ATLANTA FALCONS 20, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 17
The Falcons lost Matt Ryan on the first series and Michael Turner in the third quarter. However, Chris Redman stepped in to complete 23 of 41 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns (and no interceptions) to lead Atlanta to the win. He didn’t get much help from last week’s Turner fill-in, as Jason Snelling carried just four times for eight yards; however, Jerious Norwood returned from his injury to add 6-22 on the ground and catch a 22-yards TD pass as part of a 2-28 receiving day. Redman’s other targets were the usual suspects—Tony Gonzalez (9-83) and Roddy White (5-57-1, including the game-winner)—though Michael Jenkins was busier than usual with seven catches for 80 yards.
Maybe the Bucs have their franchise quarterback after all. Josh Freeman looked steady in delivering a 20-29-250-2 performance, thanks in no small part to having a healthy Antonio Bryant (3-91-1) at his disposal. Kellen Winslow (7-81) was the only other target of note, though Carnell Williams turned his lone catch into an eight-yard touchdown, offsetting a sub-par 10-30 rushing effort.
FANTASY IMPACT: Freeman’s continuing development bodes well for the fantasy prospects of Bryant and Winslow, though Sammie Stroughter (3-19) is making a push for value as well. He was Freeman’s second-favorite target, with seven balls thrown his way. The same can’t be said for the backfield, where Derrick Ward (13-29) has moved into an even split with Cadillac—and there isn’t enough productivity there to feed both backs. Redman finished the 2007 season strong, so his success here wasn’t a total shock—though it certainly helped to be facing the Bucs. And he certainly knew where to go, as White and Gonzo combined for 25 targets on the afternoon. The loss of Turner might add additional value to the Atlanta passing game, as neither Snelling nor Norwood appeared to be the solution once Turner went down.
BUFFALO BILLS 31, MIAMI DOLPHINS 14
Perry Fewell hasn’t been afraid to make the tough calls in his brief tenure as the Bills coach. He’s shown a willingness to throw deep to Terrell Owens, and again this week he was rewarded as Owens caught a 51-yard touchdown that salted away the win. He also turned the backfield work over to Fred Jackson, who took 11 carries after halftime for 61 yards and two touchdowns; Marshawn Lynch carried three times for six yards in the first half but was limited to just one catch for nine yards in the second.
Ricky Williams (27-115-1) needs to stick to carrying the football; his attempt at throwing out of the Wildcat formation led to an ill-advised pick on first-and-goal from the three. Why not give Williams one more carry against the softest run defense in the league? After all, Ricky was about all the Dolphins had working on Sunday; Chad Henne threw for 175 yards and a touchdown to Brian Hartline, but he also threw three picks on Miami’s final three drives.
FANTASY IMPACT: Miami gave a handful of carries to Lex Hilliard (5-22) and Lousaka Polite (3-22), but Williams is the only Dolphin with any consistent fantasy value. Davonne Bess, who appeared to step to the fore of the receiving corps last week, had three catches for 34 yards as Anthony Fasano (5-74) took his place atop Miami’s revolving leaderboard. While Buffalo appears to have given Jackson the primary ballcarrier role over Lynch, both will have to watch out for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Not only did Fitz throw for 246 yards and a touchdown, he also scrambled seven times for 50 yards—including a 31-yard TD jaunt down the sidelines.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 27, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 24
The Eagles battled the Redskins and themselves for much of the game, settling for field goals and getting one DeSean Jackson touchdown—at 35 yards, his shortest of the year—while digging themselves an eight point fourth-quarter deficit. Then Eldra Buckley (2-1-1) stole a touchdown from LeSean McCoy (17-76, plus 4-25 as a receiver) and Jason Avant (5-94) stepped up to replace Jackson, who left with a concussion to lead Philly to a come-from-behind victory.
Jason Campbell had himself a nice fantasy day for a change; not only did he put up his most productive passing effort (22-37-231-2-2) since the last time he faced Philly, he also added a one-yard touchdown run as well. The rest of the Redskins took a more socialist approach to the statistics; Rock Cartwright’s 64 yards from scrimmage led the way for Washington as 10 different players carried or caught the ball.
FANTASY IMPACT: Cartwright’s 15-38 on the ground might spell the end of his brief tenure as the Redskins’ go-to back. Even if Clinton Portis isn’t ready to go next week, Quinton Ganther produced 32 yards on five carries and might have earned a share of the workload. Donovan McNabb (21-35-260-1-1) spread the ball around as per usual, including 5-63 to Jeremy Maclin, but he may not have Brent Celek (4-33) for the foreseeable future. According to the AP, Celek—who dropped three passes in the game—told a teammate he has torn ligaments in his hand; the Eagles are reporting the injury as a sprained thumb. Also of note was a goal line appearance by Michael Vick, who carried twice four four yards and threw one incomplete pass out of the wildcat formation. Vick at the stripe not only saps value from McCoy (as if Buckley’s TD didn’t already do so), it also takes a bite out of McNabb’s potential as well.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 27, ST. LOUIS RAMS 17
With Julius Jones out again, it would have been easy for the Seahawks to lean on the passing game. Instead, Matt Hasselbeck produced just 102 yards and failed to throw a touchdown, dragging the fantasy values of Nate Burleson (4-46) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (2-14) down with him. Instead, backup running back Justin Forsett stepped in with 22 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns to lead Seattle to the win.
Maybe carrying the Rams’ offense has taken its toll on Steven Jackson, who didn’t practice all week and was a game-time decision. Ultimately he once again shouldered the entire load, carrying 23 times for 89 yards and a touchdown and adding 27 yards on five receptions. The passing game, under the direction of backup Kyle Boller, produced 282 yards and a touchdown but it was too evenly spread amongst the likes of Donnie Avery (4-48-1), Danny Amendola (7-55), and Ruvell Martin (2-60).
FANTASY IMPACT: While the fact that Jackson is the entirety of the St. Louis offense was reinforced, absolutely no light was shed on just who might be the beneficiary should his back spasms knock him out of a game; Kenneth Darby and Samkon Gado carried one time each, and each produced negative-one yard. Darby did have 26 yards on three receptions (to Gado’s five on one catch), so maybe that’s the tip we’re looking for. Jones may have trouble reclaiming his job when his bruised lung heals, despite Jim Mora’s assertion earlier this week that he would be the starter when he returns. Forsett was thought to be a pass-catching back, but he produced 130 and two without benefit of a single catch. Sounds like there’s an RBBC brewing, if Jones is even included at all.
NEW YORK JETS 17, CAROLINA PANTHERS 6
The Jets found a way to limit Mark Sanchez’s interceptions: letting him throw just 17 times. The rookie completed 13 to teammates and only one to the Panthers as New York’s ground game did the heavy lifting; Thomas Jones carried 25 times for 75 yards and a touchdown, while Shonn Greene chipped in 36 yards on 10 carries. As you might expect with a two-to-one run-to-pass ratio, there was little of note among Jets receivers; Dustin Keller’s 4-68 led the way.
Carolina would have preferred to follow the Jets’ blueprint, but an early pick six put them in a hole and as a result they were forced to throw 34 times and run just 25. The outcome was predictable, as Jake Delhomme completed 14 to mates and four to Gang Green; like the Jets, the Panthers pass-catchers were paced by a tight end as Dante Rosario caught four balls for 62 yards. The running game was barely more effective, with DeAngelo Williams carrying 16 times for 40 yards and Jonathan Stewart adding 35 on nine carries.
FANTASY IMPACT: Steve Smith spent the afternoon velcroed to Darrelle Revis, catching just one pass for five yards. You’d think that would have opened things up for Muhsin Muhammed—so what’s his excuse for one catch for two yards? It’s clear the Jets have tightened the leash on Sanchez, who completed just four passes to wide receivers and twice as many to tight ends and running backs. Danny Woodhead (1-1 on the ground, 2-23 as a receiver) saw some additional work, and if running backs are going to handle the ball 72 percent of the time for the Jets he may wind up having some fantasy value the rest of the way.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 16, CLEVELAND BROWNS 7
No Cedric Benson, who was inactive for a second straight game due to his hip injury? No problem. But what about after Bernard Scott left with an ankle injury (after 18 carries for 87 yards)? Still no problem, as midseason pick-up Larry Johnson added 107 yards on 22 carries. If you do the math, that’s 40 rushing attempts for 194 yards—not leaving much for Carson Palmer (13-24-110-1) and the passing game. As you might expect from those miniscule numbers, there wasn’t much for Chad Ochocinco (3-38) or Andre Caldwell (3-33) to do.
If there was any question last week’s offensive outburst was due entirely to the Detroit Lions’ defense, Cleveland’s 169 net yards put that to rest. No single Brown was responsible for more than 44 yards, unless you count Brady Quinn’s 15-34-100 passing and 2-10-1 rushing.
FANTASY IMPACT: The tank’s on “E” for Jamal Lewis (11-40), yet the Browns refuse to take a look at either Chris Jennings (2-5) or Jerome Harrison (2-3). There’s no question Cleveland needs a new feature back—they need pretty much a new everything—but you’d think they’d at least audition current roster members in hopes of saving a draft pick. The Bengals, on the other hand, suddenly have an embarrassment of riches at running back. Benson has been “close to returning” each of the past two weeks; how do they divvy up carries once he’s actually back? Scott’s ankle injury may have something to say about how the RBBC sorts out, as he’s the change-of-pace option to the power running stylings of both Benson and Johnson.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 35, HOUSTON TEXANS 27
The Colts spotted Houston a 17-point lead—which is right where Indy wanted them, evidently. For the fifth straight game Peyton Manning (27-35-244-3-2) directed a fourth-quarter comeback, though it was a defensive touchdown and a 23-yard touchdown run by third-string back Chad Simpson that provided the decisive scores. Indy didn’t get to that point without contributions from the usual suspects, however; Dallas Clark (9-63-1) was once again a thorn in the Texans’ side, and while Reggie Wayne (3-19-1) was kept in check fellow wideouts Austin Collie (4-70) and Pierre Garçon (5-63-1) stepped up.
Matt Schaub (31-42-284-2-2) started out on fire, but ultimately he and the Texans couldn’t finish the deal. Schaub bookended the scoring with touchdown passes to unlikely candidates Vontae Leach (2-11-1) and Jacoby Jones (3-27-1), but the heavy lifting was done by Kevin Walter (7-73), Andre Johnson (5-67), and Steve Slaton (7-49).
FANTASY IMPACT: Mike Shanahan must be proud of his protege, as Gary Kubiak continues to muck up the Houston backfield. Slaton remains the most productive (and most talented); he added 10-57 on the ground to his receiving yardage for a triple-digit yardage outing. However, Leach and Chris Brown (11-56, 3-20) scored the touchdowns. Indy’s backfield is a little clearler, with Joseph Addai (15-69, 3-13) still handling most of the workload. However, Simpson stole that late touchdown and Donald Brown (5-27, 2-11) continues to get touches as well.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 43, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 14
Proof the Chargers are no longer a Norv Turner running team? San Diego could do anything it wanted against the Chiefs, but they chose to throw 29 passes and run their backs 29 times—far from the 60-40 run-heavy split typical of a Turner team. That’s also proof they trust Philip Rivers (21-28-317-2) more than they do the aging LaDainian Tomlinson (13-39-2). It helps when you can turn to Antonio Gates (7-118-2) or Malcolm Floyd (3-65, numbers that would have been better had he not dropped a sure touchdown pass) even when Vincent Jackson (2-27) was being held in check.
Chris Chambers (7-70-1) got his revenge on his former team, and Jamaal Charles continued to sparkle in his post-LJ audition with 14-93-1 on the ground and 3-54 as a receiver. And that was the extent of the fantasy fun on the KC side of the ledger.
FANTASY IMPACT: Matt Cassel (19-31-178-1-1) isn’t a world beater, but he’s been effective enough. And it’s clear that Chambers and Charles are his primary (only?) weapons. Wonder what happens when Dwayne Bowe returns from suspension in a couple weeks. As ineffective as LT was, he scored twice. And Darren Sproles wasn’t much better, with 9-17 on the ground; even fullback Mike Tolbert (4-19) was more productive. Sproles did contribute 5-66 as a receiver, though.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 20, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 3
It can’t make Mike Singletary comfortable, his team’s 2:1 pass-to-run ratio. But the 49ers line isn’t getting it done, limiting Frank Gore (16-33) to barely two yards per carry. So with Alex Smith (27-41-232-2) working out of the shotgun, the 49ers generated more than enough offense to beat the apathetic Jaguars. Gore salvaged his fantasy day with 7-14-1 as a receiver, while Vernon Davis continued his torrid season with 6-69-1. Okay, so maybe throwing 17 passes to the running backs and wide receivers isn’t exactly airing it out.
Couldn’t the Jaguars save money on airfare? They’ve been mailing it in on road trips most of the year, and this week was no exception. Maurice Jones-Drew touched the ball 20 times and produced 110 yards, but costly red zone turnovers took away his opportunities for touchdowns. David Garrard didn’t throw a pick, but he fumbled twice to negate his 307 passing yards. Worse, Mike Sims-Walker—the only member of the Jaguars receiving corps drawing fantasy attention—found himself behind Mike Thomas (4-62) and Torry Holt (4-50) in the pecking order.
FANTASY IMPACT: The Jaguars are averaging 10 points per road game over their past four, so it’s worth noting that they’ll be in Jacksonville for their next three games. In other words, MJD and MSW are back in play fantasy-wise. Michael Crabtree (4-54) paced the Niners’ downfield passing game and was once again the most-targeted wideout. That said, he’s behind Davis and Gore on Smith’s radar—a radar that seems to be homing in on the short game.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 36, CHICAGO BEARS 10
So, is Brett Favre the decoy for Adrian Peterson or vice versa? Favre threw 48 passes for 392 yards as the Vikings blew up the Bears, and it almost felt like he was throwing AP a bone when he handed off to him for Minnesota’s final touchdown. Peterson still rolled up 103 yards from scrimmage, but that was barely more than Chester Taylor (4-33 and 6-51-1) and less than your 2009 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Percy Harvin (6-101-1 plus two carries for 45 yards).
Greg Olsen (7-45) had more catches than any two other Bears combined, but after a Johnny Knox touchdown grab in the second quarter Chicago did little of offensive note. Matt Forte (8-27, 4-34) was a non-factor yet again, and Jay Cutler (18-23-147) threw more picks (two) than TDs (one) yet again.
FANTASY IMPACT: Olsen is rapidly becoming the only consistent fantasy play on the Bears’ roster, as Cutler targeted wideouts on just 10 of his 23 throws; that meant Knox (1-24-1), Devin Hester (1-20), and Earl Bennett (3-14) were all fantasy busts. The biggest fantasy issue for the Vikings is that there are simply not enough touchdowns to go around every week. So while Harvin and Taylor and Peterson and Visanthe Shiancoe (5-51-1) got theirs, Sidney Rice (6-89) and Bernard Berrian (6-74) were left with yardage and little else. Sad, isn’t it, when 36 points and 537 yards of offense isn’t enough to keep everyone happy?
TENNESSEE TITANS 20, ARIZONA CARDINALS 17
Seriously, if you asked would Vince Young throw or run for 387 yards in a game first, you’d find more people lining up on the “run” side. But maybe now after directing an 18-play, 99-yard drive that included four fourth-down completions and ended not with a Young run into the end zone but instead his lone TD pass of the day, perhaps now he’ll be considered a legitimate quarterback. There were beneficiaries galore in the Titans’ passing game, paced by rookie Kenny Britt’s 7-128-1 that included the game winner; Bo Scaife (5-68) and Nate Washington (3-68) also kicked in significantly. And, of course, Chris Johnson was the ground-game hammer with 154 yards on 18 carries, including yet another 85-yard touchdown run.
This one seemed doomed from the moment Kurt Warner woke up with a sore neck and pulled himself from the lineup. Matt Leinart (21-31-220) was adequate, but fantasy owners were expecting Warner to light up the most fantasy-friendly secondary in the league. Instead, Anquan Boldin (5-53) and Larry Fitzgerald (4-34) barely lit a match.
FANTASY IMPACT: With Leinart at the helm the Cardinals tried to run the ball, and actually had a bit of success—not so much with Beanie Wells (8-20) as with Tim Hightower (11-55-1). Hightower (3-23) and Wells (1-21) were also among the nine Cards to catch passes—perhaps indicating that Leinart was making it through his reads better. Of course, when you’re banking on much bigger numbers from Boldin and Fitzy, that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Young’s passing prowess might just force opposing defenses to pay attention to the air attack, opening even more seams for Johnson. However, it’s interesting to note that the Titans moved 99 yards in 2:37 and Johnson didn’t touch the ball once.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 20, PITTSBURGH STEELERS 17
With the Ravens and the Steelers, you expected a defensive battle. You also expected Ray Rice to account for much of Baltimore’s yardage, and he did not disappoint with 19-88 on the ground and 5-67 via the air. Derrick Mason’s touchdown and 7-62 was also not unexpected. But Willis McGahee (5-18-1) stealing Rice’s touchdown and Mark Clayton (7-129) pacing the passing game... that was somewhat unexpected.
For the most part, Dennis Dixon played about as well as you could have asked for a second-year player with one NFL pass under his belt, debuting on the road in prime time against the hated Ravens. Dixon hit Santonio Holmes (6-74-1) with an early touchdown, then used his legs to give the Steelers a fourth-quarter lead with a 24-yard TD run. As expected, he received plenty of help from Rashard Mendenhall (24-95 plus 2-22 as a receiver) as well. However, an interception in overtime spoiled Dixon’s evening and let directly to the Ravens’ game-winning field goal.
FANTASY IMPACT: As well as Dixon played, he was clearly working with a limited playbook. At least we learned that Willie Parker (5-14), Mewelde Moore (4-2) and Carey Davis (2-15) are still bit players in the running game. It was no surprise that the passing game was limited as well, with Holmes (10 targets), Hines Ward (six targets, 3-47), and Mike Wallace (four targets, no catches) getting all the attention. McGahee took a handful of series during this game, including the touchdown, but it was Rice on the field handling the ball down the stretch. That’s small consolation for missing out on the touchdown, of course, but it certainly bodes well for Rice’s potential going forward.