Wide Write is mainly a column about fantasy football’s overachievers and underachievers. If a player exceeds or is about to leapfrog past expectations, he’s covered here. Because of that, praise is generally held back from the NFL’s elite – especially the guys who are chosen in the first round or two of your fantasy drafts. After all, those players are supposed to put up big numbers for your team, so they don’t really deserve any special credit for doing their jobs. That’s the opinion here, anyway.
Sometimes, however, Wide Write makes exceptions. Occasionally a star player puts up stats that are so mind-boggling they make us say, “He did WHAT?” Games like that just can’t be ignored. So, without further ado…
GOOD: Tom Brady, New England
Brady completed 21 of 25 passes for 354 yards and SIX TOUCHDOWNS against the Dolphins. He’s on pace to set single-season NFL records for TDs (61), completion percentage (73.8) and passer rating (137.9). In his first seven games, Brady has tossed 27 touchdowns against just two interceptions. Wow, wow and wow.
Many Patriots observers always wondered what Brady would do with a decent crop of receivers, but even the most pro-Brady among them didn’t expect this. I’m in three fantasy leagues this year, and the teams Brady is on are first, first and second in points. If you own Brady, and your team is in the middle of the pack or worse, you might want to try fantasy cricket or something.
Honorable mention: Jeff Garcia, Tampa Bay (37-45, 316 yards, 2 TD); Sage Rosenfels, Houston (22-35, 290 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT)
BAD: Tarvaris Jackson, Minnesota
The Bizarro Brady. Jackson was six-for-19 in a loss to the Cowboys on Sunday. For the season, he’s completed 45 of 98 passes (45.9 percent) for 537 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. For some reason, the Vikings think Jackson is going to be a good quarterback someday, but while they’re waiting all they’ve got is a guy whose best skill is handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson. The only bright side for the Vikes is that Jackson’s fractured right index finger might prevent the coaching staff from letting him play this week.
THIS WEEK’S PLAY: Derek Anderson, Cleveland
You’re not starting Anderson in your league yet? Why not? In a little less than six games (he came on in relief in Week 1), Anderson has thrown 14 touchdowns and is averaging 250 yards per game. This week, the Browns visit St. Louis to battle the winless Rams, who aren’t horrible against the pass (10th in yards allowed) but are giving up more than 27 points per game. It’s hard to believe that Anderson is unowned in 22 percent of FOXSports.com leagues. Look for another solid outing this week from a QB who’s better than people realize.
GOOD: Kenny Watson, Cincinnati
Every year, a couple of backs come from virtual anonymity, replace a starter and rack up big numbers. Filling in for the injured Rudi Johnson, Watson ran for career bests of 130 yards and three scores against the Jets, and he has 253 yards on 57 carries (4.4 avg.) in his last three games. Johnson might be ready to return this week, but you can bet on Watson keeping at least a good share of the carries. He’s playing too well to ride the pine all day.
Honorable mention: LenDale White, Tennessee (27 carries, 104 yards, 1 TD)
BAD: Shaun Alexander, Seattle and Cedric Benson, Chicago (tie)
These two were so awful, I couldn’t leave either one un-insulted. Fantasy first-rounder Alexander had just 19 carries for 47 yards against the Rams – the Rams! – on Sunday. You could run for 47 yards against the Rams. It’s pretty clear that Alexander is never again going to be the superstar he was in 2005. In fact, he might spend a lot of time on the bench soon if he doesn’t start playing better.
Benson wasn’t drafted as early as Alexander, but after the Bears traded Thomas Jones in the offseason he was expected to step into the feature role. After stepping in, Benson has fallen on his face, averaging 3.1 yards per carry and gaining more than 67 yards just once in seven games. Benson ran 17 times for 46 yards against the Eagles, and there’s probably no reason to expect a lot of improvement from him.
THIS WEEK’S PLAY: Laurence Maroney, Patriots
I know, I know, Maroney was a high draft pick. But he shared carries with Sammy Morris in the season’s first three games, was injured for the next three, and returned Sunday with the fantasy-irrelevant line of six carries for 31 yards. Add all that up, and you’re terrified to start Maroney again, right? Don’t be. The Pats were probably easing Maroney back after his injury hiatus, and there was no reason to overextend him in the blowout win over the Dolphins. Morris is out with an injured collarbone, leaving Kevin Faulk as the primary backup. Don’t expect Maroney to be a 25-carry guy anytime soon, but look for him to return to his productive ways against the Redskins this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
GOOD: Wes Welker, New England
Yeah, Welker was in this slot last week, but who the heck else would you pick? In Episode 7 of the New England Aerial Circus, Welker caught nine passes for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s got four TDs over his last two games, and I have no idea why you’d ever bench him or any other Patriots receiver.
Fantasy trivia: While at Texas Tech, Welker set the NCAA Division I record for career punt return yards with 1,761. You learn something new every week at Wide Write, don’t you?
BAD: Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis
I thought about putting Santana Moss (2 receptions, 8 yards) here for the second week in a row, but I was afraid that I’d punch the computer monitor since I own the extremely aggravating Moss in two leagues. So, the fantasy goat horns fall to Harrison, who caught just three passes for 16 yards in a win over the Jaguars. I feel kind of bad about this one, since Harrison was obviously being held back after missing a game with a knee injury. But the numbers don’t lie, and Harrison didn’t put up many. Hopefully, he was on your fantasy bench for one more week.
THIS WEEK’S PLAY: Greg Olsen, Bears
Olsen was the Bears’ first-round draft pick this season, but he missed three of the first four games with a sprained knee. Since returning, he’s caught 13 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown in three games, and those are pretty good numbers for a tight end. Olsen is big and fast with good hands, and he’s going to break out one of these weeks. What better time than at home against the Lions’ 30th-ranked pass defense?