Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN – Peterson has been rock solid all season, but he was mysteriously absent in the passing game up until Week 8. After coaches promised they’d get him more involved as a receiver, Peterson racked up five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown Sunday, which is terrific news for his fantasy value moving forward. He had totaled just three receiving yards over the previous four games combined, but if Week 8 is any indication of how he’ll be used from now on, Peterson’s ceiling just got a lot higher.
Steven Jackson, RB, STL – Where did that performance come from? Jackson totaled 191 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints on Sunday, helping the Rams pull off a big upset victory. Running like a man possessed, Jackson averaged 6.4 YPC to raise his season mark to 5.3 YPC. After totaling just 10 touchdowns over the past two seasons, Jackson has scored five times over six games this year, putting to bed rumors of his demise (including mine). He certainly looks back to full strength health-wise.
Victor Cruz, WR, NYG – Cruz disappeared in Week 6 (two catches, 12 yards), but he has racked up 24 catches for 468 yards and four touchdowns in the four other games the Giants have played since Week 2. He tied for the team lead with nine targets last week against Miami, and Hakeem Nicks one again left with a hamstring injury. Cruz is a viable WR3 in deeper leagues regardless, but he has top-15 fantasy upside if Nicks is out.
Chris Ogbonnaya, RB, CLE – Peyton Hillis returned to practice Thursday, limiting Ogbonnaya’s upgrade. Still, with Montario Hardesty suffering a fairly serious calf injury, and Hillis constantly banged, Ogbonnaya is at least on the fantasy radar. He’s shown the ability to catch passes, and he’d see a good volume of touches if Hillis suffers a setback.
Tarvaris Jackson, QB, SEA – It remains unclear why Jackson didn’t start last week if he was capable of doing so, but he impressed after replacing Charlie Whitehurst, throwing for 323 yards against a strong Cincinnati defense. Jackson will likely remain inconsistent and is hardly a QB1 in fantasy terms, but it’s worth noting he has quietly averaged 8.1 YPA over his past three games.
Kevin Faulk, RB, NE – Faulk seemingly came out of nowhere last week, gaining 52 yards from scrimmage while leading all Pats running backs in snaps played. It was his first action since Week 2 of last year, but before assuming he’ll take on a major role, remember he is 35 years old, which is ancient at the running back position. Still, with New England’s backfield remaining something of a crapshoot, Faulk needs to be stashed in PPR formats.
Jonathan Baldwin, WR, KC – Baldwin hauled in five catches for 82 yards and a touchdown Monday night during just his second appearance of the year. At 6-4, 230 Baldwin is a beast physically, and at minimum, his presence really hurts Steve Breaston’s fantasy value. Baldwin will be the second option at best behind Dwayne Bowe, especially in the red zone, and he’ll likely be inconsistent as a rookie receiver, but he’s clearly got talent.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, NYG – Recent news suggests Bradshaw has a fractured foot, but it remains unclear how much time the injury will cost him. If he’s going to be sidelined for a while, Brandon Jacobs would see a big boost in fantasy value, and D.J. Ware would also be worth adding in deeper formats. Bradshaw’s foot injuries continue to be a problem.
Tim Tebow, QB, DEN – Tebow was actually not a disaster last week from a fantasy perspective, but he was downright awful for the Broncos, to the point his future playing time is now in question. Tebow completed just 18-of-39 passes, averaged 4.4 YPA and posted a 1:2 TD:TO ratio while playing at home. That number could have been worse; Tebow is lucky just one of his three fumbles was lost. Kyle Orton took just four sacks over his final four games before being benched, but Tebow has taken a whopping 13 sacks over his two starts. He’ll get another opportunity to prove himself this week, but so far his doubters look right.
Chris Johnson, RB, TEN – Johnson managed just 34 yards on 14 carries last week against a Colts defense that had given up more fantasy points to opposing running backs than any other team. In fact, he saw just one snap during the fourth quarter, as Javon Ringer took over and looked far superior. Johnson is putting up a paltry 2.8 YPC this season and looks nothing like the player he was over his first three years in the league. Seemingly healthy and still in his prime at age 26, it’s a perplexing turn of events, and an extremely awkward situation for fantasy owners.
Ryan Mathews, RB, SD – Mathews is a talented player in a terrific situation in San Diego, but his ongoing injury issues can’t be denied, nor even considered a fluke or bad luck at this point. It’s always something with him, and usually different parts of the body at the same time. His most recent problem is a groin strain, leaving him unlikely to play in Week 9. Hopefully his absence doesn’t stretch beyond that, but Mathews is about as brittle as they come. Curtis Brinkley is also highly questionable this week after suffering a concussion Monday night, so Mike Tolbert is looking at a huge workload in his return to the lineup.
Andre Johnson, WR, HOU – Johnson hoped to return in Week 9, but he continues to miss practice with his hamstring injury. In fact, beat writers have expressed concern over his behavior, which suggests he’s quite unhappy with his recovery from surgery. Johnson may not return until after the Texans’ Week 11 bye, so fantasy owners could still be without him for a while.
Kevin Kolb, QB, ARI – Kolb is currently in a walking boot and appears unlikely to play in Week 9. In terms of performance, Kolb’s 7.5 YPA mark has been OK, but his 8:8 TD:INT ratio – with seven fumbles – suggests he has hardly been the answer at the QB position for the Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald’s fantasy value has taken a hit as a result, and things could get worse Sunday – as disappointing as Kolb has been, John Skelton would likely be a downgrade.
John Beck, QB, WAS – Beck was simply brutal Sunday, averaging just 6.3 YPA while throwing two picks and zero touchdowns. In fact, the Redskins were shut out against a mediocre Bills defense. Buffalo entered with an NFL-low four sacks on the season and somehow managed to record a whopping 10 against Beck and the Redskins. Washington badly needs to address the quarterback position.