Week 3 Early Games Review and MNF Preview
Yesterday was one of the strangest days of football I’ve seen in a long time. There were some upsets and some truly awful performances. This led to a number of below average fantasy days, as I’ve seen many low scores. For those of you who owned Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham, you probably won your matchup. I was lucky enough to face both of them in the same matchup in my keeper league, so needless to say I didn’t win. Most of my team grossly underperformed, but that is why fantasy can be so infuriating at times. Below are some notes from the early games on Sunday.
Cardinals @ Saints
After the Cardinals took an early lead, it was all Saints. They demolished the Cardinals, as Drew Brees threw for 3 TDs and also had a rare rushing TD. Two of the touchdowns went to Jimmy Graham, who had yet another outstanding game with 9 catches for 134 yards and the two TDs. Marques Colston also managed a respectable 5 catches for 71 yards. Darren Sproles was held fairly in check with only 4 catches for 39 yards. I sound like a broken record, but the Saints running game was again pathetic. Mark Ingram was out, so Pierre Thomas shouldered the load, but he didn’t inspire much confidence as he couldn’t even get 30 yards rushing.
For the Cardinals, I guess Larry Fitzgerald was a bright spot, as he overcame a hamstring injury to post 5 catches for 64 yards. Carson Palmer had a poor game with 3 interceptions, and not even the glorified garbage time could save his stat line. No other receiving option topped 50 yards, so it was a forgettable day all around. Rashard Mendenhall “led” the Cardinals with 29 yards rushing. He is not a good weekly play anymore. Alfonso Smith scored the lone TD, but he’s not a fantasy option at this point.
Packers @ Bengals
This was a crazy game. The Bengals were up 14-0 before the Packers ran one offensive play. Giovani Bernard had the first TD of the game and continues to look like a valuable fantasy asset as the season progresses. BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored the second TD and had his typically inefficient game, and he even lost a fumble over the course of the game. He looks to be losing touches to the rookie and I would expect that to continue moving forward. Bernard simply offers more potential and BJGE is a plodder with no upside. AJ Green didn’t have the yardage, but had a TD reception, so he had a good fantasy day as usual. Bernard actually had more receiving yards than Green. Mohamed Sanu led the Bengals with 68 yards receiving, but he is only worth an add in deep leagues.
The Packers almost pulled this game out after they scored 30 unanswered points. This was remarkable because Aaron Rodgers had a poor game. He had one TD pass and 2 interceptions. His TD pass went to James Jones, who had another solid game with 4 catches and 34 yards and a score. Jordy Nelson continued to prove to be a WR1 with 8 catches for 93 yards. Randall Cobb also pitched in with 5 catches for 54 yards. Jermichael Finley left the game early with a concussion so anyone who started him got zero points from him. James Starks also left the game with an injury, so this opened up the door for rookie Johnathan Franklin to rush for 103 yards and a score on only 13 carries. I would expect him to be a hot commodity on the waiver wire this week.
Rams @ Cowboys
It’s tough to get a read on either of these teams. The Cowboys are well-documented for their bipolar play, as they look great one week and horrible the next. The Rams were a tough out last year and figured to be even better this year with some offseason additions and continued growth from their young players. Instead, they got dominated by the Cowboys and made DeMarco Murray look like a superstar. Murray ran for 175 yards and a score and also had 3 receptions for 28 yards. If you can find someone that will trade for him now, I would try to pounce on it because he’s probably due to get hurt any week now. Speaking of getting hurt, Miles Austin injured a hamstring yet again. He has a history of hamstring problems, so who knows how severe this latest injury is. Tony Romo rebounded from a poor performance last week to throw for 210 yards and 3 TDs. Surprisingly, none of them went to Jason Witten, who led Dallas in receiving with 5 catches for 67 yards. Dez Bryant caught a 2 yard TD pass, but got away with offensive pass interference. Without that TD, he had a very quiet day, as he finished with 4 catches for 38 yards.
Sam Bradford was his typical average self, finishing with 240 yards passing and a touchdown to Austin Pettis. Daryl Richardson aggravated an injury, so Isaiah Pead was the leading Rams rusher. However, he only had 6 carries for 20 yards, mainly because the Rams were getting slaughtered and had to abandon the run. None of the Rams receiving options had good games. Chris Givens led the way with two catches for 54 yards and Jared Cook had 5 catches for 44 yards. A week after scoring twice, rookie Tavon Austin was held in check for 6 receptions and 30 yards.
Browns @ Vikings
This game was supposed to be a walkover for the Vikings, as their defense was expected to run roughshod over the Browns third string QB, Brian Hoyer. Their running backs were depleted after the unexpected trade of Trent Richardson as well. So what happened? Hoyer proceeded to throw for three touchdowns, including a last second one to win the game. The NFL is completely unpredictable this year. Three scores went to the new Gronkowski, Jordan Cameron. He finished with 6 catches for 66 yards and three TDs, one of which came from punter Spencer Lanning. Josh Gordon returned from suspension to have an awesome game, as he had 10 catches for 146 yards and a TD. There are rumors that the Browns are looking to trade him, and that would be a dumb move. Although, I’d sure love it if my Niners could somehow pry him away from Cleveland to help their undermanned passing attack. The Cleveland running game was a mess, and I would stay away from everyone until a clear depth chart emerges in the wake of the Richardson trade.
The Vikings again had Adrian Peterson and nothing else. He scored early, but was contained fairly well, as he finished with 88 yards rushing and lost yet another fumble. While he has played well so far this year, he looks like he is becoming a victim of the pathetic play of Christian Ponder. Ponder ran for two scores, but his overall quarterback play was horrendous as usual. The Vikings simply can’t win with him under center and as a result, all of his receiving options are subpar plays at best on a weekly basis. Teams are going to continue to stack the box against Peterson, and I know this sounds blasphemous, but I would also start floating his name out in trade rumors if you own him just to see if someone will offer the world for him.
Chargers @ Titans
The battle of teams who seem to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory saw Jake Locker surprisingly lead a game-winning drive to beat the Chargers. His game-winning pass to Justin Hunter was his only TD pass of the day, but he also ran for 68 yards and a score. Nate Washington had 8 catches for 131 yards and Kendall Wright had 6 catches for 71 yards. Both of them have plenty of talent, but the Tennessee passing game is so inconsistent that it’s hard to love any of the options. Chris Johnson ran hard and racked up 90 yards on 19 carries, but is still looking for his first TD of the year. He is a solid RB2, but he needs to cross the goal line to get back in the upper tier of running backs.
Philip Rivers was very efficient, as he only threw 4 incomplete passes all game. However, he only threw for 184 yards and a score, so his fantasy output was fairly minimal. His TD pass went to Antonio Gates, who led the Chargers with 5 catches for 55 yards and the TD. Danny Woodhead was useful in PPR leagues with 7 catches for 55 yards. Eddie Royal came crashing back down to Earth like I expected and finished with 2 catches for 34 yards. Ryan Mathews didn’t top 60 yards rushing and it looks like he is nothing more than a flex option at this point.
Bucs @ Patriots
This was an ugly game for Tampa Bay. There isn’t much to write about, as Doug Martin had a solid workload again but only had 88 yards rushing. Josh Freeman was horrible yet again and is getting closer and closer to being benched for rookie Mike Glennon. Vincent Jackson left the game with a rib injury and it’s not yet known how severe it is. If it’s bad, the Bucs are in trouble. Mike Williams led the way with 5 catches for 65 yards, but he’s not a very enticing fantasy option with the bad QB play in TB.
Tom Brady wasn’t outstanding, but he didn’t have to be in this game. He threw for 225 yards and two scores, both of which went to Kenbrell Thompkins. Aaron Dobson led the Pats with 7 receptions for 52 yards and Julian Edelman caught 7 passes for 44 yards, which seems to be par for the course for him. He will catch a ton of passes but will get no yardage. The Patriots running game is mystifying, as Stevan Ridley was nonexistent for the third week in a row. He only had 11 carries for 35 yards. What’s most concerning is that LeGarrette Blount had more touches than him. Ridley is obviously the most talented back, so I think he will eventually get most of the work. I’m sure his owners are tired of these performances, so he is my ultimate buy low candidate. You can probably get him for a pittance right now.
Lions @ Redskins
The Lions won for the first time in franchise history in Washington DC. This game left even more questions for the Redskins, as they are now winless and RG3 continues to look bad. He didn’t throw for a TD pass, even though he completed 32 passes for 326 yards. I would bench him for now because he’s been awful aside from garbage time, and you don’t want to be relying on garbage time for your starting QB each week. Alfred Morris again had a limited workload because the Redskins were behind, but he did manage 73 yards and a score, so he had a solid day. Continue to start him as a low-end RB1. Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss led the way for Washington with over 70 yards receiving each. Only Garcon is worth a weekly start. The Washington fan base is getting fairly restless and I’ve even seen murmurs of people wanting RG3 benched. The problem with benching him is that he won’t get the valuable reps he needs to work off the rust from his ACL surgery. Tough times are ahead for the Redskins until RG3 is back to form.
The Lions rested Reggie Bush, which was probably a smart decision. Joique Bell started in his place and had 132 yards from scrimmage. Bell finished with 63 yards rushing and a TD and also 4 receptions for 69 yards. Calvin Johnson had his usual monster game with 7 catches for 115 yards and a TD. Even Nate Burleson picked on the Redskins secondary as he came out of nowhere to post 6 catches for 116 yards. Joseph Fauria caught the other TD from Matthew Stafford, but he isn’t a reliable fantasy option just yet. Stafford threw for 385 yards and 2 TDs, so he was a top option this week and should have been started if you own him.
Giants @ Panthers
Wow, I don’t even know what to say about this game aside from the fact that the Giants look like one of the worst teams in the NFL. They literally did nothing right on either side of the ball and it’s one of the most embarrassing performances I’ve seen in a long time. Eli Manning played terrible again, throwing an interception and passing for only 119 yards against a Panthers secondary that had seemingly lost every starter to injury. This caused Hakeem Nicks to be completely shut out, and Victor Cruz only had 3 catches for 25 yards. Brandon Myers and Rueben Randle were the leading receivers, and it’s appalling that the game was mostly garbage time and the Giants STILL couldn’t move the ball. David Wilson had another forgettable game and is quickly becoming another New York media hype machine bust, as he had 11 carries for 39 yards. There’s nothing else to say about the Giants other than there’s no possible way it can get any worse…right?
The Panthers completely steamrolled the Giants in every area. Their defense sacked Eli 7 times and their offense moved the ball at will. Cam Newton finally had one of his typical games, finishing with 3 passing TDs and a rushing TD. DeAngelo Williams turned back the clock and ran for 120 yards, and Mike Tolbert was being a goal line vulture again and scoring on a short run. Surprisingly, Steve Smith had a quiet game with 3 catches for 40 yards. Leading the way for Carolina was the almighty Ted Ginn Jr. with 3 catches for 71 yards and a score. The odds of that happening again are slim to none. Brandon LaFell also had two TDs after being an afterthought through the first two weeks. The Panthers desperately needed this win, and they finally played up to their potential.
Texans @ Ravens
If you only looked at the box score, you would think the Ravens offense was firing on all cylinders. However, that wasn’t the case. The Ravens were without Ray Rice and their offense had problems moving the ball. Joe Flacco threw for only 171 yards and no TDs. Bernard Pierce started in place of Rice and aside from his TD run, he wasn’t very effective. Torrey Smith led the way for the Ravens with 5 catches for 92 yards. Dallas Clark was the second leading receiver, and that shows you exactly how poor the Ravens passing attack was in this game because Clark is barely an NFL caliber player anymore. The Ravens scored a defensive TD and a special teams TD, so that turned the game into a blowout.
The Houston offense was surprisingly ineffective. Matt Schaub threw a pick six and no TDs. The only source of offense for Houston was kicker Randy Bullock. Arian Foster was held in check for 54 yards, but only had 12 carries because the Texans were playing from behind. Backup Ben Tate was even worse, as he had 36 yards on 9 carries. Andre Johnson left the game with a shin injury, and it looks like his injury woes are continuing. DeAndre Hopkins picked up the slack with 6 catches for 60 yards. Every other Houston receiving option had a sub-par game. The Texans play Seattle next week in Houston, so don’t expect many points to be scored against the stout Seattle defense. I would bench all Texans players next week.
The Monday Night Football game pits the Raiders against the Broncos. While the Raiders have been a little better than expected, I don’t think this will be a close game, as Denver is just too good. Peyton Manning should have his usual outstanding game, and I would start all four top receiving options for Denver (Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Eric Decker) with confidence. I don’t expect another multi-touchdown game from Knowshon Moreno, so don’t get your hopes up too much. For the Raiders, the only fantasy relevant players are Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden. Run DMC may not get as much action tonight if the Raiders go down big early. If they do, Pryor may rack up a lot of garbage time yards to pad his stats. One thing to keep an eye on is how Peyton fares without Pro Bowl LT Ryan Clady, who was lost for the season last week.