Ten most intriguing players of Week Seven

Posted Oct. 20, 2010 @ 5:33 p.m.
Posted By Pat Fitzmaurice

1. Aaron Rodgers — How lucky are Green Bay fans? Some NFL franchises go decades without a decent quarterback. The Packers went from the Brett Favre era straight into the Aaron Rodgers era. How's that for a soft landing? Ol' Brett is still around, of course, and on Sunday night he makes his second visit to Lambeau Field as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, who are more despised in Green Bay than non-alcoholic beer. Favre beat his old team twice last season, and you just know that Rodgers is dying to get even. Let's not forget that Favre once publicly said it wasn't his job to mentor Rodgers, then later left Rodgers twisting in the wind with the first few acts of his "I'm retiring; I'm not retiring" drama. At 3-3 and riddled with injuries, the Packers need this game badly. Count on Rodgers to do a lot of throwing in this one, since it's unlikely the Packers will be able to establish a ground game against a good Minnesota run defense.

2. Danario Alexander — This rookie's sudden emergence for the Rams last week probably wasn't a complete shocker to anyone who watched a lot of college football last year. Alexander was a big-play machine for the University of Missouri in 2009, catching 113 passes for 1,781 yards and 14 TDs. But despite his ridiculous senior-year stats and his impressive combination of size (6-5, 215) and speed (4.4-something 40-time), Alexander went undrafted because of his extensive injury history, which includes multiple knee surgeries and wrist surgery. When the Rams signed Alexander from their practice squad last week, they gave him a four-year contract — which hints that Alexander is more than just another warm body to them. He caught four passes for 72 yards and a TD in his debut last weekend, and with the Rams having lost Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton to season-ending injuries, Alexander could quickly establish himself as Sam Bradford's favorite downfield target.

3. Randy Moss — Moss has abused the Packers over the years. This Sunday he'll be making his first visit to Lambeau Field since he fake-mooned Green Bay fans while celebrating one of two TD catches against the Packers during a Vikings playoff win in January 2005. Moss has 14 career TD catches against the Packers in 14 games, and he has scored in each of his last six games against the Green and Gold. Moss wasn't very active in Minnesota's win over Dallas last week, and the Vikings will no doubt want to get him more involved in their big Sunday-night date with their archrivals. But Moss has now gone 13 consecutive games without a 100-yard performance. At age 33, is he still capable of dominating? If Green Bay doesn't bring out the best in him, we might have our answer.

4. Michael Crabtree — The former college superstar is finally starting to develop into a reliable NFL receiver. He has had a TD catch in each of his last two games and has averaged six receptions over his last three. Crabtree's application for membership in fantasy football's Must-Start Club is being processed, and a big game against the Panthers this weekend in Charlotte would probably get him in. 49ers QB Alex Smith might need to lean heavily on Crabtree if a banged-up knee either limits TE Vernon Davis or keeps him out entirely.

5. Chris Ivory — A largely unknown commodity just a few weeks ago, Ivory led all NFL rushers in Week Six with 155 yards. Like the aforementioned Danario Alexander, Ivory is an undrafted rookie, and it's clear he has legitimate NFL talent. The question is what sort of role he'll play once Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush return from injuries. Ivory has carried the ball 37 times over the Saints' last three games, and he'll probably have a fourth consecutive game of double-digit carries this week against the Browns even if Thomas is healthy enough to play. (Bush will miss at least one more game.) A big day against Cleveland could ensure Ivory a steady diet of carries in the weeks to come, which might make him a reasonable flex option in fantasy leagues.

6. Deion Branch — It's like he never left New England. Branch was traded from the Patriots to the Seahawks in 2006 and was basically a washout in the rainy Pacific Northwest. After four-plus unproductive seasons with the Seahawks, Branch had become less popular than Sanka in coffee-loving Seattle. Apparently rejuvenated by this latest Seattle-New England trade, Branch made an instant impact in his return to the Pats following the departure of Randy Moss, catching nine passes for 98 yards and a TD in last week's win over the Ravens. Will Branch remain a favorite target of Tom Brady this week in San Diego and for the rest of the season, or will he merely be a troupe member in an ensemble cast of pass catchers?

7. Kevin Kolb — Over the past two weeks, Kolb has played like the guy the Eagles were hoping to see at the beginning of the regular season. He completed 23-of-29 passes for 326 yards and three TDs in last weekend's win over Atlanta, and he has had passer ratings of 103.3 and 133.6 in his last two starts. If Kolb plays well in Tennessee this week, we can expect a full-blown QB controversy in Philadelphia, since Michael Vick is nearing his return from a chest injury. But Kolb has shown a tendency to melt under a heavy pass rush, and he'll be facing a bloodthirsty Titans defense that leads the league in sacks. Kolb also must make do without home-run threat DeSean Jackson, who has been ruled out due to a concussion.

8. Michael Turner - The big man has produced in fits and spurts this season, which is probably driving his fantasy owners a little crazy by now. He has had a 114-yard game and a 140-yard game, but he has run for 50 or fewer yards in three games. After scoring 27 TDs in 27 starts over 2008 and '09, Turner has scored only once in his first six outings this season. The Falcons need offensive balance, because if their running game isn't clicking, QB Matt Ryan probably won't be very effective. The Falcons return home this week, but they face a solid Bengals run defense that's well rested after a Week Six bye.

9. Dwayne Bowe — Last week, Bowe took advantage of a bad Texans pass defense and turned in his best single-game numbers of the season, catching six balls for 108 yards and two TDs. This week he gets to face a shaky Jaguars pass defense that has just undergone an unusual in-season purge at the safety position. Kansas City is one of the league's most run-heavy teams, but as the Chiefs' only credible threat at wide receiver (not counting RB-WR hybrid Dexter McCluster), Bowe still plays a very prominent role. He could be in for another big game this week against the Jags.

10. Roy Williams — After playing like a corpse in shoulder pads for the past couple of seasons, Williams suddenly has been reanimated. He has five TD catches in his last three games, and he has been a favorite red-zone target of Tony Romo. But are there enough balls to go around in Dallas for Williams to be a useful fantasy contributor going forward, or will he eventually be overshadowed by teammates Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten? The Cowboys need all hands on deck for their must-win Monday-night home game against the Giants — including Williams' hands, which finally seem to be working again.