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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Fantasy Game Recaps - Week 2
John Tuvey
September 20, 2010
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GREEN BAY PACKERS 34, BUFFALO BILLS 7

The Packers started slowly with a couple of field goals, but built a 13-point lead by the end of the first quarter and barely broke a sweat. Brandon Jackson (11-29-1, 1-10) was adequate in place of Ryan Grant; even Aaron Rodgers (255 and 2 through the air) chipped in with a rushing score. Green Bay’s passing game was as expected, even against a good Buffalo secondary, with Jermichael Finley (4-103) leading the receiving corps.

Buffalo took only two drives inside the Packers’ 30 and mustered a total of just 186 yards of offense. Last week’s third-string back Marshawn Lynch (17-64) started this week and was the Bills’ most productive player, but backup back Fred Jackson (9-39-1) accounted for the only touchdown. The passing game did absolutely nothing of note.

FANTASY IMPACT: Heading into the season, rookie C.J. Spiller was the only Bill you wanted on your roster; two weeks into the season, his 1-3 rushing, 4-23 receiving will likely springboard him into many free agent pools. John Kuhn (9-36), a popular consolation prize for Grant owners who weren’t able to pick up Jackson, had just two fewer carries that the starter and put up more yardage.

MIAMI DOLPHINS 14, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 10

Two plays—a 46-yard catch by Brandon Marshall (4-71) on the Dolphins’ first play from scrimmage and a 51-yard run by Ronnie Brown (13-80, 1-3)—accounted for almost half of Miami’s total offense. In all, the ‘Phins ran 26 fewer offensive plays than the Vikings and were at a 12-minute disadvantage in time of possession, leaving little room for fantasy helpers. Miami’s ground game put up decent numbers against the Vikings, primarily on the strength of the long run by Brown, but both Brown and Ricky Williams (10-30) put the ball on the ground at critical junctures.

Last year the Vikings scored 27 or more points in 13 of their 16 games; through two games in 2010 they have a total of 19. Don’t blame Adrian Peterson, who did all the heavy lifting with 28-145-1 on the ground and 5-41 as a receiver. The passing game, on the other hand, continued its wayward path as Brett Favre (22-36-225) was picked thrice and fumbled in the end zone to give Miami the deciding touchdown.

FANTASY IMPACT: Visanthe Shiancoe (6-86) continues to be the only element of this passing game either Favre or fantasy owners should have any confidence in. Percy Harvin (5-32) looked to be an integral part of the game plan early on, then suffered an injury while making a tackle on an interception and was a non-factor afterwards. Chad Henne (9-15-114-1) directed more than half of his passes at Marshall, but it was Brian Hartline (3-28-1) who scored Miami’s lone offensive touchdown. No other Dolphin was targeted more than once.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 16, CLEVELAND BROWNS 14

Who needs an offensive touchdown? The Chiefs rode three field goals and a pick six to a road win in Cleveland. The passing game was a series of near-misses that resulted in a pair of picks and rookie tight end Tony Moeaki (5-58) putting up the best numbers among KC receivers. With the Chiefs’ defense holding the Browns in check KC was able to take the air out of the ball with 39 rushing attempts; sadly, the bulk of them went to sled dog Thomas Jones (22-83) rather than greyhound Jamaal Charles (11-49, 1-27)

This wasn’t nearly the points orgy last year’s Week 15 meeting proved to be, primarily because Jerome Harrison (16-33, 3-35) rushed for roughly 250 fewer yards this time around. Worse, he was once again vultured at the stripe by Peyton Hillis (8-35-1, 3-26). Seneca Wallace (16-31-229-1-1) was nothing special in place of Jake Delhomme, though he certainly wasn’t afraid to take shots down the field.

FANTASY IMPACT: Josh Cribbs is the Browns’ most dynamic player, but including kick and punt returns he touched the ball just six times—and produced 99 yards and a touchdown in the process. Finding a way for him to get more touches—and not on kick returns after giving up points—might be the solution to what ails Cleveland’s stagnant offense. Charles was responsible for the Chiefs’ two longest plays from scrimmage and averaged better than six yards every time he touched the ball, while Jones was once again mired south of four yards per carry. But with KC sitting at 2-0 it’s unlikely Todd Haley will opt to spice up the offense any time soon, much to the chagrin of those who spent a high pick on the electric Charles.

CHICAGO BEARS 27, DALLAS COWBOYS 20

The Jay Cutler show was a bit more subdued in Week 2, but despite “only” 277 yards he padded the stat line with three touchdowns. Didn’t hurt that the Chicago running game was predictably awful with 38 yards on 19 carries, though Matt Forte (10-29 on the ground, 5-37-1) salvaged fantasy success lining up at receiver and scoring on a fade pattern. Greg Olsen (1-39-1) also made a cameo with a great run after the catch to score a rare TE TD in a Martz offense.

Once again eschewing the ground game (Marion Barber’s 11-31 paced a 20-36 team effort), the Cowboys used a Dez Bryant (2-52) punt return score and 374 yards from Tony Romo to keep the Bears within sight. Miles Austin (10-142) was once again the primary target, but tight ends Jason Witten (5-51) and Martellus Bennett (7-45) equally split 16 targets and even Roy Williams (4-53) got into the act.

FANTASY IMPACT: Last week the Cowboys’ running game was a fantasy frustration; this week, at least MB3 seemed to take over the featured role as Felix Jones (7-7, 2-12) and Tashard Choice (1-(-1), 1-6) barely saw the field. But with a 51:20 pass-to-run ratio, it may no longer matter who’s carrying the ball for Dallas. Don’t be surprised if you see Devin Aromashodu on the back of your milk carton at breakfast; one week after being Cutler’s favorite target Aromashodu was missing in action. The utterly boring Earl Bennett (5-29) replaced him in most packages, suggesting that identifying which Bears’ receiver can be relied upon from week to week might be an undertaking best conducted with a dartboard.

ATLANTA FALCONS 41, ARIZONA CARDINALS 7

This one started out as the Michael Turner (9-75) show, but after a groin injury sent the Atlanta starter to the sidelines it turned into the Jason Snelling (24-129-2, 5-57-1) show—but only after Matt Ryan set the table with 225 passing yards and three TDs. With a team-high12 targets Roddy White (7-78-1) was once again the go-to guy.

The Arizona highlights were extremely limited; actually, aside from Tim Hightower’s 80-yard TD in the second quarter they were non-existent. Derek Anderson (17-31-161-0-2) was right around a 50 percent completion rate again, though on the bright side he was more accurate around Larry Fitzgerald (7-83) than last week’s 3-for-15 showing.

FANTASY IMPACT: Still waiting for the Beanie Wells era to launch, as the sophomore back sat out his second consecutive game. With Anderson a 50/50 proposition in the passing game, once Wells returns you can expect the Cards to shoulder him with as much of a workload as he can handle. Turner was cleared to return to the game following his injury, but by that point the Falcons had things in hand. And with Jerious Norwood unavailable after injuring his knee on the opening kickoff, Snelling took the reins. If you’re into handcuffs, Snelling would be more likely to get the carries if Turner went down for any length of time.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 20, CAROLINA PANTHERS 7

The 2-0 Bucs received just enough offensive contributions to outgun the pop-less Panthers, with Josh Freeman (12-24-178-2 in the air plus 4-43 on the ground) leading the way. There were few surprises, with Kellen Winslow (4-83) and Mike Williams (2-54-1) heading up the receiving corps and Carnell Williams slogging out 51 yards on 27 carries.

At least Carolina got an offensive touchdown, with Matt Moore (6-16-125-1-1) hooking up with Steve Smith (3-66-1) before being benched in favor of rookie Jimmy Clausen (7-13-59-0-1). But a running game with a track record of gouging the Bucs never got rolling as DeAngelo Williams (17-54, 3-20) and Jonathan Stewart (8-43) combined for barely more than a third of the yardage they posted the last time they tag-teamed the Bucs.

FANTASY IMPACT: John Fox hasn’t committed to a quarterback for next week, but if it’s Clausen you needn’t worry about Smith getting fed; after Moore directed five passes his way in three-plus quarters, Clausen looked to him three times in under a quarter. And you have to believe the running game will receive plenty of work as well in order to take some of the pressure off the rookie. The yardage hasn’t been overly impressive, Freeman’s second two-TD effort of the season suggests he may be ready to move from dynasty league backup to match-up play status in all types of leagues—and just in time for the bye weeks!

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 35, DETROIT LIONS 32

Michael Vick’s big game against the Lions was expected; what wasn’t expected was that Philly would need every bit of it to hold off the Lions. Vick completed 61% of his passes for 284 yards and two TDs, favoring the “you go long, I’ll throw it up” route to DeSean Jackson (4-135-1). The Eagles also received an unexpected boost from LeSean McCoy, who added 120 yards and three TDs on 16 carries as well as 4-8 receiving.

How do you follow up a two-TD NFL debut? In Jahvid Best’s case, you go for the hat trick; his 17-78-2 on the ground included a 33-yarder, while his 9-154-1 as a receiver included four plays of 17 yards or more. Best’s YAC helped Shaun Hill (25-45-335-2-2) put up an unexpected fantasy helper, especially when you consider how little Calvin Johnson (4-50-1) chipped in.

FANTASY IMPACT: While it was hardly a surprise that Best accounted for five of the Lions’ 10 longest plays, that Brandon Pettigrew (7-108) contributed three plays (of 35, 24, and 19 yards) to that list was more than a little shocking. Now we just need to know for sure that Tony Scheffler (1-5) is the No. 2 tight end before trusting Pettigrew with a fantasy start. Vick didn’t exactly ignore his secondary targets; Jeremy Maclin (3-26-1) scored and Brent Celek (3-27) saw five balls as well. In fact, nine different receivers received looks from Vick, though Jackson accounted for almost half of the yardage.

CINCINNATI BEGALS 15, BALTIMORE RAVENS 10

If you’re into the ballet, this game was for you as all of Cincy’s scoring came via kicks. Carson Palmer (16-35-167) couldn’t even muster a 50% completion percentage, and Cedric Benson’s 23-78 was equally lackluster. But the Bengals mustered two sustained drives and capitalized on excellent field position to make Mike Nugent a hero.

It’s tough to overcome four INTs, especially on the road. Joe Flacco (17-39-154-1-4) couldn’t do it, even with 16-87 on the ground and another 4-30 as a receiver from Ray Rice. And while Derrick Mason (1-31-1) got open for a score, the bulk of the passing game continued to roll through Anquan Boldin (5-35) and Todd Heap (4-35).

FANTASY IMPACT: Still waiting for Rice to live up to being a top-five pick, but it hasn’t really been his fault: two tough match-ups, plus Willis McGahee (3-10) stealing his goal line looks. Not that you weren’t expecting some of that, but thus far Ray’s been disappointing. Palmer continues to walk the tightrope of keeping his targets happy; this week Terrell Owens (3-57) and Chad Ochocinco (4-44) were about equal, while slot guy Jordan Shipley (5-42) and tight end Jermaine Gresham (3-15) got in on the fun as well. On the bright side, Cincy is far from one-dimensional offensively.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 19, TENNESSEE TITANS 11

If ever a game was won with defense, it was this one. Pittsburgh’s only touchdown came on the opening kickoff, a pair of quarterbacks generated just 43 passing yards, and lead back Rashard Mendenhall averaged barely three yards a carry on 23 totes. However, if you had the Steelers’ D/ST and the under, this was your lucky day.

You almost looked foolish for benching Chris Johnson, but his 85-yard TD jaunt was erased by a holding penalty and he finished the afternoon with 16-34 on the ground and 5-19 as a receiver. Speaking of benched, Vince Young (7-10-66-0-2) took a seat and Kerry Collins (17-25-149-1-1) sparked the Tennessee passing game... at least a little bit.

FANTASY IMPACT: With Collins chucking, not only did Nate Washington (4-34-1) reward those who picked him up after last weeks score but Justin Gage (4-74) and Kenny Britt (5-41) appeared on the radar as well. No word yet what the Titans’ quarterback plan will be going forward, though if it’s Collins it becomes a whole lot easier to plug members of the Tennessee receiving corps into your fantasy lineup. Conversely, the Steelers’ passing game was on life support under Dennis Dixon (4-6-18 plust 3-28 on the ground0; when he was knocked out with a knee injury, it flatlined under Charlie Batch (5-11-25). Ben Roethlisberger is still a couple weeks out, but even the return of Byron Leftwich would go a long way towards salvaging Hines Ward (1-9) and Mike Wallace (2-25).

DENVER BRONCOS 31, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 14

The Broncos have waited patiently for first-round pick Demaryius Thomas; he rewarded that patience with 8-97-1 in his NFL debut and will be the week’s hottest pickup if he isn’t on rosters already. That was the tip of Kyle Orton’s 307-yard, two TD outburst, which also boosted the stat lines of Eddie Royal (5-65-1), Knowshon Moreno (4-67), and even Brandon Lloyd (2-15). Moreno also contributed 24-51-1 on the ground, though Correll Buckhalter (11-19-1) vultured a touchdown.

Matt Hasselbeck provided what few highlights there were for Seattle, with 233 and 1 in the air (to offset three INTs) and a 20-yard TD scramble in the fourth quarter. The only other performance of note belonged to Golden Tate, who flashed open field skills with a 63-yard punt return and a 52-yard reception; however, he was unable to close the deal on either play.

FANTASY IMPACT: Maybe we have a little more clarity in the Seattle running game, with Justin Forsett (8-44, 1-8) far and away the most productive back despite losing a TD run to a penalty. Leon Washington (4-17) and Julius Jones (4-12) comprised the other half of Seattle’s RBBC, which still isn’t doing enough to make any member fantasy worthy. The Broncos’ dominance of this game allowed offensive balance (35 runs, 35 passes), but it couldn’t hide Thomas’ skills or the fantasy potential of Orton, who has quietly become a viable weekly fantasy play.

OAKLAND RAIDERS 16, ST. LOUIS RAMS 14

Another outstanding effort from Darren McFadden (30-145 on the ground, 2-8 as a receiver) was very nearly wasted; then the Raiders went to the bullpen for Bruce Gradkowski, who bailed out Jason Campbell (8-15-87-0-1) with 11-22-162-1-1—and that still almost didn’t cut it

It wasn’t a 50-throw outing for Sam Bradford (14-25-167-2-1); in fact, early on it appeared as if Steven Jackson would be doing all the heavy lifting. But while Jackson contributed 19-75 on the ground and led the team in receiving with four catches for 50 yards, he was once again held out of the end zone. And while the quantity wasn’t there this week, Mark Clayton (2-24-2) was Bradford’s go-to guy in the red zone.

FANTASY IMPACT: Laurent Robinson (1-4) is the Rams’ most talented receiver, and Danny Amendola (4-39) sees plenty of targets. But it must be a Sooner thing, because Bradford’s penchant for Clayton has made him almost as valuable a fantasy entity as Jackson—moreso in TD-heavy leagues, seeing as Clayton knows where the end zone is. Like last year, the insertion of Gradkowski unleashed the Raiders’ downfield passing game. Instead of Zach Miller (3-49) pacing the team in receiving, wide receivers Louis Murphy (6-91-1) and Darius Heyward-Bey (6-80) topped the list. Of course, it took 13 targets for DHB to make six grabs, but still.

HOUSTON TEXANS 30, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 27 (OT)

Hope you didn’t sell low on the Houston passing game after last week’s aberration; 2009’s top-ranked aerial attack bounced back with a vengeance as Matt Schaub (38-52-497-3-1) almost hit the 500-yard mark in the Texans’ overtime win. Of course Andre Johnson (12-158-1) was along for the ride, with secondary targets Kevin Walter (11-144-1) and Jacoby Jones (6-53-1) contributing as well. But maybe the most reassuring contribution came from last week’s stud, Arian Foster; not only did he get 19 carries for a respectable 69 yards, he also caught three balls for another 69 to make up for a touchdown-less afternoon.

The good news is, Washington’s offensive woes appear to be history. A pair of first-quarter field goals gave way to a torrent of touchdowns, kicked off by Clinton Portis’ return to the end zone—twice—as part of a 13-33-2 effort. And then Donovan McNabb (28-38-426-1-0) took over, dragging with him four Redskin receivers with at least 60 yards. After last week you expected Santana Moss (10-89) and Chris Cooley (3-64-1) to be there; the inclusion of Joey Galloway (3-88) and Fred Davis (1-62) was a bit of a surprise.

FANTASY IMPACT: While Portis’ 2.5 yards per carry was hardly impressive, at least it was on the positive side of the ledger—something neither Mike Sellers (1-0) nor Larry Johnson (2-(-7)) could accomplish. For the foreseeable future at least, Portis still has the feature gig. With Owen Daniels (2-24) still limited, Joel Dreessen (1-28) is getting some looks. But most of Daniels’ former looks are being divvied up amongst the auxiliary wideouts, with Walter outpacing Jones for fantasy relevancy.

NEW YORK JETS 28, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 14

It was turn back the clock day at the New Meadowlands: LaDainain Tomlinson (11-76 rushing, 4-26 as a receiver) rolled up triple-digit combo yardage and unlike last week the Jets flashed a competent passing game. Behind three touchdowns and 220 yards from Mark Sanchez, the Jets beat the Patriots through the air and received enough on the ground from LT and Shonn Greene (15-52, 1-8) to reel off 21 unanswered points for the win.

Both Randy Moss (2-38-1) and Wes Welker (6-38-1) worked their way off of Revis Island and into the end zone, but after the Jets’ superstar cover corner left the game with a hamstring injury the Patriots couldn’t solve Gang Green’s defense. Tom Brady (20-36-248-2-2) was picked twice, the ground game was non-existent, and rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez (6-101) was the only pass catcher to top 40 yards.

FANTASY IMPACT: So much for Fred Taylor (5-11) being the lead dog in Bill Belichick’s RBBC; Benjarvus Green-Ellis (10-19) saw the most touches and Kevin Faulk (5-22, 2-15) was the most productive. And the merry-go-round continues. The Jets mixed up the recipe a bit, throwing 30 passes and giving their backs just 26 carries. Despite last week’s fumbles Greene still saw the larger workload, but once again Tomlinson was more productive. It will be interesting to see how that plays out the rest of the season.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 38, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 13

Ryan Mathews rolled up 55 yards on seven touches before exiting with an ankle injury; rather than panic, the Chargers turned to a combo platter of Mike Tolbert (16-82-2, 1-13) and Darren Sproles (5-37, 4-63) and dominated the Jaguars. Of course, Philip Rivers’ 22-29-334-3-2 didn’t hurt, with Antonio Gates (5-57-2) and Malcolm Floyd (3-95-1) handling the bulk of the fantasy scoring.

When the Jaguars head west bad things tend to happen; in this case, that meant a benching for David Garrard (15-23-173-1-4) and an abysmal outing for Maurice Jones-Drew (12-31 on the ground, 1-17 as a receiver). Luke McCown (11-19-120) sparked a garbage-time run that led to unexpected fantasy helpers from Mike Sims-Walker (10-105-1) and Marcedes Lewis (5-70), but that’s about it in the silver lining department.

FANTASY IMPACT: If you’re into handcuffs, Rashard Jennings proved to be a competent understudy for MoJo with 9-38 on the ground and 4-50 as a receiver after this one was decided. But here’s hoping MoJo gets his mojo back—and soon. As for the Bolts’ backfield, Mathews could have returned but the game was already well in hand. However, he fumbled again and the Tolbert/Sproles tandem was effective; the Chargers may not need to rush him back for next week, and when he does return he could lose at least some touches to both.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 38, NEW YORK GIANTS 14

Last week the Colts were on the receiving end of a running-game beatdown; this week, they delivered the blow with Joseph Addai (20-92, 2-21) and, after an invisible Week 1 and much to the chagrin of Addai owners, Donald Brown (16-69-1, 1019). Of course, there was plenty of Peyton Manning (20-26-255-3) to go around as well, with the usual receiving targets—Reggie Wayne (7-96-1), Dallas Clark (5-83-1), Austin Collie (4-25-1)—putting up their usual helpful fantasy numbers.

The Giants built a 24-point deficit that prevented them from running the ball against Indy like the Texans did last week, and Eli Manning (13-24-161-2-1) brought a knife to a family gunfight. No receiver caught more than four balls; Mario Manningham (4-75-1) and Hakeem Nicks (2-38-1) produced second-half scores, but with a 10-minute time of possession deficit and 17 fewer plays than the Colts, there wasn’t enough yardage for non-scores like Steve Smith (4-35) to contribute.

FANTASY IMPACT: Though the Giants were forced to play from behind all night, the running game split was telling: Ahmad Bradshaw turned 17 carries into 89 yards, while Brandon Jacobs saw just four carries and produced eight yards. Two interesting tidbits from the Colts’ big night: Collie’s consistent contributions (and Pierre Garçon’s (1-11) lack thereof, at least this wee) bump him up to third in Peyton’s pecking order; and Brown not only stole an Addai touchdown but very nearly matched his touch total—a situation that doesn’t bode well for Addai’s future as a fantasy feature back.

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