Touchdown Tom is back. Tom Brady looks like the Brady that threw 50 touchdowns a few years back. After that knee injury to kick off the 2008 season, it looks like it’s taken until now for him to really be comfortable again. He’s now stepping into throws, spreading the ball around, and making opposing defenses look silly, all without Randy Moss as a deep threat. Granted it was the Detroit Lions, but Brady’s 341 yards and four scores is just a sign of things to come. He looked comfortable in the pocket, and seems to be targeting Wes Welker a lot lately.
Matt Cassel has become a fantasy stud. Brady’s former backup threw for just 233 yards but added four touchdowns of his own. It doesn’t hurt that Dwayne Bowe can’t be stopped. Bowe has been just about as good as he could possibly be. But Cassel has been phenomenal of late, throwing for 895 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions over his last three games. He’s a Top 12 guy the rest of the year.
Jacoby Ford is becoming a really dangerous receiver. He’s scary fast. He ran back the opening kickoff of the game the other day, setting a land speed record. He also took a simple deep out for a long score and caught another deep ball. The rookie looks like he’s figuring out the NFL game quickly, and there’s no reason to think he’ll slow down. I’m not saying he should be in lineups every week, but if you’re in a pinch, or if you’re just targeting guys for next year, he’s worth a look.
Peyton Hillis couldn’t be more awesome. I know I’ve been touting him for weeks, but seriously? He torched the Panthers defense for 131 yards and three touchdowns. He slowed down in the second half, but the damage was done. He is big, physical and has enough burst to make big plays at any time. And, perhaps most importantly, the Cleveland Browns are featuring him. They know that their quarterback play isn’t going to be a strength, regardless of who’s playing, so they’re letting Hillis tote the rock and riding his hot hand. He gets Miami, Buffalo and Cincinnati the next three weeks.
Jonathan Stewart is alive. Stewart looked good Sunday, despite just getting 12 carries as the Carolina Panthers fell behind. In a game where more people were talking about the other team’s back (and with good reason), Stewart quietly turned those 12 carries into 98 yards. He’s going to get the starting tailback job from Mike Goodson soon, and while it still might be a timeshare, he’ll be very valuable.
Eli Manning continues to play well. He’s been putting up numbers despite turning the ball over a lot. Well, his degree of difficulty has gotten even harder, as he’s now throwing to guys who were home watching football just weeks ago. With Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith injured, Manning has turned to Mario Manningham, Kevin Boss and David Hagan and put up 226 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Manning will continue to be productive down the stretch.
Toby Gerhart can be an adequate fill-in. I knew he could beat up on Cal while at Stanford, but NFL defenses are a different animal. Gerhart took over for a hobbled Adrian Peterson in the first half against the Washington Redskins, and ran hard, turning 22 carries into 76 yards and a score. He got tough yards and can be useful if Peterson is out for any extended time, although it appeared Peterson will play this week. But keep an eye on this one.
Sam Bradford has a lot of potential. Bradford had his first 300-yard passing day as a pro, throwing for three touchdowns. He spread the ball to eight different receivers. Bradford looks like he’s paying dividends for the St. Louis Rams who selected him over stud defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. While Suh has been a monster for the Lions, Bradford is a franchise quarterback and a viable fantasy starter depending on the matchup going forward. I wasn’t on his bandwagon earlier this year, but I am now.
Philip Rivers is a game manager. If you’d told me that the Chargers would put up 36 on the Colts, I’d have said Rivers blew up. And I’d have been wrong. Rivers was efficient, completing 19-of-23 passes for 185 yards, but no touchdowns. The San Diego defense and running attack were really featured on Sunday night, as the Chargers made the Colts look bad. I don’t foresee many games like this for Rivers going forward and actually anticipate him getting back to his old ways.
Brian Westbrook will be the man in San Francisco. Frank Gore broke his hip on Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals. I didn’t realize he was 84 years old. My initial thought as he left the field was that they’re in trouble with the aging Westbrook filling in. Then Westbrook started playing like the Westbrook of 2007. He looked fantastic, rushing for 136 yards and a score. Westbrook is the top free agent to target, and after a tough matchup in Green Bay this week, he’ll get Seattle, San Diego and St. Louis. Get him.
Good luck in Week 13.
Drew Magyar is a FantasySharks.com staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.