Week 6 Revelations
New England 59, Tennessee 0
Is it possible the grounds crew at Gillette Stadium could construct a snow-making machine for future Patriots home games? If not, what hope does Tom Brady (380 passing yards, 6 TDs) have of repeating Sunday's all-time effort? All kidding aside, just when you thought Brady's record-breaking season of 50 touchdowns in 2007 was a fluke -- kind of like Brady Anderson's 50-homer baseball campaign in 1996 -- the football Brady throws five TDs in the second quarter alone ... while battling the wintry conditions of Foxboro in October. And it's not like he dismantled the Lions of 2008 ... this demolition came against the Titans, perhaps the NFL's greatest winless squad of the last quarter-century (through six weeks). And of course, Brady was predictably buttressed by his henchmen tandem of Wes Welker (10 catches, 150 yards, 2 TDs) and Randy Moss (8 catches, 129 yards, 3 TDs). The good tidings also extended to the supporting cast, specifically Laurence Maroney (133 total yards, 1 TD),
Kevin Faulk (59 total yards, 1 TD) and Julian Edelman (6 catches, 43 yards), who's a must-have on most PPR rosters and must-handcuff with Welker. But a word of caution: Brady is still the same quarterback who overthrew Moss on an easy-cheesy TD last week against Denver ... and underthrew Welker on another sure-thing TD in the same game. Translation: If Brady is anchoring a 1-5 or 2-4 fantasy club ... this is THE perfect time to sell high -- collecting three certifiable studs in return (maybe four) ... and not for a penny less!
Tom Brady (center), Wes Welker (L) and Ben-Jarvus Green Ellis: Elsa/Getty Images
As for the Titans, Kerry Collins and Vince Young posted the kind of numbers we may never see again in fantasyland (and that includes anything Derek Anderson does from this point on), completing only 2-of-14 passes for -7 yards. How does a team end up with negative passing numbers, you ask? Look no further than Nate Washington's 22-yard loss on his only catch. The lone bright spot from this debacle, not surprisingly, was RB Chris Johnson, who rushed for 128 yards on only 17 carries. Just think, if he would've doubled his touches ... maybe, just maybe kicker Rob Bironas would have squeezed in a field goal attempt. Instead, we're left to speculate on Johnson's trade value -- which likely won't improve until the Titans win a game -- or at the very least -- one on-field snowball fight.
Minnesota 33, Baltimore 31
If it wasn't for Brady or Maurice Jones-Drew (more on him later), Ravens RB Ray Rice would be the biggest fantasy stud on the planet right now. His systematic ruination of the Vikings defense goes further than his 194 total yards (117 receiving). He scored two rushing TDs against Minnesota, a feat that hadn't been accomplished all year (excluding Adrian Peterson runs in practice). He had 10 catches on the afternoon, singlehandedly bailing QB Joe Flacco (385 yards, 2 TDs) out of jams -- any of which could've thwarted Baltimore's last-second, game-winning drive (OK, so Steven Hauschka missed the final kick ... but you get the idea). Simply put, Rice is a top-10 back in standard-scoring leagues -- top-5 in PPRs -- making him the ONLY golden ballcarrier in Baltimore (at least in non-blowout games -- sorry Willis McGahee). On the receiving side, turns out Derrick Mason (7 catches, 97 yards, 1 TD) and Mark Clayton (3 catches, 57 yards, 1 TD) were always must-haves in fantasyland ... they just needed a good quarterback to throw 'em the ball.
Regarding the Vikings, we feel compelled to lob a mea culpa at Brett Favre, who has once again earned the freedom to come and go as he pleases in NFL circles, even at the tender age of 40. Favre had always been a surefire Hall of Famer in skeptical fantasy owners' minds entering this season, but after four straight superb outings -- including the 278 yards and three touchdowns against Baltimore -- he won't ever be criticized in this forum for waffling back-and-forth about returning during/after training camp. In one fell swoop, Favre has unlocked the boundless potentials of Sidney Rice (6 catches, 176 yards) and TE Visanthe Shiancoe (4 catches, 48 yards, 2 TDs) -- without diminishing the fantasy value of Peterson (166 total yards vs. the Ravens). By the way, did you happen to catch Favre DURING Rice's 63-yard catch? While sprinting downfield, he gave a benevolent shoulder-high shove to rookie WR Percy Harvin ... who almost didn't play Sunday, due to -- you guessed it -- shoulder problems. Boom!
Carolina 28, Tampa Bay 21
Oh sure, the Panthers are 2-3 and mired in third place in the NFC South. But here's one tangible sign of team-wide progress: QB Jake Delhomme threw for only 65 yards on the day, and yet NO ONE is surprised to see Carolina earn the victory. In other words, gone are the days of Delhomme and Steve Smith carrying the club on their broad shoulders. No, the Panthers' odds of turning the season around and making a playoff run essentially rest with DeAngelo Williams (172 total yards, 2 TDs) and Jonathan Stewart (110 rushing yards, 1 TD) -- the NFL's best 1-2 rushing combo (especially with the Cowboys' litany of injuries). Of course, it wouldn't hurt if Delhomme could stop throwing crucial interceptions, or if the Panthers special teams weren't in shambles, or if Smith (1 catch, 4 yards) and Muhsin Muhammad (3 catches, 27 yards) weren't dead men walking on the field. But baby steps to real-world goodness. Baby steps!
As for the Buccaneers ... for what's it's worth, QB Josh Johnson (192 total yards, zero TDs) has a top-10 arm and a top-5 case of fumbleitis; Cadillac Williams (77 yards, 1 TD) still boasts top-end speed down the sidelines (despite two torn patellas in recent years) and Derrick Ward (7 total yards), Antonio Bryant (2 catches, 37 yards) and Kellen Winslow Jr. (3 catches, 29 yards) have a nasty habit of disappearing in games -- which is very hard to accomplish when wearing sandwich boards that read, "Will Swashbuckle For Food".
Oakland 13, Philadelphia 9
Which was the bigger miracle on Sunday: The Raiders knocking off a viable Super Bowl contender -- just seven days after losing a 'glorified scrimmage' to the Giants (thanks, Antonio Pierce) -- with only 24 total yards from Darren McFadden (did not play) and Michael Bush ... OR that embattled quarterback JaMarcus Russell (232 total yards, 1 TD) survived the entire game without taking a tire iron to the head, courtesy of The Black Hole patrons? Seriously, it's not like the Raiders are the worst team in the NFL -- that distinction belongs to the Rams, Browns or Lions -- it just feels like it sometimes. From a fantasy perspective, though, it was nice to see Zach Miller awaken from a season-long slumber to catch six balls for 139 yards and one touchdown -- perhaps the best fantasy day of any tight end in '09. It was also heartwarming to see Justin Fargas bullrush his way through the Eagles defense for 98 total yards, even though his fantasy value is minimal, at best, with Bush and D-Mac in the lineup. As for Russell, mum's the word on anything he does this year -- good or bad -- since he possesses zero fantasy value (and that we've already retracted our August declaration of him passing for 3,000 yards).
As for Philly ... Brian Westbrook (141 total yards) was a sight for sore eyes, at least in the minds of Points Per Reception league owners. His nine-catch day (for 91 yards) may have been a direct result of the Raiders' bend-but-don't-break defense down the stretch; but it was also sufficient enough for PPR owners to pencil him in as an every-week starter from this point forward -- including next week's, ahem, showdown with the Redskins. DeSean Jackson (6 catches, 94 yards) and TE Brent Celek (4 catches, 75 yards) are also week-in, week-out starting considerations in the Eagles' pass-first, pass-second offense, fronted by Donovan McNabb (269 yards, zero TDs) and his weekly flirtation with 50 passes.
Revelations, Book II
Arizona 27, Seattle 3
Larry Fitzgerald does a spot-on impression of Anquan Boldin, dontcha think? Channelling his inner Boldin, Fitzgerald matched his teammate's receptions output (13) from the last time Arizona visited Seattle's Qwest Field (home to the best Flubber turf money can buy), while collecting 100 yards and one touchdown in the process. It was the kind of effort -- or weekly affirmation -- that reminds us of why he's a lead-pipe cinch for the Pro Bowl every year ... and why he's the most bankable receiver in fantasyland. As for Boldin (6 catches, 54 yards), Steve Breaston (7 catches, 77 yards, 1 TD), QB Kurt Warner (276 passing yards, 2 TDs) and RB Tim Hightower (58 total yards, 1 TD), there's no shame in getting swallowed by Fitzy's very-large shadow every now and then -- especially when they're dispatching division rivals by 24 on the road.
Larry Fitzgerald: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
As for the Seahawks ... in hindsight, this game represented a karmic payback from last week's 41-0 home thrashing of the Jaguars. Even when fully healthy, Matt Hasselbeck is NEVER a lock for four TD passes. Julius Jones should seldom be a stronger play over Matt Forte or Steven Jackson. And Nate Burleson should never be mentioned in the same breath as Fitzgerald, Boldin, Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne or Randy Moss -- and yet, that's exactly what happened following his two-touchdown day against Jacksonville. On the flip side ... Hasselbeck (112 passing yards vs. Arizona), Jones (5 rushing yards) and Burleson (40 yards) are certainly better than their Sunday outputs suggest. Unfortunately, it'll take two weeks to find out if that's really true, since Seattle doesn't play again until Week 8 (at Dallas).
New Orleans 48, N.Y. Giants 27
Instead of gushing endlessly about the fantasy prospects of QB Drew Brees, let's talk about what he did not accomplish in Sunday's game: He didn't throw TD passes to Pierre Thomas (72 total yards) or Devery Henderson (1 catch, 6 yards) ... and he forgot to turn off the lights inside the Superdome press box at game's end. Aside from that, though, Brees was an absolute freak against the Giants -- the No. 1 pass defense entering the game -- throwing for 369 yards and four touchdowns, while setting up seven different Saints for touchdowns. Yes, from Marques Colston (8 catches, 166 yards, 1 TD), Lance Moore (6 catches, 78 yards, 1 TD) and Robert Meachem (2 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD) to Reggie Bush (24 total yards, 1 TD), Jeremy Shockey (4 catches, 37 yards, 1 TD) and Heath Evans (7 total yards, 1 TD) ... everyone got fat and giggly from this week's version of the Game of the Year -- all thanks to Brees. It goes without saying that Brees, Colston, Thomas, Bush and Moore are all excellent considerations for next week (at Miami), barring monsoon-like conditions in south Florida.
Regarding the Giants, so much for the purported fantasy greatness of Louisiana natives Brandon Jacobs (35 total yards) and Eli Manning (178 passing yards, 1 TD) and WR flavor-of-the-month Steve Smith (4 catches, 44 yards). In a game loaded with scoring possibilities, each star fell woefully short of their Week 6 estimates. The same cannot be said for receivers Hakeem Nicks (5 catches, 114 yards, 1 TD) and Mario Manningham (4 catches, 50 yards, 1 TD), both of whom can likely be found on waivers (especially after so many owners jumped ship on double-M last week). As luck would have it, they're both sound flex options for Week 7 (vs. Arizona).
Atlanta 21, Chicago 14
It's funny how a simple touchdown can wipe out the most middling of fantasy days, especially with star players. On the same night when Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner combined for only 154 yards before a national TV audience, each one's fantasy value was heroically saved by a touchdown. The same rang true for QB Matt Ryan, whose 185-yard output will quickly be forgotten, thanks to scoring passes to White and Gonzo. Outside of the Big Four, there's nothing to report ... which has been the case all year with Atlanta (aside from the occasional Michael Jenkins flash of brilliance).
In defeat, the luckless Bears were actually stronger in the fantasy realm, despite never trailing by more than seven points (aka, Garbage Time). QB Jay Cutler threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns, solidifying his standing as a week-in, week-out starter for 12- or 14-team leagues. Greg Olsen rose up from the dead to catch five balls for 57 yards and one touchdown. Earl Bennett pulled down four balls for 57 yards, and Devin Hester flashed and dashed his way to 94 total yards (six catches). The only disappointing performance -- of all people -- came from RB Matt Forte, who suffered the double indignity of tallying only 60 yards and fumbling twice near the goal line ... on successive plays.
Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 14
You'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger point-differential anomaly than Steelers over Browns (13), in relation to the Grand Canyon-sized gulf in total yardage (543-197). Seriously, how on earth did Cleveland stay within two touchdowns for most of the day? Yes, Josh Cribbs had a 98-yard kickoff-return TD to help the Browns' cause, and yes, the Steelers turned the ball over four times (in dry weather). But still, this one really doesn't make sense. Luckily for fantasy owners, there's no confusion regarding the scintillating work of QB Ben Roethlisberger (417 passing yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), RB Rashard Mendenhall (77 total yards, 1 TD), Hines Ward (8 catches, 159 yards, 1 TD), TE Heath Miller (5 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD) and WR Santonio Holmes (5 catches, 104 yards, 1 TD). They're all unquestioned starters for the time being ... a list that unfortunately doesn't include RB Willie Parker (37 total yards) or WR Mike Wallace (71 total yards). But hey, give offensive coordinator Bruce Arians a little time to find consistent touches for the pair. After all, he's responsible for transforming Roethlisberger from a draft-day afterthought to a top-5 QB in standard-scoring leagues. No one could have seen that one coming after Super Bowl XL.
On the other end of the spectrum, there's no point in discussing the fantasy prospects of any Brownie, outside of Jamal Lewis or Cribbs (for leagues that reward kick-return TDs). Derek Anderson (122 passing yards, 1 TD) is less attractive than Josh Johnson or Ryan Fitzpatrick, talented rookie WR Mohammed Massaquoi (5 catches, 83 yards) is laboring in a 1960s offense and backup RB Jerome Harrison (26 total yards) has vanquished every bit of fantasy goodwill from Week 4 (152 total yards vs. Cincy). To be brutally honest, an expansion team (helmed by an intelligent GM, of course) could find better fantasy talent in next year's draft and off other NFL practice squads. Ouch!
Jacksonville 23, St. Louis 20 (OT)
In a fantasy season fraught with unexpected twists and turns ... one man stands alone as the most consistent performer: Rams RB Steven Jackson, who once again broke the 120-total yard mark (133, to be exact) ... and once again, failed to register a touchdown. How's that for bankability? Now, it can be argued whether Jackson is falling short or surpassing the expectations of a mid-level Round 1 pick in fantasyland. On one hand, he's a horrible RB1 with playoff contenders ... and yet, he serves as the ultimate flex starter in 10-, 12- or 14-team leagues. In other words, it's high-time to move heaven and earth to get him, via trade, IF ONLY you're a realistic title chaser. Regarding the other Rams, what's left to say? QB Marc Bulger (213 yards, 1 TD) deserves mini-kudos for standing upright for four quarters, Donnie Avery (1 catch, 17 yards, 1 TD) could be the first NFL receiver in history to score 10 TDs AND tally less than 400 yards ... and Jackson was the team's leading rusher and pass-catcher, by a country mile. Yikes!
As for the Jaguars ... don't read too much into Torry Holt's 101 receiving yards. Everyone knew he'd have a great day against his old team. But it still doesn't change the fact he's at the end of his fantasy rope (especially on grass). Don't read too much into David Garrard's 366-yard performance, as well. Bottom line: It's impossible to throw one's arms around a quarterback who cannot throw at least one touchdown against the sad-sack Rams. On the flip side, isn't it amazing what WR Mike Sims-Walker (9 catches, 120 yards) can do on a good night's sleep? (Don't get the joke? Click here for a PG-13 explanation.)
Last but not least ... it's a crime that it took three paragraphs to mention Maurice Jones-Drew and his 178 total yards (133 rushing), along with three touchdowns. But what's left to say about this human dynamo ... other than it's likely too late to move heaven and earth to land him in a trade -- especially PPR leagues. He's still worth the trouble of surrendering Greg Jennings, Vincent Jackson and Joseph Addai, though ... just for the privilege of owning him.
Houston 28, Cincinnati 17
There are two ways of looking at Steve Slaton's long-awaited breakout performance from Sunday: The optimist would point to his 145 total yards and one touchdown -- against a highly rated defense -- and say Slaton just needed a few weeks to find his stride, amidst unreal expectations from Houston fans and fantasy owners. The pessimist, in turn, would point to Slaton's 43 rushing yards and that he's yet to score a red-zone touchdown this season. Either way, Slaton picked the perfect time to join in the Texans' weekly fantasy block party -- led by QB Matt Schaub (392 passing yards, 4 TDs), TE Owen Daniels (7 catches, 78 yards, 2 TDs) and, of course, Andre Johnson (8 catches, 135 yards) -- especially since Kevin Walter (3 catches, 29 yards) inexplicably lost his invitation in the mail. Spinning things forward, Slaton isn't out of the fantasy woods yet in a lot of people's minds, making him the ideal candidate for a "sell reasonably low" trade sometime this week. Gauging the market, he can be had for someone like T.J. Houshmandzadeh or Chad Ochocinco, straight up.
Speaking of Ocho (5 catches, 103 yards) ... it's starting to feel like 2005 or '06 again for the NFL's most notorious Tweeter, meaning he's a lock for 10 catches, 100 receiving yards or one TD even on blah days. The problem is, he no longer has Houshmandzadeh on the opposite side of QB Carson Palmer (261 total yards, 1 TD vs. Houston). Instead, he's surrounded by a bunch of bland, interchangeable possession receivers, none of which have any sustained fantasy value (outside of Andre Caldwell in deeper PPR leagues). That doesn't bode well for Cedric Benson (45 total yards, 1 TD), who'll be expected to carry the week-in, week-out rushing load for a team that had been living (and now dying) by the sword of nailbiting outcomes since Week 1.
Buffalo 16, N.Y. Jets 13 (OT)
Leave it to RB Thomas Jones (210 rushing yards, 1 TD) and Leon Washington (145 total yards) to rescue the Jets from playing wayyyyyyyyyyy down to their fantasy competition, for they were the only New Yorkers who didn't have a lingering hangover from the franchise's gut-busting loss to the Dolphins in Week 5. From QB Mark Sanchez (119 passing yards, zero TDs and -- count 'em -- FIVE interceptions) and Braylon Edwards (3 catches, 40 yards) to TE Dustin Keller (2 catches, 16 yards), this so-so effort left many fantasy owners scratching their heads before mumbling, 'What did I ever see in these guys?' As for Jones, he's not only a must-start for Week 7 and beyond ... he's a high-priority trade commodity -- given New York's yummy Week 13-16 slate of Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Indianapolis.
Regarding the Bills, Marshawn Lynch (72 yards) remains a flex-starting option every week ... but Fred Jackson, Terrell Owens, Lee Evans, Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick (136 total yards, 1 TD) are merely expendable benchwarmers with little cachet on the trade market -- at this time (Evans can turn things around in a jiff). And even if T.O. is dealt to a contending club before the NFL trade deadline ... no one would honestly start him over, say, Nate Burleson, Steve Breaston, Kevin Walter, Donald Driver or Lance Moore.
Green Bay 26, Detroit 0
Here's where the Packers' enviable offensive depth wreaks havoc in fantasyland: Yes, Aaron Rodgers (358 passing yards, 2 TDs), Donald Driver (7 catches, 107 yards) and Ryan Grant (107 total yards) had stellar days against the Lions. But flushed with a sizable early lead and top-level playmakers on the two-deep, Green Bay's coaches were in no rush to increase the Big Three's reps in a blowout situation (although Rodgers had 37 pass attempts). Plus, it's kind of funny that Greg Jennings (6 catches, 64 yards) continues to play second-fiddle to Driver this season ... but it's also important to note that he slipped on a 26-yard catch in the first quarter ... one that would've been a 58-yard scoring grab if he had maintained his balance after making the acrobatic catch. This tidbit should hopefully prompt Jennings owners to exercise more patience -- for at least another week or two.
Regarding the Lions, Drew Stanton is a better fantasy option than Daunte Culpepper at this juncture. Why are we mentioning this? Well, there is speculation that Matthew Stafford has a wink-wink visit with renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews this week, which may lead to knee surgery in the very-near future. So, for those in two-quarterback leagues ... or sadists with Michigan State ties (like yours truly) ... Stanton possesses greater upside in the short-term -- even if it wasn't reflected in his 57-yard, zero-TD, two-INT effort against Green Bay. As for the other Detroit playmakers, only Kevin Smith (61 total yards) warrants a locked-in spot on fantasy rosters ... at least until Calvin Johnson returns from injury. But even when that occurs, Calvin serves as the No. 1 sell-high option among NFL receivers. For whatever reason, he likely won't sniff 12 touchdowns this season.
Kansas City 14, Washington 6
I know what you're thinking: "Why is Jay even talking about a Canadian Football League game?" Well, it turns out ... this was an actual NFL-sanctioned clash between two storied franchises -- even though neither team came close to producing a touchdown, nor did any passer eclipse the 200-yard passing mark. That criticism aside, the three biggest fantasy stars -- Dwayne Bowe (6 catches, 109 yards), Larry Johnson (95 total yards), Clinton Portis (124 total yards) -- all posted strong games, offering fantasy owners some reward for sitting through this snoozefest on DirecTV's Sunday Ticket package.
Now for the bad news: Jason Campbell (89 passing yards, zero TDs) does not deserve a fantasy start the rest of the season -- under any circumstances. He just concluded a mediocre run against St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Kansas City -- the current dregs of NFL society -- and still sits no better than the 25th-best starter during non-bye weeks. Chiefs QB Matt Cassel (200 total yards -- 14 rushing) should not be a QB1 consideration in the immediate future, as well. However, he's a must-keep in 12- or 14-team leagues, stemming from Kansas City's cake schedule in the season's second half ... and that he's the lesser of two evils when stacked against Campbell on the waiver wire.
Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night (@SI_JayClemons), accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can also read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday and Monday during the NFL season.
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