Matt Cassel, Chiefs
The good news is that Cassel is heating up as we’re going through bye weeks. The bad news is that he’s on a bye in Week 6. Rats. Over the last two weeks, Cassel has looked like the player we expected entering the season, solid but far from spectacular. He had his best fantasy game of the year against the Colts, throwing for 257 yards and four touchdowns, one week after throwing for 260 yards and a score against the Vikings. Here’s his schedule beginning in Week 7: Raiders (28th ranked pass defense), Chargers (2nd – okay, not so good), Dolphins (27th), Broncos (21st), Patriots (31st), Steelers (1st), Bears (26th), Jets (5th), Packers (29th) and Raiders (28th). That’s right through to Fantasy Football Championship Games in Week 16 and it looks pretty darn nice.
Curtis Painter, Colts
Turns out Painter’s not quite as clueless as he led us to believe during significant playing time in a pair of games to close out the 2009 season and in most of his preseason contests. With the Colts in desperation mode, Painter has started each of Indianapolis’ last two games and looked solid, completing 28 of 59 passes for 558 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions. That’s pretty impressive considering the state of the Colts offensive line (they were horrendous during Painter’s first start against the Bucs).
Tim Tebow, Broncos
It’s Tebow time. Help yourself to what surely will be the one of the most up and down fantasy quarterbacks for the balance of the 2011 season. The Broncos were surely looking to find a reason to insert Tebow into the starting line up and incumbent starter Kyle Orton provided it this week with a dud of a performance against the Charges. The good news is that Tebow is his own goal line back and has seven rushing touchdowns (including one this week) in just 12 career games. The bad news is that it often looks like he’s throwing to opposing cornerbacks as much as his own wide receivers. Dig in for a wild ride, folks.
Mark Sanchez, Jets
Frustration. If you own Sanchez in a dynasty league, that’s what you’re feeling. He’s blown hot and cold for much of his career but appeared ready to emerge as an upper tier fantasy backup after three decent outings to start the season where he averaged 25.9 fantasy points per game. Unfortunately, his combined point total over his last two games (Ravens and Patriots) didn’t hit 25.9 – try 22.6 including a true Week 4 dud against the Ravens with just 6.3. That one you could excuse him for but just 16.3 fantasy points on 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a very poor Patriots secondary is cause for concern.
Jackie Battle, Chiefs
While it’s difficult to say with certainty that Battle is a big upgrade over Thomas Jones, he did get a healthy dose of playing time this week and he certainly made the most it. In the first extensive playing time of his career, Battle had 19 carries for 119 yards and two receptions for 21 yards. His 21 touches topped the Chiefs running backs with Thomas Jones getting 12 and Dexter McCluster just five. That doesn’t mean Battle has earned the starting position for the balance of the season but it does mean he’s earned it for the time being. The Chiefs have a Week 6 bye followed by a stretch of games where they face run defenses ranked 12th or lower until they face the Packers 3rd ranked run defense in Week 15. Lightning in a bottle perhaps? You never know.
Delone Carter and Donald Brown, Colts
Starter Joseph Addai injured his hamstring this week against the Chiefs and initial reports indicate he will miss 1-3 weeks. That opens the door Carter and Brown and if this week is any indication, the Colts will ride the hot hand. Brown had been left for dead but looked like the better back of the two this week with 38 yards on eight carries. Can’t say I’d want to have to rely on either one and it’s possible this situation will remain muddled until Addai returns. Only for the desperate.
Willis McGahee, Broncos
Okay, enough already. The Broncos have clearly given up on 2009 1st round pick Knowshon Moreno. When you’ve handed the lead role to the plodding McGahee, what other conclusion can be reached? On the plus side, McGahee has topped 100 yards in three of the past four weeks. Sure, the Broncos are facing soft defenses and they play from behind but McGahee is making the most of the opportunities and it’s not like the Broncos are about ready to turn their season around, Tim Tebow or no Tim Tebow.
Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers
With Rashard Mendenhall out with a hamstring injury and replacement starter Isaac Redman suffering from cramps, Dwyer stepped into the fray and showed why Pittsburgh used a 2010 6th round pick to acquire him. Dwyer had easily his best game as a pro, gaining 107 yards on 11 carries and catching a pass for six yards. The Jaguars are on tap in Week 6 and if Mendenhall can’t go, Dwyer has likely earned at least 1/3rd of the carries in a split role with Redman.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
After having two solid performances during the first three games of the season, LT has become a forgotten man in New York with just seven touches over the last two games. Looks like the Jets are making a concerted effort to get Shonn Greene going and he posted his best game of the season this week against the Patriots. That doesn’t bode well for LT owners.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
See above. Relegated to 3rd down duty and nothing more. This week, that meant not one single carry. Ignore the fantasy point total which was padded with a receiving touchdown.
Dexter McCluster, Chiefs
McCluster’s touches have gone from 15 to 10 to 5 … hard to be productive without the ball. So much for McCluster being the back to attempt to replace Jamaal Charles’ production.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
Has the light finally gone on for the much maligned Raiders 2009 1st round pick? Heyward-Bey has been a colossal bust for the first two years of his career but he has shown a glimpse of promise over the past two weeks. He looked solid against the Patriots in Week 4, catching four of seven targets for 115 yards and again this week against the Texans, catching seven passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Denarius Moore and 2nd year player Jacoby Ford were getting all the fantasy love as the Raiders wide receivers to own but Ford has been a bust and Heyward-Bey has been getting the looks in the games that both he and Moore have played (29 to 18). You know the adage – it’s all about opportunity.
Victor Cruz, Giants
Do I truly believe? Not really. But there’s no denying two things: 1. Cruz is on a hot streak and 2. quarterback Eli Manning is looking his way. Cruz’s targets have went from 5 to 9 to 11 over the past three weeks, a period in which he has caught 17 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns. The guy seems to have a knack for making big plays. Mario Manningham is too good not to start eating into at least some of that production but Cruz is definitely startable until he proves otherwise.
Pierre Garcon, Colts
If you’ve ever read my column, you know I’m not a Pierre Garcon fan. But I am warming up to him now that he’s become new starting quarterback Curtis Painter’s favorite target in the passing game. Painter has looked his way 16 times during his past two starts compared to 15 for Reggie Wayne, with Garcon catching seven of those targets for 271 yards and four touchdowns. Hey, some of it has been on broken coverages and some of it the result of bad tackling but points are points.
Steve Breaston, Chiefs
The Chiefs offense has come around over the past two weeks and Breaston is making the most of his limited targets – just in time to help his owners through their bye weeks. He’s also shaping up as a decent flex play in leagues that employ that position, with eight receptions on ten targets for 141 yards and a pair of scores over the last two weeks. Turns out a rising tide lifts all boats in Kansas City and the Chiefs increased offensive production is extending to Breaston’s performance.
James Jones, Packers
I’ll be honest – it doesn’t take as much to impress me once the bye weeks hit. Hello, James Jones. Three week scrub becomes solid two week starter becomes who knows what. With so many solid receiving options in Green Bay, Jones’ nice two-week stretch of eight receptions for 188 yards and a pair of scores might mean nothing in the Packers Week 6 game against the Rams. Of course, it’s the Rams who are down to Al Harris, Justin King, Rod Hood, Josh Gordy and Brian Jackson at cornerback. That ain’t pretty, folks. Start all your Packers.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers
He was Moving Up last week when he probably didn’t deserve and after a two reception, 36-yard performance, he probably doesn’t deserve it this week. But who exactly is going to catch the ball for the 49ers? Braylon Edwards remains out and Josh Morgan suffered a broken leg during this week’s blowout win over the Buccaneers. That leaves Crabtree and Ted Ginn Jr. as the team’s starter and T.J. Houshmandzadeh was brought in for a workout. Hey, the 49ers did score 41 points this week.
Jacoby Jones, Texans
With Andre Johnson out of the line up, Jones got a Moving Up last week with a qualifier that it was “as tepid a Moving Up as you’ll ever find.” If you watched any of this week’s Texans-Raiders contest, what you saw was a quarterback not on the same page with his wide receiver. If Jones wasn’t running an out pattern at the wrong depth, then it was a slant at the wrong depth. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen less chemistry between a quarterback and a wide receiver. By game’s end, Jones had caught one of eleven targets. The sad parts are that these two have been playing together since Jones came into the league in 2007 and it’s not like Jones doesn’t have talent. He just can’t get do anything with it.
Mike Williams, Bucs
Well, I’ve waited long enough and it’s time for Williams to be Moving Down. When you are the lead receiver on a team that got crushed 48-3 and all you contribute is four receptions for 28 yards despite a healthy dose of garbage time opportunity and you’ve been a disappointment for four straight games, you’re Moving Down. It’s that simple. The big plays that were there in 2010 have dried up for Williams who is averaging just 9.6 yards per reception and has just one touchdown thus far in 2011. He’s benchable, folks, and I don’t care if the bye weeks are here.
Jacoby Ford, Raiders
Hello, little used little slot receiver. Preseason reports of Ford’s ascension to top dog status amongst the Raiders wide receivers were great exaggerated (mea culpa). I no longer believe and neither should you.
Owen Daniels, Texans
Meet the fantasy beneficiary of Andre Johnson’s absence. Daniels finally looks like he’s back to being the player he was before suffering a serious knee injury at the midway point of the 2009 season. With Johnson out, Daniels had 11 targets this week, catching seven for 89 yards. Since a poor Week 1 outing, Daniels has caught 20 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns and appears ready to reclaim his role as a top five fantasy tight end.
Jake Ballard, Giants
The bye weeks are here and there have been some disappointing tight ends and a couple that are banged up. Hello, Jake Ballard. If you’re desperate, Ballard has scored in each of his last two games (six receptions for 105 yards on seven targets) and has a solid looking schedule on the horizon with Bills 25th ranked defense up followed by a Week 7 bye, the Dolphins (27th), Patriots (31st) and 49ers (22nd). The lack of targets doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies but the touchdowns just might keep coming.
Dustin Keller, Jets
Last year, it lasted four weeks. This year, it last three. Two in 2012? After a solid first three weeks to open the season (16 receptions for 249 yards and a pair of touchdowns), eerily reminiscent of his first four weeks in 2010 (19 receptions for 254 yards and five touchdowns), Keller has gone stone cold with just three receptions for 19 yards over his past two games. Looks like Keller is well on his way to finishing 2011 like he finished 2010, when he caught 36 passes for 433 yards and no touchdowns over his final 12 games.
Dallas Clark, Colts
It seems like it happens to one stud tight end every year and this year, it is Clark’s turn. The O-line turns turnstile and the tight end has to block. Welcome to Clark’s world. He’s averaging just 5.6 targets per game after averaging 8.4 during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. And with the Colts offense struggling for much of 2011, it’s not like Clark has made up for the lack of looks by finding the end zone more often (one touchdown this season). He’s officially benchable.