Every week in the Engel Eye, I'll take a look at some key performances from Sunday. We'll determine which players are ones to keep watching, and I'll pinpoint emerging trends.
A new kind of Lion: In a 16-7 road win over the Bears, the Lions looked like a completely different team than fantasy players expected. Instead of lighting up the scoreboard as they did earlier this season, the surprising 5-2 team won on the road with a solid mixture of good running and timely defensive plays. Kevin Jones is showing no lingering signs of health issues and has re-emerged as a solid fantasy starter. He rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown and has scored in four of his past five games. He should be locked into lineups as a regular No. 2 back. Jones is running well inside and making defenders miss when he gets to the second level, and also is proving to be a dependable runner in the red zone. The Lions also picked off Brian Griese four times and have allowed only 23 points in their past two games. Fantasy owners should seriously consider starting this defense. Unfortunately, though, the more balanced effort has hurt the passing game. Jon Kitna has not thrown a touchdown pass in three consecutive games, and Roy Williams has only 136 receiving yards during that span. Owners of Kitna and the top Detroit wide receivers should consider other options, if possible, until the air attack shows signs of coming around again. That shouldn't take too long; effective running will give Kitna more time to throw and should loosen up defenses that will now start respecting Jones again.
Steel reign: Pittsburgh certainly isn't going to challenge New England in offensive output, but many of their top offensive starters looked good in a 24-13 win over the Bengals, and fantasy owners can continue to lean heavily on the Steelers for quality production. Ben Roethlisberger was not statistically outstanding, but he was certainly efficient; he threw for 230 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Roethlisberger made quick, crisp reads and delivered accurate throws when pressured or flushed out of the pocket. You don't necessarily need a superstar quarterback to win a fantasy championship, and Roethlisberger already has thrown 15 touchdown passes in seven games, three short of his career high. Wide receiver Hines Ward caught both of Roethlisberger's scoring passes and finished with eight catches for 88 yards. He is getting open regularly on key downs and should be eased back into your lineup. Santonio Holmes caught six passes for 87 yards, so you can keep starting him with no worries. Most importantly, Willie Parker rushed for 126 yards and scored on a one-yard run in the second quarter. There was no sign of "touchdown vulture" Najeh Davenport in the goal-line situation. Parker might not get all the short-yardage chances in the near future, but he certainly won't be out of the mix when the Steelers get close to the goal line in the weeks ahead.