Just as I extolled the virtues of NFL passers in the Week 7 Preview, it turned out that this was a rather fair week to hit the ground running. Ten different runners gained at least 80 yards on the ground this week, some of whom were barely on the running back radar entering Week Seven. Scott Cullen looks at the week's noteworthy performances including Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Drew Brees and more.
RISE OF THE TITAN
It's been easy to get down on Titans RB Chris Johnson this season, considering he had been held under 55 yards from scrimmage in four of the first six games of the season but, after gaining 114 yards on 23 touches against the Steelers in Week Six, Johnson broke through for his best game of the season (18 carries, 195 yards, 2 TD) against Buffalo.
The day could have been even more spectacular, but backup Jamie Harper scored a pair of tochdowns, even though he ran for a total of eight yards on seven carries.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has been remarkable this season, just by the mere fact that he's been able to contribute so soon after suffering a torn ACL in January, but he stormed to his best game of the season (23 carries, 153 YDS, 1 TD) in the win over the Arizona Cardinals, averaging 6.7 yards per carry against a Cardinals team that had allowed just 3.9 yards per carry going into the game.
Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch delivered (20 touches, 116 YDS) against San Francisco's stout run defence, the sixth time in seven games that he has accumulated at least 90 yards from scrimamge.
GORE BULLS HIS WAY TO BIG DAY
Across the field from Lynch, 49ers RB Frank Gore was outstanding (21 touches, 182 YDS) against a Seattle run defence that was allowing just 70 yards per game on the ground. It was the fifth-highest yardage total in Gore's career, and highest since a September 20, 2009 win over Seattle.
Buffalo couldn't hold their lead against Tennessee, but their running back duo of Fred Jackson (120 yards on 17 touches) and C.J. Spiller (102 yards, 18 touches) both gained more than 100 yards from scrimmage. It's tough to gauge which one will be the primary ball carrier but, at this point, both are productive enough to be valuable.
INTO THE PITT
With news that Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman would miss the game at Cincinnati, that presented Jonathan Dwyer with an opportunity to not only play, but produce and produce he did (17 carries, 122 YDS) against the Bengals. Baron Batch could be considered a challenger for touches, but with 38 yards on 18 carries (2.1 ypc), he hasn't shown enough to suggest that he could handle the starting job, even in the short-term.
Though Vick Ballard didn't do much in his first game starting in place of Donald Brown, Ballard responded with a much better (103 yards on 21 touches) performance in his second start, against Cleveland. Brown may not be too far away from returning to the lineup, but Ballard's showing Sunday ought to give them more comfort that the running game isn't completely lost.
RUNNING IN BIG D
Felix Jones was the marguee waiver wire addition in many league last week because of DeMarco Murray's foot injury. As it turned out Jones, who suffered a shoulder injury but returned to action, ended up splitting carries with Philip Tanner. Jones was the more productive (74 YDS, 20 touches) of the two, so he should hold value for at least as long as Murray remains out of the lineup.
The fourth man to get a chance to carry the mail for the Arizona Cardinals this season, LaRod Stephens-Howling, had a strong showing (20 carries, 104 YDS, 1 TD) against Minnesota's strong defence.
Stephens-Howling is undersized, but may be the best option (ahead of a cast of journeymen) for Arizona's running game going forward.
After another big-time (377 yards, 4 TD) game against Tampa Bay, Saints QB Drew Brees is hiding from the rest of the league in an admittedly pass-happy league, his 349.5 passing yards per game, 48.3 yards per game ahead of the second-most prolific passers, the Manning brothers, who are tied at 301.3 yards per game.
Brees is also averaging 3.0 touchdown passes per game, ahead of Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (2.71) at the top of the chart.
With Brees in fine form, that helped Lance Moore (9 REC, 121 YDS) in his return to the lineup after a couple of weeks on the shelf. Moore is an underrated contributor, but ranks 14th in the league with 81.6 receiving yards per game.
While it's too soon to consider him fantasy-relevant, Saints WR Joseph Morgan is an intriguing threat that will be worth keeping an eye on if he stays healthy (he suffered a lung/rib injury in Sunday's game). He has three catches, the last two of which have been 80 and 48-yard touchdown receptions.
It's not a surprise anymore, but there's no escaping how dynamic Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III has been. In the last two weeks, he has rushed for 227 yards and two scores and is now on pace for 3659 passing yards and 1070 rushing yards this season. His 468 rushing yards ranks 12th in the league.
JETS TAKE TO THE AIR
It's easy enough to get down on Jets QB Mark Sanchez, but he did pass for 328 yards and a touchdown against New England, connecting with WR Jeremy Kerley (7 REC, 120 YDS) and Dustin Keller (7 REC, 93 YDS, 1 TD) the most.
Kerley is averaging 62.1 receiving yards per game, the same as Baltimore's Torrey Smith. Keller is finally healthy and should be a primary target for Sanchez for the rest of the season.
THAT'S SO RAVEN
With Ray Lewis out, take note of Ravens ILB Dannell Ellerbe, who registered a dozen total tackles against Houston. Ellerbe now has 43 total tackles on the season, leading Baltimore's healthy linebackers.
Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew suffered a foot injury at Oakland Sunday, leaving Rashad Jennings to handle the running game and Jennings gained 102 yards from scrimmage on 28 touches (44 yards on 21 rushes, 58 yards on seven catches). Jones-Drew will miss at least a week, if not more, with the injury, so Jennings will get the opportunity that he thought was awaiting him when Jones-Drew was a holdout during training camp.
QB Blaine Gabbert didn't play in the second half at Oakland due to a shoulder injury, giving way to Chad Henne. Henne struggled (9-of-20 for 71 yards), but in the short-term doesn't figure to be any worse than Gabbert.
Any early-season concerns about Green Bay's passing game seem to have diminished, or altogether evaporated, in the last two weeks. In the win at St. Louis, both Randall Cobb (108 yards, 9 touches, 2 TD) and Jordy Nelson (8 REC, 122 YDS, 1 TD) went over 100 yards from scrimmage and, along with James Jones, they have more than made up for the absence of Greg Jennings.
GIVEN A CHANCE
Rams WR Chris Givens, starting in place of Danny Amendola contributed three catches for 73 yards against Green Bay. The fourth-round pick out of Wake forest has registered a catch of 50 yards or more in each of the last four games.
Maybe it has something to do with facing Kansas City and New Orleans defences but, suddenly, the Tampa Bay offence is starting to look more dangerous. QB Josh Freeeman has passed for 758 yards and six touchdowns in the last two weeks, with WR Vincent Jackson reaping the rewards. After his monster game (7 REC, 216 YDS, 1 TD) Sunday, Jackson now ranks fifth among wide receivers with 97.7 yards per game and is tied for fourth with five touchdowns.
I argued in favour of Christian Ponder in last week's Three and Out, noting that Arizona's strong pass defence numbers could be attributed in large part to the subpar cast of quarterbacks they have faced. Unfotunately, after Ponder's worst game (8-for-17, 59 YDS, 1 TD, 2 INT) in the win over the Cardinals, he may not quite be ready to leave the subpar quarterbacks grouping.
While all the focus in the Arizona passing offence is on WR Larry Fitzgerald, that has provided the opportunity for Andre Roberts (7 REC, 103 YDS, 1 TD at Minnesota) to deliver in a supporting role. Through seven games, Fitzgerald has averaged 65.6 yards per game, with three touchdown catches while Roberts has 55.6 yards per game with five receiving touchdowns.
NEXT IN LINE
With Brandon Bolden sidelined, Patriots RB Shane Vereen responded (eight carries, 49 yards) with a bigger role against the Jets.
Bengals rookie OLB was active against Pittsburgh, registering 15 total tackles, 13 solo, in the Bengals' loss. He ranks third on the Bengals with 46 total tackles on the season.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville (foot)
Fred Davis, TE, Washington (Achilles)
London Fletcher, MLB, Washington (hamstring)
Sean Lee, ILB, Dallas (toe)
Blaine Gabbert, QB, Jacksonville (shoulder)
Charles Woodson, FS, Green Bay (shoulder)
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.