Fantasy football Risers, Sliders: Roethlisberger, Rice prove valuable
Running backs have the ability to carry a fantasy squad through the season -- hence why the top backs are usually drafted in the first round. But by this point in the season, the true workhorses are feeling the effects of taking a pounding week-in and week-out, and may be slowing down. This reinforces the importance of working the waiver wire for late-season finds at the running back position. Several players are just getting a chance to break into lineups, and they're fresher than the top guys. Check out who's coming on late in the fantasy football regular season.
• Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers -- That's two four-touchdown performances in three games for Big Ben, who threw for 367 yards and four touchdowns in Sunday's comeback win over the Lions. Maybe you're a player in a deep league looking for a quarterback, or maybe you're trying to replace your starter; Roethlisberger appears to at least give you a chance at a big game. The downside: Roethlisberger faces the tough Panthers and Ravens defenses the next two weeks.
• Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals -- Palmer has put up passable numbers the past three weeks, especially for players in bigger leagues, where quarterbacks are scarce. He threw for a league high 419 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's win over the Jaguars. The struggling Colts defense is up next.
• Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers -- Rivers has cooled off after a hot start, throwing for 298 yards, one touchdown and one interception on Sunday. Not bad numbers, but not the fantasy-matchup-winning performances he was having earlier in the season. Rivers has tough matchups against the Chiefs and Bengals the next two weeks.
• Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- With Doug Martin and backup Mike James out, the former Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns backup rushed for 163 yards on 30 carries, with two rushing touchdowns and a receiving score. Martin and James are both out for the season, so pick up Rainey if you're in need of a running back.
• Rashad Jennings, Oakland Raiders -- It was a similar situation in Oakland. Darren McFadden has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, and Jennings has taken advantage of being thrust into the starting lineup. The ex-Jaguar rushed for 150 yards on 22 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run. Rainey is the better option for your fantasy future -- McFadden could be back -- but Jennings could be starting in at least some of the coming weeks.
• Chris Ivory, New York Jets -- Ivory had his second consecutive strong performance for New York, carrying 15 times for 98 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's blowout loss to the Bills. Ivory has wrestled most of the carries away from Bilal Powell the last four weeks, proving he's the Jets running back you want moving forward.
• Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens -- Rice finally made a fantasy impact, rushing 25 times for 131 yards and a touchdown in his best game of the season by far -- his previous rushing high this season was 74 yards. To make it look even better, he put those numbers up against a Bears' rush defense that was in the upper half of the league coming into the game.
• Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans -- After rushing for just 30 yards against the Jaguars the previous week, Johnson rushed for 86 yards and two scores in last Thursday's loss to the Colts. Shonn Greene had just three carries; Johnson had 17.
• Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions -- Bush carried the ball just 12 times for 31 yards and caught two passes for 23 yards, but was benched in favor of Joique Bell after losing a fumble in the first half of the Lions' loss to the Steelers. Bush will return next week -- he even came back into Sunday's game after Bell tweaked an injury -- but fumbling issues aren't a good look for the fantasy stretch run.
• Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs -- It was the second straight monster-target game for Bowe, who hadn't been much of a fantasy starter this year. Alex Smith looked his way 14 times on Sunday night, and Bowe caught four of those passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. That's not a great catch rate, but the Chiefs have a tougher upcoming schedule, with the Chargers and Broncos again the next two weeks. They could be forced to throw more, leaving Bowe with plenty of chances.
• Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals -- The No. 1 receiver (by yardage) Sunday had been a breakout candidate in the preseason, but wasn't really getting the targets needed to be a solid fantasy starter. On Sunday he finally saw some throws, catching six passes on 11 targets for 193 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown. Obviously a large chunk of yardage came on one play, but those are still solid fantasy numbers even without the play.
• Wes Welker, Denver Broncos -- Welker left Sunday night's game against the Chiefs with a concussion. He actually came back in for one play -- a nine-yard reception -- after the play where he took the big hit, but didn't return after that. He'll have to be cleared before he can play Sunday night.
• Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers -- The rising rookie left Sunday's loss to Miami with a right knee injury. He finished with three catches for 45 yards. It may just be a hyper-extension, so he should be able to return next week.
• Golden Tate, Seattle Seahawks -- He's been inconsistent this year, and on Sunday he caught just one pass for 26 yards. The Saints and 49ers the next two weeks after the bye aren't the best matchups, and when Percy Harvin starts working his way into the lineup,Tate's value could decrease.
• Garrett Graham, Houston Texans -- Graham had by far the most targets of the season on Sunday, with Case Keenum and Matt Schaub looking his way 13 times in the 28-23 loss to Oakland. He caught seven passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. Graham had just nine targets the past two games combined. With the Texans run game struggling, Graham appears to be the recipient of more looks; the Raiders had been decent against tight ends coming into the game.
• Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts -- Andrew Luck's targeted Fleener 10 times in each of the last two games, and last Thursday Fleener caught eight of those passes for 107 yards in the Colts' comeback win over the Titans. The schedule's not too easy the next few weeks -- Cardinals, Titans again, Bengals -- but if you're desperate for a TE Fleener may be available.
• Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins -- The Redskins' emerging rookie tight end was knocked out of the game against the Eagles with a concussion.
• Garrett Hartley, New Orleans Saints -- The Saints had tried out other kickers after Hartley struggled; he responded by hitting three field goals -- all in the fourth quarter -- to give New Orleans a 23-20 win over the 49ers.
• Nick Folk, New York Jets -- The Jets had just 267 yards of offense Sunday in a 37-14 loss to the Bills, and Folk missed a 48-yard kick in the swirling Buffalo winds. When Geno Smith struggles, Folk will get fewer opportunities.
• New York Giants -- The G-Men have won four straight, and on Sunday the Giants defense intercepted Scott Tolzien three times; one was returned by Jason Pierre-Paul for a 24-yard touchdown. Division games against Dallas and Washington are up the next two weeks, providing extra motivation for the Giants.
• Kansas City Chiefs -- Everyone's been torched by Peyton Manning this season. The Chiefs gave up 27 points in Sunday's first loss of the season, though they did recover a fumble. The only reason this is mildly concerning: The Chiefs play the Broncos again in two weeks, in the last week of the regular season in some leagues.
MORE WEEK 12 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
SI STAFF: Player Rankings -- Jackson, Bucs offense is on the rise
EDHOLM, MIGLIO: Bold Strategies -- Start McCown, not Kaepernick
SI STAFF: Roundtable -- Should Charles owners be worried by K.C. offense?
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Ball finding his place in the Denver offense
McQUADE: Risers, Sliders -- Rice finally makes a true fantasy impact
BELLER: Early Advice -- Rainey emerges as an unlikely fantasy hero