Chicago destroys a punt, makes another house call (US Presswire)
On Sunday, when Brian Urlacher broke the plane on this 46-yard interception return, the Chicago Bears had their seventh such touchdown of 2012, in just their eighth game — which is, of course, ridiculous. The single-season NFL/AFL team record for pick-sixes is nine, set by the 1961 San Diego Chargers. If you want to exclude AFL marks, then the 1998 Seattle Seahawks hold the record with eight.
Chicago's defense also scored on a blocked punt in Week 9, as Sherrick McManis snuffed out a first quarter kick, then Corey Wootton scooped it up plodded into the end zone.
At the halfway point in their season, the Bears D has already scored 152 fantasy points in Yahoo! public leagues. Last year, that would have ranked as our game's sixth highest full-season total.
It's easy to say that Chicago can't possibly sustain this scoring pace, particularly as the team faces a rough second-half schedule. Only one of the Bears' remaining opponents currently has a losing record (Arizona). If ever there was a sell-high opportunity on a defense, this is probably it.
But if you just can't make yourself toss Chicago on the trade block, I get that, too. We develop certain attachments in fantasy, and it's tough to cut ties. Plus the team still has two meetings ahead with Christian Ponder, one with rookie Russell Wilson, and a Week 16 match-up with Skelton-Kolb. So the Bears aren't finished piling up turnovers. At this point, it's going to be tough for this bunch to avoid the defensive TD record.
Entering the week, Chicago's defense was the fantasy asset that appeared most often on the rosters of the top 500 public league teams. Leaving the week, it seems likely they'll still hold the title.
• As great as the Bears D was on Sunday, that unit wasn't even the top-scoring fantasy commodity in Chicago's 51-20 shellacking of Tennessee. Brandon Marshall hauled in nine balls on 10 targets for 122 yards and three scores, totaling 30.2 public league points. It definitely helped that his team was playing in front of an unusually friendly road crowd...
''It was weird,'' Cutler said of all the Bears fans. ''I had to hush the crowd down in the red zone, and they got quiet really quick. We have the best fans in the world.''
So Jay seems to have reversed his previously muttered position.
Doug Martin, breaking hearts (USP)• No mas, Doug Martin. The Hamster mauled me in a league where I absolutely could not afford another loss. And clearly I'm not alone. Woe unto those who faced Martin in Week 9. What an incredible one-man assault that was.
Martin's final rushing line was a Nintendo-style 251 yards on 25 carries, with three scores that went for 45-plus yards — THREE — and another of the 1-yard variety. The third TD was the most painful, a 70-yarder where the only defender who had a shot at Martin went for the strip instead of the tackle. (We call that move "The Archuleta"). Scott Pianowski already told the full story right here while it was in progress, so there's not much I need to add.
Martin's insane effort was the third-best single-game rushing performance by a rookie, and one of the all-time fantasy explosions. It didn't quite top the Billy Cannon game in '61, nor the Clinton Portis binge in '03, but it was special nonetheless.
And no, I have no idea what that late-game appearance by LeGarrette Blount was all about, the one where he coughed up the football. Every once in a while, Greg Schiano needs to be reminded that relying on Blount is a very, very bad idea.
• You'll probably never believe this, but Darren McFadden suffered an injury in Week 9, forcing him from the Raiders' home loss. While X-rays on his ankle were reportedly negative, DMC was quickly ruled out of the game. That's never a good sign. Mike Goodson would have been the obvious pick-up, but he checked out with an ankle injury as well.
If neither McFadden nor Goodson can play at Baltimore in Week 10, it's going to be the Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reece show. Do what you need to do with that information. Reece delivered a nice PPR total on Sunday, catching eight balls on nine targets for 95 yards and a TD, leading the Raiders in receiving. Carson Palmer put the ball in the air a whopping 61 times against Tampa, passing for 414 yards, so several Oakland pass-catchers were useful for fantasy purposes. None were better than tight end Brandon Myers, who led the team with 13 targets and crossed the goal line twice.
If I had to place a speculative bid on one of the handcuffy Oakland backs tonight, Reece would definitely be the guy.
• Larry Fitzgerald's 31-yard TD at Lambeau may have been my favorite individual effort play of the day — reminiscent of his near-score at the end of the Niners game, but with a better result. Just look at this thing. He's a tough guy to sit, regardless of the quarterback mess. I'll remind you for the millionth time this year that he could have ended up with Peyton Manning this year. Such a gut-punch. (Of course the Cards' O-line probably would have led to Peyton's ruin, so I understand the man's decision-making process).
Green Bay still handled Arizona easily enough, as Aaron Rodgers threw for his usual four TDs. Randall Cobb caught two, James Jones caught one (of highlight quality), and Tom Crabtree the other. Jordy Nelson added an ankle injury to his hamstring issues, but he'll have the bye week to get right.
The other actionable Packers news coming out of Week 9 is that James Starks, not Alex Green, led the team in both carries and rushing yards (17 for 61). Green still took 11 hand-offs, gaining 53 yards, so it's not like he was an afterthought. Fantasy owners just need to recognize that he now appears to be a committee member, not a full-workload back. Starks is a viable add, if not actually an exciting add.
• Josh Gordon lost a touchdown catch to an illegal formation flag, so his owners can rightly feel that they deserve another half-dozen fantasy points. Tough break, gamers. Gordon finished with a measly 38 yards on two catches, but it could have been better. Trent Richardson had an excellent total yardage day for the Browns (136), but Phil Dawson handled all the scoring for Cleveland in Week 9. As you can probably guess, that was not a winning formula.
Andrew Luck on his way to a 433-yard day (USP)Baltimore gave us a 37-to-24 run-pass ratio at Cleveland, following through on the promise to go run-heavy out of the bye. Ray Rice finished with 104 scrimmage yards and a touchdown on 27 touches. He'll feast on the Raiders' defense next Sunday, as the Ravens host Oakland. Anything Doug Martin can do, Ray Rice can ... well, OK, he probably won't top 250 yards. Fine. But he's gonna be good.
• Andrew Luck just established a new single-game passing yardage record for a rookie QB, yet he's buried way down here, halfway through the bullets. Sorry, Indy. This week was really uncommonly busy. When Luck completed that 36-yard jump-ball touchdown pass to TY Hilton late in the third, into double coverage, you sorta knew it was his day. He finished with 433 passing yards with two TDs, going 30-for-48.
This was Luck's fifth game with 44 or more pass attempts, so there are no worries about volume with him. The Colts have a series of friendly match-ups ahead — at Jac, at NE, vs. Buf, at Det, vs. Ten — and they've got a date with Kansas City in championship week. Luck has a top-eight (six? five?) setup, rest of season.
• Unlike nearly every other game on the Week 9 slate, Buffalo-vs.-Houston offered no great surprises. Arian Foster had the expected big day against Buffalo's atrocious defense (111 yards, TD), Matt Schaub gave us a tolerable line (268-2), and the Bills' offense never crossed the goal line. CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson split the backfield touches evenly, again (11 apiece). Houston's defense still hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown on the year, which is rather impressive. Matt Forte and Michael Bush will attempt to break the streak next week.
It might not be your year, genius (USP)• Washington is just about out of competent receivers at this point, with Santana Moss concussed. Robert Griffin III had a quiet fantasy day in Week 9, taking his usual beating (four sacks, 11 rush attempts, more X-rays) and not quite finding the end zone. Penalties wiped out his scoring chances, as the 'Skins drew 13 flags.
''You lose a game like that, now you're playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come,'' Shanahan said. ''I'll get a chance to evaluate players and see where we're at.''
At 3-6, Washington has officially entered evaluation mode. I'm feeling the same way with at least two fantasy teams. But they're non-keepers, so [profane] those [profane].
Cam Newton had a nice enough day by his recent standards (201 pass, TD, 37 rush, TD), and Steve Smith finally found the end zone, ending my long multi-league nightmare. DeAngelo Williams had an unexpected rushing score on a play where it sure sounded like an official blew the whistle when the ball-carrier was somewhere between the 20 and the 10. Take a listen for yourself. I can't really explain how that became a TD, and the head ref didn't clear it up, either.
• Eric Decker caught two more touchdown passes on Sunday at Cincinnati, giving him seven scores over his last five games. Not to be outdone, AJ Green extended his own touchdown streak to seven games, which is just silly. These two are beasts, not to be benched. Per his usual, Peyton Manning was at his best in the final quarter, tossing two of his three touchdown passes in the fourth. Demaryius Thomas gave us a brief injury scare, appearing to tweak a knee, but he returned to the field, eventually finishing with six catches for 77 yards. No need to panic there.
• The Lions ran for four touchdowns at Jacksonville on Sunday, which seemed un-Lionly. We discussed the big Mikel LeShoure day much earlier, back when I still had hope. Matthew Stafford still managed to throw for 285 yards against the Jags, because that's what he does. Calvin Johnson was an injury-related question mark entering the week (knee), but he finished with 129 yards on seven catches. Rookie slot specialist Ryan Broyles caught six balls on as many targets, totaling 52 yards. He's still widely available, yet should prove helpful to the PPR community.
And here's another guy who didn't outscore Doug Martin (Getty Images)• The Steelers opened the week as the NFL's No. 1 ranked pass defense, and Eli Manning did nothing on Sunday to bump them the top spot. Eli completed just 10 of 24 throws for 125 yards, helping no one. Victor Cruz saw 11 targets, caught just five, and was walloped by Ryan Clark in the end zone. Rough afternoon all around.
Isaac Redman was huge for Pittsburgh, carrying 26 times for 147 yards and a game-winning one-yard score. He was basically the last man standing in the Steelers' backfield, so the team ran him into the ground, successfully. Antonio Brown exited with an ankle injury, which may or may not be of the high-sprain variety, an obvious concern. Still, Pittsburgh survived some sketchy officiating and a terrible fake field goal — they all look awful when they don't work — so that team's fans can't complain.
• Christian Ponder was notably bad in Week 9, completing 11 throws for just 63 yards, tossing one pick. He obviously had a tough task, traveling to Seattle to face an evil defense, but there's just no way to spin a 63-yard passing performance as anything other than terrible.
"I don't necessarily think that Christian is the problem," said Leslie Frazier, following his team's loss.
OK, coach. But Ponder is at least one of the problems. Another pressing issue is Percy Harvin's injured ankle. And then there's Kyle Rudolph's recent string of dud performances; he finished with zero catches on two targets against the Seahawks.
The only thing that really went right for Minnesota on Sunday was ... well, pretty much anything that Adrian Peterson did. He beasted. Here's the full highlight reel. Just a wicked cut on that 74-yard near-score. Peterson finished with 193 yards and two TDs on 20 touches, torching one of the league's best run defenses. Not bad for a guy who's just 10 months removed from ACL surgery.
EARLY ADDS FOR WEEK 10
QB Carson Palmer, Oakland (at Baltimore)
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (at New England)
QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami (vs. Tennessee)
RB Marcel Reece, Oakland (at Baltimore)
RB James Starks, Green Bay (bye)
RB Beanie Wells, Arizona (bye)
RB Bernard Pierce, Baltimore (vs. Oakland)
RB Joique Bell, Detroit (at Minnesota)
WR Danny Amendola, St. Louis (at San Francisco)
WR Danario Alexander, San Diego (at Tampa Bay)
WR TY Hilton, Indianapolis (at Jacksonville)
WR Ryan Broyles, Detroit (at Minnesota)
WR Golden Tate, Seattle (vs. NY Jets)
TE Brandon Myers, Oakland (at Baltimore)
TE Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis (at Jacksonville)