Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Big Ben is back on track in Pittsburgh and put up perhaps his finest game of the season this week at home against New England. He threw 50 passes, completing 36 for 365 yards and 2 touchdowns with 1 pick. Over the past four weeks, he is averaging 25.7 points per game and that is with a subpar stat line in a Week 6 win over Jacksonville when the Steelers went ultraconservative (23 pass attempts). Consider Roethlisberger just outside the top tier of quarterbacks for the remainder of 2011.
Tim Tebow, Broncos
Tebow was Moving Up last week but I did qualify by pointing out that my opinion of him as an NFL starting quarterback was pretty low. If that sounds like a whole lot of excuse making, that’s because it is. In two starts this season, Tebow has been horrible for 115 of 120 minutes. Five solid minutes in two games does not make you a QB1. If Tebow keeps this up, Broncos management will banish him to the bench first and to running back in 2012 and Denver’s fans will have nothing to say about it. If you’re looking for Vegas style odds, how about 3 to 1 to Tebow’s a running back next season.
John Beck, Redskins
Man, I was bad at quarterback last week. Beck was also Moving Up but at least this one’s not entirely on me. The Redskins offensive line was absolutely putrid this week, allowing nine sacks against a Bills defense that had generated just four sacks in their first six games. As mentioned in my Dave’s Take column on Friday, the Redskins have replaced or lost starters at five offensive positions since opening day. Beck threw 33 passes, was forced to run three times and took the nine sacks, hitting the turf 23 times. If that’s not an indictment of the team’s offensive line, then what is? Conclusion: it’s going to take a few weeks for the Shanahan boys to overcome the loss of so many offensive players from a team that lacked talent and playmakers on offense even when everyone is healthy.
Fred Jackson, Bills
Who would you rather start – Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte or Fred Jackson? At the start of the season, I don’t think anybody thought Jackson (or Forte for that matter) would be in that conversation but Jackson has morphed into a top five running back and there’s basically no reason why that should change over the remainder of the season.
Steven Jackson, Rams
With the Rams hoping for a prayer against the Saints this week, SJax (and the team’s defense) delivered big time, going for over 100 rushing yards for the first time since Week 13 of last season. Jackson basically carried the offense in workhorse fashion, gaining 159 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 carries and catching four passes for 32 yards. With their horrendous early season schedule out of the way, the Rams now get their NFC West division rivals twice each in addition to Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh over their remaining nine games with San Francisco’s stingy run defense in Week 17. If that sounds yummy, that’s because it is.
Arian Foster, Texans
With 499 rushing yards, 310 receiving yards and five touchdowns over the last five weeks, looks like we can put those hammy issues to rest. This is a reminder to consider Foster a top five running back over the remainder of the schedule.
Javon Ringer, Titans
With Chris Johnson continuing to struggle, the Titans ramped up Ringer’s use for the first time this season. In a 27-10 win over the Colts, Ringer matched Johnson’s 14 rush attempts and caught five passes – two more than Johnson. The questions are whether the plan was to use Ringer more or whether the score dictated his extra use and what is the plan going forward? After the game head coach Mike Munchak stated that the Titans would ride the hot hand. There is no question that Ringer was more productive in Week 8, gaining 102 yards on his 19 touches compared to Johnson’s 51 yards on 17 touches. Don’t be surprised if Ringer ends up being the hot hand in Week 9.
Joseph Addai, Colts
Hopefully Addai owners didn’t start him this week based on the pregame reports of being active. While he dressed, he didn’t play and the plan was to only use him in an emergency situation. With another week of rest, Addai’s injured hamstring should be good to go in Week 9 against the Falcons. Neither Delone Carter nor Donald Brown did enough to claim the starting gig during Addai’s absence and it’s possible that they will both be relegated to pure backup status in a couple of weeks. Indy’s offense is a horror show but Addai was reasonably productive during the first four games of the year when he was healthy.
Ryan Torain, Redskins
On the positive side, Torain had eight carries this week to none for rookie Roy Helu. On the negative side, he gained just 14 yards, often getting hit in the backfield, and now has just 31 yards on 20 carries over three games since his big Week 4 against the Rams. While the performance of the offensive line is largely to blame, you can almost guarantee that head coach Mike Shanahan will turn to Helu in hopes of sparking his dormant offense which is averaging 11 points per game over the last three games and 16.6 points per game for the season.
Chris Johnson, Titans
See Javon Ringer above. Consider Johnson officially benchable.
Montario Hardesty, Browns
Hardesty is working hard to prove that the label he had coming out of college of being injury prone was bang on. Last year, he tore his ACL in training camp and he’s been nicked up this season and will likely miss time due to a moderate tear in his right calf. So, just when it looks like the Browns may have given up on Peyton Hillis and Hardesty’s got a chance to be the BMOC, he pulls up lame.
Laurent Robinson, Cowboys
Robinson was Moving Up a couple of weeks back with the proviso that he was more of an option in deeper leagues considering that Dallas’ starting wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant seemed to be taking turns on the inactive list. It turns out that their being injured isn’t a prerequisite for Robinson to get a solid number of looks in the team’s offense. Granted it was in a blowout loss but Robinson had eight targets, catching five passes for 103 yards and a touchdown this week against the Eagles. And just as importantly, the guy has looked good when given an opportunity, catching 19 of 28 targets this season for 336 yards and a score.
James Jones, Packers
Jordy Nelson has cooled down after two solid fantasy performances to start the season and has now posted three duds in his last five outings. Meanwhile, after three duds to start the season, Jones has been catching everything in sight. Over his last four games, he has caught 13 of his 16 targets for 286 yards and three touchdowns. Right now, I would be more comfortable starting Jones than Nelson.
Anquan Boldin, Ravens
After posting just one double-digit fantasy point performance over the first four weeks of the season, it seemed Boldin was on the verge of becoming a low end WR3 in 2011. However, he has come on strong over the past three weeks and Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron may finally have figured out how to best utilize Boldin’s talents. Geez, only took a year and a half. With 33 targets, 19 receptions, 317 yards and a score over the past three games, Boldin may be ready to emerge from his Baltimore slumber to become the high-end WR2 most expected when he moved from the Cardinals to the Ravens.
Jonathan Baldwin, Chiefs
The Chiefs rookie 1st round pick made his first big contributions this week against the Chargers, getting targeted eight times and catching five balls for 82 yards, including a nice 39-yard touchdown reception. Better yet, while Baldwin didn’t start, he was on the field opposite Dwayne Bowe in almost all two receiver formations, relegating Steve Breaston to more of a third receiver role. With Bowe getting plenty of attention from opposing defenses and no threat at tight end, Baldwin may be useful of the second half of the season. His stat line would have looked even better had he not had a drop.
Antonio Brown, Steelers
With Hines Ward out, Brown stepped up for the Steelers against the Patriots this week, catching nine passes for 67 yards and his first touchdown of the season. The Patriots basically left the middle of the field wide open for much of the day and the Steelers took advantage of it, with Brown getting a whopping 15 targets. Ward figures to return from an ankle injury this week and Emmanuel Sanders actually started over Brown, but it is Brown who has been the team’s second most productive wide receiver behind Mike Wallace thus far in 2011. Just a note that I like Sanders better in dynasty leagues.
Santonio Holmes, Jets
Mea culpa. Should have had Holmes here last week courtesy of his two reception, 24-yard performance in Week 7 against the Chargers. He was supposed to be the Jets top threat at wide receiver this season, and while that may be the case, he hasn’t exactly been producing much and his three touchdowns have saved his fantasy performance from being truly abysmal. Why? He’s not seeing the ball. Taking away his games against the Cowboys and Ravens where he had 22 targets, Holmes averaged 3.8 targets per game in his five other starts. That’s not receptions, folks. Oh yeah, he hasn’t topped 70 receiving yards in a single game and has five games with less than 50 receiving yards. Add it all up and Holmes shapes up as a guy who needs to score a touchdown to be useful. Can you say bust?
DeSean Jackson, Eagles
The last time I had DJax Moving Down, he responded with a six reception, 171 yard performance against the 49ers and followed that up with a five reception, 86 yard, one touchdown performance against the Bills. Since then, defenses have clamped down on him once again and he has just six receptions for 77 yards over his last two games. Talented, yes. Ridiculously streaky, you bet.
Brandon Marshall, Dolphins
Consider the prospect of Marshall returning to top ten status at wide receiver officially dead. After a nice pair of games to start the season, Marshall has gone cold. He has been held under 62 receiving yards four out of the past five games and failed to score in all of those games. At this point, he is on pace to finish the season with two touchdowns, one less than the three he had last season. Basically, Marshall is being held back by poor quarterback play and a Dolphins offense that is averaging 13.1 points per game and has topped 20 points just once in 2011.
Brent Celek, Eagles
Celek has been a forgotten man in the Eagles passing attack for the past year and half but with defenses focused on shutting down wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the outside, Philadelphia has attacked the middle of the field over their past two games… and that’s been good news for Celek. He has been targeted nine times in each of the Eagles past two games, catching a touchdown in each contest with eleven receptions and 136 receiving yards over the two game span.
Jared Cook, Titans
Take away an 80-yard touchdown reception in Week 7 against the Browns and Cook is averaging a whopping 3.6 fantasy points per game. It certainly looks his fantasy owners should give up on the prospect of Cook having a breakout campaign. And with four targets over the past two weeks, it certainly looks like the Titans have too.