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NFL Barometer: Houston, We Have Liftoff

Mario Puig

Mario Puig

Mario sets the direction of RotoWire's college football and NFL draft content, with his other responsibilities primarily resting in those same subjects. He's a fan of Ishmael Butler, James Harrison and David Bowie.

RISING

Riley Cooper, WR, PHI


Nick Foles continues to dominate for Philadelphia, and Cooper continues to be one of Foles’ most productive targets. After torching the Packers for 102 yards and two touchdowns on three catches, Cooper is now up to 18 catches for 449 yards and six touchdowns in the four games Foles has started. It’s difficult to look at those numbers and see Cooper as anything less than a solid WR3 option with upside. Although he started slowly this year with Michael Vick at the helm of the Philadelphia offense, totaling just eight catches for 93 yards and one touchdown in the first five weeks, Cooper is still averaging 11.6 yards per target this year. He’ll need to earn more targets to remotely sustain his production – he has just 24 targets in Foles’ four starts – but head coach Chip Kelly will likely make an effort to send the ball Cooper’s way more often in light of his emergence.

Shane Vereen, RB, NE

Vereen is eligible to return from the IR-designated for return list as New England returns from their bye week to take on Carolina on Monday, and assuming he does suit up for that game, there’s little or no reason to think he can’t reclaim the role he held prior to his injury in Week 1, when he ran for 101 yards on 14 carries and caught seven passes for 58 yards. Vereen has been practicing since Oct. 30, and there's no reason for New England to give snaps to the likes of Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount at Vereen's expense. There should be legitimate flex value with Vereen going forward, especially with Stevan Ridley losing a fumble against Pittsburgh before the bye – head coach Bill Belichick has shown an almost irrational aversion to perceived fumble risk this year, so Ridley’s error could make Belichick particularly inclined to get Vereen involved right away.

Ben Tate, RB, HOU

Arian Foster (back) is out for the year, locking Tate into a workhorse role with Houston that could yield RB1 production the rest of the way. Despite playing through four broken ribs against Arizona on Sunday, Tate ran for 56 yards on 15 carries. It’s a modest total, but one that’s actually above the 3.5 yards per carry the Cardinals have allowed on the season. Tate’s production should rise significantly as he faces friendlier defenses, in other words. With Oakland, Jacksonville and New England up next, Tate’s situation is rather favorable in the upcoming weeks. With Tate’s ribs hurting and his general history of being prone to injury, many owners might want to consider handcuffing his backup, Dennis Johnson, who tallied 12 carries for 43 yards over the last two weeks.

Bobby Rainey, RB, TB

Mike James’ broken ankle from Monday will force Tampa Bay to turn to a rotation between Rainey and Brian Leonard. As the perceived reliable veteran option between the two, Leonard might see a higher snap count than Rainey, but Rainey is the more talented runner and is probably the more desirable fantasy option, PPR leagues aside – Leonard does have 12 catches in his last three games. Rainey is more dangerous than Leonard with the ball in his hands, and after running for 45 yards and a touchdown on eight carries against the Dolphins, the Buccaneers would be wise to give him as many or more carries than Leonard, who finished Monday’s game with just 57 yards on his 20 runs.

Roddy White, WR, ATL

If any of White’s owners have been fortunate enough to weather the storm to this point in the year, they might get a timely boost to their lineup in the upcoming weeks as White gets back up to full speed from his hamstring and ankle issues. White played 55 snaps against the Seahawks and, while he finished with just one catch for 20 yards, such a sin can be forgiven when playing against Richard Sherman and company. There’s reason for White’s owners to hold out hope for WR3 production going forward, especially when he faces Green Bay and Washington in Weeks 14 and 15, respectively.

FALLING

Michael Vick, QB, PHI


Sixteen touchdowns and no interceptions. That's Nick Foles' box score after seven games in 2013, and it can be taken as a sure sign that, barring an injury to Foles, Vick's time as a starter in Philadelphia is over. It might seem a bit unfair – Vick was doing quite well for the Eagles before he injured his hamstring in Week 5 – but the starting role in Philadelphia should belong to Foles even when Vick returns from his injury, which will probably keep him out another game or two, anyway. Vick's five touchdowns and three interceptions as a passer and 308 yards and two touchdowns as a runner can't keep up with the numbers Foles has been posting lately, and Foles can produce without the exceedingly high injury risk that Vick plays with.

Peyton Hillis, RB, NYG

Most Giants beat writers thought that Hillis would serve as the Giants’ top running back against Oakland on Sunday as Andre Brown made his return from a broken leg, but that turned out to be highly incorrect. Hillis played just 17 snaps off the bench against the Raiders, while Brown started and played 48 snaps, taking 30 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown. Hillis, meanwhile, received just five carries for 21 yards and lost a fumble. It’s not a shocking development at all in hindsight – Hillis is obviously an inferior talent to Brown – but the swiftness with which Brown reclaimed the lead role was a bit unexpected. Hillis is likely a non-factor going forward if Brown stays healthy.

Lance Moore, WR, NO

Moore appeared to be in the midst of a potential resurgence as he caught nine passes for 104 yards and a touchdown between Weeks 8 and 9, but Sunday's game against Dallas seemed to imply that Moore's usage level in the New Orleans offense is about to fall off a cliff. He earned just two targets Sunday, catching one pass for 14 yards, and he has a pitiful average of just 6.0 yards per target in six games this year. Moore is steadily losing ground in the New Orleans wideout rotation as standout rookie Kenny Stills gains steam and reclamation project Robert Meachem regains his footing in New Orleans, leaving Moore with just 29 snaps Sunday as Stills played 50 and Meachem played 33.

Vincent Brown, WR, SD

Brown plays in an offense with lots of snaps up for grabs and a fair number of targets to be had, but he just doesn’t seem to have the talent as a receiver to make an impact in the NFL. Since catching seven passes in back-to-back games on Sept. 29 and Oct. 6 for 158 yards, Brown has just eight catches for 109 yards in the four games since. He hasn't scored since Week 1 and, with an average of just 6.7 yards per target on the year, Brown is safely off the radar outside of deep PPR leagues.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR

It had long been assumed that Williams would see a drop in fantasy value when Jonathan Stewart returned, but early signs indicate that Williams might take a bit of a back seat to Stewart, which wasn’t necessarily expected. What might be even worse is the fact that running back-fullback tweener Mike Tolbert is eating up about as many plays as both Stewart and Williams. That left Williams with just 18 snaps against the 49ers on Sunday, while Stewart played 22 and Tolbert played 37. Williams ended up with eight carries, and Stewart had 13. Although Williams salvaged his fantasy effort Sunday by running for a season-long 27-yard touchdown, he will be hard-pressed to even provide flex value in leagues with 12 or fewer teams if Carolina doesn't give him more than eight carries per game going forward.