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Risers and Fallers – Week 9

Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs

Matt Cassel – This past Monday night there was a quarterback who looked to be on the rise in the ranking column. In case you missed the game, I’m not talking about Philip Rivers. I’m talking about the opposing quarterback in Matt Cassel. Anyone who watched the game has to admit that they let out a “wow” when Cassel hit rookie wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin right down the middle of the end zone with a massive bomb. Cassel looked Tom Brady-like when he stepped up into the pocket and let the ball loose for a massive scoring strike. He again mirrored Tom Brady in the way that he led the game winning drive to win in overtime.

Cassel is a much better player than most of us give him credit for. I myself have been guilty of that over the past few seasons. People thought that his first season in KC would be the norm for the former backup. But enter the likes of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley and all of a sudden we get to see the real Matt Cassel. Thanks to the offensive genius of Haley and the player evaluation from Pioli, Cassel has found himself in one of the better quarterback situations in the league. Cassel has the luxury of targeting two massive options at the wide receiver position in Jonathan Baldwin and Dwayne Bowe along with one of the better slot receivers in the league in Steve Breaston. And don’t forget that Cassel is without two extremely talented options in tight end Tony Moeaki and elite screen and check down option Jamaal Charles.

If Cassel can continue to roll and capitalize on inferior options like this week against the Dolphins the upside for him would be hard to ignore for next season. Cassel is a great play this week and a dominant performance would move him up the rankings and he could begin to get the respect that he undoubtedly deserves.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints

Mike Williams – A frequent name here in 2011’s risers and fallers forum, Mike Williams continues to upset fantasy owners. Williams has half a season to gain ten touchdowns to match last season’s output. Obviously expectations have not been met by the second year receiver. Most of this can be contributed to the additional coverage that he has earned with his previously terrific game play. Though double coverage is no treat it is reality for wide receivers and needs to be dealt with in order to stay productive. Williams has had half a season and now a bye week to get on the same page with quarterback Josh Freeman and learn how to break out of the 2011 slump.

The Saints haven’t been great against the pass this season and do offer up the chance for Williams to gain his confidence back with a long touchdown score. No matter what Mike Williams does for the rest of the season he can’t salvage his 2011 average draft spot. But what Williams can do is show us the explosiveness that made him a rookie of the year candidate in 2010 and preserve some value for next season. Williams could be one of those players that finishes the season red hot after a subpar start.

Williams and Freeman need to get it together in order to remain in the same zip code of this year’s preseason rankings in 2012. Williams is too good of a talent to keep up this abysmal pace. The Saints offense will have a huge bounceback after being upset by the lowly St. Louis Rams. The Bucs will have to go to the air to stay in the game and no matter what the stats indicate, Williams is still the best option when they do.

Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans

Peyton Hillis – His second appearance in the last three weeks on this list should indicate exactly how far his value has fallen since draft day. To add insult to injury with Hillis there is a report swirling about him skipping out on a NFL relations day with children. The “White Rhino’s” image couldn’t possibly get any lower at this point. The only thing that is playing into Hillis’ favor here in week 9 is the fact that Montario Hardesty got dinged up in Week 8. This should be the best opportunity that the bruising back has had in the past few weeks to gain significant touches.

The only issue is that the Houston Texans aren’t the Houston Texans from years’ past. The Texans defense has been one of the better units in 2011, shutting down offensive attacks and completely derailing running backs at times. The linebacking core of the Texans will be awaiting Hillis on every snap, stalking him and attacking the line of scrimmage. Though this isn’t a great matchup for Hillis, we have officially reached
“Put up or Shut up” status with the young back. He needs to give owners something to hold them over and reward their patience. Even a modest amount of yards with a bonus short yardage touchdown would be enough for owners to hold off on drastic moves for at least the short term.

Peyton Hillis is due for what would have been a huge pay day if he could have come close to last year’s production. Money is the biggest motivator in professional sports so expect Hillis to pick up his game as the end of the season approaches. Expect a decent day from the Browns’ battering ram in Week 9.

UPDATE: This article was written before Hillis’ Friday hamstring aggravation. The statement above about putting up or shutting up still stands, thusly causing Hillis to have just stumbled even further down the rabbit hole. 2011 will be completely lost for him now. The Madden Curse is in fact real.

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