Regarding the Lions, I would like to share an in-game text message from my Detroit-based dad, Larry: I'm quickly becoming Lions-free. Nothing changes with these guys. This is all you really need to know about a star-crossed franchise that offers little hope to its aging fan base -- except heartache. Whether we're talking about injuries to QB Matthew Stafford and now RB Jahvid Best (39 total yards), or the secondary's stunning lack of awareness on 1st-and-10 situations, or the baffling usage of WR Calvin Johnson (6 catches, 56 yards) -- who's more apt to carry the ball out of the backfield than run a pass pattern over the middle -- there's always some kind of misfortune that's driving this club's train to Nowheresville. Yes, in the grand scheme of Lions history, there's nothing infamous or ignominious about Sunday's defeat. Sadly, it was just more of the same.
But hey, at least the Lions have two productive tight ends -- Tony Scheffler (7 catches, 60 yards, 1 TD) and Brandon Pettigrew (6 catches, 44 yards) -- simultaneously working the seams for backup QB Shaun Hill (237 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs). Now that's a change my father has never witnessed.
New England 38, Buffalo 30Randy Moss's four-catch, three-touchdown performance of the last two weeks reminds one of Jerome Bettis's opening weekend from 2004: Five rushes for 1 yard and three touchdowns. On one hand, the player in question is routinely finding the end zone -- like all star players should do -- and yet no one can ignore the living room's 800-pound elephant in the form of alarming decreases in yardage. By rubber-stamping Moss into the starting lineup from this point forward, fantasy owners are taking the gamble that Moss is not getting older before our eyes (like Bettis in '04). Luckily for Tom Brady (252 passing yards, 3 TDs), he doesn't need an all-world Moss to make the Patriots victorious. He can simply lean on the new-school grouping of TE Aaron Hernandez (6 catches, 65 yards), TE Rob Gronkowski (3 catches, 43 yards, 1 TD) and RB Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis (104 total yards, 1 TD) to fill in the blanks for Moss, Wes Welker (4 catches, 45 yards) and RB Fred Taylor (16 yards). Speaking of BJGE, there's a reason why Laurence Maroney was dealt to Denver in the dead of the night before Week 1.
Regarding the Bills, it's encouraging to see QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (265 total yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs), RB Marshawn Lynch (79 rushing yards) and WR Roscoe Parrish (5 catches, 83 yards) experience a modicum of success against the big, bad Patriots. But in 12-team fantasy leagues, only the contributions of Lee Evans (5 catches, 48 yards), Fred Jackson (8 total yards) and rookie C.J. Spiller (39 total yards, 2 TDs) carry any weight right now. And even Spiller needs to impress fantasy owners with a backfield-based TD instead of scoring as a wideout and kick returner. In time, that'll surely come.
Baltimore 24, Cleveland 17When healthy, Anquan Boldin is a top-10 talent in the red zone and between-the-20s; and bonus, he knows opposing defenses must prioritize stopping the unstoppable Ray Rice (96 total yards). On Sunday, Boldin devastated the Cleveland secondary for eight catches, 142 yards and three touchdowns -- simultaneously boosting the production of QB Joe Flacco (262 passing yards, 3 TDs) and likely putting an end to the recent Tweeting trend of, Who should I dump, Joe Flacco or Matt Hasselbeck?
Regarding the Browns, their fantasy day could've been renamed The Peyton Hillis Show, deifying the modern-day Alstott who bullrushed the Ravens for 170 total yards and one touchdown. For those with medium-range memories, Hillis was a sneaky-good performer with the Broncos in 2008 before suffering a nasty leg injury. Well, through the grace of Jerome Harrison's own medical woes (and Cleveland's general ineffectiveness with big plays of the non-kick-return variety), Hillis made the most of his opportunity against one of the NFL's best front sevens. As for QB Seneca Wallace (141 yards, 1 TD), WR Josh Cribbs (78 total yards) and WR Mohamed Massaquoi, they're barely worth rostering from this point forward -- a fact that was apparent long before the Browns made the trek to Baltimore.
Philadelphia 28, Jacksonville 3Remember my "alternate-universe theory" from last week, essentially claiming that Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb or even third-stringer Mike Kafka could've engineered 30-plus points against the Lions in Week 2? Well, scrap that for now, because it's obvious that Vick (321 total yards, 4 TDs) has miraculously fused his lightning-fast quickness from the Atlanta days with a newfound QB savviness/maturity from his Philly time. That spells trouble for any opponent on the Eagles' schedule and evokes happiness for the owners of DeSean Jackson (5 catches, 153 yards, 1 TD) and Jeremy Maclin (4 catches, 83 yards, 2 TDs). In two-plus games, Vick's presence also suggests there'll be no sustained dropoff in production with either RB LeSean McCoy (61 yards) or Brent Celek (4 catches, 42 yards). Just know that Celek was a top-3 tight end with Kolb under center, instead of top-10 value with Vick.
As for the Jaguars, there are no positives from this all-around debacle. Just be happy that David Garrard (128 total yards, zero TDs), Maurice Jones-Drew (89 total yards) and Mike Sims-Walker (2 catches, 34 yards) escaped without incident or injury; and be prepared to grab backup RB Rashad Jennings (33 total yards on four touches) off waivers just in case the Jacksonville coaches start using MJD and Jennings like Jonathan Stewart/DeAngelo Williams (circa 2009).
Kansas City 31, San Francisco 10This game, in a nutshell, best illustrates why I tune out mid-week coachspeak and take team-approved depth charts lightly during the season. Any intelligent fantasy owner only has to watch a few Chiefs games to realize that Jamaal Charles (154 total yards) is the club's best playmaker and that he'll play a leading-man role in nearly every game. But I suppose that'll just have to be a Week 4 lesson for the hundreds of owners who jumped the proverbial ship after Charles' pedestrian outing in Week 2 (49 yards rushing) and his tongue-in-cheek comment of "just call me the backup running back," or whatever he said. Of course, this isn't to say Thomas Jones (96 total yards, 1 TD) has lost a step, or that TE Tony Moeaki (4 catches, 44 yards, 1 TD) won't evolve into an AFC version of Visanthe Shiancoe, or that Dexter McCluster (3 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD) won't flourish in the open field, or that Matt Cassel (250 yards passing, 3 TDs) and Dwayne Bowe (2 catches, 61 yards, 1 TD) can't benefit from a few razzle-dazzle plays when the getting's good -- because they can (or will). But the Chiefs offense -- for better or worse -- is all about Charles. It's an escapable reality in fantasyland.
Did you happen to notice Josh Morgan's garbage-time TD at the gun, with San Francisco trailing 31-3 at the time? That was a classic example of how there are no asterisks with fantasy stats, only the paper-thin differences between winning and losing. Of course, by year's end, it would probably be shocking to see either QB Alex Smith (232 passing yards, 1 TD) or Morgan (1 catch, 12 yards, 1 TD) gracing anyone's starting lineup during the fantasy playoffs. In fact, the only Niner worth noting remains RB Frank Gore (9 catches, 145 total yards), who tripled the output of every San Francisco pass-catcher, which should depress Michael Crabtree owners to no end. Apparently, no one's clamoring for divas with 3-catch, 37-yard stat lines these days.
Seattle 27, San Diego 20We usually open a Revelations book with a Sunday winner, but that's impossible when choosing between the Chargers and Seahawks unless we're rewarding triple the points for kick-return TDs. Even so, Chargers QB Philip Rivers (455 yards passing, 2 TDs) still takes top honors for extracting 80-plus yards from three receivers -- Antonio Gates (7 catches, 109 yards, 1 TD), Malcom Floyd (6 catches, 97 yards, 1 TD), Craig Davis (3 catches, 82 yards) and enabling RB Mike Tolbert to rustle up a highly respectable 90 total yards in his starting debut (thanks to Ryan Mathews' ankle injury). Think about it: Rivers has been blessed with lethal playmakers since becoming the Bolts' starting QB in 2006, but he chose this particular day to launch a career high in passing yards without Mathews or Vincent Jackson. Speaking of which, I'm now siding with ESPN insider Adam Schefter, who believes that Jackson's holdout may last the entire 2010 season. If that's the case, perhaps it's time to cease my ongoing skepticism for Floyd and, to a lesser degree, Legedu Naanee (4 catches, 53 yards, 2-point conversion).
On the flip side, the Seahawks could be a fantasy mess if RB Justin Forsett's leg/ankle injury from Sunday has any significance. After all, Seattle doesn't have enough defensive cachet to mask the sporadic shortcomings of QB Matt Hasselbeck (220 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), WR Mike Williams (2 catches, 35 yards) or RB Julius Jones (if pressed into extended service) and the club certainly cannot plan on multiple touchdowns from kick returner Leon Washington, who doubles as a largely ineffective running back.
Tennessee 29, N.Y. Giants 10We could spend a lot of time extolling the real-world virtues of QB Vince Young (124 total yards, 1 TD) and how WR Kenny Britt (2 catches, 26 yards, 1 TD) is slowly rounding into shape (after a weighty offseason), but this column is all about keeping readers awake through the workday. So, let's focus on the excellent work of Chris Johnson (125 yards, 2 TDs) and hope that his trade value doesn't take an indirect hit in the coming weeks -- courtesy of his Tennessee teammates. After all, there's a school of thought that suggests, sooner or later, an NFL club that doesn't ryhyme with "Schmeelers" will figure out how to impede Johnson's latest pursuit of 2,000 rushing yards. For instance, yours truly dealt Johnson in a PPR league on Friday, getting C.J. Spiller, Steven Jackson (left Sunday's game with a groin injury) and the Giants' Steve Smith in return. Just something to think about down the road.
Regarding the Giants, what's to complain about on a fantasy level? Eli Manning shook off one of the ugliest interceptions you'll ever see to throw for 386 yards, with nine receptions and 103 yards going to PPR dynamo Steve Smith; and Ahmad Bradshaw (118 total yards, 1 TD), Hakeem Nicks (7 catches, 56 yards), Mario Manningham (6 catches, 78 yards) and Kevin Boss (3 catches, 88 yards) rang up solid, if not spectacular numbers against the Titans. But ay, there's the rub about real-world fans cheering for fantasy stats: Their fantasy goodness usually comes at a steep price. In this case, it's the Giants slowly imploding and subsequently getting swallowed up by the Super Bowl-contending Jets, attention-wise.
Indianapolis 27, Denver 13Since we're on a Manning kick, might as well discuss the all-too-familiar exploits of Peyton Manning (325 yards, 3 TDs) and the holy-cow performance of Austin Collie, whose 12-catch, 171-yard, 2-TD outing may stand as one of the NFL's 10 best, by season's end. At the very least, Collie can take solace in lapping his fellow Colts pass-catchers -- Reggie Wayne (4 catches, 65 yards), Dallas Clark (5 catches, 44 yards), Blair White (3 catches, 27 yards 1 TD) -- so much that we cannot help but wonder if Indy's midweek game plan predicated on Collie having a monster day. In just three weeks, Collie has amassed two games of double-digit receptions and 160-plus yards receiving -- the kind of production that vaults him into automatic-start consideration for fantasy lineups, even when competing with Larry Fitzgerald.
As for the Broncos, I'll keep this short and sweet: QB Kyle Orton (476 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) may be a weekly near-lock for 300 yards in Josh McDaniels' progressive system, but there are no Sunday guarantees attached to Jabar Gaffney (12 catches, 140 yards), Brandon Lloyd (6 catches, 169 yards, 1 TD, Eddie Royal (4 catches, 23 yards) and especially rookie WR Demaryius Thomas (2 catches, 43 yards). That's why I'm contemplating an embargo on all Bronco-receiver questions from this point out, positing a default, Twitter-friendly response of: One Bronco will tally 150 yards each and every week, but I don't have the divine power to know who that'll be. Thank you.
Arizona 24, Oakland 23File the Cardinals' winning effort under 'C' for curveball. That's the only way to justify a team tallying just 227 total yards, ignoring Fitzgerald (2 catches, 26 yards, 1 TD) for long stretches and then luck into Sebastian Janikowski shanking a chip-shot FG attempt to win the game. But the fantasy day wasn't a total loss for Arizona, which got 75 rushing yards from Beanie Wells (on just 14 carries) in his season debut and a respectable PPR outing from WR Steve Breaston (4 catches, 41 yards, 1 TD). But make no mistake: The Cards, specifically Derek Anderson (122 yards, 1 TD), must find a way to bolster Fitzgerald's impact.
On the flip side, there's plenty to love about the Raiders' fantasy prospects: Darren McFadden (122 total yards, 1 TD) has broken the century mark in three consecutive games -- the first super troika of his career; Louis Murphy (5 catches, 119 yards) has emerged as Bruce Gradkowski's go-to receiver; Zach Miller (4 catches, 64 yards, 1 TD) was one medium-range touchdown away from taking honors among the Week 3 tight ends; and Darrius Heyward-Bey -- yes, that Heyward-Bey -- might have posted the greatest 3-catch, 49-yard, zero-TD performance in the history of First-Year Busts Who Suddenly Look Worthy In Year 2. I'm serious here, Gradkowski (255 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) was looking for DHB all day, especially in the red zone (waiver-wire food for thought).
Atlanta 27, New Orleans 24 (OT)This Saints-related segment could be rendered moot by Monday afternoon, if Pierre Thomas' leg/foot injury from Sunday spells long-term trouble for the depleted New Orleans backfield, which already lost Reggie Bush to a broken fibula. So, instead of applauding the rare-but-exceptional performances of WR Lance Moore (6 catches, 149 yards, 2 TDs) and TE Jeremy Shockey (8 catches, 78 yards, 1 TD) let's talk about Thomas (91 total yards) and his likely replacement, if he misses time to injury: I don't know anything about Christopher Ivory, the rookie from Tiffin, but I do know that he's a more palatable option than Ladell Betts, the Saints' veteran backup. After all, Sean Payton and Co. wouldn't bring in a raw, unproven commodity at a cruical position if he didn't possess the traits of another undrafted back from yesteryear -- namely Pierre Thomas (Illinois). That's enough mojo to make a reasonable play for Ivory on waivers this week.
Regarding the Falcons, there's no shroud of mystery here. Matt Ryan (228 passing yards, 2 TDs) is a must-start consideration every week, Michael Turner (125 total yards, 1 TD) reminds one of a human wrecking ball when fully healthy, Roddy White (5 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD) is a fantasy prince among commoners and TE Tony Gonzalez (8 catches, 110 yards, 1 TD) was predestined for a great Sunday, thanks to a FOX pregame featured that likened Gonzo's slow start in 2010 to that of an 80-year-old man riding a Shriner's car during the Rose Bowl parade. Chalk that one up to karma, although it would have been nice to see Gonzalez don a Shriner's cap -- or at least the type Howard Cunningham wore on Happy Days.
Pittsburgh 38, Tampa Bay 13There's really no point in discussing Charlie Batch's future prospects. Assuming Ben Roethlisberger stays upright, Batch has just one start left on his docket -- next week against Baltimore. So does it really matter that he threw for 186 yards and three touchdowns against a young Bucs defense? Unfortunately, no. But Batch deserves some credit for reviving the value of WRs Mike Wallace (3 catches, 100 yards, 2 TDs) and Hines Ward (3 catches, 34 yards, 1 TD), both of whom warrant flex consideration for Week 4. As for Rashard Mendenhall (143 rushing yards, 1 TD), consider this output to be a reasonable facsimile of what fantasy owners can expect in the Steelers' remaining games against the NFC South.
On the flip side, the Bucs' reality check shouldn't surprise anyone who pays attention to the NFL for a living or a hobby. Someday in the not-too-distant future, QB Josh Freeman (199 total yards) will be a high-level talent. But right here, right now, he's simply no match for a healthy Steelers defense that's eerily similar to their forebears from the 1970s. The same may not necessarily hold true for rookie WR Mike Williams (5 catches, 55 yards). There's something to be said about Williams' athletic gifts, nose for handling the ball in traffic and Tampa Bay's likelihood of falling prey to 3-4 blowouts this season -- allowing for more garbage time-fun involving Williams, Kellen Winslow (3 catches, 24 yards) and Cadillac Williams (46 total yards).
N.Y. Jets 31, Miami 23History is littered with middling quarterbacks rising up for 60 minutes and throwing three TDs with no interceptions, but what happens when these eminently replaceable assets repeat the feat in consecutive games? Therein lies the dilemma with Jets QB Mark Sanchez: Has he turned the proverbial corner in his second year as a starter -- where 250-yard, 3-TD outings would be expected, instead of just appreciated -- or will he return to earth long before the howling winter winds visit new Meadowlands Stadium? And what about Dustin Keller (6 catches, 98 yards, 2 TD)? Is he making a Jermichael Finley-style leap in Year 2, where owners will feel obligated to start him above Kellen Winslow or Zach Miller? With the Jets, the only certainty involves LaDainian Tomlinson (88 total yards, 1 TD) -- not Shonn Greene -- being the New Yorkers' favorite son at running back. As strange as that sounds.
The Dolphins' fantasy Week 3, however, doesn't include the tailbacks. Yes, Ronnie Brown (53 total yards) seemed on the precipice of breaking a Wildcat run or two for a touchdown; and yes, Ricky Williams only sampled seven carries against the Jets. But this night was all about QB Chad Henne (363 passing yards, 2 TDs) and WRs Brandon Marshall (10 catches, 166 yards, 1 TD), Davone Bess (6 catches, 86 yards) and Brian Hartline (5 catches, 84 yards) adding spice to a surprising shootout. To be blunt, Bess and Hartline have too much talent to disappear in nationally televised games or in the 1 p.m. early birds against Cleveland and Buffalo. And if they have to ride the sizable wake of Henne and Marshall to be fantasy-relevant again, so be it.
St. Louis 30, Washington 16What's the greater mini-miracle: The anemic Rams scoring 30 points without Steven Jackson for most of the game or the Redskins losing to yet another hapless club, helmed by a rookie quarterback, and sporting a loooooong losing streak? In 2009, the Stafford-led Lions knocked off Jason Campbell's Redskins and halted a franchise-worst 19-game skid. Fast forward to the present, as Sam Bradford and the Rams plowed the same Washington club (with one notable exception at QB), while making fantasy stars of WRs Danny Amendola (6 catches, 56 yards) and Mark Clayton (5 catches, 85 yards) -- neither of whom were on the PPR radar just three weeks ago. But let's go back to Jackson (64 total yards, 1 TD) and his groin injury. St. Louis desperately needs Jackson in the lineup to get 3-5 wins this season, let alone spur the development of Bradford (235 yards passing, 1 TD), who's been much better than anticipated but certainly can't improve with Kenneth Darby (57 total yards, 1 TD) operating as the workhorse back.
Here's a Reader's Digest-sized analysis of the Redskins: Donovan McNabb or not, they'll never experience sustained success until they develop a viable second receiver, one that can take the heat off Santana Moss (6 catches, 124 yards, 1 TD). Until then, Washington will be susceptible to desultory losses against the likes of St. Louis or Detroit, with no shot of hanging with the Cowboys, Giants or Eagles, who -- as luck would have it -- are next on the schedule. Obviously, no fantasy owner will be able to resist the urge to start McNabb (261 total yards, 1 TD) against his former team in Week 4, especially at Philly. We're just calling for the 'Skins coaches to have a little more faith in backups Ryan Torain (7 rushes, 46 yards), TE Fred Davis (2 catches, 11 yards) and WR Devin Thomas (patiently waiting his first reception of '10).
Cincinnati 20, Carolina 7In Friday's Clicks, I surmised that DeAngelo Williams (64 rushing yards) and Jonathan Stewart (31 total yards, 1 TD) had to collect at least 40 carries for the Panthers to beat the stingy Bengals. Turns out, the Carolina coaches never had a chance to test that theory since the Panthers only controlled the ball for 23 measly minutes. Of course, it didn't help that QB Jimmy Clausen (188 yards passing) committed two turnovers in Bengals territory; but then again, you have to expect some mental mistakes from a rookie making his first NFL start, while also playing in a quagmire. Put it all together and the Panthers haven't been this inept, this wretched, this unwatchable since 2001, and that spells doom for fantasy owners looking to get 60 cents on the trade dollar for Williams, Stewart or Steve Smith (3 catches, 22 yards).
The Bengals' fantasy outlook, even in victory, isn't much brighter. To repeat a familiar refrain, Carson Palmer (195 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INTs) is not a friend of the fantasy community, and Terrell Owens (4 catches, 42 yards) -- at least this year's version of T.O. -- is not a starting consideration in standard-scoring leagues. Thank heavens we still have tight end Jermaine Gresham (4 catches, 59 yards), Chad Ochocinco (4 catches) and Cedric Benson (90 total yards, 2 TDs) to kick around, eh? If the Bengals are to experience any sort of scoring consistency this season -- excluding garbage-time goodness -- the lions' share of success will come from this trio. Ochocinco remains a solid WR2, Gresham is a regular starting consideration in 14-team leagues and Benson is still one of the league's best red-zone threats, at least when Cincinnati remembers to call his number in the huddle.
Dallas 27, Houston 13Let's be honest: This alleged Texas shootout had no chance of meeting or eclipsing the pregame hype that entailed it (created, in part, by yours truly). But at least we can now separate what's real and what's not-so-real with both clubs. At quarterback, Matt Schaub (241 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) and Tony Romo (284 yards, 2 TDs) are recession-proof stars. The same holds true for Arian Foster (126 total yards), Andre Johnson (4 catches, 64 yards) and the Cowboys' Miles Austin (2 catches, 20 yards) and Jason Witten (7 catches, 56 yards) -- even on bad days.
As for the rest ... Steve Slaton (17 yards) and Martellus Bennett (3 catches, 26 yards) are only roster-worthy in the event of injuries to Foster and Witten, respectively; and Kevin Walter (3 catches, 34 yards, 1 TD), Owen Daniels (3 catches, 27 yards), Roy Williams (5 catches, 117 yards, 2 TDs) and Felix Jones (43 yards) are too good to drop but also too inconsistent to start on a regular basis. So, in case you're scoring at home, that's a big sell high with Roy, Roy, Roy before Week 4.
Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night, accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday/Monday during the NFL season.