Dallas 24, New York Giants 17
The big surprise in the opening of the Thursday night game was the insertion of Jason Witten into the starting lineup coming off a spleen injury. Although a poor fantasy outing, Witten is a warrior on par with Big Ben and Steve Smith. He should be back to full strength next week after ten days to recover.
The even bigger surprise was the coming out party for Kevin Ogletree. The fourth year wide receiver led the Cowboys with 114 yards and two touchdowns, nearly scoring a third. With Laurent Robinson now departed, and Miles Austin and Jason Witten slow to recover, Ogletree has fascinating value and will be added in almost every league (don’t forget to drink your Ogletree).
I was more than impressed with the play from the Cowboys defensive unit. We typically find a defense with so much turnover takes time to mesh. But the additions in the secondary came up big, holding Nicks and Cruz to a total of 96 yards. An all-around solid performance.
With 11 targets this game, we were quickly reminded that Victor Cruz will be a target monster. But three drops?
Ahmad Bradshaw was unable to punch in a short yardage touchdown early in the second quarter, but did score from 10 yards out later in the game. Bradshaw’s talent continues to negate a sub-par Giants offensive line. Also aiding Bradshaw was rookie David Wilson putting the ball on the carpet, only to find himself benched for the remainder of the game.
After garnering six targets totaling 40 yards along with a red zone touchdown, Martellus Bennett may have moved off the “watch list” to the “worth a flier list”. Eli Manning has a history of making ordinary tight ends such as Jeremy Shockey, Kevin Boss and Jake Ballard fantasy worthy. Bennett is an above average talent.
The Giants pass defense is in serious trouble with the loss of Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara. Replacement Michael Coe struggled before suffering a hamstring injury of his own and leaving the game. All three Cowboys wide receivers had a solid outing torching the Giants secondary. The moral of the story is; start your wide receivers against the Giants defense until further notice.
Indianapolis 21, Chicago 41
The Colts offense struggled in this game, unable to sustain drives against a good Bears defense. Despite passing for over 300 yards, Andrew Luck tossed three interceptions forcing the ball downfield in what could be explained as “growing pains.” I’m still impressed with the rookie’s play, keeping his eyes down the field amidst the constant pressure from the pass rush. Luck should be viewed as a high end QB2 with solid spot-start potential in the future.
Reggie Wayne put his Pro-Bowl hands on display snagging nine receptions for a total of 135 yards. Wayne is clearly Luck’s go-to guy making for an excellent weekly fantasy starter.
Much to my surprise, Donald Brown looked awesome averaging just over five yards per carry, but was limited to only nine carries as the Colts fell behind early. Brown has become the lead pony in what was projected to be an RBBC. He possesses mid/lower RB2 value.
Despite his preseason absence, rookie tight end Coby Fleener was heavily involved in the Colts passing games as seen by his six receptions for 82 yards. He is a mid/high TE2 and climbing.
The Cutler-to-Marshall connection was slow to develop, but soon caught fire as Brandon Marshall totaled 119 yards and one touchdown. This was actually poor production considering Jay Cutler threw Marshall’s direction 15 times including multiple red zone targets. We can safely say the relationship has been rekindled.
As expected, Michael Bush vultured goal line carries from Matt Forte stealing two touchdowns from 1-yard out. Forte still managed 18 fantasy points, but his ceiling will be limited by the continued RBBC in Chicago.
Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery continues to split time with Devin Hester, but is a far more dynamic playmaker as seen by his 42-yard touchdown reception. Although still a WR4, Jeffery is on the brink of emerging, also increasing the fantasy value of Jay Cutler.
Philadelphia 17, Cleveland 16
The Eagles offense struggled mightily throughout this contest almost dropping a game to the hapless Browns. The problem was four interceptions thrown from Michael Vick, but I place much of the blame on the play calling from head coach Andy Reid. With LeSean McCoy averaging 5.5 yards per carry, I wonder if Reid’s “pass first ego” is the limiting factor holding back the Eagles’ efficiency. McCoy is a potent weapon and looks like he could take it to the house every time he touches the football.
Despite the four interceptions, Vick managed to salvage an OK fantasy performance with a late game scoring drive capped of by a Clay Harbor touchdown.
Jeremy Maclin had himself an excellent day, hooking up with Vick for a long reception followed immediately by an 18-yard strike for a touchdown. The lone knock on Jeremy is his lack of size, as he was seen grimacing on numerous plays after falling hard to the turf. However, he kept getting back on his feet, dusting himself off and coming back for more. The young man is a fantasy stud so long as he can stay upright.
If this game is any indicator, it’s going to be a long season for all Browns players. Brandon Weeden had a tough introduction as a starting NFL quarterback, equaling Vicks four interceptions. Weeden made matters worse after missing a number of wide open receivers, including end zone looks that would have won this game for Cleveland.
Mohamed Massaquoi was the preferred wide receiver, having been targeted eight times. I would imagine this will be a fluid situation making it hard to recommend any Browns wide receiver until Weeden’s play improves.
The struggles of the Browns offense also carried over to the running game as Trent Richardson averaged a paltry 2.1 yards per carry. The good news is Richardson played the whole game and the Cleveland coaching staff never wavered from the rushing attack.
St. Louis 23, Detroit 27
Hard to find a silver lining in this game for the Rams offense. Steven Jackson struggled churning out 53 yards on 21 carries. Sam Bradford couldn’t top 200 yards passing as Danny Amendola led all receivers with 70 yards. The Rams lost their best offensive linemen, Roger Saffold, to a neck injury that required him to be carted off the field and he is likely to miss some games. Other than the pick six of Mathew Stafford on defense, this Rams team has a long way to go and could challenge Miami for the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
I’m chalking this game up to an off day for the Lions, as Stafford managed to throw three interceptions and only one touchdown (I didn’t know that was possible). He did find Calvin Johnson six times totaling 111 yards.
I’ve said it all along, Kevin Smith is a beast. He was the pivotal cog in this game for the Lions scoring two touchdowns in the late fourth quarter to salvage a win against a very beatable opponent. Like so many fantasy running backs (DMC, Murray, Mathews), Smith’s value is completely predicated upon his durability. If he stays healthy, he’s a beast. If he doesn’t, he could wreck your day. Start him with confidence until that day arrives.