Each week, Scott Engel recaps five major fantasy storylines.
1. Confusion in the nest: Although Andy Reid has said Michael Vick will retain the starting QB job when he returns, we all know the Eagles coach can change his mind faster than LeSean McCoy changes directions. Vick may be healthy and ready to start next week against the Titans, but Kevin Kolb made Reid's decision much tougher by throwing for 326 yards and three TDs against a Falcons defense that had been playing very well coming into Week 6. It would appear Vick ultimately is the better choice, as he has more experience and can challenge defenses more with his athleticism. Kolb certainly looks like he has serious potential to eventually become a quality regular, but consistency has been an issue for him so far.
Fantasy owners may only have room to hold onto one of the two QBs. In such a situation, hold onto Vick, as he has more upside in the shorter term. The veteran finally appears to have blossomed as a pure passer and he will always be an obvious dual threat as a runner. Many owners will also have to deal with the loss of DeSean Jackson (concussion) for possibly two weeks, as there is already speculation he may sit out Week 7 and then the Eagles have a bye. Jackson's owners may have to make a trade to effectively replace him, in many cases. Jeremy Maclin exploded for seven catches, 159 yards and two TDs, but if he does not have Jackson as his partner in a week when an opponent has a full week to prepare for him, it may be difficult for Maclin to get open regularly. Do not bank on another outstanding performance, at least in Week 7.
2. Stainless Steeler:Ben Roethlisberger actually did look a tad rusty early in his 2010 debut, yet the Browns simply didn't have the personnel to hold him down for long, and he finished with 257 passing yards, three TDs and one interception. Roethlisberger immediately vaults back into fantasy relevance as a Top 10 passer. Once he started rolling, Roethlisberger was clearly mechanically sound and in sync with his pass-catchers. Don't discount the impact of the performance by pointing out Roethlisberger was only facing the Browns. Good players beat the teams they are supposed to beat, which is exactly what Roethlisberger did. He has tremendous offensive support this season. He threw a 29-yard TD pass to Mike Wallace, who now becomes a clear must-start with Roethlisberger back. He threw an eight-yarder to old reliable buddy Hines Ward, who now re-emerges a viable fantasy play. He tossed a score to Heath Miller, who suddenly regains fantasy life. Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 84 yards and a TD, another weapon that gives Roethlisberger optimum diversity. The Steelers may be the most balanced team in the NFL with the return of Roethlisberger, and you can confidently plug him in as a starter every week. He will produce quality totals against all comers.
3. Road warriors: The Seahawks played surprisingly well on the road in an upset victory over Chicago. In the process, new offensive trends emerged that fantasy players must monitor. Newcomer Marshawn Lynch rushed for 44 yards on 17 carries, yet his impact was apparent. Lynch, who scored the Seahawks' final TD of the day on a 1-yard run, gave the offense a new dimension. The opposition finally had to honor the running game, and the Seahawks now have a true goal-line TD threat. Look for Lynch to remain a consistent scoring threat going forward. Justin Forsett also rushed for 67 yards and a TD, but he will not be a real threat to steal goal-line chances, as his 9-yard score came on a draw play that surprised the Chicago defense.
Going forward, what is most important to note is that the more physical Lynch and the scatback Forsett complement each other very well. Look for the two to share carries, with Lynch playing well enough to reemerge as a quality RB2. Forsett still will be worth occasional use as a flex option in larger leagues. A new-look, solid ground game helps Matt Hasselbeck operate a smoother passing game. While the QB threw for only one TD pass, he helped Mike Williams enjoy a career day, to the tune of 10 catches for 123 yards. Deon Butler, who has tremendous upside, caught a 22-yard TD pass. For those who pick up either player, it's probably smart to reserve each until you see them develop more consistency. Williams, however, is very comfortable back with Pete Carroll, and is playing with a renewed sense of purpose. Butler has the tools to be a dynamic playmaker. Both WRs offer intriguing potential for fantasy purposes and will completely justify roster space in any format.
4. The real deal: The Drew Brees that his owners know and love -- and whom opponents fear -- returned with a flourish in a victory at Tampa Bay. Brees threw for 263 yards, three TDs and an interception. The reason for the step back to elite form? The Saints re-discovered their running game. Rookie Chris Ivory enjoyed a breakthrough performance, rushing for 158 yards on 15 carries. Julius Jones also showed some nifty zip, adding 32 yards on nine carries. Brees threw TD passes to Robert Meachem and Lance Moore, who are more likely to score when the Saints are displaying the proper offensive balance. Marques Colston, however, continues to disappoint, as he totaled 53 receiving yards and still does not have a TD reception in 2010. Brees is notorious for spreading the ball around so effectively when he is on top of his game. No New Orleans WR is dependable for quality production. The Saints could get Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush back in the next few games, limiting Ivory's appeal and the hope for owners to expect more good outings. What is clear, however, is that New Orleans' offense has regained its better form, and Brees' owners can get the returns they expected.
5. Mile High slide?Kyle Orton suddenly reverted to preseason expectations, at least from a statistical perspective, in a loss to the Jets. Orton threw for 209 yards, one TD and no interceptions in his least productive performance of 2010. The Jets defense should be given some obvious credit, yet the return of Knowshon Moreno took some pressure and responsibility off Orton, as New York had to respect the running game. Moreno rushed for 48 yards on 12 carries, and going forward will allow Orton to not have to completely air it out every week. Tim Tebow stole some snaps and rushed for a TD, and his ability to enter the game as a wild card cannot be discounted as some unusual event, either. Orton is playing well overall and does have a deep crew of pass-catchers, and will continue to deliver some strong statistical outings. With more offensive balance evident, though, the days of 50 pass attempts will go by the wayside, and the elite-type fantasy outings will be much less frequent. Orton owners who were actually faced with the lure of using him over more established high-profile QBs will now be able to reserve him with less mental stress. Those who continue to start him will not be crushed by his overall downturn, though he may not carry your fantasy team as he did earlier in the year.
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