Week three is in the books, and we finally see some individual fantasy performances that likely carried teams to victory on their own this week. Of course, on the flip side, if your opponent had LaDainian Tomlinson, Steve Smith, Shaun Alexander, or Brian Westbrook, you probably got beat badly this week.
And pity the fools that jumped off the Daunte Culpepper bandwagon, even going so far as to suggest he not be considered a stud anymore. Bandwagons are a funny thing, the seem to pick up steam for no real reason, then all of a sudden everyone is on board. The NFL is funny like that, just when you think there is no way a player (or team) can overcome the odds, they do. Like the New England Patriots, they were another popular whipping post last week. Subtract three of their starters during the course of the game and they still prevailed. And many are putting the Bengals in the Super Bowl....point being, lets not get too carried away at this point in the season.
On to the games...
at Miami 27, Carolina 24 Coming off their Super Bowl revenge game, many were ready to re-anoint the Panthers as one of the teams to beat in the NFC. Yet the Dolphins were ready for their heady opponent. Ronnie Brown (132 yards, TD) ran well for the home side, and Chris Chambers (93 yards, TD) did some damage thru the air as Miami kept things close. Their defense was having problems containing the combination of Steve Smith (170 yards, 3 TD) and Jake Delhomme (285 yards, 3 TD, 1 int), Smith tying the game up midway thru the fourth quarter. The Panthers were driving late in the game, well within field goal range when the Miami defense finally came thru, picking off a pass and setting up their offense with the return. Five plays later, Olindo Mare connected from 32 yards out and the Dolphins get their second win of this young season.
at Minnesota 33, New Orleans 16 If there was a bandwagon emptying out faster than the Culpepper/Vikings offense, I don't know what it could have been. The emails were streaming in, people looking for confirmation that they should bench Culpepper for...well, anyone, hopefully they did not. Culpepper (300 yards, 3 TD, 0 int) came thru in a big way, as the Vikings took advantage of the Saints fumbling the opening kickoff on their way to building a 24-nil lead they would never relinquish. The Saints did manage to close the gap to 24-16, but Paul Edinger (4 FG, 3 PAT) connected on three of his four kicks in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Tampa Bay 17, at Green Bay 16 The recipient of much of the bandwagon has been the still undefeated Bucs. This week they enjoyed playing the struggling Packers as they continue their winning ways. Carnell Williams (158 yards) was handed the ball an astounding 37 times andJoey Galloway (53 yards, 2 TD) scored twice for the winners. Green Bay's offense had their moments, but it was a Ryan Longwell miss of a PAT in the first quarter that set the tone for the day, a day the Packers were not destined to get into the win column.
Atlanta 24, at Buffalo 16 Perhaps the best thing that could have happened to Atlanta was to have Michael Vick (167 yards, 2 TD, 1 int, 64 rushing yards) dinged up so he'd have to concentrate on passing instead of running. While most QBs would be disappointed with 167 yards in the air, to Vick it must have seemed like he threw for miles. The game was back and forth, the teams exchanging scores early, but the Bills were kicking field goals while the Falcons were scoring touchdowns. Twice Buffalo got within a point, once late in the half thanks to Willis McGahee (140 yards, TD) hitting paydirt, and again in the third via yet another field goal. But they couldn't get over the hump, Buffalo's offense continues to struggle and it seems that the coaches have little confidence in the passing game, rarely using it in the second half.
Jacksonville 26, at New York Jets 20 (overtime) In a battle of attrition, injured quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington battled into overtime in New York. Jacksonville rode the legs of Fred Taylor (98 yards, TD), to the tune of 37 carries in the victory. The Jets had problems offensively, which were magnified as both Pennington and backup Jay Fiedler were knocked out of the game. Pennington would return, and the Jets made things work just enough to force extra time. Both teams had their hands on the ball in the extra session, including both defenses forcing turnovers. It was Leftwich hooking up with Jimmy Smith that ended things, giving the victory to the Jags.
Cincinnati 24, at Chicago 7 The Bengals roll on, they win their third game in a row in this short season. Chad Johnson (77 yards, 2 TD) scored twice and Carson Palmer (169 yards, 3 TD, 0 int) was very efficient in the win. The Bengals defense once again was a force, picking off five passes for the second game in a row. Thomas Jones (106 yards, TD) did well in a losing effort, as he seems to be asserting himself as the only option in the Bears backfield.
at Indianapolis 13, Cleveland 6 If anyone knows how to limit Peyton Manning, it is Browns coach and former New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. This game was no different, as he and his Browns kept the Colts under 14 points. However, the Colts defense was equal to the task, keeping the Browns out of the end zone completely. With the passing game on hold, Edgerrin James (108 yards, TD) was called upon to grid things out, and the Colts used ball control and time consuming drives to win this one. No Browns to post here.
at Philadelphia 23, Oakland 20 Oakland is like that team in your fantasy league that is in the top three of the weekly scoring every week, but every week their opponent is the top scoring team. The Raiders again played very well this week, but again in the end it was just enough to finish on the losing end of a close score. Kerry Collins (345 yards, 2 TD, 0 int) did his part in a losing effort, but it was not enough to overcome. And speaking of overcoming, how about kicker David Akers. While most kickers are not considered "tough", Akers is certainly not one of them. Last week, Akers strained a hamstring, but was declared healthy enough to play this week. On the opening kickoff, he hurt himself again, and when Philly answered Oakland's opening score, Mark Simoneau filled in for Akers but had his extra point attempt blocked. However, in the third, Akers would return, successful in both PATs after Brian Westbrook (208 total yards, 2 TD) took in a 5 yard scoring pass from Donovan McNabb (365 yards, 2 TD, 1 int), which was on the heels of a Terrell Owens (80 yards, TD) 4 yard TD pass. But Oakland would not fold. A field goal and a Doug Gabriel 27 yard TD play tied up the score with under 3 minutes to play. Akers would again play the role of hero, as the Eagles offense went 75 yards in 11 plays to set up his winning boot from 23 yards out.
at St.Louis 31, Tennessee 27 A wild offensive affair this one that was decided when the Rams defense finally stood firm. After a quiet first quarter, the Rams began to put some points on the board, their defense getting it going with an 85 yard interception return for a touch. St.Louis continued their second quarter of dominance, adding a field goal and touchdown to take a 17-10 lead at the break. Marc Bulger (292 yards, 3 TD, 1 int) to Torry Holt (163 yards, TD) extended the lead early in the third, but the Titans would mount a comeback. Steve McNair (261 yards, 2 TD, 2 int) would find Brandon Jones from 4 yards out, then the Tennessee defense would score one after a fumble recovery to tie things up. The Rams would respond again, Kevin Curtis scoring from 10 yards out thru the air, but again Tennessee would not quit. With the Rams again on offense, Bulger's swing pass to Steven Jackson went awry, Tennessee picking it up and running 41 yards with the errant throw. After review, the play stood, but Tennessee could only muster a long FG. Their offense would have one more opportunity, but the Rams defense held for the win.
Of note in this one, Rams WR Isaac Bruce left early with what has been described as turf toe, check his status later in the week to see if he'll miss time. Also, reports are that Titans RB Travis Henry has been suspended by the league for four games, Chris Brown owners rejoice.
Dallas 34, at San Francisco 31 The Cowboys are finding different ways to win and lose games this year, this week they add "comeback win" to their resume. Dallas found themselves behind a fiesty Forty Niner team that was intent on being rude hosts. Brandon Lloyd (142 yards, 2 TD) had a strong game for San Francisco, and Tim Rattay (269 yards, 3 TD, 2 int) added another page to his possible "Drew Brees circa 2004" season. When Lloyd scored the second of his TDs late in the third, that put Dallas behind by 12 points. No worries, Drew Bledsoe (363 yards, 2 TD, 2 int, rushing TD) calmly put together a quick drive to get the visitors close, Julius Jones (113 total yards, 2 TD) doing the dirty work from a yard out. Then he capped the comeback by hitting Keyshawn Johnson from 14 yards out for the winning score with under 2 minutes to play. Jason Witten (85 yards, TD) also did well for the winners.
at Seattle 37, Arizona 12 The Cardinals ship is quickly taking on water, as it looks like they won't be this year's surprise team. To add injury to insult, Kurt Warner left the game with a groin injury, leaving Arizona to hand the controls to Josh McCown. In the end, it probably didn't matter as Seattle was a team on a mission this week. Shaun Alexander (140 yards, 4 TD) hit paydirt four times and Darrell Jackson (125 yards) also had a strong effort for the winners. Neil Rackers (4 FG) the only Cardinal to get a mention here.
New England 23, at Pittsburgh 20 Proving once again why they are the defending Super Bowl Champions, New England walks into Pittsburgh and takes home a hard fought win. Not even the loss of three starters to injury could stop the Patriots in this one. Corey Dillon (84 total yards, 2 TD) got things going, scoring early in the game from 4 yards out. Then the Steelers went to work, Hines Ward (110 yards, 2 TD) scoring from 85 yards out on the very next play from scrimmage. The Steelers added a field goal for the 10-7 lead at the half that should have been more had not Antwaan Randle-El not foolishly tried to lateral the ball after a long pass and run, turning the ball over deep in New England territory. Pittsburgh also cost themselves a field goal, a false start negating a long kick that was missed from five yards further away.
Both teams would use their kicking game in the third quarter as both defenses were playing very well. New England would find the endzone early in the fourth, Dillon again this time from 7 yards out. Adam Vinatieri (3 FG, 2 PAT) extended New England's lead to 20-13 and things did not look good for the home side. But the resilient Steelers were not ready to let their home fans go home unhappy, and they began to move the ball with the clock winding down. With the help of a long pass interference penalty on third down, Pittsburgh tied the score with just under 2 minutes to play, Ward again, this time from four yards out. But to New England, 2 minutes is an eternity and Tom Brady (372 yards, 1 int) effortlessly led the Patriots down the field where Adam Vinatieri was the difference, connecting from 43 yards out with one second to play. David Givens (130 yards) also did well for the winners.
at San Diego 45, New York Giants 23 We've come to expect that "Manning" will appear in the write up, and yet we get down to the final game of the day without having mentioned one yet. This week, Eli Manning (352 yards, 2 TD, 0 int) gets into the story, after a good week three performance in his first visit to the team that he spurned on draft day two years ago. Manning's strong performance was outshined by this week's Player of the Week, LaDainian Tomlinson (220 total yards, 3 TD, 1 passing TD). Just a dominating performance as San Diego must be reading my pleas to get him the ball more in the passing game. Tomlinson ran, caught, and threw the ball like the #1 fantasy player that he was on draft day in nearly every league. Tomlinson was in the end zone for the second time early in the second quarter, but the Giants were hanging around, scoring three times before the half to close the gap to 21-20. Keenan McCardell (80 yards, 2 TD) got the scoring started in the third, and Antonio Gates (92 yards, TD) followed that with a score of his own as the Chargers put the game out of reach.