Eric Mack
Sunday October 30th, 2011

Chris Johnson became the highest-paid running back in the NFL this season when he finally ended his holdout. He might be becoming the highest-paid backup running back.

Failing to impress against the fantasy-vulnerable Colts defense, Johnson ended Week 8 on the Titans bench in lieu of Javon Ringer. Ringer mopped up Johnson's mess, running out the clock in an easy victory over the Colts, the worst team in fantasy against RBs coming into the week.

Now, it is clear where CJ2K -- err CJnotOK -- belongs in fantasy: On the bench.

Or, on the trading block.

Or (gasp) on waivers.

We were dealt some surprises early in Fantasy Week 8 -- Johnson being the most revealing of all -- but at least we weren't dealt the rash of injuries we had to deal with a week ago. (Knock on wood. The week isn't over yet.)

Heck, it would be easier to explain Johnson's complete fantasy collapse if it was related to injury. It's not, and it is not easy to deal with for your bust of a first-round pick.

It was now or never for Johnson in that fantasy-dream matchup against the Colts. It is now never.

We break down all the action game-by-game in the Fantasy Football Fast Forward:

• With Mike Tolbert already out and Ryan Mathews leaving with a hammy issue, Curtis Brinkley came on and racked up fantasy points quickly. Brinkley looks like a must-have if Mathews is going to miss next week. We might need to pick him up on a speculative pick anyway.

• Rookie Jonathan Baldwin made a great grab on his long TD reception and may be a sleeper pick-up for owners in deeper leagues down the stretch. The Chiefs are still going to feature Dwyane Bowe and use Steve Breaston as their No. 2, but Baldwin should improve as the weeks wear on. Long term, he is going to be an elite fantasy option. So consider him a must-have in keeper leagues.

• Philip Rivers' struggles continued here, but he is a must-start next week against the Packers. The Packers are third-worst in fantasy against opposing quarterbacks.

• Jackie Battle has clearly taken hold as the Chiefs' primary back, so much so that Thomas Jones should not be owned in any leagues anymore. Battle is his own goal-line back as well, somewhat surprisingly.

• Matt Cassel wasn't great but he was good enough in a tough matchup to make him a start in most formats against the suspect Dolphins secondary next week. The Dolphins are right behind the Packers, fourth-worst, against opposing QBs in fantasy.

• The sudden resurgence of Brent Celek makes him a solid pick-up in all fantasy leagues this week. He is owned in just one-fifth of fantasy leagues, which suggests he is available to you if you have a need at the tight end position. It helps that the Bears have been the worst team in fantasy against TEs this season, giving up an NFL high six touchdowns. Also, this game comes next Monday night, so Celek can help you stage a late rally.

• Jason Avant has emerged as a productive third receiver for the Eagles, fourth if you count Celek. You should not give up on DeSean Jackson as a fantasy starter, though. Jackson is going to post some big weeks you won't want to miss. Avant is a viable stopgap in deeper leagues with the resurgence of Michael Vick and the Eagles offense.

• LeSean McCoy is arguably the most valuable fantasy back this season, right there with Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson. He is in that class because of the overall potential of the Eagles offense and the fact McCoy doesn't have a backup stealing touches from him in a rotation, like Forte and Peterson.

• The Eagles D/ST made a huge statement against a very good Cowboys offense. You can pick the Eagles D/ST back up and use them again. They have righted and can be great in the right matchups.

• DeMarco Murray didn't get enough carries but he made the best of them against the vulnerable Eagles run defense. The Cowboys learned a painful but valuable lesson and they won't make the mistake of abandoning the run this weekend against the Seahawks.

• Tony Romo's struggles may have ruined Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant this week, but you have to keep all these guys active. Laurent Robinson was used heavily in the game plan to avoid the elite cover guys. The passes are going to go back to Witten, Austin and Bryant this weekend.

• The Cowboys D/ST was abused by the revived Eagles but the matchup against the Seahawks should have them active in 100 percent of leagues this week.

• The Pats' inability to run the ball has caught up to them and made Tom Brady merely an average fantasy quarterback of late. Brady and Wes Welker are going to be much better next week against the Giants, though.

• Kevin Faulk's return makes a further mess out of the Pats' backfield mystery. Danny Woodhead and Stevan Ridley have been non-factors and BenJarvus Green-Ellis didn't get a chance to get going against the Steelers. BGE should be better against the Giants, though. They Giants run defense even allowed Bush to rush for 100 yards Sunday.

• Ben Roethlisberger's career year (statistically) continues because of his various targets. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders have emerged as useful fantasy options, alongside Mike Wallace and the revived Heath Miller. It will be a tougher matchup against the Ravens next Sunday, but Big Ben remains a must-start along with Wallace. Miller, Brown and Sanders -- in that order -- should be consider more like fill-ins for fantasy owners.

• Rashard Mendenhall wasn't great in what should have been a good matchup for him. You probably won't want him active against the Ravens run defense next Sunday if you have a viable alternative. Big Ben's passing pace is really cutting into Mendenhall's fantasy value right now. Mendenhall still should get far busier down the stretch when the weather worsens this fall in the northeast.

• Tim Tebow looked awful again and couldn't make up for it late this time around. He started to at least complete some passes to the outside, making Eric Decker productive again while Demaryius Thomas disappeared. Even Eddie Royal got in on some garbage time. None of the Broncos receivers will be trust-worthy until Tebow can get any consistent rhythm going passing. Tebow is more of a running back playing the quarterback position. Despite the rushing yards, rushing TD potential and the passing TD on Sunday, we probably shouldn't be looking at Tebow as a starter outside of being a bye-week replacement.

• A healthy Matthew Stafford is a must-start in fantasy. Not in Week 9 while he is on bye, though. He gets a week to heal before the stretch run.

• Titus Young could emerge as a big-time threat here. He is a viable pick-up in three wide receiver leagues, particularly since the Lions are going to play some barn-burners in fantasy crunch time. He should be owned over Nate Burleson in most formats.

• Maurice Morris had a solid fill-in game, but Jahvid Best (concussion) could be available again after the bye week. Morris remains someone to stash, while Keiland Williams does not. Drop Williams going into the bye. He showed little in his 11 carries.

• Brandon Pettigrew's breakout season has slowed, but he probably should remain owned through the bye. Tony Scheffler stole the red-zone score from him in this one. That could go back to Pettigrew in future weeks.

• Knowshon Moreno wasn't bad, but he wasn't great either. He is merely a flex option in deeper leagues while Willis McGahee remains out.

• Bernard Scott filled in well in Cedric Benson's absence due to suspension, but he will drop back to being a seldom-used part-timer next week again. You shouldn't cut him, though, stashing him as Benson insurance. The Bengals are a team that will remain committed to the run.

• Rookie A.J. Green has proven to be a consistent force for fantasy owners, at least scoring when he doesn't get big yardage or high reception totals.

• Marshawn Lynch was terrible (16 carries for 24 yards), despite his rushing TD. He is the worst starting NFL back for fantasy owners. The only thing going for Lynch is Leon Washington and Justin Forsett are even more worthless.

• Tarvaris Jackson proved healthy and worthy of the starting job over Charlie Whitehurst. Jackson made Sidney Rice, rookie Doug Baldwin and Ben Obomanu productive in garbage time. Mike Williams is toast and should be cut in all leagues.

• Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) was a surprising scratch after a tweak in Friday's practice. You should not be counting on him as a fantasy starter in the coming weeks.

• Michael Crabtree is as healthy as he has been as a pro and now looks like he should be a regular starter for fantasy owners. The upcoming schedule looks favorable for him and Alex Smith is at least proving to be a capable game manager under Jim Harbaugh.

• Vernon Davis had a bad week, but, like Crabtree, he should remain active in most leagues. Davis should be better against the likes of the Redskins, Giants and Cardinals in the next three weeks.

• Remember when we suggested Frank Gore was headed for a bad fantasy season? Egg meet face. Gore is a week-to-week linchpin.

• A tough matchup turned out to be impossible for Montario Hardesty, despite Peyton Hillis' absence. Hardesty left with an injury and might be relegated to backup status even if he is active next week. A returning Hillis will cut into Hardesty's limited production.

• Colt McCoy's stunted development continues to be a function of a lack of viable targets. Josh Cribbs found the end zone, but no one has been a consistent threat for McCoy down the field. Ben Watson is merely serviceable as a fill-in among fantasy tight ends.

• Ryan Fitzpatrick revived the early season star Scott Chandler with a pair of scores. It shouldn't get you to pick up Chandler in any leagues, though. He still is merely a red-zone target that cannot be counted on week to week.

• Fred Jackson remains a fantasy MVP but his schedule is getting a bit tougher in the next couple of weeks. He faces the Jets and then Cowboys, two Ryan-led defenses that can stop the run. He remains a must-start because of his impact in the passing game, though.

• With the toughening schedule, Steve Johnson is the only other Bills offensive player to trust.

• The Redskins might need to make a move back to Rex Grossman. John Beck had another bad game and couldn't pick up any numbers even in garbage time. The injuries to Santana Moss, Chris Cooley and Tim Hightower hurt, but at least Fred Davis has held up well as the go-to man. Davis should be considered a must-start fantasy tight end now.

• The Redskins didn't even bother establishing a running game, a costly mistake. Ryan Torain got the start and the bulk of the limited carries there were. Check that, all of the carries. Roy Helu didn't even get a rushing attempt behind him. Both backs will be worthless against the 49ers' stiff run defense next week.

• It has become official: Johnson is fantasy junk. He couldn't get going against the worst team in fantasy against RBs. You have all the information you need to know about him now. Heck, Ringer was far more productive in the same number of carries. Ringer just might be stealing more than garbage time going forward. You shouldn't start Johnson if you can help it next week against the Bengals.

• Curtis Painter is not a good NFL QB, but he is at least capable enough to keep Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark fairly productive for fantasy owners. Even Austin Collie looked his best yet, albeit not good enough to truly use in fantasy.

• Joseph Addai was active, but his backups split carries. Delone Carter was slightly better, but Donald Brown was the one that comes up with the red-zone score.

• Jared Cook was supposed to be fantasy-viable this season, especially with Matt Hasselbeck losing his No. 1 target, Kenny Britt, for the season. Instead, Cook has proved to be waiver fodder. He is not worth owning.

• The Rams have given everyone the old formula for how to win with a bad quarterback: Run the ball and stop the run (finally, they did). Steven Jackson was a beast and looks like a must-start fantasy option, regardless of the matchup. He is all that offense really has going for it until Sam Bradford (ankle) can return and air it out again.

• Brandon Lloyd has been revived with Josh McDaniels and looks like a must-start receiver again. He has a great matchup at Arizona next week, too.

• The Saints might have learned a lesson: They cannot neglect the running game. Mark Ingram was out, but they didn't give Pierre Thomas or Darren Sproles or Chris Ivory enough carries against the worst rushing defense in the NFL.

• Lance Moore came out of nowhere to lead the Saints receivers in the rally. Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham had bad weeks, but they must remain active in all leagues going forward. Moore has distanced early-season surprises Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson, who are candidates to cut if you still need help during the two remaining bye weeks. Neither Meachem nor Henderson has done much in over a month.

• The Ravens offense rebounded here because it was forced to in the second half. Joe Flacco still doesn't have a receiver to use outside of Anquan Boldin and back Ray Rice, though. TE Ed Dickson and rookie WR Torrey Smith might not be useful fantasy parts after the bye weeks expire.

• Beanie Wells surprisingly played and performed very well in a tough matchup. The Cardinals are not good, but Wells is at least a must-start RB regardless of the matchup now. He has at least proven healthy through his latest ailment.

• Alfonso Smith and LaRod Stephens-Howling were viable pickups this week because of Wells' shaky status. You can go back and cut Smith and LSH for someone with more upside now. Neither will contribute as long as Wells is healthy.

• Kevin Kolb was bad, mostly because he doesn't have anyone to work with outside of Larry Fitzgerald. Early Doucet reeled in a touchdown, but he shouldn't be considered a fantasy starter in any formats still.

• An ugly victory for the Giants might prove costly. Hakeem Nicks left with a hamstring injury and might be questionable to play against the Pats next Sunday, which would have been a great matchup.

• Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz look like must-starts. Manningham made a rebound after a slow start to the season, as Eli Manning is spreading the wealth well. Even tight end Jake Ballard looks like a viable fantasy option.

• The success of the Giants passing game comes at the expense of the rushing attack. Ahmad Bradshaw had a minimal impact and needed an in-game X-ray on his longtime troubling foot. He returned to the game. The good news with Bradshaw for future weeks is Brandon Jacobs showed very little. Jacobs is not worth trusting in any lineups right now.

• Reggie Bush broke through with the second 100-yard game of his career, mostly because Daniel Thomas was out. Steve Slaton and QB Matt Moore took the goal-line carries from Bush, though, minimizing Bush's fantasy impact. Bush will go back to being nothing more than a flex for PPR leagues with Thomas back next week.

• Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess disappointed in what should have been a favorable matchup. The Giants got after the QB, though, and didn't give up anything in the red zone through the air. Bess won't be worth owning after the bye season ends, even in PPR leagues. Moore just doesn't complete enough passes.

• The Giants defense is fantasy-viable because of all the sacks they rack up. Eventually, those sacks will lead to more turnovers. Don't use the Giants D/ST next week against the Pats offense, though.

• Cam Newton doesn't win, but he rocks it with Steve Smith and his tight ends, Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey. Newton isn't your average rookie quarterback, but he is turning the ball over like a rookie. His two fumbles took a bite out of his otherwise elite fantasy numbers.

• Jonathan Stewart looks capable of putting DeAngelo Williams away. He got the majority of carries and had the better of the limited success the Panthers backs had on the ground. Williams is having an awful season and isn't a starter for fantasy owners anymore.

• Christian Ponder won the battle of the rookie QBs by doing two things beautifully: He avoided turnovers and used Adrian Peterson perfectly. A.P. hasn't been affected by the QB change, if anything he has become markedly better. He remains a must-start in all matchups.

• Percy Harvin made more of an impact than he has all year, a promising sign. Ponder's emergence could help revive this previously lost third-year wide receiver.

• Andre Johnson's continued absence helped Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels remain productive fantasy fill-ins. Johnson should be back next game, though. Walter should be back on the bench in most fantasy leagues because of that.

• Joel Dreessen found the end zone for Matt Schaub, who loves using his tight ends. Daniels could get those looks in future weeks, so consider him a viable starter if don't have an elite option at tight end.

• The Texans' defense is more than useful for fantasy owners now. Heck, it might even be a must-start in the right matchup. Next week against the Browns qualifies.

• Blaine Gabbert was hampered with a rib injury, but he wasn't able to make anyone useful in the Jags' passing game. Jason Hill caught a TD pass after last week's surprise arrival, but he didn't catch anything else. Ignore Hill still.

• Ben Tate was hardly used here. He should prove to be much more active in future weeks to save Foster's legs. Foster has gotten a ton of carries since proving healthy. Tate will be used far more against the Browns.

• The sudden resurgence of Brent Celek makes him a solid pickup in all fantasy leagues this week. He is owned in just one-fifth of fantasy leagues, which suggests he is available to you if you have a need at the tight end position. It helps that the Bears have been the worst team in fantasy against TEs this season, giving up an NFL-high six touchdowns. Also, this game comes next Monday night, so Celek can help you stage a late rally.

• Jason Avant has emerged as a productive third receiver for the Eagles, fourth if you count Celek. You should not give up on DeSean Jackson as a fantasy starter, though. Jackson is going to post some big weeks you won't want to miss. Avant is a viable stopgap in deeper leagues with the resurgence of Michael Vick and the Eagles offense.

• LeSean McCoy is arguably the most valuable fantasy back this season, right there with Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson. He is in that class because of the overall potential of the Eagles offense and the fact McCoy doesn't have a backup stealing touches from him in a rotation, like Forte and Peterson.

• The Eagles D/ST made a huge statement against a very good Cowboys offense. You can pick the Eagles D/ST back up and use them again. They have righted and can be great in the right matchups.

• DeMarco Murray didn't get enough carries but he made the best of them against the vulnerable Eagles run defense. The Cowboys learned a painful but valuable lesson and they won't make the mistake of abandoning the run this weekend against the Seahawks.

• Tony Romo's struggles may have ruined Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant this week, but you have to keep all these guys active. Laurent Robinson was used heavily in the game plan to avoid the elite cover guys. The passes are going to go back to Witten, Austin and Bryant this weekend.

• The Cowboys D/ST was abused by the revived Eagles but the matchup against the Seahawks should have them active in 100 percent of leagues this week.

• With Mike Tolbert already out and Ryan Mathews leaving with a hammy issue, Curtis Brinkley came on and racked up fantasy points quickly. Brinkley looks like a must-have if Mathews is going to miss next week. We might need to pick him up on a speculative pick anyway.

• Rookie Jonathan Baldwin made a great grab on his long TD reception and may be a sleeper pickup for owners in deeper leagues down the stretch. The Chiefs are still going to feature Dwyane Bowe and use Steve Breaston as their No. 2, but Baldwin should improve as the weeks wear on. He is going to be an elite fantasy option in the long term. So consider him a must-have in keeper leagues.

• Philip Rivers' struggles continue here, but he is a must-start next week against the Packers. The Packers are third-worst in fantasy against opposing quarterbacks.

• Jackie Battle has clearly taken hold as the Chiefs' primary back, so much so that Thomas Jones should not be owned in any leagues anymore. Battle is his own goal-line back as well, somewhat surprisingly.

• Matt Cassel wasn't great but he was good enough in a tough matchup to make him a start in most formats against the suspect Dolphins secondary next week. The Dolphins are right behind the Packers, fourth-worst, against opposing QBs in fantasy.

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.

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