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All our week 8 content

Week 8 Upgrades, Downgrades, and Waiver Wire Wonders

by Jeff Pasquino, Jene Bramel, Jeff Haseley, Maurile Tremblay, Aaron Rudnicki, Colin Dowling, Will Grant, and Matt Waldman, exclusive to Footballguys.com


Quarterback

Upgrade

  1. QB Carson Palmer, CIN
  2. QB Alex Smith, SF *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  3. QB Tony Romo, DAL

Downgrade

  1. QB Shaun Hill, SF
  2. QB Matt Cassel, KC
  3. QB Jason Campbell, WAS
  4. QB Eli Manning, NYG
  5. QB Josh Johnson, TB
  6. QB Jake Delhomme, CAR
  7. QB Jay Cutler, CHI

Holding steady

  1. QB Tom Brady, NE
  2. QB Philip Rivers, SD
  3. QB Brett Favre, MIN
  4. QB Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
  5. QB Kurt Warner, ARI
  6. QB Matt Ryan, ATL
  7. QB Drew Brees, NO
  8. QB Josh Freeman, TB
  9. QB Matt Schaub, HOU
  10. QB Donovan McNabb, PHI


Running Back

Upgrade

  1. RB Shonn Greene, NYJ *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  2. RB Chris Wells, ARI
  3. RB Mike Bell, NO
  4. RB Jamaal Charles, KC *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  5. RB Thomas Jones, NYJ
  6. RB Steve Slaton, HOU
  7. RB Brandon Jacobs, NYG
  8. RB Cedric Benson, CIN
  9. RB Ryan Grant, GB
  10. RB Ricky Williams, MIA
  11. RB Jason Snelling, ATL
  12. RB Felix Jones, DAL

Downgrade

  1. RB Leon Washington, NYJ
  2. RB Pierre Thomas, NO
  3. RB Larry Johnson, KC
  4. RB Matt Forte, CHI
  5. RB Michael Turner, ATL
  6. RB Tashard Choice, DAL
  7. RB Chris Brown, HOU
  8. RB Tim Hightower, ARI
  9. RB Marion Barber, DAL
  10. RB Clinton Portis, WAS
  11. RB Willie Parker, PIT
  12. RB Frank Gore, SF

Holding steady

  1. RB Donald Brown, IND
  2. RB Laurence Maroney, NE
  3. RB LaDainian Tomlinson, SD
  4. RB Darren Sproles, SD
  5. RB Cadillac Williams, TB
  6. RB DeAngelo Williams, CAR
  7. RB Marshawn Lynch, BUF
  8. RB Derrick Ward, TB
  9. RB Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG
  10. RB Adrian Peterson, MIN
  11. RB Rashard Mendenhall, PIT
  12. RB Brian Westbrook, PHI
  13. RB LeSean McCoy, PHI


Wide Receiver

Upgrade

  1. WR Miles Austin, DAL
  2. WR Sidney Rice, MIN
  3. WR Michael Crabtree, SF *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  4. WR Brian Hartline, MIA *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  5. WR Chad Ochocinco, CIN
  6. WR Devin Hester, CHI
  7. WR Sammie Stroughter, TB *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  8. WR David Clowney, NYJ
  9. WR Louis Murphy, OAK *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  10. WR Sam Aiken, NE
  11. WR Danny Amendola, STL *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  12. WR Percy Harvin, MIN
  13. WR Mike Wallace, PIT
  14. WR Greg Lewis, MIN
  15. WR Lee Evans, BUF
  16. WR Wes Welker, NE
  17. WR Jeremy Maclin, PHI
  18. WR Devin Thomas, WAS *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  19. WR Vincent Jackson, SD
  20. WR Hakeem Nicks, NYG
  21. WR DeSean Jackson, PHI
  22. WR Brandon Tate, NE
  23. WR Lance Long, KC *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***

Downgrade

  1. WR Ted Ginn, MIA
  2. WR Chris Chambers, SD
  3. WR Bernard Berrian, MIN
  4. WR Jerricho Cotchery, NYJ
  5. WR Andre Johnson, HOU
  6. WR Mario Manningham, NYG
  7. WR Steve Smith, NYG
  8. WR Roy Williams, DAL
  9. WR Steve Breaston, ARI
  10. WR Terrell Owens, BUF
  11. WR Kevin Walter, HOU
  12. WR Isaac Bruce, SF

Holding steady

  1. WR Anquan Boldin, ARI
  2. WR Randy Moss, NE
  3. WR Steve Smith, CAR
  4. WR Braylon Edwards, NYJ
  5. WR Reggie Wayne, IND
  6. WR Hines Ward, PIT
  7. WR Santonio Holmes, PIT
  8. WR Dwayne Bowe, KC
  9. WR Marques Colston, NO
  10. WR Santana Moss, WAS


Tight End

Upgrade

  1. TE Vernon Davis, SF
  2. TE Fred Davis, WAS *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  3. TE Owen Daniels, HOU
  4. TE Donald Lee, GB
  5. TE Gary Barnidge, CAR *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  6. TE Spencer Havner, GB *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  7. TE Ben Watson, NE
  8. TE Heath Miller, PIT

Downgrade

  1. TE Chris Cooley, WAS
  2. TE Jermichael Finley, GB
  3. TE Kellen Winslow, TB
  4. TE Greg Olsen, CHI

Holding steady

  1. TE Jason Witten, DAL
  2. TE Martellus Bennett, DAL
  3. TE Dallas Clark, IND
  4. TE Zach Miller, OAK
  5. TE Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN
  6. TE Brent Celek, PHI


Kicker

Upgrade

  1. PK Dan Carpenter, MIA *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***

Downgrade

Holding steady


Team Defense

Upgrade

  1. TD San Diego Chargers, SD *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  2. TD Dallas Cowboys, DAL *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  3. TD Houston Texans, HOU *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM ***
  4. TD Philadelphia Eagles, PHI

Downgrade

  1. TD Chicago Bears, CHI
  2. TD Atlanta Falcons, ATL
  3. TD San Francisco 49ers, SF

Holding steady


Quarterback

Upgrade

QB Carson Palmer, CIN - Palmer had his best game in years and took advantage of a Bears secondary that was in disarray for much of the day. Although he only threw for 233 yards, Palmer was extremely accurate and completed 20 of 24 (83%) passes. He threw a touchdown pass to four different receivers in the first half and helped the Bengals get out to a 31-0 lead. The offensive line gave him excellent protection throughout the game as the Bears defenders finished with no sacks and just two QB hits. Palmer added a 5th touchdown pass in the third quarter, and backup J.T. O'Sullivan took over in the fourth quarter once the game was out of reach. Palmer was a top-10 QB for three years in a row from 2005 to 2007 and it looks like he has a good chance to wind up there again in 2009.

QB Tony Romo, DAL - Romo had a strong game against a Falcons defense missing Brian Williams. Romo did a great job finding Miles Austin, who made big plays on the perimeter all day long, including a deep crossing route for a long score; nice touch over the free safety to Austin in the red zone; and a sideline curl for touchdown No. 2. Romo also did a good job of breaking the pocket for yardage throughout the game and in the closing seconds of the half, eluded two likely sack opportunities on one play to find Patrick Crayton in the back of the end zone. The only problem continues to be Romo's lack of rapport with Roy Williams. It seemed his worst passes were on routes to the veteran, frequently overthrowing him or throwing the ball late and behind him. If Miles Austin can continue to perform this well, Romo should become a decent fantasy starter once again.

QB Alex Smith, SF - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - Alex Smith hasn't thrown a meaningful NFL pass since 2007, and maybe that was a good thing. Time will tell, but having a chance to rehab fully from injury and study without the pressures of being the savior of the San Francisco franchise may have served Smith well. He replaced Shaun Hill in the 2nd half of the game against Houston Sunday and proceeded to complete his first 9 passes, engineer 3 straight scoring drives, and finish the day with a gaudy 9.6 yards-per-attempt average. Granted, one half of football isn't much to go on, but Smith looked confident and capable, reading defenses before the snap and calmly going through his reads once he had the ball. More surprising -- and encouraging -- was that Smith was throwing the ball like a rocket. Some of his throws were absolute bullets downfield, but with pinpoint accuracy. Without question, the 49ers offense and passing game looks much, much more capable with Smith under center. And with the Niners reeling a bit, we suspect he's going to get his chance as their full-time starter going forward.

Downgrade

QB Jason Campbell, WAS - For the three of you who still care about Jason Campbell's season, there are a few major issues that were very apparent from this Monday night loss. First, Campbell no longer trusts himself to get the ball into tight spots. He repeatedly hesitated on his first reads down field that should have resulted in big plays and opted to check down to the flat or shallow zone with only limited success. Second, during the broadcast Jon Gruden reported that Clinton Portis told the commentating team at ESPN that he has not seen an audible system as an NFL player since he was with the Broncos. This means Campbell cannot change protection schemes at the line of scrimmage, which explains why the QB was sacked six times in the game. Campbell had some moments of decency in otherwise a bad game, but as long as he can't trust himself on down field throws or the team doesn't trust him to make changes at the line of scrimmage, he's barely worth keeping on a roster as a bye-week option.

QB Matt Cassel, KC - Matt Cassel passed for just 97 yards on 25 attempts, with one touchdown and three interceptions. (A fourth interception was called back due to a penalty.) His three interceptions came on three consecutive second-half possessions, quashing any hope of a Kansas City comeback. (The INTs were not entirely Cassel's fault: the first bounced out of TE Sean Ryan's hands, and the second involved a miscommunication with WR Bobby Wade.) Even before the interceptions started, the Chiefs were unable to get anything going through the air. On Cassel's first eight drops the Chiefs completed just one pass and netted just two yards. At halftime, they had just 19 net passing yards. By the end of the game, Cassel's quarterback rating was a dismal 25.3. Cassel was pressured for much of the day and was sacked four times. However even when he had time to throw, he was generally inaccurate. Cassel spread his misses around: at different times, he badly missed Dwayne Bowe, Lance Long, Jamaal Charles, and Bobby Wade -- all open for what would have been easy first downs. Cassel is now 34th in the NFL in yards per attempt. He is unstartable in most fantasy leagues.

QB Jay Cutler, CHI - This was a very disappointing game for Cutler as he got off to a slow start and the Bears defense simply could not stop the Bengals offense. With the Bengals scoring touchdowns on their first four drives, the Bears became one dimensional on offense, and that made it much easier for the Bengals to defend them. The running game provided very little help with just 31 yards on 9 attempts and the offensive line had a difficult time with a Bengals pass rush that was missing their best player in Antwaan Odom. Due to the lopsided nature of the game, Cutler was forced to take a lot of chances and it didn't work out very well as he finished with a couple of fumbles and three interceptions. He did connect for a late touchdown with Devin Hester, but he now has three touchdowns and five interceptions in the two games since the bye week. Cutler is clearly capable of throwing for 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns in any given week, but he needs to do a better job of protecting the football.

QB Jake Delhomme, CAR - If you're wondering where all the dark clouds are, they're circling over Jake Delhomme's head. He had another three-INT game and the Bills scored 14 points off his turnovers, which ultimately was the deciding factor in the game's outcome. Each pick was overthrown; Steve Smith tipped one when it was out of reach of his hands at the top of his leap. Delhomme could've had at least one more INT if Bills CB Drayton Florence didn't drop the ball. He appears to be having some major mental issues, but it seems like it comes and goes, because he was very accurate on other throws in the game, including a nice 52-yard pass to TE Gary Barnidge that hit him perfectly in stride down the sideline. The bottom line on Delhomme is that he isn't consistent and it's hurting the Panthers offense enough so that they are losing winnable games as a result of his struggles. HC John Fox may not have a choice, but to replace him with someone who can run the offense and not make mistakes. The problem is they may not have that player and if they, Fox would have done it earlier.

QB Shaun Hill, SF - With Shaun Hill under center, the 49ers were only able to generate 50 total yards of offense in the first half against the Texans. Hill was tentative in his throws and seemed reluctant to pass the ball more than a few feet down field. That news would be bad enough if not for the fact that Hill's replacement, former #1 overall pick Alex Smith, replaced him in the second half and played great in throwing for 3 touchdowns and nearly rallying the team for a victory. Even though Hill, like most quarterbacks, may have a bad game every once in a while, this situation is undoubtedly different. With San Francisco reeling from a 3-game losing streak and with the offense looking considerably more explosive with Smith in the game, Hill's time may have passed.

QB Josh Johnson, TB - Johnson got off to a bad start with three interceptions in the first half. The first was a return for a touchdown off a blitz that rattled Johnson into a short throw in the flat that was read by the FS all the way. Despite the constant blitzing, Johnson did show some ability to adjust and make deep throws, including a perfect 33-yard corner route in tight coverage to Antonio Bryant in the second quarter and a few nice passes on the run to Sammie Stroughter. Bryant also dropped a third and six pass that would have resulted in a first down and a chance to get the game within 14 points. The ball was well placed in the receiver's hands while Johnson was forced to his left. However, Johnson was hit several times in this game and the Patriots did an even better job of keeping the young QB from breaking the line of scrimmage. Once they were down 35-7 in the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers brought Josh Freeman in for some garbage time opportunities. Neither Johnson nor Freeman gives Tampa a great chance to win, but Johnson is showing progress. If the Buccaneers announce Freeman as their starter, downgrade Johnson significantly more. If not, Johnson is still a downgrade because his progress is still slow and Freeman will likely see more opportunities when games get out of hand.

QB Eli Manning, NYG - Manning now has two games in a row where he has made poor decisions and his accuracy has been off in key situations. Manning tossed three interceptions against Arizona with the last one occurring on a potential game-tying drive in the game's final minute. Manning tried to force the ball to Steve Smith, who was well covered on the play and a classic example of not making the best read. He had Hakim Nicks wide open a few yards closer, but he elected to force the ball to Smith, which resulted in the game-sealing INT by Antrel Rolle and the Cardinals. The last time Arizona faced Manning, he burned them for 240+ yards with over 78% completion efficiency. This time around, the Cardinals made an effort to pressure Manning, and force him to make bad decisions. His one big TD came on a 3rd and 8 play with just over two minutes left in the half. The play was a tipped ball down field that landed perfectly in the hands of a trailing Hakeem Nicks who caught the ball stride for the a 62-yard score. That touchdown put the Giants up 14-7 at the half. The Cardinals were able to get to Manning, sacking him three times and forcing him to make errant throws which ended drives and kept the offense off the field. At the same time, he also suffered due to two poor plays by Mario Manningham in the fourth quarter. The first was a poorly run sideline streak where Manningham was too close to the sideline and forced Manning to throw a pass with too little margin for error when a better route wouldn't have made it necessary. The next, was a perfectly placed flag route that Manningham dropped that would have changed the complexion of the game. Manning can be very effective if he has time to drop back, set and throw, but if he's hurried, he has trouble finding the open receiver, which often results in an incomplete pass. He will look to rebound against Philadelphia next week, but something seems off with Manning. Perhaps the plantar fasciitis is playing a role in his struggles, but the most apparent problem was his decision-making.

Holding steady

QB Tom Brady, NE - Brady benefited once again from a poor defense and strong play from his receivers. Tampa did a decent job of forcing Brady to throw on the run and had two interceptions as a result. Both were under thrown passes one deep to an open Brandon Tate and the other in the back of the end zone to Randy Moss. That said, Brady hit Ben Watson on an excellent seam route against and LB on a great mismatch for a 35-yard score to open the third quarter and in the first half, he got away from pressure to find WR Sam Aiken on a shallow cross. The WR broke a tackle and took the ball down the sideline for a 54-yard score. Brady's first score was a perfectly executed slot screen pass to Wes Welker. Brady's ability to find Welker over the middle or on screens was the story of Brady's second straight 300-yard day. The two interceptions were more difficult passes that he might have completed two years ago and plays a few other quarterbacks could have made this year. However, it's not cause for a downgrade at this point -- especially with Welker appearing healthy and Sam Aiken looking better with each passing week.

QB Drew Brees, NO - Brees entered the week seven game as the league's top passer, but in the first half he was completely ineffective: he was sacked three times, threw two interceptions, and was uncharacteristically inaccurate. While he continued to make some mistakes into the second half (he finished with three interceptions and lost a fumble), he was instrumental in leading the Saints to one of the more exciting comebacks in franchise history. From a fantasy standpoint, Brees' two rushing touchdowns (from one and two yards out) saved the day. Otherwise, from a pure passing standpoint, Brees did not have a great day. Facing constant pressure, Brees had a few balls batted down at the line of scrimmage, and his first interception was entirely his fault because of a terrible throw. Nonetheless, despite looking shaky at times, Brees made plays when it counted; and with the Saints' offense putting points on the board like nobody's business, Brees is still an elite fantasy QB who should start every week regardless of matchups.

QB Brett Favre, MIN - Favre was clearly flustered at times during this game. The Steelers mixed up their defense and brought serious pressure on certain downs and then only rushed four and playing solid coverage on others. Favre and the Viking offense never really established the rhythm that has allowed them to control their previous games this season. Only late in the fourth quarter did the offense begin to click, and unfortunately, the turnovers at the end of the drives killed their chances. Favre's fumble was the result of pressure that knocked the ball out of his hand. The interception was a pass that Chester Taylor should have caught, but it went through his hands and the defense returned it for a TD. Favre led his team down the field on those two final drives and put them in the position to win, but the Pittsburgh defense was just too much for the Vikings to overcome. Favre is still a clear-cut starter and the Steelers defense should be a great warm up for his return to Lambeau Field.

QB Josh Freeman, TB - Down 35-7 in the 4th quarter, the Bucs gave Freeman an opportunity and like Josh Johnson, the Patriots pressured him from the beginning and got a sack on the first pass on a blitz up the middle. He did hit WR Brian Clark for 12 yards on a slant on the next play, but with this deficit Freeman did nothing to distinguish himself. He's not worth a roster spot unless the Buccaneers decide to go with him the rest of the way and you're desperate for a bye-week option.

QB Donovan McNabb, PHI - Thanks the DeSean Jackson, Donovan McNabb had a decent game. Otherwise, he was not very sharp. He under threw two, third down passes in the first half that stalled drives and the Redskins were able to pressure the Philadelphia QB effectively. McNabb fumbled the ball in the second half when he was blindsided by DE Andre Carter, but the Eagles were able to recover. The loss of Brian Westbrook to a concussion early in this contest made the Eagles' offense pedestrian. Even McNabb's best play, a 57-yard touchdown pass, was under thrown. That said, McNabb's mistakes were minor and he did a great job of setting up the TD by holding the secondary with his eyes before unfurling the pass. McNabb should have better weeks ahead, as he tends to rise to the occasion against divisional foes in meaningful games, and that's what he has with the Giants and Cowboys coming up next.

QB Philip Rivers, SD - Rivers was 18 for 30 for 268 yards and three TDs against the Chiefs. While he has consistently gained solid passing yardage, the Chargers' struggles in the red zone have held his TD totals in check. Even with his three TDs on Sunday, Rivers' fantasy owners could not help lament a few blown opportunities, as the Chargers settled for field goals on three trips inside the five yard line. Rivers could have added another score or two through the air, but a poorly thrown ball that Antonio Gates could not hold onto in the end zone, and Norv Turner's desire to get LaDainian Tomlinson a score (thus calling mostly running plays from inside the five) prevented it from happening. Nonetheless, with the Chargers' passing offense humming, and Rivers playing largely mistake-free football, he can be considered an every-week starter regardless of matchups.

QB Ben Roethlisberger, PIT - Roethlisberger was under pressure for most of the game, and his primary WRs were well covered. For the first half, both Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes were held to just one reception each, so Big Ben worked the middle of the field and checked down to Heath Miller and Mewelde Moore. The biggest offensive series was just before halftime when Roethlisberger hooked up with Mike Wallace on two big plays down the middle of the field for 22 yards and the 40-yard TD pass. The other big play to Santonio Holmes at the start of the fourth quarter was more of a great run after the catch than a great pass. For the game, Roethlisberger finished with just 175 yards passing and the TD to Wallace. He did just enough to keep the Steelers in the game and let the defense win it for him. He may struggle equally against Denver, but Cincinnati and Kansas City should be quality matchups for the Steelers offensive leader.

QB Matt Ryan, ATL - Ryan's two-touchdown, two-interception day was a mixed bag on the stat sheet, but the real issue was the fact that Ryan was sacked for the first time in 143 offensive plays. Once that happened, he was sacked three more times in the contest and pressured enough that he could not make big plays down field. One of his interceptions came in garbage time, and the Falcons secondary gave up two big plays to Miles Austin that allowed the Cowboys to continue pressuring Ryan. The Falcons starter was a borderline fantasy starter heading into this game and his performance didn't change his status for the better or the worse.

QB Matt Schaub, HOU - Schaub had another solid performance on Sunday, passing for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns. Schaub has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league this season, as evidenced by the fact that Sunday's efficient game was actually a bit of a letdown for Fantasy owners. Schaub continues to spread the ball all over the field with better continually improving accuracy. Schaub's two touchdowns came on very different throws -- the first a short swing pass to Steve Slaton and the second a downfield dart to tight end Owen Daniels. As usual, Schaub opened the game looking for Andre Johnson but once Johnson left the game to injury, Schaub focused on Owen Daniels and didn't seem to see any decrease in production. If there is one thing to say negative about Schaub its that he falls in to a "safe" mode once the Texans have built a lead and rarely throws the ball downfield. Then again, if the Texans have built a lead, protecting the ball is probably the right thing to do in the first place. Nonetheless, Matt Schaub remains one of the top quarterbacks in all formats.

QB Kurt Warner, ARI - For the first time in what seems like decades, the Cardinals received the bulk of their scoring from their RBs and not their strong WR corps. The running game, led by rookie Beanie Wells, helped move the chains, which ultimately led to red zone scores. Kurt Warner completed passes to nine different receivers in the game, finding Larry Fitzgerald six times to lead the way. However, It was Anquan Boldin's toughness over the middle and run after the catch ability that helped Arizona the most in the passing game. Fitzgerald may have caught more passes, but the majority of them were shorter or intermediate routes. Warner was pressured by the Giants front four, which forced him to make quicker throws in the flat or sidelines, resulting in a lower yards per attempt than what he is normally accustomed to. Warner had one TD in the game, which was a quick middle screen to RB Jason Wright. That TD put the Cardinals up 24-14 heading into the fourth quarter and the defense sealed the game. If anything, the potential ascent of Beanie Wells could make Warner more efficient. With Carolina, Seattle, and Chicago on the docket, Warner still has a strong opportunity to perform like the quality fantasy starter he is.


Running Back

Upgrade

RB Mike Bell, NO - Bell didn't play in the first half, but on his first carry in the second half, he exploded for a 35-yard run that set the tone for the rest of his afternoon. Bell ran decisively, and finished his runs hard, generally gaining extra yards after contact. He finished with 12 carries for 80 yards, and arguably looked like the better RB between him and Pierre Thomas. Bell has likely earned his way into a full-fledged RBBC in New Orleans. And while neither Thomas nor Bell can be considered solid fantasy starters until one establishes himself as a featured runner, Bell's inclusion in the game plan on such a high-powered offense makes him a fine flex option until further notice.

RB Cedric Benson, CIN - Things just keep getting better for Benson as he was able to take revenge against his former team this week. Benson found plenty of room to run behind a physical Bengals line that dominated the line of scrimmage. He set a career-high with 189 rushing yards on 37 carries for an impressive average of 5.1 yards per touch. Benson's strong running between the tackles early on helped the Bengals get out to a big lead. Despite playing with a big lead and facing a stacked front, Benson continued to churn out yards in big chunks and added a touchdown early in the fourth quarter that put the game completely out of reach. What is most impressive about a big back like Benson is his speed to pull away once he gets into the secondary. Benson was not involved in the passing game at all this week, but he did see some action lined up as the quarterback as part of the Bengals wildcat formation. He appears to be finally living up to the expectations that come along with being a top-5 NFL draft pick.

RB Jamaal Charles, KC - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - The Chiefs' offensive line is failing to open holes wide enough for Larry Johnson to get through, and Charles' darting running style may be a better fit for the offense. Charles rushed for 33 yards on 4 carries against the Chargers, showing the quickness and explosiveness that Johnson no longer has. Moreover, Johnson may have gotten himself into hot water with his post-game Twitter broadcasts, opening the way for Charles to take over at RB. While the poor play by the Chiefs' offensive line will limit the fantasy value of any RB running behind it, Charles will likely get more opportunities after the bye week. He is worth a roster spot, so pick him up if he's available in your league.

RB Ryan Grant, GB - Grant built on a consistent but unspectacular effort last week against Detroit with a strong effort against the weak Cleveland defense. The Packers committed to the run early, running the ball on 10 of their first 11 snaps. Grant showed a nice burst outside in the first half at times, but usually looked to stretch the defense then cutback. Grant was busy in the second half with 15 carries and racked up nearly 100 yards against a worn down Browns' defense. Grant has a tougher matchup against the Vikings next week, but should again be effective against Tampa and Dallas in Weeks 9 and 10. Though the Packers have signed Ahman Green, Grant has played well enough over the past two weeks to be expected to continue to get the bulk of the rushing opportunity.

RB Shonn Greene, NYJ - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - Rookie Shonn Greene stepped into a big contributing role early in Week 7 when the Jets lost Leon Washington to a broken fibula. Greene was more than just a contributor though, as he slashed the Raider defense all day, gaining 20 yards or more on three separate attempts. Greene picked up his first career 100-yard game and his first two NFL touchdowns against Oakland. He will likely see increased time the rest of the season, as Washington is likely done for the year with a compound fracture that required surgery last night.

RB Brandon Jacobs, NYG - ran well with power and authority all game long against Arizona, but he did not reach the 100-yard rushing mark for the 10th game in a row. The Cardinals boasted the league's best rushing defense coming into the game, but Jacobs was able to crack them for a few long gains. He had long runs of 17 and 25 yards, which accounted for 42 of his 76 yards rushing on the day. In this game, he outplayed and outperformed his teammate Ahmad Bradshaw, which wasn't the case in several of the games prior. He did have one 4-yard TD run, which came after a 17-yard gain to put the Giants inside the five-yard line. His production largely revolves around the Giants ability to sustain drives and get into red zone situations. In this game, there were not enough of those opportunities for him to capitalize on. He may not be a 20-carry RB, but he's making good on his opportunities. He's still a minor upgrade because Arizona's league-best rush defense was regarded as a statistical anomaly due to the high-powered Cardinals passing offense forcing opposing teams to abandon the run to stay in the contest against a below average Arizona pass defense. However, his performance can't be completely ignored. The fact that he outplayed Bradshaw was a good sign that he won't concede the starting job to his backfield mate and will continue to split series moving forward.

RB Felix Jones, DAL - Sporting a knee brace, Jones showed enough speed to get outside on a 3rd and 1 pitch play, and patience and power to get nine yards off RG on 2nd and 10 in the second half. He did fumble the ball on a run up the middle in the first half when the DE stripped the ball from his grasp has he was falling forward in the pile. He's borderline flex-option with great upside if he can stay healthy.

RB Thomas Jones, NYJ - Thomas Jones ran very hard and effective once again in Week 7, gaining over 120 yards on the ground against the Raiders. Jones saw a heavy workload (27 touches) due to Leon Washington's broken leg and also because of New York's emphasis on the run. The Jets ran the ball as a team 54 times, but when the offensive line is as dominant as they were against Oakland that recipe for success cannot be denied. Jones will continue to get plenty of work going forward with some carries going to rookie Shonn Greene. Both backs are expected to see a good amount of work against Miami next week.

RB Steve Slaton, HOU - The Texans have finally figured out that banging Steve Slaton off-tackle 25 times a game is not the best way to get the most out of him. Slaton had two first-half touchdowns against San Francisco, scoring on a one-yard run and on a 9 yard swing pass. His longest run of 31 yards brought with it a burst of speed we haven't seen from Slaton much this season, but outside of that carry he managed a mere 2 yards per carry. The reason for the upgrade, however, comes in the fact that it is Slaton -- and not Chris Brown -- who is now getting touches and targets in the redzone. Slaton's yardage numbers are likely to remain inconsistent at best (and poor at worst) but he should continue scoring touchdowns in the Texans potent offense.

RB Jason Snelling, ATL - The Falcons like the former University of Virginia who has shown versatility as a blocker, receiver, and runner. With 68 yards on 7 carries, Snelling not only outgained Michael Turner on fewer than half the opportunities but he also showed more burst when forced to the perimeter. However Snelling did have the element of surprise on his side, running on passing situations and getting the benefit of a reverse action play call that went for a nice gain that Atlanta tried to run a second straight time with Turner the next time but Dallas sniffed out. Snelling might only be a desperation flex-play option at this point, but he's worth knowing about if Jerious Norwood can't regain his health and Turner falters.

RB Chris Wells, ARI - Wells got a chance to make a difference in the Cardinals third possession of the game at the tail end of the first quarter. He rushed ahead for 13 tough yards through the heart of the Giants defense for a first down and just like that, the Cardinals had a running game. Wells had four runs of 10-plus yards to go along with three catches for 10 yards. Wells had 14 carries to Tim Hightower's four and the rookie looked explosive, demonstrating good speed in what could've been his breakout. He averaged close to five yards per carry and showed the Cardinals they can count on him for good rushing production. He did fumble the ball once, but it went out of bounds and the Cardinals did not lose possession. Wells could have had a second TD at the goal line, but Arizona decided to give that carry to Hightower, who punched it in for the second rushing TD of the game. Wells represents a good waiver wire claim, if his lack of performance early in the season caused fantasy owners to drop him, but don't count on him to be the RB who will carry your fantasy team weekly. The Cardinals are by far a pass-first team, and if they do get to the goal line, Tim Hightower may still get the call. Still, Wells emergence is good news and he deserves an upgrade for his efforts, especially with the opportunity to make good on it against Carolina, Seattle, and Chicago. Because Wells has an early reputation as a great physical talent who doesn't consistently deliver, take his strong game against the Giants with some cautious optimism.

RB Ricky Williams, MIA - Williams appears to have found the fountain of youth in Miami. On his career-long 68-yard touchdown run on Sunday, the 32-year-old showed a burst reminiscent of his early years in the league. Williams rushed nine times for 80 yards and three touchdowns on the day. The Dolphins' offensive line is run-blocking very effectively, and opposing defenses have had trouble answering the Wildcat offense. While Williams is no real threat to overtake Ronnie Brown as the Dolphins' primary runner, he will get enough touches in the run-oriented offense to be a strong RB3/flex play. Williams has now rushed for at least 55 yards in five straight weeks, and has now scored six touchdowns in six games.

Downgrade

RB Marion Barber, DAL - Barber ran with his typical determination when the Cowboys chose to feed him the ball, spinning off hits up the middle and demonstrating a decent, burst on a few runs but not as good as it has been prior to the injury. However, the Falcons did a good job stuffing runs up the middle early in the game and Dallas continued to try to throw to set up the run early on. With Felix Jones and Tashard Choice both getting reps in the backfield, and the Cowboys throwing as frequently as they did, Barber isn't as strong of an option until his quad is fully healthy and his burst gets a little better and the Cowboys make a greater commitment to the run. His best opportunities came in the fourth quarter to salt it away.

RB Chris Brown, HOU - Chris Brown looks to have lost his role as the primary choice at the goal line for the Texans. On the first two scores of the game, Brown was on the sideline while Steve Slaton was given a carry from the 1 and a 9 yard swing pass, both of which resulted in touchdowns. Brown did spell Slaton on one series and managed to find the field on a handful of passing downs as a blocker, but his time as a short-yardage specialist (a role where he had limited success anyway) are a thing of the past.

RB Tashard Choice, DAL - Made a first down catch as the RB from the spread running a seam route on third down for a 23-yard gain, but he didn't get a single carry in this game. With Felix Jones and Marion Barber back, Choice is no longer a reliable flex-option.

RB Matt Forte, CHI - This continues to be a frustrating season for Forte. The Bears offensive line was pushed around all game by the Bengals defense, which gave Forte very little room to run. Then the Bears defense could not stop the Bengals offense, which scored six touchdowns and a field goal on their first seven drives in the game. This created a huge disparity in time of possession and forced the Bears to abandon the running game as early as the second quarter. As a result, Forte finished with just six carries in the game. He also was not able to take advantage of the prevent defense late in the game as he only added 24 yards on 4 receptions. The addition of Cutler was supposed to open up more running lanes for Forte this year, but the offensive line is struggling to open up holes and Forte looks much more tentative than he did a year ago. Now that the Bears defense is starting to struggle as well, the offense is going to need to become more aggressive to try and keep up and that could make Forte an even smaller part of the offense than he was earlier this year.

RB Frank Gore, SF - Lost in all the excitement over the reemergence of Alex Smith was the fact that Frank Gore was contained by the mediocre Texans' rush defense. Gore never made it in to the open field and finished the game fewer than three yards per carry. On most carries, particularly those off-tackle, Gore looked a little sluggish getting to the hole before being met by a swarm of Texans' defenders. He was also an afterthought in the passing game as Alex Smith was happy throwing the ball downfield rather than checking down to Gore or Glenn Coffee out of the backfield. Gore should still be a top-tier back going forward, but it may take him a couple of weeks to get back in the saddle and really start churning out yards.

RB Tim Hightower, ARI - The emergence of Beanie Wells as a rushing threat will likely take away the majority of Tim Hightower's value. Expect to see less receptions going forward for Hightower now that Wells is making his presence known. Hightower could still get an occasional goal line TD, like he did last night, so don't write him off completely. However, if Wells continues to provide a better alternative to the running game, which after Sunday night's performance should be expected, Hightower will become less valuable and become an afterthought for your fantasy team. Despite Beanie Wells giving head coach Kent Whisenhunt a glimmer of hope, the Cardinals already don't run the ball that often, so there's not a lot of room for him to be productive if a RBBC approach comes into play. Expect Hightower's value to continue to drop if Wells makes good on the promise of last night.

RB Larry Johnson, KC - Larry Johnson's fantasy owners were hoping for a breakout game against a Charger defense that has been generous to opposing RBs this season. But instead, Johnson continued to disappoint. He had 56 total yards on 17 touches and still hasn't scored this season. Venting his frustration after the game from his Twitter account, Johnson reminded fans that his dad has more football-playing experience than Todd Haley has, and followed up that message with additional examples of poor judgment. Johnson's future in Kansas City is in doubt at this point, and his fantasy owners should not expect to get a return for their investment in him anytime soon.

RB Willie Parker, PIT - Parker's turf toe kept him out of action for this game. He had one carry for two yards in the first quarter and did not return after that, even after Mendenhall fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter.

RB Clinton Portis, WAS - Clinton Portis has every reason to be frustrated. His team cannot throw the football and his linemen regularly got pushed into the backfield. The fact Portis could get positive gains was a testament to his vision, and agility to make the first man miss and finish runs. Injuries are decreasing his speed and burst, but he still has enough to be effective when the line generates some semblance of a push. What also hurts Portis' opportunities is the fact that, according to Portis (by way of the MNF crew), the Redskins don't audible at the line of scrimmage. Right now Portis looks better than Joseph Addai, another below average starting RB in terms of production. However, Addai has the benefit of Peyton Manning making changes at the line of scrimmage. If Portis had this help, he'd still be a quality starter. Right now, he's an iffy starter at best.

RB Pierre Thomas, NO - Over the last two games combined, Pierre Thomas has had four fewer carries than Mike Bell. Thomas ran with determination early against the Dolphins, but found few running lanes and was generally bottled up. Mike Bell was the primary back in the second half, and was more effective than Thomas, who finished the day with just 30 yards on 8 carries. Bell also received the goal line carries (although he failed to convert). At this point, with Bell in the mix and Reggie Bush and even Drew Brees vulturing some TD rushes, expectations for Thomas' fantasy prospects must be tempered. Thomas looked like a fantasy RB1 just a few weeks ago, but with the Saints using a committee approach at RB, he should now be considered just a flex option.

RB Michael Turner, ATL - Turner simply isn't producing like the same back as last year. He was run down from behind on several runs and brought down by cornerbacks at the line of scrimmage on runs to the outside. Defenses have done a better job of forcing Turner to bounce runs outside before he gets to the line of scrimmage by penetrating into the backfield and forcing Turner to change direction. There were a few plays where reserve Jason Snelling appeared to have better burst than Turner. However, Turner is still the red zone back and when heading north south he's still capable of breaking tackles and getting across the goal line. He's a quality starting fantasy RB, but a better RB2 than borderline elite back.

RB Leon Washington, NYJ - Leon Washington broke his leg on his first carry against the Oakland Raiders in Week 7, which likely will cost him the remainder of the season. Many expect the Jets to put him on injured reserve but some are holding out hope that he can return for either Week 17 or the postseason, but that seems like a remote possibility after having surgery last night to repair a compound fracture to his fibula.

Holding steady

RB Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG - Bradshaw was not able to do much against the Cardinals top-ranked run defense, and it was Brandon Jacobs' bull rush approach and bruising power runs off tackle that were more effective, especially earlier in the game. As a result, Jacobs gained more yards and out-played Bradshaw this weekend. Bradshaw also had a critical fumble in the fourth quarter that ended a potential game tying drive when he simply tried to do too much, fighting for extra yards and the pursuit was able to punch the ball out of the RB's grasp. He also had a costly 15-yard penalty in the Giants final drive where he lost his cool and punched a defender in the facemask. Bradshaw should rebound to have better games going forward, but his fourth quarter mistakes in addition to a missed block against the Saints blitz last week that resulted in an interception return for a touchdown and sealed the game could put the RB in coach Tom Coughlin's dog house if he doesn't cut down on the mistakes soon.

RB Donald Brown, IND - Donald Brown looked much faster and explosive than his committee-mate Joseph Addai, picking up big yardage on both of his long runs of 45 and 13 yards, but he was forced from the Week 7 contest against the Rams due to a shoulder sprain. He should be fine for the next game and continue to work his way into more playing time.

RB Marshawn Lynch, BUF - Lynch was stopped in the backfield on several occasions Sunday against the Panthers and Bills only mustered 167 total yards of offense, including only 53 yards rushing. Lynch was able to find the end zone on a short drive after the Bills returned a first quarter INT to the Panthers seven-yard line. After getting stuffed on the first attempt, he ran the ball virtually untouched for the game's first TD. After two consecutive road wins, Lynch and the Bills will return home to face the Texans, who have not been great against the run this season. Lynch is a decent No. 2 RB, and depending on the match up, a high-end RB2 because of his versatility.

RB Laurence Maroney, NE - Until the game was well in-hand, Maroney couldn't find anything past the line of scrimmage, frequently fighting for two- and three-yard gains. He ran hard, but the Buccaneers defense did a good job with run blitzes or penetration up the middle to force Maroney back to the inside. His best runs were in the fourth quarter in the red zone, finding room up the middle and then bulled through the middle on two runs to get the score. There wasn't a hot hand on the ground for the Patriots in this game, so it's not likely we'll see Maroney lose any time to anyone else.

RB LeSean McCoy, PHI - McCoy replaced Brian Westbrook in the lineup after the starter suffered a concussion on the game's first series. On the whole his night had few positives: he gained 15 yards on a screen pass in the first half where he made the first man miss and fought for extra yards to get the first down and he had an 11-yard run. Otherwise, McCoy has a touch of Laurence Maroney Syndrome. He dances too much at the point of attack or tries to reverse his field as if he's still facing Kent State in a warm up game for West Virginia. Once McCoy learns to be more decisive and use his acceleration to get into the open field, he'll be much more productive. However, the first thing he better do is learn to pass block. He tried to cut block the safety on a blitz and whiffed bad enough to get his QB sacked. If McCoy sees more time due to Westbrook's concussion, he might break a big play or two, but against an average NFL defense (or better) he's not ready for prime time.

RB Rashard Mendenhall, PIT - Mendenhall had mixed results in limited opportunities against the Vikings. He had a few solid runs in the second half up the middle and off tackle, but he also coughed up the ball on the second play of the fourth quarter, and this let Minnesota get back in the game. The Vikings controlled the ball for most of the fourth quarter, but after the fumble, he sat the bench with Mewelde Moore in the game Pittsburgh's remaining series.

RB Adrian Peterson, MIN - Peterson was stuffed for most of the game. He was unable to get going outside and was dragged down a couple times from behind. Peterson was also stuffed twice at the goal line on the Vikings' first possession of the second half, and Minnesota eventually settled for a FG. However he showed he couldn't be held down forever, and he eventually broke a few longer gains off tackle, including a great 29-yard reception where he caught the dump off over the middle and lowered his head into William Gay's helmet, running over the DB late in the fourth quarter. Peterson had a good game against a tough defense and he won't face too many units like the Steelers for the rest of the year.

RB Darren Sproles, SD - Sproles flashed his big-play ability against the Chiefs, rushing for 41 yards on 5 carries and reeling off 58 yards and a touchdown on three receptions. His 58-yard touchdown reception came when a safety blitz left Sproles uncovered out of the backfield, and Sproles was able to make one cut and accelerate away from two would-be tacklers into the end zone. While Sproles always has the ability to turn a mere 8 touches into a strong fantasy performance, his limited role in the offense makes him a very risky fantasy start. He can be a flex starter in a pinch, but his main value is still as a handcuff to LaDainian Tomlinson.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson, SD - Tomlinson had his best overall game of the 2009 season, carrying the ball 23 times for 71 yards, but was frustrated all day from inside the five-yard line. Tomlinson hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 1, but yesterday's failure to hit pay dirt wasn't from a lack of opportunities. Tomlinson got eight carries from inside the Chiefs' 5, for gains of 2, 0, 0, -1, 1, 0, 0, and 1. (Tomlinson did get into the end zone once from two yards out, but the play was called back because an extra lineman failed to report himself as eligible.) In Tomlinson's defense, he had a swarm of tacklers immediately upon him on each of his goal line runs. But part of that may be because, having lost a step, he's no longer a threat to run outside in those situations, so the defense could stack everyone at the line and cram the inside gaps. Apart from his goal line struggles, however, Tomlinson owners have some reason for optimism. Tomlinson ripped off a 36-yard run on the Chargers' first scoring drive, and the run blocking between the twenties was much improved over previous weeks. While Tomlinson may not be the fantasy RB1 his owners thought they were drafting, he is still a decent RB2 going forward.

RB Derrick Ward, TB - Ward had better stats than Cadillac Williams, but most of his gains came in garbage time. His early attempts when the game was still a contest were not impressive at all. Ward didn't show the ability to find a crease that Williams did and his best gains came from the spread formation late in the half with the Patriots playing the pass. Williams still looked like the better runner and if the game were closer Ward wouldn't have seen as much time.

RB Brian Westbrook, PHI - Westbrook started the game the way fantasy owners of him would hope: the Eagles fed their RB early and he looked quick and decisive with two runs for eight yards to start the game, and a five-yard run where he effectively pressed the hole by heading left before cutting to the inside. However, Westbrook took a knee to the head at the end of a run when LB London Fletcher came to clean up the play and the collision knocked Westbrook out. He left the field under his own power, but Eagles officials declared the RB out for the game. Monitor his progress throughout the week, but it is likely he'll be back in action next week.

RB Cadillac Williams, TB - If Williams were on a different team, he would be a significant upgrade because he looks great despite the lackluster stats. He demonstrated great burst for a nine-yard gain up the middle after pressing the hole and cutting back to the middle of the field before finishing the run by spinning off a hit. He had another nice burst off left guard for an 11-yard gain despite the Patriots playing the run. He had two minimal gains due to slipping on the field as he tried to make a cut. He also did a good job getting open down the sideline for Josh Johnson in the first quarter for a first down. However, the Buccaneers were down too early for the team to continue running and this will remain the story for Williams for most of the remaining games this season unless their QB position can deliver.

RB DeAngelo Williams, CAR - Williams totaled 139 yards on 21 touches, despite the Panthers abandoning the running game for a large chunk of the second half. The Panthers OL was able to get good penetration on their run blocking for most of the game, but they never were able to establish a rhythm to dominate the 32nd ranked Bills rush defense. Williams had five catches, mostly due to Delhomme's uncertainty in his own ability to make tough down field throws. Williams now has 18 catches in six games. Williams was able to find open holes to run through between the tackles and he also showed great speed in getting outside where he had at least several 7-, 8- and 9-yard gains. His day could've been even better if Carolina stuck to their running game. He appeared to have cramps in his right calf in the fourth quarter and left the game as a result. At that time, the Panthers were in comeback mode so Williams' lack of presence wasn't a factor.


Wide Receiver

Upgrade

WR Sam Aiken, NE - Aiken illustrated why the Patriots were fine with releasing veteran Joey Galloway, gaining 66 yards and a score on two catches and making a nice block on a slot screen to Wes Welker for a 14-yard score. Aiken's score was the Patriots' longest play from scrimmage, catching a third down crossing route as the third or fourth option for Brady, putting a stiff arm on the defender, and outrunning the defense to the sideline for a score of 54 yards. He then gained 12 yards on a sideline route against zone with good concentration to catch the ball, take the hit, and stay in bounds. Aiken is a plausible flex-play against weaker passing defenses.

WR Danny Amendola, STL - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - When you think of waiver wire gems, odds are you do not think of the St. Louis Rams, but do not overlook the possibility of Danny Amendola becoming a dark horse fantasy contributor. Amendola is a small but quick wide receiver, and he is quickly climbing the depth chart. He was the second biggest contributor for the Rams in the passing game against the Colts and is also used often as a kick returner, a testament to his quickness, vision, and toughness as an open field runner. Amendola is worth a look in PPR leagues especially, and with a nice matchup next week against Detroit he could fill in for many fantasy teams hurting due to bye week issues.

WR Miles Austin, DAL - Although this was the second week Austin faced a limited secondary, he did enough with his opportunities to get him in your line up. Austin scored on a deep crossing route, that he took the rest of the way after beating FS Thomas DeCoud down the left sideline. He then made a nice catch over the middle on a cross against the zone, going high for the ball behind the CB and extending for the grab, which got the Cowboys into the red zone. He nearly broke the tackle of a sideline hitch for a first down in the opening drive of the third quarter, and then caught a deep corner route on a throw over his shoulder with his arms extended at the sideline in nice coverage. He scored again on a short sideline hitch, beating the DB at the top of the route with a small shove as the CB was holding him. Austin also did a great job of coming back to the ball on a deep hitch, turning away from three DBs and gaining another 15 yards down field had 171 yards by 11:30 in the 4th QTR. Austin's strength, speed, and rapport with Romo make him a must-start the rest of the way.

WR David Clowney, NYJ - The Jets were short on wide receivers in Week 7 because Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith were both out so David Clowney got the start in Week 7 against the Raiders. Clowney performed well, catching four out of five targets including some strong grabs on the perimeter where he barreled ahead for extra yardage after the catch. Clowney's biggest play came in the third quarter where he beat CB Chris Johnson in single coverage to reel in the biggest pass of the game for the Jets, a 35-yard fade to the end zone for a touchdown. Clowney could hold on to the starting job if Jerricho Cotchery remains sidelined, but odds are that he moves back to the WR3 role for New York once Cotchery is healthy again.

WR Michael Crabtree, SF - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - Crabtree joined the team less than 20 days ago and already has brought a new -- and much needed -- dimension to the 49ers offense. Crabtree had an early drop but otherwise looked very comfortable on the field. His routes were crisp and his hands were steady, never moreso than on a sideline grab that was below his waste wherein the rookie reached out and softly caught the ball before getting both feet in bounds. Crabtree's five catches didn't include any deep balls, but its likely his role will continue to be what it was on Sunday: consistency all over the field rather than simply as a "burner" downfield, a role better suited for Josh Morgan. Crabtree appears to have had no trouble making the transition to the NFL game speed and should improve each week going forward.

WR Lee Evans, BUF - For the second game in a row, Lee Evans has caught a TD and he appears to be the receiver of choice for Bills backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Evans biggest play of the game eventually set up a Buffalo FG that put them ahead of Carolina by 15 with nine minutes to play. The play was a straight fly pattern where Evans simply outran his defender and the safety didn't get over in time to help. It went for 50 yards, which was huge, because the Bills were struggling not to go three an out, let alone move the ball down the field. Evans will remain the receiver of choice next week with Trent Edwards still scheduled to sit out Week 8's contest. However his all-or-nothing production doesn't inspire confidence in fantasy owners looking for a consistent WR3.

WR Brian Hartline, MIA - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - Brian Hartline, not Ted Ginn, may be the best former Buckeye of the Dolphins WR corps. Hartline led the Dolphins in receiving with 94 yards on three catches Sunday, including 64 yards on a slant pass right down the middle of the field. Hartline, a rookie, was a fourth-round pick who shined during training camp and made some big plays during the preseason. He may quickly develop in the Dolphins' most reliable receiver. If he is not worth a roster spot yet (in redraft leagues), he is at least worth keeping an eye on in case he starts getting more targets -- perhaps at Ginn's expense.

WR Percy Harvin, MIN - Harvin was clearly not bothered by the shoulder injury. He ran hard and was tough to bring down as usual. He was the target of several well defended passes throughout the game, but came up with a big reception on third and six in the second quarter to keep the Vikings moving and it eventually led to their only offensive score. Harvin provided the answer to the Steelers' first defensive return in the fourth quarter with an impressive 88-yard kickoff return on the following play. It's clear that Favre is looking to him more down the field, and if Berrian is out or limited because of his hamstring, Harvin would be the primary beneficiary of the additional opportunities. Fantasy owners should be impressed with Harvin's long-term prospects because he played a physical brand of football, coming up big despite being hurt. It's a sign of good things to come.

WR Devin Hester, CHI - Hester was once again the favorite target for Jay Cutler. Although the Bears suffered a blowout loss at the hands of the Bengals, Hester was the lone bright spot. He led the Bears in targets (9), catches (8), yards (101), and scored the team's only touchdown in an ugly loss. While Hester was known primarily for his speed and big-play ability coming into the season, he has also looked comfortable at times working the shorter and intermediate routes that allow him to make plays after the catch. The Bengals boast one of the better starting cornerback tandems in the league and they had been doing a great job of limiting opposing #1 WRs all year long, but Hester still managed to come through with his best performance of the season. Although his numbers did look great, he lost a key fumble in the 2nd quarter after a big gain and his touchdown came in garbage time late in the game. Regardless, the Bears running game and the secondary are not playing well so they are going to need to rely heavily on Hester going forward.

WR DeSean Jackson, PHI - The one thing the Eagles did extremely well was execute plays to perfection when Jackson was the recipient of the football. The second-year WR opened the game with a 67-yard touchdown on an end-around. Jackson used his speed to gain the corner and he had a convoy in front of him down the sideline for at least 25 yards. He finished the run by expertly setting up his lead block on the DB while still outrunning the pursuit at his heels. Later, Jackson ran a great slant and go that fooled the DB and he had the luxury of waiting on McNabb's throw before outrunning the pursuit for a 57-yard score. Other than alligator-arming a crossing route in the third quarter and leaving for the locker room late in the first half with a minor foot injury, Jackson had an excellent night. The only worry for fantasy owners about Jackson is the fact that he's not always targeted more than a half dozen times in a game, which makes him a boom-bust player. The good thing at this point in the season, is his valleys haven't come too often. With Jeremy Maclin beginning to make plays and Westbrook back, Jackson should continue to be a strong start.

WR Vincent Jackson, SD - Vincent Jackson had his third 100-yard game of the season, all of his 142 receiving yards coming in the first half (a team record). In the second half, with the Chargers comfortably ahead, Jackson was used more as a blocker than as a receiver. Jackson has the speed to get behind the secondary, and his size and strength leave QB Rivers comfortable throwing the ball up for grabs and expecting Jackson to come down with it. Jackson hauled in two 51-yard bombs early in the game against the Chiefs. The second could have been a touchdown if Jackson didn't have to slow down a bit to wait for the ball. Jackson will face a tough matchup against Nnamdi Asomugha next week, but should be considered a fantasy WR1 regardless of matchups at this point.

WR Greg Lewis, MIN - Greg Lewis saw additional action with Berrian on the sidelines. He was more of the short, and quick screen receiver for the Vikings, but he was not able to make as much progress in the YAC area that Berrian and Rice were earlier in the game. He's worth an upgrade if Berrian will be out or limited due to his injury.

WR Lance Long, KC - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - This upgrade is for dynasty leagues much more than redraft leagues. Long was activated from the practice squad this past week, and in his first game as a Chief, he got as many targets (five) as Dwayne Bowe. He caught two, and initially appeared to catch a third in the end zone until the replay official overturned the touchdown reception. Long was knocked out of the game early in the second half, but his injury is not serious. Before leaving the game, Long showed some chemistry with QB Cassel (he was targeted on three out of four consecutive passes at one point), and displayed the quickness to operate effectively out of the slot. After Bowe, the Chiefs do not have any exciting receivers, so the door is open for Long to work himself into a decent role in the offense. This is still the Chiefs' passing game we're talking about, however, so his value in redraft leagues is entirely minimal. But he's worth taking note of just in case he starts to get more targets in the near future.

WR Jeremy Maclin, PHI - Jeremy Maclin led Eagles receivers with five catches and he did it working the perimeter both in the short and intermediate range. He had a nice catch an run on a quick screen for an 11-yard gain and he bailed out McNabb on a scramble drill adjustment to the sideline in the second half, keeping his feet in-bounds. With Kevin Curtis out and DeSean Jackson forcing defenses to account for the deep range of the field, Maclin should be good for at least 40-60 yards most weeks which makes him a viable flex-option, especially with the Eagles using a lot of plays that Maclin ran at Missouri so he can make an impact as a rookie.

WR Louis Murphy, OAK - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - Louis Murphy performed well as a starter once again for the Oakland Raiders in Week 7, finishing the day with four catches and 58 yards. Murphy was the leading target for Oakland against the Jets, but his upside is limited due to the woeful Oakland passing game and also the probable return of Chaz Schilens (expected next week) to the lineup in the near future. While not a fantasy starter, he should be watched in case the Raiders start to throw the ball better later in the year.

WR Hakeem Nicks, NYG - Hakim Nicks has four TDs in five games this season and has a knack for making big plays. With Mario Manningham struggling at crunch time, Nicks might be on the verge of potentially being a bigger contributor in the offense. Nicks biggest catch wasn't even intended for him. It came on a 3rd and 8 with just over two minutes to go in the half when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie tipped a down field throw that landed perfectly in the trailing Nicks' hands who was in the right place at the right time. That score put the Giants up 14-7 at the half. Other than that big play, Nicks was used primarily in short to mid-ranged passing situations. He has a nose for the end zone and Manning targeted Nicks on a first and goal fade route, which shows Manning is gaining confidence in Nicks. Nicks isn't seeing enough targets in the offense right now to be consistent fantasy threat, but he's making plays and that means his involvement could increase, especially if Mario Manningham continues to perform inconsistently.

WR Chad Ochocinco, CIN - The rebound year for Ochocinco continues. After posting no 100-yard receiving games in 2008, Ochocinco has now done it twice in a row. He also added his second, two-touchdown game of the year, as he abused the Bears secondary all day and finished with 10 catches (on 11 targets) for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns. His first touchdown came in the right corner of the end zone after he beat the inexperienced corner Zackary Bowman. His second was the result of a breakdown in coverage where the corner Charles Tillman was playing zone and thought he had safety help inside that never came. With the way things are going in Cincinnati right now, Ochocinco appears to be headed for a huge season.

WR Sidney Rice, MIN - With Bernard Berrian on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury, Rice took over as the Minnesota clear-cut primary threat. He continued to impress with his ability to get open deep and fight for the passes against defensive backs. He also exploited the quick crossing routes, turning short and hard to defend passes into big, impressive gains. He nearly reached the end zone on a nice catch and run to start the third quarter and a TD reception called back on a questionable tripping call. Rice is now Favre's favorite target and he is showing great skills to go over the middle, work the sidelines and catch the long ball. If Berrian is out for any length of time, Rice is going to be a solid starting receiver.

WR Sammie Stroughter, TB - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - The rookie showed good blitz recognition on a corner blitz to adjust his route and make a first down catch down the sideline. He was targeted on two other routes in the first three series, but was either overthrown or the ball thrown behind him. He made a good catch and run to get the first down on a third down play in the third quarter and better adjustment on a deep cross for 35 yards on a 3rd down pass under pressure. He is clearly a player Josh Johnson trusts and as long as Johnson remains the starter Stroughter is an option to consider for bye weeks. His hands are good, his routes are improving, and his skills after the catch make him a threat to break big gains.

WR Brandon Tate, NE - Tate gained 11 yards on an end around in the Pats' second series and got open down the middle of the field on a play action pass that could have gone for a long score. However the pass was under thrown, which allowed the DB to make a leaping interception with 9:00 in the half. He also showed good patience and decisiveness as a runner in traffic on a kick return late in the half and got extra yards as a result. He's not an option for any starting lineup, but he might be worth a roster spot in a week or two so stay tuned for his progress after the bye week.

WR Devin Thomas, WAS - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - Devin Thomas earned the starting job a couple of weeks ago because he has rededicated himself to becoming a professional after initially showing inconsistent effort in his work ethic. Tonight Thomas showed flashes of the type of player he could become, running a nice route in the back of the end zone to catch a touchdown pass late in the half and gaining 22 yards on a quick screen pass where he pressed the inside before following his blocks to the sideline. Thomas is a bye-week option at best right now, but he has loads of ability. If he continues to improve weekly, he could be a fantasy force down the stretch.

WR Mike Wallace, PIT - Wallace provided the spark to end the first half for the Steelers. He had two back-to-back receptions of 22 and 40 yards, including a TD to give the Pittsburgh the lead before the half. He was also used on a few reverses and end-arounds with limited success. His big contribution was the TD and he was able to get open by working the middle of the field when the primary WRS Ward and Holmes were covered. Wallace's performance against Detroit was once thing, but to do it in a big game against Minnesota confirms that Wallace is developing into a reliable deep threat for the Steelers and worth a flex-option in some leagues.

WR Wes Welker, NE - Welker and Brady picked apart the Tampa secondary with two routes: the WR screen and the crossing route. Welker did most of the work, showing excellent patience and vision to set up strong blocking by the offensive line and his fellow receivers on the screen passes such as a 14-yard catch and run in the first series for a score. Welker looks quicker than he did earlier in the season and that's a good sign for Brady and the Patriots, especially with a bye week to get a little healthier.

Downgrade

WR Bernard Berrian, MIN - Berrian appeared to hurt his hamstring midway though the second quarter. He made several nice catch and run plays on the Vikings' first scoring drive, but did not return to the game after the injury. Keep an eye on the news for updates to his condition.

WR Steve Breaston, ARI - Steve Breaston caught only one pass on two targets against the Giants. There was speculation that he could be in a strong position this week if Anquan Boldin couldn't play with an ankle injury. However, Boldin played and played well. Breaston was one of nine Cardinals receivers to catch a pass in the game as Warner spread the ball effectively. Warner missed a clear opportunity to hit an open Breaston deep down the seam in the first half that could have resulted in a score. The involvement of everyone kept Breaston in check, not to mention the increase in the running game, led by rookie RB Beanie Wells. Breaston should see better games going forward, especially if Anquan Boldin's high ankle sprain continues to hamper him, but the emergence of a running game could lower his targets, which could decrease his production.

WR Isaac Bruce, SF - Bruce has had a good -- no, a GREAT -- career, but Sunday may have been the changing of the guard once and for all. While Bruce will no doubt continue to play a vital role in the 49ers passing game, he is likely to see fewer and fewer snaps as the season wears on and Michael Crabtree improves. Bruce's greater problem comes in the fact that he isn't likely to be part of 3-wide sets since tight end Vernon Davis makes the most sense as a third option. Bruce can still be counted on to contribute each game but barring something unforeseen, his days of being a big game threat are behind him, at least in San Francisco.

WR Chris Chambers, SD - Chambers had three drops and no catches against the Chiefs. (One drop, in the second quarter, was at the goal line; all three were on third downs.) The Chargers have recently made a few lineup changes on defense. If they make one on offense, it could well be to start Malcom Floyd or Legedu Naanee over Chambers -- both have made more plays on fewer opportunities than Chambers this season. If Chambers does lose his starting job, he is not a lock to be active on Sundays since he doesn't play special teams.

WR Jerricho Cotchery, NYJ - Jerricho Cotchery missed the Week 7 game against the Raiders due to a hamstring injury. It is probable that he will be able to go next week against the Dolphins, but be sure to check that he practices during the week. With the performance of David Clowney and addition of Braylon Edwards, the Jets might not rush him back in the mix - or they will limit his targets until he proves he's 100 percent on the field.

WR Ted Ginn, MIA - Ginn's three most notable plays on Sunday were all negative. On an end-around, he ran out of bounds a yard short of the first-down marker, causing some to question his toughness. He also had two bad drops, one of them ultimately bouncing into the arms of Darren Sharper, who returned it 42 yards for a touchdown. Ginn finished with just two catches on eight targets, and his sporadic play this season is leaving his fantasy owners frustrated. Ginn has exceptional speed and big-play ability, but his poor concentration renders him too inconsistent to start. Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo, and Brian Hartline all have more reliable hands than Ginn, and should start seeing more targets at Ginn's expense. At some point, head coach Tony Sparano will run out of patience with Ginn the way his fantasy owners have.

WR Andre Johnson, HOU - Johnson started the game well with an 18 yard reception and a 44 yard reception down the middle of the field. Johnson was barely challenged at the line of scrimmage on both plays and it seemed he was deep in to the secondary before the 49ers cornerbacks knew what was happening. Quarterback Matt Schaub started the game looking to Johnson often, seemingly releasing the ball Johnson's way at the first hint that he was open. Unfortunately, Johnson suffered a leg injury and was relegated to the sidelines for the rest of the game. The injury does not look serious but it is possible Johnson will miss some time or not be at 100% for the next few weeks.

WR Mario Manningham, NYG - Mario Manningham is a come-and-go WR that is capable of making big plays here and there, but his lack of polish is starting to show. His poor route running was something NBC color commentator Cris Collinsworth pointed out on Sunday Night Football. He ran a route down the sideline that resulted in an incomplete pass by Manning that was thrown out of bounds because a veteran receiver knows to gain as much cushion between him and the sideline to give his QB room to make a throw in-bounds. He also dropped a perfectly thrown pass for a score. Manningham has not had more than four catches in a game since his 10-reception outburst in week two against Dallas. Luckily, he has been able to find the end zone in four different games, but if the Giants offense continues to have difficulty sustaining drives, his value will drop, especially if he doesn't find the end zone. If he doesn't improve his route running, Manning may look in other directions in certain situations.

WR Terrell Owens, BUF - Credit Ryan Fitzpatrick with attempting to get Terrell Owens involved in the game, and blame Owens for not allowing it to happen. Owens was targeted on deep pass routes three times and he didn't catch any of them. His best catch was an 18-yard strike on 3rd and 11 deep in the Bills own territory, but the drive ended shortly thereafter. Owens has been a major disappointment for those who gambled on him this year. The team's inability to make him a primary offensive option could be affecting him mentally to the point where he simply isn't trying hard enough. At this point, it would take a big event or significant change for Owens to have a successful season worthy of his draft position. He is currently not worthy of spot in your starting lineup. Reserve him with the hope things could possibly turn around for the better, but keep your expectations low.

WR Steve Smith, NYG - Smith didn't have a reception until the fourth quarter, only being targeted three times prior. He finished with four catches for 69 yards, including a critical 34-yard catch on 3rd and 15 from the Giants own 4-yard line on the last drive of the game down seven points. The catch was amidst double coverage where his determination resulted in a big third down conversion that kept the drive alive. Smith entered the game as the league's leading receiver in third down receptions. He was not a factor until the fourth quarter, which is bit of a concern, but he came through when his number was called. After scoring four TDs in the first four games, he has zero scores in his last three. The Giants have struggled offensively as of late and Smith's value is dropping. The fact Smith was looked to in the fourth quarter and kept the last drive alive until Manning made a poor read (and even then Smith nearly ripped the ball away from Antrel Rolle) should give you confidence that Smith should remain the No.1 option in New York, especially with Manningham performing inconsistently and Hakeem Nicks' role still growing in the offense, but he's more likely a high-end fantasy WR2 if Manning and Smith's running mates can't figure out how to beat the safety blitz.

WR Kevin Walter, HOU - One would think that Kevin Walter would benefit from the absence of Andre Johnson but that was not the case on Sunday. Quarterback Matt Schaub seemed to zero in on Owen Daniels once Johnson was injured and overlooked the fact that Walter was being left in single-coverage for the rest of the game. More troubling is the fact that Walter was often kept in on short routes (curls and out routes) instead of being sent downfield, as he had done with great success in the last 3 weeks. Walter may still post good fantasy numbers for the rest of the season, but he is likely to be very inconsistent as he is clearly the 3rd (or even 4th) choice on most passing downs.

WR Roy Williams, DAL - When Williams got opportunities, one of two things happened: he made mistakes or his QB made mistakes. The WR showed poor hands technique on a 3rd down pass, angling his palms down on a pass that he should have tried to catch with his palms up. The ball bounced off his hands, forcing the Cowboys to punt. He caught a quick slant for a first down during the third series, but that was the highlight of his day. He dropped another first down pass on a 12-yard curl route on 3rd down in the red zone. The CB hit Williams as the ball hit his hands and he could not hold on. He caught a short sideline curl, but was called for pass interference. Then Romo overthrew Williams on a third down cross and then threw the ball behind Williams on a slant on 2nd and 8. This is a pair that is clearly not working well together, although they continue to try. Williams could bust out any game, but it's too late to wait on him to do so.

Holding steady

WR Anquan Boldin, ARI - Boldin was questionable all week with a dreaded, high ankle sprain he suffered last week. He not only played in the game, but he played very well, catching three passes in the game, including a 44-yard catch and run with two minutes to go in the first half that set up a FG by Neil Rackers. He also added a tough catch over the middle where he was hit hard on the play, but he got up in a hurry and shrugged it off as if it never happened. Boldin has always been one of the toughest WRs in the game when it comes to playing through pain or overcoming injury. However, Boldin was noticeably limping on his injured ankle at times during the game and struggled on vertical routes. High ankle sprains can last a long time, and Boldin's outlook isn't as promising as the numbers suggest unless next week he doesn't look as hampered as he did in this game.

WR Dwayne Bowe, KC - Dwayne Bowe had just two catches for 11 yards against the Chargers, but did score the Chiefs' only touchdown. Bowe was targeted just five times. One was a bad drop that was entirely Bowe's fault. On another, Bowe's feet got tangled with a defensive back's and he tripped. The other two targets were uncatchable -- badly under-thrown balls by Cassel. While Cassel's inability to get Bowe more involved in the offense was frustrating on Sunday, Bowe should have better luck going forward. He is the Chiefs' best player on offense, and they will have to get the ball in his hands more often to sustain drives. Bowe's touchdown catch was a terrific catch against the sideline, stretching out for the ball and dragging his feet while securing it. The Chiefs have a bye this week, but after that Bowe should still be considered a solid WR2 in standard fantasy leagues.

WR Marques Colston, NO - Colston finished with five catches for 72 yards, and could have scored a few more times. He had one TD catch negated by a penalty; one catch originally ruled a TD, but upon review was ruled down inside the one; and another would-be catch at the goal line that was wrestled away from him by CB Nathan Jones (resulting in an interception). Overall, it was a mixed day for Colston: he made some impressive plays down field, but also had a few drops (in addition to having the ball stripped away for an INT), and his mere five catches on 12 targets represent some wasted opportunities. Nonetheless, with Colston the clear number one target in the Saints high-powered passing attack, Colston should be considered an elite fantasy WR: start him every week regardless of matchups.

WR Braylon Edwards, NYJ - Braylon Edwards finished the Week 7 game against the Raiders with just one catch on two targets, but he was blanketed by CB Nnamdi Asomugha all game. The Jets also only dropped back for 15 pass attempts because the ground game dominated the offense and built up a huge early lead. Look for Edwards to get right back into the offensive mix starting next week with a big matchup against Miami.

WR Santonio Holmes, PIT - Holmes was held to just one reception for 14 yards in the first half. His big highlight of the day was his only other reception, a nice catch and run for 45 yards to start the fourth quarter. It was a great play and showed Holmes' skills and his ability to make guys miss. He had a TD reception that was called back because Heath Miller clearly knocked down the DB guarding Holmes, allowing him to get open. He was the deep threat that Big Ben looked to, but they were never able to connect.

WR Randy Moss, NE - Moss left the game early with the game in-hand, but he did favor his right arm/shoulder after taking two hits on it at different points in the contest that appeared to hurt him. Moss' production wasn't great this week, but he nearly caught a fly route on a double move that he couldn't catch up to because CB Aqib Talib did a good job of bumping Moss just enough to delay the route. Watch for Moss on the injury report just in case the Patriots weren't just being cautious with their star receiver. Otherwise, he's still an elite option.

WR Santana Moss, WAS - Santana Moss was open down field a few times early in this game, but Jason Campbell did not pull the trigger, instead opting to check-down to his TE Chris Cooley. So for the rest of the game, Moss was limited to short range passes where he used his speed and quickness to gain yards after the catch. He finished the night with six catches for 74 yards, which could have easily been 9 catches for 150-170 yards and a score with a more confident QB. His biggest gain all night was a 24-yard crossing route off a naked bootleg late in the first half. However, this week the average production wasn't his fault.

WR Steve Smith, CAR - Smith had one big play, a 48-yard catch on 4th and 4 on their own 28-yard line to keep a drive alive that was the Carolina offense's only score of the day. Up until that point he was only catching short range passes for minimal yardage. Jake Delhomme completed passes to eight different receivers, including three each to all three Panthers TEs, so you can't say Delhomme tried to force the ball to Smith. The Panthers' No. 1 WR is still someone that can be dangerous anytime he touches the ball. Jake Delhomme passing for 325 yards could be a good sign if it weren't for the three interceptions against a banged up Buffalo defense and John Fox not making any promises to keep the veteran QB in the starting lineup. He's a shaky fantasy WR2 due to his situation and his production could go either way at this point.

WR Hines Ward, PIT - Ward was more the victim of a tough defense than anything in this game. Roethlisberger only completed 14 passes for the game, and over half of them were to a RB or TE. Ward was targeted a couple times in the second half, but he was well defended and could not make the reception.

WR Reggie Wayne, IND - Reggie Wayne was ripping the St. Louis secondary to shreds in Week 7, collecting 61 yards on four catches on the opening drive and even closed it himself with a short catch for the touchdown. However, he tweaked his groin later in the first half. He was able to continue, coming back after halftime to grab a few more balls in the third quarter. Wayne easily could have topped 100 yards on the day but the Colts called off the dogs in the second half and gave Wayne time off to rest. He should be back at full strength next week at home against San Francisco in Week 8.


Tight End

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TE Gary Barnidge, CAR - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - Three Carolina TEs had three catches each against the Bills, and Gary Barnidge got the most yardage. The bulk of his 77 yards came on a 52-yard catch that was perfectly thrown by Jake Delhomme. It has been a circling carousel for Carolina TEs this year. Nobody can truly be counted on, but Barnidge is a young player on the rise that could start to see an increase in production as the season goes on. Again, we don't recommend adding him right now, but be aware if his presence in the offense and add him if his increased production becomes a trend.

TE Owen Daniels, HOU - Owen Daniels has long been one of the overlooked tight ends of the NFL, but with Andre Johnson off the field he finally had a chance to shine. Daniels finished the game with 7 receptions for 123 yards (including a 44 yard touchdown) and showed terrific hands all over the field. With Johnson out of the game, Daniels was often covered by both a linebacker and a safety yet still managed to make the most of the targets that came his way. Particularly impressive was the ease with which Daniels got off the line of scrimmage and got open 7-10 yards down the field. If Andre Johnson were to miss time, Daniels would be the biggest beneficiary in the receiving game. Even if Johnson is fine, Daniels has clearly shown that he is one of the elite pass-catching tight ends in the league.

TE Fred Davis, WAS - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - Second-year TE Fred Davis had a nice fantasy night in an otherwise dismal game for the Redskins. The former USC Trojan has been known for his receiving skills, and he put them on display in the middle of the field and the red zone. He twice showed savvy against the zone to find the open space and quickly make himself a good target for Jason Campbell for first down receptions. He nearly made a one-handed catch on a pass thrown behind him in the end zone that was criticized as poor effort by the MNF crew, but was more QB Campbell's fault than Davis'. The TE followed up that play with a touchdown catch. The huge problem with Davis is the fact that he's a poor pass protector and the Eagles had their way with him when he was kept at the line of scrimmage in max protection situations. However, with Cooley gone for the year Davis becomes a hot waiver wire option because he has great hands, good after the catch skills, and runs strong routes. Plus, Campbell has turned into Captain Check-down as of late.

TE Vernon Davis, SF - Davis continues to have a "breakout" season, catching three touchdown passes in the 2nd half from Alex Smith. Davis' unique blend of size and speed made for a difficult matchup for the Texans, particularly between the hash marks as they struggled to bring down Davis in the open field once he had a full head of steam. Davis' 7 receptions came all over the field, but he was particularly effective as a target once he released from the line and made his way in to the linebackers. Davis appears to be much more than just an outlet and if his first few games (and his rapport with Smith) are any indication, he could continue to produce at a high level going forward.

TE Spencer Havner, GB - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - Havner took a short crossing route down the sideline for a touchdown early in the second quarter, breaking tackles and showing good speed on a 45 yard catch and run. Expect Havner to see 1-3 targets a week if Jermichael Finley's knee injury is significant. Donald Lee should see the majority of the tight end targets, making Havner a boom-bust option in deeper leagues only.

TE Donald Lee, GB - Jermichael Finley's knee injury will free up some targets for Lee, who has a history of strong efforts and nice numbers with Aaron Rodgers in recent years. Lee was inconsistent against Cleveland, mixing in some nice plays over the middle with a bad drop and penalties, but will likely see more targets than Spencer Havner, who would replace Finley in the lineup.

TE Heath Miller, PIT - Miller's primary job was to take second and long situations and turn them into third and short. Of the six receptions that he had for the Steelers, five of them were on second and long. In all five cases, Miller did not make the first down, but brought the Steelers into closer range. On the one first down reception that he had, he was dropped after only three yards. He was also flagged on the Santonio Holmes TD for knocking down the DB trying to cover Holmes. With both Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes drawing the bulk of the Viking interest, Miller made his mark and finished the game as the leading receiver for the Steelers. He's the clear option as the dump-off, check down receiver over a RB.

TE Ben Watson, NE - Watson only had one catch for 35 yards and a score, but it was a perfect play against a mismatched LB from the slot. He made a good over the shoulder grab for an easy touchdown. He also caught the ball on a low crossing route, but the play was called back on a holding call at the line of scrimmage. He's a slight upgrade because the Patriots continue to target him and he demonstrates he's still capable of big plays.

Downgrade

TE Chris Cooley, WAS - Chris Cooley started the game with two receptions on short drag routes off play action roll outs. However, Cooley broke his ankle trying to change direction on a route and is now out for the year.

TE Jermichael Finley, GB - Finley was effective on a drag route play action pass, but a low hit resulted in a knee injury of unknown severity. He's expected to have an MRI on Monday and early reports suggest he could miss extended playing time.

TE Greg Olsen, CHI - During the Bears bye week, there was a lot of talk about how the team wanted to recommit to helping Greg Olsen achieve the breakout season that everyone expected from him this year. However, in last week's game against the Falcons, Olsen went into halftime with just one catch on two targets for five yards, and he followed that up this week with two catches on two targets for 12 yards. If they are truly focused on coming up with new ways to get him the ball, it would seem that he'd be a much bigger part of the offense in the first half when the game plan is actually being implemented. Despite the Bears falling behind early in the game and completely abandoning the running game, Olsen still only managed four catches on five targets for 24 yards. Olsen will almost certainly have some big games before the year is up because he is a very talented player, but he remains just too unproductive right now to be relied on as a starter every week.

TE Kellen Winslow, TB - Other than catching a short out for six yards in tight coverage at the sideline in the first quarter, he only had one more catch for three yards in this game. The Buccaneers game plan was to throw the ball deep against a vulnerable secondary when the Patriots blitzed, which was pretty much every play once they took the lead. Winslow may have tough sledding if Josh Freeman becomes the starter. If Josh Johnson remains the QB, then look for Winslow to bounce back. Either way, he's a borderline starter at best.

Holding steady

TE Martellus Bennett, DAL - There was a finally a Martellus Bennett sighting in Dallas. His three catches for 32 yards was his season-high and he was used in the flat and down the seam on slant routes from both the slot and in two-TE sets. He's not a fantasy option yet, but he has the ability to be one and demonstrated it this weekend. Keep an eye on him but don't act on taking him unless you're desperate for a bye-week starter.

TE Brent Celek, PHI - Brent Celek had a three-reception, eight-yard game Monday night, but he didn't do anything to justify a downgrade. The Eagles offensive line was shaky against the Washington Redskins front seven and Celek was either used to block. When he was running routes, McNabb didn't look his way as often as his receivers and backs. Celek might have had five receptions if McNabb didn't short-hop both passes on both third down attempts, but neither were likely to produce significant gains. If Celek continues to be viewed as a check-down option only, in the coming weeks he will be in line for a downgrade, but expect him to bounce back in the next two division games against the Giants and Cowboys who will be preoccupied with the speed on the outside and Westbrook split wide or in the slot to free up Celek.

TE Dallas Clark, IND - Dallas Clark had three catches, 44 yards and a touchdown -- all in the first half -- against the Rams in Week 7. Like most of the other starters for Indianapolis, Clark took some time off in the blowout of the Rams during the second half to let other guys lower on the depth chart to get some work. Clark had a productive enough day, but it easily could have had more if he had played all 60 minutes. Expect another strong game next week at home against the 49ers in Week 8.

TE Zach Miller, OAK - Miller had three targets in Week 7 but one of them was hardly in his direction; JaMarcus Russell threw the ball right at the Jets' safety. Miller finished the day with just two short catches for seven and eight yards, respectively. Look for something of a bounce back week next week against the Chargers, who do not fare well in defending tight ends.

TE Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN - Shiancoe had a quiet game as the Steelers blanketed him most of the time. When he was able to get open, it was for only a few seconds before someone closed in to make the tackle or break up the play.

TE Jason Witten, DAL - Witten had a decent day thanks to the threat of Miles Austin, something he wasn't getting from Roy Williams. He caught a six-yard seam route from the slot on a short adjustment at the line in a 2-TE set and then broke a tackle on a 22-yard catch and run on a short post that he took to the 17-yard line. He caught a short pass in the flat for a 4-yard gain late in the half and ran a nice out route against a CB on 3rd down to make the catch early in the fourth quarter. It wasn't a performance fantasy owners expect from Witten, but if Austin can continue to play at a high level Witten should have bigger games ahead.


Kicker

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PK Dan Carpenter, MIA - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - Dan Carpenter has been excellent lately, and the Dolphins offense has been good enough to give him an ample number of scoring opportunities on a consistent basis. Over the last four games, Carpenter is perfect on six FG tries and 14 PATs. He has scored 7, 8, 7, and 10 fantasy points over that span and could easily be available on your waiver wire.

Downgrade

Holding steady


Team Defense

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TD San Diego Chargers, SD - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - The Chargers defense was much maligned earlier in the season, but a lot of their struggles could be blamed on a tough schedule. They looked excellent against the woeful Chiefs in Week 7 and will look to post back-to-back great efforts this weekend against the woeful Raiders.

TD Dallas Cowboys, DAL - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - This space was very down on the Cowboys to start the season (after all, they took a few weeks to record their first sack and first turnover), but this defense has been quite good lately. They haven't allowed more than 21 points since Week 2 and have really turned up the pressure. Over the last five weeks, they have recorded 14 sacks, forced seven turnovers, and scored a pair of touchdowns.

TD Philadelphia Eagles, PHI - The Eagles continue to do what they are supposed to against inferior offensive opponents. They sacked Jason Campbell six times, forced two fumbles, and had an interception for a touchdown. The acquisition of MLB Will Witherspoon makes this blitzing unit even more imposing, because Witherspoon is one of those underrated players in the league who has the speed to go sideline to sideline and the savvy to be effective when blitzing or covering. This move is light years better than bringing in Jeremiah Trotter for the upteenth time. With Eli Manning struggling to produce against pressure and the Cowboys offense facing poor pass defenses in their past two games, the Eagles have a chance to provide a rude awakening to both units in weeks eight and nine.

TD Houston Texans, HOU - *** POTENTIAL WAIVER WIRE GEM *** - This is not a group that you can run out and grab as an every-week starter, but the Texans defense can perform well against below average offenses. Over the last five weeks, they have forced 10 turnovers and sacked the quarterback six times. If you are in need of a bye-week replacement, Houston definitely merits a shot this weekend with the Bills on tap.

Downgrade

TD San Francisco 49ers, SF - Remember that phenomenal week-4 effort against the Rams? Yeah - we barely do too. The results from the other five games this season paint an obvious picture - the 49ers defense is simply mediocre against a good offense. The next four opponents are Indianapolis, Tennessee, Chicago, and Green Bay. All of those offenses are at least good, so don't expect much from the San Francisco defense.

TD Chicago Bears, CHI - The Bears defense is starting to show that they miss Brian Urlacher. Their numbers over the last five weeks have been decidedly mediocre (six turnovers forced and eight sacks). Finally, in Week 7, they looked completely overwhelmed by a Cincinnati team that struggled against the Texans. Granted, Carson Palmer and Co. are a good offense, but they had no business scoring 45 points against Chicago. This Bears defense is sinking.

TD Atlanta Falcons, ATL - There really isn't a lot to like from this middling unit, but there are many reasons to drop them. Over the last five weeks, the Falcons defense has forced only seven turnovers and accumulated a mere seven sacks. Now, they have Drew Brees and the Saints, so expect a nasty showing this weekend. Finally, they made Tony Romo look like Roger Staubach. We don't want any part of that.

Holding steady