Week 6 in the NFL signaled the return of some long-departed and much-maligned fantasy friends …
Joe Horn hadn't scored a touchdown for 16 consecutive games, but first converted a red-zone post into a 14-yard score, and then turned a terribly blown coverage by the Philadelphia secondary into a 49-yard TD … Deion Branch previously had five catches all year, but caught six on Sunday, for 76 yards and two red-zone scores … Some dude named Terrell Owens caught his second, third and fourth touchdowns of the season … Some other dude named LaDainian Tomlinson forced all of you folks who freaked out emailing me about Michael Turner (one carry, zero yards) last week to swig a dose of reality, rushing for four TDs of his own … Ben Roethlisberger completed a modest 16-of-19 for 238 yards and (hallelujah!) two touchdowns with no interceptions … Backup Baltimore QB Kyle Boller came in for a concussed Steve McNair and went 17-for-31 for 226 yards, three TDs and a pick … And the much-excoriated tight end for the Washington Redskins, Chris Cooley, caught only two balls for 27 yards, but one of them was a 24-yard TD.
Let's check out the rest of Sunday's highlights:
Torry Holt. Torry Holt. Torry Holt. Torry Holt.
Okay, you want a little more on Holt? Big Game caught eight passes for 154 yards and three TDs, the first time he's caught three in a game – Can you believe the fantasy knock on Holt used to be that he wasn't much of a red-zone receiver? The third of Holt's scores, which almost won the game for the Rams, was a dramatic 67-yard juggling festival. And perhaps most impressive of all, Holt is the fastest receiver in the history of the NFL to 10,000 yards receiving.
And speaking of juggling, meet Mark Clayton. Each of his first two touchdowns this year came Sunday, and came on deflections. First, a Kyle Boller pass intended for Derrick Mason ricocheted off Mason and a Carolina DB, popped way up into the air, then down into Clayton's end-zone-ensconced arms. Then, in the fourth quarter, Clayton caught another deflected pass (this time it bounced off a defensive lineman's massive mitts), and took it to the house for a 62-yard score.
Tiki Barber owners, I'm sorry. Barber is following up his incredible 1,860-yard 2005 season with another beauty; he now stands at 533 yards rushing (which puts him on pace for 1,705) and 190 yards receiving (which would give him 2,314 all-purpose yards). And he hasn't scored yet. Man. The curse is reaching epic proportions; Barber even got a lovely mid-range score overturned in the third quarter when replay officials determined he'd touched one blade of painted grass on Atlanta's two-yard-line. All told, Barber submitted a whopping eight plays of 15 yards or more, and was obviously the best player on the field. But Brandon Jacobs cannibalized one score, and Jeremy Shockey stole another two.
Meanwhile, in the same game, Warrick Dunn got off the touchdown schneid in a huge way. He broke Atlanta's first offensive play of the second half (with the help of some truly nauseating tackling by the New York secondary) for a 90-yard TD run, the longest in the history of the Falcons franchise. Yeah. That'll do.
What the heck, I'll stay with that Giants/Falcons game. Entering that game, Eli Manning had never played a game in a dome. That's right: never. Not in college, not as a pro. Oh, sure, maybe some high school all-star game or something, but otherwise, this was a first. And he passed. It was a rough start: he threw an early interception because of a deflected pass, and then another due to a (fairly typical) overthrow intended for Tim Carter. But after that, Manning settled down, throwing the two shorties to Shockey, and managing the game much better. To my eyes, he still needs to work on his feet; his customary overthrows almost always seem to be the result of Drew-Bledsoe-esque (which is to say Frankenstein-esque) footwork. But Manning didn't kill you this week in a tough venue.
Speaking of Bledsoe, it's probably not worth inferring much from a game against the Texans' defense (which, I'm fairly certain, doesn't belong in the BCS Top 10). For me, the best part of the Dallas game was Hilarious Drew Bledsoe Immobility Moment #243: Houston LB DeMeco Ryans charges in on a delayed blitz, unblocked, but takes a bad line to Bledsoe. Ryans grabs Bledsoe's leg, but then falls away. However, Bledsoe is a little off-balance, tries to pirouette, but realizes he's Drew Bledsoe, and falls on his own like nothing so much as a dizzy flamingo. Priceless.
It rained in Dallas. Which means it rained on 39 percent of the field at Texas Stadium. Stupid hole.
Plaxico Burress is too cool to hang onto the ball after he's been tackled. Repeatedly, the split-second after he was down, Burress flipped the ball away with great disdain, so it looked like a fumble. A few times the defensive player jumped on it just in case. Of course, Steelers fans will remember the time during his rookie year when Burress made a catch, fell down of his own accord, and flung the ball groundward in delirious self-gratification, only to have it ruled a fumble. Good thing he's cool, though.
Hooray! We can stop shocking our friends with the fact that David Carr leads the NFL in QB Rating, because, well, he doesn't lead the NFL in QB Rating anymore. Carr was pretty bad in Big D, though he's always got the o-line excuse. Here's one thing: Dave, you might want to consider throwing the ball to someone other than Andre Johnson. Don't get me wrong: A.J. is a great talent, and well worth owning and/or trading for. But that one play where Johnson takes two steps, then slants across the middle about four yards downfield? Yeah, I think they've got that one covered. Johnson had 14 targets on the day (to be fair, three of those came from backup Sage Rosenfels in trash time), and caught nine for 75. But boy, wouldn't you like to see A.J. downfield?
Hey, thanks a lot, Marques Colston. Your seven-yard second-quarter TD ensured I'm going to get 700 more angry emails about the fact that you're eligible as a tight end in Yahoo! games.
Who was the only Yahoo! expert to put Tennessee WR Brandon Jones in his top 40 receivers for Week 6? You guessed it: this guy. Jones had a three-yard TD reception, which sounds a little bit random (and, okay, I guess it is), but I still contend it's worth noting. Between last week in Indy and this week in Washington, Vince Young has targeted Jones 11 times, tops on the team. Jones looks like he's got his burst back after major knee surgery, so he may be worth a flier.
Ron Dayne is the starting running back for Houston. Yippee. He had 10 carries for 14 yards. You certainly can't play him if you've got any alternatives. It's also worth noting, in case you've forgotten, that Dayne is perhaps the worst short-yardage big running back in NFL history. Back me up here, Giants and Broncos fans. The 1999 Heisman Trophy winner is Dancy McDancypants on any third-and-one. Again, I grant you, terrible offensive line. But Dayne has done this before, folks.
Okay, so Bruce Gradkowski wasn't exactly fantasy gold for Tampa Bay, as the Bucs posted their first win of the season with a huge upset of Cincinnati. But he was pretty good, and led Tampa Bay on a stirring final drive which culminated with a controversial touchdown to Michael Clayton. Clayton dropped the football near Cincy's goal line, but instant replay gave him the winning score. For the day, B-Grad went 25-for-44 for 184 yards, two scores inside 10 yards, and a pick. Gradkowski also showed some, shall we say, grit, earning his team a personal foul by yanking the living hell out of Cincy CB Tory James's facemask on an interception return (the pick itself was eventually overturned).
"The circle of life! The circle of liiiiiiiife!" Larry Johnson is living the circle, man. Last week, we all saw the gruesome site of LJ getting his neck rearranged by Antrel Rolle in Arizona; he broke a screen pass into a 78-yard fourth-quarter gain, but Rolle grabbed his facemask and wrenched Johnson's face in such a way that LJ could admire his own butt. Well, this week, Damon Huard threw a pretty poor interception to Troy Polamalu, and Polamalu (and his streaming locks) zoomed up the sidelines. And here came LJ. Johnson grabbed Polamalu's hair and pulled. This was a completely legal way to tackle (remember, a similar tackle caused Ricky Williams to finally pull a Pavement ("cut your hair!") a couple years ago), but Johnson was flagged for a personal foul because, in the opinion of the official, he held onto the hair for too long. "The circle of liiiiiiiife!"
Has Chad Pennington ever met a one-yard pass he didn't like? At one point, late in the second quarter, Pennington's line was 7-for-13 for 24 yards. Eep. However, when the rubber met the road, C-Pen did a fine job getting it downfield to his main man, Laveranues Coles. Coles caught a 58-yard TD against Dolphins backup CB Eddie Jackson on a beautiful look-off by Pennington, and then scored on a crazy-good, hands-only TD from 22 yards.
Oh, yeah, and by the way, Leon Washington is clearly the most explosive and reliable back that the Jets have. I've been sheepishly and squeamishly pimping Kevan Barlow all season, but now I'm convinced: Washington is the guy to own.
Is it me, or do the new referee uniforms look like Tyvek jumpsuits?
You don't have to be a great real football player to be a great fantasy football player. Michael Vick has more runs of 20-plus yards of anyone else in the league, at any position.
Kevin Jones had 95 yards rushing in the first half, and 23 carries for 127 yards all told, including a seven-yard score. His 52-yarder was the second offensive play of the game; however, on that same drive, Jones got two carries from the Buffalo one-yard-line, and failed both times. It was a great day for Jones (and can we finally rid ourselves of the notion that Buffalo's rush defense is "stout"? I keep hearing it), but one wonders if someone like Cory Schlesinger might get some goal-line carries down the road.
Oh, and, uh, remember how Roy Williams maybe wasn't going to play, and was getting acupuncture and stuff? Ninety-nine yards receiving in the first half, and all told 10 catches for 161 yards, including a 28-yard score. Not as good as Steve Smith, though, who caught eight for 189.
Travis Henry carried it 13 times for 76 yards in the first half, and ended the Titans' upset win with 32 carries for 178 yards and a two-yard score. It was his second straight massive fantasy game; presumably more people took advantage of it this week than last.
Tom Coughlin was the second-most profoundly unhappy person I saw on Sunday. The first-most profoundly unhappy person I saw was the guy behind the register at Radio Shack. And but so anyway, Coughlin should try and enjoy his life more. I worry for the guy.
As the Giants were wrapping up their win in Atlanta, LB Antonio Pierce committed a ridiculous late hit on Vick with one minute left in garbage time, which sparked a decent-sized NFL brawl. Kind of reminded this viewer of the University of Miami having a brawl with Florida International on Saturday night (in a 35-0 win). Grisly.
Yes, Najeh Davenport got a one-yard score in the ultimate of ultimate garbage times, but fret not, Willie Parker owners. It is ever clearer that Bill Cowher is adjusting; FWP is getting the goal-line carries when it matters, and has been extremely successful this year. He did it twice again on Sunday versus a weak Kansas City rush defense, scoring from three and eight in the first half.
Wes Welker fans (and there were many, many fantasy writers who met that description over this past week) are sad; rookie WR Derek Hagan was clearly Miami's second WR option after Chris Chambers. Hagan had a bad first-half drop, but a couple really nice catches, and finished the day with six catches for 66 yards. Chambers owes Joey Harrington an interception; his erratic hands led to a simple pop-up, which Andre Dyson grabbed. Of course, Harrington's second interception was all Joey.
By the way, Randy McMichael owners have to be thrilled about the change from Daunte Culpepper to Harrington, because McMike is back to being an elite tight end option, and he caught another eight balls for 72 yards. Unfortunately, he dropped a simple one-yard TD pass late.
Kickers, kickers, everywhere. Shayne Graham couldn't make a 62-yarder to win in Tampa. Olindo Mare couldn't make a 51-yarder to tie in the Meadowlands. And Josh Brown nailed a 54-yarder in the Jones Dome to save the Seahawks' bacon.
Marc Bulger threw his first pick of the season.
Randy Cross is still laughing at something he said at 2:30 p.m. ET.
I got a few complaints about my "Pink-is-ragingly-uncool" note from last week. But the best email I got in re: Pink was from Jim in Maryland: "That's not Pink on NBC Sunday Night Football, it's Brian Bosworth. Don't you recognize the haircut and the broad shoulders? Frankly, I knew he couldn't act, and I guess he can't sing either."