By Dalton Del Don
Rock Cartwright, RB, WAS – With Ladell Betts done for the season with a knee injury, Cartwright is suddenly Washington's lead back, as Clinton Portis (concussion) has already been ruled out for Week 12, and his status is shaky moving forward. Cartwright isn't an especially talented back, but he should get the bulk of the workload, including at the goal line, and since he also added seven catches for 73 yards receiving last week, he could be quite valuable down the stretch.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, NYG – Jacobs disappointed yet again last week, getting just 3.3 YPC against a poor Atlanta defense. He also left the game with a knee injury, which kept him out of the entire fourth quarter. Jacobs leaving early with minor injuries has become a theme seen far too often, but his latest problem isn't expected to keep him out of action on Thanksgiving. Moreover, with Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle) ruled out for Week 12, Jacobs is looking at a higher workload, even if Danny Ware gets involved in the game plan. Denver's defense has really sputtered of late, so a heavy dose of Jacobs could put up big numbers Thursday.
Chris Chambers, WR, K.C. – Chambers was held in check until the end of last week's game, but 119 receiving yards against a tough Steelers secondary was impressive nevertheless. Chambers is typically an inefficient wide receiver, but with Dwayne Bowe suspended and few other options in the passing attack, Chambers is going to continue to get targeted heavily, especially since the Chiefs defense is bad. Kansas City's upcoming schedule is highly favorable, so Chambers could make a difference from here on.
Laurence Maroney, RB, NE – Maroney lost another fumble last week, but he continues to dominate carries, including at the goal line, on a team with possibly the best offense in football. As a result, he's scored six touchdowns over the past five games, and Sammy Morris is still iffy to return from his knee injury. New England isn't a dominant run-blocking unit, and it would be nice if Maroney were more involved as a receiver, but he's still in a terrific situation to continue piling up scores. The 22 carries he was given last week were a season-high, and the Pats' fantasy playoff schedule (Car, @Buf, Jax) is very favorable.
Terrell Owens, WR, BUF – Owens is still a risky proposition, especially once the weather turns in Buffalo, but he gets the upgrade after his Week 11 performance (nine catches, 197 yards), including a 98-yard TD. He also had 85 yards receiving the week before, so he's clearly become more involved in the Bills offense than at any point this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown a willingness to attack downfield that Trent Edwards rarely did, which is great news for Owens, obviously. There's no way he'll be able to duplicate last week's huge game against a poor Jacksonville secondary over the rest of 2009, but Owens is at least back on the fantasy radar.
Mike Bell, RB, N.O. – Bell is still an unreliable weekly fantasy start since he's so dependent on goal-line carries, but it's abundantly clear coach Sean Payton sees him as a valuable member of the New Orleans backfield. It doesn't matter at all that Pierre Thomas is the superior talent as long as Payton continues to distribute the carries this way, so unless an injury strikes, the Saints running back situation has a limited ceiling.
Matthew Stafford, QB, DET – Stafford gets a short-term downgrade, as he's unlikely to play Thursday with an injury to his left shoulder. He's also proven to be a bit injury prone during his rookie campaign. Still, with 422 passing yards (9.8 YPA) and a whopping five touchdowns last week, Stafford's stock is up. It came against a weak Browns defense, and Stafford's overall numbers remain unimpressive, but that was the type of performance only future stars typically produce. In another year, the Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson combo could be deadly.
Calvin Johnson, WR, DET – Speaking of Johnson, the talented wideout suffered yet another injury last week, and his status for Thursday's game against the Packers is in doubt. The injury is even more maddening after watching him go off for 161 receiving yards and a TD against the Browns. His future still looks extremely bright, especially with Matthew Stafford showing signs of progress, but it's also worth questioning Johnson's durability at this point. He's been tough to own in 2009.
Matt Leinart, QB, ARI – Entering Week 11, Leinart looked like a solid guy to stash on benches in deeper leagues, ostensibly an upside play if Kurt Warner were to go down. After Leinart managed just 5.3 YPA and the Cardinals offense completely stalled once Warner left last week, Leinart no longer warrants a roster spot. Sure, it's always harder to perform coming in mid-game as opposed to taking starter reps throughout the practice week, but the putrid performance came against a bad Rams secondary, and with a healthy Anquan Boldin (as well as Larry Fitzgerald, of course).
Marshawn Lynch, RB, BUF – Lynch was forced to leave last week's game with a shoulder injury, and though the malady doesn't seem likely to keep him out of action against the Dolphins in Week 12, Buffalo's backfield may very well return to a committee. Unless Lynch or Fred Jackson suffers a serious injury, it's far from an ideal situation for fantasy owners.
Ladell Betts, RB, WAS – Finally given an opportunity with Clinton Portis (concussion) sidelined, Betts suffered a catastrophic knee injury last week, tearing both his MCL and ACL. At age 30 and with a long road to recovery ahead, it looks like he's played his last down as a Redskin. Betts had been given at least 20 carries nine times in his career, and he's produced 100-yard rushing performances in seven of them, so the timing of this injury was especially unfortunate.
Marc Bulger, QB, STL – Bulger has a fracture in his left leg and will miss three to six weeks, and as uninspiring as his play has been, backup Kyle Boller is even worse. Few fantasy leaguers were relying on Bulger, but his loss also affects Donnie Avery and the promising Brandon Gibson, who both deserve downgrades as a result. Start opposing fantasy defenses that are facing the Rams with confidence.
Braylon Edwards, WR, NYJ – It's never easy for receivers who are traded mid-season, and Edwards is also dealing with a struggling rookie at quarterback, but the wideout remains a disappointment nevertheless. He was held to just one catch for 10 yards against the Patriots last week, as Edwards continues to struggle with drops. All the physical talent in the world can't overcome such inconsistent hands, and with Mark Sanchez likely to refrain from too many shots downfield in an effort to avoid turnovers, Edwards is a risky start from here on out.
Steve Slaton, RB, HOU – After coach Gary Kubiak named Slaton the starter during Houston's bye week, it was extremely disconcerting to see Chris Brown run out with the first team offense last Monday night. Slaton managed to score from the goal line and didn't fumble, but Brown was given more than twice as many carries (11 to five). Slaton remains active as a receiver and still has upside, but it's pretty hard to do much damage with just five rushing attempts. Brown has gotten just 3.3 YPC on the year while failing to impress, so it's still likely Slaton gets the bulk of the work moving forward, assuming he protects the football, but he's been an awfully frustrating player to own in fantasy leagues this year.
Article first appeared 11/25/09