Two teams entered Week 9 without a loss. Both survived -- barely.
The Colts defeated the Texans, who represented the only form of competition for the AFC South title, thanks to a heavy dose of Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai and a missed field goal by Houston kicker Kris Brown at the buzzer that would have pushed the game into overtime. Peyton Manning had over 300 yards passing, but only one touchdown and really was propelled to his yardage total by taking advantage of Clark's matchup with Texans linebacker Brian Cushing. Addai also did his part, totaling over 100 yards with two touchdowns. Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon didn't put up overwhelming stats.
In New Orleans, the Saints overcame a 17-3 deficit and topped the Panthers to move to 8-0. And like his counterpart on the Colts, Drew Brees was able to achieve a 300-yard game but only one touchdown to Robert Meachem and with two turnovers. Additionally, typical Fantasy studs like Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey and Reggie Bush (if he can be considered a stud) were all limited -- none had more than 55 total yards; Colston made just one catch for 45 yards. Pierre Thomas had 81 total yards and a touchdown to help aid the Saints.
It's the sign of a great team that can win without its strengths in a given matchup, but it doesn't do much good for Fantasy owners. Josh Freeman and Matt Cassel outperformed Manning and Brees in Week 9, as did James Jones and Earl Bennett over Wayne and Colston. Worse yet, there's not much Fantasy owners can do about it. Who would bench Brees or Manning or anyone from these teams right now? Hey, they're not 8-0 because of their defensive prowess.
If there are two players worth a long gander, it's Robert Meachem of the Saints and Pierre Garcon of the Colts. Both of these receivers were more involved than usual and could provide some help to their quarterbacks going forward.
Meachem essentially has a spot when the Saints move to a three-receiver set, and maybe even occasionally in a two-receiver set on a long passing down. His five-catch effort Sunday was a career-best, and it proved that he's more than just a big-play guy good for a catch or two per game. With the Saints' next game against the Rams, we'll get a good idea of just how much more playing time Meachem has earned for himself.
Garcon also caught five passes on Sunday, a career best, but more importantly has seen his workload increase over the last three weeks. Since the bye, Garcon has 12 catches for 137 yards, which is a pretty good total all things considered. Better yet, Garcon will continue to see playing time while third-year receiver Anthony Gonzalez recovers from more surgery on his knee done last week. Collie's Week 9 injury might force him out. And best of all, Garcon -- like Meachem -- might be on waivers in your league because a disgruntled owner might have kicked him to the curb.
These young receivers were helpful for their teams in Week 9, but they might be helpful for your Fantasy team during the all-important next two months.
Let's take a look around at the rest of the Week 9 action.
Start of the Week result: Donovan McNabb struggled against the Cowboys, completing 16 of 30 passes for a paltry 227 yards, a touchdown to Brent Celek and two interceptions. He was sacked four times and was off whenever the Dallas pass rush got to be too much for him. He has been woefully inconsistent lately.
Sit of the Week result: Matt Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez in the first quarter for a touchdown and couldn't get much going from there. He completed 17 of 24 passes as the Falcons leaned on their run game and Ryan finished with 135 yards and an interception with the score. Statistically, this was his worst outing since Week 3, and he's continued to turn the ball over with nine interceptions in his last five games. He's probably not going to be a strong option in Week 10 against the Panthers, either.
Insane stat line of the day: Last week it was surprising to see Brett Favre throw four touchdown passes, but another very veteran passer topped him in Week 9. Kurt Warner threw five touchdown passes at Chicago -- four in the first half -- and had a turnover-free game after throwing five picks against the Panthers last week. Tack on 261 yards passing, and you've got an outstanding effort from Warner, who is two years younger than Favre by the way.
Out-of-nowhere stat line of the day: With all apologies to Bears tight end Greg Olsen, you've got to give it up to Chris Chambers. The Chargers cut him early last week, he landed with the Chiefs days later, and caught three passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns in the second half Sunday -- with the touchdown catches in the fourth quarter. Chambers nearly brought the Chiefs back to almost surprising the Jaguars, proving that he does have some gas left in the tank. He just might be worth rolling the dice on in Week 10 when they take on the Raiders, who are familiar with Chambers from his days in San Diego but probably as unsure as everyone else about what his role will evolve into going forward.
Guy we were way right about: We were excited to see Laurence Maroney pound the Dolphins defense for 82 yards and a touchdown, but we were floored by the Patriots giving him 20 attempts! He hasn't seen that many carries in a game since Week 15 of the 2007 season against the Jets. Could it be that New England will begin trusting its run game to Maroney for the balance of the season? Has Maroney taken the running back duties away from Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris? The stats don't lie: In three games since being given the chance to play more often Maroney has scored in each game and has 248 yards on 49 carries (5.06 avg.). The Patriots won't cut him out of their offense any time soon as long as he keeps that up.
Guy we were way wrong about: I think everyone expected more from running back Jamaal Charles against the Jaguars. Charles led the Chiefs in carries -- with six. He led them in rushing yards -- with 36. And he had only 19 yards on only three grabs. So much more was expected here -- certainly more than nine total touches. Moreover, the Chiefs didn't have anyone step up and show that they could carry the ball in place of Larry Johnson, so the surly veteran might have a gig when he comes back from suspension next week.
Overachieving defense of the week: Not a lot of defenses played well this week, though the Bengals are an obvious exception. They held the Ravens to seven points, picked off Joe Flacco twice and only got burned by running back Ray Rice (135 total yards and a late touchdown). Granted, the Bengals defense got plenty of rest in the game as the Cincinnati offense hogged the ball and ran 72 plays, but it all came together to do a number on a Ravens offense that has scored at least 21 points on everyone they have faced this year except Cincinnati.
Underachieving defense of the week: The Bears secondary got banged up, albeit after allowing several touchdowns to the Cardinals, and the 49ers run defense hasn't been the same since Week 5, but the Packers have no excuse for allowing three touchdowns to a rookie quarterback making his debut for a previously winless team. Josh Freeman didn't exactly slice and dice the Packers (14 of 31 passing is enough to make an offensive coordinator's hair fall out), but their secondary should have been far more prepared for the Bucs' weak set of weapons, especially beyond Kellen Winslow. So much for our top-ranked DST of the week -- they totaled one sack, one interception and one mighty loss to the throwback Buccaneers.
Names to add to your scout team:
Earl Bennett, wide receiver, Chicago (seven catches, 93 yards)
Ladell Betts, running back, Washington (16 carries, 70 yards, touchdown; 23-yard catch)
Chris Chambers, wide receiver, Kansas City (three catches, 70 yards, two touchdowns)
Josh Freeman, quarterback, Tampa Bay (205 passing yards, three touchdowns, interception, 20 rush yards)
Jason Hill, wide receiver, San Francisco (four catches, 50 yards, two touchdowns)
Jacoby Jones, wide receiver, Houston (four catches, 67 yards)
Lance Long, wide receiver, Kansas City (eight catches, 74 yards)
Robert Meachem, wide receiver, New Orleans (five catches, 98 yards, touchdown)
Brandon Pettigrew, tight end, Detroit (seven catches, 70 yards, touchdown)
Sammie Stroughter, wide receiver, Tampa Bay (three catches, 19 yards, touchdown)
Jason Campbell, ankle, chest; considered questionable for Week 10 vs. Denver
Austin Collie, head; considered questionable for Week 10 vs. New England
Chris Henry, forearm; expected to miss at least four weeks, might go on IR
Clinton Portis, head; considered questionable for Week 10 vs. Denver
The last word: A lot of Fantasy stud wide receivers were big disappointments this week. Roddy White caught three passes for 27 yards, Reggie Wayne caught eight passes but for just 64 yards plus an interception on a goofy reverse-pass attempt and Michael Crabtree, who was expected to have a solid outing against the Titans, had a career-worst 30 yards on three catches.
But no one's poor performance is sending shockwaves like Calvin Johnson's meager two-catch, 27-yard effort against the Seahawks. Johnson was sidelined with a sprained knee for three weeks (two games) and came back this week after a week's worth of practice. He didn't see that second catch until the fourth quarter -- but it wasn't for a lack of trying.
The Lions didn't get the ball much in this game partially because Matthew Stafford kept turning it over -- he had five interceptions. Stafford targeted Johnson nine times, and two of Stafford's interceptions came on passes intended for Johnson.
So the silver lining to Johnson's ugly stat line is that he was still getting a lot of passes thrown his way. He didn't look gimpy and he did draw coverage away from the other Lions receivers, which helped them post a nice lead through the first quarter and most of the first half. If there's a Fantasy owner in your league whining about how Johnson is ruining his team, now is the time to get him knowing full well that he's still a big part of what the Lions do on offense.
What stood out to you this week? How did your Fantasy teams do? Tell us via Twitter @daverichard. Or drop us a line and tell us about it at email@example.com. Be sure to put Attn: Week 9 in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state and we'll respond to as many as e-mails we can.