Since we're past the midway point in the 2009 fantasy football season I figured now would be a good time to throw out a few trends and stats that might open your eyes a little bit. This also seems like a good time to check in on some of my preseason predictions and see how they're doing.
1) Ray Rice has vaulted to elite RB status in just one half of a season. He's currently a top-5 running back in standard scoring leagues and is even more valuable in point per reception leagues with his 38 catches for the season. The Ravens offense is legitimate for once; 2) Cedric Benson is averaging more fantasy points per game than just about everyone drafted ahead of him. Benson is on pace to rush for over 1500 yards (more than double his previous career high) and around 11 touchdowns (he had 12 career TDs coming into this season); 3) Vernon Davis is the top ranked tight end in standard leagues. Jason Witten is barely a top-20 TE. What is going on here?; 4) Names like DeSean Jackson, Miles Austin and Vincent Jackson are top-10 WRs. Names like Greg Jennings, Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith (CAR) and Dwayne Bowe are not; 5) Aaron Rodgers is the top ranked QB, Eli Manning is barely a top-20 QB and Vince Young is a fantasy asset again; 6) Predictions I got right (so far): Chris Johnson, Percy Harvin, Eddie Royal, Carson Palmer, DeSean Jackson, Brett Favre, Antonio Bryant, Steven Jackson, Terrell Owens; 7) Predictions gone wrong (so far): Matt Ryan, Davone Bess, Domenik Hixon, Matt Cassel.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Buccaneers defense: As mentioned above, Rodgers is the number one quarterback in fantasy football in terms of points per game. By this point you should be starting him every week, making it unnecessary for me to even mention his name in this spot. But I just wanted to hammer home the point in case you missed it. Rodgers vs. Tampa Bay pits fantasy football's top QB against one of the NFL's worst defenses. The Buccaneers rank 28th in the NFL in yards allowed per game and 30th in points allowed per game. So, yeahstart Rodgers this week.
Nate Washington vs. 49ers defense: I'm going out on a bit of a limb here, but it's time for Nate Washington to boom or bust. He's been hampered by injuries and Kerry Collins' poor play this season and hasn't managed to be the producer I thought he would going into this season. Actually, you could probably say that about everyone on the Titans aside from Chris Johnson. You would really be rolling the dice if you started Washington this week against the Niners but I drafted him in a couple of leagues and will likely use him in one this week against a San Francisco defense that is without Nate Clements. Don't expect 120 yards and three touchdowns, but 75 yards and a score is what I think Washington is capable of this week. Boy does it make me nervous to rely on Vince Young for that.
Not so good matchups
Knowshon Moreno vs. Steelers defense: Moreno has a few things working against him here this week. First, the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers sport the NFL's best run defense, allowing 76 yards per game on the ground. They have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season and even held the great Adrian Peterson to under 70 yards. The second thing working against Moreno is that teammate Correll Buckhalter is getting an equal amount of playing time. That might work for the Broncos, but it doesn't work for fantasy owners. Don't even think about using Moreno this week.
Laurence Maroney vs. Dolphins defense: If there's one aspect of football that the Dolphins know, it's the running game. Miami has one of the leagues best run defenses, allowing just 92 yards per game on the ground (6th in NFL) and also sports one of the best run offenses, averaging over 153 yards per game (3rd). That's not good news for those of you who picked up Laurence Maroney and are hoping to get some good production out of him this week. Last Sunday was the first time this season the Dolphins allowed a 100-yard rusher, giving up 102 to the Jets' Thomas Jones. Don't bet on Maroney coming anywhere near that number. Keep him benched.
Waiver wire watch
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: Just a week after a weak performance against the NFL's worst run defense, Stewart came up with an impressive performance against the NFL's best run defense. Go figure. Stewart rushed for 87 yards and two scores on 17 carries last week and got the almost all of the red zone work for Carolina. He's a top-25 running back seemingly available and flying under the radar in many leagues. He needs to be picked up if available in your league.
Ryan Moats, RB, Texans: With Steve Slaton being benched after fumbling his only carry last week, Ryan Moats was presented with a golden opportunity to impress the Houston coaching staff and he did just that. Moats rushed for 126 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns to post a whopping fantasy stat line in the Texans win over the Bills. It's hard to say whether the Texans are moving on without Slaton as their feature back but the fact that they didn't give him a chance to rebound against the NFL's worst run defense isn't a good sign. Moats should be seeing a good amount of carries from here out, with or without Slaton as part of the game plan. There's also a chance Chris Brown will see more carries but I'd expect him to get the least of the three.
Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers: The Chargers cut ties with under-performing wide receiver Chris Chambers after San Diego's win over the Raiders on Sunday. This means more playing time for Malcom Floyd, who will move into the starting lineup along side Vincent Jackson. With the Chargers being one of the best passing offenses in the league, it would be wise to add Floyd if you need WR depth.
Teams on bye this week: Buffalo, Cleveland, Minnesota, New York Jets, Oakland, St. Louis
Kyle Mulligan is a contributing sports writer for the Observer. He welcomes your feedback and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.