In Week 7, the Miami Dolphins demonstrated that it's possible to take a lead against the Saints. That's positive news for the rest of the NFL. Incredibly, New Orleans hadn't trailed all year entering Sunday's game.
The bad news for the rest of the league is this: No one has actually proven that the Saints can be beaten.
Despite holding a 24-3 lead late in the second quarter and a 10-point lead to begin the fourth, the Dolphins still lost to Drew Brees(notes) and Friends, 46-34. New Orleans won the final quarter decisively, 22-0. The Saints have now topped 45 points in four of their six wins; they're averaging an obscene 39.7 per game.
Normally we'd suggest that a level of performance like that is totally unsustainable, but New Orleans' schedule isn't exactly unfriendly over the next four weeks: Atlanta, Carolina, at St. Louis, at Tampa Bay. Those teams have a combined record of 6-20. The Falcons present the only credible threat, but they just allowed 37 points to Dallas on Sunday. In the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 15-16), the Saints are at home in the dome against the Cowboys and Bucs.
Delightfully, there are still a few ways you can invest in New Orleans for fantasy purposes. Mike Bell(notes) is only 33 percent owned, for example. He rushed for 80 yards on 12 carries against the Fins, finishing with three more touches than Pierre Thomas(notes) and six more than Reggie Bush(notes). (Point, Pianowski). Bell was denied on a pair of late red zone carries, but we learned in Week 6 that he's going to have a recurring role on the goal line.
Wide receivers Devery Henderson(notes) (42 percent owned) and Lance Moore(notes) (48 percent) will continue to have situational relevance, too. Think of them as respectable bye-week and/or injury replacement options. Henderson caught four passes for 71 yards on Sunday and added one carry for 13 yards. Moore was quiet against Miami, but he's finally healthy after dealing with hamstring trouble early in the year. He had six receptions for 78 yards and one TD versus the Giants in Week 6.
The Saints defense is still available in a handful of Yahoo! leagues as well, though not for long. Gregg Williams' D had a pair of interception return TDs against Chad Henne(notes) (neither of which were the QB's fault), finishing with 19 public league fantasy points.
It's hardly a surprise to see Brees among the week's top fantasy scorers, obviously, but he took an unconventional route to get there. Brees had a rather difficult day, getting sacked five times and tossing three picks, but he still rushed for a pair of short scores and managed to pass for 298 yards. At his worst, he still carries your team – and I do mean your team. I seem to be facing him in every league.
• The word is already in on Leon Washington's(notes) injury, and it's as bad as feared. He suffered a broken fibula that will require surgery, and he appears to be done for the year. Rookie Shonn Greene(notes) was more than capable as a fill-in against the Raiders, carrying 19 times for 144 yards and two TDs. Greene's 33-yard score was one of the day's more impressive highlights (although Dierdorf was a buzzkill at the end).
• Jake Delhomme(notes) threw three more picks on Sunday, giving him 13 interceptions through six weeks. In case you're wondering, the single-season record is 42. That's a big number, but don't tell Jake what's impossible.
• OK, we said below that we wouldn't revisit the Bears-Bengals train wreck, but we should note that Cedric Benson(notes) was forced to carry 37 times due to a Bernard Scott(notes) injury. (Or perhaps Dusty Baker took over for Marvin Lewis in the second half. Not sure). Cincinnati's bye week couldn't arrive at a better time. Benson needs a break. He's on a 375-carry pace after seven weeks; his career high is 214.
• It would appear that Miles Austin(notes) is not a fluke. The undrafted Dallas wideout caught another six balls for 171 yards and two TDs. He's likely to finish as the leading fantasy receiver for the second week in a row, which rarely ever happens. Austin is 6-foot-3, he's plenty fast, and...well, he's the guy that Roy Williams was supposed to be, at a fraction of the cost. Where have the Cowboys been hiding him? It's not like he's new.
• Bernard Berrian(notes) declined to discuss his left hamstring after the Vikings' loss, so we don't yet know anything about the severity of the injury. All we can say for sure is that he was limited to two catches for 18 yards and Sidney Rice(notes) was uncoverable. Additional details below.
• It's necessary to report that JaMarcus Russell(notes) became the second Bay Area quarterback to be benched on Sunday. He was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski(notes) after throwing two early picks, but Gradkowski did nothing to distinguish himself (97 yards, 67.2 passer rating). According to the Oakland Tribune, "[Tom] Cable declared that Russell will start next Sunday's game at San Diego and that there is 'no issue' in regards to a quarterback controversy."
So sleep well, Raider Nation.
Posted at 10:05 pm ET
• Benson Bowl I quickly turned into a total rout in favor of the Bengals. At halftime, Carson Palmer(notes) was 15-for-17 with 183 yards and four TDs, Chad Ochocinco(notes) had nine receptions for 105 yards, and Cedric Benson had rushed for 98.
The Bears aren't even competing, on a day when the division-leading Vikings finally dropped a game. Chicago's secondary needs a map, a field guide and possibly a sherpa. They're lost. We shall speak no more of that mauling, unless an actionable fantasy event occurs.
• Leon Washington was injured early in what will eventually be a blowout win over the Raiders. We take you to The Fifth Down for details:
Bad news for Jets fans: Leon Washington was just helped off the field. It did not look good. The replay showed a defender landing on Washington’s right leg. He was on the ground afterward, surrounded by trainers. He was helped off the field and is currently lying down on a cart, headed toward the locker room.
In Washington's absence, widely available third-stringer Shonn Greene is having a terrific day (albeit against a poor run defense). Greene scored his first NFL touchdown on an 8-yard carry straight up the middle. Highlight here. The 226-pound rookie isn't at all like Washington in terms of style, but he stands to inherit a significant workload if Leon's injury is as serious as it appeared. Greene does not go down quietly and he never loses a yard.
• No one's surprised that the Panthers-Bills game was 7-2 at half, right? They are who we thought they were. Marshawn Lynch(notes) had the touchdown. No shock there, since Carolina entered allowing 149.2 rushing yards per game.
• Ricky Williams(notes) met and exceeded his Fearless Forecast™ in the first quarter against New Orleans, scoring a pair of TDs. The first touchdown was from short range (four yards) while the second was a 68-yarder. The ex-Saint still has wheels. Still, we're not counting out New Orleans just yet. They can score a little.
• Miles Austin is on a Drew Bennett(notes)-style binge right now. Halfway through the fourth quarter in Dallas, Austin is approaching 200 yards again and he's caught two more touchdown passes. Perhaps the KC game was just the beginning.
Posted at 6:50 pm ET
• Norv Turner coached like a man who started LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) in nine fantasy leagues this week, but LT somehow failed to deliver a touchdown. Tomlinson had 23 carries for just 71 yards against the Chiefs. The Chargers called his number four straight times inside the 10-yard line near the end of the third quarter, yet he was repeatedly stuffed.
Once again, we take you to the box score play-by-play:
You'll find a similar screenshot below, capturing an earlier short-yardage failure. Tomlinson was No. 6 in the Yahoo! composite running back ranks this week thanks to the overwhelmingly favorable matchup, but you aren't likely to see him that high again.
• If you had any doubts about Sidney Rice's emergence as a No. 1 receiver, they should have been erased by his performance against the Steelers defense. Rice finished with 136 yards on 11 receptions, and his 25-yard grab along the sideline in the fourth quarter may have been the catch of the day (at least in the non-scoring category). He was originally ruled out-of-bounds on the play, because it hardly seemed possible that anyone could get both feet in. Rice later lost a touchdown due to a (weak) flag on a tripping penalty.
• Andre Johnson(notes) suffered a chest contusion in the fourth quarter of Houston's narrow home win against the Niners. Based on his on-field reaction, it may be something semi-serious. He remained on his hands and knees for quite a while before leaving the field. Johnson was taken to a local hospital following the game.
• Ryan Grant(notes) was an obvious start this week, facing an atrocious Cleveland run defense. He didn't disappoint (finally), running for 148 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries. Here's the stat of the day for Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers(notes) wasn't sacked. That never happens.
• We shouldn't have a QB controversy in San Francisco. Instead, we should simply have a new quarterback...but that's Mike Singletary's call, not mine. Alex Smith relieved Shaun Hill(notes) at halftime, leading an unexpected Niners' comeback that came up just short. Smith passed for 206 yards in the second half at Houston (15-for-22), connecting with Vernon Davis(notes) for three touchdowns (all apparently on the same route). And Michael Crabtree(notes) can play, by the way. He received a full workload, not a cameo, catching five passes for 56 yards.
• If you watched the Minnesota-Pittsburgh game – and let's hope you did, because it was by far the best of the early offerings – you saw two dominant fantasy entities that should not be benched under any circumstances: Adrian Peterson and the Steelers D. All Day gained 129 total yards (69 rush, 60 receiving), he crossed the goal line once, and he buried poor William Gay on a regrettable tackle attempt. Pittsburgh's defense scored a pair of TDs in the fourth quarter, both off Brett Favre(notes) turnovers. LaMarr Woodley(notes) scored on a 77-yard fumble return thanks to fierce blocking, and Keyaron Fox(notes) intercepted a pass that skipped off Chester Taylor's(notes) hands, returning it 82 yards for another TD.
• For the first time this year, Peyton Manning(notes) failed to reach 300 passing yards. But if St. Louis could have kept the game at all competitive, Manning would have reached his usual total. Steven Jackson's heroic fantasy effort continues. Despite the ineptitude that surrounds him, S-Jax still rushed for 134 yards against Indy. He didn't have any TDs, of course, because those aren't in the script for the Rams.
• Laurence Maroney's(notes) late one-yard touchdown run saved his fantasy day (13 carries, 43 yards) and the Pats cruised to a win in London. Wes Welker(notes) reached double-digit receptions and triple-digit yardage (10-107-1) for the second straight week.
We now take you to the tragic debacling of the Bears, already in progress...
Posted at 5:30 pm ET
• The Colts' opening drive at St. Louis was simply a clinic in...well, in everything. Peyton Manning threw from perfect, undisturbed pockets. The drive ended with a short touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne(notes). At the 8:50 mark in the first quarter, Wayne had already caught four passes for 61 yards.
Wayne later strained his groin, but he managed to reappear on the field for the Colts in the third quarter. Rookie running back Donald Brown(notes) has a shoulder injury of unknown severity, too. Indianapolis is rolling as expected, leading the Rams 21-3 at half, but this could be a pyrrhic victory if Wayne and Brown are dinged.
• On Michael Crabtree's first NFL snap, it appeared that quarterback Shaun Hill was looking his way. But Houston DE Mario Williams(notes) was curiously left unblocked, so he blew up the play and sent Hill to the turf. Hill had only 45 passing yards at halftime (22 of them to Crabtree), and he's been replaced by Alex Smith. Tight end Vernon Davis caught a 29-yard TD pass from Smith to open the third quarter. This is actionable news in two-QB leagues.
• The Chargers gave LaDainian Tomlinson a 2nd-and-goal carry on their first scoring drive, but he picked up just two yards and came out on third down. Darren Sproles(notes) entered, and he was one of (at least) two Chargers who were left uncovered on the game's next play. Sproles sprinted right toward the pylon, completely alone, but Philip Rivers(notes) instead found Malcom Floyd(notes) over the middle for the TD. Brandon Carr(notes) had no middle help, yet still allowed the inside route.
It's worth noting that Tomlinson had other goal line opportunities...
...but he hasn't broken the plane. LT was denied in an attempt to go over the top, then stuffed when he plowed into the line.
• We've all been a little frustrated with Steve Slaton(notes) this year, but when the Texans send him out wide and hit him with quick screens, he's a monster. That guy absolutely explodes upfield. Slaton (not Chris Brown) took a pitch from Matt Schaub(notes) and scored from the 1-yard line near the end of the first quarter. Slaton later added a 9-yard TD off a screen, finishing with a full-extension dive across the goal line.
• New England safety Brandon Meriweather(notes) is attempting to single-handedly launch the Josh Freeman(notes) quarterbacking era for Tampa. Meriweather has two of the three interceptions thrown by Josh Johnson(notes), and he returned the first for a score. The Pats are dominating the Bucs in London, predictably enough. Brady had a pair of first half touchdown passes, one to Wes Welker and another to Sam Aiken(notes).
• Every week, it seems like someone either jukes or throws Eric Wright(notes) to the ground on their way to the end zone. This week it was Donald Driver's(notes) turn, near the end of his 71-yard score. Highlight here.
• Rushing yards never come easy against the Steelers; they entered the week allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Nonetheless, Adrian Peterson has a short-yardage TD, rewarding those who started him despite the rough matchup.
• Last year, the Chiefs' pass rush was historically ineffective (just 10.0 sacks total), and they've been remarkably courteous to Philip Rivers so far on Sunday. At halftime, Rivers is 13-for-21 for 186 yards and two TDs. Most of the yards belong to Vincent Jackson(notes) (142), who's simply too big and too elusive for the Chiefs' secondary to contain. Rivers had plenty of time to stand around directing traffic downfield before hitting V-Jax on a 10-yard touchdown with 1:23 remaining in the first quarter. San Diego should actually have another passing TD, but Chris Chambers(notes) can't catch.
Posted at 3:10 pm ET
Welcome to London Week, everyone. Here's a little Pats-Bucs hype, straight from the official Web site of Wembley Stadium:
The Buccaneers and Patriots have been two of the NFL’s most successful teams in recent years, combining to win four of the past seven Super Bowls. Both clubs are strong contenders for a return trip to the playoffs this season.
Did you hear that, Tampa? You're not just playoff contenders, you're strong contenders. Go get 'em, fellas. Please note the concern that's evident on the faces of the New England cheer squad members pictured above.
Please check in with Sunday Scene throughout the day for observations and updates, and join us for Fantasy Football Live beginning at noon ET.
Photos via US Presswire (Pats, Ocho, Brees) and AP Images (Wayne, LT)