Fantasy Football Fast Forward: Johnson rises, Freeman shines
Chris Johnson snapped his slump with 195 rushing yards and two scores Sunday
Josh Freeman turned in a big game and has made Vincent Jackson a fantasy star
Trent Richardson was supposed to shred the Colts, but managed only eight yards
It is the Halloween season, so we might as well wax poetically prophetic about the dead rising again, courtesy of Isaiah 26:19: "Your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy."
We're talking to you, Chris Johnson owners. Shout for joy for your 195 yards and two touchdowns, even if you can curse your God's name in vain because touchdown vulture Jamie Harper stole two more 1-yard TDs from Johnson on Sunday.
It was still plenty, though. Johnson finally has come through and done what he was supposed to.
Not only was it a breakthrough performance in a favorable matchup for your biggest fantasy pariah, but it also comes in a week before the Colts' run defense -- third-worst in fantasy against RBs going into Week 7 -- comes to Tennessee. Maybe he's not so worthless, after all.
Johnson lives. You fantasy dead (weight) rises. And we break down all the game-changers in the Fantasy Football Fast Forward:
This should actually be more about the ugly Saints defense than the Freeman-led offense. Freeman went for 420 yards and three scores and should have had a fourth to Mike Williams to tie the game at the end of regulation, if Williams hadn't been pushed out of bounds before reeling in the would-be TD.
Freeman has made a fantasy superstar out of Vincent Jackson (7 catches 216 yards and a TD) and Williams has even been viable as a starter (despite his mere finishing line of four catches for 36 yards). Dallas Clark showed up, too, after complaining of his usage, with five catches for 51 yards and a TD.
This is the 2010 Freeman we are seeing and we need to hold his targets in a far higher regard. You can consider any of these Bucs viable against the Vikings on the short week, especially if they're playing from behind.
He wasn't supposed to be limited with his rib injury. In fact, he was supposed to take advantage of that Colts run defense. Instead, he was held to eight yards on eight carries in the first half before giving way to Montario Hardesty in the second half.
Richardson might make use of the rest, but he is going to be a question mark at home against the Chargers in Week 8. He should be good to start, assuming health, but we said the same against a far less impressive Colts run defense.
That might have been a victory on the road, but that was a pitiful performance against a Panthers defense that hasn't been that great to date. Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten and the back (be it DeMarco Murray or Failure, err Felix, Jones) are all less than must-starts at this point.
The Cowboys do get the shaky Giants defense at home in Week 8, but it is a crapshoot expecting your Cowboys to prove consistent week to week. You might want to let the quality of your alternatives dictate whether you trust your Cowboys.
Robert Griffin III, Redskins -- He turned the ball over but the production was still great. Consider him a must-start in all leagues in all matchups, even Week 8 at Pittsburgh.
Cam Newton, Panthers -- If the Cowboys were our "ugly" for Week 7, Newton and the Panthers are a close dishonorable mention. Newton's season has been a disaster and it might even get worse next week against the Bears' unforgiving defense. It's past the time to trade Newton perhaps -- because you'd have to give him away -- but you need a new starting QB. It isn't entirely Newton's fault. Steve Smith has lost a step, a significant one, and Brandon LaFell -- despite a TD -- isn't ready for fantasy prime time.
Eli Manning, Giants -- The game is never over for him if there's time on the clock, but he was bailed out of an awful day with the 77-yard TD to Victor Cruz. This was supposed to be a very favorable matchup for him, but Manning has not played well against the Redskins in his career. He remains a must-start in all leagues, especially since Hakeem Nicks and Martellus Bennett are closer to 100 percent now.
Joe Flacco, Ravens -- He was terrible in a tough matchup, but the schedule is decidedly more favorable after the bye week. Don't sell low now. He's going to erupt. The same goes for his targets Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta.
Andrew Luck, Colts -- Save for a pair of short TD runs, his day was somewhat disappointing. The road hasn't been as favorable for him, but a matchup at Tennessee looks like a favorable one again for the rookie. Even the Bills were able to throw the ball on them.
Matt Hasselbeck, Titans -- A surprisingly great running game made him a marginal performer in a matchup that should have made him a hero. Nate Washington was the only real solid performance among his receivers. Kenny Britt, Jared Cook and Kendall Wright were significant disappointments for their owners. It might be a similar result next week against the Colts.
Christian Ponder, Vikings -- This performance makes it pretty clear: Ponder is not a trustworthy fantasy option. That matchup against the Rams isn't that much more favorable than Sunday's at home against the Cardinals.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills -- He was a significant performer with his three TDs, but the schedule gets tough all over again the next few weeks. He shouldn't be used in Week 8 at Houston.
Alex Smith, 49ers -- Some bad performances make him a risky option even when the matchup is entirely favorable. He is not worth owning in standard leagues.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks -- He has an extended stretch of tough defensive opponents. Cut him in all single-QB formats.
Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars -- He left with an injury and Chad Henne didn't do anything that would make you consider him going forward. Ignore the Jags QBs and their WRs Justin Blackmon and Laurent Robinson. Cecil Shorts, despite his big plays, likely, too.
La'Rod Stephens-Howling, Cardinals -- Welcome to fantasy lineups, LSH. The Cardinals have turned the feature-back role over to LSH entirely and he came through with 104 yards rushing, 45 receiving and a TD. The bad news is the 49ers run defense looms on the schedule, but LSH should be owned in all leagues. It makes him the No. 1 pick-up off waivers this week, even if you can't start him initially in Week 8.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars -- He was carted off with a foot injury, which might make Rashad Jennings a star RB in future weeks. Jennings came on to score, and a matchup against the Packers might be enough to start him as a flex option. The Jags are an offense that needs to run, no matter the score.
Ray Rice, Ravens -- He was outperformed in a head-to-head matchup again versus Arian Foster. Like all of the Ravens, Rice is going to be much better in favorable matchups after the bye. They're going to get back to pounding the ball more with the struggles of Flacco of late.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings -- Any questions? Stud. And a healthy one at that.
Alfred Morris, Redskins -- He didn't get into the end zone, but this might have been his most impressive performance yet. It was plenty enough to consider him a must-start in all weeks, regardless of the matchup. Even the Steelers defense won't be enough to sit him now.
Darren McFadden, Raiders -- That was a real disappointing performance in what should have been a slam-dunk matchup. You have to keep him active against the Chiefs in Week 8, though.
Fred Jackson, Bills -- C.J. Spiller made bigger plays and got more touches, but Jackson's day was better in fantasy because of the score. Both backs are in a full timeshare, but a matchup at Houston next week might prove to be frustrating for their owners. Spiller remains the better play between the two because of the big plays.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks -- He showed well in a tough matchup and the upcoming opposing defenses are all pretty good against the run. Lynch has earned must-start status, though.
Frank Gore, 49ers -- He was a beast against the Seahawks. It's unlikely his bruised ribs will keep him on the sidelines.
Steven Ridley, Patriots -- He wasn't great against that underrated Jets run defense, but you should trust him next week against the Rams.
Steven Jackson, Rams -- He came through in a tough matchup and not will have to face the tough Pats run defense next week. If you own him, you still have to start him. You might think about selling now after this performance. He faces a lot of tough defenses in the NFC West and AFC East. The good news is Jackson was able to put some space between himself and rookie backup Daryl Richardson.
Doug Martin, Buccaneers -- His 36-yard TD run revived his fantasy season and will help you start him in a tough matchup against the Vikings on the short week Thursday night.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants -- It looked like he had lost his goal-line role with Andre Brown getting a short TD run, but Bradshaw got into a shouting match with head coach Tom Coughlin and picked up late carries and a short TD later. Keep him active amid this hot streak, even if he's not 100 percent. Brown isn't quite useful in leagues, unless there is news he will be the goal-line back. Rookie David Wilson was back to being a non-factor, by the way.
Shonn Greene, Jets -- He is the Jets best offensive player and he came through against a tough Pats run defense. He faces an even-tougher Dolphins run defense next week, but that comes at home. Keep Greene active in all matchups going forward. Seriously. By the way, Joe McKnight is back running the ball again, so consider him a handcuff option -- especially if Bilal Powell (shoulder) remains out.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers -- Awful. One of the biggest misused talents in the entire game. The game plan limited Williams here and the Panthers handed the short TD to Mike Tolbert. All of the Panthers underused backs are bad plays next week against Chicago. In fact, you're fine cutting them, including Jonathan Stewart.
Pierre Thomas, Saints -- He has distanced himself past Mark Ingram, but the Week 8 matchup at Denver is not favorable enough to consider Thomas a starter in most fantasy leagues. Ingram isn't even worth owning, especially since Darren Sproles is so productive in the passing game.
Alex Green, Packers -- He might be the starter and the feature back, but he doesn't warrant a spot in starting lineups. The Packers running game is just not trustworthy, no matter what you might think of Green's potential.
Vick Ballard, Colts -- He was solid with a combined 103 yards but a potential return of Donald Brown (knee) might get Ballard put back on the non-factor list. Stay tuned. If Brown doesn't play, Ballard is a sleeper against the Titans run defense.
Jamie Harper, Titans -- He has emerged as the Titans' goal-line back in lieu of Johnson. A great matchup vs. the Colts' poor run defense next week makes Harper a potential flex option.
Santana Moss, Redskins -- Welcome back to pertinence. The Redskins had tried to hide him, but he came through here with two TDs. It makes him an add again in fantasy, along with Leonard Hankerson for as long as Pierre Garcon (foot) remains out, which could be through the bye Week 11.
Andre Johnson, Texans -- That was an encouraging performance. Consider him a must-start in all weeks after the bye again.
Greg Little, Browns -- He has apparently come out of the doghouse to lead the Browns in catches in Week 7. He also scored a TD, which should make him a popular pick-up off waivers this week and a viable starter against the Chargers. Josh Gordon got in the end zone as well, but his two catches are a bit frustrating for owners in PPR formats. Little can be a PPR horse here on out.
Randall Cobb, Packers -- Greg Jennings (groin) might be coming back soon, but Cobb comes through with a big performance here. He belongs on fantasy rosters, but starting him when Jennings is healthy again might be dicey. The same goes for James Jones.
Brandon Gibson, Rams -- He is now Sam Bradford's go-to guy. He warrants being owned in most leagues and a start in PPR formats. There should be better numbers coming his way as the Rams figure to gradually improve their passing game -- especially if they get some garbage-time games as we suspect.
Lance Moore, Saints -- He is healthy now and Jimmy Graham's (ankle) injury is a boon for Moore and Devery Henderson's fantasy owners. There should be ample numbers around the horn in the Saints receiving corps against the Broncos in an incredible gun-slinging shootout next week.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders -- Carson Palmer wasn't impressive but he at least has his go-to targets lined up and healthy. DHB was solid with 85 yards, while Denarius Moore reeled in a TD and TE Brandon Myers led all targets with seven catches for 44 yards.
Donald Jones, Bills -- He reeled in a TD and looks like he can be a decent bye-week replacement in deeper leagues. Even a tough matchup at Houston might not keep him out of lineups, because there should be some garbage-time numbers for the passing game in that one.
Jeremy Kerley, Jets -- Because Stephen Hill is a rookie and dropped some big ones here, Kerley is the go-to WR for the Jets now. Consider picking him up in any format, even if that upcoming matchup with the Dolphins isn't overly favorable.
Kevin Walter, Texans -- He scored before going on bye next week, but if you have an open roster spot in deeper leagues, you might want to pick him up. He comes out of the bye against the suspect Bills secondary.
Dustin Keller, Jets -- His 93 yards and a TD make him must-add if you need a TE right now. His poor start was a function of injury, but that hammy is apparently healed and Keller is his team's No. 1 target the rest of the season. He might be the most targeted TE out of the few elite ones, if only because the awful WRs on the outside.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots -- Clearly, he is healthy enough to dominate again. Aaron Hernandez is back cutting into his time, but Gronk is arguably the best TE in fantasy with Graham out with an ankle injury.
Vernon Davis, 49ers -- Don't get sour on him. It was a rare game he goes catch-less. The 49ers will correct that. Keep him active.
Owen Daniels, Texans -- He has looked like a top-five TE because he's one of Matt Schaub's primary targets. Few TEs have this kind of status on their own teams. Don't dare cut him while he is on bye next week.
Fred Davis, Redskins -- His injury is serious. It might make backup TE Logan Paulsen (four catches for 76 yards) a must-add if you need a TE next week.
Greg Olsen, Panthers -- He was marginalized against the Cowboys defense and you cannot expect much better against the Bears next week. It is time to find a new starting TE, if you can.
Jermichael Finley, Packers -- Yet another week under the fantasy radar. While his disappointing performances are coming due to a shoulder issue, he is playing and forcing too many fantasy owners to start him. It is tough to own a second TE through bye weeks. Unfortunately, this is a bullet you have to bite, because Finley will finish among the top 12 scoring TEs in fantasy.
Dan Bailey, Cowboys -- Romo's red-zone failures are Bailey's gain. This is a good time to pick up this disappointing performer. The Cowboys can move the ball, but the lack of TDs might continue against the bend-bend-bend-some-more Giants defense. That could lead to another big week of field goals for Bailey.
Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders -- He missed a potential record-setting 64-yarder at the end of regulation, but he hit the game-winner in OT. The Raiders are through their bye week and Sea Bass should be fine to ride out as your kicker the rest of the season. The running game will eventually get going and position him for ample FG attempts.
San Francisco 49ers -- They have been disappointing, but they have a good couple of weeks coming. Stay patient with this unit.
Baltimore Ravens -- The injuries clearly took their toll in a tough matchup at Houston and they head into a bye week on a down note. Don't give up on this unit, though. The Ravens come out of the bye with some favorable matchups. They will rise again.
Buffalo Bills -- You should be far too sick of them by now. They shouldn't be owned in any leagues. There is no redeeming feature of this unit.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. Track his weekly starts and sits every Thursday, his Scouting Report on Friday 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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