Sunday Scene, Week 8: Johnson, Favre, MJD binge again

Andy Behrens
November 1, 2009
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Tennessee running back Chris Johnson has totaled 126.1 fantasy points in public leagues through eight weeks. He's scored 82.3 of those points in just two games.

Johnson's 239-yard binge in Week 8 nearly broke whatever scoring records he established during the 284-yard outburst against Houston in Week 2.

It's never really a surprise to see him outrun defenders to the end zone, since the man has 4.24 speed. But if he's going to lower his helmet and run over NFL safeties...well, that's just unfair. When you watch the video of his 89-yard fourth quarter TD, note the way he dismisses Brian Russell(notes). Mass + acceleration = shame. (That's commonly known as William Gay's(notes) Law, in honor of this play).

Johnson finished with a franchise-record 228 rushing yards, adding 11 more through the air. He led all fantasy scorers with 35.9 public league points on Sunday. There's a decent chance that Johnson will have yet another 30-plus week in the second half, as his schedule features matchups with Buffalo (172.4 rush YPG allowed), Houston (115.6), Indianapolis (111.8), St. Louis (135.9) and San Diego (137.7).

A few brand-name running backs are exiting Week 8 as strong sell-high candidates, but Johnson is not among them. If it's at all possible, you're buying him.

Fourth Quarter

The Minnesota-Green Bay game was an absolute fantasy smorgasbord, with two brilliant quarterbacks combining for seven passing TDs. We'll gladly allow other outlets to satisfy your darkest Favrotic impulses. Here, we'll simply appreciate a terrific game that involved several elite NFL talents. Adrian Peterson was an unrelenting beast, per his usual, finishing with 141 total yards and one TD on 26 touches. Greg Jennings(notes) delivered his best game since the opener, catching eight passes for 88 yards and a score. Aaron Rodgers(notes) was mauled by the Vikings pass rush again (six sacks), yet he still threw for 287 yards and three TDs. Rodgers also led the Pack in rushing, thanks to a late 35-yard scramble.

But obviously the day belonged to Brett Favre(notes). For the second time this season, the Packers pass rush was only a rumor to him. If you're only sending three, he'll destroy you. You'd think Green Bay might've known. Favre passed for 244 yards on just 28 attempts (8.7 Y/A) and connected with four different receivers for touchdowns. Percy Harvin's(notes) 51-yard score had a body count. (Highlight here, beginning at 2:14).

The Vikings get a well-deserved bye next week, then they'll return with friendly matchups against Detroit and Seattle. Minnesota should enter the Week 12 game against Chicago with a 9-1 record and a division title essentially in the bag. If you're relying on Vikings for fantasy purposes, you'll need to hope that the race for home-field advantage remains competitive, because the battle for the NFC North apparently is not.

Check the highlights of Maurice Jones-Drew's(notes) two long rushing TDs against Tennessee. Every member of the Titans defense had a photo op with MJD, yet no one tackled him. It's hardly possible to accomplish more than he did with only eight carries. MJD gets an imaginary game ball.

Entering the week, if we'd told you that one of the quarterbacks in the Carolina-Arizona game was going to throw five interceptions, you probably would have guessed it would be the guy who'd already thrown 13 picks through six games. But you would have been wrong. Jake Delhomme(notes) was limited to 14 pass attempts as the Panthers streaked to a significant early lead. DeAngelo Williams(notes) and Jonathan Stewart(notes) combined for 40 carries and 245 rushing yards. If Carolina is going to beat a respectable opponent, that's the roadmap.

Meanwhile, Kurt Warner(notes) connected nearly as often with members of the Panthers defense (five times) as he did with Larry Fitzgerald(notes) (six receptions). Warner simply isn't capable of overcoming a five-pick performance, because he ain't no Ricky Stanzi.

Remember how we mentioned brand-name sell-high running backs above? Well, LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) fits that description perfectly. If you think he's the same LT that dominated the fantasy landscape from '02 to '07, then you're rather delusional. Or you're simply too loyal to the future Hall of Famer, which is also a crippling fantasy weakness. Tomlinson carried 18 times for just 56 yards against Oakland on Sunday, but he broke the plane twice and finished with a respectable fantasy total. If you can cash out now, do it. The Chargers get three serious NFL defenses in the weeks ahead. They travel to face the Giants* next Sunday, then they take on the Eagles at home, and then they head to Denver in Week 11.

(*OK, no, New York did not look like a serious defense this week. But that team can handle what LT is bringin' these days).

Vince Young(notes) and Alex Smith both returned to starting duties this week after many months of lonely exile. Young was uncharacteristically efficient and accurate (15-for-18, 125 yards, TD), although the Jaguars' D is not the league's stingiest unit. Still, Young didn't throw an off-target pass until the 5:09 mark in the third quarter. It was an impressive return.

Smith clearly faced a much tougher test, traveling to Indy to face the undefeated Colts, a team that had only allowed two passing TDs through seven games. He passed for 198 yards with one score and one interception on Sunday. Smith was sacked four times (and decisively sacked twice), yet he didn't put the ball on the ground. All things considered, it was an encouraging effort. Smith is a strong add for next week's home matchup against Tennessee. He'll end the year with Detroit and St. Louis in Weeks 16 and 17. Add as needed.

Here's Gary Kubiak following Houston's 31-10 win over Buffalo: "Steve [Slaton] put the ball on the ground, and Ryan [Moats] took advantage of it." There it is in a nutshell. Moats gained 151 yards on 25 touches and found the end zone three times against the NFL's worst run defense. No immediate word on how workload will be distributed in Week 9 within the Moats-Slaton-Brown pileup, but it's clear enough that Slaton's fumbling will no longer be tolerated.

Posted at 9:50 pm ET

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Third Quarter

Most reports suggest that Brett Favre was greeted with "a mix of cheers and boos" in Green Bay, but we can't confirm the cheering. It must be subtle. The boos are perfectly clear.

Favre was an efficient 11-for-15 at half with 97 passing yards and a 12-yard TD toss to Visanthe Shiancoe(notes). Green Bay's defense has failed to sack No. 4 in six quarters of football so far this year. The Vikings have not shown Aaron Rodgers the same courtesy, however. He was sacked four times in the opening half after getting dropped eight times by Minnesota in Week 4.

Carolina appears to have seized control in Arizona, though the Cardinals are not a team that should ever be dismissed. DeAngelo Williams went over 100 rushing yards in the first half, Jonathan Stewart crossed the goal line twice, Jake Delhomme hasn't yet imploded (7-for-9, TD) and the Panthers' defensive line has routinely swatted passes to the ground. Julius Peppers(notes) walked into the end zone with an easy interception in the second quarter, on a pass that never had a chance.

Unfortunately, the news on Owen Daniels(notes) is as bad as we'd feared. The Houston Chronicle reports that Daniels is "likely done for the remainder of the season with a torn ligament in his right knee." It's obviously a brutal loss, as Daniels had emerged as a top-tier player, leading all TEs in fantasy scoring through seven weeks. If the Texans offense is going to maintain its sensational pace, then Kevin Walter(notes) will need to finally wake up.

LaDainian Tomlinson is gaining his usual two-point-something yards per carry, but his old friends in Oakland have allowed him to find the end zone twice, rewarding those who played the matchup. Shawne Merriman(notes) recorded the first sack of his miserable season, but only because JaMarcus Russell(notes) ran directly into him. And then of course Merriman's celebration lasted nine minutes.

Maurice Jones-Drew has a pair of 75-plus yard touchdown runs against the Titans' formerly respectable run D. He and Chris Johnson are currently engaged in a ridiculous battle for top-scoring honors in Week 8. They've combined for approximately 140 broken tackles.

Posted at 6:30 pm ET

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Second Quarter

Matt Forte(notes) delivered the big fantasy day we all expected against the Browns (121 total yards, two TDs). Now it's time to toss him on the Trading Block.

Don't let a useful line against a terrible team convince you that he's suddenly an elite fantasy entity again. Chicago's offensive line isn't much better today than it was in, say, Week 6, when Forte carried 15 times for 23 yards. The Bears face Arizona next Sunday, and the Cards boast the NFL's best run defense (67.5 YPG). In the fantasy playoffs, Chicago gets Baltimore and Minnesota. Forte's rest-of-season setup is poor, but a sell window just opened. Don't delay.

Ray Rice(notes) topped 100 total yards for the fourth straight game, finishing with 23 carries for 84 yards against the Broncos and adding five receptions for 24. Rice scored on a 7-yard run late in the game, just to remind you that he's the only Ravens back you need to own. Willis McGahee(notes) carried just twice, losing a yard.

Ryan Moats(notes) clearly demonstrated why we all liked Steve Slaton(notes) so much on Sunday: Buffalo's defense does not stop the run. The Bills entered the week dead-last in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 172.4 yards per game and 5.2 per carry. Unfortunately for Slaton, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak finally decided that he could no longer suffer fumblers. (See below for details). With Slaton looking on – not pouting, by the way – Moats steamrolled the Bills' D, carrying 23 times for 126 yards and three TDs. In all likelihood, Slaton's days as a full-workload running back just ended.

If you started Ted Ginn Jr.(notes) on Sunday, you're insane congratulations. The second of his two kick return TDs was particularly ridiculous. (Video). It should not be possible to make that many cuts on a single play.

Miles Austin(notes) visited the end zone again for Dallas, catching the last of Tony Romo's(notes) three touchdown passes. It appears that Austin is not merely on a Drew Bennett-in-'04(notes) sort of binge. The untold story in the Cowboys passing game is that tight end Jason Witten(notes) has had an unusually quiet year. He had just four receptions for 36 yards against Seattle. Witten entered the week as the No. 16 fantasy scorer at his position.

After a late and largely meaningless goal line stand by Cleveland in Soldier Field, it appeared that Jay Cutler(notes) and Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan were squaring off, looking to duel. Or it's possible that they were talking hair care.

"Those are some luxurious tresses, coach."

"Thanks, kid."

"You mind if I ask if you're still conditioning with Pante--?"

"HELL YES, I [expletive] MIND!"

And then it was on.

Steven Jackson delivered his fourth 100-yard rushing effort of the year in the Rams' 17-10 win over the Lions. He went without a touchdown for the first 31 quarters of the '09 season, but finally made a house call from 25 yards away with 1:38 on the clock in Detroit. You'll recall that S-Jax is historically a slow start/big finish player, although his matchups aren't particularly easy in the second half.

Dustin Keller(notes) has been a minor disappointment so far this year for fantasy purposes, but he remains a serious talent and he was spectacular in Week 8. He made a full-extension grab on the goal line for a 16-yard score late in the fourth quarter, then Keller shrugged off an interfering defender to make a key catch for a first down on the Jets final (failed) drive.

Somewhere, there's a disgusted Peyton Manning(notes) owner facing an ecstatic Reggie Wayne(notes) owner. Yup, that was running back Joseph Addai(notes) – not Manning – who threw the 22-yard touchdown pass to Wayne early in the fourth quarter in Indianapolis, giving the Colts an 18-14 lead. Addai took the handoff on an apparent stretch play, then stepped back and lofted a beautiful, low-degree-of-difficulty throw to No. 87.

And just to further frustrate that Manning owner, Peyton overshot Pierre Garcon(notes) on the two-point conversion attempt.

We're not big on celebrating huge hits here, but...well, goodness. Look at this. But don't look if you have a fondness for Danny Amendola(notes).

Updated at 5:05 pm ET

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First Quarter

If you're wondering why Ryan Moats has most of the carries for Houston today, the answer is simple (and predictable): Steve Slaton can't hold onto the football. Slaton fumbled on his third touch of the game, so Gary Kubiak sent him to the sideline for the remainder of the half. That was Slaton's seventh fumble of the season; it's not as if his head coach hasn't been patient. At half, Moats had six carries for 40 yards.

Owen Daniels checked out of the Texans-Bills tilt with a right knee injury, and there's not much reason for optimism. The team is calling it a sprain; Daniels wasn't putting any weight on his right leg. He had one catch for 22 yards before exiting.

Not so long ago, the Giants were 5-0 and many of us were convinced that they were among the NFC's better teams. It turns out that a friendly early schedule (WAS, DAL, TB, KC, OAK) may have caused us to slightly overrate them. The Giants were eviscerated by the Saints in Week 6, they lost a tight game at home to the Cardinals last Sunday, and they're getting shredded by the Eagles today. Donovan McNabb(notes) threw three first half touchdowns, hitting all the usual suspects: Brent Celek(notes), DeSean Jackson(notes) and Jeremy Maclin(notes). Naturally, Jackson's TD was from 50-plus.

Here's an unusual phrase that was uttered by the broadcast team in Chicago: "Forte through a big hole on the left side…" Pretty sure that's the first time all year we've heard such a description of a Bears running lane. Matt Forte has 13 carries for 44 yards and one TD at halftime. Chicago had a 16-0 halftime lead, to no one's surprise.

Frank Gore's(notes) 64-yard touchdown run at Indianapolis is an early highlight-of-the-day candidate. Video here. That's just a simple inside handoff that should never go the distance against a top-shelf NFL defense. Apparently Jerraud Powers(notes) and Antoine Bethea(notes) went to Jeff Reed(notes) Tackling Camp.

Knowshon Moreno(notes) fumbled in the first half at Baltimore after catching a short flip from Kyle Orton(notes), but the rookie back really had no chance whatsoever on the play. Baltimore's pass rush disrupted the timing, giving Ed Reed(notes) an opportunity to reach Moreno immediately after the ball arrived.

Mark Sanchez(notes) tried to give Sean Smith(notes) a 99-yard pick six, but the Miami corner couldn't hold onto the ball. After the incompletion, Jay Feely(notes) kicked a layup 23-yard field goal.

Terrell Owens(notes) made a rare visit to the end zone in Buffalo, taking an end-around 29 yards for a score. He later dropped a TD pass in the corner of the end zone, though.

What are the odds that T.O. and Roy Williams would score touchdowns in the same week? Well, it's happened. Williams broke the plane from seven yards away at the end of the first half in Dallas, just stretching the ball over the goal line.

Joe Flacco(notes) made an absolutely sensational short throw in the second quarter against Denver, while wrapped-up and half-sacked by Brian Dawkins(notes). Before hitting the turf, Flacco flipped the ball to running back Ray Rice who bounced outside for a slick 10-yard gain. It was a throw that Roethlisberger makes regularly, but that few other QBs have the strength to complete.

Understandably, Rams safety James Butler(notes) was excited by his interception in the second quarter in Detroit. But when you're on the ground and surrounded by bodies in your own end zone, just stay down. No need to return the pick. Just take the touchback.

In classic Rams style, Butler followed one bad decision (standing and attempting the runback) with an even worse decision (leaving the end zone, then stepping back in). He was tackled by Kevin Smith(notes), resulting in a safety. Butler's interception actually brought the Lions within a point of the Rams, 3-2.

Updated at 3:15 pm ET


Actionable early news: Brian Westbrook(notes) (concussion), Mario Manningham(notes) (shoulder) and Calvin Johnson(notes) (knee) are reportedly INACTIVE. LeSean McCoy(notes) gets the full workload for Philadelphia, Hakeem Nicks(notes) gets a serious bump in value for New York, and...well, the Megatron news is just bad. Dennis Northcutt(notes) should start for Detroit.

Updated at 10:55 am ET

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"Welcome to Week 8, hey. You gotta try Pammy's venison stick over by the cooler there. And c'mere while you're up, gimme a Leinie's. Big game today, eh?"

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Photos via Getty Images (Packers fans), AP Images (Slaton, Forte, Favre) and US Presswire (Johnson).