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Pittsburgh 23, Tennessee 26
Returning from injury, and coming off an impressive Week 5 performance, this game was billed as an A+ matchup for Rashard Mendenhall. In typical Mendy fashion we open up our trust and he drops a fly in our Wheaties. Producing a meager 17 yards, Mendenhall missed the entire second half while being seen on the sidelines holding his helmet. If there is a bright side, the Steelers are calling his ailment a “mild Achilles injury” and not an aggravation of the surgically repaired knee. Although tough to recommend at this point, he does have the 25th ranked Cincy rush defense up next.
Also disturbing for Mendenhall owners was Isaac Redman’s heavy involvement from the onset of this game. Redman would actually lead the entire team in receiving yards with big gains, while breaking tackles and rumbling, bumbling and stumbling through the Titans defense (channeling my inner Chris Berman). However, Redman would also be forced out of action after taking an ugly helmet to the knee. Oddly enough, the Steelers are calling this an ankle injury saying that Redman could have returned.
As both Mendenhall and Redman became spectators it was Baron Batch leading the team in carries while sneaking in the lone rushing touchdown (ugh). Batch has minimal fantasy value as early expectations have both Mendy and Redman returning next week.
On a side note, the Steelers lost two offensive linemen during this game; center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert. Although Pouncey is not considered serious, Gilbert could miss extended action forcing rookie right tackle Mike Adams into action as the next man up. Downgrade slightly all Pittsburgh players.
Since last season, the Titans have been amongst the worst run blocking teams in the league. Subsequently, I have defended Chris Johnson believing his struggles weren’t entirely his fault. In this game, Tennessee’s run blocking showed up in a big way opening up running lanes as if they were the Dallas Cowboys circa 1995. With holes big enough for a bathtub, Johnson still looked timid and skittish. When he did make his way to the linebackers he didn’t have the same wiggle to make tacklers miss, the toughness to break arm tackles, while also lacking the 4.24 breakaway speed. Furthering our concern, was the use of fellow Titans running back Jamie Harper down near the goal line. When the smoke cleared, Johnson had a respectable 114 yards, but this should have been a classic “2K” performance. Johnson is now a low end RB2; tough to sit, tough to watch.
The insertion of Matt Hasselbeck into to Titans lineup breathes new life into the Tennessee wide receivers. In this game Kendall Wright paved the way with six receptions for 71 yards. Averaging eight receptions a game, Wright is steadily climbing into the lower WR3 range. Kenny Britt finally made his presence felt. Still shaking off the rust, Britt had a number of bad drops but managed to salvage his day with a late game touchdown coupled with his 62 yards. As promised all week, Jared Cook even got into the mix catching four balls for 54 yards.
Like many young quarterbacks, Jake Locker isn’t confident in his passing ability, often looking to run with the ball before the play breaks down. So long as Hasselbeck remains the starter, Titans’ receivers remain viable options.
Oakland 20, Atlanta 23
Oakland must have had a wakeup call this week as Darren McFadden and the Raiders rushing attack looked very motivated. Early in this matchup Darren McFadden looked like a man possessed ripping off big runs. Handed the ball 27 times, DMC cooled off ending the contest with 70 yards but also pushing in a short yardage touchdown. Even more impressive was Mike Goodson's five touches for 96 yards. Given McFadden’s extensive injury history, make sure you have Goodson handcuffed.
The Raiders also did an excellent job of getting wide receiver Denarius Moore involved in the game plan, utilizing him on short to intermediate passing routes and allowing the allusive playmaker to run free in open space. Moore rewarded fantasy owners with 104 yards and a touchdown. Just so you have fair warning, like Jeremy Maclin, Moore is on the smaller side meaning every time he takes a big hit you can see his pain. When healthy he makes for a solid WR3 as the Raiders most dynamic passing game threat.
Matt Ryan uncharacteristically tossed three interceptions in the first half severely limiting his team’s possessions. As usual Roddy White is the security blanket when the Falcons struggle, which causes a decrease in production from fellow wide receiver Julio Jones.
As we already know, Michael Turner will disappoint when he is unable to find pay dirt as yards alone won’t be enough. He is a plodding back who isn’t very allusive and better at leaning forward for positive yardage after contact. Following his week seven bye, Turner owners should find solace in the one of the leagues easiest schedules amongst all running backs.
Cincinnati 24, Cleveland 34
Andy Dalton has been a pleasant surprise. Despite tossing three interceptions, Dalton had an awesome fantasy performance with 381 yards and three touchdowns. A highly intelligent player with amazing poise, Dalton now looks to be settling in as a mid/low QB1.
Jermaine Gresham exited training camp listed as a possible sleeper tight end before suffering a hyperextension of his knee during the preseason. Now fully recovered he is averaging a very respectable 6.3 targets per game. In this contest Gresham hauled in three receptions for 68 yards including a 55-yard touchdown. If you are in need of tight end help during the bye weeks, Gresham is slowly creeping into the very low end TE1 type value.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis continues to struggle as a 3-down back after averaging 3.9 yards per carry against the 20th ranked Browns rush defense. We should recognize the Bengals were forced to abandon the run late in the game trailing by 17 points. The Law Firm is hard to trust with the Steelers up next.
We’ve been talking about rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon for weeks as a deep sleeper on our “watch list,” worth adding if you have roster room. I did just that, and it looks to be paying off as the Browns' downfield threat scored his third touchdown in two games. With Brandon Weeden’s growth on a steady incline, it’s time to put Gordon on your roster as a low WR4, and climbing.
Giving owners a real scare was seeing Montario Hardesty carrying the load for the Browns late in the game as Cleveland was milking a lead. Hardesty was also in the backfield on short yardage carries, taking in a touchdown solidifying our nightmare that Trent Richardson had suffered an injury. The cameras then panned over to see Richardson on the sidelines holding his helmet, which is typically a good sign going forward. However, Hardesty now looks to be the primary handcuff and a must add for all T-Rich owners.
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