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Fantasy football Risers/Sliders: Henne sparks Jags, Foles fails


Where did the fantasy season go? As we approach Thanksgiving and the three promising games that go along with it, the fantasy playoff picture in many leagues is taking shape. In most cases, an impact pickup at this time of the year can mean popping the champagne in celebration, while sticking with a declining player can mean drowning one's sorrows in it. And unfortunately for some, a big injury now could end the season early. Here are the players who have made significant moves up or down the fantasy value scale in recent days.


• Chad Henne, Jaguars -- Who came in for an injured (again) Blaine Gabbert, wearing the No. 7 with Henne stitched to the shoulders? Whoever that was in Houston, you can be sure that Cecil Shorts, Marcedes Lewis and Justin Blackmon would love to see him back. The former Dolphins signal-caller was a revelation against one of the game's toughest defenses. With not much of a running game to speak of, Henne got the league's worst offense into a shootout with the mighty Texans and nearly came away with a win. He threw for 354 yards with four touchdowns, marking the first time in his 40-game career he ever threw for more than two scores in a game. With quarterbacks dropping like flies around the league the past few weeks, one can only hope that Henne (or this inspired imposter) can replicate his efforts this week against the Titans. It's distinctly possible.


• Matt Ryan, Falcons -- A lot of Matty Ice's 2012 MVP-candidate persona melted against the team from the desert. It's never a good sign when you have to go scrambling through the annals of Atlanta Falcons history to find who threw the most interceptions in a single quarter or half, but that's what happened on a day Ryan threw a career-worst five picks. The victim of some bad luck and bobbled passes, Ryan evoked nightmare comparisons to the likes of Bobby Hebert, Scott Campbell and Kim McQuillkin in throwing as many interceptions Sunday as he had in the previous five games combined. Ryan owners are hoping that this was simply a hiccup and will point to the end-of-game comeback as a good sign, and we're confident in a bounce-back too. Shake it off, Matt. Shake it off.

• Nick Foles, Eagles -- A lot of owners were playing with fire when they started Foles against the seemingly exploitable Redskins defense after being drawn in by an impressive relief appearance the week before. However, being the starting quarterback and knowing it for a full week beforehand makes for an uneasy dynamic for any rookie quarterback, let alone someone who was charged with trying to right a sinking ship. Foles threw 14 more times as a starter than he did a week prior against Dallas, but he completed one fewer pass, connecting on just 45.7 percent of his throws against a defense that had previously allowed 61.9 percent of all passes to reach their destinations. Riding a six-game losing streak, the Eagles are in a bad place right now, very bad. Avoid the negative Karma that Foles, Michael Vick (when he returns) and the rest of the Eagles might spread to your squad.

• Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills -- If in an alternate universe the fantasy playoffs were held in September every year, Fitzpatrick would be the Tom Brady of that world. The Bills' quarterback has a history of excelling in the first few games of the season, drawing in fantasy owners and then laying eggs all across the stats sheet as the weather along the shores of Lake Erie gets blustery. Through the first four games this season, Fitzpatrick threw 12 touchdown passes with no fewer than two in any game. Since then he has totaled five scoring tosses and was held without a score in four of the six games, and that was against teams that have allowed a combined 50 touchdowns to other passers this season. If you're playing Fitzpatrick at this point chances are you aren't in the playoffs. And if you're not, yet he's on your roster, you're best off cutting him loose.


• Marcel Reece, Raiders -- An honest-to-goodness flex player, Reece not only is filling in for the Raiders' injured-ankle combo of Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, he's exceeding the production they were giving fantasy owners in the process. The fullback-tight end-wide receiver-lead blocker-turned tailback was Oakland's lone bright spot versus the Saints, gaining 193 yards in a blowout loss. It was the biggest game from scrimmage for a Raider since Michael Bush 53 weeks earlier and the 12th-best for a Raiders back since the team joined the NFL. With such output and his desire to compete even in the worst of game circumstances Reece is a lock to retain value even after McFadden returns.

• Beanie Wells, Cardinals -- Never before has a significant fantasy player returned from Injured Reserve, but under the new NFL rules Wells will be the first. He's eligible to play this week after being designated for return by the Cardinals. Arizona's offensive line has been spotty, but when they've played well, they've led the way for LaRod Stephens-Howling to gain more than 100 rushing yards against both the Vikings and Falcons over the past few weeks. Wells is a much better runner than the third-down specialist and will jump right back to the top of the Cardinals' running back depth chart.

• Cedric Peerman, Bengals -- The Bengals have been looking for a backup to BenJarvus Green-Ellis since Bernard Scott was lost for the year; they might have found one in Peerman. The fourth-year man from Virginia ran eight times for 75 yards against the Chiefs Sunday, both career highs. Earlier this season Peerman had eight catches for 76 yards against the Browns also career highs. Despite gaining 101 yards this week, Green-Ellis has been disappointing overall, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and managing just four touchdowns. Bye weeks are over, so the roster bar is set higher than the past eight weeks, but if you're relying on Green-Ellis or are abnormally thin at running back, Peerman is not a bad option.

• Bryce Brown, Eagles -- The Eagles have imploded and the news from Sunday got even worse when it was learned that LeSean McCoy, inarguably the best fantasy Eagle, left the game with the Redskins due to a concussion. Any missed time by McCoy, especially during a period when the Eagles are in need of any offense it can muster, is a devastating blow for McCoy's fantasy owners. However, for those who need a back, the rookie from Nebraska should assume a full workload should McCoy be forced to sit out a game or two due to the league's concussion procedures. Brown could be a good Monday night flex option against the Panthers.

• Ronnie Hillman, Broncos -- The speedy rookie has spent most of the season as Willis McGahee's understudy, but a knee injury has the veteran's availability in question and should create a great opportunity for Hillman to establish himself in fantasy circles. He'll likely be sharing carries with Lance Ball, but in a Peyton Manning-offense, there are more than enough plays to go around. Hillman is a must-have for McGahee owners.


• Reggie Bush, Dolphins -- The wheels have officially fallen off the Reggie Bush-as-lead-fantasy-back campaign following a paltry 20-yards-on-10-carries showing in Buffalo last Thursday. Miami's offense as a whole was pitiful against a defense ranked in the 30s in nearly every meaningful category. The lone glimmer of hope is that Bush's backup, Daniel Thomas, hasn't set the world on fire recently either. Unless Bush shows up against the Seahawks or Patriots the next two games it'll be impossible to trust him with a starting spot in the fantasy playoffs.

• Donald Brown, Colts -- What was billed as a timeshare in the Colts' backfield has left Brown shortchanged. The oft-injured back managed just six touches (four runs and two catches) in the Colts' complete submission to the Patriots. Meanwhile, Vick Ballard got the ball 17 times and is looking more and more like the internal choice for lead back duties. With just one opening day touchdown to his credit, there's no reason to hold onto Brown while there are likely many better options available for the taking on your waiver wire.


• Justin Blackmon, Jaguars -- Welcome to the NFL, Justin Blackmon. While the rest of his rookie brethren were tearing up the league, Blackmon, the fifth overall selection (taken 26 picks ahead of Doug Martin and 87 before T.Y. Hilton) trudged through obscurity in Jacksonville, failing to record more than six catches or 67 yards in any game. Then came Houston. Blackmon chewed up the Texans for 236 yards Sunday, including catches of 39, 63 and 81 yards. That was the second-best receiving day in Jaguars franchise history (behind Jimmy Smith) and the third-best in terms of yardage for any receiver this year, behind only Andre Johnson's 273 yards in the same game and Brian Hartline's 253 against Arizona. Dynasty leaguers are already all over Blackmon, but it's time for re-draft owners to take a look, too. Cecil Shorts is a stronger play on a weekly basis and Blackmon won't be this good again this season, but as long as Henne is at quarterback, Blackmon's explosiveness makes him a consideration for WR3 and flex duties from here on.

• Danario Alexander, Chargers -- The Chargers big receiver keeps on rising. Owned in less than a quarter of Yahoo! leagues as of Monday morning, Alexander has become a difference maker both in fantasy and for the Chargers. The 6-foot-5, 217-pound wideout has 289 yards and three touchdowns on 17 catches over his three games for San Diego. He has taken over the top spot in formations, and with fellow trees Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd also running in space, he has created a nightmare for opposing defensive backs. The way Alexander is being utilized by Norv Turner could make him one of the top-20 wide receivers of the second half of the season.


• Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- Nothing would make me happier than never having to put Fitzgerald, one of the league's great players and gentlemen, on a list like this, but playing for the Cardinals the past few seasons has made that impossible. Arizona's quarterback situation went from bad (John Skelton) to worse (Ryan Lindley) in Atlanta. Fitzgerald was reduced to being a blocker and route runner, managing just a single reception for 11 paltry yards. Fantasy owners and Cardinals fans alike can only imagine what kind of numbers he'd be putting up with a Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or even Robert Griffin III.

• Mike Wallace, Steelers -- Already trudging through a down season due to a holdout and a new short passing scheme, Wallace's value may have hit rock-bottom against the Ravens. Byron Leftwich, subbing in for Ben Roethlisberger, could find what should be Pittsburgh's most dangerous weapon just four times for 26 yards in a game nearly completely devoid of offense. Sunday's game represented just the fourth time in his career and first time in more than two seasons that Wallace failed to account for a first down, an extraordinary stat for one of the league's most-explosive deep threats. Roethlisberger is most likely sidelined for another week or two, which does not bode well for Wallace.


• Dallas Clark, Buccaneers -- There's something special going on in Tampa Bay, and Clark is a big part of it. A team leader in the locker room, Clark also has led on the field, catching touchdowns in three of his last five games while bringing in a team- (and personal season) high seven catches for 58 yards and the game-winning score in overtime against the Panthers. Over the past four weeks he's been a top-12 tight end and is worthy of starting consideration.

• Garrett Graham, Texans -- Owen Daniels is the undisputed top tight end in Houston, but Joel Dreessen showed that there was room for another borderline fantasy-caliber tight end with the Texans. This year, Graham, the former Wisconsin Badger who was instrumental in the Texans' fourth-quarter comeback against the Jags has filled that slot. Targeted nine times (matching Daniels), Graham hauled in eight passes in Week 11, including two fourth-quarter scores that sent the game into overtime. Only Jimmy Graham (four) has more tight-end touchdowns than the Texans' Graham in November, tying him with Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Myers for second in the league. Keep a close eye on Thanksgiving Day for how he's used against the Lions. With Houston's weak wideout corps beyond Andre Johnson, Graham will be a decent stretch-run pickup if the targets keep coming.


• Rob Gronkowski, Patriots -- Perhaps the greatest fantasy tight end ever suffered a broken arm against the Colts that will keep him out for the rest of the fantasy regular season, a major blow to the hopes of scores of owners. While it's impossible to replace someone who ranks first overall at his position and fifth among all pass-catchers, there are enough available options to help you possibly squeak through: Brandon Myers, Kyle Rudolph, Dustin Keller, Marcedes Lewis and the aforementioned Dallas Clark. Visanthe Shiancoe will also see an increased role for New England and is a good call in deeper leagues. The best option, of course, is trying to trade for someone like Aaron Hernandez, Jermaine Gresham or Antonio Gates, but with most deadlines over, the wire may be the only option.