1. Blount force: It seems as if the Buccaneers have finally found their man at running back, and they can stop desperately waiting for Cadillac Williams to return to form. A few weeks after he first started appearing on the fantasy radar, LeGarrette Blount delivered as hoped. He rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona, and even though he lost a fumble, that certainly should not deter the Buccaneers from continuing to use him in a prime role. Blount will certainly be the hot free agent addition of the week, as he is owned in 8.6 percent of NFL.com leagues.
Blount was so far down the fantasy totem pole that, even with six teams on a bye, he started in only 5.1 percent of leagues this week. Blount is far from a sexy pick, as he was a Tennessee castoff and has an ugly running style. When you watch him, Blount looks like he is stumbling forward rather than running. He has an upright gait that exposes him to big hits, possibly injuries and, yes, fumbles. But Blount is also strong and reckless, with little apparent regard for his own safety and none for the defenders who are unfortunate enough to get in his way. He's a tractor, rolling his way to daylight. He also has the ability to bust loose, as evidenced by his late 48-yard run.
Blount is obviously worth strong consideration as a flex player going forward, yet he still has more to prove. Can he churn out big chunks of yardage now that opponents will be more aware of him and game plan to contain him? We'll have to wait and see. Do not consider using him over more established players just yet. One more promising outing will officially raise Blount's stock as a possible starter.
2. Hear him roar: Returns aren't much more impressive than the one you witnessed from Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in Week 8. After missing five games, Stafford reemerged with a career performance and a true breakthrough fantasy outing, throwing for four touchdowns with one interception in the win over Washington. Three of his scoring tosses went to Calvin Johnson, and it is clear that the two are establishing a superb on-field connection, especially in the red zone. Stafford threw for 212 yards this week, yet he definitely stamped himself as a fantasy star on the rise. Not only are his physical gifts apparent, Stafford is making mostly sound decisions and sharp throws. He has a solid supporting cast to work with, as defenses now have to honor the running game. Nate Burleson is a decent No. 2 receiver, and tight end Brandon Pettigrew is another notable performer opponents must account for.
Stafford knows how to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers, and that is obvious when he gets the ball to Johnson, who is making all the important grabs and is sometimes impossible to defend in the red zone. Johnson has shown great flashes of potential in the past with other quarterbacks, but with Stafford, the two seem destined to make each other stand out. Stafford may not statistically explode on a regular basis, and he has a ways to go before he is considered among fantasy football's very best passers. Every week, though, the odds are he is going to get the ball to Johnson, and he will help your team more than he hurts it. You can do much, much worse than turning to Stafford every week.
3. Vanquished visitor:Vikings receiver Randy Moss returned to New England and discovered his talents and impact are still fresh in the minds of the Patriots, and that is not a good thing. The Pats treated Moss with the ultimate amount of defensive respect, shadowing him with everyone short of the restroom attendants. Moss was held to one catch for eight yards by a defense that had become notorious for its vulnerability against the pass this season. He was no match for New England's defensive scheming, which overcame any perceived personnel shortcomings. Moss remains a frequent touchdown threat and has nifty-looking matchups against the Cardinals and Bears on the upcoming schedule. Yet the hard reality is, Moss has 93 receiving yards in his past three games and has not totaled more than 81 yards in a game this year. Yes, he has scored five times, but only once in his past three games, and he has not provided regularly good yardage numbers. Moss is becoming an all-or-close-to-nothing fantasy player every week. You still must give him some room to rebound in the next game or two. Yet the Patriots may have set a blueprint for shutting down Moss, and there are no guarantees he can bounce back in a big way, especially when you look at his production so far in 2010. Moss is quickly losing his place among fantasy football's best receivers. The next two games should define how valuable he will be during the most important part of the schedule.
4. The latest tease? It seems as if we can never know what to truly expect from Jaguars quarterback David Garrard. He is the epitome of fantasy unpredictability. Just when you think you can trust Garrard, he provides you with a statistical stinker. And when you start losing faith in him, as many fantasy owners did before Week 8, he surprises you with an impressive outing. Garrard was owned in 14 percent of NFL.com leagues this week, and started in 3 percent. So only a precious few thrilled to his five touchdown outing against the moribund Cowboys. Garrard threw for four touchdowns and rushed for another, finishing with 260 passing yards and no interceptions. Garrard can easily follow up this week's nearly unforeseen blowup with a dud.
Here's a prime example of how he trends: In the season opener, he threw three touchdown passes, then was intercepted four times in Week 2. There was talk of him losing his starting job earlier this year. Garrard is what he appears to be: A boom-or-bust fantasy option every week. Realistically, though, unpredictability is a necessary and widespread evil in fantasy football. So starting Garrard may not be the huge gamble it appears to be at first glance.
5. Hello, Larry: The real Larry Fitzgerald showed up in Week 8, as he provided fantasy owners with his most productive game of 2010 so far. Fitzgerald caught six passes for 72 yards and scored twice against Tampa Bay. The Pro Bowl receiver had not scored in three consecutive games prior to Sunday, and he does not have a 100-yard game this season. There are signs of hope, though, as he has also caught six or more passes in four games, and as we saw this week, you cannot keep a pass-catcher of his caliber down for too long. The Cardinals also appear to be developing more of a running game behind Beanie Wells, and receiver Steve Breaston returned from injury to total 147 yards. More balance on offense can only mean good things for Fitzgerald. Still, with the quarterback issues in Arizona, you may find it challenging to sell high on Fitzgerald this week if you try. Don't get low-balled with trade offers, because keeping Fitzgerald could also prove to be a good move.