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What Did We Learn – Week 9

Eric Decker is emerging as Peyton Manning’s favorite new toy.

Decker is making a push to join the likes of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne as favorite targets of Manning’s over his career, and it seemed to work out well for the other guys. Manning still throws to whoever is open, and Decker has shown a knack for doing just that. He caught eight passes for 99 yards, and a pair of scores on Sunday. Since Week 3’s matchup with Houston, Decker has caught 37 passes for 476 yards and has scored seven times. Any favorite of Manning’s is a favorite of mine.

That Andrew Luck kid is OK.
It’s interesting that the season started out with everyone going out of their way to compliment Robert Griffin III. Since a hot start, Griffin has been struggling in Washington. Unlike Griffin, Luck has been getting better, and he now has a single-game rookie passing record of 433 passing yards. He also threw two touchdowns. At this point, Luck is picking up the pace, improving on a weekly basis, and becoming more and more comfortable. He’ll be an interesting guy to watch the rest of this season, and may find himself a Top 10 quarterback next season.

It might be time to sell Alfred Morris.

He has been incredible thus far. He ran for 76 yards on 13 carries against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. On the season, he’s rushed for 793 yards, scored five touchdowns, and is averaging a ridiculous 4.8 yards per carry. Oh, and he’s a rookie. But that’s also part of the reason I’d be willing to listen to trade offers. Rookie running backs typically start to slow down in the second half of the season, since they aren’t prepared for the long, grueling grind of a 16-game NFL season and the toll it can take on the body. In fact, he left the game briefly with an apparent shoulder injury. He has the bye week in Week 10 to heal up, but I feel like the inevitable breakdown is on the horizon. I don’t know if I’d openly shop him, but I’d listen to offers, and I’d be sure to handcuff Evan Royster if I’m in it for the long haul. After all, it’s a Mike Shanahan offense, and any running back can be successful there.

Mikel Leshoure blows up for three scores.
Detroit’s spread passing attack typically doesn’t yield big days for running backs. A three-score game is usually going to be reserved for Calvin Johnson, so when it’s a running back getting the touchdowns, it’s worth noting. Leshoure rushed for 70 yards and the three touchdowns on just 16 carries, doing almost all of his damage in the first half of a blowout, allowing him to rest in the second half. He’s a good back, solid at the goal line, but I think he just played his best game. And, given that offense, I’m not trading for him after his best game.

C.J. Spiller is a buy-low candidate.
Spiller is coming off a game against one of the top defenses in the league, a game in which he ran just six times for 39 yards and caught five passes for 63 more. I know that Spiller owners are also frustrated with Fred Jackson’s role on the team, especially when Spiller is so much more productive and dynamic. This performance creates the perfect buy-low opportunity, and I plan on reaching out to his owners in each of my leagues. The Buffalo Bills need a player with his ability to blow up, and they’ll need to force feed him the ball in the second half.

We need to invent new superlatives for Adrian Peterson.

Last Thursday night, Peterson racked up 123 yards and a score on just 15 carries. On Sunday, he ran 17 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Apparently, he’s good. And healthy. His comeback from a tough knee injury last season has been nothing short of miraculous, and he has, at times, carried the Minnesota Vikings all by himself. Despite Christian Ponder’s struggles under center, Peterson seems to have no problem finding holes, bursting through them, and punishing defenders. He now has an impressive 957 rushing yards and six scores on the season, and he looks primed to carry both the Vikings and fantasy teams in the second half.

Doug Martin is now a RB1.

Like Peterson, Martin had a big week last week as well, running for 135 yards and a score and adding three catches for 79 yards and a second score. In Week 9, he followed it up with the kind of day few have ever had in the NFL. Against a porous Oakland defense, he ran 25 times for 251 yards and four touchdowns. He scored from 45, 67, and 70 yards out, before getting a goal line score to ice the game. That display of breakaway speed and patience combined with his goal line promotion after LeGarrette Blount’s struggles have made Martin an RB1 going forward, and someone to watch the rest of the season. Head coach Greg Schiano’s tough running game will provide plenty of opportunity for Martin, especially as Josh Freeman continues to improve and develop as a quarterback.

Whoever runs the ball for the Pittsburgh Steelers can put up big yardage.
A new dedication to the run has provided Pittsburgh with the kind of running attack it is accustomed to. First, it was Franco Harris in the 1970s. Jerome Bettis owned the 90s and early 00’s. Now it’s Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer, and Isaac Redman. Mendenhall has been hobbled by injuries, but he managed to look effective in his game action. Dwyer had run for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games before injuring a quad, and Redman just ran for 147 yards and a score against the New York Giants. It’s beginning to look like it doesn’t really matter who’s behind Ben Roethlisberger anymore. Teams have geared up to stop the passing attack at the expense of their run defense, and this trio is making them pay for it. It’s a backfield situation to keep an eye on going forward, and I’m picking up any of these backs that might be available.

I have no clue how Greg Jennings fits in when he’s healthy

. When healthy, Jennings is a stud. But the Green Bay Packers haven’t really missed him much, have they? In Jennings’ absence, Jordy Nelson has been productive to the tune of a 40-catch, 532-yard, five-touchdown stat line. He left Sunday’s game with a mild ankle sprain, but is hoping to be active when the Packers come off their Week 10 bye. But it has been James Jones and Randall Cobb that have really stepped up big. Jones has finally overcome drops that have plagued him since entering the league to post 40 catches of his own, for 462 yards and eight touchdowns. Cobb has become a versatile threat, running for 96 yards out of the backfield, catching 45 passes for 500 yards and six scores, and returning both kickoffs and punts.

I know that Jennings is too good not to play, but I just don’t know how you stop going to these other guys. Jennings is a free agent after this season, and I could absolutely see him getting franchised and then traded this offseason. In the meantime, he’s worth a pickup if he’s available, but temper your expectations for the near term. Green Bay has no reason to rush him back at this point.

Michael Vick is done.
I typically write this article while watching the Monday night game, which usually means I’m not including a Monday Night Football performance in the column. But Vick’s performance against New Orleans held so much in the balance for the city of Philadelphia, its fans, his coach, and the future of several fantasy studs: LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek. Oh, and Vick. Even when he’s not good on the field, Vick’s fantasy numbers typically are. He is the personification of the difference between success in the NFL and the accumulation of stats that we covet in fantasy football.

On Monday night, he did exactly what he’s done all year, except he did it against a terrible defense. He didn’t diagnose blitzes, taking seven sacks on the night. He didn’t recognize coverages. He didn’t hit open receivers, resulting in squandered red zone opportunities, and a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown. He picked up a huge chunk of his hollow 272 yards on a 77-yard touchdown to Jackson. He ran six times for 53 yards, salvaging something. His fantasy day wasn’t that bad, but I think it’s about time that Vick’s lack of on-field success in real life impacts his fantasy prospects. It’s time to find an alternative. Plan accordingly.

Good luck in Week 10.

Drew Magyar is a staff writer and can be reached at “What Did We Learn” will be posted each Tuesday morning during the season, and “Rock and a Hard Place” will be posted each Friday morning.

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