Ten most intriguing players of Week Eight

Posted Oct. 27, 2010 @ 6:57 p.m.
Posted By Pat Fitzmaurice

1. Darren McFadden — Run DMC was considered questionable going into last weekend's game against the Broncos after a hamstring injury had kept him out of Oakland's two previous games. A lot of fantasy owners played it safe and kept McFadden on the bench, since the Oakland-Denver game was a late-afternoon affair and McFadden's status wasn't entirely clear as of kickoff of the early games. McFadden, of course, wound up leaving the Denver defense in ruins, scoring four TDs and rolling up 196 yards from scrimmage. It's safe to assume that very few of McFadden's owners will have him on the bench this weekend when the Raiders host the Seahawks. McFadden has been sensational this season when healthy, and last week's trashing of the Broncos made it clear that his hamstring is just peachy, thank you very much. McFadden might just be the breakthrough player of the 2010 season.

2. Pierre Garcon — The window of stardom is wide open for the Haitian Sensation. Injuries have severely depleted the Colts' supply of skill players. Dallas Clark is out for the season. Austin Collie will be out for a while, and Joseph Addai might be, too. With Garcon and Reggie Wayne by far the best options available to Peyton Manning, the Colts' offense might temporarily go back in time to 2006, when Wayne and Marvin Harrison each had more than 1,300 receiving yards and no other Indy pass catcher had even 400 receiving yards. Garcon could be in for a big, big game Monday night against a Texans defense that's being shredded for an average of 306 passing yards per game.

3. Wes Welker — Has Welker's fantasy value all but dried up now that the Patriots no longer have Randy Moss to routinely occupy the attention of two defenders downfield? Say what you will about Moss and his performance this season, but it's undeniable that opponents still respect him as a deep threat. His return to Minnesota has done wonders for the Welkeresque Percy Harvin, often leaving Harvin ample open space in which to work. So what becomes of Welker? In the two games since the Moss trade, he has caught 11 passes for just 78 yards. The Patriots host the Vikings this week, so we might be in for an interesting demonstration of the Moss Effect.

4. Frank Gore — Fancy a spot of tea, Gov'na? The 49ers and Broncos play in London this weekend, and after what Darren McFadden and the Raiders did to the Denver run defense in Week Seven, Gore would seem to have an excellent chance to cause anarchy in the U.K. Gore already has amassed more than 900 yards from scrimmage this season. He has scored only one rushing TD and three total TDs, but he stands to fatten those totals, since the Broncos have allowed a league-high 12 rushing TDs. The Niners will be without starting QB Alex Smith, who sustained a shoulder injury last week. He'll be replaced by Troy Smith, who hasn't started a game since 2007, so it's reasonable to assume that the 49ers will give Gore as many carries as he can handle. 

5. Drew Brees — The last thing a slumping quarterback needs is a date with the Steelers. It's safe to say Brees is in a slump, isn't it (at least by his standards)? Never mind his 356 passing yards against the Browns last week. Brees helped dig the Saints into an enormous hole by throwing four interceptions, two of which were returned for TDs. He threw three interceptions against the struggling Cardinals in Week Five, and Brees has now thrown as many INTs (eight) as TD passes over his past four games. If you play in a league in which interceptions are penalized, Brees hasn't been helping you much, and he may well have caused you to lose last week. With the Steelers visiting New Orleans this week, a 400-yard, four-TD slump-buster is probably out of the question, but for Brees owners who want to look on the bright side, try this: The Steelers' run defense is so dominant that Sean Payton will have little choice but to let Brees air it out.

6. Steve Johnson — Looks like this guy is for real. The former Kentucky Wildcat hauled in eight passes for 158 yards against the Ravens last week and had his fifth TD catch of the season. Bills teammate Lee Evans also had a big day against Baltimore, catching three TD passes, but with Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick showing that he needs to be taken seriously as an NFL quarterback, there might just be enough balls to go around for two Buffalo receivers to put up worthwhile fantasy numbers. Johnson and the Bills visit Kansas City this week to face the Chiefs, who rank 25th against the pass.

7. Matthew Stafford — The young quarterback returns from yet another shoulder injury, his second in less than a year. The Lions' passing game was surprisingly effective in Stafford's absence, with backup Shaun Hill turning in a fine relief stint. Indeed, it's fair to wonder whether Stafford would have an unlimited length of leash had Hill not broken his forearm against the Giants (who have been doing major bodily harm to opposing quarterbacks all season, by the way) in Week Six. Stafford could build a great deal of goodwill with Lions fans this weekend with a strong comeback performance in a home game against the Redskins, who rank 31st in pass defense. (Helpful reminder for the shaggy-haired QB: Find Calvin Johnson, throw, repeat.)

8. Adrian Peterson — Purple Jesus has been brilliant this season. He ranks second in the league with 684 rushing yards, has scored five TDs in six games and is gaining 4.9 yards per carry. But what happens to Peterson if Brett Favre can't play because of ankle woes, or if Favre's ankle renders him completely ineffective? Will Peterson be asked to carry even more of the load? Will opposing defenses try to clamp down on A.P. like never before and flat-out dare the Vikings to throw? Of course, it's worth remembering that Peterson was pretty good before ol' No. 4 donned a purple jersey. Peterson faces a tough test this weekend against a Patriots defense that's yielding fewer than 100 rushing yards per game and has given up only two rushing TDs.

9. Jason Witten — When Tony Romo went down with a fractured clavicle in the Cowboys' devastating Monday-night loss to the Giants, backup QB Jon Kitna leaned heavily on Witten. The rugged tight end posted his best single-game numbers of the season, catching nine passes for 95 yards and a TD, plus a two-point conversion. This week the Cowboys host the Jaguars, who have allowed a league-high 16 TD passes and are having major issues at the safety position, so Witten owners have good reason to salivate.

10. David Gettis — Baylor is in the midst of its best football season in recent memory. The Bears are 6-2 and bowl-eligible, and it wouldn't be all that shocking if they beat Texas this weekend in Austin. (The Longhorns are awful this year, but never mind.) Given the resurgence in Baylor football, how fitting that Gettis, a Baylor product, is gaining notice in the NFL. The Panthers' rookie receiver caught eight passes for 125 yards and two TDs last week, dramatically outproducing star teammate Steve Smith, who was returning from a sprained ankle. Even before his Week Seven breakout, Gettis was beginning to carve out a niche in the Panthers' offense, with eight receptions in his three previous games. It's hard to recommend a Carolina receiver to fantasy owners in light of the Panthers' QB problems, but Gettis is at least worth watching. He has an imposing combination of size (6-3, 216 pounds) and speed (former track star). Defenses are bound to focus on stopping Smith, which should free up Gettis to work one-on-one against lesser defensive backs.