BALTIMORE RAVENS 37, CAROLINA PANTHERS 13
The Ravens used a patient game plan; not that they only ran the ball, as evidenced by a nice stat day from Joe Flacco (24-33-301-1). But they ran enough plays to earn a 9:30 advantage in time of possession behind another solid combo day from Ray Rice (19-65-1 on the ground, 6-66 as a receiver). Carolina’s secondary did a solid job on Baltimore’s starting receivers, with Anquan Boldin (3-29) and Derrick Mason (3-42) held in check; however, third receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (2-79-1) drew first blood with a 56-yard TD grab and tight end Todd Heap (5-69) was Flacco’s favorite downfield target.
DeAngelo Williams couldn’t get it done; neither could Jonathan Stewart. But working with the same banged up offensive line and talent-depleted quarterback corps, Mike Goodson (22-120, 5-31) pulled off his second straight 100-yard rushing effort. That and an 88-yard touchdown toss from Brian St. Pierre (13-28-173-1-2) to David Gettis (2-92-1) was pretty much the extent of the Panthers’ offense.
FANTASY IMPACT: Not that you look to the Panthers for fantasy help, but at this point there’s no reason for them to go back to Stewart. That leaves Goodson to face two bottom-feeding run defenses in Weeks 13 (Seattle) and 15 (Arizona). Rice owners have to be happy he (finally) rediscovered the end zone. But they may be downright ecstatic about this stat: Rice house six of the Ravens’ seven red zone carries, including four inside the 10-yard line. While half of Willis McGahee’s (8-23, 2-(-10)) 10 touches came on the Carolina side of the field, his closest thing to a goal line carry was a one-yard gain from the Panthers’ 19.
BUFFALO BILLS 49, CINCINNATI BENGALS 31
Ryan Fitzpatrick (21-34-316-4-2) threw his first touchdown pass five minutes into the second quarter; unfortunately for him, it was to Cincy CB Jonathan Joseph for 21 yards the other way to put Buffalo in a 28-7 hole. Then Steve Johnson (8-137-3) got serious, with a big assist from Fred Jackson (21-116-2) as the Bills ran off 42 points to the Bengals’ three to complete the comeback.
A third of the way through the game, the Bengals were sailing: Chad Ochocino (3-28-1) had his touchdown, Terrell Owens (3-63-1) had his touchdown, and Cedrick Benson (25-124-1, 3-22) had his. But a pair of Palmer picks and failure to finish two long drives (one a missed field goal, one an INT) doomed the Bengals to be a footnote.
FANTASY IMPACT: With Benson nursing a foot injury, Bernard Scott was a popular waiver pickup in many leagues; he rewarded those owners with minus-three rushing yards and minus-six receiving yards. Looks like that draft of Benson’s Bengals obit may be premature. The Bills were derided for not taking a quarterback in the 2010 draft; instead, they took running back C.J. Spiller, who has done little. With the emergence of Fitzpatrick as a legitimate NFL quarterback and Johnson as his go-to receiver, not to mention Jackson as at minimum a complement to Spiller, Buffalo would seem to have their skill positions relatively set. Maybe it’s time to work on that offensive line...
DALLAS COWBOYS 35, DETROIT LIONS 19
Early on, Jason Phillips’ Cowboys looked too much like Wade Phillips’ Cowboys; then another big return from Bryan McCann kick-started Dallas as they rallied from a halftime deficit behind a big day from Jon Kitna (18-24-147-3, plus 4-40-1 on the ground). It was only fitting that Kitna extend the Lions’ road futility record, which he helped launch during his days in Detroit.
Shaun Hill (32-47-289-2-1) did what he usually does with the guys—Calvin Johnson (6-46-1), Nate Burleson (7-97-1), and Brandon Pettigrew (8-75)—he usually does it with. Detroit got no help from the ground game, which was led by Maurice Morris’ pedestrian 10-31.
FANTASY IMPACT: Remember when Jahvid Best (3-2 rushing, 4-15 receiving) scored his last touchdown back in Week 2? The toe injury that has hampered him since then now has a partner, and Best couldn’t play through the matching set. Tough to see him with much fantasy value the rest of the way. While Felix Jones (11-51, 3-35) wasn’t bad, overall the Dallas running game was its typical underwhelming self. On the bright side, lack of a running game contributed to the Cowboys’ need to throw at the stripe. And that, in turn, led to Dez Bryant (3-8-1) and Miles Austin (2-7-2) scoring three touchdowns from inside the five-yard line.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 24, CLEVELAND BROWNS 20
We saw some of the old David Garrard (three picks) and enough of the more recent, improved Garrard (20-34-254-2) for the Jaguars to pull off another late win. Without Mike Sims-Walker, Garrard turned to Marcedes Lewis (5-66-1) and Mike Thomas (5-66-1); more importantly, he put the ball in the hands of Maurice Jones-Drew 26 times and received 220 combo yards for his efforts.
Despite a roster devoid of playmakers outside of Peyton Hillis (21-48 on the ground, 6-95-1 as a receiver), the Browns can play with anyone. Another may be developing, though Eric Mangini has been slow to recognize it: Colt McCoy. His stats (17-28-241-1-1, 4-39 on the ground) don’t provide a ton of fantasy help, but if you saw how he avoided sacks and got the ball to Hillis on his touchdown you know he’s clearly the Browns’ best option at the position.
FANTASY IMPACT: Ben Watson (targeted once, no catches) gets the starts and most of the attention, but the Browns may have their own athletic, receiver-first tight end in Evan Moore (3-69). Depending on where the Cleveland offense goes from here, he’s a deep sleeper to keep an eye on heading into 2011. Were you a MoJo owner who hit the panic button too hard, too early? Or has your patience been rewarded with his three straight 100-yard rushing efforts? No question Garrard’s resurgence has helped Jones-Drew, but so has an offense that’s put the ball in his hands an average of five times more per game over the past month.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 31, ARIZONA CARDINALS 13
So, would the Chiefs use their rushing attack to beat up Arizona, or would they feed the hot hand in their passing game? Both, as it turns out. Jamaal Charles (12-88, 4-38) was the more productive back but Thomas Jones (15-71-2) stole both touchdowns. And then there’s Dwayne Bowe, who extended his streak of games with a touchdown catch to six with 6-109-2. The Chiefs needed little more.
Let’s find some silver linings in the Arizona box score. How about Chris Wells (8-39) actually sticking around for eight whole carries? Way to tough it out, big fell! Tim Hightower (12-62, 3-24) was once again the more productive back. Derek Anderson (25-46-295-1) completed more than half his passes and didn’t throw any to the other team, so that’s positive. And most importantly, in the epitome of garbage time scoring, Anderson found the Cards’ only fantasy-relevant player, Larry Fitzgerald (6-90-1), for a touchdown as time expired.
FANTASY IMPACT: Maybe Fitz isn’t the only Cardinal with fantasy value; their lack of a running game and ability to fall behind quickly means Steve Breaston (5-92) is seeing his share of looks as well. The Chiefs threatened to hose owners of both Charles and Jones by giving Jackie Battle (1-0) a goal line carry; fortunately, he did nothing with it. And while the Jones/Charles thing is still a frustration, fantasy owners have to love an offense that puts the ball in the hands of its big dogs—Jones, Charles, and Bowe—85 percent of the time; other than incomplete passes from Matt Cassel (15-24-193-2), the remainder of the KC roster accounted for just seven offensive touches.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 31, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 3
Aaron Rodgers (22-31-301-4) picked apart an overmatched Vikings secondary, working primarily wherever Antoine Winfield wasn’t. And that, primarily, was where Greg Jennings (7-152-3) was, though James Jones (3-51-1) joined the fun as well. And really, it was just that simple: Rodgers throwing, Jennings catching, and the Vikings futilely chasing.
Evidently the return of Sidney Rice (3-56) wasn’t the cure-all the Vikings passing game has been looking for, even though he led the team in both receptions and yardage. An early deficit and the same ill-advised play-calling that has plagued the Vikings most of the season held Adrian Peterson (14-72) to just three carries after halftime despite the five-yards-per-carry average.
FANTASY IMPACT: In the postgame presser Brett Favre (17-38-208-0-1) said he needed to “re-evaluate” some things. Maybe that means he’s tired of playing through the injuries, maybe it means he’s fed up with the coaching... maybe it means the streak is done and we’ll be treated to Tarvaris Jackson. It’s not like the Vikings passing game could get any more feeble. Speaking of feeble, it’s not like much was expected of Brandon Jackson (14-28, 4-38 receiving)—but two yards a carry? Much to the chagrin of those who’ve been stumping for James Starks for the past two months, Dmitri Nance (12-37) got an audition; unfortunately, he did nothing to dissuade those beating the drums for Starks to get more work.
NEW YORK JETS 30, HOUSTON TEXANS 27
What do you get when you cross a vaunted ground game that can’t get going with a couple speedy receivers and the worst pass defense in the NFL? You get Mark Sanchez (22-38-315-3-1) giving up on his running game and getting his money’s worth out of Santonio Holmes (7-126-2) and Braylon Edwards (4-86-1).
Arian Foster (22-84-2, 6-59) held up pretty well in the face of the Jets’ defense, but of the notable Texans he was the only one. Matt Schaub (19-33-254-1) had trouble finding Andre Johnson (4-32) on Revis Island and was forced to turn to tight end Joel Dreessen (4-106-1) because Kevin Walter (2-16) and Jacoby Jones (1-10 rushing, no catches) were off the radar entirely.
FANTASY IMPACT: With 143 combo yards and two TDs against the Jets, Foster has officially become matchup-proof. Now if he can remain Kubiak-proof he’ll be solid gold the rest of the way. The Jets appear to be transitioning the backfield workload to a larger share for Shonn Greene (15-42), but that doesn’t mean he’s more effective; in fact, he hasn’t seen the end zone since Week 5 and is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry since taking over the lead in the RBBC. LaDainian Tomlinson (12-36, 7-71) wasn’t much better on the ground, but at least he hit triple-digit yards from scrimmage.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 35, OAKLAND RAIDERS 3
After spotting the Raiders a three-spot, the Steelers went to work—largely on the arm of Ben Roethlisberger (18-29-275-3 plus 3-55-1 rushing), to a cast led by Mike Wallace (3-116-1). However, the other TD tosses went to non-fantasy entities like Emmanuel Sanders (2-35-1) and Isaac Redman (1-16-1)—much to the chagrin of Hines Ward (3-28) owners.
Jason Campbell (7-19-70-0-1) got the hook, Bruce Gradkowski (13-24-98-0-1) did little to get his job back, and Darren McFadden (10-14, 2-16) did nothing of note. There’s a reason you don’t start Raiders most weeks, and especially on the road against the Steel Curtain.
FANTASY IMPACT: Will Gradkowski be back at the helm next week? Hard to say how that will impact the Raiders’ ever-changing corps of receivers as starters Jacoby Ford (2-27) and Louis Murphy (3-25) were outperformed by Johnnie Lee Higgins (4-37)—not that any were anything special. You’d think in a blowout win at home—especially one in which Richard Seymour gets tossed for living the dream of drunk college girls everywhere and slugging Roethlisberger in the jaw—Rashard Mendenhall (23-59-1) would have contributed a whole lot more. He’s been enigmatic, especially for a back who’s supposed to be an RB1.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS 19, TENNESSEE TITANS 16
Funny how effective a passing game can be with the same two guys doing all the catching. Donovan McNabb (30-50-376-1-1) spread his targets around, but all the productivity came from Santana Moss (6-106-1) and Chris Cooley (7-91). Among the rest of the Redskins, only Keiland Williams (23-68 rushing, 6-27 receiving) caught more than half of his targets. But the Washington defense held up to everything the Titans threw at them, and on this particular Sunday those two targets were enough.
The Titans couldn’t even muster an offensive touchdown despite 21-130 on the ground from Chris Johnson and 5-117 via the air from Nate Washington. An inability to convert in the red zone led to settling for field goals, and Vince Young’s (12-16-165) injury and immaturity doomed the Titans down the stretch. Enjoy Rusty Smith (3-9-62-0-1)
FANTASY IMPACT: Young and Fisher had words following the game as Young stormed out of the locker room, leaving Fisher to announce that Smith will be his quarterback next week. Maybe he can find Randy Moss, who was targeted three times but did not record a catch. Clinton Portis (5-32, 2-1) was back in action briefly before aggravating his groin injury. No word on whether he’ll be in the mix for carries next week, but he clearly can’t be trusted with a fantasy start. And with both Portis and Torain ailing, maybe Williams will see another 29 touches.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 34, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 19
Now this is the Saints offense we’ve been waiting for. Drew Brees (29-43-382-4-2) spotted the Seahawks a couple early field goals and got Chris Ivory (23-99-1) an early score, but after that it was all vintage Brees. He loaded up on Marques Colston (8-113-2), found the enigmatic Robert Meachem (3-50-2), and even involved rookie tight end Jimmy Graham (5-72) in the fun.
Trying to keep up with the Saints has its advantages, specifically big numbers for Matt Hasselbeck (32-44-366-1). And because Hass had to throw to somebody, that translated into solid games for Mike Williams (6-109) and Ben Obomanu (5-87-1), with a little Brandon Stokley (6-76) tossed in for good measure.
FANTASY IMPACT: Because the Seahawks are still in the hunt in the NFC West, and because they tend to play well at home, it’s worth tracking their running back situation. This week, it wasn’t pretty: Justin Forsett (8-10, 5-33) saw more work but Marshawn Lynch (7-36, 4-19) outproduced him. Not that either 13-43 or 11-55 are real fantasy helpers. After largely disappointing over the first six weeks of the season, Colston has averaged 8-91-1 over the past four, with two 100-yard efforts to his credit. At minimum he’s become the most reliable target in a resurgent offense; at best, he’s living up to the preseason WR1 billing.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 21, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 0
The Bucs didn’t do a whole lot offensively, but with the Niners posting a goose-egg they didn’t need to. Josh Freeman (13-20-136-2) directed the charge, finding his favorite target Mike Williams (3-54-1) in the end zone for the only meaningful receiving stat line of the day; the rest of the offense was handled by the ground game, with LeGarrette Blount pounding out 26-82 and Carnell Williams (7-51-1, 1-7) swiping a touchdown.
At home, against one of the softer run defenses in the league... 12 carries for 23 yards? Frank Gore, you should be ashamed of yourself. Even his 5-37 receiving wasn’t enough to salvage his sorry day. After a couple games of success, Troy Smith (16-31-148-0-1) had no magic to bail out his punchless mates.
FANTASY IMPACT: With this Smith struggling, will Mike Singletary go back to Alex? Somebody needs to rescue the fantasy seasons of Michael Crabtree (1-15) and Vernon Davis (1-3). Freeman’s second touchdown pass went to Donald Penn on a tackle-eligible play at the goal line. While that probably isn’t what Kellen Winslow (4-34) owners want to see, it may loosen things up down the road for Blount—or Freeman, who wasn’t shy about sneaking for a first down on third-and-one.
ATLANTA FALCONS 34, SAINT LOUIS RAMS 17
Settling for field goals on three of five red zone trips nearly cost the Falcons; instead, a late 39-yard touchdown run not only pulled their bacon out of the fire, it also gave Michael Turner (28-131-1) a much more respectable stat line than 27-92. Matt Ryan (26-39-253-2) was heavily involved as well, though touchdown tosses to Justin Peelle (2-14-1) and Brian Finneran (1-12-1) left Roddy White (9-83) wanting.
Sam Bradford (27-42-233-2-1) set an NFL rookie record for most consecutive passes without an interception—then threw a pick in the red zone that set up Turner’s game-clinching score. Prior to that he was solid, feeding his WR trio of Danny Amendola (8-63), Laurent Robinson (5-55), and Brandon Gibson (5-42-1). The downfield work was necessary because Steven Jackson (11-54, 3-7) was ineffective.
FANTASY IMPACT: You’ll want to start working on how to spell and say Michael Hoomanawanui, whose 4-46-1 outing included not only the touchdown but also a nifty sideline catch that should have Bradford trusting him for seasons to come. Michael Jenkins (5-58) and Tony Gonzalez (4-46) offered good-not-great wingmen stat lines, but Finneran and Peelle took their TDs. It’s starting to become a semi-regular thing from Finneran, which is why it’s difficult to trust Jenkins with a fantasy start. And if Peelle starts stealing from Gonzo on a consistent basis...
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 31, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 28
Tom Brady (19-25-186-2) may have lost the stat battle, but he received a whole lot more help from his running game. BenJarvis Green-Ellis (21-96-1, 1-4) became just the latest back to tear up Indy on the ground, while Danny Woodhead (7-69-1, 4-21) used a pretty 36-yard TD run to give his stat line a boost. Didn’t hurt that the Deion Branch (7-70) reunion tour continues to play to full houses, or that Wes Welker (5-58-1) rediscovered the end zone.
Sigh. Peyton Manning (38-52-396-4-3) leads his team back from 17 points down, throwing two fourth-quarter touchdowns despite an injury-ravaged receiving corps—and all anyone wants to talk about is the game-ending INT. How about how he put the ball in a tiny window over double coverage where only Reggie Wayne (8-107-1) could catch it? How about him losing Austin Collie (5-60)—again—and making backups like Blair White (5-42-2) and Jacob Tamme (7-60) relevant? How about six different receivers with at least 40 yards?
FANTASY IMPACT: For a change the Colts got something from Donald Brown (17-68, 3-40), though he wasn’t able to get into the end zone. That’s probably not enough for him to keep the job when Joseph Addai gets healthy... if he gets healthy. Did you chase Rob Gronkowski’s hat trick from last week? Not only did the 1-25 have to hurt, but the TD toss to the other tight end, Aaron Hernandez (1-8-1) twisted the knife in the back. That makes it tight ends on the receiving end of six of Brady’s last seven TD tosses, but neither Hernandez nor Gronkowski has scored in back-to-back games. Does that mean it’s Gronk next week?
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 27, NEW YORK GIANTS 17
So maybe Michael Vick (24-38-258, 11-34-1) is human after all, though it’s always nice to have that rushing score to fall back on. After chewing up bottom-feeding defenses Vick fared quite well against a very good one, though it was Jeremy Maclin (9-120) rather than DeSean Jackson (5-50) who served as his favorite downfield foil.
The Giants’ numbers were down across the board, except for their turnovers—and five giveaways proved to be their undoing. The most egregious, of course, was Eli Manning (20-33-147-2-3) diving instead of sliding after picking up first-down yardage on a fourth-down play, then losing the ball as he got up. If not for that miscue the Giants might have somehow managed to overcome a game in which Hakeem Nicks (6-65) was the only receiver to top 25 yards and their vaunted one-two running game punch totaled just 39 yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: Ahmad Bradshaw (12-29, 2-(-5)) not only had a lousy statistical night, he put the ball on the ground again—a league-leading sixth fumble. If Brandon Jacobs (5-10, 1-22) hadn’t been so inept his place, Bradshaw might still be sitting on the sidelines with his helmet in his hands. The ongoing butterfingers are a concern if you’re banking on Bradshaw heading down the fantasy stretch. Conversely, LeSean McCoy (14-111-1, 5-29) put up numbers that belie his ongoing role in a Mike Vick offense. But 90 of those yards—including a 50-yard touchdown—came late in the game; to that point, McCoy’s primary role was to shake Vick’s hand after he scrambled for a touchdown. It’s a concern that, coupled with Philly’s tough sked against the run the rest of the way, might suggest McCoy is a viable sell-high candidate for someone with a larger role in the offense and a more favorable playoff schedule.