Tag:Browns
Posted on: October 21, 2010 8:35 am
 

Week 7 probabilities

One of the more intriguing matchups this weekend, and possibly the most puzzling prediction of the efficiency model all season, is the Patriots at Chargers. The Patriots come into Week 7 at 4-1, fresh off a dramatic win over the contending Ravens. The Chargers enter the weekend at 2-4, fresh off a loss to the rebuilding Rams. But somehow the model makes the Chargers heavy favorites over the Patriots  at 0.85 to 0.15.

In fact, the Chargers sit atop all other teams in the weekly rankings produced by the game probability model thanks to their passing efficiency on both sides of the ball. Philip Rivers and the rest of the offense are in a class by themselves, averaging 7.9 net yards per pass attempt. San Diego’s pass defense is also best in the league at 4.9 net yards per attempt. The Chargers’ running efficiencies on offense and defense are both better than average, as are their turnover rates.

So what is going on? How can a team that leads the league in efficiency (and in total yards) on both sides of the ball have only a 2-4 record to show for it? A big part of the answer is very clear: special-teams play. The Chargers have given up  three touchdowns on kicks and punts, and have had further difficulties on special teams.

But things still don’t add up, so let’s look at turnover differential. Although the Chargers are better than average in interception rate, they pass so often that they actually have a turnover differential of -3. This certainly isn’t good, but even combined with their special-teams failures, it still doesn’t fully explain four losses for such a statistically dominant team. Something else is going on.

I think a big part of the Chargers’ 2-4 record is bad luck. Statisticians might call it sample error or randomness, but whatever you call it, it’s not going well for San Diego. I’m not talking about leprechauns or superstitions or the random bouncing of footballs. (Although the Chargers have lost 9 of 11 fumbles, and the league-wide rate is about 50 percent. Fumble recovery is a notoriously random event in football — just look at the shape of the ball.)

Rather, I’m talking about a concept I call “bunching.”

Let’s say there are two baseball teams, completely equal in ability, playing one game at a neutral site. Each team performs perfectly equally, both hitting exactly nine singles over nine innings. But let’s say one team gets all its singles in one inning, and the other has its singles spread out one per inning. The first team might win, 7-0. It’s an extreme example, but it illustrates an overlooked point about many sports. Successful plays are not enough. Consecutive successes are required to win.

In football, two equal teams could each have 12 first downs in a game. One team could have three drives of four consecutive first downs, each leading to a touchdown, and the rest of its drives could be three-and-outs. The other team could have 12 drives consisting of one first down followed by a punt. Both teams could have equal yards, first downs and efficiency stats, and yet one team could win, 21-0. It’s easy to imagine a game in which one team has many more first downs and yards, but still loses. Could something like this bunching effect be cursing the Chargers?

It’s a given that N.F.L. offenses tend to score in proportion to their yards gained. It’s actually an extremely tight correlation, and the best–fit estimate of a team’s points per game is to take just under 10 percent of its yards per game and subtract 10. For the Chargers, who lead the N.F.L. with 433 yards gained per game, we’d expect the offense to score about 32 points per game, but they’ve actually scored only 26.

A similar analysis for the Chargers’ defense, with the special-teams scores set aside, shows that it has  allowed almost 2 points more per game more than the yardage total implies. That’s a total difference of 8 points per game.

If we could magically add those 8 points onto the scoreboard for each game this season, the Chargers would have five wins, no losses and a tie. Of course, things aren’t that simple, and we can’t just add points after the fact. But it’s an exercise that illustrates just how random game outcomes can be, even in the N.F.L.

Here are your Week 7 game probabilities:

Win ChanceGAMEWin Chance0.45Cincinnati at Atlanta0.550.37Washington at Chicago0.630.40St. Louis at Tampa Bay0.600.49San Francisco at Carolina0.510.19Buffalo at Baltimore0.810.45Philadelphia at Tennessee0.550.14Jacksonville at Kansas City0.860.52Pittsburgh at Miami0.480.28Cleveland at New Orleans0.720.13Arizona at Seattle0.870.15New England at San Diego0.850.19Oakland at Denver0.810.26Minnesota at Green Bay0.740.53Giants at Dallas0.47
Posted on: September 24, 2010 9:14 am
 

Week 3 in the NFL

Can you believe that it's already week 3 in the NFL? If I told you that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be 2 - 0 and the Cowboys were going to be 0 - 2, you would have said that I'm crazy. The unpredictable season is always exciting.

Fans can be a fickle bunch, myself included. The collective mood varies week to week, quarter to quarter, possession to possession. This sentiment is amplified following a team's season opening performance. A win correlates into a franchise's followers booking their Super Bowl accommodations; a loss spirals supporters into panic. This is especially the case in Philadelphia. Another example: the New York Jets, who arrived with unparalleled hype and hoopla thanks to HBO's Hardknocks and proclamations from coach Rex Ryan. Yet after suffering a defeat to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night, seemingly the entire football world wrote off Gang Green's title aspirations. Pigskin pundits blasted New York management for cutting ties with running back Thomas Jones, signing washed-up veterans, and welcoming the distraction of a reality series into training camp. Former star Joe Namath took issue with the team, stating the current Jets needed to "shut up and play." Ryan was crucified for his game plan, whose conservative nature seemed to contradict the coach's brash attitude and assertions. Keep in mind, New York lost by just ONE POINT. But in the NFL, there's a thin line between bliss and bitterness.

On to the game of the week:
The Atlanta Falcons were the recipients of similar vitriol after a Week 1 defeat to Dennis Dixon and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Falcons were expected to bounce back from a disappointing and injury plagued 2009, and competing against Dixon, a 3rd string quarterback, appeared to be just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Troy Pomamalu and the Steeler defense had a different itinerary in mind, as Pittsburgh came out victorious in a 15-9 overtime slugfest. Soon after, Mike Smith's squad was showered with criticisms and condemnations. Would Matt Ryan fall short of his projected potential? Was Michael Turner's 2008 an aberration? After Roddy White, were there any viable weapons in the aerial arsenal? So on and so on...

A 41-7 drubbing of defending NFC West champion Arizona seemed to lay to rest doubts among the Dirty-Bird backers, if only for a week. Ryan threw for 225 yards and 3 touchdowns, with a QB rating of 117.3. The Burner rushed for 75 yards on just 9 carries before succumbing to an injury (although not feared to be serious). Receivers not named White accounted for 14 receptions on Sunday. In short, Atlanta looked like the playoff-contending team that many had forecasted.

In reality, the Falcons fate is somewhere between their two performances. The Pittsburgh D, after shutting down Chris Johnson and Vince Young in Week 2, looks to have reclaimed their tenacious tendencies that led them to a Super Bowl in 2008. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are doing their best Little Giants impersonation. Atlanta travels to the Big Easy this week to play the Saints, off to a 2-0 start in their title defense. I give the edge to New Orleans; prediction: 28-19.

But rest assured, no matter what the outcome, one fan base will be making January playoff plans while the other will willow in its own misery. At least until next week's game.

These are my picks for the rest of the NFL:
Vikings over the Lions
Ravens over the Browns
Patriots over the Bills, aka the worst team in the NFL
Raiders over the Cardinals
Texans over the Cowboys...how bout dem cowboys? 0-3
Dolphins over the Jets
Steelers over the Buccaneers
Titans over the Giants
Bengals over the Panthers
Colts over the Broncos
49ers over the Chiefs
Eagles over the Jaguars
Redskins over the Rams
Packers over the Bears
Chargers over the Seahawks

Posted on: September 15, 2010 6:13 pm
 

What are the rules of trash talk?

Wilfred Winkenbach created fantasy football. He set the rules for engagement. Check out this funny video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX1ncpOXoDw
Posted on: December 10, 2009 8:25 am
 

Steelers vs Browns

In a marque matchup, the Steelers play the Browns tonight...can you catch my sarcasm? The Steelers need the win to stay in the playoff hunt, so this game should be a rout.

Passing Attack:
When these two teams hooked up earlier this year, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 417 yards, the most since a 433 yard performance against Denver back in 2006. Cleveland has lost its last seven games, but the Browns have actually played respectable defense recently. They were torched through the air last week against San Diego, but they held Cincinnati the previous week to 96 passing yards and Baltimore to 146 passing yards in week 10. We’ll see if Big Ben and crew can exploit the Browns on Thursday.

Roethlisberger’s task of leading the reeling Pittsburgh passing game will be made difficult if Hines Ward doesn’t play. The team’s leading receiver has a hamstring injury that will limit his effectiveness if he plays, but if he doesn’t play, Mike Wallace will take his spot and be the deep threat he’s been all season. And don’t look now, but Santonio Holmes has scored in the last two games after not scoring in nine straight. Cleveland’s 32nd ranked defense could be in retreat mode for most of the game, as Holmes could be the driving force of the passing game. You should keep in mind, though, that there could be inclement weather in Cleveland. Snow and wind are possibilities, both of which could hinder the passing game somewhat.

Running Attack: The five games leading up to last week’s contest were okay for Rashard Mendenhall from a yardage standpoint, but they lacked the TDs necessary to make him the consistent low-end #1/high-end #2 RB he’s turned into. His 103 yard effort last week against Oakland, coupled with the fact that he’s had at least 20 carries in 4 of the last 5 games translates into Mendenhall being a valuable commodity right now. The Browns have had trouble stopping the run most of the year, and with DT Shaun Rogers out for the year, that only makes their problem worse. Mendenhall was held to only 62 yards in the first meeting this year, but he did score a TD. And again, with the weather playing a potentially important role, he should be counted on and given every opportunity to at least put up those kinds of numbers this week. The Browns have given up 14 rushing TDs, so expect Mendenhall to get in the end zone this week as well.

And now for the Browns:

Passing Attack: Ok, who was that impersonating an NFL-caliber QB last week for the Cleveland Browns? Couldn’t have been Brady Quinn, right? Well, actually it was. In fact, Quinn had a solid performance against San Diego, throwing for 271 yards, 3 scores and no interceptions. And while Pittsburgh remains one of the league’s toughest defenses, one needn’t look any further than last week’s game against Oakland when Bruce Gradkowski played great in the second half against the Steelers. Cleveland’s offense is just as putrid as Oakland’s, so conventional wisdom says if the Raiders can succeed against the Steelers, the Browns should too. We’ll see if that is indeed the case.

As it stands now, however, be cautious about starting a Cleveland Brown with any level of confidence. Their receivers are still works in progress, and each game in fantasy football this time of year is simply too big to risk playing subpar players against a formidable opponent. Table any thought you may have of starting a Cleveland receiver.

Running Attack: Can you believe that after 12 games the Cleveland Browns only have 3 rushing TDs? That’s an incredible number, but one that hammers home the struggles of this team’s ground attack. With Jamal Lewis on IR, the rushing duties fall on the shoulders of Jerome Harrison, who’s nothing more than a 3rd down back in this league. His fantasy production will be kept at a minimal this week and into the foreseeable future. Perhaps his biggest contribution can be made in the passing game. He did have 7 receptions last week and scored on two of those catches, so there is value there. Just keep your expectations in line this week.

My Prediction: Steelers 24 - Cleveland 13

Posted on: December 4, 2009 8:36 am
 

Safe bets by DC

With 12 weeks in the books, it is becoming exponentially more difficult to find games that I like each week, especially because this year a lot of teams have played Jekyll and Hyde with us (looking dominant one week—and losing to Oakland or Kansas City the next). Parity is obviously important to the NFL, but this season has made sports betting feel like Russian roulette, thanks in large part to the inconsistency of teams such as the Steelers, Packers, Eagles, Bengals, Cardinals, Ravens, Broncos, Texans, and the New York Giants. Wildly erratic play makes this part of the season very difficult. Good luck to you; I know I’ll need it!

The games are listed in order from 1 to 3. 1 is my most confident pick.

(bet? beware): Tennessee over Indianapolis

I liked Houston as a trap game pick last week, but ultimately thought that Indianapolis was too good to lose to them. Most people suspected that Peyton Manning would find a way to score a bunch of points at will in the second half and win the game. Well, that’s more or less what happened, with one small difference: Peyton didn’t beat Houston; Houston beat Houston with terrible defense, bad penalties, and offensive ineptitude in the second half.

This week, things will be different. The Titans are as hot as ever, as I mentioned when I picked them two weeks ago to beat Houston, and they are really playing some inspired ball behind Vince Young. I never thought he would be a great NFL quarterback, but he sure is running that team well recently. It helps to have an unstoppable running back like Chris Johnson. He is part of the reason why my fantasy team is in first place…not like anyone cares about that, though.

The other thing going for Tennessee this week is that the Colts have been struggling, despite their spotless record. Peyton has faltered of late, matching his career high for consecutive games with 2 interceptions. The last time that happened was 2001. He sometimes looks uncomfortable in the pocket and is doing things that are generally beneath his caliber of play. For example, against Houston for most of the game he had tunnel vision for Pierre Garcon, at one point throwing 5 or 6 consecutive passes to him, multiple times into double coverage. At his best, Peyton never does that; he usually spreads the ball around.

If the Colts don’t clean up their act, they very well could see their first loss of the season on Sunday.

3. Chicago over Saint Louis

I have more confidence in this game than its #3 spot suggests. I am convinced that it would just be too much for Saint Louis to head into Chicago and win a game. Jay Cutler is an interception machine, but the Rams don’t have a good secondary. I expect Cutler to have a decent game.

As usual, Chicago can only hope to contain Steven Jackson. Luckily for the Bears, however, the Rams don’t have a single offensive weapon other than Jackson; don’t give me Donny Avery. Even though the Chicago defense is uncharacteristically weak this season, and the offense is inconsistent, the Bears should be able to move the ball at will against the Rams. This pick isn’t as safe as it normally would be, but there’s just no way that the Rams keep up with Cutler & company in a scoring race, and no way Chicago fans could stomach losing at home to a St. Louis team that obviously needs to be rebuilt.

2. San Diego over Cleveland

I have less confidence in this selection than its #2 designation might suggest. San Diego is traveling into Cleveland, and away games always seem to give the Chargers trouble. Perhaps they have grown accustomed to the beautiful weather out in SoCal, but whatever the reason for their missteps, I try not to pick them for away games, but the Browns make it very tempting.

That said, the Browns are playing such consistently terrible football recently that even if their opponent is no better than mediocre, one cannot afford not to select the team playing against them. They have no offense, a defense riddled with injuries, and very little hope of winning this game. I don’t wholly trust the Chargers, but I trust they can stomp on one of the worst teams in the NFL.

1. Cincinnati over Detroit

I was on the Detroit bandwagon for a while this season, but the injuries to Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson have proven too costly for the Detroit offense to overcome. When you can assume your defense will allow 28+ points per game and your two most talented offensive players are injured, it’s pretty difficult to win games.

Cincinnati, though sometimes Jekyll (sweeping Pittsburgh) and sometimes Hyde (losing to Oakland), should manage to win this one handily. Their defense has drastically improved over the last couple of years, with a young, talented secondary allowing the front seven to get very aggressive and go after opposing quarterbacks. Cedrick Benson has resurrected his career and is leading a reinvigorated Bengals offense; even if he doesn’t play, Bernard Scott should have no trouble topping the century mark against the Lions. Pick the Bengals this week with confidence. This game is my lock of the week.

Before anyone calls me a “homer,” the Eagles should put up a double digit win over the Falcons. With Matt Ryan out, and Michael Turner and Roddy White fighting injuries, the Eagles should rout the Falcons. I would expect to see Michael Vick taking some snaps in the 4<sup>th</sup> quarter, after the game is in the bag. This game isn’t my lock of the week, but I’ll list this one as 1.A. I plan to take all 4 games in a nice little parlay: Bears, Chargers, Bengals, and Eagles.

Just remember, in betting you will win some and lose some. I’m hoping that these bets don’t lose money for me, because my fiancé is expecting xmas gifts…

Posted on: December 2, 2009 8:49 am
 

Don't take McNabb for granted

Statement from one "expert"

"Every industry has experts; those sages that dispense wisdom and truth from atop the mountain. In philosophy these learned men wear long, flowing robes and an equally lengthy beard is required. In fantasy football, a backwards ball cap, clipboard of notes, and half empty bottle of Coors Light is more likely. But are these guys truly experts? Do they know any better than the rest of us schmucks? Each week Analyzing the Experts will take aim at one or more of these so-called oracles and find out…"


Many people have been talking about the shortcomings of Donovan McNabb, but look at the bright side: he is not JaMarcus Russell. Lets take a look at the tragically shortened career of JaMarcus Russell, who made a living for three years with his ludicrous impersonation of an NFL quarterback. Seldom has a professional football player made me laugh as much as JaMarcus. It is a gift few athletes learn to embrace so fully. This weekend was a bit drearier, not having the Oakland QB’s antics to watch. Its easy to watch Peyton Manning light up a secondary or grab some wings while Chris Johnson rolled over another team’s front seven. But I’ve seen all that and something a little bit different both breaks the monotony and makes one appreciate the skill of the NFL’s superstars.

Which brings us back to JaMarcus. This was his third season of entertaining us and he did an amazing job. Who can’t laugh at his fourteen turnovers with only two touchdowns this year? There wasn’t another quarterback in the league that looked so hopelessly out of place and completely lost. And that was part of his charm. We all knew he was junk and the only reason he wasn’t serving Whoppers and fries in some small American town was the ingenuity of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. There aren’t many teams willing to drive their fan base even deeper into the depths of suicidal depression just for entertainment value, but how else can their league-worst starting receivers and curious head coaching decisions be explained?

Will there ever be another third-year QB who can only run a fraction of the playbook since he can only read a portion of the field? There have certainly been numerous first overall draft pick busts, especially at the quarterback position. However, the Russell debacle has to rank pretty high on the disaster scale. Oakland did not exactly set him up to succeed considering the lack of talent around him; but he did nothing to help his case either. My favorite JaMarcus memories have to be his postgame interviews earlier this year. After a 38-0 Week Seven spanking by the Jets in which he went 6-11 for 61 yards and turned the ball over three times, JaMarcus said, “I don’t think it’s me personally. I really don’t. Do you?” After another loss to San Diego the following week, in which the Oakland signal caller went 14-22 for 109 yards with one interception, five sacks, and no scores, JaMarcus set the record straight. “I did a pretty good job.” How can the genius of Tom Brady or Drew Brees compete with that?

Even though the JaMarcus era seems to have ended in Oakland, there is still hope. Al Davis loves him and a new coaching regime will likely be installed next season. Will the Russell comedy act be renewed? I certainly hope so. It has to be better television viewing that watching the Cowboys squeak by the Redskins in a 7-6 snooze-fest. Until then, I still have the Cleveland Browns to laugh at.

So all of the Donovan McNabb haters in Philly, count your blessings.

Posted on: November 25, 2009 10:54 am
 

NFL trash pickers on Thanksgiving

Week 12 has quickly appeared. This is a week where the gluttons will prosper and the weak teams will go home starving. Let’s take a look at the matchups.

 

The Packers to Detroit to face the Lions. The city of Detroit has been facing hard times, so this weekend they shouldn’t be upset when their team loses; they are used to the feeling of dejection. Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings should be able to light up the Lions secondary. Calvin Johnson is beat up and will probably be a non-factor.

 

The Raiders go to Dallas to do battle with the Cowboys. The Dallas offense has been weak for the last couple of weeks. They almost got beat by the Redskins last week, so this game could be closer than the experts in Vegas would suggest. The Raiders have a good pass defense, so dem boys will have to get the running game going. If the game was on the west coast, the Raiders might be able to win, but the Cowboys should take care of business.

 

The Giants go to mile high to face the Broncos. After a great start, the Broncs have been struggling. The Giants had their own losing streak, but the win last week might have been the confidence boost that they needed. If Brandon Jacobs can get loose, Eli Manning should be able to pick apart the Denver secondary. I have a feeling that the Broncos loosing streak is going to continue.

 

Redskins go to Philly to face the Eagles. If Washington had an offense, they might be a formidable team. Donovan McNabb, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin have been in synch. It is a horrible time to be a Redskins fan. The Eagles are going to crush them on Sunday.

 

Buccaneers go to Atlanta to play the Falcons. ATL has been somewhat disappointing this year, but they will beat the Bucs. Josh Freeman might turn out to be a great QB, but he isn’t going to make a difference in this game. Matt Ryan is improving and this game should boost his confidence.

 

Panthers go to New York to face the Jets. This is a really tough game to predict. Both teams have shown a hint of potential, but there are still a lot of voids. If the Jets can stop the run, they will win. Carolina has a good passing D, so Mark Sanchez might struggle. Thomas Jones needs to have a big day if the Jets are going to win.

 

Seahawks go to St. Louis to “play” the Rams, and by Rams I’m referring to Stephen Jackson. He is the only player doing anything on that team. If the Seahawks don’t win by 2 scores then the Rams should consider that a win.

 

Dolphins head to NY to play the Bills. Last week Terrell Owens emerged from his coma. The Dolphins should be able to lock down the Bills offense this week. Even without Ronnie Brown, the Fins can win games. Ricky Williams has proved that he can still carry the load.

 

Browns go to Cincinnati to lose to the Bengals. The Browns are horrible…enough said

 

Colts go to Houston to play the Texans. The Texans need a win in a big way, but the Colts are damn good. This would be a major statement game, if the Texans can pull out a win, but conventional wisdom tells me that the Colts will win.

 

Chiefs head to San Diego to play the Chargers. Jamaal Charles has been playing well, but I expect the Chargers to shut him down this week. The Chargers should be able to jump up big and take away the running game from KC. Look, the Chiefs aren’t a good team; the Chargers are.

 

Bears go to Minnesota to try to beat the Vikings. Jay Cutler has been killing the Bears. If I was the coach, I would run Matt Forte 35 times in this game…no matter what. Cutler needs to cool off, before he kills his confidence (the little bit that he has left).

 

Cardinals go to Tennessee to face off against the Titans. This game should be a great one. Chris Johnson is unstoppable, but the Cardinals strength is their running defense. If the Titans can get pressure of Kurt Warner, they will win this game. Larry Fitzgerald vs Chris Johnson…talk about playmakers.

 

Steelers go to Baltimore to play the Ravens. The Steelers might have too many injuries (Troy) to beat the Ravens. Both teams need the win, so this should be a great fight. A coin flip should be used to predict this winner…my coin toss said Ravens win.

 

Patriots go to the Big Easy to play the Saints. This might be the game of the year: Tom Brady vs Drew Brees. I think a coin toss is the best way to predict this game as well…my Lincoln said Saints win!

 

I don’t know about you guys, but this is going to be a great week of games! The hungry teams will feast, while the pretenders will be like the homeless guy on the corner, starving while others stuff their mouths with stuffing and turkey.

These are the Thanksgiving day trash pickers:
Lions
Raiders
Broncos
Redskins
Bucs
Panthers?
Rams
Bills
Browns!
Texans?
49ers
Chiefs
Bears
Cardinals?
Steelers
Patriots

Posted on: November 10, 2009 7:32 pm
 

FFB week 9 review

I know that it's Tuesday and everyone is thinking about their lineup for week 10, but history is a great way to predict the future. The following is a reflection upon a fantasy week past. You will find some advice, but mostly the facts as they took place.

Falcons 31 - Redskins 17


Matt Ryan wasn’t at his sharpest, but he didn’t need to be with Michael Turner running the way he did. Turner racked up 166 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns. After a slow start, Turner now has 8 TDs over his last five games. Ryan struggled again (135 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and has thrown nine INTs over his last five games. At this point, Ryan is a risky fantasy QB. Tony Gonzalez found the end zone for the eightieth time in his career and finished with 41 receiving yards. Roddy White didn’t get many looks as the Falcons ran the ball most of the second half. He finished with three catches for 27 yards.

One day the Redskins will score more than 17 points in a game, but that day did not come Sunday. Clinton Portis left the game with a concussion after gaining just four yards. I think bets will be out this week, as most teams will sit a player for a week after suffering a concussion. His backup, Ladell Betts, performed nicely with 93 total yards and a score. However, the Redskins face the #3 rushing defense next week, so even if Portis sits out, Betts still isn’t more than a RB3. Santana Moss led the receivers with 56 receiving yards. Jason Campbell left the game with a chest injury but later returned; he threw for 196 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. He also rushed for 40 yards and, if you’re desperate for a QB, you could do a lot worse than Campbell.

Cardinals 41 – Bears 21

What a difference a week makes! One week after throwing five INTs, Kurt Warner threw 5 TDs against the Bears. Larry Fitzgerald was the main recipient with 9 grabs for 123 yards and two scores. With Anquan Boldin out with an ankle injury, Steven Breaston started and had 66 receiving yards and a touchdown. Against the once-ferocious Chicago defense, the Cardinals ran for 182 yards: 77 by Tim Hightower and 72 by Beanie Wells. Because of Hightower’s versatility in the passing game (on pace for 80 receptions), he is a better fantasy play than Wells.

Just as they did two weeks ago against Cincinnati, the Bears fell behind early and abandoned their running game. Matt Forte had only six rushing attempts but still finished with 107 total yards (74 receiving). Greg Olsen matched the number of touchdowns he had through the first eight weeks in this single game (3). Devin Hester and Earl Bennett had 94 yards and 93 yards respectively. Jay Cutler threw for 369 yards and 3 TDs, both highs for him as a Chicago Bear.

Bengals 17 – Ravens 7

Carson Palmer was solid again, throwing for 224 yards and one touchdown. After throwing seven INTs in his first six games, Palmer has not turned the ball over in the last two games. Cedric Benson proved his 100-yard game versus the Ravens earlier this year was no fluke by rushing for 117 yards and one touchdown. Chad Ochocinco had 66 receiving yards but lost a fumble, just as he did in the first game against Baltimore. After catching one pass for 20 yards, Chris Henry broke his forearm and the remainder of his season is in doubt. His loss is Andre Caldwell’s (15 yards, 1 TD) gain, as he no longer has to split reps with Henry as the team’s #3 receiver.

For the second time this year, the Bengals held Joe Flacco to under 200 yards passing; they also picked him off twice. This is the last time these two teams will meet this year, so Flacco remains a QB1. Ray Rice was again the focal point of the offensive gameplan as he led the Ravens in rushing (48 yards), receiving (87 yards), and touchdowns (1). Derrick Mason was targeted 13 times but only came down with three receptions for 31 yards.

Colts 20 – Texans 17

Another Colts win. Another 300-yard game for Peyton Manning...it's what he does. Manning also threw a TD as the Colts won their seventeenth consecutive regular season game. Joseph Addai scored 2 TDs rushing and had 112 all-purpose yards. Dallas Clark continues his assault on tight end single-season records; he had 14 receptions for 119 yards. Reggie Wayne had a rare poor game with only 64 receiving yards. He also threw an interception in what was likely the first and last pass attempt of his career.

This was the first time both Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson were on the field together versus Indianapolis. They both came up big, but it wasn’t enough. Schaub threw for 311 yards and one touchdown but also threw two picks. Johnson had 10 receptions for 103 yards but failed to get into the end zone. A big question heading into this game was the number of touches Steve Slaton and Ryan Moats would receive. Well, Moats owners have to be rejoicing as he had 19 touches for 53 yards and 1 TD. Slaton had 9 touches for 29 yards and 1 TD. However, Moats did lose a fumble, which was the reason that Slaton was benched last week.

Patriots 27 – Dolphins 17

For the third game in a row, Tom Brady (332 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) threw for at least 300 yards as the Patriots held on for the win. It looks like heeees baaaack. Randy Moss had 147 yards and 1 TD and is undoubtedly a WR1 despite his inconsistency this season. Wes Welker had nine catches for 84 yards and is a WR2 in regular formats--but a WR1 in PPR leagues. Laurence Maroney remains the feature back in New England with Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor still out. Maroney had 82 rushing yards and 1 TD. He remains a RB2 until one of the other running backs returns.

Over the past three games, Chad Henne has thrown only one touchdown. That should tell you all you need to know about his fantasy value. Ronnie Brown threw the lone passing TD in this game, along with rushing for 48 yards. Ricky Williams had 33 rushing yards and scored a TD on the ground. No Dolphins receiver/tight end is worth starting on your fantasy team, but Davone Bess was targeted 14 times. He only managed to catch six of those passes and finished with 56 yards.

Jaguars 24 – Chiefs 21

With Mike Sims-Walker’s 147 receiving yards and one touchdown, the Jaguars are now 4-1 when Sims-Walker has at least 80 yards receiving. Maurice Jones-Drew had 134 total yards and one touchdown and, along with Steven Jackson, MJD is the closest thing to an every-down back. David Garrard (264 passing yards, 29 rushing yards) threw his first touchdown pass in five weeks but, because of his running ability, he is a sleeper as a QB1.

Matt Cassel was on pace to be a bust before throwing two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Along with those two scores, Cassel threw for 262 yards and did not turn the ball over. Newly signed Chris Chambers caught both touchdown passes and had 70 yards. Chambers struggled mightily in San Diego this season but seems to have caught on quickly with Kansas City. He won’t be the fantasy stud he was a couple of years ago, but he still has plenty of talent; enough to warrant a WR3 role. Dwayne Bowe led the team with 74 receiving yards and Jamaal Charles, starting in place of Larry Johnson, had 55 total yards. I started Jamaal Charles, because I expected him to do well, but he proved me to be foolish.

Buccaneers 38 – Packers 28

After not winning a game since last November, the Bucs finally got one in rookie QB Josh Freeman’s first NFL start. Freeman threw for 205 yards and 3 TDs, one each to Derrick Ward, Kellen Winslow, and Sammie Stroughter. Cadillac Williams only had 16 touches on the day and finished with just 56 yards. Maurice Stovall was targeted seven times but that was likely due to Antonio Bryant being out with an injury. Freeman has a lot of upside but is not likely to put up numbers as good as these for the rest of the season. He is a QB2 and should remain the Bucs starter unless he is injured.

Just imagine what the Packers could do on offense if they had decent blocking. Aaron Rodgers, while being sacked six times and throwing 3 INTs, threw for 266 yards and 2 TDs. He also rushed for 26 yards and 1 TD. James Jones is making the most out of Jordy Nelson’s injury as he had 103 receiving yards and 1 TD. Donald Driver also found the end zone en route to 71 receiving yards. Greg Jennings was again the victim of Rodgers not having a lot of time, as he only had 61 yards. Ryan Grant had a nice game running the ball, with 96 yards and a score, and remains a RB2.

Seahawks 32 – Lions 20

This may have been the game where the Seahawks officially went from a running team to a passing team. Matt Hasselbeck threw the ball 51 times for 329 yards and 1 TD. Julius Jones still got enough touches to score a touchdown and gain 114 total yards (78 receiving). Nate Burleson led the team with seven receptions and had 75 receiving yards. T.J. Houshmandzadeh won’t wow you with his yardage (34), but he is still a nice play in PPR formats. He had six receptions, one of which went for a touchdown. Someone to watch for in future games is Justin Forsett. He is Jones’ primary backup now with the release of Edgerrin James and is a rushing/receiving threat. He had 59 yards from scrimmage along with 5 receptions and is worth a roster spot in deeper, PPR leagues.

This was a game that Matt Stafford would like to forget…quickly. Stafford threw 5 INTs as he often tried to force the ball. Calvin Johnson returned but had only two receptions for 27 yards, and he did not look 100% healthy. Kevin Smith averaged 5.2 yards per carry but had only 13 rushing attempts. He finished with 67 rushing yards and failed to get into the endzone for the fourth game in a row. The offensive star for Detroit was rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew, who had 70 yards and a score. He also caught seven passes on only eight targets, a stat that will no doubt endear him to Matt Stafford. However, he is still a TE2 at this point.

Saints 30 – Panthers 20

Unable to get their run game going, the Saints relied on the arm of Drew Brees as they came from behind to remain undefeated. Brees had 330 passing yards as well as 1 TD and 1 INT. Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, and Reggie Bush combined for just 83 rushing yards, though Thomas did get into the end zone. Devery Henderson had 93 receiving yards but is a very inconsistent play. Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey had quiet games as they combined for only 4 catches for 71 yards. With Lance Moore out, Robert Meachem stepped in and led the team with 98 yards and 1 TD. He will likely return to the bench once Moore is healthy enough to play. For the time being, any Saints receiver not named Colston is a WR3.

Once again, turnovers were the main reason the Panthers lost a game; however this time it was due to fumbles, not interceptions. Jake Delhomme, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart all lost fumbles. Delhomme threw for 201 yards but no scores, and Steve Smith had 64 receiving yards. Williams did his part on the ground with 149 rushing yards and 2 TDs. His partner-in-crime, Jonathan Stewart, had 13 carries but only converted them into 24 yards.

Chargers 21 – Giants 20

Eli Manning may have outperformed Philip Rivers, but Rivers’ team got the win. Rivers threw for 209 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs as the Chargers had to rely entirely on his arm to move the ball. LT had only 22 rushing yards on 12 carries and chipped in only eight receiving yards. Vincent Jackson further cemented his status as one of the top-5 fantasy WRs with 58 receiving yards and 2 TDs, including the game winner. Antonio Gates had 67 receiving yards and Malcolm Floyd had 29 yards. Floyd is now a starter with the release of Chris Chambers.

Even though he had his best game in four weeks, Eli Manning’s arm wasn’t enough to keep the Giants from stopping their skid. Manning threw for 215 yards and 2 TDs without turning the ball over. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw had solid games as they respectively had 68 total yards and 66 total yards. Neither got into the end zone, however. Steve Smith broke out of his four-game scoreless streak and finished with 57 yards. Mario Manningham came back after missing one week to catch six passes for 52 yards.

Titans 34 – 49ers 27

Another Vince Young start. Another win. The guy is a plain old winner. Another great Chris Johnson performance. That pretty much sums it up as Young threw for 172 yards, ran for 14 yards, and scored a rushing touchdown. With 135 rushing yards and two scores, Johnson continues to make LenDale White irrelevant. For the second week in a row, Justin Gage was the top receiver (97 yards). Young clearly has a rapport with Gage that he lacks with Nate Washington and Kenny Britt, as neither of those two was even on the team when Young was the starter in 2007. The Titans won’t light anyone up thru the air but Gage is worth consideration in deeper leagues.

Another Alex Smith start. Another loss. Another great Frank Gore performance. With three INTs and lost fumble, Alex Smith did not have the same amount of success as Vince Young. But he did throw for 286 yards and two TDs. The recipient of both TD passes was Jason Hill, who finished with four catches for 50 yards. These were his first receptions of the year, so we have to wait to see if this increase in playing time is permanent or simply an experiment. Michael Crabtree had only 30 yards on three receptions but another former first rounder, Vernon Davis, had 10 grabs for 102 yards. However, the star for San Fran was Frank Gore who had 83 rushing yards, 75 receiving yards, and a rushing touchdown. In his five full games this season, Gore is averaging over 125 total yards and he has scored six touchdowns.

Cowboys 20 – Eagles 16

Even though Tony Romo’s (307 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) three-game streak without an interception ended, he did find Miles Austin for the deciding score in the fourth quarter. Despite Tashard Choice scoring a rushing TD out of the Wildcat, only Marion Barber could really get anything going on the ground. Barber had 50 rushing yards while Choice and Felix Jones combined for only 23 rushing yards. After complaining about not getting “good passes” thrown his way, Romo seemed to appease Roy Williams by throwing his way often. Williams finished with 5 catches for 75 yards. Jason Witten had his most receptions since Week 2 as he caught 7 balls for 43 yards, but he failed to get into the endzone for the sixth game in a row. Austin caught only one pass--but it went for 49 yards and the game-winning touchdown...I'm still mad at Sheldon Brown for getting beat with a pump fake.

LeSean McCoy is turning into “Brian Westbrook-lite” as he had 54 yards rushing and 61 yards receiving in the Eagles’ Sunday night loss. Brent Celek caught a TD pass and, if it weren’t for the great years that Dallas Clark and Vernon Davis are having, more people would be talking about Celek as the premier fantasy tight end. Donovan McNabb struggled with accuracy throughout the night and finished with 227 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. Explosive playmakers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were relatively quiet as they had 29 receiving yards and 44 receiving yards, respectively. Jackson is the more consistent of the two, so he is a WR2 while Maclin is a WR3.

 
 
 
 
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