Before I get to this game, let me express my disdain for the NFL Network. The NFL Network promised this contest would be aired live. I looked forward to watching it, but when the clock struck 7, the NFL Network showed the Top 10 Backup Quarterback special instead. I looked on Twitter, and the @nflnetwork account said that those in the New York market could find the game on NBC. I live right outside of Philadelphia, so I thought this could be the case for me as well. Unfortunately, NBC was airing the brain-draining Access Hollywood, followed by America's Got Talent and We Are NBC, We Suck Because We Cancel Great Shows So Please Watch This Garbage.
The NFL Network's twitter account was answering questions about the New York area dilemma, so I tweeted (@walterfootball), "@nflnetwork Giants-Jets game not available (to me at least) on NFLN or NBC in the Philadelphia market." NFL Network must not have thought I was cool enough, because they didn't answer my concern. Fortunately, I was able to stream the game online.
Sorry if I sound like I have sand in my vag, but I'm just incredibly annoyed by the NFL Network. It would help if they didn't show the "Top Five Receiving Touchdowns of 2010" every 10 minutes. #FML.
Did Eli Manning really call himself a top-five quarterback? Did he forget to add the zero at the end? Because based on the way he's played this preseason, he's barely in the top 50. Manning looked like he raided Derek Anderson's liquor cabinet prior to playing against the Jets. He threw for 200 yards, but went 15-of-30 and heaved two ugly picks. He seldom went through his progressions, he made poor decisions (the second pick was into double coverage), and he constantly overthrew his wideouts. On one occasion, he completely missed a wide-open Mario Manningham, who blew by two Jets defensive backs for what could have been an 85-yard touchdown.
Here were Manning's targets:
Jake Ballard: 1
Travis Beckum: 2
Ahmad Bradshaw: 2
Victor Cruz: 3 (1 end zone)
Brandon Jacobs: 1
Mario Manningham: 9 (1 end zone)
Hakeem Nicks: 7
D.J. Ware: 3
Mario Manningham saw a team-high nine targets against the Jets. He caught only three balls for 36 yards, but that had more to do with Eli Manning's struggles. Manning missed a wide-open Manningham for an 85-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Manningham is showing that last season's strong finish wasn't a fluke; he's a strong WR2.
Hakeem Nicks had seven targets. He dropped a pass, but managed to haul in five grabs for 71 yards. Despite Manning's current issues, he remains a top-six fantasy wideout.
Ahmad Bradshaw was used sparingly versus the Jets because of a minor injury, so Brandon Jacobs saw most of the workload. Jacobs picked up where he left off last week, rumbling for 51 yards on 10 carries. He looks great, and at this point, it'll be shocking if he doesn't get at least a 40-60 split with Bradshaw. He was also ejected for fighting Muhammad Wilkerson in the third quarter. More on that later.
Mark Sanchez was a pretty mediocre 8-of-16 for 64 yards and a touchdown. It looked like he was trying to hard to force the ball into Plaxico Burress, a plan that didn't work very well (more on that later).
I think the Jets should reconsider this whole Plaxico Burress experiment. Burress was targeted a team-high four times against the Giants, yet he couldn't pull in a single reception. He doesn't look anything close to the dominant receiver of a couple of years ago. The announcers noticed this as well, stating that Burress didn't have his "legs under him" quite yet. Considering that he's 34, it's likely that he never will.
Dustin Keller had a huge performance last week, but he predictably regressed to the norm in this contest. Despite seeing a team-high four targets, he caught only two balls for 11 yards in slightly more than two quarters of action. He's too unreliable to own in fantasy leagues.
Shonn Greene didn't play in Week 2, but started against the Giants on Monday night. He rushed for 42 yards on 11 carries, and was even targeted three times. Greene is not going to play on third down anytime soon, but it's nice to see him somewhat involved in the passing game.
Inept Announcer Alert! I'm not sure who the color analyst was on the Giants broadcast, but when a fight broke out between Brandon Jacobs and Muhammad Wilkerson (both players were ejected, as Jacobs threw punches at Wilkerson's helmet), the guy on the telecast said the following:
"That was a bald-headed play by Brandon Jacobs!"
I can't believe the Giants would allow someone this racist against bald people to do their broadcast. Hey pal, just because someone's bald doesn't mean they're going to do idiotic things like punch someone else in the helmet. Not all human beings can keep their hair, jerk.
Cowboys 23, Vikings 17
I'm sure all of you are anticipating a Felix Jones update because I have him ranked higher than just about anyone. Jones was great yet again at Minnesota, rushing for 20 yards and a touchdown on five carries in about one-and-a-half quarters of action. He was also targeted four times, catching three balls for 18 receiving yards. Jones looks like a completely different running back than what we've saw the past couple of years. His new bulk gives him good power - he was on the field at the goal line - and he still has his speed and quickness. He's a must-have in all fantasy leagues.
One other stud I want to talk about is Dez Bryant. The second-year wideout saw a whopping nine targets come his way against the Vikings (one in the end zone), and he managed five receptions for 67 yards in one half of work. Miles Austin-Jones didn't play - he was out with a hamstring - but Tony Romo made an effort to feed the ball to Bryant, who really looks like he could break out this season. Try to get him on your team as well. With Austin-Jones dealing with the always-frustrating hamstring, Bryant could be Dallas' top producer at the position in 2011.
Tony Romo went 15-of-20 for 141 yards in the first half. Those stats pretty much tell you how he performed.
Here were Romo's targets:
Dez Bryant: 9 (1 end zone)
Jesse Holley: 2
Felix Jones: 4
Kevin Ogletree: 4 (1 end zone)
Jason Witten: 4
Donovan McNabb played a lot better than expected. He went 12-of-18 for 164 yards, one touchdown and an interception that he tried to fit between two defenders. McNabb nearly had a second pick in the third quarter when a defender slapped the ball away instead of putting forth more of an effort into causing a turnover. However, McNabb made several great throws, including a perfectly placed 49-yard touchdown bomb to Bernard Berrian. McNabb also suffered through two drops, so his stats could have been better.
Here were McNabb's targets:
Bernard Berrian: 5 (2 end zone)
Lorenzo Booker: 4
Percy Harvin: 5
Michael Jenkins: 4
Jim Kleinsasser: 1
Where did this come from? Bernard Berrian tied the team lead with five targets against Dallas, including a 49-yard touchdown bomb from Donovan McNabb. Don't get too excited though; Berrian hauled in just two of the five balls thrown to him for 64 yards, proving once again that he's an inefficient receiver. I wouldn't spend a fantasy draft pick on him, but monitor him as a possible waiver-wire addition.
Percy Harvin tied Berrian for the team lead in targets. Unlike Berrian, he caught most of them (4-29). However, he dropped a routine pass on a third down for a reception that would have moved the chains.
Some good and bad regarding Adrian Peterson. The All-Pro back looked as strong and spry as ever against the Cowboys, juking defenders, running with power and showing off his great speed. He gained 81 yards on 14 carries. However, he was not on the field in third-down situations or in the two-minute drill just prior to halftime. Lorenzo Booker took over that role. It's a concern for Peterson's PPR status.
In an interview with a sideline reporter, Visanthe Shiancoe announced that he has changed the pronounciation of his name back to the original "Vi-SAN-teh." He recently went from that to "Vi-SANT," so I'm sure we'll all sleep better at night knowing that he's "Vi-SAN-teh" again.
Buccaneers 17, Dolphins 13
It's amazing how inconsistent Chad Henne is. He can look like a middle-school quarterback one week and then really impress the next. This performance was of the latter variety; Henne was nearly perfect, going 10-of-13 for 175 yards and an impressive throw to Brandon Marshall for a 60-yard touchdown. Not included in Henne's stat line were two Marshall pass interference penalties.
Despite this, it's difficult to get excited about Henne. He could easily toss four picks in the opener, and then follow that up with a quartet of touchdowns. It's just the way he is.
Here were Henne's targets:
Davone Bess: 3
Anthony Fasano: 3
Edmond "Clyde" Gates: 2
Daniel Hardy: 1
Brandon Marshall: 4
Reggie Bush: 3
Brandon Marshall caught two balls for 90 yards and a touchdown at Tampa Bay. Marshall completely abused some Bucs corner named E.J. Biggers throughout the first half. He beat Biggers on a 60-yard touchdown on the opening drive and then drew a pass interference penalty on him in the second quarter. He also drew the same infraction later on Myron Lewis. Marshall is a stud receiver, but if you draft him, you'll have to deal with Chad Henne's frustrating inconsistency.
The Reggie Bush hype train may have just lost some steam. Bush carried the ball five times for minus-1 yard, thanks in part to a 3-yard loss in which the Tampa front blew up Miami's line and stuffed the former Saint in the backfield. Bush otherwise did too much dancing at the line of scrimmage and uncharacteristically dropped a pass. Still, he played well ahead of Daniel Thomas and even stole a goal-line opportunity from the rookie.
If you haven't been paying attention to the Miami running back situation, don't draft Daniel Thomas. Thomas didn't even see the field until the middle of the second quarter of the Tampa game and even lost a goal-line carry to Reggie Bush later in the period. Thomas did have a nice, 9-yard run after halftime, but was stuffed on a 3rd-and-1 on the next play. Tony Sparano has reportedly lost confidence in Thomas, so it doesn't make much sense to pick him unless he drops to you very, very late in your draft.
As surprising as it was to see Chad Henne light it up, it was equally shocking to see Josh Freeman struggle against Miami. Freeman went 12-of-23 for 149 yards, but that doesn't tell the whole story. He easily could have tossed two interceptions; the first was dropped by safety Yeremiah Bell on the opening drive. The second nearly occurred in the second quarter when Freeman tried to force the ball into LeGarrette Blount in between two defenders. Freeman threw only six picks last year, but he's going to have many more if he doesn't improve his decision-making.
Kellen Winslow Jr. was leading the Buccaneers in targets (4) when he left the Miami game with an ankle injury. It's reportedly not serious, so Winslow deserves a stock up. He's finally healthy, so he figures to be a big part of Tampa's offense.
It was nice to see Arrelious Benn on the field again. Benn is coming off a torn ACL, so even though he caught only one pass for 12 yards, it's encouraging that he's already playing. He won't be 100 percent until 2012, but he'll contribute more and more as the season progresses.
LeGarrette Blount struggled to find running room (5-10) against Miami, but he led the Buccaneers in receiving yardage with 62 off three receptions (most of which came on a 52-yard burst). Blount was targeted four times, which is huge. He's not going to be the third-down back or anything, but Josh Freeman appears comfortable using Blount as part of the passing attack. It's a strong possibility that Blount will catch 20 balls in 2011.
Inept Announcer Alert! The Buccaneers sideline reporter had this amusing statement near the beginning of the game:
"Everyone loves Aqib Talib!"
Yeah. Except the guy he allegedly shot.
Saints 40, Raiders 20
I'd say this was a far cry from two weeks ago. Drew Brees really struggled against the 49ers in the preseason opener, but he was in mid-season form at Oakland. In just three drives, Brees went 15-of-23 for 189 yards, as he completely abused Raiders rookie corner DeMarcus Van Dyke. He was unstoppable despite missing reliable slot receiver Lance Moore. The only reason Brees didn't throw a touchdown was because Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas each scored on the ground on the first two possessions. The Saints managed a field goal on the third.
Here were Brees' targets:
Marques Colston: 5
Devery Henderson: 2
Jimmy Graham: 9
Mark Ingram: 2
Robert Meachem: 2
Darren Sproles: 3
Pierre Thomas: 1
Marques Colston finally saw some action. Brees targeted him five times, though the No. 1 wideout managed just 28 receiving yards off three catches. I'm still not convinced Colston is completely healthy; microfracture knee surgery is difficult to come back from for a receiver, and Colston didn't exactly show his usual burst in this contest. Still, the fact that he was even out on the field is encouraging.
Jimmy Graham received nine targets from Drew Brees in just three drives against the Raiders, catching five balls for 73 yards. He won't normally receive this many targets per possession (Lance Moore was out), but he's a stud. Drew Brees toyed with the Oakland defense, moving his talented tight end around and creating mismatches. Graham could easily finish as a top-three tight end this year. Make sure you get him in your fantasy draft because he's being selected too late.
Mark Ingram was given the first three carries, including two attempts inside the 5-yard line, one of which he converted for a touchdown. He mustered only seven yards and that score on six attempts, as the New Orleans offensive line didn't offer much running room. He rotated series with Pierre Thomas (3-9), so maybe this is a sign of things to come.
Though his performance paled in comparison to Brees', Jason Campbell was a solid 12-of-17 for 150 yards, one touchdown and a poor pick just prior to halftime. Considering he was missing his starting running back and No. 1 receiver (Jacoby Ford), this should give Oakland fans plenty of optimism.
Denarius Moore tied for the team lead in targets from Jason Campbell (4), catching three balls for 23 yards. I still like him as a late-round flier.
Derek Hagan caught six balls for 121 yards and a score. This was a fluke; Hagan is fighting for a roster spot, so don't bother with him as a fantasy player.
Al Davis may have found his next "great playa." Late in the second quarter, Campbell targeted his third-string running back. However, the ball deflected into the arms of tackle Stephon Heyer, who rumbled down the field for a 14-yard gain. Expect the zombified owner to give Heyer a big contract if he timed well on the stopwatch.
Darren McFadden was out, but the Raiders still ran the ball extremely well. Michael Bush showed great elusiveness on his five carries (32 yards), but the star of this contest was rookie Taiwan Jones, who rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown on 13 attempts. Granted, most of his yardage came against New Orleans' scrubs, but he showed really good vision and shiftiness to go along with his game-breaking speed. Cris Collinsworth was impressed, stating, "He's got a little bit of Chris Johnson in him."
Jones won't see much action this year with McFadden and Bush on the team, but maybe that's a good thing. Jones really needs to work on his pass protection; he was demolished by a blitzer in the fourth quarter and consequently surrendered a sack. Make sure you add Jones in dynasty/keeper leagues though.
Congratulations are in order for the Saints, who ran up the score on the Raiders. On two occasions in the second half, they went for two despite the fact that they were up 30-20 and 38-20 after each touchdown. Well done, Sean Payton. Great job by fooling everyone that your kicker was hurt. It takes a brave man not to be scared of Al Davis' gargoyles, cyclopses and gremlins.
Sideline reporter Michele Tafoya interviewed someone in the Raiders security team, or something in the second half. She asked him about the stadium being a family-friendly place. This guy gave some bulls*** answer. I didn't listen, so here's what I imagine the conversation sounded like:
Tafoya: You've been telling people that this stadium is a family-friendly environment?
Security Guy: Yes. We've only had 50 shootings last year, down from 85 shootings the year before.
Tafoya: That's fantastic. But what about all of the other deaths?
Security Guy: Oh, duh. This obviously does not include gargoyle, cyclops and gremlin attacks. Those cannot be prevented.
Steelers 34, Falcons 16
I never thought I'd ever see a veteran starting quarterback attempt 42 passes in any preseason game, let alone in just one half of action. Matt Ryan did just that, going 22-of-42 for 220 yards, one touchdown and an interception prior to halftime at Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Michael Turner had just seven carries (19 yards). There is no way Atlanta is going to be this unbalanced in the regular season, especially when they have the lead. However, this is yet another sign that the Falcons plan on utilizing a pass-first attack.
Ryan's interception wasn't his fault; Lawrence Timmons beat left tackle Sam Baker and forced the misfire. Ryan was lucky to avoid a second interception at the end of the first quarter when Keenan Lewis dropped a potential pick when Ryan was targeting Roddy White.
On the flip side, Ryan's stats could have been much better. He launched a beautiful 52-yard touchdown bomb to Julio Jones, but the rookie wideout had the ball bounce right out of his arms. Another potential score was nullified because of a Tony Gonzalez pass interference penalty. Ryan also had an uncharacteristic drop by Roddy White; the ball hit the All-Pro wideout right in the face mask.
Here were all of Ryan's targets:
Harry Douglas: 5 (1 end zone)
Tony Gonzalez: 8 (2 end zone)
Julio Jones: 10 (1 end zone)
Ovie Mughelli: 2
Jason Snelling: 1
Michael Turner: 2
Eric Weems: 2
Roddy White: 11 (2 end zone)
Roddy White wasn't a big part of the offense in the first two weeks of the preseason, so it was somewhat of a relief to see him receive 11 targets against the Steelers. White caught eight of those 11 attempts for 101 yards and a touchdown. He remains a late first-round pick in PPR leagues.
Julio Jones was showcased in his preseason debut, but wasn't a big part of the offense in Week 2. Well, he picked up where he left off in the opener, getting a whopping 10 targets from Matt Ryan in one half of action at Pittsburgh. Jones hauled in five receptions for 59 yards, but inexcusably let a ball go right through his hands on what could have been a 52-yard touchdown bomb in the second quarter.
Tony Gonzalez saw eight targets in a half of action at Pittsburgh, but caught four balls for only 26 yards. Two incompletions were the result of Gonzalez being unable to get off the ground. I'm not kidding when I say this, but he may have a 2-inch vertical leap right now. It just didn't look like he could jump at all. He's also having trouble separating; he needed to shove off a defender in the end zone to catch a touchdown. He was whistled for an offensive pass interference penalty.
Ben Roethlisberger threw nearly a third as many times as Matt Ryan in the preseason Week 3 contest, but finished with almost as many passing yards. Big Ben went 11-of-16 for 214 yards and two touchdowns, thanks to two separate deep bombs to Antonio Brown. With Brown and Emmanuel Sanders emerging, Roethlisberger has more weapons than ever. He could finish as a top-six fantasy quarterback this year.
Here were Roethlisberger's targets:
Arnaz Battle: 1
Antonio Brown: 5 (1 end zone)
David Johnson: 2
Mike Wallace: 2
Hines Ward: 4
The Steelers color analyst on second-year wideout Antonio Brown: "If you don't love this kid, and if you don't think he's going to be a superstar in this league, then you don't know football." Brown definitely flashed that superstar potential against the Falcons, catching four of his five targets for a whopping 137 yards and two touchdowns. He showed off his incredible speed during his first score when running away defenders after catching a deep pass in the middle of the field. He was also used on an end-around in the opening quarter. He gained only one yard, but it's a bonus that he's being used in this capacity. Brown is now one of my favorite late-round sleepers.
Yeah, so, I don't think Mike Wallace is getting his 2,000 receiving yards this year. How about 1,000 receiving yards? Wallace caught no passes against Atlanta. He's been targeted just four times this preseason, which has to be a major concern if you plan on drafting him late in your second round.
The Steelers suffered injuries to two key players in this contest. Maurkice Pouncey hurt his ankle on the third drive. It looked bad at the time, but it was diagnosed as just a sprain. Meanwhile, backup quarterback Byron Leftwich broke his left arm and is out for the year.
I love it when large people embrace their figure. Thus, I gained a ton of respect for Pittsburgh's color analyst during this broadcast. Late in the second quarter, some people brought up ribs to the booth to promote something called Rib Fest. The announcer was clearly distracted and admitted so to his partner:
"I'm gonna have to take a break with all these ribs here."
This made me think - why can't large NFL analysts eat while on camera? I think Jamie Dukes would be so much more bearable if he was allowed to devour cheeseburgers and large mammals during NFL Total Access.
Titans 14, Bears 13
A lot has changed in the past two weeks. In his preseason debut against the Bills, Jay Cutler couldn't even get off a pass attempt because Buffalo's front seven destroyed his offensive line. Cutler had better protection against the Giants, and he was barely touched at Tennessee. In two-and-a-half quarters of action, he didn't take a single sack. That's why they pay Mike Tice the big bucks.
Cutler went 13-of-21 for 170 yards and an interception that wasn't his fault; the ball sailed right through Roy Williams' hands. Cutler was also screwed out of a 15-yard completion because Johnny Knox couldn't get two feet inbounds.
Here were Cutler's targets:
Marion Barber: 1
Earl Bennett: 6
Matt Forte: 1
Devin Hester: 2
Johnny Knox: 2
Dane Sanzenbacher: 2
Matt Spaeth: 1
Will Ta'ufo'ou: 1
Roy Williams: 4
I'm now fully convinced that Earl Bennett is the receiver you want to own in Chicago's offense. Bennett leads the Bears in targets in each of the past two weeks; his six targets at Tennessee gives him 11 in the past couple of games. And unlike some other receivers (cough, Roy Williams), Bennett is actually converting these targets; he snagged five passes for 69 yards from Cutler in two-and-a-half quarters of action. He would later haul in a 20-yard grab from Caleb Hanie.
Roy Williams saw four targets against the Titans. He converted two of them for 33 yards. However, he was responsible for an interception when the ball went right through his hands on the first drive of the game. Williams is a bum, and if he continues to cost his team, he'll be benched in favor of Johnny Knox.
Matt Forte rushed for 74 yards on 17 carries at Tennessee, but that's not why I'm giving him a stock up. Forte, not Marion Barber, received a pair of carries inside the 5-yard line on the second drive of the game, converting one for a touchdown. When the Bears brought in Barber, many assumed he'd get the goal-line work. Apparently, that's not the case.
Matt Hasselbeck was sharp in his first two preseason outings, so it was discouraging to see him take a step backward. He was as pedestrian as his meager stats suggest (12-of-22, 135 yards). Hasselbeck overthrew Nate Washington twice for potential long gains on the opening drive. He also threw behind Daniel Graham in the 2-minute drill. It was surprising to see him be so inaccurate, though I'm sure he'll be better in that department once Kenny Britt returns to the ineup.
Here were Hasselbeck's targets:
Jared Cook: 2
Herb Donaldson: 1
Daniel Graham: 1
Ahmard Hall: 1
Jamie Harper: 1
Lavelle Hawkins: 1
Craig Stevens: 2
Nate Washington: 6
Damian Williams: 6
Nate Washington tied for the team lead in targets (6), catching four balls for 66 yards. Don't bother with him in fantasy though, as he's just an inconsistent deep threat.
Ignore Damian Williams. Despite seeing a team-high six targets, he caught only one pass for 13 yards. Williams, who dropped two balls, will be sent back to the bench once Britt returns.
No Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer again, so Jamie Harper handled the load in the first two-and-a-half quarters. Harper had one nice, 9-yard touchdown scamper, but was otherwise pretty mediocre.
I can't really tell you anything about Jake Locker because he attempted only four passes in this contest (2-of-4, 13 yards). The reason for this was because the Titans barely had the ball in the final quarter; Chicago had two consecutive long drives, sandwiched by an ugly Caleb Hanie pick-six. Between 10:02 remaining in the third quarter and 11:02 left in the fourth quarter, Locker took just three snaps.
I'd make fun of Tennessee's announcers, but I don't want any Titans fans killing me. Throughout the second half, they cheered on color analyst Eddie George, chanting, "Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!" Titans supporters love their heroes.
Broncos 23, Seahawks 20
The Seahawks have the worst offense in the NFL. Entering this contest, the first-string unit scored zero points in two preseason games. That changed when they managed a field goal in the first quarter - thanks to a Kyle Orton interception.
Seattle couldn't do anything offensively until Denver pulled its starters in the middle of the third quarter. Pete Carroll kept the entire first group out on the field, however, determined to have Tarvaris Jackson and company score a touchdown. They finally managed to do so - at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
I can't believe Carroll actually thinks Jackson is a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL. It's embarrassing. Jackson has abysmal accuracy and no pocket awareness; he took five sacks in three quarters because he held on to the ball way too long on four occasions. He finished 13-of-22 for a laughable 93 yards and a 1-yard touchdown to Dominique Byrd against Denver's scrubs.
Here were Jackson's targets:
Dominique Byrd: 1 (1 end zone)
Thomas Clayton: 1
Justin Forsett: 1
Anthony McCoy: 1
Ben Obomanu: 3
Sidney Rice: 6 (1 end zone)
Leon Washington: 4
Mike Williams: 4
Charlie Whitehurst played just one quarter. While his stats were more impressive than Jackson's (5-8, 53 yards), he didn't really show anything. All of his completions were thrown short, and his one deep attempt sailed over the head of a wide-open Golden Tate for a potential touchdown.
Despite seeing a team-high six targets, Sidney Rice caught just two passes for 11 yards in three quarters of action at Denver. Expect much more of the same from the overpaid one-year wonder. Avoid him at all cost in fantasy drafts.
Marshawn Lynch didn't play because of an ankle injury. Leon Washington (8-33) and Justin Forsett (6-23) shared the workload.
The Broncos were much better on offense, as Kyle Orton went 16-of-23 for 236 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The pick occurred on the second drive, as Orton targeted Brandon Lloyd. He apparently didn't see defensive end Chris Clemons, who dropped into coverage in front of Lloyd.
Still though, Orton was solid. His numbers are slightly better than indicated because Eddie Royal and Daniel Fells each dropped passes.
Here were Orton's targets:
Eric Decker: 4 (1 end zone)
Daniel Fells: 2
Spencer Larsen: 1
Brandon Lloyd: 6 (2 end zone)
Knowshon Moreno: 1
Eddie Royal: 5
Julius Thomas: 3
Rookie tight end Julius Thomas led the Broncos with 70 receiving yards off four receptions against the Seahawks. Orton targeted him thrice, while the other look came from Tim Tebow. Thomas is an extremely athletic player whose role will grow as the season progresses. He's someone to watch out for in 2012.
Eddie Royal turned five targets into four catches for 62 yards (and one drop). I'm not giving him a stock up though because he's just too inconsistent; he had just two targets last week. The only receiver worth owning in Denver's offense is Brandon Lloyd.
Knowshon Moreno started as expected and received the first three carries. Willis McGahee spelled Moreno on the second drive, but the two backs split the first 16 carries evenly. Moreno's YPC was more impressive (4.8) than McGahee's (3.1), but that's because the latter had so many short-yardage attempts. McGahee was used exclusively inside Seattle's 5-yard line, save for one play in which he needed a breather. These two backs complement each other extremely well, but they'll also hurt each other in terms of fantasy production.
The headline on NFL.com talks about Tim Tebow leading the Broncos to a game-winning field goal as time expired. Well, that possession consisted of a scramble and a screen pass that went for 26 yards, so that wasn't impressive. What was impressive, however, was one play in which Tebow eluded pressure, rolled out and hooked up with Julius Thomas for a 20-yard completion.
Tebow finished 6-of-11 for 93 yards (two drops) and 25 rushing yards on four scrambles. One of Tebow's incompletions was the result of his long release. He took forever to get rid of the ball, allowing a defender to hit his arm. It's disappointing that Tebow hasn't improved this aspect of his game, but he certainly has the capability and work ethic to eventually fix this.
Maybe it was just Seattle's offense - it probably was - but Denver's defense looked great. The front four generated tons of pressure, as Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, nicknamed "Doom and Gloom," generated a combined 3.5 sacks. Robert Ayers was also in the mix. He didn't register a sack, but he put a lot of heat on Tarvaris Jackson.
Unfortunately, it wasn't all good for Denver's stop unit. D.J. Williams dislocated his shoulder in the middle of the first quarter. He could be out for a month.
Inept Announcer Alert! Both the Denver play-by-play guy and color analyst screwed up in this telecast. First, the former:
On one exciting play, Tim Brando shouted, "Willis McGahee with the catch out of the backfield!" The problem was that Eric Decker made the catch. I don't know how you confuse those two; one is a black running back, while the other is a white receiver.
Unfortunately, there's some pretentious douche bag who spends his entire salary at Starbucks reading this right now, shaking his head and muttering, "Maybe Brando doesn't notice skin color!" Thanks, artsy-fartsy, new-age hippie.
What the color analyst (some guy named Alfred) said was funnier:
"Von Miller is going to be a great surprise to many people in the NFL."
Really? He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, you know. How much of a surprise could he be?
Alfred followed that up with an even better quote:
"I had Von Miller rated higher than even Cam Newton."
Someone, quick, alert Mel Kiper! His job is in jeopardy!
Chargers 34, Cardinals 31
A sequence of events in this game prompted the Arizona broadcasters to exclaim, "Cardinal tickets are flying off the shelves! Get your tickets now if they aren't already all gone!"
You can't really blame them for being so excited though. In a span of a few minutes, the team's three franchise players all found the end zone. Kevin Kolb hooked up with Larry Fitzgerald on an 80-yard touchdown bomb. On the ensuing San Diego possession, Patrick Peterson picked Philip Rivers and took it back for six. Tickets flying off the shelves, indeed.
Kevin Kolb went 11-of-20 for 205 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't pretty early on; he had some ugly passes, including one where he threw behind Early Doucet. However, after starting 2-of-8 for 34 yards, Kolb got into a groove and led the team on two touchdown drives. Of his final 12 passes, he completed nine for 171 yards, including the aforementioned Fitzgerald 80-yard score.
Here were Kolb's targets:
Early Doucet: 5
Larry Fitzgerald: 5
Todd Heap: 2
Jeff King: 1
Andre Roberts: 3
Chris Wells: 3
Stephen Williams: 1
It's no surprise that Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald already have a strong rapport, given that the two worked out together on multiple occasions this offseason. Fitzgerald turned his five targets into three catches for 105 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown against the Chargers.
I've written this every single week this preseason: Chris Wells looks really good. He's running with great power and solid speed for a back his size. He's also breaking tackles; early on, he impressively wrestled away a defender in the backfield on what seemed like a sure loss and turned it into a good gain. On another positive note, he saw three targets, though he dropped an easy screen pass in the third quarter.
Like Kolb, Philip Rivers had issues early on. He nearly tossed an interception while targeting Malcom Floyd on the first drive. At the end of the opening quarter, he was pick-sixed by Patrick Peterson on an attempt to Antonio Gates. However, he really picked it up after that and reverted to the Rivers his fantasy owners know and love. He finished 18-of-28 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and the aforementioned interception.
Here were Rivers' targets:
Malcom Floyd: 9 (2 end zone)
Antonio Gates: 4 (1 end zone)
Jacob Hester: 1
Vincent Jackson: 7
Mike Tolbert: 2
Brian Walters: 4
Another big game for Vincent Jackson. The No. 1 wideout hauled in five of his seven targets for 52 yards and a touchdown. I love him as a late second-round fantasy pick.
Malcom Floyd led San Diego in targets with nine at Arizona. He turned those targets into five catches for 52 yards and a score. Floyd is going to be inconsistent as the tertiary option behind Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates, but he's a solid, mid-round fantasy wideout.
If you're wondering who Brian Walters is, he's the team's return specialist. He played in the slot because Patrick Crayton was out with an ankle injury. He won't contribute in fantasy unless there are injuries.
The good news for Ryan Mathews is that he ran he ball extremely well at Arizona, totaling 69 yards on 10 carries. His big gainer was a 48-yarder in the third quarter in which he made a nice cut and showed great burst through the hole. The bad news, aside from his first-quarter fumble, was that he wasn't targeted a single time by Philip Rivers. Mathews is a non-factor in the passing attack with Mike Tolbert getting all the third-down (and goal-line) work.
I like to make fun of announcers because of their hilarious ineptness, but Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington deserves that honor in this capsule. Not that he had a bad game or anything; on the contrary, he led the team with seven tackles. However, on one play, he shoved Mathews in the face out of bounds after the play was over. Feeling guilty about this, Washington raised his arms as if nothing happened and looked up at the crowd in an effort to make himself look innocent. As he stared into the stands, he slipped and fell on his a** - at the same exact moment the official threw a yellow flag at him.
Texans 30, 49ers 7
This game will forever be known, at least in my mind, as the Flooding Basement Bowl. I planned on watching this game live, but thanks to Hurricane Irene, water started trickling down my basement window. I'll have more of this in Jerks of the Week next Monday (not this upcoming Monday because that's already written). Let's just say that as of this writing, I may have solved my flooding problem with a 30-pack of Coors Light.
Fortunately, I was able to DVR this blowout...
The big news coming out of the San Francisco contest was the hamstring injury to the consensus No. 1 fantasy player. Arian Foster, who ran for 38 yards on eight carries, clutched his left hamstring after a 9-yard burst. This was the same malady that plagued him in training camp, so it's a concern. He could be ready for the season opener, but soft-tissue injuries tend to linger, so Foster may not be 100 percent for a while. I'm going to drop him to No. 3 overall on my 2011 Fantasy Football Top 150 Cheat Sheet.
In the wake of Arian Foster's injured hamstring, make sure you pick up Ben Tate if you have Foster on your fantasy squad. Tate rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries.
I'm not sure what Jim Harbaugh's game plan was for this contest. The defensive starters played just one quarter. The subs took over after that, with the exception of Carlos Rogers. Five minutes before halftime, Harbaugh started pulling the second-stringers in favor of practice-squad scrubs.
Matt Schaub lit up San Francisco regardless of which defensive unit was on the field. He went 16-of-24 for 180 yards, one touchdown and a pick. The interception came on the first play from scrimmage; Ahmad Brooks picked off Schaub on an attempted screen pass to Foster and took it back for six. Those were the only points San Francisco would score all night.
Here were Schaub's targets:
James Casey: 3
Owen Daniels: 8 (1 end zone)
Arian Foster: 3
Andre Johnson: 6
Jacoby Jones: 2
Andre Roberts: 1
Kevin Walter: 4
Owen Daniels paced the team in targets at San Francisco with eight, catching six balls for 57 yards and a touchdown. Now completely healthy, Daniels is poised for a huge season.
Jacoby Jones caught just one pass for 11 yards versus the 49ers. He now has five targets the entire preseason. Look elsewhere for a late-round sleeper.
Alex Smith barely played against Houston, finishing 2-of-6 for 17 yards and an interception (he was hit as he threw the pick). Jim Harbaugh rotated Smith and Colin Kaepernick (6-16, 52 yds, 1 INT) in the first half, and neither had much of a chance behind shoddy protection, marking the second time in three games that the 49ers haven't had an answer for the opposing team's pass rush. As one of the guys in San Francisco's broadcast said, "The 49ers have no chance on offense right now."
Frank Gore dressed, but didn't play because of his contract dispute. This allowed Kendall Hunter to shine yet again; the rookie runner dashed for 40 yards on eight carries, looking far more impressive than Anthony Dixon (8-15).
I'm not sure who said this on which broadcast - as I mentioned earlier, I was more worried about my potential basement flood - but one of the announcers stated the following:
"Houston was supposed to win the AFC South last year. That was the pick."
Umm... what? Who made that pick? Someone in your mental hospital, perhaps?
Bills 35, Jaguars 32
Earthquakes, Hurricane Irene and Ryan Fitpatrick. As I tweeted during the second quarter of this game @walterfootball, "Ryan Fitzpatrick is 10-10, 154, 2 TDs. And hell has officially frozen over."
Ryan Fitzpatrick amazingly had his first incompletion at the 2:01 mark of the second quarter against the Jaguars, finishing 11-of-12 for 165 yards and two touchdowns in one half of action. He had numerous impressive throws, including a 52-yard scoring bomb to Steve Johnson and a great, 30-yard deep touch pass to Fred Jackson. Now in his second year in Buffalo, Fitzpatrick is a solid QB2 with an easy 2011 schedule.
Here were Fitzpatrick's targets:
Mike Caussin: 1
Scott Chandler: 1
Marcus Easley: 6 (1 end zone)
Fred Jackson: 1
Steve Johnson: 4
David Nelson: 1
Marcus Easley had his coming-out party against Jacksonville. The second-year receiver was targeted a team-high six times, as he caught five balls for 51 yards and a touchdown. I liked Easley coming out of Connecticut, and he looks like he'll be a solid No. 2 option for Ryan Fitzpatrick if he can pass Donald Jones on the depth chart. There's no guarantee there.
Steve Johnson had another strong preseason performance, catching all four of his targets for 76 yards and a touchdown. Johnson is pretty underrated by regular fantasy players, so you can probably land him at a great bargain price in the late fourth, or early fifth round.
I don't get what the Bills are doing concerning their ground attack. Last week, it was all C.J. Spiller. This week, it was all Fred Jackson - until late in the second quarter, anyway. Jackson had some nice runs (9 car, 33 yds) and an impressive 30-yard deep reception against former teammate Paul Posluszny (though Posluszny returned the favor by stuffing him on the goal line during the next carry).
C.J. Spiller had just four carries, most of which came at the end of the first half. He was definitely more electric than Jackson, bursting for a pair of 7-yard gains on the team's fourth drive. The Bills spent such a high pick on Spiller, so common sense would suggest that he'll be a bigger part of the offense this year. Still though, Chan Gailey's overuse of Fred Jackson in this contest is a concern.
The Bills used Brad Smith four times. He ran twice out of the Wildcat on the opening drive for gains of seven and four yards. He ran five yards on an end-around on the second possession. The lowlight was a poorly thrown deep pass to Steve Johnson right before halftime.
David Garrard went 11-of-21 for 106 yards, but he wasn't as bad as those numbers indicate. Garrard was constantly under siege by a stout-looking Buffalo front seven. Garrard also suffered three drops by Jason Hill, Marcedes Lewis and Cecil Shorts; the Hill bobble being a potential 30-yard completion. On the flip side, Garrard missed a wide-open Mike Thomas for a 48-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Here were Garrard's targets:
Jarrett Dillard: 1
Jason Hill: 7
Rashad Jennings: 1
Marcedes Lewis: 4
Cecil Shorts: 2
Mike Thomas: 6
Looking at that list, you may think Jason Hill deserves a stock up. I'm not going to give him one because he's just not that good. Hill was very inefficient, catching just two of his seven targets for 35 yards. He really screwed up in the first quarter by dropping a perfect 30-yard pass along the right sideline. On the other hand...
Mike Thomas caught five of the six passes thrown to him for 40 yards at Buffalo, with the sole exception being a poor David Garrard misfire on what should have been a 48-yard touchdown. Thomas is a very good PPR flex option.
With Maurice Jones-Drew out, Rashad Jennings started this game. He had just one carry (minus-1 yard) because he sprained his knee. The Jaguars listed him as questionable to return, so it must not have been that bad.
Lions 34, Patriots 10
In the words of Robert Kraft, "Congratulations to coach Schwartz and the Ford family. Football's back big-time in Detroit."
The Lions look sick. The offense is unstoppable, and the defensive front seven is going to give opposing offensive coordinators nightmares this season. It's hard to imagine this team missing the playoffs if their quarterback stays healthy. Of course, that was the issue last year.
Matthew Stafford was possessed against the Patriots. He went 12-of-14 for 200 yards and two touchdowns in just slightly less than a half of action. The kicker is that one of his incompletions was a dropped 15-yard score by Nate Burleson. Definitely make an attempt to get Stafford on your team. Yes, the injury concerns are there, but if he can stay healthy, you're getting a potential top-six fantasy quarterback in the seventh or eighth round.
Here were Stafford's targets:
Aaron Brown: 1
Nate Burleson: 4 (2 end zone)
Calvin Johnson: 2
Jerome Harrison: 2
Brandon Pettigrew: 3
Tony Scheffler: 3 (1 end zone)
Get Nate Burleson on your team. Matthew Stafford has thrown to Burleson more times than anyone else this preseason; Burleson had two catches for 46 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots. He could have scored a second time, but dropped a 15-yard pass. The other Stafford-to-Burleson misfire was a drawn pass interference. He's one of my favorite slightly late-round sleepers.
Jahvid Best didn't play for precautionary reasons. Jerome Harrison and Aaron Brown split the workload, but neither was impressive. The Mikel Leshoure injury was very unfortunate.
Tom Brady had a nightmare performance in this contest, going 12-of-22 for 145 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The pick was a terrible throw, but Brady otherwise wasn't as bad as those numbers suggest; he was simply harassed non-stop by a merciless Detroit front line. Pass protection remains an issue for New England, but the Lions are going to do this to most of their opponents this year - especially if Matthew Stafford gives them the lead.
Here were Brady's targets:
Rob Gronkowski: 2
Aaron Hernandez: 7
Chad Ochocinco: 1
Taylor Price: 2
Wes Welker: 5
Danny Woodhead: 5
Chad Ochocinco took a major step backward at Detroit. Tom Brady targeted him only once in slightly more than a half of action, yet Ochocinco didn't come up with a single reception. His lone target from Brady resulted in an interception. Ochocinco continued to play with Brian Hoyer, but dropped a pass in the middle of the third quarter.
Aaron Hernandez is going to be a PPR starter this season. The second-year tight end hauled in five of his seven targets at Detroit, catching five balls for 46 yards. On the other hand, Rob Gronkowski saw just two targets and caught only one ball against the Lions. Gronkowski will continue to serve as a red-zone weapon, but Hernandez will continue to steal receptions.
Rams 14, Chiefs 10
There will be no St. Louis Brandon Lloyd. It's been three games, and Sam Bradford has yet to establish a favorite wide receiver. Danny Amendola remains a good PPR option. There's some upside with Mike Sims-Walker, but nothing concrete yet. Brandon Gibson is just an inconsistent deep threat. Donnie Avery was nowhere to be seen with the first team. Danario Alexander is not healthy. This is very disappointing.
Sam Bradford went 9-of-16 for 95 yards, two touchdowns and an interception at Kansas City. He was on fire in the first quarter, completing his first eight attempts for 76 yards. but was just 1-of-8 after that. Bradford took several hits at the beginning of the second quarter and was never the same, as he was guilty of having happy feet in the pocket on occasion. His interception was the result of staring down rookie receiver Greg Salas. He was also nearly picked off a second time on an attempt to Danario Alexander in the 2-minute drill. There's no question that Bradford needs better receivers; having Sims-Walker as a No. 1 option is inexcusable. Bradford's going to take a bunch of coverage sacks this year.
Here were Bradford's targets:
Danny Amendola: 2
Danario Alexander: 2
Billy Bajema: 1
Brandon Gibson: 1
Lance Kendricks: 3 (1 end zone)
Steven Jackson: 1
Greg Salas: 1
Mike Sims-Walker: 1 (1 end zone)
Cadillac Williams: 3
Lance Kendricks tied for the team lead with three targets at Kansas City, catching two balls for 26 yards and a touchdown in a half of action. Sam Bradford loves throwing to Kendricks, so the rookie is a TE2 this year with PPR upside.
Steven Jackson broke through for a 25-yard burst to open up the game against the Chiefs, and finished with 72 yards on 15 carries. Jackson ran with great power, but he doesn't have the quickness and elusiveness he once possessed. He really looks like a pass-catching version of Michael Turner. That's not necessarily a bad thing in general, but it is for Jackson, who is no longer an elite running back. Still, the opportunities will be there for him this year. He'll score more touchdowns in an improved offense.
Guess who received the first carry for the Chiefs against the Rams? Not Jamaal Charles; it was Dexter McCluster, who served as the third-down back in this contest. Charles had just two carries for four yards, though he had a 7-yard touchdown run nullified by a holding penalty. That's the good news, I guess. The bad news is that Todd Haley made an effort to feature McCluster out of the backfield, a trend that may continue in the regular season. Remember, Haley is in way over his head and lacks common sense. It would be shocking to me if Charles carried the ball more than 250 times this year.
Matt Cassel went 6-of-13 for 59 yards against the Rams, as the first-team offense was booed by the home crowd on several occasions. The poor numbers weren't really Cassel's fault - he was under pressure quite often - but it's a reminder that Kansas City's scoring attack will struggle mightily without Charlie Weis. People on ESPN and NFL.com cite Cassel as a solid QB2, but that's hardly the case. Cassel shouldn't be owned in any normal 12-team leagues.
Here were Cassel's targets:
Dwayne Bowe: 3
Steve Breaston: 1
Dexter McCluster: 3
Tony Moeaki: 2
Jerheme Urban: 2
You know how most broadcast teams have two or three men in the booth? Well, for some reason, the Rams Broadcasting Network thought it would be a good idea to stuff seven men into their broadcasting booth in the third quarter. Granted, one of the people in there was a guest (the Rams' COO), but it still looked like a clown car. Marshall Faulk was stuffed into a corner, while Orlando Pace was forced to stand behind several people. There was also a weird man standing next to Pace who was sporting a white mustache and a plaid shirt. He looked so out of place; it's almost as if he saw all of these guys standing around and thought they were giving out free beer.
As a degenerate gambler and fantasy player, I hate Todd Haley. He almost cost me $220 tonight. The Chiefs were down 14-10 with three minutes remaining. They had a 4th-and-goal on the St. Louis 3-yard line. The prudent move would have been to go for it, but Haley went for a 21-yard field goal (to a chorus of boos) in an attempt to screw me over by covering the 2.5-point spread. Justice was served, however, when the Ryan Succop attempt was blocked by Robert Quinn. Ha! Take that, Haley.
If you didn't see this video, Sam Bradford is a pimp. Perhaps he should get a stock up for being able to score with teenage chicks. Sexy time, high five!
Packers 24, Colts 21
Think Aaron Rodgers is ready for the regular season? Rodgers went 19-of-23 for 204 yards and a touchdown in just one half of action against the Colts. He also had 10 rushing yards on two scrambles for that all-important extra fantasy point.
While Rodgers himself looked in mid-season form, his offensive line did not. The Packers managed just 10 points in that half. Rodgers had a long touchdown to Chastin West nullified by a Chad Clifton holding penalty. Clifton had issues all night in pass protection, as he and Josh Sitton were guilty of surrendering sacks deep in Indianapolis territory to stall drives.
Here were Rodgers' targets. Keep in mind that Greg Jennings didn't play:
Donald Driver: 5
Jermichael Finley: 5 (1 end zone)
Ryan Grant: 1
Jordy Nelson: 5
Andrew Quarless: 1
James Starks: 6
Chastin West: 1 (1 end zone)
Jordy Nelson caught all five targets thrown to him in this contest, but I can't give him a stock up arrow. Nelson did nothing in the first two weeks, and his production at Indianapolis was a byproduct of Jennings being sidelined.
Aside from Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver has more targets in the past two weeks than any other Packer. Driver caught three balls for 38 yards at Indianapolis. He looks much healthier and spryer than he did last year, so he could be a solid flex option in PPR leagues.
There's no doubt that Jermichael Finley is completely healthy. Finley caught four of his five targets for 41 yards and a touchdown against the Colts. I had some concern with Finley coming off an injury, but that's no longer the case.
James Starks shockingly led the Packers in targets with six at Indianapolis. Starks was the recipient of numerous screen passes, as he took five receptions for 38 yards. Once again, he was far more impressive than Ryan Grant (6 carries, 16 yards), whom he rotated possessions with. At this point, you have to be clinically insane not to believe that Starks won't at least have a 50-50 split with Grant. As the season progresses, expect Starks to shoulder more and more of the workload.
Green Bay's defense has to be a major concern for Packer fans. The team couldn't stop Kevin Kolb and Colt McCoy entering this contest. Now, add Curtis "Finger" Painter to the list.
Painter began the game miserably. Forum member Blue5213 said it best on one play:
It's like you could see Painter's brain on that last play. "Oh God oh God, Charles Woodson, rollout OH GOD IT'S CLAY MATTHEWS AGAIN THROW IT AWAY THROW IT AWAY."
However, once Painter hooked up with Reggie Wayne on a 57-yard touchdown bomb, thanks to busted coverage by safety Morgan Burnett, he gained confidence. Painter suddenly was unstoppable; he led an impressive 69-yard touchdown drive in the 2-minute drill.
Reggie Wayne caught six balls for 105 yards and a touchdown in one half of action versus Green Bay. This was huge, as it proved that Wayne can still produce without Peyton Manning.
Major props to CBS for giving us a great side-line reporter. I have two words to describe Sam Ryan: "Hellloooooo Nuuuursseee!!!"
I actually didn't really listen to what Ryan said or asked, but she definitely did her job extremely well.
Eagles 24, Browns 14
The Eagles added all of this talent during the brief free agency period, but none of their new players will matter if the offensive line can't protect the quarterback. This was clearly a problem against the Browns, as QB Dog Killer (nickname back by popular request) was hit at least 10 times in the first half, including once by Phil Taylor, who completely abused former college teammate Danny Watkins. At one point, one of the homers on the Eagles Television Network (more on them later) declared that Andy Reid should take his quarterback out of the game because he was in serious danger of getting hurt.
Philadelphia's quarterback went 10-of-18 for 98 yards. He didn't exactly have the bounce-back performance he was looking for after last week's disastrous three-interception outing. He was actually picked off once, but the officials called a horrible roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who cleanly hit QB Dog Killer in the chest with his helmet. Philadelphia's quarterback also nearly had a second potential interception when he irresponsibly threw into triple coverage toward DeSean Jackson in the first quarter.
For the one person on this planet thinking that the Eagles are going to run a two-back system, LeSean McCoy had a whopping 16 touches or targets in the first half of the victory against Cleveland, compared to just three from Ronnie Brown. McCoy was in the backfield on a 4th-and-1 in the first quarter, which is a clear indication that he'll be the man on the goal line.
DeSean Jackson was targeted four times in the exhibition win over the Browns, but didn't catch a single pass in one full half of action. Jackson is incredibly overrated in fantasy leagues. He barely did anything following his concussion last year, and Philadelphia's offensive line will prevent its quarterback from finding him downfield.
Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson had a sack in the first half, which was really nice to see. If you don't remember, Patterson had a seizure during training camp. He's now taking medication to prevent another attack, and it was cool to see a smile on his face when he was being interviewed on the sidelines.
Something utterly hilarious that happened in this game occurred after Cleveland's first touchdown in the fourth quarter. Browns tight end Alex Smith appeared to perhaps step out of bounds before catching the ball in the end zone. Andy Reid tried to challenge, but the official put him in his place with the following announcement:
Unsportsmanlike conduct on the defense. The coaching staff attempted to challenge the touchdown, but touchdowns can only be challenged by a booth review. That's a 15-yard penalty.
The crowd booed, and Reid stood there with a sheepish expression on his face. It was beautiful.
Colt McCoy has played well this preseason, but his 9-of-18 for 89 yards and a pick at Philadelphia may seem like a regression. It's not.
McCoy was really betrayed by his receivers and offensive line. Passes were dropped, an offensive pass interference penalty (35-yard reception nullified) was called, sacks were surrendered, and holding and pre-snap penalties occurred. It was an ugly performance all around.
Here were McCoy's targets:
Peyton Hillis: 4 (1 end zone)
Greg Little: 5
Evan Moore: 1
Jordan Norwood: 2
Brian Robiskie: 6
Ben Watson: 4
With Joshua Cribbs out, it gave Greg Little a chance to start against the Eagles. Little was targeted five times, catching three balls for 23 yards. Colt McCoy didn't really have time in the pocket to get the ball downfield to his rookie wideout.
Peyton Hillis looked really good when he was on the field at Philadelphia. He was bulldozing defenders (6 carries, 18 yards) and catching passes (4 targets). He would have scored a touchdown if it weren't for a great play by Eagles strongside linebacker Jamar Chaney. However, Hillis is getting a stock down because Montario Hardesty played the entire second series and also had a strong showing. Based on the comments Cleveland's front office made this offseason, it's reasonable to expect Hillis and Hardesty to share the load, with the former holding something like a 60-40 or 65-35 advantage.
The Browns really need to work on their special teams. In the first quarter alone, they allowed a blocked field goal and were guilty of a muffed punt by Jordan Norwood.
Inept Announcing Alert! I love making fun of the homers on the Eagles Television Network. It all started when play-by-play guy Don Tollefson called Greg Little "Chris Little" twice on Cleveland's opening drive.
In the second quarter, the Eagles were whistled for a pass interference penalty. Tollefson wasn't a fan of this:
"Here comes a late, late flag by the official!"
By "late, late," he meant half a second after the infraction occurred. It was ridiculous.
Tollefson was guilty of one error in the second half when he had this to say:
"Here's Seneca Wallace, who's replacing Jake Delhomme on the Browns this year."
Really? And here I thought Wallace was on Cleveland's roster in 2010, but maybe I'm crazy.
You know what? I beginning to think Tollefson just gave himself away. What if he's the mastermind behind kidnapping Delhomme's son? That would explain all of his errors and his focus on Delhomme. Just a theory I'm working on.
Bengals 24, Panthers 13
All the talk entering this game focused on the two rookie quarterbacks. The major headline for me coming out of this contest was how strong Cincinnati's rushing attack looked.
Cedric Benson had a great performance in the preseason victory over Carolina. Playing in shape thanks to his 1-year contract, Benson rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He also had one reception for 15 yards. Benson didn't suddenly turn into a stud - as evidenced by Bernard Scott's 63-yard output - but he's going to post RB2 numbers this year because of his offensive line's blocking ability. I never thought I'd say this, but Andre Smith (No. 6 overall pick int he 2009 NFL Draft) is in tremendous shape. The Bengals also opened up huge running lanes at Detroit, so this was no fluke.
As for Cincinnati's quarterback, it was a mixed bag, which is actually a welcome sight for Bengal fans considering how last week's Jets game went. Dalton went 11-of-17 for 130 yards and a touchdown amid almost zero pressure from Carolina's defensive front. He had some ugly misfires, including an overthrow to A.J. Green at the end of the first half for a potential 40-yard touchdown, but he also had some nice throws, including a 40-yard touchdown bomb to Green.
Here were Dalton's targets:
Cedric Benson: 1
A.J. Green: 5
Jermaine Gresham: 5
Brian Leonard: 2
Jordan Shipley: 4
Jerome Simpson: 1
A.J. Green tied for the team lead in targets (5) during the victory against Carolina, though he caught only two balls for 45 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown in which he torched Chris Gamble. Green was open for another 40-yard score, but Andy Dalton overthrew him. Green also had a 25-yard reception hauled in, but couldn't get two feet inbounds. It was nice to see Green have somewhat of a bounce-back performance from a miserable Week 2, but Dalton's deep misfire was a reminder that Green won't come close to reaching his potential until his quarterback play improves.
Jermaine Gresham tied A.J. Green for the team lead in targets (5) in the win versus the Panthers. Gresham dropped a pass, but caught four balls for 49 yards. It's hard to like him in traditional and touchdown leagues, but he should be a decent TE2 in PPR formats because of Andy Dalton's current limitations.
Cam Newton's stats were much uglier than they should have been. He went 6-of-19 for 75 yards, but had pressure in his face on nearly every attempt, thanks to right tackle Jeff Otah's absence. This obviously caused some misfires, but it also prompted Newton to do what he does best. Newton rushed for 49 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run on a 3rd-and-11 in which he plowed over a Cincinnati defensive back near the goal line.
Here were Newton's targets:
David Clowney: 1
Brandon LaFell: 1
Legedu Naanee: 3
Greg Olsen: 2
Jeremy Shockey: 2
Steve Smith: 8 (2 end zone)
Jonathan Stewart: 1
DeAngelo Williams: 1
Talk about inefficiency: Steve Smith had nearly as many receiving yards (9) as targets (8) in the preseason loss at Cincinnati. Some of it was on Cam Newton, who overthrew Smith in the end zone. Still though, Smith is definitely not nearly the receiver he once was. Carolina's offense is really going to struggle this year with a raw rookie quarterback and no legitimate No. 1 wideout.
Here's something worth noting: DeAngelo Williams had most of the first-team snaps in the opening half, as expected. However, Jonathan Stewart was given a 3rd-and-1 carry early on. You have to wonder if Ron Rivera plans on utilizing Stewart as a goal-line back. Unfortunately, we haven't seen the Panthers in this situation during the preseason, which is probably a sign of things to come. So maybe this is all moot.
Ravens 34, Redskins 31
Rex Grossman should be Washington's starting quarterback. Grossman and John Beck rotated every two series in this contest and posted somewhat similar numbers; Grossman went 8-of-15 for 112 yards and a touchdown, while John Beck was 6-of-10 for 108 yards, one score and a pick. However, two of Beck's four possessions were against Baltimore's second-string defense. Beck also had one of the ugliest passes of all time, heaving an ugly duck into the ground several yards in front of Santana Moss on a third down.
Grossman, meanwhile, was really impressive. He had a nice, 24-yard touchdown to Santana Moss on a 3rd-and-15 in the 2-minute drill. He also tossed another score, but Moss dropped the ball when he hit the ground, a la Calvin Johnson in Week 1 last year. More importantly, Grossman didn't commit any turnovers, which is something that has plagued him throughout his career.
Here were Grossman's targets:
Anthony Armstrong: 1
Fred Davis: 2
Jabar Gaffney: 4
Tim Hightower: 1
Santana Moss: 7 (3 end zone)
And here were Beck's targets when he was playing with the first-stringers:
Anthony Armstrong: 1
Fred Davis: 1
Santana Moss: 1
Donte' Stallworth: 1
With Rex Grossman pretty much solidifying the starting quarterback gig, Santana Moss deserves a stock up arrow. In just four drives, Grossman targeted Moss a whopping seven times in the preseason loss at Baltimore. Moss caught three balls for 51 yards and a touchdown, and nearly had a second score, but the ball popped out of his arms when he hit the ground in the end zone.
Tim Hightower is legit. He continued to impress, rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries in the preseason loss at Baltimore. He has now put together great outings against the Steelers and Ravens. More importantly, Roy Helu didn't get a single touch in the first half, as it's clear that Mike Shanahan doesn't trust his pass-protection ability. Hightower, on the other hand, is an awesome backfield blocker, so he'll be on the field on most downs.
Baltimore's first-string offense really struggled against the Chiefs last week, and the team once again had problems moving the chains consistently. Joe Flacco's stats look good (17-27, 219 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), but that's misleading because he went 5-of-7 for 50 yards and a score against Washington's scrubs in the third quarter. Flacco was pick-sixed throwing to Anquan Boldin, and nearly had a second interception right after halftime when a tipped ball by the Redskins sailed into Boldin's arms. Flacco was pressured a lot; his offensive line disappointed yet again, and his receivers had issues getting open.
Here were Flacco's targets:
Anquan Boldin: 6 (1 end zone)
Ed Dickson: 5
Dennis Pitta: 1
Lee Evans: 5 (1 end zone)
Ray Rice: 6
Torrey Smith: 3
Ricky Williams: 2
Boldin tied for a team-high six targets in this contest, catching five balls for 73 yards and a touchdown. However, three of Boldin's receptions came against Washington's backups in the third quarter, and Flacco should have tossed two picks looking Boldin's way. Boldin is extremely overrated in fantasy right now, with ESPN pod people (including Jon Gruden) believing he can bounce back to WR2 status. Considering he can't beat coverage, that is highly unlikely.
I'm amazed by Lee Evans. Targeted five times in the preseason victory over Washington, Evans caught three balls for 60 yards. I don't know where his speed and explosion has been the past two years, but he clearly still has it. Joe Flacco looks much more comfortable throwing Evans' way than Boldin's, which is bizarre because Evans just recently joined the team.
Ed Dickson saw five targets in the exhibition win over the Redskins, catching three balls for 57 yards. While Dennis Pitta stood out in Week 1, it's now clear that Dickson is Joe Flacco's favorite tight end. I still wouldn't draft either though, as there are so many better options.
Torrey Smith caught one pass for six yards. He also dropped two balls. There's no reason he should be on any fantasy roster.
We have confirmation - Ray Rice will be getting the goal-line carries this year. Rice received two attempts near the end zone at the beginning of the second quarter of the Washington game and converted one of them. This raises Rice's value considerably, and he should now be the favorite as the No. 1 overall pick in PPR leagues. Speaking of which, Rice tied for the team lead with six targets.
I'm really sick of ESPN. Two reasons regarding this contest:
1. Jon Gruden really pisses me off sometimes. He compliments everyone, even when it's completely unwarranted. For instance, John Beck completed an 8-yard jump pass in the third quarter, prompting Gruden to exclaim: "Look at this throw! What a great throw by John Beck!"
It wasn't a terrible throw. It was OK. Maybe a 5.5 or 5.75 out of 10. But it was a 658348.2 according to Gruden.
Earlier, Baltimore's offense finally scored a touchdown, albeit versus Washington's second string. Gruden didn't care whom it was against: "What a great drive by the Baltimore Ravens!"
Is everything great in Gruden's mind? If his son brings home a D+ on his math test, is it a great test score? If his daughter starts dating some drug addict, does she have a great boyfriend? Gruden really has to chill with the word "great." Would it kill him to criticize someone? Anyone?
2. I think forum member Delta asked it best:
I'm not American, so I may be biased... but let's be honest, guys, does ANYONE but ESPN care about the Little League World Series? I'm really puzzled to see it on pretty much each night, sometimes even if there's MLB or even NFL they could rather air, no, ESPN America always goes for the LLWS.
Forum mod Vbsiena's answer: Pedophiles
My answer: No one cares, but ESPN wants to make you believe that everyone cares.
Oh, and about Team Pennsylvania getting bounced out of the Little League World Series, here's my take:
Congrats to the PA kids, who have one baseball-free week of summer vacation.