It's not often that Peyton Manning reminds you of a 1980s Latin American dictator. But on Sunday, sitting there in the stands with his sunglasses on, he just needed the epaulets, a big hat, and a cadre of expendable advisers.
Things were not going well for Eli, and Peyton was trying to appear unruffled. Resilient. Maybe even optimistic.
It was awful watching Peyton watch Eli. Not that the New York Giants quarterback needed any assistance making viewers feel uncomfortable. Eli's team lost 41-17 and he threw four interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns.
New York's receivers really did nothing to help him. They dropped passes, and frequently ran away from wherever it was Eli expected them to go. On the Vikings first defensive score, Jeremy Shockey broke upfield while Manning threw to a spot occupied only by E.J. Henderson and Darren Sharper.
Sharper got the interception and the touchdown.
The camera found Peyton looking eerily composed.
Later, Dwight Smith and Chad Greenway took interceptions to the end zone. The network declared the game over with 12:59 left in the fourth quarter. The score was 41-10, so they took us to the Tampa-Washington game.
Thankfully, there are always other games…
• On Houston's opening possession, the Texans went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Browns 35. Matt Schaub was pressured and slightly overthrew an open Owen Daniels. Could've easily been a touchdown, though. If you're a fantasy owner – assuming your kicker isn't involved in the game – you really learn to appreciate aggressive play calling on fourth down.
• Kolby Smith was the latest beneficiary of Oakland's total, flagrant inability to stop opposing running backs. The first of his two touchdown runs went straight up the middle. Smith bounced off his own blockers and dragged assorted Raiders into the end zone. With 6:02 left in the first quarter, he had eight carries for 63 yards and a TD. Smith finished with an LJ-ish 31 carries for 150 yards.
Over the past five weeks, the Raiders have given up a combined 645 rushing yards and seven touchdowns to the following backs: LenDale White, Ron Dayne, Cedric Benson, Chester Taylor and Kolby Smith. Whoever starts for Denver next week is someone you might want to play.
• Tarvaris Jackson looked excellent on Sunday. And no, that's not just because he shared the field with Eli Manning. Jackson looked off a safety and threw a perfect bomb to Sidney Rice for a 60-yard touchdown on the Vikings' first possession. He only threw 11 more passes on the day, connecting with six different receivers. Jackson ran five times for 38 yards, too.
• You really had no right to expect any more than what Rueben Droughns gave you on Sunday: 46 rushing yards and one touchdown. In the first quarter, deep in Minnesota territory, he stubbornly moved a swarm of Vikings about four yards. Then after an offside call on Minnesota, Droughns plunged into the end zone. And with 9:25 remaining in the first quarter, Reuben already had eight fantasy points. He finished with 10.
• It's in the Yahoo! box score, so it must be true:
That's right, Rudi visited the end zone against Tennessee, a team that used to have a solid run defense back in the Albert Haynesworth era. Johnson finished with 88 rushing yards on 25 carries for his usual 3.5 YPC average.
• Cincinnati used the two-Johnson attack effectively. Chad caught 12 passes for 103 yards and three TDs. The third touchdown was especially impressive. Johnson stretched high to pull in Carson Palmer's pass at the back of the end zone, then almost miraculously got his feet inbounds. The first touchdown will probably make more highlight reels, however, because of this:
"85, Cincinnati, excessive celebration … the penalty will be enforced on the ensuing kickoff."
Oh, shut up, ref. There's nothing more fundamentally American than excessive celebration. When Chad Johnson scores and seizes a camera, it's fun. That's all. There's no larger statement to be made about the decline or the corruption of anything. It's just fun.
• Shouldn't NFL punters have mastered the art of pinning the opposing team inside the 10-yard line by now? It's not like we humans are new to kicking things. How is it possible that we still have touchbacks on punts?
• Marc Bulger left the Rams-Seahawks game with a concussion and zero fantasy points. Gus Frerotte played just well enough to not quite win. He fumbled on fourth-and-1 at the Seattle 1-yard line with 0:27 on the clock. The Rams lost 24-19. Steven Jackson looked like his old explosive self on a 53-yard first quarter touchdown run.
• We discussed this earlier in the season, but it's worth repeating: if Steve Smith is going to get fantasy points with David Carr at quarterback, the Panthers will have to be unusually dependant on the end-around. Smith was Carolina's leading rusher and receiver on Sunday. He had one carry for 22 yards and six receptions for 47. Carr was 10-for-22 with 95 yards and two interceptions.
Drew Brees had a huge fantasy day, accounting for four touchdowns and passing for 260 yards.
• So Fred Taylor is still a pretty fast dude. In the first quarter against Buffalo, Taylor hesitated in the backfield, then launched himself forward, splitting a pair of DBs on his way to the end zone. The 50-yard TD accounted for nearly half his yardage.
At some point early in that game, Maurice Jones-Drew had four carries for minus-9 yards. Much later, he had eight carries for minus-13. Only a late fourth quarter touchdown salvaged his fantasy day.
• Brodney Poole separated Owen Daniels from the football with a huge hit over the middle with 7:18 left in the first half at Cleveland. A catch there would have given the Texans a first down at the 4-yard line. Instead, Kris Brown kicked a field goal. With 1:05 remaining in the half, Braylon Edwards took a huge shot from DeMeco Ryans on a fourth down conversion … and he held on. That drive ended with a Kellen Winslow touchdown, and the Browns led 14-10.
• Jamal Lewis put the stiff-arm of the day on Will Demps. The Browns came out in the second half pounding Lewis behind their spectacular offensive line, and Houston really had no immediate answer. Lewis had 134 rushing yards and a touchdown on the day.
• Sweet catch by Reche Caldwell – yup, this Reche Caldwell – with 4:34 left in the fourth quarter to pick up 13 for the driving Redskins. But two plays later, Ronde Barber picked off Campbell. Fittingly, a Brian Kelly interception ended the game. Campbell threw for 301 yards, but he also had three of the Redskins' six turnovers. Tampa Bay had only 15 total yards in the second half. An injured Jeff Garcia was somewhat more effective than a healthy Bruce Gradkowski.
• It was second-and-7 at the Denver 11 yard-line. Cedric Benson took the handoff, ran right, found a gaping hole. He had no one ahead of him and … he fell down. Face first. Then he kicked his feet for a little while and flopped his arms.
• The Broncos ran the option with Jay Cutler and Andre Hall and they got basically the most one-sided matchup in football: Adam Archuleta versus a guy carrying the ball. Hall confused Archuleta, then ran for the end zone. Touchdown, Broncos.
• "Fantasy guys know about him," Dan Dierdorf said. "They love him."
Dierdorf was referring to Frank Gore. Until Sunday, though, Gore had gone largely unloved. But 116 yards and two touchdowns later, he's relevant again. Gore had 21 carries against Arizona. It was only the second time this season he's had 20 or more.
• The 37.1 percent-owned Kurt Warner had a massive fantasy day in a losing effort: 484 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, one (unfortunate, poorly timed, disastrous) fumble.
• After a 21-yard gain, Cedric Benson was carted off the field, unable to put any weight on his left leg. Hamza Abdullah tackled him, driving Benson's knee into the ground and landing on his calf, twisting his ankle. Nasty looking injury.
• Fred Miller is a turnstile who occasionally manages to snag a jersey, drawing a holding call.
• CBS had a nice montage of Chicago dropped passes ready to go when Muhsin Muhammad's hands picked an inopportune time to not work (3:47 left in the first half, deep in Bears territory, trailing 10-6).
• Dierdorf deserves at least one Emmy for using the Telestrator to draw the outline of a doghouse around Mike Bell, not long after the running back lost a fumble. Well played, sir.
• Clearly incensed that he'd lost his customary top position in the Yahoo! composite tight end rankings, Antonio Gates had six catches for 105 yards and two TDs against Baltimore. The nearly unpredictable Philip Rivers threw for 249 yards and three scores.
Since he no longer sacks people as frequently as he did last season, Shawne Merriman excessively celebrates after tackles. Which is fine, because we don't discourage excessive celebration here.
• Suddenly, there's a shootout in Chicago, and it only really involves one Bear: Devin Hester. He's taking on all Broncos.
Hester scored on both a punt and a kickoff return during the third quarter. With 3:07 left in the game, trailing 34-27, the Bears dropped four special teams players back to set up a wall of blockers for Hester. That move – setting up a return – forced the Broncos to use a timeout. Won't see that every day.
• They didn't win, but the Eagles came about 30 points closer to beating the Patriots than most of us thought they would. A.J. Feeley threw for 345 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, and Brian Westbrook had 92 total yards and a touchdown. Greg Lewis had two unexpected TDs.
Tom Brady had his usual 300-something yards, but, for the first time all year – which is insane – he didn't throw for three or more touchdowns. He was also sacked three times, which never happens. The Patriots won 31-28, and we'll probably spend all week wondering what's wrong with them.