Fantasy football Risers/Sliders: Wilson, Luck make statements
Russell Wilson impressed in a win over Chicago, faces the struggling Cards next
Jonathan Dwyer could be the Steelers' starting back for rest of the season
Denarius Moore has caught just four balls for 60 yards over his past three starts
The final regular season game in most fantasy leagues provided an opportunity for some players to shine, while others fell flat on their faces. Here's a roundup of which fantasy players are rising and which are sliding.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks -- The knock against Wilson was that he couldn't win a big game on the road, but by going into Chicago and beating the mighty Bears defense in comeback fashion, passing for 293 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another 71, you'd have to say that he passed his test with flying colors. The news gets brighter next week when he tries to remain undefeated at home in Seattle against a woeful Cardinals team that has lost eight straight games.
Tony Romo, Cowboys -- The much-maligned Dallas starter not only took over the career franchise lead in touchdown passes on Sunday night against the sputtering Eagles, but he also put to rest any second thoughts about using him in the fantasy playoffs. Romo has thrown for more than 300 yards in three straight contests and has connected with Dez Bryant for five touchdowns in those games. Don't hesitate using him against the Bengals next week.
Andrew Luck, Colts -- The winningest single-season, No. 1 overall quarterback pick of all-time looked like a 10-time All Pro on the final two scoring drives in Indianapolis' comeback win at Ford Field. He's putting up spectacular passing numbers while utilizing, with the obvious exception of Reggie Wayne, a no-name receiving corps. Perhaps the best example of why Luck has been successful came on his game-winning scramble and toss to Donnie Avery. Instead of watching Avery as he attempted to get the last few yards into the end zone, Luck sprinted toward the goal line in pursuit, ready and willing to make a block if necessary. That's the kind of drive and athleticism that everyone should want in a quarterback, fantasy or otherwise.
Matt Ryan, Falcons -- Once the clear front-runner for league MVP honors, "Matty Ice" has been frigid when it comes to touchdowns and turnovers over the past three weeks. Over that time frame, Ryan has thrown only two scores while turning the ball over seven times -- six on interceptions and one on a lost fumble. The next three games offer favorable matchups against the Panthers, Giants and Lions, but with the Falcons having clinched the NFC South, and with a 2 Ż game lead for home field advantage with four games to go, look for Atlanta to go conservative in the final few weeks. Consider using other options if they have favorable matchups.
Drew Brees, Saints -- On the flip side from Ryan is Drew Brees, who is a must-start every week. Yes, even in those weeks following the first five-interception, no-touchdown game of his career. Curiously, Brees' bad day put him in some excellent company. Others with five picks and no touchdowns in a game include Hall of Famers George Blanda (three times!),Terry Bradshaw, Dan Marino, Joe Namath, Fran Tarkenton, Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas (twice).
Bryce Brown, Eagles -- It's still hard to fathom that Brown has been able to accomplish what he has while playing for a team in as much disarray as the Eagles. Brown has played behind a makeshift line and in relief of LeSean McCoy, who, under the same conditions, was having one of the more disappointing seasons of any first round fantasy pick.
For the second game in a row, Brown impressed in a big way, following up his 178 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers with 169 yards and two more scores at the Jerry Dome in Dallas. His 347 total rushing yards are 29 more than the next highest back in the league over that span, Adrian Peterson. His four touchdowns are one more than someone named Arian Foster (over the last two weeks). The negative, of course, has been three fumbles, the impact of which has been muted on a team playing out the season. He's a difference maker of the highest degree in this year's fantasy postseason.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals -- The Law Firm has posted three consecutive 100-yard performances and scored in two of his last three games. A lower end starting running back when the season began, his progress has made him a quality starting option. The Cowboys, who have been gouged for 282 yards and three touchdowns the past two games by Alfred Morris and Bryce Brown, are up next for Cincinnati.
Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers -- Now that "The Rashard Mendenhall is healthy" charade is over, Dwyer has been handed the Steelers starting job, seemingly for the remainder of the season. He now has the chance to audition for a starting job going forward, whether it's in Pittsburgh or not. He's been good as a starter this year, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and while his upcoming schedule isn't the easiest in the league, there are no defenses on it that should make an owner shy away from using him as a flex option.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers -- Now 23 games removed from his last 100-yard performance, the former fantasy stud was asked to pick up the slack for an injured Jonathan Stewart, and for the first time since September he was actually an asset. Williams chipped in 67 rushing yards on a dozen carries against the Chiefs. Next up is the Falcons, a team giving up 121.3 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown per game. That could make for one last hurrah for Williams as a fantasy contributor.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers -- Even his most vocal supporter, offensive guru and head coach Norv Turner, is now publicly questioning whether Mathews has the ability to be a successful NFL back. There's been little evidence recently that he can be, as his lone touchdown of the season came on Oct. 7 against the Saints and the league's worst run defense.
Felix Jones, Cowboys -- DeMarco Murray is back and played well Sunday night, which should end any thoughts anyone had that Jones would get meaningful carries. As a starter in Murray's absence, Jones averaged just 32.7 rushing yards per game.
Golden Tate, Seahawks -- The ex-Notre Dame star has quietly become a go-to fantasy receiver. Available in about half of all leagues, Tate has been producing at a very high level recently, managing touchdowns in three of his last four games to give him seven on the year. He and Sidney Rice are both recommended this week at home against Arizona.
Donnie Avery, Colts -- It seems like the Colts have a new receiving hero every week, but instead of one replacing the other, they're each stepping up and contributing. On Sunday it was Avery, the journeyman ex-Ram and Titan who caught his second and third touchdowns of the season, none bigger than the catch and sprint into the end zone through two Lions defenders to keep the Colts squarely in the AFC playoff chase. Avery, Reggie Wayne, and T.Y. Hilton all are recommended options in Week 14 against the Titans.
Josh Gordon, Browns -- Quiet since October, Gordon broke out with a 116- yard, one-touchdown game against a bad Raiders defense. Next up are the Chiefs, who curiously have one of the league's better pass defenses but rank last in the league in passing touchdowns allowed with 25 in 12 games. For those who can, keep Gordon active for one more week as a third wideout.
Stevie Johnson, Bills -- He scored a touchdown against the Jaguars -- his first in five games -- but Johnson looked lost at times in Week 13, dropping very catchable balls. Perhaps it was the driving rain at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Hopefully for the sake of his fantasy owners, the weather in Western New York will be better for Buffalo's upcoming tilt with the Rams.
Denarius Moore, Raiders -- What happened to that great chemistry that Carson Palmer had with Moore, almost from the moment Palmer arrived from Cincinnati? Oakland's forgotten wideout has caught just four passes for 60 total yards over his last three starts, a slump that has also spread to Darrius Heyward-Bey, and until Sunday, Rod Streater. Unless you have Brandon Myers on your team, think twice about using a Raiders receiver in these must-win games.
Tony Moeaki, Chiefs -- Against Carolina, the athletic tight end got in the end zone for the first time in more than two years. He wasn't a viable option to start the season, but over the past four games his numbers have been creeping up to usable levels. There are plenty of better alternatives available, but he's someone to watch for 2013 depending on how the quarterback situation in Kansas City pans out.
Vernon Davis, 49ers -- Paging Vernon Davis: Over the past six games, the pre-season third-best tight end has 17 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown. That ranks 31st, 31st and tied for 23rd, respectively, among tight ends over that span. His decline is due in large part to the fact that Davis is a good blocker, which is great for his team but bad for yours.