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NFL Barometer: You Never Know

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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Matthew Stafford, QB, DET - Over the last five weeks, Stafford is second only to Tom Brady in fantasy points scored (per game). As outlined with Tony Romo in this space a few weeks back (he's third), it's all about the volume for Stafford, whose 224 attempts are the second most in the league during that span. Through Week 16, the Lions will face the Colts, Packers, Cardinals and Falcons - three of those four teams are plenty capable of racking up points and forcing Stafford to air it out often. Stafford has thrown at least 32 passes in each of the Lions' 11 games this season, and has attempted 42 or more in eight contests. Long term, there are still plenty of question marks here in terms of his actual skills ceiling and upside, and the 7.0 YPA he's provided this season ranks along with Carson Palmer, Sam Bradford and Jay Cutler atop the bottom third of the league. Perhaps some improvement is forthcoming if Ryan Broyles proves to be an upgrade over Titus Young and Nate Burleson as the Lions' No. 2 receiver, but Stafford looks like a very average real-life quarterback in a position to generate top-eight value at his position because of his team context.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, NYG - Without Andre Brown no longer around to vulture goal-line carries, Bradshaw should see an uptick in value going forward. David Wilson should be considered as a lottery ticket/handcuff type now that he's one injury away from a prominent role in the Giants' offense.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR - Williams has failed to produce over the last three weeks while seeing a reduced workload (24 carries for 45 yards) behind Jonathan Stewart. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera revealed Tuesday that Stewart suffered a high ankle sprain in the Monday night win over the Eagles, which should leave Williams in position to take on the majority of the snaps for the next four-to-six weeks. Given that the Panthers are 3-8, Stewart's season could effectively be over, while Williams has become available on the waiver wire in a significant number of leagues recently. Cam Newton (two rushing scores Monday) and Mike Tolbert will be threats around the goal line, but Williams has immediate appeal in the Panthers' matchup against the Chiefs in Week 13. For the season, the Chiefs have allowed 4.5 YPC to opposing runners while ranking 24th in the league at 126.1 YPG.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, DEN - Last week's FAAB budget scraps were invested in Ronnie Hillman and to a lesser extent, Lance Ball. Broncos head coach John Fox gave Moreno 55 snaps to a combined eight from Hillman and Ball, likely due in part to his ability in pass protection. As mentioned above, the Chiefs' run defense is one of the league's weaker units, but getting an overwhelming majority of the snaps should make Moreno a useful pickup in leagues where he's still available. Keep in mind, however, that the Broncos will face the Bucs' league-best run defense (3.4 YPC allowed) in Week 13, making Moreno more of a deep league flex option than an immediate starter. A more favorable spot awaits Moreno in Week 14 when the Broncos visit the Raiders (4.7 YPC allowed, 131.2 YPG).

Chris Givens, WR, STL - When Jeff and I talked about Givens as a waiver pickup during RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on Tuesday morning, the comp that came up was Josh Gordon. Both are capable of delivering big plays - and plenty of fantasy points - without a heavy target volume. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has looked Givens' way 13 times in the last two games, while he's caught at least three passes in each of his last five games. Unfortunately for those in need of immediate help from the waiver wire, Givens faces the Niners in Week 13 and San Francisco has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season. The schedule eases up down the stretch, however with the Bills, Vikings and Bucs on the slate from Week 14 through Week 16.

Mohamed Sanu, WR, CIN - Realizing the risk in getting excited about a relatively unheralded player finding the end zone twice in a game against a weak opponent, there are two other important things to consider from Sanu's performance against the Raiders on Sunday. First, he was targeted nine times by quarterback Andy Dalton, a new season high. Second, he played more offensive snaps (58) in Week 12 than any of the Bengals' other pass catchers behind top wideout A.J. Green (60). The Bengals have been working in creative ways to get Sanu involved this season, he's an intriguing speculative for those in deeper formats (14-plus teams) down the stretch.

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Carson Palmer, QB, OAK - The Raiders are apparently considering the possibility of getting a look at Terrelle Pryor at some point, which may not materialize until the final game or two of the regular season. Still, it's a concern for those profiting from Palmer's current status as the team's starter.

Nick Foles, QB, PHI - Sure, 16-for-21 isn't bad, but a YPA below 6.0 against the Panthers on Monday night and being at the helm for a team that appears to be giving up isn't going help his production in the short term. Further, the offensive line issues that plagued Michael Vick are still very apparent, and the loss of DeSean Jackson removes a playmaker capable of generating big yardage after the catch for Foles.

Jalen Parmele, RB, JAC - Unfortunately for Parmele, his season came to an abrupt end with an injury in Week 12 with a groin injury - just before the Jags get a matchup with the Bills' leaky run defense Sunday. Rashad Jennings will move back into the starting lineup for Jacksonville. Prior to his departure, Parmele had 45 yards on eight carries (5.6 YPC) against the Titans.

LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, ARI - Perhaps the rib injury that left Stephens-Howling with the questionable tag on the injury report was the primary reason behind the limited role Sunday, but The Hyphen played just six snaps in Week 12 while Beanie Wells (30 snaps, 18 carries) and William Powell (40 snaps, three carries) handled the workload.

Lance Ball, RB, DEN - Given the choice between Ball and Ronnie Hillman as the speculative hold to hedge against Knowshon Moreno's health, I'll take Hillman.

Steve Smith, WR, CAR - With just one touchdown this season, Smith continues to disappoint as the Panthers' top wideout. Despite getting seven targets in each of the last four games, he's caught 13 passes for 181 yards during that span. For the season, Smith ranks 34th in fantasy points among wide receivers (non-PPR), despite being tied for 16th at his position in targets (91). A tough matchup against Brandon Flowers awaits in Week 13.

Danny Amendola, WR, STL - Fortunately for Amendola owners, the Rams listed him as doubtful heading into Week 12 and his early departure from the win over the Cardinals ultimately didn't hurt many lineups. While he caught his only target for a 38-yard gain, Amendola played just 10 offensive snaps before calling it a day. Keep an eye on his participation in practice throughout the week, but he's clearly at less than 100 percent even if he's able to play against San Francisco on Sunday.

James Jones, WR, GB - Don't say the fall came without warning, or at least some doubt about him.


Vernon Davis, TE, SF - He should be getting more targets. Davis is averaging 9.7 YPT this season, but with just 50 targets through 11 games and four inside the red zone, he's hardly separated from the pack of mediocre second-tier tight ends. With a great matchup against the Saints' porous pass defense, Davis was given just one target and went without a catch in Week 12.

Follow me on Twitter @DerekVanRiper.