The Buccaneers continued to be a surprise source of bountiful fantasy points, but following a slow start to the season it was their Sunday opponent who saw some readily available players rise to fantasy prominence. The Raiders highlight the Week 9 edition of Risers/Sliders.
• Isaac Redman, RB, Steelers -- After starting the season off with a thud, the Steelers' backfield is in full swing following Sunday's big win at the Meadowlands. The improving Pittsburgh offensive line enabled a Steelers running back, in this case Redman, to go over the 100-yard rushing mark for the third consecutive week. Since the start of October, Steelers backs have been averaging a robust 159 yards from scrimmage per contest. With Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall both shelved by leg injuries, it's Redman and his consecutive 100-plus yards from scrimmage appearances, who becomes the man to own.
• Pierre Thomas, Saints -- The loss of Darren Sproles due to a mysterious broken bone in his hand opens the door for the rest of the Saints backs to have a greater role in one of the league's marquee offenses. Nobody should benefit from the increased playing time more than PT Cruiser, who actually has a better yards per reception average (9.7 on 15 grabs) than Sproles (8.3 on 39 catches) while averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He'll split time with the somewhat disappointing Mark Ingram while also ceding some snaps to preseason rookie sensation Travaris Cadet. With Sproles out, though, Thomas is the New Orleans back to own.
• Marcel Reece, Raiders -- With the availability of both Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson in question due to injuries there's a good chance that Reece, the fullback and former wide receiver who's built and used like a tight end, will temporarily become a workhorse in the Raiders' backfield. Don't look for a lot of carries -- he has just one attempt for no yards this season. What he will provide is a West Coast-like receiving option just as he did against the Bucs on Sunday when he caught eight of nine targets for 95 yards. It's an unorthodox play, but one that could pay off handsomely with the Ravens, Saints and Bengals on the horizon.
• Jamaal Charles, Chiefs -- There's a conspiracy theory floating around that the Chiefs are purposely limiting Charles' carries since they see him as their franchise back and are resigned to the fact that this is a lost season. But judging from his numbers over the past three games, there might be something to the theory. Through Week 5 Charles was the league's leading rusher, averaging 20.6 attempts and 110.2 yards per game. Since then he has run just 29 times for 83 yards over three games, an average of 9.7 carries and 27.7 yards per contest. That last average puts him below the likes of backups Joe McKnight, Ronnie Hillman and Justin Forsett, and makes it hard to insert him into all but the most bye week-injury decimated lineup until his coaches show a willingness to use him again.
• Fred Jackson, RB, Bills -- Jackson is an outstanding back in a bad situation. He is splitting time with C.J. Spiller while playing for a team with a defense that regularly digs deep holes on the scoreboard. With the exception of last week against the Titans, when he gained 120 scrimmage yards and scored a touchdown, this has been a lost season for Jackson, punctuated by his 11-touch, 35-yard day in Houston. Dating back to when he sprained his knee on opening day, Jackson has failed to run for 100 yards in any game this year and has gone over the 10 non-PPR points mark just twice. With the Patriots up next on the schedule it's wise to take a wait-and-see approach; however at this point he should not be someone you blindly insert into your lineup on a weekly basis.
• Alex Green, RB, Packers -- Expectations for Green were tempered when he took over for an injured Cedric Benson as the Packers' lead back, but in the month since he hasn't even met those middling hopes. Green has been so pedestrian in the role, that James Starks, previously relegated to Mike McCarthy's doghouse, emerged against the Cardinals to get more carries than Green, 17 to 11. For Packers fans, the best thing that came out of Green's tenure as a "feature" back was that his failure jump-started the passing game with Randall Cobb becoming more a focus.
• LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers -- With Doug Martin in the midst of a game for the ages, the Bucs turned to Blount to give their star a breather while up 11 points and with less than 10 minutes left. On three straight plays Blount proceeded to get stuffed for no gain on a play overturned by a defensive penalty, gained two yards on a plunge up the middle and then failed to receive a handoff from Josh Freeman, causing a fumble that enabled the Raiders to cut the lead to just three points. The fumble was tagged to Freeman but from appearances it was all on the back who didn't get another touch. With Martin's explosion and dependable veteran D.J. Ware around, there's little need for the inconsistent and sometimes maddening Blount to be on a fantasy roster except in the deepest of leagues.
• T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts -- Andrew Luck and his supporting cast (Hilton, Vick Ballard, Dwayne Allen) looked like anything but rookies playing together for just the eighth time in their Week 9 win over the Dolphins. They looked that seamless on offense. Hilton has become one of the most valuable cogs in Luck's scheme, providing a speedy slot receiver with good hands, much like the man he's replacing, Austin Collie. Hilton's ability to get beyond the secondary with a burst of his 4.3-speed makes him one of the more dangerous receivers around and certainly the best among all of the rookies. In fact, not only is he the only rookie with two 100-yard receiving games this season, he's the only one with any.
• Danario Alexander, WR, Chargers -- What do you do when you lose a 6-foot-5 receiver to free agency? You go and get another 6-5 receiver. That's what the Chargers did on Oct. 18 when they signed former Rams wideout Alexander to help try to offset the loss of Vincent Jackson last offseason. Alexander came up big against the Chiefs last Thursday, catching three balls for 61 yards and earning praise from Norv Turner, who added that Alexander would become a large part of a San Diego game plan in future weeks. This week we get to see the "new Vincent Jackson" face the old Vincent Jackson in Tampa in what should be a strong game for both.
• Golden Tate, Seahawks -- Famous for Monday night touchdown that was or wasn't and helped tipped the scales toward a settlement of the officiating impasse, Tate has quietly put together solid back-to-back games against the Lions and Vikings. Curiously, he's become one of the league's top receivers against the NFL North, grabbing 14 passes for 156 yards and four touchdowns versus the division, while in the other five other games he has just 10 catches for 123 yards with one score. In any case, Russell Wilson has looked Tate's way 13 times over the past two games with great success and will continue to do so next week against the Jets.
• Sidney Rice, Seahawks -- It has taken Rice a long time to fully recover from the hip problems that plagued him in 2010, but over the past month he's looking more and more like the receiver who caught 83 balls for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009. Rice has touchdowns in three of his last four contests, which should make him a wanted man on the waiver wire.
• Hakeem Nicks, Giants -- The NFL is ever-changing, and if you don't keep up with the adjustments made by your opponent then you fall behind. That's apparently what's happening with the Giants' passing game and with Nicks in particular. Expected to be a sure-thing 1,000-yard receiver, he's been among this season's biggest disappointments, failing to gain more than 53 receiving yards or score in five of the six games he's played. The Steelers completely shut him down, holding the former first-round pick to one catch on four targets and 10 yards. He has a chance at redemption this week against the Bengals' 22nd-ranked pass defense but only for those who are comfortable taking a chance.
• Andrew Hawkins, Bengals -- A quick start to the season has turned ugly for Hawkins, who has now gone five consecutive games without scoring while managing highs of just five catches and 47 yards during that time. Andy Dalton continues to put up numbers but has looked more to Jermaine Gresham as the team's second receiving option. He's safe to replace if he happens to still be sitting on your roster.
• Dexter McCluster, Chiefs -- Once billed as the poor man's Percy Harvin, McCluster is a combo running back/receiver with great speed who should be an offensive force in the NFL. But he's simply not. The Chiefs are in complete disarray, so the opportunity for him to contribute is there. Once again, though, he fell short of expectations in Week 9. There's nothing to see here.
• Russell Wilson, Seahawks -- The rookie is developing a knack for getting out of the pocket and throwing on the run, a trait he showed multiple times with great success against the Vikings in Sunday's win. Still not in consideration as a weekly fantasy starter, Wilson has enough weapons (Tate, Rice, Zach Miller) to be a consideration for Aaron Rodgers and Robert Griffin III owners this week when he plays at home against the Jets.
• Carson Palmer, Raiders -- Andrew Luck's 433-yard game against the Dolphins overshadowed the 414 passing yards Palmer put up on the Bucs, the third-best yardage game of his career and his fifth 400-yard game overall. Palmer connected for four touchdowns, giving him 13 for the year, tying him for 10th with Russell Wilson. That's more than Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Tony Romo, Andrew Luck, Matt Schaub or the next player on this list ...
• Eli Manning, Giants -- The Super Bowl hero had a tough week as his Hoboken, N.J. apartment building felt the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and he felt the sting of losing to the Steelers. Manning has been unable to throw more than one touchdown in any of his past four games and has not eclipsed the 200-yard plateau in three of those. It's only a matter of time before he turns it around but this prolonged slump has cost his owners dearly.
• Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings -- It's OK for your running backs or wide receivers to occasionally fail to reach 100 yards in a game, but when it's your quarterback you're in big trouble. That's why after a promising start to the season Ponder is no longer a fantasy consideration in leagues that use single signal-callers.
• Brandon Myers, Raiders -- The Raiders need a way to move the chains, and Myers is doing a good job of that, gaining 21 first downs this season on 39 receptions. Against the Bucs he had eight catches, 59 yards and the first two touchdowns of his four-year NFL career. He's climbed quietly to rank fifth among tight ends with 442 yards and tied for fourth in catches with 39. Still, he is available in nearly 95 percent of leagues.
• Tom Crabtree, Packers -- You're probably never going to use him but just know that Crabtree, primarily a special teams player and blocker, has the same number of touchdown receptions himself (three) than Jason Witten, Jermichael Finley, Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler, have combined.
• Jacob Tamme, Broncos -- It was assumed that because he had experience playing with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis that he would come in and dominate the receptions for Denver tight ends. Not the case. Joel Dreessen has kept pace with Tamme in fantasy points has been on the field a lot more than him, too, thanks to his blocking skills. Now with Virgil Green, also a superior blocker, getting more involved in the Broncos attack, Tamme's value is losing luster.
• Kyle Rudolph, Vikings -- It was good while it lasted for Rudolph, who was an early-season breakout player at the position. Over the last three games, however, he's given his fantasy owners a total of two catches for 17 yards, including two goose eggs, first against the Cardinals and yesterday against the Seahawks. That's simply unacceptable. Rudolph owners would be smart to swap him out for Myers immediately.