And this week, the award goes to Best Supporting Fantasy Players, the wide receivers. Big days for some struggling and emerging receivers were exactly what the doctor ordered. Meanwhile, one game was ugly and other teams' hopes were falling faster than Kanye West's approval rating.
Still, with few significant injuries or breakouts, this isn't the week to use your waiver wire priority. Without further ado, let's get looking some of the games from last week and examine things closer.
Cleveland 6, Buffalo 3
- Things are really, really bad for both of these teams. Where do you start? Well, it's never a good day when your team has nearly as many penalties as your quarterback has completions. Buffalo committed 13 penalties for a loss of 75 yards, a number of them in crucial situations.
- Next, I would be remiss if I didn't mention how gruesome both quarterbacks were in this game. Derrick Anderson didn't help his own cause by going 2-for-17 with 23 yards (including a zero passer rating in the second half). It was the lowest completion percentage by a quarterback in a win since the merger, according to ESPN's stats dept. Meanwhile, Robert Royal has quickly adopted Braylon's title of King Dropsies. I've seen this guy have balls thrown right at his kisser a few times that hit the ground this year.
- On the other hand, Trent Edwards has become a little too much the polar opposite of J.P. Losman. As conservative (not in a good way) as he was, his mechanics were worse. The blame is shared, though; part of it is on Edwards, the other on a drastically inexperienced offensive line, which blocked OK, but was responsible for a majority of the penalties. Again, inexperience.
- As pitiful as Cleveland's offense was, give some credit to the Bills defense. They've actually managed to defend against the pass pretty well all year, and if S Donte Whitner can stay healthy it gives them another player who can stuff the run. We'll see if they can stifle rookie Mark Sanchez this week, but I want to see what they do cohesively when healthy before I say anything more.
Pittsburgh 28, Detroit 20
- Put it this way: Detroit is lucky that the Redskins were so predictable and ripe for the taking or their streak of mediocrity would likely still be in tact. Football starts with the offensive and defensive line, and you can make a case for the Lions having the worst unit for each in the league. The sun is setting on Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola on the offensive side of the ball, and the jury is still out on last year's first round pick Gosder Cherilus.
- In much deeper leagues, Mike Wallace is proving to be valuable as the No. 3 receiver in Pittsburgh, clearly overtaking Limas Sweed at this point. Wallace isn't a top option in the passing game, but the Steelers inability to consistently run the ball and bring the same level of defensive performance they have in recent memory to the table. Until they do, Ben Roethlisberger will continue to rack up numbers through the air, and Wallace will get four or five targets a game.
- Speaking of Wallace, I think I'd want to own him over either Dennis Northcutt or Bryant Johnson. Ignore the fact that they had 105 yards and a score between the two of them. The reality is when Calvin Johnson is healthy he's going to see nearly half of Matthew Stafford or Daunte Culpepper's targets, and as Brandon Pettigrew (six targets this week) becomes more integrated into the offense he and Kevin Smith will become the secondary options in the offense. If you're relying on these guys, something probably went wrong in your draft and you might want a better lifeboat.
- The focus this year for defenses has been to shut down Santonio Holmes, and while I admit I wasn't high on Hines Ward prior to the season, I'm not taking anything away from his very productive start. Ward continued his ways by pulling in all seven of his targets for catches against the lowly Lions, good for 85 yards and a score. I'm willing to admit he finishes the year worth justifying anyone who picked him as a No. 2 receiver.
Dallas 26, Kansas City 20
- The second time was a charm for the Cowboys and Miles Austin's record-setting day on the final play in OT. Last week against Denver, Tony Romo looked for Austin, and a pass that veered wide of him and fell into the hands of Champ Bailey gave way to the Broncos' victory. This week,
- The Chiefs were red hot when they picked CB Brandon Flowers, now in his second year, but teams are giving the green light to throw at corners on the Chiefs not named Brandon. CBs Donald Washington and Maurice Leggett were constantly targeted by Romo, and if Austin hadn't dropped an early pass in the end zone it would have been another one they got burned on. If you own a receiver who's a very good No. 2 or No. 3 on their respective team facing the Chiefs, it might be a favorable matchup. Leggett has been a liability all season in covrage.
- If I were Todd Haley, I'd trust more play-action passes to Mike Vrabel than I would goal line carries for Larry Johnson. He's probably droppable in 10-team leagues, and he's making his way there in deeper leagues. His blocking is as suspect at times as his effort and grit. It was blatantly obvious that he wasn't getting low and gutting out yardage in key situations. Only Jamaal Charles and his fumbling issues are keeping Johnson on the field right now.
- Fans of both teams have to be asking one another a question: What's more troubling, being a fan of a team (Chiefs) with a talent deficiency, or being a fan of team (Cowboys) with execution deficiencies? The Chiefs can't block and are lacking the talent on the defensive side of the ball, but talent is far less of an issue for Dallas. They shot themselves in the foot repeatedly against the Chiefs early and failed to impress. Great teams are going to beat the Cowboys right now unless they get it together over the bye week, period.
Minnesota 38, St. Louis 10
- As rooted in mediocrity as this the Rams pass defense is, there are bright spots in the front seven; namely James Laurinaitis. He's been the most impressive player on the unit so far, and added seven tackles and an interception to his rookie resume last week. Right now he's IDP material, but in a year or two maybe we're talking about him as the leader of a fantasy defense that's respectable. And make no mistake, he is a leader.
- Percy Harvin continues to impress every viewing. Some weeks he gets his receptions on slants in the middle of the field, and then this week he does his work deep and near the sidelines. He rolled and dropped only one of his targets, but if he'd pulled it in he would have gone over the 100-yard mark. After being receiver-deficient for several years, this is an adequate unit. Harvin still probably isn't starting material, but I wouldn't bet against him being a weekly No. 3 WR at least by the end of the season.
- Be careful before you go plugging in Marc Bulger as your bye-week savior, even against the Jaguars this week. His perfect 7-for-7 drive that resulted in a the Rams' only touchdown came at the end of the game when things were all but decided, and the offense continues to shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers. Aside from using Donnie Avery as a bye-week replacement, only Steven Jackson is of fantasy worth.
New England 17, Denver 20
- Can the panic over Tom Brady finally cease? The Broncos hadn't allowed a passing touchdown through the air through their first four games, and Brady glides in two. He's now getting two juicy matchups, first against the Titans this week, then in Tampa next week before the Patriots bye week. You'll be glad if you have him for the stretch run, it's just as good: Week 14 at Carolina, Week 15 at Buffalo, and Week 16 hosting Jacksonville. I'm still of the belief that the preseason top five at the position are all right around there when all is said and done.
- Everyone knows that Randy Moss is the best receiver (in fantasy, too, no worries) for the Patriots, but I've been preaching Wes Welker as the MVP of the bunch all year, and this game was proof. Welker had 15 pass targets and 8 receptions for 86 yards. That was nearly half of Brady's targets and completions.
- There was plenty to take away from the Broncos' passing game here. First, Brandon Marshall collectively shut the mouths of his doubters. I was preaching all preseason not to let this guy slip past the fourth round in 10-team leagues, and now all the other owners who adhered to that are reaping the benefits. Even as good as he was this game marked the return of Eddie Royal, who actually had more targets and receptions than Marshall. Important to note that Royal said this week his need to learn multiple positions in the offense is part of what slowed down his production, which Kyle Orton has said would come all along. Treat Marshall as a top-notch No. 2 right now, and Royal as a low-No. 3 WR, both with the potential to slightly improve.
- We've now seen enough to establish that the Denver defense isn't perhaps matchup-proof, but at least a legitimate starting option in all leagues. Aside from their corners playing good man coverage, the pass rush has been the big reason for their turnaround this year. Elvis Dumervil has done a tremendous job in moving from defensive end to a solely-pass rushing linebacker. IDP players would be wise to play him again this week; I'm predicting two more sacks to add to his total of eight already
Jacksonville 0, Seattle 41
- No blame should be placed on owners that started David Garrard or the owners who touted him as a great option this week. If this isn't an indication of how important Mike-Sims Walker is this offense I'm not sure what is. He stretches defenses and helps move the offense, which probably emitted a putrid smell all across the city of Jacksonville. Going just 2 of 13 on third down conversions tells a lot of the story. With the Skywalker back this week, expect things to return to normal; he's still a high-end No. 3 WR, and Garrard is still a good No. 2 QB.
- No one is pretending that they thought Nate Burleson was going to come out of the gates like a Triple Crown winner, but if you're just buying on him it's probably too late now. Targets are emphasized as important relative to fantasy value for good reason, and Burleson is proof: Burleson is tied for second among all WRs, only behind Andre Johnson. He's right in that same range of receivers as Sims-Walker with potential to finish in the top 20 at the position as well.
- If only Matt Hasselbeck could consistently stay healthy this season. He's got all the weapons in place to be a No. 1 quarterback for the rest of the season, and the schedule is as favorable as anyone else for the rest of the year. If you can find someone willing to sell on him for anything less, he's the one of the best to target at the position right now. This week's poll should tell you where I think he fits in.
Miami 31, N.Y. Jets 27
- Dan, is that you? Chad Henne put on one of the best performances by a Miami quarterback in recent or not-so recent history. His deep ball was accurate, and he threw some absolute ropes that put the Dolphins in scoring position multiple times. It bodes well for his wide receivers that they'll see, if anything, an increase in value. He's still not a solid No. 2 QB even this year, but it's something for Dolphins fans to get excited about. Despite looking good, though, I'm still not buying some sort of miraculous turn-around for the whole offense. Be more disappointed with the Jets defense than impressed with Miami's offense.
- What does it say about the Cleveland Browns when Braylon Edwards does what he did Monday night in his first game with the Jets? Credit what could be called a similar playbook, but you have to tip your hat; rarely do receivers make an impact so fast after arriving on a new team, and I'll be the first to admit I didn't see production coming so soon. Edwards nearly had a second touchdown to go with his first, along with five catches for 64 yards. I preached patience with Edwards as a No. 2 WR before his pitiful Week 4 performance, but he could return to that standing now.
- The Wildcat packages were still what cleared the way for Henne to succeed this week. Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown were finishing runs with purpose, and the Jets (and a rusty-looking Calvin Pace) were taking poor angles to tackles. What can you take away from this? Ronnie Brown continues to look like a No. 1 back when he's healthy, and in a year of less than stellar No. 2 RBs, you could do worse than Ricky Williams. Also, don't panic over the Jets D. They're still going to be a solid No. 1 option for owners, especially in the next two weeks. A struggling Buffalo and absolutely awful Oakland will be the remedy.
Thanks to ESPN Stats, Move The Sticks and Ten Yard Torrents for all assistance needed.