The Jets and Patriots just played the best game I've seen all year; let's pore through it from a fantasy perspective.
Patriots Wrap: It's time to give some props to Matt Cassel, he's improved significantly as the year has gone along. He's still shaky on the deep ball and he tends to be conservative to a fault with some of his throws, but there are plenty of positives on the Cassel file: he sees the field very well and knows how to exploit favorable matchups; his pocket awareness is improving week by week; he's got decent accuracy on the shorter passes that he favors; and he's a lethal scrambler when the defense allows a running lane. We'll have to give him a much better fantasy rank for Week 12's game at Miami.
Cassel spun a beauty in the losing effort, piling up 400 yards and three touchdowns on 30-for-51 passing, and mixing in a ridiculous 62 yards rushing on eight scrambles. He overshot Randy Moss on a couple of deep passes (one would have been an easy touchdown), but when Cassel needed to be letter-perfect on the final scrimmage play of regulation, he threw a dart to Moss at the right pylon for a game-tying 16-yard touchdown. The Patriots rolled up 26 first downs and 511 yards, running a no-huddle spread offense for most of the second half, and Cassel looked like a 10-year veteran at the controls, consistently making smart decisions. Give the New England brass some props for the game-plan shift – it forced Kris Jenkins, New York's best defensive player, off the field.
Moss (3-26) was a well-marked decoy on most snaps, but he's still capable of beating people deep. Wes Welker remained impossible to cover (seven catches, 108 yards), and Jabar Gaffney stepped up as a viable No. 3 option (7-86, touchdown), consistently beating lesser defenders in single coverage. Ben Watson (8-88, TD) routinely abused the New York linebackers, though he killed one drive with a stunning no-contact fumble.
Because the Patriots fell behind 24-6 in the first half, the running game was junked early on and BenJarvus Green-Ellis wasn't part of the game plan (two carries, nine yards). Kevin Faulk had a typical line for him (8-38 rushing, 4-49 receiving), while Sammy Morris was forgettable in his first game back (five carries, 14 yards).
Jets Wrap: This was definitely Brett Favre's best outing since the Arizona explosion in late September (six touchdowns), and when you factor in the importance and stage of Thursday's game, it becomes Favre's high-water mark with the Jets. He was accurate and decisive (26-of-33, 258 yards), he threw a pair of touchdowns, and he didn't turn the ball over. The game plan seemed to get a little conservative in the second half as the Jets tried to sit on a big lead, but Favre had no problem cranking it up for two late scoring drives, one late in the fourth period, and then in overtime. When the Jets made the move for Favre last summer this was the sort of game they had in mind, a critical division clash against their most hated rival.
All that said, my fantasy game ball for the Jets goes to rookie tight end Dustin Keller (eight catches, 87 yards), who basically took over the game-winning drive with three dynamic receptions, including a critical conversion on third-and-long. It's not hard to see this kid is the full package as a receiver: a great feel for route running and spacing; reliable hands; a physical and competitive streak, always making yards after contact. It's time to start viewing him as an every-week fantasy play, though things won't come easy at Tennessee next week.
Jerricho Cotchery finally got off the skids, hauling in five catches for 87 yards and a score, his first touchdown since Week 4. With numbers like that, we'll excuse his second-half fumble. Cotchery's 46-yard catch in the second quarter was as good a grab as you'll see; he fought off pass interference from Ellis Hobbs and somehow caught the arching bomb with just one hand. It was a quieter night for Laveranues Coles (5-38), who looked a little gimpy at times. Nonetheless, Coles got free for a key 16-yard catch-and-run on the final possession.
Thomas Jones worked hard for his 104 yards, needing 30 carries to get to the number. His best run of the night was just 13 yards, but he also had a late touchdown and a couple of receptions. Given the opponent, you have to be pleased with the output. Leon Washington's impact on the game came early – a 7-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, and a 92-yard kickoff return for a score in the second period. The Jets never really got him going again after that (5-18 rushing, 2-17 receiving), but there's no denying the playmaker in No. 29.
Jay Feely's game-winning kick in overtime wasn't a thing of beauty, but it curled inside the left post and he's now had three productive games in a row (41 points), riding shotgun with the AFC's highest-scoring offense. It will be interesting to see if that's enough for Feely to stick around; Mike Nugent (thigh) traveled to Foxboro and seems healthy enough to play.