Stocks of Helu, Jones rising
QB: Tim Tebow, Broncos
The much-maligned Tebow silenced his detractors with a fantastic fantasy conquest, rushing for 118 yards and throwing for two touchdowns in Denver’s victory over Oakland on Sunday. Perhaps his passing precision (10-for-21) and yardage (124) was less than remarkable against a destitute defense; nevertheless, only Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers scored more from the position than the former Heisman winner in standard leagues. Undoubtedly, his merits as a starting signal caller will continue to be contested on TV and radio shows, yet in the fantasy forum, there’s no doubting the intrinsic value of Tebow. With only the Jets and Chargers possessing potent pass defenses in Denver’s final eight games, feel free to utilize the Bronco field general.
QB: Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
Coming off the worst performance of his young career (29-for-51, 264 yards, four interceptions in Week 7 versus Chicago), Freeman submitted a fine showing against the Saints, throwing for 281 yards and a touchdown to finish with a QB rating of 103.5, his best figure of the season. Freeman hasn’t been as active in the rushing game as originally hoped, but his improving accuracy should provide owners the necessary conviction to start the Buccaneer quarterback the rest of the way home.
RB: Roy Helu, Redskins
The rookie out of Nebraska had been targeted as a possible backfield breakout, although a harvest of 14 receptions for 105 yards was hardly forecast. As loyal readers know, I’ve made it my manifesto to advocate against the employment of Washington running backs in order to defend owners from the fantasy epidemic known as “Shanahaned,” an infliction where a Washington rusher is inexplicably reduced from the team’s game plan, causing unimaginable and irreversible damage to fantasy squads featuring said Redskins’ runner. But (and this is a big but) it appears Helu is the new primary back in D.C., as Ryan Torain has failed to make an impact since Week 4. Although Shanahan’s history dictates an amount of risk with the undertaking, Helu deserves a start as a No. 2 RB or flex option, especially in PPR formats.
RB: Reggie Bush, Dolphins
As Bush’s NFL career has historically failed to match the hype, I was initially skeptical of his prospects after a 71-yard day against the Jets in Week 6. However, yesterday’s exploits (92 yards rushing, touchdown; three catches, 50 yards receiving) give Bush three solid games in Miami’s past four contests. Which begs the question: which current athlete’s media exposure is unmerited by their on-the-field performance? Many would nominate Kris Humphries, but I’m discounting the TMZ nonsense; basically, the player’s publicity cannot be aided by his/her personal life (plus, Humphries averaged a double-double last season). Tim Tebow is certainly a candidate, although his career’s infancy lets him off the hook. Andy Roddick continues to receive his fair share of attention despite winning just one major (in 2003, to boot). The verdict: Tony Romo. True, in fantasy, the man is gangbusters; unfortunately, he’s yet to do anything relevant in the postseason for America’s Team. Plus, although he’s merely an adequate quarterback, his games are dissected ad nauseum every week by national media like he’s the second coming of Joe Montana. And this is coming from a Romo proponent.
WR: Vincent Jackson, Chargers
Granted, Green Bay is statistically the worst pass defense in the NFC, allowing 315.6 passing yards per game. But for famished fantasy owners, Sunday’s superiority was a godsend, as Jackson had not made an excursion into the end zone since Week 4. Some owners may be apprehensive at the erratic arm of Rivers, but the San Diego aerial attack is fourth in the league with 294.9 yards per outing. Better yet, Jackson’s hamstring didn’t seem to be of hindrance. Antonio Gates’ return should keep opposing defenses from focusing on Jackson, giving the receiver room to roam.
WR: Julio Jones, Falcons
Jones returned from a hamstring injury in a big way, recording his first two touchdowns of his career in the Falcons’ victory over the Colts. As an added bonus, Jones racked up 131 yards thanks to a 50-yard throw from Matt Ryan and an 80-yard score off a slant pass that Jones took the distance. Roddy White will continue to see the majority of targets, but there’s enough love to go around in the Atlanta offense for Jones to be a high No. 2 fantasy receiver.
TE: Antonio Gates, Chargers
So much for being slowed by injury. Gates had a third straight commendable contest, finishing Sunday’s soiree against the Packers with eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. While Gates isn’t totally out of the woods with his foot issues, fantasy owners should feel safe deploying the tight end in the roster for the rest of the season.
DEF: Houston Texans
The Texans’ defense was written off when Mario Williams went down with a torn pectoral in Week 5, but Houston has responded by holding their adversaries to an average of 11 points in the past three games. Going against Indianapolis and Carolina during most league championships (Weeks 15 and 16), Houston might be a solid pickup as a backup defense to store for the playoffs.
QB: Andy Dalton, Bengals
This is no condemnation on Dalton, who has displayed remarkable cognizance and effectiveness in the past five weeks. Rather, the Bengals have a daunting upcoming schedule, featuring Pittsbugh (twice), Baltimore, Cleveland (don’t laugh, the Browns are holding opposing passing attacks to a league-low 165.2 yards per game) and Houston. Moreover, while Dalton was efficient against Tennessee (22 completions, 217 yards, three touchdowns), the Red Riffle’s stats don’t necessarily translate into fantasy fruition. Only use as a backup or in two-QB formats for the next month or so.
QB: Matt Hasselbeck, Titans
Again, don’t mistake this inclusion as criticism of Hasselbeck’s play, as the 36-year-old’s accomplishments thus far have exceeded the consensus preseason expectation. Already without the services of Kenny Britt, Hasselbeck may have lost de facto No. 1 target Nate Washington to a hip injury. Throw in the continued underachievement of the running game and Hasselbeck’s fantasy worth may be headed in a downward spiral.
RB: Beanie Wells, Cardinals
Hard to hate on the guy, but it’s clear that the knee issue is worse than imagined. Reports from the desert last week indicated that Wells was struggling with his explosiveness and ability to get to the edge, descriptions that were validated on Sunday against the Rams. Against a susceptible St. Louis rush defense, Wells was a nonfactor, rushing for just 20 yards on 10 carries. For now, the Cardinal back still merits a roster spot. However, unless coach Ken Whisenhunt allows a week or two off for Wells to recover, it’s hard to envision a turnaround.
RB: Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
The good: Thomas was able to get on the field against Kansas City. The bad: Thomas did little with his opportunities, amassing a whopping 12 yards on seven carries. The ugly: the Miami running game is doing just fine with Bush at the helm, so don’t anticipate Thomas to be thrust into a spotlight role anytime soon.
WR: Pierre Garcon, Colts
While most of the fantasy contributions of Colts have suffered in the absence of Peyton Manning, Garcon has actually flourished with Curtis Painter under center. Alas, Garcon has only 171 yards in the past four games after racking up 353 yards and four trips to the Promised Land in Weeks 3 through 5. In deeper leagues, Garcon still retains value thanks to upcoming games against Jacksonville and Carolina, but it’s never a good feeling to leave your fantasy destiny up to the putridness of Painter.
WR: Deion Branch, Patriots
After a sizzling start (15 receptions, 222 yards in New England’s first two games), Branch has been extremely quiet, hauling in 17 catches for 204 yards in the last six games. Worse, Branch’s targets have considerably dropped in the past month. A plethora of serviceable receivers remain available in most leagues (Torrey Smith, Eric Decker, Jerome Simpson) that offer more upside than Branch. Unless it’s a deep, PPR-centric league, exile Branch from your roster.
TE: Vernon Davis, 49ers
You may wonder why Davis continues to be featured on this list, as this is his third straight appearance in this segment. Unfortunately, owners continue to believe Davis is a top-flight tight end despite all evidence to the contrary. As previously stated, subtract his Week 3 feats against Cincinnati (eight catches, 114 yards) and Davis is left with 23 receptions and 225 yards in San Francisco’s seven other ball games. Davis does have opportune matchups in the Giants and Cardinals forthcoming, but don’t be surprised if you get burned again by the Maryland product.
DEF: Kansas City Chiefs
The unit allowed Matt Moore to throw three touchdowns. Enough said.