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NFL Barometer: Patriot Games

Dalton Del Don

Dalton Del Don

Dalton Del Don writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

RISERS

Ryan Torain, RB, WAS – Torain has been prone to injuries throughout his career, and Keiland Williams could step into the mix as well, but those who picked up Torain last week could be sitting on a goldmine. Clinton Portis’ most recent groin injury is serious - he is likely to miss 4-to-6 weeks and possibly the rest of the season. Mike Shanahan has heaped praise on Torain, calling him, “A top back in the National Football League. There’s no question about it.” While there’s some hyperbole there, remember it was Shanahan who drafted Torain back in 2008 with Denver. Torain has averaged 4.6 YPC throughout his brief career and is an ideal fit for Washington’s system. Shanahan wants to make the Redskins a run-heavy team, so Torain could see plenty of work as the season goes on. Torain is a must-start this week at home against the Packers, and if he somehow manages to stay healthy and holds onto the starting job, don’t be surprised if he is a top-15 fantasy back the rest of the way.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, DEN – It has not been easy predicting production from Broncos receivers on a weekly basis, but it has become clear that Lloyd is the team’s No. 1 option. After seeing a whopping 18 targets last week, he is now up to 40 on the year - the seventh most in the NFL. As somewhat of an enigmatic talent who has not been on the radar over the past five years and has never even reached 750 yards receiving in a season, Lloyd could be viewed as a sell-high candidate. However, Lloyd was once considered a future star in San Francisco, so he does have some pedigree. The Broncos have no semblance of a running game, and Kyle Orton, who is fast developing into an elite QB, is on pace to attempt 700 passes this season. Lloyd is no sure bet to remain Denver’s No. 1 WR over the rest of the year, and he has disappointed in the past, but it’s hard not to consider him a top-25 fantasy wide receiver right now.

Michael Bush, RB, OAK – Bush appeared to take over the Raiders’ goalline work last week, but his value took an even bigger jump when Darren McFadden suffered a hamstring injury. McFadden’s injury is supposedly not serious, but it will likely keep him out of Week 5 and makes Bush relevant again. For those who own both backs, the injuries have actually made things easy - the worst-case scenario would be having them both healthy and in a timeshare. As long as McFadden is sidelined, Bush is a weekly RB2.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, NYG – Bradshaw gained 129 rushing yards on 23 carries (5.6 YPC) last week against a Bears team that entered allowing the fewest YPC in football. Over the last three games, Brandon Jacobs has just 14 rushing attempts compared to Bradshaw’s 55, so it is clear the Giants’ backfield belongs to the latter. Bradshaw is dealing with a sore ankle, and it remains to be seen how many carries he can withstand as a workhorse over a season, but he’s currently on pace to finish the year with 1,772 total yards and 12 touchdowns. He should be viewed as a top-12 fantasy back.

Mark Sanchez, QB, NYJ – After a poor Week 1 performance against a Ravens defense that has allowed an NFL-low 5.2 YPA with just one passing touchdown this season, Sanchez has averaged 7.9 YPA and has posted an 8:0 TD:INT ratio. He hasn’t been sacked over the past two games and hasn’t lost a fumble this year either. Only one other QB (Michael Vick) in football has yet to throw an interception this season. With a strong running game led by the rejuvenated LaDainian Tomlinson, Sanchez’s fantasy upside is limited (he has averaged just 25.8 passing attempts per game), but the addition of Santonio Holmes should really help moving forward. Sanchez looks like the real deal.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, NE – Green-Ellis has averaged 16 carries for 87 rushing yards and a touchdown over the past two games, securing his role as the Patriots’ lead back. Green-Ellis has yet to receive 25+ touches in a game because the Patriots’ offense is so pass-heavy, but he has clearly established himself as the No. 1 option (he’s never fumbled), and with the trade of Randy Moss, New England may shift it’s offensive philosophy a bit. Green-Ellis isn’t going to be a workhorse like other backs in the league, but he’s the favorite for carries and goalline work in an offense that should put up plenty of points.

Terrell Owens, WR, CIN – Owens entered Sunday with just 14 catches for 152 yards and no scores over three games, so few could have seen such an outburst (10 catches, 222 yards, one TD) coming. The Browns decided to double Chad Ochocinco, and Owens’ 78-yard touchdown catch came when a Browns corner fell down, but it’s hard to ignore the 222 yards. Owens still has to deal with Carson Palmer’s declining skills and cedes plenty of targets to Ochocinco, but it’s clear he still has plenty left in the tank.

Fred Jackson, RB, BUF – Following the trade of Marshawn Lynch to Seattle, Jackson was named the team’s starting running back. He will have to share touches with C.J. Spiller - who has more upside - and playing for a bad Bills team doesn’t help, but Jackson is back as a fantasy option now that he is looking at consistent touches.

Brett Favre, QB, MIN – Favre has been a massive disappointment this season, but with Randy Moss joining him in Minnesota, his prospects are looking up. Favre and the rest of his receivers (namely Percy Harvin) should be sharper after getting much-needed practice time during the bye week, and with an ostensibly happy Moss now at his disposal, Favre could be looking at a nice second half. Remember, he has coveted Moss as a teammate dating back to his Green Bay days (it was one of the final breaking points between him and GM Ted Thompson), and he’ll be sure to target him heavily downfield.

Davone Bess, WR, MIA – Bess has racked up 15 catches over the past two weeks, and while he’s not a dangerous downfield weapon or a major threat in the red zone, he’s suddenly a hot commodity in PPR formats. If defenses continue to focus on Brandon Marshall, Bess will continue to be Chad Henne’s next read underneath. Bess is actually pretty impressive – he has good hands and after-the-catch ability.

FALLERS

Michael Vick, QB, PHI – Vick suffered damage to his ribs last week that will keep him out of at least one game, and possibly a few more. Vick was playing very well and is sure to get the starting job back once he returns, but this shows the greater risk involved with quarterbacks who run opposed to those who remain in the pocket. Kevin Kolb needs to be added in fantasy leagues, but he’s a downgrade from Vick for the Eagles.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, JAC – Sims-Walker was held without a catch Sunday for the second time this season, and he saw just one target in the game. Sims-Walker has just 23 looks all year and seems to be a much smaller part of Jacksonville’s offense compared to last season. It’s too early to drop Sims-Walker, but he cannot be safely started right now either. He’s looking like a bust.

Tom Brady, QB, NE – Brady will continue to be an every week starter in fantasy leagues, but the loss of Randy Moss definitely hurts his value. Even when Moss wasn’t catching balls, he was demanding defenders’ attention and opening up lanes underneath. Aaron Hernandez has been highly impressive, but Wes Welker is not close to being back to 100 percent and has averaged just 8.3 yards-per-catch, and he will see more double teams moving forward too. The team appears to be asking an awful lot from Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman. Moss must have really been a real problem for New England to deal him for a third-round pick in a year they will likely to make the playoffs.

Justin Forsett, RB, SEA – Forsett averaged 20.5 touches over the past two games and finally appeared to be taking charge in the Seattle backfield. Unfortunately, he failed to impress - averaging just 3.6 YPC - and the Seahawks decided to trade for Marshawn Lynch. Expect Forsett to be nothing more than a third down back moving forward. The trade caused a big hit to his fantasy value.

Steve Smith, WR, CAR – Smith’s prospects were already looking down with a rookie starting at quarterback, and things only got worse when he suffered an ankle injury in Week 4. Don’t expect to see Smith on the field until after Carolina’s bye in Week 7, and maybe longer.

Derek Anderson, QB, ARI – After completing just 51.8 percent of his passes, Arizona has decided to go in a different direction - rookie Max Hall was named the team’s starting quarterback Wednesday. Anderson recorded one touchdown and committed six turnovers during three games on the road this season. You can safely drop him if he is still on your roster.