– It took awhile, but it looks like the New Orleans Saints offense that fantasy players came to know and love last season is back. Drew Brees gunned down the 49ers secondary on Sunday, recording his best overall game of the year in going 31-39 for 336 yards, 4 TDs, and 0 INTs (that last stat is a big one considering he’d thrown 9 picks in his first four games). He now has 8 TD passes over the past three weeks and has an average QB Rating of 111.3 over that stretch. Marques Colston was the recipient of three TD passes, and probably could have had a fourth one if not for some pass interference. And Reggie Bush went over 100 combined yards despite leaving in the fourth quarter with a boo-boo. All three of these players should be considered strong fantasy options from here on out.
– St. Louis Rams stud running back Steven “Stephen” Jackson made a very strong return to the lineup on Sunday. That is, until he got hurt again. Jackson came out and put up 31 rushing yards and a touchdown on the Rams opening drive. He looked strong and quick through the holes, even if he acknowledged he wasn’t 100%. It was the Rams first rushing TD of the season, only eight weeks into the campaign.
Then, to the chagrin of his owners, Jackson went to the locker room with a “back injury” in the second quarter. Fortunately, it turned out to be just back spasms as a result of overcompensating for the groin injury and Jackson said after the game, “It’s not an injury that keeps you out for weeks.” Phew. He should be fine and can still be counted on as a starting running back going forward.
– Detroit Lions fans, please kindly remove thine heads from under those brown paper bags–your team just swept the season series from the Chicago Bears and is 5-2 for the first time in 7 years. Playoff talk is still a bit premature (“Playoffs?! PLAYOFFS?!”), but this team is coming together and has the look of at least a contender for a postseason berth. Jon Kitna has now gone two weeks straight without a turnover, RB Kevin Jones scored again and went over 100 combined yards, and that maligned defense now leads the league in takeaways with 20 after picking off Brian Griese four times.
With Tatum Bell completely out of the picture for now (inactive on Sunday), KJ should be considered a solid RB2. Look for another big day from him when the team sporting the league’s worst rush defense, the Broncos, visit Motown in Week 9.
– Antonio Gates kept his strong season rolling despite the Chargers attempting just 11 passes on Sunday. Gates managed to snag 3 of them for 92 yards and 2 TDs. There was also a Chris Chambers sighting. Undoubtedly elated to be out of the Miami morass, Chambers caught his first TD of the season and should maintain his WR3 value in San Diego. With 7 completions in his 11 attempts, 3 for TDs, QB Philip Rivers had a tidy 143.9 passer rating. It’s also worth noting that Vince Jackson was held without a catch.
– Santonio Holmes has been the sexier development in the Steelers’ passing game this season, but I had a hunch that sure-handed veteran Hines Ward would have a nice game against the Bungles (2-5), whose season has just about been flushed down the toilet after their 24-13 loss at home. Ward came through with two first-half touchdown receptions and totaled 8 receptions for 88 yards. With a string of favorable matchups on the horizon, both Holmes and Ward should be considered must-starts.
– The Cleveland passing offense continued to roll, and it’s looking more and more like a legitimate, reliable fantasy goldmine. Braylon Edwards had another massive day, hauling in 8 passes for 117 yards and 2 TDs. TE Kellen Winslow also found the endzone. We expected those guys to produce entering the season, but it’s the strong play of 2005 sixth-round pick Derek Anderson that continues to impress. He now has 17 TD passes, 2 rushing TDs and just 8 INTs on the season—good for fourth-best among QBs in ETB’s fantasy scoring format. The Browns playoff schedule is perhaps the softest in football (@ NJY, vs. BUF, @ CIN), so now is not the time to sell high.
– After sitting out one game with a quad injury, Vince Young returned for the Titans, and though his team’s record moved to 5-2 after a 13-9 win over the hapless Raiders, Young likely dealt a death blow to any fantasy owners who bravely inserted him into their starting lineup. Only one TD was scored on the afternoon between both teams (a Chris Henry 24-yard scamper), and for his part Young finished 6-14 for 53 combined yards. He’s now only accounted for 4 total TDs all year and is one of the biggest first-half fantasy disappointments at the quarterback position.
– Thank you, Fast Willie Parker. Pittsburgh’s shifty speedster finally found the endzone again, just his second TD of the season. Parker has been playing extremely well, going over 100 total yards in all but one game, but the lack of touchdowns was disconcerting after he managed 16 scores last season. Hopefully this is the start of a huge second half, because after Baltimore next week the Steelers schedule really opens up.
– I’m going to go ahead and pat myself on the back for acquiring Joseph Addai just before Sunday’s explosion. The news out of Indy last week was that Kenton Keith was going to start eating into Addai’s touches, and there was some chatter about Addai’s decreased value on the ETB message board, so I swooped in and landed the playmaker. The trade went through on Sunday morning, and I must say it worked out pretty well. Keith received just 6 carries to Addai’s 23, and Joseph finished with 100 yards rushing and 2 rushing TDs as well as 2 receptions for 8 yards and another TD.
– I know Adrian Peterson isn’t the long-term answer in Chicago, but isn’t it time he started splitting snaps with Cedric Benson? Peterson outplayed the incumbent Benson again on Sunday, and the temperamental starter had some choice words after the game:
“I’ve been hearing a lot of people criticize and talk stuff,” he said. “They’re not watching the games or the plays. They’re just throwing out criticism. Do I need to run with more of a burst? No. And [expletive] them. So I guess I’m getting to the hole and walking through the hole, right? I only got 13 carries today. Ten more and I probably could have got 100. Eight more and I probably could have got 100.”
Benson finished with just 50 yards on 13 carries. Considering he’s averaging a pathetic 3.1 yards a carry on the season, we’re guessing he would have needed at least 15 more carries. But hey, who’s counting? Benson also managed to drop a few easy passes and continues to look lost in pass protection.
– T.J Houshmandzadeh has to cool down at some point, right? According to the Cincinnati Enquirer the pony-tailed wideout is on pace to have 133 receptions for 1,439 yards and 21 touchdowns. Insanity.
– Adrian Peterson fans finally got what they wanted on Sunday, with Purple Jesus getting the start and the lion’s share of the carries against Philadelphia. Unfortunately, he had a very mediocre day: 20 carries, 70 yards for a 3.5 YPC. Still, when you watch this kid play you can’t escape the feeling that he could take it the length of the field on any given snap, and if Peterson continues to get these carries he should finish as one of the top-five running backs in fantasy football.
– NFL Commissioner Roger Godell tried his best to paint a pretty picture out of a muddy donkey’s ass, but we’re embarassed that 90,000 Brits paid to see that ugly Giants/Dolphins game at Wembley Stadium. It was like the World League all over again, but without the scoring. The highlight for those of us stuck at home with the local broadcasts and a Halloween Hangover was Daryl “Moose” Johnston’s awkward silence when Tony “Goose” Siragusa asked him if he learned anything this week in London. “…… um, no, well, I haven’t been here as long as you,” said Moose. Way to be on your toes, Daryl–you’re truly an ambassador for the sport and our country.
– When he’s healthy, Philadelphia Eagles RB Brian Westbrook is probably one of the league’s three most dangerous backs. The Vikings are one of the NFL’s best at stopping the run, and they were at it again on Sunday, holding Westbrook to just 46 yards rushing and a meager 2.2 YPC. But you can’t hold the man down for 60 minutes, as the 5-10 back worked his way into the endzone for two short TD runs that made up for his low yardage totals. We see big things for him this Sunday at home against the Cowboys.
– Finally, our apologies to those of you who sent us questions for the fantasy football mailbag. We just didn’t have time this week to get to it, but we’ll be back to answering your questions for Week 9. Hopefully you all fared well in your matchups. Please do send any questions for this week to firstname.lastname@example.org, or just post them somewhere in the comments. We’ll publish answers on Saturday.