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NFL Barometer: The Home Stretch

Jim Coventry

Coventry covers football and baseball for RotoWire. He started playing fantasy football in 1994 and won a national contest in 1996. He also nabbed five top-50 finishes in national contests from 2008 to 2012 before turning his attention to DFS. A published author, Coventry wrote a book about relationships, "The Secret of Life", in 2013.

The NFL has an ever-changing landscape, and the purpose of this weekly article is to help identify trends that could have long-term impacts on fantasy rosters.

RISING

Latavius Murray, RB, OAK


After it appeared that the Raiders' coaching staff was phasing him out of the offense earlier in the season, Murray has become one of the top fantasy options at the running back position the last month. During his last five games, he's posted at least 88 yards in each game while finding the end zone in four of those, including games with two and three touchdowns. To top things off, he faces the Chargers and Colts the next two weeks, so he could be instrumental in team's winning fantasy titles.

Jordy Nelson, WR, GB

The Packers' passing attack is humming along, and Nelson is clearly back to being a WR1 after the torrid pace he's been on the last seven games. During that time, he's been below 91 yards just twice, but in each of those games, he's found the end zone, giving him an high weekly floor. In addition, he's averaging more than 10 targets and scored in six games during that span. He has an excellent matchup against the Bears in Week 15, though things will get more difficult when he'll likely be shadowed by Xavier Rhodes when he faces the Vikings in Week 16.

Dontrelle Inman, WR, SD

After scoring in three straight games, Inman has to be considered as a solid weekly fantasy starter. During those three games, he's posted 119, 49 and 71 yards, though he's accomplished that while only being targeted five to seven times in those games. His lack of targets suggests that he could have a bad game at any time, but since he's posted at least 43 yards in seven consecutive games, he should be started with confidence as a WR3. Finally, he has a pair of outstanding matchups against the Raiders and Browns the next two weeks, so he's peaking at the right time.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, ARI

With the Cardinals lacking a consistent receiving option aside from Larry Fitzgerald, Gresham has become a featured part of the offense the last three weeks. During that span, he's averaged 7.6 targets while posting 35 to 52 yards in each game. In addition, he's found the end zone twice in his last four. He's in position to keep his streak of success going in a great matchup at home against the Saints this week, though he could struggle in Week 16 when he travels to Seattle. Fantasy owners who find themselves without a reliable option at tight end should check to see if he's on the waiver wire, as he's looking like a strong starter.

CHECK STATUS

Derek Carr, QB, OAK


Carr came into last week's game with multiple touchdowns in three consecutive games before throwing for 117 yards without a scoring pass against the Chiefs. Sure, his poor game could've been due to the cold weather, but over the season, he's had six games with one or fewer touchdown passes, and he's demonstrated clear downside on too many occasions. However, with a road game at the Chargers and a home game against the Colts upcoming, he definitely has positive matchups and terrific upside, but it's important to understand the risk that he carries as well. Although he could torch the Colts in Week 16, the Raiders just as easily could use the rushing attack to bury Indy's leaky defense.

Bilal Powell, RB, NYJ

When Matt Forte Powell took advantage of an excellent matchup, turning 24 touches into 179 yards and two touchdowns. Should Forte be limited or be out, Powell, as he showed last year, is capable of being a strong fantasy option for a short period. At the end of the 2015 season, he posted at least 79 yards and averaged 90 yards while scoring three touchdowns in the last four games. He'll also benefit from not having to face an elite defense the next two weeks (the Dolphins at home and the Patriots on the road).

Justin Forsett, RB, DEN

Sure, Forsett is near the end of the road in terms of his NFL career, and his bouncing from roster to roster this season hasn't helped matters. However, less than a week after signing with Denver, he had more touches than Devontae Booker. Of course, Forsett had just 2.8 yards per carry on his six rushing attempts, but, more important, he caught three passes for 18 yards. Those in a desperate state at running back in PPR leagues could get some production out of the veteran, who looks comfortable in coach Gary Kubiak's offense.

Isaiah Crowell, RB, CLE

Crowell's 113-yard effort wasn't completely unexpected, though the fact he achieved it on just 10 carries certainly was a bit shocking. So why was a big game from a player who hadn't surpassed 44 rushing yards in seven of his last games not a surprise? Believe it or not, having Robert Griffin at quarterback is a significant benefit for the Browns' rushing attack, as the threat of a mobile signal caller tends to open up running lanes, and Crowell's ability to cut back and use his excellent vision come into play. He could end the season strong with matchups against the Bills and Chargers and should be a reasonable starting option as a RB2.

FALLING

Mike Evans, WR, TB


Few wide receivers are capable of taking over the game like Evans. However, the Bucs' struggling running game and no other receiving threats for defenses to worry about means opponents will game-plan to keep Evans from beating them. He's been targeted just 14 times the last two games, and that's after he saw at least 11 targets in nine of his previous 10 games. In addition, he's done little with his targets, as he has 80 yards and no scores over those two. The schedule seems friendly enough the next couple weeks, as he'll be on the road at Dallas and New Orleans, and obviously he must be started each week, but if the blueprint to slow him down is out there, don't be surprised to see him have an uninspiring end to the season.

Brandon Marshall. WR, NYJ

Let's cut to the chase: Marshall has failed to exceed 70 yards while scoring just once in his last eight games, and he's failed to reach 47 yards in four of his last five. In addition, Bryce Petty is here to stay at quarterback as the Jets face the Dolphins and Patriots, who'll be desperate.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI

The fact that Fitzgerald had 12 yards in Wee 14 can be written off by the downpour in which the game was played, but the fact that he's failed to reach 65 yards in three of his last four games (he hasn't reached 80 yards in any of those, by the way) has now become a disturbing trend. In addition, he hasn't reached the end zone in his last eight, and as a result, his 2016 season is ending in a similar fashion to 2015. He'll have a chance for some production in his Week 15 home matchup with the Saints before traveling to Seattle in Week 16, and looks like a high-floor, low-upside lineup option.

Eric Ebron, TE, DET

Ebron looked as if he was on his way to a breakout season when he had reached at least 69 yards in four of five games. However, in the three games since, he's totaled 70 yards and hasn't had more than four catches in any of those games. In addition, he hasn't found the end zone since Week 1, so his yardage was the one fantasy asset he had going for him, and that appears to have dried up. Although he doesn't have a difficult schedule with matchups at the Giants and Cowboys the next two weeks, it's difficult to start him with much confidence in the fantasy playoffs.