Entering Week 10, the New York Giants had both the NFC's top-ranked offense (401.0 YPG) and its top-ranked defense (250.6 YPG allowed). They'd won five straight games, and had actually injured four opposing quarterbacks during that stretch. New York was a team to be feared. They were coming off a 34-point road win, and were about to face the 1-7 Cowboys, a team in turmoil, a traveling punchline.
Naturally, the Giants lost by 13 on Sunday, because that's just how the NFL works. We need to re-learn this league each week.
Eli Manning(notes) had a messy day, despite the 373 passing yards. Perhaps the mood lighting at the New Meadowlands bothered him. Not sure. Eli threw a pick-six in the second quarter, and he laughably misplayed an off-target snap with 7:12 remaining in the fourth, resulting in a turnover that doomed his team. (On the preceding play, a 48-yard Hakeem Nicks(notes) touchdown was negated by a holding penalty. So that was a rough sequence).
New York head coach Tom Coughlin had an animated exchange with defensive coordinator Perry Fewell in the semi-darkness of the second half, while the Cowboys were piling up points. The Giants allowed 427 total yards on the afternoon, as Dallas quarterback Jon Kitna(notes) gave us an unreal performance, his best statistical effort since the Martz years. He finished with 327 yards on just 22 pass attempts (14.9 Y/A), tossing three touchdowns and one interception. (Kitna's lone pick was on a jump ball to Dez Bryant(notes) in the end zone, and safety Deon Grant(notes) simply made a terrific play. Dez owners everywhere endorse the attempt. More like that, please).
The Cowboys used the short passing game beautifully all day, getting the football into the hands of playmakers quickly, then letting guys like Bryant and Felix Jones(notes) go to work. If this is the sort of thing we can expect under Jason Garrett then he'll have the full support of the fantasy community. The "interim" tag won't last, but the "coach" tag will.
Dallas gets Detroit next Sunday, and they'll face a pair of user-friendly defenses in the fantasy playoffs: Washington in Week 15, Arizona in Week 16. We were wrong to doubt you, Big D. Welcome to the 2010 season. Hope you stick around.
• You know why that li'l chief is so sad in the picture over on the right? Well, it's not because Kansas City was destroyed at Denver, 49-29. No, she's disgusted with herself for benching Matt Cassel(notes) and Dwayne Bowe(notes) this week in her hometown PPR league. That pair was sensational in garbage time against the Broncos; as soon as the deficit reached 35 points, they went off. Cassel finished with 469 passing yards on a preposterous 53 attempts, and Bowe caught 13 balls for 186 yards and two scores.
Don't assume that you'll see another performance like this from the KC passing game, however. He had only attempted 30 throws in a game once this season prior to the binge in Week 10. The script never calls for 50 throws and 20 runs.
• Troy Smith(notes) was excellent in the overtime win against the Rams, throwing for 356 yards and connecting on a late go-ahead score to Michael Crabtree(notes). Smith kept plays alive at critical moments, and generally looked like the guy who should have been directing the Niners' offense all along. Five different San Francisco skill players finished with 60-plus receiving yards. Frank Gore(notes) was great again, per his usual (25 touches, 154 yards, TD). Steven Jackson essentially matched Gore's production (28 touches, 148 yards, TD), so he should earn a decent grade when the Rams Report Card arrives.
• Here's a fun fact about the NFC West: No team in the division has a positive point differential at the moment. That's awful.
• Matt Hasselbeck(notes) overcame a broken bone in his left (non-throwing) wrist, returning to the field after a brief interlude that featured Charlie Whitehurst(notes). Hasselbeck finished with 333 passing yards, and Mike Williams caught 11 balls for 145 against a lifeless Arizona defense.
• Brett Favre(notes) apparently added a shoulder injury to his medley of aches and pains and miscellaneous complaints. Percy Harvin(notes) reportedly aggravated his ankle injury in the loss to Chicago, and Bernard Berrian(notes) tweaked his groin in the pregame. All things considered, not a good week for Vikings.
• Joshua Cribbs(notes) somehow dislocated four toes on his right foot after a catch in the second quarter against the Jets. But the big toe is apparently in place, so Cribbs hasn't been ruled out for Week 11 at Jacksonville. Ick. (If you visit the comments section of basically any Browns article over at the Plain Dealer right now, you'll find some lively discussion of Eric Mangini's end-game management. Believe me when I tell you that Mr. Pianowski was offended to his core; this topic will no doubt receive Monday Brunch attention).
• The greatest failure of my fantasy season thus far is the total lack of investment in Brandon Lloyd(notes) and Kyle Orton(notes). Those two were at it again, connecting six times for 90 yards and two scores. Check out the toe-tap on the second TD. That's insane. Next week, Lloyd figures to surge past the 1,000-yard mark for the year; in his seven previous NFL seasons, he never topped 733.
• The injuries to Chad Pennington(notes) (shoulder) and Chad Henne(notes) (knee) are reportedly both season-enders, so Tyler Thigpen(notes) will get the Week 11 start against the Bears. It's clearly not the most favorable match-up, and he won't have Chan Gailey holding his hand. (Gailey was his OC back in '08, when the Chiefs went to a Thigpen-friendly spread). But c'mon, admit that you're more than a little interested in seeing Thiggy at the controls of the 'Fins offense on Thursday.
• Colts tight end Jacob Tamme(notes) reportedly "could barely walk after the game" on Sunday, due to his back injury. Indy cannot afford another injury in the receiving corps. Tamme led the team in receptions (7) and yards (73) in the win over Cincinnati. (Posted at 11:05 pm ET)
Early waiver plays for Week 11…
QB Shaun Hill(notes) at DAL (22 percent)
QB Jon Kitna vs. DET (17 percent)
QB Troy Smith vs. TB (8 percent)
QB Colt McCoy(notes) at JAC (7 percent)
RB Fred Jackson(notes) at CIN (56 percent)
RB Justin Forsett(notes) at NO (43 percent)
RB Jason Snelling(notes) at STL (30 percent)
RB Javarris James(notes) at NE (6 percent)
WR Nate Washington(notes) vs. WAS (49 percent)
WR Mike Williams (SEA) at NO (39 percent, which at this point is ridiculous)
WR Kevin Walter(notes) at NYJ (37 percent)
WR James Jones(notes) at MIN (18 percent)
WR Jacoby Ford(notes) at PIT (13 percent)
TE Jermaine Gresham(notes) vs. BUF (21 percent)
DEF Kansas City Chiefs vs. ARI (33 percent)
Of course the Cowboys are beating the Giants at halftime. Sure. Never a doubt. When we mocked Dallas in the pregame, that basically clinched a dramatic turnaround for that team. The Cowboys will probably run the table now.
Eli Manning threw a brutal pick-six to Bryan McCann(notes) in the second quarter (assist to Hakeem Nicks, who slipped on the route) and Dez Bryant made a brilliant 13-yard TD catch in the first. Cowboys lead, 19-6. Kitna for MVP. Rejoice, Dallas.
• And the suprises continue: The Broncos are mauling Kansas City, as Kyle Orton has thrown three first half touchdown passes. Knowshon Moreno(notes) had the first score for Denver, but Tim Tebow(notes) continues to poach red zone work. Tebow ran for a 1-yard TD in the second quarter and later passed for a 3-yarder. Knowshon Knation is not pleased.
• Todd Haley lost an early challenge in the Chiefs-Broncos game, and this was the full explanation from official Mike Carey: "The replay system was inoperable." That's when you know it's not your day.
• Matt Hasselbeck passed for 273 yards and a score in the first half at Arizona, but he suffered an injury to his non-throwing hand in the second quarter. Charlie Whitehurst took over at quarterback. It's never a tackling clinic with the Cardinals, and today is no different. Deon Butler(notes) benefits. Check the tape.
• Mike Goodson(notes) was an emergency starter for the Panthers in Week 10, and he delivered 100 rushing yards on 23 carries, fumbling once. Not such a bad line, considering the team context. Don't get too excited, however, because DeAngelo Williams(notes) is expected back soon, hopefully in Week 11.
For years, broadcasters have been telling us that defenders are supposed to simply knock down end-of-half Hail Mary attempts. Do not attempt to intercept that final toss, they tell us. Just knock it down. Everyone says this. Sometimes they even shout it: KNOCK IT DOWN. It's dogma.
Houston corner Glover Quin(notes) did exactly what he was supposed to do when David Garrard's(notes) 50-yard throw hit him in the hands: He batted it away, toward the ground, out of the end zone … and directly at Thomas. The receiver managed to hold onto the ball, then walked across the goal line. Touchdown. Game over.
I'm fairly sure that Gus Johnson was flagged for excessive celebration while making the call. Listen and watch here. That's your play of the day, and probably the year. Garrard finished with 342 passing yards, 50 of which were absolutely miraculous.
• Chad Pennington hurt himself on Miami's opening possession (see below) and his replacement, Chad Henne, suffered a knee injury in the second half. The Dolphins were Wildcat-heavy after those two checked out, but eventually they handed the keys to Tyler Thigpen, legend of 2008. Thigpen guided Miami to a win, going 4-for-6 and connecting with tight end Anthony Fasano(notes) on a late TD. The 'Fins face Chicago on Thursday night, so there's a decent chance we'll get another serving of Thiggy this week.
• Carson Palmer(notes) delivered 292 passing yards for the Bengals, and an additional 77 yards for the Colts on three interceptions. So he had a busy day. Palmer made critical mistakes, Terrell Owens(notes) short-armed potential catches, and Cedric Benson(notes) ran like it was 2007 (14 carries, 24 yards, fumble). That's really not a winning formula. Chad Ochocinco(notes) had a nice bounce-back performance (7-86-1), battling through a shoulder injury, but Cincinnati nonetheless lost at Indy. Peyton Manning(notes) passed for just 185 yards and couldn't find the end zone, as Javarris James had the only score for the Colts offense.
• The NFL might just need to hold seminars to explain the completion-of-the-catch rule, because it's clear that different officiating crews have very different interpretations. Last week, Matt Schaub(notes) lost a touchdown pass on the Megatron rule, when Arian Foster(notes) allegedly failed to possess the football through a second act. This week, Schaub was credited with a TD on a replay review, as the officials decided that Kevin Walter's attempt to raise the ball in the air constituted a second act of possession.
(Or at least I think that's what they ruled. Not sure. But Walter actually dropped the ball when he tried to hold it up. Did any of those sentences make any sense? No? Well, that's OK, because the rule is a mess. Watch the play here).
• Fred Jackson accounted for 170 of the Bills' 290 total yards on Sunday, as Buffalo won for the first time this year. The Lions had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but Shaun Hill lobbed a two-point conversion attempt out of the end zone, waaaay over the head of Brandon Pettigrew(notes). In reality, Hill didn't have a pretty day, but he still delivered a useful fantasy line: 29-for-50, 323 yards, TD. Calvin Johnson(notes) was a monster (10-128-1), but Jahvid Best(notes) was barely a rumor. The Lions rookie gained only 39 total yards on 21 touches against a user-friendly defense. That's a guaranteed appearance in the stock-down video segment.
• Brett Favre followed last week's career-best passing performance (446 yards) with a miserable fantasy line at Chicago. He averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt, he turned the ball over four times (3 INTs, fumble), and he delivered this gem after the game:
"When I came back had I'd know it was going to be like this sure it would have been easier to make the decision."
So that's a morale builder for everyone in Minnesota.
• Devin Hester(notes) is basically a living argument for return yardage leagues. He's unfair. Hester's 68-yard third quarter kick return set up a field goal (highlight here), and his 42-yard punt return gave the Bears a chance to … well, it allowed Jay Cutler(notes) to throw an inexcusable end zone pick. But it should have set up another score.
• Whenever the Jets win, we're supposed to celebrate Mark Sanchez(notes) as some sort of Steve Young/Joe Namath hybrid. It's a league mandate. No doubt Sanchez was impressive in Sunday's OT victory over Cleveland, finishing with 299 passing yards, two TDs and a rushing score. But we should make note of Colt McCoy's performance, too. That kid has played four games thus far in his NFL career, and they've all been against top-tier opponents: Pittsburgh, New Orleans, New England, New York. McCoy passed for 205 yards and a TD against the Jets on Sunday, and he just missed on a couple of overthrows that might have changed the end result.
In the weeks ahead, the schedule finally gets friendly for McCoy, as he'll face Jacksonville, Carolina, Miami and Buffalo. Too bad the byes are over. If you're streaming QBs in a deep format, give Colt a look. (5:45 pm ET)
Chad Pennington attempted only two throws against Tennessee before checking out with yet another injury to his throwing shoulder. Brutal news. He apparently hurt himself on the Dolphins' first play from scrimmage, absorbing minimal contact. Here's the highlight. Not much happened there, really.
Chad Henne is back at the controls of Miami's offense, having just received a vote of no-confidence from his head coach. Henne connected just once with Brandon Marshall(notes) in the first half, and he had a pass picked off by Cortland Finnegan(notes) late in the second quarter.
But he didn't throw the day's worst INT…
• Tampa Bay's opening drive produced the day's first touchdown, as Josh Freeman(notes) found rookie receiver Arrelious Benn(notes) for an 8-yard score. Benn has now broken the plane in consecutive games, and he was inches away from scoring in Week 8, too. The Bucs forced an early Mike Goodson fumble, which gave the offense a short field.
• Randy Moss(notes) drew a long pass interference penalty on Vontae Davis(notes) in the first quarter, setting up Chris Johnson's 17-yard rushing TD. Sadly, you don't get credit for PI yardage in the imaginary game.
• LeGarrette Blount(notes) earned a few style points on this 17-yard second quarter TD. He spun/flipped across the goal line, extending the ball with his right hand. Blount looked almost amused at the end of the run, as if he couldn't take Charles Godfrey(notes) seriously. On his first six carries, Blount gained 78 yards against the Panthers.
• Greg Olsen(notes) had a short TD (off a nifty tight end screen) negated by a holding penalty, but the Bears went right back to him on the next play. Olsen broke the plane from 17, catching a dart from Cutler. (Or for those who only speak Jaworski: It was a LASER from Cutler). The Vikings are covering Olsen with a linebacker, which just won't work.
• Two things you'll typically get from Peyton Hillis(notes): Fumbles and touchdowns. He had one of each in the first quarter against the Jets. This formula worked for Adrian Peterson last season, so it's worth a try. Nice to see that Hillis has apparently cut three minutes of flexing out of this post-TD celebration.
• Buffalo rookie CJ Spiller(notes) has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, so Fred Jackson figures to get all the work he can handle against Detroit. If the Bills are ever going to get a win, they better do it this week. The remaining schedule isn't pretty.
• Entering Week 10, Kellen Winslow(notes) was still looking for his first touchdown this season. Winslow finally got on the board in the final minute of the first half against Carolina, making a degree-of-difficulty grab between DBs (and drawing an interference flag). That was Freeman's second passing score of the day.
• On paper, the Houston-Jacksonville tilt looked like an absolute shootout, since both defenses rank in the bottom five of the league against the pass. But so far, it's been the Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) show. He's rushed for 77 yards and two scores. If Matt Schaub can't deliver a big stat line against the Jaguars, then it may never happen. He'll face the Jets, Titans, Eagles and Ravens in Weeks 11-14.
• Titans QB Kerry Collins limped off the field at the end of the first half with an unknown injury. (Obviously a leg, because, well … "limping.") It's possible that we'll see Vince Young in the third quarter.
You know, there's just something about the Cowboys that's not quite right this season, from the front office all the way down to the cheer squad. It's been one of those years.
Please join us for the first game of the Jason Garrett era, as Dallas tries to somehow recover from its multi-week nosedive, facing the NFL's top-ranked defense, with Jon Kitna at quarterback. That should go well. Good times ahead in Week 10, documented right here in Sunday Scene.
As always, if you're looking for last-minute updates and advice, then head over to Fantasy Football Live. The show kicks off at noon ET. Try the chat. We're firm, yet full of kindness.
Photos via US Presswire (cheerleader, Bryant, Chiefs fan) and AP Images (Pennington, Thomas, Garrett)