|RUNNING BACK HOT SEAT
|ARIZONA CARDINALS RED HOT
1st Chair: J.J. Arrington
2nd Chair: Marcel Shipp
Skinny: Arrington returned to the field after missing a week with an illness, and failed to impress yet again. He tallied just nine yards on five carries It would be a stretch to call Shipp "dominant," but his 4.1 yards per carry (10 carries) against the Seahawks at least got the line moving. Look for more of Shipp in Monday's game against San Francisco, as they'll need to press the running game more to aid QB Josh McCown.
|SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS HOT
1st Chair: Kevan Barlow
2nd Chair: Frank Gore
Skinny: Barlow continues to underwhelm as the starting back in San Francisco, and Coach Mike Nolan continues to hint at changes to his offense. Gore is averaging a tremendous 4.9 yards per carry in limited work, and is likely to see his role expand to a more equitable split of duties beginning Monday night in Mexico City (Cardinals).
|PITTSBURGH STEELERS WARM
1st Chair: Willie Parker
2nd Chair: Duce Staley, Jerome Bettis
Skinny: The Patriots showed that Parker is human after all, limiting the shifty back to 55 yards on 17 carries in Week 3. The Steelers have a Week 4 Bye before traveling to San Diego, at which time both Staley and Bettis will be ready to fully contribute to the attack. Parker will retain the starting gig after the week off, with Staley working in third down sets and Bettis resuming his TD-vulture role.
|MINNESOTA VIKINGS WARM
1st Chair: Mewelde Moore
2nd Chair: Michael Bennett, Moe Williams
Skinny: Moore took advantage of his promotion to the top spot, putting forth a 100-yard effort against the Saints. Mike Tice has openly questioned Moore's ability to play with pain in the past (ankle), so we'll see how many hits Moore withstands before the situation becomes clouded. He'll also need to improve in pass protection, as the Vikings can't afford a weak blocking effort to eliminate franchise QB Daunte Culpepper.
|CHICAGO BEARS WARM
1st Chair: Thomas Jones
2nd Chair: Cedric Benson
Skinny: Lovie Smith said Cedric Benson didn't play against the Bengals because he "didn't think the timing was right." Adrian Peterson spelled Jones instead of the rookie tailback. Smith still envisions getting both players involved in the offense with somewhat equitable workloads despite back-to-back 100-yard games for Jones, so this one stays on the radar. The Bears have a Bye before traveling to Cleveland in Week 5.
|CINCINNATI BENGALS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Rudi Johnson
2nd Chair: Chris Perry
Skinny: Perry's stock took a hit this week, as he touched the ball just four times in Sunday's win over the Bears, including a lost fumble. With Chris Henry now entrenched at the No. 3 receiver position, Perry's role in the passing game will be diminished.
|BALTIMORE RAVENS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Jamal Lewis
2nd Chair: Chester Taylor
Skinny: The passing game has yet to spark, and Lewis has scuffled through his first two games of the year (10 carries for 9 yards in his last outing versus Tennessee). Coming out of a Bye week, Brian Billick declared Lewis ready to carry the ball 25-30 times, which he's likely to do agains the Jets, a la Fred Taylor in Week 3. Chester Taylor will still see a handful of carries to offer a change of pace, but Billick won't hesitate to split carries to get his offense on track if Lewis sputters out of the gate.
|MIAMI DOLPHINS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Ronnie Brown
2nd Chair: Ricky Williams
Skinny: Brown rumbled to the first 100-yard game of his NFL career on Sunday against Carolina, but the specter of Williams remains in the distance. The Dolphins are off this week before traveling to Buffalo and then to Tampa Bay to take on rookie sensation and former Brown teammate Cadillac Williams and the Bucs. Nick Saban still envisions a two-headed monster with Williams back in game shape once his suspension ends.
We witnessed a number of fantastic finishes in Week 3. The OT period between the Jaguars and the Jets meant bonus fantasy time for Byron Leftwich
and Jimmy Smith
owners. Owners of David Akers
who kept him active for the week found their fantasy scores bouyed by his Willis Reed-like 23-yard field goal to down the Raiders And, of course, Daunte Culpepper
owners are breathing a sigh of relief after his rebound performance against the Saints.
Those are but a few of the storylines that leapt across my television as I strained my eyes on the picture-in-picture to keep abreast of all the NFL activity and a Sunday replete with pennant-chase MLB action. I'm probable for Week 4 with a strained clicker finger. Let's check out the stories from Week 3.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- With his third consecutive 100-yard game to start his career, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams became the first player in NFL history to accomplish the feat. Tampa Bay fans are ecstatic with their rookie, who is already nearly half-way to the magical 1,000-yard mark (no TB back has reached it since Warrick Dunn in 2000), and the fact that the Bucs stand at a perfect 3-0. Williams next gets to rev up the engine against the Lions (116.5 YPG) and Jets (134.3 YPG), so a monstrous five-game start to the season seems in order. The first big test will come in Week 6 against Miami, a team currently limiting opposing backs to 2.9 yards per carry and 76.3 yards per game. Seven of the Buccaneers remaining opponents (Atl and NO twice) are allowing over 125 rushing yards per game thus far.
- LaDainian Tomlinson took his feelings about his workload to the media after Week 2. Marty Schottenheimer responded by getting him the ball in a variety of ways on Sunday night against the Giants. He carried the ball 21 times for 192 yards (including a 63-yarder), caught six passes for 28 yards, and threw a 26-yard touchdown to Keenan McCardell. LT has no reason to complain this week. The biggest winner in getting LT out into pass patterns was Drew Brees, who completed 19-of-22 passes for 191 yards and two scoring strikes. The use of Tomlinson as a receiver opens up the middle of the field. Rediscovering this part of the offense this week was positively crucial, as San Diego plays New England and Pittsburgh back-to-back.
- The Cowboys needed a big effort down the stretch to defeat the 49ers, and that was music to the ears of those who used Drew Bledsoe in a spot start. He scored a rare rushing TD (only the seventh in his 13-year career) and threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, he's already amassed 850 passing yards while completing a remarkable 70.4 percent of his attempts. He next faces Oakland, which should allow him the opportunity to achieve ample stats again.
- Jake Plummer continued his winning ways at home with another solid performance against the Chiefs. In his past nine games at Invesco Field, Plummer has averaged two touchdowns (rushing and passing) and 259.6 yards passing, and remains a solid start when in front of the home fans.
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- Eli Manning, QB, NYG: Who would have thought that Eli would have more TD passes than Peyton at any point this season? Eli has certainly connected with Plaxico Burress and TE Jeremy Shockey. He's already tossed five touchdowns this year and will next face a prone St. Louis secondary.
- Greg Lewis, WR, Phi: Lewis has solidified his place as the No. 2 receiver in the passing attack behind Terrell Owens. This past week he caught six passes for 70 yards against the Raiders. Donovan McNabb targeted Lewis nine times in the victory. For the season, Lewis has caught 15 balls for 153 yards and a score.
- Bobby Engram, WR, Sea: Engram has emerged as a great No. 2 complement to Darrell Jackson for Matt Hasselbeck. He's already piled up 18 catches for 210 yards and has been targeted nine times in each of the first three games this season.
- Mewelde Moore, RB, Min: Hurry up and get those waiver claims in, because Mike Tice has found his every-down back in Minnesota. Moore broked the century mark on 23 carries against New Orleans, and has to feel good about his chances against Atlanta this week. Michael Bennett's ineffectiveness opened the door for Moore, and he certainly responded in Sunday's win, where all components of the offense clicked.
- Ernie Conwell, TE, NO: Conwell returned from his jaw injury to catch three balls for 65 yards and a score in Sunday's defeat to the Vikings. It's clear that he and QB Aaron Brooks have made a connection. He ranks eighth among all tight ends with 136 receiving yards.