Sunday Scene, Week 8: Matt Ryan wins the battle of the birds, decisively

Roto Arcade

Well, so much for Andy Reid's perfect 13-0 record after a bye. He's now 13-1. The unblemished post-bye history is now officially blemished, following his team's 30-17 home loss to Atlanta on Sunday.

I'm not sure what Reid will be doing in 2013 — maybe he'll replace Norv Turner in San Diego, or perhaps he'll take Tony Dungy's job with NBC. But he's certainly no lock to be employed by the Eagles next season. Reid's team is in free fall, losers of three straight, with a series of difficult match-ups ahead.

But that's enough about the Eagles. They're a struggling, sloppy team that continues to struggle, sloppily. We've told this story before.

Instead, let's discuss the machine that rolled through Philadelphia on Sunday, the still-undefeated Atlanta Falcons. If you're a fantasy owner tied to this offense, the only thing worrying you right now is the possibility that Atlanta will clinch everything worth clinching before we reach Week 16, when league titles are decided

After Sunday's win, the Falcons hold a four-game lead over the Bucs in the NFC South, so the division is pretty much wrapped up. Matt Ryan pressed his Player of the Year case, tossing three touchdown passes against Philly, completing 22 of 29 passes for 262 yards. Ryan directed scoring drives on Atlanta's first six possessions. He connected with Julio Jones fives times on the day for 123 yards, including this ridiculous 63-yard TD reception. Thanks for playing, Nnamdi.

With seven games in the books, Ryan is on pace to throw for 4,613 yards and 39 TDs, and he still has all four of his games remaining against the Saints and Buccaneers. Those defenses currently rank 30th and 31st against the pass, each allowing over 300 yards per game. When you consider Ryan's production to date, his remaining schedule, and the absurd talent (and relative good health) in his receiving corps, it's easy to argue that he should be the top-ranked QB, rest-of-season. He's clearly forced his way into the conversation.

I've got a mid-season draft coming up this week, and Ryan is an early-round target. More accurately, he's my only early-round target. There's no way he'll slip to the third, fourth or fifth, as he did back in August.

If you were an early investor, please do some gloating in comments, after the usual bullets...

OK, despite my commitment above to ignore Philly, there's one additional nugget we need to pass along. (Apologies. No one wants to think about the Eagles more than is absolutely necessary). Check out the postgame comments from Michael Vick, regarding his own job security:

"Obviously, he's thinking about making a change at the quarterback position," Vick said of Andy Reid. "The thing I do know, and I'll go watch the film and I'll evaluate myself, is that I'm giving us every opportunity to win. I'm trying my hardest. Something don't go right when I want them to. Some things do. If that's a decision that coach wants to make, then I support it."

Not exactly a ringing self-endorsement.

If Philly were to make a change, rookie Nick Foles would get the best imaginable match-up in Week 9, facing New Orleans. The Saints defense has allowed 30.3 points and 465.5 total yards per week, which is insane. Vick certainly wasn't the reason his team lost to Atlanta — again, the Eagles' D was little more than a speed bump — but his 177 passing yards and 42 rushing weren't nearly enough. Foles is definitely on the fantasy radar, as he'd face a friendly opponent, surrounded by an excellent supporting cast.

The Bears deserved Sunday's win about as much as Christian Slater deserves a MacArthur genius grant, but they got it nonetheless. Jay Cutler had a messy day, finishing with 186 passing yards and three turnovers, but Chicago was bailed out by yet another defensive TD, the team's sixth in seven games. This time, corner Tim Jennings made the house call, returning an interception 25 yards for a score. You can't really blame Cam Newton for the pick-six, since intended receiver Steve Smith fell down on the route.

Smith had an excellent day statistically (7-for-118), but he had a rough final quarter. Not only did his slip-and-fall lead to Chicago's defensive score, but he also failed to haul in a well-thrown ball in the end zone. Naturally, he still talked smack about Jennings after the game. Of course he did.

Jonathan Stewart dominated the backfield touches for Carolina, with 21 for 80 yards compared to DeAngelo Williams' 11 for 33. Cam had a nice enough day in terms of yardage (314 pass, 37 rush), but he couldn't quite get into the end zone. Newton came thisclose to a rushing score before fumbling the ball across the goal line, where Louis Murphy recovered. (If you actually started Murphy in a fantasy league, maybe go buy a lottery ticket).

Ben Roethlisberger took full advantage of Washington's horrid pass defense, throwing for three scores, two of which went to players who weren't started by any fantasy owner, anywhere (Leonard Pope, Will Johnson). The 'Skins entered the week allowing the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, so Ben's day shouldn't have surprised anyone. His uniform may have shocked you (if you weren't expecting him to wear pajamas from 1973), but the fantasy line was predictable enough.

On the other side, Robert Griffin III deserved much, much better, but his receivers were kind of a disaster. Washington receivers dropped 10 passes on the afternoon, a silly number. It's fairly impressive that RG3 still finished 16-for-34 with 177 yards and no picks, despite the poor play from his support staff. The Steelers limited him to just eight rushing yards, while holding Alfred Morris to 59. Without Fred Davis and Pierre Garcon, this team's offense will put a few more ugly games on tape.

If you're a Rams fan, then the highlight of London week was the fact that Danny Amendola almost played. Aside than that ... yikes. Your team was mauled, 45-7, as the defense gave up 473 total yards. Chris Givens delivered another catch that covered 50-plus yards, his fifth in as many weeks, but he was the only Rams player to visit the end zone. It was a shellacking. You'll find various Pats fantasy notes over here, in an earlier post. Sorry, St. Louis rooters. The Wembley debacle counted as a home game, too.

Do we have to talk about the Chargers-Browns game? We do? Well, Trent Richardson was great (which we already covered), the weather was miserable, and Nick Novak did all the scoring for San Diego. Also, Antonio Gates delivered a dud in the muck (2-for-14), and Ryan Mathews lost another fumble, but apparently not his job.

Oh, and this: Robert Meachem is the worst.

The Green Bay-Jacksonville game was supposed to be a blowout, but somehow the Jags never got the message. (Or maybe Marcedes Lewis dropped it, not sure). Jacksonville put up a good fight at Lambeau before taking the expected loss, 24-15. Blaine Gabbert passed for 303 yards and one score, Rashad Jennings gained 115 yards on 23 touches (six catches), and Cecil Shorts caught eight balls for 116.

Playing without Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and Greg Jennings (hernia surgery), the Pack got enough production from James Jones (7-for-78), Randall Cobb (28 yards, TD) and Donald Driver (10 yards, TD). Alex Green took 20-plus carries for the third straight week, though he did very little with 'em, again.

The Lions managed to beat a good team in Week 8, in a game where Calvin Johnson was relatively quiet (46 yards, brutal end zone drop). So that seems like a good sign for Detroit. Megatron attracted the full attention of Seattle's defense all afternoon, which allowed Titus Young and Ryan Broyles to do work. Young finished with nine catches for 100 yards and two scores, Broyles with three for 37 and one touchdown. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew added seven catches for 74 yards, as Matthew Stafford had a monster day (352 yards, three passing TDs, one rush).

Calvin is hurting right now, a fact he mentioned in postgame comments:

"It's tough to stick my foot in the ground with my knee hurting, but that's not excuse."

Johnson missed two days of practice with a sore knee last week.

Let's hope that situation improves. He has the Jags, Vikings and Packers on deck.

We should note that Mikel LeShoure may or may not have been dinged on Sunday — His head coach says no, but he was definitely receiving attention from trainers on the sideline — and he didn't finish the game for Detroit. Joique Bell functioned as the closer, while Kevin Smith offered assistance. If you didn't hate this backfield before, then you surely do now.

Russell Wilson had a respectable day for the Seahawks (230 yards, two TDs, INT), thanks partially to this remarkable one-handed touchdown catch by Zach Miller. The best part of that highlight, by far, was Jim Schwartz's mad-face after the play...

I'm not sure that Vick Ballard had produced a single highlight play this season, until this happened. That would be a game-winning touchdown catch in overtime, a play-of-the-year candidate with a Matrix-style finish. Awesome stuff, rookie. It completely overshadowed a pretty fair Kendall Wright TD reception that occurred earlier in the same game.

Ballard was actually out-gained by Donald Brown on the day (80 total yards to 71), as Indy's featured back returned from a knee injury. The Colts moved to 4-3, as Andrew Luck picked up his first NFL road win, throwing for 297 yards in the process.

Miami's defense was the top-scoring fantasy entity in the Dolphins-Jets tilt, by a wide margin. The 'Fins turned over Mark Sanchez twice, sacked him four times, they blocked a field goal and scored off a blocked punt. It was a forgettable game for New York, in a lousy season. Hopefully you're not invested in the Jets — emotionally, literally, or in fantasy.

Ryan Tannehill suffered a knee and/or quad injury in his team's win, and Matt Moore performed well in relief of the rookie (11-for-19, 131 yards, TD). We don't yet know Tannehill's status for Week 9 (at Indianapolis), but it seems doubtful that his situation can possibly make or break your fantasy season. Reggie Bush owners, take note of Daniel Thomas' workload on Sunday: 15 carries, 42 yards, TD. Thomas is a persistent goal line presence, a serious annoyance. It doesn't seem like you'd ever want him to finish with more touches than Reggie, but that's obviously not my call.

Jason Witten established a new Cowboys team record for single-game receptions, hauling in 18 balls for 167 yards against the Giants, carrying two of my PPR teams in Week 8. The Giants managed to blow a 23-0 lead against Dallas on Sunday, yet they managed to do just enough to win in the fourth quarter. Tony Romo finished with 437 passing yards on an eye-popping 62 attempts, but he was picked off four times (not all his fault. But whatever. You're tired of hearing it, and I'm tired of typing it). Miles Austin and Dez Bryant joined Witten in the 100-yard club, and Dez was crazy-close to snagging a 37-yard season-altering touchdown catch in the final seconds. Alas, his fingers came down first (we think), barely out of bounds. Tough break, Bryant owners. But you've had worse days.

I didn't spend much time parked in front of the Raiders-Chiefs game today, because ... well, because I've learned to just take whatever Dwayne Bowe gives me (63 yards) without watching. The watching never makes it better. But I can still report that Brady Quinn suffered a head injury, forcing Matt Cassel into the game for KC. That went pretty much the way you'd expect it to, and Oakland emerged victorious. Jamaal Charles only received five carries and eight touches, for no good reason. Well coached, Romeo. Darren McFadden had a big game for the Raiders, at least by his recent standards, finishing with 137 yards on 33 touches. Denarius Moore had the useful day that you should have expected (5-96-1).

Before the Week 9 pick-ups, we leave you with a heartwarming message from Jay Cutler to his fans. He's the best. "F------ fans, I swear..."

The t-shirts practically print themselves.


QB Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (at Oak)
QB Nick Foles, Philadelphia (at NO)
QB Russell Wilson, Seattle (vs. Min)
RB Donald Brown, Indianapolis (vs. Mia)
RB Joique Bell, Detroit (at Jac)
RB Daryl Richardson, St. Louis (bye)
RB Beanie Wells (IR), Arizona (at GB)
RB Ronnie Hillman, Denver (at Cin)
WR Titus Young, Detroit (at Jac)
WR Ryan Broyles, Detroit (at Jac)
WR Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville (vs. Det)
WR Golden Tate, Seattle (vs. Min)
WR Danny Amendola, St. Louis (bye)
WR Brandon LaFell, Carolina (at Was)

What to Read Next