For the Saints and their fans, Reggie Bush's pair of punt returns for scores on Monday night were exciting and made for great highlights, but in the end, were fruitless. The same was true for fantasy owners. Yeah, it was cool to watch, but only further underscored what Bush doesn't do.
Unless you owned the New Orleans special teams/defense (and few do), or your league awards points to individuals for special teams scores (most don't, I believe), the TDs were meaningless. It can only frustrate the fantasy owner to watch Bush do his best work when it doesn't count for his team. Bush is a thrilling returner and a proven pass-catcher. But he is a bust as a runner, and that bothers fantasy players even more if they don't play in point-per-reception leagues.
Bush rushed for only 29 yards on 12 carries against the Vikings, ridiculously disappointing numbers for such a talented player no matter the matchup. Yet it's nothing new, as Bush has only rushed for 212 yards this season, has averaged 3.3 yards per carry, and has been held to 31 rushing yards or less in three of five games. He totaled 51 and 73 yards in the other two.
For all the hype surrounding him as a receiver, he's overrated in that department, too, when it comes to yardage. Since a 112-yard game in the opener, Bush as not delivered more than 75 receiving yards in a game, and has totaled only 71 yards in the past two contests. When you combine Bush's rushing and receiving yards, you only get adequate totals.
It's time to take a hint from fantasy baseball rules here, and give Bush eligibility at more than one position. He's not a good running back, and his pass-catching numbers are more in line with a wide receiver's. He is the ultimate example of a true life "flex player." Bush leads the NFL in receptions with 38! I should NOT be forced to start him at running back, especially if my league doesn't allow a flex player. I want my running backs to get rushing yards. You may say points are points, but I urge this suggestion to uphold the authenticity of fantasy football.
I repeat -- Bush is not a running back. Every time he carries the ball, he looks like a wide receiver on a reverse or end around. He clearly is out of his element, which is operating in open space. He cannot successfully create his own space. Bush doesn't use his vision to his advantage like other good running backs do, and he relies too much on speed to attempt to create space, and he still hasn't learned that won't work. The better running backs don't try to juke or race their way to the second level of defenders. Bush still hasn't learned that.
Bush is clearly more comfortable as a receiver, where he can sprint to spots with less defensive engagement and then get the ball. Once he catches it, he looks a heck of a lot like a wide receiver. He evades tackles and attempts to get up field in the same style a WR would. He doesn't try to run downhill as many RBs do once they get to that second level. Saints fans want to see more of Deuce McAllister (six carries for 13 yards Monday) and fantasy players should be able to clear a lineup slot at running back for real running backs. I will bring this before the Fantasy Sports Trade Association if I have to. Let's give Bush WR eligibility before next season. In the meantime, he is simply overrated and I'm glad he is not on any of my teams.
As for McAllister, I wouldn't fret too much about his workload. His touches were obviously significantly down after 20 carries the week before, but he simply wasn't part of a unique game plan that attacked Minnesota's biggest weakness (the pass defense) and avoided trying to battle the Vikings' defensive line for difficult yards on the ground. New Orleans came out determined to throw as much as possible, and that made sense. McAllister should be a bigger part of the offense going forward. He has to be. The Saints cannot be confident Bush will post good rushing totals against any opponent.
The other disturbing performance was Adrian Peterson's outing. He rushed for 32 yards on 21 carries, as the Saints focused mainly on shutting him down while trying to make Gus Frerotte beat them. Give the New Orleans front seven credit, they flowed to the ball well and were models of how to gang tackle and swarm against the run. Yet Frerotte made critical plays to help the Vikings win, and the Saints' strategy of focusing on Peterson backfired to a certain degree.
So I would not worry about Peterson. Future opponents will watch film of Monday's game and realize you have to respect the Minnesota passing game, even if it shouldn't be feared. The Vikings themselves will also learn from this outing and make necessary adjustments. NFL teams are always adjusting to improve, and last week's performance is often not reflective of what to expect during the upcoming week. Plus, not every player explodes in every game, and all owners must deal with occasional disappointments from their best players. If you find a Peterson owner who is overreacting in a negative way this week, try to snatch the superstar RB from him in a trade.-- Scott Engel
Brandon Jacobs bruised and battered the Seattle defense, rushing for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Jacobs is a top RB2 and has a good chance to score every week. Ahmad Bradshaw received 11 carries and totaled 65 yards. Neither Bradshaw nor Derrick Ward have much value besides being handcuff possibilities for Jacobs. Eli Manning didn't seem to miss Plaxico Burress. Manning passed for 267 yards and two touchdowns. Domenik Hixon led the Giants with 102 receiving yards and a touchdown before leaving with a concussion. Hixon benefited from some extra playing time with Burress suspended, so don't expect a game like this again. Sinorice Moss caught four passes, two for touchdowns. Like Hixon, Moss was seeing extended action with Burress out. Amani Toomer caught four passes for 64 yards, but failed to take advantage of being a possible prime target for the week. Toomer still remains the most valuable Giants WR besides Burress.
Matt Hasselbeck continued to struggle despite the returns of Bobby Engram and Deion Branch. Hasselbeck injured his right knee early in the game and only managed to pass for 105 yards and an interception. Seneca Wallace replaced Hasselbeck when the game was out of hand late in the third quarter. Hasselbeck is obviously pressing with so many key injuries to Seattle receivers, and he is now simply a fantasy backup. Engram returned in impressive fashion, catching eight passes for 61 yards. Engram is a closer to becoming the WR2 player that he was last season. Branch had three catches for 31 yards, but saw limited action after he departed with a left heel injury. It is unclear how much time Branch will miss. Branch has never been a 1,000-yard receiver or caught more than five touchdowns in a season, yet he receives unwarranted hype every season. Don't bother with this injury-prone wideout. Julius Jones couldn't continue to sizzle, rushing for only 61 yards. Jones wasn't asked to do much after the Seahawks were down so big. He is a RB2 the rest of the season. -- Brad Rysz
Kyle Orton has become a fantasy-relevant quarterback. Yes, you read that right. Orton passed for 334 yards and two touchdowns against the unit considered the Lions defense. Orton should be picked up in all leagues and can be started against favorable opponents. Matt Forte had only 61 total yards, but scored twice. Forte is a RB2 with the upside to become a RB1. Greg Olsen continues to grow into a reliable pass-catching tight end. Olsen had three catches for 87 yards. Olsen is start-worthy for fantasy teams lacking a consistent tight end. Rashied Davis filled in for an injured Brandon Lloyd and led the Bears with 97 yards. Davis hasn't done much this season, so he should go back to sporadic playing time once Lloyd returns. Devin Hester's progression as a wide receiver took another positive step Sunday as he caught five passes for 66 yards, including a touchdown. Hester is definitely worthy of a roster spot and makes a respectable bye-week replacement.
Jon Kitna's fantasy career continues on its downward spiral, as he was replaced in the third quarter after suffering a back injury and totaling a miserable 74 yards passing. Dan Orlovsky replaced Kitna and threw for 97 yards and an interception. The Lions offense is a mess and Kitna is a major part of the problem. He should be dropped in all but two-quarterback leagues. Orlovsky looked completely lost and shouldn't be considered in any format. Kevin Smith rushed for 31 yards and scored against a tough Bears defense, but only received eight carries. After complaining about his lack of involvement, Roy Williams caught seven passes for 96 yards. Williams has under performed all season, but a new contract is on his horizon, so expect his numbers to improve as the season wears on. His counterpart, Calvin Johnson, had another unproductive game, catching only two balls for 16 yards. The Lions offense is pitiful, and both Williams and Johnson will occasionally suffer bad games. -- B.R.
Trent Edwards left with a concussion after a first-quarter hit from Adrian Wilson. J.P. Losman filled in admirably, throwing for 220 yards and a touchdown. A large chunk of those yards came on an 87-yard touchdown pass to Lee Evans. Evans and Losman have always had a solid on-field relationship, so if Edwards is out for any significant period of time, Evans' value will be even higher than it already is. Evans is a few good games away from being a WR1 in the fantasy world. Losman probably exceeded his capabilities, so you shouldn't expect another game like this if he does continue to start. Marshawn Lynch had a second straight ineffective game, rushing for 55 yards. The Bills were forced to pass, facing a large deficit, and Lynch hasn't played a role in the team's passing game. Lynch is still a RB1, but he hasn't been the total package that many expected coming into this season. Josh Reed solidified his position as the Bills' No. 2 receiver after catching four balls for 45 yards. Reed is a bench player in most leagues, filling in on bye weeks.
Kurt Warner threw two more touchdowns and now has 10 TD passes. Warner has risen up the charts and now is a top-10 quarterback for fantasy purposes. Both touchdowns went to Larry Fitzgerald, who became Warner's unquestioned go-to receiver with Anquan Boldin sidelined due to injury. Fitzgerald is a no-brainer start each week. Steve Breaston was expected to replace Boldin successfully, and did so with a seven-catch, 77-yard performance. Breaston will continue to have value as long as Boldin is out, and with the success of the Cardinals' passing attack, may be a WR3 for the rest of the season. Edgerrin James rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown, but the story, again, was rookie Tim Hightower. Hightower scored twice and now has five touchdowns in as many games. The dynamic back may not accumulate many yards, but he simply puts the ball in the end zone. He is the ideal RB3 and for those in keeper leagues, it's time to acquire Hightower now before his value exponentially grows. -- B.R.
Welcome back, Randy Moss. Moss scored for the first time since Tom Brady's injury and ended the day with 111 yards on five catches. Moss isn't going to replicate last year by any means, but he still must be treated as the WR1 that he is. Wes Welker did his thing and caught eight passes for 73 yards. He hasn't scored yet this year, but he has yet to deliver a game with less than six catches. Matt Cassel showed signs of improvement, throwing for 259 yards and a touchdown. Cassel did throw two picks, but the yardage numbers were what many expected when he initially replaced Brady. Expect Cassel to approach these numbers more times than not. Laurence Maroney's dive into the fantasy black hole continued as he ran 10 times for a measly 26 yards. Sammy Morris rushed 16 times for 63 yards, while Kevin Faulk vultured two touchdowns. Maroney is now a fantasy bench player, and the Patriots backfield is more crowded than a health club on New Year's Day. Morris should receive a majority of the carries, but Faulk may get more goal-line duty.
J.T. O'Sullivan had a "hit-or-miss" day, throwing for three touchdowns, coupled with three interceptions. O'Sullivan is actually ranked in the top 10 in most fantasy formats, so feel comfortable with him on your bench. Two of the scores went to a revitalized Isaac Bruce, who now has four touchdowns on the season. Bruce ended the day with three catches for 49 yards. Bruce is clearly the most targeted red zone receiver on the 49ers and has now become a WR2 in points-per-reception leagues. Bryant Johnson returned to catch three passes for 27 yards. Johnson will take a back seat to Bruce for the time being. Frank Gore scored a touchdown on a nifty 16-yard pass and remains a threat in both the 49ers passing and running games. Gore finished with 78 total yards and a touchdown. -- B.R.
With their backfield depleted, the Steelers unleashed Ben Roethlisberger and his ailing right arm. Throwing a season-high 41 times, Roethlisberger survived constant pressure from the Jaguars front seven to end the game with 309 passing yards and three touchdowns. It was his first game over 200 yards, and it may be a sign that he's finally starting to live up to his lofty draft status. Of course, if he continues to get knocked down as frequently as he did Sunday, he's not going to make it through the entire season. Mewelde Moore filled in nicely for the injured Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, rushing for 99 yards on 17 carries and catching three balls for another 17 yards. Moore proved to be a very reliable option while Parker remains sidelined. The wealth was spread around to the Pittsburgh receivers with Nate Washington leading the team with a career-high 94 receiving yards and a touchdown. Heath Miller caught his first touchdown of the season while Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes combined for 11 catches and 155 yards. This was the type of game that fantasy owners expected when they drafted Ward, Holmes and Miller, but don't get too excited about Washington's big performance. He's still the third receiver (the fourth option), and his numbers won't be consistent enough to justify using him, even as a flex player.
The Jaguars running game continues to be a disaster. Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor combined for just 26 yards on 15 attempts, marking the fourth time this season that they've both been held to under 50 yards rushing. Taylor once again saw more carries (10 to five), but Jones-Drew scored the touchdown. If you can get any kind of value for either, do so immediately because they're nearing the point of being un-ownable. David Garrard had his second straight productive outing (18-of-32 for 200 yards and a touchdown), but all those numbers do is make him a decent spot starter/back-up option. With Pittsburgh keying on shutting down Matt Jones (two catches for 25 yards), Garrard's overwhelmingly favorite target was Mike Walker. Walker has now caught 11 balls for 153 yards over the past two games and if he continues to emerge, it will greatly benefit both Garrard and Jones' value, although Walker should remain in free agency for the time being. -- Chris Ryan
After receiving zero touches last week against Washington, Dallas made it a point to include Felix Jones early, and he rewarded them with an electrifying 98 yards on only nine carries, including a 33-yard touchdown. Jones has now scored in four out of five ballgames, and is averaging an un-Godly nine yards-per-carry. Even with limited touches, you should at least consider starting Jones every week. Terrell Owens was held in check through three quarters (one catch for 12 yards), but a 55-yard catch and run for a touchdown allowed him to finish with a double-digit fantasy day. There is no need to be even remotely worried about Owens' second two-catch performance in the last three weeks. Tony Romo knows were his bread is buttered, and you can count on him targeting the boisterous wide receiver numerous times next week. Patrick Crayton was a lucky bounce away from being shut out for the second time this season. His touchdown came on a ball that bounced off Miles Austin's hands and hit him right in the chest while he was standing in the end zone. Crayton's completely unpredictable performances make him a very unreliable option, even as a flex player.
Carson Palmer pushed through the pain to post solid, although still un-Carson like, numbers. He hit his clear number one receiver, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, for two touchdowns and connected with Antonio Chatman seven times for 55 yards. Chad Johnson was once again a non-factor, although he did notch a season-high 43 yards on three catches. Houshmandzadeh is an obvious must-start every week, while Johnson may warrant some time on the pine until he gets things turned around (or rather, if he gets things turned around). Chris Henry was active for the game, and saw some field time, but failed to register a catch. As he gets acclimated to the offense, Palmer will start looking his way more often, limiting what little value Chatman has built up in his absence. Chris Perry's days as a starting running back may be limited. The newly acquired Cedric Benson received 10 carries to Perry's 13, and most important, didn't fumble. The same can't be said for Perry, who put the ball on the ground for the fifth time this year (and may have cost the Bengals the game). Benson is a must-add in all leagues, and he may end up being the primary ball carrier in Cincinnati sooner rather than later. -- C.R.
It's Ronnie Brown's world, we're just living in it. Brown backed up his-five touchdown outing against the Patriots with 125 yards and a touchdown this past week. With the Dolphins employing the Wildcat formation 11 times, Brown shouldered the majority of the workload (24 carries), while Ricky Williams took on a secondary role (13 attempts). Brown may prove to be the exception to the "one-year removed from ACL surgery" rule, as he is looking like the running back that led all fantasy scorers through the first six weeks of last year. Williams is still worth a roster spot as an emergency/insurance policy, but you don't want to rely on him as a starter. Chad Pennington was extremely effective, going 22-of-29 for 228 yards and a touchdown strike to Greg Camarillo, who is averaging over four catches and 50 yards a game, and is worth a look as a flex player. Ted Ginn Jr. finally seems to be figuring out the wide receiver position, as he caught a team-high seven passes. He has yet to demonstrate the explosive, big-play ability that owners expected, but as long he's showing reliable hands and route-running ability, Pennington will keep looking his way and the big plays will come.
It was a bad day all-around for the Chargers. Philip Rivers threw for a season-low 159 yards, Antonio Gates had one catch for 12 yards, and LaDainian Tomlinson was stifled, gaining 35 yards on just 12 carries. Chris Chambers managed to catch his fifth touchdown of the year, but was carted off the field with a lower leg injury in the third quarter. If he misses any time, second-year wide receiver Craig Davis will likely take his place, but will have minimal value. Davis had just one catch for 16 yards. With nagging injuries to Tomlinson and Gates possibly playing a role in their lackluster starts to the season, it may be time to put out some feelers to gauge your league's interest in the two. Make sure not to sell either short though. The ship has probably already sailed on selling Rivers as a top-five QB option, but that doesn't mean he won't still be a very productive member of your team. It just means that on occasion, depending on the matchup (and especially if Chambers misses significant time), he may be better off left on your bench. -- C.R.
Brian Westbrook was healthy enough to play, then he got injured during the game and he wasn't. And then he returned. Most Westbrook owners probably started their stud and were rewarded with the yo-yo of events and 84 combined yards. If you own Westbrook, you know the routine and should expect it to continue: He'll produce, but don't be surprised to see injuries limit his production. Meanwhile, those waiting for Reggie Brown to take flight can stop sitting on the tarmac, as Brown had four receptions for 84 yards. If Brown is still a free agent in your league, he won't be after this week. Meanwhile, DeSean Jackson has surely been swooped up already and provided a 68-yard punt return for a TD. However, if your league doesn't give credit for that, Jackson had a meager 22 combined yards. Expect the highs and lows from Jackson the remainder of the year. However, you should expect more from Donovan McNabb the remainder of the season, as he had only 196 yards passing and no touchdowns. Once upon a time McNabb could make up for a poor day passing with his legs, but sadly, those days are gone.
Jason Campbell did very little for your fantasy team, and some weeks will be like that for Campbell. Antwaan Randle El connected with Chris Cooley (who had the first of many monster days to come, with eight catches for 109 yards) for an 18-yard touchdown pass on an option play. With Washington trying to run out the clock, Campbell's production was limited to 178 yards and no touchdowns. But those two things were good for Washington and should not be seen as a knock on Campbell. Clinton Portis just barged right on to the tune of 145 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles successfully grounded Santana Moss, holding him to no catches, but with the not-quite-so-strong pass defense of the Rams, Browns, and Lions due up, expect a major rebound from Moss in the next few weeks. -- M.S.
The total numbers were not too bad, but way too many different players touched the ball in this game for anyone to have significant fantasy impact. The carries continue to be split between Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn, as Dunn rushed 11 times for 74 yards and Graham rushed 10 times for 59 yards. Until either can provide more consistent and greater production, I would look to start other options. Denver's three-headed running back attack totaled 26 carries for 106 yards, but no running back was given even a dozen carries. Michael Pittman's 39 yards on six carries were the most productive, but starting any Denver running back right now is a bad idea.
Even the QB position was split in this game, as Brian Griese managed 88 yards before getting hurt. Jeff Garcia came in and threw for 93 yards and a touchdown to Ike Hilliard (who had just 29 yards), but don't expect Garcia to start next week. Griese said that the medical staff informed him there was nothing structurally wrong with his arm, so don't be surprised to see him back behind center for the Bucs next game. Antonio Bryant had seven catches for 58 yards and should continue to be valuable for those of you in PPR leagues. However, nine different receivers caught at least one pass and I don't see that trend changing any time soon. In addition to the fractioning of production, the Denver offense was dulled by the Tampa Bay defense.
Jay Cutler had 227 yards and a touchdown, but expect better numbers against lesser defenses. The same is true for the rest of the Denver offense, which had a quiet day, especially Brandon Marshall, who had only three catches for 25 yards. Marshall's owners should plan on him having better games. Meanwhile, Tony Scheffler had one of his better days, with 65 yards receiving, and Brandon Stokley had 52 yards and a touchdown, but that was because Eddie Royal got injured. Scheffler will continue to be a solid play, but Stokley will return to WR3 status when Royal returns to the lineup. -- M.S.
Thunk. Bang. Wawawa. Clang. That was the sound of the wheels coming off the Joe Flacco bandwagon as he tossed two interceptions (plus one on which the defender was ruled out of bounds). Flacco's statistical performance this season hasn't been fantasy-worthy, anyway. However, a few more performances like this, along with a healthy Troy Smith, might mean a QB change in Baltimore. Of course as Flacco struggles, so too will the rest of your Ravens. Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain rushed for 64 and 51 yards respectively, with the latter scoring a TD. Expect to see both improve against softer defenses. The rest of the Ravens had even quieter days as Todd Heap led all Ravens receivers with 41 yards.
While the fantasy experts correctly predicted a couple interceptions from Kerry Collins (17 of 32 for 163 and a TD), the reports of Alge Crumpler's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Crumpler was targeted throughout the day, caught two passes and scored his first touchdown. Of course that is the optimistic Crumpler owner's perspective. It will take a little more from Crumpler to wipe the wicked smirk off the Bo Scaife owners, who saw him still catch more balls (seven) for more yards (72 yards) than Crumpler. Both players are roster-worthy in deeper leagues. Chris Johnson managed just 44 yards rushing, but they were "hard fought", which is just "broadcast-esque" for the Ravens defense making his day a long one. -- M.S.
The Chiefs did absolutely nothing against the Panthers, as they had only 127 yards of offense. Kansas City had 35 rushing yards, and Larry Johnson contributed only two yards to that on seven carries. Jamaal Charles was the Chiefs' leading rusher with 18 yards on four carries. The passing game was equally inept, as Damon Huard passed for only 86 yards and two interceptions before getting pulled for Tyler Thigpen in the fourth quarter. Thigpen did manage to throw for another 37 yards in garbage time. The top receiver for the Chiefs was Dwayne Bowe, who caught five balls for 57 yards. Tony Gonzalez hauled in three balls for a grand total of 17 yards. Meanwhile, the Carolina offense was near-perfect.
DeAngelo Williams was a one-man wrecking crew, totaling 148 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. Jonathan Stewart added 80 total yards, but did not score. Jake Delhomme was a very efficient 14-of-22 passing for 236 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. Steve Smith caught six balls for 96 yards, but didn't score, as Delhomme's touchdown throws went to Muhsin Muhammad, who had three receptions for 71 yards, and Williams. -- Matt Wirkiowski
Not much defense in this game, as the two teams combined for 51 points and 778 total yards of offense. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan appears to be maturing quickly, and will have fantasy relevance this season if he continues to progress. Ryan finished with 194 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception. Roddy White was Ryan's favorite target, catching eight balls for 132 yards and one touchdown. Backup tight end Justin Peelle caught Ryan's other touchdown throw. Michael Turner had another excellent game, rushing for 121 yards and one touchdown. Jerious Norwood didn't see a lot of action, as he only touched the ball seven times for a total of 18 yards.
Aaron Rodgers' sore shoulder didn't slow him down, as he passed for 313 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Rodgers spread the ball around, connecting with eight different receivers, and throwing a touchdown to three different receivers. Greg Jennings had four catches for 87 yards and a touchdown, while Donald Driver reeled in three balls for 68 yards and a touchdown and also ran once for six yards. Rodgers' final touchdown throw went to tight end Donald Lee, who finished with four catches for 25 yards. Backup tight end Tory Humphrey, who entered the game with one career reception, caught four balls for 67 yards. Ryan Grant had a decent game, amassing 87 yards on the ground, but did not score. -- M.W.
For the first time this season, we saw Peyton Manning playing like we expect him to. Manning had 247 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, but looked especially sharp in the fourth quarter, going 9-for-11, and leading his team to an impressive come-from-behind win over the Texans. Reggie Wayne caught seven passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, while Dallas Clark had five catches for 81 yards. Marvin Harrison had four catches for only 32 yards, while Anthony Gonzalez only caught one ball for three yards. Joseph Addai totaled 84 yards, and rushed for one touchdown.
Sage Rosenfels, filling in for the ailing Matt Schaub, passed for 246 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he cost his team the victory with two fumbles and an interception, all coming in the fourth quarter. Rosenfels looked for Andre Johnson often, and Johnson finished with a game-high nine receptions for 131 yards and one touchdown. Owen Daniels caught five balls for 47 yards, while Kevin Walter had two catches for 36 yards. Steve Slaton had an excellent game, gaining 93 yards on the ground and scoring two touchdowns. However, he still split carries with Ahman Green, who finished with 47 yards. Slaton had 16 carries, while Green had 12 carries. -- M.W.