San Francisco 49ers 21, Houston Texans 24QB Alex Smith, Pass: 15 - 22 - 206 - 3 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 16 - 0 - Alex Smith returned to regular-season action after almost 2 years of real activity and quickly seized the moment. Smith completed his first 9 passes and threw 3 second half touchdown passes to tight end Vernon Davis. Most impressively, Smith showed a lot of patience and confidence in the pocket before unleashing hard, accurate throws all over the field. Smith also scrambled twice, picking up a key first down on a rollout to the left side where he found space to pick up 11 yards before running out of bounds. Smith's day finished with an impressive 203 passing yards and 3 touchdowns in one half of work. The 49ers offense was dramatically more effective with Smith under center, most notably with the emergence of a downfield passing game that saw Smith complete half a dozen passes more then 15 yards down the field. His only interception came on a desperation throw late in the 4th quarter as the 49ers tried one last time to win the game.
QB Shaun Hill, Pass: 6 - 11 - 45 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0 - Shaun Hill had an awful game on Sunday against Houston. Hill's reputation so far this season has been as a game-manager who minimizes mistakes and takes very few downfield chances. Unfortunately, that style put the 49ers in a 21 point hole early on and only produced 50 yards of total offense. Hill did not try to throw the ball downfield in to coverage and finished the day with a roughly 4-yards-per-attempt average, which simply isn't good enough in the NFL. Hill looked tentative in making decisions despite the fact that he was getting a good amount of time in the pocket. The Texans linebackers were disguising their blitzes well enough that Hill was having a hard time keying in on where the "hot" route was compared to the pass-rush. And as the San Francisco running game failed to produce in the first half, Hill was left with little choice but to take the snap and settle for an underneath pass that resulted in little positive gain. Hill was replaced at halftime by former #1 Overall pick Alex Smith, who performed admirably in Hill's absence.
RB Frank Gore, Rush: 13 - 32 - 0, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 - Frank Gore returned after missing 4 weeks and it showed. He averaged a mere 2.5 yards per carry (32 yards on 13 carries) and looked a little sluggish getting to the hole against the Texans on his first few carries. Gore also took two snaps from the "Wildcat" offense and caught 2 passes for 15 yards. In one series in the 2nd half, the Niners gave Gore the ball on 6 of 8 plays, but he wasn't able to muster more then a few yards each carry. Gore's biggest problem on Sunday came not from looking "rusty" or from the Niners relying heavily on the pass in the 2nd half (they didn't) but rather on the fact that the Texans' linebackers were getting excellent penetration in to the San Francisco line, making Gore fight for every yard possible.
RB Glen Coffee, Rush: 2 - 3 - 0 - Coffee had 2 carries for 3 yards against the Texans, only appearing in the game to offer starter Frank Gore a breather even though this was Gore's fist game in a month. Coffee did not factor in to the passing game.
WR Josh Morgan, Rush: 1 - 6 - 0, Rec: 4 - 62 - 0 - Josh Morgan actually appeared to benefit from the presence of Michael Crabtree as he was sent often on deeper routes in single-coverage, converting 4 receptions in to 63 yards total. By the end of the game, Morgan and Crabtree were the two San Francisco receivers lining up on most passing downs with Crabtree running more "horizontal" routes and Morgan finding more vertical space. The 49ers increased efficiency in the passing game could help Morgan realize his immense potential sooner rather then later.
WR Michael Crabtree, Rec: 5 - 56 - 0 - Crabtree's entry in to the NFL was impressive. He caught 5 passes for 56 yards and despite an early drop, he looked very fluid in his cuts and comfortable with the speed of the NFL game. Crabtree's best catch came on an out pattern to the right side of the field where he gathered a low Alex Smith pass in for a reception, making sure to get two feet down before going out of bounds. Crabtree was used primarily on routes 10-15 yards downfield and was only sent deep once. Crabtree did not run any incorrect patterns (at least none that were noticeable) and seems to quickly be gaining the confidence of his teammates and -- more importantly -- his coaches and quarterback.
WR Isaac Bruce, Rec: 2 - 23 - 0 - Bruce finished the day with two catches for 23 yards, including a one yard screen pass wherein he fought to simply get back to the original line of scrimmage. Bruce gave way in 2 receiver sets to Crabtree in the 2nd half and will likely lose more time as the season goes on to the rookie.
TE Vernon Davis, Rec: 7 - 93 - 3 - Vernon Davis continues living up to his promise in 2009, finishing Sunday's game with 7 catches for 93 yards and 3 touchdowns (all team-highs). Davis was used all over the field but was most effective between the hashmarks 7-15 yards downfield. The Texans linebackers had difficulty with his quickness while the defensive backs had trouble with his size. After his second touchdown, the Texans began double-teaming him on passing downs yet still couldn't stop his third touchdown, a 23 yard bullet from Alex Smith. Most interestingly, Davis was stellar downfield on plays that traditionally would go to a wide receiver. Davis lined up both in "tight" against the line and as a split end and was targeted often by Alex Smith. Davis is not being used as an outlet or check-down but rather as a full-fledged weapon in the passing game a la Tony Gonzales and Antonio Gates.
QB Matt Schaub, Pass: 20 - 30 - 264 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 9 - 0 - Schaub had another effective game against San Francisco, passing for 264 yards on 66% passing to go with a touchdown and no interceptions. Schaub was sacked twice appeared pressured more then he was against Arizona two weeks ago and Cincinnati last week. That said, he most often was able to escape from the pocket and avoid losing yardage when the 49ers defense was applying pressure (he dinished with 9 yards on 5 carries, none of which were designed runs). Even when favorite-target Andre Johnson left with an injury, Schaub continued buzzing the ball all over the field, this time keying in on tight end Owen Daniels. Schaub was particularly effective passing the ball between the hash-marks to his receivers on fly patterns and crossing routes. To date, he has been one of the league's best passers and appears to be growing more and more comfortable spreading the ball around the field.
RB Steve Slaton, Rush: 18 - 67 - 1, Rec: 4 - 22 - 1 - Slaton continued to struggle on the ground Sunday but appears to have stolen the goalline touches away from Chris Brown. On the Texans first two touchdowns Sunday, Slaton was the player who scored. His first touchdown came on a 1 yard run off-tackle wherein he found a gap in the defense after letting his blockers get an initial push before he powered his way through. On the second touchdown, he caught a swing pass from Matt Schaub and scored. Slaton's rushing totals were fairly pedestrian as he was unable to get in to the open field on any of his carries, instead meeting a determined 49ers defense (led by linebacker Patrick Willis). Slaton was most effective for the Texans in the passing game, not only as a receiver but also in blocking the oncoming rush on passing downs. However, Slaton's fumbling woes continued as he lost 2 more balls (one was reversed on replay). That said, he remained in the game after the second fumble so the coaching staff clearly doesn't have him on a short leash.
RB Chris Brown, Rush: 4 - 14 - 0, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 - Brown only received 5 touches Sunday against San Francisco, totaling 18 yards on 4 carries and 1 pass. Brown was used to spell Steve Slaton for a play or two, but never replaced him for a full series. It appears that the Texans are not favoring a rotation with Slaton but rather they are focused on getting him a breather by inserting Brown after a long carry or long route. Brown also appears to have lost his goalline and red-zone duties to Slaton. Slaton scored twice from inside the 10 yard line on Sunday, touches that likely would have gone to Brown earlier in the season.
WR Kevin Walter, Rec: 3 - 29 - 0 - Walter was relegated to being the third or fourth option in the receiving game even without Andre Johnson around. Walter finished the day with 29 yards on 3 receptions and was most often sent on hitches and out patterns near the sideline, rather then downfield routes despite near-constant single-coverage. Walter will likely have more chances to shine going forward but his role against San Francisco was fairly forgettable.
WR Andre Johnson, Rec: 2 - 62 - 0 - Andre Johnson started the game hot for the Texans but eventually left with injury in the 4th quarter. Prior to leaving the game, Johnson had two catches for 62 yards on two passes deep down the middle. Once again, Johnson poses significant matchup problems for defenses due to his speed and size. Cornerback Nate Clements gave Johnson a significant cushion at the line of scrimmage and that still didn't help. Only once the 49ers began rotating a safety to Johnson's size and trying to bump him at the line with a cornerback did Matt Schaub start targeting other players more often then Johnson. Johnson's injury does not appear serious as he left the field under his own power.
TE Owen Daniels, Rec: 7 - 123 - 1 - Daniels had another great game, challenging the 49ers linebackers in coverage and usually winning the battle. He finished the day with 123 yards on 7 receptions to go with a 42 yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter. Daniels was most effective between the hashmarks on Sunday, with quarterback Matt Schaub looking for him deep down the middle of the field on 4 separate occasions. Daniels also provided key run blocking for Steve Slaton despite Slaton's modest gains. When Andre Johnson left the game due to injury in the 4th quarter, Matt Schaub quickly turned to Daniels, who he targeted 4 times on the very next series. Daniels is clearly option 1A for Matt Schaub an should continue performing as a top-tier tight end for the foreseeable future.
New York Jets 38, Oakland Raiders 0QB Mark Sanchez, Pass: 9 - 15 - 143 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 4 - 1 - Mark Sanchez was not asked to do too much in Week 7 as the New York Jets rolled all over the Oakland Raiders in a 38-0 blowout. Sanchez's lone touchdown came early in the second half on a very nice 35-yard touchdown fade route to David Clowney where Clowney beat single coverage. Sanchez did add more offense as a rusher, scoring on a 3-yard quarterback draw in the first quarter.
RB Thomas Jones, Rush: 26 - 121 - 1, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 - Thomas Jones started once again for the Jets in Week 7, but his workload escalated for a few reasons. First, Leon Washington was lost early in the game to a broken leg, and secondly the Raiders were giving up big chunks of yardage on the ground. Jones was barreling through the middle of Oakland's defense with relative ease, gaining 5-10 yards or more at a time, often without having to break a tackle until getting to the second level. Jones had 27 touches, a season high, as the Jets ran the ball 54 times and dominated the line of scrimmage. Jones will see an increase in workload going forward with the loss of Washington, although 27 touches may be a bit too much to ask every week.
RB Shonn Greene, Rush: 19 - 144 - 2 - Rookie Shonn Greene was active as the third running back for the Jets in Week 7, and it was a fortunate roster decision as Leon Washington was lost to a broken leg early in the first quarter. Thrust into action, Greene not only played well, he excelled. Greene had three runs over 20 yards on the day and found the end zone twice, his first career touchdowns. Greene took full advantage of his dominating offensive line, running hard and breaking through the Oakland Raider defense while topping 100 yards for the first time in his young career. Expect him to step into Leon Washington's role as the complementary rusher to Thomas Jones.
RB Leon Washington, Rush: 1 - 6 - 0 - Leon Washington had his leg awkwardly trapped up underneath of him on his first and only carry of the day against Oakland, and unfortunately that was probably the last time Washington will see action this year. He suffered a broken leg on the play and had surgery that same day, which will likely force him onto injured reserve, although the Jets are not making that roster move right away. Some are holding out hope that he can return for either Week 17 or the postseason, but that seems like a remote possibility.
WR David Clowney, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0, Rec: 4 - 79 - 1 - Clowney got the start in Week 7 against the Raiders, and he did well in that role. Clowney grabbed four out of five chances including some strong grabs on the perimeter where he barreled ahead for extra yardage after the catch. Clowney's biggest play came in the third quarter where he beat CB Chris Johnson in single coverage to reel in the biggest pass of the game for the Jets, a 35-yard fade to the end zone for a touchdown. Clowney could hold on to the starting job if Jerricho Cotchery remains sidelined, but odds are that he moves back to the WR3 role for New York once Cotchery is healthy again.
WR Danny Woodhead, Rush: 3 - 24 - 0 - Fourth string rusher Danny Woodhead was employed mostly on special teams, but he was asked to close the Week 7 game against Oakland in the backfield. Woodhead ran three times to close out the game with the score 38-0, so his fantasy numbers came in classic "garbage time". Woodhead does move up one step on the depth chart with Leon Washington's broken leg injury, but he is still well behind Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene.
WR Wallace Wright, Rec: 2 - 21 - 0 - Wright got some work in as the third wideout for the Jets against Oakland, mostly due to injuries to Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith. Despite his two catches against the Raiders in Week 7, Wright has no real fantasy value.
WR Braylon Edwards, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 - Edwards was only targeted twice as the Jets jumped out to an early lead against the Raiders in Week 7 and really did not need to throw that much on the day. Edwards had a solid 14-yard catch and run over the middle but he was also covered by one of the best corners in the NFL, Nnamdi Asomugha, who often shuts down the offense's best receiver. Expect Edwards to come back next week in full force against the Dolphins.
TE Dustin Keller, Rec: 1 - 26 - 0 - Keller had a few targets in Week 7 against the Raiders, grabbing one pass about 10 yards downfield and turning up for a 26 yard gain in the second quarter. He also saw a few deeper targets but was unable to get close to two errant passes. The Jets did not throw much against Oakland, so Keller's four targets were a bigger amount of the passing game than it appears.
QB Bruce Gradkowski, Pass: 10 - 19 - 97 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 25 - 0 - Gradkowski entered the Week 7 contest against the Jets in the second quarter, taking over for an ineffective JaMarcus Russell. Gradkowski did little with the offense at all, but at least he did not turn it over like Russell had done three times earlier. Gradkowski padded his meager stats in the second half with the game long since decided, and he will return to his backup role next week.
QB JaMarcus Russell, Pass: 6 - 11 - 61 - 0 TD / 2 INT - Russell was another turnover machine once again in Week 7, this time fumbling the first play of the game that game the Jets a short field and a quick 7-0 lead. Russell threw two interceptions later in the first half, one of which was just a terrible throw that looked like it was intended for safety Jim Leonhard of the Jets. Russell was benched in the second quarter in favor of Bruce Gradkowski but after the game head coach Tom Cable stated that Russell is still the starter.
RB Justin Fargas, Rush: 8 - 67 - 0, Rec: 3 - 23 - 0 - Fargas ran the ball well against the Jets, totaling 67 yards on the day due to three long runs of 17 and 35 yards. Fargas ran it very hard up the middle, breaking tackles and picking up yardage in chunks, but he only had eight carries due to the big deficit on the scoreboard. Fargas added another longer reception for 14 more yards and his stats looked reasonable (11 touches, 81 total yards) but the Raiders could not mount any consistent offense against the Jets. Fargas will likely remain the top back until Darren McFadden returns.
RB Michael Bush, Rush: 8 - 25 - 0, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 - Bush split time with Justin Fargas in Week 7 against the Jets, but his running was far less impressive than what Fargas accomplished on similar touch totals. Bush did gain 10 yards on one carry early in the third quarter, but most of his carries were for four yards or less. He will still get touches along with Fargas, but his workload could diminish once Darren McFadden gets healthy in a few weeks.
RB Gary Russell, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0, Rec: 2 - 2 - 0 - Russell had three touches, mostly on two short catches on three chances in Week 7 against the New York Jets. All were for three yards or less, making Russell' scant touches and scant production virtually meaningless for fantasy purposes.
WR Louis Murphy, Rec: 4 - 58 - 0 - Murphy came away from the Week 7 contest against the Jets with four catches and 58 yards, but most of that production came late in the game with the score 38-0. Murphy led the Raiders with 10 targets but most of his numbers are tainted due to the production all coming in the second half after the game was long since decided. Murphy's touches are also threatened by the return of Chaz Schilens (expected next week) and the overall weakness of the Raider passing game. Murphy is a decent sleeper but he cannot be counted on for fantasy purposes.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Rec: 2 - 28 - 0 - Heyward-Bey finally showed some signs of life in Week 7, getting deeper down the field and making a nice 24-yard grab in the first quarter. Heyward-Bey is locked in as the starter for the Raiders, but his production is minimal at best right now both due to his limited route-running skills (all he seems to do is "go deep") and the abysmal passing game from Oakland right now.
WR Todd Watkins, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 - Watkins had four targets in Week 7, getting a few chances to make a catch for the Raiders. Watkins was able to snare only his first chance, a short toss from JaMarcus Russell which converted a third down and seven situation. His next target wound up in the hands of New York's Darrelle Revis for an interception on a deep pass towards the end zone. Watkins is not high enough on the depth chart to matter for fantasy purposes.
WR Johnnie Lee Higgins - Higgins had one target in Week 7, a short chance over the middle on the first Oakland drive. After that target, however, Higgins and his chances both disappeared for the remainder of the game against the Jets. Higgins is way down on the wideout depth chart, making him worthless for fantasy purposes.
TE Zach Miller, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 - Miller had just three chances to make a play in Week 7 for the Raiders, and he did what he could by catching two short balls for seven and eight yards, respectively. The third target was nowhere close as it was an errant interception thrown by JaMarcus Russell. Such is the life of a capable receiver with two incapable quarterbacks -- inconsistent production is the norm. Look for something of a bounce back week next week against the Chargers, who do not fare well in defending tight ends.
TE Tony Stewart, Rec: 1 - 19 - 0 - Stewart had one catch in Week 7, collecting a 17-yard catch and run on third and long in the first quarter. That reception was the only opportunity to contribute to the passing attack for Stewart. Buried behind Zach Miller, Stewart has no current fantasy value.
Green Bay Packers 31, Cleveland Browns 3QB Aaron Rodgers, Pass: 15 - 20 - 246 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 23 - 0 - For the first time in weeks, the Packers' offensive line protected Rodgers well in the pocket. The Packers also used more rollouts to assist the line and Rodgers seemed more cognizant of the need to slide away from pressure in the pocket. One of those plays turned into a 19 yard scramble. Rodgers was accurate, delivering the ball to his receivers in stride, allowing Donald Driver and Spencer Havner to catch the ball at full speed and break long runs after the catch for touchdowns.
RB Ryan Grant, Rush: 27 - 148 - 1, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 - The Packers committed to the run early, running Grant six times in their opening drive, which featured ten rushes and only one pass. Grant was effective in the first half, stretching plays before cutting back as a hole opened. Most of his production came in the second half, as the Packers wore down the Browns' defense. Grant found it easier to get outside the tackles in the third quarter and showed a good burst of speed and broke tackles on a number of longer runs. He nearly broke a long touchdown run early in the fourth quarter but was pushed out of bounds at the five yard line.
RB Brandon Jackson, Rush: 9 - 31 - 0 - Jackson saw three snaps in the first drive as a change of pace to Ryan Grant and nine rushes overall. He wasn't as effective as Grant, unable to get through small creases in the front line and usually going down on first contact.
RB John Kuhn, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0 - Kuhn had one carry inside the five yard line but was stuffed for no gain.
RB Quinn Johnson, Rec: 1 - 0 - 0 - Johnson was dropped for no gain inside the five yard line on a short flat route. He was primarily used as a blocker and had no other touches.
WR Greg Jennings, Rec: 5 - 52 - 0 - Jennings was targeted eight times by Aaron Rodgers. His completions were mostly on short slant and in routes. He was able to gain separation easily on the Browns' cornerbacks. While he did get open downfield on a couple of plays, Rodgers had already made a decision to throw a shorter route.
WR Donald Driver, Rec: 2 - 84 - 1 - Driver was only targeted three times by Rodgers but made the most of one of his two receptions. Rodgers hit him down the seam against a Cleveland blitz and Driver juked and stiff-armed his way to a 71 yard touchdown play. Driver did get separation on a third down play he turned into a first down, but was generally quiet other than the big play.
WR James Jones, Rec: 1 - 5 - 1 - The Packers had little need for multiple wide receiver sets and weren't in enough critical down-and-distance situations for Jones to be a regular factor in the offense. His lone target and reception came on a stop route just over the goal line in which he had the Cleveland corner back on his heels and easily gained separation.
TE Donald Lee, Rec: 3 - 39 - 0 - Lee saw the bulk of the underneath targets after Jermichael Finley's first quarter knee injury. He dropped one pass but was generally effective over the middle, finding soft spots between the Cleveland linebackers in zone coverage.
TE Jermichael Finley, Rec: 1 - 16 - 0 - Finley left early in the first quarter after catching a ball on a crossing route but taking a low hit while trying to turn the ball upfield. The Packers are calling his injury a knee sprain, but haven't yet released more information.
QB Derek Anderson, Pass: 12 - 29 - 99 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 3 - 0 - Anderson struggled again against the Packers this week. When his receivers weren't dropping passes or failing to separate from the Green Bay corners on deep routes, Anderson was struggling with accuracy issues of his own, particularly when forced to throw the ball a half second early. Anderson showed a strong arm on a deep pass over the middle to Mohammed Massaquoi early in the first half, but couldn't connect with him on a number of other targets with underthrown or overthrown balls. Anderson's lone interception came when Brian Robiskie went one way on a curl route and Anderson threw the ball the other. Anderson also struggled in the red zone again, fumbling a snap and nearly throwing an interception into double coverage.
RB Jamal Lewis, Rush: 15 - 47 - 0 - The Packers stacked the box in a 46 front for much of the first half and Lewis found no running room at all. He was able to break a couple of longer runs against a softer front in the second half, but was ineffective on all but a handful of carries. He shows little burst between the tackles and rarely gets away from first contact.
RB Jerome Harrison, Rush: 3 - 7 - 0, Rec: 4 - 23 - 0 - Harrison rotated snaps with Jamal Lewis in the first quarter, but wasn't any more effective than Lewis against the eight man pressure front the Browns faced. Harrison also struggled to gain separation on short passing routes, breaking only one screen pass for significant yardage.
RB Lawrence Vickers, Rec: 1 - 10 - 0 - Vickers had no carries against the Packers but was targeted four times out of the backfield. Vickers caught only one pass for a short gain.
WR Josh Cribbs, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 1 - -1 - 0 - The Browns only rarely aligned in the Wildcat package this week, limiting Cribbs' touches. While he aligned as the team's second wide receiver often, he was only targeted once. The completion was short and Cribbs fumbled the ball away when he turned to move upfield.
WR Mohamed Massaquoi, Rec: 1 - 22 - 0 - Massaquoi had difficulty separating from man coverage and had trouble staying in sync with Derek Anderson, who was pressured and often had to throw the ball earlier than desired. The two seemed to have trouble connecting on deep routes, as Massaquoi was usually not where Anderson expected him to be on back shoulder passes and other timing routes. He also seems to prefer catching the ball against his body than snatching it out of the air. Massaquoi did show flashes of his breakout W4 performance at times, drawing an illegal contact penalty on a sideline route and making a catch on a deep in route.
WR Brian Robiskie - Robiskie continues to see increased playing time in offensive sets. He was again ineffective this week, however, failing to catch a pass on five targets. Inaccuracy in the face of Green Bay pressure was a frequent problem when the ball was thrown Robiskie's way, but Robiskie wasn't always where Derek Anderson expected him to be, including on one route in which Robiskie turned in while Anderson threw the ball outside where it was intercepted.
TE Greg Estandia, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 - With Robert Royal and Steve Heiden inactive, Estandia saw extended time as the slot tight end. He was targeted twice on short passes over the middle but was unable to gain separation consistently enough to be a bigger factor.
Buffalo Bills 20, Carolina Panthers 9QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Pass: 11 - 22 - 123 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 7 - 10 - 0 - Fitzpatrick did enough for the Bills to win the game, but it was more his lack of big mistakes and smart play to preserve field position than any big positive plays that helped the Bills get over the hump in this one. The Panthers got good pressure on Fitzpatrick - creating a lot of his incompletions by forcing him to just throw the ball away. Fitzpatrick did make a few improvisional plays, but mostly he seemed to short-circuit when he was under pressure, either looking to run or just get rid of the ball. On deep balls, he hit Lee Evans in stride, but also underthrew Terrell Owens when he got a step on the defensive back trying to cover him. Fitzpatrick was victimized by a few Owens drops, in addition to drops by Josh Reed and Jonathan Stupar, and played better than his stats, while still showing why he is a backup. Fitzpatrick seemed to have the best timing with Lee Evans again this week. He executed much better in the red zone and showed great arm strength on short throws.
RB Marshawn Lynch, Rush: 17 - 40 - 1, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 - Lynch found no room to run on most of his carries, but his cuts were crisp and powerful, and he still often made the first tackler miss or hang on while his teammates came over to finish the play. He got the goal to go carries on two drives, easily converting an early TD by seeing the cutback and walking in the end zone. His TD was scored on a very short field after a turnover. It's a little troubling that the Bills never got a consistent push at the line of scrimmage, but Lynch still looks as good as ever, and he has emerged as the clear lead back in this offense.
RB Fred Jackson, Rush: 5 - 2 - 0 - Jackson has settled into a smaller role, getting an occasional series here and there, but no longer truly a 1A committee back. He did get a few goal to go carries that he did not turn into TDs. Jackson was tackled in the end zone for the Panthers safety, but the poor blocking was to blame, not the running back.
WR Lee Evans, Rec: 5 - 75 - 1 - Evans was the more reliable target for Fitzpatrick today, and he got more looks as the game went on. He was able to get a step for a late deep ball that came when the Panthers were looking for the Bills to be conservative. Evans was mostly on the same page with Fitzpatrick timing-wise, and he got multiple red zone targets leading up to his TD, which he created by defeating the jam and getting inside on a quick slant route. Evans fantasy stock isn't very high, but it is as high as it has been this season.
WR Terrell Owens, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 3 - 27 - 0 - Owens had another performance that flashed his talent and tools, but was mostly marred by uneven effort and execution. Owens dropped multiple passes after getting open deep early, only to be underthrown by Fitzpatrick. While Fitzpatrick could have made a better throw, Owens didn't attempt to make a play on the ball. Owens did climb the ladder like a younger man to make a third down catch, and showed strong hands on another catch that was competed for by the DB. Perhaps the most telling play of the game for Owens was when he got his number called on a 3rd and 2 end around late in the game that he could only turn into one yard. Owens is not going to be a fantasy factor unless this offense has a magical transformation.
QB Jake Delhomme, Pass: 27 - 44 - 325 - 0 TD / 3 INT - The Bills got good pressure on Delhomme early, and then later in the game, but most of Delhomme's problems were his own making. The Panthers game plan had him throwing lots of short passes early, and he also used his tight ends and running backs as effective checkdowns, but as the game went on, the Bills started anticipating the short passes, especially to Steve Smith. Delhomme threw all three of his interception on long downfield passes that he overthrew, sometimes to wide open receivers, but he also converted perfectly thrown deep balls to Gary Barnidge and Steve Smith. He also threw a lazy out that should have been intercepted. Delhomme doesn't bear all the blame for the Panthers loss. He played well enough for the Panthers to have the lead going into the half, but John Kasay missed two field goals, and a fumbled punt allowed the Bills open up a two-score lead after Delhomme had driven them to a TD to pull the Panthers within eight points.
RB DeAngelo Williams, Rush: 16 - 89 - 1, Rec: 5 - 50 - 0 - Williams played like an all-pro, breaking tackles and dragging tacklers anytime he wasn't met in the backfield. He also make a few tacklers miss and flashed his signature blazing initial burst. He was one tackle away from breaking one of the long TD runs he made happen so often last year, and he was also very useful as an outlet receiver out of the backfield. Williams displayed patience to let the holes develop, then explosiveness to hit the hole as soon as it developed. He used his stiff arm to get extra yardage, and broke multiple tackles on the way to the Panthers only TD on a fourth down carry. His stamina was outstanding as Williams ran as hard late in the game as he did early on. None of the blame for this loss belongs at his feet.
RB Jonathan Stewart, Rush: 7 - 25 - 0, Rec: 4 - 20 - 0 - Stewart was running with irresistable power, always falling forward and breaking tackles along the way. He looked very natural as a receiver out of the backfield. Stewart got the red zone touches on one drive, including a fourth and 1, but he couldn't convert because the Panthers lost the battle in the trenches. There was a productive game for Stewart there to be had if the Panthers hadn't ineptly fallen behind early to an inferior team.
RB Mike Goodson, Rush: 2 - 2 - 0 - Goodson got in for two carries when Jonathan Stewart left the game with a hand injury. He was sudden and elusive, but he also tried to do too much on his first carry and lost yards because of it.
WR Steve Smith, Rec: 6 - 99 - 0 - Smith was bottled up for much of the game, but he slowly but surely piled up targets and yards on short catches with good run after catch ability and body control. He was overthrown on one deep target when he got a step on the defense, but later Delhomme was able to hit Smith in stride when he abused man coverage, and only an ankle tackle kept Smith from scoring a long TD. As long as the Panthers aren't able to control the game and abandon the pas, Smith will find a way to get his.
WR Muhsin Muhammad, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 - Muhammad wasn't involved much in the passing game, and then he got hurt. He looks like the fifth or sixth best target in this passing offense right now. He can be dropped in most leagues.
TE Dante Rosario, Rec: 3 - 35 - 0 - Rosario made possibly the best individual play of the game with a one-handed snag on a first-down conversion, and he generally showed his superior athleticism, even on attempts to catch poorly thrown balls that turned into incompletions. He also ran well and broke a tackle after the catch on one of his targets. His fantasy value is modest, but he has the talent to do more if the Panthers have to rely more on the pass in the future.
TE Gary Barnidge, Rec: 3 - 77 - 0 - Barnidge had a breakout game against the Bills. He got a step on Terrance McGee because he was peeking at the inside receiver, and converted a 52-yard gain on the resulting deep pass for the Panthers longest play of the game. He was also wide open over the middle on one of Delhomme's INTs, and he also got another deep target late in the game that was overthrown and picked off. He looked sure-handed and athletic, and he should have a role in this passing offense going forward.
Minnesota Vikings 17, Pittsburgh Steelers 27QB Brett Favre, Pass: 34 - 51 - 334 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0 - Favre had a good game, despite the losing effort. For much of the game, the Steeler defense harassed him and forced him to make quick throws under pressure. However, the Steelers also seemed to take away the throws underneath the secondary, cutting off the typical dump off throws to Peterson and Taylor that Favre had used to beat people earlier in the year. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that he finally found his rhythm and had the team clicking. Unfortunately two long drives that ate up a ton of clock and could have given the Vikings the lead ended in turnovers that went for TDS the other way. Favre's fumble was due to the collapse of the pocket, and the ball was swatted out of his hand. On the INT, Chester Taylor miss-handled a short pass that tipped off of his fingers and was intercepted. Favre maintained his composure despite obviously being flustered early and had his team in a position to win the game multiple times in the fourth quarter. They just couldn't get it done.
RB Adrian Peterson, Rush: 18 - 69 - 1, Rec: 4 - 60 - 0 - Peterson had a quiet game against a tough Steeler defense. He was stopped behind the line of scrimmage multiple times, and the defense was too fast and dragged him down from behind on several runs to the outside. He was even stuffed on the goal line multiple times. However, he kept chipping away at the defense and eventually broke a couple longer runs off tackle for big gains. His best play came on a short dump pass where he lowered his shoulders and just ran over DB William Gay for a big 26 yard gain. But the Steelers were tough, and Peterson definitely earned every yard that he ran. Ultimately it wasn't enough and the Vikings lost.
RB Chester Taylor, Rush: 3 - 14 - 0, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 - Taylor had a quiet game with minimal impact. He came in on the second and long and third and long situations, but the Steelers shut him down and he was not able to get open for those soft screens that burned so many teams earlier in the season. He finished with just four touches for 20 yards. He also miss-handled the short pass from Favre late in the game and tipped it to Pittsburgh for the interception and deciding TD. The pass was a bit high, but Taylor still should have come down with it. It was his most memorable play of the game.
WR Sidney Rice, Rec: 11 - 136 - 0 - Sidney Rice cemented his role as the #1 WR for the Vikings in this game. He was all over the field, catching short sideline routes, crossing routes over the middle and deeper passes down the field in tough coverage. Favre looked to him early and often, and when Berrian went down with an injury, Rice became the 'go to' guy. Although he didn't officially reach the end zone, Rice did catch a TD pass in the fourth quarter but it was called back on a questionable tripping penalty. Earlier in that same series, Rice had a 35 yard gain called back due to a holding penalty. He finished the game as the top receiver in receptions and receiving yards.
WR Percy Harvin, Rush: 1 - 7 - 0, Rec: 3 - 42 - 0 - Harvin showed now ill effects of the bad shoulder that plagued him the previous two weeks. He was rock solid on his kickoff returns and attacked the defense when he had the ball on offense. Harvin came up big early in the second quarter with a nice 26 yard reception on 3rd and 6. His biggest contribution was in the fourth quarter when the Steelers returned a Brett Favre Fumble for a TD, bringing their lead to 10 points. That could have broken the Vikings' back, but Harvin took the kickoff 88 yards, shaking off a tackle attempt by the kicker for the TD and put the Vikings right back into the game. Favre trusts him more and although they were not able to connect on any of them, Favre looked to Harvin on several deep passes throughout the game. With Berrian sidelined with a hamstring injury, Harvin will certainly see more of the offensive plays coming his way.
WR Bernard Berrian, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 - Berrian was the target of several nice quick screens in the second quarter that he turned into solid gains each time. However, he injured his hamstring shortly after that and did not return to the game.
TE Visanthe Shiancoe, Rec: 4 - 27 - 0 - Shiancoe had a quiet game for the Vikings after being a Red Zone target for the last several weeks. The Steelers shut Shiancoe down and he was covered well for most of the game. When balls were thrown his way, he was challenged and they were frequently broken up. When he did manage to make a reception, he was immediately tackled or pushed out of bounds. He finished the game with four receptions, but had only 27 yards receiving and did not see any targets the two times that the Vikings were on the goal line.
QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pass: 14 - 26 - 175 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 1 - 0 - Roethlisberger was more of a game manager than a QB in this contest. The Vikings applied solid pressure up the middle and from the edge, and Big Ben was never able to get his leading receivers into the game. During the first half, both Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes finished with only one reception. It was only Mike Wallace and Heath Miller that saw any real action for most of the game. While Roethlisberger didn't suffer the same fate that Brett Favre did with the interception and the fumble, he was not without his miss-cues. Several incomplete passes could have been picked off and late in the fourth quarter, he had the ball knocked out of his hands but it was kicked out of bounds before it could be recovered. He finished the game with just 14 completions, for 175 yards and a TD. Not the typical numbers we are used to seeing from Big Ben, but good enough for a tough win.
RB Rashard Mendenhall, Rush: 10 - 69 - 0, Rec: 1 - -1 - 0 - Mendenhall made the most of his limited opportunities, carrying the ball just 10 times for almost 70 yards. This is even more impressive when you consider the fact that half of his carries were for three yards or less. The play that everyone will remember however, is the second play in the fourth quarter. After a nice catch and run by Santonio Holmes to bring the ball inside the Viking 10 yard line, Mendenhall took a short handoff up the middle for a five yard gain but fumbled it away and the Vikings recovered. Instead of putting Minnesota away for good, the turnover gave them new life and they almost pulled out the victory. Mendenhall was benched on the following series and the Steelers never had another opportunity on offense.
RB Mewelde Moore, Rush: 4 - 14 - 0 - Moore saw limited action in the first half, primarily on passing downs. He came in for Mendenhall in the fourth quarter after the costly fumble and had three short carries as the Steelers were trying to control the ball and run out the clock. He did not get a first down and the Steelers were forced to punt.
RB Willie Parker, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0 - Parker's turf toe kept him out of action for this game. He had one carry for two yards in the first quarter and did not return after that.
WR Mike Wallace, Rush: 2 - 19 - 0, Rec: 3 - 72 - 1 - Mike Wallace was the big offensive weapon for the Steelers in this game. With time winding down in the second quarter, he caught a nice pass over the middle for a 22 yard gain. Big Ben spiked the ball and on the next play, Wallace took a similar pass 40 yards into the end zone for a TD. He also had two solid running plays on designed reverses that went for good gains. He led the Steelers in total yards from scrimmage for the game.
WR Santonio Holmes, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 2 - 59 - 0 - Holmes had a nice catch and run to start the fourth quarter, taking a short sideline route 45 yards to the Minnesota 9 yard line. Rashard Mendenhall fumbled the ball away on the next offensive play and Holmes was absent from the stat sheet after that. Holmes reached the end zone on a short 7 yard pass at the end of the first half, but he was only open because Heath Miller knocked down his defender and was flagged for offensive pass interference.
WR Hines Ward, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 - The Vikings were all over Ward the entire game. He had just one reception early in the first quarter and had a few targets that fell incomplete after that. He and Santonio Holmes were non factors in this game.
TE Heath Miller, Rec: 6 - 38 - 0 - Miller was the check-down receiver for Big Ben in this game, and he was used a lot on second and long situations. The Vikings took away the outside routes, and were covering the RBs well out of the backfield. Miller found the soft underside of the defense multiple times and turned five second and long situations into five third and short situations. He never quite reached the first down marker, but he always put his team in a position to do it, and made the down and distance much more manageable for the Steelers against a tough, Minnesota defense.
Indianapolis Colts 42, St. Louis Rams 6QB Peyton Manning, Pass: 23 - 34 - 235 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0 - Peyton Manning was his usual self, which means he was dominant as a passer and in total command of the Indianapolis offense. Manning started fast, hitting Reggie Wayne four times for a combined 61 yards and the touchdown to cap the drive. Peyton had three touchdowns, the last of which came with under four minutes to play in a blowout -- which has to raise some eyebrows but not Jim Sorgi's value. Manning finished with under 300 yards passing for the first time all year, but the Rams were not a formidable opponent at all and the Indianapolis defense made short fields often for Manning. He remains arguably the best quarterback in the league.
RB Joseph Addai, Rush: 20 - 64 - 1, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 - Addai was splitting time about two-to-one with rookie Donald Brown in the first half until Brown left the game with a shoulder injury. Addai dominated touches the rest of the way but did not put up great numbers (20 carries, 64 yards) despite a very favorable matchup against the St. Louis Rams. Addai was able to walk into the end zone with an easy score of six yards in the second quarter. Addai eventually handed the duties off to third RB Chad Simpson in the fourth quarter, but everyone will be waiting to see if Donald Brown is able to get ready for next week's game against San Francisco. If he cannot, Addai should be in for a heavy workload again in Week 8.
RB Chad Simpson, Rush: 3 - 35 - 1, Rec: 1 - 2 - 0 - Third string running back Chad Simpson closed out the game in Week 7 against the Rams for Indianapolis. Simpson broke a 31-yard touchdown right down the middle of the field in the fourth quarter, the final points of the day. Simpson rose one click up the depth chart once Donald Brown left the game with a shoulder injury. Should Brown or Addai get injured or miss time, Simpson would be next in line for touches.
RB Donald Brown, Rush: 2 - 58 - 0 - Brown looked very fast and explosive, much more than Joseph Addai, whenever he had the ball in his hands. Brown had a great run down the left side in the first quarter, nearly scoring on a long 45-yard dash along the sideline. Brown punished defenders upon first contact, but one of those hits hurt Brown's left shoulder and he was forced from the game. With the contest well in hand, Brown was kept on the bench to avoid further injury.
WR Reggie Wayne, Rec: 7 - 83 - 1 - Wayne opened the game quickly, getting plenty of targets and catches in the opening minutes. Wayne dominated the first drive, catching four balls for a combined 61 yards including his long for the day of 25 yards. Wayne finished off the drive with a short catch for the first Colts touchdown of the day. Wayne did tweak his groin and missed some of the rest of the first half, but he was able to return to action after halftime to collect some additional grabs. Wayne could have topped 100 yards if not for the Colts letting the backups play after the game was well in hand.
WR Austin Collie, Rec: 4 - 36 - 1 - Collie caught four short balls against the Rams, picking up occasional yardage after the catch. He was able to break one of them for 17 total yards on third and long, but his biggest fantasy catch of the day came long after the game was decided. Collie's final catch was a red zone eight yarder for a touchdown with under four minutes to play in "garbage time" from Peyton Manning (who for some reason was still in there). Collie was the most productive wideout after Reggie Wayne, so he will see the most work until Anthony Gonzalez returns and may still be a contributor even after Gonzalez comes back.
WR Pierre Garcon, Rec: 3 - 24 - 0 - Wide receiver Pierre Garcon surprisingly struggled against the Rams in Week 7, dropping several easier chances throughout the contest. He was targeted most in the second half with Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark taking some rest with the game well in hand, so do not read too much into his eight targets. Garcon will likely be sidelined and pushed down the depth chart once Anthony Gonzalez returns to action.
TE Dallas Clark, Rec: 3 - 44 - 1 - Clark continued to take full advantage of favorable matchups, this time getting three grabs for 44 yards on five targets -- all in the first half. The Colts were up big in a hurry against the Rams and then went into cruise control, giving more snaps to the second string receivers in the second half. Clark was able to get into the end zone on a great catch behind two defenders on a seam route where Peyton Manning lobbed a perfect ball into his hands at the goal line for the score.
TE Gijon Robinson, Rec: 3 - 38 - 0 - Robinson asserted himself as the true backup to Dallas Clark against the Rams, gathering in all three balls that came his way in Week 7. Robinson got started early with a nice 19-yard catch down the right side in Colts territory on second and long, followed by two shorter catches in the second half after the Colts were well ahead. Robinson is unlikely to see many targets most weeks but Dallas Clark is not extremely durable, so if he were to get injured Robinson would benefit the most.
QB Marc Bulger, Pass: 14 - 26 - 140 - 0 TD / 2 INT - Bulger is doing all he can with limited options on offense once again for the 2009 version of the Rams. After RB Steven Jackson, the only real threat left is WR Donnie Avery, giving Bulger little to work with to move the ball. His offensive line also does him no favors, forcing him to move around in the pocket most of the time and also to throw on the run. Rarely does he get decent time in the pocket. His Week 7 performance against the Colts was highlighted by a 50-yard flea flick to Donnie Avery, but that was the only completion over 15 yards for the afternoon. Bulger can be an average-to-good quarterback if he has decent targets and time to throw, but that's not the case this season.
RB Steven Jackson, Rush: 23 - 134 - 0, Rec: 1 - -1 - 0 - Jackson was the workhorse yet again in Week 7 against Indianapolis, leading all Rams with 24 touches against the Colts. He fought all game for every yard, picking up a ton of his 134 rushing yards after initial contact as he cannot get any help it seems from his blockers. Jackson to leave the game briefly in the first half, with Kenneth Darby filling in at tailback. Jackson is very likely to remain the best producer for the Rams all season, but without a decent supporting cast his upside is minimal.
RB Samkon Gado, Rush: 4 - 5 - 0 - Gado had minimal carries against the Colts in Week 7, getting the leftover touches after Steven Jackson and Kenneth Darby got their share. Needless to say, but the third RB for the Rams is not fantasy material.
RB Ken Darby, Rush: 3 - 16 - 0 - Darby spelled Steven Jackson briefly in the first half when Jackson had to leave the game, but Darby did very little with his chances. Most of his output came on a strong 11-yard run up the middle, but that was just about it for Darby in Week 7. Darby appears to be next in line on the depth chart behind Steven Jackson, but even if Jackson gets injured it is unlikely that Darby can put up Top 30 RB fantasy numbers if he does get a start this year for St. Louis.
WR Danny Amendola, Rec: 5 - 39 - 0 - Amendola is probably not high on your "must own" waiver wire list, but he deserves some attention. The diminutive receiver for the Rams has bounced around the league a bit but has finally a home with St. Louis, getting his fair shot to contribute on offense and as a kick returner. Amendola converted all five of his Week 7 targets into catches against the Colts including grabs of 14 and 13 yards. He shows good speed after the catch and works well as a slot receiver, so if the Rams can ever find a consistent option to line up outside, Amendola could be a nice possession guy and third wideout for the Rams.
WR Keenan Burton, Rec: 3 - 28 - 0 - Burton lined up as the second wide receiver for the Rams in Week 7, but he was at best the third reciever both to the naked eye and on the stat sheet against the Colts. Burton grabbed three of the five balls that came his way for very short yardage, making little headway after the catch. The Rams need to find someone better than Burton or else Burton must produce better to remain the starter, but for now Burton benefits from the Rams' lack of options for a sizable wideout to line up outside of Danny Amendola (who looked better than Burton) in three-wide sets.
WR Donnie Avery, Rec: 2 - 58 - 0 - Avery showed that he really was ready to go after his hip injury, getting open deep early in the Week 7 contest against Indianapolis on a flea flicker that resulted in a 50-yard catch for Avery in the first quarter. Of course, Avery then again had to take some time off after that big gainer, but he was able to get right back in the lineup after missing one series. Avery did little the rest of the afternoon against the Colts, getting just one short ball for eight yards the rest of the game. Avery is still the best wideout the Rams have, but that does not make him more than a fantasy WR3 at best most weeks.
WR Tim Carter - Carter resurfaced as a St. Louis Ram, but his career should have been over by now. Two targets and no grabs for the Rams tells you all you need to know about his current fantasy worth.
TE Randy McMichael, Rec: 2 - 9 - 0 - McMichael is still the starter for St. Louis, but his targets are eroding a little of late with Daniel Fells also getting some tight end looks. McMichael had just three targets, all of the short yardage variety and all in the second half against Indianapolis long after the game was decided. His minimal targets and production on those plays makes him a reach even as a fantasy TE2. You should be able to find better options.
TE Daniel Fells, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 - Fells is getting some work as the second tight end for the Rams, especially when they try and create maximum pass protection. Fells runs a few underneath routes a week, this time catching a short seven yard grab against the Colts in Week 7. His fantasy value is next to none with so many other tight end options this year.
Arizona Cardinals 24, New York Giants 17QB Kurt Warner, Pass: 20 - 36 - 231 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - -3 - 0 - Warner never really got comfortable in week 7 due to constant pressure from the NY front four, however he managed to lead his team to victory and turn in a solid, but not spectacular stat line. Early in the game, Warner faced intense pressure and caused him to look very unsettled in the pocket, his accuracy suffered as a result. Ultimately, the Giants pressure led to a tipped pass that resulted in an INT on the first series of the 2nd quarter. As the game progressed the Arizona running game showed some life and Warner started to check down to his RB's a bit more. This resulted in Warner having some extra time to make some downfield throws to Larry Fitzgerald later in the game. Warner actually rolled out of the pocket on a couple of occasions in order to buy himself some extra time, at this point in his career that is a rarity. Later in the game he took advantage of a NY turnover for a quick TD strike to backup RB Jason Wright inside the 10 yd line. This was Warner's quietest game of the season thus far, but he was still relevant and effective.
RB Chris Wells, Rush: 14 - 67 - 1, Rec: 3 - 10 - 0 - This was the Chris Wells the Arizona Cardinals had in mind when they drafted him late in the 1st round of this years draft. Wells turned in his best game as a pro and looked every bit the part of a stud RB. Running extremely hard with explosiveness and delivering vicious stiff-arms throughout the game. In many ways Wells was the key to the Cardinals win in week 7 providing them with a sorely needed running attack when the passing games was out of sorts. He came into the game on the 2nd series of the 1st quarter and immediately caught a short screen pass and ran a couple of draw plays. Wells was power was utilized more as the game progressed almost creating a conservative approach for the Arizona offense. This culminated in Wells earning his first TD as a professional when he blew up a Giants LB on his way to very impressive 13 yd TD run. Wells finished the game with career highs attempts(14), yards(67), and catches(3). As long as Wells is able to secure the ball and cure his fumbling issue, he should be able to earn the lion's share of the work in the Arizona backfield moving forward. Buy now while you still can.
RB Tim Hightower, Rush: 4 - 9 - 1, Rec: 2 - 11 - 0 - Hightower took a backseat to rookie RB Chris Wells in week 7, however he still managed to find paydirt vulturing a TD. Hightower's limited role was probably due to an early 1st quarter fumble when he was wrapped up and stripped by Justin Tuck and by the emergence of Wells during the game. Hightower showed his usual good power and sure hands when called upon but is simply not a dynamic enough player to warrant long looks in this offense.
RB Jason Wright, Rec: 1 - 6 - 1 - Wright was brought in to spell Tim Hightower on a key 3rd down with the game on the line and he came through with a 6 yd screen TD catch. This proved to be the only play Wright made on the week.
WR Larry Fitzgerald, Rec: 6 - 83 - 0 - Fitzgerald turned in another very solid effort in week 7 as Kurt Warner looked his way plenty of times. Fitz worked both sides of the field with precision but found himself double-teamed for the majority of the game. This somewhat limited his effectiveness as Warner was not able to complete a lot of the targets to him. In the 3rd quarter, Fitzgerald broke free down the middle for gains of 26 and 27 yards helping setup a Cardinal TD. Later he made a rare miscue as he dropped a sure fire TD catch from safety Antrel Rolle who was working out of the wildcat formation. Fitzgerald ended up leading the team in targets, catches, and yards in week 7.
WR Anquan Boldin, Rec: 3 - 75 - 0 - You have to hand it to Anquan Boldin in week 7. He was limited by a high-ankle sprain coming into the game and still managed to not only suit up, he was fairly effective as well. Warner looked to Boldin on a variety of patterns out of different formations all night, but the ankle prevented him from creating good separation from the NY secondary. Despite the ankle, Boldin reeled in 3 catches with the big one totaling 44 yards. He was targeted more and did all of his damage in the 1st half of the game. Boldin is one of the games true warriors, however as long as he is limited with this ankle issue, his ceiling will also be limited to FF owners. Until fully healthy, he looks like a #2WR at best.
WR Jerheme Urban, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 - Urban worked in his typical #4 WR position this week for the Cardinals. He caught his only target of the game for a single yard. He will have better weeks and is worth keeping an eye on if Boldin misses any time with his high ankle sprain.
WR Steve Breaston, Rec: 1 - 23 - 0 - Breaston is quite simply one the games premiere slot WR's and heading into week 7 there was speculation that he would take on a larger role due to Anquan Boldin's gimpy ankle. Those reports proved to be untrue and Breaston worked out of the slot turning in a very quiet game managing just a single catch. Breaston had only a few targets this week but was a willing and able blocker on a few running plays. Look for him to get back on track next week as he is a reliable and consistent option for the Cards and FF owners.
TE Ben Patrick, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 - Patrick was looked at a few times during week 7 early in the game when Warner did not have enough time to find his downfield targets. Patrick did a fine job making a couple of nice short checkdown catches for 14 yards. He looked to do a fine job as a blocker in this game as well, however he is not worth a roster spot.
TE Anthony Becht, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 - The veteran TE Becht continues to serve as the Cardinals #2 TE. Of course in this offense the #1 TE is not useful for owners, so the #2 option is even less so. Nonetheless Becht hauled in his lone target for an 8 yard catch in week 7. He is a block first TE at this point in this career and wouldn't even be rosterable in a 32-team league that starts 2-TE's.
QB Eli Manning, Pass: 19 - 37 - 243 - 1 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0 - The keyword for Eli Manning in week 7 was - confused. He was stymied by the Cardinals unpredictable blitz formations which attacked from different angles at different times throughout the game. The array of blitz packages forced Eli into making some questionable decisions and turning the ball over a season high 3 times (plus a dropped INT by Adrian Wilson as well). Manning's lone touchdown pass came on a stroke of luck as his second-quarter pass sailed over the reach of Mario Manningham, was deflected into the air by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and directly into the hands of Hakeem Nicks. This pass gave the Giants the lead heading into the 2nd half. However, Eli turned in a poor showing in the 2nd half as he wasn't able to get his team back into the end zone. Manning had a chance to tie up the game late in the 4th quarter but he made a very bad read and decision culminating in his 3rd INT of the game. This marks back to back poor outings for Manning who was on cruise control earlier in the season. One has to wonder if his early season success was due to the level of competition. The coming weeks will tell us as he faces some stiff defenses.
RB Brandon Jacobs, Rush: 13 - 76 - 1, Rec: 2 - 11 - 0 - Jacobs has been under some criticism for the past few games for tip-toeing at the line of scrimmage. We saw zero signs of this during week 7 as he ran very hard and blasted the holes that the O-line created for him. Jacobs did a lot of damage during the first half breaking off runs of 17 and 25 yards (if not for a superb ankle tackle by safety Antrel Rolle the 17 yarder would have possibly went for a long TD). His rushing TD was a blue collar football thing of beauty as he bowled over wanna-be tacklers on his way to the end zone. Despite his effectiveness the Giants offense for some reason went away from him during the 2nd half a bit. From a carry by carry perspective this was as good as Jacobs has looked possibly all season...owners rejoice.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Rush: 12 - 32 - 0, Rec: 1 - -5 - 0 - In recent weeks Bradshaw looked to be emerging as the Giants go to running back as he was racking up some solid numbers in limited action. Make no mistake however as Bradshaw is clearly still the #2 option behind Brandon Jacobs. Week 7 proved to be a difficult game for Bradshaw as he was never able to get into space to open up a big play. He finished the game with a season low 27 total yards while seeing his typical 10-15 touches.
WR Steve Smith, Rec: 4 - 69 - 0 - After getting off to a blistering start Steve Smith has seen his role reduced a touch in recent weeks. Smith was still effective in his usual precise route-running and displayed sticky hands, but it looked as if the Cardinals were committed to containing him in week 7. Smith essentially played the part of a decoy in the 1st half but was targeted a bit more in the 2nd half of the game. With the game on the line in the 4th quarter Eli Manning to looked to his #1 WR often, one was a spectacular reception down the middle of the field in tight coverage. He ended up leading the Giants in targets (10) while going for 4/69. Smith has glue-like hands and is a terrific player, however defenses have taken notice and are now daring the NY offense to throw to Smith while he is double-covered.
WR Mario Manningham, Rec: 4 - 47 - 0 - Manningham is clearly the #2 option in the passing game right now for the Giants, however his suspect hands is costing him some easy catches. In week 7 Mario dropped at least 2 catches (one of which would have been a TD catch early in the 4th while easily out running two Arizona db's). Despite the drops he still managed to reel in 4 catches for 47 yards. On a couple of the short route catches Manningham displayed what is becoming his typical method of operation...making the catch and then dancing away from oncoming tacklers. Manningham's role moving forward is a bit cloudy right now due to the emergence of Hakeem Nick, but for the time being his number is being called by Eli Manning and the Giants offense enough to make him a viable starter most weeks.
WR Hakeem Nicks, Rec: 4 - 80 - 1 - The rookie WR has now caught TD's in 4 consecutive weeks and continues to be a massive downfield and red zone threat for Eli Manning. Eli looked Nicks way during the 1st series of the game on a fade route target in the corner of the end zone. Nicks lone highlight of the game came when he lucked out on an underthrown ball, the ball was batted to a sprinting Nicks for a 62 yd TD catch. (Similar to the Brandon Stokley TD in week 1) Aside from that big play Nicks managed to catch 3 other balls totaling just 18 yards. Nicks is for real and right now has great boom/bust potential week to week.
WR Domenik Hixon, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 - Hixon was targeted early on a short route that he hauled in for 6 yards. His deep route target later in the game was picked off. At this point Hixon is the #4 option in a burgeoning passing attack. He is good athlete but has limited value unless your league counts return yards.
TE Kevin Boss, Rec: 3 - 35 - 0 - Boss was silent in the 1st half of the game but got involved in the 2nd half when he was targeted on consecutive check-down throws from Eli Manning. In the 4th quarter Boss made one of the best plays of the night as he stretched out to make a 25 yard catch over the middle. On the play, Boss was absolutely lit up but he somehow managed to hold onto the ball. Boss has good hands but is really a better blocker than receiver. He remains a TE2 in most all formats.
Chicago Bears 10, Cincinnati Bengals 45QB Jay Cutler, Pass: 26 - 37 - 251 - 1 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 3 - 4 - 0 - Cutler didn't play as badly as his stat line would indicate. The first interception he threw wasn't totally his fault, as Earl Bennett made a half-hearted play on a pass that the defender anticipated. Cutler worked hard to move the offense against a Bengals defense that was working even harder. Cutler was under heavy pressure all day, but he did move the offense at the end of the first half. Time ran out of them and the Bears had to settle for a field goal. Cutler threw another pair of interceptions after moving the offense well early in the second half - bad throws, forcing the ball to Greg Olsen and Earl Bennett in triple coverage. Cutler finally found Devin Hester in the end zone after the game was decided.
QB Caleb Hanie, Pass: 1 - 2 - 3 - 0 TD / 0 INT - Hanie got in for some garbage time duty, but didn't do anything remarkable.
RB Matt Forte, Rush: 6 - 24 - 0, Rec: 4 - 25 - 0 - Forte had little chance to get involved in this game, as it got away from the Bears very early on. He got little work on the ground, but he did look dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield, flashing speed after the catch and great tackle-breaking ability.
WR Devin Hester, Rec: 8 - 101 - 1 - There's no doubt that Hester is Cutler's number one receiver. Cutler kept going back to him, even after a fumble. One deep target was thrown well, and Hester timed his jump well, but he couldn't come down with it. Cutler seemed to really lean on Hester in the two-minute drill, and Hester also made a nice play to evade tight coverage and get open on his touchdown catch.
WR Earl Bennett, Rec: 4 - 48 - 0 - Bennett had a beautiful spinning catch in the two-minute drill to end the first half, but he also made a less-than-optimal effort on Cutler's first interception. Bennett did get some deep targets, including one into triple coverage on a fourth down once the game was out of hand that was intercepted by Leon Hall for his second on the day.
WR Johnny Knox, Rec: 4 - 42 - 0 - Knox had a handful of downfield catches and looked quick and fast as usual, but like the rest of the Bears passing game, he had no effect on the contest until the game was completely out of hand.
TE Greg Olsen, Rec: 4 - 24 - 0 - Olsen was never a threat to break any long gains as most of his catches came close to the line of scrimmage. The Bengals tackled well, and they didn't give Cutler time to let downfield routes develop.
QB Carson Palmer, Pass: 20 - 24 - 233 - 5 TD / 0 INT - Palmer put on a show in the red zone in the first half. His first four touchdown passes were to four different receivers. He came out firing on the first drive, hitting downfield passes to Chad Ochocinco and Chris Henry, and finishing the drive with a touchdown pass to Henry while rolling out. Palmer drove the Bengals down the field and notched his fifth touchdown pass for good measure in the second half.
RB Cedric Benson, Rush: 37 - 189 - 1 - Benson came out running hard with a score to settle against his old team. He was violently running downhill behind a line that is quickly becoming one of the best run blocking units in the league. He got great gains with speed and power, slamming it between the tackles and also getting the corner. He often had to be gang-tackled to finish the play, and Benson stayed in until the very end, getting the most out of the opportunity to stick it to his former team with a career-high in rushing yards.
RB Bernard Scott, Rush: 6 - 17 - 0, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 - Scott had nice gains on a run and reception, and got a few extra carries in garbage time before he left the game with an injured knee that is not believed to be serious.
WR Chad Ochocinco, Rec: 10 - 118 - 2 - Ochocinco took Charles Tillman to school just as he had promised. He was getting open on routes of all types and lengths, and playing pitch and catch with Carson Palmer just like it was the old days when the Bengals had one of the most dangerous pass offenses in the league. He was especially good working the middle of the field and operating almost completely in sync with Palmer.
WR Laveranues Coles, Rec: 2 - 37 - 1 - Coles had his weekly drop, but he had a nice leaping 29-yard catch in the second quarter, and also drug an LB across the goal line on his touchdown catch.
WR Chris Henry, Rec: 2 - 26 - 1 - Henry had two catches in the first drive, but wasn't heard from again in the box score. He did a great job getting open in the back of the end zone as Palmer kept the play alive on his touchdown. He is definitely on the same page as Palmer, but his opportunities are limited.
TE John Paul Foschi, Rec: 1 - 3 - 1 - Things were going so good for the Bengals that even a journeyman TE like Foschi found the end zone in the first half.
New England Patriots 35, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7QB Tom Brady, Pass: 23 - 32 - 308 - 3 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0 - For a while, Tom Brady was nearly perfect. He Relied on Randy Moss and Wes Welker early on for big gains, but also spread the ball around to keep the defense off balance. Once the Patriots were ahead, he got a little too confident and the Bucs proved that he is human after all. A poor decision to throw into double coverage in the end zone, when he could have easily run it in, resulted in an interception. His second pick was the result of an underthrown deep ball to Brandon Tate. Both interceptions were athletic defensive plays, but it was a reality check of sorts for Brady. In the second half, he seemed to take the lesson to heart, and didn't try so hard for the big play. The Patriots moved the ball efficiently, and put the game away on a 10-play drive in which Brady picked apart the defense with short passes.
QB Brian Hoyer, Rush: 3 - 17 - 0 - Hoyer replaced Brady late in the game. He showed a knack for avoiding the sack, and made a big gain on a scramble up the middle. He did not have much of an opportunity to showcase his skills, given the ultra conservative play calling. They called a run play on 3rd and 9, for example.
RB Laurence Maroney, Rush: 13 - 43 - 1 - This was a less than spectacular showing by Maroney, and not for lack of opportunity. Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis also got carries, but Maroney got the starting nod and the bulk of the carries. He was hesitant hitting the hole and on the occasions in which he had a little bit of running room, could never seem to shed the first tackler. Maroney's saving grace was a good series to put away the game. From the Bucs 18 yard line, he had consecutive carries of 13, 5, and 1 (for the TD).
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Rush: 7 - 6 - 0 - Green-Ellis had a few first half carries, then was given the garbage time carries to end the game.
RB Kevin Faulk, Rush: 2 - 19 - 0, Rec: 2 - 5 - 0 - Faulk was used sparingly in this one. He was productive with the chances he had, but with the game well in hand, it looked like the Pats wanted to see what they had in Maroney.
WR Wes Welker, Rush: 1 - 6 - 0, Rec: 10 - 107 - 1 - Welker was everywhere. Catching everything. Basically.
WR Randy Moss, Rec: 5 - 69 - 0 - Moss was used on a limited basis but was still productive, though he did not score. He had his bell rung a little bit after catching the ball over the middle and he played a little more sparingly after that.
WR Sam Aiken, Rec: 2 - 66 - 1 - Is Sam Aiken "Wes Welker Lite"? He played much the same sort of game, catching short passes and turning them into big gains. He seemed to have Brady's trust more as the game wore on. He had one red zone look on a quick pass, but was covered. Later, he turned a short crossing route into a long touchdown -- he shed one defender and was off. Aiken appears to have a leg up on Brandon Tate for the 3rd wide receiver job.
WR Brandon Tate, Rush: 1 - 11 - 0 - Tate was only targeted once, on a fly route that could have been a score had the ball not been underthrown. He also ran a reverse for an eleven yard pickup.
TE Ben Watson, Rec: 1 - 35 - 1 - Watson hauled in a nice looking 35-yd touchdown catch. He made it look easy, beating his man by a mile, and had a perfect throw to catch. He also had a 13 yard first down called back on a penalty.
QB Josh Johnson, Pass: 9 - 26 - 156 - 1 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 1 - 7 - 0 - Johnson was blitzed heavily all day. His first interception (which was returned for a touchdown) was a direct result of making a bad throw under pressure. His strength is in improvising, and he made a nice completion to Cadillac Williams while scrambling. For the most part, Johnson made good decisions under pressure, and doesn't get rattled after a turnover or a dropped pass. Despite these good qualities, the bottom line for Johnson is that he is inconsistent. He completed a perfect over-the-shoulder pass, deep to Antonio Bryant for a TD, for example. But for every play like that, there was an equally poor one that killed a drive. That, and his receivers are wildly inconsistent as well. Not the best combination. His third interception was the result of a Hail Mary pass to end the first half.
QB Josh Freeman, Pass: 2 - 4 - 16 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0 - Freeman made his rookie debut in the fourth quarter, and had a big time pass rush to contend with. He made one nice completion, but also was sacked and hurried on the other two. He was called for delay of game penalty on a 4th down and 2. He also fumbled while scrambling. Overall, it wasn't much of an audition, and he reminded us he is a rookie. He did leave smiling though -- happy to get the first one over with.
RB Derrick Ward, Rush: 13 - 48 - 0, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 - Ward played more as the game went on and the Bucs fell behind, as he was used primarily on passing downs. He did not look very impressive running the ball and was not much of a receiving target as he was often called on to help stop the blitz.
RB Cadillac Williams, Rush: 11 - 29 - 0, Rec: 2 - 28 - 0 - Cadillac found holes early and hit them hard and showed great power and speed. He made a very nice catch from his scrambling QB. He was stuffed a couple of times in the middle part of the game, through no fault of his. Overall, he looked very impressive but his touches are limited when playing from behind because Derrick Ward typically comes in on passing downs. If the Bucs ever had a lead, it might be a different story.
WR Sammie Stroughter, Rec: 3 - 63 - 0 - Stroughter was targeted often, even when other options were open. He is clearly a much better option than Clayton. While still inconsistent, he makes things happen: turning a routine 8-yard catch into 17 yards, for example. Has a strong rapport with Josh Johnson.
WR Antonio Bryant, Rec: 2 - 51 - 1 - Despite the low catch total, Bryant looked awesome at times. If he had a more consistent QB, his numbers would likely be much better than they are. He made a beautiful over-the-shoulder TD catch in tight man coverage, but that would be the only highlight of his day. He also had to deal with tight coverage all day, and Johnson was usually unable to get him the ball. Bryant had one bad drop late in the third quarter, which would have converted a big third down in Patriots territory.
WR Michael Clayton - Clayton was targeted deep once, but overthrown. His big problem is that he never seems to gain any separation on the defensive backs.
TE Kellen Winslow, Rec: 2 - 9 - 0 - Winslow caught the first passing play of game, for six yards, but saw very few opportunities after that. The Patriots pass rush was fierce, and the Bucs needed all the pass protection they could get.
Philadelphia Eagles 27, Washington Redskins 17QB Donovan McNabb, Pass: 15 - 25 - 156 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - -5 - 0 - McNabb didn't do much vs. the Redskins, but he didn't have to do much. He seemed somewhat lax in his intensity vs. the underrated Redskins D, often missing low and generally not throwing with precision. McNabb did find DeSean Jackson behind the defense for a TD on the exact same play that he missed Jeremy Maclin on earlier in the game. Otherwise, he was playing very conservative, passing mainly close to the line of scrimmage and handing off to LeSean McCoy. McNabb's game was unsuccessful for fantasy because of the early Eagles big lead and tough play from the Washington defense.
RB LeSean McCoy, Rush: 14 - 37 - 0, Rec: 5 - 30 - 0 - McCoy got all of the tailback work after Brian Westbrook left with a concussion, but he was stacked up at the line on most of his carries. He also got three direct snaps in the wildcat formation, but the offensive line got little push vs. the Redskins front seven. McCoy looked the best on screen passes, when he could use his suddenness to set up blocks and weave through traffic.
RB Brian Westbrook, Rush: 3 - 13 - 0 - Westbrook got the first two touches of the game, including a wildcat direct snap, and he looked poised for a big game, but a knee to the head from London Fletcher concussed Westbrook, and he spent the rest of the game on the sidelines.
WR Jeremy Maclin, Rec: 5 - 53 - 0 - Maclin got the most targets of any Eagle receiver. They were mostly quick throws - slant and screens that allowed Maclin to make things happen after the catch. He didn't, and he didn't look very elusive and tentative in the open field. Maclin did throw a block downfield to make Jackson's long run into a touchdown, and he also made a heady comeback to the sidelines when McNabb broke the pocket for one of his best gains on the night. Maclin did get behind the defense once, but McNabb was looking for Jackson over the middle instead.
WR DeSean Jackson, Rush: 1 - 67 - 1, Rec: 2 - 69 - 1 - Jackson barely touched the ball on offense vs. the Redskins, but even a handful of opportunities is more than enough for this natural playmaker. He flashed a fifth gear to score on an end around from 67 yards out, and then got behind Carlos Rogers with a double move to score on a 57 yard pass play. Jackson briefly left with a foot strain, but it doesn't appear that he'll miss time with this injury.
TE Brent Celek, Rec: 3 - 8 - 0 - Celek didn't do much in this game because the Eagles didn't put together any long sustained drives, and they went conservative with a big lead in the second half. He caught a few passes close to the line of scrimmage, but couldn't create anything after the catch.
QB Jason Campbell, Pass: 29 - 43 - 284 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 4 - 8 - 0 - Campbell's performance was typical - a few plays that show his big arm and ideal skillset, but mostly tentative and ineffective. Campbell had a tipped pass intercepted for a TD, and he was under pressure from the Eagles relentless blitzes all night. Campbell gave up another turnover when he didn't feel the rush coming and fumbled away the ball, and another bad sack he took cost the team a chance at a field goal. He missed Santana Moss wide open for a long TD, and generally did not go patiently through his progressions. Campbell was fine on scripted plays that worked, and plays when his initial read came open, but he looked lost when he had to improvise. Penalties and mistakes seemed to demoralize the team from the get-go, and the running game never got on track to get the offense out of constant third and longs. His job is hanging by a thread, but it's a stronger thread than the one holding Jim Zorn's job.
RB Clinton Portis, Rush: 14 - 43 - 0 - Portis was frustrated - showing his anger by throwing his helmet at the bench. He found little room to run, and had yet another failed goal to go carry inside the five. He was then pulled on second and goal. Portis did have decent spring in his legs to get to the outside and cut upfield on a few carries, and he got his best gain on a delayed handoff, but there's no reason to expect much more than this from Portis going forward in this dysfunctional offense.
RB Ladell Betts, Rec: 3 - 21 - 0 - Betts had a few receptions in the two minute drill, but this team is not looking to him as a potential shot in the arm for the offense.
WR Santana Moss, Rec: 6 - 74 - 0 - Moss salvaged a decent night with a few garbage time catches, and some excellent efforts earlier in the game, including a spinning catch and a few catches that allowed him to show off his run after catch skills. Moss had an end zone target, but it glanced off of his hands - although the defender might have gotten a finger on it or slightly interfered with Moss. His quicks, speed, hands and routes all look as good as ever, but the offense is not running close to smoothly enough to make Moss the fantasy force he has been in the past.
WR Antwaan Randle El, Rec: 5 - 39 - 0 - Randle-el had a horrendous night because his muffed punt ended any momentum the Redskins had when they were trying to get back in the game in the second half. He was given some targets close to the line of scrimmage to create after the catch, but ARE didn't look sudden or dangerous at all. His only good gain of the night came when he was left alone on a crossing pattern in the two minute drill.
WR Devin Thomas, Rec: 3 - 45 - 1 - Thomas had a breakout game of sorts. He caught the Redskins first TD of the game in the back of the end zone, and the speed and moves that made him a high second-round pick were on display on a quick screen pass that was a lot like the plays he excelled at while at Michigan State. Thomas did have one drop, but his hold on the starting job opposite Santana Moss is secure.
TE Fred Davis, Rec: 8 - 78 - 1 - Davis picked up the slack for the loss of Cooley and then some. He had two nice gains by sitting down in the exact same dead spot in the Eagles zone, and Davis also showed a ton of fight in his running after the catch. He caught the garbage time TD in a what is surely a harbinger of good production for the rest of the season for this 2008 second-round pick.
TE Chris Cooley, Rec: 2 - 21 - 0 - Cooley was featured in the game plan, catching the first two targets of the night, and creating extra yards after the catch. His night was cut short by a broken foot that will sideline him for the rest of the season.
New Orleans Saints 46, Miami Dolphins 34QB Drew Brees, Pass: 22 - 38 - 298 - 1 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 2 - 3 - 2 - Brees stood tall despite being harassed all day by unstoppable blitzes from the Dolphins. The Saints were constantly in terrible down and distance situations early, and Brees coughed the ball up twice when he got snowed under by pass rushers. He also threw an early INT on a miscommunication with Devery Henderson. The only score the Saints had until late in the first half came after a long kickoff return. Finally late in the half, Brees drove the Saints down and scored on a QB sneak on a play that could have left the Saints empty-handed if it didn't work because there was only a few seconds left in the half. The successful blitzing didn't stop in the second half, but there were more plays that the Dolphins just sent four, and Brees carved apart the 'Fins defense when he was given time. He scored on another sneak in the second half, and threw a TD to Marques Colston on a rollout play deep in Miami territory. Brees had two other interceptions on a tipped ball, and a pass at the goal line that was taken away from Colston. Colston couldn't get another possible TD that he had both hands on late in the game. Even though Brees had more turnovers than TDs, his energy and efforts helped turn the game and surge the Saints past the Dolphins in the end.
RB Mike Bell, Rush: 12 - 80 - 0 - Bell was barely heard from in the first half, but his hard-charging style helped the Saints take control of the game in the fourth quarter. He was displaying his decisive one-cut running style that results in broken tackles and good gains. Bell broke one run for a long run with a strong initial burst and good vision. He had two carries inside the five, but couldn't get in the end zone.
RB Pierre Thomas, Rush: 8 - 30 - 0, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 - Thomas was running hard, breaking tackles early and getting the between the tackles running game established until the Dolphins opened up a big early lead. His initial burst is impressive, and this will probably be a low water mark for Thomas's production.
RB Reggie Bush, Rush: 3 - 10 - 1, Rec: 3 - 16 - 0 - Bush wasn't used much except in the red zone. He was well-covered on his few targets in the regular offense, but he was able to find room to run on a double reverse in the red zone that he punctuated by soaring over the pylon even though he took off from around the five-yard line. Bush also had a couple of receptions in the red zone, but seems to be a novelty player for this team right now.
RB Heath Evans, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0, Rec: 2 - 3 - 0 - Evans continues to get a red zone touch or two a game, something to note for those of you in extremely deep leagues.
WR Devery Henderson, Rush: 1 - 13 - 0, Rec: 4 - 71 - 0 - Henderson didn't get any deep targets because Drew Brees didn't have time to let those develop, but he did have a long catch and run and got open more as the game went on. He also had a nice gain on an end around.
WR Marques Colston, Rec: 5 - 72 - 1 - Colston was dominant in the middle of the field, but he did have a few moments he'd like to forget. Even though he was extremely productive, Colston had one pass taken away from him for an interception at the goal line, and he also had a few balls go glancing off of his hands, including one in the end zone. Otherwise, Colston was kicking butt and taking names, getting open between the hashes and breaking tackles after the catch.
WR Lance Moore, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 - Moore had a two-minute drill catch late in the first half and a second half red zone catch, but he was not featured in the passing game plan that exploited the weakness of Dolphins safeties covering the middle of the field.
WR Robert Meachem - Meachem's name was never called as the Saints didn't have the protection to make any deep throws today.
TE Jeremy Shockey, Rec: 4 - 105 - 0 - Shockey was very quiet during the first during his return to south Florida, but in the second half he made his presence known by getting wide open downfield and then abusing Gibril Wilson with his stiff arm for about 20-25 yards after the catch. He seemed very pumped up and helped energize the Saints on their march to victory.
QB Chad Henne, Pass: 18 - 36 - 211 - 0 TD / 2 INT - You can't really say Henne played badly, but the Dolphins defense and running backs really kept them in this game more than Henne did. Henne had one long pass play on a quick slant to Brian Hartline, but most of his completions and yardage came when the Dolphins were trying to overcome a late deficit. He was under a lot of pressure and let down by some drops. His two pick sixes came on a ball Ted Ginn juggled right into Darren Sharper, and on a desperation 4th and 13 at the end of the game.
RB Ronnie Brown, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 16 - 48 - 1 - Brown was his typical patient and powerful self, getting four and five yards with ease by running downhill in the wildcat until the Saints really tightened up their defense against the formation, then Brown was mainly held in check. He broke a tackle and walked into the end zone on his TD run, but didn't have any other big plays. Brown did throw a nice pass on the move to Anthony Fasano late in the game, but Fasano dropped it.
RB Ricky Williams, Rush: 9 - 80 - 3, Rec: 2 - 12 - 0 - Williams had one of the best games of his career by scoring twice as the wildcat QB at the goal line, and breaking a 68-yard TD on a well-blocked toss play that displayed Williams outstanding burst and second gear for a back over 30. He wasn't able to do much on his other touches.
RB Lousaka Polite, Rush: 3 - 7 - 0 - Polite continues to get a handful of short yardage carries and leads the way as a blocker in the power running game.
WR Greg Camarillo, Rec: 5 - 55 - 0 - Camarillo didn't make any highlight plays, but he ran precise routes, getting good separation and finishing the play with reliable hands on late drives when the Dolphins tried to keep up with the Saints comeback bid. He is in a rotation with three other receivers, but he seems to have the best chemistry with Chad Henne.
WR Ted Ginn, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0, Rec: 2 - 16 - 0 - Ginn continues to look more like a pretender every week. He had multiple drops, a juggle that turned into a Darren Sharper touchdown, and generally played soft, especially on balls that he had to compete for in the air. Ginn wasn't getting separation on any routes with breaks, and on one of his downfield targets he was looking a flag even though it was a clean breakup. The Dolphins were trying to use him early, but his targets were either halting Miami's momentum or creating big plays for New Orleans. His star is diminishing quickly.
WR Davone Bess, Rec: 3 - 13 - 0 - Bess made a few very athletic plays, including a twisting catch in the first half and a nice run after catch on a screen, but his fumble trying to get extra yards after the catch when the Dolphins were up 24-3 late in the first half was the turning point of the game. He wasn't targeted much as Ted Ginn got a lot of early looks, and Greg Camarillo and Brian Hartline got the looks later in the game.
WR Brian Hartline, Rec: 3 - 94 - 0 - Hartline is earning more playing time every week. He took a quick slant 67 yards to the Saints four-yard line after he broke a tackle, and showed strong running after the catch on another quick slant in the red zone that he almost scored on. Hartline was the most valuable fantasy receiver for the Dolphins today, and that trend could continue as we get deeper into the season because he seems to have the best combination of playmaking ability and consistency in this wide receiver corps.
TE Anthony Fasano, Rec: 3 - 21 - 0 - Fasano had a nice downfield catch in the two-minute drill at the end of the first half, but any nice memory of that was wiped out by a ham-handed drop of a nice Ronnie Brown pass out of the wildcat that killed the first drive the Dolphins had after the Saints took the lead in the fourth quarter.
San Diego Chargers 37, Kansas City Chiefs 7QB Philip Rivers, Pass: 18 - 30 - 268 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 18 - 0 - Rivers was pretty much on-point for the entire game. A lot of that had to do with the fact that he was given loads of time to work with. Unlike last week, when he was sacked five times in a loss to Denver, this week he wasn't sacked once. It showed in his aggressiveness and the confidence he showed on each throw, directing his receivers around the field and stepping into each throw without fear of being hit. He even managed to scramble for an 11-yard first down run! His first touchdown pass to Malcom Floyd was a simple matter of Floyd selling the corner fade fake and coming back on the slant for the easy score. Rivers' second score wasn't so easy, as he had to wait for Vincent Jackson to come back towards him off his route and fire a strike in front of the defender (which he did). The third score was a simple swing pass in the flat to Darren Sproles, who did the rest of the work himself by racing around and through a handful of Chiefs defenders to all but end the game. In addition to those, Rivers had a couple other near-misses, one of which was a dropped score by WR Chris Chambers and another to TE Antonio Gates that he was unable to hold onto while maintaining his footing inbounds. Gates had another reception that he took down to the two yard line, and Jackson had another that he nearly hauled in but came down about a foot out of bounds. So Rivers' day could have been even bigger than it already was. In fact, Jackson's second of two long receptions could've also gone for a longer pass and a score, but the pass was slightly underthrown and "only" went for a 51-yard pass.
QB Billy Volek, Rush: 3 - -3 - 0 - When San Diego went up by thirty in the middle of the fourth quarter, Volek entered the game in relief of Rivers but did not throw a pass.
RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Rush: 23 - 71 - 0, Rec: 2 - 2 - 0 - Midway through the first quarter, Tomlinson appeared well on his way to his first huge game of the season, though he once again turned in very pedestrian stats. He looked good running with the ball, bursting outside for a season-long 36 yards on his second carry of the game. He looked good on his quick cuts, and didn't appear to come out of the game with an injury at any point. But after that run, it was a rough go for him. Aside from the one big gain, he had just 35 yards on his other 22 carries, which demonstrates just how little success he had. Tomlinson also had a lot of trouble once the team got to the goal line, which used to be his forte. He was stuffed every way imaginable. Going low, fighting through the middle, leaping over the pile -- you name it, they stopped him. And then the one time he did manage to get in, the score was waved off when Brandyn Dombrowski failed to report as an eligible receiver. He even fought in on that one and dragged the pile, but it was all for naught.
RB Darren Sproles, Rush: 5 - 41 - 0, Rec: 3 - 58 - 1 - Sproles once again didn't see a lot of action in the game, but he made the most of the touches he did see. The Chargers are starting to realize that he's not a very strong inside runner, and his touches there have dwindled to almost none. But he did pick up nice yardage on an outside run (on which he lost his shoe yet kept on going), and also scored on a 58 yard swing pass that he caught with nobody within twenty yards of him. Once he gets into that space, almost no defender in the league can match his speed. He also lost big yardage on a phantom holding call earlier in the first half.
RB Jacob Hester, Rush: 3 - 8 - 0 - Hester isn't a regular part of the offense, but he did fill in late in the fourth quarter when the game turned into a blowout. He's also showing his value on special teams, with his second special teams score in three games. He blocked a punt, hustled to the end zone, and fell on it for the score.
RB Mike Tolbert, Rec: 1 - 2 - 0 - Tolbert was targeted a handful of times, once dropping a potential first down reception on second and short when the ball was thrown behind him, and once on a reception off a screen that he took down to the goal line.
WR Vincent Jackson, Rec: 5 - 142 - 1 - Like most of the Chargers, Jackson did his damage in the first half as they build up their lead and was quiet in the second as they tried to salt it away. Jackson's splits were even more dramatic, however, as he hauled in a team record 142 yards in the first half but didn't register a catch in the second half. Jackson has quickly become one of the league's premier deep threats, hauling in two separate 51-yard receptions (he nearly had an earlier deep bomb catch on the game's first offensive play, but it was broken up at the last moment). He's simply too big for most cornerbacks to cover down the field, and he's got the speed, strength, leaping ability, and hands to come down with nearly every 50-50 ball. He showed good instincts on his ten yard touchdown grab, coming back to the ball to give Philip Rivers a better passing lane. He nearly added a second touchdown on a sideline pass in the end zone. Jackson showed great ability and concentration, but he wasn't able to bring it down with his feet inbounds despite the great effort.
WR Malcom Floyd, Rec: 2 - 9 - 1 - Floyd had an easy touchdown knocked away by Brandon Flowers at the goal line early in the first quarter, but two plays later he beat his man off the line for an easy score off a slant. Curiously, he only caught one other pass in the game, a forgettable six yard grab.
WR Chris Chambers - Chambers is still being looked to in crucial situations, but unless he starts doing more with those opportunities, they may go away soon. He failed to put away a third down touchdown catch, instead allowing the ball to be knocked from his grasp (which Norv Turner then followed up with an equally pathetic decision to challenge the obvious call). He was targeted fairly consistently, but failed to come away with a single reception.
TE Antonio Gates, Rec: 5 - 55 - 0 - Gates came on strong early, but like most of the team, he didn't do as much after halftime. He took a short screen off play action and took it 25 yards down to the two yard line. He showed nice moves and strength to get downfield, but there might have been even better blocking on the play than Gates' own moves. Two plays later, he was targeted in the end zone on a fade and drew a pass interference penalty. Late in the second half, he went up high to snag a 19 yard pass to set up the Chargers at the five yard line. His basketball skills came in handy as he boxed out the defender for the football, but it was really his only action of the second half as the team went to a more run-oriented, ball control approach. He saw one more target in the end zone but the ball was somewhat underthrown by Rivers, and Gates was unable to maintain his footing on the play. He could have caught the pass, but he couldn't keep himself inbounds long enough to do so and it fell incomplete.
QB Matt Cassel, Pass: 10 - 25 - 97 - 1 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 6 - 24 - 0 - Cassel had by far his worst game of the season. He entered with the third-most passes in a row without an interception, then spent most of the afternoon either getting picked off or coming close to it. In fact, he completed nearly as many passes to San Diego defenders (3) as his own receivers (7). He was nearly picked on the opening drive third down pass off a deflection, and was later bailed out of an interception when LB Shawne Merriman lined up in the neutral zone. But rather than taking advantage of his second chances, Cassel proceeded to make sure he was picked off later on. He was under a lot of duress in the second half, which was when all of the turnovers happened. Each of the last two interceptions came on overthrows as he tried forcing it into coverage while being hit. He came into the game with only two interceptions all season and then threw three in about fifteen minutes of real life time. Not ALL of Cassel's passes were awful, mind you, just most of them. He did toss a perfect touch pass to Dwayne Bowe for a score along the sideline of the end zone, and made a perfect pass to Long in the end zone for what should have been a score but the wideout couldn't hang on. But those nice throws were far outnumbered by the overthrows on what should have been touchdowns and the near-interceptions that were just dropped by Charger defenders.
QB Matt Gutierrez, Pass: 1 - 1 - 3 - 0 TD / 0 INT - Gutierrez came on late in relief of Cassel when the score got out of control. His job was mostly to hand off and toss safe passes underneath.
RB Larry Johnson, Rush: 16 - 49 - 0, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 - Johnson owners are going to look at yet another disappointing stat line and conclude that Johnson was terrible again. But in reality, the problem didn't seem to be entirely with him; his offensive line just never opened any holes for him. For those who have said he looks slow, in this game he was rarely afforded the opportunity to show whether he was slow or not as he was met at the line of scrimmage by a wall of tacklers more than a few times. He also had a nice run on which he pushed the pile forward with a lot of power and determination despite being hit early in the play. The concerns about him going forward are warranted, but in this game a lot of it had to do with those around more than Johnson himself. After the game, however, Johnson had some derogatory comments regarding the team's head coach Todd Haley, and while it remains to be seen how much that will affect his standing with the team, it certainly won't help.
RB Jamaal Charles, Rush: 4 - 33 - 0, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 - Charles looked much quicker than did Larry Johnson, but that's to be expected. Charles is younger and has that good burst that Johnson may not quite have these days. Charles showed nice inside cuts and quickness to get to the second level of the defense, though he didn't break many tackles once he got there. The Chiefs also split him out wide in the second half as they tried coming up with some creative ways to get him the ball. At one point, he got way behind the last line of the defense wide open for what should have been a long touchdown but the pass was badly overthrown.
WR Bobby Wade, Rec: 4 - 66 - 0 - Wade allowed a pass to hit him in the head (it was that kind of a day for Kansas City), but made up for it shortly after with a nice move after the catch to pick up a first down. He was also able to haul in a couple of nice plays in the third quarter during the brief moments in the game when Matt Cassel was afforded a little bit of time. One of the catches was a big gain down the sideline on a ball thrown over his shoulder, but like most of the Chief receivers the quantity of passes headed his way left a lot to be desire.
WR Dwayne Bowe, Rec: 2 - 11 - 1 - Bowe was unusually quiet, considering his history against the Chargers. He normally has big games against them, but in this one he was almost entirely held in check. He caught just two passes and was unable to gain much separation from the defensive backs all game long. He did score on a great grab along the end zone sideline, dragging his feet as he cradled the ball into his chest, and he also drew a fourth down pass interference penalty against Quentin Jammer, but those two plays came nowhere near keeping his team in the ballgame. On another, he looked about to be hit in stride over the middle but had his feet tangled up with Jammer and the ball fell incomplete. He also dropped a wide open easy reception right over the middle in the red zone as he tried running before he actually caught the ball in the second half, and that was pretty indicative of the type of game it was for him.
WR Lance Long, Rec: 2 - 12 - 0 - Long was compared to Wes Welker by the announcers, mostly because he's short and white, but one can see a resemblance to their games. Long seems a bit scatterbrained out on the field, bouncing all over the place like a pinball, but he's actually pretty well under control. His big contributions to this game weren't in his results, but in what he almost did. He dropped a deep ball on which he was interfered with by S Eric Weddle but no call was made. And he later nearly brought in a great catch on a dive into the end zone, but the ball hit the ground at the last moment and popped out. Later, he was drilled by Tim Dobbins after a short catch and was down on the ground momentarily. He got up a bit woozy with what looked like a concussion. He won't put up huge stats in this offense, but he can fill a role in the slot with his skill set.
Atlanta Falcons 21, Dallas Cowboys 37QB Matt Ryan, Pass: 19 - 35 - 198 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - 6 - 0 - Ryan started out very sharp with the timing based short passing game moving the chains, but the Cowboys blitzes and pressure soon got to him, and Ryan never really got comfortable for the rest of the game. He did hit Roddy White on an out close in for the Falcons first TD, and the Falcons did call a flea flicker early, but the Cowboys pressure and good coverage downfield kept it from producing a big play. Ryan threw his first interception with Mike Jenkins left Michael Jenkins and jumped a Roddy White route, and his second happened on an ill-advised throw into double coverage during a desperation attempt to come back. Ryan also gave up the ball on an all-out blitz that ended a drive into Cowboy territory. His second TD was a 4th and 10 throw to a receiver that the Cowboys forgot to cover in garbage time. Ryan did move around and keep his eyes downfield well when he could elude the pressure, but nothing seemed to come open downfield. It was a combination of a lack of special, inspired plays by the Falcons offense, and a great job dialing up blitzes and keeping Ryan off balance that led to mediocre day for the Falcons passing game.
RB Michael Turner, Rush: 18 - 50 - 1 - Michael Turner was met in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage too often for him to have a good day running the football, not to mention the Falcons had to play from behind for the whole second half. Turner did break a few tackles and ran with great determination, but he doesn't seem to have quite the same power, burst or crispness in his moves. The Falcons offensive line was getting no push against the Cowboys front seven, and they seemed to be crashing down on the line of scrimmage hard when Turner was in the game. He did score on a bulldozer run at the goal line, and Turner was successful on a draw and when he got to the outside, but when the defense is playing as hungry as Dallas was against the run and pass, of course it's going to be long day for Turner.
RB Jason Snelling, Rush: 7 - 68 - 0, Rec: 1 - 10 - 0 - Snelling got a lot of snaps because the starting fullback and #2 RB for the Falcons were both out injured. The running game didn't do much with him as a lead blocking fullback, but Snelling did have a lot of success as a tailback. He ran with great leg drive and urgency, and he broke a big run when the Cowboys flooded the middle to stop the run and he got outside. Snelling hit the line with good pace and almost always got yards after contact. He looks like he's turning into a very good backup RB who can put up numbers when the starter is out.
WR Roddy White, Rec: 6 - 50 - 1 - White had a quiet day. He worked the sidelines and short crossing routes and broke a few tackles after the catch, and he also got open outside on his short TD catch. White was Ryan's target on first and goal in the same series. He threw a downfield block to help spring Jason Snelling's big run, but White was never able to have a big effect on the outcome of this game because there wasn't time for him to get open downfield or enough success in the run game to get Dallas's defense off balance.
WR Brian Finneran, Rec: 2 - 22 - 0 - Finneran made a few catches and ran hard after the catch. He is more sure-handed than Michael Jenkins and he might get more targets if Jenkins play continues to be subpar.
WR Michael Jenkins, Rec: 2 - 22 - 0 - Jenkins had a bad day in what has been a bad year for him so far. He dropped passes, he lost his feet when he had a chance to get a key third down conversion late, and he just didn't play with a precise, focused edge to his game.
WR Eric Weems, Rec: 2 - 33 - 1 - Weems caught a TD when no one covered him on a 4th and 10 in garbage time, but he's not flashing anything that would make you think that his role is going to grow greatly in the near future.
TE Tony Gonzalez, Rec: 4 - 37 - 0 - Gonzo had the first two catches of the game, and then only had two more catches for the rest of the contest. He did have a lot more yardage on his later catches, a good downfield route on a third and long and a sprawling catch of a low pass, but most of the day he was covered well by the Cowboys.
QB Tony Romo, Pass: 21 - 29 - 311 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 6 - 31 - 0 - Since a horrendous Sunday night performance vs. the Giants, Romo has been playing as well as any QB this side of Peyton Manning. He was patient in the pocket, but picked his moments to run and extend plays well, including a bonafide Houdini act on the short TD pass to Patrick Crayton. Romo once again was on the same as Miles Austin all day on all kinds of throws, from a deep ball on a post route after a Falcons TD to intermediate comebacks and bullets over the middle. Only one of his two TDs to Austin was a result of broken tackles this week. Romo used Jason Witten as a safety valve and hot read, and moved the offense at will after a few early three-and-outs. He has turned back into a fantasy QB1 with a wide array of weapons.
RB Marion Barber, Rush: 14 - 47 - 0, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 - Early on Barber was thwarted, being met in the backfield at least four times on first half carries. As the game went on, Barber started running hot, going through arm tackles and making quick, subtle moves to get through the line of scrimmage. His downhill running helped put the game away, and he was always strong as a pass blocker, but he still doesn't look quite capable of breaking the big run when he gets to the open field with a choppy stride and no second gear.
RB Felix Jones, Rush: 8 - 37 - 0, Rec: 2 - 6 - 0 - If Jones's knee is slowing him down, you couldn't tell on Sunday. He once again made someone miss completely in the open field, and make it look way too easy, and Jones was generally slippery in one on one confrontations. Jones got a few snaps in a row in the first half and showed his electric initial burst on a few runs. He didn't get a chance to do anything on his receptions because they were low, but one of them came in the red zone. He'll be back to his big play ways any day now.
RB Tashard Choice, Rec: 1 - 23 - 0 - Choice was in on some passing downs, but he is clearly back to his early season afterthought role until injuries hit the Cowboys backfield again, despite reports that he would be more involved leading up to this game. He did have an excellent catch downfield when he ran a route into the area between the dropping linebacker and safeties on third down, and he provided good protection for Tony Romo when he stayed at home.
WR Miles Austin, Rec: 6 - 171 - 2 - Austin dismissed any ideas that his breakout game vs. KC was a fluke with another dominant game. He got open deep and ran away from the safety. He got both feet down on a deep sideline throw. He worked the middle of the field and hands-caught bullets from Romo, and just like in the KC game, he broke a tackle to get free and score. He abused Brent Grimes on the way to that TD, pushing him around and drawing a penalty in the process. Austin's timing with Romo is impeccable right now, and while his current pace is unsustainable, it's hard to consider him anything less than a fantasy WR1 until we see otherwise.
WR Patrick Crayton, Rec: 2 - 9 - 1 - Crayton has been marginalized in the passing offense, but he still found the end zone twice. He caught a TD when he sat down at the back of the end zone while Tony Romo escaped multiple would-be tacklers, and he took advantage of great blocking and poor coverage on a straight line punt return for touchdown.
WR Roy Williams, Rec: 1 - 16 - 0 - Williams looked about as bad as he has all season. He had multiple drops, his routes weren't very crisp, his timing with Romo was off, and he even got called for offensive pass interference on a short route. His game is lacking confidence, strength, and aggression right now, and it has been so long since we've seen Williams play with those qualities that it's hard to remember what that looks like.
TE Jason Witten, Rec: 5 - 53 - 0 - Witten's role is clear. He's the outlet and hot read for Romo, and he'll run short to intermediate routes in the middle of the field to exploit dead spots in the zone coverage. He is not being looked to in the red zone or on playmaking seam routes. He's still going to be one of the best TEs for catches and yardage, but Miles Austin emergence has usurped Witten's chance to be one of the few TEs that is the #1 target in his passing offense.
TE Martellus Bennett, Rec: 3 - 32 - 0 - Bennett was more live receiver than decoy early in this game. He ran precise routes and looked more sure-handed and smooth that he has all year. With Roy Williams struggles, there's still a chance for Bennett to play a bigger role as the season goes on.