INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 17, BALTIMORE RAVENS 15
The Colts simply have too many weapons for most defenses to account for. Dallas Clark caught just one pass for three yards, but it was a one-handed beauty in the end zone. Reggie Wayne’s 7-89 was (for him) subdued, leaving Pierre Garçon (6-108) and Tom Santi (6-80) to pick up the slack. Joseph Addai continues to chip in with enough of a ground game to keep defenses honest; this week that amounted to 19-74-1.
Seven of the Ravens’ nine drives made it inside the Colts’ 30-yard-line. But you can’t settle for field goal attempts against Indy, at least not if you’re going to miss them. So the 135 yards from scrimmage Ray Rice amassed went for naught, Derrick Mason’s 9-142 effort was wasted, and the rest of the Ravens accounted for a mere 77 yards in offense. New kicker Billy Cundiff made five of six, but with Matt Stover on the other side of the field you know the fans were thinking Ol’ Stove Top would have completed the six pack.
FANTASY IMPACT: While Joe Flacco threw for more than 200 yards for the first time in four games, he has now gone three straight without a touchdown pass. Maybe the Ravens want to rethink their more balanced offensive approach, as Rice continues to be the best player on the field. Peyton Manning fell one yard shy of a ninth 300-yard game, and he was picked twice. But he also demonstrated his ability to adapt; take Clark away and he’ll use Santi; limit Wayne and Garcon gets the ball. It will be interesting to see if there’s room for Anthony Gonzalez in this mix when he returns from his knee injury.
DALLAS COWBOYS 7, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 6
The Dallas offense has been MIA for the past couple of weeks, producing just two touchdowns over that span. With Tony Romo (15-27-158-1-1) largely ineffective save for a solid 7-8-60-1 on the Cowboys’ lone scoring drive, Dallas leaned on the ground game. Marion Barber carried 20 times for 99 yards and Felix Jones chipped in 10-49 as the Cowboys’ rushing attack produced more net yards (153) than the passing game (152). Miles Austin was Romo’s top receiver, but this week all that meant was four catches for 47 yards.
We’ve come to expect little from the Redskins, who have scored 17 points or less in eight of their nine games this season. They can move the ball between the 20s, as they demonstrated by taking seven straight drives into Dallas territory; they just can’t finish, as evidenced by two field goals, two missed field goals, and three drives stalling out around the 40. Jason Campbell (24-37-256-0-1) was adequate, spreading the ball amongst four wideouts and a tight end who all tallied between 24 and 45 yards. However, with Ladell Betts leaving with a knee injury (early indications are it’s season ending), it was Rock Cartwright who did the heavy lifting with 13-67 on the ground and team highs of seven catches and 73 yards in the passing game.
FANTASY IMPACT: Will Betts’ injury hasten the return of Clinton Portis to the lineup or elevate Quinton Ganther to starter? With the Redskins also losing starting guard Chad Rinehart, the Redskins may have even more trouble moving the ball on the ground. Dallas, on the other hand, has a stable of backs but until this week hadn’t given them more than 27 attempts in a game. While the overall results (seven points) weren’t compelling, five yards a carry from Barber and Jones suggests that maybe the Cowboys might be better off keeping the ball on the ground as opposed to relying too heavily on Romo and the passing game.
DETROIT LIONS 38, CLEVELAND BROWNS 37
The game no one cared about turned out to be the best game of the afternoon, though it took the Lions a while to get started as they spotted Cleveland a three-TD lead. Then it was all the young guys Detroit is banking onto lead the turnaround who stepped it up. Kevin Smith couldn’t get it going on the ground (12-45) but he contributed 4-104-1 as a receiver. Calvin Johnson (7-161-1) delivered the kind of game all those who drafted him as a top-five wideout were expecting a whole lot more frequently. And rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew (6-72-1) caught the game-winner with no time on the clock. Ah, yes, hope springs eternal in the Motor City.
No one saw Brady Quinn’s 304 and four coming, maybe because the last time we saw Quinn he was being limited to three- and four-yard passes on Monday night against the Ravens. Heck, coming into this game Browns receivers had three games with 40 or more yards; they had two 40-plus-yard touchdowns in the first quarter alone. So what if 99 of the combined 191 yards Mohamed Massaquoi (5-115-1) and Chansi Stuckey (5-76-1) produced came on those two big plays? So what if Jamal Lewis (24-75) managed barely three yards a carry against one of the worst run defenses in football? For a moment, at least, the Browns weren’t both crappy and boring.
FANTASY IMPACT: Not that anyone is carrying Browns on their fantasy roster, but Massaquoi would seem to be the guy if you simply must have one. However, those with deeper rosters shouldn’t be afraid of a speculative play on Chris Jennings. Jerome Harrison was deactivated for this game, and Lewis was even less effective than usual. The Browns need to find out if they should target a back to replace Jamal in the upcoming draft, and they’ll likely use a fantasy-friendly December (with dates against Kansas City and Oakland in Weeks 15 and 16) to audition Jennings. Those who wondered if Matt Stafford (422 and 5) had that “it factor” that separates the wheat from the chaff in the world of NFL quarterbacks can check the final two plays of this game. With no time on the clock Stafford buys time, then throws into the end zone and draws a pass interference penalty. He also gets driven into the ground on the play, requiring medical attention. A Browns timeout allows Stafford to come back into the game (Daunte Culpepper was under center when Eric Mangini called the timeout), and with his left arm dangling from his shoulder Stafford drills the game-winner to Pettigrew. X-rays were negative, but Stafford’s impact on the Lions’ future definitely looks to be positive.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 30, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 24
Aaron Rodgers gave the 49ers 344 reasons for a do-over, outdueling Alex Smith—whom San Francisco chose over Rodgers in the 2005 Draft—with that many yards and two touchdowns in Green Bay’s win. A two-to-one advantage in time of possession didn’t hurt, either, and Ryan Grant actually showed up against a competent defense with 129 yards and a touchdown. Greg Jennings also dialed back the clock to when he was Green Bay’s go-to receiver, catching five balls for 126 yards and a touchdown.
Three-and-outs on four of their first five possessions doomed the Niners; they couldn’t capitalize on a big early run from Frank Gore, who finished with 59 yards on just seven carries and 3-9-1 as a receiver. Alex Smith didn’t get it going until the second half, where he accumulated 222 of his 227 passing yards and all three of his touchdowns. Michael Crabtree (4-77-1) scored his first NFL touchdown, but once again the target of choice was Vernon Davis (6-108-1).
FANTASY IMPACT: Didn’t Mike Singletary want to run the ball more? For the game, San Francisco three 33 times and ran 10; for the second half the split was 26-3. At least Gore is involved in the passing game; otherwise it would be tough to provide much fantasy bang with just seven carries a game. Jermichael Finley’s return resulted in a solid 7-54 effort; it also spelled the end of Spencer Havner as a fantasy option. Finley was the lead dog in a pack of pass catchers that saw Brandon Jackson (6-65), Donald Driver (5-40), James Jones (4-22), and Jordy Nelson (3-21-1) involved as well as Jennings and Grant (2-16). That’s nice variety, but so many options for Rodgers makes it extremely difficult to look to secondary receivers for consistent fantasy production.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 18, BUFFALO BILLS 15
Despite the win, this game was a bit of a letdown for the Jaguars. Maybe it was because Maurice Jones-Drew managed just 66 rushing yards (at 2.6 yards a pop) against the league’s worst run defenses; sure, 4-18 as a receiver and MoJo’s 13th touchdown of the year salvaged his fantasy afternoon, but much much more was expected. Same for David Garrard, who had his worst home game of the year with 215 yards and a touchdown through the air and a two-point conversion run as well. At least the bulk of Garrard’s numbers went to Mike Sims-Walker, who continued his home dominance with 8-91-1. Marcedes Lewis (3-70) also enjoyed the home cooking, as he has been wont to do with his three biggest yardage efforts coming in Jacksonville.
Aside from Terrell Owens’ 98-yard touchdown, there was very little going on for Buffalo offensively. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 18-31-297-1-2 would look positively anemic without T.O.’s bomb, and Owens’ 9-197-1 accounted for half of Buffalo’s catches and two-thirds of their receiving yardage. The ground game wasn’t doing much even before Marshawn Lynch (8-18) left the game with a shoulder injury, and Fred Jackson (9-35) didn’t do much after Lynch left.
FANTASY IMPACT: Did the new coach issue an edict to get the ball to Owens? The squeaky wheel was targeted 14 times, compared to 16 throws directed elsewhere. And while the 98-yard score proved TO can score from anywhere on the field, maybe the Bills would do well to target him in the red zone; Owens saw just three balls directed his way on the three Buffalo drives that ended inside the Jacksonville 10; all three resulted in field goals. The Jaguars were more efficient in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on both drives that made it inside the 10. Maybe that’s because MoJo handled the ball on five of Jacksonville’s six snaps inside the 10 and nine of 13 red zone snaps. Jones-Drew’s fantasy owners have to love that play-calling.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 27, PITTSBURGH STEELERS 24
Who didn’t see this coming? Who didn’t see Chris Chambers (4-119) getting the boot in San Diego, then coming to KC and becoming the go-to guy? Chambers accounted for almost half of Matt Cassel’s 248 passing yards, though the touchdowns went elsewhere. One went to Jamaal Charles, who received 17 carries (to Kolby Smith’s one) and augmented 58 rushing yards with 2-8-1 as a receiver and a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the game.
Ben Roethlisberger giveth—398 yards and three touchdowns—and he taketh away, with two picks including one in the red zone. The real problem came, though, when a head injury tooketh Big Ben away from the Steelers in overtime. Charlie Batch couldn’t finish the drive, the Chiefs got the ball back, and the upset was on. Despite 116 combo yards and a touchdown from Rashard Mendenhall, despite 128 and 1 from Hines Ward and 95 and 1 from Heath Miller, the upset was on.
FANTASY IMPACT: Roethlisberger is already being listed as probable for next week, so no need to hit the panic button on the Steelers‘ offense. With Big Ben in place everybody gets theirs—even Santonio Holmes (7-86) and to some extent Mike Wallace (2-47). However, the prospect of what might happen to the Steelers on Batch’s watch... well, it’s not pleasant. The Chiefs didn’t seem to miss Dwayne Bowe in the first of his four-game absence—not with Chambers stepping up again and Charles making sure Larry Johnson remains a faint memory. But with Buffalo and Cleveland on the menu in Weeks 14 and 15, suddenly the Chiefs are poised to be fantasy helpers down the stretch.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 35, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 9
Adrian Peterson was the only disappointment in the Vikings’ dominant win. Thanks to four touchdown passes from Brett Favre and another in garbage time from Tarvaris Jackson, all AP brought to the table was 98 yards from scrimmage. Of course, for every disappointed AP owner there was much rejoicing from the camps of Sidney Rice (6-89-2) and Visanthe Shiancoe (8-78-1) and Percy Harvin (5-79-1) and even Bernard Berrian (2-11-1). And, of course, Favre, who set another record with his best single-game completion percentage on 22-for-25 passing for 213 yards and four touchdowns.
To the surprise of no one, the Seahawks mounted absolutely no running game. Okay, so Justin Forsett managed to score a rushing TD in garbage time, but his eight carry, nine-yard effort was expected; so, to, was his eight-catch, 80-yard effort. In fact, with no ground game maybe Matt Hasselbeck should have come up with more than 231 yards. Like, maybe a touchdown would have been nice.
FANTASY IMPACT: Nate Burleson (6-100) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (4-36) continued to alternate meaningful fantasy games, but the biggest surprise given the Seahawks’ need to throw—and the Vikings‘ inability to defend the tight end—was the goose egg from John Carlson. That he was targeted four times is of little consolation. Same for Peterson and his fantasy owners as Favre threw on five of the Vikings’ eight red zone snaps. Chester Taylor carried once, and AP handled the ball the other two times. Evidently his 6.5 yards per carry wasn’t good enough.
NEW YORK GIANTS 34, ATLANTA FALCONS 31
The Giants came out of their bye week with a sense of purpose; surprisingly, that purpose was not to run the ball against the Falcons but instead turn Eli Manning loose. Manning threw 39 times (compared to 26 rushing attempts for the team) for 384 yards and three scores; Eli didn’t discriminate, either, including everyone in the fun. Kevin Boss continued his scoring streak with a pair of touchdowns as part of his 5-76 day; Mario Manningham caught six balls for 126 yards; and both Steve Smith (4-79) and Hakeem Nicks (5-65) were heavily involved as well. Left in the wake were Ahmad Bradshaw (12-34) and Brandon Jacobs (12-39), though at least Jacobs salvaged his day with a touchdown.
With no Michael Turner, asking Matt Ryan to throw 46 times was to be expected. Not that the running game was absent; Jason Snelling carried 25 times for 76 yards and two touchdowns. But the Falcons put the onus on their sophomore quarterback, and he responded with 268 yards and two touchdowns—and no interceptions. Only problem was, after a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns tied the game, Ryan never got the ball in overtime.
FANTASY IMPACT: You’d think Ryan’s NFL career-high 46 attempts would have been a boon for Atlanta’s primary receivers; you’d be wrong. While Tony Gonzalez (8-82-1) benefited, Roddy White (4-45) was ordinary. Meanwhile, bit players like Michael Jenkins (6-76) and Ellis Weems (1-4-1) outscored White in most fantasy scoring systems. That stood in stark contrast to the Giants, who got fantasy helpers from all three of their primary wideouts as well as their tight end. So much for the Giants coming out of their bye week looking to get back to the “Earth, Wind & Fire” running game of a year ago; with Jacobs reclaiming his goal line duty, that does not bode well for Bradshaw’s fantasy value going forward.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 38, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 7
Drew Brees didn’t get his yardage (187), but he threw three touchdowns. Robert Meachem caught only two balls for 10 yards, but both grabs went for scores. New Orleans tight ends enjoyed a big day, but it was Dave Thomas (4-66-1) and not Jeremy Shockey (2-17) who benefitted. Pierre Thomas (11-92) was the most productive runner, but that didn’t stop Mike Bell (13-75-2) from enjoying a big fantasy day. It was that kind of day of contrasts for the Saints, but despite digging themselves a 7-0 hole they rolled to a 10th straight victory anyway.
The Bucs scored first... and that was about it. Four three-and-outs in the five possessions following an opening drive touchdown certainly didn’t help matters. At least the offense was balanced, with 126 passing yards and 119 on the ground—though 30 came on two Josh Freeman scrambles. No single Buc accounted for more than 47 yards from scrimmage, and it’s unlikely Michael Clayton’s touchdown (on his only catch of the day) helped any fantasy team since he’s been such an afterthought.
FANTASY IMPACT: What can we learn from the Bucs’ debacle of an offensive performance? Carnell Williams (11-32) is still the primary ball-carrier, though Derrick Ward (7-26) still lurks. Kellen Winslow (5-29) is Freeman’s mos favored target, but a healthy Antonio Bryant (3-40) could horn in on that action. Put another notch in Aqib Talib’s belt, as the Bucs’ shutdown corner held Marques Colston without a touchdown—as he’s already done to DeSean Jackson, Steve Smith, Randy Moss, and Greg Jennings. Colston’s 74 yards represent the most an opposing No. 1 has registered against the Bucs since Talib returned from an early-season suspension. Reggie Bush’s absence led to more carries for Bell, but it also tossed three catches onto Pierre’s side of the ledger as well. Going forward, if Bush remains sidelined both backs are solid plays with Thomas the likely beneficiary of Bush’s PPR prowess.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 21, ST. LOUIS RAMS 13
It was a tale of two quarterbacks for the Cards. With Kurt Warner (15-19-203-2) in the game, Arizona rolled to a 21-3 lead. After he left with a head injury, however, Matt Leinart (10-14-74) couldn’t get the Cardinals into scoring position on five second-half drives. It’s a good think Anquan Boldin (8-103-1) and Larry Fitzgerald (8-87-1) got their early; after halftime there was very little offense on the Arizona side of the ledger.
The Rams made a game of it with a pair of second-half scores, but one drive ended with St. Louis settling for a field goal from the Arizona two and another ended on downs at the Cardinals’ seven. Maybe if the Rams would have given Steven Jackson (24-116-1) a few more cracks instead of throwing fades to Brandon Gibson (5-61) and Donnie Avery (4-65) they’d be looking at a second win instead of a ninth loss.
FANTASY IMPACT: Avery is the guy Marc Bulger (19-37-215-0-1) turns to when he needs a play downfield, but Danny Amendola (4-61) might be working his way into that role as well. There’s less optimism for Brandon Gibson (5-61), who acts like he’s been mugged and begs for a flag with every incomplete pass. Even Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo grew tired of the schtick and had a conversation with Gibson on the sidelines. If Gibson could play, that’d be one thing, but at this juncture he hasn’t earned the right to act like a diva. Warner isn’t expected to miss much, if any, time, but if he does the Cardinals may have a way to keep the pressure off Leinart: a newfound ground game. Tim Hightower rode a 50-yard carry to a solid 14-110 performance, while Chris Wells (14-74) scored for the third time in two games. And while there’s little doubt all Cardinals fans (not to mention Warner’s fantasy owners) want Kurt back in the lineup, that goes double for Steve Breaston. Arizona’s third receiver was held without a catch in no small part because Leinart doesn’t tend to get that deep into his progressions.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 32, DENVER BRONCOS 3
Thanks to a Denver offense that kept shooting itself in the foot, the Chargers could take a leisurely approach to building a lead. So what if San Diego had to settle for field goals on half of its six trips into the red zone? So what if Philip Rivers only threw for 145 yards and one touchdown? So what if no receiver topped 56 yards and no back rushed for more than 73? It was a total team effort for the Chargers—not the kind of game that produces gaudy stats for any one fantasy player, but the kind that gives everybody a taste.
How bad was Chris Simms? After Denver fumbled on its first series and went three-and-out on its next two, the Broncos went to the hobbled Kyle Orton for help. Orton was at least a little better, completing 15 of 29 passes for 171 yards and a pick, but like Simms he couldn’t get Denver into the end zone. Knowshon Moreno (10-80) got close, but he fumbled at the goal line and the Chargers recovered. That was the extent of the stats for Denver, as even Brandon Marshall (3-26) was quiet.
FANTASY IMPACT: The Broncos are in free-fall mode, and it’s become painfully obvious they can’t afford to let Orton heal. While that might mean subdued numbers for Marshall and other members of the passing game, it could increase Denver’s emphasis on the run. With Moreno averaging eight yards a carry and Correll Buckhalter (7-35) averaging five, that might not be a bad option for both the Broncos and fantasy owners to pursue. San Diego didn’t just spread the wealth, they scattered it like buckshot. LaDainian Tomlinson (20-73-1) was the only regular to score, as Vincent Jackson (4-56) and Antonio Gates (3-41) were usurped by the likes of Legedu Naanee (1-2-1) and Mike Tolbert (7-58-1). Those banking on the San Diego regulars have to hope this is one of those division-game aberrations.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 31, NEW YORK JETS 14
So much for the Jets owning the Patriots, or even leasing with an option to buy. Tom Brady (28-41-310-1) made it a point of emphasis to include Randy Moss (5-34-1) in the proceedings, even going so far as to take a late deep shot down the field in the final two minutes just to let Darrelle Revis know who was still the division kingpin. While the Jets kept close tabs on Moss they were apparently still under the belief that Wes Welker wasn’t playing; after missing the front end of this series Welker was everywhere on Sunday with 15 catches for 192 yards. When the Pats weren’t throwing, Laurence Maroney was plodding ahead with 22 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns.
Leigh Bodden was Mark Sanchez’s favorite receiver, as the New England DB had as many catches as Jerricho Cotchery (3-84-1) or Dustin Keller (3-38) and took one of his picks 53 yards for a touchdown. Sanchez was a dismal 8-21-136-1-4, and his receiving corps’ numbers suffered accordingly. Thomas Jones (21-103) found some success on the ground, but that was one of very few small victories for the Jets.
FANTASY IMPACT: Jones’ relatively impressive showing marks him as perhaps the only Jet fantasy owners can consistently trust. He’s not sharing carries—Shonn Greene produced a net of negative one yard on his three totes—and it’s clear Sanchez is not yet ready for prime time. The Patriots ran the ball 36 times, compared to 41 passing attempts, with Maroney doing most of the heavy lifting. That may change if and when Sammy Morris returns from his knee injury; he’s been threatening the past couple of weeks, but once again it was Maroney with the bulk of the carries. He almost didn’t get the second touchdown, however; after carrying to the one, Maroney had to watch Brady attempt not one but two unsuccessful sneaks before giving LoMo his rightful shot at the score.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 20, CINCINNATI BENGALS 17
The Raiders averaged 9.8 points per game coming into this week... then scored 10 points in the final 41 seconds to pull out the unlikely victory. They did it with no running game—their troika of backs combined for 18 carries and 84 yards, with a long run of 12—and very little in the passing game. Bruce Gradkowski completed half of his 34 passes, turning to Zach Miller (5-65-1) but getting a little more out of his wideouts than JaMarcus Russell used to. Chaz Schilens caught a pair of balls, but it was Louis Murphy fighting his way into the end zone on his lone catch that tied the score.
Maybe the Bengals figured they had it wrapped up after Carson Palmer recorded his second rushing touchdown midway through the second quarter. But then Cincy had two three-and-outs prior to halftime, then turned three red zone trips into just three points coming out of the break to let the Raiders back into the game. Don’t blame the running game: Bernard Scott filled in for the injured Cedric Benson with 119 yards on 21 carries, while Brian Leonard received 13 carries (36 yards) and Larry Johnson saw a couple totes as well.
FANTASY IMPACT: By now it should come as no surprise that the Raiders are very good at defending the pass. They held Palmer to zero passing touchdowns and just 207 yards, with Chad Ochocinco (4-67) and Laveranues Coles (2-61) comprising the bulk of the yardage. Perhaps it was fitting that Nnamdi Asomugha picked off Palmer’s final desperation pass. Don’t let the W fool you; Gradkowski was only marginally better than Russell and the Raiders were helped mightily by three Cincinnati fumbles. But Gradkowski’s competence means you can start Miller with at least a little confidence, and you could maybe consider Schilens against softer match-ups.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 24, CHICAGO BEARS 20
Donovan McNabb paced the Philly attack with 244 yards and a pair of touchdowns. DeSean Jackson (8-107-1) was his go-to guy, with a sprinkling of Jeremy Maclin (6-64) and a surprisingly small smattering of Brent Celek (4-35). Jason Avant also showed up in the stat sheets thanks to a touchdown among his four catches. LeSean McCoy (20-99-1) was an adequate replacement for Brian Westbrook in the running game, but he was non-existent as a receiver; that’s almost unheard of in the Eagles offense.
Jay Cutler only threw one interception; that’s the good news. The bad news is that he was usually so inaccurate that even the defenders weren’t close enough to make the catch. Cutler finished with 171 yards on 24-of-43 passing, with a touchdown to his tight end... no, not Greg Olsen (6-42) but rather Kellen Davis (2-17-1). Devin Hester (4-18) and Johnny Knox (2-16) were overthrown all night, leaving Earl Bennett (5-57) to pace the team in receiving.
FANTASY IMPACT: Matt Forte was his usual abysmal self, with 34 rushing yards on 14 carries and 20 more yards on four catches. He may not have a chance to be that bad next week, as rookie Khalil Bell looked far more dynamic with 81 yards on his four carries. Speaking of dynamic, Michael Vick broke off a 34-yard run out of the Wildcat formation, and it wasn’t as if the Eagles tried anything tricky; it was a simple run right up the middle that Vick turned into big yardage. What could the Bears possibly have been thinking, that he was going to throw?