Every week, Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com recaps five of the biggest storylines in fantasy football.
1. Disappointing debut: In his first game in a Titans uniform, Randy Moss was just as quiet as he was in his final game with the Vikings. Moss completed his second Minnesota tenure with a one catch, eight-yard performance in Week 8. In his Tennessee debut, Moss was held to a catch for 26 yards. Underrated Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis shadowed Moss very effectively for much of the day. Moss was covered so well that he was only targeted four times. It was the second time Davis and the Dolphins turned the lights out on Moss this year, as the receiver was shut out by Miami while with New England in Week 4. With his third team this year so far, Moss has clearly become a very notable decoy, a source of defensive attention for hire. The presence of Moss did help the rest of the offense, as Chris Johnson ran for 117 yards and a score. It was apparent he was seeing more openings on Sunday. Tight end Bo Scaife was Tennessee's leading pass-catcher with seven receptions for 51 yards. He should continue to work effectively on underneath and shorter routes. Nate Washington was targeted nine times and caught a 14-yard TD pass. He will now be even more of a frequent scoring threat as Moss draws heavy defensive attention near the red zone. Moss, however, has 119 yards and one touchdown in his past four games. He does have three bottom-rung pass defenses on the schedule ahead, though (Washington, Houston, Jacksonville), so at the very least, more touchdowns should be on the way in the near future, even if the yardage numbers are sometimes disappointing. Because of the friendly schedule, there is still some more hope for Moss going forward.
2. Flail with the Chiefs:Fantasy players always love when their guys kick into catch-up mode. It's sometimes challenging to predict when that will happen, and some teams simply fizzle out when they fall too far behind. Few could have foreseen Kansas City falling behind Denver 35-0 in the second quarter of a game that was expected to be a lot closer. Anything can happen in a divisional tilt, though, as was proven in this matchup and the Cowboys-Giants game. Denver unofficially put Kansas City away early, but the Chiefs saved some face by outscoring the Broncos 29-14 the rest of the way. In the process, Matt Cassel enjoyed a career day, throwing for 469 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Cassel has now thrown three or more touchdowns in a game three times this season, so he is capable of delivering some pretty impressive fantasy outings, even when he is not hopelessly playing from behind. Consistency is a big issue, though, as evidenced by the fact he had thrown three touchdown passes in his previous two games. When they are playing their best football, the Chiefs are primarily a running team that does not ask Cassel to shoulder a major offensive load. Such huge statistical performances will be few and far between the rest of the way. Dwayne Bowe's 13 catches were more than twice his previous season high, and he came through with just his second 100-yard game of the year, finishing with 186. Bowe, who scored twice, does have eight touchdowns in his past five games, and that trend is not about to fade away. Bowe is targeted often for scores on play-action passes when the Chiefs are running the ball well, and even when the Chiefs play from behind and other teams know he is getting the ball, Bowe is difficult to defend.
3. Making it count: Cassel's counterpart on Sunday, Denver quarterback Kyle Orton, also enjoyed a career day, throwing for 296 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Unlike Cassel, though, Orton's numbers were mostly built during the "real" portion of the game, as he tossed three scoring passes in the first quarter. It was an eye-opening performance for Orton's owners, who had seen him cool off recently after a surprisingly outstanding start to the season. Orton did throw for 370 yards in the week before the Denver bye, but fantasy players thought they were still witnessing an expected drop-off between in Weeks 6 through 8, when Orton failed to throw for 250 yards twice and totaled four touchdown passes. On Sunday, though, we saw much of the same Orton that surprised us earlier this season with his explosive outings. He was confident, accurate, and took advantage of a deep receiving crew. The Broncos simply have too many weapons in the passing game and a quarterback who is taking full advantage of his options. Orton is a strong starter for the rest of the 2010 fantasy season. He will always at least perform adequately, and spectacular outings are possible at any time.
4. Giant killers: As the Giants discovered, nothing can be more dangerous than a desperate, hungry opponent, especially one from your own division. They were stunned at home by a suddenly revitalized Dallas Cowboys outfit, which produced fine fantasy numbers during their unlikely victory. Veteran quarterback Jon Kitna threw for 327 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Kitna has always been historically erratic, though, and starting him is always a gamble, no matter the matchup. Rookie Dez Bryant finished with 104 yards and a touchdown. Bryant has arrived as a fantasy contributor who should start regularly, as Kitna does do a fine job of getting the ball to his rising playmaker. Miles Austin caught a 24-yard touchdown pass, proving fantasy owners should continue to have considerable faith in him. Most notable was Felix Jones' 136 total yards from scrimmage that included an electric 71-yard touchdown reception. Jones is capable of scoring any time he touches the ball, from anywhere on the field. Still, you cannot blame any fantasy players who remain skeptical about Jones. His 51 rushing yards was his second-highest total of 2010, and only twice has he totaled more than 30 receiving yards in a game. His score on Sunday was his first of the year. Keep Jones reserved until you see another promising outing. One possible tease performance is not enough to regain confidence in him yet.
5. Problems with Peyton? The Colts have scored 49 points in their past two games. But Peyton Manning has only one touchdown pass and two interceptions during that span. He has one 300-yard game in his past five outings, and after three consecutive three-touchdown outings to open the season, he has none since. Should his owners be worried? Is he no longer a must-start? I say no on both counts. The Colts have rediscovered the run in goal-line situations, and that can only make Manning more dangerous on play-action passes in the red zone going forward. A depleted pass-catching crew is not the issue some make it out to be, as Manning always seems to turn any warm body into a viable target. Plus, upcoming clashes with Tom Brady and Philip Rivers should bring out the best in Manning. He also has matchups with the Jaguars and Cowboys on the schedule. If you can find a panicky Manning owner in your league before the trade deadline, swoop in now and make the acquisition. Talk up his recent perceived "downturn" with the "reborn running game" and "thin receiving crew" angles to less experienced owners and you may just walk away with a perennial superstar quarterback.
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