October 29, 2010

Bitterness isn't just a state of mind for fantasy football players, it's a way of life. Call me a hopeless optimist, but another week means another chance for redemption for some struggling fantasy starters. Here are a few picks who will shake their slumps with breakout games.

Beanie Wells, Cardinals vs Bucs: One of fantasyland's most unpopular third- or fourth-round draft day picks, Wells was injured the first two weeks of the season but has been healthy of late. He faces the league's second-worst rushing defense in Tampa Bay, which is allowing nearly 160 yards a game. The former Buckeye scored his first touchdown of the season last week and seems to have taken over as the Cardinals' featured back.

Pierre Garcon, Colts vs the Texans: The last-ranked pass defense comes to Indy, and Garcon is finally healthy. One problem for the Colts is that he's one of the few. Expect Garcon to get plenty of Peyton Manning's passes sent his way with Dallas Clark gone and the running game struggling. Now would be the perfect time to buy low on him.

Kyle Orton, Broncos at the 49ers (London): The Broncos' passing game has been slumping of late, but skipping across the pond to play the self-destructing 49ers might be just the tonic for the Rocky Mountain offense. Last week San Francisco was torched by Carolina's Matt Moore to the tune of 300 yards and and out-of-nowhere WR David Gettis. Denver's running game won't attract as much defensive attention, but with Knowshon Moreno back and playing better, it should keep San Fran's defense honest.

Jahvid Best, Lions vs. the Redskins: With a week off to rest his turf toe, the all-purpose backfield threat should be refreshed on Sunday. He'll also get another boost with QB Matthew Stafford returning to the lineup. Best's pass-catching abilities will be put to good use, as he'll make a nice safety valve for Stafford in his first game back.

Sometimes it's a necessity to look underground for starters when the most obvious options aren't always available. Here are some great choices for a lineup bandage this week, whether its to patch a hole from a bye, an injury or simply as a secret weapon.

Jon Kitna, Cowboys vs. the Jaguars: The Cowboys' new starting QB gets a softball matchup in his Dallas debut. Jacksonville not only boasts the 27th-ranked pass defense but has been carved up with a league-leading 16 touchdown passes in seven games.

LeGarrette Blount, Bucs at the Cardinals: he rushed for 72 yards on a team-best 11 carries last week and could have had over 100 if not for some penalties. The Cardinals boast a terrible run defense, ranking 29th. Blount will benefit Sunday and has a starter-potential in the long term.

Tony Moeaki, Chiefs vs. the Bills: The Chiefs' promising rookie should have a big outing. Moeaki got off to a great start this year but has tailed off of late, but all that's about to change. The Bills have allowed seven touchdowns by opposing tight ends in their last four straight games.

Hits: Eli Manning, Knowshon Moreno, Marques Colston, Matt Cassel, Cadillac Williams,

Misses: RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Jordy Nelson

Push: QB Jay Cutler, Bears, WR Jason Avant

The mark of a good pass catcher is how many throws come his way. The Target stat tallies these, based on balls thrown to them. Here are the Target leaders among running backs through seven weeks:

1. Frank Gore, 49ers 582. LeSean McCoy, Eagles 443. Jahvid Best, Lions 414. Peyton Hillis, Browns 345. Cadillac Williams, Bucs 335. Matt Forte, Bears 337. Ray Rice, Ravens 328. Darren Sproles, Chargers 309. LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets 2810. Steven Jackson, Rams 2611. Darren McFadden, Raiders 2512. Joseph Addai, Colts 2412. Adrian Peterson, Vikings 2412. Arian Foster, Texans 2415. Ladell Betts, Saints 23

Here are the top target leaders among tight ends:

1. Chris Cooley, Redskins 542. Dallas Clark, Colts 533. Vernon Davis, 49ers 524. Jason Witten, Cowboys 514. Zach Miller, Raiders 516. Antonio Gates, Chargers 497. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons 488. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions 479. Benjamin Watson, Browns 4610. Kellen Winslow, Bucs 4511. Brent Celek, Eagles 4211. Dustin Keller, Jets 4213. Todd Heap, Ravens 41|14. Tony Scheffler, Lions 4015. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals 39

Five highest-scoring games for Week 8:

1. Texans at Colts2. Jaguars at Cowboys3. Steelers at Saints4. Broncos at 49ers5. Redskins at Lions

It wasn't so long ago that everyone in the preseason thought that running back timeshares would help with draft depth. That was then, this is now. Not only have many of the running back by committee situations gone south, but many of the expected starters have been meh, like Ryan Mathews and Cedric Benson.

The top three fantasy running back disasters have to be the Panthers, Dolphins and Cowboys, with not a single player worth starting in the bunch. In two of the three cases, the passing game has taken the forefront, while the third team has struggled to throw the ball and faced relentless defensive attention on their rushing attack. Speaking of which, the Panthers' Double Trouble of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart has combined for three touchdowns in six games and 84 rushing yards a game. In Miami, Ronnie Brown usually has to be injured to be as ineffective as he has been this season. Instead, he and Ricky Williams have two combined touchdowns and are averaging 100 yards per game altogether. In Dallas, Felix Jones and Marion Barber are averaging 74 yards a game combined and have one, repeat, one, touchdown.

Williams (suffering from a recently sprained foot) and Stewart have too much value to drop them, but neither should see the light of a starting lineup spot. In the meantime, Brown, Williams, Jones and Barber are all droppable, although I'd recommend Jones be kept for now. Other backs aren't so easy to cut ties with yet, but the number of disappointments are many.

Here are my top 10 worst fantasy backfields so far:

1. Panthers -- Too much potential to give up on, too little production.2. Dolphins -- Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are just about droppable ... now.3. Cowboys -- Marion Barber ineffective when not hurt, "starter" Felix Jones offers few yards, no TDs4. Chargers -- This is more about Ryan Mathews than Mike Tolbert, but both are tough to count on.5. Bengals -- The passing game is on, but one 100-yard Cedric Benson outing in six games is terrible.6. Cardinals -- Passing game a problem, but Beanie Wells is injury prone and Tim Hightower, invisible.7. Saints -- Injuries to blame but Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush weren't great when healthy, either.8. Broncos -- Kyle Orton is starring and Knowshon Moreno was hurt, but we still miss the Shanahan days.9. Bills -- Fred Jackson has been quiet and C.J. Spiller should be a star, but has to touch the ball first.10. Colts -- Joseph Addai banged up (again) and Donald Brown a non-factor.

Some things are cosmic forces of nature bigger than any one fantasy player -- such is the Bills passing game. In other words, don't try to understand it, just go with the flow. Two weeks ago I advocated WR Steve Johnson as a pick-up, and by now my worship of Ryan Fitzpatrick and all things aerial with the Bills has become full-blown.

Completing over 63 percent of his passes with the second-best QB rating in the league, the Harvard product is on pace for 29 touchdown passes despite not playing the first two games while. Johnson is on pace for 13 touchdown catches. No matter how challenging the Bills' schedule is, they'll throw early and often to stay in games as well as in garbage time. I'm all in with the Bills.

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