Another exciting week of NFL action is mostly in the books, with a littany of division games dotting this past week’s landscape. Weather is starting to become a factor, not necessarily the snow, but the bitter cold. Teams that continue to play good defense complimented by a decent clock management running game did well this week, and will continue to do so. More than a few teams established themselves as the team to beat in their division, while others took home wins to bring themselves back into the race.
On the fantasy side of things, in general a low scoring week. We do have 34 players listed in this week’s story, but many of the top fantasy players will not be among those names. Always nice when you’re opponent has a throw in like Chris Chambers or Lee Evans in their lineup…if that to be the case, then my condolences on this week’s loss. On to the games…
at Chicago 19, Green Bay 7
The Bears continue to win games based soley on their defense. This week, the Bears D (4 turnovers, 2 sacks, return TD) gets a mention here as they harassed Brett Favre all day. Offensively, Chicago did not have to score a touchdown in the game. As a result of the stifling defense, no Packers get a mention this week.
at New York Giants 17, Dallas 10
Two teams battling for divisional supremacy went at it in the cold blustery conditions, two teams with good defenses. As can be expected, a low scoring affair ensued. New York took advantage of its Giant D (4 turnovers, 4 sacks, return TD), as they built a 10-0 halftime lead. The Giants would push that lead to 17 points on the opening play of the second half, defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy getting in the way of Drew Bledsoe’s handoff to Julius Jones (162 total yards), with Antonio Pierce scooping up the loose ball and taking it 12 yards into the end zone. Dallas would make a game of it, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter to close the gap. Jay Feely had a chance to extend the lead from 33 yards out, but his attempt hit the upright. Again, the Giants defense would come thru, keeping Dallas off the board giving New York the win and the upper hand in the division race.
Minnesota 21, at Detroit 16
The Lions took the opening drive, drove the field for a field goal and took a brief lead at 3-0. On Minnesota’s opening play, Brad Johnson (256 yards, 2 TD) went deep to Koren Robinson (148 yards, TD), good for 80 yards and a score to take the lead that Minnesota would not relinquish. When Michael Bennett (79 yards, 2 TD), filling in for Mewelde Moore who left the game with an injury, scored early in the third to push the lead to 21-6, the already angry Detroit crowd took it to another level. Funny thing was, they couldn’t decide who to boo more, starter Jeff Garcia, Joey Harrington, or Matt Millen. Despite that, the Lions would make a game of this, when Artose Pinner (103 total yards, TD) scored on a six yard run midway thru the fourth quarter, the Lions were down by only five. Alas, their effort at the end would end in an interception, and the Viking express continues to sail forward.
at Miami 24, Buffalo 23
The Bills scores three times in the first quarter in racing out to a 21-nil lead. Specifically, Lee Evans (117 yards, 3 TD) scored three times, courtesy the arm of JP Losman (224 yards, 3 TD, int). Miami looked listless on offense, only mustering up a field goal in just over half the game. When Buffalo sacked Gus Frerotte in the endzone for a safety, knocking him out of the game, all looked lost. But no one circles the wagons like…er, like the Miami Dolphins?? Enter Sage Rosenfels (272 yards, 2 TD, int) to the field, and the Dolphins had the spark they needed. Rosenfels played sagely from the get go, and thanks to some hard running by Ricky Williams (78 total yards, TD), Miami had a chance. But this story has played out too many times for the Dolphins, a chance to win a game in the closing seconds, only to see their offense not able to come thru. On this day, Miami had Player of the Week Chris Chambers (15 catches, 238 yards, TD) on their side, and Rosenfels’ 4 yard fade on fourth down with under ten seconds to play was good for the score, the extra point the difference in the game.
Tampa Bay 10, at New Orleans 3
The Saints’ difficult 2005 season continues. An extremely sparce crowd was in attendance, and those that were there had little to cheer about. Neither side was impressive (no fantasy entities to get mentioned here). The Saints threw four interceptions and the Bucs scored the only touchdown of the game in this downer of a game. Let’s quickly move on, nothing to see here.
at Carolina 24, Atlanta 6
If history was any indication, then Michael Vick would be in store for a tremendous day on the ground against the Panthers. History would be proven wrong on this day. Carolina’s defense kept Vick in the pocket all day, and as a result the Falcons offense was not able to put many points on the board. Speaking of going against the grain of history, De’Shaun Foster (180 total yards, 2 TD) had a tremendous game, giving the Panthers their first 100 yard game of the season. While Steve Smith doesn’t get an official mention here, his touchdown celebration after a nice 18 yard catch and run deserves some ink. After the score, Smith put the ball on the ground as if it were an infant, “changed” the diaper, even going so far as to use a towel to wipe. After it was done, he picked up the ball, put it on his shoulder and patted its back. Good humor. Good win for the Panthers as they distance themselves from Atlanta.
Jacksonville 20, at Cleveland 14
With no Byron Leftwich and the Browns starting Charlie Frye, that doesn’t leave much in this game to talk about. Braylon Edwards (86 yards, 2 TD) and Charlie Frye (226 yards, 2 TD) had strong games, but in the end it was the Jaguars taking home the win. This despite no Jags hitting the print this week.
Cincinnati 38, at Pittsburgh 31
The Bengals were once again looking to establish themselves as the team to beat in the division, and when the final gun sounded in this game, their mission was accomplished. The teams went back and forth from the start in this one, Pittsburgh scoring (Bettis one yard run), Cincinnati scoring on a TJ Houshmandzadeh (88 yards, 2 TD) 43 yard catch on a play where Carson Palmer (227 yards, 3 TD) went without a huddle to catch the Steelers off guard. Ben Roethlisberger (386 yards, 3 TD, 3 int) then found Quincy Morgan for a 25 yard score, Bengals answering with Reggie Kelly from a yard out. Then the Cincy defense started to take advantage of some Steeler mistakes, in particular some interceptions on the part of Big Ben. Houshmandzadeh would score again, putting the Bengals in front. Jeff Reed’s 23 yard boot at the halftime buzzer left the Bengals ahead 21-17. Cincy would open up the second half with a field goal of their own, but Hines Ward (135 yards, 2 TD) was good for the first of his 2 scores, this one celebrated with an ‘Icky Shuffle’ dance. The Bengals ground game and their defense were good to go, more interceptions, and back to back Rudi Johnson (98 yards, 2 TD) scores. Ward would take in a 6 yard score to draw within a touchdown, and all the Bengals had to do was run out the clock…but they couldn’t! Three and out put the Steelers back in business, would the old Bengals colors come shining thru? No, the Bengals defense Big Ben sacked twice, including on fourth down to end the game.
at Indianapolis 35, Tennessee 3
Colts good. Titans bad. Edgerrin James (107 yards, TD) and Peyton Manning (187 yards, 3 TD) very good. No one from the Titans very good. Next question.
at Baltimore 16, Houston 15
Either the Houston Texans are very intent on having the top pick in the rookie draft, or they are a very unlucky team. For the second week in a row, they turned what appeared to be a sure victory, into a heartbreaking defeat. The Texans’ Kris Brown kicked his fifth short field goal of the day, a 34 yarder with only 68 second left in the game, and Houston had a 15-13 lead. But working without a timeout, the Ravens started on their own 13 yard line and got in position for Matt Stover’s winning 33 yard kick with only 10 seconds left. The Ravens D (return TD, 5 sacks) and Domanick Davis (155 yards) the only fantasy players that did well in this contest.
Arizona 17, at San Francisco 10
Keeping pace with Houston for that top pick, San Francisco!! Despite another prolific day from Kurt Warner (354 yards, TD, 2 int), the Cardinals as always, had trouble finding the endzone. Luckily, midway thru the fourth quarter Anquan Boldin (156 yards, TD) took a short Warner offering, then weaved some magic, and 54 yards later he was in the endzone for the go ahead score. Larry Fitzgerald (129 yards) gets a mention here in a winning effort while no Niners get posted here.
Washington 24, at St.Louis 9
With their backs up against the wall, the Redskins were able to keep their season alive with a road win in St.Louis. Washington ran wild, with both Clinton Portis (136 yards, 2 TD) and Rock Cartwright going for more than 100 yards. But in the end it was their defense that did the job, holding Ryan Fitzpatrick (163 yards, int, rushing TD) and the Rams offense in check for most of the game.
at New England 16, New York Jets 3
With temperatures below freezing and a steady snow falling, New England does just enough to win this game against the hapless Jets. Corey Dillon (84 total yards, TD) turned a 6-3 lead into 13-3 early in the third quarter, as New England’s defense kept the Jets off the board in the second half for the win.
at Kansas City 31, Denver 27
With the Broncos leading the division by two games, Kansas City needed this game to pull closer, as well as possibly gain control of their playoff destiny. With the help of some courageous officiating, they were able to do just that. Mike Anderson (103 total yards, 2 TD) got the scoring started, his 66 yard catch and run putting the Broncos on the board first. Kansas City would answer, Trent Green (253 yards, 2 TD, 2 int) finding Dante Hall from 41 yards out, a defensive miscommunication leaving him wide open. Anderson would score again, this time on the ground from a yard out, but the Chiefs would again answer, this time with Tony Gonzalez catching a 25 yard scoring strike. The Broncos would dip into the trick play book late in the half, Bradlee Van Pelt lining up behind center, Jake Plummer lining up as a wide out. Van Pelt took the shotgun snap and ran 7 yards straight into the endzone to give the Broncos the halftime lead. The teams would exchange field goals, then Denver would tack on another early in the fourth quarter for the slim 27-24 lead. Kansas City put together a potential go ahead drive, moving to the Bronco 7. On second down, Denver’s John Lynch was flagged for helmet to helmet contact, putting the Chiefs at the four yard line, first and goal. Larry Johnson (140 yards, 2 TD) was good to go on the next play and Kansas City had the lead. With plenty of time left, each team’s defense held serve, forcing a punt. Just before the two minute warning, Denver was forced to go for it on fourth and one near midfield. Initially, officials ruled that Mike Anderson got the necessary yardage on a run up the middle (by about an inch), but Dick Vermeil challenged the play, and it was reversed. Kansas City ran out the clock and had the win.
at San Diego 34, Oakland 10
One of this season’s most penalized teams, the Oakland Raiders, were not penalized a single time in the entire game. Why do I mention that? Because that is the only thing worth mentioning for Oakland in this game. San Diego took a 17-10 lead at the half and slowly ran away with this game in the second. LaDainian Tomlinson (110 total yards) did well for the winners.