Matthew Stafford, Lions
Stafford has taken an undeserved beating from fantasy owners this season. Granted, his touchdown tally has experienced a precipitous drop from his breakout campaign in 2011, yet the former No. 1 overall pick still averaged almost 293 yards in Detroit's first six games. Sunday's conquest against one of the better NFC units in Seattle proved that Stafford remains in the fantasy elite, as the Lions field general torched the Seahawks for 352 yards and four total touchdowns. With exploitable secondaries in Green Bay (twice), Jacksonville and Indianapolis on the upcoming slate, it's easy to envision Stafford fulfilling his lofty preseason passing expectations.
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
We denoted Freeman as a rising commodity at the start of October due to an impending advantageous schedule, a circumstance that the quarterback has utilized to its fullest assistance. Following Tampa's takedown of the Vikings on Thursday night, Freeman finished the month with nine touchdowns, one interception and a mark of 336.7 aerial yards per contest. Better yet, the next three games on Freeman's itinerary come against porous pass resistances in Oakland, San Diego and Carolina, meaning proprietors of the Kansas State product can imagine the good times to continue. Speaking of Bucs...
Doug Martin, Buccaneers
Can you believe some blockheads recommended sitting the rookie rusher versus the third-ranked rush defense last week? Wait, what's that? Oh . Well, uh...you saw how strong Freeman looked, right? Dude can get out of the pocket like nobody's business, I'm telling 'ya.
Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers
I hope you have socks on, because I'm about to blow them off. Despite the franchise's reputation as a ground-and-pound team, Dwyer's 107 rushing yards versus Washington after Week 7's 122 yards on the soil make the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket the first Steelers back since 2008 to have back-to-back 100-yard performances. Starting running back Rashard Mendenhall and primary backup Isaac Redman should be ready to roll in Pittsburgh's tilt against the Giants, but Dwyer's recent dexterity may keep the third-year back in the starring role.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
Shorts' success against the Packers (eight receptions, 116 yards) may seem like an aberration, as it was the wideout's first 100-yard game in his two-year career. However, while trusting any Jacksonville entity not named Maurice Jones-Drew is a risky proposition, Sunday's outing was the second consecutive solid showing from Shorts, who posted four catches for 79 yards and a score in Week 7. In deeper leagues, Shorts, available in over 98 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, warrants a look.
Titus Young, Lions
An inauspicious start to the 2012 season led to Young, targeted as a fledgling fantasy star in August, finding himself on the waiver wire in the majority of leagues. Yet after failing to surpass 20 yards in four of his first five games, the 23-year-old receiver has racked up 15 receptions, 181 yards and two touchdowns in the past two weeks. As Nate Burleson is out for the season, look for Young to hold down the fort as Calvin Johnson's complementary target in the Motor City.
Jimmy Graham, Saints
Jason Witten's 18 catches for 167 yards and Rob Gronkowski's, ahem, Rob Gronkowski-ness delivered higher output for their fantasy owners, though given the ambiguity of his playing status, as well as operating under an abbreviated play count, Graham's submission of five receptions for 63 yards and a trip to pay dirt earns our nod. Though a bum ankle somewhat limited his route efficiency, Graham was still able to create separation with the Denver linebackers, ensuring that the New Orleans tight end has reestablished his relevancy in the fantasy forum.
Forget holding the Jets to nine points, blocking two kicks (including one for a touchdown), snagging an interception and recovering a fumble. You know what another Gang Green loss means, right? MORE TEBOW TALK! You are doing God's work, Miami.
Honorable Mention: Peyton Manning, Broncos
In the five games since the infamous debacle in the Georgia Dome, Manning has tossed for 14 touchdowns and averaged 323.8 yards per contest. That, my friends, is getting it done.
Eli Manning, Giants
The Cowboys are a top-10 unit against fantasy quarterbacks in 2012, but, and just spitballing here, I don't think very many owners foresaw second-stringers Matt Cassel and Matt Moore outscoring Eli yesterday. Moreover, Manning's underwhelming box score (15-for-29, 192 yards, interception) was the third time in four games that the Giants quarterback neglected to reach 260 passing yards, with five touchdowns versus four picks in that time span. A date with an improving Pittsburgh defense in Week 9 will not facilitate a turnaround from this trend.
Philip Rivers, Chargers
As I mentioned in Sunday morning's chat, wasn't crazy about Rivers' prospects facing a better-than-believed Cleveland secondary that was regaining its mojo thanks to the return of Joe Haden. Throw in an ominous forecast, and Rivers seemed to be a shaky start. Even with this warning, I didn't think Rivers would be that bad, as the San Diego signal caller notched a meager 154 yards on 34 attempts in the Chargers' loss. Rivers has a platform to bounce back with imminent appointments with Kansas City and Tampa Bay, but he no longer qualifies as a top-12 performer at his position.
As for the "rumors" that Rivers' arm may be hurt? I think this summarizes my sentiments on the matter.
Reggie Bush, Dolphins
Bush got the last laugh in his war of words with Rex Ryan and the Jets, but it was Bush possessors who were not smiling after Sunday's harvest, or lack thereof, from the Miami back. The former Heisman winner left the Meadowlands with a so-so 59 yards on the terrain, but his shortcomings in the receiving arena (just one catch for six yards) on top of a turnover equated to a scant three points for Bush in standard formats. More importantly, since coming out of the gate strong in September, Bush has only 252 rushing yards and 75 receiving yards in his last five contests, and backup Daniel Thomas amassed more carries than Bush on Sunday. In short: sell Bush's stock while it still has some value.
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Five carries, four yards. Ouch. In Charles' defense, when your head coach responds, when asked why his star running back received so little action, "Now, that I'm not exactly sure either," you kind of have to give the cat some leeway.
Calvin Johnson, Lions
When Johnson owners caught wind of Stafford's statistical onslaught, I'm sure apparitions of similar dividends were running through their heads. Unfortunately, they were dealt a stomach punch when discovering Megatron brought in three catches for 46 yards in Detroit's W over Seattle. Johnson was dealing with a knee issue, and endures as Stafford's primary bull's-eye, evidenced by eight balls in his direction. Don't lose the faith in Johnson, but at this juncture of the season, might be time to hear trade offers from your league.
Victor Cruz, Giants
Alluded to above, Dallas has been stout versus adversarial air attacks, with the Cowboys holding receivers to the fourth-lowest rotisserie output through the first two months. And with six end-zone excursions the previous four games, fantasy managers can't be too distraught over Cruz's disappointing day (two catches, 23 yards). Though the Steelers will be a formidable test this weekend, the G-Men ensue after the bye with the Bengals, Packers, Redskins and Saints, keeping Cruz as a top-10 wideout.
Jermichael Finley, Packers
Finley recorded his third straight two-catch game on Sunday against Jacksonville, and is averaging a pedestrian 33.1 yards per contest this season. As Finley was unsuccessful in capitalizing on the absences of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, there's no reason to believe hope is on the horizon. Drop Finley in almost all fantasy formats.
The Vikings entered Week 7 as the fourth-highest fantasy producer at the defensive position. That ranking will not carry over to Week 8, as Minnesota was taken to the woodshed for 36 points by the Buccaneers with just one sack and zero turnovers.
Dishonorable Mention: Antonio Gates, Chargers
Subtract his impressive feats from Week 6's battle with the Broncos, and Gates sits with a feeble 15 receptions for 157 yards and zero touchdowns.
Is he worthy of a roster spot? Yes. Unfortunately, with a plethora of serviceable tight ends in fantasy football this year, Gates is far from a trustworthy contributor at this stage of his career.