Those who don't play fantasy football may wonder why the 10th-best running back is often drafted ahead of the first- or second-best quarterback, especially given all the attention/money/press/hype given to the signal callers. And after this weekend, some of those doubters may wonder even more.
After a couple of weeks dominated by high-scoring running backs, the quarterbacks captured the spotlight in Week 3 thanks to eight 300-yard passing games, including huge games from three of the top four fantasy QBs heading into the season.
First, Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper ripped through the Lions and Bears, respectively. Then Peyton Manning and Brett Favre had a shootout for the ages. I'd love to see the scores from games featuring matchups between any combination of McNabb, Culpepper, Manning and Favre.
Along with the big QB days were some nice games from wideouts, although not always connected to the stud passers (such as with Detroit's Roy Williams). Plus, other QBs stepped up after so-so starts like Kurt Warner, Joey Harrington and Marc Bulger.
That is not to say running backs were grounded Sunday. Jamal Lewis finally had a big game, and Thomas Jones is continuing to blossom into a fantasy stud in Chicago.
1. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts (28-41, 395 yards, 5 TDs; 2 carries, -2 yards): With Edgerrin James hurting, Indy decided to put the load on Manning, and he responded in a gigantic way, putting up 320 yards and five TDs in just the first half against the Packers. He didn't have to fire the ball as much in the second half, or else he might've had 400 yards and six TDs.
2. Javon Walker, WR, Packers (11 catches, 198 yards, 3 TDs, 1 lost fumble): There's always a question of which Green Bay receiver will come up big, and it was intriguing that Walker wasn't in the starting lineup announced during the MNF opener (Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson got the nods). But Walker was Favre's favorite target last year, and he proved it again this week, catching the first three of Favre's TD passes in the wild shootout in Indy.
3. Brett Favre, QB, Packers (30-44, 358 yards, 4 TDs): The second all-time meeting between Favre and Manning was one for the ages. While Manning raced out to the hot start, Favre was holding his own and putting up big numbers. Considering there may not be many more opportunities to see these two face each other in their career, you may want to keep this game for the time capsule.
4. Daunte Culpepper, QB, Vikings (19-30, 360 yards, 2 TDs; 6 carries, 13 yards, 1 TD): The Bears were banged up on defense with Mike Brown and Brian Urlacher among those out of the lineup. So it's not a surprise Culpepper was a fantasy star Sunday, making up for his turnovers against the Eagles on Monday.
5. Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles (29-42, 356 yards, 2 TDs; 5 carries, -2 yards, 1 TD, 1 lost fumble): McNabb has been unstoppable all season, thanks in part to Terrell Owens. How long can this dominance last? It's such a far cry from last year, when McNabb started so miserably.
6. Jamal Lewis, RB, Ravens (18 carries, 186 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 46 yards): Last year, Lewis started slow, then had a huge game that got his season really going. Lewis only had 119 yards coming into Sunday, then ripped through the Bengals for a huge game. Maybe big things will come from him now.
7. Marc Bulger, QB, Rams (32-49, 358 yards, 1 TD; 1 carry, 19 yards, 1 TD; 1 fumble lost): Bulger lost his first ever home game as a starter, but it's hard to blame him for much of the loss, given that he led a fourth-quarter comeback that the Saints would eventually match and repeat in overtime. But one reason Bulger has been able to pile up the stats is that St. Louis didn't run the ball as much as it probably should given it has both Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson.
8. Thomas Jones, RB, Bears (22 carries, 110 yards, 1 TD; 8 catches, 71 yards): Is he a new version of LaDainian Tomlinson -- a player who piles up big stats for a mediocre squad? I guess he could've done it in Arizona as well, but decided to do it for Chicago instead.
9. Shaun Alexander, RB, Seahawks (19 carries, 52 yards, 2 TDs; 4 catches, 22 yards, 1 TD): The yardage was meager for his standards, but scoring three touchdowns will make up for that in a big way. I guess the knee isn't an issue anymore, although he did suffer an ankle injury late.
10. Roy Williams, WR, Lions (9 catches, 135 yards, 2 TDs): He's had no problems stepping up as the No. 1 guy with Charles Rogers out for the year. At least he's fulfilling expectations in Detroit, as opposed to fellow rookie Kevin Jones.
Other top performances: Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts (11 catches, 184 yards, 1 TD); Randy Moss, WR, Vikings (7 catches, 119 yards, 2 TDs); Brandon Stokley, WR, Colts (8 catches, 110 yards, 2 TDs); Trent Green, QB, Chiefs (21-30, 224 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT); Onterrio Smith, RB, Vikings (17 carries, 94 yards; 6 catches, 104 yards); Tony Gonzalez, TE, Chiefs (8 catches, 106 yards); Terrell Owens, WR, Eagles (6 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD); Chris Brown, RB, Titans (23 carries, 101 yards); Aaron Stecker, RB, Saints (18 carries, 106 yards, 1 TD; 4 catches, 20 yards); John Carney, K, Saints (5-6 FGs, including two of 50-plus yards, 1-1 XPs); Kurt Warner, QB, Giants (19-27, 286 yards; 3 carries, -2 yards, 1 TD); Tiki Barber, RB, Giants (23 carries, 106 yards, 1 TD; 3 catches, 48 yards); Jake Plummer, QB, Broncos (25-36, 294 yards, 2 TDs; 2 carries, 1 yard); Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks (21-30, 254 yards, 2 TDs); Brad Johnson, QB, Buccaneers (22-36, 309 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; 3 carries, 13 yards).
Michael Vick, QB, Falcons (10-20, 115 yards, 1 INT; 9 carries, 68 yards, 2 lost fumbles): Even with his amazing 58-yard run in the fourth quarter to seal the game, Vick was a major disappointment for fantasy owners, given his big game the week before and the matchup against Arizona. Sure, Atlanta won the game, but most were expecting much, much loftier stats. Those bad numbers rubbed off on his main targets like Alge Crumpler (2 catches, 34 yards) and Peerless Price (2 catches, 16 yards)
Quentin Griffin, RB, Broncos (12 carries, 7 yards, 1 lost fumble; 3 catches, 23 yards): So much for a great matchup with the Chargers. At least Denver won even though Garrison Hearst was the leading rusher with 13 yards.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers (22 carries, 61 yards; 3 catches, 10 yards; 1-1, 38 yards): Priest Holmes shredded the Broncos on opening night. Tomlinson only had a below average day for him, although he did complete a 38-yard, trick-play pass to Drew Brees.
Domanick Davis, RB, Texans (10 carries, 12 yards; 1 catch, 15 yards): Against the porous Chiefs run defense, Davis struggled before leaving with a sprained ankle. Jonathan Wells filled in, with Tony Hollings deactivated this week.
Kevan Barlow, RB, 49ers (10 carries, 22 yards; 2 catches, 14 yards): This could be a long season in San Francisco. Barlow did little as the Niners suffered a rare shutout.
Koren Robinson, WR, Seahawks (1 catch, 12 yards): He was slowed by injury earlier this week, but it looks again like Darrell Jackson is the main man.
Steve McNair, QB, Titans (16-26, 143 yards, 1 INT; 3 carries, 18 yards): Even before he left the game with an injury, McNair hadn't done much against a good Jacksonville defense. He hasn't started the season on a high note, with just one TD in the first three games.
Kevin Johnson, WR, Ravens (0 catches, 0 yards): Unheralded Randy Hymes was Kyle Boller's top target.
T.J. Duckett, RB, Falcons (0 carries, 0 yards): It's Warrick Dunn's world now in the Atlanta backfield.
Ken Dorsey, QB, 49ers (19-32, 153 yards, 2 INTs, 2 lost fumbles): Remember when he was a star at Miami? Seems so long ago now, eh?
A.J. Feeley, QB, Dolphins (13-27, 137 yards, 2 INTs, 1 lost fumble): When does Jay Fiedler get back the starting job? Plus, Chris Chambers and Marty Booker combined for three catches and 23 yards. Yuck.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Bengals (7 catches, 116 yards): With Peter Warrick leaving early with a bruised leg, Housh stepped up as Cincinnati played catch-up against the Ravens. Kelley Washington (5 catches, 58 yards) could also see extra time if Warrick is out for an extended period of time.
Randy Hymes, WR, Ravens (4 catches, 61 yards, 1 TD): He's become Baltimore's top receiver with players like Todd Heap and Travis Taylor out of the lineup.
Karl Williams, WR, Cardinals (6 catches, 90 yards): The ex-Bucs receiver had some nice numbers, although it's hard to believe he'd do it consistently.
George Wrighster, TE, Jaguars (5 catches, 30 yards, 1 TD): He's stepped in for Kyle Brady and given Byron Leftwich a nice big target.
Kerry Collins, QB, Raiders (16-27, 228 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT): It was a matter of time before he got some considerable playing time in Oakland. He filled in nicely for the injured Rich Gannon. Keep an eye on that situation.
Bill Schroeder, WR, Buccaneers (4 catches, 126 yards, 1 TD): The veteran wideout became the starter by default, thanks to a ton of injuries, but he made the most of his opportunities. He came up big, while rookie Michael Clayton got just two catches.
Steve McNair, QB, Titans: He suffered a bruised sternum late against the Jaguars. Billy Volek stepped in for the last play of the game.
Domanick Davis, RB, Texans: He missed the second half with a right ankle sprain.
Kevin Jones, RB, Lions: The rookie injured his ankle in the first quarter. If you need to replace him, Artose Pinner (6 carries, 16 yards) or Shawn Bryson (5 carries, 43 yards) will pick up the slack.
Marcus Robinson, WR, Vikings: A major disappointment, Robinson hurt his hamstring and didn't catch a pass.
Rex Grossman, QB, Bears: He injured his knee late in the game and was taken off on a cart. Jonathan Quinn came in to finish the contest.
Brett Favre, QB, Packers: He suffered a thigh injury after a hit from Dwight Freeney and sat out the final drive of the game in favor of Doug Pederson.
Charlie Garner, RB, Buccaneers: It could be a bad knee injury for Garner, who was carted off Sunday night. Veteran Mike Alstott got more carries because of it. Michael Pittman returns from suspension next week and should be a popular player on the waiver wire this week, if he isn't already picked up.
Lamar Gordon, RB, Dolphins: A shoulder injury knocked him out against the Steelers. Leonard Henry picked up the slack, but this is just more bad news for Miami's offense.
Rich Gannon, QB, Raiders: He suffered a back injury in the first half against the Bucs. Oakland is lucky to have Kerry Collins as a backup. Now many teams will try to pick up Collins this week.
L.J. Smith, TE, Eagles: The emerging second-year tight end hurt his shoulder in the second half. If he can't go, veteran Chad Lewis is still catching passes from McNabb.
Colts 45, Packers 31: The classic battle between Favre and Manning lived up to expectations in just the first quarter alone, and continued into a shootout to be remembered. It also served as a breakout game for Javon Walker, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley. Unfortunately, the running backs lost out a bit in the fireworks.
So much for Priest Holmes and Edgerrin James being questionable for this week. Both had solid if unspectacular numbers. Sorry to those who picked up Dominic Rhodes or Derrick Blaylock hoping to steal some points from the backup. But Aaron Stecker surprised many with his nice game against the Rams.
And speaking of running backs, it's probably time to cut ties with T.J. Duckett. Again he came up empty this week.
It's nice to see a good outing from Kurt Warner, and Tiki Barber is quietly putting up big fantasy stats. It helped that Ron Dayne was inactive this week, although Mike Cloud stole a TD at the goal line.
Boo Williams and Billy Miller, it's nice to see you again on the stat sheet.
Shaun King replaced Josh McCown late against the Falcons. McCown was 20 for 26 with 198 yards but lost three fumbles. Stay away from both.
Lee Suggs still hasn't played this season, but William Green is trying to make a run at keeping the starting job with a solid outing against the Giants (15 carries, 91 yards).
Marshall Faulk still scores TDs, but he's only gotten 12 carries each of the past two weeks -- both losses. Coincidence? And it's not like Steven Jackson gets many carries, either (just 12 in three weeks).
He's not always on the studs list because he's not always scoring TDs, but Isaac Bruce has started the season with three consecutive 100-yard games.
Oakland's offense took off against the reeling Bucs. The running game even got going, with Tyrone Wheatley having one of his best games in years.
Chris Brown ended the Jags' 17-game streak of not allowing a 100-yard runner and became the second back since 1970 to reach 100 yards in each of his first three NFL starts. He's a keeper.
Jacksonville is 3-0 so far, but none of its main players have lit it up from a fantasy perspective. Fred Taylor finally made a little noise this week, but nothing spectacular fantasy-wise.
It wasn't the most optimal of conditions, but Ben Roethlisberger did just fine in his NFL starting debut. It helps to have Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress as targets, plus Duce Staley helped take some of the pressure off.
Stud: Rod Gardner, WR, Redskins (10 catches, 167 yards, 2 TDs): He had a monster game trying to rally Washington. He appears to Mark Brunell's favorite target instead of Laveranues Coles.
Stud: Mark Brunell, QB, Redskins (25-43, 325 yards, 2 TDs): He did his best to rally the 'Skins, but while he came up short, he piled up the fantasy stats.
Dud: Keyshawn Johnson, WR, Cowboys (1 catch, 23 yards): He was bottled up, while Terry Glenn and Antonio Bryant flourished.