Week 8 Fantasy Headlines:
Doug Martin Kicks It Into Beast Mode, Trounces Vikings Matthew Stafford & Titus Young Lift Lions over Seahawks Jason Witten Catches 18 Passes But Cowboys Still Lose Patriots Enjoy a Jolly Good Blowout of the Rams Trent Richardson Leads Browns To Their Second Win of 2012 Matt Ryan Powers Falcons to 7-0; Eagles' Season In Jeopardy Steelers Defense Shuts Down Griffin and Morris Manning & Broncos Rip Brees & Saints
GAME SUMMARIES & FANTASY COMMENTARY:
Bye week: Baltimore Ravens (5-2), Buffalo Bills (3-4), Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) and Houston Texans (6-1).
THURSDAY NIGHT GAME:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 36 (5-3) | Minnesota Vikings 17 (3-4)
Fantasy Focus -- Buccaneers: Tampa Bay's offense played better than expected versus what had been a respected Minnesota Vikings defense. In fairness, the Vikings defense was placed in some tough spots by a Minnesota offense that turned the ball over three times. Rookie Doug Martin (29-135-1 rushing and 3-79-1 receiving) compiled game highs in rushing, total yards and total touchdowns. Josh Freeman (19/36 for 262-3-0) tossed three scoring strikes for the third game in a row. With Vincent Jackson (2-40-0 on six targets) struggling against blanket coverage from Antoine Winfield (Vikings), Mike Williams (6-68-1 on a team-high 11 targets) led the Bucs in receiving and hauled in his second touchdown pass in three weeks. Erik Lorig caught Freeman's other scoring strike. The Tampa Bay defense notched three sacks, two recovered fumbles and one pick.
Fantasy Tip: If you're hurting at quarterback, think about trading for Freeman. He is playing solidly overall, and Freeman's rest-of-the-season schedule looks favorable. Martin scored on a one-yard run, so the LeGarrette Blount (8-16-0 rushing) goal-line back experiment apparently has been mothballed for now. Dallas Clark (3-40 on three targets) has compiled eight receptions and 91 receiving yards during the last two weeks. However, his three targets versus Minnesota suggests that he won't emerge as a main cog in their passing attack.
Fantasy Focus -- Vikings: Although the Minnesota offense unexpectedly sputtered because of turnovers and execution problems, Adrian Peterson (15-123-1 rushing and 1-4-0 receiving with one lost fumble) and Percy Harvin (7-90-1 on a team-high 12 targets) came through for their respective fantasy owners. Peterson notched his second straight outing with 120-plus rushing yards and a score, while Harvin also found the end zone for the second straight game. Christian Ponder (19/35 for 251-1-1 passing and 4-12-0 rushing) struggled, failing to exploit a soft Buccaneers secondary. Ponder and Jerome Simpson (2-37-0 on seven targets with one lost fumble) are still struggling to find some chemistry, and Simpson's route-running needs some polishing. Michael Jenkins (4-78-0 on nine targets) compiled most of his numbers in garbage time.
Fantasy Tip: During the last two weeks, Kyle Rudolph (2-17-0 on two targets) has caught just two balls on six targets. What's the story? Two weeks ago, Ponder struggled, completing just eight passes. Against the Buccaneers, Ponder seemed determined to gun the ball downfield to Simpson, ignoring a sometimes wide-open Rudolph. With a trip to Seattle on the schedule for Week 9, a Rudolph bounceback outing seems unlikely -- even if the Vikings make a better effort to get him involved. The Ponder-led Minnesota passing attack is clearly more productive when Rudolph is a big part of it.
EARLY SUNDAY AFTERNOON GAMES:
Chicago Bears 23 (6-1) | Carolina Panthers 22 (1-6)
Fantasy Focus -- Bears: I suspect a big letdown coming off an emotional Monday night win over the Detroit Lions and a lack of respect for the Panthers are the reasons why the Chicago offense looked so discombobulated most of the afternoon -- especially during the first half. Matt Forte (15-70-1 rushing and 5-24-0 receiving) and Brandon Marshall (9-98-0 on a team-high 14 targets) are the stars of this offense, right now. Forte notched his first touchdown since Week 1, and Marshall has amassed 80-plus receiving yards for the fourth game in a row. Jay Cutler (19/28 for 186-1-1 passing and 1-4-0 rushing) played with bruised ribs. He was sacked six times and was harassed most of the afternoon by a surprisingly fierce Carolina pass rush. Little-used Kellen Davis (1-12-1 receiving) caught Cutler's lone scoring strike. Chicago's defense kept the game close, limiting the Panthers to five field goals and one touchdown on a fumble recovery. The Bears also sacked Newton twice and intercepted him two times.
Fantasy Tip: Unless you're keeping Michael Bush (3-5-0 rushing and 0-0-0 receiving) as a handcuff for Forte, it's time to cut Bush. The Bears have not been using Forte and Bush as a one-two punch in the running game as some had expected. Bush has toted the rock just 13 times for 67 yards during the last month. Earl Bennett (3-47-0 on four targets) hasn't stepped up so far while filling in for Alshon Jeffery (broken hand).
Fantasy Focus -- Panthers: Cam Newton (20/39 for 314-0-2 passing and 5-37-0 rushing) made some good plays but also made some bad ones. He lost a fumble into the end zone, which was recovered by Louis Murphy (0-0-0 receiving on four targets) for Carolina's only touchdown on the afternoon and tossed two picks (one was a pick-six). Newton also misfired on a pass to Steve Smith (7-118-0 on 16 targets) that likely would have been a touchdown. Smith compiled just his third 100-yard game of the season (his first since Week 2) but still hasn't scored so far in 2012. Brandon LaFell (3-88-0 on four targets) amassed most of his receiving yards on a 62-yard grab. Greg Olsen (3-23-0 on five targets) did little against his former team.
Fantasy Tip: The new-look Panthers running attack that featured Jonathan Stewart (17-42-0 rushing and 4-38-0 receiving) as the starter fizzled against a tough Chicago front seven, but Stewart still is the Carolina running back to own, and better matchups are on the schedule. DeAngelo Williams (11-33-0 rushing and 0-0-0 receiving) didn't disappear. He ran some plays out of the Wildcat. By the way, the Panthers are listening to trade offers for Williams. His fantasy prospects could improve on another team.
Cleveland Browns 7 (2-6) | San Diego Chargers 6 (3-4)
Fantasy Focus -- Browns: Because of the rainy and windy conditions (wind gusts up to 40 mph off Lake Erie), Cleveland leaned heavily on Trent Richardson (24-122-1 rushing and 1-12-0 receiving), and he delivered. Richardson's 26-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was all the scoring the Browns needed to notch just their second win on the season. Richardson's much-publicized rib injury apparently didn't bother him much this week. The rookie ran well, hitting the holes with authority. Richardson compiled just his second 100-yard rushing game of the season. Brandon Weeden (11/27 for 129-0-0 passing and 4-4-0 rushing) didn't toss a touchdown pass for the first time since Week 5 but didn't turn the ball over. Josh Gordon (3-46-0 on five targets) topped all Cleveland receivers.
Fantasy Tip: Don't forget -- the weather can become a major factor at Cleveland Browns Stadium as we get closer to the winter months. While Trent Richardson should be fine, Weeden and the passing game will struggle in the elements.
Fantasy Focus -- Chargers: Granted, the windy and rainy weather conditions were a factor, but San Diego should have played better coming off a bye week. Ryan Mathews (24-95-0 rushing and 2-9-0 receiving) was the lone standout for San Diego, but he did lose a fumble. Mathews came up just five yards short of notching his first 100-yard game on the season, and he has scored just once. Philip Rivers (18/34 for 154-0-0) turned in his worst fantasy outing of the season, failing to toss a touchdown pass in a game for the second time in 2012. Malcom Floyd (4-43-0 on seven targets) was Rivers' most-targeted receiver. The Chargers possibly could have won this game if Robert Meachem (0-0-0 on three targets) had not dropped what looked like a sure touchdown pass in the third quarter.
Fantasy Tip: The Chargers offense should rebound during a Thursday night home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Aside from Mathews, the San Diego fantasy stars look like matchup plays going forward. What about Gates? He has one good game and six bad ones on the season. It looks like his best days are officially in the rear view mirror.
Detroit Lions 28 (6-1) | Seattle Seahawks 24 (5-2)
Fantasy Focus -- Lions: After torturing his fantasy owners with plenty of passing yards but few scoring strikes, Matthew Stafford (34/49 for 352-3-1 passing and 4-12-1 rushing) torched what had been regarded as a rock-solid Seattle Seahawks secondary with his first multi-touchdown pass game of the season. Although some of Stafford's passes sailed on him, the Detroit triggerman's mechanics looked much improved. With Nate Burleson (broken leg) done for the season and with frequently double- and triple-teamed Calvin Johnson (3-46-0 on eight targets with two drops) struggling, Titus Young (9-100-2 on nine targets) turned in a career-high outing and caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the closing seconds. Brandon Pettigrew (7-74-0 on nine targets) enjoyed one of his best outings of the season, and rookie Ryan Broyles (3-37-1 on five targets) caught Stafford's other touchdown pass. The Lion fell behind early and had to abandon their running attack, which explains the quiet game from Mikel Leshoure (10-46-0 rushing and 3-9-0 receiving). Not to take anything away from the Lions, but an otherwise good Seattle defense had a letdown following a tough Week 7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Fantasy Tip: Young and Broyles probably are both owned in your league, but double check just to be sure. With Burleson out, Tony Scheffler (4-46-0 on a surprising eight targets) likely will see more consistent action, too, and looks fantasy relevant. Can...