With many top picks disappointing, a few familiar running backs turned back the clock in Week 3. Ronnie Brown's cutting ability and vision are back, reviving memories of last October, when he was the top fantasy back in all the land. Julius Jones topped 125 yards for the second straight week, reminding owners of his great run as a rookie in 2004.
But the biggest fantasy development occurred in San Francisco, where Mike Martz continues to (gasp) call running plays. Frank Gore's 27 carries against Detroit were his most since 2006, the year he was stamped as the NFC's version to LaDainian Tomlinson. A terrible 49ers offense dragged down the Inconvenient Truth last season, but Martz is changing all that.
Many feared that Martz's pass-happy ways would limit Gore. But Marshall Faulk's former coach knows talent, and he knows Gore is the best 49er by far. Martz will find ways to use Gore in a variety of ways, whether on inside runs or the passing game. The development of a legitimate vertical attack will also open lanes for Gore and extend drives.
Gore has scored each week this season and is averaging 137 total yards-per-game. PPR owners have enjoyed his steady four catches per week. The schedule hasn't been difficult, but life in the NFC West keeps it that way. If this is finally the season LT2 gives up his throne, a new running back king must emerge. Frank Gore finally has the weapons around him to begin his reign.
After three weeks, unsuccessful owners are getting itchy. They are ready cut bait, often too ready. Here are some players we'd take a look at buying low.
1. Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes: He's barely in the top 20 fantasy quarterbacks through three weeks, but he's playing just fine. The Steelers didn't need to pass in Week 1, the wind in Cleveland caught them and then they ran into a buzzsaw against the Eagles. Most defenses will not be able to exploit Pittsburgh's offensive line like Philadelphia. Ben might be an even better buy low after playing Baltimore this week. Santonio Holmes is also a good buy low after a slow start.
2. Peyton Manning: The Colts passing game has improved every week and now has a bye to get their act together. Manning is throwing more pass attempts than usual and his final numbers against Jacksonville weren't bad considering the Colts had the ball for less than four minutes in the second half. Marvin Harrison, Anthony Gonzalez, and Dallas Clark may all be inconsistent assets, but Manning should still finish in the top-five quarterbacks.
3. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson: They have faced two of the best defenses in the league in Pittsburgh and Tennessee. And Schaub's numbers would have looked a whole lot better Sunday if A.J. didn't drop two touchdowns, including a possible 35-yarder. Schaub needs to improve against Jacksonville and Indy the next two weeks to keep his job, but then he gets a Miami, Detroit, and Cincy in a row. I'm guessing he will hit some waiver wires or could be had for a weak QB2. Johnson remains a solid WR1.
4. Chad Johnson: At least he's not missing snaps. The Bengals passing game showed life against the Giants and we've seen slow stretches from Ocho Cinco before. Admittedly, they have never been this slow. That's why I don't expect a rebound to top-five stud status. But he'll get his 1,100 yards in the end, and that means big days are ahead. Carson Palmer also remains a fine buy low.
6. Wes Welker and Randy Moss: Welker's numbers haven't looked much different in PPR leagues with Matt Cassel behind center. Randy Moss' have. It's a high-risk move, but I suspect some panicky Moss owners would be willing to deal him for a receiver outside the top-15 - say Roddy White or Lee Evans. Take the risk that the Patriots find a way to get Moss more involved. With New England entering a bye, Patriots owners may be especially itchy to pull the trigger. Make a bad offer; it can't hurt!
7. Ryan Grant: He's still getting the majority of carries on an explosive offense. This will turn around.
8. Chris Perry: Cincinnati's schedule gets far easier moving forward. Perry has been one of the most consistent backs in the league getting touches, and will be a solid RB2 as his yards-per-carry average rises.Playing in Pain
After a ton of speculation, Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden suited up Sunday. That wasn't a huge surprise. It was a surprise that both players survived the game intact, each saying afterward they were no worse for wear.
Their numbers indicate otherwise. McFadden was bottled up for only 42 yards. Michael Bush split carries and finished with 55. Peterson looked very good, but was less explosive than usual while piling up 77 yards. Owners of both players should breathe a sigh of relief. They should get better next week.