Fantasy Football

Thomas, Ivory climbing RB ranks Luke Hoover
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The final week of the bye schedule is upon us and the Giants, Seahawks, Titans and Vikings are out of action, leaving the fantasy landscape noticeably thinner at one crucial position. Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Chris Johnson are three of the top four leading rushers in the league, and that trio is just one CJ2K 99-yard game away from having 12 100-yard games in the last four weeks. One. Measly. Yard. In that short span, these three studs have amassed a whopping 1,646 yards led by the bionic Peterson's preposterous 629. Throw in Andre Brown, who has posted decent flex numbers with a touchdown vultured from Ahmad Bradshaw in four straight, and you've got a lot of owners scrambling to fill vacant running back slots this week with little hope of achieving anywhere close to their usual production.

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Although there's little likelihood of finding enough points to completely offset these huge losses, the best formula for putting it within reach is to fill that starting tailback slot with the most favorable matchup. If you don't have a spare starting running back facing a soft run defense, such as LaRod Stephens-Howling, look for a timeshare member who either fills the breakaway, home-run component of the backfield or is the clear goal-line option. If that removes your best flex option, plan to fill that slot with a high-upside receiver who will either face a weak pass defense or who is in an offense that will be forced to throw it a ton (see Broyles, Ryan for a combination of the two).

Ultimately, this week will decide the fates of many playoff races, so there's no time like the present to roll the dice. Chances are with so many players injured or on bye, your opponent will be doing likewise. And if he is not and is set at most positions with consistent starters, you have all the more cause to swing for the fences.

1. Donald Jones vs. Miami - Jones has at least 65 yards or a touchdown in each of the last three games and has racked up 19 targets in the last two weeks. With Steve Johnson still nursing a thigh injury, Jones has stepped into a larger role in the offense and that figures to continue given the team's short week and the loss of Fred Jackson (concussion) to decrease the number of rush attempts. With the 28th-ranked Dolphins pass defense coming to town Jones' stock could be ready to peak.

2. Danario Alexander at Denver - Alexander has been with the Chargers for just three weeks and has played in just two games. He has 195 yards and a score. Robert Meachem, who was signed in the offseason to replace the big-play void created by the loss of Vincent Jackson, has 197 yards in eight games. Alexander, who is averaging 24.4 yards per catch, is 6-foot-5, 215, and fast. And he's already shown nice chemistry with Philip Rivers. Expect him to continue seeing a lot of action when the Broncos force San Diego to play from behind.

3. Chris Ivory at Oakland - The Raiders may have slowed Ray Rice last weekend, but when they have to deal with Drew Brees' right arm, expect those running lanes to reopen like a freeway. Ivory may not see the biggest workload of the Saints' backs - as that's a guessing game every week - but he's clearly the most dynamic option sans Darren Sproles, and he also has the best nose for the end zone.

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4. Daniel Thomas at Buffalo - Thomas has had just four less carries than Reggie Bush the last four weeks and has produced more total yards over the last two. Furthermore, the much bigger Thomas has clearly established himself as the goal-line option, as his three scores on the year have all come from within five yards while Bush's four TD runs are all from outside the 10. Against a Bills defense that's dead last against the run in both yards and scores allowed, expect Thomas to get trusted even more than usual after Bush has lost fumbles in two of the last three games.

5. Darryl Richardson vs. New York Jets - This young speedster ripped off 58 yards on just seven carries against the 49ers run defense. He averages 5.7 yards per carry and figures to see a heavier share of the workload after Steven Jackson racked up 32 touches versus San Francisco - 13 more than his previous season high. Against the 30th-ranked Jets run defense that could translate to more than 100 total yards and perhaps a long score.

6. Ryan Broyles vs. Green Bay - The Packers are without their top cover guy and defensive playmaker in Charles Woodson (collarbone) and their only serious pass rushing threat in Clay Mathews (hamstring) is doubtful. They've allowed more than 300 yards passing in their last two contests to Blaine Gabbert and John Skelton. Broyles was much less involved last week than he'd been in the previous three games, but expect that to change when Matthew Stafford is slinging it all over the Packers in Ford Field.


*Check injury status.

1. Arian Foster HOU vs. Jac
2. *C.J. Spiller BUF vs. Mia - Should carry a heavy workload with Fred Jackson already declared out with a concussion for Thursday night.
3. Ray Rice BAL at Pit
4. Doug Martin TB at Car
5. Calvin Johnson DET vs. GB
6. A.J. Green CIN at KC
7. Reggie Wayne IND at NE - Colts will probably have to throw even more than usual against the Pats this week.
8. Roddy White ATL vs. Ari
9. Rob Gronkowski NE vs. Ind
10. Jimmy Graham NO at Oak
11. *LeSean McCoy PHI at Was - Battled the flu last week, second half carries were limited.
12. *Jamaal Charles KC vs. Cin - Showed no ill effects from his neck injury on Monday night.
13. Matt Forte CHI at SF
14. *Frank Gore SF vs. Chi - Underwent x-rays for unspecified reasons after Sunday's game
15. Trent Richardson CLE at Dal
16. Marques Colston NO at Oak
17. *Jordy Nelson GB at Det - (Hamstring) Able to practice Monday.
18. Demaryius Thomas DEN vs. SD
19. Randall Cobb GB at Det
20. *Reggie Bush MIA at Buf - Benched after a first-half fumble last week, plus his workload had already been declining. On the other hand, he draws Buffalo this week.
21. Stevan Ridley NE vs. Ind
22. Alfred Morris WAS vs. Phi - Slowed down before the bye - we'll see if the Redskins were able to address that over the break.
23. Jason Witten DAL vs. Cle - Only 47 yards against the Eagles, but it came on 10 targets.
24. Tony Gonzalez ATL vs. Ari
25. Denarius Moore OAK vs. NO
26. Wes Welker NE vs. Ind
27. Brandon Marshall CHI at SF
28. Julio Jones ATL vs. Ari
29. Andre Johnson HOU vs. Jac
30. *Steve Johnson BUF vs. Mia - (Thigh) Not listed on the Tuesday injury report.
31. Vincent Jackson TB at Car
32. Steven Jackson STL vs. NYJ
33. Ryan Mathews SD at Den
34. Mikel Leshoure DET vs. GB
35. *Willis McGahee DEN vs. SD - Two more fumbles, losing one. It's possible that Ronnie Hillman will keep cutting into his carries.
36. *Felix Jones DAL vs. Cle - Seems likely to get another start this week.
37. James Jones GB at Det
38. Larry Fitzgerald ARZ at Atl
39. Brandon Lloyd NE vs. Ind
40. Dwayne Bowe KC vs. Cin
41. *Steve Smith CAR vs. TB - Benched last week after the game got out of hand, so coach Ron Rivera could see how the other receivers looked in game action. Doesn't bode well. #Understatement
42. Eric Decker DEN vs. SD
43. Miles Austin DAL vs. Cle
44. Marcel Reece OAK vs. NO
45. BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN at KC
46. Shonn Greene NYJ at StL
47. *Danny Amendola STL vs. NYJ - At one point appeared to reinjure his shoulder on a punt return, but instead it was just a case of pain management.
48. *Santana Moss WAS vs. Phi - (Concussion) Practiced on Monday.
49. Titus Young DET vs. GB
50. *Mike Wallace PIT vs. Bal - Wallace's status could really drop if Big Ben can't play.
51. Torrey Smith BAL at Pit
52. Malcom Floyd SD at Den
53. Cecil Shorts JAC at Hou
54. DeSean Jackson PHI at Was
55. Dez Bryant DAL vs. Cle
56. *Jonathan Dwyer PIT vs. Bal - (Quad) Got twice as many touches than Redman on Monday night, thanks to Redman's fumble.
57. Michael Turner ATL vs. Ari - Healthy bust of the week last week - just 15 yards on 13 carries against the Saints of all teams.
58. Antonio Gates SD at Den - Touchdown catches in three of the last four games.
59. Heath Miller PIT vs. Bal - Four catches Monday night, but none with Forrest Whitaker, er, Byron Leftwich at QB.
60. Michael Crabtree SF vs. Chi
61. Vick Ballard IND at NE
62. *Isaac Redman PIT vs. Bal - Was buried after a first-half fumble. Dwyer received twice as many touches.
63. Chris Ivory NO at Oak - Only seven carries against 16 for Ingram, yet I'm still starting him over Ingram this week, perhaps against all reason.
64. Rashad Jennings JAC at Hou
65. Alex Green GB at Det
66. LaRod Stephens-Howling ARZ at Atl
67. Jonathan Stewart CAR vs. TB
68. Daniel Thomas MIA at Buf
69. Jermaine Gresham CIN at KC
70. Dwayne Allen IND at NE
71. *Owen Daniels HOU vs. Jac - (Hip) Inactive Sunday night, but likely to return this week.
72. Lance Moore NO at Oak
73. Mike Williams TB at Car
74. Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK vs. NO
75. Emmanuel Sanders PIT vs. Bal
76. *Brian Hartline MIA at Buf - (Knee) Fully practiced Tuesday.
77. *Jeremy Maclin PHI at Was - Suffered a lower back injury in the first quarter of the loss to Dallas.
78. Ryan Broyles DET vs. GB
79. Anquan Boldin BAL at Pit
80. Danario Alexander SD at Den
81. T.Y. Hilton IND at NE
82. Davone Bess MIA at Buf
83. Andrew Hawkins CIN at KC
84. Vernon Davis SF vs. Chi - Another mediocre at best game. I really thought that he, and the Niners offense generally, had turned a corner after the playoffs last year. Maybe not-so-much - and the injury to Alex Smith certainly doesn't help.
85. Greg Olsen CAR vs. TB
86. Brandon Pettigrew DET vs. GB
87. James Starks GB at Det
88. *Donald Brown IND at NE - (Knee) Listed as day-to-day after splitting carries relatively evenly last Thursday.
89. Mark Ingram NO at Oak
90. Jacquizz Rodgers ATL vs. Ari
91. Joique Bell DET vs. GB
92. Kendall Hunter SF vs. Chi
93. *Ronnie Hillman DEN vs. SD

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