No receivers, no problem as Rivers keeps rising

Each week, Scott Engel of reviews five of the biggest storylines in fantasy football.

1. Rivers keeps flowing: He keeps losing top targets, yet he doesn't miss a beat. From Vincent Jackson to Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has seen all of his best pass-catchers go down. Yet it doesn't matter, he remains one of the elite quarterbacks in fantasy football. Outside of Peyton Manning, you could make the argument that Rivers is the best or most reliable fantasy passer in the game. The cast is always changing around him, and his running game is certainly not outstanding right now. Opponents know what Rivers is capable of. Yet he simply gets the job done every time. With a receiving corps that looked as if it were assembled for "Pros vs. Joes," Rivers threw for 295 yards, four touchdowns and an interception in Sunday's win. Sure, you could make the case he faced the Houston Texans, who are notoriously awful against the pass. When a guy gets the ball to undrafted free agent Seyi Ajirotutu for 111 yards and two scores, though, that's impressive no matter the opponent. Patrick Crayton, who wasn't good enough for the Dallas Cowboys, totaled 70 receiving yards. Randy McMichael, who has been an afterthought for nearly half a decade, stepped in for Gates and scored twice.

No one battles adversity and wins like Rivers. Some quarterbacks need a good supporting cast to succeed, others make the players around them better. Rivers fits the latter description, maybe better than anyone, and that is why he will be a cornerstone of many fantasy championship teams in 2010.

2. Return of the King: Just when he seemed ready to finally give into age and injuries, Brett Favre showed he still has some heroics and possible big statistical performances left in him. Favre threw for a career-best 446 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions, to lead the Vikings to a rousing overtime win over the Cardinals. No more Randy Moss? No problem. Favre looked like the classic gunslinger he always has been on Sunday, taking chances and putting up numbers. Defenses still have to give a lot of respect to the "old guy," and now Favre should start getting strong consideration from the average fantasy player again.

Still, it's best to not overreact to this performance. The reality is, Favre threw more than one touchdown pass in a game only once this season before Sunday. And he had only thrown for over 250 yards twice before Week 9. Favre may still enjoy occasional flashes of his better past form, but he is looking inconsistent and sometimes mediocre in 2010. Don't let one "revival" performance fool you into using him as a starter again when you may have better alternatives.

3. Another comeback:Michael Vick returned from a three-game layoff and promptly led his Eagles to a rousing victory over the Colts. Vick's final numbers were pretty good, as he threw for 218 yards and a touchdown and ran for 74 yards and another score on a quarterback sneak. Those who watched Vick's performance, though, may have come away with some reasons for concern. Vick was pressured consistently and sacked three times, and his overall performance was not anywhere as impressive as his Week 3 outburst against Jacksonville, his last full outing. Vick took some big hits and exposed himself to more possible injuries as well.

He is going to play hard every time out as he tries to quiet those who wrote him off. His reckless style will not change, and that means you should always be prepared for the possibility of an injury that could hurt your fantasy outlook. Vick has truly emerged as a fine dual passing/rushing threat in the mold we saw glimpses of during his Falcons days. He is not going to explode statistically every time out, though, as defensive game plans will always be geared around him. The upside with Vick is obviously tremendous. Yet injuries and some less-than-spectacular numerical outings will also be part of the ride for the rest of 2010.

4. Runaway Ford: Before Sunday, Jacoby Ford was a nondescript rookie with four NFL receptions and a mildly promising early resume as a kickoff returner. In other words, no fantasy owner should realistically have had him on their radar screens. Perceptions of Ford changed quickly in another thrilling Oakland war with longtime rival Kansas City. Ford enjoyed a breakthrough day as a pro. He returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, rewarding those who started the Oakland defense/special teams. He then took full advantage of an opportunity to see increased playing time, catching six passes for 148 yards, with a long of 47. Ford has impressive speed, a trait that has always been a hallmark of Raider football, sometimes to a detriment. He also is on a team that has long been searching for impact players at receiver. So opportunity indeed knocks for Ford, and that makes him worth a free-agent pickup. But now that opponents will be aware of his Week 9 coming-out party, he could start to command more defensive respect. Ford should not be started until he shows he can deliver a quality follow-up outing. He could easily slip back into fantasy obscurity very quickly.

5. Missing Matt: Sometimes, backup quarterbacks play as poorly as the average fan assumes they will. Charlie Whitehurst was downright awful in a resounding home loss to the Giants. It was not so much because of the defense he was facing. Whitehurst would have looked bad against any opponent. He showed a complete lack of accuracy and his mechanics were shoddy. The Seahawks offense died a quick death as a result, and immediately put the defense on its heels. It is very apparent Seattle has no hope of generating any offense without Matt Hasselbeck. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 48 yards, as he was limited to 11 carries. Mike Williams caught only two balls for 25 yards. Whitehurst finished 11 of 23 for 113 yards, one TD and two interceptions. His performance, however, may have actually been worse than the numbers indicated. No team except for maybe Dallas looked more inept on offense Sunday than the Seahawks. If Hasselbeck misses more time this year, you should start any defense against them, while benching Lynch and Williams when Whitehurst starts. He has a way to go before he can start being considered a competent NFL quarterback, and he will drag the whole team down around him. That includes the defense, which had played well at times earlier this season.

The RotoExperts Xclusive Edge package is now primed for your playoff push and includes bonus keeper and dynasty coverage. Also, enjoy our new in-season schedule grids, coming soon!

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