ATLANTA FALCONS 20, GREEN BAY PACKERS 17
Recapping the Falcons’ fantasy prospects sounds a whole lot like a broken record (skipping CD? Does anyone even remember vinyl?): Michael Turner (23-110-1) got his, Tony Gonzalez (6-51-1) and Roddy White (5-49) headed up the passing game, and Matt Ryan (24-28-197-1) got another win at home. In fact, players outside Atlanta’s Big Four accounted for a total of 100 yards—less than a third of Atlanta’s production.
Aaron Rodgers (26-35-344-1, 12-51-1 rushing) is no Mike Vick, but with the Packers unable to cobble together any sort of a ground game he’s become a dual threat. His ability to move around in the pocket and make plays on the run kept Green Bay in this game when the remainder of his team accounted for 26 yards of total offense.
FANTASY IMPACT: No longer is there a question about which Green Bay receiver is the go-to guy. Donald Driver (2-26) has come back from his injury to a significantly reduced role while Greg Jennings (5-119) has been a monster. Even Jordy Nelson (5-61-1) and James Jones (5-44) have usurped Driver in the passing game pecking order. If Turner owners haven’t already done so, it’s time to add Jason Snelling (4-7, 4-32) to your fantasy banch—assuming the hamstring injury that knocked him out in the second half isn’t significant. He’d be the guy to step in should tragedy befall Turner, and he’s also carving out a role for himself even when Turner is healthy.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 19, BUFFALO BILLS 16 (OT)
The first half went exactly as scripted for the Steelers, with Rashard Mendenhall (36-151-1) steamrolling the Bills; the only downer was settling for field goals rather than finishing drives with touchdowns. Buffalo took the deep ball away, limiting Mike Wallace to three catches for 33 yards; that left Hines Ward (7-107) and Heath Miller (4-46) to work underneath, making Ben Roethlisberger (20-33-246) work for his yardage.
The Bills stuck around, and even had a couple shots to win the game glance off Steve Johnson’s (7-68) fingertips. Ultimately it was Fred Jackson (12-59, 5-104-1) who kept Buffalo in this one with a long TD reception and just enough rushing to keep the defense honest. Didn’t prevent the Steelers from hitting Ryan Fitzpatrick (23-45-265-1-1), but it did allow him to carve out a decent set of stats.
FANTASY IMPACT: Jackson’s performance once again begs the question: why spend the draft pick on C.J. Spiller? Spiller’s presence makes it difficult to bank on Jackson’s dynasty value, and his lack of any production makes it hard to judge just what he might do if the Bills upgrade other elements of their offense. The Steelers had been flirting with getting other backs involved in their offense, but 36 carries from Mendenhall—and 8-37 from other Pittsburgh running backs—suggest they’ll ride him as far as he can go.
CLEVELAND BROWNS 24, CAROLINA PANTHERS 23
Not like this comes as a news flash, but for fantasy purposes in Cleveland there’s Peyton Hillis (26-131-3, 6-63) and there’s nothing much left at all. Jake Delhomme (24-35-245-0-2) tried to help out in the passing game, but his only touchdown went 37 yards the other way to Panther CB Captain Munnerlyn.
Carolina still isn’t getting anything from its quarterbacks, but the loss of DeAngelo Williams doesn’t seem to have hurt their backfield productivity. Jonathan Stewart (12-98) led the charge on the ground while Mike Goodson (14-55-1, 8-81) accounted for 136 yards from scrimmage; no other Panther accounted for as much as 40 yards in the game.
FANTASY IMPACT: The Panthers produced the backfield-heavy offense we had been expecting, even though Williams is out for the year. But with no quarterbacking skills to speak of, Steve Smith (2-33) has lost all fantasy value. Hillis is approaching record territory in Cleveland, awakening memories of Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly. Wonder if those guys got as little help as Hillis does from the likes of Mohamed Massaquoi (4-52) or Brian Robiskie (7-50).
HOUSTON TEXANS 20, TENNESSEE TITANS 0
Arian Foster (30-143, 9-75) won the battle of elite backs, primarily because he had a legit quarterback on his side as Matt Schaub (25-35-178-2) took care of the scoring. Schaub under center gave Andre Johnson (9-56-1) a fighting chance, which he took quite literally in squaring off with Courtland Finnegan late in the game in a battle royale that earned both players ejections.
The Titans had the ball half as long as Houston, produced less than half as much yardage, and got the ball in Chris Johnson’s hands just nine times (7-5, 2-2). It was that bad.
FANTASY IMPACT: If Rusty Smith (17-31-138-0-3) is what the Titans are going to be trotting out at quarterback the rest of the way, you can kiss Johnson’s fantasy value goodbye. At least Randy Moss (3-23) made a token appearance. It remains to be seen if Johnson’s fight with Finnegan costs him anything more than an early sit this week and a few thousand dollars. The Texans would dearly miss him, as neither Jacoby Jones (2-13) nor Kevin Walter (1-12) have stepped up in any way, shape or form.
NEW YORK GIANTS 24, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 20
Once the Giants stopped settling for field goals, they capitalized on a balanced attack to rally past the Jags. With top receivers Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith sidelined due to injuries, Mario Manningham (3-61-1) and tight end Kevin Boss (3-74-1) stepped up to give Eli Manning (14-24-226-2) some targets. Boss also owes Manningham one, as his holding penalty negated an apparent Mario TD.
Despite Maurice Jones-Drew (21-113, 4-9) doing the heavy lifting, the Jaguars got their touchdowns on a pair of five-yard vulture runs from Rashard Jennings (7-53-1) and David Garrard (20-35-162-0-1, 6-41-1 on the ground). Jacksonville needed all the ground game help it could get, as despite the return of Mike Sims-Walker (4-48) to the lineup no receiver topped 50 yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: The stolen TDs are disconcerting for MoJo owners, especially given the fact that Jennings’ TD came on the Jags’ opening drive. Jones-Drew broke off a 23-yard run, then left the game with Jacksonville just outside the red zone; two plays later, Jennings had them in the end zone. The Brandon Jacobs (14-87) as starter experiment worked about as expected, with Ahmad Bradshaw (9-49, 4-34) producing almost as much yardage despite lesser touches; Bradshaw also added a two-point conversion, suggesting that maybe Jacobs won’t be the default option at the goal line.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 17, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 13
The blueprint was exactly what the Vikings have been shooting for—28 carries for 112 yards and two TDs from their tailbacks while asking Brett Favre (15-23-172 plus 5-9 on the ground that included a game-clinching 10 yard amble on third down) to move the chains and manage the game. What wasn’t expected was Adrian Peterson (6-36-1, 1-34) exiting with an ankle injury and Toby Gerhart (22-76-1, 2-5) picking up the slack.
The Redskins got nothing going on the ground, though after Keiland Williams (3-5, 4-21) did nothing they did get to test drive James Davis (6-11, 1-4)—who wasn’t much better. Donovan McNabb (21-35-211-1-1) started out hot but generated little after a solid opening drive; as a result the fantasy lines of Santana Moss (5-40) and Chris Cooley (5-49) were tepid at best.
FANTASY IMPACT: Anthony Armstrong (2-53) continues to get some shots down the field. With Washington’s running game clearly in shambles, McNabb may be forced to air it out a little more, which would certainly bode well for Armstrong. No word yet on the severity of Peterson’s injury, but it highlights the need to handcuff your stud backs heading into the playoffs. And Minnesota’s willingness to give Gerhart the workload dampens the fantasy value of the passing game going forward—though they’re still finding ways to get the ball to Percy Harvin (3-14 rushing, 5-32 receiving).
MIAMI DOLPHINS 33, OAKLAND RAIDERS 17
Chad Henne (17-30-307-2-1) went from benched to injured to a gaudy stat line in a big win; he did it without Brandon Marshall, though it didn’t hurt that the Raiders’ secondary was also beat up. Davonne Bess (6-111) and Brian Hartline (4-75) stepped up in Marshall’s absence, though the real contribution came from a pounding ground game that featured Ronnie Brown (24-85) and Ricky Williams (20-95-1).
The entirety of Oakland’s offense came from Jacoby Ford (1-13, 4-108-1), who led the team in both rushing and receiving and scored both Raider touchdowns, one on a 101-yard kickoff return to open the game. Darren McFadden (8-2, 7-63) contributed something as a receiver, but for the most part he was a non-factor along with the rest of the Oakland offense.
FANTASY IMPACT: Ford caught balls of 44 and 52 yards from Bruce Gradkowski (17-32-252-1-2), but Gradkowski reinjured his shoulder late in the game. That means Ford is back to relying on Jason Campbell to keep his fantasy value afloat, which is anything but a given. Despite the 180 rushing yards on 44 carries, Miami was not all that impressive on the ground. Take out Williams’ 45-yard garbage-time TD run and the Miami ground machine averaged barely three yards a carry.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 42, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 24
It’s Dwayne Bowe’s world, we’re all just living in it. Despite getting 270 yards from its league-leading ground game, the Chiefs still found a way for Bowe to catch 13 balls for 170 yards and three touchdowns, extending his streak to seven games with a touchdown. When Bowe wasn’t catching, Jamaal Charles (22-173-1) was running, with an assist from Thomas Jones (20-68)—more than enough to overwhelm a Seattle offense that didn’t record a first down until the second quarter.
The Seahawks continue to get productive stat lines from Matt Hasselbeck (20-37-282-2-2), though that’s partially because Seattle is playing from behind and partially because the running game is utterly ineffective—unless you’re into 20 total rushing yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: With Mike Williams nursing a foot injury, Ben Obomanu stepped up with 5-159-1, the bulk of it coming on a late 87-yard touchdown. In all nine Seahawks caught passes, but the only other player with more than 50 yards was Brandon Stokley (5-51). As if fantasy owners of Jones and Charles didn’t have enough to worry about, this week saw the Chiefs use defensive end Shaun Smith as their goal line back. Super, one more fork in KC’s fantasy pie.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 17, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 10
Of course the Ravens got a big yardage contribution from Ray Rice (20-85, 7-47), but it was a pair of second-quarter touchdown passes by Joe Flacco (25-35-289-2-1) that provided Baltimore with all the offense they would need. Todd Heap (2-79-1) continues to remain a factor in this offense, as does Derrick Mason, whose 8-87-1 constituted more catches and yardage than Anquan Boldin (3-27) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (2-36) combined.
The Bucs weren’t expecting it to be easy against a tough Baltimore defense, but until a late Josh Freeman (17-37-162-1) touchdown toss to Kellen Winslow (4-44-1) you’d be hard-pressed to find a helpful stat line amongst the Tampa Bay roster.
FANTASY IMPACT: LeGarrette Blount (13-55) follows a pattern of struggling against good defenses and ravaging bad ones. He also hasn’t closed Carnell Williams out of the fantasy picture, either; despite just nine touches (4-19 rushing, 5-41 receiving), Cadillac produced more yards from scrimmage than Blount. Mason has usurped Boldin as the Ravens’ most targeted wideout the past two weeks, seeing 19 balls compared to eight for Anquan and five for Housh. Not surprisingly, it’s been two weeks since Boldin produced a fantasy helper.
CHICAGO BEARS 31, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 26
Matching Jay Cutler with the NFL’s top intercepting defense should have produced fireworks; instead, it was Cutler who had the last laugh with 14-21-247-4 and zero picks. Cutler also benefitted from a surprisingly effective Matt Forte (14-117) as well as a Philly offense that kept settling for field goals.
Rather than Cutler getting picked, it was Michael Vick (29-44-333-2-1, 9-44 rushing) tossing his first INT of the season, the only blemish on an otherwise solid stat line. But aside from one Jeremy Maclin (4-47-1) score, Vick had trouble getting to his top downfield targets; instead, he settled for Jason Avant (8-83) and LeSean McCoy (10-53 rushing, 8-67 receiving) and even Brent Celek (3-50-1).
FANTASY IMPACT: McCoy continues to put up decent combo yardage, but between Vick’s propensity for the keeper and Philly’s struggles in general to finish drives he’s losing relevance in TD-heavy scoring systems; he has two TDs in the last six games. The Bears aren’t getting quite the prolific wide receiver stat lines expected from a Mike Martz offense, but Cutler is firing on all cylinders in the red zone. Slot receiver Earl Bennett (4-56-2) scored twice, Johnny Knox (3-68-1) found the end zone, and Greg Olsen (1-9-1) continues to be a goal line favorite.
SAINT LOUIS RAMS 36, DENVER BRONCOS 33
Sam Bradford (22-37-308-3) continues to deliver everything the Rams hoped for when they made him the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. And while he had success working outside to wideouts Danario Alexander (4-95), Laurent Robinson (4-58), and Danny Amendola (4-41), like many young QBs he leaned on his tight ends at crucial junctures—in the process hitting Michael Hoomanawanui (1-36-1) and Billy Bajema (3-32-2) for touchdowns.
The Broncos got a third straight opening drive touchdown from Knowshon Moreno (12-56-1, 6-62), but by the time the Rams pulled ahead in the second quarter the onus was back on Kyle Orton (24-41-347-3) and the passing game. And Orton, as he has done all season, leaned heavily on Brandon Lloyd (4-76-2).
FANTASY IMPACT: The Broncos didn’t get going until the fourth quarter, when they had dug themselves a 20-point deficit. The need to play catchup allowed Eddie Royal (6-74-1) and Jabar Gaffney (3-59) to sneak onto the fantasy radar in Lloyd’s shadow. The Rams tried running Steven Jackson (29-72) against Denver, one of the league’s softest run defenses; they just didn’t have much success. That Bradford picked up the slack might just signal this team has turned the corner from being Jackson’s team to being Bradford’s, with Jackson slated for a complementary role rather than being the player the Rams pin their hopes to on a weekly basis.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 36, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 14
This was supposed to be a shootout, but with Peyton Manning consistently shooting himself in the foot the Chargers changed the game plan to a more bludgeoning approach behind Mike Tolbert (26-103-1). The resulting 185 yards of passing offense knocked Philip Rivers (19-23-185) off his Marino-esque pace; it also meant a gaggle of Chargers receivers caught balls but none topped 50 yards.
Evidently Peyton Manning (31-48-285-2-4) can’t do it all. The lack of any threat on the ground allowed San Diego to pressure Manning all night long; as a result he threw four TDs—two to his guys, two to Chargers. Worse, Manning spread the ball around to the point that no receiver topped 75 yards.
FANTASY IMPACT: If Indy is to make any sort of a late-season run—or, more importantly for fantasy purposes, provide Manning with the opportunity to put up big numbers down the stretch—they’re going to need Joseph Addai; Donald Brown’s 11-24 just isn’t cutting it. On the bright side, Manning won’t have to face the Chargers—the defensive kryptonite to his Superman production—again this regular season. With Vincent Jackson leaving this game early on with a calf injury it’s difficult to tell just how the catches will be distributed in San Diego. Antonio Gates (4-46) returned and played well, though on a night where the passing game didn’t need to be on top of its game his numbers were merely ordinary.