U-G-L-Y! That's the only way to describe the offensive show put on by San Francisco and Chicago on Sunday. 49ers QB Cody Pickett managed to complete one pass for 28 yards, and he played the entire game! Chicago QB Kyle Orton didn't fare much better, completing eight passes for 67 yards. Other than Bears backup RB Adrian Peterson's 120-yard effort in relief of an injured Cedric Benson, this game should be written off as a bad experience for all involved. While I forced myself to keep tabs on the "action" in Chicago, I let my main focus shift to the rest of the Week 10 lineup. Here's a look at what caught my eye:
The frustrating aspect of Roy Williams' three-TD performance on Sunday was that he offered absolutely no warning that a breakout game was coming. If only, in his return to action last week from a quad injury, he had caught, say, five or six balls for 50-plus yards, fantasy owners might have been willing to plug him into the lineup on Sunday. Instead, he logged just three plays and did not record a catch. On the heels of that goose egg, only those whose hands were forced by byes were likely to have plugged Williams into the lineup in Week 10. And so, a monstrous performance – seven catches, 117 yards, three TDs – went for naught as Williams languished on the bench for most fantasy teams, including mine. We should be hearing more from Williams going forward now that he's healthy. On Sunday, he very much looked the part of the big, physical, athletic powerhouse receiver that was drafted seventh overall in the '04 NFL Draft.
Unlike Williams, I'm not buying too much into Joey Harrington's revival performance on Sunday. While Harrington posted excellent numbers – 21-for-31, 231 yards and three TDs – he was afforded time to throw (sacked just once) and benefited from Detroit's rare success running the ball. Harrington's biggest issue is when heat is put on him in the pass rush. If his Week 10 effort earns him another start, you can bet he'll revert to his excitable, error-prone ways when faced with Dallas' attacking defense. Arizona's defensive effort in Week 10 was poor, to say the least.
There's light at the end of the tunnel for Randy Moss owners. The hobbled star saw his most work in weeks on Sunday. QB Kerry Collins targeted him 11 times, connecting on six throws for 78 yards and a TD, his third score in his past four games. While Moss' role remained limited on Sunday, his six catches was a season high. This performance should allow his fantasy owners to start him with confidence going forward, as his reps will likely expand.
Against the New York Jets' 30th-ranked rush defense, it's little surprise that Carolina rushed 36 times and threw just 20 passes. But give Jets cornerback Ty Law credit for helping to road block the Panthers' passing attack. Law played a major role in limiting top fantasy wideout Steve Smith to just three receptions and 34 yards, his second-lowest tallies of the season. Smith was targeted seven times total.
The Atlanta Falcons run defense is so very bad. Green Bay hasn't punished anyone on the ground this season … until Sunday, that is. Packers deep reserve Sam Gado ran 25 times for 103 yards and three TDs against the Falcons, easily Green Bay's best effort by a back this season. The Falcons might be the perfect cure for what ails Carnell Williams and Kevin Jones. Both play Atlanta in the next two weeks and I wouldn't hesitate to start each player in those games.
Warrick Dunn is on pace for one of his finest fantasy seasons, but the one disappointment of this campaign has been his lack of involvement in the passing game. A skilled receiver, Dunn averaged 54 receptions from '98-'02, but last season he bottomed out with just 29 receptions (0 TDs) in 16 games. And the slump carried over into this season as he accrued just 13 catches through the team's first eight games. On Sunday, we saw some old-school Dunn, as he hauled in six passes for 52 yards and a TD, his first TD catch since Week 12 of '03. T.J. Duckett returned on Sunday from an ankle injury and carried four times for an impressive 31 yards. It's likely that Duckett will take some of Dunn's carries going forward but, if Dunn can continue to play a bigger role in the passing game, he should be able to sustain his currently sky-high fantasy value.
Torry Holt owners may have to suffer through a rough patch similar to what Randy Moss owners have had to endure of late. Holt, returning from a two-game hiatus because of a knee strain, looked a step slow on Sunday. In fairness, he was wearing a knee brace, and that contributed to his struggles. But Holt let a potential TD pass slip through his hands and also had trouble adjusting on a very well thrown deep pass by Marc Bulger – Holt couldn't determine which shoulder to catch the ball over and the pass dropped near his feet. Those two plays denied him of two possible TDs, but the crafty veteran still managed to find pay dirt, hauling in a 14-yard scoring toss in the fourth quarter. Like Moss, Holt's yardage and catches may be spotty for a couple weeks, but Holt still is savvy enough to be a good bet to find the end zone in those contests.
Tampa Bay QB Chris Simms still has a lot to learn, but it should be noted that he has yet to throw for less than 250 yards in his three starts. On Sunday, he enjoyed his best passing day yet, throwing for 279 yards and three TDs without an INT. His performance was made all the more impressive given the fact that it came against a Washington defense that had not given up more than one TD pass to any of the QBs it had previously faced. As RB Carnell Williams suffered through another abysmal effort (10 carries for 20 yards), the passing game is taking front and center as the strength of the offense. And Joey Galloway, with seven catches for 131 yards and a TD, now has TDs in four straight games, remains the biggest benefactor. He has seven TDs in his past seven games.
On Sunday, Minnesota became the first team to return a punt, a kickoff and an interception for a TD in the same game. Of course, it just so happens that I dropped the Vikings defense/special teams this past week in favor of an Arizona defense going against the mistake factory that is typically Joey Harrington … Ok, so that didn't quite work out the way I planned. But that's beside the point. Back to the Vikings, whose offense desperately needed the extra help on Sunday. The unit finished with a net total of 137 yards. Michael Bennett's encore performance after last week's 100-yard rushing day consisted of 19 carries for 16 yards. And QB Brad Johnson threw for just 144 yards without a TD pass. The hope that some consistency would settle in here with Johnson behind center has diminished as quickly as it arose last week. This team remains one of the biggest fantasy enigmas out there.
Chris Chambers looked sharp on Sunday. It had become public leading up to Week 10 that the receiver was frustrated with the way his season was transpiring. Who knows if that factored into head coach Nick Saban's game plan, but Chambers was targeted 14 times against New England, and he caught six balls for 69 yards and two TDs. Fantasy pundits often lament that Chambers' vast talents have gone to waste in Miami. But you have to figure that with the Dolphins' running game starting to click, Chambers' scoring opportunities are going to rise. Chambers has the kind of skills – strength, leaping ability, sure hands – that make him dangerous in the red zone. He was targeted four times in the red zone on Sunday, and his two scores give him four in the past four games. If Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams can continue to find success on the ground, Chambers is going push his career-best total of 11 TDs in '03.
For all the Corey Dillon owners out there, I feel your pain. Trying to figure out the health and playing time of the Pat's featured back has been a nightmare. In Week 7, he was not placed on the inactive list because head coach Bill Belichick didn't have room. So Dillon suited up, causing many of his fantasy owners to assume he'd play despite a sore ankle. Instead, he watched in full attire from the sidelines as Patrick Pass carried the load. Gun shy the following week, many owners left Dillon on the bench for fear of a repeat of what happened in Week 7. Dillon ended up scoring two TDs. Last week, Dillon was again in the lineup, carrying 12 times for 44 yards. The fact that he played through a "questionable" ankle two weeks in a row led most to believe that Dillon would be in there again on Sunday. And he was … for two plays. A tight calf helped land Dillon back on the bench in favor of fullback-turned-tailback Heath Evans. At this point, you can't play Dillon until he's upgraded to no worse than "probable." And even then, there are no guarantees in Belichick's world.
One final note before I check out: Reports of Peyton Manning's fantasy demise were greatly exaggerated. A big deal was made about his slow start, but on paper it doesn't look that bad. He threw just two TD passes through his first three games, but has 15 in the six games since. He has three more TD passes than any other QB in the league from the span of Week 4 through Week 10. For those who started to believe that Eli Manning would outperform his brother in fantasy, it's time to jump off that train.