December 14, 2008
Today, the Cardinals fell to 8-6 after getting mauled by the Vikings. Tarvaris Jackson had four TD passes, despite throwing just 17 times. (Thanks, Roderick Hood). Adrian Peterson rushed for 165 yards and Chester Taylor added 10 carries for 66. Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner was limited to 6.0 yards per attempt, and Anquan Boldin lost a fumble.
In their own stadium, Cardinals fans seemed to be outnumbered by Minnesotans.
The Cardinals are now 5-0 within their miserable division, but they're 3-6 against the rest of the league. Over the past four weeks they've lost three games to opponents outside the NFC West (NYG, PHI, MIN). In those defeats, they've allowed 120 points.
• Santonio Holmes was having a truly ugly day (fumble, muffed punt), but his touchdown reception -- which wasn't originally ruled a TD, and didn't look like a TD -- gave the Steelers a 13-9 victory in Baltimore. Both defenses were impressive, obviously. Pittsburgh has now held opponents to 10 points or less in four of their last five games. They'll face Tennessee in Week 16.
• DeAngelo Williams actually had a quiet afternoon by his standards (88 rushing yards), but his 56-yard third quarter touchdown may have been the play of the day. He ran left, encountered a wall of linemen, then reversed field, cut inside Elvis Dumervil, and found himself in a footrace with various Denver linebackers and DBs. Broncos rarely win those races.
If you thought we were kidding earlier about Steve Smith being left completely alone, check the highlights. It was obscene. The AP recap says that Josh Barrett was covering him, but there's no video evidence to support that claim.
• It was a pretty good day for former Raiders returning to Oakland. Randy Moss had five receptions for 67 yards and two relatively easy touchdowns; LaMont Jordan rushed 12 times for 97 yards and one TD.
The box score says that Matt Cassel was sacked twice, but he appeared to be completely unhurried all afternoon. The Oakland defense entered Week 15 allowing 158.7 rushing yards per game, and they certainly didn't disappoint against New England. Jordan obviously had a big day, and so did Sammy Morris (14 carries, 117 yards, one touchdown). Steve Slaton gets the Raiders' D next week.
• Half of the Williams wall (Pat) left the Vikings-Cards game with a shoulder injury.
Posted at 9:35 ET
• The crowd in Arizona actually seems to be partial to the Vikings, and they haven't been disappointed so far. Tarvaris Jackson has three first half touchdown passes, and two of them had very little margin for error. Bernard Berrian has touched the ball twice -- once on a punt return, once on a reception (pictured) -- and he's accounted for 123 yards and two TDs. Adrian Peterson is over 100 rushing yards already.
Basically, the Cardinals are getting smoked. Everything is working for Minnesota.
• The Stovers lead the Reeds at halftime, 6-3. Nothing else to report there.
• Denver's decision to leave Steve Smith uncovered hasn't really paid dividends so far. Maybe they're just trying to tire him out. Smith has six catches for 126 yards and one TD already. Jonathan Stewart added a short-yardage score.
• It looks like 45 percent of today's fantasy points will be scored in the Pats-Raiders game. New England leads 35-14 at half, and Matt Cassel has thrown three touchdown passes, hitting Kevin Faulk, Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The Patriots clearly aren't punting today.
• The early speculation on Haynesworth's injury is that it could be an MCL. An MRI is expected Monday.
Posted at 6:05 ET
• We await Jeff Fisher's explanation of today's fourth-and-three decision. Trailing 13-12 with 1:55 remaining in the fourth quarter, Fisher declined to send Rob Bironas onto the field for a 49-yard field goal attempt. Bironas had booted a 51-yarder earlier in the game, and his career long is 60.
Instead of kicking, Kerry Collins threw downfield to Justin McCareins, unsuccessfully. Houston took over, and Steve Slaton ran out the clock. The rookie picked up 52 rushing yards on the Texans' final series.
Bironas owners and/or Titans fans are encouraged to comment.
Update: OK, Fisher's explanation made some sense. (Not that you're feeling better if you're a Bironas owner). In his postgame comments, the Titans' coach suggested that the kick fell just outside of Bironas' range at that end of the field. It's apparently a stadium-conditions thing. Before the game, Bironas wasn't hitting from 48-50 yards.
• JP Losman went into full Rosenfels-mode with two minutes remaining in the Bills-Jets game. He lost a fumble deep in Bills territory, and Shaun Ellis returned it for a TD to give New York a 31-27 lead. On Buffalo's next play from scrimmage, Losman was intercepted by Darrelle Revis. The game ended on a Hail Mary INT by Kerry Rhodes.
For those scoring at home, that's -4 public league fantasy points for Losman in two minutes. Or if you happened to own the Jets defense, it's +12.
• Only the Chiefs could lose a 21-10 lead so dramatically, and so late. Philip Rivers seemed like a solid candidate for the fantasy dud video segment, but he completed 13 passes and threw two TDs during the Chargers final two possessions. Malcom Floyd came through for Evans, like most other Shockers this year.
• Check the workload distribution for the Tampa running backs: 12 carries and 40 rushing yards for Warrick Dunn, 14 carries and 59 yards for Carnell Williams. Michael Turner had his usual massive day for the opposition: 32 carries, 152 yards, one TD.
• Maurice Jones-Drew came alive in the fourth quarter, reaching the end zone twice against Green Bay (and maybe saving some of us in the semi-finals). MJD bulldozed AJ Hawk on the two-yard rushing TD that gave the Jaguars a late lead.
• Another plucky effort from the Lions, and another loss. Dallas Clark had a spectacular day (12 catches, 142 yards, one TD), and Dominic Rhodes delivered the 20-something fantasy points you expected.
Kevin Smith continues to deliver nice under-the-radar fantasy numbers: 26 yards, 117 yards, one TD. Dan Orlovsky also finished with a nice line (23-for-34, 233 yards, one TD), and he'll get the Saints next week.
• Those of us who started Shaun Hill today appreciate the 46 pass attempts. But in the end, it was just too much Nedney.
Posted at 5:15 ET
• Andre Johnson has eight catches for 154 yards and one TD at half, and it feels like I'm facing him in every league. He's getting Pac 10-style separation from Titans DBs. Johnson now has 100 receptions for 1355 yards on the season, and there are still two and a half weeks left to play.
• If you were at all concerned that windy conditions in Kansas City would limit Larry Johnson's ability to throw the ball, you can relax. LJ threw an ugly, wobbly jump-ball TD pass to Tony Gonzalez in the corner of the end zone at the 4:59 mark in the first quarter. The Chiefs lead the lifeless Chargers at half, 14-3.
• Credit the Jets for a creative opening drive. It ended the usual way, with a two-yard Thomas Jones touchdown, but it featured a 27-yard gain by Brett Favre off a bootleg, and a tough 12-yard run by Tony Richardson. That was just the fourth carry of the year for Richardson.
After breaking all their tendencies on the first series, Favre went to the air on the Jets' second drive. Laveranues Coles caught two passes for 26 yards, and Jerricho Cotchery finished things off with an 11-yard TD reception.
(Note to Coles: If you're going to question Favre's arm strength, you'd better not drop passes when they hit you in the gut. And you'd really better not let those drops get picked off).
• OK, there's no way this play happened:
R. Fitzpatrick passed to C. Benson to the right for 79 yard gain
It's there in the box score, but c'mon. Cedric Benson doesn't travel 79 yards in a month, and he doesn't catch things, ever. Expect a stat correction.
Nice bootleg call by the Bengals on Ryan Fitzpatrick's one-yard touchdown run. It's nice to see such a reliable intramural play work in the league.
• Marshawn Lynch's 35-yard first quarter run featured humiliating jukes on Abram Elam and Kerry Rhodes, then a punishing finish. Beast Mode didn't really do anything useful against the Jets in Week 9 (nine carries, 16 yards), but he's had a terrific first half today (nine carries, 79 yards) and he's running angry.
• Pretty throw by Chad Pennington on David Martin's 61-yard first quarter TD. Pennington looked right, pump-faked, then came back to the left to Martin downfield. The throw was placed in a spot where 5-11 Mark Roman simply had no chance against the 6-4 Martin.
• Hopefully you rolled with Steven Jackson today. All of my playoff opponents did. S-Jax has 20 touches for 107 total yards at half, and he scored on a bruising six-yard run up the middle.
• Calvin Johnson made a sweet, twisting move at the goal line to get his weekly touchdown. Obviously the Lions trail the Colts, but you can't keep Calvin out of the end zone.
• New quarterback, same result for Antonio Bryant: seven catches, 106 yards, one TD at halftime.
• The halftime report on CBS was interrupted by news that some dude threw a pair of shoes at President Bush during a press conference. Somewhere, Terrell Owens is fuming because he's not getting enough shoes thrown his way.
Posted at 3:08 ET
Welcome to the playoff semi-finals, gamers. Congratulations for making it this far. Please stop by Fantasy Football Live at noon ET. We'll have injury updates, sit/start recommendations, game-day weather details, a cake, a piñata, a bouncy castle, and moustache-painting...
Photos via Getty Images (Lions fan, Bironas), AP Images (Johnson, Berrian) and US Presswire (Rackers).