Michael Vick, QB, PHI – It’s not a stretch to call Vick’s performance Monday night one of the best ever. Considering the opponent (Washington is on pace to allow the second most yards in NFL history) and context (regular season game), it won’t top any lists, but it was memorable nevertheless. In fact, Vick became the first player ever to have 300 passing yards, 50 rushing yards, four passing TDs and two rushing TDs in a game, and he did it in less than three quarters! Vick’s decision making and accuracy have finally caught up with his natural talent, which is making him a nightmare for opposing defenses. Vick has not committed a single turnover this season, and he is surrounded by explosive teammates and plays in a terrific offensive system. Vick’s style of play makes him an injury risk, but that’s the only argument against him being a top-10 fantasy player right now. There certainly isn’t another quarterback I’d rather own.
Dez Bryant, WR, DAL – Bryant only caught three passes last week, but they went for 104 yards and a score against an overmatched Giants’ secondary. Bryant has averaged 91.3 yards over the past three games and has scored six touchdowns over his last five contests. Bryant’s emergence is bad news for Miles Austin’s fantasy value, but Tony Romo’s should skyrocket next season with both weapons at his disposal. Bryant is a special talent, capable of dominating both in the red zone and as a downfield playmaker. He’s going to enter next year as a top-10 wide receiver on all cheat sheets, and maybe even top-five.
Fred Jackson, RB, BUF – Jackson totaled 170 yards and two touchdowns last week, and while it was the first time he reached 75 rushing yards in a game this season, he should continue to dominate Buffalo’s workload with C.J. Spiller already ruled out for Week 11. Jackson is hardly a special talent, but opponents have had to pay attention to the QB since Ryan Fitzpatrick took over and Jackson is one of the few true workhorses in the NFL these days.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC – After Week 5, I said this about Bowe: “It’s nice that he seems to finally have coach Todd Haley’s confidence, but maybe Bowe just isn’t any good. Forget stardom, it’s now worth questioning if he’s even a league average wide receiver.” Since then, Bowe has put me in my place, racking up 454 receiving yards and eight touchdowns over five games. Bowe’s numbers benefited from the Chiefs being down big early last week (his 18 targets led the league), and his schedule couldn’t have been easier over that stretch, but it’s hard to argue with that kind of production from Bowe, even if it is past due. It is nice to see him finally living up to expectations.
Josh Freeman, QB, TB – Freeman has averaged 10.0 YPA over the past three games and has also tossed five touchdowns over that span. Freeman’s fantasy value is limited a bit by the fact he has averaged a modest 30 pass attempts per game this season, but he has chipped in nearly 25 rushing yards per game as well. Mike Williams continues to develop into one of the more dangerous receivers in the league, and Tampa Bay now has a running back in LeGarrette Blount that defenses must pay attention to. During Weeks 13-16, the Bucs’ schedule is highly favorable (ATL, @WAS, DET, SEA), so Freeman could be quite useful down the stretch.
Santonio Holmes, WR, NYJ – Holmes scored the winning touchdown in last week’s victory over the Browns on a 37-yard catch and run with just 16 seconds left in overtime. Holmes has totaled 190 receiving yards over the past two weeks, but it is worth noting that 95 of those yards came in the Jets’ two overtime sessions. Holmes is finally getting starter’s snaps, and Jerricho Cotchery’s groin injury should lead to even more targets for Holmes, arguably the team’s best receiver. Holmes should also benefit from Mark Sanchez’s further development. Sanchez has thrown six interceptions over the past four games after not committing a single turnover in his first five contests, but he made some spectacular plays last week and has averaged 7.7 YPA over the past two contests. New York’s passing attack will only get better.
Troy Smith, QB, SF –Smith has averaged 11.7 YPA with two touchdowns and zero turnovers in his two starts this season – both victories. Most of Smith’s damage has come outside the pocket, and his willingness to go downfield is a welcome sight in San Francisco. His numbers Sunday could have been bigger since three TD passes were called back by penalties. The former Heisman winner is sure to undergo some growing pains, and his fantasy value is limited playing for a run-first team, but he has some nice weapons to work with in Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. The Alex Smith era in San Francisco is officially over.
Mario Manningham, WR, NYG – Manningham racked up 10 catches for 91 yards and a score during the Giants’ loss Sunday. His 9.1 yards per catch mark was far from impressive, but the 16 targets highlight just how important he is to the offense with Steve Smith (pectoral) sidelined. Sooner or later, Hakeem Nicks is going to start drawing more double teams, and Manningham will further benefit. He is a must-start in fantasy leagues as long as Smith is out.
Jahvid Best, RB, DET – I’ve been a Best apologist all year, but it’s hard to defend him getting just 35 yards on 17 carries against a Bills defense that entered allowing the third most YPC (4.8) in football. Best has not reached the end zone since scoring five touchdowns over the first two games of his career, and he has not ran for 80 yards even once during his rookie campaign. Best’s ugly 3.1 YPC mark is a product of poor Detroit run blocking as well as Best’s troublesome turf toe injuries, and neither problem is likely to get fixed until the offseason. Still, it’s worth noting that Kevin Smith is out after undergoing thumb surgery, and each of Detroit’s next four games will be played on turf, which will highlight Best’s speed. Most owners will likely keep Best on the bench, but because of his activity in the passing game, Best is still on pace to finish the season with 1,316 total yards and nine TDs. He remains plenty useful in PPR formats.
Donald Brown, RB, IND – With Joseph Addai and Mike Hart both out, Indy’s backfield was Brown’s for the taking with a favorable matchup at home against the Bengals in Week 10. However, Brown managed just 50 yards and ceded the goalline carries once again to Javarris James. If Brown isn’t worth using in fantasy leagues in a plus matchup, as the starter, when will he ever be? Brown is constantly battling injuries, is not very good in short-yardage situations, and has averaged a paltry 3.5 YPC during his career. Bill Polian can’t hit a home run with every draft pick.
Ronnie Brown, RB, MIA – After failing to gain one yard per rushing attempt against the Titans, Brown is down to 3.9 YPC this season; and he’s yet to top 80 yards rushing in a game this year. Normally health is Brown’s biggest issue, but performance has been the problem in 2010 – he is on pace to finish with just 789 rushing yards. Brown remains locked in a timeshare, and it has been surprising to see the 33-year-old Ricky Williams outplay him.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA – Lynch managed just 29 rushing yards on 13 carries last week against the Cardinals, which is especially discouraging since the Seahawks played most of the game with a comfortable lead. After picking up 4.4 YPC on a bad Buffalo team, Lynch has averaged just 2.9 YPC since getting traded to Seattle. Lynch has played on bad teams his whole career, but it’s clear he wasn’t worthy of being a top-12 draft pick.
Pierre Thomas, RB, NO – It’s nice to hear Thomas is finally out of his walking boot, but he continued to miss practice this week and has already been ruled out for Week 11, disconcerting news considering the team is coming off its bye. Thomas continues to deal with the world’s worst ankle sprain; and at this point, a return in Week 12 may even be optimistic.