Instant Impressions: Week 3
Vick, Britt, Gore injured; Chris Johnson struggling; Torrey Smith breaks out
• Michael Vick injured his right (non-throwing) hand in the Philadelphia Eagles' home loss to the New York Giants, and it's unclear if he'll miss more playing time as a result. It's been a disastrous September for those who picked Vick in the first round of fantasy drafts (not as bad as Jamaal Charles or Chris Johnson owners, but still bad), as Vick missed second-half action in Week 2 because of a concussion, and now has a bruised hand (head coach Andy Reid said Monday that despite reports to the contrary, the hand was not broken).
Through three games, Vick is 16th among quarterbacks in fantasy points, and both Tony Romo and Rex Grossman should pass him Monday night. Most damning for his fantasy MVP candidacy is the fact that he has zero rushing TDs through three weeks; as I wrote this summer, it was a virtual statistical impossibility that Vick would come close to the nine rushing scores he racked up in '10. That seems ever truer now. Considering how poorly Mike Kafka fared in a relief role Sunday (two bad fourth-quarter interceptions), you'd have to believe that if Vick can't play, Vince Young would be the leader in the clubhouse to start next week against the San Francisco 49ers. In such a case, he'd probably be a borderline top-20 fantasy option until we see what he can do. (Hurting both his cause or Vick's will be the fact that Jeremy Maclin injured a hamstring Sunday and might not play in Week 4.)
• The Tennessee Titans haven't issued official word yet, but all indications are that Kenny Britt tore knee ligaments Sunday, and will miss significant action, if not the entire season. It's terrible news for a guy who put together a spectacular first couple of games in 2011. Matt Hasselbeck produced his second straight 300-yard passing day in Week 3, and he and Britt seemed ready to make beautiful music together. The takeaway here is probably that Nate Washington is worth adding in all fantasy leagues. Washington had eight grabs on nine targets and scored his first touchdown of the season just a few minutes before Britt suffered his injury. Before Sunday, Washington was owned in fewer than 10 percent of ESPN leagues. He'll be one of the top waiver adds of Week 3.
• The ugly starts for CJ2K and Frank Gore continue. Chris Johnson had 21 yards on 13 carries versus a Denver Broncos rush defense that was eaten alive by Darren McFadden in Week 1 (though to be fair, his backup, Javon Ringer, had six carries for minus-6 yards, so it's not like anyone was doing damage on the ground). Gore had 42 yards on 17 carries and had to leave Sunday's game a couple of times because of a sprained right ankle, allowing Kendall Hunter to enter the game and score the game-winning TD late in the fourth quarter. Through three contests, Johnson is averaging 2.1 yards per carry, and Gore is averaging 2.5. Ugly. At least CJ2K isn't injured (as far as we know), so I don't know how his owners can bench him right now unless they've got pretty strong ancillary options. Gore's ankle could prevent him from playing against the Eagles next week, which would make his owners' decision for them.
• Remember those three TDs Mike Tolbert scored in Week 1? Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? Tolbert was reduced to an afterthought in Sunday's win over the Kansas City Chiefs: He had four carries and three receptions for a total of 43 yards. Meanwhile, Ryan Mathews looked terrific in the open field for the third straight week, and produced his best game of the season with 25 touches from scrimmage for 149 yards and two scores. Just as I recommended you not get too high on Tolbert a couple of weeks ago, I'd say don't go crazy on Mathews right now. There will be weeks when Tolbert steals playing time. But realize that Mathews' two Week 3 TDs came from inside the Kansas City 5. Tolbert isn't an automatic goal-line vulture here.
• Rookie first-round wideout Torrey Smith went from a disastrous preseason and being inactive for the Baltimore Ravens' first two games to three TDs in his first regular-season quarter of NFL football. Amazing. Lee Evans continues to be a scratch for Baltimore because of a bad ankle, and John Harbaugh gave the speedy Smith the nod in Week 3. Smith responded by catching two bombs in which he simply outran the St. Louis Rams' defense, and then a lovely red zone score in which he showed a bit of finesse, too. When you think of Smith right now, think of Devery Henderson (or Evans himself): A speed guy who'll make some big plays, but will also have disappearing weeks. But the fact that the Ravens seem to have found a quasi-reliable deep guy means very good things for Joe Flacco and maybe even Anquan Boldin. I daresay, however, that Smith probably won't tie Wes Welker (16 catches, 217 yards, two TDs) for fantasy MVP in a week again anytime soon.
• It was a fine Sunday for running backs to torment their fantasy owners with unclear injury situations. Beanie Wells was a surprise (to me, anyway) inactive for the late games because of the hammy he injured in practice this week, lending credence to the theory that he's absolutely made of glass. Perhaps the Arizona Cardinals believed they could win against the lowly Seattle Seahawks without Beanie. They were wrong. An ossifying Chester Taylor looked ridiculously incapable of performing on an NFL stage, and Alfonso Smith averaged a pedestrian 3.2 yards per carry. Smith would be the fantasy add here, for desperate owners. Meanwhile, Knowshon Moreno was active but didn't touch the ball against the Titans, while Steven Jackson was also active, but ceded 18 of the Rams' 22 running back carries to Cadillac Williams. Sweet.
• Sidney Rice just may be the difference for the Seahawks after all. Rice was all over the place in his first regular-season game in a Seattle uniform, catching eight of his 10 targets from Tarvaris Jackson for 109 yards. Rice has been dropped in about 10 percent of ESPN.com leagues, and if that happened in your league, go grab him. He's not going to get to run against the terrible Cardinals secondary every week, but we all know he's a playmaker, and should be considered a top-30 fantasy receiver going forward.
• Thanks for playing, A.J. Green. Four catches for 29 yards is lame, but two false-start penalties while the Cincinnati Bengals were inside the 49ers' 20? Gah. The bigger news for Bengals fans, of course, is whether Cedric Benson's suspension will be upheld. For the moment, Benson is slated to miss Cincy's next three games, but he's appealing the NFL's ruling this week. Bernard Scott would probably be an OK pickup in the interim.
• Michael Jenkins had nine grabs for 88 yards Sunday, while Percy Harvin had three for 47. Part of that was related to Harvin's getting sick on the sidelines, I'm sure, but part is also Harvin's lack of a starring role in the Minnesota Vikings' offense.
• Welcome to the party, James Casey. The Houston Texans H-back had five grabs for 126 yards and a score versus the New Orleans Saints, often running deep routes and laying out for spectacular catches. It's hard to see Casey as addable in any but the very deepest leagues until we see him do it again, because with Owen Daniels around (Daniels had five catches for 76 yards and a TD), Casey won't likely be able to go the full Scott Chandler route. But now we understand why Houston insiders have raved about Casey's athletic ability and upside for a couple of years.
• Go, go, Denarius Moore! Moore scored on a double-reverse against the New York Jets on Sunday, despite the fact that he's apparently still a reserve behind Darrius Heyward-Bey (one catch, 5 yards) on the depth chart. Moore was already ownable in all leagues, and it might not be long before he's startable in many.
• Kerry Collins was knocked out of the Sunday night game with an apparent concussion, but was pretty awful before then anyway (13-of-29 for 93 yards). The Curtis Painter Administration came into the game and lost a fumble on a blindside sack that went for a Pittsburgh Steelers touchdown, but Jim Caldwell told reporters that he's considering a QB change regardless of Collins' health. As he should be. Of course, Painter doesn't look like a great rescuer of the fantasy values of Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Austin Collie, either.
• So much for Chad Ochocinco taking on a big role with Aaron Hernandez hurt. The Ocho continues to look completely miscast with the New England Patriots, dropping a would-be touchdown and getting only three targets total against the Buffalo Bills. He's just lost in this offense. I wouldn't bother owning him in any-sized league.
Christopher Harris is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.
Fantasy Football Week 4
Tom Brady leads fantasy in scoring while Wes Welker leads all non-quarterbacks. Will anyone be able to stop the Pats pass attack?
Fantasy Football Tools
• Berry: Love/Hate for Week 4
• Harris: Hard Count
• IDP Rankings for Week 4
• Daube: Trendspotting
• Carpenter: Gridiron Challenge preview
• Harris: Top Week 4 free agents
• Cockcroft: Consistency ratings
• Harris: Instant Impression of Week 3
Bell Injury Blog
• Eric Karabell's Top 100 flex rankings
• Week 4 sneaky pickups
• Outsiders: Week 4 matchups
• Who's the early fantasy MVP?
• 2011 ranks update: Hardesty moves up
• Pass Plays: Give up on Chris Johnson
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