Eli Manning, Giants
Manning has been on fire over the past two games, torching the Cowboys and Seahawks secondaries in consecutive road games. He lit up the Cowboys for 306 yards and four touchdowns before piling on the Seahawks for 290 yards and three scores. The Giants face one top-ten pass defense over the remainder of the season. That comes in Week 14 when they play the Vikings 10th ranked pass defense in Minnesota but the Vikings may be in a position to mail that one in. As for his reputation of late season swoons, Manning put that to rest last year by averaging 26.1 points per game from Weeks 14 to 16.
Brett Favre, Vikings
Favre had easily his best outing of the season this week, going 37 of 46 for 446 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Cardinals. Bernard Berrian finally stepped up and contributed at wide receiver and Sidney Rice is apparently close to returning. Each factors bodes well for Favre. That being said, it was the Cardinals and he did throw a pair of picks which tempers my enthusiasm somewhat.
David Garrard, Jaguars
I’m a little late on this one but I should have given Garrard more credit for his four touchdowns and 260 yards in Week 8. However, I’m not totally sold since it came against the Cowboys. Garrard is Mr. Inconsistency this season. In his four good games, he has averaged 26.3 points per game. In his three bad ones, he’s averaged 7.9.
Tom Brady, Patriots
It’s official. Without Randy Moss, Tom Brady is not a top-ten fantasy quarterback. In four games without Moss, Brady has averaged 229 passing yards, thrown for five touchdowns and averaged 16.5 fantasy points per game. Not to mention that he benefitted during that stretch from getting an extra quarter from an overtime game against Baltimore. Surprisingly, Brady hasn’t thrown for 300 yards in a game since Week 13 of last season. With defenses clamping down on Wes Welker, Brandon Tate not providing the deep threat, and tight end Aaron Hernandez not piling up the yardage like many thought he would (yours truly included), Brady is likely to finish out of the fantasy top ten.
Matt Schaub, Texans
Here’s another disappointment. I gave up on him this week and maybe you should too. With his 266 yard, no touchdown performance against the Chargers this week, Schaub dropped further down the rankings at quarterback and it’s past time to seriously consider whether his 4,844-yard performance last season was a fluke. Once Arian Foster opened the season on fire against the Colts, we knew the Texans would run it more. We just didn’t know that Schaub would also become less effective. Toss aside his 37 fantasy points in Week 2 against the Redskins and Schaub is averaging just 14.8 points per game.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants
Jacobs failed to hit double digits fantasy points this week, ending his streak of 10 or more fantasy points at four games. Nonetheless, he was still solid against the Seahawks, gaining 78 yards on 11 carries, and he would have had more than 10 points had Danny Ware not handled the fourth quarter mop up work (66 yards on 13 carries). With the Giants offense humming along nicely, Jacobs makes a solid option at the flex position and even as a low-end RB2 for certain matchups. That’s a big jump from his status after the first few games of 2010.
Chester Taylor, Bears
Matt Forte is Moving Down and Taylor is Moving Up. At a minimum, Taylor is going to get the goal line work and more time spelling Forte. Or maybe he takes over as the team’s starter over the next few weeks. More on this below…
Javarris James, Colts
Well, it was a slow week in terms of Moving Up for running backs so James cracked the list. With the Colts missing both Joseph Addai and Mike Hart, Donald Brown and James carried the load with James getting the short yardage work. He made the most of it, scoring two touchdowns in his four carries and gaining 12 yards. In deep leagues that use a flex, he might be worth considering since there are no indications when Addai will return and neither Brown nor Hart are good short yardage runners. James may hold down that role for a number of weeks and this just in, the Colts offense is good.
Matt Forte, Bears
Forte has been boom or bust in 2010, likely earning wins for his owners in Week 1 and Week 5 with 32 and 30 point performances. In his other six games, he has averaged 7.5 points per game. This week against Buffalo, the expectation was Forte would run all over the Bills 32nd ranked run defense but it didn’t happen as he finished with just 49 yards on 14 carries. Worse yet, Chester Taylor had his highest workload since Week 5 and took over the short yardage, scoring his first touchdown of the season. Could there be a changing of the guard going on in Chicago? Maybe and it doesn’t help that the Bears face run defenses ranked in the top half of the league five times in their next seven games.
Fred Jackson, Bills
Jackson put up a decent fantasy line this week but that was courtesy of scoring a touchdown against the Bears. He had just 16 yards on eight carries and 20 receiving yards on five receptions. The Bills have been getting rookie first round pick C.J. Spiller more involved over the last three weeks and with Jackson struggling to provide any big plays (he’s averaging 3.1 yards per touch over that stretch), look for Spiller to assume an even bigger role over the coming weeks. Jackson owners should be looking for help at the running back position if they are relying on him as a starter.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews actually looked good when he was in the game against the Texans, gaining 42 yards on nine carries and catching two passes for 18 yards. Then he got hurt… again. Apparently he was seen with a walking boot on his right foot to help his ankle recuperate. Luckily the Chargers have a Week 10 bye to help Mathews heal. However, at this point, it’s clear that Mathews can’t be relied upon to stay healthy long enough to assume a productive role in the team’s offense.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant is quickly emerging as the Cowboys top wide receiver – an astonishing accomplishment given Miles Austin’s production in 2009. Over the last three games, Bryant has been targeted 26 times, catching 20 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns. During that stretch, Austin has 12 receptions for 171 yards and no touchdowns on 26 targets. Move Bryant up to WR2 status over the remainder of the season.
Nate Burleson, Lions
With Calvin Johnson spending Week 9 on Revis Island, Burleson stepped to the forefront of the Lions passing attack to snag seven receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. That gives him 24 receptions on 34 targets for 266 yards and three touchdowns over the last four weeks. He’s had double-digit fantasy points three times over that stretch and is emerging as a low end WR2 or high end WR3. Johnson won’t get shut down like that over the balance of the season but Burleson is getting enough looks to keep producing on a consistent basis.
Jacoby Ford, Raiders
With the Raiders hurting at receiver, Ford got a chance to show off his speed during Oakland’s game against the Chiefs this week. And show off he did, catching six passes for 148 yards. The rookie fourth round pick from Clemson has wheels to burn and since neither Louis Murphy nor Darrius Heyward-Bey has proven able to produce on a consistent basis or stay healthy, maybe Ford will emerge as the Raiders go-to guy at wide receiver. He’s definitely worth a look in all leagues, especially in dynasty formats.
James Jones, Packers
In my Dave’s Take column this week, I incorrectly pegged Jordy Nelson as the Packers wide receiver to benefit from Donald Driver’s absence. Oops. Jones proved his worth, going off on the Cowboys, catching eight of his nine targets for 123 yards and a score. The Packers have a bye this week and Driver should return from his thigh injury for their Week 11 contest but James becomes a decent flex option in larger leagues.
A Word of Caution On….
Seyi Ajirotutu, Chargers
Arjirotutu won a few games for his fantasy owners brave enough to start him this week (I was on the wrong side of that equation) with his four receptions, 111 yards, and two touchdown performance against the Texans. However, if there was ever a perfect storm, this was it. He beat Texans beleaguered first round pick Kareem Jackson twice for long touchdowns and was only starting because Vincent Jackson is suspended, and Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee were injured. Plus, tight end Antonio Gates didn’t play and didn’t eat up any targets. The Chargers have a bye this week and Floyd and Naanee should be back for Week 11 with Jackson eligible to return from suspension in Week 12.
Steve Smith, Panthers
Removing the 2004 season when he missed most of the year with a leg injury, Smith is on pace for his worst production since his rookie season in 2001. He is projected to finish the year with just 636 receiving yards and four touchdowns, proving that wide receivers are a fickle beast in fantasy football – subject to a team’s ability to run the ball and, more importantly, the quality of the team’s play at quarterback. In Carolina, Smith has suffered from both factors in 2010. The team can’t run effectively and the quarterback situation has been abysmal. With a pair of rookies (Jimmy Clausen or Tony Pike) expected to finish the season starting, it’s doubtful that Smith will turn his season around any time soon.
Jacoby Jones, Texans
Jones was touted as a potential breakout wide receiver in 2010 but it hasn’t happened and it doesn’t look like it will. He put up a number of big plays in limited action last year but hasn’t responded to a bigger role this season. With Kevin Walter relegated to a backup role and tight end Owen Daniels struggling to recover from the torn ACL he suffered last season, Jones has had plenty of opportunities – he just hasn’t taken advantage of them. He is averaging 9.9 yards per reception and has only one touchdown – a far cry from last season when he averaged 16.6 yards per catch and caught six touchdowns. I’m not giving up on him in dynasty formats but he’s worth dropping in shallow redraft leagues.
Jacob Tamme, Colts
I told you he was moving up last week (okay, I like to toot my horn a bit) and this week, he’s moving way up, courtesy of his 11 reception, 108 yard, one touchdown performance this week against the Eagles. With Austin Collie out a minimum of one week and likely more with a concussion, Anthony Gonzalez on injured reserve and Blair White not likely manning the slot position, Tamme figure to get significant targets over the balance of the season. He won’t likely top the seventeen he had this week since that came about because the Eagles Assante Samuel effectively blanketed Pierre Garcon. However, he is a top ten tight end from here on out.
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
For the first time in his career, Gonzalez has showed signs of wear and tear. In eight games, he has topped 50 yards receiving only twice, a surprising statistic considering the Falcons were without Michael Jenkins for several games to start the season. In Week 9, he had eight receptions for 72 yards and if there is anything at all to wide receiver Roddy White’s knee injury, Gonzalez will see his role increased. The Falcons and White are saying there aren’t any issues with his knee but if there aren’t, then why did he sit out practice? Move Gonzo up your tight end rankings based on that news.
Dustin Keller, Jets
The touchdown well has run dry for Keller. After scoring four times in three games, he has failed to find the end zone over the Jets past four contests. During that stretch, Santonio Holmes returned from suspension and Keller’s has caught just 11 balls for 193 yards. His targets are down (30 in four games without Holmes and just 22 in four games with Holmes in the lineup).