Instant Replay: Brownout in Miami
When you're 0-7 and you've already lost your starting quarterback for the season, it's difficult for things to get any worse. Unfortunately for the Miami Dolphins, it's not quite difficult enough. Star running back Ronnie Brown injured his right knee while trying to make a tackle following an interception on Sunday, and the Dolphins have announced that his season is over. It's the sad finish to what had been a breakout campaign for the third-year back; Brown was on pace for more than 2,000 total yards and had already tied his career high with five touchdowns. In a way, you could call this a chain reaction. Trent Green's injury begat Cleo Lemon in the starting lineup, and it was Lemon's interception (could that be a Lemon drop?) that led to Brown's injury.
Jesse Chatman will take over as the primary tailback for the Dolphins and should be an immediate add in all fantasy leagues. He rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries against the Patriots and is available in more than 98 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Chatman has experienced a career resurgence after eating himself out of the NFL, and he's looked good enough in limited work to think that he could be a capable No. 2 fantasy back if he's featured the way Brown was. The Dolphins don't have many palatable alternatives. Patrick Cobbs saw some work on Sunday and scored a touchdown, and he and rookie Lorenzo Booker will battle for the right to back up Chatman. The Dolphins don't have an especially good schedule on tap (Giants, bye, @ Philadelphia, @ Pittsburgh), but at this point in the season there's no sense waiting for something better to show up on the waiver wire.
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The elephant in the room is that Brown may have fallen victim to what's becoming known around the office as "The Curse of Stephania." Regular readers may remember that ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell owns Andre Johnson, Brandon Jacobs and Rudi Johnson in a particular league that we're both in. Well, she also owns Ronnie Brown. Now, I'm not saying there definitely is a curse. However, as a public service announcement, here are the remaining key players on Stephania's roster: Donovan McNabb, Larry Fitzgerald, Derrick Mason, Kellen Winslow, Jerricho Cotchery. If you own any of those players, you might want to trade them for 50 cents (not to be confused with rapper 50 Cent) on the dollar, just to be safe.
In 1997, Hall of Famer John Elway threw four touchdown passes in the season finale to set a career high, with 27 scoring strikes for the season. With six touchdown passes on Sunday, Tom Brady now has 27 in the first seven games of this season. To further put that into perspective...
... Brady has more touchdown passes than the combined total of the Manning brothers.
... He has more touchdown passes than all of the quarterbacks in the AFC West.
... He has more touchdown passes than 29 teams had in 2006.
... He has 16 more touchdown passes than the combined total of the six quarterbacks selected ahead of him in the 2000 NFL draft.
... And with that, I've just set the single-season record for Spergon Wynn references in a fantasy football column serial.
... Let's move on.
Brady is now four touchdowns ahead of the seven-game pace of Peyton Manning in 2004, when Manning threw a record 49 touchdown passes. After posting a perfect passer rating of 158.3 and completing 84 percent of his passes on Sunday, Brady is on pace to shatter the records in both of those categories. The only remaining question on Brady is this: Should you try to sell him when his value is at its peak?
Answer: Absolutely not. The only conceivable justification for dealing Brady is the assumption that he'll be standing on the sideline for a significant portion of the final few games of the season, with the Patriots' postseason seed already set. But even that reason is flimsy, at best. First of all, given how well the Colts are playing, it's entirely likely that the Pats will battle through the final weeks to secure the No. 1 seed. Second, since Brady has proven capable of throwing three, four or even five touchdown passes in a single half, he'd still be a viable fantasy starter even in a part-time role.
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A cloud of uncertainty hung over the Giants backfield leading up to Week 7. Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward had both suffered in injuries in Week 6, with Ward seeming healthier than Jacobs. Even when we learned that Jacobs would be active for the game, there was still considerable doubt that he would play a major role. He did. Jacobs carried 18 times for 107 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, only 41.7 percent of ESPN.com players who own Jacobs actually started him this week, so he racked up bench points for the majority of his owners. Meanwhile, Derrick Ward carried the ball seven times for 27 yards and Reuben Droughns carried five times for seven yards. Ward also dropped a touchdown pass. As long as Jacobs can stay healthy, he should be an outstanding No. 2 fantasy back.
Kevin Jones, RB, Lions: It took seven weeks, but Jones finally got a chance to serve as the featured back; he carried 16 times for 74 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for 34 yards. Best of all, malcontent Tatum Bell didn't even see the field.
Chris Henry, RB, Titans: Working as the complement to LenDale White, the rookie from Arizona rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Now if we could just figure out a clever way to distinguish him from the... shall we say... "judicially-challenged" Chris Henry of the Bengals.
Roddy White, WR, Falcons: The eight-catch, 110-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Saints may look like a breakout performance, but White has been on the come for a while now. He's on pace for more than 1,200 receiving yards this season and is available in 57 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Marques Colston, WR, Saints: Even though Drew Brees is turning his season around, Colston doesn't seem to be coming along for the ride. Among the receivers I'd rather own for the rest of the season are Laveranues Coles, Wes Welker and Joey Galloway.
Tatum Bell, RB, Lions: The only thing worse than playing second fiddle to Kevin Jones is playing third fiddle to T.J. Duckett.
Shaun Alexander, RB, Seahawks: So much for an easy schedule. If Alexander can't muster more than 2.5 yards per carry against the lowly Rams, maybe the booing fans of Seattle are right.
Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders: Fargas owners couldn't have been happy to see Dominic Rhodes get nine carries to Fargas' one.
Stud: Tom Brady (354 yards, 6 TDs)
Honorable Mention: Ben Roethlisberger (290 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs)
Dud: Marc Bulger (225 yards, 0 TD, 3 INTs, 2 lost fumbles)
Dishonorable Mention: Jon Kitna (147 yards, 0 TD)
Stud: Kenny Watson (130 rushing yards, 3 TDs)
Honorable mention: Earnest Graham (92 rushing yards, 13 catches, 99 receiving yards)
Dud: Warrick Dunn (29 total yards)
Dishonorable mention: Laurence Maroney (31 total yards)
Stud: Wes Welker (9 catches, 138 yards, 2 TDs)
Honorable mention: Laveranues Coles (8 catches, 133 yards, 2 TDs)
Dud: Patrick Crayton (2 catches, 19 yards, 1 lost fumble)
Dishonorable mention: Santana Moss (2 catches, 8 yards)
Stud: Jason Witten (10 catches, 86 yards)
Dud: Chris Cooley (1 catch, 3 yards)
Stud: Rob Bironas (8 FGs, 2 PATs)
Dud: Neil Rackers (1 PAT, 1 missed field goal)
Team Defenses/Special Teams
Stud: Seattle Seahawks (7 sacks, 3 INTs, 2 fumble recoveries, 6 points allowed)
Dud: Philadelphia Eagles (0 takeaways, 1 sack, 19 points allowed)
Quick thoughts on injuries not covered elsewhere. For detailed injury analysis, check out Stephania Bell's injury blog.
Matt Schaub suffered multiple injuries against the Titans. The Houston Chronicle reported that Schaub said he had a sore back and hip, but he was previously reported to have sprained an ankle. Stay tuned.
Anyone who had "mid third-quarter" in the "when will Byron Leftwich get hurt" pool suffered a heartbreaking defeat. This time, it was a high ankle sprain.
Frank Gore was able to play through a sprained ankle suffered in the first half on Sunday, but time will tell if he has problems with swelling. If you own Gore, you might want to think about picking up Michael Robinson and/or Maurice Hicks.
Reason No. 458 why you never draft a kicker before the final round or two: Rob Bironas now owns the NFL record for most field goals in a single game. Bironas was successful on kicks of 52, 25, 21, 30, 28, 43, 29 and 29 yards. By the way, Bironas was signed off the street a couple of years ago after playing in the minor league (!) version of the Arena Football League. That is reason No. 458 why it was stupid for the Raiders to spend a first-round draft pick on Sebastian Janikowski. By the way, the next two picks after Janikowski? Chad Pennington and Shaun Alexander. Nice job, Raiders.
Despite Jason Taylor's interception return for a touchdown, the Miami defense became the sixth team defense this season to fail to score positive points against the Patriots in ESPN.com standard scoring. (The Cowboys did manage to score one point.) Most of the time, you're better off playing no defense than playing one facing the Pats.
Eli Manning is quietly on pace for 30 touchdown passes.
Laurence Maroney is not nearly as quietly on pace for zero touchdowns... and zero receptions.
I was a little late to the party on this one, and it's not as black-or-white as some would make it seem, but it's time for the Falcons to feature Jerious Norwood (5.8 yards per carry, 8.4 yards per reception) over Warrick Dunn (3.1 YPC, 4.3 YPR). Dunn might be better at blitz pickup, but it's not like protecting Joey Harrington is a high priority for the future of a franchise that will have Brian Brohm or Andre Woodson at quarterback next season.
Plaxico Burress' streak of consecutive games with a touchdown came to an end at six.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh extended his streak to six.
Torry Holt topped the 100-yard mark 10 times in 2003. He had six 100-yard games in 2004 and another six in 2005. He slipped to four 100-yard games in 2006 and has yet to reach the century mark through seven games this season. Holt has battled knee problems in recent years, and while he's still an outstanding player, he can no longer be considered one of the elite.
Boo, Jon Kitna. Boo, I say. Or type. Whatever. You get the idea. I'm displeased with Jon Kitna. No touchdown passes and fewer than 150 yards in each of the past two games? What's up with that?
While I'm booing ... Boo, Eagles defense! Coming into Sunday, you ranked second in the NFL in sacks. You were facing a team that had surrendered more sacks than all but three teams. You were facing a quarterback who had turned the ball over eight times in the previous three games. You were getting starting cornerback Lito Sheppard back. All the signs were there for a big performance. Instead, you scored exactly one more fantasy point than the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.
- Chad Pennington has never thrown more than one touchdown pass in seven career games against the Bills.
- Donovan McNabb has just two touchdown passes in three road games this season.
- Philip Rivers has not thrown a touchdown pass in three home games this season.
- Lee Evans caught six passes for 72 yards in Week 4 against the Jets and is averaging 90 yards per game in his last three versus New York.
- Carson Palmer has nine touchdown passes in his last three games against the Steelers.