During Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension the Steelers scored only three touchdowns through the air and averaged a league-low 151.5 passing yards. In his return against the Browns, Big Ben threw for 257 yards and three scores in a 28--10 win. Across the state another QB with a lot to prove came through with a career day, and he leads this week's list of fantasy gainers.
Kevin Kolb, QB, Eagles Just four weeks after losing the starting job to Michael Vick, Kolb responded by torching the Falcons for 326 yards and three touchdowns. It was the third time in five career starts that Kolb, 26, has topped the 300-yard mark. After the 31--17 win Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said Vick will be the starter when he returns from a rib injury, but there are two reasons for owners to stick with Kolb. First, no one knows when Vick will be back. And second, continued success by Kolb may persuade Reid that it's better to bring Vick off the bench, a role to which he's better suited.
Chris Ivory, RB, Saints New Orleans went to Tampa rushing for only 75.6 yards per game, second worst in the league, and hadn't had a back surpass 100 yards in more than a year. That changed when Ivory sliced through the Bucs for 158 yards on 15 carries. The undrafted rookie from Division II Tiffin (Ohio) University, didn't reach the end zone, but he's now averaging 6.3 yards a rush. He also could wrest the starting job from the fragile Pierre Thomas, who may return after missing his third straight game with a sprained left ankle. At the very least, Ivory is an excellent insurance policy.
Roy Williams, WR, Cowboys It's been a dismal season in Big D, but the passing game is going gangbusters. That includes the resurgent Williams, who has five touchdowns over a three-game span for the first time in his seven-year career. Even with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant vying for Tony Romo's attention, Williams is a solid third option.
Danario Alexander, WR, Rams Alexander, a rookie from Missouri, was the NCAA's leading receiver last year, with 137 yards per game, but after he spent the summer and early autumn rehabbing from left-knee surgery, he was passed over in the draft. Last week he was promoted from the practice squad to replace Mark Clayton. In his first game, Alexander nabbed four balls for 72 yards and a TD, proving that his knee is healthy and he can be productive. Get him before someone else does.
Patrick Crayton, WR, Chargers Traded from Dallas for a seventh-round pick last month, Crayton was obtained to provide depth. But with Vincent Jackson holding out and Legedu Naanee (hamstring) hurt, Crayton saw plenty of action in St. Louis, catching six passes for 117 yards. Should Naanee and tight end Antonio Gates (ankle) be out next week, Crayton will be busy against a Patriots D that's allowing 273.4 passing yards per game.
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MAURICE JONES-DREW Quick Fixes
A lot of QBs went off last week, including one guy whose success has been a surprise to me, Matt Cassel of the Chiefs. He got off to a slow start, but lately he's been throwing the ball well and often. Against the Texans on Sunday he was 20 of 29 for 201 yards and three TDs, for a 122.9 passer rating. I'd definitely recommend him to anyone looking for a replacement starter.
Another player I like is Seahawks receiver Mike Williams, who has emerged as the team's No. 1 target. Marshawn Lynch debuted with Seattle last week, and an effective running game will only help open things up for Williams. He'd make a great replacement for Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, who looks as if he'll be out at least a week after taking a big hit against the Falcons.
TIM SHAFFER/REUTERS (KOLB)
FLYING HIGH With another 300-yard game and three TDs, Kolb (4) made a strong case for the No. 1 spot.
JEFFREY GELLER/ICON SMI (JONES-DREW)
JASON O. WATSON/U.S. PRESSWIRE (WILLIAMS)