Sometimes a low-scoring, tightly-contested affair is good defense. Sometimes it is bad offense. The matchup between Kansas City and Chicago offered a large portion of both on Sunday. Aside from a hail mary pass at the close of the first half, both teams managed only a field goal. Like we have seen with the Manning-less Colts, some quarterbacks make a tremendous impact on their teams. Jay Cutler would have torn this Chiefs defense up. His replacement, Caleb Hanie, connected on just half of his passes for 133 yards. He also threw three interceptions. The Bears were the top contender to knock off the Packers with Cutler. Without him, they can’t win a playoff game. The question thus becomes: is anyone, besides Manning, more valuable to his team than Jay Cutler?
For the Chiefs, it was business as usual. Tyler Palko was terrible: other then said hail mary, his stat line reads just 120 yards, with no score. The running back situation remained muddled and the problem was compounded this week by the quality defense. Without the freak catch by Dexter McCluster and another long run, the three backs averaged 2 ypc. McCluster does show much more life than the other two and might be worth a play in some free fantasy football games with a better matchup.
Then there are low-scoring matchups that are just two great defenses going head-to-head. The contest between Houston and Alanta was just that. The Texans won the game with defense. Matt Ryan connected with receivers on less than half of his passes and he was picked off twice. Ryan did connect with Roddy White for a touchdown but, other than that, a good portion of his passes were outlets to Tony Gonzalez as the receiving corps struggled to get open for the Falcons.
Michael Turner was completely decimated by that Houston defense, gaining just 44 yards on the day. This illustrates a critical point for those who play weekly fantasy football. Michael Turner is the most matchup dependent running back in the league. He often puts up crushing numbers against weaker defenses. Dominating, soul-destroying numbers that keep him in the top ten in fantasy points. But against a good defense, he folds like a house of cards, requiring goal line vultures to save his fantasy week.
On offense, the Texans did just enough. Arian Foster and Ben Tate ran for close to 4 ypc, a far cry from their usual output but the combined 152 against the Falcons is impressive. Foster chipped in another 41 on receptions. I’ve said before but this can’t be stressed enough. Arian Foster is poised to dominate the free fantasy football playoffs. With matchups against Carolina and Indy, there will be more than enough for Ben Tate to grab a chunk as well.
Rookie quarterback TJ Yates continues to impress as well. Of course, I’m not about to start him in a salary cap fantasy football league. But he makes solid, accurate throws. I would not downgrade any of the Texans receivers on his account. Andre Johnson put up 97 yards on the day and it was his drops on well-placed throws from Yates that kept him under 130. He and the Houston ball-carriers are ready to be deployed.
If you’ve been paying attention, that’s three defenses to avoid playing your guys against in free fantasy football. Here’s one more. The 4-8 Dolphins are currently one of the ten best teams in the league. Their defense held the hard-running Raiders to 44 yards on the ground. Michael Bush, like Turner, can dominate a good matchup. He was 10 for 18 today. Carson Palmer struggled to find receivers as well, though he did throw two scores.
On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins used Reggie Bush to exploit the Raiders weakness to outside run. The speedy back carried the ball 22 yards for 100 yards and a touchdown. Though Bush has been running well, these numbers have to be seen as a consequence of the matchup and not taken as an indicator of future success.
When Aaron Rodgers inherited the starting role a few years back, I pegged him as a fantasy steal, taking him in the eleventh round in every league I was in. At that point, the situation surrounding the Packers quarterback was so good that an average qb would have put up great fantasy numbers. Two years later, every other element of the Packers has deteriorated. And because of the play of Aaron Rodgers, they are undefeated. GreenBat has no running game. None. In a 38-point showing, Ryan Grant led the team with 29 yards. The receiving corps is slow to get open and prone to drops. Their defense is subpar at best. The secondary has holes that are mind-bogglingly easy to exploit. The front seven just gave up 7 ypc to Brandon Jacobs. The pass-blocking is admittedly great. But Rodgers does not have the supporting cast that the team’s record would imply.
So when picking your line up for weekly fantasy football, remember two things: Aaron Rodgers will throw for 300+ yards, and the quarterback facing the Packers will throw for 300+. This Sunday, Rodgers threw for 369 and 4 touchdowns. His counterpart, Eli Manning, threw for 347 with 3 scores. The usual cast of receivers had big days, with Victor Cruz and Greg Jennings leading the way. Each had 7 receptions for 119 and 94 yards respectively.
The hijinx at the end of regulation misses the main problem for the Cowboys. Tony Romo threw for 300 yards, didn’t turn the ball over once and the team only putup 13 points. Dez Bryant had a great game, scoring and catching 88 yards worth of passes despite being shadowed for most of the second half by the best corner in the game, Patrick Peterson. Laurent Robinson added 72: he is certainly a worthy starter in salary cap fantasy football until the return of Miles Austin.
The problem for Dallas was on the ground where DeMarco Murray ran the ball 12 times for 38 yards. He might be running out of steam.
Matt Stafford threw for 408 yards against New Orleans. What’s more, about 120-150 passing yards were called back because of penalties. That’s an astounding performance considering Kevin Smith was injured early and Maurice Morris was unable to do anything on the ground. Nate Burleson ended up with 193, but if he could control his arms and stop drawing penalties, it could have been 150. Calvin Johnson had 69 and Titus Young 60.
With Detroit’s big man on the dline on the sideline, the Saints were still unable to run the ball, relying on Drew Brees and the Detroit penalties to put the game away early.
AJ Green is a force of nature. Against Pittsburgh, he put up another 87 yards and a touchdown on a day when no other Bengal could do anything. Because of his situation, he isn’t a top 5 option in salary cap fantasy football just yet, but he may already be a top-5 receiver in actual football.
Here’s another defense, the Steelers held the Bengals to seven points even though their offense repeatedly went three and out.
Chris Johnson exploded again for 153 yards and two touchdowns. So I ask: why did it take Munchak 11 weeks to realize what I was saying back in week 5. CJ2K needs space to run. He isn’t a power back and you can’t make him one, no matter how great you’re power running scheme is.
Second straight good game for qb turned receiver Brad Smith, who caught 7 for 72 yards for the Buffalo Bills.
Not a ton of yards for Cam Newton in this battle of atrocious defenses. The four combined touchdowns probably made up for it to anyone who played him in weekly fantasy football.
At this point, it’s tough to see why Deangelo Williams is getting as many carries as he is. 11 for 29 against Tampa? You can drop him.
Don’t let this atrocious, two-turnover performance by Rex Grossman fool you. He will produce in the fantasy playoffs.
The turnovers made this matchup look like more of a blowout than it was. Don’t expect three touchdowns from Shonn Greene again.
The tremor felt on the east coast at 4PM on Sunday was millions simultaneously rushing to the computer to pick up anyone who was facing the Patriots next week. 353 by Dan Orlovsky? This defense is bad.
Rob Gronkowski is a pretty good tight end and all, (2 more TDs this week) but people need to stop just saying his name with no context. That said, he should be the second tight end off the board in free fantasy football drafts next year.(After Jimmy Graham)
More defense from Baltimore, the top defenses all brought it on Sunday.
On the other side of the coin, the Raven offense looked awful against Cleveland.
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