Lions and Bengals and Bears, oh my! In a week filled with both statement games and meaningless blowouts, no games (or the individual performances within them) stood out more than these three winners on Sunday. Jay Cutler showed he is ready, willing and able to challenge Aaron Rodgers as the class of the NFC North’s quarterbacks, and while rookie Matthew Stafford won’t likely win that honor this year, he threw his hat into the ring by leading the Lions to their first win in 19 games. Add the end-game heroics of the ageless Brett Favre, and the North division played host to the most compelling matchups of the weekend. We can’t forget about the Carson Palmer-led comeback against the defending world champs, but we’ll get to his game and all of the other week three action inside – let’s dive into this week’s games!
• LIONS 19, REDSKINS 14
That’s not a typo – the Lions actually won a game! For the first time since the curse of Jon Kitna’s playoff prediction fully kicked in, Detroit has enough wins to count on one finger, but don’t get excited just yet. From a fantasy perspective this game was still a disaster for the Lions – Calvin Johnson had a sub-par day, being overshadowed by another Johnson on the team, and running back Kevin Smith suffered a seemingly significant shoulder injury that could keep him sidelined in the weeks to come. Washington quarterback Jason Campbell was able to produce nice fantasy numbers in this game, but as I’ve said before I think even Detroit could move the ball through the air against its own defense! Santana Moss was the recipient of many of Campbell’s passes, turning in the week’s best performance by a receiver.
- • Performance of the day: Santana Moss (WR, Redskins) – 10 catches, 178 yards, touchdown
• Beer goggles: Clinton Portis (RB, Redskins) – 12 carries, 42 yards
• I’m watching: Kevin Smith (RB, Lions) – ran effectively (16 carries, 101 yards) before leaving with injury.
• Worth a pickup: Bryant Johnson (WR, Lions) – someone has to be the number two receiver on this team
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Antwaan Randle El (WR, Redskins) – still the odd man out most weeks in WAS passing attack
• IDP standout of the game: London Fletcher (LB, Redskins) – the ancient one still has it (16 total tackles)
• One for the road: Julian Peterson (LB, Lions) – 7 tackles in 3 games should cause worry for IDP owners
• PACKERS 36, RAMS 17
When Aaron Rodgers is playing like he did Sunday, fantasy owners and Packer fans alike will sing his praises until the proverbial gods of cheese come home. Rodgers got receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver involved in the Pack’s efficient passing attack, and while Ryan Grant didn’t play out of his mind, he also turned in a nice performance for the Wisconsinites. Not a lot of positives here for the Rams, other than the fact that Steven Jackson continued to show his naysayers that he can produce great fantasy numbers even on a team that smells like four-day-old cheese curds! Marc Bulger’s injury shouldn’t have the effect it might have in the past, but should be noted going forward since the always-inaccurate Kyle Boller will be taking the reins in St. Louis should Bulger be unable to play.
- • Performance of the day: Aaron Rodgers (QB, Packers) – 269 passing yards, 38 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns
• Beer goggles: Laurent Robinson (WR, Rams) – 2 catches, 26 yards
• I’m watching: Daniel Fells (TE, Rams) – 2 catches for 35 yards and first 2 TDs of his career
• Worth a pickup: Kyle Boller (QB, Rams) – he actually threw touchdowns to his own team
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Josh Brown (K, Rams) – not enough attempts, and he’s missing plenty
• IDP standout of the game: A.J. Hawk (LB, Packers) – led the Pack with season-high 10 tackles
• One for the road: Steven Jackson (RB, Rams) – averaging 4.8 yards per carry and getting better every game. Get him the ball!
• VIKINGS 27, 49ERS 24
Don’t you wonder what Mike Singletary will take off when his team loses a game at the very end that could have put them two wins ahead of their paltry NFC West cohorts? Brett Favre was able to muster another magical comeback, his first at the helm of the Vikings, and he put to rest many doubts about his arm strength and ability to throw the Vikes to a victory. Adrian Peterson ran much better than he did in his last meeting with San Fran, but if you remember that game (14 carries, 3 yards) this was nothing more than what you would expect from All Day. As for the 49ers, Vernon Davis finally got involved in the offense in a big way, making the most of double-digit targets from quarterback Shaun Hill, and rookie running back Glen Coffee was not able to run effectively against Minnesota’s still-full-strength rush defense. There will be greener pastures for the big back in the next three weeks.
- • Performance of the day: Vernon Davis (TE, 49ers) – 7 catches, 96 yards, 2 touchdowns
• Beer goggles: Frank Gore (RB, 49ers) – 1 carry, 4 yards (left with injury)
• I’m watching: Vernon Davis – 10 targets on a team that has no clear receiving favorite yet? Yes, please!
• Worth a pickup: Vernon Davis – starting to catch my drift?
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Arnaz Battle (WR, 49ers) – it’s obvious he is not a big part of San Fran’s passing attack going forward
• IDP standout of the game: E.J. Henderson (LB, Vikings) – 13 total tackles will always get you on this list (he even outdid Patrick Willis!)
• One for the road: Percy Harvin (everything, Vikings) – he’s scored in 3 straight games and had a career-high 9 targets on Sunday
• PATRIOTS 26, FALCONS 10
You have to admit you saw this one coming, right? The Patriots won this game in a fashion you would expect them to beat one of the other best squads in the league – by doing whatever it took to stay in the game early and then running away with it in the end. Tom Brady still didn’t knock your socks off, but you can never complain about 17 points out of your starting quarterback, and more importantly he hooked Randy Moss up with 16 catches while he and the rest of New England await the return of Wes “Greased Lightning” Welker (this guy needs a nickname so I don’t have to come up with one). Matt Ryan mirrored his first road game of last year with a fantasy clunker against the Pats, but you can’t really blame him for laying an egg against the Pats…you knew it was bound to happen in a matchup like this one…
- • Performance of the day: Fred Taylor (RB, Patriots) – 21 carries, 105 yards, touchdown
• Beer goggles: Roddy White (WR, Falcons) – 4 catches, 24 yards
• I’m watching: Lawrence Maroney (RB, Patriots) – not worth a roll of quarters with a healthy Fred Taylor in the lineup
• Worth a pickup: nobody you don’t already own
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Ben Watson (TE, Patriots) – I told you that first game was a fluke! He’s just too inconsistent to be a starter…
• IDP standout of the game: Curtis Lofton (LB, Falcons) – 19 total tackles (13 solo)
• One for the road: Jason Elam (K, Falcons) – 3 field goals in 3 games doesn’t get it done, but be patient as the kicks will come
• JETS 24, TITANS 17
Praise the lord for kick returners who can’t do their one job, that’s what the Jets are thinking this week! This would have been a whole different game if the Titans’ Ryan Mouton could catch better than Braylon Edwards! But since he couldn’t, the Jets came out of this game 3-0 and smelling like roses. Mark Sanchez turned in his first fantasy relevant performance with three scores and he went further in establishing that Jerricho Cotchery is his go-to guy in the passing game and that he has complete confidence throwing him the ball in all aspects of the game. The Jets ran the ball like they were in quick sand for much of the game, but the Titans surprisingly managed 4.2 yards per carry against the stout Jets rush defense. Chris Johnson turned in a nice game considering you had to start him regardless of the matchup, but LenDale the not-such-a-whale White vulture the only rushing score in the red zone.
- • Performance of the day: Jerricho Cotchery (WR, Jets) – 8 catches, 108 yards, touchdown
• Beer goggles: Thomas Jones (RB, Redskins) – 14 carries, 20 yards – look for a bounce back against the Saints this week
• I’m watching: Leon Washington (RB, Jets) – has at least 13 touches in every game this season – he will score this week.
• Worth a pickup: the football – if you’re playing the Titans, there’s a good chance your D/ST will scoop up a few more muffed kicks in weeks to come
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Kerry Collins (QB, Titans) – he’s not making enough plays, and the running game will soon take over
• IDP standout of the game: Stephen Tulloch (LB, Titans) – no one complaining about his 10 tackle/game average
• One for the road: Keith Bullock (LB, Titans) – he has 10 tackles in two straight games – heee’s baaack
• EAGLES 34, CHIEFS 14
It isn’t exactly the epitome of the NFL’s proving grounds, but this Kevin Kolb guy looks like he can play! Kolb topped last week’s performance against the Saints with a three score effort and a bundle of yards, proving to the Eagles they didn’t need to sign Jeff Garcia after all (maybe someone just had a thing for his wife?). LeSean McCoy played a great game in relief of the oft-injured Brian Westbrook, and DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek went cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs on the Chiefs secondary for their second straight big games. Speaking of Westbrook, isn’t it about time we called him “seldom-healthy” instead of “oft-injured”? I’m just sayin…
- • Performance of the day: Kevin Kolb (QB, Eagles) – 327 yards, 3 touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush)
• Beer goggles: Larry Johnson (RB, Chiefs) – 19 carries, 38 yards
• I’m watching: Bobby Wade (WR, Chiefs) – has 7 fantasy points in each of his first two games with team – definitely a deep league pickup
• Worth a pickup: LeSean McCoy (RB, Eagles) – this probably goes without saying, but he should be owned in 100% of leagues now
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Kevin Curtis (WR, Eagles) – you can get him back for cheap later on if need be
• IDP standout of the game: Omar Gaither (LB, Eagles) – 9 tackles and a sack does a body good
• One for the road: DeSean Jackson/Brent Celek (WR/TE, Eagles) – both have gone over 100 yards in two straight, with 3 combined touchdowns
• GIANTS 24, BUCCANEERS 0
I sure hope you started the Giants’ defense/special teams unit this weekend! The Giants showed the Dolphins what should happen when you run for over 225 yards and possess the ball for almost three quarters of a game, holding the Buccaneers to 86 (not a typo) yards and shutting them out in Tampa, Fla. Eli Manning managed the game effectively and Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs had their way with the hapless Buccaneers, who might be donning Highlighter-orange jerseys and challenging the ’08 Lions before we know it. Steve Smith and Mario Manningham both had nice games in limited passing plays, but it became even more clear Sunday that Smith is the wideout you want to own out of this pair.
- • Performance of the day: Brandon Jacobs (RB, Giants) – ran for 92 yards and touchdown on 26 carries
• Beer goggles: Cadillac Williams (RB, Bucs) – 2 carries, 8 yards
• Who I’m watching: K (RB, Lions) – you can call it a slow start, but I’m starting to worry about his production this season (6 catches, 102 yards through 3 games)
• Worth a pickup: umm…
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Earnest Graham (RB, Bucs) – Tampa had 10 carries in this game – he had exactly zero percent of them
• IDP standout of the game: Barrett Ruud (LB, Bucs) – 14 tackles, and you know the opportunities will be there every week
• One for the road: Steve Smith (WR, Giants) – averaging over 13 points/game in non-PPR leagues – sounds like a fantasy starter to me
• RAVENS 34, BROWNS 3
This game did little more than cement the theories you already had coming into it: the Browns are woefully bad, Joe Flacco is going to throw for oodles of yards while Willis McGahee steals all of the touchdowns and that the Browns are quite possibly the worst team in the league this season. Baltimore’s offense rolled in this game, with almost every one of its big names getting in on the fun, amassing 479 yards of total offense. Ray Rice showed he will get the occasional look in the red zone by scoring his first touchdown of the season, but it should be noted that McGahee scored two more touchdowns (he now has six in three games) on his seven carries. The Browns switched quarterbacks again, from Brady Quinn to Derek Anderson, but Anderson might have given the job right back with his three-interception performance. No Cleveland player is startable until they change their name from a color to some sort ferocious animal.
- • Performance of the day: Derrick Mason (WR, Ravens) – 5 catches, 118 yards, touchdown
• Beer goggles: James Davis (RB, Cleveland) – the starting gig isn’t his yet afterall, but his time should come this season
• I’m watching: Kelley Washington (WR, Ravens) – his yardage has increased in each of the last 3 weeks, and the Ravens are passing a lot
• Worth a pickup: Jerome Harrison (RB, Cleveland) – he got the start, the first of his career, and managed 85 total yards on the Ravens, which isn’t half bad considering this team smells worse than the dumpster behind your local Taco Bell
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Brian Robiskie (WR, Browns) – not sure if you noticed, but he has 0 fantasy points this season – don’t trust rookie receivers!
• IDP standout of the game: D’Qwell Jackson (LB, Cleveland) – he heard me call him out last week, responding with 11 tackles
• One for the road: Mark Clayton (WR, Ravens) – he has 4 fantasy points since a solid week one
• JAGUARS 31, TEXANS 24
Well, at least we have established that the Texans can’t stop the run and will be playing in high-scoring shootouts with AFC South teams all season, that’s good, right? I don’t know anyone who thought the Jaguars would win this game, but considering all of the big name fantasy players in this game turned in nice performances, I don’t know who will be complaining. I mean, there are probably at least 36 Texans fans who are upset about losing this home game and falling quickly behind the 3-0 Colts, but other than them, we should be good to go. Maurice Jones-Drew shined for the Jaguars, and since I told you he was the only Jag worth owning, you knew what to expect! Matt Schaub had a whole game’s worth of fantasy points in the first half and figured that was enough, but he was able to involve Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and the just-returned Kevin Walter heavily in those two quarters.
- • Performance of the day: Maurice Jones-Drew (RB, Jaguars) – 27 touches, 147 yards, 3 touchdowns
• Beer goggles: Chris Brown (RB, Redskins) – 8 carries, 19 yards – Steve Slaton’s starting job is still quite safe if you ask me
• I’m watching: Mike Sims-Walker (WR, Jaguars) – David Garrard has to throw to someone, and this seems to be his guy (over 80 yards in 2 straight)
• Worth a pickup: Jacoby Jones (WR, Texans) – he has 8 or more fantasy points in back-to-back games, and there are plenty of points to be had in this high-octane offense
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Earnest Wilford (WR, Jaguars) – if you thought that this was finally the year, you thought wrong…
• IDP standout of the game: Brian Cushing (LB, Texans) – at least 8 tackles in all 3 games this year
• One for the road: Steve Slaton (RB, Texans) – it wasn’t a blowup, but Slaton notched double-digit fantasy points (10) for the first time this season
• BEARS 25, SEAHAWKS 19
Don’t you love it when coaches and players berate their kickers and treat them like non-teammates and second class citizens when they miss kicks that should have never happened had your offense gotten the ball into the end zone? The big story of this game (in the media) was Olindo Mare’s 4-for-6 kicking performance that “cost” the Hawks this game, but the real story should be two-fold: 1) Jay Cutler is playing better and better each week, and 2) Matt Forte is really starting to worry us! Cutler got everyone involved in the Bears’ passing attack, and his counterpart, Seneca Wallace, showed that while he can’t be trusted as an every week quarterback, that he keeps the value of Seattle’s big fantasy names right where it is when Matt Hasselbeck is in the game.
- • Performance of the day: Jay Cutler (QB, Bears) – 247 yards, 3 touchdowns
• Beer goggles: John Carlson (TE, Seahawks) – 3 catches, 28 yards – this will change with another week of Seneca time in practice
• I’m watching: Matt Forte (RB, Bears) – he topped double digits (10) for the first time of the season, but he still averaged only 3.1 yards per carry and hasn’t scored in 2009…
• Worth a pickup: Seneca Wallace (QB, Seahawks) – it’s a bit of gamble, but he could be a decent early bye-week fill-in
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Edgerrin James (RB, Seahawks) – it’s pretty obvious Julius Jones is the starter in Seattle, and James won’t get more than 5 carries per game unless this changes
• IDP standout of the game: David Hawthorne (LB, Seahawks) – had a huge game with 16 tackles (15 solo) and a pass defensed
• One for the road: Johnny Knox (WR, Bears) – though he had only one catch (a 7-yard touchdown), he has at least 7 points in 3 games in 2009
• SAINTS 27, BILLS 7
Kudos to the Saints defense in this one! You probably thought the Lions would win before you heard me say this, huh? Oh wait, that happened too – what a weird league! Pierre Thomas returned to the Saints offense and looked like a beast, leading the Saints to an easy victory. In fact, it was so easy that Drew Brees didn’t feel the need to throw a touchdown pass – this was supposed to be a higher-scoring game, but with the Bills ineptitude (their only points came on a fake kick) and the Saints controlling much of the game, Brees decided to save his projected three-plus touchdown game for when the Saints actually need it. Fred Jackson had a nice game for the Bills, but that is where you run out of nice things to say about Buffalo. Terrell Owns was shut out, Lee Evans only managed a pedestrian performance and Trent Edwards had a passer rating one third as high as the Bills’ punter, Brian Moorman – not exactly what you would expect in a home game with an over/under of 53…
- • Performance of the day: Pierre Thomas (RB, Saints) – 14 carries, 126 yards. 2 touchdowns
• Beer goggles: Terrell Owens (WR, Bills) – zeros across the board on just 5 targets – yikes stripes!
• I’m watching: Lance Moore (WR, Saints) – the Saints still need a second really consistent option at wide receiver to reach their full potential, and Moore’s return (any day now, please?!) should be the answer
• Worth a pickup: you already own all relevant Saints/Bills
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Robert Meachem (WR, Saints) – still waiting for that breakout – oh well, maybe in 2010…
• IDP standout of the game: Roman Harper (S, Saints) – a solid game for the veteran safety, with 10 total tackles
• One for the road: Trent Edwards (QB, Bills) – OK, he left you holding the bag this week, but he had 4 TDs in 2 weeks before that
• BENGALS 23, STEELERS 20
If I told you that one of these teams played like crap in the beginning of the game and then overcame an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter behind fantastic end-game quarterback play, who would you guess was the winner? Yeah, I would’ve guessed the world champs too, and I would’ve been wrong too. I guess this is why they tell you to bet home underdogs in the NFL, huh? Carson Palmer and Cedric Benson continued their inspired play and the Bengals moved to 2-1 on the season, thanks in large part to the fact they kept most of Pittsburgh’s big names out of the end zone for a second straight week. Willie Parker was able to post some nice numbers in the loss, but I trust him about as much as a long-distance girlfriend at this point – you still have to start him, but you know he’s going to screw you over eventually…
- • Performance of the day: Willie Parker (RB, Steelers) – 27 touches, 129 yards, touchdown
• Beer goggles: Santonio Holmes (WR, Steelers) – 1 catch, 18 yards
• I’m watching: Rashard Mendelhall (RB, Steelers) – did anyone else notice he had zero points on zero touches? Keep an eye out.
• Worth a pickup: Andre Caldwell (WR, Bengals) – has at least 6 catches and 50 yards in two of three games this season, and he caught his first TD of ’09 on Sunday
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Limas Sweed (WR, Steelers) – 1 catch, 5 yards, 1 dropped touchdown – the last stat is the reason I am done with him!
• IDP standout of the game: Keith Rivers (LB, Bengals) – 8 tackles led this game, and his underrated defensive unit in Cincy
• One for the road: Steelers – not sure if you knew this, but the world champs are one nice overtime drive away from starting the season 0-3. Last year’s Super Bowl combatants (Cardinals and Steelers) are a combined 2-4 this season.
• CHARGERS 23, DOLPHINS 13
The Chargers didn’t knock your socks off in this game but they did more than enough to win this game easily, despite a bunch of clunker performances from their big fantasy names. Darren Sproles failed to impress in his second game replacing the injured LaDainian Tomlinson, but don’t forget how good the Dolphins are against the run. Vincent Jackson caught the majority of Phillip Rivers’ targets and Antonio Gates had another solid game, even though he was shut out of the end zone for a third straight week. As for the Dolphins, the news is not good at the quarterback position – Chad Pennington injured his throwing shoulder (again) and will likely miss the season for Miami, all but dashing their playoff hopes barring a huge and immediate step up by backup Chad Henne. Stay tuned on that front, as he’ll be thrown into the fire right off the bat next week.
- • Performance of the day: Vincent Jackson (WR, Chargers) – 5 catches, 120 yards
• Beer goggles: Darren Sproles (RB, Chargers) – 20 touches, 55 yards
• I’m watching: Ted Ginn Jr. (WR, Dolphins) – after a game-high 10 catches last week, Ginn was shut out against the Bolts. The QB change will likely kill his value in the short term
• Worth a pickup: Chad Henne (QB, Dolphins) – he didn’t play that well when forced into service Sunday, but he is still their QB of the future and is worth a look in deep, 2-QB leagues
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Chris Chambers (WR, Chargers) – with 2 catches for 30 yards on the season, I think you MIGHT be able to do better
• IDP standout of the game: Kevin Burnett (LB, Chargers) – had 13 tackles and a sack for the Bolts and is worth keeping an eye on going forward…
• One for the road: Antonio Gates (TE, Chargers) – has exactly 5 catches in each game this season with at least 64 yards in all of those games – the TDs will come
• BRONCOS 23, RAIDERS 3
This is the last of Sunday’s games that was no contest from the beginning. Kyle Orton did what he does best – not doing anything to cause his team to lose – and Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter ran the ball very effectively in a Denver roll-over win. Oh yeah, how could I forget? Brandon Marshall actually played a solid game and posted double digit fantasy points for the first time this season, even finding the end zone! Not that this game is necessarily the one which should cause me to say this, but I think I am almost an official believer in the Denver Broncos defense! With that said, if they allow 16 points to their next three opponents (Dallas, New England and San Diego), I will be shocked.
- • Performance of the day: Knowshon Moreno (RB, Broncos) – 21 carries, 90 yards, touchdown
• Beer goggles: Zach Miller (TE, Raiders) –2 catches, 17 yards – I take back ALL those nice things I’ve been saying about you Zach…
• I’m watching: Correll Buckhalter (RB, Broncos) – 14 carries, 108 yards – that’s now two straight games with at least 7 points
• Worth a pickup: nobody
• I’m ready to cut ties with: Darius Heyward-Bey (WR, Raiders) – now is where I get to say “I told you so”…
• IDP standout of the game: Tyvon Branch (CB, Raiders) – 10 tackles – it’s never a good thing when a CB leads your team in tackles, but it’s a good thing in fantasy football!
• One for the road: Eddie Royal (WR, Broncos) – I’m not ready to list him under cutting ties just yet, but Royal has 6 catches for 42 yards for Denver so far this year, and that isn’t going to cut it. You have to be patient when a team changes quarterbacks, but mine’s running short…
Michael Stephens is an avid fantasy sports enthusiast who writes for the Cafe. He hails from the Pacific Northwest and is a die-hard Seahawk and Mariner fan to the core! You can find Michael in the Cafe's forums where he actively posts under the name of WaCougMBS.
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