As teams get into the season, they begin to evaluate what they have. Coaches and front offices across the league have been having discussions regarding what’s working, what’s not, and, with the trade deadline approaching, potential moves to adjust rosters.
In that spirit, I have evaluated my column and have decided that no one needs another weekly recap. Why discuss all the stat lines and performances of the past week, when others perform that same function? It’s like drafting Drew Brees in Round 1 and then coming right back and taking Peyton Manning in Round 2. It’s duplicative.
So here are the Top 10 things I learned from Week 6.
Ben Roethlisberger is back. Roethlisberger returned from his four-game suspension in what seemed like the perfect matchup: against Cleveland, at home, after a bye week, against a rookie quarterback making his debut. And Roethlisberger capitalized on the opportunity. Pittsburgh put up a smokescreen regarding its offensive gameplan, claiming this would be a running team, and technically they were. They ran it 35 times compared to just 27 pass attempts. But Roethlisberger looked good, staying in the pocket to make throws. He showed no happy feet. He showed poise. He also wasn’t sacked. Roethlisberger is a Top 8 fantasy quarterback going forward. Rashard Mendenhall takes a slight hit, and Hines Ward, Mike Wallace and Heath Miller (all of whom scored) get a bump in fantasy value.
It doesn’t matter who’s playing quarterback for the Eagles. Michael Vick is still nursing a rib cartilage injury that has caused him to miss the past two games, and in his absence, backup, and previous starter Kevin Kolb has filled in admirably. Coming off a decent performance in San Francisco in Week 5, Kolb blew up for more than 300 yards and three scores, displaying the accuracy and precision that won him the job in the first place. And after losing DeSean Jackson to a concussion (OK, technically Kolb threw him a hospital ball that got him laid out), he found his new favorite target, Jeremy Maclin, for more than 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Fantasy points don’t have to come pretty. In Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers is playing well, routinely putting up decent numbers. In my opinion, he’s been less than his Round 1 draft stock would indicate, but he’s been solid. Greg Jennings finally had a big game, but I’m not sure how much I believe it. He had an 86-yard touchdown catch, and that’s a good thing, but I might try to sell high. Jermichael Finley joined running back Ryan Grant on injured reserve, ending his season. The Packers’ running game is abysmal. So avoid Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn and whoever else. Jim Bukowski, author of the “Corner of Knowledge” on Fantasysharks.com, has been touting James Starks as a stash pickup if you’ve got the roster space. I’d agree that it’s worth a look, but the Packers may just roll the dice with Rodgers and not mess with things.
Michael Crabtree may be coming into his own. He has touchdowns in two straight games, and he’s getting looks from San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Smith has typically relied heavily on tight end Vernon Davis, but defenses are now keying on Davis, and Crabtree has begun to get some of those looks. We all knew he had incredible talent coming out of Texas Tech, but the concern was that he was a headcase. He might be, but he’s also displayed that talent, and he can probably be had for running back depth or bye week fill-ins. He’s a good guy to target going forward.
Roy Williams isn’t dead. I know, I know. It’s hard to believe. But Williams appears to be useful. He’s actually catching the ball and Tony Romo is actually looking for him near the end zone. He now has five touchdowns in his last three games. I still don’t know what to make of it, but sometimes players take time to figure it out and fit into a system. It might be that Williams needed to learn the playbook and then go through an insane amount of reps before it sunk in, but whatever it is, he’s become a part of the offense now. He should definitely be owned in all leagues, at least for depth. Can’t believe I just typed that …
Peyton Hillis can be productive every week. This past weekend, he played at Pittsburgh, a difficult task for any opposing running back. He managed 41 yards on 12 carries and added 49 yards on six catches. Not great, but not bad either. My point is that Hillis is a guy who can be productive even in the worst of matchups. He’s playing in the very physical AFC North, he’s really the only offensive weapon the Browns have, and with Colt McCoy under center, he’s getting extra defenders in the box. But Cleveland’s trio of quarterbacks have been shaky all season, and Hillis has put up numbers. I’m not saying he’s Adrian Peterson, but as a low-end RB2 or high-end RB3, he’s solid, and he’ll get goal line carries. If you drafted well and snagged him off the waiver wire, you’re ahead of the game. If another owner is down on him, offer him a random wide receiver to see if he bites.
Pierre Garcon is healthy and back to fantasy relevance. Garcon had been absent from fantasy headlines this season. He’d been drafted fairly high, with fantasy owners expecting big things from one of last year’s breakout performers. Garcon caught four passes for 100-plus yards and a score, his first touchdown of the season. Owners may be looking to sell high on him, and if they are, go get him.
Marshawn Lynch will not be eased into the Seahawk lineup. There are two ways to learn to swim: start with the dog paddle or just jump in the deep end. Pete Carroll looks like he’ll do the latter with Lynch, as Lynch received 17 of 31 carries for Seattle. He only ran for 44 yards, but he got a goal line carry that ended up being the game winner. He’s clearly the guy Carroll wants as his workhorse, with Justin Forsett serving in a third-down, change-of-pace role. Keep in mind the 2.6 yards per carry doesn’t look all that great, but Chicago currently ranks fourth in the league in run defense. I like Lynch a lot going forward, especially with that schedule. Of their remaining games, only their Week 12 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs features a Top 10 opposing run defense. I like Lynch a lot as a low-end RB2 the rest of the way.
Deion Branch loves some home cookin’. Reunited with the quarterback that helped to make him a Super Bowl MVP, Branch looked like he’d never left. Over his first four games with Seattle, he caught 13 balls for 112 yards and a touchdown. In his return to Foxboro, he caught nine passes for 98 yards and a score. He was targeted 12 times, more than any other Patriot. His chemistry with Tom Brady is clearly still there, and he looks like he’ll be a go-to guy in a high-powered offense. Branch is worth picking up if he’s still available. But it may already be too late.
Ryan Mathews is officially the guy in San Diego. Was it a great game for Mathews? No. But is there a silver lining? Absolutely. Mathews received 12 carries to Mike Tolbert’s three. The rookie ran for 5.3 yards a carry, which we can all agree is fantastic. So he’s got the opportunity. The Chargers are also a dynamic offense, which means defenses will have to defend the pass, leaving room for Mathews. If a Mathews owner has gotten impatient and can’t read the tea leaves (or website) like you, make him an offer.
Remember that Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis and the New York Jets are on a bye this week.
Drew Magyar is a FantasySharks.com staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.