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Scott Pianowski

9-on-9: Royal's returns, LT's pout, Mendenhall's confirmation

Scott Pianowski
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Pinball scoring continues to be the order of the day as the Broncos and Chargers kept us entertained on Monday night. We'll check in with those two teams first, then take a stroll around the league.

Scouting the Broncos: Is the glass half-full or half-empty with Eddie Royal(notes)? He didn't have a reception on four targets, but nonetheless he stole you 12 points with a couple of electrifying punt-return touchdowns. The Charger corners spent much of the night in press coverage, which didn't help Royal's cause. Brandon Marshall(notes) was also well-marked for most of the night (5-49), but Tony Scheffler(notes) once again abused the San Diego safeties (6-101, touchdown), scoring against the Bolts for the third straight game. Kyle Orton(notes) made the best of his 29 attempts, picking up 229 yards and a couple of scores, albeit Brandon Stokley's(notes) score looked like a blown call from the officials.

Knowshon Moreno(notes) wasn't able to take advantage of his tasty matchup, rushing for just 44 yards on 18 carries (with a long of six yards). Correll Buckhalter(notes) continues to do a fine job in a secondary role (10-46 rushing, 4-29 receiving). The Broncos are done for October before resuming the teeth of their schedule; a trip to Baltimore followed by a home date with Pittsburgh.

Scouting the Chargers: LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) showed his best form of the year (18-70 rushing, 3-30 receiving), but he wasn't able to score on a couple of carries inside the 5-yard line and his LT pout was on full display when he was pulled for the third-and-goal play. Tomlinson is just a guy these days, no longer a true difference maker, but he's probably the last person to get the memo on that. Darren Sproles(notes) scored one of the Charger touchdowns on a snappy punt return at the end of the first half but it's hard to trust him as a fantasy play when the Bolts give him just two touches from scrimmage.

Philip Rivers(notes) posted respectable numbers (20-for-33, 274 yards, one touchdown) when you consider how much duress he was under; the Broncos blitz took him down five times and on several other occasions Rivers was barely able to escape. We'll take Vincent Jackson's(notes) fantasy night (4-46, TD) when you consider that he spent most of the night up against Champ Bailey(notes). Antonio Gates(notes) finished with a respectable line (5-70). What does Chris Chambers(notes) (2-33) do that Malcolm Floyd (3-51, all of it early) can't do?

At least the schedule softens up nicely for the Chargers – they head to Kansas City this week and host Oakland the following Sunday. After that, the big kids get out of school – the Giants, Eagles and Broncos.

As for the rest of the league, let's get to the Tuesday lap:

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It wasn't difficult to see on the field that Rashard Mendenhall(notes) was officially the No. 1 back in Pittsburgh, but it's always nice to get official confirmation from the head coach. Mike Tomlin cleaned up the story nicely on Tuesday, confirming that Mendenhall is officially the guy here. Sticking with the Steelers, Jeff Reed's(notes) recent arrest will not keep him off the field against Minnesota Sunday. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

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Anthony Gonzalez(notes) probably won't be able to return for Week 7, so let's hold onto Pierre Garcon(notes) and Austin Collie(notes) for a while. And look who's on the schedule for Sunday – the feel-good Rams. [Indianapolis Star]

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It looks like the Michael Crabtree(notes) era is going to get a quick start for the Niners – Josh Morgan(notes) spent the bye week showing Crabtree the ropes, essentially so Crabtree can take over as a starter in Week 7 opposite Isaac Bruce(notes). "If [Crabtree] can help us win, I'm all right with that," Morgan said. "They gave him my spot." [Santa Rosa Press Democrat]

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Jason Campbell(notes) will keep his starting gig for Monday's tilt against Philadelphia; we'll see if Sherm Lewis's play-calling can magically fix the Washington offense. Head coach Jim Zorn is still around, of course, but based on his facial expressions and body language over the last couple of days, you almost get the sense that he wants to be fired. Perhaps one more loss could do it – Washington doesn't play in Week 8 and while in-season firings are never easy in the complicated world if the NFL, if you're going to do it, you might as well sync it with the bye week. [Washington Times]

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No team drops passes quite like the Cleveland Browns, who have 16 drops over the last two weeks – and that's without drop-master Braylon Edwards(notes) to pad the stats. Of course Derek Anderson(notes) has a role in this; mishandled passes are many times the result of a ball thrown off target, or a second too late. Eric Mangini has pledged his support of Anderson, if that matters to you. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

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Frustrated by Steve Slaton's(notes) ball-security issues? The Texans are too, and they're trying to do something about it in practice. [Houston Chronicle]

Speed Round: Roy Williams (ribs) was back at practice Monday and should go this week. He's expected to start opposite Miles Austin(notes), with Patrick Crayton(notes) becoming the No. 3 receiver. … Donnie Avery(notes) (hip) got a clean MRI and might be able to practice Wednesday. … After sitting Joey Galloway(notes) for three games, the Patriots cut the veteran Tuesday. … Felix Jones(notes) (knee) is expected to play in Week 7, perhaps wearing a brace, but be wary of anyone coming back from a PCK injury. … Steven Hauschka's(notes) field goal miss cost the Ravens a game at Minnesota but he's not going to get cut because of it. Everyone knows the will of Brett Favre(notes) caused Hauschka to miss, anyway . . . A few years ago Eric Mangini was a darling, with a seat at Vesuvio and a snappy nickname. Now you have to get in line to bash the coach; here's the latest, a rip job courtesy of Rolling Stone magazine. … Heads up as we head into "bye week season" – the NFL puts six teams on holiday in each of the next three weeks. We'll discuss this in more detail with a Tip Drill post later tonight.

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