In the first half of New Orleans' 27-7 win at Buffalo, running back Pierre Thomas(notes) was only a well-hyped decoy. You couldn't find "P. Thomas" in the box score. He had no carries, no yards, no nothin'.
And then Thomas completely dominated the second half, carrying 14 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns against the Bills.
The Saints' first possession of the third quarter began deep in their own territory, at the 3-yard line. Thomas had them at the 36 three carries later. The knee sprain hardly seemed to limit him. He was elusive when necessary and he punished defenders at the conclusion of runs. Thomas broke the plane twice from long range in the fourth quarter (34 and 19 yards), finishing his day with the second-most fantasy points among the running backs in Week 3. Highlights here. With Mike Bell(notes) (MCL) expected to miss another two to three weeks, Thomas' workload seems secure.
There's just one problem with the comeback story: New Orleans' schedule over the next three weeks is not exactly fantasy-friendly. The Saints get the Jets, then a bye, then the Giants.
As great as Thomas was in Weeks 11-16 last year (nine TDs in six games), he hasn't yet proven that he's matchup proof. Those New York Ds present severe challenges. If you're a Thomas owner with an 0-3 record, this would be the time to update the trade block.
• Frank Gore's(notes) injury is a high ankle sprain according to NFL Network. (The Niners dispute that report). Early speculation is that he'll miss "at least two games," which makes rookie Glen Coffee(notes) a must-add player – especially with the Rams on the schedule in Week 4. You'll recall that Coffee turned a few heads (ours included) during the preseason. Go get him. The Niners are a running team, and that won't change simply because Gore is shelved. Coffee carried 25 times against Minnesota in Week 3. Don't let the low yardage total (54) scare you off; the Vikings D is notoriously tough against the run. The Rams D, not so much.
• Terrell Owens(notes) was held without a catch against the Saints, ending a 185-game reception streak. Trent Edwards(notes) ordered all phasers set to "checkdown," failing to complete a pass over 18 yards. Edwards overthrew T.O. on what could have been a long TD. Stay tuned to this situation all week; reporters have already started baiting Owens.
• Without question, the most successful play for Chicago this season is an opponent's field goal attempt. Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed(notes) missed a pair in Week 2, allowing the Bears to pull out a 17-14 win; Seattle's Olindo Mare(notes) missed twice in Week 3, in a game Chicago ultimately won by six points. Matt Forte(notes) eclipsed 100 total yards on Sunday (barely), though he could have easily lost a fumble (see below). All is not perfectly well in the Chicago running game. Your concern is justified. Still, you're not sitting Forte against the Lions in Week 4.
• By now, hopefully you understand that I will not endorse Cedric Benson(notes) under any circumstances – even when he goes untouched for a 23-yard score against Pittsburgh. (Rare lapse by an excellent run D). Benson is Mr. Pianowski's success story, not mine. The Cincinnati O-line has been much better than expected. You're definitely starting Ced against the Browns in Week 4, then again against Houston in Week 6. The Bengals (2-1) have rebounded beautifully from that ridiculous Week 1 loss to Denver.
• Meanwhile, the Super Bowl champion Steelers are now 1-2 after Carson Palmer(notes) led a five-minute game-winning touchdown drive. There's a small sell-high window on Willie Parker(notes) after his 93-yard rushing performance. Limas Sweed(notes) had another spirit-crushing drop.
• Knowshon Moreno(notes) made his first visit to the end zone for the Broncos, rushing for a 7-yard score in the third quarter. He and Correll Buckhalter(notes) combined for 198 rushing yards on 35 carries against the Raiders. The Broncos D had another useful fantasy day (three sacks, three turnovers). Elvis Dumervil(notes) dropped the quarterback twice, giving him six sacks for the year.
• Chad Pennington(notes) injured his throwing shoulder in Miami's loss to San Diego. Here's some early hand-wringing from the Miami Herald: "The extent of the injury is not known right now, but it didn't look good. Pennington could be out a while." Chad Henne(notes) took over for the Fins, inspiring little confidence. His finest moment occurred on a throw where he was at least three yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Henne averaged 4.8 yards per attempt and he threw a pick-six to Eric Weddle(notes). Avoid him if possible. Ted Ginn Jr.(notes) was shutout following the 11-catch, 108-yard, two-drop performance in Week 2.
• OK, so perhaps the L2B 3.0™ needs some tweaking. We missed the forecast by 440 yards and six TDs. But version 4.0 will be flawless, we promise. No excuses.
• Michael Vick(notes) did not record a fantasy point against the Chiefs (0-for-2 passing, seven rush yards). There's no need to add him unless you're managing in a dynasty league and/or a two-quarterback format. Donovan McNabb(notes) is likely to return after the Week 4 bye, sending Kevin Kolb(notes) back to the bench.
• Lions coach Jim Schwartz offered nothing significant on the Kevin Smith(notes) shoulder injury during postgame comments. This from the team's site: "He’s got a shoulder, I don’t know where it’s going to be. We’ll have a lot of tests he’ll wind up doing tomorrow but he came out of the game with a shoulder." If necessary, Detroit would presumably rotate Maurice Morris(notes) and rookie of interest Aaron Brown.
Updated at 9:40 pm ET
Bears head coach Lovie Smith will sometimes toss the challenge flag just in case, even if the replays don't seem to offer conclusive evidence of anything. On Sunday, Lovie's throw-and-hope strategy finally worked. The officials reversed a red zone fumble by Matt Forte, and…well, it's hard to say what they saw on tape. But some of us are glad they saw it.
Greg Olsen(notes) has a touchdown reception for Chicago; Earl Bennett(notes) has three receptions for 73 yards. Johnny Knox(notes) went catch-less in the first half. The Seahawks are wearing radioactive green jerseys today. They look like highlighters.
• Pittsburgh has 258 net yards of offense in the first half, and they lead Cincinnati 13-3. Willie Parker is having his first useful fantasy day of '09, with 99 total yards and a receiving TD. The touchdown followed an impressive scramble by Ben Roethlisberger(notes).
• The Kaedings and the Carpenters were tied 3-3 at half in San Diego. Philip Rivers(notes) is on a 300-yard pace (13-for-21, 153 yards) and Legedu Naanee(notes) has four catches for 40 yards. Not much to get excited about, though.
• JaMarcus Russell(notes) threw two first quarter picks and his Raiders trailed 13-3 at half. Denver rookie Knowshon Moreno was questionable with a groin injury this week, but he's getting a full workload. Absolutely every Broncos running back was denied on goal line carries on Denver's first possession. Richard Seymour(notes) swallowed Moreno behind the line of scrimmage at one point.
• The Bills somehow kept Drew Brees(notes) from throwing a touchdown pass in the first half, though the Saints lead 10-7. Despite being listed as probable this week, Pierre Thomas ceded carries to Lynell Hamilton(notes) (24 yards, TD). Marques Colston(notes) made a nice play on a 5-yard catch to set up Hamilton's 1-yard plunge.
• Throughout the New England-Atlanta game, Tom Brady's(notes) mechanics and/or psychological state were questioned after every incompletion. But honestly, Joey Galloway(notes) cost him at least one TD and possibly two (see below). Brady still finished with 277 yards and one score; Randy Moss(notes) caught 10 balls for 116 yards. If your league's Brady owner is feeling insecure, make an offer.
Updated at 6:05 pm ET
No one should be surprised to see a big fantasy line from Maurice Jones-Drew(notes), regardless of the opponent. But when a quality running back gets to face the Houston defense, you always expect a big number.
The Texans' D gave up two touchdowns and 107 yards to Thomas Jones(notes) in Week 1, then three TDs and 284 total yards to Chris Johnson in Week 2, and on Sunday they allowed 147 yards and three scores to MJD. Long touchdowns are really their specialty, but if you need to break the plane in a short-yardage situation, they'll allow that, too. For those looking ahead: Houston faces Oakland, Arizona, Cincinnati and San Francisco in Weeks 4-7.
Despite the sad state of their run defense, the Texans still had a chance to beat Jacksonville. Kevin Walter(notes) was hit with an interference penalty for an alleged pick in the end zone on what should have been a game-tying TD pass by Matt Schaub(notes). You'll rarely see a flag thrown on a play like that.
• If Brett Favre's(notes) early strike to Sidney Rice(notes) didn't convince you that No. 4 can still go downfield, then his game-winning heave to Greg Lewis(notes) should have put the issue to rest. That was a degree of difficulty play, both for the QB and receiver. Lewis' toe drag at the back of the end zone should be the day's most heavily replayed highlight. Also worth noting: Favre locked onto Percy Harvin(notes) on a fourth down play inside two minutes, and Dre' Bly(notes) stepped in front of the pass and nearly took it the other way for six. That could have ended the game for San Francisco.
• Congrats on the win, Lions fans. Matthew Stafford(notes) had an excellent game against a serious Washington defense (21-for-36, 241 yards, TD, no INTs). The touchdown pass to Bryant Johnson(notes) was terrific, and Stafford added a nifty 21-yard scramble. But there's bad news for Detroit: Kevin Smith left with a shoulder injury after rushing for 101 yards on 16 carries.
• The Giants outgained the Bucs' offense by 311 yards on Sunday afternoon. Byron Leftwich(notes) finished 7-for-16 with one INT and just 22 passing yards. Derrick Ward(notes) carried five times for two yards. Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) was brilliant for New York, an absolute pinball. He finished with 104 rushing yards on just 14 carries. Things officially appear hopeless for Tampa.
• The Cleveland-Baltimore game had a Florida-Charleston Southern feel. Browns quarterback Brady Quinn(notes) was benched after a useless half (34 yards, no TDs, one INT); Derek Anderson(notes) went 10-for-19 in relief, but he also threw three ugly picks. Baltimore absolutely toyed with Cleveland. The Browns simply refuse to tackle. Ray Rice(notes) finally visited the end zone (9-yard TD, unthreatened), as did Derrick Mason(notes) (72 yards).
• Special note to St. Louis' Gary Gibson(notes): Just hit the quarterback. No reason to go for the pump-fake. You're not going to pluck that thing anyway. Aaron Rodgers(notes) was already at the line of scrimmage. Just hit him.
• Jamaal Charles(notes) was a surprise inactive last week, but he was back on the field for the Chiefs in Week 3. Charles had a TD called back due to a holding penalty in the fourth quarter in Philadelphia. That non-play was one of the few highlights for Kansas City in a humbling loss.
• Kerry Collins(notes) didn't complete a pass in the fourth quarter against the Jets' murderous defense. David Harris(notes) was a disruptive monster (one sack, one pick). Mark Sanchez(notes) (171 yards, two pass TDs, one rush TD) and Jerricho Cotchery(notes) had the biggest fantasy days for New York (eight receptions, 108 yards, TD).
• Steven Jackson led the Rams in both receiving and rushing, picking up 163 total yards. He's clearly the show in St. Louis right now, though he hasn't yet found the end zone.
Updated at 4:50 pm ET
Frank Gore aggravated his ankle injury on his first carry in Minnesota, then limped away. He's unlikely to return. Rookie Glen Coffee is the appropriate fantasy add. Repeat: ADD GLEN COFFEE. There's no obvious reason to expect a big line from Coffee today against the Vikes' traditionally strong run defense, but the Niners get St. Louis next week.
Other early injuries: Albert Haynesworth(notes) was carted off the field in Detroit following a sack. He was in obvious pain; it's reportedly a hip injury of unknown severity. Also, Marc Bulger(notes) checked out at home against the Packers with a shoulder injury. In Bulger's absence, Kyle Boller(notes) has thrown a pair of TD passes to tight end Daniel Fells(notes).
• Mark Sanchez's first quarter touchdown scramble is an early highlight-of-the-day candidate. The Titans (dressed as Oilers) blitzed the rookie quarterback on third-and-10, so Sanchez took off, carrying the ball recklessly in one hand, and broke the plane from 14 yards away. Sanchez lowered his head and plowed through safety Michael Griffin(notes) at the end, too. (Video). Worth noting: New York's offensive line simply dominated the Tennessee pass-rush on that first drive.
• Brady Quinn threw an absolute gift of a pick to Domonique Foxworth(notes) in the first quarter in Baltimore. The Browns are a sinking ship that needs to rearrange the deck chairs, lower the lifeboats. Derek Anderson takes over in the second half, but he's not a great fantasy play, either. That offense is a wasteland.
• Willis McGahee(notes) continues to poach TDs in Baltimore. He found the end zone from 7 yards away at the conclusion of the Ravens' first drive. Ray Rice carried twice for nine yards in the series; it's worth noting that both of Rice's carries were in the red zone. McGahee added a 15-yard touchdown run late in the half, with the Browns D offering no serious resistance. (Highlight).
• LeSean McCoy(notes) took the plunge for the Eagles in the first quarter, and he did it off a direct snap. Philadelphia's junior varsity leads the Chiefs, 24-7. DeSean Jackson(notes) has his third long touchdown in as many weeks (a 64-yard reception) and he's already over 100 receiving yards.
• At some point, Jim Zorn is going to need to either A) get creative or B) stop going for it on fourth down when he's looking at a chip-shot field goal. Jason Campbell(notes) had an easy TD toss to Santana Moss(notes) on third-and-goal in the first quarter if he wanted it...but he declined. Campbell instead flipped the ball to Clinton Portis(notes), who couldn't quite reach the goal line. On fourth and goal, Portis dove into the line for no gain.
• When NFL analysts say that Joey Galloway is not a precise route-runner, they have a new Exhibit A with which to make the case. Galloway prematurely ran out of the end zone on what should have been a first quarter TD pass from Tom Brady. The drive ended in a field goal. Galloway later dropped a perfectly thrown potential touchdown near the end of the half. That possession also ended in three points.
• Fred Taylor(notes) is running hard. Check the box score play-by-play on the right. Taylor delivered some punishment at the end of those first three runs, then the Atlanta defense seemed to concede the TD.
• It didn't take a fantasy supergenius to recognize that the Jacksonville-Houston game was going to be a stat buffet. It's 21-17 at half. Maurice Jones-Drew went largely untouched for a 61-yard score – this happens regularly against the Texans D – and Matt Schaub has thrown for three scores (Jacoby Jones(notes), Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels(notes)).
• Brett Favre threw a low-trajectory strike to Sidney Rice for a 30-yard TD on the Vikings' second possession. It's not that he can't go downfield; it's that he didn't need to do it in Weeks 1 and 2.
Updated at 2:50 pm ET
Pregame Updates: Brian Westbrook(notes) (ankle), Wes Welker(notes) (knee) and Dwayne Bowe(notes) (hamstring) are INACTIVE; Randy Moss (back) and DeSean Jackson (groin) are ACTIVE. Do what needs to be done. LeSean McCoy is a recommended play against the Chiefs.
OK, by now you should know the menu. Here are the specials:
Fantasy Football Live, beginning at noon ET
Please check in with Sunday Scene throughout the day for updates, recommendations, random fantasy gibberish. Consider this the last call on Correll Buckhalter (31 percent-owned), Mike Sims-Walker(notes) (32 percent) and the Denver defense (at OAK, 41 percent).
Photo via Getty Images (Vikes fan), US Presswire (Gore, Forte, Thomas) and AP Images (MJD).