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Ten most intriguing players

Martin making fantasy world take notice

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Recent posts by Pat Fitzmaurice

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By Pat Fitzmaurice

1. Doug Martin — A lot of people liked Martin’s fantasy prospects entering the season, but who could have imagined that this was coming? After a watershed performance against the Vikings in Week Eight, the rookie topped it by rampaging for 251 rushing yards and four TDs in Oakland last weekend, with scoring runs of 45, 67 and 70 yards, capped off by a more mundane one-yard plunge near the end of the game. So, let’s take inventory of Martin’s production over the past two weeks: 54 carries for 386 yards and five TDs, along with seven catches for 100 yards and a TD. The history-making performance against the Raiders came after Martin owners had spent the week wringing their hands about the season-ending injury sustained by one of Martin’s key blockers, All-Pro OG Carl Nicks. Martin, who now has had more than 100 yards from scrimmage in four consecutive games, makes a triumphant return to Tampa this weekend after his two weeks of road rage. The Buccaneers host the Chargers, who rank No. 4 against the run.

2. Chris Johnson — Imagine that you met a drop-dead-gorgeous girl and began dating her. (Ladies, feel free to flip the genders in this hypothetical example.) Almost immediately, the relationship went horribly wrong. She made groundless accusations that you were cheating on her. She embarrassed you in front of friends and family. She destroyed some of your stuff. Then, just as you were ready to break up, she morphed into the perfect companion. Not only did her erratic behavior cease completely, but she started whipping up gourmet dinners, gave you carte blanche to have boys’ nights out, even arranged to have flowers delivered to your mom on her birthday. Suddenly, your erstwhile psycho girlfriend had turned into spouse material. But deep down, you feared that she might abruptly turn back into a nightmare. This is an approximation of what it’s like to be a Chris Johnson owner this season. Four of Johnson’s first five games were disasters, the exception being a 141-yard rushing day against the Texans in Week Four. But over his last four games, Johnson has carried 74 times for 526 yards (7.1 yards per carry) and three TDs. Welcome back, CJ2K. Will you marry me? Johnson will be put to the test this weekend when the Titans visit Miami to face the Dolphins, whose defense ranks No. 3 vs. the run. Johnson owners can only hope the honeymoon lasts.

3. Danny Amendola — Sam Bradford’s favorite target is expected to be back in action this week after missing three games with a dislocated clavicle. It has been well documented that the injury could have been life-threatening, since Amendola’s clavicle dislocated inward instead of outward and could have potentially damaged his aorta. Before the injury, Amendola had been perhaps the busiest receiver in the league. He was targeted no fewer than nine times in each of the Rams first four games (he was injured in the fifth) and averaged 11 targets and 7.8 catches over that span. The 49ers aren’t likely to roll out a welcome mat for Amendola when they host the Rams this weekend. But even against San Francisco’s No. 2-rated pass defense, Amendola is certainly a viable fantasy option, especially in PPR leagues.

4. Adrian Peterson — The seemingly superhuman Peterson has laid to rest any questions about the fitness of his surgically repaired knee and has been laying opposing defenses to waste. Over his last three games, “Purple Jesus” (pardon the warranted blasphemy) has run 55 times for 458 yards and four TDs. That amounts to an astonishing 8.3 yards per carry and brings his per-carry average for the season to 5.7, which, if it holds up, would be the best mark of his illustrious career. Peterson, who has had more than 100 yards from scrimmage in seven consecutive games, might have to shoulder an even bigger load this week if Percy Harvin is unable to play on a sprained ankle. While Peterson gives the Vikings a highly effective running game, Minnesota’s passing game appears broken beyond repair. With Detroit coming to Minnesota this weekend for an important NFC North battle, Peterson might be required to carry the offense almost by himself.

5. Brandon Marshall — The Bears’ offense currently ranks 29th in passing, and Chicago is one of only four teams averaging fewer than 200 passing yards per game, but Marshall is flourishing nonetheless. He had nine receptions for 122 yards and three TDs against Tennessee last week, and over his last five games he’s put up a stat line of 43-583-6. No other NFL receiver has been more essential to his team’s offense than Marshall, who has a mind-boggling 41 percent of Chicago’s pass receptions this season. But Marshall has a difficult matchup this week, with the Bears hosting a Sunday-night game against the Texans, who rank fourth in the league against the pass and likely will try to keep Marshall in check with underrated cover man Johnathan Joseph.

6. Taiwan Jones — Darren McFadden and his primary backup, Mike Goodson, both sustained high ankle sprains last week and are unlikely to play this week when the Raiders visit Baltimore. Marcel Reece will get some of the snaps at running back, but Reece was a college wide receiver who has been converted into a pass-catching fullback and doesn’t have much of a track record as a runner. (He has had one rushing attempt all season.) Jones, a second-year pro from Eastern Washington, has only 17 career carries, though his blazing speed makes him an interesting fantasy prospect. He fumbled on his only carry last week (his first rushing attempt of the year), so Jones had best hang on to the ball this week if he wants to prolong his audition for a meaningful role. He has shown flashes of electricity as a runner, and the Ray Lewis-less Ravens defense ain’t what it used to be against the run, currently ranking 28th in that category. This game could go a long way in letting us know whether Jones has any present or future fantasy value.

7. Vincent Jackson — V-Jax has settled into his new home quite nicely, thank you very much, and this weekend he’s inviting some old friends over to check out his new digs: the San Diego Chargers. Jackson spent seven up-and-down seasons in San Diego, but even in his best years, he never gave the Chargers the kind of production he has been giving the Buccaneers. Jackson finished with close to 1,100 receiving yards in three of his last four seasons in San Diego, with a career high of 1,167 yards in 2009, and he had two seasons with nine TD catches. This season, he’s on pace to top 1,400 receiving yards and finish with 12 TD catches. Jackson has five TD receptions in his last five games, and he's gaining a stunning 22.9 yards per catch. Welcome to Vincent’s house, Chargers. Fix yourselves a drink and come have a look at the pirate ship.

8. Andrew Luck — Asked to give himself a midterm grade for his rookie season, Luck awarded himself a “C.” I think it’s safe to say that no college student would ever want to take a course that Professor Luck was teaching. Luck threw for 433 yards and two TDs last week as his Colts defeated the Dolphins, 23-20, to capture their third consecutive win and run their record to 5-3, keeping them squarely in the hunt for a playoff spot. How’s that for a quick rebuilding job? Luck leads his team into Jacksonville on Thursday night to take on the 1-7 Jaguars, whose lone win came against Indianapolis in Week Three. Luck completed less than 50 percent of his passes in that earlier meeting but still threw for 313 yards and two TDs.

9. Ray Rice — Those who were bellowing for Rice to get more carries were granted their wish last week. Rice ran a season-high 25 times in Baltimore’s 25-15 win over Cleveland in Week Nine, finishing with 98 rushing yards and a touchdown. That was as many carries as Rice had in his previous two games combined, and it was just the second time this season that the rugged little back from Rutgers has had 20 or more carries. It would seem to make sense for the Ravens to give Rice an ample workload when they host the Raiders this weekend considering that Doug Martin, a running back with a skill set somewhat similar to that of Rice, left the Oakland run defense in ruins last week.

10. Matt Ryan — The Saints’ defense has been in utter disarray all season and seems ill-equipped to deal with the Falcons’ ruthlessly efficient passing attack, so Ryan owners are understandably expecting big numbers from their quarterback this week. In two games against the Saints last season, Ryan threw for 724 yards and three TDs, and that was actually a better New Orleans defense than the ragged outfit we’ve seen this year. Against the Cowboys last week, Ryan was held without a TD pass for the first time this season, but he still managed to throw for 342 yards. It’s hard to imagine the Saints keeping Atlanta WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones under wraps, so the chances of Ryan being blanked on TD passes for a second consecutive week seem as remote as the chances of a snowstorm hitting the Big Easy this weekend.

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