Both offenses left much to be desired, leaving us to to wonder if in a Fringe-type parallel universe, Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are still Broncos, lighting it up as fantasy superstars under the watchful-if-not robotic gaze of Mike Shanahan. Unfortunately, Thursday night spelled out the cold reality we're all too familiar with when it comes to them in their post-Denver careers: disappointment. Meanwhile, the running game was still MIA in Miami as the injury-plagued Dolphins look a mess. As the Bears did just enough to beat another bad opponent, there were plenty of fantasy takeaways to be had, however ...
What I loved
Matt Forte, hero. It's been a strange year for Forte, who broke a three-game scoreless streak and has only rushed for more than 100 yards once this year. Thursday night he was the lone skill position bright spot with 97 yards on 25 carries and the game's lone TD. He's gotten 20 carries or more only three times this season, with two out of three times producing fine fantasy outings. This is the kind of game you expect Forte to put together every week, but backup Chester Taylor and offensive coordinator Mike Martz too often get in the way.
What I liked
The blame game. The criticism leveled at the Dolphins and coach Tony Sparano for a quizzical strategy that called for a third-string QB to throw 29 passes while running the ball 13 times calls was more than fair. This isn't the same magical Tyler Thigpen of the 2008 Chiefs who fantasy owners caught lightning in a waiver-wire bottle with (if it sounds weird to read, you have no idea how it felt to write). The Bears' defense certainly gets kudos for six sacks and an interception, but against that game plan it was like shooting (ahem) fish in a barrel.
What I disliked
Part 1: Brandon Marshall, goat. The Marshall Plan continues to flounder, as the preseason top-8 wideout's night ended early with a hamstring injury. At this point fantasy IR might be a mercy-killing for owners suffering through a season in which Marshall has one touchdown, has gone above 100 yards twice and hasn't had more than 64 yards in his past five games. Even if the injury proves minor, fantasy owners still relying on him might need an intervention.
What I disliked
Part 2: The Bears' receivers are (unfortunately) a democracy. While Devin Hester uses his super powers only on special teams, the rest of the Chicago pass catchers are just a bunch of guys. Cutler and the play calling was conservative last night, but this is nothing new. The Bears have had only one 100-yard outing by a receiver this year from Johnny Knox. Knox is the only receiver whose established himself at all, but is best as a WR3 in deep leagues or a flex option only for the desperate.
What I loathed
Nowhere to run. The Bears may have the No. 2-ranked run defense in the league, but have allowed nine rushing touchdowns this year. None of that explains the combined 11 yards on six attempts from Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combined. Both backs have been pretty useless (each averaging around 40 yards per game) as the nightmare backfield time-share scenario took hold, though Brown did have a two-game scoring streak snapped. I've been bashing those two most of the year, but it's hard to do anything when not touching the ball.
They may be underachieving, frustrating or just hit the skids last week, but bury the hatchet and be prepared to pull these well-known players off the bench and start them in your lineup for Week 11 active duty.
WR Reggie Wayne at the Patriots: This is the year it seems Wayne, 32, officially became old before our eyes, with a career-low 12.0 yards per catch and only three TDs and one 100-yard game. But here's betting that Wayne turns back the clock Sunday on the road, where he's doubled his production all season long (43 catches, 514 yards), compared to his home games (20, 244). Last year he broke through for a huge game against the Pats to get the monkey off his back against them, and this time out faces a much worse New England pass defense ranked 30th.
RB Mike Tolbert vs. the Broncos: Last week Tolbert had 32 yards and went scoreless, but it was the first time in five games he failed to reach the end zone. With rookie enigma Ryan Mathews injured, Tolbert will get more carries and should feast on a Denver defense allowing a league-leading 14 rushing TDs and ranks 30th against the run.
WR Steve Johnson at the Bengals: Even when Johnson hasn't gotten the yards, the Bills' go-to receiver has found the end zone often. That changed last week with an inexplicable 30-yard, scoreless outing against the Lions. This week the air-Bills should get back to chucking and ducking against a Bengals' pass defense that isn't as good as its No. 13 ranking, allowing opposing QBs to complete throws at a 60-percent clip.
RB Rashard Mendenhall vs. the Raiders: Sure, he hasn't been over 100 yards rushing since Week 3 and is coming off a scoreless, 50-yard outing. Mendenhall is too good for even the deepest fantasy owner to doubt and will easily hit the century mark against Oakland, ranked 24th against the run.
They might be well-known but seldom used or unknown and ready to use, there are points to be had on the waiver wire or even buried on the bench. Here are three picks to start who might not be obvious.
QB Mark Sanchez vs. the Texans: Known for being better in real life than fantasy, Sanchez has started putting up some solid numbers the past two weeks after a brief lull. On Sunday the Jets will take to the air against a Houston team ranked dead-last in pass defense and has allowed a league-high 22 touchdown passes.
TE Ben Watson at the Jaguars: In Colt McCoy's debut, Watson had 88 yards and caught a touchdown. After two one-catch games, last week McCoy dialed up his tight end again and Watson didn't disappoint with 74 yards on a team-high 10 targets. The big tight end is the Browns' most accomplished pass catcher and against the Jaguars' 21st-ranked pass defense, Watson is a pick that's uh, elementary.
RB Willis McGahee at the Panthers: McGahee is the flex player few of us know what to do with, thanks to his maddening inconsistency. This weekend against Carolina, he'll be ready to roll. McGahee is a lock to get on the scoreboard and pick up some yards against a Panthers defense ranked 27th against the run. Even with starter Ray Rice tearing it up Sunday, there will be enough fantasy points to go around here.
Hits: Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Goodson, Javarris James
Misses: Brandon Marshall, Santana Moss, Thomas Jones, Donald Brown, Joel Dreeson
1. Broncos at Chargers2. Giants at Eagles3. Colts at Patriots4. Raiders at Steelers5. Packers at Vikings
With the Michael Vick hysteria finally dying down, his reputation as a weapon of mass fantasy destruction this year looks justified. I've read and heard that the time for owners to sell is now, with his value sky-high. But looking at how his schedule breaks down at the end of the year, I disagree.
Week 13: TexansWeek 14: @CowboysWeek 15: @GiantsWeek 16: VikingsWeek 17: Cowboys
The Giants game is a concern, but they've been known to surrender some points. With the other remaining playoff stretch games against defenses like the Texans including three combined against Dallas and Minnesota teams that could be circling the drain by then, what's not to love?