Many fantasy owners probably gave up on the key members of the Kansas City Chiefs when star running back Jamaal Charles sadly went down for the season in Week 2. Consider that the Chiefs lost their first two games by a combined 89-10 score. Quarterback Matt Cassel was terrible, averaging just 126 passing yards per game. Dwayne Bowe wasn't doing much. There was no running game, little hope overall.
Things look considerably different now. Cassel, 19th among quarterbacks in ESPN average live drafts but 30th in standard scoring entering Sunday, tossed four touchdown passes in a comeback win against the Indianapolis Colts, earning a cool 27 standard fantasy points. Bowe caught two of the touchdown passes, the third time in four games he topped 100 receiving yards. Steve Breaston, owned in fewer than 4 percent of ESPN standard leagues after being selected in the 15th round of ESPN average live drafts, caught the other two touchdowns, finally showing relevance. And the Chiefs perhaps found their new running back in veteran reserve Jackie Battle.
All of this is nice, but fantasy owners shouldn't get too excited; I was down on all Chiefs other than Charles entering this season in part because they have a difficult schedule. These Colts aren't so difficult, notably against the run. Cassel's crew still must face the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets and Green Bay Packers, not to mention a pair of games with the decent Oakland Raiders and a rematch with the San Diego Chargers. Bowe is the only Chief that should be started in all fantasy leagues, and it's a good sign that Cassel, a fantasy backup, isn't holding him back at all.
Then there's Battle, sure to be a popular free-agent addition this week. I wrote about Battle on Friday as a sneaky fantasy pickup, and it turned out to be more prescient and immediate than even I thought; Battle received 20 rushing attempts last season. On Sunday, 19 were bestowed on him and he turned them into 119 yards. He had 118 rushing yards his first four NFL seasons. Battle is big and strong, and stranger things have happened for fantasy owners ignoring what could be that next big thing (Peyton Hillis, circa 2010), but the Colts haven't been able to stop the run seemingly since the Reagan administration. I'd add Battle in most formats, but merely as home run depth. Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster are still there, you know.
Second down: Ben Roethlisberger seemed like a poorer play than usual for Week 5 because his sprained left foot had him limping around all week in a boot. Plus, the Tennessee Titans were playing terrific defense. Naturally, Big Ben tossed five touchdown passes in the Sunday rout. Roethlisberger had produced three touchdowns his first four games.
My advice would be to not assume Roethlisberger is safe the rest of the way. I can't explain the Titans' side of things, but the Steelers still can't protect their quarterback or help the team's running backs. I know, I know, third-stringer Jonathan Dwyer broke a 76-yarder en route to 111 yards. Don't buy it. It's one play. Rashard Mendenhall, active for the game but not used thanks to a balky hammy, is having a poor season. Isaac Redman, overrated and probably overactive in fantasy leagues this week, averaged 3 yards per carry. Roethlisberger threw for a pedestrian 228 yards. Like the Chiefs, you can't help but love the Steelers' top wide receiver (Mike Wallace) no matter what, but otherwise I'm still selling the other parts, if possible.
Third down: Kyle Orton couldn't even make it to November this season. Say what you will about the polarizing Tim Tebow, but I think he'll be a decent fantasy provider, just like he was in his three-game sample last season, when he produced seven touchdowns and an average of 66 rushing yards per contest. I realize I'm in the minority on this one. While his arm isn't strong or accurate and his passes aren't pretty, he makes up for it with his legs. I won't call Tebow a top-10 fantasy quarterback -- I'd say probably the 14-17 range if he keeps playing -- but it's pretty clear Orton needs to be elsewhere.
As for how this presumed official quarterback change affects others, I don't think this news necessarily helps any Broncos, but it doesn't hurt, either. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd averaged 88 receiving yards during Tebow's three-game trial last season, scoring twice, and I just don't buy the argument that running quarterbacks deem their running backs ineffective, like in Carolina this season. LeSean McCoy is fine in Philly. Rejuvenated Willis McGahee has topped 100 rushing yards three times in four weeks. That's impressive, and oddly enough, I think legit.
Fourth down: Speaking of those Carolina Panthers, my problem in recommending DeAngelo Williams as a smart buy-low fellow moving forward is that I just don't see enough carries. He achieved his 115 rushing yards Sunday on a mere nine attempts. The totally legit Cam Newton ran seven times. Jonathan Stewart ran six times. The Panthers always seem to trail, necessitating the many passes Newton throws, and entering Sunday they were closer to last in rushing attempts than first, with Newton getting a third of the carries. Williams is averaging nine carries per game. It's not enough, and I don't see this changing, which is why I'd sell high on Williams before the next game. For perspective, he will not be among my top 25 running backs for Week 6 at Atlanta.