RotoWire NFL Barometer

RISERS

Matt Ryan, QB, ATL – After recording a 137.3 QB rating in a

near flawless performance last week, Ryan has a 17:4 TD:INT ratio

over the past seven games, taking just eight sacks over that span.

He continues to play better at home and has hiked his YPA up, and

while the Falcons are rightfully underdogs Monday night against the

Saints, the over/under is 52.5, so it should be a high-scoring

affair that requires a lot of passing by Ryan. Meanwhile, Roddy

White has 38 catches for 537 yards and five touchdowns over the

past five games; there isn’t a hotter receiver in the league.

Reggie Bush, RB, MIA – Bush was given 25 carries in a game

Sunday for the first time in his career, and the result was 203

rushing yards (8.1 YPC). He has now run for at least 100 yards in

three straight games and has six touchdowns over his past seven

contests. Despite not getting 15 rushing attempts in a game until

Week 8 this season, Bush is on pace to finish with 1,421 yards from

scrimmage. Pro Football Focus rates Bush as the second worst

blocker among all running backs in the league this year, but he’s

clearly improved greatly as a runner inside the tackles. Who would

have thought he’d have more success on grass than turf?

C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF – Like Bush, Spiller was once thought

of as a draft bust. However, he had never shown even glimpses of

hope until recently, thanks mostly to Fred Jackson landing to the

IR. Spiller totaled 168 yards on just 21 touches Sunday, a number

that included nine receptions. He also added two touchdowns,

doubling his season mark in the process. He is up to 5.0 YPC on the

year and suddenly looks like an excellent start in PPR leagues as

the team’s new feature back. Things will get crowded next year once

Jackson returns to Buffalo’s backfield, but Spiller has got 3.0 YPC

after contact this season, which is tied for eighth best among

running backs.

Donald Brown, RB, IND – Brown ran for a career-high 161

yards last week, thanks largely to an 80-yard touchdown run in the

final minutes of the fourth quarter. The play highlighted Brown’s

breakaway speed, as he got to the corner and never looked back.

Brown entered the year averaging just 3.8 YPC over the first two

seasons of his career, but he’s all the way up to 5.1 in 2011. His

3.2 YPC after contact is tied for fourth among all backs in

football. Still just 24 years old, Brown might have quietly emerged

as Indy’s feature back of the future in an otherwise lost year for

the franchise.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, OAK – It’s been an up-and-down year

for Heyward-Bey, who averaged 96.3 receiving yards over a four-game

stretch from Weeks 4-7, only to average just 21.6 receiving yards

over the next five contests. He mysteriously disappeared from the

game plan coming off the team’s Week 8 bye and clearly struggled to

develop a rapport with new quarterback Carson Palmer. DHB also got

banged up physically. With the rest of Oakland’s receiving corps

ravaged by injuries, and Heyward-Bey back to health, the third-year

wideout has racked up 13 catches for 233 yards over the past two

contests, and he’s scored twice over the past three games.

Heyward-Bey has been targeted 36 times over the past month, so he’s

firmly back on the fantasy radar.

Aaron Hernandez, TE, NE – Hernandez caught nine balls on 11

targets for 129 yards and a score Sunday. One of those misfires

would have resulted in an easy second touchdown, but Tom Brady

missed him while wide open. He also had another play in the end

zone that could have easily been ruled a catch (still not sure why

Bill Belichick didn’t even challenge it), and was tackled inside

the one yard line on another, so Hernandez could have had a truly

monstrous day. Despite being overshadowed by teammate Rob

Gronkowski, and playing hobbled with a knee brace for most of the

season, Hernandez is still on pace to finish with 844 receiving

yards over 14 games played. He’s also been targeted 21 times in the

red zone, and there’s no reason to think two tight ends can’t be

plenty productive in New England’s passing attack, as he’s

typically split wide anyway. Hernandez leads all tight ends with 21

broken tackles this season. To put that in perspective, no other

tight end in the NFL has broken more than 10 this year.

FALLERS

LeGarrette Blount, RB, TB – Blount has picked up 21 total

yards or fewer in two of the past three games. He has really

suffered from Tampa Bay’s downfall since the offense has to play

catch-up all the time, and he does not play on passing downs. He

has also fumbled four times (losing three) over the past four

contests and offers nothing as a receiver. Blount remains a

tackle-breaking machine in the open field, but he must improve his

overall game to enter the fantasy elite.

Mike Williams, WR, TB – Williams was held without a catch in

Week 14, coming up small during a big week for most fantasy owners.

He has yet to reach 100 yards in a game this season and has scored

just three touchdowns after reaching the end zone 11 times as a

rookie last year. Williams’ eight dropped passes are tied for the

eighth most among wide receivers, and he’s also committed a

whopping six penalties on the year. He’s certainly been hurt by

Josh Freeman’s regression in 2011, but Williams has struggled to

gain separation. He is a risky fantasy start in Week 16, even

against a Carolina defense that has allowed an NFL-high 8.3 YPA

this season.

Anquan Boldin, WR, BAL – Boldin will soon have surgery to

repair a slight tear in his meniscus and is expected to be

sidelined for the next two weeks, which means he should be back for

the playoffs, but his regular season is finished. Boldin averaged

more yards per game during his second year in Baltimore (63.4) than

his first (52.3), but his touchdowns dropped from seven to three.

He’ll be 32 years old entering 2012 and has taken a lot of hits

throughout his career, so his fantasy stock is on the decline.

Caleb Hanie, QB, CHI – Hanie was dreadful Sunday, averaging

4.8 YPA while taking four sacks and throwing three picks. He has

now been intercepted three times in three of his four starts this

season. His impressive performance during the second half of last

year’s NFC Championship game clearly clouded the judgment of a

Chicago team that should have addressed the backup quarterback

position in the offseason. Chicago’s season is probably over, but

the team will turn to Josh McCown now at quarterback. McCown can’t

possibly be any worse, but he threw a pick during his two pass

attempts in relief last week, hasn’t played much since 2007 and

owns a career 6.2 YPA mark. And he will face the Packers coming off

their first loss of the season.

Johnny Knox, WR, CHI – Knox suffered a season-ending back

injury Sunday in what looked like one of the more gruesome hits of

the year, bending his body in a position that would be described as

anything but natural. The good news is that there should be no

long-term effects, which wasn’t initially clear when he left the

stadium in a gurney. Knox will likely be back next year with the

Bears, but the team should upgrade their receiving corps during the

offseason. Moreover, in the short-term, teammate Marion Barber is

losing plenty of touches to Khalil Bell, and in an offense that

struggles to reach the red zone, his fantasy value is minimal even

as the designated goalline back.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT – Roethlisberger predictably

played though his ankle injury Monday night but was clearly

hampered by it, resulting in zero touchdowns and four turnovers. He

later said he didn’t do any further damage to his ankle, but it

sounds like there’s a real chance he sits out Week 15 in what

appears to be an easily winnable home game against the Rams.

Charlie Batch would get the start, but Roethlisberger’s absence

would also mean a downgrade for Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace.

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