Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw has been hot lately and is looking to keep momentum rolling this week in Washington. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Sometimes, fantasy football just doesn't make sense. Check that -- a lot of the time, fantasy football doesn't make sense.
Case in point: Shonn Greene. In his previous four games, he had just 123 yards and no touchdowns on 49 carries. In Week 6, he ran 32 times for 161 yards and three scores. His name will always look like it's spelled wrong, though.
Another case in point: The Giants D/ST. In its two previous games against fantasy-friendly Philadelphia and Cleveland, it scored a combined nine fantasy points. In Week 6, against the notoriously stingy 49ers, it put up 19. It helped that Alex Smith turned into 2007 Alex Smith.
We could go on and on about players who over-perform or under-perform every week, but we're at that point in the season when owners start to take things personally. As much as fantasy football is about stats and players, it also features a lot of psychology. For instance, if you benched Greene this week, maybe for a “new RB” like William Powell or Vick Ballard, you probably dislike him even more now. You might vow to never start him again -- or never not start him again. Basically, you can't make rational decisions about him anymore, which will lead to more mistakes down the road. In poker, it's called going on “tilt.” In fantasy football, it's called being a fantasy owner.
Every week is a fresh start in fantasy. It's still best to base your decisions off stats, past performances and logic. It won't always work out, but it's better than playing the guessing game with frustrating players every week. Let's look at some players who improved or hurt their stock at each offensive position.
Remember when Aaron Rodgers was having a “disappointing year?” After Sunday night's six-TD performance, Rodgers has 13 scores against only two INTs in his past three games. His yards are down this year, but he's still the No. 1 ranked fantasy quarterback. He'll be just fine going forward, and Green Bay's offense looks like it can support at least three starting fantasy WRs/TEs every week again.
A couple other “struggling” high-round quarterbacks came up big on Sunday. Both Matthew Stafford (23.1 fantasy points) and Michael Vick (26.3) had their best fantasy performances of the season. Neither was flawless -- Stafford had fewer than 100 yards heading into the fourth quarter; Vick had a couple bad turnovers -- but Stafford has had 20-plus points in each of his past three games, and Vick has had at least a 16.6 fantasy points in five of six contests.
Notable Riser: Russell Wilson, Seahawks. Last week, dual-threat QBs struggled. This week, they flourished. Vick, Robert Griffin III and Wilson all had big games, and Wilson's was perhaps the most surprising. It helped that he had a favorable home matchup against New England, but he showed good touch on several deep balls and finished with a career-high 293 yards and three TDs. Seattle has clearly adjusted its offense to fit Wilson's strengths, as he's now 35-of-52 for 514 yards and four TDs in his past two games. He still hasn't topped 28 rushing yards in any contest, but Wilson is back on the QB2 radar.
Notable Faller: Joe Flacco, Ravens. Flacco has now turned in two straight mediocre performances, accounting for just 421 yards and one TD. We'll give him a bit of a break for last week, as Dallas has the top-ranked pass defense, but in three games against top-16 pass defenses, Flacco is averaging just 218 yards and less than one TD. In three games against bottom-16 pass defenses, he's averaging 346 yards and 2.3 TDs. He's a matchup-play right now.
Among the new running backs this week, Green Bay's Alex Green (22 carries, 65 yards) led the way in touches, but he benefited from James Starks' lingering toe injury and the Packers' big lead. Arizona's William Powell had the most yards (13-70) despite only getting two more carries than LaRod Stephens-Howling. Indianapolis' Vick Ballard (8-25) was the biggest disappointment, getting just eight of the Colts' 15 RB carries, but he was likely held back by Indianapolis' big deficit. At this point, Powell looks like he has the most long-term value, but Arizona's poor O-line will likely limit his value.
Among players who might be the “next new backs,” Felix Jones is a must-have add after DeMarco Murray suffered a foot injury. It's unclear how long Murray will be out, but Jones will get the bulk of touches in his stead. Montario Hardesty is in the same boat in Cleveland after Trent Richardson suffered a rib injury. Baron Batch is also worth watching in Pittsburgh with both Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles') and Isaac Redman (ankle) hurting.
Notable Riser: Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants. Bradshaw was one of just two RBs to rush for over 100 yards last week, and it was especially impressive since it came against the 49ers. San Francisco had allowed only one 100-yard rusher and one rushing TD to an RB since the start of last season (both to Marshawn Lynch). Bradshaw has had 57 carries, 316 yards and two TDs over the past two games, proving that he's an RB1 as long as he stays healthy.
Notable Faller: Stevan Ridley, Patriots. Ridley was riding high after back-to-back 100-yard games, but the Seahawks shut him down for just 34 yards on 16 carries. The poor rushing average and the lack of involvement in the receiving game (just one catch for zero yards in his past four contests) are minor concerns, but Seattle has the second-ranked run defense, so it's not a huge surprise that Ridley struggled. Ultimately, his value is still fairly high, especially with Brandon Bolden suffering a knee injury. Ridley should continue getting 15-plus touches per game.
Hakeem Nicks (3-44) and Kenny Britt (4-62, TD) are both trying to make their way back from knee injuries, but Britt is clearly ahead of Nicks in his recovery. Britt displayed shaky hands last Thursday, but he seemed to be running fine, which is more important. The good news for Nicks is that he'll always have an elite quarterback throwing to him when he gets right; Britt won't have the same luxury. It's unclear when Jake Locker will return from his shoulder injury, but it might actually hurt Britt when he comes back. Matt Hasselbeck's arm isn't as strong, but he's more accurate. This seems like a “buy-low” time for Britt, but it might actually be a “sell-high” time depending on what you can get for him.
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Notable Riser: Dez Bryant, Cowboys. Bryant received a league-high 15 targets, catching 13 balls for 95 yards and two TDs last week. He has 21 catches for 200 yards and two scores in the past two games. He leads the Cowboys in targets by seven in that span, and perhaps most interesting is that he has 17 more targets than Miles Austin. The Cowboys' receiving hierarchy tends to be fluid, so don't get too excited about Bryant or too down on Austin. Both are still every-week starters.
Notable Faller: Brian Hartline, Dolphins. In three of his past four games, Hartline has a combined five catches for 100 yards and no scores; the other game in that span was his 12-catch, 253-yard, one-TD explosion against Arizona. Clearly, one stands out as a fluke. Hartline won't get shut out every week like he did against the Rams, but it's tough to count on him as an every-week starter at this point. Arizona's Andre Roberts (2-18 last week) is similar.
This seems to be a recurring theme this year, but it was another lackluster week for a lot of big-name tight ends (though, let's all welcome Antonio Gates back to fantasy relevance). Only seven TEs scored, with three of them (Tom Crabtree, Anthony Fasano and Benjamin Watson) likely nowhere near fantasy lineups. Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph continues to be one of the most bankable options at that position, scoring in four of six games. He also led all TEs in targets last week with 11. He should finish the year as a top-five TE.
Notable Riser: Aaron Hernandez, Patriots. Hernandez (ankle) played for the first time since Week 2, catching six of nine targets for 30 yards and a score. He was in on less than half of New England's offensive snaps, which makes his performance even more impressive. Hernandez might steal a few touchdowns from Rob Gronkowski (6-61 last week), but there should continue to be enough passes to go around for both to flourish.
Notable Faller: Martellus Bennett, Giants. After catching a touchdown in each of his first three games, Bennett has a combined five catches for 41 yards and no scores in his past three contests. To be fair, he has been playing through a knee injury, but his failure to do anything last week in a favorable matchup against San Francisco is worrisome. Scott Chandler (1-4 last week) and Dennis Pitta (4-33) are two other TEs who are slowing down after hot starts. Consider all three matchup-plays right now.
Seattle at San Francisco
Stat to know: The Seahawks and 49ers are tied for fewest fantasy points per game allowed to RBs (9.7). It will be tough sledding for both Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore, but both backs are still worth starting. They're talented, get the bulk of their teams' RB touches, and fared relatively well against each other's teams last season (Lynch averaged 89 total yards and scored once; Gore averaged 87 total yards and scored once).
Stumbler: Seattle's D/ST (Averaging five fewer fantasy points on the road; 49ers allowing just 6.3 FPPG to D/STs).
Matt Lutovsky is a fantasy football writer for Sporting News' Fantasy Source. You can read more of his work on the Fantasy Source football homepage at http://fantasysource.sportingnews.com/football/free?affiliate_code=sn_navigation