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Fantasy football Risers/Sliders: Dalton plays into elite QB class


There's a lot to cover this week in risers and sliders, including the Bengals impressing in defeat, the Jets' main weapon finally showing up and a hot and cold day for a much-maligned Cowboy.


• Shonn Greene, Jets -- Welcome back to the 2012 fantasy football season, Shonn Greene. Your owners missed you while you were on your productivity hiatus. The leading gainer of the weekend scored three touchdowns against the Colts -- granted, one of the worst rushing defenses in football, yet for a while it appeared that Greene would have trouble gaining three yards a carry against anyone. The Jets want to run, and Greene is their best chance to do so. Despite the big day, you can't always get what you want, including this coming week against a Patriots team that kept the Beast, Marshawn Lynch in check in Seattle.

• William Powell, Cardinals -- Let's admit that the Cardinals offense is not that good, save for Larry Fitzgerald, and there's little chance that any of their runners will remind anyone of Ottis Anderson any time soon. But now that Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells are both on the shelf, the best bet for those in need of an Arizona back is Powell, who quickly supplanted LaRod Stephens-Howling as Arizona's primary ball carrier. He's averaging 4.9 yards per carry and is an option as a receiver out of the backfield. If he gets 15-20 touches per game, which is quite possible, he's worthy of a look in games against lesser run defenses on the schedule like the Jets, Falcons and Packers.

• Doug Martin, Buccaneers -- The bye week did wonders for the Bucs rookie, who was making his fantasy owners question the sanity of playing him every week. But following his 131 yards from scrimmage, second among running backs to only the aforementioned Greene through Sunday's games, Martin should be back in full good graces. Even impressive numbers by backup LeGarrette Blount (seven carries for 58 yards and a touchdown, much of which came late in the fourth with the game already out of hand) shouldn't dampen your excitement over having Martin on your squad.

• Felix Jones, Cowboys -- Here we go again. DeMarco Murray suffered a sprained foot while having a great game against the Ravens and was replaced by the Cowboys' longtime backup, who also had a large day against the fallen Ravens. However, given his history of injuries and failures when given the exact same chances, any idea that Jones will come in and provide consistency for fantasy owners is hard to fathom. The Cowboys don't believe that Murray's injury is severe and it may not cost him any additional playing time, but if it does, I'd be much more likely to use a roster spot on Phillip Tanner than Jones.


• Trent Richardson, Browns -- Richardson's rookie season has had more than enough ups and downs, the latest of which is a rib injury that cost him all of the fourth quarter in Cleveland's first win of the season against Cincinnati. Richardson was outgained 56 yards to 37 by backup Montario Hardesty, who also scored the Browns only rushing touchdown in the contest. Hardesty is a solid pickup while Richardson's status remains in doubt.

• Steven Jackson, Rams -- As a team the Rams didn't have trouble running against a tough Miami front seven, but individually, Jackson's numbers were disappointing as he gained just 52 yards on 12 carries. His backup, impressive rookie Daryl Richardson, who is most likely to inherit Jackson's job next season, managed 76 yards on 11 carries. Meanwhile, Jackson is plodding along with a 3.6 yards-per-carry average and hasn't scored a touchdown in eight straight games, and 13 of his last 14.

• Vick Ballard, Colts -- The hot pickup last week when news of Donald Brown's knee surgery surfaced, Ballard flopped badly against what was the league's second-worst run defense (the Jets), picking up just 25 yards on eight attempts, although that did raise his yards-per-carry average to 2.3 for the season. Even with Brown the Colts aren't a good running team. Without him, they're all Luck.


• Mike Williams, Buccaneers -- The surprise of 2010 and flop of 2011, Williams' stock is rising again after this second-straight 100-yard game and his third touchdown of the season. Being paired across the field and in the locker room with Vincent Jackson is paying major dividends for the Bucs and those owners savvy enough to pick him up.

• Dez Bryant, Cowboys -- Bryant had a great game against Baltimore before letting a potential game-tying two-point conversion bounce off of his chest. He made a Week 6-high 13 catches for a season-high 105 yards and his first two touchdowns of 2012. Fantasy owners are right to ask where that has been all year, but also should be encouraged by his 21 grabs on 28 targets and 200 yards over his last two outings.

• Brandon Gibson, Rams --The Rams offense is not dead without receptions machine Danny Amendola, but the passes are spread around a bit more. The chief beneficiaries are last week's riser Chris Givens (three receptions, 85 yards) and Gibson, who with seven catches for 91 yards fell just one grab and two yards short of his career single-game highs.


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• Brian Hartline, Dolphins -- Cortland Finnegan showed Hartline why he's one of the league's top cover corners by blanking Miami's leading receiver Sunday. Literally blanking him for no catches and no targets. While most teams will turn their attention to Hartline now, most won't have a corner the caliber of Finnegan. Still, the fact that Hartline put up a goose-egg on many fantasy scoreboards leaves many owners with legitimate trust issues.

• Pierre Garçon, Redskins -- As Garçon's foot saga drags on, the cost-benefit analysis of using a roster space to shield him is becoming increasingly lopsided in favor of dumping him for someone who will help you win games.

• Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders -- It was great to see DHB back on the field after suffering a crushing head injury against the Steelers, and he proved he could take a hit, but unfortunately it came on his only reception of the day. Against Atlanta, the Raiders' offense looked much better than it has for most of the season, but it's still not good and a hesitant DHB would be the fourth fantasy option on the team at best.


• Andy Dalton, Bengals -- Who had more yards than Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick and Tony Romo? Who has more touchdown passes than Eli Manning or Tom Brady and more 300-yard games than Matt Ryan or Robert Griffin III? It's Dalton, who, despite throwing an uncharacteristic three picks in losing to the Browns, managed to throw three touchdown passes for his fourth multi-touchdown game of the year. Only Ryan has more. Overshadowed last season by Cam Newton, Dalton is becoming a fantasy force himself and worthy of starting duty in place of some bigger yet struggling names.

• Russell Wilson, Seahawks -- On Sunday Wilson became one of only four rookies to ever beat the duo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, joining the ranks of Ben Roethlisberger, Mark Sanchez and Colt McCoy. While most observers see Wilson's future as much more likely to follow that of the latter two, he had the moxie of the former on Sunday, driving his Seahawks down for the game-winning drive that was capped with a 50-yard throw to a double-covered Sidney Rice in the end zone. His 293 yards and three touchdowns made Week 6 his best day as a pro. We wouldn't run out and grab him for his Thursday night matchup against the angry 49ers at Candlestick, he is possibly someone to consider as a bye week replacement against the Lions, Jets or Dolphins.


• Alex Smith, 49ers -- On the heels of a magical outing against the Bills, when he threw for three scores and 303 yards, reality crept back into Smith's fairy tale, compliments of a determined Giants defense that picked him off three times while limiting him to 200 yards. Complicating matters a little more than most may believe is the emergence of Colin Kaepernick as a threat in the Wildcat offense. Unlike some more famous specialists in that formation (like Brad Smith or Josh Cribbs ... am I missing someone?) Kaepernick has a rifle arm and can beat his opponents just as easily passing as running. However, for now, Smith's job is safe in San Francisco for the time being, but any prolonged slump would lead to calls for the 49ers to turn to the player who just might be the future of that offense.

• Matt Schaub, Texans -- As much as fantasy owners want to believe in Schaub as a borderline starter, the yardage and touchdown numbers are just not there. When the Texans are going well, Schaub is counted on to get an occasional deep look down field to Andre Johnson as well as some mid-range passes to Owen Daniels or Kevin Walter and short dump-offs to Arian Foster. Otherwise, his main job is to give the ball to Foster and Ben Tate and let Houston's expert zone-blocking line do what they do best. It's a winning formula (except Sunday night), but not if all you're looking for are fantasy stats. God on the field, not so on the fantasy scoreboard.


• Kyle Rudolph, Vikings -- Unless you have one of the big guns at tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis, Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham -- all you realistically look for on a weekly basis is a few catches for some yards and a touchdown, or just enough to get 10 points out of the position. Well, that's what Rudolph has been doing on a pretty consistent basis. In four of his last five games, Christian Ponder's favorite red zone target has scored at least once, totaling five scores over those games. He's becoming one of those automatic players that's hard to find in fantasy, where consistency is always a virtue. Rudolph is a must start.

• Jermaine Gresham, Bengals -- As Andy Dalton ascends to the realm of the starting fantasy quarterback, one of the players rising with him is Gresham, who is benefiting from the Bengals' lack of a clear No. 3 receiving threat. Over the last four weeks, Gresham is third in receiving yards and yards per game (59.8) for tight ends, tied for fourth in receptions (18) and in touchdowns (2). He's not only someone who should be on a roster, he should be starting as at least a flex option.


• Martellus Bennett, Giants -- We can give Bennett a pass for his invisible one-catch, nine-yard showing against the 49ers as he was needed to help protect Eli Manning from the likes of Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, but it's now been three games since the breakout tight end star of the first three weeks has made a significant contribution to his fantasy owners. The emergence of receivers like Domenik Hixon, Rueben Randle and Ramses Barden, and the ascent to the stratosphere of slot man Victor Cruz, isn't helping his case, nor is the sudden surge in rushing prowess for Ahmad Bradshaw.

• Brandon Pettigrew, Lions -- Called out by Lions president Tom Lewand two weeks ago for his lackluster play, Pettigrew came back with another lackluster performance against the Eagles, catching just thee passes for 38 yards while his backup, Tony Scheffler, came up huge late in the fourth quarter and overtime with three crucial catches for 81 yards, the last of which got Detroit into Jason Hanson field-goal range on the game-winning attempt. Pettigrew has now gone three straight games without a touchdown and four of five this season. He's also catching less than 62 percent of the targets thrown his way, which ranks 23rd among the tight ends who've been thrown two at least 20 times, so there's neither quantity nor quality being delivered.

• Ed Dickson, Ravens -- There was a time not too long ago that Dickson was viewed as the up-and-coming pass catcher among the league's young tight ends while his cohort, Dennis Pitta, was seen more as a complementary player. Well, the roles have sure changed now as Dickson looks lost as a receiver. On Sunday, Dickson made his seventh catch of the year for a total of 69 yards. That's one good Jimmy Graham half. He's officially off the radar.


• Greg Zuerlein, Rams -- Sure, he's 0 for his last three kicks, but the fact that Jeff Fisher had the confidence for him to try a 66-yard potential game-tying field goal against the Dolphins on a breezy Miami afternoon bodes well for his owners who play in leagues who are rewarded for longer kicks. Just six games into his rookie season he's already halfway to the most 50-plus yard field goals made in a season (eight by Morten Andersen) and has tried six, which is more than halfway to the record for attempts, 11, set by Tom Dempsey and tied two other times. (Dempsey made just one of his 11 attempts).

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