Ten most intriguing players of Week Nine

Posted Nov. 03, 2010 @ 3:55 p.m.
Posted By Pat Fitzmaurice

1. Michael Vick — The playmaker who shook up fantasy football in such exciting fashion earlier this season is back from a rib injury that has sidelined him since Week Four. Kevin Kolb played reasonably well in Vick's absence, so Vick owners have to be at least a little concerned that a slow start for Vick against the Colts this weekend could lead to a quick hook. Also concerning is the possibility that Colts DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis could have their way with Philadelphia's offensive tackles. Things would get a little easier for Vick if speedy WR DeSean Jackson were able to return from a concussion.

2. LeGarrette Blount — It's now safe to say that Blount's football career won't be remembered solely for his cold-cocking of a Boise State player in the moments after an Oregon loss at the beginning of the 2009 college season. Blount offered a glimpse of his pro potential in Week Seven, then unveiled the full range of his talents in Week Eight with a 120-yard, two-TD rushing day against the Cardinals. He's now unquestionably the main man in the Tampa Bay rushing game, and he'll play a critical role in this weekend's important NFC South showdown in Atlanta. Blount will be up against a stout, well-rested Falcons run defense that ranks sixth in the league and has allowed only three rushing TDs all season.

3. Terrell Owens — Somehow T.O. has become the anti-Randy Moss. Oh, sure, the loquacious receiver has had some fun with the media this season, but he has been on his best behavior, and apparently Father Time is not among Owens' followers on Twitter. Owens turns 37 next month, but he's still playing like he's in his prime. He has caught 45 passes for 629 yards and five TDs, and all of those touchdowns have come in his past four games. Owens is now applying the Cool Whip to what's certain to be a Hall of Fame career. After catching two TD passes last week, Owens must now deal with the Steelers, sure to be feeling ornery after their loss to the Saints. But the Bengals-Steelers game is a Monday-nighter, and we know how much T.O. loves the spotlight. Get your popcorn ready.

4. Larry Fitzgerald — Motivation won't be a problem for Fitz this week when he ventures back to his home state to face the Vikings. Then again, motivation is never a problem for Fitzgerald. Quarterbacks? Different story. The Cardinals are going back to error-prone veteran Derek Anderson at the QB position after auditioning error-prone rookie Max Hall. With Anderson subbing in for Hall last week, Fitzgerald turned in his best statistical performance of a heretofore frustrating season, scoring a pair of touchdowns to double his season TD total and also going for 72 yards. Fitz is still looking for his first 100-yard game of the season, and he has a reasonable chance to get one against an iffy Vikings secondary, provided Anderson cooperates.

5. Roddy White — White added a little pepper to a simmering pot when he sarcastically mocked Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris for his proclamation that the Bucs are the best team in the NFC. (And let's be honest, Raheem: The fact that your team has been outscored by 27 points this season is every bit as significant as your team's 5-2 record.) White is entitled to do a little chirping in light of the kind of season he's having. In seven games he has 54 receptions for 747 yards and five TDs, and talk of White as a league MVP candidate isn't far-fetched, considering how much he has meant to the Falcons. He's been an über-dependable fantasy performer this season, and his owners should be pleased that White seems to have a chip on his shoulder with regard to the upstart Buccaneers.

6. Calvin Johnson — Megatron didn't have any problem reconnecting with Matthew Stafford, who returned from a shoulder injury last week and threw three TD passes to his big receiver in a victory over the Redskins. But the Washington cornerbacks have been pushovers for much of the season. Johnson will face stiffer competition against the Jets this week, working against CBs Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. 

7. Philip Rivers — The man with the unusual throwing motion has to be licking his chops in anticipation of picking apart the porous Houston secondary. But who will Rivers have available at the WR position? Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis all missed last week's game because of injuries, and Davis just went on injured reserve. No matter. Leaning heavily on TE Antonio Gates and the pass-catching abilities of his running backs (particularly Darren Sproles), Rivers threw for 305 yards and two TDs last week in a win over the Titans. It would help if Rivers got some of his receivers back, since the Texans' defensive backs can't seem to keep anyone covered downfield for more than a second or two, but in Rivers' case, a healthy set of receivers may not be necessary.

8. Mark Sanchez — The SoCal Kid had some trouble with the windy conditions in the Meadowlands last weekend, completing only 16-of-38 passes in a shutout loss to the Packers. But Sanchez didn't get much help from his receivers. They dropped a couple of easy balls, and the failure of Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller to protect the ball from larcenous Green Bay defenders resulted in two interceptions that really should have been completions. Sanchez won't have to deal with the wind Sunday in Detroit, where the dome conditions are always comfy, but will his pass catchers bounce back? The Detroit defense could perk up the Jets' aerial game. The Lions rank 19th against the pass, and only a much-improved pass rush has kept the Lions' secondary from being completely exposed.

9. BenJarvus Green-Ellis — A lot of fantasy owners are now all-in with Green-Ellis, but is Bill Belichick ready to commit all of his chips to the pot? Belichick can be fickle when it comes to his running backs. Green-Ellis is proving to be a useful runner, but his skills are by no means elite. Danny Woodhead is also an important part of the New England running game, and Fred Taylor may yet be a factor if he can get healthy. But Green-Ellis had a pair of TDs last week to go along with 112 rushing yards, and he has turned into a touchdown machine, racking up six scores in his last five games. His fantasy owners are hoping he can keep the mojo going this weekend in Cleveland.

10. Steve Smith (Giants) — Smith has been somewhat overshadowed this year by teammate Hakeem Nicks, whose exploits have been positively eye-popping at times. But the diminutive No. 12 quietly has been on a roll lately after a sluggish start to the season. In his past three games he has 21 receptions and a pair of TDs. Nicks' new superstar rep could prove beneficial for Smith: If opponents leave Smith in one-on-one coverage, he'll make them pay dearly. The Giants visit Seattle this week, and Smith may be inspired to play well in the presence of Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who coached Smith at USC. The Seahawks rank 29th against the pass, so the Giants should have a productive day through the air.