The fantasy hit list

Running backs attack

Week 9 saw some explosive performances from quarterbacks Kurt Warner (261 yards, five touchdowns) and Jay Cutler (369 yards, three touchdowns) as well as wide receivers Randy Moss (6-147-1) and Larry Fitzgerald (9-127-2). But when Sunday was said and done, the running backs showed again that they own the world of fantasy football.

Think of it like this: Bengals running back Cedric Benson posted 17 fantasy points (standard scoring) by racking up 117 rushing yards and one touchdown on a staggering 34 carries. That respectable point total was topped by seven other running backs.

Michael Turner (28), DeAngelo Williams (27), Chris Johnson (27), Joseph Addai (22), Frank Gore (21), Ray Rice (18) and Maurice Jones-Drew (18) all turned in rock-solid fantasy performances that formed the foundation for what should have been a big day for owners around the world.

Turner has now rushed for 317 yards and three touchdowns over the past two weeks, while Johnson has piled up a whopping 62 fantasy points in his last two games.

Imagine what you could get for either of these guys on the open market right now.

MBP Award (Most Beastly Performance)

Kurt Warner Quarterback Arizona Cardinals

Warner bounced back big time from an awful Week 8 outing in which he completed 27 of 46 passes for 242 yards, two touchdowns and FIVE interceptions in a 34-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

The veteran quarterback wasted no time making amends in Chicago, throwing four first-half touchdowns in a 41-21 blowout win over the Bears. Warner finished the day 22 of 32 passing for 261 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.

However, Warner’s stat line is not the reason he won the MBP Award this week. The savvy vet landed the coveted hardware because he played so well that Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt put Matt “Hollywood” Leinart in for a little mop-up duty. The former Heisman Trophy winner completed zero passes on one attempt. Not bad.

Players on the rise

Ladell Betts RB Washington Redskins: Matt Bowen’s former teammate at the University of Iowa (and coincidentally, the Washington Redskins) came on in relief of the injured Clinton Portis to carry the ball 15 times for 70 yards and one touchdown. Betts doesn’t have breakaway speed, but with Portis out because of a concussion, he’s a starting running back who can contribute in the fantasy world.

Be cautious: Before you go bidding the farm to land Betts, make sure you’re aware that his next three games are against the Denver Broncos (home), Dallas Cowboys (road) and Philadelphia Eagles (road).

Kellen Winslow TE Tampa Bay Buccaneers: With rookie quarterback Josh Freeman making his first career start, Winslow produced a season-high 14.3 yards per reception and found the end zone for the first time in four weeks. His Week 9 stat line (five targets, four receptions, 57 yards, one TD) was one of the more productive outings among tight ends this weekend. As Freeman adjusts to the speed of the NFL, look for him to target his reliable TE when the pocket collapses.

Matt Hasselbeck QB Seattle Seahawks: An early season rib injury looked like it was going to derail Hasselbeck’s 2009 campaign, but you wouldn’t know it based on his numbers over the past two weeks. In his last two games, the veteran quarterback is averaging 289.0 passing yards with three touchdowns and just one interception. He’s completed 67.7 percent of his passes during that span, having thrown the football an eyebrow-raising 90 times. Expect Seattle’s pass-happy ways to continue with an upcoming schedule that features games at Arizona, Minnesota, St. Louis and Houston, as well as home games vs. San Francisco and Tampa Bay.

Jeremy Maclin WR Philadelphia Eagles: His Week 9 stat line (three receptions for 44 yards) was not overly impressive, but this was: Maclin was targeted a career-high nine times on Sunday night, meaning quarterback Donovan McNabb is beginning to get more comfortable with the rookie from Missouri as the two continue to work together. DeSean Jackson is still the No. 1 in Philly, but Maclin is one of the best values in fantasy at the moment.

Dallas Cowboys D/ST: Yes, they were on this list last week, but after an impressive road victory against a tough division rival, this stock continues to climb. The Cowboys defense went into a hostile environment and held the Eagles offense to just 16 points and 297 total yards. In addition, they picked up another four sacks en route to a big-time 20-16 victory.

Malcom Floyd WR San Diego Chargers: Just as I mentioned above with Maclin, Floyd’s Week 9 stat line was average at best (two receptions, 27 yards). However, he was targeted by quarterback Philip Rivers a season-high seven times. That’s a good sign.

Falling down the boards

Matt Ryan QB Atlanta Falcons: The numbers speak for themselves:

First four games: 244.2 YPG, seven touchdowns, two interceptions, two sacks

Last four games: 201.7 YPG, six touchdowns, eight interceptions, 10 sacks

Ryan Moats RB Houston Texans: Moats got his big break last week at Buffalo when starting running back Steve Slaton had another case of fumble-itis. So what did Moats do in his first career start with the Texans? He fumbled the ball, that’s what. Moats carried the ball 16 times for just 38 yards (2.4 YPC), but did rack up a touchdown and 15 yards on three receptions. With the Texans heading into the bye in Week 10 and no more games against the Buffalo Bills’ Swiss-cheese run defense, Moats might be out of a starting job.

Greg Jennings WR Green Bay Packers: PLEASE tell me you guys followed my advice last week and traded away Jennings after he blew up against the Vikings (I traded him and Tomlinson to Ken Daube of ESPN for Joseph Addai and Reggie Wayne). Jennings came out against one of the league’s worst passing defenses and laid another egg, catching just five passes for 61 yards, despite seeing 10 targets. With upcoming games against the Cowboys, Steelers, Ravens, Cardinals and Bears, there aren’t too many more favorable matchups left for Jennings in 2009.

Brian Westbrook RB Philadelphia Eagles: He’s been on the shelf the past two weeks due to a concussion suffered against the Redskins on Monday night in Week 7. During that time, B-West has experienced recurring headaches and has had to watch rookie running back LeSean McCoy rack up 207 total yards and one touchdown in his absence. When he’s healthy, the Eagles will certainly give him back his starting job. The question is, when will that be?

Chad Henne QB Miami Dolphins: After an impressive start to his career, Henne has cooled off considerably, averaging just 180.6 passing yards over his past three games while throwing only one touchdown pass with two interceptions. During that span, he’s been sacked nine times and is completing only 53.8 percent of his passes. Add in the fact that the Dolphins run the football 50.4 percent of the time (second in the NFL to the New York Jets) and you have an unreliable fantasy quarterback who could sink your team if the wildcat is working well.

The return of Monday Night Mania

“Let me get this right. I’m standing in line and you just let Screech in the club?”

“He’s on the list.”

“Show me the list. I want to see the list that lets Screech in the club.”

You know how this works.

I’m giving away a free NFP T-shirt to the person who picks the winning team in tonight’s Monday night game AND gets the closest to guessing the total number of points scored in the game.

Here’s all you need to do:

1. Leave a comment with your guess. Example: Denver and 42

If you have the winning team and are the closest to the total number of points scored, you win.

I’ll post the winner in the comments section tomorrow morning.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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