NFL fantasy wire tap

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Rams turn to Darby as injuries mount in the backfield

RB gained 109 total yards last week; expected to fill in for Steven Jackson this weekend

A little more than a month ago, Kenneth Darby was a practice squad player hoping to catch a break in the NFL; now millions of fantasy owners are targeting him as a potential waiver wire pickup.

Darby stepped in for Antonio Pittman on Sunday and offered the Rams eight catches and 109 total yards from scrimmage. Though Pittman, who is suffering with a bum hamstring, was the better ground-game option, Darby appears to more closely resemble lost Rams back Steven Jackson. In two games with the team Darby has averaged just better than five yards per carry, and his catch total and 83 receiving yards on Sunday were better than any game Jackson has offered when healthy this season.

At Alabama, Darby gained more than 3,000 yards rushing during his three years as the team's primary running back. Now one-and-a-half years removed from the limelight, he will have an opportunity this weekend against Chicago to prove he deserves a place in this league, and on fantasy rosters.

Here are a few other waiver wire candidates who offer value to fantasy owners:

It was the Arrington show at Qwest Field in Week 11, as the veteran back made the most of his 11 touches in the Cardinals' win over division foe Seattle. Arrington carried eight times for 40 yards (much better than Tim Hightower's numbers) and he caught three passes for 21 yards. Even more important, Arrington scored twice -- off a run and a catch. Fantasy owners love the Cardinals' high-powered offense, and maybe the team will give Arrington one last chance to fill the team's void at running back.

The Dolphins used a number of receivers to make the passing game go in their 17-15 victory over Oakland on Sunday. Among them was Bess, who caught three passes for 50 yards. Bess has had at least one catch in each game this season, and two or more catches in seven of 10 contests. But his performance against the Raiders was his best to date, and on a team still tinkering around with its personnel Bess might be one receiver fantasy owners can afford to take a gamble on.

As the Lions attempt to restock what was once a deep receiving corps, opponents are loading up to stop Calvin Johnson. Standeford complemented Johnson better than any other Lions receiver on Sunday, nabbing two passes for 48 yards. The former Purdue standout is a good red zone target (6-foot-4) who can also contribute as a possession-type receiver (152 receptions in his final two years as a Boilermaker). He only has a pair of career receptions under his belt, but he does offer fantasy owners upside as a No. 4 or 5 receiver at this stage of the season when the pickings are slim.

Here is a look at this week's buy and sell candidates:

Peyton Manning, QB, Colts

There was a time not so long ago when Manning was untouchable -- a player valued as highly as the game's elite running backs. But that day has come and gone, and this year Manning has disappointed his owners as much as he has delighted them. Still, if Manning can be had for a reasonable asking price he will provide considerable returns in the final weeks of the season -- perhaps enough to transform a good fantasy team into a champion. Manning's next four games include the league's worst pass defense (San Diego), followed by Cleveland, Cincinnati and Detroit.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders

Why McFadden now? Well, for one thing, the Raiders have little to play for other than to build for future years. Now fully healthy from the toe injury that cut into his playing time, McFadden will steal away carries from fellow backfield mate Justin Fargas in the coming weeks. And Oakland has at least three favorable games for McFadden to feast on: Denver and San Diego over the next two weeks, and Houston in Week 16. For a bargain-low rate fantasy owners can steal a player who just might steal the spotlight in the season's final month.

Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins

Sure, we were all inspired by Portis' performance on Sunday night despite running on a sprained knee. Fact is, Portis only gained 68 yards on 15 carries, and his two catches for six yards didn't do much for fantasy owners, either. The road ahead will only get tougher on Washington's 27-year-old workhorse: the Giants in Week 13, the Ravens in Week 14 and the Eagles in Week 16. Because he proved on Sunday that he can still run, now is the perfect time to move Portis before his knee or his numbers (or both) crumble at the most pivotal fantasy stretch of the season.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Bengals

Houshmandzadeh was visibly upset this past weekend when he felt Ryan Fitzpatrick failed to locate him on key passing downs. Houshmandzadeh's frustrations will continue as the season progresses, as the Bengals have dates with some of the league's leading pass defenses, including Pittsburgh (first), Baltimore (eighth), Indianapolis (ninth) and Washington (10th) over the next month. Houshmandzadeh is a legitimate No. 1 fantasy receiver, but if moving him can help fantasy owners bulk up in other areas they should seriously consider it.