Monday Morning Takeaway; Week 3

Monday Morning Takeaway; Week 3

By Eric Hartvigson

 

New York 36, Carolina 7

Giants

From a fantasy perspective, evaluating Eli’s performance is a bit moot. With the game under control from the word “go” Manning was able to take a back seat and coast his team to victory. Just one of those days where fantasy doesn’t meet reality.

I think the “Eli is elite” phrase has worn out its welcome (but I still slid it in there didn’t I?). That was no more evident than Manning holding a coming out party for Ramses Barden who received 10 targets, snagging 9 balls totaling 138 yards. Last season Eli helped the previous unknown Victor Cruz emerge to NFL stardom, as many are now wondering what to expect from Barden moving forward? Remember, Hakeem Nicks did not play after aggravating his foot injury, so expect Barden to be relegated back to the 3rd option when Nicks returns. But as we know Nicks is a Red Flag injury prone player meaning Barden could be stashed on your bench as a player with upside if you have the roster room, or security if you own Hakeem Nicks.

As for Cruz’s performance, the Giants clearly saw a matchup they wanted to exploit with Barden as Cruz was relegated to the role of a number two wide receiver managing a meager 42 yards. Momma said there’d be days like this

The other breakout performance pushing fantasy teams off to a fast start Thursday was running back Andre Brown. With Ahmad Bradshaw ailing from a neck injury it was Brown, and not 1st round rookie David Wilson carrying the load for the G-Men. All Brown did was reward fantasy owners with a 130 total yards and 2 touchdowns. Brown is a great story after being cut seven times by five different teams. Finally getting his chance Brown made the most of his opportunity. Brown’s have fantasy value hinges on the recovery of Ahmad Bradshaw, but he should certainly be rostered in every league.

Tight end Martellus Bennett set a Giants record scoring a touchdown in each of the first three games. He is a lineup lock until further notice.

Panthers

Two words come to mind watching Cam Newton, sophomore slump. Those are the exact same words being echoed around fantasy circles as Newton has gotten off to a very slow start. However, the phrase sophomore slump is commonly misunderstood to mean a player performing worse than he did in his rookie season. That isn’t necessarily the case. With a full year worth of game tape Defensive Coordinators are putting together game plan to keep the second year quarterback in the pocket forcing him to win games with his arm. He’s impossible to sit, and should bounce back sooner rather than later. (Side note; spare me the Superman celebration when you’re down 23-7 and getting your butt kicked).

DeAngelo Williams was handed his second solo start of the year with Jonathan Stewart still suffering from foot issues. Averaging 4.5 yards per carry, D-Will performed admirably but quickly sunk by the scoreboard as Panthers fell behind being forced to abandon the run. This will be the case again next week facing the explosive Atlanta Falcons as it’s probably best to keep Williams on your bench.

Brandon LaFell has been everybody’s favorite sleeper over the first two weeks but never woke up in this game. In what should have been a plus matchup against beaten Giants secondary the Panthers failed to take advantage as LaFell managed just one reception. Instead it was tight end Greg Olsen leading the team with 14 targets resulting in 98 yards. I’m not sure if this was the Panthers game plan or a circumstance of the consistent pressure delivered by the Giants fearsome front line. We should expect this trend to continue next week against Falcons team rostering the game’s best cornerback duo.

 

St. Louis 6, Chicago 23

Rams

Like so many teams that struggled on Sunday, the finger can be pointed at the poor play from the Rams offensive line. Surrendering six sacks Sam Bradford was harassed all game long by the Bears front four barely scraping together 152 yards while tossing two picks. The Sam Bradford roller coaster continues but should stay in the low with a tough Seattle defense coming to town next week.

After two solid games, many fantasy owners were scrambling to the waiver looking to add both Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. But as the offensive line goes, so goes the rest of the team as both wide receivers were relatively unproductive as the Rams failed to sustain drives and move the football. Amdendola is a PPR lock, but otherwise a low end WR3. Gibson is risk / reward mid-low WR4.

After speculation of a groin injury Steven Jackson opened the game for the Rams, but seemed to lack the same violent explosion.  Jackson was also plagued by the same poor offensive line play that hindered Bradford totaling 29 yards. Also, Jackson wasn’t alone in the backfield as Daryl Richardson rotated into the game early. S-Jax did end the game as the team’s leader in carries with 11 while playing until the clock read zero, a good sign moving through the week. The bad sign is a stiff Seattle rush defense next on the schedule rendering Jackson a higher RB3.

Bears

Coming off the worst performance in franchise history (I’m assuming) Cutler and the Bears passing game failed to make any adjustments as the game plan looked identical to last week; “force feed Brandon Marshall”. In case you don’t remember, current Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice was the head coach for the Vikings with Randy Moss. While in Minnesota Tice installed an offensive system known as the Randy Rule basically meaning; “chuck it to Randy”. That looks like the same offense now used in Chicago. The Rams must have read the playbook because they did a great job of playing Marshall high / low limiting his production until late in the game. Until Cutler can learn to read through his progressions, and exploit the defense he will remain a very low QB2 (Cutler is my backup and will be dropping him before he gives me an ulcer).

As for Marshall himself, he isn’t helping his quarterback as the drops are still a reoccurring issue. All around both players are tough to watch.

Filling in for the injured Matt Forte, Michael Bush also had a rough outing at 3.1 yards per carry managing just 55 yards. Fortunately for fantasy owners Bush was able to punch in a three yard touchdown run.  In the Bears incessant nature to be an RBBC we also witnessed Kahlil Bell stealing 10 touches with 9 of Bell’s 10 carries totaling 2 yards. Ugh. Up next for Bush is a tough matchup with the Cowboys
We should recognize that Alshon Jeffery got 5 receptions but mainly underneath targets with nothing deep downfield. Jeffery is a fantasy project and should remain a WR5 until Culter’s play improves.

 

Buffalo 24, Cleveland 14

Bills

CJ Spiller opened this game ripping through the damaged Browns front five. He was well on his way to leading fantasy football in scoring yet again but quickly exited the game, being carted to the locker room while holding his shoulder. After the early scare we are now hearing postgame reports of no serious damage with an early recovery period of 1-2 weeks.

 

In relief for Spiller stepped Tashard Choice who is an effective runner in his own right as seen during his limited production while with the Dallas Cowboys. Although unable to match Spiller’s electricity, Choice will likely become the Bills leading rusher until Fred Jackson and / or Spiller are able to return. Given the limited 3-Down-RBs in the league, Chioce should be added in every league.

The Browns passing defense was ranked 3rd in fantasy points allowed per game exiting the 2011 season. With the prolonged absence of Joe Haden the Browns are currently ranked 27th. That was evident as the Bills passing attack came alive allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw three touchdowns to three different receivers including; Steve Johnson, CJ Spiller and TJ Grahame.

Absent was tight end Scott Chandler who has been a preferred red zone target leading up to this game.. Without a touchdown Chandler’s fantasy value is severely hindered as he can’t survive on yardage alone. However, an upcoming matchup with the Patriots means the Bills offense will need to take to the aerial attack as Chandler remains a low end TE1.

Browns

The Bills defense that stunted the Chiefs last week stepped up once again limiting the Browns young offense to 240 total offensive yards. In this game rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden was sacked on four different occasions with tossing two interceptions. Weeden’s lone highlight was a 22 yard touchdown toss to Travis Benjamin.

Coming off an explosive week two performance rookie running back Trent Richardson was returned to mediocrity by a vastly improved Bills defensive line. Richardson did provide fantasy owners a strong run for a six yard touchdown. A tough upcoming matchup against a stiff Ravens defense has Richardson projected to be a mid / high RB3.

In the race for who is going to lead the Browns in targets we have yet to see a frontrunner. On the season we witnessed an rotation between Mohammed Massaquoi, Greg Little and Josh Gordon. Of the three, this week it was Gordon leading the Browns with six targets. Until Weeden improves no Cleveland receiver is worth owning.

 

Tampa Bay 10, Dallas 16

Buccaneers

After an opening drive touchdown to Luke Stocker the Buccaneers next nine drives ended with eight punts and a Josh Freeman interception. Unable to sustain drives severely limited all Bucs players, especially Freeman.

When the quarterback suffers, so do the wide receivers as Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams only able to manage 62 receiving yards between the two of them. Of course a certain amount of credit should be attributed to a much improved Dallas secondary with Brandon Carr and 1st round draft choice Maurice Claiborne. Jackson and Williams should see an increase in production with the less talented Redskins next on the schedule.

The Tampa Bay ground game didn’t fare much better as Doug Martin was handed the ball 19 times but only able to eke out 53 yards. Again, the Cowboys defense deserves much of the credit as linebacker Sean Lee and Bruce Carter quickly closed up any running lanes. Martin remains as lineup lock.

Cowboys

Like so many of the teams who underwhelmed this week, the Cowboys offensive line was downright awful as quarterback Tony Romo was under constant pressure being sacked four times. If he wasn’t being sacked he was under pressure as many passes were hurried as Romo just tried to escape pressure. Romo’s fantasy production can only go as far as the offensive line will allow him. Up next is the Chicago Bears as the Cowboys signal caller should be a very low QB1. Hopefully you have better options.

Miles Austin was Romo’s weapon of choice being targeted nine times, hauling in five receptions totaling 107 yards. Fellow wide receiver Dez Bryant went missing for much of the first half but found himself in the mix by game’s end with 6 receptions and 62 yards. Bryant has yet to score a touchdown in three games as the inefficiencies of the Cowboys offense, along with added defensive attention Bryant now draws severely limits his production. As a Bryant owner myself, I don’t have better options as he is must start.

The swinging door that is the Cowboys offensive line also destroyed the fantasy production of DeMarco Murray as running lanes were few and far between. Murray did manage to find the endzone after a nifty 11 yard scamper around the edge and the dive to the outside pylon (that’s right, I used the word “nifty”).

Speaking of missing in action, what has happened to tight end Jason Witten? Targeted six times Witten could only haul in two receptions with multiple drops. On the season Witten has totaled 76 yards with zero touchdowns on the season. The perennial fantasy stud looks have been passed by the likes of Kyle Rudolph and Martellus Bennett as Witten is borderline TE1, and more like a TE2 until his production increases.

 

Detroit 41, Tennessee 44

Lions

The scoring summary for this game looked like my nieces Christmas list as the two teams had 16 different drives end with points.

Oddly enough in a game that saw the Lions score 41 points the Detroit offense went missing for roughly 2 ½ quarters. It wasn’t until the mid 3rd quarter did Mikel Leshoure finally punched in a touchdown on a one yard run. After that the Detroit offense came alive scoring 3 touchdowns in the fourth quarter including Shaun Hill’s two touchdown passes within the final 18 seconds.

Mathew Stafford suffered an apparent hamstring injury in the final two minutes and seen limping badly on the sidelines. Stafford admitted postgame that he suffered the injury during the week but it tightened up in-game. Stafford will receive an MRI as more news will be available later in the week. Should Matt miss time, backup Shaun Hill has proven to be a viable starter as seen in this game (Calvin owners needn’t worry).

Fantasy owners who have been holding onto wide receiver Titus Young finally saw the second year player get into the endzone. Unfortunately it was on a fluke 46 yard Hail Mary with no time on the clock (not exactly reliable). He’s a high end WR5 until this coaching staff learns how to utilize his talents.

As promised throughout the week the Lions inserted second-year running back Mikel Leshoure into their starting lineup. In fact, incumbent starter Kevin Smith didn’t even record a single touch in this game. Leshoure produced 100 yards scoring the Lions first touchdown as mentioned above. Those who took a chance on the troubled running back look to have been rewarded with an every down player.

Titans

In a shootout at the OK corral Jake Locker finally lived up to his 1st round billing producing 378 yards and two touchdowns. Locker’s fantasy production is going to be unreliable to be considered anything more than a bye week filler.

We should note the Titans were aided by the music city miracle 2.0 as Darious Reynaud caught a punt, threw it back across the field hitting Tommie Campbell who took the lateral 65 yards for a score. The special teams scored a second touchdowns along with pick six from the Titans defense. All in all an exciting game.

Jared Cook owners are probably kicking themselves after leaving the big bodied tight end on the bench for this first touchdown of the season. Let me inform you that it was terrible tackling on the part of the Lions secondary that allowed Cook to stroll into the endzone. He remains a high end TE2 until he and Locker can prove otherwise.

 

Jacksonville 22, Indianapolis 17

Jaguars

After an eye popping preseason, last week’s regression of Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert continued in his division matchup with the Colts. With only 75 passing yards entering the final minute of the game Gabbert’s pathetic stat line was falsely inflated by an 80 yard bomb for touchdown to Cecil Shorts propelling the Jags to a big win over the Colts. Still, Gabbert’s poor play means no member of the Jags passing game should be owned outside of dynasty leagues.

Yes that even means Justin Blackmon who had 5 targets with only one reception. He too can be safely dropped.

Maurice Jones-Drew is a stud amongst a very bad team. I assure you they will be paying this guy after the season.

Colts

Andrew Luck’s brilliant rookie season just keep on rolling surpassing 300 yards passing for the second time in three games. As we’ve discussed throughout the opening weeks, Luck is doing a brilliant job keeping his eyes downfield and spreading the ball around to various weapons. This was most evident by TJ Hilton’s 113 yards capped off by a 40 yard touchdown. Of course Lucks favorite player is Reggie Wayne, targeting the veteran wide receiver 15 times while hooking up with him eight times 88 yards. Wayne is must start every week while Luck is a lower QB1, just make sure to watch the matchup.

Donnie Avery has been an integral part of the Colts offense in the first two weeks, and that did not change equaling his per game average of nine targets. However, give credit to the Jags defense limiting Avery to 28 yards on the day. His target suggests he is being utilized as part of this offense and should remain a mid-low and WR3. R

Running back Donald Brown saw full workload taking 19 touches for 101 yards. Brown is a bit on the smaller size and plays down to his size unable to gain tough yardage between the tackles. I suggest trading him if you are able to find a buyer.

 

New York 23, Miami 20

Jets

The Jets magneged to pull out a win despite the play of Mark Sanchez who was downright awful. No way of sugar coating the truth as Sanchez missed wide open targets nearly cost his team. I won’t waste your time or mine as Sanchez has next to no fantasy value.

Shonn Greene is the same player we thought he was entering the season unable to do anything more than lean forward and grind out 2.5 yards per carry. The Jets have recognized this fact and now look to be moving into a timeshare backfield with Bilal Powell as Greene could be relegated to fantasy no man’s land. Powell isn’t exactly a high energy player in his own right, but adds a little more to the offense and could pass Greene in carries by season’s end. Both are tough to count on as Powell could be worth a flier if you need running back help.

Look who decided to join the party? It’s Santonio Holmes everybody. In his first game over 100 yards 27 straight performances Holmes managed to reel off 147 yards. This game should be attributed to the lack of coverage in the secondary as Holmes frequently ran wide open. With a better quarterback, Holmes could have easily eclipsed 200 yards day. Don’t get to excited as the San Francisco are up next and they are going to be pissed coming off a loss.

The other player of intrigue is Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. Scoring his second touchdown of the season Kerley is averaging just under 10 fantasy points per game. Don’t get confused by the numbers as Kerley has totaled just 10 targets on the entire season. Leave him on the waiver wire for the time being.

Dolphins

Reggie Bush owners were off to an explosive start, but his day came to abrupt halt with an apparent knee injury after taking a direct shot from a defenders helmet. He was seen standing on the sidelines which is usually a good sign for the proceeding week, a small consolation prize to owners who lost out on his fantasy production.

Brian Hartline is the only other Miami player to show any sign of fantasy value through three weeks of play. In this game Hartline was targeted 9 times, but in the weird stat of the week only managed 1 reception for 41 yards. Not yet worth adding, Hartline will remain on our watch list.

 

San Francisco 13, Minnesota 24

49ers

The Vikings must have read the press clippings because the niners ran into a buzz saw. Being tagged as the best team in football the SF offense had trouble with the pass rush of the Vikings defense all game long. Alex Smith felt the pressure being sacked twice by Chad Greenway and once by Jared Allen. As a game manager Smith’s fantasy value remains in the realm of a mid QB2, only useable in as a bye week replacement

Frank Gore also found it tough sledding against inspired Vikings defense totaling 72 yards on 13 touches. He remains a borderline RB1 and must start every week.

Seeing extended playing time against his former team was wide receiver Randy Moss. Utilizing Moss more on the underneath routes rather than down the field will never allow Moss owners to prosper. Also limiting Moss’ production was inaccurate passes and uncharacteristic drops. I would find it tough to roster Moss at this point.

Vikings

Right before our very own eye’s we saw the maturation of Christian Ponder leading his team to thee surprise victory of the day. All Ponder did was toss a pair of touchdown passes while running in a third. Ponder has very limited fantasy value but could be a bye week replacement next week with a matchup against the Lions forthcoming.

Kyle Rudolph is an emerging star catching his second and third touchdown of the year. The lone red zone threat on the Vikings roster, Ponder prefers his big bodied tight end when the field tightens near the goal post. Rudolph is impossible to hold out of our lineup and now a mid TE1.

The medal for toughness this week goes to Adrian Peterson for gutting out 86 yards against the vaunted 49ers rush defense. Many around fantasy football, myself included, anticipated an RB3 type performance but Peterson proved he is a manimal and should be a stud moving forward.

 

Kansas City 27, New Orleans 24

Chiefs

After reading the words “swollen knee” all week long owners of Jamal Charles are probably waking up with a hangover after celebrating on the heels of a 288 yard performance. Charles owners should also take solace in recognizing that while down 24 – 6 and the Chiefs did not abandon the running the game. Finally, and the best news of all, Charles emerged from the game completely healthy.

The other player of note for the Chiefs was wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Needing to move the football Matt Cassell took a laser lock on favorite weapon targeting the big man 16 times equaling 79 yards. In a contract year Bowe is doing everything he can to earn a pay raise, and for that we say thank you.

Those who had hopes of Dexter McCluster developing into a fantasy option should be put on hold as the multi threat option hyper extended his elbow while falling to the ground. Already a low end option, McCluster can safely be dropped.

Saints

Where has the Saints high explosion offense gone? After the Chiefs were ripped apart by the Atlanta and Buffalo this game looked to be a plus matchup, but the Saints looked stagnant as the longest play was a 36 yard strike to Devery Henderson.  Otherwise Drew Brees once again lived up to his new nickname of Checkdown Charlie. In his defense, Brees is doing his best to keep his team afloat tossing 240 yards and 3 touchdown passes. That 5000 yard season one ago appears to be a distant memory.

Because the Chiefs dominated the time of possession, the Saints offense only managed 19 rushing attempts total.  New Orleans was force to rely heavily on the passing game thus limiting the production of all running backs as it’s never good a good day when passing game specialist Darren Sproles led the team in rushing with 62 yards.

As for the wide receivers, Lance Moore’s star is again on the rise totaling 70 yards and including a trip into the endzone. Moore is a mid-low WR3 with upside.

Jimmy Graham also found himself in the endzone, but managed a meager 16 receiving yards. As for Marques Colston, he was a casualty of the Chiefs playing keep away only gaining one target in the second half, but failed to reel in a short yardage touchdown. He’s impossible to sit.

 

Cincinnati 38, Washington 31

Bengals

AJ Green started the scoring with a catch for a 71 yard touchdown. But Andy Dalton owners won‘t be happy to learn is Mohammed Sanu with the toss out of the wildcat formation. Green would go on to reward fantasy owners with huge game totaling 183 yards. The kid is a stud.

Ok, so maybe Dalton owners will forgive him after putting together a 328 yard 3 touchdown performance. Since playing the Ravens in week one Dalton has averaged 28 fantasy points over the past two games. He should be owned as a high end QB2 with matchup / bye week spot start potential.

It’s going to real hard for the Bengals coaching staff to keep the ball out of the hands of former CFL star Andrew Hawkins who followed up his game two “play of the week” with another 59 yard touchdown. He is worth a roster stash as a high WR5.

Despite the loss of two defensive linemen, The Redskins did an excellent job limiting the Bengals rushing attack as Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis gutted out 38 yards, but did manage to squeeze in a 1 yard touchdown. Up next for the Law Firm is the Jaguars defense in what should be a plus matchup equaling RB2 status.

Redskins

Robert Griffin III got off to a slow start, but with his back against the wall the rookie quarterback turned up his game rushing for 85 yards and touchdown while adding another 221 yards and second touchdown through the air. He is fearless taking some big hits but continues to escape the pocket becoming a dual threat making plays with both his legs and arm. Until teams can learn to contain the young gun slinger he is a must start QB1.

After being written off in the first two weeks of the season Fred Davis showed up on a big way catching all 7 of his targets equaling 90 yards. Inconsistent production makes Davis a low end TE1, obviously having increase value in conjunction with the prolonged absence of Pierre Garcon.

Much to our surprise, rookie running back Alfred Morris continues to start in the Redskins backfield adding another 78 yards including a 7 yard touchdown. After being compared to Terrell Davis earlier in the week by head coach Mike Shannhan, it appears Morris could be the steal of fantasy drafts with an ADP in the 11th round. Continue to start the rookie as a borderline RB1.

Real quick, Leonard Hankerson has become a player of intrigue after scoring last week on a long touchdown while getting seven targets this week. I just want to see how the Skins use the second year wide receiver after Garcon returns before recommending him as a waiver wire addition.

 

Philadelphia 6, Arizona 27

Eagles

Quarterback Michael Vick’s 2012 season performance has been terrible as this game was all Arizona all game including a 94 yard interception return for a touchdown. Vick was hit 15 times by the Zona defense as Vick was in obvious pain and slow to his feet after a number of blows. He’s been promising to the media since the offseason that he will stop taking such risky chances and start to hook slide. That hasn’t been the case. I’m going to play the role of Caption Obvious and state that Vick will not last the season so long as he continues to play with reckless abandon.

We should also recognize the Cardinals defense. They did an excellent job smothering wide receiver DeSean Jackson like white gravy over a chicken fried steak (yes please).

Is every wide receiver on the Eagles roster a clone of DeSean Jackson? Already rostering Jeremy Maclin we also saw Damaris Johnson standing 5’ 8” at 170 lbs. Just so happens Johnson led this team in production 5 receptions for 84 yards. I was confused every time Johnson caught the ball mistaking him with Jackson.

Cardinals

After knocking on Kevin Kolb over the past two years it’s only fair that I give credit where credit is due. Kolb’s performance in this game was perhaps the best of his career as he was able to stay in the pocket amidst the defensive pressure and deliver the football with accuracy. Although fantasy relevancy is still in question, Fitz owners can back away from the ledge.

Speaking of Larry Fitzgerald, coming off a week three performance totaling 4 yards, Fitzgerald showed up in a big way gaining 114 yards and a touchdown against a solid Eagles secondary. We should also note that Kevin Kolb, who has notoriously gone away from Fitzgerald, targeted Pro Bowler nine times. Fitzgerald’s day would have continued on this pace had the Eagles put up a fight. However, with the game under control the Cardinals instead turned to the running game to milk out the clock.

With incumbent starter beanie Wells leaving the game with an apparent toe injury, the Cardinals handed the keys over to second-year player Ryan Williams. After nearly losing the game last week, Williams did an excellent job ripping through the Eagles frontline averaging 6.4 yards a carry totaling 83 yards on the evening. Williams fantasy value moving forward will obviously be reliant upon the injury status of beanie Wells. Fantasy owners who held onto Williams should be excited about his prospects moving forward.

Those who didn’t belive in the Cardinals defense entering the season should take notice as they’ve shutdown the Patriots and Eagles in back-to-back weeks (I’m too am rowing that boat).

 

Atlanta 27, San Diego 3

Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons absolutely dominated this game after scoring on the opening drive and limiting the Chargers to only one field goal.

 

Matt Ryan’s steller 2012 performance just continues to roll along adding 275 yards and three touchdowns. He nearly had a fourth score completing a long pass to wide receiver Roddy White but negated by a sketchy pass interference call. Ryan is a beast.

Many exited last week’s Monday night matchup with the Broncos scratching their heads after Julio Jones 14 yard performance. Jones atoned for his down game gaining 67 yards while scoring his 3rd touchdown of the season.

Michael Turner had a solid game putting tighter 80 yards and touchdown. Do not be fooled by the box score as much of turners production came against a deflated Chargers defense including a touchdown run that looked like the defense just let him run free. We should also be aware of the increase touches be stolen by backup Jaquizz Rodgers including an eight yard reception for a touchdown to open the game. Don’t give him away, but I’d consider Turner a sell high if your able to get fair market value.

Chargers

After two solid performances, reality looks to have sunk in for Philip Rivers tossing two interceptions while failing to score a touchdown. This performance is all on Rivers who missed wide-open receivers while trying to squeeze the ball into tight windows causing fatal mistakes. The game got so bad that Rivers and normally mild-mannered head coach Norm Turner were seen on the sidelines arguing with one another. Life gets a little easier traveling to Kansas City next week.

The struggles for Philip Rivers carried over to the Chargers wide receivers as Malcom Floyd led all pass catchers with three balls for 52 yards. A bad day for the quarterback was made even worse by Floyd having multiple drops. Floyd was also be spotted wide open on a number of plays that Rivers failed to recognize the 6’ 5” target. He remains a mid WR3 and the only Chargers wide receiver worth owning.

Running back Ryan Mathews received his first start of the 2012 season coming back from a broken collarbone suffered on the first carry of preseason week one. Matthews totaled 15 touches for 76 yards and looked impressive in his debut. Of course Matthews’ talent has never been in question, but rather his ability to stay on the field. Matthews told the media after the game that he has emerged feeling great after taking some hits on the shoulder. He should be good-to-go in a plus matchup with the Chiefs next week.

It’s worth noting that Jackie Battle took over the team’s carries in garbage time picking up 55 yards on three carries. Battle looks to have jumped over Curtis Brinkley and Ronnie Brown as Matthews primary handcuff.

 

Houston 31, Denver 25

Texans

Just as fantasy owners can be seen jumping off USS Matt Schaub he delivers a brilliant performance with 290 yards and four touchdowns, his best performance of 2012. We should expect the leagues heaviest run-based offense to return to their own personality next week’s against the anemic Titans defense as Scahub’s future production is more predicated upon matchups.

Andre Johnson found himself on the receiving end of a brilliant performance including a 60 yard bomb for a touchdown over Broncos cornerback Tracy Porter. Covered by shutdown cornerback champ Bailey for the remainder of the game Johnson was able to gather 12 more yards on the day, barely missing on a second long touchdown. No way your ever sitting All-Day-Dre, but his fantasy production is capped playing alongside a run based offense.

Arian Foster had another workmanlike performance grinding out 105 yards on 25 carries including a 3 yard swing pass for a touchdown. Foster is a stud, and with the Titans next on the board hopefully you’re not facing this beast.  Both he and Tate might be startable next week depending your matchups.

Broncos

Nearly mimicking weak twos performance, Peyton Manning struggled through three quarters of play finally coming alive in the fourth quarter to deliver fantasy owners a solid performance. Manning’s numbers were also saved by three dropped interceptions from the Texans defense in what should have been negative points. Much of the speculation coming into the season was a lack of arm strength along with unfamiliarity with his wide receivers. We keep talking about this because it’s remains relevant as both factors are clearly limiting Manning’s production. We should also recognize that Manning has faced two of the league’s better defenses in back-to-back weeks. With Oakland next on the docket Manning should be considered a mid QB1. Should he struggle again in this game it’s time to worry.

Both wide receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas were targeted a team high 11 times. However both had polar opposite production as Decker gathered in eight balls totaling 136 yards, while Thomas had two near touchdowns slip out of his grasp only able to reel in 34 yards. On the upside, Thomas has garnered double-digit targets in each of the past two weeks as both wide receivers should remain in our starting lineups.

 

Pittsburgh 31, Oakland 34

Steelers

Since the beginning of the season in this section we have been discussing how the Pittsburgh Steelers’ ownership wants the team to be a run-based offense, but their personnel dictates otherwise. There is a big difference in what you want to be, and who you are. This game was proof once again as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 49 times compared to just 20 running plays. Big Ben delivered for fantasy owners compiling 384 yards passing and four touchdowns.

After a prolonged holdout many expected Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace to have a delayed start to the season, when in fact the opposite has occurred. Scoring a touchdown in the first two games of the season Wallace continued his streak with a 22 yard grab after standing wide open in the back of the end zone. Any reservation about starting Wallace is now a thing of the past.

Equaling Wallace in team targets at 11, Pittsburgh’s other wide receiver Antonio Brown also managed to score a touchdown coupled with 87 yards receiving. However Brown’s touchdown was far less conventional fumbling on his way into the end zone only to miraculously recover the football after it squirted out from the pile right into his hands. Fantasy owners of Brown will take it, but it should be concerning that he had two critical fumbles in this game

The other Pittsburgh player to have scored a touchdown in each of the first three weeks is tight end Heath Miller tacking on two touchdowns in this game. Over the years Miller has never been a consistent fantasy threat, however comments made by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger earlier in the week suggest this could be the year Miller finally turns the corner. Hard to deny his most recent production as Miller is now a low-end TE1.

If you weren’t confused about the Steelers running situation before this game I make room for you on the bandwagon. Pittsburgh utilized for different running backs to carry the ball including; Issac Redman, Baron Batch, Chris Rainey and Jonathan Dwyer. No player exceeded 3.5 yards per carry and with Rashard Mendenhall returning soon I wouldn’t waste a roster spot on any Pittsburgh running back any longer.

Raiders

After being completely shut down by the Miami Dolphins last week, the sleeping giant arose as Darren McFadden carried the ball 18 times totaling 113 yards and one touchdown. McFadden took his very first handoff of the game up the sideline for a 65 yard touchdown.

After a prolonged absence due to a lingering hamstring injury, Oakland wide receiver Denarious Moore has now taken the field in two straight games with no lingering effects. This week Moore was targeted a team-high 10 times hauling in five receptions including a 6 yard touchdown strike for 45 yards. He can now be considered for our starting lineups as a mid / low WR3 and rising.

A pleasant surprise has been emergence of Oakland tight end Brandon Myers. Myers has caught all 15 of his targets on the season including four in this game. Myers led his team with 55 yards receiving now finding himself on my watch list as we move into the bye weeks.

 

New England 30, Baltimore 31

Patriots

The battle royal of Sunday saw a rematch of the AFC Conference championship as two heavy weights slugged it out in a game that did not disappoint.

For the Patriots, quarterback Tom Brady was efficient chucking the rock for 335 yards. Most concerning for fantasy owners is the lack of touchdown production on the season as Brady managed only one score in this game bringing his 2012 total up to four. With Buffalo next on the schedule Brady should restore our faith in his ability as a top tier QB1.

Just as Stephen Ridley owners started to believe they have found a diamond in the rough the old Bill Belichick RBBC came back to life with three different running backs touching the football. Made even more confusing was the use of rookie Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead on the goal line stripe as both converted short yardage scores. Hate to say it, but Ridley is no longer trustworthy in a three-headed monster.

Rob Gronkowski owners were disappointed to see their beast mode TE1 being used more and more as a blocker as the game wore on to combat the Ravens constant blitz packages. Managing just two receptions on the night, and being held out of the endzone for the first time this season will not sit well with fantasy owners. Expect Gronk to have a bounce back performance with a trip to Buffalo next week

The Patriots brass may not want to use Wes Welker, but that isn’t stopping Tom Brady who found his security blanket for 8 receptions totaling 142 yards. The only thing missing from Welkers 2012 resume is a touchdown stolen in this game by Julian Edelman.

If one thing was clear from this game it’s the obvious connection Brady is trying form with his newest weapon Brandon Lloyd. The Gun slinger went directly after his new toy totaling 12 targets as the two hooked up for 108 yards. This connection is only going to get stronger.

Ravens

Opening the game a snail’s pace the Joe Flacco reminded us of shades of yesteryear unable to compete on the big stage while throwing an early interception. That changed in the early second quarter Flacco slowly started ratcheting up his game and when it was all said and done finished a stellar 382 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Ray Rice is pillar of consistency providing fantasy owners with a nice solid 150 yards and one touchdown.

The performance of the night must go to wide receiver Torrey Smith who played with a heavy heart after losing his younger brother less than 24 hours before kickoff. After opening the season with two quiet weeks, Smith came alive scoring two touchdowns along with 127 yards in what he considered a tribute performance to his deceased brother.

About Eric Hartvigson