Eric Mack
Sunday October 23rd, 2011

We saw in four-plus quarters the Tim Tebow critics and avid supporters have their say. Tebow was mostly inept until very late, and his critics were readying their "I told you so's."

By game's end in overtime, Tebow and his supporters had the final say, if not laugh. He rallied the Broncos with late scores and an OT victory in a great fantasy matchup and helped his owners breathe a sigh of relief.

Sure, he is not a polished passer -- that was apparently early -- but he is a playmaker and leader. The latter was apparent throughout.

He is going to improve the first 50 minutes of football he plays -- mostly in his delivery of the ball and execution of a game plan -- and be a great fill-in for fantasy owners that nabbed him off waivers. He is a poor man's Cam Newton, a player he started over in college, by the way. Newton isn't too shabby, we already know.

Tebow's true arrival came late in a week that saw a lot of running backs go down early. Down went Darren McFadden, Beanie Wells, Earnest Graham, Marshawn Lynch, Tashard Choice and perhaps even Tim Hightower.

Hello, Mr. DeMarco Murray and his huge day against the awful Rams run defense. Not a bad day's work in his first career start, passing Emmitt Smith as the Cowboys' leading single-game rusher.

As much as everyone will want to talk about Tebow's heroics, fantasy's story this week will be the health of all these backs and the status of their backups.

We break down all the action game-by-game and what it all means for us in the Fantasy Football Fast Forward Week 7:

• Save for Anquan Boldin's late score to salvage his week, all of the Ravens laid an egg against an underrated Jags defense. The Ravens just couldn't muster a first down and even Ray Rice was held quiet.

• The Jags D/ST can be a sleeper in the right matchup. You won't use them in Week 8 against the Texans, or Week 9 on bye, but Week 10 against the Colts looks like it will be a good time to use the Jags D/ST.

• Torrey Smith can be a factor down the road, and next Sunday against the vulnerable Cardinals could prove intriguing.

• In a tough matchup, Maurice Jones-Drew held up well, but the Jags were as unworthy of starting as expected. Jason Hill did show something out of nowhere, but he still isn't worth picking up.

• If Curtis Painter can't make the Colts receivers productive in this kind of a blowout, he might not keep the job any longer. Dan Orlovsky might be a candidate to take his place, which will go back to making Pierre Garcon as worthless as Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Austin Collie have been.

• Marques Colston is back to being 100 percent and Jimmy Graham is 100 percent awesome among tight ends. Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson are hardly there any more.

• Darren Sproles remains the Saints' leading fantasy back because of his receiving numbers. He picked up the rushing score over Mark Ingram, too. Pierre Thomas made a minor impact, but only because this one was out of hand early. All three backs should be productive enough to use this Sunday against the awful Rams run defense.

• Joseph Addai was able to play, but it was clear Delone Carter is the Colts' best back. He will be a decent option against the Titans this season. Addai and Donald Brown aren't likely to prove useful.

• Welcome to stardom, DeMarco Murray. Felix Jones might have just gotten Wally Pipp'd. Jones is going to get plenty of weeks to get healthy with Murray proving so effective against the worst run defense in the NFL. The Eagles aren't a great run defense next week either. The loss of Choice didn't really matter much; Murray is going to take off.

• Tony Romo wasn't great, but he didn't have to be. He should remain active in all leagues, along with Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant. It should be a shootout in Philly next week.

• Steven Jackson held up more than well enough against a tough Cowboys run defense. He is going to be a must-start against the Saints next week.

• A.J. Feely wasn't great, but he at least kept Brandon Lloyd productive in his Rams debut. Lloyd knows this Josh McDaniels offense well and should be a beast once Sam Bradford.

• Adrian Peterson was outstanding against a very good run defense. It is a great sign you won't have to sit your star back after the disaster last week.

• Michael Jenkins and Visanthe Shiancoe might not be much, but it is all Christian Ponder has to work with in the passing game. We are not convinced Ponder is better than Donovan McNabb right now, but he played well enough to show something for the future. With this receiving corps, though, he isn't going to impact standard fantasy leagues.

• James Starks took a decent step forward, but his time-share with Ryan Grant keeps Starks from being more than a bye-week replacement.

• If you throw out some long touchdowns, James Jones is a better fantasy option than Jordy Nelson now. Both are going to be viable enough to start through the bye season. It is clear Donald Driver is doing being a fantasy option, though.

• Jermichael Finley saved his fantasy week with a score. You are going to have to count on his red-zone targets to carry him, because there are just too many receiver options.

• The Raiders went down when McFadden did. He was supposed to carry the day, like he does most days, with a backup quarterback and a rusty off-the-street veteran as the starting options. Instead, McFadden took an early exit with a foot injury and will be out next week -- not because of the injury, but because of the bye. It should help him heal and keep Michael Bush from being a starter, hopefully. Bush wasn't bad as a fill-in, but it will be mostly McFadden when healthy.

• Jackie Battle is now the Chiefs' primary back and he has a pretty good chance of being a fantasy starter in a lot of leagues. The Chiefs are still going to be a team that starts with the run and works its passing game off it. Thomas Jones isn't worth owning, unless you need a TD vulture candidate as a bye-week replacement.

• Matt Cassel wasn't great but he has at least made Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston regular fantasy starters again. Breaston warrants being picked up.

• Carson Palmer was bad, beyond bad. He wasn't even as good as Kyle Boller and that was in garbage time when the yardage and scores should have come easier. It doesn't look promising for him, but hold on to him through the bye week and give him a few weeks to get started.

• Darrius Heyward-Bey was at least solid again as the leading receiver -- the only receiver, in fact. Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore look worthless, maybe even candidates to cut if you need to pick someone up during the bye week.

• Ben Roethlisberger has arrived as a fantasy monster. He is having career year and is making as many as four receivers viable for fantasy owners. Mike Wallace is a star; Heath Miller has re-emerged as a fantasy starter; And Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are emerging as solid bye-week replacements. It should be a wide-open game next week against the Pats coming off bye.

• Rashard Mendenhall has regressed to being a bust. The Cardinals have an underrated defensive front, though. We should fully expect Mendenhall to be better against the Pats -- good enough to start.

• Alonso Smith and LaRod Stephens-Howling picked up the pieces for the loss of Wells -- in a bad matchup. The Cardinals have another bad one coming up against the Ravens. Don't consider any of these backs, even if Wells is out.

• Kevin Kolb has revealed himself as a bye-week replacement, no better, and that bad matchup coming up will keep him out of starting lineups. He has a great matchup in Week 9, though, against the Rams.

• This was supposed to be LaDainian Tomlinson's big day; instead, he left with an illness. Perhaps he was sick to see his former team ruining his current team's season. L.T. is not worth owning in fantasy anymore. This game sealed that. Cut him.

• Mark Sanchez and Plaxico Burress saved the Jets' season with red-zone scores, three of them. This was a tough matchup for the pair of them, so don't feel bad if they were on your bench. It is good news this duo has some red-zone mojo for future weeks, at least. The Jets have a pretty easy schedule coming up, when looking at the exposed defenses they will be facing. It is time to watch your Jets take off.

• Shonn Greene is looking much better now and is going to be a great start after next week's bye. Make a deal for him if someone is selling during his bye week. L.T. is a non-factor.

• Antonio Gates made a successful return in a tough matchup. He figures to remain a must-start in fantasy as long as he is healthy. Take note, though, he is not going to practice every day and could be questionable on a weekly basis, so keep an emergency backup handy.

• Philip Rivers and Vincent Jackson were stuck on Darrelle Revis Island. It was merely a tough matchup and you had to keep them active. They are going to pay you back going forward.

• Ryan Mathews struggled in a bad matchup, too, even though bowling ball Mike Tolbert made an impact with a red-zone score. That Jets run defense is better than it showed in the first weeks of the season, so don't lose faith in Mathews during his breakout year.

• Matt Ryan still wasn't great, but he was good enough and better than Matthew Stafford in a very important road victory. He is another player going on bye next week, but he is going to be very productive for fantasy owners down the stretch. Buy low if someone is selling.

• Stafford is a sell high candidate and this week was proof. Calvin Johnson still had a big week and Stafford was marginally productive for fantasy. The Lions are going to snap out of it next week at Denver, but ...

• The Lions need to get a running game going. Jahvid Best's absence due to a concussion hurts but they need to give Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams more than nine carries apiece. The team says this combo is going to split 50-50, so their fantasy impact will be minimal. They are likely just bye-week replacement flex options.

• Harry Douglas was solid in Julio Jones' absence, but you can cut him going into the bye week. Jones is going to take those numbers back.

• The Redskins' running back carousel turned again this week and likely will turn again next week, too. Tim Hightower returned, stole the show and then left with what could be a ligament strain -- if not a tear. That will make Ryan Torain a factor next week and perhaps Roy Helu a factor down the road, if Hightower gets real bad news from Monday's MRI.

• Cam Newton started slow, but he finished strong in this one -- a promising sign for fantasy owners who are considering him an every-week starter for them. He is resilient and capable of rebounding from adversity.

• It might be time for Jonathan Stewart to take over for D'Angelo Williams as the primary back in Carolina. It would make starting Stewart a lot easier for us in fantasy. The split in touches makes Williams difficult to trust, especially since Stewart is more involved receiving and near the end zone.

• Fred Davis had another big game and it was good to see for his owners with the new quarterback in. Davis benefitted greatly from Santana Moss' broken hand. Davis is going to be the team's leading receiver in the coming weeks now. Jabar Gaffney is going to get more throws, too.

• John Beck wasn't terrible, but he wasn't fantasy-starter worthy either in a pretty decent matchup. It makes him waiver fodder in standard leagues.

• It is time again to see Arian Foster as the best player in fantasy. He torched the Titans on the ground and through the air, going over 100 in both and scoring three TDs. He did so much even backup Ben Tate was able to go over 100 yards in relief. The Texans clearly have the best offensive line in football right now.

• Chris Johnson's bust season continues, as the Titans didn't fix a thing in their running game over the bye week. Don't dare give up on this talent, but clearly your frustrations are justified and benching him is an option if you have a viable alternative.

• Matt Hasselbeck's struggles after a hot start are tied to the lack of a go-to wide receiver now that Kenny Britt is gone for the season. Nate Washington doesn't have much of anything and tight end Jared Cook is decent, but he is not ready to be a steady fantasy starter.

• The Texans used the tight end heavily, getting a touchdown to backup TE Joel Dreessen and having Owen Daniels the leading non-Foster-named receiver. This figures to reduce with the return of Andre Johnson as soon as next week.

• The Texans' defense is legit and worth starting in fantasy. The schedule is real soft coming up, too. All your Texans are going to be real intriguing in the coming stretch.

• Earnest Graham wasn't a good play against the Bears run defense and now you can cut him. He goes out with a reported torn Achilles tendon. If LeGarrette Blount is not ready for the next game, Kregg Lumpkin is going to be the feature back. He is at least worth an add for the opportunity before him. He didn't look great in this tough matchup, though.

• Josh Freeman started slowly, but he made Mike Williams, Kellen Winslow and Dezmon Briscoe productive by game's end. Briscoe is a nice sleeper for improvement down the stretch. He was a star in training camp and should be owned over Preston Parker and perhaps even Arrelius Benn.

• Jay Culter still doesn't have a go-to receiver but at least Roy Williams is playing better and Devon Hester and Johnny Knox are showing a little more consistency. None of this trio is really starter worthy, but the combination of them make Cutler as least a bye-week replacement quarterback.

• The Bears D/ST is an underrated unit, but it has a tough schedule coming up after the bye week. You might be justified cutting them. They come out against the Eagles, Lions and Chargers after the bye.

• Matt Moore had a very favorable matchup and was able to make Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano all useful finally. They should be viable options against the Giants secondary next week.

• Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush were letdowns in a favorable matchup, especially with the inability to run out the clock late.

• Tim Tebow was productive enough in the final minutes and overtime to be a useful fantasy starter.

• Demaryius Thomas' return relegated Eric Decker to waiver fodder here. He is the Broncos' go-to receiver, but with Tebow as the starter, the Broncos are going to use the tight end (Daniel Fells) and backs (Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno) a lot more.

• Somehow Charlie Whitehurst has made us wishing for the days of Tarvaris Jackson. Wow, he was terrible, ruining everyone on the Seahawks.

• Back spasms kept Marshawn Lynch out without warning, yet another reason to not trust him in fantasy going forward. He is merely a fallback option on good fantasy teams. Leon Washington or Justin Forsett are just as worthless in his stead.

• Montario Hardesty wasn't great, but he was decent against a good run defense. He could be a real sleeper going forward. The Browns want to consider him their feature back with Peyton Hillis headed for free agency after the season. Neither Hillis or Hardesty should be used against the elite 49ers run defense next week.

• Colt McCoy wasn't good and he is hamstrung by a mediocre set of receivers. Greg Little is starting now and perhaps the best of the bunch, but none of them are real useful in fantasy. Even Ben Watson was worthless here.

• If Curtis Painter can't make the Colts' receivers productive in this kind of a blowout, he might not keep his job any longer. Dan Orlovsky might be a candidate to take his place, which will go back to making Pierre Garcon as worthless as Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Austin Collie have been.

• Marques Colston is back to being 100 percent and Jimmy Graham is 100 percent awesome among tight ends. Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson are hardly there anymore.

• Darren Sproles remains the Saints' leading fantasy back because of his receiving numbers. He picked up the rushing score over Mark Ingram, too. Pierre Thomas made a minor impact, but only because this one was out of hand early. All three backs should be productive enough to use this Sunday against the awful Rams' run defense.

• Joseph Addai was able to play, but it was clear Delone Carter is the Colts' best back. He will be a decent option against the Titans this season. Addai and Donald Brown aren't likely to prove useful.

• Save for Anquan Boldin's late score to salvage his week, all of the Ravens laid an egg against an underrated Jags defense. The Ravens just couldn't muster a first down and even Ray Rice was held quiet.

• The Jags D/ST can be a sleeper in the right matchup. You won't use them in Week 8 against the Texans, or Week 9 on bye, but Week 10 against the Colts looks like it will be a good time to use the Jags D/ST.

• Torrey Smith can be a factor down the road, and next Sunday against the vulnerable Cardinals could prove intriguing.

• In a tough matchup, Maurice Jones-Drew held up well, but the Jags were as unworthy of starting as expected. Jason Hill did show something out of nowhere, but he still isn't worth picking up.

Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com, including the Start 'em, Sit 'em, the Weekend Fantasy Watchlist and his Sunday night staple Fantasy Football Fast Forward. If you need a further clarification on lineups this week hit him up on Twitter. You can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.