By Kenn Ruby
Ronnie Brown looked to be on his way to another strong game on Sunday before leaving with a knee injury in the third quarter. Jesse Chatman replaced him, and with the game no longer in reach, had 73 yards on just seven carries, including a touchdown. Brown did not sound concerned after the game, but doctors dropped a bombshell Monday: He'll miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Chatman will take over as the starter, but Patrick Cobbs and even Lorenzo Booker could also see some action.
Although Frank Gore was not out long after spraining his ankle on Sunday, he was visibly in a lot of pain after the game, and it would not surprise to see him miss this week's game against New Orleans. Michael Hicks and Michael Robinson would step in if Gore misses any time.
Another poor game from Warrick Dunn could pave the way for the Falcons to finally give Jerious Norwood a shot at as the featured back. Dunn had just 28 yards on 13 carries Sunday, and has just 70 yards on 31 rushes in his last three games. Norwood has tallied exactly six carries in each of the last three games, but he has 148 yards on the ground and 56 in the air. It won't be long before Atlanta makes the change permanently.
New England welcomed back Laurence Maroney into the starting lineup, but it didn't need him against the Dolphins. Maroney only carried six times, but gained 31 yards and watched from the sidelines as New England's offense put on a nearly perfect passing display. Sammy Morris will miss at least a month with injuries to his chest and collarbone, giving Kevin Faulk the opportunity to spell Maroney and get carries after New England builds up an inevitable lead each week.
Once again, Minnesota split touches evenly between rookie Adrian Peterson and veteran Chester Taylor. Peterson had 12 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown Sunday, but Taylor had a respectable 47 yards on 10 carries and also caught three passes. Peterson is still a must-start every week, as he will produce even when limited by his coaching staff, but the continued loyalty to Taylor is baffling.
LenDale White cemented his hold on the starting job as he gained 104 yards on 27 carries. Chris Henry got his first action of the season -- thanks to Chris Brown sitting out with a sprained ankle -- and didn't disappoint. Henry, working mostly as a change-of-pace back, had 57 yards on 11 carries, including a 4-yard score. Given Brown and White's extensive injury history, Henry is one to keep an eye on.
Perhaps playing for his job, Earnest Graham responded with 191 yards from scrimmage last week, including an astounding 13 receptions for 99 yards. The Buccaneers acquired Michael Bennett a week ago and gave him three carries against the Lions, but he still has a lot of the playbook to learn before the Bucs can make him the featured back. Graham's performance Sunday should keep him as the starter for the foreseeable future.
With the Jets unable to stop the run and Rudi Johnson inactive once again with a sore hamstring, Kenny Watson responded with a career day. Watson scored three times and gained 130 yards on 31 carries. Johnson is still the starter when healthy, but as long as Watson continues to produce, the Bengals are in no hurry to rush Johnson back into the fold.
Kevin Jones had his best game of the season Sunday with 15 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown and six catches for 34 yards. More important, Tatum Bell never got off the bench. Jones might never be as good as he was last season before the surgery on his foot, but it looks like he's finally the full-time running back in Detroit again.
Oakland split its carries a little more evenly than usual Sunday, with starter LaMont Jordan getting 11 and Dominic Rhodes getting nine. Neither did much against the stout Kansas City defense, but despite Jordan's early-season success, it looks like Rhodes is going to continue to see a lot of action.
It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone to hear that Shaun Alexander is playing hurt with a wrist injury, but considering that Seattle built a big lead against a poor defense Sunday, his 19 carries for 47 yards was a major disappointment. Maurice Morris rushed 10 times for 42 yards, and could be in line for more action if Alexander needs to sit at all. Fortunately, Alexander can rest during the upcoming bye week.
Travis Henry left Sunday's game with bruised ribs, and with a possible suspension looming, it might be time to take another look at Selvin Young. Henry's hearing with the NFL isn't until Nov. 5, so unless his injury is worse than originally feared, he's still in line to play the next couple of weeks.
Superficially, Chad Pennington had a good game Sunday, finishing with 272 yards and three touchdowns. However, Pennington got one touchdown on a meaningless Hail Mary at the end of the game, and he had two key turnovers in the fourth quarter, leading to a 38-31 loss. His last turnover, an interception returned for a touchdown, might be the final nail in the coffin for Pennington's starting career with the Jets. Kellen Clemens waits in the wings, and with the Jets now at 1-6, it's time to see what the kid can do.
Matt Schaub left the game with an ankle injury Sunday, but it was not serious enough to keep him out long. Upon his return, however, he was knocked out of the game with a hip injury. Sage Rosenfels led Houston on four touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, only to watch his team lose on a last-second field goal. Before getting too excited about Rosenfels' 290 yards and four touchdowns, consider his three interceptions -- and that he's only started two games in seven NFL seasons. With upcoming road games against the Chargers and Raiders, Rosenfels is probably not worth picking up off the waiver wire, especially since Schaub's injuries are not considered serious.
Tennessee was far more successful than usual throwing the ball downfield with backup Kerry Collins on Sunday instead of starter Vince Young, who missed the game with a strained quad. Young was in uniform, but the Titans never needed to call on him in the 38-36 victory. He'll face another week of constant questions about his health, but at least Tennessee has Collins waiting in the wings should Young sit again.
Tarvaris Jackson suffered an avulsion fracture in his right index finger Sunday, and could miss this week's game if he doesn't improve. Kelly Holcomb would inherit the starting job, but the Minnesota passing offense is struggling so much that neither quarterback is worth having on your roster.
Although it looked like Kurt Warner would miss at least one game with an elbow injury, he was the surprise starter Sunday. Warner had 282 yards and two touchdowns, but turned the ball over three times and had trouble handing off. The latter problem gave backup Tim Rattay the chance to be the goal-line quarterback, and he responded with a one-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. With a week of rest due to a bye, Warner should be a solid play for Week 9.
Although J.P. Losman was active Sunday, the Bills were concerned enough about his knee to start rookie Trent Edwards again. Buffalo won the game, but it was more likely in spite of Edwards than because of him. The Bills should make a decision soon -- don't be surprised to see Losman back in the starting lineup this week.
Byron Leftwich took over the starting quarterback job from Joey Harrington, but it doesn't look like he'll have it long. In his first start since he was announced to have a permanent hold on the job, Leftwich suffered a high ankle sprain in the third quarter. Harrington, though nothing special in relief of Leftwich, will back into the starting role again.
Although David Carr is expected to be healthy enough to return to the starting lineup this week against Indianapolis, coach John Fox won't confirm who the starter will be and has indicated that Carr might need to win the job back from Vinny Testaverde. This battle could be won in practice in the next few days, with the winner getting to direct the Carolina offense for the rest of the season.
Kyle Boller had another solid-but-unspectacular start Sunday. Steve McNair was active, but with the Ravens off this week, it made sense for McNair to rest his bad back. He should be back in the starting lineup in Week 9.
Alex Smith was the emergency third quarterback against the Giants, forced to watch another uninspiring performance from Trent Dilfer. Although Dilfer threw for two scores, he also turned the ball over four times as San Francisco lost its fourth consecutive game. There's a good chance Smith will be back for good this week against New Orleans, and not a moment too soon.
After watching a couple of bad performances by Gus Frerotte, Marc Bulger returned to the starting lineup last week. He probably wishes he hadn't. The Rams lost, 33-6, to Seattle, and Bulger turned the ball over five times and was sacked seven times. Bulger is now healthy enough to stay in the starting lineup, but with most of his offense injured, he could have more days like this one.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
In conjunction with placing Eric Parker on Injured Reserve, San Diego acquired former Pro Bowler Chris Chambers last week, giving it another weapon in an already strong offense. Chambers shouldn't have much of a learning curve, as he played in a similar offense in Miami. Vincent Jackson, who was a popular sleeper pick two months ago, will see a reduced role, and Craig Davis will have little role at all.
The trade of Chambers opened a spot in the starting lineup for rookie Ted Ginn, who had three catches for 37 yards against New England. Marty Booker started opposite Ginn but had similar success, finishing with 28 yards on three receptions. Derek Hagan also figures to see a little more action. Unfortunately, the Dolphins offense is going nowhere fast, and though Ginn has some upside, there are plenty of better options available in most fantasy leagues.
Seattle thought they'd be getting D.J. Hackett back, but he was inactive for the sixth consecutive game Sunday. Bobby Engram once again led the receiving corps with six catches for 73 yards, but other than tight end Wes Heller's two touchdown catches, there wasn't much else to write home about. The Seahawks, who have a bye this week, will be happy to see the return of Hackett and Deion Branch in Week 9.