY IMPACT: The Packers dominated the game statistically, but drive killers like picks and sacks ultimately let their 404 yards of offense go to waste. Still, Rodgers put up great fantasy numbers (if you don’t take away points for INTs), including a rushing touchdown. Jones has taken full advantage of Jordy Nelson’s absence with touchdowns in three of the last four games; that’s as many as Jennings and Driver combined. A somewhat surprising 17 of Freeman’s 31 passes were directed towards wideouts, though it’s less surprising that his completion rate (41%) was better when throwing to his running backs (43%) and tight end (80%). That suggests that while Stroughter’s fantasy success might be flukey, Winslow’s productivity may be more reliable going forward.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 30, CAROLINA PANTHERS 20
So what if the Saints spotted Carolina a two-touchdown lead? Just makes it more interesting. Drew Brees (24-35-330-1-1) stayed the course despite an early pick and several dropped passes. With Marques Colston (1-45 after failing to corral a couple of potential touchdowns) relatively quiet, Brees turned to Robert Meachem (5-98-1) and Devery Henderson (3-93) as well as his backs, who combined for a dozen catches as well as 83 rushing yards.
The game started just as the Panthers drew it up, with DeAngelo Williams spearheading a pair of run-dominated scoring drives. Williams finished with 149 yards and those two touchdowns on 21 carries, but while Jake Delhomme (17-30-201) didn’t throw an interception all three primary Panther ballcarriers lost fumbles. Worse, three drives inside the New Orleans 15 yielded just two field goals. Jonathan Stewart (13-24) did nothing to suggest he deserves to take more touches off of Williams’ plate.
FANTASY IMPACT: While Steve Smith (4-64) is still Delhomme’s go-to receiver, Dwayne Jarrett is making himself comfortable in Muhsin Muhammed’s old spot. Jarrett was targeted seven times, just one fewer than Smith, and caught the same number of passes, though for 34 fewer yards. For the moment, at least, the Saints' RBBC seems to tilted heavily towards Pierre Thomas (13-50). He received 13 of the 20 running back carries, scored on a 10-yard run and added five catches for 31 yards; Reggie Bush added 53 yards on nine touches (seven of them receptions), while Mike Bell carried five times for 17 yards.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 32, DETROIT LIONS 20
The Seahawks certainly dug themselves a hole, falling behind 17-0 in the first quarter. But their defense kept them around long enough for Matt Hasselbeck (39-51-329-1) to take six of Seattle’s next seven possessions into the red zone, converting two into touchdowns and the other four into field goals and reclaiming the lead. Hasselbeck found squeaky wheel T.J. Houshmandzadeh (6-34-1) for his lone touchdown, but five other Seahawks caught at least five balls—three of them running backs, led by Julius Jones (6-78). Jones added 36 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, but clearly the heavy lifting was done by the passing game.
Yes, Calvin Johnson (2-27) was back for this game, but Seattle linebacker David Hawthorne and five other Lions had as many catches as Megatron. Matthew Stafford started 10-for-12 with two touchdowns; then he went 12-for-30 with five interceptions. He finished with 203 yards, 141 of them to his tight ends and running backs. That more than anything was disappointing, considering the return of Calvin to the lineup after missing time with a knee injury. At least Bryant Johnson managed a touchdown as part of his 2-35-1 afternoon.
FANTASY IMPACT: The Lions actually received a solid running game from a three-headed committee chaired by Kevin Smith (13-67 plus 2-9 as a receiver); Maurice Morris added 4-20 and 2-17, while Aaron Brown (4-27) saw some change-of-pace work as well. Nate Burleson (7-75) led the Seahawks in catches, but there were few shots taken down the field as evidenced by 23 catches from backs and tight ends, including Justin Forsett (5-45), John Carlson (6-42), and Justin Griffith (5-33). Then again, that’s the point of the West Coast offense: using the short passing game as the ground game.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 21, NEW YORK GIANTS 20
Using the recipe they discovered last year the Chargers relied on their passing game for the win. A pair of Vincent Jackson touchdowns bookended the scoring as Philip Rivers (24-36-209) directed the comeback. Jackson (5-58-2) and Antonio Gates (5-67) did the heavy lifting, while backup tight end Kris Wilson (1-2-1) provided the rest of the scoring. San Diego’s ground game was non-existent, with Rivers’ 15-yard scramble the most productive of the Chargers’ 15 running plays.
The Giants’ opening drive was a microcosm of the game, as they marched 60 yards and ate up seven and a half minutes only to come away empty after botching a field goal attempt. Between the ground game headed up by Brandon Jacobs (11-67) and a controlled passing game the Giants held a 15-minute advantage in time of possession but turned four drives into the red zone into only two touchdowns and two field goals—leaving the door open for a late Chargers’ rally.
FANTASY IMPACT: Steve Smith solidified his status as the Giants’ No. 1 receiver with eight catches for 57 yards and a touchdown; after that, however, it’s less clear. Kevin Boss (2-17-1) returned to the scoring column while Mario Manningham (6-52) was a more favored target than Hakeem Nicks (3-39). LaDainian Tomlinson has gone Shaun Alexander on us; his 12-22 effort featured a long gain of five yards. While there are plenty of other problems with San Diego’s running game, as evidenced by Darren Sproles’ failure to get anything going as well (one carry, one yard this week plus 5-22 as a receiver), but it’s obvious LT can no longer be considered part of the solution.
TENNESSEE TITANS 34, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 27
There is absolutely no secret to the Titans’ attack. Vince Young will throw as little as possible, while Chris Johnson will run as much as possible. Young completed 12 of 19 passes, helped by some nifty grabs from Justin Gage (4-97) to fulfill the first half of the Tennessee game plan. Johnson (25-135-2 plus 3-25 as a receiver) took care of the rest, accounting for more than half of the Titans’ net yardage. Mix in three interceptions as the Titans remember they can play defense and all of a sudden Tennessee is on a two-game winning streak.
Alex Smith sparked the Niners to an early 3-0 lead, then shook off a pick to tie the score and throw a touchdown to give the 49ers the lead heading into halftime. However, three second-half turnovers marred a decent statistical outing (29-45-286-2-3) and landed Smith on the losing end once again. Vernon Davis (10-102) was Smith’s favorite target once again; in fact, 19 of his 29 completions went to backs or tight ends—though both touchdowns went to wideout Jason Hill, who scored twice as part of a 4-50-2 afternoon.
FANTASY IMPACT: The Niners’ offense seems to be transitioning away from the ground-game roots Mike Singletary professed to desire, though maybe it’s just Frank Gore (15-83-1, 7-75) getting his touches a different way. Gore has 13, 13, and 15 carries in three games since returning from his ankle injury, down significantly from the 19 he averaged prior to getting hurt. However, his receptions have climbed steadily, from two to five to seven this week and he accounted for 158 yards of offense. While Johnson’s fantasy owners have to feel good about his production over the past two weeks, they can’t like the prospect of Young vulturing any more rushing scores—like he did with a seven-yard run this week. Because quarterback rushing scores are so unpredictable, you can’t really bank on Young consistently providing them, either, so his fantasy value is minimal at best.
DALLAS COWBOYS 20, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 16
Tony Romo wasn’t interception-free, the Dallas running game split just 73 yards three ways, and Miles Austin caught only one ball. On the bright side, Romo threw for 307 yards, Tashard Choice took a Wildcard snap into the end zone, and Austin’s lone grab went for a game-winning touchdown. Romo spread the wealth, finding former BFF Jason Witten a team-high seven times for 43 yards but also including Roy Williams (5-75) and Patrick Crayton (2-74) in the fun. Barber added 20 receiving yards to his 50 rushing yards, but Choice (3-13-1 plus an 8-yard reception) and Felix Jones (4-10) kept him from being a real fantasy factor.
If you’re a David Akers owner you loved the fact that Philly kept settling for field goals; other than that, it was largely a disappointing evening for Eagles fans and those banking on fantasy production from the men in green. LeSean McCoy did his best Brian Westbrook impression, combining 13-54 on the ground with a team-high 5-61 as a receiver; add that to Brent Celek’s 3-39-1 and you can see how well the Cowboys did at taking Philly’s wide receivers out of the game. Both of Donovan McNabb’s interceptions came on balls intended for Jeremy Maclin (3-44), who was McNabb’s most targeted receiver with nine looks.
FANTASY IMPACT: As little success as McNabb (16-30-227-1-2) had getting the ball to Maclin, he had even less getting No. 1 receiver Desean Jackson involved. Jackson was targeted just five times and caught only two balls for 29 yards as the Eagles were unable to unleash their big-play threat. Remember the days of the Cowboys’ Triplets? Now we’ve got Romo; a three-headed backfield committee that, in an effort to further flummox us, just unveiled a Wildcat look; and not only spread the ball amongst three receivers but also looked to get Kevin Ogletree (2-38 plus a six-yard carry) touches as well. Fantasy-wise, that’s a big ol’ yech.