Peyton Manning, Broncos
Stating the obvious? Yes, but sometimes you need to. With four touchdowns and 327 passing yards, Manning was the leading point scorer at QB in Week 4—in three quarters worth of work! He is on pace to finish the season with 5,880 yards and 64 touchdown passes. And the Broncos offense shows no signs of letting up, averaging 41.3 PPG (removing Trindon Holliday’s two returns for touchdowns).
Matt Cassel, Vikings
Cassel was hardly great this week, with 16 completions on 25 attempts for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but the Vikings won and he showed an ability to make opposing defenses pay for stacking the box. That’s more than can be said for incumbent starter Christian Ponder, and that likely guarantees that Cassel stays in the starting lineup until Minnesota loses. And they can’t lose this week because they are on a bye.
Brian Hoyer, Browns
It’s hard to hold your nose while you type but Hoyer faces passing defenses ranked 28th or lower in four of the next five weeks. With the Browns having won both of his starts, it’s hard to see head coach Rob Chudzinski sitting him down, so don’t believe any signals coming from Cleveland suggesting otherwise.
Joe Flacco, Ravens
How do you throw for 347 yards and a pair of touchdowns and get the Moving Down treatment? Simple, take into account Flacco’s five interceptions, the injuries the Ravens have at the wide receiver and tight end positions, and the absolutely abysmal and incomprehensible game plan that resulted in 54 dropbacks and just nine runs. Let’s make the calculated assumption that the Ravens will start leaning on the run game a lot more beginning in Week 5.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
So much for the notion that the Seahawks would open it up on offense in 2013. Wilson is averaging just 24 pass attempts and 196.8 passing yards per game. Against a solid Texans defense this week, he struggled to complete 12 of his 23 attempts for just 123 yards. Wilson rates as a matchup play until he proves otherwise.
Reggie Bush, Lions
In the two games in which he has been healthy, Bush has accumulated 229 rushing yards, 135 receiving yards and a pair of scores while averaging 7.7 yards per touch. Let’s just say that he has found the perfect fit in Detroit. You can mark it down that if Bush can stay healthy, he will be a top five fantasy RB at season’s end.
Arian Foster, Texans
Apparently, the reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. After three subpar efforts in which he failed to top 100 total yards in any game, Foster went off against a stout Seahawks defense with 102 rushing yards and six receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, in a game viewed as a potential Super Bowl preview, backup Ben Tate had just eight touches to Foster’s 33. History has shown that the Texans lean on Foster in big games, and it showed again this week.
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
In his first game as a pro, Bell was hardly dynamic with 16 rushes for 57 yards and four receptions for 27 yards. He did find the end zone twice, however, and his backups totaled just five touches. The Steelers follow a Week 5 bye with tough matchups against the Jets (6th-ranked run defense) and Ravens (4th), then with four softies, two more tough ones, and a very reasonable stretch from Weeks 14–16.
Fred Jackson, Bills
Although Jackson suffered a sprained MCL, he has said that he will be a go this week. Meanwhile, C.J. Spiller suffered an ankle injury and will either be kept out or limited during the Bills’ Thursday night matchup against the Browns. Despite playing as a backup, FJax is on pace to finish the season with 1,024 rushing yards, 404 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. That is mid-tier RB2 status, folks.
Doug Martin, Bucs
When the Bucs benched Josh Freeman, I had an inkling that Martin would be Moving Down this week. I just didn’t think it would be this ugly, with Martin managing just 45 yards on 27 carries against the Cardinals.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
Playing in quite possibly the worst offense ever, MJD is on pace to finish the season with 552 rushing yards, 100 receiving yards and four touchdowns while the Jaguars are averaging less than eight points per game. Ugh!
Daryl Richardson, Rams
If there is one thing that Richardson has proven this year, it’s that he is not a feature back. After one and a half games of subpar play, he was hurt in Week 2 against the Falcons, causing him to miss Week 3. In his return this week against the 49ers, he was abysmal with 16 yards on 12 carries.
Isaiah Pead, Rams
Not just ineffective… Benched. As in stuck behind an ineffective Richardson, rookie fifth-round pick Zac Stacy, and rookie undrafted free agent Bennie Cunningham. It’s been a tough sled for the Rams’ 2012 second-round pick.
Kenbrell Thompkins, Patriots
After struggling somewhat in his first three pro games, Thompkins went off against the Falcons this week with six receptions for 127 yards and a score. Better yet, he had 11 targets to just three for Aaron Dobson, giving some clues as to which receiver will continue to get looks when Rob Gronkowski returns to the lineup.
Greg Jennings, Vikings
With Matt Cassel subbing in for an injured Christian Ponder, Jennings came to life with three receptions for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Jeff Maehl, Eagles
With Riley Cooper struggling, those in deep leagues can keep an eye on this cat (who I know nothing about). All I know is that Cooper can’t get open (8 rec. on 18 targets) and Maehl hauled in both of his targets for 43 yards and a score this week. The Eagles will chuck it, and Cooper has proven that he’s nothing more than a backup.
Austin Pettis, Rams
This is a begrudging Moving Up. Pettis is averaging just under eight targets per game and is getting looks in the red zone with a pair of touchdowns. For whatever reason, Sam Bradford likes throwing it to him, and that counts for something when the Rams running game is struggling as badly as it is.
Hakeem Nicks, Giants
A free agent at season’s end on a team with major salary cap problems in 2014, Nicks is playing his way right out of New York. After his second consecutive dud (3 for 33 against the Chiefs after an 0-fer the previous week), Nicks doesn’t even rank as a top 50 receiver, with just 230 yards and no touchdowns.
Golden Tate & Sidney Rice, Seahawks
Rice needs to score touchdowns to be a useful fantasy option, and that’s something Tate can only dream of in 2013. Both of these players need to be on your bench until they prove otherwise.
Kenny Stills, Saints
After a solid Week 1 performance, Stills has gone stone cold with just five receptions for 48 yards over the Saints’ last three games. That’s not the kind of explosive playmaking they were expecting, and that could have Stills riding the pine in favor of Robert Meachem if he doesn’t get things back on track.
Antonio Gates, Chargers
In another instance of a player’s demise being greatly exaggerated, we present Antonio Gates. Gates shredded the Cowboys linebackers and safeties this week for ten receptions, 136 yards and a score. He remains a strong option in the red zone and is on pace to finish the season with more than 1,400 yards. This one is half about his resurgence (a solid offseason conditioning program) and half about the lack of other options at wide receiver and tight end for quarterback Philip Rivers.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
The most overrated fantasy TE heading into this year’s draft was Rudolph, and he is working hard to prove that pronouncement correct. Rudolph padded his 2012 fantasy point total courtesy of nine touchdowns, but he had just 493 receiving yards. This year, he is on pace to finish with 412 receiving yards and four touchdowns, proving it is foolhardy to chase touchdowns in almost all instances.