The RotoExperts.com staff looks back at Week 3 through the fantasy windows.
When Brett Favre appears on Monday Night Football, he becomes the center of attention, usually to the point of overkill. There certainly is a lot more to dissect than Favre's three-touchdown, two-interception performance, which looked better in the end because he and the Jets had to play catch-up. Favre was lucky enough to finish with no more turnovers. In the end, though, all roads of analysis seem to lead back to No. 4, at least when discussing the Jets for fantasy purposes.
The Jets have other issues that should concern fantasy players. The running game has started to become an issue again. If the defense continues its spotty play, then the offense will have to struggle from behind in more games, and that isn't good for Favre. We've seen Favre scuffle with bad Packers teams in recent years, and he often becomes reckless when he is working with a deficit. When Favre attempts to play catch-up, he tries to force issues and starts making head-shaking turnovers. Favre could have conceivably ended up with four interceptions on Monday had the Chargers converted on more apparent turnover opportunities.
It's obvious to just about anyone that Favre is still uncomfortable with his new offense. He can't seem to find open receivers often enough on key passing downs, resulting in questionable throws, incompletions and coverage sacks. Favre's numbers may have been good enough to help some fantasy teams last night, but until he can get into more of a rhythm, he is a shaky starter going forward.
It hasn't helped that Thomas Jones has rushed for only 107 yards in the past two games after a promising opening performance. The New York offensive line hasn't been consistently establishing openings, and Jones isn't good at creating his own running room. His key early fumble set a negative tone for the Jets, and he finished with only 37 rushing yards on 10 carries. The ground game will naturally disappear when New York falls behind significantly. That may continue to be the case until Favre gets more comfortable on the offense. Jones' numbers will be up and down in the next few weeks as the Jets offense tries to find its groove. Look for Jones to be better later in the season, when the offensive line becomes more efficient as a group, and Favre is working more comfortably in the offense overall, both of which can only help Jones finish off more scoring drives.
It doesn't seem like we have to worry much about the New York receivers. Jerricho Cotchery caught 10 balls for 76 yards, and his overall fantasy production will surely satisfy his owners over the next few weeks as Favre settles in. Laveranues Coles and Chansi Stuckey both caught TD passes. Coles will continue to be a regular downfield target for Favre, and Stuckey has Favre's eye and confidence regularly near the goal line, making him an excellent bye week fill-in. Dustin Keller also scored, and the rookie tight end will start posting improved numbers in the near future. It's obvious that Favre likes to look for him in many key situations. New York was blown away last night, but there are some signs of hope going forward, especially for fantasy interests.
The "other" major story was that LaDainian Tomlinson not only played, but he also delivered very good fantasy totals. His 67 rushing yards on 26 carries was not too impressive, as he was certainly limited in terms of burst and lateral ability. Yet he scored twice, which is all fantasy players wanted from him. You can thank the San Diego passing game for those TDs if you're a Tomlinson owner. Tomlinson scored from two yards out each time, and his strength in "short spaces" was still there. As long as the Chargers' passing game continues to click, Tomlinson remains an obvious must-start because of his goal-line prowess.
Philip Rivers has realized now that he has to take full charge of the San Diego offense, and he's relishing the opportunity. Rivers is healthy and confident, and he has been taking advantage of all his weaponry. He is quickly finding the holes in opposing defenses and exploiting them, and often with big-play results. He has thrown three TD passes in each of the first three games, and I wouldn't sell high on Rivers. Don't deal away a guy who is kicking off a big breakthrough year unless you get some unbelievable trade offer that is just too good to turn down.
Chris Chambers caught only one pass, but it was for a TD, of course. The ex-Dolphin has scored four times in the first three games and is now a standout No. 2 fantasy WR. After years of suffering because of awful QB play with Miami, Chambers must now wear a Rivers jersey every day that he has off time from the team. It's his reward for enduring through years of struggles with guys like Jay Fiedler. Vincent Jackson caught a 60-yard pass, and while he may not be as dependable as Chambers, Jackson will still be a good play in larger leagues when the matchup is right. Antonio Gates caught his second TD pass of the season and remains among the best at his position, despite all the recent health concerns. San Diego has a somewhat undeserved 1-2 record, and fantasy owners should enjoy the ride as the Chargers roll forward in the weeks ahead.-- Scott Engel
Ronnie Brown is back, baby! Brown rushed for 113 yards on 17 carries with four touchdowns. As if that wasn't enough, he also threw a 19-yard touchdown strike to Anthony Fasano. Brown scored four of his touchdowns operating behind the center, a formation the Patriots defense obviously had no answer for. Lost in Brown's remarkable performance was a very nice day out of Ricky Williams. Williams had nearly as many carries as Brown (16) and finished with 98 yards rushing and another 21 receiving yards. With the Dolphins offense seemingly hitting their stride, Williams is a great buy-low candidate, while Brown's value is at its highest.
It was an awful day for the Patriots offense. Whether it's because Matt Cassel is incapable, or just not permitted to throw the deep ball to Randy Moss, doesn't matter. What matters is that for the second straight week, Moss was largely ineffective, catching four balls for 25 yards, with a long of seven yards. It may be time to start shopping Moss if you can still get near max value for him. Wes Welker, on the other hand, is producing nearly identical numbers with Cassel at the helm as he did when Tom Brady was the starter (six catches for 55 yards this week). Jabar Gaffney finally got into the action after being shut out in the first two weeks, catching six balls for 51 yards and Cassel's first touchdown pass. He may have some value as a WR3 going forward. Cassel remains a backup fantasy QB at best, and may begin losing playing time to rookie Kevin O'Connell if the offense continues to sputter under his direction. On the ground, LaMont Jordan,Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk combined for just 55 yards in Laurence Maroney's absence. No one in the Pats backfield is currently worth starting. -- Chris Ryan
In what is quickly becoming the norm, the Colts defense was defenseless against the run. The Jaguars played ball control offense by continually running the duo of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew right into the heart of the Colts weakened front line. The results were outstanding, as both rushed for more yards than they had in the first two games combined. Taylor finished with 121 yards on 26 carries and Jones-Drew had 107 yards on the ground, another 59 receiving, and a touchdown. As nice as it was for fantasy owners to see the Jacksonville running backs finally get off the ground against the Colts, it's hardly a sign that things have been turned around. With the line still banged up, and David Garrard continuing to disappoint (167 yards and an interception), owners should be very cautiously optimistic about their value going forward. As for Garrard, don't be surprised if he turns up in the free-agent pool this week.
The Colts offense still looks rusty. With Jeff Saturday making his first appearance of the season, Joseph Addai finally saw some daylight and he took advantage to the tune of 78 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. As the offensive line continues to get healthy, Addai will see his value creep back to the level that made him a top-5 pick in many leagues to start the season. As expected, the return of Dallas Clark equaled the disappearance of Anthony Gonzalez. With Clark being used all over the field and in so many different situations, Gonzalez will have difficulty finding the consistent time on the field that led to his breakout game the week before. He's nothing more than an above average flex option. Clark had a decent day, catching four balls for 47 yards, and remains one of the top tight end plays in fantasy. -- C.R.
Julius Jones had his second straight 100-yard game (140 yards on 22 rushes and a touchdown), and T.J. Duckett re-emerged with 19 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Jones is at the very least a reliable RB2, and maybe more depending on the role Maurice Morris has when he returns from injury. Duckett is worth taking a flier on, simply because of his past prowess for getting into the end zone, but don't expect anything near the yardage total he had against the Rams. With the ground game operating so efficiently, Matt Hasselbeck only had to throw to his depleted receiving corps 20 times. Rookie tight end John Carlson was involved once again, catching two balls for 38 yards, and Hasselbeck found receiver Billy McMullen four times for 76 yards. With the possible return of Deion Branch and Bobby Engram after Seattle's Week 4 bye, Hasselbeck should be considered for insertion back into lineups. Unfortunately, Week 5 could also bring the end of the McMullen era in terms of fantasy ownership. Carlson has developed a good enough relationship with Hasselbeck over the first couple of weeks that he'll still see plenty of passes directed his way.
Your association with the Rams should begin and end with Steven Jackson (and maybe Torry Holt). Jackson managed to get 128 combined yards (66 on the ground, 62 in the air), but was shut out of the end zone for the third straight week. Until he starts crossing the goal line, Jackson's fantasy superstar status will be put on hold. As for Holt, he's performing like a WR3 and you should be treating him as such. -- C.R.
The Bengals' passing game finally showed signs that it still exists against the Giants. Carson Palmer threw his first touchdown of the season, while going 27-of-39 for 286 yards, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh had a monster day with 12 catches, 146 yards and a touchdown. Only Chad Ocho Cinco failed to break out (three catches for 29 yards). Going forward, the Bengals face a much easier schedule than they've dealt with the first three weeks, so look for Palmer, Houshmandzadeh and even Johnson to be entrenched in starting lineups for the remainder of the season. Chris Perry also had another nice day, rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown. As the passing game rounds into shape, Perry is going to see plenty of running room. Look for him to also become more of a threat catching passes out of the backfield. Perry is very nice RB2 going forward.
Brandon Jacobs was ineffective against the weak Bengals defense, although he did notch his first touchdown of the season. Derrick Ward made up for Jacobs' poor showing by contributing 80 yards on only nine carries. Ward is averaging a little over eight carries per game on the season, and has separated himself from Ahmad Bradshaw as the clear-cut handcuff to Jacobs. On a day when Plaxico Burress struggled a bit (he dropped a sure-fire touchdown), Amani Toomer and Steve Smith really stepped up. Toomer has put together consecutive 60-yard outings and is a reliable flex receiver. Smith had a team-high seven receptions for 60 yards, but there are too many other receiving options in New York to count on him to perform to that level consistently. Monitor Smith's progress though, as he could have some value later in the season. -- C.R.
The other Steve Smith returned to the Panthers lineup and had a pretty respectable day, catching four passes for 70 yards. At times he looked a little out of sync with Jake Delhomme, but that's something that will work itself out fairly quickly. Smith is clearly a WR1, and his presence makes Delhomme a good spot starter depending on the matchups. There wasn't much running room for DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart against Minnesota's shutdown defense. Williams received more carries (10), but Stewart got the call at the goal line, scoring on a two-yard run. Both remain limited in appeal due to the other's presence, but the Panthers' offense will be capable of making each a viable starter at various points throughout the season.
Gus Frerotte got the start for the Vikings, and he immediately breathed life into the struggling passing game. Bernard Berrian got behind the defense for a beautiful 48-yard reception, and finished the day with three catches for 79 yards. Look for him to become Frerotte's go-to-guy on the deep ball, making him a good play at the WR3 spot. Frerotte is worth a roster slot, but as a backup QB only. It was obvious that Adrian Peterson was limited -- he only had 17 carries, and the big-play burst wasn't there -- but 70 percent of "All-Day" is still worth starting without a second thought. In the short term, Chester Taylor will see more action (he had 14 touches on the day) -- C.R.
Michael Turner had his second huge game in the first three weeks of the season, with a 104-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Chiefs. Turner is clearly a top option this season and should be started every week, regardless of opponent. Roddy White had his first big game of '08, catching five passes for 119 yards, including a 70-yard TD pass. White is a fine WR2, but will have his share of below-average games with Matt Ryan throwing him the ball. Ryan threw for 192 yards and a TD. He still doesn't have much value for fantasy purposes. Jerious Norwood ran for 75 yards and caught a 30-yard pass. He is the definite handcuff to Turner and a solid bye-week play.
Tyler Thigpen confirmed he has zero fantasy value, throwing three interceptions and completing only 38 percent of his passes. Larry Johnson had his first respectable game of the season, rushing for 121 yards and a TD. Proceed with caution concerning LJ. He's a borderline RB2 at this point. Dwayne Bowe found the end zone, but was otherwise irrelevant, catching four passes for 43 yards. Bowe's value is slightly lower with Thigpen as quarterback. Tony Gonzalez had 35 yards on four catches. Consider it a bad week and start him with confidence the rest of the season. -- Brad Rysz
Marshawn Lynch found the end zone twice, grinding out 83 rushing yards and 31 receiving yards. Lynch has four touchdowns in three games. He is a RB1 and the top option to score for Buffalo each week. Trent Edwards threw for 279 yards and led the Bills downfield for a score twice in the final five minutes for the victory. Edwards finally looks comfortable in the Buffalo offense and is a good fantasy backup. Josh Reed led the Bills with 72 receiving yards. He is worth a pickup in most leagues, and makes a viable bye-week fill-in. Lee Evans had 62 yards and a fumble. Roscoe Parrish caught a TD pass, but shouldn't be considered in any format.
JaMarcus Russell had his best game of the season, passing for 156 yards and a TD, while also rushing for a score. Russell still shouldn't be started, with the exception being two-quarterback leagues. Darren McFadden was held in check by the stingy Buffalo defense. McFadden rushed for 42 yards on 14 carries. Chalk this game up as a learning experience for McFadden. Michael Bush led the Raiders with 55 rushing yards. Bush still remains a bench player in most formats. Johnnie Lee Higgins caught an 84-yard touchdown, but no other Oakland receiver made an impact on the game. Higgins shouldn't be expected to contribute in coming weeks. -- B.R.
Brian Griese returned to Chicago and threw for 409 yards on an insane 67 pass attempts. Griese threw two touchdowns and three interceptions. The Bears defense stuffed the run from the beginning. I certainly wouldn't expect Griese to throw this often in the future. Earnest Graham was shutdown, rushing for only 16 yards on 12 attempts. Graham is a questionable RB2 at this point. Antonio Bryant made a statement, catching 10 balls for 138 yards. Bryant is a worthy play in point-per-reception leagues from here on. Ike Hilliard scored a TD and had 57 yards. Hilliard seems to be the favored red zone target for the Bucs with two TDs in three games.
Matt Forte had a big game for the Bears, totaling 155 yards and a TD. Forte doesn't receive the attention some other rookie running backs do, but he is a RB2 with a ceiling that keeps getting higher. He has become an every-week starter. Kyle Orton threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns, looking very sharp in the second half. Orton isn't fantasy worthy yet, but deserves your attention as he matures in the Bears' offense. Brandon Lloyd was Orton's top target, catching six passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. Lloyd has emerged as the Bears' No. 1 wideout and is now a solid WR3 starter. Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark weren't involved in the offense and have taken a huge hit in fantasy value. Look for other options at tight end if you own either. -- B.R.
Brandon Marshall continues his quest to be the top wide receiver in fantasy this season. Marshall caught six passes for 155 yards, including a 35-yard TD. Marshall is a top-5 option every week. Jay Cutler had another productive week, throwing for 264 yards and two TDs. Cutler is an every-week play and a top 10 quarterback. Selvin Young got the majority of the Broncos' carries and ran for 65 yards. Young is a bye week plug-in at this point. Michael Pittman scored his fourth TD of the year on a two-yard run. Eddie Royal caught four passes for only 11 yards. The addition of Marshall is clearly a deterrent to Royal's success. He is still a WR3, but expect more games like this.
Drew Brees rebounded from a poor showing last week to throw for 421 yards and a TD. Reggie Bush continues to put up good numbers, accumulating 148 total yards and two touchdowns. Bush is a RB1 in points-per-reception leagues and a RB2 in standard leagues. He is looking much like the Reggie Bush that many expected coming out of college. Pierre Thomas rushed for only 15 yards, but did punch the ball into the end zone twice. It is worth watching to see if Thomas continues to receive the goal-line carries. Jeremy Shockey was finally a factor, catching eight passes for 75 yards. It's been disappointing that Shockey has yet to find the end zone. Robert Meachem was nonexistent for most of the game until a late 74-yard catch. Meachem ended with 86 yards. -- B.R.
J.T. O'Sullivan threw for two touchdowns and 189 yards. O'Sullivan is a borderline starting quarterback for teams hurting at the position. Frank Gore had a strong game, rushing for 130 yards and a TD. It is apparent that Gore will produce even with teams focusing on him. Isaac Bruce scored another touchdown, but was otherwise shut down. Bruce gets the nod over fellow receiver Bryant Johnson in terms of fantasy value at this point. Vernon Davis had one catch for 17 yards and should now be banished to your bench until he can consistently produce. Delanie Walker caught a TD and led the 49ers with 44 yards receiving, but don't jump the gun on this tight end.
The Lions have obvious issues. Jon Kitna threw for 146 and a TD, but was brutal in the process. He shouldn't be started in any standard format. Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams both had quiet days. Johnson is still a red zone threat, but Williams is definitely losing value each week. Williams should step up soon with a contract on the line. Rudi Johnson was the best story from the Detroit offense. Johnson rushed for 83 yards and caught a 34-yard TD pass in place of Kevin Smith. The two should at least split carries for the time being, with Johnson getting the goal-line carries. -- B.R.
Washington's streak of not allowing any rushing touchdowns continues. Despite fumbling, Edgerrin James had 18 carries for 93 yards. The Tim Hightower bandwagon slowed to a stop, as he managed just 23 yards on five carries, but he did have 38 yards on three receptions. As usual, the bulk of the Arizona scoring was through the air as both Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald scored, but it was Fitzgerald having the big day this time, with seven catches and 109 yards. Kurt Warner only had 192 yards and an interception, but he also threw two touchdowns.
Clinton Portis had 68 yards and a TD, but it was Jason Campbell who looked good, completing 22 passes for 193 yards and two TDs. If he's not scooped up in your league already he will be this week, especially as the dreaded byes begin. Campbell could have easily had a lot more yards but for a 66-yard touchdown to rookie Devin Thomas being nullified by a penalty. Santana Moss has become a strong WR3 at worst. Moss scored once again and totaled 75 yards and seven receptions. -- Mark Strausberg
The time-share in Tennessee continues. Chris Johnson was elusive and slashed his way to 74 yards on 16 carries while LenDale White ran for a total of 49 yards with three of those yards coming on his two TD runs. Don't expect these roles to change any time soon. While I was right about one Johnson, I was wrong about the other, as Andre Johnson managed just 29 yards on his four catches, and the Texans' leading receiver was TE Owen Daniels, who had four catches for 71 yards. However, Houston might have finally settled on a running back, as Steve Slaton had 18 carries for 116 yards and a TD. Houston has a couple more brutal games to start the season, but if you can, stick to your guns on Matt Schaub, who will get better despite experiencing another poor day (three interceptions and only 188 yards). Meanwhile, the rest of the Tennessee offense continues to prove serviceable, as Justin McCareins had 90 yards receiving and Bo Scaife added 26 yards and a touchdown. Alge Crumpler also had 26 yards, but those hoping for the breakout of Crumpler might be waiting awhile. -- M.S.
The Philadelphia defense punched the Steelers right in the mouth. Then right between the eyes, followed by punch to the gut and while the Steelers were on the ground heaving, the Eagles gave 'em a good swift kick to the ribs. OK, maybe the metaphors are a little excessive, but nine sacks, three turnovers, and a safety is pretty close, isn't it? Moving forward it means that all Steelers become questionable plays against good defenses. The other big news is that Brian Westbrook got injured early. Monitor his situation closely this week. Correll Buckhalter looks like the appropriate handcuff, as he was the only player to get into the end zone, to go along with his 87 combined yards.
With Ben Roethlisberger constantly getting his clock rung, no Pittsburgh player outside of Jeff Reed had much value. On the Philadelphia side, Hank Baskett had a surprising eight catches for 85 yards. Donovan McNabb still managed to complete 24 of 35 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown, but expect better days from McNabb in the future. -- M.S.
The Baltimore defense is once again a fantasy force, as they continue to make life miserable for opposing teams. The Ravens held the Browns to less than 200 yards of offense and compiled four sacks, three interceptions and a defensive TD. The more intriguing story, however, might be the deployment of the running backs. Willis McGahee rewarded those who started him, with 64 yards and a touchdown. He looked to be receiving the lion's share of the carries and probably would have had more, but an eye injury to McGahee helped Le'Ron McClain garner 66 yards and two touchdowns. McGahee should be fine for next week against Pittsburgh, but I don't see him getting 25 carries any time soon. Ray Rice came in to help kill the clock and finished with five carries for 21 yards. Neither team's passing numbers were impressive. Derrick Mason led all Baltimore receivers with four catches for 42 yards, while the struggles for Braylon Edwards continued, as he managed just three catches for 27 yards. Both quarterbacks had bad days, but before Derek Anderson had trouble completing passes to someone other than the Baltimore defensive backs, he did manage to connect with Jerome Harrison for a 19-yard TD. -- M.S.
Felix Jones had better stop playing well or his owners might be tempted to start him soon. A rushing total of 76 yards (for an absolutely gaudy 12-plus yards per carry average) and a touchdown is pretty darn good for a secondary running back. His owners need to remember, however, that Marion Barber III is still the primary running back as 28 rushes for 142 rushing yards and one TD can attest. The Packers made sure Terrell Owens didn't beat them. And he didn't (just 17 yards for T.O.), but Miles Austin did, with his 115 yards and a TD despite only two catches. I wouldn't rush to your free agent list to grab Austin, but those owning Patrick Crayton should begin to worry, as he did not have a single catch. Tony Romo was serviceable, completing 17 of 30 passes for 260 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Depending on your scoring, Aaron Rodgers probably had the slightly better night as he passed for 290 yards and also ran one into the end zone. Greg Jennings led all Packer receivers, grabbing eight passes for 115 yards, followed by Donald Driver's four catches for 76 yards. Ryan Grant fumbled his first carry, but still managed a palatable 54 yards on 13 carries. For the Grant owners worrying about Brandon Jackson, the backup had just three carries for 20 yards. -- M.S.