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Cullen: Charles, Smith among stars of Week Three in NFL

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Scott Cullen
9/24/2012 2:02:23 PM
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Runners with surgically-repaired knees had big days, Torrey Smith delivered a gutsy performance in a national game, a lot of quarterbacks were missing the mark. Scott Cullen has that and more in the Week Three NFL Recap.

CHARLES IN CHARGE
Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles was held to three yards rushing in Week Two at Buffalo, raising questions (at least subliminally) about whether or not his surgically-repaired knee was ready for full-time duty. Turns out that the knee is just fine after he shredded (233 rushing yards, 33 carries, 1 TD; six catches, 55 yards) the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Jim Brown is the only other player in NFL history with 225 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards in the same game.

Charles' emergence came at the expense of Peyton Hillis, who had three carries for 11 yards and suffered an ankle injury, after 91 yards on 13 touches the week before.

AP RUNS
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, also coming back from knee surgery, had a big day too. The yardage wasn't in the same stratosphere as Charles, against New Orleans, but Peterson gained 86 yards on 25 carries against a 49ers defence that isn't accustomed to surrendering such chunks of yardage on the ground. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, one running back (Marshawn Lynch, 107 yards in Week 16 last season) has run for more than 86 yards in a game against San Francisco.

Complementing Peterson in the Vikings' offence, second-year TE Kyle Rudolph had five catches for a modest 36 yards, but scored a pair of touchdowns, making him one of seven tight ends with at least three touchdowns through the first three games.

UNCOMMON SMITH
After his brother, Tevin Smith, died in a motorcycle accident the night before, Ravens WR Torrey Smith responded in courageous fashion, not only playing against New England, but lighting them up (6 receptions, 127 yards, 2 TD) -- the third time in his career that he has recorded more than 100 yards in a game and the second time that he scored multiple touchdowns.

Smith was a popular breakout candidate this year, but was relatively quiet through the first two games. On a national stage, amidst the grief of such a personal loss, he's being hailed throughout the sporting world.

MISSED CONNECTIONS
Sunday was a day for incompletions, it seems. Colts QB Andrew Luck completed 22 of 46 passes. Jets QB Mark Sanchez was 21-for-45, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill was 16-for-36, Eagles QB Michael Vick was 17-for-37, Bucs QB Josh Freeman was 10-for-28; even Peyton Manning was 26-for-52. That's a lot of quarterbacks missing a lot of receivers at a time when passing offences are supposed to be dominating the game.

BIG BEN
While some quarterbacks had tough days, there's no denying that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger put up big numbers (26-of-49, 384, 4 TD) at Oakland; his most passing yards since November, 2010.

RUN DMC
Raiders RB Darren McFadden countered (18 carries, 113 yards, 1 TD) for the Raiders, with his first 100-yard rushing game since Week Three last season.

LIONS
When Lions QB Matthew Stafford suffered a leg injury at Tennessee, the Lions didn't miss a beat because Shaun Hill came in and produced (10-of-13, 172 yards, 2 TD), giving Detroit a chance. Sure, one of his touchdowns was a miracle heave at the gun, but Hill can move the Lions down the field, so he becomes a viable fantasy contributor if Stafford is going to miss any length of time with what is presumed to be a muscle strain.

The Lions also changed their backfiedld, giving RB Mikel Leshoure (134 yards, 30 touches, 1 TD) the start at Tennessee. Injured for all of 2011 and suspended for the first two games this season, Leshoure has apparently supplanted Kevin Smith in the Lions lineup, while Joique Bell filled the backup role, so Smith didn't have a single touch in Tennessee. Fantasy value, gone.

VICK'S JOB IN JEOPARDY
Remember way back in 2010, when Michael Vick was rehabilitating not only his off-the-field image, but was avoiding turnovers (21 TD, 6 INT) as he took over the starting job for the Philadelphia Eagles? Well, the turnovers have returned (six interceptions, three lost fumbles in three games) and while Vick remains the starter, he may not be able to hold off rookie Nick Foles for much longer.

WHERE EAGLES FLY
With Jeremy Maclin nursing a bad hip, Eagles WR Damaris Johnson, a diminutive undrafted free agent out of Tulsa, had five catches for 84 yards at Arizona. For as long as Maclin might remain out of the lineup, Johnson could have some value, but risk only makes him viable in deep leagues.

SCHAUB
Despite completing a season-low 17 passes, on a season-low 30 attempts, Texans QB Matt Schaub passed for a season high 290 yards and four touchdowns at Denver. Houston was conservative in the first two games, because they could be and still win, but Schaub showed that he shouldn't be overlooked when the Texans need to get more aggressive down the field.

RUN, ROBERT, RUN
One of the aspects of his game that sets Robert Griffin III apart from other quarterbacks is his mobility. He ran for 85 yards against Cincinnati, giving him 209 rushing yards through three games. Michael Vick ranks second among quarterbacks, with 94.

NO HOLDOUT HANGOVER
Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew was respectable (162 yards, 37 touches) through the first two weeks before breaking out (193 yards on 30 touches) at Indianapolis on Sunday. It's difficult to forecast how missing training camp can affect a player but, in Jones-Drew's case, it appears not to be a huge problem. The 2011 leading rusher is now second in rushing yards, behind Jamaal Charles.

CARD CARRYING
The Arizona Cardinals are a surprising 3-0 and were led against Philadelphia by a former Eagle, QB Kevin Kolb (17-of-24, 222, 2 TD), who wouldn't have been starting if not for an injury suffered by John Skelton, who beat Kolb for the starting role in training camp. Kolb's been steady, if certainly not spectacular, and competent quarterback play improves the production of WR Larry Fitzgerald, who had nine catches for 114 yards this week, after five catches for 67 yards through the first two games.

The ongoing battle in the Arizona backfield also appears to be tilting torwards RB Ryan Williams who had a productive game Sunday (95 yards, 14 touches), pulling him ahead of Beanie Wells (18 yards on eight carries, battling turf toe) in the battle for playing time.

COLTS RECEIVERS
While veteran Reggie Wayne remains tried and true for the Colts, there are a variety of other options. Last week, Donnie Avery had the big game. This week, it was T.Y. Hilton, the rookie wide receiver out of Florida International. The third-round pick had four receptions for 113 yards and one touchdown. With Austin Collie unable to stay healthy -- he played Sunday, but left with a knee injury -- there is room for Hilton to become a contributor, but he remains a player to watch at this stage.

While we're talking Colts, monitor tight end sleeper, Dwayne Allen, who had a touchdown in Week Two and five catches for 35 yards this week. Coby Fleener remains a viable target for the Colts, but there are enough two tight-end sets that Allen, a third-round pick out of Clemson, is worth monitoring.

MAKE A CHOICE
Buffalo was fortunate enough, when Fred Jackson was lost for at least a month, to have C.J. Spiller in reserve. Spiller was injured against Cleveland, though, leaving the running game in the capable hands of Tashard Choice (99 yards, 20 touches against Cleveland). Spiller is expected to miss a week or two with his shoulder injury, so Choice could have some value over the next couple weeks, though it shouldn't be overstated -- Buffalo hosts New England, then visits San Francisco the next two weeks and Jackson may be ready to return as soon as this week.

GROUNDED JETS
After losing CB Darrelle Revis for the season due to a knee injury, the rest of the Jets story isn't terribly important. Mark Sanchez is still struggling, as pointed out above, which means the spectre of Tim Tebow continues to linger. However, it's not as though the rest of the team is in fine shape.

RB Bilal Powell continues to push for playing time, competing with Shonn Greene. Over the last two weeks, Powell has run for 78 yards on 19 carries while Greene has 63 yards on 30 rushing attempts.

One bit of good news for the Jets was that WR Santonio Holmes had a big game (nine catches, 147 yards) against Miami.

HURTING BUSH
After a phenomenal start to the season, Dolphins RB Reggie Bush suffered a knee injury against the Jets on Sunday. The injury isn't expected to be serious, so Bush may not even miss a game but, if he does, Daniel Thomas (69 yds, 19 carries, 1 TD vs. Jets) and Lamar Miller (48 yards, nine carries) will get the touches for Miami.

CJ DONE?
As Titans RB Chris Johnson continues to slog his way through the 2012 season (29 yards on 15 touches vs. Detroit Sunday), it's fair to start wondering what can be done with a player who was one of the most dangerous offensive performers in the league prior to his holdout before the 2011 season.

Johnson has 45 yards on 33 rushes and no matter how ineffective the Titan's offensive line might be, that isn't good enough to keep the job. Because of his contract, Johnson is likely to keep getting chances but, based on the win over Detroit, Tennessee may be inclined to veer away from their running game anyway.

Titans QB Jake Locker (29-of-42, 378 yards, 2 TD) had an outstanding game against Detroit, completing at least two passes to six different wide receivers/tight ends in the process. Sure, the Lions secondary is a weakness, so the matchup made sense for Locker's big day, but with that many options, Locker could have increased value as the season progresses. Part of the reason for Locker spreading the ball around, however, is that TE Jared Cook (four catches, 77 yards, 1 TD) and WR Kenny Britt (six catches, 55 yards) both suffered injuries.

TITANIC D
Titans OLB Akeem Ayers registered 15 total tackles and a sack against Detroit; 49ers ILB NaVorro Bowman had 18 total tackles at Minnesota and Vikings OLB Chad Greenway finished with 11 total tackles and two sacks against San Francisco.

DEMARCO DENIED
Though he scored a touchdown against Tampa Bay, Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray had just 38 yards on 18 carries. After a big second half in the opening game against the Giants, Murray has 82 yards on 30 carries over the last two weeks. Trouble is, Felix Jones hasn't done enough to push for increased playing time in the Dallas backfield.

PASSING BUCS
It's not surprising, considering Josh Freeman's struggles at Dallas, but no one for Buccaneers had more than two catches against the Cowboys. There is some credit due to Dallas' corners, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, but if Freeman's game has gone south, that is trouble for Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, both of whom can be productive.

CHARGE
San Diego's miserable loss to Atlanta didn't give a real chance to show much offensively, but at least San Diego got RB Ryan Mathews (76 yards on 15 touches) back in the lineup, his first action since breaking his collarbone in the first week of the preseason.

SAFETY DANCE
Falcons S Thomas DeCoud (2 INT, 1 FR at San Diego) and Chargers SS Atari Bigby 15 total tackles were extraordinarily productive Sunday.

BRONCO BUSTERS
While Houston kept WR Demaryius Thomas under wraps, Broncos QB Peyton Manning still connected with wide receivers Eric Decker (8 rec. 136 yards) and Brandon Stokley (six rec. 73 yards, 1 TD). Manning may not have deep arm strength, but his 38-yard touchdown pass to Stokley was perfectly placed to a receiver in one-on-one coverage down the field.

GIANT RESERVES
Going into the Thursday night game, the Giants looked to be in trouble, with starters Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks (along with RT David Diehl) missing from the offence. However, RB Andre Brown (23 touches, 130 yards, 2 TD) and WR Ramses Barden (nine catches, 138 yards) more than made up for those losses and Giants TE Martellus Bennett continued his stellar start in his new uniform with six catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.

WES UP, GRONK DOWN?
In the absence of TE Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots, not surprisingly, put WR Wes Welker in a more prominent role (8 receptions, 142 yards, 1 TD) at Baltimore, but it was more shocking to see how little they used Rob Gronkowski (two catches, 21 yards, three targets). Since the start of last season, only one other time has Gronkowski been held under four catches for 30 yards, so that was a decided departure from the Patriots' recent usage of Gronk.

INJURIES
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit (leg)
C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo (shoulder)
Reggie Bush, RB, Miami (knee)
Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee (ankle)
Darrelle Revis, CB, N.Y. Jets (knee)
Willis McGahee, RB, Denver (ribs)
Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee (shoulder)
Laurent Robinson, WR, Jacksonville (concussion)
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Oakland (neck)
Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City (elbow)
Julian Edelman, WR, New England (hand)
Barry Church, S, Dallas (Achilles)
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jacksonville (knee)
Montell Owens, RB, Jacksonville (concussion)

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.

Jamaal Charles (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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