The good: If it's possible, Chris Johnson's stock just went up; say goodbye to eight men in the box. The Titans' tailback will have more room to run with the constant threat of Moss stretching coverage. Also, Moss will make for a great red-zone target, and while his overall numbers may go down, his touchdowns could go up in a big way. His deep threat ability also can't be undersold if Vince Young can get it to him. In Minnesota, owners of Visanthe Schiancoe just got their favorite target back. He'll return to his pre-Moss spot in the passing pecking order.
The bad: Tennessee averages 187 yards passing a game, and despite easily filling the receiver hole left by the Kenny Britt injury, Moss' targets are going to go down. His inconsistency is also an issue this season -- he ranks 28th among receivers in scoring and has not had more than 81 yards in any one game. In Minnesota, Percy Harvin's stock just slipped from a solid WR2, to a low-end WR3/flex play without Moss taking defensive attention from him. Brett Favre's stock -- whatever is left of it -- also takes a hit.
The ugly: Does Moss even care anymore? His bizarre behavior seems to be at a fever pitch while teams keep rolling the dice, blinded by echoes of his past dominance. In fantasyland he comes with a "Caution: Flammable" warning label, with the problem being he could torch your opponents or simply burn your weekly lineup down instead.
The hope is that some shred of self-awareness, or some desire to help put the Titans over the top kicks in. Of course the only thing fantasy owners can expect is to be surprised. It's a common theme with Moss, but never more true as his reputation and legacy seem to be slipping away.
Here are a few prominent fantasy stars who will be back in a big way this week.
WR Wes Welker at the Browns: Welker might be a four-letter word with owners, having not scored since Week 2. He's also been fairly quiet since the loss of Moss, but gets his best chance in weeks to break out against Cleveland. The Browns rank 26th against the pass; Welker and the Pats will take advantage.
QB Michael Vick, Eagles vs. the Colts: Vick's comeback/reinvention project hit a snag when he was injured in Week 4. With last week's bye giving him a chance to settle back in, Vick should be ready to roll against the Colts. DeSean Jackson may return to the lineup, giving Vick another weapon.
RB Matt Forte at Bills (Toronto): Week 5's breakout game against the Panthers seems a long way away as Forte is still looking for his second 100-yard rushing performance of the year. Coming off a scoreless, 41-yard outing with the Redskins in Week 7, expect the Bears' back to play huge north of the border in Toronto. Buffalo is ranked 32nd against the run and should get diced up by Forte, who will hit the century-mark again, and do it with ease.
RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene at the Lions: After 54 yards and two fumbles last week against the Packers, expect Tomlinson to go nuts on the Lions' 27th-ranked run defense. Greene has been mostly an afterthought this season, but will also find his groove in Detroit against an improved defense that still has plenty of holes and gives up 130 yards per game. Greene would make for a good flex play, especially for teams in a bind thanks to byes.
For the second straight week, fantasy owners are forced to endure a six-team bye, leaving holes in starting lineups everywhere. Don't be afraid to explore the end of the digital fantasy bench or search for buried treasure on the waiver wire.. Here are three Off The Radar picks I love.
WR James Jones, Packers vs. Cowboys: Filling the Donald Driver role and benefiting from some extra targets with Jermichael Finley no longer around, Jones should be a great play here. He's been shut out in two of the past three weeks, but sandwiched in between was a 100-yard outing. It's feast or famine with Jones, but the Cowboys' pass defense should make for easy picking for Aaron Rodgers.
WR Patrick Crayton, Chargers at Texans: Embrace the possibilities of Houston's last-ranked pass defense here, along with Philip Rivers' recent aerial assault. Then factor in a lack of healthy, breathing and capable receivers in the lineup. Reports on Antonio Gates' health has been sketchy of late, which could lead to even more targets for Crayton.
RB Chris Ivory at Panthers: Despite 49 yards rushing the past two weeks combined, Ivory will recapture his Week 6 form on Sunday. The Panthers are ranked a mediocre 21st in rushing defense with its top priority to corral the Saints' passing game. Look for Ivory to be a solid start, and there's not much competition for him with the Saints' Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas still mending.
Hits: RB LeGarrette Blount, RB Beanie Wells, WR Pierre Garcon, QB Kyle Orton, QB Jon Kitna.
Misses: RB Jahvid Best, TE Tony Moeaki.
Chargers at TexansColts at EaglesCowboys at PackersBuccaneers at FalconsChiefs at Raiders
Last week I broke down and ranked the most dreadful running game situations fantasy owners have had to deal with this fall. From bad timeshare backfields (Cowboys, Dolphins, Saints, Panthers, Cardinals, Bills) to lackluster individual picks (Cedric Benson, Ryan Mathews, Beanie Wells, Knowshon Moreno, C.J. Spiller), there has been a fair share of tailback land mines for GMs. But, there's also been a bright side with new faces and old who have emerged to become late-round gems and waiver-wire heroes. Here are my top running back surprises who started the year as afterthoughts or free agents.
1. Arian Foster, Texans: Breakout star of the year, thus far.2. LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets: Comeback star of the year, thus far.3. Peyton Hillis, Browns: Hillis is an every week workhorse no matter the matchup.4. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots: Slowly starting to get feature-back type of work.5. Mike Tolbert, Chargers: Ryan Mathews owners can't shake him, Tolbert just produces.6. Brandon Jackson, Packers: Started slow filling in for Ryan Grant, has become a decent RB2.7. Ryan Torain, Redskins: Before getting hurt last week, was starting to look solid in DC.8. LeGarrette Blount, Bucs: It's only been a couple of games, but could be the RB of the future.9. Danny Woodhead, Patriots: Nice PPR value, an all-purpose yardage threat.10. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks: A change of scenery and more carries a good combination.