On a weekend when Wes Welker converted an extra point and Ndamukong Suh clanged one off the goal post, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Brett Favre threw for the most yards (446) in his storied career – even without Randy Moss.
Or that an undrafted rookie named Seyi Ajirotutu produced 111 yards and two touchdowns in his first NFL start.
Or that Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis combined to embarrass the mighty Patriots, two weeks after knocking off the defending Super Bowl champion Saints.
Then again, the only thing surprising about the goings-on in Dallas was that it took a 45-7 mauling by the Packers in primetime to finally get Wade Phillips fired. Interim head coach Jason Garrett had better hand everyone a shovel now, because it’s going to take a lot of work to exhume this team from the grave. Remarkably, no Cowboys player can be considered a safe fantasy starter at this point (and yes, that includes you, Miles Austin).
On a positive note, Week 9 heralded the return of the workhorse running back, as Hillis, Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, Ahmad Bradshaw and even Brandon Jackson each reached the end zone twice while racking up big chunks of yardage. It was hard to win a matchup this weekend without at least one of these backs in your lineup, and woe unto you if you faced a pair of them (as I did in one league – ouch!).
At least we’re past the dreaded six-team bye weeks. Now comes a weekly slate of Thursday night games, beginning with a juicy clash between the Falcons and Ravens this week. Don’t forget to set your lineup early!
Free agent picks and pans
To win a fantasy championship, you need to start with a good draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents can also make a big difference. Here’s a look at a few players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else’s lineup.
Catch ‘em while you can
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings – Brett Favre’s favorite target from 2009 could suit up as early as Week 10, but more likely won’t be fully ready for another week. Now that Randy Moss is a Titan, a healthy Rice will immediately return to his starting role opposite the oft-injured Percy Harvin. Available in roughly two-thirds of all leagues, Rice could be a difference-maker down the stretch.
Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders – If I were an Oakland quarterback, the only receiver I would ever target is Ford. He made two spectacular catches on Sunday, and finished the day with six receptions for 148 yards. The former Clemson track star is one of the fastest players in the NFL, as he showed on his 94-yard kickoff return. If the Raiders keep feeding him the ball, the rookie could come up huge after their Week 10 bye.
Jacob Tamme, TE, Colts – All he’s done in his two starts after replacing the injured Dallas Clark is catch 17 passes for 172 yards and two TDs. With Austin Collie bound to miss some time with a scary-looking concussion, Tamme’s value increases even more. He’s still a free agent in about half of fantasy leagues.
Don’t be fooled
Javarris James, RB, Colts – Those hoping for big things from Donald Brown are not fans of the undrafted rookie, who poached two short TD runs from the former first-round draft choice. Alas, James gained just 12 yards on his four carries, so he is more likely to be a thorn in Brown’s side than a consistent fantasy contributor. His value will plummet once Joseph Addai and/or Mike Hart return from their injuries.
Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers – It’s not entirely shocking that the undrafted rookie had a career day on Sunday. After all, we knew Philip Rivers was going to torch the pathetic Texans secondary with somebody, and Ajirotutu was starting opposite Patrick Crayton. But heading into its bye, San Diego will have a chance to get Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates healthy, and Vincent Jackson is eligible to return in Week 12. Sadly, Ajirotutu’s 15 minutes of fantasy fame are probably gone. For this year, at least.
Stephen Gostkowski, K, Patriots – An injured quad could cost Gostkowski several games. Shayne Graham has been rumored as a replacement. The Lions will also be without Jason Hanson for at least a couple of games. If you’re counting on either kicker, it’s time to go shopping. Suh is probably not your best option.