By Eric Mack
October 28, 2012

There's a storm coming in Philly, and it has nothing to do with Sandy Frankenstorm. It's a QB controversy after another loss and more mediocrity from Michael Vick.

Vick admitted after his one-touchdown performance Sunday that head coach Andy Reid is now considering starting rookie Nick Foles at quarterback. Oh, the humanity.

This might not have mattered to most fantasy owners. They might have long since moved on from the disappointing turnover machine Vick has become as a fantasy starter. But, that suspect Saints defense looms in prime time next week.

It could have been a huge week for Vick owners, not to mention the suffering Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek backers. They can still cling to hope that Reid sticks with the veteran. A decision to start Foles might turn sure fantasy starts like Maclin, Jackson and Celek into question marks.

While waiting for Sandy and Philly's QB firestorm, we give you all the game-changers and Week 8 fantasy observations in the Fantasy Football Fast Forward:

1. Titus Young breaks out: This is a talent that has been disappointing to date this season, but with the knee issue slowing Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson being ruled out for the season, Young stepped forward as a go-to man.

Young reeled in nine catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Also, rookie Ryan Broyles picked up a touchdown reception against one of the best secondaries in the NFL.

Young is a legit starter in Week 9 at Jacksonville, while Broyles is going to be a popular addition off waivers Wednesday morning.

2. Robert Griffin III is now in decline: Remember when we said to trade RGIII because he's facing tougher opponents and doesn't have a good target with Pierre Garcon (foot) out? Remember when you scoffed?

Then his other No. 1 target, Fred Davis, went out for the season. Now, all Griffin has to work with is an old Santana Moss, a mediocre Josh Morgan and a bunch of fantasy nobodies in Logan Paulsen and Leonard Hankerson.

It sure looks like RGIII is going to disappoint his fantasy owners moving forward. The Panthers are on the board next week, so there is going to be a high-profile duel with Cam Newton, but after that there is the bye week, the Eagles and then the Cowboys.

RGIII wasn't picked as a starting QB, so deal him as one and go with another starter from here on. Trust us.

3. Chris Johnson goes back to the scrap heap: Well, the CJ2K love affair might be over. After dominating the Bills, Johnson was merely decent against the Colts Sunday, going for 99 yards and no scores. Now, the Bears run defense is coming up.

That is a bad matchup and one you probably have to sit Johnson in. It is a good week to trade Johnson, if you can pull it off.

4. Cecil Shorts is legit now: No one is going to confuse Blaine Gabbert with a go-to fantasy QB, but Shorts is now a go-to fantasy receiver. With Laurent Robinson out and Justin Blackmon not quite ready to take off, consider Shorts a viable pick-up and start in all leagues now.

Expect Shorts to be the most-added receiver in all fantasy leagues this week.

5. Jamaal Charles a nobody? What?: Head coach Romeo Crennel said he has no idea why Charles got just five carries in Sunday's loss. What? How does the head coach not know why his team's only legit threat is not getting playing time, much less touches?

The Chiefs were supposed to go to a ground-and-pound game plan with Brady Quinn at QB. That didn't pan out, and not just because Quinn left with a head injury and gave way to Matt Cassel.

Expect Charles to get a ton of carries on the short week at San Diego. It is the only hope the Chiefs -- and their "on watch" coaching staff -- have going forward. Keep Charles active and trust the touches will come back to him, assuming his misuse wasn't related to a hidden injury.

He was dealing with sore ribs, but he came through early and often Sunday, rushing for 122 yards and an early score. The Ravens run defense will still be good without Ray Lewis, but Richardson showed enough to be a must-start in all fantasy leagues again, regardless of the matchup.

That was a frustrating effort against a Browns defense that has been susceptible to quarterbacks and receivers in fantasy. Philip Rivers won't get Vincent Brown (ankle) back next week either, given the short week due to Thursday's home game against the Chiefs.

Ryan Mathews fumbled. Antonio Gates was almost blanked. Malcom Floyd was shut down by Joe Haden. Expect all of your Chargers to rebound against the Chiefs at home, though. Stick with them.

OK, this is beyond frustration now. Finley is healthy enough to play and should have been more of a factor against the Jags -- especially with the Packers' starting receivers out. Instead, he mustered just two catches for 24 yards.

Finley is going to be a tough guy to trust in Week 9 against a good Cardinals secondary. Eventually he is going to have a big game, but he's running out of chances to prove his value in the short term, while dealing with an ailing shoulder.


Matt Ryan, Falcons: Believe it or not, this was an important performance for Ryan coming out of the bye. His great start to the season had slowed some and he was facing an Eagles secondary that hasn't been abused to date. Now, even with arguably the best secondary in football coming to town in the Cowboys, you have to keep Ryan active in all leagues. He's clearly a fantasy MVP this season.

Matthew Stafford, Lions: Even with Megatron (knee) banged up and ineffective, Stafford showed why owners need to keep faith in him. That was a tough Seahawks secondary he ripped for 352 yards and three touchdowns. He also added another rushing score. Now, he gets to light up the Jags next week, too. Consider him a must-start in all leagues again.

Cam Newton, Panthers: The silver lining of Newton's two-interception performance Sunday is two-fold: 1. Steve Smith looked productive again. 2. The Redskins' suspect secondary is on deck. Newton's owners have been waiting for a matchup this favorable for weeks.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Scoff all you want at the idea that Big Ben is a must-start fantasy QB, but those were mostly spare parts that he used for his big day against a suspect Redskins secondary. Next he gets another suspect secondary that gave up 437 yards to the Cowboys on Sunday, the Giants. Big Ben is headed for another huge day. Next time Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace will be a part of it.

Eli Manning, Giants: If you're lamenting not benching Manning against the Cowboys, you get a second chance to do so next week. The Steelers still have one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, so it could be another long week for Manning, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers: He looks legit, maybe even better than his 2010 form. He will be a solid start in all leagues in Week 9 at Oakland.

Tony Romo, Cowboys: He was mostly terrible, but he rallied and made fantasy stars out of Jason Witten, Miles Austin and even Dez Bryant, who almost caught that game-winner. That productive receiving trio is healthy now and they combine to make Romo a sleeper down the stretch.

Jay Cutler, Bears: He still doesn't have a target that is fantasy worthy after Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte, but he stands to have his best week of the season in Week 9 at Tennessee.

Christian Ponder, Vikings: The past few weeks show he's just not ready to be a trustworthy fantasy starter. He should have dominated against that Bucs secondary. Forget about him against the Seahawks on the road next week.

Brandon Weeden, Browns: That was a pitiful performance Sunday. Despite his 300-yard game last time out against the Ravens, you cannot trust this rookie in lineups in standard leagues.

Running backs:

LeSean McCoy, Eagles: The two-score performance is a sign that McCoy is about to pay owners back, regardless of what direction the Eagles go with their QB. The Eagles came out of the bye with a game plan to feature their best offensive player, McCoy. He didn't rack up yards, but he managed the two scores. Both yards and scores should come in Week 9 at New Orleans.

Darren McFadden, Raiders: He has remarkably stayed healthy this long. You can consider selling him after this 114-yard rushing effort. Injuries will eventually catch up to him like they always do. That Bucs run defense is pretty good, but if you own McFadden you have to keep him active.

Alfred Morris, Redskins: This was a disappointing effort from the rookie, but stick with him. That Panthers' run defense isn't good.

Doug Martin, Buccaneers: He clearly re-earned must-start status, dominating a very good Vikings run defense. Week 9 at Oakland should be another productive week. LeGarrett Blount shouldn't scare you off Martin at this point.

Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers: It has been reported that Rashard Mendenhall will be the Steelers' starter when healthy, likely in Week 9 against the Giants, but Dwyer has posted back-to-back 100-yard games and is a viable goal-line threat. Dwyer belongs on fantasy rosters and perhaps even in lineups as a flex, regardless of Mendenhall's status.

Mikel LeShoure, Lions: He sat for most of the second half, but it wasn't due to injury, according to his head coach.

Donald Brown, Colts: Vick Ballard might have scored the OT game-winner on a pass reception and Delone Carter might have picked up the earlier goal-line TD, but Brown proved healthy and should start against the Dolphins next week. Miami has elite run defense, though, so consider Brown a marginal starter.

Rashad Jennings, Jaguars: Even if he starts for Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) again, he will be facing a solid Lions run defense that slowed Marshawn Lynch after a long touchdown run Sunday. Jennings is a marginal start, if you even take the risk using him at all next week.

Jonathan Stewart, Panthers: It was a bad week to take over as the Panthers' feature back. The Bears' run defense is the toughest in the NFL against running backs in fantasy. DeAngelo Williams did nothing in his 11 touches, so expect Stewart to be the play against the Redskins in Week 9. He's a marginal option, because that Redskins' run defense is still pretty good in its own right.

Alex Green, Packers: He was able to hold off James Starks for another week, but you cannot feel good about using him against the Cardinals' defense in Week 9.

Daniel Thomas, Dolphins: The Colts' run defense is coming up and the Dolphins have allowed Thomas to get the goal-line carries and split time with Reggie Bush of late. Thomas is a viable sleeper in deeper leagues next week.

Daryl Richardson, Rams: Watch the news through the Rams' bye week. Richardson looks like the better runner over veteran Steven Jackson. Even fellow rookie Isaiah Peed looked better than Jackson, who could be a trade candidate before the Tuesday's deadline.

Andre Brown, Giants: He isn't the full goal-line back, but he did get another short score in lieu of Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw is banged up some, giving away carries to both Brown and rookie David Wilson and next faces a solid Steelers run defense. No Giants back is a good start next week.

Felix Jones, Cowboys: If the bad numbers or the fumble didn't do it, a potential return of DeMarco Murray (foot) should get you to cut and ignore Jones going forward. Jones is a viable drop in this week's waiver run. We should expect Murray to return and not give up much in the way of touches for the backups.

Wide receivers:

Julio Jones, Falcons: He showed why you don't sit him, no matter how tough the matchup looks. It should be enough to get you to keep Week 8 disappointments Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez active next week against a very good Dallas secondary.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: With Cassel back we shouldn't have reservations with Bowe as a fantasy starter. Keep him active against the Chargers. Dexter McCluster might even be a potential start with Cassel back under center.

Denarius Moore, Raiders: There should no longer be a question about whom Carson Palmer's go-to receiver is. Darrius Heyward-Bey is healthy again, but it is Moore who leads the charge. Consider Moore a solid start in all fantasy leagues going forward. Palmer has done a good job finding his primary targets in Moore, DHB and now tight end Brandon Myers.

Randall Cobb, Packers: The loss of Greg Jennings (sports hernia surgery) for three-to-six weeks and the one-week absence of Jordy Nelson (hamstring) is a boon to Cobb's fantasy value. Consider him and James Jones viable starts in all leagues for as long as Jennings is out. Nelson likely will be back next week, but Cobb and Jones can remain productive enough to use, even in a tough matchup.

Mike Williams, Buccaneers: You have to be a believer by now. He's over his sophomore swoon and is now a solid starter every week in all leagues.

Sidney Rice, Seahawks: Russell Wilson isn't a great downfield passer yet, but he is an improving one and Rice has steadily proven healthy and is a viable start in fantasy. Start him next week against the Vikings.

Kendall Wright, Titans: He has been much more productive with Matt Hasselbeck as the QB, catching a touchdown pass against the Colts. Jake Locker (shoulder) might return next week and the Bears are on the schedule, so Wright might be marginalized all over again.

Chris Givens, Rams: They have found something here. Danny Amendola (shoulder) can return after the bye week, but Givens has a decent future ahead of him. Givens might even be considered a starter over Brandon Gibson when Amendola does return.

Tight ends:

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: Aaron Hernandez (ankle) is going to be fine after the bye week, but Gronk's owners were kept happy this week with two scores. They should be happier about the health of their star. Gronk is set up for a huge second half of the fantasy season.

Jason Witten, Cowboys: OK, clearly he is a must-start in all leagues again.

Dustin Keller, Jets: He is healthy and is the Jets' No. 1 receiving target. Consider adding him after his bye week and starting him in any league down the stretch.

Tony Scheffler, Lions: The Megatron injury also meant more for Brandon Pettigrew's backup. Scheffler can be a factor in deeper leagues, if you have a banged up tight end or one on a bye.

Kellen Davis, Bears: Cutler needs another receiving threat, and Davis reeled in a score against a Titans team that came into Week 8 as the worst in fantasy versus tight ends. It might be worth considering Davis as a bye-week replacement. He's not heavily targeted, but he can find the end zone again this week.

Zach Miller, Seahawks: He caught a touchdown, but his targets remain too few and far between to consider him a viable pick-up.

Dwayne Allen, Colts: Coby Fleener got all the hype because he was Andrew Luck's college teammate, but Allen has been the better pro. Fleener is no longer worth owning in fantasy.


Lawrence Tynes, Giants: Once we say this, he will miss, but ... Tynes just doesn't miss. The Giants are struggling in the red zone this season, strangely, and Tynes is getting a lot of field-goal opportunities. He's arguably the most valuable kicker in fantasy right now.

Connor Barth, Buccaneers: He doesn't get a whole lot of love in fantasy circles, but that Bucs' offense is pretty good now and Barth is a very good kicker that just has been a bit underrated because of his disappointing support cast.

Defense/Special teams:

Denver Broncos: The Saints don't play as well away from home and on grass, but Denver still had an impressive effort Sunday night against Drew Brees. That Broncos are better than they're given credit for and might be a viable streaming play against the Bengals next week.

New York Jets: OK, we were stubborn about writing them off, but the performance against the Dolphins and their backup quarterback was disgusting. Cut the Jets D/ST.

Pittsburgh Steelers: That was a great performance against a very good offense. The Steelers get another elite offense next week in the Giants, but this defense deserves to be owned in fantasy, despite the disappointing point totals to date.

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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