Nick Foles, Eagles
Seven touchdowns are what most pundits expected Foles would throw for a full season, or half of one. Not one game. But that is what Foles did this week against the Raiders. He needed just 28 attempts to throw all those touchdowns while accumulating 406 yards through the air. His performance should give him a stranglehold on the starting job over the remainder of the season, but remember that just two short weeks ago he was nothing short of awful against the Cowboys.
Tom Brady, Patriots
It’s not often you discount a performance against the Steelers defense, but that is where we are at with the underperforming Pittsburgh squad. After throwing for just two touchdowns in his last four games, Brady found the Steelers’ porous pass defense to his liking, throwing for 432 yards and four touchdowns. With both Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola healthy, perhaps Brady is ready to elevate his game. I’m not ready to make that proclamation just yet, but things are looking a whole light brighter than they did a week ago.
Case Keenum, Texans
Keenum knows his bread is buttered by Andre Johnson and was smart enough to go to him often this week on his way to 20 of 34 for 350 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts. While it wasn’t enough to secure a Texans victory, it was almost certainly enough to earn him more starts ahead of Matt Schaub.
Geno Smith, Jets
You surely weren’t riding the Smith train this season, but if you have him as your backup, you might want to look for an upgrade. Despite scoring rushing touchdowns in two of his last three games, Smith has averaged just 15.8 fantasy points per game over that span. With the Jets turning to the running game, Smith has throw for 233, 159 and 115 yards over his past three games, with just one touchdown pass and three interceptions. It appears as though the Jets are dialing down the passing offense as the season progresses, not expanding it.
Zac Stacy, Rams
Cue the Alfred Morris comparisons. After a very good performance last week against a stout Seahawks run defense (134 yards on 26 carries), Stacy was even better this week against the Titans with 178 total yards (127 rushing, 51 receiving) and a pair of touchdowns on 33 touches. With the Rams’ offensive line jelling, Stacy looks like a candidate to break out in the second half and carry some fantasy squads to the promised land. It’s probably too late to grab him in most leagues, but if there is an owner out there who doesn’t believe, then make your move. It never hurts to ask.
Mike James, Bucs
First off, let’s clear up the notion that the Seahawks have one of the league’s top run defenses. At the moment, they certainly don’t. Rams rookie Zac Stacy ran over them last week (134 rushing yards), and James, another rookie, ran over them this week (158 yards). James isn’t the most talented running back but seems to get what is blocked and isn’t averse to running defenders over. The only caveat here is that the Bucs are often trailing, and that takes away some of his fantasy appeal.
Andre Brown, Giants
Just a reminder that Brown is expected back this week and the Giants face run defenses ranked 16th or worse between Weeks 12 and 16. He will apparently get a set package of plays this week against the Raiders, with his role expanding over the balance of the season. There is a good chance that Brown will emerge as an RB2 given the lack of talent on the Giants depth chart at running back.
Chris Johnson, Titans
Johnson scored his first touchdown of the year this week against the Rams. Woo hoo. Then he added another on his way to a 150-yard performance, his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season. That’s the good news. That bad news is that Shonn Greene appears to be fully healthy and had nine rushes this week, including a short-yardage touchdown. With CJ2K, the glass is always half empty.
Rashad Jennings, Raiders
When Darren McFadden left this week’s game against the Eagles, Jennings took over and had his most productive game as a Raider, with 15 carries for 102 yards and a score. He also chipped in seven receptions for another 74 yards. Look for McFadden to miss at least a game or two, leaving Jennings to benefit from the soft run defenses that await. Up next are the Giants (10th-ranked run defense) followed by the Texans (18th), Titans (26th), Cowboys (16th), Jets (1st), Chiefs (24th) and Chargers (23rd).
Lamar Miller, Dolphins
Thanks a lot, Mike Sherman and Joe Philbin. Right after I buried Miller, the Dolphins increased his workload. In each of the last two weeks, he has had at least 20 touches and more than 100 total yards. The touchdowns still aren’t there (just two on the season), but if he keeps up this workload, they will start appearing.
DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert, Panthers
With Jonathan Stewart back in the lineup, the Panthers running back situation is a fantasy mess that you want to avoid. Stewart had 12 touches this week (65 yards) to Williams’ 15 (54 yards) while Tolbert had nine (37 yards). Ugh.
Eddie Lacy, Packers
This one falls into the “maybe” category, but if quarterback Aaron Rodgers is out for an extended period, Lacy will likely see plenty of eight- and nine-man fronts. While he has been a beast over the last five weeks with 545 rushing yards and three touchdowns, he doesn’t have a hope in hell of maintaining that with Seneca Wallace (or maybe Matt Flynn?) under center.
Darren McFadden, Raiders
Run-DMC hasn’t been very good this season (3.6 YPC and just 85 receiving yards) and, once again, is proving how brittle he is. He came out this week against the Eagles after re-aggravating a hamstring injury that slowed him down earlier this season and caused him to miss the Raiders game against the Chargers in Week 5. He will likely miss more time, and that’s unfortunate given Oakland’s favorable run matchups over the next several weeks.
Andre Johnson, Texans
As noted above, rookie starter Case Keenum was smart enough to go to AJ early and often this week, with Johnson hauling in nine of his 13 targets for 229 yards and three touchdowns, his first scores of the year.
Aaron Dobson, Patriots
Moving Up. Again. I told you in my Week 7 Dave’s Take that Dobson was the Patriots rookie WR to have, and he has left fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins in his dust since then. This week, Dobson topped 100 receiving yards for the first time, with 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns on his five receptions. The Patriots passing offense has struggled thus far in 2013, but it might not be a bad idea to gamble on them turning it around.
Riley Cooper, Eagles
Who knows, maybe time lessens the pressure of making a complete ass of yourself. No matter how you cut it, Cooper turned in a career-best performance this week against the Raiders with five receptions for 139 yards and three touchdowns. Cooper doesn’t usually generate much separation, but he was solid this week and is averaging six targets per game over the Eagles’ last four games. He just might emerge as a low-end WR3 over the balance of the season.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts
No surprise here as Hilton emerged as the Colts’ top wide receiver with Reggie Wayne out for the year. The Indy coaches could talk Darrius Heyward-Bey up all they want, but Hilton was clearly the player with more upside. While Hilton is hardly a complete player at this stage of his career (he has caught only 52.2 percent of his targets this season), he figures to emerge as Andrew Luck’s go-to guy, and his seven-reception, 121-yard, three-touchdown performance this week went a long way to securing that honor.
Lance Moore, Saints
Nothing special this week with six receptions for 70 yards, but the 10 targets were nice. Also, there are no assurances that tight end Jimmy Graham will remain healthy, that Darren Sproles (concussion) will be ready for next week or that Marques Colston will be effective when he returns to the lineup after struggling for most of 2013. That spells opportunity for Moore.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
With Justin Blackmon out for the year, Shorts is once again the Jaguars top wide receiver, and he has been productive filling that role over the last year and a half. He rates as a mid-tier WR2 over the last half of the season.
Stephen Hill, Jets
Hill appeared to be on the verge of a breakout season, with 13 receptions for 233 yards and a score during the first three weeks. He has fallen off the face of the earth over the last six games, however, with just 10 receptions for 107 yards. Did he pee in Geno Smith’s or Marty Mornhinweg’s corn flakes? Inquiring minds want to know. With Santonio Holmes out this week and Jeremy Kerley injured early in the game, Hill had only one target, which he failed to bring in.
Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin, Packers
Another bunch of maybe Moving Downs. If Rodgers is out, Nelson becomes an upper-tier WR2, Jones becomes an upper-tier WR3 and Boykin becomes a major question mark (he had just one target this week).
Greg Olsen, Panthers
Nothing too exciting going on at TE this week, so Olsen gets the Moving Up treatment. After his four-reception, 66-yard, one-touchdown performance this week against the Falcons, he has touchdowns in consecutive weeks and is on pace to better his career year from last season when he finished with 69 receptions for 843 yards and five touchdowns.
Jordan Cameron, Browns
Cameron has cooled down considerably since his hot start to the season. After four games, he had piled up 30 receptions for 360 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 10.8 targets per game. In the five games since, he has 20 catches for 240 yards and a score (just 5.8 targets per game). I’ll do the math for you: 16.5 PPG to 6.0. Opposing defenses have focused more on him and his production is suffering.