Fantasy football Risers/Sliders: Martin finds groove, Vick in trouble

Fantasy owners have been waiting for Matthew Stafford and the Lions to break out, and they finally did against the Seahawks. Surprisingly, they did so with very limited contributions from Calvin Johnson. But others stepped up, and they're all part of this week's edition of Risers/Sliders.


Doug Martin, Buccaneers: Before the Buccaneers' bye week, Martin had fantasy owners wondering if they had made a mistake in drafting the rookie from Boise State, as he averaged 75 yards from scrimmage with one total touchdown in four September games. But since Greg Schiano and his staff had a week to make adjustments, Martin has been an offensive powerhouse, averaging 155.7 yards with three touchdowns in three games, including an eye-popping 214 yards from scrimmage and two scores against a once-tough Vikings defense. There is no longer a question: Martin should be a fixture in every lineup every week from here on out.

Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers: To say that Dwyer has responded well to his return to the lineup following a four-week layoff, two of which were spent in street clothes as a healthy scratch, would be an understatement. Pittsburgh's third-string running back on paper, Dwyer has been one of the league's best the past two games in filling in for the injured duo of Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman. In those games, Dwyer has rushed 34 times for 229 yards while helping re-establish the Steelers' running game. Granted, his big games came against the soft run defenses of Cincinnati and Washington, but the Steelers' offensive line has improved dramatically in recent weeks, even with Mendenhall running. There's a lot of speculation that Dwyer has earned the starting job, and with Redman and Mendenhall obviously both physically hampered there's little reason to think otherwise, especially while he's performing at such a high level.

Ronnie Hillman, Broncos: The diminutive yet speedy rookie has often been compared to Darren Sproles, and he showed why against Sproles' Saints, rushing 14 times for 86 yards in a big Sunday night win, easily the best game of his young career. The Broncos' offense is firing on all cylinders, and with Hillman's explosiveness in the mix, that engine goes from a V6 to a V8. Look for more games like this going forward as John Fox looks to limit the wear and tear on veteran Willis McGahee for a possible run in the playoffs.


Michael Bush, Bears: It's great to have someone like Bush, who's displayed a nose for the end zone throughout his career as a short-yardage back, around as insurance against a Matt Forte injury. But Forte is looking rather spry these days, and Bush has now gone a month without sniffing the end zone. Hopefully, he bottomed out with a three-carry, five-yard showing against the Panthers, but for now he should be deep on your bench or, if you don't have one of those, set adrift.

Felix Jones, Cowboys: Jones has long looked great in short spurts but when given an opportunity to handle a full load as a workhorse back, he's almost always come up empty. Such was the case Sunday, when he was called on for 13 carries and got three targets and came away with a total of 19 yards, a touchdown and a costly fumble that led to a crucial Giants field goal. There's no disputing his talent, but his level of inconsistency, as seen against a team that had allowed an average of 150 rushing yards in the weeks leading up to the battle in Dallas, is just too frustrating to deal with. Identify the Cowboys fan in your league and offer up Jones. Just like the real Dallas team, that owner will be blinded by the potential and ignore the frustration he'll bring.


Titus Young Sr. and Ryan Broyles, Lions: With Nate Burleson out for the season, Matthew Stafford needed his other receivers to step up and both the new proud papa, Young, and the rookie Broyles responded well. Together, the two scored three touchdowns in a win against Seattle. Young reached 100 yards receiving for the first time in his career while reeling in all nine Stafford throws in his direction, two of which resulted in touchdowns against a strong Seahawks secondary. Broyles, the most prolific receiver in FBS history, has bounced back from the torn ACL he suffered last November that delayed the start of his NFL career by a few weeks. He has contributed touchdowns in back-to-back games, and although he has caught just six career passes, both in those two games, he has the potential to be a high-volume receiver (read: PPR stud) in a Lions attack sorely in need of a chains mover.

Randall Cobb, Packers: Word that Greg Jennings will be out about another month after undergoing sports hernia surgery put to rest any fear of a diminished role for Cobb, who has become one of the most dangerous weapons in Aaron Rodgers' already-impressive arsenal. In four October games, Cobb has 24 catches for 301 yards and four touchdowns, which ties him for 11th, seventh and second in those categories, respectively, and has firmly established himself as a must-start option.

Clyde Gates, Jets: The speedy 2011 Dolphins fourth-round draft pick came out of nowhere to catch seven passes on 11 targets for 82 yards against his former mates. That was more than double his previous career totals for catches and yards. New York is desperate for offensive production, which explains the heavy use of Gates, Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens and Stephen Hill. This may simply be a case of Gates (and his offensive coordinator Tony Sparano) having extra motivation against their former team. One take-home oddity: His teams are 0-5 in games in which Gates makes a catch and 1-9 in games in which he's thrown to.


Calvin Johnson, Lions: The Seahawks' big, physical defensive backs held Megatron in check Sunday, limiting him to just three catches and 46 yards and shutting him out in the first half. The constant attention and contact seemed to take a toll on the league's most physically gifted receiver as he seemingly lost concentration and failed on a couple of catchable passes. He's now had back-to-back stinkers against the Bears and Seahawks but a lot of that is due to superior defenses. The Jaguars are up next for Detroit, so this slump should be short-lived.

Leonard Hankerson, Redskins: The opportunity to thrive is there for Hankerson to become a great receiver. He has a top flight quarterback in Robert Griffin III, a position clearly at his disposal with the foot injury suffered by Pierre Garcon and great physical talents that helped him become the leading touchdown receiver in Miami Hurricanes history. But he's been a far-below average receiver when the Redskins have needed him most. The latest blunder came in Washington's loss to the Steelers, when Hankerson let a sure touchdown bounce off of his hands on a crossing route with nobody between himself and the end zone. That lack of concentration (and three of the last four games with two or fewer catches and 23 or fewer yards) isn't only hurting his fantasy owners; it's hurting the Redskins.


Matthew Stafford, Lions: Aside from Cam Newton, Stafford has been fantasy football's most frustrating highly drafted quarterback this season, yet all has been forgiven after his 352-yard, three-touchdown dismantling of the Seahawks Sunday. Stafford found the aforementioned Young Sr. and Broyles three times for scores, accounting for his first multiple touchdown pass game of the season. He also managed to get his TD-to-INT ratio back above water. With the possible exception of the Texans, Stafford's remaining slate should be favorable for passing numbers. Certainly that's the case this coming week in Jacksonville.


Michael Vick, Eagles: Andy Reid has a close relationship with Vick, but the longtime Eagles head coach is reportedly on the verge of switching away from the mercurial southpaw in favor of rookie and preseason standout Nick Foles. After being been put on notice by Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie following an 8-8 2011 season, Reid's move will be one of self-preservation and you should follow suit. If you have Vick as your primary quarterback you must make a move, whether by trade or waivers, to acquire a suitable replacement before the shoe falls and prices go up because fellow owners will realize your desperate situation.


Jason Witten, Cowboys: Just a couple of months after he suffered a lacerated spleen, Witten firmly re-established himself as an elite receiver on the heels of an 18-catch game against the Giants. Long known as Tony Romo's favorite receiver, the veteran was targeted 22 times, the most for any tight end in at least the past two decades. His 18 catches tied Brandon Marshall for the third most in a single NFL game since 1960. And through it all, the big bugaboo that's haunted Witten's fantasy value, a lack of touchdowns, persisted. He was kept out of the end zone for the sixth time in seven games and 12th time in his last 13 games. He may never see another day like that again, but at least you can insert him safely into your lineup with confidence.


Antonio Gates, Chargers: The former All Pro emerged from his season-long slump in Week 6 (six receptions, 81 yards, two touchdowns), but following the Chargers' Week 7 bye he fell right back into into the mire with just 14 yards on two catches against the Browns in an ugly game from San Diego's perspective. You're better off using Brandon Myers, Greg Olsen, Anthony Fasano or Jermaine Gresham, all of whom are ranked higher in PPR fantasy points at this stage of the season.


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