What an exciting week 4 it was.
Of the 15 games played yesterday, 9 of them were decided by 7 points or less. The Lions move to 4-0 for the first time since 1980. The Texans, Titans, Redskins, and Niners are all a surprising 3-1. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles find themselves two games back of the Skins and Giants after they fell to 1-3.
In the offseason it seemed like the Eagles had more money and roster spots than the NFL allows after they managed to re-sign Michael Vick to a giant contract, sign the prized defensive free agent on the open market in Nnamdi Asomugha, and from a fantasy standpoint they had a stud running back and two stud wide receivers. What they didn't manage to do was acquire any players that could stop the run.
The Eagles are allowing 139.5 rushing yards per game, 30th in the NFL, with 7 rushes allowed going for greater than 20 yards.
What it all comes down to is that the Eagles are still a fantasy owners dream whether its on offense or defense. Their 101 points scored is 4th in the NFC, and their 101 points allowed is tied for the fourth worst in the NFC. The Eagles have to travel to 3-1 Buffalo and 3-1 Washington before their bye week. Don't be surprised if they are 1-5.
The other thing I love about getting through week 4 is for a non-math-major like myself, I can just times a players numbers by four to see what they are on pace for. It's almost an entirely useless exercise but it can be fun and give perspective on how good or bad a player has been through 4 weeks.
Leading rusher Darren McFadden is on pace for 1,872 rushing yards. If you're looking for potential new players to reach the 1,000 yard plateau: Ryan Mathews is on pace for 1,152 yards. Beanie Wells missed a game but still has 321 yards rushing and 5 TD on the season.
Dan Marino's passing yardage record of 5,084 yards is in serious jeopardy this year. Tom Brady is on pace for 6,212 yards. Drew Brees is on pace for 5,640. Cam Newton is on pace for 5,544. Aaron Rodgers is on pace for 5,300. Phillip Rivers is on pace for 5,144. Tony Romo is on pace for 5,092 yards, and he even missed a little bit of time.
That's six players that could threaten Marino's 27-year-old record, and its not even including the quarterbacks who are close to being on pace to pass it. Put an asterisk next to any passing records though, because the league is clearly a million times different now than it was then.
On to the games...
Tony Romo Throws 5 TD Passes in Lions Comeback Win
The Lions have issued a press release:
"We were not even aware that Tony Romo was a part of our team. As we sat there down 27-3 in the third quarter after Romo threw a TD pass to Jason Witten it seemed even more apparent that Romo was still a Dallas Cowboy. Then for whatever reason, he started throwing TD passes for us. The first one to Bobby Carpenter seemed like it could have been an accident, but then when he hit Chris Houston right after that for a 56-yard score it became apparent what side he was playing for. We thanked him for his help but said we'd just turn the rest of this comeback over to Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, but Romo still threw us another pass in order to help us complete our comeback. We'd like to thank Romo, the Cowboys disappearing defense in the fourth quarter, and the entire Dallas organization in helping us get to 4-0. We hope to see them in the playoffs."
I watched this whole game because I have not hidden my love for the Lions since the beginning and I admit it was a very frustrating first half. Stafford wasn't throwing good passes, and credit also goes to the Cowboys defensive line for constantly being in his face and forcing him out of the pocket. In the end this wasn't possible without Tony Romo. Romo looked unstoppable in the first half and was tearing apart the Lions defense with ease.
The thing I noticed about Calvin Johnson, the most unstoppable player in the NFL, is that he gets his job done because there's really nothing anybody can do about it. Some wide receivers are successful because of scheme. Some are successful because of who they have at quarterback. Stafford basically knows that with Calvin he just has to put the ball in his general area and Calvin will catch it. It didn't matter if Calvin was surrounded by 3 defenders like he was on his first TD catch. It didn't matter if the cornerback was 100% sure that the ball was coming to Calvin like what happened on his second TD catch. You put Johnson on any team, and I don't care if its the Seattle Seahawks or Minnesota Vikings, and he will produce. You rarely see the confidence from QB to WR that Stafford has with Johnson.
This game was also just another reminder that the league is getting closer and closer to eliminating the running back position. Neither Felix Jones or Jahvid Best played a significant part.
Laurent Robinson had a surprising 7 catches for 116 yards and looked good doing it. It seems unlikely that a player like Robinson just because a number one wide receiver overnight or that he'll get a lot of work once Miles Austin returns, but he's an interesting player to watch in case of injury.
Dez Bryant burned fantasy owners that didn't wake up early and start him after he was declared good to go for the game and caught 2 TDs.
Bears Did Not Get Official NFL Memo on Not Running the Ball, Beat Panthers Anyway
It seemed against like the Panthers did everything right on offense to win, and then lost anyway. A year after finishing 1-15, the Panthers are 1-3 but they've lost by an average of less than a touchdown in each of those losses and against "decent" to "very good" competition no less.
You heard me right earlier when I said that Cam Newton is on pace to eclipse 5,000 yards in his rookie season after he passed for 374 more on the Bears. In addition to that, Steve Smith (along with Wes Welker) is now on pace to become the first player to receive over 2,000 yards in a season with 8 catches for 181 yards. He's now on a pace of 2,120 yards over a 16-game season.
Newton does a nice job of also spreading the ball around to his other wide receivers and his tight ends and a touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey was called back on a Shockey penalty that probably wasn't necessary. Still, all of these yards have amounted to 5 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He has also run for 4 touchdowns, making him a viable QB1 if he keeps it up. I see no reason why Ron Rivera would stop using him in this fashion.
DeAngelo Williams rushed for 82 yards, which is 21 more yards than he had in the first three games combined. The bad news is that Newton rushed for 2 TDs while Williams and Jonathan Stewart were left with none. In the battle of the "3 Little Piggies" in Carolina, Cam Newton is frickin' Goldie Locks and taking all the pourage, the nice bed, everything!
For the Bears it seemed like this day would setup nicely for Jay Cutler, and instead he threw the ball 17 times for 102 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT. However, Matt Forte rushed 25 times for 205 yards and a score. Forte came into the game with 119 yards rushing through 3 games.
I spot-started Johnny Knox, and while he led the Bears in receving, its worth noting that I ignored my own advice about staying away from Bears wide receivers and I paid for it.
Buffalo Moves to 4-0! Wait... nope... nope, they blew it.
Up 17-3 at half on the road in Cincinnati and then 20-13 late in the fourth quarter, it seemed like the Bills would actually do the unthinkable and stay undefeated and atop the AFC East.
Instead in typical Bills fashion they blew a lead to the Bengals and in moving back to 3-1, it seems like this is the perfect time where analysts will be able to breathe easy and call their 3-0 start a fluke. They might very well be right and we will find out how good Buffalo is or isn't over the next 5 games: Philadelphia, @NYG, Bye, Was, NYJ, @Dal.
The unstoppable Ryan Fitzpatrick train was metaphorically jumped on by Denzel Washington and stopped. He threw for 199 yards and 0 TD, though he didn't throw an INT either.
Fred Jackson rushed for just 66 yards, but a touchdown kept his fantasy value in good standing.
Rookie Andy Dalton has the Bengals at a surprising 2-2, but they will regret not beating the Broncos and Niners when they had the chance. He's been very mediocre statistically, but he did throw for 298 yards yesterday. Which, is a big deal anymore?
Cedric Benson rushed for 104 yards and a TD before facing his three games suspension which we should hear about this week. AJ Green had 4 catches for 118 yards. He has 19 catches for 312 yards and 2 TDs, which puts him on a pace of greater than 1,200 yards. Green was one of the most highly-touted wide receiver prospects in awhile and he's proving to be no disappointment.
The Bengals still face a very soft schedule all year long and they face the Colts next week.
Missing Titans Running Back Chris Johnson Found Alive and Well, Living in Cleveland
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, missing for nearly a month, was found alive yesterday in Cleveland, Ohio. Authorities had suspected that the former NFL Offensive Player of the Year was dead and had called off search parties from looking for the player.
"We definitely suspected that Johnson was gone and probably not coming back," said Tennessee police chief Don Masterson.
"The city was operating under the belief that Johnson was deceased because we hadn't heard from him in such a long period of time. We are happy to find that he's still amongst the living. Unless it turns out that he actually did die and is now a zombie, which is of a much bigger concern. We are still looking into this possibility."
Johnson ran for 101 yards in the Titans 31-13 victory over the Browns on Sunday, though he was held scoreless. At least it was 3 more yards than he had in his previous 3 games combined.
Zombie Matt Hasselbeck also continues his rise from the grave and he passed for 220 yards and 3 TDs. Hasselbeck is one of the most talked about QBs in fantasy trades this season as owners look to cash in on his return from the netherworlds.
Jared Cook had 93 yards and a TD, 80 of those yards coming on one pass.
Peyton Hillis returned for the Browns but he might as well have not been there; he ran for 46 yards and no scores. Colt McCoy had to throw the ball 61 times and he actually connected on 40 of those passes for 350 yards. He's being lost in the shuffle this season, but even McCoy is on pace to throw for almost 4,000 yards, which is apparently "ho hum" now.
Arian Foster Owners Can Come Out of That Coma Now. Make Room for Andre Johnson Owners.
For those of you that drafted Arian Foster in the top 3 and then overdosed on pills after he was held out for 2 and a half games because of a hamstring injury, you can return from your slumber.
Foster started and ran for 155 yards and a TD in a 17-10 win over the Steelers. The basic idea to me is that the Texans offensive scheme is much-like what Gary Kubiak was running in Denver when they had a turnstile of Pro Bowl running backs who benefitted from gaping holes and racked up 100s of yards. Whoever is starting for Houston is a player you want.
The bad news for the Texans is that they traded one hamstring for another when All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson went down in the 2nd quarter without being hit and looking in serious pain. It looks like a hamstring strain could keep him out a few weeks.
Owen Daniels had 69 yards and a wide open 1-yard touchdown catch. He seems to have bounced back and should be considered a top 10 tight end.
Meanwhile the Steelers really had no fantasy days of note. Rashard Mendenhall barely saved himself with a touchdown after rushing for 25 yards on 9 carries. Mike Wallace had 4 catches for 77 yards, his first game of the season under 100 yards. Ben Roethlisberger continues his NFL bipolar disorder and is looking as bad as he did in 2008 and 2006. He has 3 TDs and 5 INTs on the year.
Not Even Watching the Saints Can Make Saints-Jaguars Game Interesting
How quickly can I gloss over this matchup that nobody cares about?
Drew Brees threw for 350 yards but only 1 TD after the Saints struggled to put the ball in the end zone in the 2nd half. Jimmy Graham has gotten a little better each week, culminating in 10 catches for 132 yard yesterday. Fans that were expecting a breakout season from Graham are so far correct and he's already surpassed his season totals from 2010. He's got 24 catches for 367 yards this year.
Marques Colston returned quickly from his collarbone injury and caught 1 pass for 8 yards. Darren Sproles rushed for 75 yards and he now has 358 total yards from scrimmage on the season and 358 total yards on punt and kick returns. He was not considered nearly as good of a prospect as Reggie Bush, but he's clearly way more talented in almost every respect.
Meanwhile, rookie Blaine Gabbert was a terrible 16 of 42 against New Orleans. Some of his passes were way off target. Some of his passes were dropped. No matter the case, the Jags offense looks terrible and has scored 39 points through 4 games.
Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 84 yards and Mike Thomas had 5 catches for 73 yards, so they have some talent, they just don't have an NFL-ready QB.
The Jags are now 1-3 (remember they beat the Titans?!?!?!) and will definitely compete with Indianapolis for worst in the AFC South. Let's not pretend they aren't in the Suck for Luck sweepstakes.
Kansas City Wins, but Really They Lose
So in the first real matchup of the season of teams that look like real contenders for "Worst in the NFL," the Chiefs beat the Vikings 22-17. This wasn't a fun game to watch and there are really no winners when the Vikings play the Chiefs this season. It's boring, they're both terrible, neither team has a good offense.
It seemed like Kansas City was far and away the worst team in the NFL, but never underestimate home-field advantage or Donovan McNabb.
More proof that nobody plays pass defense anymore: McNabb threw for 202 yards, Matt Cassel for 260 yards.
Adrian Peterson didn't go off like I expected him to and he had 80 yards rushing, The Vikings had 30 rushes and 30 passes but an even split on offense didn't help them to victory.
Meanwhile, nobody on Kansas City running the ball looks like a super good play at the moment. Even if the Vikings do have a good run defense, the carries will split between Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster. While McCluster is explosive, he's not the all-around talent that Jamaal Charles was.
Dwayne Bowe continues to prove himself as a #1 WR: 5 catches for 107 yards.
The Vikings, Dolphins, Colts, and Rams remain as the winless NFL teams.
Eagles Beat Niners to Move to 3-1 as Niners Falls to 1-3. (Headline As I Swear It Should Be True, Though it Isn't)
I've already spoken about the Eagles ridiculous early season struggles, so I'll just stick to the numbers:
Michael Vick threw for a career high 416 yards and ran for 75 more. He's on pace for over 4,000 yards passing and 912 yards rushing. LeSean McCoy ran for 18 yards on 9 carries. The Niners are the only team in the NFL to have not allowed a rushing TD yet this season.
DeSean Jackson had 6 catches for 171 yards but was held out of the end zone.
The Niners are +8 on turnovers this season, first in the NFL. Alex Smith threw for 291 yards and 2 scores. There's still no "#1 WR" in San Francisco, but a few good options to share it around with. Vernon Davis and Josh Morgan caught TD passes. There were some concerns about Frank Gores health, but he had 127 yards rushing and a TD.
San Francisco is 3-1, which nearly guarantees them an NFC West title this year. The rest of the division is a combined 2-10. With ball control, a running game, and a defense, the Niners are this years version of the Kansas City Chiefs of 2010.
The Tim Hightower Experiment in Washington Probably Ends, Why Did It Begin?
After fantasy owners put the sleeper tag on Hightower in drafts this year, it appears that its 3-and-out for the former Arizona Cardinal. He ran for 24 yards on 8 carries yesterday, bringing his season average to 3.5 yards per carry. Mike Shanahan favorite Ryan Torain came in and put up 135 yards on 19 carries to seemingly take the job, with Roy Helu probably continuing to get carries as the backup.
Meanwhile the Rams had bad games all around in the 27-10 loss. Sam Bradford completed less than half of his 43 passes for 164 yards, and while QB's around the league are tossing for record numbers, the breakout candidate has only surpassed 200 yards once.
Steven Jackson had all 17 of the Rams carries but for only 45 yards. He did catch a touchdown pass. Danario Alexander had 3 catches for 46 yards.
Cardinals Blow Fourth Quarter Lead to Giants Because... Cardinals
Arizona led 27-17 with less than 5 minutes remaining in the game and had held Eli Manning out of the end zone. Within a minute of gametime Manning threw TDs to Jake Ballard and Hakeem Nicks and the Giants end up winning 31-27.
Nicks finished with 10 catches for 162 yards as he continues to solidify himself as a top 5 wide receiver. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs continue to share carries and they each ran for a TD.
For the Cardinals, Kevin Kolb had 0 touchdowns and 1 interception. The fact that he's on pace for over 4,000 yards is really without meaning anymore. Larry Fitzgerald had 8 catches for 102 yards.
The real fantasy story of the day for Arizona was Beanie Wells. He's one year late on his breakout campaign, but it is indeed a breakout campaign. He had 138 yards and 3 TDs. For the season he has 5 TDs and 321 yards in 3 games. If he stays healthy, he could challenge for some franchise records.
Arizona has only had 13 1,000 yard rushing seasons in their history and the top 4 belong to Ottis Anderson with a high of 1,605 in 1979. It would be surprising if Beanie topped that number, but he could end up with the 2nd most single-season rushing yards in franchise history, which is currently at 1,376 by Anderson.
Tarvaris Jackson Throws for 319 Yards. Did I Mention Every QB Starts with 200 Yards Now?
The Seahawks lost to the Falcons yesterday when Steven Hauschka failed to connect on a 61-yard field goal near the end of regulation. There were a lot of good fantasy performances however, which is the real story.
Jackson had a season high 319 yards and 3 TDs. Sidney Rice had 3 catches for 79 yards and a TD, which I think helps him make a case that he's a legit top tier NFL WR when healthy. Whether he can remain healthy is still up for debate, but clearly the passing offense just works a lot better with him in the game.
Undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin continues to impress with 5 catches for 84 yards. He now has 12 catches for 194 yards after 4 games. Mike Williams caught his first TD of the season, while Zach Miller had his first TD catch before getting hit too hard and seeing it pop out into the hands of the Falcons defense.
Matt Ryan had 291 yards for the Falcons, but again failed to find the end zone as often as you'd like. He hit Tony Gonzalez on a very short TD pass but otherwise was held in check in the red zone. Julio Jones had another big game with 11 catches for 127 yards. He looks every bit as good in the NFL as he did at Alabama.
Michael Turner added 2 TDs of his own.
The Falcons offense does look good and if they do get into rhythm this season, they could be very hard to stop.
Denvers All "Oh No You Didn't!" and the Packers Are All Like "Oh Yes We Did!"
Green Bay has a great offense and Denver has a bad defense and finally that means we get to see a blowout. The Packers put up 49 points on the Broncos with 408 yards and 4 touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers.
Greg Jennings had 7 catches for 103 yards and a score, while Jordy Nelson had 5 for 91 and a score of his own. Both players are on pace for over 1,000 yards this season. Jermichael Finley had just 3 catches for 28 yards, slowing down after last weeks big game.
Ryan Grant was declared inactive for the game (hurt? are you surprised?) which meant it was James Starks time to shine. But Rodgers vultured 2 TDs from the back, proving Aaron Rodgers is even more selfish than Brett Favre.
Kyle Orton threw for 3 TDs of his own, but added 3 INTs. Brandon Lloyd had 8 catches for 136 yards, but Eric Decker added 2 TDs of his own while Lloyd was held scoreless. Both Lloyd and Decker are on pace for over 1,000 yards, but Decker has 4 TDs while Lloyd has none.
Willis McGahee continues to shine in a featured role again; he had 103 yards on 15 carries.
New England Defeats Oakland 31-19, No Clever Headline Except: Something Something Jason Campbell 344 Yards
The Patriots continue to put up points while not being able to stop anybody. Campbell had those 344 yards but it only resulted in 1 TD. Denarius Moore seemed on track to be the #1 WR in Oakland but he had just 3 catches for 19 yards, though he had the touchdown.
5 Raiders caught exactly 4 passes, with Darrius Heyward-Bey going for 115 yards. You can't really trust any Oakland WRs on a week-to-week basis. Leading rusher McFadden was held to 75 yards, but he's still an absolute beast. He had over 100 total yards and he had only 14 carries.
Tom Brady only had 226 yards, but 2 TDs without a pick. Both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley had a touchdown and both with a high yard per carry average. Wes Welker continues his run towards 2,000 yards receiving with 9 catches for 158 yards. He's also on pace for 160 catches.
Chargers Might Actually Not Blow It This Year
We know the story every year: San Diego on paper is the best team in the AFC West, and every year they start off looking like amateurs on the field and digging too deep of a hole to recover. Well, even if their path to 3-1 was rocky, they still sit here at 3-1.
Ryan Mathews joins Beanie Wells in the breakout category and now has 542 total yards and 3 TDs through 4 games. Mike Tolbert has 287 total yards and 4 TDs himself, but Mathews has taken over as "the guy" while he's healthy.
Philip Rivers had 307 yards and no interceptions, but with only 1 TD, we're still waiting for that big breakout game during the worst start of his career.
Vincent Jackson added 3 for 108 and a score.
At this point, Mathews, Jackson, Rivers, and a healthy Antonio Gates look like the only every week guys in San Diego. I wouldn't give up on Philip just yet.
On the losing end of the San Diego game yesterday, the Dolphins lost Chad Henne early with a hand injury and Matt Moore had to come in and be every bit as unexciting.
One week after looking like a breakout player, Daniel Thomas was out with injury again.
The only reliable player in Miami is Brandon Marshall, and even he only had 5 catches for 52 yards with Matt Moore in there. It's all bad in Miami right now and they are definitely going to challenge for worst record in the NFL.
The Jets Play Defense, but the Ravens Play "DE-FENSE!"
New York has done an admirable job of building one of the league's top defenses over the past two seasons, and it even showed yesterday as they held Joe Flacco to 10-of-31 passing with 0 TD and 1 INT, and Ray Rice to 66 yards and a TD.
But the star of the game was the Ravens defensive unit that scored 3 touchdowns and 150 net yards in a 34-17 Baltimore win.
I faced the Ravens myself in one league and saw first hand as they put up 32 fantasy points. A truly dominating performance for Baltimore.
As you can imagine, not a single player on the Jets had a good fantasy game.
Ray Rice was the only good individual fantasy player in the game with over 120 total yards and a score.
As always, follow me on twitter @casetines for more of this fun. For the rest of the year I will be watching the NFL at a bar which means I'll be able to watch every game at all times. I just need to watch my consumption.
More Game Notes:
- The bye weeks are officially here. Dallas, Cleveland, St. Louis, Miami, and Washington are out this week. Most of the fantasy studs in that lineup reside in Dallas, so it should be an easy bye week to plan for unless you're loaded with Cowboys. The last person loaded with Cowboys was Jessica Simpson and look how that turned out.
- The Colts play the Bucs tonight. For Indianapolis, it's a chance to get one step closer to Andrew Luck. For Tampa Bay, a chance to get to 3-1 and stay in the hunt for the division title. You may remember that these teams played one of the all-time great Monday Night games in 2003, when the Colts came back down 35-14 with 4 minutes left in regulation to win 38-35 in overtime. You kind of have to wonder if that game killed Tampa Bay's season. They were coming off of a Super Bowl victory and that put them to 2-2 on the year with both losses coming in overtime, and then they tumbled to a 7-9 record.
- In my preview, my sleepers were Denarius Moore, Stevan Ridley, Kyle Orton, Mike Thomas, and Roy Helu. If only I had the foresight with Ryan Torain, my Redskins pick would have been spot-on. I'm actually very satisfied with my other 4 picks.
- I didnt like: Willis McGahee, Colt McCoy, Fred Jackson, Dez Bryant, or Michael Turner. So far this season, finding players that struggle hasn't been my strongsuit. Maybe because defense isn't the strongsuit of anyone in the NFL anywhere anymore.
- I loved: Adrian Peterson, Darren McFadden, Tom Brady, Hakeem Nicks, Cedric Benson. All good games here, and a great game for Nicks.
- I had my worst week so far. I won fine in my non-pay leagues but that's really "bleh" for me at this point. As I said, I faced a team with Baltimores defense in one league and my 25-point lead quickly went bye bye. In my $200 league, I saw Andre Johnson go down early and some less than exciting performances out of my studs.
- I rely heavily on the Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson connection, so you can imagine my frustration when they did nothing in the first half. I was nearly saved in the fourth quarter but it proved not to be enough. This is the danger of going all-in on a single team. I didn't really mean to do it, I just LOVE Stafford and Megatron.
- Calvin is the first player in NFL history with 2 receiving TDs in each of his first four games. Where does he end up? I'm guessing in the 18-20 range. He's just too unstoppable and now he has a quarterback.
- How did you do? Biggest disappointments? Best pickup? Tell me in the comments. Let's chat.