September 18, 2011
You can stare at that game script all you like, Todd Haley, but you won't find an answer to your team's current predicament. The Chiefs, it appears, are toast. And they should probably fire whichever trainer is in charge of anterior cruciate ligaments, because that guy is terrible at his job.
In each of their last three games, exhibition contests included, the Chiefs have lost an essential player to a season-ending left ACL tear. Tony Moeaki(notes) went down in the preseason finale, then it was Eric Berry(notes) in Week 1, and — if the early reports can be believed — Jamaal Charles(notes) suffered the same injury in Sunday's loss at Detroit. Charles will reportedly have an MRI on Monday to confirm the preliminary diagnosis.
Kansas City's start has been historically bad — they've been outscored 89 to 10 — and there are few obvious reasons to believe a turnaround is about to happen. Quarterback Matt Cassel(notes) has been notably awful, passing for only 119 yards on 36 throws in the opener, then 133 on 22 attempts in Week 2. If you're a Chiefs fan, maybe you just want Cassel's disastrous play to continue, so your team will be well-situated to land Andrew Luck in 2012. But rooting for draft position is a miserable experience, arguably the worst in pro sports. I wouldn't wish that on any fan-base (outside Wisconsin).
In Charles' absence, Dexter McCluster(notes) led Kansas City in rushing on Sunday. He gained 51 yards on eight carries and added four catches, though his receiving yardage finished in the red (-2) thanks to an ugly 8-yard loss in the fourth quarter, on a play that ended with a fumble. McCluster needs to be added in fantasy leagues of almost any size and shape, because he's a talented back who now finds himself in line for an uptick in workload. He should be a solid PPR play, if nothing else. McCluster is eligible at WR in Yahoo! leagues, so he offers uncommon utility. Thomas Jones(notes) should be on the radar as well, even if his best days are buried in the past. Le'Ron McClain(notes) has a path to touches, too.
But really, unless Cassel can be less of a wreck, no Chiefs skill player is going to deliver starter-quality production. You'll want to stream defenses against this team for the foreseeable future. Here's the upcoming schedule, for those who may want to pencil a few things into the fantasy planner: at San Diego, vs. Minnesota, at Indianapolis, bye, at Oakland, vs. San Diego, vs. Miami, vs. Denver. And then beginning in Week 11, things really take a frightening turn: at New England, vs. Pittsburgh, at Chicago, at NY Jets, vs. Green Bay.
Sorry, KC. This is a terrible situation, and it appears you're in for a rough year. Fantasy commissioners, you'll want to make sure you've collected the league few whoever drafted Charles, because that guy has a difficult season ahead, too.
• The Chargers-Patriots tilt was as entertaining as any game we've seen since ... well, since the last game New England played, on Monday night in Week 1. Tom Brady(notes) topped 400 yards for the second straight week (423 to be exact), keeping pace with Cam. Brady's tight ends handled most of the scoring, as Rob Gronkowski(notes) caught two TD passes and Aaron Hernandez(notes) had one. (According to multiple reports, Hernandez limped away from the game, so we'll need to monitor his situation all week). Wes Welker(notes) and Deion Branch(notes) had their typical solid PPR days, combining for 15 catches and 210 yards. Ocho even made an appearance in the box score (2-45), so you know it was a good day for the Pats.
In a losing effort for the Chargers, Philip Rivers(notes) was good to his owners, per his usual (378 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs). Vincent Jackson(notes) had an exceptional day, hauling in 10 passes for 172 yards and a pair of scores, making improbable grabs and generally dominating the Pats' secondary. But New England absolutely locked up Antonio Gates(notes), who finished without a catch, so we can't say that defense didn't have its priorities in order. Mike Tolbert(notes) caught eight more passes for 73 yards, which gives him 17 receptions on the season. He was denied at the goal line, however, so his day didn't quite meet expectations. Maclom Floyd looked like he was on his way to a highlight-filled day, but he suffered an early groin injury. Jackson clearly benefited statistically.
• The good news, if you're a Miles Austin(notes) owner, is that you probably won your fantasy matchup in Week 2. Austin led all scorers on Sunday, catching nine passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns. The Niners couldn't contain him, even on a day when he and Jason Witten(notes) were the only credible receiving threats. But here's the bad news: Austin's hamstring injury resurfaced, and there's concern that it will become a multi-week issue. Dez Bryant(notes) (quad) will be desperately needed in Week 3. As we mentioned earlier in the day, Tony Romo(notes) reportedly fractured a rib (or two) in Sunday's Pyrrhic win, and Felix Jones(notes) may have separated his shoulder (per Chris Mortensen). Rough afternoon for Big D, even in victory.
We should end this bullet on a positive note, however, mentioning the spectacular playcall by the Cowboys that set up the game-winning kick in overtime. On Dallas' first play from scrimmage in OT, the Niners' defense fell hard for a play fake, allowing Jesse Holley(notes) to go untouched and uncovered. Romo found him for a 77-yard gain, down to the 1. (Holley could have easily lost the football, one-handing it near the goal line. But he didn't, so he's a hero, not a goat). The Cowboys QB also earned a few points in his intangible/toughness rating, returning to the game while in clear pain, absorbing a fair amount of punishment.
• Following his team's 23-13 win at Miami, Houston head coach Gary Kubiak suggested that Arian Foster(notes) was sidelined by fatigue, not an aggravation of his hamstring injury. But Foster himself later suggested the hamstring was "getting a little tight." Under normal circumstances I believe the player in these situations, but Arian Foster has proven to be a terrible source of information on Arian Foster. So we may never know the exact truth here. Whatever. Ben Tate(notes) was good again, carrying 23 times for 103 yards. Matt Schaub(notes) connected with Andre Johnson(notes) seven times for 93 yards and a late score. Schaub completed 21 of 29 throws for 230 yards and a pair of TDs, despite facing a fair amount of pressure from the Dolphins.
• You know what seems like a worse idea with each injury blurb? The 18-game schedule. Hell, even the 16-game schedule. Of course this is only Week 2, and no one is suggesting that we shorten the season to one game. All of these injuries would have happened under any scenario. So maybe they should just play every week, forever, with no end to any season. We've settled nothing in this paragraph.
• One of Sunday's bigger surprises was the workload split in the Miami backfield. Rookie Daniel Thomas(notes) carried 18 times for 107 yards, while Reggie Bush(notes) finished with just seven touches and 21 total yards. Earlier in the week, head coach Tony Sparano said he wanted a 75-25 division of labor, favoring Bush. So this is an awful development for those of us who own Reggie in PPR formats; there was injury scare at the end of the first half, but nothing came of it. Thomas lost a fumble on Sunday, but he was otherwise competent. If there was a sell-high window on Reggie, I'm afraid it's closed.
Here are a few postgame quotes, via the Miami Herald:
"Thomas was going good [Sunday], and that's where we were," Sparano said. "It was that kind of game. It worked out good."
Bush did not seem bothered.
"When my number is called, I look to make the most of my opportunities, and Daniel was running the ball really well," Bush said. "This is a team game. This is a long season. In my experiences, we need everybody. It's not just a one-man show. We have to help each other out."
Sounds like this was simply a hot-hand situation, which makes it a fantasy nightmare.
• Cincinnati rookies Andy Dalton(notes) and AJ Green(notes) had huge days in Denver, connecting 10 times for 124 yards and a fourth quarter score. Dalton had missed practice time with a wrist issue early in the week, but he passed for 332 yards and two TDs on Sunday. Jerome Simpson(notes) hauled in four passes for 136 yards, giving the Bengals a pair of triple-digit wideouts. Have to say, I didn't think we'd see that from Cincy this year. Of course the injuries to the Broncos defense helped the cause in no small way (Champ Bailey(notes), Elvis Dumervil(notes)). Dalton has some talent, but this is definitely not a Cam Newton situation.
• Eric Decker(notes) had a monster day in Denver's win, catching five balls for 113 yards and two scores. He's clearly a player of interest for fantasy owners, and he'll get plenty of looks going forward. (Eddie Royal(notes) checked out of Sunday's game with a groin injury that appeared significant, so that's two extra weekly targets for Decker). Add as needed. Willis McGahee(notes) carried 28 times for 101 yards for Denver, getting a full workload with Knowshon Moreno(notes) sidelined by a hamstring injury. McGahee inexplicably allowed himself to get forced out of bounds in a late clock-killing situation, but the gaffe didn't ultimately cost his team a win.
• Bonus bullet: We don't usually grab notes from the Sunday nighter in this feature, but of course we don't usually have an injury of Michael Vick(notes) magnitude. In the third quarter at Atlanta, while Vick was being dragged to the turf, he collided with Philadelphia lineman Todd Herremans(notes). Vick apparently suffered a concussion on the play, though it was originally reported as a neck injury. He walked to the locker room with trainers, spitting blood after biting his tongue. Vick was replaced by Mike Kafka(notes), who couldn't quite lead the Eagles to a win. Kafka played as well as could be expected (7-for-9, 72 yards), but it wasn't enough. Vick passed for 242 yards and two scores before exiting, but also turned the ball over three times. He's obviously a question mark for Week 3, so make sure to have Plan B on the roster. You can't bet on a player being active in the week following a concussion.
We've talked quite a bit about the injury risk associated with Vick, but the play on which he was dinged Sunday night could have happened to any QB (with a sketchy O-line). It wasn't some crazy Vick scramble. In the NFL, pretty much every player is injury prone.
• Kenny Britt(notes) delivered another big fantasy line on Sunday, gaining 135 yards on nine catches, visiting the end zone again. He's talented enough to make Matt Hasselbeck(notes) a QB of interest in the right matchup (see add below). Chris Johnson got the workload we were promised (27 touches), but he gained only 65 yards against the Ravens D. You have to just let it go, CJ owners. If you feel the need to unload him, I'm willing to talk trade.
• Here's another note we should have given you earlier in the day: Washington rookie RB Roy Helu(notes) gained 74 yards on 10 carries against Arizona, and he added three catches for 38 yards. If he's unowned in your league, give him a look. That kid figures to earn a greater role as the season continues and the carries pile up for Tim Hightower(notes). Helu was a star at the NFL Combine, and his talent as a runner was evident on Sunday. And with that, we hit the pick-ups...
Early adds for Week 3
QB Matt Hasselbeck vs. Den
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) vs. NE
RB Roy Helu at Dal
RB/WR Dexter McCluster at SD
RB Thomas Jones at SD
RB Tashard Choice(notes) vs. Was
RB DeMarco Murray(notes) vs. Was
WR Eric Decker at TEN
WR Denarius Moore(notes) vs. NYJ
WR David Nelson(notes) vs. NE
WR Jerome Simpson vs. SF
WR Brandon LaFell(notes) vs. Jac
DEF San Francisco at Cin
DEF Miami at Cle
-updated at 10:30 pm ET
• No matter the final result at San Francisco, this game will leave a mark on the Cowboys' offense.
Tony Romo suffered an early rib injury, reportedly a fracture, so Jon Kitna(notes) replaced him to begin the third quarter. Kitna threw one TD pass and two picks in his not-quite-15 minutes of action, but Romo later returned to the game. We'll see how that goes. Running back Felix Jones is dinged, too, sustaining an apparent shoulder injury. Jones has remained in the game, with Tashard Choice and rookie DeMarco Murray getting touches as well.
Miles Austin has handled the scoring for Dallas through three quarters, reaching the end zone twice on his first five receptions. The first TD was a 53-yarder just before half, the second the result of a nice touch throw by Kitna.
• Yup, that was Dolphins rookie running back Daniel Thomas gaining 61 total yards on 11 touches in the first half. Reggie Bush has barely been a rumor thus far. Bush apparently went to the locker room with a few ticks remaining in the second quarter, a trainer at his side. Still, we have , but there's no official word regarding an injury.
Arian Foster has reportedly aggravated his hamstring injury, which may just end his day after 12 touches and 40 yards. That was obviously not the plan. Ben Tate, you're up.
• Tom Brady is headed for another 300-plus passing performance, and he's again connected with both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski for TDs. The Hernandez score probably should have been reviewed, true, but I'm fairly sure he demonstrated possession while flat on his back in the end zone. At some point, the play ends and it doesn't matter if the defender yanks the ball away.
• Brandon Marshall(notes) bulldozed Jason Allen(notes) near the goal line in the third quarter at Miami, stiff-arming the Texans DB into the end zone on a 12-yard score. That's gonna leave a mark. Ugly moment for the defender right there.
• Eric Decker is having himself a breakout day for Denver, with Brandon Lloyd(notes) sidelined by injury. The second-year receiver already has a triple-digit yardage day and a pair of scores ... and we're still playing. This is a big receiver (6-foot-3, 220) with unusual elusiveness for a dude his size. Definitely a name to know, and perhaps to add.
• I didn't bother to rank any of the Seahawks skill players this week, and they didn't make me pay. Pittsburgh buried that team, 24-0. The Steelers held Seattle to just 164 total net yards. Marshawn Lynch(notes) carried six times for 11. No Seahawks receiver topped 35 yards. You should not have expected more.
-updated at 6:45 pm ET
• For the second straight week, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford(notes) was borderline unfair. He put up a huge fantasy number, going 23-for-39 for 294 yards and four TDs. This is a guy with skills that can't be taught, a scary-good arm. And of course it helps that he gets to work with Calvin Johnson(notes), an uncoverable receiver. He's unfair, too. Megatron caught another pair of TDs in Week 2, just like he did in the opener. When the Lions got in the red zone, the 5-foot-9 Brandon Flowers(notes) really had no answers for Calvin. Jahvid Best(notes) gave us two scores and 123 total yards, and Nate Burleson(notes) caught seven balls for 93. This team has no shortage of weapons, when everyone's healthy. Frightening team. Detroit gets Minnesota on the road next week, then the Lions travel to Dallas.
The flip side of Sunday's Lions win is, of course, the unfolding disaster that is the Kansas City Chiefs season. Matt Cassel had another brutal day (133 yards, three INTs), Jamaal Charles checked out early with a nasty knee injury (preliminary diagnosis: ACL), and no offensive player other than Dwayne Bowe(notes) did anything noteworthy (5-101-0). That team is now without it's best players on defense (Eric Berry) and offense (Charles). You'd have to make KC the early favorites in the Andrew Luck chase — and yeah, that's the only silver lining I can think of, Chiefs fans.
• OK, stop reading for a sec, and go put a waiver claim on Oakland receiver Denarius Moore. I'll be here when you get back.
Done? Great. Moore was a buzzy player throughout the preseason, and the Tennessee rookie was a beast against Buffalo in Week 2. He caught five passes for 146 yards, breaking the plane on a degree-of-difficulty TD. Moore split a pair of Bills DBs to haul in a 50-yard score. He added 25 rushing yards, too. When the early hype matches the early performance, then it's time to make the add. Tough to believe Moore fell to the fifth round on draft day; he began opening eyes the moment he hit camp.
That Oakland-Buffalo game turned into a spectacular fantasy buffet, after the Raiders owned the first half. The Bills were usually a fun team last season when they went into catch-up mode, and they were ridiculous on Sunday. They had three points after two quarters, but 38 after four. Fred Jackson(notes) finished with two TDs, David Nelson caught 10 passes for 83 yards (he's an add), and Scott Chandler(notes) (!) visited the end zone for the third time this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick finished with 264 yards and three TDs. He gets New England next week, and we know that defense will concede a few yards through the air.
• Another week, another 400-plus passing yards and a rushing score for Cam Newton. Ho-hum. If he plays a full 16 games, there's almost no way he'll finish outside the top-10 (top-eight? top-five?) fantasy scorers at quarterback. Even when the passing yards aren't there, he'll give you stats on the ground. Cam led the Panthers in rushing on Sunday, breaking the plane on a 4-yard score late in the fourth quarter. Obviously many of Newton's numbers were delivered in a second-half comeback effort, and there were a few misfires and poor decisions, resulting in three picks. But let's not confuse the issue here: Cam is an emerging fantasy star. He connected with Steve Smith six times for 156 yards, and he hit Jonathan Stewart(notes) eight times for 100. Newton gets the Jaguars next week, and he'll likely rank as a must-start.
• The Saints shamed the Bears in Week 2, as the New Orleans offense put up 30 points and the defense sacked Jay Cutler(notes) six times. Darren Sproles(notes) again led the Saints in receptions, catching eight balls for 43 yards and a score. (It's almost unbelievable that the Sproles TD wasn't reviewed, because he appeared to step out at the 1-yard line. But whatever, my five Sproles teams will take the points). Matt Forte(notes) was almost the entire offense for Chicago, leading the team in both rushing (10-for-49) and receiving (10-for-117). Drew Brees(notes) gave us his usual day: 270, 3 TDs. Mark Ingram(notes) had 14 mostly unimpressive carries, gaining 51 yards. At one point, Brian Urlacher(notes) actually used former teammate Olin Kruetz to bring down Ingram.
• Shonn Greene(notes) gave us a late-third quarter score to save his fantasy day, but he gained just 3.1 yards per carry against a sketchy Jacksonville defense. It wasn't quite everything Greene's owners expected on draft day. He'll remain a player who needs just the right game situation in order to help us.
• Blaine Gabbert(notes) made a late appearance for the thoroughly beaten Jags, completing five of six passes for 52 yards. Of course he was facing a defense that no longer needed to attack, because they'd already had their way with Luke McCown(notes). Jacksonville's starting QB had an abysmal day (6-for-19, 59 yards, four picks), so the Gabbert era may have just begun.
• Adrian Peterson and LeGarrette Blount(notes) each scored a pair of touchdowns on Sunday, as the Vikings collapsed at home. Minnesota took a 17-0 lead into halftime, then lost 24-20. Donovan McNabb(notes) was useless again (220 yards, no scores). Minnesota might wanna just run that end-game play all the time, where Peterson and Percy Harvin(notes) just flip the ball back and forth down the field. Josh Freeman(notes) directed the comeback effort for Tampa Bay. He hit Arrelious Benn(notes) for a 25-yard TD, and had another score wiped off the board via penalty. Mike Williams hauled in what should have been his seventh touchdown in seven weeks, but the Bucs were flagged for an illegal formation.
• Jordy Nelson(notes) owners, you can thank Greg Jennings(notes) for that 84-yard TD. Jennings delivered a vicious downfield block on poor Captain Munnerlyn(notes), freeing up Jordy to go the distance. That score was Nelson's only catch, though Aaron Rodgers(notes) had looked his way in the end zone earlier in the afternoon.
• Is it too early to declare that the Colts are simply terrible, on both sides of the ball? No, I don't think so. What a stinking blue mess that team is right now, without Peyton Manning(notes). Dallas Clark(notes) caught a late garbage time score, but there's absolutely no reason you should feel good about him moving forward.
-updated at 5:35 pm ET
• Just seven minutes into the Chiefs-Lions game, Sunday's top fantasy story was perfectly clear — and it's ugly. Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles was carted to the locker room with a knee injury of unknown severity. JC's first carry against Detroit went for 24 yards. His second went for three, but ended with Charles taking a pair of awkward steps out of bounds, eventually upending the Lions mascot.
Charles immediately clutched his left knee, in obvious and significant pain. It seems highly unlikely that he'll return. It appeared that Charles suffered the injury before making contact with Roary, just for the record, so let's not blame the dude in the costume.
If Charles misses time beyond this week — and at the moment, you have to consider that to be the likely scenario — then Dexter McCluster gets a substantial bump in value. He'll have something more than a cameo role. Dexter gained 41 yards on six touches in the first half against Detroit. However, McCluster is much smaller than Charles (5-8, 170), not a guy who figures to inherit the full workload. Thomas Jones is obviously still in the mix, too, and he'll get all the carries he can handle. But Jones is also 33, a high-mileage back coming off a 3.7 YPC season.
• Jay Cutler engineered an impressive five-minute scoring drive in the first quarter, highlighted by a nifty 17-yard improvised connection with Matt Forte. It's worth noting that the drive was extended by a pair of Saints penalties, one of which seemed rather questionable. (Not so sure Roman Harper(notes) roughed the quarterback. But I can't even guess when roughing or PI will be called anymore). New Orleans nonetheless had a 16-10 lead at halftime, getting a long score from Devery Henderson(notes), who simply outran the Bears secondary on a 79-yarder.
• Ben Roethlisberger(notes) took a nasty hit from behind in the first half at Pittsburgh, as Raheem Brock(notes) fell into the QB's legs. For a few minutes, it seemed Big Ben may have suffered a right knee injury — he was replaced briefly by Charlie Batch(notes) — but he eventually returned to the game. Roethlisberger started the second half for the Steelers, so he's apparently dodged a bullet.
• The Raiders steamrolled the Bills in the first half at Buffalo, as Michael Bush(notes), Darren McFadden(notes) and Jason Campbell(notes) all broke the plane. Oakland hit 80 rushing yards in the first half. Rookie receiver Denarius Moore made his presence known, too, catching a pair of passes for 62 yards.
• Cam Newton just doesn't seem willing to play to the expectations of fantasy experts. He passed for 180 yards in the first half at home against the Packers defense, connecting early with Brandon LaFell on a short TD. (Really nice adjustment to the throw by LaFell). Newton also led the Panthers in rushing, picking up 37 yards on five carries. He's thrown a pair of picks, however, so it hasn't been a flawless day. (Charles Woodson(notes) is having a terrific IDP day). Greg Olsen(notes) just missed a pair of touchdowns, failing to haul in a catchable ball in the end zone on Carolina's second drive, then later getting dragged down inside the 5 after a 34-yard gain.
• Rex Grossman(notes) threw a pair of early INTs, but finally gave his fantasy loyalists a touchdown pass near the end of the first half, connecting with tight end Fred Davis(notes). Tim Hightower is threatening to put up a big number on the ground against a lousy Arizona defense, rushing for 83 yards on his first 15 carries.
• The Colts are running well against Cleveland (no great feat), but so far Adam Vinatieri(notes) has handled all the scoring. Indianapolis is splitting carries fairly evenly between Delone Carter(notes) and Joseph Addai(notes), and both players are giving us numbers. Evan Moore(notes) and Peyton Hillis(notes) each have touchdowns for the Browns; Hillis is fumbling again, a problem he can't seem to shake. So far the play of the game might just be Pat McAfee's(notes) tackle on Joshua Cribbs(notes), preventing a return TD.
• You knew this already, but Matthew Stafford has inhuman arm strength. It's preposterous. When he's healthy, that offense is basically the Death Star.
• A few injury notes, in advance of the late games: Dez Bryant is out for the Cowboys, so you'll need to take evasive action, if you haven't done so already. Both Brandon Lloyd and Knowshon Moreno are reportedly inactive for Denver, which is just more bad news for an offense that showed us little in Week 1. And to no one's surprise, Arian Foster is expected to draw the start for the Texans.
-updated at 3:05 pm ET
OK, I realize that most of you are still amped about Saturday's historic Iowa comeback, and you've probably spent the past 18 hours rioting. A great victory for all Americans, no doubt. But you've got a fake football roster to manage, so it's time to focus on the pro game for a little while. Time to get to 2-0.
If you've got sit/start questions, we've got some recently updated position ranks. And if you're looking for last-minute info and advice, join us for Fantasy Football Live at noon ET. It's looking good for Arian Foster owners this week, not so great for Dez Bryant investors. You'll find a giant pile of post-practice injury notes right here.
Please check back with Sunday Scene throughout the day for game-day observations and fantasy spin. (Reminder: This is NOT where you'll want to go for active/inactive info. For official injury reports, hit this link). You can follow the Yahoo! fantasy staff on Twitter, too: Scott, Andy, Brad, Brandon.
And one last thing: Sign up right here to challenge me in a free beat-the-expert salary cap game. It's quick, it's painless, there's no cost, you help a charity. Do it.
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