Thomas Jones, Jets - He still has a long climb ahead of him, but three touchdowns in the Jets 26-14 win over the Bengals in week five is a strong step in the right direction. Jones owner’s are hoping for a Ronnie Brown-type resurrection but Jones needs several more chapters of productive games in order to write that story.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars - Jones-Drew bounced back from a horrible performance against the Steelers last weekend, with a powerful 125 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 22 carries and 23 yards receiving in the Jaguars quality 24-17 road win. MJD was the anchor of the Jacksonville offense with Fred Taylor posting only 10 yards on three carries. It’s the type of performance that we should see routinely from the talented back but seldom do, thanks to the Jaguars insistence on using multiple backs and giving unwarranted touches to Fred Taylor.
Michael Pittman, Broncos - The season started with Pittman being viewed as a short-yardage accessory to Denver’s 1-2 backfield punch of Selvin Young and Andre Hall. Pittman’s versatility and consistency earned him an increased role in the offense with each passing week, resulting in week five’s starting assignment against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Pittman performed well, gaining 109 yards on the ground (on 20 carries) and 16 more as a receiver as the only running back to touch the ball for the Broncos in the 24-17 home loss. Pittman’s showing in this game only buys him more stock with the coaching staff and bodes well for his long term value this season.
Marion Barber, Cowboys - Barber’s rushing day (17 carries for 45 yards) was nothing special in the Cowboys OT loss to the Cardinals in Arizona, but it was his outing as a receiver that was as heroic as it was impressive, catching 11 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. His 70-yard scoring receptions was a simple dump-off that Barber quickly turned into one of the single-most impressive plays of the 2008 season. The burst down the sideline featured a de-cleating stiff-arm and goal line cutback to finish off a crucial score to keep Dallas in a game they had no-business being in. Barber continues to push his way into elite company with his play this season.
Correll Buckhalter, Eagles - If one didn’t know better, it was as if Brian Westbrook had not sat out of the Eagles 40-26 road win in San Francisco to rest his two broken ribs, but rather sneaked into the game wearing a Buckhalter jersey, as No. 28 did his best Westbrook impersonation, compiling 178 total yards (93 rushing, 85 receiving) and a touchdown, allowing the Eagles offense to not skip a beat in Westbrook’s absence. With Westbrook’s history of difficulty shaking injuries once they surface, Bucky could really deliver down the stretch as a key pickup for fantasy teams.
Jamal Lewis, Browns - Lewis smashed and banged his way to 88 yards rushing and a touchdown on 21 carries in Cleveland’s inspiring 35-14 home upset of the Giants on Monday night. Lewis was the spiritual motor to a Browns resurrection against the defending Super Bowl champions, looking to punish any New York defender’s that dared to try and stop him. With the Browns offense seemingly waking up, long-term prospects now look a lot more positive for Lewis.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings - To much who has been given, much is expected. Peterson drops this week (just a little), despite registering 111 yards on 25 carries in the Vikings lackluster 12-10 home win over lowly Detroit. Week five marked the second consecutive week where Peterson failed to find the end zone, and that is far too long for the game’s fastest rising star. A home game against struggling Detroit should have resulted in a points explosion, but ended up being a rather mild day for AP owners who sit perplexed at his recent scoring drought, especially now, when the passing game has improved with Gus Frerotte and massive LT Bryant McKinnie should have shaken the rust off by now having two full games under his belt.
Edgerrin James, Cardinals - At this point in his career, can fantasy owners continue to start James as a No.1 or 2 back in their weekly lineup without a cloud of regret hanging over them every Sunday? The aging veteran is averaging 3.6 yards per carry this year and he gained only 29 yards rushing against the Cowboys last Sunday. Rookie back Tim Hightower has shown a young-legs burst this year that has made the 30-year old James seem even older and slower and the first-year back from Richmond is receiving increasingly more of the important carries as the season matures.
Darren McFadden, Raiders - McFadden held so much promise when the season started. Young wheels and game-breaking talent matched with the Raiders zone-blocking OL scheme, all the promise in the world and an early glimpse against Kansas City to get us all excited. But, let’s face it, the turf toe isn’t going away and will be a factor all season, as evidenced by Justin Fargas being named the starter this past weekend in the Raiders 34-3 road loss in New Orleans. McFadden, once again limited, produced 30 yards on eight carries. The Al Davis soap opera continues to engulf the team and the spiral just continues to point downward, taking the rookie’s once-promising fantasy prospects with it.