Unlike Week 8, when the best performances of the week were almost entirely superstars putting up superstar performances, Week 9 featured more of a mishmash. We saw some repeat stars on the list (including the exact same top two quarterbacks as last week), but there are also some names on this list we never would have imagined.
And that's really how it ought to be, right? If only the superstars produced every week, this whole fantasy game would be far easier, and far less fun. You want the up-and-comer, or the past-his-prime veteran, or the out-of-his-role nobody to have a huge game. It's no shock when 2014 Gonzaga wins some NCAA Tournament games; it's a lot more fun when 1999 Gonzaga makes a deep run.
Anyway, this is the recap of the week's best performances. Let's go:
Best quarterbacks in Week 9
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (340 passing yards, 6 touchdowns, 1 rushing yard, 1 fumble lost, 35 fantasy points)
You'll be reading all about this two-game stretch from Roethlisberger over the week to come. All about it. I can't add much to it, except to say that Roethlisberger put up 98 fantasy points in Weeks 1-7 combined. With 79 in the last two, he's put up almost 81 percent of his seven-game total in just two games. It's as big a change, as big an improvement as I could imagine.
Next game: I hesitated raising Roethlisberger that high up my rankings after one huge performance, but with two now, and going against the Jets in Week 10, he's a must-start.
Tom Brady, NE (333 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, 4 rushing yards, 27 fantasy points)
I'm running out of ways to say "This is crazy!" about Brady, after his miserable start to the season. But he's now averaged 26.6 fantasy points a game for five weeks now. He now has 22 touchdowns against only three interceptions on the season, including 18:1 over his hot streak. As hot as he is, the Patriots Week 10 bye is coming at the worst possible time, but even with it, how could you bet against Brady right now?
Next game: After that bye, the Patriots travel to Indianapolis for the Sunday night game in Week 11. Brady will be one of the top three or four quarterbacks in every ranking that week.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA (288 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 47 rushing yards, 27 fantasy points)
The party line on Tannehill in recent weeks has been that he's fine, a competent quarterback, but he lacks any significant upside. So of course he went out and had one of his biggest weeks. This is the fourth straight week Tannehill has had between 47 and 49 rushing yards, which, frankly, is weird. His improved production came right around the same time the rumors of his possible benching started popping up, and there's no way to know if the two are connected, but ... well, he ain't bein' benched now.
Next game: The Dolphins play at the Lions in Week 10. At the very least, you'd assume that defense would curtail Tannehill's rushing yards. He's still not a starting quarterback unless it's a desperate situation, but he's a fine, upper-level QB2.
Best running backs in Week 9
Jeremy Hill, CIN (154 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, 9 receiving yards, 27 fantasy points)
You know the story of Wally Pipp is basically apocryphal, right? It wasn't that he had a little headache and got replaced; he wasn't that good, Gehrig was, and there was some other stuff going on with a beanball and a concussion. The legend would have you believe Gehrig got on the field because Pipp wasn't tough enough, begetting one of the game's all-time toughest players, but the truth appears to be something else. Anyway, Giovani Bernard missed Sunday and Hill played.
Next game: The Bengals host the Browns Thursday on a short week. With Bernard still a question mark and the Thursday game giving them an extended break before Week 11, Hill might be The Guy for another week. Just in case there's anything to this Wally Pipp-ian story.
Marshawn Lynch, SEA (67 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, 76 receiving yards, 25 fantasy points)
So there really wasn't anything to that slump of Lynch's the last three weeks, when he had exactly six fantasy points per game. He snapped right back to his dominant self in Sunday's game, leading the Seahawks in rushing and receiving yards. It was Lynch's most receiving yards in a game since Week 6 of last season, and the second-most of his career. After six touchdowns through four games, Lynch now has eight in eight.
Next game: The Seahawks host the Giants in Week 10. Lynch nees to be in every lineup.
Matt Asiata, MIN (26 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns, 31 receiving yards, successful 2-point conversion, 25 fantasy points)
This is getting dumb:
There have 9 games in which a player has rushed for 3 TD's since the start of the 2013 season. Vikings RB Matt Asiata has 3 of them.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 2, 2014
Asiata ran for 2.6 yards per carry Sunday, 3.3 on the season. Meanwhile, Jerick McKinnon had 3.9 Sunday, 5.0 on the season. McKinnon is just a better running back than Asiata. But whatever, Vikings, just keep screwing with everything.
Next game: The Vikings have Week 10 off, then travel to Chicago for Week 11. You aren't using Asiata. Those three games with three scores apiece? Those are the only rushing touchdowns of his career. He's as likely to score zero in that game as anything else.
Best wide receivers in Week 9
Jeremy Maclin, PHI (158 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 27 fantasy points)
There were a few players in the preseason who I ranked lower than you might think based on injuries -- guys who I liked in a points-per-game sense, but who I felt carried the risk of fantasy owners being without them for multiple games. The two cases that come to mind right now are DeMarco Murray and Maclin. So that's gone super. The last two weeks, Maclin has 345 yards and four touchdowns, bring him to a season pace of 1,580 yards and 16 scores. He might still get hurt, but anyone who ignored my thinking is feeling good today.
Mike Evans, TB (124 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 24 fantasy points)
I'm working on my own Brett Favre-like streak of choosing wrong between Evans and Andrew Hawkins for 50 weeks in a row, which is impressive considering Evans is a rookie. Anyway, at this point, having outscored the veteran the last four games in which both have played, you have to think Evans is a better fantasy option than Vincent Jackson. Sunday was the rookie's best game by basically any measure, and it seems like good things are in store.
Allen Hurns, JAC (112 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 23 fantasy points)
In the preseason, the Jaguars players fantasy owners had to think about were Chad Henne, Toby Gerhart, Cecil Shorts III, Marqise Lee and Marcedes Lewis. Today, that list is Blake Bortles, Denard Robinson, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Clay Harbor. That doesn't mean much, but no team has had more turnover this season, and it's for the best, as the Jaguars have of late been a much better team -- still not good by any means, but better. Hurns has been up and down this year, not going over six fantasy points between Week 4 and Sunday, but he does always have this kind of game in his pocket.
Next game: The Jaguars play the Cowboys in London next week. Hurns could have another game like this, or he could put up another one-pointer. I wouldn't use him. Not worth the risk.
Best tight ends in Week 9
Rob Gronkowski, NE (105 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 16 fantasy points)
An illustration of how insane Gronkowski's Week 8 was: This performance equaled exactly half the fantasy points of that one, and he's still the top tight end of the week. He's now at eight touchdowns in nine games, and he's averaged more than 100 yards a game in that time. I can keep saying words here, but what do you even need to know?
Next game: Week 10 bye, then Week 11 against the Colts, when Gronkowski will be the top tight end in the rankings.
Mychal Rivera, OAK (38 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 15 fantasy points)
I can't say for sure, but I'm comfortable claiming that, had you asked me the least likely NFL starter to ever appear in this column, "Mychal Rivera" would have been my choice. He's always on the field, but the last two weeks have been the two best games of his two-year career. Rivera scored on a pair of 1-yard catches Sunday, his first two touchdowns of the season. From here, this is more a testament to the "Start your tight end against Seattle"-ness of Sunday's game than it is an endorsement of Rivera, who doesn't profile as this type of player.
Jimmy Graham, NO (83 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14 fantasy points)
Rob Gronkowski, Mychal Rivera and Jimmy Graham. Just like we all drew it up, right? Graham has now put up double-digit fantasy points in consecutive games after his zero in Week 7. And he caught all seven of his targets in Thursday's game. He's back, and he'll be ranked accordingly.
Next game: Like I said, he'll be ranked accordingly. Graham and the Saints host San Francisco in Week 10, and with the Patriots on a bye, Graham will likely be the No. 1 tight end.
Best kicker in Week 9
Steven Hauschka, SEA (3/4 FG, 3/3 XP, 22 fantasy points)
People kept talking about dropping Hauschka because the Seattle offense has been below its standards, and maybe that will turn out to have been the right call, but I didn't understand it. This guy was a good kicker in 2011 and 2012, then a great one last year. Even if he settled somewhere between those this year, which his current pace would indicate, he's someone who always needs to be owned.
Best defense/special teams in Week 9
Miami Dolphins (0 points allowed, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 4 sacks, 20 fantasy points)
Whereas last week, when their defense beat up on Jacksonville, the Dolphins looked like the school bully picking on the little kid, this week was much more of a fair fight, and Miami did just as well. The Dolphins' defense was already tops in fantasy before Sunday, and Nos. 2 and 3 were on a bye. Miami is running away with this.