NFL Week 4 fantasy awards: Patriots, Packers find identities
Tom Brady has thrown for at least three scores in every game vs. Bills since 2009
Robert Griffin III passed to nine different receivers in his second 300-yard game
Philip Rivers has struggled and has just one 300-yard game in his last 12 contests
Any chance we could have Packers-Saints and Patriots-Bills every week?
The Patriots and Packers offenses hadn't played up to their preseason draft values until Sunday, when fantasy owners of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady and their supporting casts finally got what they paid for. Other amazing things happened, including referees getting standing ovations, Chris Johnson showing up, the Eagles playing a game without a turnover and Cam Newton reminding everyone why he made a Robert Griffin III-type impact a year ago.
Patriot Games Award: Brady hasn't thrown for fewer than three touchdowns against the Bills since 2009, and in Week 4 accounted for four scores once the smoke cleared in Buffalo. For the first time since 1982, two Patriots backs cracked 100 yards in the same game and all the major pass targets played a role. Team leader in targets, Brandon Lloyd, even found the end zone. Lost amid the New England scoring blitz was the Bills running game, which, despite the happy return of Fred Jackson, hardly saw the light of day.
Best Fantasy Elixir for a Frustrating Offense: Ladies and gentlemen, the New Orleans Saints. The 32nd-ranked defense helped rejuvenate the Packers, which until Sunday had not seen its top two receivers, Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings, catch touchdowns through the first three games. Both got on the board (more on Jennings in a minute) while the Saints fell into a familiar catch-up mode, which led to more pinball numbers for most everyone.
Fantasy First Quarter MVP: No player has had a bigger impact through the first month of the fantasy season than Robert Griffin III. On Sunday Griffin found nine different receivers for his second 300-yard game, And despite not throwing a touchdown pass, ran in a score for the third straight game, and had it not been for a goal-line fumble, almost had two. Griffin's production thus far with an offensive mind like Mike Shanahan at the helm, (not to mention the fact his WR1 Pierre Garcon missed most of his first three games) makes you wonder what his ceiling could be.
Mr. Rebound: Last year's rookie quarterback that left a nuclear blast-sized impact on the fantasy world bounced back from a dreadful Week 3 outing yesterday. Newton passed for 200 yards with a pair of scores and added 86 yards on the ground with one rushing touchdown, to boot. It was also his third straight game with a rushing touchdown.
The Signs of Life Award: Marques Colston. Although his targets have never been plentiful, his production always has been -- until this season. Colston, with the, ahem, help of a push-off, finally broke into the touchdown column for the first time and had a huge day after not even hitting the 70-yard mark this year. With an offense like the Saints, Colston is a must start every week, despite his ups and downs as a low-end WR2, high end WR3.
Patience is a Virtue: Chris Johnson owners were probably praying they could even call him CJ1K by the end of the year. Averaging under two yards a carry prior to Sunday, Johnson came alive in a blowout loss to the Texans. Still, it is only the fifth time in 22 regular season games he has reached 100 yards rushing.
Most Creative Touchdown: Danny Amendola. It's not many times a fake field goal leads to a touchdown pass to a non-tight end of anyone fantasy relevant. Usually reserved for bearded and big, tackle-eligible plays, Amendola was able to cash in.
Mr. All-Purpose: Welcome to the touchdown reception club, Michael Turner. The veteran back got the first of his career on a 60-yard touchdown screen. After a shaky start to the season, Turner has scored in three of his last four games, and after an 80-yard effort two weeks ago, hit the century mark Sunday.
Best Atlanta Receiver Performance: Julio Jones may have been the trendy preseason projection as the new top target of Matt Ryan, but there's a reason Roddy White is perennially picked in the top-four at his position every season. White and the unbeaten Falcons continued to take flight with a new, wide-open attack that saw White post his second 100-yard outing in three games with two touchdowns.
The Porcelain Award: Greg Jennings is starting to enter into Todd Heap territory for (lack of) durability. For the second time this season, a groin injury has cropped up for the one-time concussion sufferer. Owners relying on Jennings got another setback in what has been a month of them. At least his one catch went for a touchdown -- silver linings people, silver linings. And if you also happen to own Hakim Nicks on the same team, be sure a loved one hides all sharp items in your home.
Biggest Breakout: Brian Hartline is no Ramses Barden (then again, who is?), but the lesson to be gleaned from the Dolphins OT loss to the Cardinals is that a No. 1 wide receiver on a weak passing offense is still a No. 1. The former Buckeye was targeted 19 times and posted his second 100-plus game in four outings in tallying a team-record 253 yards on 12 catches and a score. He and quarterback Ryan Tannehill obviously have good chemistry, making Hartline a clear waiver wire target. As Tannehill is still learning and the 'Fins' passing game is a work in progress, expect some clunkers (see last week's one-catch outing), but for a depth pickup or bye plug-in, one could do worse.
The Just Like Old Times Award: Peyton Manning ripped a banged up Raiders secondary, which didn't seem like a big deal, but it was. Despite questions about his arm strength, Manning responded with his first three-touchdown game since Dec. 26, 2010, also against the Raiders. He nearly got a fourth touchdown, which was fumbled away on a freak play by Demaryius Thomas. With his second straight 300-yard game, it looks like Manning is beginning to get settled in with the Broncos.
Least Impressive Performance in a Blowout: Phillip Rivers. All is not right with the Chargers' passing game. Not only has Antonio Gates been unusually quiet (even when healthy), Rivers barely got over the 200-yard mark after finishing with 170 and change a week ago. A big, early lead on the Chiefs didn't help as the running game got rolling, but save Week 2's three-TD, 284-yard outburst against the Titans, Rivers has been barely startable this season. He's passed for 300 yards just once in his last 12 games and has been merely pedestrian in the early going.
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