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Ten most intriguing players

Dawning of the age of Denarius

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Recent posts by Pat Fitzmaurice

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By Pat Fitzmaurice

1. Denarius Moore — This is the dawning of the age of Denarius. It seems safe to say that Moore’s time has arrived, as the explosive second-year receiver has firmly established himself as Carson Palmer’s go-to guy. Moore has caught TD passes in three consecutive games and four of his last five. He also has caught at least four passes in five straight games, which is particularly meaningful when you consider that Moore has a robust average of 16.1 yards per catch. Moore is preparing to man a cannon in Sunday’s all-pirate battle in Oakland, with the Raiders hosting the Buccaneers. (Avast, ye scurvy dogs!) The Bucs rank 31st against the pass, giving up 309.6 yards per game, so there’s a strong chance that Moore can plunder his opponents and make off with fistfuls of doubloons and ingots.

2. Jamaal Charles — Charles owners were undoubtedly left wondering why one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers carried the ball only five times last week in the Chiefs’ 26-16 loss to the Raiders, but Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel provided no useful insight during the postmortem. “Now, that I’m not exactly sure,” the bewildered Crennel said of Charles’ lack of work. Charles totaled 10 yards from scrimmage vs. Oakland: four rushing, six receiving. With suitable explanations not forthcoming, perhaps Charles owners can find solace in the fact that after Charles turned in a similar dud against the Bills in Week Two, he roared back to life against the Saints the following week, rushing 33 times for 233 yards and a touchdown and adding six receptions for 55 yards. Charles has a somewhat promising Thursday-night matchup against the Chargers, who gave up 122 rushing yards and a touchdown to Cleveland’s Trent Richardson last week. So will Charles bounce back? Now, that I’m not exactly sure.

3. Arian Foster — You’re not going up against Foster this week, are you? If so, the gods of scheduling have dealt you a cruel hand. The top-scoring fantasy running back, well rested after a bye week, gets a succulent home matchup against the Bills and their laughably bad run defense. Buffalo is allowing 176.9 rushing yards per game and giving up an astonishing 6.0 yards per carry. That should help Foster fatten up his surprisingly pedestrian rate of 3.9 yards per carry. The Bills have also allowed 13 rushing touchdowns, while no other team in the league has yielded a double-digit total. Your odds of winning the Megabucks drawing are probably better than the Bills’ odds of keeping Foster, who has 10 TDs in seven games, out of the endzone. I pray you’re not on the wrong end of this Franken-matchup.

4. Antonio Gates — Is this noble old warrior running out of gas, or are his statistical woes attributable to the overall decline of the San Diego offense. Regardless, Gates owners aren’t getting a suitable return on investment. Gates had two catches for 14 yards against the Browns last week, and maybe those disappointing numbers can be blamed on the wet, windy conditions in Cleveland. But aside from a Week Six game against Denver in which Gates had six catches for 81 yards and two TDs, the big man hasn’t had more than four catches or 59 yards in any contest, and he hasn’t scored any other touchdowns. Maybe a home date with the Chiefs can help Gates get his groove back. He has scored three TDs in his last four games vs. Kansas City.

5. Titus Young — Titus Young Sr., as he’s identified on the back of his jersey (he became a new father in the offseason), finally might be ready to give his fantasy owners more than junior achievement. The flaky second-year receiver went off against a tough Seattle defense last week, catching nine passes for 100 yards and two TDs in the Lions’ 28-24 win. With Nate Burleson out for the season with a broken leg and Calvin Johnson drawing considerable defensive attention every game, this might be Young’s time to shine (or, if you will, his Sr. moment). But fleet rookie Ryan Broyles has been coming on for Detroit in recent weeks and could steal some of Young’s thunder. Young and the Lions visit Jacksonville this weekend to face the Jaguars, who rank 23rd against the pass.

6. Marshawn Lynch — The Beastly One appeared poised to produce epic numbers against the Lions last week after rumbling for a 77-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, but the Seahawks didn’t follow the script. Lynch wound up rushing for 105 yards on only 12 carries, and the failure to feed him proved costly, as Seattle blew a pair of leads and wound up falling in Detroit on a last-minute touchdown, 28-24. Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is unlikely to repeat that mistake, so expect Lynch to be fed early and often when the Vikings visit the Emerald City this weekend. When we last checked in on the purple-clad gentlemen from the Upper Midwest, they were being torn asunder by the Buccaneers’ Doug Martin, who ran for 135 yards and a touchdown and totaled 214 yards from scrimmage in Tampa Bay’s 36-17 demolition of Minnesota in Week Eight.

7. Jonathan Stewart — Stewart has been anointed as the main man in the Carolina backfield, though the promotion didn’t bear fruit last week with the Panthers facing the rugged Chicago defense. Stewart carried 17 times for 42 yards against the Bears and had four receptions for 38 yards, while his erstwhile platoon mate, DeAngelo Williams, had 11 carries for 33 yards. Stewart is healthy now after dealing with some minor early-season injuries, and a lot of people have longed to see what the talented back could do if freed from the constraints of the roughly 50-50 time-share he has been part of for so long. It’s possible that Stewart could have enormous fantasy value for the balance of the season. This weekend he’ll be in Washington, attacking a Redskins defense that just gave up 107 rushing yards to Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Dwyer.

8. Eric Decker — It’s hard to find wide receivers who offer a high level of week-to-week dependability, but Decker has turned into one of the most reliable fantasy performers at the position. Peyton Manning’s possession guy has caught at least four passes in every game this season, and now he’s finding paydirt with regularity, having caught five TD passes in his last four games, including two last week against New Orleans. This week’s road game against a respectable Cincinnati pass defense will provide a better test of Decker’s reliability than last week’s home game against the Saints’ welcome-mat secondary, but with Manning so red-hot, Decker figures to have another busy day.

9. Eli Manning — After a tremendous start to the season, Manning has slowed considerably in recent weeks. He has thrown only two TD passes in his last three games and has been held to less than 200 passing yards in two of his last three. Manning was a complete fantasy bust in Dallas last week, completing 15-of-29 passes for 192 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception. And after facing a top-five pass defense last week, the Giants now host the Steelers, who rank first against the pass. Pittsburgh is allowing 182.6 passing yards per game and managed to throw a blanket on dynamic Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III last week.

10. Jason Witten — The panic over Witten’s disappointing early-season numbers seems silly in hindsight, doesn’t it? Just call him Mr. October. In four October games, Witten rang up 43 receptions for 411 yards and a touchdown. The Octo-monster’s explosion came on the heels of a solemn September in which he put up a line of 8-76-0 over his first three games of the season. (Hey, a lacerated spleen is bound to slow a man down a bit.) Witten will now try to carry his preposterous productivity into November, beginning with the Cowboys’ critical road game against the Falcons in Atlanta Sunday night.

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