By Eric Mack
November 04, 2012

Last season was the year of the quarterback. This week, we might have celebrated a return to the fantasy tradition of running backs leading the way, led by Bucs rookie Doug Martin.

Martin rushed for a legendary 251 yards and four touchdowns. Adrian Peterson looks as productive as he has ever been with 182 yards and two touchdowns. Even Chris Johnson looked more CJ2K-like again with an 80-yard score and 141 rushing yards against a very good Bears run defense.

We said it was going to be Redemption Week, and it was for running backs, harkening back to the Marshall Faulk and Priest Holmes era.

Martin's back-to-back monster weeks move him into the fantasy elite, where Peterson also returns to after his incredibly quick recovery from reconstructive knee surgery.

We break down the game-changers and all the noteworthy performances in the Week 9 Fantasy Football Fast Forward:

1. RGIII's decline: It was unpopular here to suggest Robert Griffin III was going to decline down the stretch. Well, that prediction sure looks spot on now.

And, you're stuck holding the bag.

RGIII heads to his bye week with his value the lowest it's been since his surprising rookie season started. You can't even deal him now. And you can't feel confident in any of his targets. Who is starting Josh Morgan, Logan Paulsen or Leonard Hankerson in fantasy? And, who is happy they did start Santana Moss (one catch for two yards) this week?

RGIII is a dynamic talent. He just has no help. Your best hope is that Pierre Garcon (foot) comes back healthy and proves productive at some point.

2. CJ2K: Time to trade him away: Typical C.J. He produced another big game when you least expected it. The Bears run defense had him mostly bottled up until that late 80-yard score turned a blah day into a 141-yard monster effort.

Johnson will now go back into starting lineups in many leagues, but remember how good the Dolphins' run defense is. Johnson is going to continue to frustrate you.

Instead of putting him back in your starting lineup, put him on the trade block. This big week makes it a great time to trade him. His value might not get higher. And, this might be the trade deadline week in many leagues.

3. Jermichael Finley can't hurt you in a bye week: That bye week can't come soon enough for one of the biggest busts of the tight-end position in fantasy this season. Finley was held to just one catch for six yards and thankfully you won't have to start him in Week 10.

The bad news is you cannot cut him either, and Week 11 will return that same question mark back to your weekly decisions.

The only good news is his troublesome shoulder injury will get its first good, long rest.

4. James Starks should be considered: Starks got 17 carries to Alex Green's 11. There might be a turnover at the position through the bye week. You might want to take that early flier on Starks, just in case.

5. Now introducing, Bills WR Donald Jones: He might be the best wide receiver you don't know. He is likely unowned in your fantasy league and he will be facing the suspect Pats defense next week. Pick this hidden gem up off waivers.

It doesn't matter who he has to throw to. Take away Greg Jennings (sports hernia surgery) and Jordy Nelson (hamstring and now ankle) and Rodgers will make fantasy stars out of James Jones and Randall Cobb.

Rodgers is going to be the biggest bye-week hole to fill next week, but at least Nelson and Finley will get much-needed rest. Rodgers is going to enjoy a huge stretch run, regardless of Jennings, Nelson, Finley or any of this running backs' health status.

OK, we finally get some clarity: Jonathan Stewart is the feature back. Then, DeAngelo Williams goes out and scores a 30-yard touchdown.

The Panthers' running back situation is one step forward and two steps back, seemingly perpetually.

You cannot like any of the Panthers' backs against the Broncos' run defense next week. The good news is at least Cam Newton did something for his owners with a passing and rushing touchdown with no turnovers.

The Bills played better defense after the bye, but they failed to get the ball into the hands of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Each back got only six carries, even if they each got five pass receptions. The Texans' run defense is tough, but the Bills have to give their best weapons more of a run than that.

The schedule doesn't get any easier next week, when the Bills head to New England to face an equally tough Pats run defense.

Jackson and Spiller have to move down to low-end starts, perhaps even sits, in tough matchups now.


Matthew Stafford, Lions -- His week of redemption didn't pan out at Jacksonville, but you have to love him next week against a Vikings pass defense that made Seattle's Russell Wilson look like he's on the level of RGIII. Stafford also saw a return to health by Calvin Johnson.

Eli Manning, Giants -- He had another awful performance against an elite secondary. The good news is the Bengals road game should get him back among the top 12 most productive fantasy QBs. It is still a decent Bengals secondary, but after facing the 49ers, Cowboys and Steelers, Giants receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks should be able to handle the challenges.

Andrew Luck, Colts -- He has proven to be a must-start QB at home well before this performance, but you will want him active in Week 10 against the Titans, too. Luck's pluck makes Reggie Wayne a must-start, while Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton are intriguing sleepers, especially in favorable matchups.

Joe Flacco, Ravens -- He came out of the bye with a disappointing performance, but he should be much better at home against the Raiders next week -- a borderline starter in standard leagues.

Jay Cutler, Bears -- If only he had a complement to Brandon Marshall, Cutler would be considered a viable fantasy starter. With the Texans matchup looming, consider him more of a stopgap than a sure-fire start.

Carson Palmer, Raiders -- Don't quite jump on the Palmer bandwagon with the Ravens looming on the road, but the Saints defense follows that in Week 11. That's enough to own Palmer in all leagues this week.

John Skelton, Cardinals -- He is not fantasy-worthy, but he might have done enough to keep the starting job even when Kevin Kolb (shoulder) is healthy again. Skelton's most important achievement has been getting the ball to must-start fantasy WR Larry Fitzgerald, who you shouldn't have to worry about after the bye week. Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd might be worth picking up after the bye, too.

Russell Wilson, Seahawks -- That was quite a performance with three TDs. While you might not consider Wilson against the Jets next week, you probably should pick up Sidney Rice or Golden Tate. Wilson is steadily improving and those receivers are becoming bigger threats every week, especially at home.

Christian Ponder, Vikings -- Yes, that was 22 passes and just 63 yards. Ponder has been bad for fantasy owners of late. Don't own him, much less start him against the Lions next week.

Brandon Weeden, Browns -- After going over 300 yards in his last meeting with the Ravens, he was stymied here. Outside of keeper leagues, he is not worth owning heading into his bye.

Matt Hasselbeck, Titans -- He might not have been bothered with against the Bears, but it should be noted he clearly put Jake Locker (shoulder) back in position to start as soon as he's healthy. That might affect your decision to trust Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Jared Cook going forward.

Running backs:

Jamaal Charles, Chiefs -- The Chiefs have done Charles and his fantasy owners wrong, limiting his carries again. You might not want him starting against a still-rugged Steelers run defense next Monday night.

Ryan Mathews, Chargers -- The use of Ronnie Brown as a pass receiver over Mathews, especially in the red zone, is frustrating, but the Chargers also limited Mathews touches overall in this game. It makes him less than a sure starter next week on the road against a good Bucs run defense.

Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants -- He wasn't 100 percent and Andre Brown stole the goal-line TD again. It should make you wary of trusting Bradshaw against the Bengals run defense next week.

Willis McGahee, Broncos -- His 23 carries for 66 yards weren't impressive, but he will get a Panthers run defense that has given up some big days on the ground this season. McGahee gets more carries than most fantasy backs and eventually the TDs will come.

Mikel Leshoure, Lions -- Before you go gaga over his three-TD performance, know he is still in a timeshare with Joique Bell (13-73-1) and a decent Vikings run defense looms. LeShoure will merely be a decent low-end start in fantasy, not a star.

Rashad Jennings, Jaguars -- Assuming Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) doesn't return in the short week Thursday against Indy, Jennings should be a much better play than he was against the Lions (12-45).

Isaac Redman, Steelers -- He made a further mess of the Steelers backs with his 147 yards and a TD. Redman can be the best one, or the third-best, depending who plays and who is healthy against the Chiefs next week. Redman will remain a factor as a pass receiver, though.

La'Rod Stephens-Howling, Cardinals -- You might think the Cards have found their feature back, but the bye week looms and Beanie Wells (toe) can return in Week 12. LSH is worth holding through the bye week, though.

Donald Brown, Colts -- He was very limited with his knee issue. You are going to want to watch his practices closely this short week. He has a very good matchup coming Thursday at Jacksonville, but Vick Ballard is going to be a solid option if the short week keeps Brown out again.

Michael Bush, Bears -- That was a disappointing performance, especially because Matt Forte scored a rushing TD inside the 10, which was thought to be Bush's domain. You absolutely cannot use Bush against the Texans run defense next week.

Marcel Reece, Raiders -- Not only did he rebound with eight catches for 95 yards and a TD, but also Darren McFadden (ankle) suffered the injury that might get you to sit him against the Ravens run defense next week. Consider Reese off waivers, especially in PPR formats.

Wide receivers:

Calvin Johnson, Lions -- Breathe a huge sigh of relief. Megatron was healthy enough to post seven catches for 129 yards and up ahead is a Vikings pass defense that made the Seahawks receivers look like heroes.

Percy Harvin, Vikings -- He was stymied by the Seahawks secondary and dealt with some injury issues, including a sore hammy and a turned ankle. He should be on the injury report this week, but expect him to bounce back in a division game against the Lions next week.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs -- The return of Matt Cassel meant a solid performance again for Bowe. As long as Cassel is starting, you can consider Bowe an every-week starter. He will at least get a lot of garbage time yards with that lost team.

Mike Williams, Buccaneers -- He has been steady all season, so undoubtedly you trust him to start every week along with teammate Vincent Jackson at WR. The duo makes QB Josh Freeman a viable start next week against the Chargers, too.

Antonio Brown, Steelers -- Reports say he has a high-ankle sprain, which can keep him out of next week's game against the Chiefs. That should help give some fantasy consideration to Emmanuel Sanders (2-20-1) and maybe even Jerricho Cotchery (4-50).

Brian Hartline, Dolphins -- Ryan Tannehill and Hartline proved healthy and productive despite questionable statuses. It is enough to consider Hartline a steady starter for you down the stretch, especially in PPR formats.

Josh Gordon, Browns -- With the revival of Greg Little in recent weeks, Gordon's big fantasy numbers have disappeared. You might not even need to worry about owning him through the bye week now. Little is the No. 1 target thereafter. Little might be available in your league, too.

Titus Young, Lions -- So much for Young becoming a must-start fantasy option. He will be a week-to-week risk, especially with the emergence of rookie Ryan Broyles and Megatron's return to health.

Cecil Shorts, Jaguars -- Laurent Robinson's return damaged Shorts' breakthrough campaign. Robinson and Justin Blackmon are going to be the Jags' starters and primary targets when healthy. If might even be enough bad news for Shorts to drop him for one of the other Jags WRs.

Tight ends:

Antonio Gates, Chargers -- He rebounded nicely and should be considered a must-start TE going forward, as long as he stays healthy.

Jermaine Gresham, Bengals -- His six catches for 108 yards moved him into the must-start TE category, especially with that suspect Giants secondary next.

Brandon Myers, Raiders -- His eight-catch, 59-yard, two-TD performance moves him into the must-start category among TEs. Palmer has made Myers' breakthrough.

Dwayne Allen, Colts -- Coby Fleener (shoulder) should be out in the short week, so consider Allen a solid bye-week replacement right now. The rookie caught six passes for 75 yards as the full-time TE for the first time.

Brandon Pettigrew, Lions -- That was a disappointing performance (one catch for 11 yards), but he should still rate among the top 12 fantasy TEs going forward.

Joel Dreessen, Broncos -- He reeled in a big week as Manning's go-to TE, but the presence of Jacob Tamme and Virgil Green make it tough to trust any of the TEs in a given week.


Phil Dawson, Browns -- Don't pick him up this week, as he's heading into his bye, but it is worth noting a solid running game positions him to be a very productive fantasy kicker for the stretch run.

Shayne Graham, Texans -- He has been a hugely disappointing kicker. With the Bears game up next on the schedule, it is a good week to send him to the waiver wire for a more productive option.

Defense/Special teams:

Chicago Bears D/ST -- They have been so dominant, you can't sit them in any matchup going forward, even against the conservative Texans at home next week.

Pittsburgh Steelers, D/ST -- They haven't been a great fantasy defense, but that performance against one of the NFL elite offenses should tell you all you need to know about the Steelers -- with or without Troy Polamalu. The Steelers are going to be a great play against the Chiefs next week.

New York Giants D/ST -- They have been forcing turnovers, even if they are not getting to the QB consistently. Consider them one of the must-own fantasy units going forward.

Eric Mack writes fantasy for Track his weekly starts and sits every Thursday, his last-minute Cheat Sheet on Sunday mornings and his Fantasy Fast Forward on Sunday nights. You find also him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice or challenging him to a head-to-head fantasy game @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).

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