As usual, there were plenty of surprises around the National Football League on Sunday. The Ravens defense was surprisingly bad and they got beatdown in Houston. The Jets, Bucs, and Titans surprised people with how well they played while Cowboys, Patriots and Giants surprised most people by taking so long to dispatch their opponents.
In fantasy football, there were a number of surprising performances from around the league as well. My goal here is to give you a rundown of some players who stepped up and where I think they’ll rate going forward.
This is a great place to start your research for week 8 linueps, and make sure to come back to fanatsyCPR tomorrow for the top 10 weekly waiver wire targets for next week.
Here’s the surprise standouts from Sunday’s Week 7 action:
Josh Freeman-Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Let me concede a few things first: First, one of the reasons he’s atop this list is so that the featured picture at the top could be the always uber-cool Creamsicle uniforms. Second, his big day was against the Saints defense who struggles to stop opponents passing and running game. Freeman finished with the second highest point total among quarterbacks with a league-high 420 yards and a trio of touchdowns. He could have had been the highest scoring quarterback if it wasn’t for a penalty that nullified his fourth touchdown which would have been at the end of regulation to Mike Williams. Freeman is a solid matchup-based QB2 and has been good the last two weeks at home against the Chiefs and Saints. He’ll face a tougher test on Thursday Night as he and the Bucs head to the Metrodome to take on the emergent Vikings.
Brandon Weeden-Cleveland Browns: Weeden finished sixth in quarterback scoring throwing for 264 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Colts. He’s another matchup-based QB2 but he’s growing quickly and could be a locked in QB2 soon. He’s thrown for two touchdowns in each of his last three games and has been in double digits for his last four. Next week he and the Browns host the Chargers who have shown the weakness of their secondary as they’ve been exploited by the Saints and Broncos in the last two weeks. Weeden makes a nice bye-week fill-in and is widely available.
Mark Sanchez-New York Jets: I think Sanchez’s 328 yards was more a product of the Patriots ailing secondary than of a “giant leap” that The Sanchize still hasn’t made. Any QB playing the Pats secondary when its this banged up should be upgraded including Sam Bradford who will face them next week in London.
Chris Johnson-Tennessee Titans: CJ was back in fine form leading all running backs with 195 yards and a pair of rushing scores to carry the Titans past the Bills. Unfortunately, this would appear to be the abberation since he always plays well in Buffalo and the Bills run defense has given up the most fantasy points to RB’s in the league. He’s still a top 20 running back, in my opinion, but isn’t a true RB1 anymore.
Rashad Jennings-Jacksonville Jaguars: Jennings took over after MJD left with a foot injury and finished with 44 yards and a touchdown on 21 rushes. He also hauled in seven catches for 58 yards. His value is obviously tied to Jones-Drew’s availability, but if MJD is out, Jennings is an immediate RB2 option since the team uses him like they would Drew. He’ll be a top waiver wire target if the MJD’s injury will cost him some time.
Jonathan Dwyer-Pittsburgh Steelers: We’d been waiting for someone to seize the Steelers backfield job but it hadn’t happened until last night Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall were unavailable and Dwyer got the touches and made them count. He ran for 122 yards on 17 carries although he failed to find the endzone. He’ll most likely remain stuck in a timeshare situation, but is definitely the Steelers back to own at this point and a decent flex play the next few weeks against the Giants, Chiefs, Ravens (2x), and Browns.
LaRod Stephens-Howling-Arizona Cardinals: Stephens-Howling was the fourth-leading point scorer in standard-scoring thanks to his 104-yard, 1-touchdown performance in Minnesota. He was horrible week six against Buffalo with just 22 yards on 11 carries. He’s a decent pickup, but the problem is he plays the 49ers next week then the Packers (decent matchup) before hitting his week 10 bye. He’s worth a roster spot, but not a start in most leagues.
Vick Ballard-Indianapolis Colts: Ballard had a solid game running for 84 yards on 20 carries and adding another 19 yards on his sole catch. He is in a timeshare with Delone Carter but is definitely getting most of the work and would have had a huge game if it wasn’t for Andrew Luck running in a pair of scores (not the Colts long-term plan, I venture). Ballard is a rookie out of Mississippi State that has some promise and fits in with the Colts rebuilding plan so feel free to plug him in where needed.
Daryl Richardson-St. Louis Rams: Many said his nice week 6 was due to gameplan, but there he was again yesterday with 79 all-purpose yards on eight rushes and three catches. The problem is that he’s stuck in a timeshare so game-to-game the workload will be unpredictable. If Steven Jackson misses time, Richardson will be a nice play, but as things are now he’s just a flex option for heavy bye weeks.
Joe McKnight-New York Jets: McKnight played through his high ankle sprain and ended up rushing for 23 yards on seven carries. Shonn Greene left with an injury and did not return and Bilal Powell didn’t even travel to New England due to his injury. If McKnight gets the touches he’s shown the ability to put up some solid yardage and it’s worth knowing if he’s available in your league in case he does get a week or two as primary running back in New York.
Shane Vereen-New England Patriots: Bill Belichick has taken over as the new Mike Shanahan of running backs to terrorize fantasy owners. Just when you think Stevan Ridley is a good play, he doesn’t get the looks and instead it’s Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen. Vereen finished with a catch for 10 yards and 49 yards rushing on his eight carries. He made his case for more carries and may be used more in passing downs like Kevin Faulk used to be, but he’s not extremely fantasy relevant with things as they currently stand in the Pats backfield.
Logan Paulsen-Washington Redskins: With Fred Davis going down for the year with an achilles injury, Paulsen stepped in and caught four passes for 76 yards on six targets. The Redskins are also bringing back Chris Cooley, but I think Paulsen has more upside than Cooley and could be a big part of the Washington passing game after leading the team in receiving yards on Sunday.
David Thomas-New Orleans Saints: Thomas was the #6 tight end as he filled in for Jimmy Graham and caught a pair of passes for 27 yards and a touchdown. He showed he does have value as a handcuff for Graham and is playable when Graham is unable to go.
Click here to check out our post from earlier highlighting sleeper wide receivers.