L.T. rebounds vs. Saints in London; Brees continues to shine

Everyone loses faith sometimes. It's human nature.

So when LaDainian Tomlinson went three consecutive weeks without a 100-yard rushing game or a touchdown, it wasn't a shock that fantasy leaguers lost faith in him. His lack of production had become a detriment to their title aspirations.

So despite all his success in the past, he went from being active in 98 percent of NFL.com leagues in Week 7 to 92 percent in Week 8. Based on concerns about his age, the number of carries he's endured in his career and a troublesome toe, Tomlinson's value was slowly heading south.

A recent poll on our site showed that to be true.

The poll asked readers to pick one running back for the rest of the season from Tomlinson, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton. With close to 13,000 votes, Tomlinson finished fourth with 15 percent of the vote. Slaton (19 percent) was third, Forte (26 percent) finished second and Johnson (40 percent) was first. So after eight weeks, three rookie runners were seen as more valuable fantasy commodities than the consensus No. 1 pick in drafts.

I wasn't immune to this loss of faith, either.

After his third straight poor performance, I told fantasy leaguers with backfield depth to bench Tomlinson if the matchups warranted such a move. So if you had a team that included the trio of Chris Johnson, Slaton and L.T., I would have advised you to keep Tomlinson on the bench. I even had Tomlinson ranked 12th at the running back position in Week 8; that's still a No. 1 runner's spot in most formats, but it wasn't his usual top-five position.

2008 statistics:
Att: 142

Yards: 551

Avg: 3.7

TDs: 4

While most owners didn't have the sort of depth that made it possible to bench Tomlinson, that six percent decrease as a starter showed there was a move towards doing what was unthinkable in September. Of course, that train of thought has dissipated after Tomlinson had five catches, 170 scrimmage yards and one touchdown against the Saints.

Based on the schedule over his final eight games, I'm pretty sure Tomlinson's percentage of being a fantasy starter in NFL.com leagues will rise back to 100.

The Chargers have a bye in Week 9, then the statistical smorgasbord will start for one of the greatest running backs in fantasy football.

Tomlinson's next start comes against the Kansas City Chiefs. Their defense currently ranks dead last in the league against the run. After a tough matchup in Pittsburgh, L.T. faces the Indianapolis Colts. Heading into Monday night's game against the Tennessee Titans, coach Tony Dungy's defense was ranked 29th against the run.

The fun doesn't stop there.

His next game is against the Atlanta Falcons, who rank 23rd in run defense. Then comes a contest against the Raiders, which airs on NFL Network (Dec. 4, 8:15 pm EST). Oakland's run defense is ranked 26th.

Tomlinson will then face a tough matchup in Tampa Bay during what is fantasy championship week in most formats. But for those die hards whose leagues run through Week 17, L.T. will face the Denver Broncos and their 30th-ranked run defense.

That's enough to make fantasy leaguers who rode out the storm and stuck with Tomlinson smile.

OK, let's move on to some of the best and worst performances of Week 8.

Studs

Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia (32 points): In his first game back from two broken ribs, Westbrook tore up the Falcons with six catches, 209 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns. Fantasy leaguers should expect another monster performance from the versatile running back in Week 9, as Westbrook faces a vulnerable Seattle defense.

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans (31 points): It doesn't matter what continent he's on at the time. Put Brees on a football field and watch the fantasy points flow. He threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns in a shootout against the Chargers at Wembley Stadium in London. What's more, Brees is on pace to set an NFL record in passing yards.

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego (29 points): Rivers, the current leader in fantasy points on NFL.com, didn't let Brees steal the show across the pond. He had 341 yards and three scores of his own and would have equaled Brees' point total had it not been for an interception. Rivers has become a must-start quarterback in all fantasy formats.

Matt Schaub, QB, Houston (29 points): Notice a trend? Quarterbacks were the real stars of the week, and Schaub was no exception with 280 yards and three touchdowns in a win over the Bengals. He is tied with Rivers for the most fantasy points on NFL.com over the past three weeks and has become a tough player to sit across the board.

David Garrard, QB, Jacksonville (28 points): Despite a tough matchup on paper against Cleveland's 7th-ranked pass defense, Garrard still produced a solid stat line with 283 passing yards, 59 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He's got a great matchup against the Bengals in Week 9, and Garrard is still available in 20 percent of leagues.

Other notables: Tyler Thigpen, QB, Kansas City (25 points); Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona (25 points); Leonard Weaver, RB, Seattle (24 points).

Duds

Plaxico Burress, WR, N.Y. Giants (1 point): The Giants benched Burress for the start of the game in Pittsburgh as discipline for missing treatments for a sore neck. He missed three series but still saw a mere five targets in the contest, finishing with three catches for 15 yards. Look for him to rebound next week against the Cowboys.

Torry Holt, WR, St. Louis (2 points): Based on his current numbers, Holt is on pace to finish with the worst full-season totals of his career. He had three catches for 28 yards against the Patriots, and Holt isn't even the best fantasy wideout on his own team. Donnie Avery has outscored him 41-9 in fantasy points the past three weeks.

Julius Jones, RB, Seattle (2 points): Since recording an impressive 39 fantasy points in Weeks 2-3, Jones has scored a combined 17 points in his past four games. He rushed for nine yards on six carries against the 49ers and is now in a true backfield committee with Maurice Morris. Jones is a poor option in Week 9 against the Eagles.

Terrell Owens, WR, Dallas (3 points): Do you think Owens misses Tony Romo? In two starts without his quarterback, T.O. has scored a combined six fantasy points on NFL.com. Now there's talk that the Cowboys could start Brooks Bollinger over Brad Johnson in Week 9. It might not be a bad idea to sit Owens if you have solid wideout depth.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville (3 points): The matchup against Cleveland sure looked good on paper, but Jones-Drew couldn't take advantage with three catches, 48 scrimmage yards and no touchdowns. Despite the poor numbers, the smallish running back is a still an attractive fantasy option next week against the hapless Bengals.

Other notables:Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami (4 points); Chris Chambers, WR, San Diego (4 points); Brandon Jacobs, RB, N.Y. Giants (4 points).

Have a burning question for Michael Fabiano on anything fantasy football related? Send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com, and the best questions will be answered throughout the season right here on NFL.com!

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