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What Did We Learn – Week 9 Edition

Peyton Hillis is a monster. And now he’s healthy. In an offseason trade, Hillis was a throw-in when the Broncos acquired Brady Quinn from the Browns. That throw-in is now plowing through defenses for Cleveland, picking up 184 yards on the ground and two scores against the New England Patriots on Sunday. Hillis is averaging 4.8 yards a carry over the first half of the season, scoring eight times (total) on the season. But over the first several games, he had nagging injuries, most notably a quadriceps pull. He used the bye week to rest it, and now looks to continue next week against a tough New York Jets’ defense. He’s a Top 10 guy the rest of the year.

It doesn’t matter who plays WR for San Diego. It really doesn’t. Philip Rivers is that good. He’s throwing it to guys whose name I can’t pronounce, and frankly, can’t spell. On Sunday, he had no Antonio Gates, no Malcom Floyd, no Legedu Naanee and still no Vincent Jackson. He completed passes to eight different receivers, spreading the ball around for 295 yards and four scores. And he’s got no running game. Ryan Mathews (we’ll get to him in a minute) and Mike Tolbert are running effectively, but not so much that you’re scared of them. Rivers is just picking people apart.

It’s about time to cut ties with Ryan Mathews. The guy’s just not what we were led to believe. He’s got talent, but not much opportunity. Between Rivers’ high level of play, Mathews’ injuries, and Mike Tolbert stealing carries, Mathews just isn’t a good play this year. Norv Turner made it sound like Mathews was LaDainian Tomlinson reincarnate, and instead we got Correll Buckhalter – just enough talent to make him dangerous, but injured way too much. I own Mathews in just one league, and I’ll be cutting him this week.

Arian Foster is the best fantasy running back in the league. Is that surprising? Maybe not. But I’m saying he’s the best, better than Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Frank Gore, Ray Rice and Julius Jones. He’s big, fast, strong, and is featured in one of the most explosive offenses in the league. He is a threat on the ground and through the air. He put up nearly 200 total yards this week, and scored twice. He had a third touchdown called back on a penalty. He’s a Top 5 pick already for next year.

Joe Flacco continues to improve. I’m not saying Flacco is a Top 5 guy, and maybe even Top 10 is a stretch, but he’s good. He’s got a big arm, a ton of weapons, and he’s careful with the ball. He completed 20-of-27 passes on Sunday, going for 266 yards and two touchdowns. He had one goofy game against the Cincinnati Bengals early in the season, but has just one interception in the other seven games. Again, don’t bench a top guy for him, but if you can trade your top guy for a stud back, I’m interested.

Ahmad Bradshaw is really good. Bradshaw is the lead back for the best team in the NFC. The New York Giants’ offense is a headache for opposing defenses. Eli Manning is hitting his trio of receivers for big yardage, and when teams drop off in coverage, Bradshaw gashes you behind a solid offensive line. He’s been a stud all year long, and while the 19 carries for 57 yards doesn’t look fantastic, the two touchdowns sure do. And Seattle’s run defense is underrated, making his numbers more impressive. Bradshaw is another back whose star is on the rise.

Michael Vick is a Top 5 QB every week. As an Eagles’ fan, I was elated to see Vick back on the field. I am a well-documented Kevin Kolb detractor, and welcomed No. 7’s return. Vick started quickly with a touchdown bullet to DeSean Jackson. He followed it later with a rushing score on a sneak from the 1-yard line. He threw for more than 200 yards, and ran for another 70-plus. He looked comfortable in the pocket, and when he had to move, he moved. Fast. He may take more hits in the future, so keep a solid backup, but Vick is back and will pay dividends to owners who held on to him.

Jacob Tamme is a stud. Apparently, whoever plays tight end for Indianapolis has the potential to be a Top 5 player. We all figured that Dallas Clark was a special player. Maybe he’s not. It might just be that their offensive system makes special players out of tight ends. Tamme caught 11 balls for 108 yards and a score on Sunday, and at times was near unstoppable. He’s a Top 3 guy going forward. Hopefully, you can still grab him, although it may be too late.

The Cowboys are no longer a fantasy heaven. As an Eagles guy, I loved watching Sunday night’s debacle at Lambeau Field. But it’s so confusing. I know Tony Romo’s out, but with all those weapons on offense, how do they only score seven points? The only guy who’s producing right now is Dez Bryant. The only other guys I’d start are Miles Austin and Jason Witten, but I’m not feeling good about it. And the funniest part? After the seven-point offensive stinker on Sunday night, Jerry Jones fired head coach Wade Phillips, he promoted whom – offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. That’s right. Apparently, you reward terrible offensive game planning with a promotion. “Big D” is a big disappointment.

Terrell Owens is NOT the biggest head case in Cincinnati. Owens is having another good year, arguably his best since 2007 with the Cowboys. Owens caught 10 balls for 141 yards and scored two touchdowns. He has clearly been Carson Palmer’s top target this year, and it’s clearly getting to Chad Ochocinco, who openly argued with Palmer on the field, before leaving for a while, presumably to pout. I think Palmer is overrated, as is Ochocinco, but Owens has looked fantastic. He’s playing hard like always, and by playing next to Ochocinco, he only looks mildly crazy. Good for you, “T.O.”

A reminder that Green Bay, New Orleans, Oakland and San Diego are on a bye in Week 10. With three of the top quarterbacks in the league on a bye, starting lineups will shift a lot.

Drew Magyar is a staff writer and can be reached at

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