Driven Stronger: Steve Smith ready to deliver

Print

Boy, was Mark Ingram ever driven stronger to perform in Week 8. After missing several weeks with a broken hand and struggling to find running lanes in his return game against Detroit, Ingram punished the Packers defense for 172 rushing yards and a touchdown. Woof. Now we look ahead to Week 9, and for whatever reason, whether these players are looking to bounce-back, face a great matchup or want to silence critics, each name below should have a little extra something to propel them to the tops of the fantasy ranks.

Quarterback -- Russell Wilson

Wilson had one of his worst performances this season last week, missing open receivers and looking skiddish in the pocket. He only posted 199 passing yards with one touchdown and an interception against the Panthers. With the Cardinals pulling away in the NFC West, look for Wilson to rebound in a big way to keep the Seahawks' Super Bowl title defense hopes alive.

Running back -- Giovani Bernard

Were it not for a late touchdown, Bernard would have failed to hit 10 fantasy points for the third time in a four-week span. While he did suffer a hip injury on Sunday, it is not believed to be serious. This is good news, as Bernard has a chance to rebound against the Jaguars defense in Week 9.

Running back -- Shane Vereen

In classic Bill Belichick fashion, Vereen was forced into a complementary role one week after posting huge numbers, as he watched Jonas Gray take the majority of the carries for the Pats in their blowout win over the Bears. This week, however, is a much tougher test against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, which means Brady could be looking Vereen's way a ton in the passing game to pick apart the stingy Denver defense.

Wide receiver -- Steve Smith Sr.

Despite having extra motivation to perform, Smith disappointed once again in the stat sheets last Sunday against the Bengals. Although in his defense he did have a monster touchdown called back because of offensive pass interference in the game's final minutes. The Ravens now face a crucial matchup on the road against a resurgent Pittsburgh Steelers team, so if there ever was a time for Smith to return to his dominant ways, it'd be now.

Wide receiver -- Mike Wallace

Wallace had been on a tear in fantasy, catching a touchdown in five of his first six games. Unfortunately, the Jaguars defense proved to be a tougher challenge than expected as they limited Wallace to just two catches for 59 receiving yards on seven targets last week. Wallace was upset about the lack of deep balls coming his way, so there's reason to expect a decent bounce-back game from him coming in Week 9.

Tight end -- Greg Olsen

Olsen had been one of the most consistent fantasy scorers at his position, posting better than 10 fantasy points in five of his first seven games. Unfortunately, he delivered his worst performance of the season against the Seahawks last week, managing just one catch for 16 yards while the entire offense struggled to move the football. Olsen should return to form against his divisional rival, the Saints, on Thursday Night Football.

Kicker -- Dan Bailey

Bailey was held to a season low of five fantasy poinst in the team's loss to the Redskins (the same amount he had in Week 1, the Cowboys only other loss) as the offense sputtered and turned the ball over numerous times. The Cowboys next face the Cardinals in a game loaded with playoff (and fantasy) implications, so expect Bailey and the 'Boys to rebound in Week 9. There's also a chance that Tony Romo might be sidelined for this contest, which could lead to even more opportunities for Bailey to score if Brandon Weeden can't get the team in the end zone.

Defense/Special teams -- Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals defense has not looked like the typically dominant unit we've grown accustomed to in recent years, as they've only netted a combined six fantasy points in the four games since their Week 4 bye. However, a visit from the Jaguars could be just what the doctor ordered, as rookie quarterback Blake Bortles has been prone to throwing pick sixes in recent weeks and has been taking a number of sacks.

Alex Gelhar is a fantasy and features writer at NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @AlexGelhar.

Print