In a game that was thought to be devoid of fantasy studs, the Jacksonville Jaguars traveled to western New York to take on the Buffalo Bills. While both offenses lack firepower, both teams have defenses that are particularly generous. Neither David Garrard nor Ryan Fitzpatrick should be your every week starter, but as a bye week fill-in, they are more than adequate, especially in this game. Each quarterback tallied three touchdowns, and while that can’t be counted on every week, it’s very useful if you’re waiting on Jay Cutler, need a potential backup for Aaron Rodgers (which we’ll get to later), or you refuse to continue with the Carson Palmer experience. However, with Buffalo’s season going down the drain, backup Brian Brohm may get a look at quarterback before long.
Maurice Jones-Drew ran well, despite having a touchdown called back by a penalty, but left with a wrist injury for a spell. He returned to the game, but it’s an injury worth monitoring. His handcuff right now is Deji Karim, who filled in admirably while Jones-Drew was sidelined. Following the Marshawn Lynch trade, Fred Jackson received the bulk of the carries and played well. Marcedes Lewis is a name to track if you’re the unfortunate owner of Jermichael Finley (we’ll get to him, too). He scored twice and has been a sleeper this year. And this just in: Lee Evans has a pulse. He caught a long touchdown and had a decent day. Steve Johnson is another name worth noting, as he scored twice, and now has touchdowns in three straight games.
The aforementioned Palmer had another forgettable performance, this time against the Tampa Bay defense. We’ve reached the point where he’s just not that good. He’ll throw for two or three touchdowns a game, but also two or three interceptions. Josh Freeman, who was knocked out after a big hit for a few plays, threw well enough, limiting himself to one pick. Both these guys fall into low-end QB2 territory. Try to stay away from the Tampa Bay running game, as you need a compass, Ouija board and celestial maps to even have a chance of predicting what will happen. Cedric Benson had a big day, running for 144 yards and looking good in the process. As for pass catchers, Tampa Bay’s rookie wideout Mike Williams had a big day and is the only Buccaneers’ receiver worth owning. Terrell Owens continues his renaissance with more than 100 yards and another score. Chad Ochocinco was a nonfactor once again, and with Palmer struggling, there’s no real end in sight.
Atlanta was on the road, which had me nervous. But when your offense is predicated on handing the ball off to Michael Turner, it might not matter where you play. Turner ran for 140 yards and is easily a Top 10 back every week. His Cleveland counterpart, Peyton Hillis, played through a quadriceps pull to put up a decent numbers, but only because he made an acrobatic touchdown catch in the first half. He’s still a solid play, but the schedule doesn’t get any better. Matt Ryan was adequate, but 187 yards and a score against the Browns? Really? Roddy White was his typical awesome self, scoring once again and has proven to be one of the few top receivers that is actually performing. The Browns’ passing game is terrible, and Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme both suffered high ankle sprains, meaning Colt McCoy may step into the starting lineup … against the Steelers … in Pittsburgh. Ouch.
St. Louis traveled to Detroit in a seemingly uninteresting matchup. But no one told the Lions. Shaun Hill threw three touchdowns, hitting Nate Burleson, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew for scores. Hill is another quarterback similar to Fitzpatrick, who doesn’t necessarily play pretty, but he can keep you in football games. His stat line actually looked really good when this one was over. Calvin Johnson suffered a shoulder injury, so monitor any developments during the week. The Lions also scored touchdowns on defense and on special teams. On the Rams side, Sam Bradford struggled. He lost Mark Clayton to a season-ending knee injury, but may have found a new favorite target in Danny Amendola who caught 12 balls for 95 yards. Steven Jackson once again ran hard, breaking the 100-yard mark. I feel so bad for him.
The previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs took on the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts defense plays like a different squad on that fast turf in Indianapolis, and they looked it. Given the speed of the turf, the Chiefs finally made Jamaal Charles the focal point of their offense, and he ran for 87 yards on 16 carries, twice the number of carries that Thomas Jones got. The Chiefs did little else worth noting. Peyton Manning struggled, throwing for just 244 yards, no touchdowns and a pick. Watching the game, he just looked … off. It was very strange to watch a guy who is usually so precise miss wide open receivers. Joseph Addai finally got injured, and with Donald Brown inactive, it was Mike Hart with some tough running and a score. Pierre Garcon returned, which was good to see.
The Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins met in what turned out to be one of our classic rock fights. The game was just ugly from start to finish. Aaron Rodgers played OK, but was limited to just one touchdown pass. He also suffered a mild concussion in overtime and is expected to miss some practice time. His availability for next week’s game against Miami is questionable. If not, it’ll be Matt Flynn getting the start. Brandon Jackson broke the century mark, but that was only because of a 71-yard run in the first half. The interesting part is that he got 10 carries compared to just three for John Kuhn. Jermichael Finley left early in the game with a knee injury and will miss at least three weeks. Donald Lee caught Rodgers’ lone touchdown pass, but left immediately after with a chest sprain. Rookie Andrew Quarless stepped in and actually played pretty well.
For the Redskins, Donovan McNabb had a big yardage day, but only one long touchdown pass to Anthony Armstrong. Armstrong seems to be McNabb’s favorite deep threat and is worth a look in deeper leagues. Santana Moss had another nice day and is their unquestioned No. 1. Ryan Torain took the reins for an injured Clinton Portis, but was largely ineffective.
Julius Peppers got to return to Carolina as his Chicago Bears faced the Panthers. Without Jay Cutler, the Bears started Todd Collins. With Collins, the Bears decided to run the ball. Matt Forte had 100 yards on his first four runs, finishing with 166 yards on 22 carries. Collins was 6-for-16 for 32 yards and four interceptions. Predictably, there were no big receiving performances for the Bears. Cutler has been doing well and should be ready for Sunday, but owners should look for updates on his condition. Jimmy Clausen was pulled in this game due to ineffective play, but was replaced by Matt Moore who was even more ineffective. The Panthers’ two-headed running attack continues to frustrate owners, as DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart struggled. Deal them if you can.
Kyle Orton has arguably been the most valuable fantasy player this year. He was drafted late in drafts, but has been unbelievable, and has now cemented himself as a Top 10 quarterback. He threw for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdowns were long, 40-plus yard touchdowns to Brandon Lloyd, who has also been a steal for owners who picked him up early. He caught five balls for 135 yards and the two scores. The Ravens’ offensive attack was led by Ray Rice, who finally broke out with more than 150 total yards and a pair of touchdowns. Rice looked healthy once again. His backup, Willis McGahee, also ran well and scored.
The New York Giants and Houston Texans battled in Houston, and it was the Giants exploding for a big game. Eli Manning threw for nearly 300 yards, registering three scores. Hakeem Nicks had a big day, catching 12 balls for 130 yards and two touchdowns. He should be considered a WR2 with WR1 upside. I’m just not comfortable calling him a No. 1 yet, but he’s close. Ahmad Bradshaw ran well, despite playing through an ankle sprain, but it was Brandon Jacobs who scored at the goal line. Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub had a rough day under center, failing to reach the 200-yard mark and failing to score. Arian Foster was irrelevant, running for 25 yards on the day, but that was probably due to the knee injury he sustained at the end of the first half. He practiced Monday, and should be OK. Andre Johnson managed 95 receiving yards, but he needed more help.
New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals. Saints win by 20, right? No. It started well enough, with New Orleans going up 10-0 early. But Drew Brees would struggle, throwing for 279 yards and two scores, but also three interceptions. Marques Colston finally showed up, tallying 97 receiving yards. In Pierre Thomas’ absence, Ladell Betts and Chris Ivory split the carries, 10 apiece. The Cardinals’ offense was ineffective, led by rookie quarterback Max Hall, who wasn’t good. Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells had 20 carries to Tim Hightower’s four, but only mustered 35 yards. Larry Fitzgerald was solid, with 93 yards receiving. The Cardinals’ defense carried the team, scoring three touchdowns on the day.
The San Diego Chargers had won 13 straight against the Oakland Raiders. The streak is over now that the Chargers gift-wrapped a win for Oakland on Sunday. Philip Rivers put up 431 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Antonio Gates did what he does, but Malcom Floyd blew up with eight catches for 213 yards and a touchdown. In addition, they signed left tackle Marcus McNeil to a new contract, which can only improve the offense’s performance.
Ryan Mathews ran well, despite not getting workhorse carries. It’s coming; be patient. The Raiders had to bring Jason Campbell off the bench when Bruce Gradkowski injured his shoulder, and Campbell led the Raiders to a win. Michael Bush was very good, topping the century mark and scoring a touchdown. Darren McFadden looks like he’ll miss next week’s game, making Bush an interesting play at San Francisco. Zach Miller caught the lone Oakland offensive score.
Vince Young led the Tennessee Titans to a win in Dallas with a pair of touchdown passes. Kenny Britt has re-established himself as Young’s go-to guy, reeling in four balls for 86 yards and a score. Chris Johnson ran for 131 yards and two scores of his own. The Dallas offense actually looked very good, but was destroyed by penalties. Tony Romo threw for more than 400 yards and three touchdowns, but also three interceptions. Miles Austin caught nine balls for 166 yards and a score, while Roy Williams and Jason Witten each added 80-plus yards and a score. Felix Jones topped 100 yards on the ground, but is inconsistent. I’d try to sell high on Jones.
The Philadelphia Eagles traveled cross country to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night. Kevin Kolb was only adequate filling in for Michael Vick, but as an Eagles fan, I cannot wait for No. 7 to come back. LeSean McCoy ran for 92 yards and a score, and added 46 yards through the air. Jeremy Maclin had 95 yards receiving and Brent Celek chipped in 47 yards and a score. DeSean Jackson only had three targets, catching two balls for 24 yards. Eagles’ receiving numbers will continue to vary greatly from week-to-week while Kolb is the signal-caller. Alex Smith had his moments, both good and bad, but managed to throw three touchdowns. Michael Crabtree had the best game of his young career catching nine balls for 105 yards and a touchdown. I think Crabtree will be frustrating, but he’s definitely worth owning. I picked him up on the waiver wire on Sunday morning which is ridiculous. Vernon Davis also topped 100 yards and had a score.
The Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets met in a physical contest on Monday night. Brett Favre finished with three touchdown passes, all in the second half, as well as a crucial interception that sealed the game with less than two minutes remaining. Percy Harvin and Randy Moss were the recipients of those touchdowns. It’s obvious that Moss is going to be a favorite of Favre’s, as he doesn’t really have to be accurate. Moss can go up and get jump balls and Favre is great at throwing jump balls, so he’ll have more big games to come. LaDainian Tomlinson ran well and was productive all night. Mark Sanchez failed to register a touchdown, despite the Vikings’ occasional troubles in the secondary. Santonio Holmes debuted for the Jets and caught three balls for 41 yards.
Remember that Arizona, Buffalo, Carolina and Cincinnati are on a bye next week.
Comings and Goings:
Last week, Marshawn Lynch was traded to Seattle. Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll believes that Lynch is a guy who can “carry the load.” It may take a little time, but Seattle’s upcoming schedule is very favorable, and Lynch is worth a trade inquiry.
Deion Branch was traded to New England. He is worth a look in deeper leagues as a flier, just in case he can capture that old magic.
Drew Magyar is a FantasySharks staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.