It seems pretty funny to be leading our weekly review piece with a St. Louis Rams running back, considering the Rams hadn't rushed for a single touchdown entering Week 9. But that stat is now defunct, and frankly it wouldn't matter if it wasn't. That's how good Zac Stacy looks at the moment.
It's funny, when the Rams took Stacy in the fifth round of April's draft, he instantly shot to the top of the sleeper rolls, despite the fact that hardly anyone had seen him play at Vanderbilt. That was because the St. Louis RB depth chart was unimpressive in the post-Steven Jackson era. Daryl Richardson? Isaiah Pead? Yuck. Yet Stacy was crummy in the preseason, and by Week 2 was a healthy scratch. Heck, fellow rookie Benny Cunningham was playing ahead of him. But no more.
Five weeks ago on the Fantasy Underground podcast, my partner Field Yates nominated Stacy as the player who'd come from nowhere to be ownable in all leagues. What a call! Almost immediately, Stacy began laying down game film that should be the envy of RBs around the world. Squat, heavy and powerful, and most important blessed with ridiculous balance, Stacy is in the process of dominating the NFL. He carried it 26 times for 134 yards against the Seattle Seahawks last Monday, and Sunday he chopped up the Tennessee Titans to the tune of 33 touches for 178 yards and two TDs. The performance was as good as the numbers. Stacy isn't a game-breaker, and he's not the beneficiary of great blocking. He's just a thumping pinball with great power and even greater want-to.
I know, it's Kellen Clemens, and he just fumbled away this week's game. I know the Rams' season is cooked. But Stacy has earned every-week starter status, and as some heavily publicized RBs continue to sputter, it's fair to wonder if he'll soon be inside his positional top 10. The Alfred Morris comparisons are starting to look mighty apt.
Remember: Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @CHarrisESPN for more analysis during the week. For now, let's look at Sunday's other top storylines:
• Speaking of Morris, he had a very nice Sunday in the Washington Redskins' overtime win, finishing with 25 carries, 121 yards and a TD. He's rock solid, but it could've been so much better. Fullback Darrel Young pilfered three short TDs on the same misdirection play, where Robert Griffin III quickly gave it to Young, then faked as though he was going to give it to Morris. The San Diego Chargers never adjusted. No, there's utterly no reason to pick up Young.
• As good as Darrel Young's day was, it pales by comparison to Nick Foles'. If you had Foles torching the Oakland Raiders defense -- which had been better than average against the pass over the past month -- for seven passing TDs, well, you're nuts. But you also were correct. Foles tossed for 406 yards and zero picks, and became only the seventh QB in NFL history to have seven TD passes in a game (remember, Peyton Manning did it opening night against the Baltimore Ravens). Do I believe in Foles as a fantasy entity going forward? I'm going to give my answer to that question in the form of a treasure hunt. Go look up Foles' stat line from Week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys. Meanwhile, Riley Cooper has eclipsed 88 yards receiving in three of his past four, and logged a mere 32 fantasy points Sunday. He's an add, I suppose, but I still find him tough to trust.
• Last Friday, I wrote that the Rams had played better against the run, and they had. But that resurgence lasted only two games. Chris Johnson ripped a 23-yard run on the game's first play from scrimmage, then was very quiet for the remainder of the first half. But CJ1K owned the second half, with 15 touches for 106 yards and a TD. His day could've been bigger, too, as Shonn Greene is back and seems set to play inside an opponent's 5; he scored a rushing TD, as did Jake Locker. But for a day, anyway, Johnson stirred the echoes.
• Ray Rice is not fixed. Hey, the Cleveland Browns can definitely play defense, but there's no excuse for 38 total yards on 14 touches, especially when 18 of those yards came on a dump-off in lieu of an end-of-game Hail Mary. Rice not performing isn't news, I suppose, but I mention it here by way of pointing out that all the Baltimore Ravens puff pieces about how Rice's burst is back and the team used its bye to address its offensive line problems were baloney. I have no doubt about Rice's talent. But he's trapped in one of the league's least creative, least space-making, and weirdest offenses. If you want to bench him, feel free to do so.
• Has the balance of power shifted back to C.J. Spiller in the Buffalo Bills backfield? On at least two occasions, Spiller looked like his ankle was killing him and he wouldn't be able to continue, but both times he came back (once after halftime, during which one assumes a needle was involved). And he broke off plays of 27, 29 and 61 yards, and ended the day with 155 total yards. Meanwhile, Fred Jackson out-touched Spiller 17-14 and did produce 99 yards of his own, but on a crucial third-quarter possession he had two carries from inside the Kansas City Chiefs' 5-yard line and was stuffed on each. (Jeff Tuel proceeded to throw a pick-six on third down.) Jackson isn't going any place for sure, and I can't promise I'm definitely ranking him below Spiller next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Spiller is back to being a starting option.
• Chris Ivory gave his old team an up-close look at what they traded away, with 139 yards rushing on 19 carries, including a TD. His 52-yard scamper from deep in his territory in the second quarter was perhaps the play that best stemmed the New Orleans Saints' momentum; the New York Jets were down 7-3 and facing a long field. In two of the past three contests, Ivory has been a workhorse and Bilal Powell a complement, and I think not coincidentally, the Jets have won those two games. In that horrible Week 8 effort against the Cincinnati Bengals, Powell was on the field more (because the team was down so big), and things didn't go as well. Ivory is at least an every-week flex.
• I see you, Tom Brady. That was better. Certainly, the New England Patriots' passing game benefited from some dreadful play by the Steelers defense. Danny Amendola's TD came on a blown coverage and his 57-yard gain was almost exactly the same: Troy Polamalu cheating, trying to make a big play and unfortunately covering the wrong man. Rob Gronkowski got a free release off the line way too often, and it resulted in nine grabs for 143 yards and his first TD of the season. (He also came within inches of another score.) And Aaron Dobson overcame still more drops to make the game-clinching TD grab on a fly down the left side, resulting in an 81-yard score. And so Brady wound up with 432 yards passing, four TDs and zero INTs. Is he all the way back? You have a week to decide, because the Pats are off in Week 10.
• In the same game, Stevan Ridley lost a fumble on a catch, but fortunately the Pats didn't get freaked out this time. They put him right back in there, and he was a stud in the second half. He slashed through big creases and punished would-be tacklers, and if Josh McDaniels decides to use any other RB as his primary back next week, I officially give up. For the record, Ridley produced 124 yards on 29 touches and two TDs.
• We may be through with considering the Seahawks defense as a bad matchup for opposing rushers. A week after Stacy ran through them like butter, Mike James did the same, in Seattle no less. James wound up with 158 rushing yards on 28 carries and his longest run was just 21, so this wasn't just a fluke stat line. James is a nice story as a rookie inheritor of Doug Martin's job, but he's not what you'd call a transcendent talent. The reason to be worried about Steven Jackson in Week 10 is more about his health and ability, and not so much his matchup against the Seahawks.
• Keenan Allen showed an impressive quality for a rookie Sunday: stick-to-itiveness. Allen struggled early, with a couple drops and an offensive pass interference call. With seven minutes left in regulation, he was stuck on three catches for 43 yards. But on two crucial drives that helped the Chargers get to overtime, Allen tormented rookie Redskins corner David Amerson for another five grabs, 85 yards and a TD. A cynic would say it's a dangerous game to trust a kid who can disappear for so long. But I'm taking the other view: He showed up when it mattered most. Once again, I'm impressed.
• But I'm not as impressed with Allen as I am with Andre Johnson. Sure, T.Y. Hilton is a great story from Sunday night, too, as he scored three TDs in a huge comeback win. But Hilton dropped passes and generally looked uncomfortable as the main Indianapolis Colts receiving threat unless he was running straight down the field. He's wicked fast, so that's a good thing, and his value is on the rise. But defenses will start catching on to that, so it would be nice to see Hilton be better on the short stuff. Anyway, it was AJ who really blossomed with Case Keenum flinging it to him. Thirteen targets? Nine catches for 229 yards? Three TDs? Yes, please.
• Surprise! Darren McFadden is hurt again. He pulled (re-pulled? re-re-pulled?) his hamstring at the beginning of the second quarter, and Rashad Jennings took over. You know the drill here. DMC isn't playing next week, and will probably miss multiple games. That makes Jennings a smart desperation add (he did score a red-zone TD and eclipse the 100-yard mark, albeit mostly in garbage time), but Marcel Reece will probably return from fantasy obscurity to be a drain.
• Not to be outdone by DMC, Arian Foster presented his second consecutive thumb in the eye to his fantasy owners by suiting up and leaving ridiculously early with an injury. As of this writing, it sounded like Foster was forced from Sunday night's game because of a back injury, but he did nothing athletic on the Houston Texans' first possession, so I'm not going to be surprised if we hear it was still all about his hamstring. Anyway, Ben Tate was the main man in Foster's stead, with undrafted rookie Dennis Johnson backing him up.
• Jerricho Cotchery, not Antonio Brown. Marlon Brown, not Torrey Smith. Davone Bess, not Josh Gordon or Jordan Cameron. Of course. Cotchery scored three TDs on seven grabs; he offers nothing after the catch, but clearly Ben Roethlisberger considers him after ruling out his more explosive options. Marlon Brown had two TDs on five grabs; Smith was covered by Joe Haden throughout the game, though he did shake free for five catches of his own for 78 yards. And Bess also scored twice, the second of which came on a sweet ankle-breaking move that left Lardarius Webb in his wake. In standard leagues, you probably can't chase any of these guys, alas.
• Ho hum, Jimmy Graham scored two more TDs, putting him on pace for 20. He probably won't get there. I guess. Maybe. OK, he probably will. I don't know. It's crazy.