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Cullen: Pats suffer big loss, Eli, Spiller star in Week 2

Scott Cullen
9/17/2012 2:21:06 PM
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A crushing injury in New England, a monster game for Manning, Spiller is unstoppable and a Bush is big in Miami while one gets a chance in Chicago. All this and more in Scott Cullen's Week 2 NFL Review.

PATRIOT GAMES
New England TE Aaron Hernandez left New England's loss against Arizona early with a knee injury. While the Patriots still have Rob Gronkowski at tight end, they operate a lot of double-TE sets, so it is possible that Daniel Fells might see more action in New England's passing offence going forward.

Another option would be for the Patriots to give more consideration to slot receivers. Wes Welker had five catches for 95 yards against Arizona and Julian Edelman added five catches for 50 yards.

BOOK OF ELI
After losing the opener and falling behind 27-16 through three quarters in Week Two against Tampa Bay, NYG QB Eli Manning went on the offensive and finished 31-for-51, throwing for 510 yards and three touchdowns, along with three interceptions. Giants wide receviers Victor Cruz & Hakeem Nicks, after being held in check by Dallas in Week One, combined to put up 21 catches for 378 yards and two touchdowns. TE Martellus Bennett is also becoming a valuable contributor, with nine catches for 112 yards and a pair of touchdowns (his first scores since 2008) in two games.

With Ahmad Bradshaw sidelined by a neck injury and David Wilson apparently still in the doghouse, Giants RB Andre Brown contributed 90 yards on 15 touches against Tampa Bay. Long-term Bradshaw and Wilson are better plays, but Brown might see some action immediately if Bradshaw is out.

NICE REPLACEMENT
After going off for 194 yards from scrimmage in a Week One loss, Bills RB C.J. Spiller was impressive again (170 yards, 2 TD on 18 touches) in a Week Two win over the Chiefs.

Spiller leads the league with 292 yards rushing and 364 yards from scrimmage through two games.

REGGIE, REGGIE!
If the Miami Dolphins are going to be even remotely competitive this year, they are going to need their one game-breaker, RB Reggie Bush, to play like one. Through the first two weeks, mission accomplished. Bush gained 197 yards, along with two touchdowns on 28 touches in the Dolphins' win over the Raiders in Week Two, giving him 312 yards from scrimmage through two weeks.

BUSH LEAGUER
Bears RB Matt Forte injury suffered an ankle injury against the Packers Thursday. While there have been conflicting reports about whether it's a high ankle sprain, which might keep him out for six weeks, it's safe to say that, immediately, Michael Bush will take over as the primary back in Chicago, with re-signed Khalil Bell in the backup role.

Bush has run for 96 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first two games.

RUNNIN' TEXANS
Texans running backs Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Justin Forsett combined for 46 carries at Jacksonville, giving Houston 83 rushing plays through the first two weeks, which is nine more than second-highest Seattle.

With an easy win against Jacksonville, Houston only targeted wide receivers for 10 of 35 pass attempts. WR Andre Johnson, targeted four times, had three catches for just 21 yards.

RAM-JAM
Rams QB Sam Bradford showed up to play (26-for-35, 310 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) in his head-to-head battle with touted rookie RGIII. It was Bradford's fourth 300-yard passing game in the 28th game of his career.

The primary beneficiary of Bradford airing it out was WR Danny Amendola, who had a career-high 15 catches for a career-high 160 yards, with one touchdown. It was the first 100-yard receiving game for Amendola, the fourth-year slot receiver who is Bradford's most reliable target.

It was imperative for the Rams passing game to make a difference because starting running back Steven Jackson (nine carries, 58 yards) left the game with a groin injury. In Jackson's place, Daryl Richardson, a seventh-round pick out of Abilene Christian, put up 83 yards on 15 carries.

CHIEFS BACKFIELD
Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles struggled at Buffalo, with six carries for three yards, leaving a bigger role for Peyton Hillis, who had 91 yards on 13 touches (11 rushes, two receptions). Both are sharing time, however, with 24-year-old Shaun Draughn, an undrafted rookie out of North Carolina. Draughn has 120 yards on 14 touches through the first two weeks and that initial productivity is making it tempting to give him the ball more often. If Draughn keeps getting chances, that could take playing time and yards away from Charles and Hillis.

IMPRESSIVE IN A LOSING EFFORT
Robert Griffin III may have lost his second NFL start, but was productive (20-for-29, 206 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 11 carries for 82 yards, 2 TD) nonetheless. He's a must-start until he at least gets contained for a week.

For the second straight week, Redskins RB Alfred Morris was a useful part of the offence, gaining 89 yards on 16 carries.

BOUNCEBACK BROWNS
Even though they lost again, the Cleveland Browns have to be encouraged by the performance of their first-round picks in Cincinnati. QB Brandon Weeden (26-for-37, 322 yards, 2 TD) and RB Trent Richardson (145 yards, 2 TD on 23 touches) were impressive and offer some hope that they can be positive factors for the team this season. After Week One, that was especially in doubt with regards to Weeden.

THE CINCINNATI KIDS
Bengals second-year QB Any Dalton performed much better (24-for-31, 318 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) in Week Two as well, which was at least somewhat predictable with the Browns missing CB Joe Haden. While Dalton targeted WR A.J. Green a dozen times, Green finished with seven catches for 58 yards and a touchdown -- okay, but not an outstanding performance.

MARSHALL PLAN
After Bears QB Jay Cutler targeted WR Brandon Marshall 15 times in Week One, his workload changed dramatically against Green Bay. Marshall finished with two catches (both in the fourth quarter) for 24 yards and was targeted five times. Marshall did drop what would have been a touchdown pass earlier in the game, but he was already in a relatively marginalized role offensively.

PACK RUSHING
Packers RB Cedric Benson gained 116 yards from scrimmage on 24 touches against the Bears, indicating that Green Bay just might have a rushing game should they choose to utilize it. After Benson had nine carries for 18 yards in a Week One loss, Green Bay needed a more balanced approach to be more effective.

SAINTS MARCH
As New Orleans tries to get on track, they got big production from their backfield against Carolina. RB Pierre Thomas had 143 yards on 13 touches while RB Darren Sproles didn't run the ball at all, but contributed 13 catches for 128 yards.

MILLER TIME
A fourth-round pick out of "The U", Dolphins RB Lamar Miller was sitting third on the depth chart as a rookie, but with backup Daniel Thomas out, Miller performed well, gaining 65 yards on 10 carries.

HART ATTACK
While the running game might be in good hands, the Dolphins don't really have an established number one receiver, so WR Brian Hartline (9 catches, 111 yards vs. Oakland) has as a good a chance as any to emerge as the primary target for rookie QB Ryan Tannehill.

EMPTY YARDS
Thus far, only two quarterbacks have thrown for more yards than Raiders QB Carson Palmer (after he was 24-of-48 for 373 yards with one TD and one interception at Miami), who has passed for 670 yards in two games. He's tied for 22nd in the league with two touchdown passes, however, so until the Raiders start scoring, Palmer is no more than backup material.

MORE EMPTY YARDS
Chiefs QB Matt Cassel thew for 301 yards and a couple of touchdowns, but both touchdowns and 130 yards came in the fourth quarter, after Kansas City had fallen behind 35-3.

BREAKING THROUGH
A sixth-round pick in 2009, Raiders TE Brandon Myers had 32 catches in 42 career games coming into this season, but he's been quietly productive through the first couple games, catching 11 passes for 151 yards, which ranks third among tight ends.

INTO THE PIT
Ravens TE Dennis Pitta, had a nice second season in 2011, catching 40 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns and it has set the stage for him to get more involved in the Ravens offence this season. Through two games, Pitta has 13 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown.

GABBERT
After a strong showing at Minnesota in Week One, Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert was overwhelmed (7-for-19, 53 yards) against Houston. Admittedly, the Texans have a much better defence than Minnesota, but Gabbert's ineffectiveness harkens back to his rookie season struggles. Gabbert finished the same on the sidelines, with a hamstring injury, allowing backup Chad Henne an opportunity to get on the field. Barring injury, however, it should be quite a while longer before the Jags would consider replacing Gabbert with Henne on a full-time basis.

JETS GROUNDED
Jets QB Mark Sanchez struggled (10-for-27, 138 yards, 1 TD) at Pittsburgh and any time Sanchez struggles, there will be calls for backup QB Tim Tebow to get a look. Tebow had one rush for 22 yards against the Steelers.

The Jets' running game was a problem all day. Backup RB Bilal Powell (nine carries, 33 yards) ended up producing more than starter Shonn Greene (11 carries, 23 yards), but neither one was very effective.

FINER NINERS
There aren't a lot of breakout stars in a San Francisco offence that runs efficiently, but doesn't put up huge numbers, so let's give a nod to the proven contributors who led the way against Detroit, like TE Vernon Davis (five catches, 73 yards, 2 TD) and RB Frank Gore (105 yards on 19 touches).

WATT'S UP
Second-year Texans DE J.J. Watt, the 11th overall pick in 2011, has three sacks through the first two games (after recording 5.5 sacks as a rookie).

NO FEET OF CLAY
Packers OLB Clay Matthews recorded 3.5 sacks against Chicago, giving him six through the first two weeks this season. Matthews, who dropped to six sacks last season (from 14 in 2010), appears to have regained his elite sacking ways. Even last season, Matthews generated a lot of QB pressures, but wasn't getting to the quarterback.

TIGHT EAGLE
After a week in which wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson missed time with injuries (though both played against Baltimore), Eagles TE Brent Celek rose to the occasion, finishing with eight catches for 157 yards against the Ravens.

FEELING LUCKY
Colts WR Donnie Avery, starting in place of Austin Collie, caught nine passes for 111 yards against the Vikings. Avery has a chance to be productive as a deep threat, but his role in the offence will be affected by Collie's availability and oft-concussed Collie was cleared for practice last week.

UH-OH
After a disappointing Week One, Titans RB Chris Johnson followed up with one of the least productive games of his career, gaining 28 yards on 10 touches against San Diego. Johnson has called out his teammates, but this has been a disturbing trend. He hasn't rushed for more than 61 yards in his last six games, going back to last season, and has topped 100 yards four times in his last 20 games.

CHARGERS BACKUP POWER
With RB Ryan Mathews still on the shelf with a broken collarbone and TE Antonio Gates sitting due to a rib injury, the Chargers got solid games from RB Jackie Battle (14 carries, 69 yards, 2 TD) and TE Dante Rosario (four catches, 48 yards, 3 TD). Neither has real long-term value, but Battle has a chance to be the primary option in San Diego's backfield when Mathews is out.

HEAVY HITTER
Titans S Michael Griffin was busy chasing down Chargers Sunday, registering 18 total tackles (16 solo).

INJURIES
Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez (knee)
Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin (hip)
Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw (neck)
Rams RB Steven Jackson (groin)
Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert (hamstring)
Redskins OLB Brian Orakpo (shoulder)
Dolphins CB Richard Marshall (back)
Chiefs TE Kevin Boss (concussion)
Raiders RB Taiwan Jones (ribs)
Redskins DT Adam Carriker (knee)
Rams LT Rodger Saffold (knee)
Giants RT David Diehl (knee)
Eagles C Jason Kelce (knee)
Colts C Samson Satele (knee)
Raiders CB Shawntae Spencer (foot)

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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