Whenever you think you have the NFL pegged, it tends to throw you for a loop. There are teams now that look like world-beaters and others that look completely lost. But we shouldn't forget a wild-card team that was one of the last teams in the postseason last year wound up Super Bowl champions.
That gives your mediocre fantasy teams, those sunken by disappointments, some shred of hope still. It is now or never; and hopefully it goes better than Chris Johnson's now or never went in Week 8.
All is not lost, especially if you have players from the Jets, Chargers, Eagles, Falcons, Saints and Cowboys. Those teams should see a decided difference in the second half. The Eagles already showed it last week and this week it says here: Expect a lot better from the Cowboys, Saints and Falcons.
And your Jets and Chargers are going to surprise you ... in a good way. Those seemingly weak fantasy teams featuring players from these squads are going to look as good coming out as they did going in.
In this week's Weekend Watch List, we highlight first-half disappointments who are going to take off this week en route to a much better stretch run. Most of these guys are must-starts through thick and thin, even if it has been mostly thin to date. This list won't encompass all the best comeback stories for the rest of the season as much as highlight which ones are going to pay you back with surprisingly good numbers in Fantasy Week 9.
Rivers has been a sad excuse for an early round pick this season, turning the ball over and falling to get his team into the end zone. Amid all of this and his "worst day ever" hoopla, he faces the unbeaten Super Bowl champion Packers.
But here's the shocker: Rivers is going to enjoy a revival against one of the worst teams in fantasy against QBs. Heck, his Chargers might even pull off an upset at home. We already know they are not going to run on the Packers' front -- especially not with Ryan Mathews hurt -- so it should be a busy day for Rivers down the field and getting into the end zone (finally).
As goes the quarterback, so go the receivers. Jackson has been a below-average performer in recent weeks as Antonio Gates has returned and Malcom Floyd has emerged. Starting Jackson against the Packers is going to pay you back here.
Sure, the Packers have a good defense, but their track-meet offense is going to set the tone in this game, forcing the Chargers to keep up. The weakened running back corps of the Chargers is likely to make for a decidedly wide-open game plan, too.
We said this preseason Ryan was going to take the next step into the fantasy elite. Instead, he took a significant step back into fantasy mediocrity. It was a function of a brutal first-half schedule, though. Now the Falcons draw the winless Colts this week.
(That is one thing we are certain won't change: The Colts are still going to be downright awful.)
Ryan gets Julio Jones healthy and has Roddy White closer to 100 percent. Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner have already proven to be ageless commodities and the Falcons D/ST is improving by the week. The Falcons are going to blow out the Colts and have everything clicking offensively under the direction of Ryan.
Like Rivers-Jackson, the Falcons' Ryan-White combo is going to look far more like Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson -- the 2011 duo to which all others are compared, usually unfavorably.
White is healthier and has Jones on the other side and Gonzalez pulling the safeties attention to the middle of the field. Also, the Colts' porous run defense is going to need help stopping the ground-and-pound of Turner. All this adds up to good numbers for Ryan and White, who will start showing he belongs in the Megatron elite and exclusive class of fantasy WRs.
The Jets came out of the gate this season throwing the ball a lot more than anyone expected. It got them two victories, but then the lack of a running game cost them in three consecutive losses. Only the past two games have shown what the Jets want to do: Run and stop the run.
They are going to have to do it against one of the best running teams in football in the first half: Fred Jackson and the Bills. Boasting the best defense against QBs in fantasy, the Jets are going to load up the box against Jackson and get back to the formula that got them to back-to-back AFC Championship games.
Greene and his fantasy owners are going to continue to be the beneficiaries, especially since LaDainian Tomlinson has shown his age and no longer can take even a 50-50 split on carries. The Jets say Joe McKnight is going to get some more looks on the ground, but only because Greene is going to get up to 25 carries on his own -- and 125-plus yards with a pair of scores.
Continuing our theme of everything working in concert offensively, we are going to list Sanchez here as a surprise. The Bills have a good secondary, but they have been giving up fantasy points to QBs and WRs this season. Sanchez isn't going to throw for 300 yards, maybe not even 250, but he is going to get some scores with red-zone opportunities.
This is working off the assumption Greene has the kind of rushing day we project above, of course. If that is the case, Sanchez will go back to being a game-manager, which is going to get the Jets in position to score more points for fantasy owners.
It was a lot easier to swallow Romo being on your fantasy team in the early weeks when he was choking away games, because at least then he was posting big numbers in the early quarters. Last week against the previously flopping Eagles, it was all bad for Romo.
This week against the flopping Seahawks is going to be all good for Romo.
Romo struggled against the Eagles' elite corners and couldn't even muster anything in garbage time. Against the Seahawks, returning home, sitting below .500, it is going to be payback time. The Seahawks defense is quietly decent stopping the run, but they are not going to stop the Cowboys from blowing this one out through the air. Romo looks headed for 300-plus yards and four scores.
Even he won't be able to choke this one away.
Somehow Romo was terrible against the Eagles but unowned receiver Laurent Robinson broke through with a huge week. Robinson did it at the expense of Dez Bryant and Austin, who hasn't been great since returning from his early season injury.
The lost receiver is going to find himself in the thick of this Cowboys revival, so keep him in fantasy lineups.
Like Bryant and Austin, Witten hasn't been pulling his weight for fantasy owners. The Cowboys are going to get back to looking like a dangerous offense again. The Eagles were able to do it, because they pay their corners millions to do it, but there are just too many weapons to cover when you have Bryant, Austin and Witten all healthy and in the thick of the game plan.
Trying to figure the Patriots game plan isn't easy, especially when it pertains to the use of their running backs. It has been that way for years.
We thought we had it licked a year ago, when the player known as the Law Firm finally gave Tom Brady a go-to back. BGE has been a bust, mostly, and even the aged likes of Kevin Faulk has gotten in his way of good fantasy numbers.
That won't happen this week against a Giants run defense that has been gashed on the ground. This game could be a shootout, but the Giants secondary has allowed just seven passing touchdowns in seven games. Brady will get his, but BGE looks good for 100 yards and a couple of scores in this one, too.
The Eagles romped a week ago and did it without helping Jackson's fantasy owners out. Jackson's disappearing acts should have been something you signed up for when you drafted him, though.
He goes multiple weeks with subpar numbers and then erupts for 150 yards and a pair of scores. This Monday night's game against the Bears looks like it can be one of those weeks. Don't dare sit him. He is not hurt and Michael Vick has gotten it together.
The Chiefs are like those teams we talked about above. We thought we had them figured out as a lost cause at 0-3. Now they are tied for the division lead and have found Jackie Battle to make up for the loss of Jamaal Charles and the decline of Thomas Jones.
Cassel has also found a third receiver in rookie Jonathan Baldwin, who finally looks ready to contribute for fantasy owners. We already know all about Dwayne Bowe and figure to see more from Steve Breaston on the other side.
Cassel has overcome his early season rib injury, has the receivers ready to take off and is facing that Dolphins secondary that has been among the most generous in fantasy to date. Cassel looks like he will be a great start here. Get him active.
Somehow the 49ers are 6-1 and somehow Alex Smith is looking like a capable NFL quarterback. Strangely, both things are happening without Davis making a significant impact for fantasy owners.
That has to end soon. The Bills torched the Redskins a week ago and did it with their tight end getting in the end zone twice. Davis has twice the talent of journeyman Scott Chandler. Expect him to be Smith's go-to guy in the red zone this week.
Josh Freeman hasn't been the fantasy star he was a year ago, but he has at least improved of late and he is getting LeGarrette Blount back to take the pressure off. We should then expect Winslow to be far better than the nonexistent target he has been.
Winslow has fallen out of favor as a starter for fantasy owners, but we would give him the Chris Johnson treatment this week: It is now or never. Hopefully, we will be more right about Winslow and those above this go around.