No sport changes from week to week like the NFL, which is why fantasy football is so popular. Not only are you constantly forced to tweak your lineup, you're forced to change your ideas about the game. Circumstances have caused some preseason studs to lose virtually all of their fantasy value, while others, like most of this week's fantasy movers, have come from nowhere to be important players.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills Since becoming the Bills' starter six games ago, Fitzpatrick has averaged 249.8 yards per contest. Those stats rank him ahead of Tom Brady, Matt Schaub and Jay Cutler, who are starting in most leagues over the journeyman from Harvard. Following a third straight heartbreaking loss, Fitzpatrick now has an 8-20-1 career record as an NFL starter with the Rams, Bengals and Bills, but that matters little to fantasy owners. What does matter is that he has become a consistent fantasy scorer, throwing at least one touchdown in each of his starts and at least two TDs in four of the six. With the aid of receivers Steve Johnson, David Nelson, Roscoe Parrish and Lee Evans, all of whom were fantasy afterthoughts with Trent Edwards under center, he has the potential to throw for 300 yards each game, and he's earned the opportunity to start in leagues of 12 or more teams.
Nate Washington, WR, Titans Randy Moss's production wasn't great in New England or Minnesota, but the receivers on the side of the field opposite him flourished. Wes Welker averaged two more catches and 20 more yards per game than he has since Moss left. The same holds true for Percy Harvin in Minnesota, who boosted his average from 35.3 to 71.8 yards per game with number 84 lined up across from him. With Kenny Britt out for the foreseeable future, Washington is the Titan who'll see added room in opposition secondaries as they shift to blanket Moss. He's a quality third-receiver option as long as Moss plays and Britt doesn't.
Earl Bennett, WR, Bears Chicago's second-ranked receiver from 2009 is the team's most accomplished wideout in terms of experience, route running and hands. Still, only a coaching decision to limit Devin Hester's offensive snaps in order to preserve him for punt return duties has thrust Bennett into the spotlight. Hester was invisible in Toronto against the Bills (two catches, 23 yards), while Bennett caught four balls for 52 yards and a score, giving him three strong games in a row since his college teammate at Vanderbilt in '05, QB Jay Cutler, returned from a concussion. Although he was fourth on the depth chart when the season began, Bennett's name may be atop the Bears' receivers list at the end of this season.
Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers Signed off the practice squad three weeks ago after injuries decimated the Chargers' receiving corps, the undrafted rookie from Fresno State was pressed into front-line duty against the Texans last week. He responded by catching four passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers won't last, though, because Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee and Patrick Crayton will be ready when the Chargers return from their Week 10 bye. One week after that, Vincent Jackson comes back from his holdout and suspension. So while the rookie had a great game when called upon, an encore is unlikely this season.
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MAURICE JONES-DREW Backup Plan
As the playoffs approach, it becomes clear how important planning can be. A few weeks ago my teammate, Jaguars quarterback David Garrard, was coming off a tough game and a concussion. He was available for almost anyone to grab. Fantasy players who had Drew Brees, Philip Rivers or Aaron Rodgers should have been paying attention. All three of those top fantasy starters have byes this week. Meanwhile, David has bounced back, as I knew he would. He threw for four touchdowns and ran for another against the Cowboys in Week 8, and coming off our bye, he'll face the Texans this Sunday. Houston has the worst-ranked pass defense in the league, giving up an average of 298.3 yards and more than two TDs a game. I'm hoping he will have a big day.
MITCH STRINGER/US PRESSWIRE (FITZPATRICK)
GIVING 'EM FITS Fitzpatrick (14) is the Bills' replacement quarterback, but he has put up great numbers as a starter.
JEFFREY GELLER/ICON SMI (JONES-DREW)
DAVID ROSEBLUM/SOUTHCREEK GLOBAL/ZUMAPRESS.COM (GARRARD)