Week 11 finds fantasy owners jockeying for final playoff position, eyeballing new talent at QB, and praying that the injury bug bites everyone but their squad. Given the list of notable names on the injured list this week, it's unlikely that any team escaped unscathed.
Sunday's games saw the likely end to the starting career of Vinny Testaverde and the first start for Eli Manning in New York. Testaverde wasn't able to muster much of anything against the Ravens and gave way to Drew Henson. Against the Falcons, Manning played much better than the final numbers would indicate, victimized by six drops by his receivers in the first half.
Let's start this week's wrap-up in Baltimore, where the future is now for Bill Parcells and the Cowboys.
Dallas Cowboys 10, Baltimore Ravens 30
If the Ravens need to play a game without Jamal Lewis, then Sunday's tilt against Dallas is just what the doctor ordered. Lewis carried the ball twice for five yards before leaving with an injured ankle.
After last week's debacle against Philadelphia, the Cowboys played well for a half. Ok, so nobody expected Baltimore's offense to light it up. But it was only 3-0 at the break. The third quarter was all Baltimore. The Dallas offense gained only 11 yards in the third quarter, and Kyle Boller finally took advantage of the Cowboys secondary by tossing two touchdown passes. He finished 23-for-34 for 232 yards.
Kevin Johnson caught his first TD of the season, a 31-yard toss from Boller.
Vinny Testaverde was awful, connecting on only 9-of-22 passes, for 109 yards and two interceptions. One of his interceptions was returned for a touchdown. That brought Drew Henson off the bench in relief. Henson fumbled on his first play under center, and it was recovered by Baltimore at the Dallas one. Chester Taylor ran it in from the one to make the burial official.
Henson finished the game 6-for-6 for 47 yards and a touchdown to Jeff Robinson. I'm guessing that we'll see more of him this Thanksgiving Day against Chicago.
Rookie Julius Jones saw his first action since Week 2, carrying the ball 30 times for 81 yards.
St. Louis Rams 17, Buffalo Bills 37
After being dominated by New England last week, the Buffalo defense came back with a vengeance. The Bills terrorized Marc Bulger, sacking him six times (Lawyer Milloy had three) and intercepting three passes. Bulger completed 27-of-45 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
Smith's return led to one of Drew Bledsoe's three TD passes to Mark Campbell (four catches, 37 yards). Bledsoe finished the day 15-for-24 for 185 yards. The key for Bledsoe was that he took only one sack and turned the ball over only once.
Willis McGahee achieved his fourth 100-yard game of the season, finishing with exactly 100 yards on 20 carries. Conversely, Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk combined for only 35 yards on 20 carries. Continuing the Travis Henry watch, he carried the ball twice for nine yards.
Isaac Bruce caught three balls for 58 yards and a score.
Torry Holt fought through the concussion sustained last week, catching eight balls for 90 yards and a TD. His TD reception came on a great snag in the back of the end zone as he was forced out by a defender.
Due to a couple of costly turnovers and the stifling Bills run defense, Bulger and company turned almost exclusively to the air. Shaun McDonald chipped in six catches for 72 yards and Kevin Curtis added five for 51 yards.
Rian Lindell booted three field goals for the victorious Bills.
Arizona Cardinals 10, Carolina Panthers 35
I guess Dennis Green decided to make Week 11 "National Change Your QB Week" in the NFL. He made the late switch to Shaun King hours before kickoff, relieving Josh McCown of his starting gig.
The Panthers literally rushed out to a 28-0 halftime lead. Fullback Nick Goings shouldered the load for the injury-depleted Panthers backfield, rushing 22 times for 121 yards and three first-half touchdowns. I have to say it since it looks like we'll be without the NHL this year. Goings had the natural hat trick, scoring the game's first three touchdowns.
With the huge deficit, Emmitt Smith carried the ball only 11 times for 26 yards and was stuffed on several attempts to score from the one. Larry Fitzgerald led Cardinals receivers with seven catches for 92 yards and a TD. Anquan Boldin and Freddie Jones both topped 70 receiving yards in the losing effort.
Jake Delhomme battled through a broken thumb to complete 12-of-25 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns. Muhsin Muhammad was the recipient of both TD passes, snagging six balls for 118 yards on the day.
Keary Colbert was the only other wideout to record a catch for the Panthers in the rout. He finished with three catches for 18 yards.
Indianapolis Colts 41, Chicago Bears 10
For the fifth time this season, Peyton Manning finished the game with four or more TD passes. Manning and the Colts took the Bears defense to the woodshed, rolling up 41 points. He finished 17-for-28 for 211 yards.
Reggie Wayne caught two of Manning's strikes, giving him nine TD receptions on the year. He finished with six catches for 106 yards.
Edgerrin James quietly racked up 204 rushing yards on the day, including his first TD since Week 5.
Thomas Jones returned to the lineup for the Bears, carrying the ball 18 times for 59 yards.
Pittsburgh Steelers 19, Cincinnati Bengals 14
Chad Johnson made a spectacular grab of a Carson Palmer toss, riding a defender into the end zone to complete the 36-yard TD. He finished with five catches for 80 yards.
Carson Palmer had a solid day for the Bengals, tossing two TD passes and throwing for 165 yards. His second TD pass was hauled in by Kelley Washington (three catches, 47 yards).
Rudi Johnson managed only 59 yards on 15 carries for the Bengals.
Plaxico Burress led all Steelers receivers with three catches for 46 yards.
Daunte Culpepper tossed two touchdown passes in the victory, connecting with Jermaine Wiggins (eight catches, 51 yards) and Nate Burleson, who scored for the fourth straight contest and contributed five catches for 52 yards.
Culpepper finished 23-for-32 for 233 yards on the day. He also rushed for 35 yards on 11 attempts.
Michael Bennett led the Vikings' running backs with 30 rushing yards on 11 carries. Moe Williams rushed four times for 15 yards, including the game-winning TD with five and a half minutes remaining. Onterrio Smith carried eight times for 27 yards.
Detroit relied on rookie Kevin Jones, who rushed for his first career 100-yard game. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry for the day.
Rookie Roy Williams was limited to two catches for 19 yards.
New York Jets 10, Cleveland Browns 7
At least this game finished strong. The Jets and Browns battled between the 20s for virtually the entire game. Phil Dawson, perfect on his last 27 FG attempts, missed two attempts that gave New York the opportunity to steal a victory.
Curtis Martin fought through pain and rushed for 87 yards, splitting time with LaMont Jordan (17 carries, 73 yards). With five minutes to play in the first quarter, Martin passed the 1,000-yard mark for the season. That gives him a remarkable 10 straight 1,000-yard seasons to start his career.
Teammate Santana Moss had been coming on strong in the past couple weeks but he finished the day with only two catches for 25 yards.
The Jets defense limited Lee Suggs to only 62 yards on the ground. William Green, fresh off of his one-game suspension from the brawl that an embarrassing week in sports, carried the ball eight times for 32 yards.
Jeff Garcia connected with Aaron Shea for Cleveland's only score on the day. Garcia left the game at halftime with a separated shoulder. Kelly Holcomb finished the game for the Browns, completing just four of 10 pass attempts. Garcia's status for next week is unknown.
Dennis Northcutt led all Browns receivers with two catches for 40 yards.
Derrick Mason caught McNair's lone TD strike, a nifty 37-yard toss and grab. Mason had three catches for 56 yards.
Fred Taylor topped 100 yards on the ground for the third time this season.
David Garrard subbed for Byron Leftwich for the second week. He completed only 13-of-28 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Garrard did contribute a great five-yard QB draw for Jacksonville's second TD.
Jimmy Smith led the Jaguars with two receptions for 27 yards.
Denver Broncos 34, New Orleans Saints 13
Reuben Droughns started the scoring with a 51-yard run to paydirt just one and a half minutes into the game. He would rack up an impressive 166 rushing yards on 28 carries. It stands as his fifth 100-yard game in six outings as the starter.
Jake Plummer continued his roll of solid fantasy performances with a 19-for-29, 224 yard performance. Plummer connected with breakout performer Ashley Lelie (three catches, 79 yards) on a 37-yard TD strike in the first quarter. He later hooked up with RB Kyle Johnson on a 19-yard TD pass.
Donte' Stallworth made his first fantasy impact since Week 2, catching 10 balls for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Aaron Brooks threw a ridiculous 60 pass attempts in the failed comeback effort, completing 34 of them for 377 yards. He completed the TD pass to Stallworth, but also fired three interceptions.
Deuce McAllister rushed for 42 yards on 13 attempts and contributed 11 catches for 87 yards.
Joe Horn, bothered by a bum knee, added five catches for 81 yards.
Jason Elam converted on two field goal attempts and four PAT's to offer fantasy owners another big day.
San Francisco 49ers 3, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35
The woes continue in San Francisco. At one point, Kevan Barlow had 10 yards on nine carries. He finished with 30 yards on 14 carries, and caught five passes for 16 yards. Maurice Hicks worked his way further into the mix with 35 yards on seven carries. He also caught three balls for 37 yards.
Michael Pittman got the ball rolling for the Bucs, scoring on a 14-yard run early in the first quarter. He finished the day with 101 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns.
Brian Griese is happy to see Joe Jurevicius back on the field. Jurevicius caught both of Griese's TD passes on this day, contributing five catches for 82 yards in the obliteration of the hapless 49ers.
Griese finished 15-for-21 for 210 yards with two interceptions to mar an otherwise solid outing.
Michael Clayton added four catches for 66 yards for the victors.
Tim Rattay couldn't work any garbage-time magic for fantasy owners forced to start him. He completed 15-of-31 passes for 148 yards and one interception. Rattay also took five sacks.
Starting in place of Koren Robinson, Jerry Rice caught his first TD pass of the season and nearly doubled his season yardage total. He caught a 21-yard TD from Dilfer on the Seahawks' first possession and finished the day with three catches for 86 yards.
Dilfer completed 14-of-28 passes for 196 yards. He was also intercepted twice.
Shaun Alexander rushed for 96 yards on 29 attempts, including a four-yard TD.
He also threw the game-winning interception, watching rookie Michael Boulware run 63 yards to seal the Fins' fate with just more than a minute remaining.
Chris Chambers caught nine passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.
As always, or so it seems, Antonio Gates was on the receiving end of his TD strike. Gates caught eight passes for 102 yards.
Keenan McCardell continues to get more comfortable in this offense. He added seven catches for 90 yards.
LaDainian Tomlinson looked good and healthy after the bye week, rushing 37 times for 165 yards. Tomlinson's six-yard TD run gives him nine on the season.
Kerry Collins didn't turn the ball over for the first time this season. He completed 18-of-30 attempts for 227 yards and two touchdowns.
TE Teyo Johnson played for the first time this season and caught one pass – an eight-yard TD.
Jerry Porter led all Raiders receivers with five catches for 63 yards.
Ronald Curry caught his first TD pass since Week 3. He finished the game with four catches for 58 yards.
Tyrone Wheatley held up for an entire game and gave way to none of the other backs on the roster. He finished with 43 yards on only 12 carries.
Atlanta Falcons 14, New York Giants 10
Eli Manning looked solid in his first start. Sure, he showed some of the jitters one would expect, but as I said before, those six dropped passes aren't good for anybody. He led the Giants on several long drives that were thwarted by drops. Manning finished 17-for-37 for 162 yards, with two interceptions and one TD pass.
Jeremy Shockey caught Manning's first career TD, a six-yard strike. FOX Sports then provided a montage of the "Manning Family Moments" – showing the first TD passes tossed by father Archie, brother Peyton, and young Eli. All three went for six yards. I'm a bit frightened by this – six, six, six. Kind weird, kinda cool, and likely a fact you won't quickly forget.
Shockey caught five passes for 45 yards to offset a couple of his first-half drops.
Tiki Barber went over the 100-yard mark for the seventh time this season, completing the day with 107 rushing yards. He added three catches for 24 yards.
Michael Vick continued his magic ways on the ground, rushing for 104 yards on 15 attempts. He also connected with Alge Crumpler (four catches, 47 yards) for two touchdowns. Vick completed 12-of-20 passes for 114 yards.
Warrick Dunn added 70 yards on the ground for the victorious Falcons.
The much-maligned Giants offensive line allowed only one sack to the aggressive Falcons defense.
Donovan McNabb tossed four TD passes, including two to running back Brian Westbrook, to lead the second-half rout. McNabb was 18-for-26 on the day for 222 yards. Westbrook rushed for 63 yards to go along with his five catches for 42 yards.
Chad Lewis got the ball rolling with a two-yard TD reception in the first half. He finished the day with two catches for 17 yards. His TE tag-team partner, L.J. Smith, added three catches for 20 yards.
Of course, TO had to make his presence felt in the second half. He managed just two catches for 24 yards, but snagged his league-leading 13th TD reception.
Todd Pinkston led all Eagles receivers with five catches for 106 yards. It was Pinkston's second 100-yard game of the year.
Alright, I'll be back on Tuesday with mounds of injury updates, QB tidbits and of course, the looks and touches through Week 11. See you then.