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Lucky Unlucky 13?

Can anyone light it up down the stretch and become a dynasty flavor for next season? Can anyone finish the season Jerome Harrison or Jamaal Charles style and help your team through the playoff push but also become a dynasty target for 2011? Here are a few potential players that look to capitalize from here on out and could rise up the rankings board and in your sentimental thoughts. Their play may decide your fate. “Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?”

Felix Jones

If there were ever a time that Jones would benefit from playing well, now would be that time. Marion Barber has already been ruled out of the Week 13 game plan. That means that Jones and fellow running back Tashard Choice will have increased opportunities to earn the starting gig. But there is really no arguing who the better natural talent between the two backs is. Jones, when healthy, can be one of the better explosive backs in the league. The passing game may not be the same as it was under Tony Romo, but that should actually benefit Jones in terms of carries. Jon Kitna is just dangerous enough to keep defenses back covering the wide array of receiving threats that Dallas possesses. However, Kitna is not necessarily good enough to be overwhelmingly effective in doing so.

With defenses needing to play honest and Dallas needing to establish a balance on offense, Jones could finally begin to create a production rhythm. Starting in Week 13, Dallas will play Indianapolis, Philadelphia twice, Washington and Arizona. None of those defenses really cause me to look in a different direction if I have Jones and need to start him. With five relatively manageable defenses in the next five weeks, Jones could finally pay back the owners who have been waiting patiently all season long. And if Jones does finally run well, it could force Dallas to make a decision on their running backs next season, hypothetically sending Barber packing for draft considerations. The next five games could inflate Jones’ stock for 2011 as well as win you 2010.

Ray Rice

I’ve written about him many times before and will continue to do so until I prove to be correct. That time may come as early as this week. With Le’Ron McClain out with injury, the word out of the Ravens’ camp is that Willis McGahee may need to fill the fullback role. If that is true, and McGahee is used as a short-yardage option and a lead block, it would result in more carries overall for Rice. The chance for Rice to explode back onto the scene is here. The question now becomes, “What will he do with it?”

Rice will hopefully flourish with added carries against favorable opponents. The next five defenses that Rice lines up against will be Pittsburgh, Houston, New Orleans, Cleveland and Cincinnati. The Steelers aside, the last four matchups look to be very favorable for Rice to capitalize. Week 13 could be a rough one for Rice, but it’ll be the last tough matchup for him in the 2010 fantasy season. I’d fully expect Rice to get back into his role as a premier receiver and explosive rusher. If I had to take a guess as to who would finish 2010 the way Jerome Harrison finished 2009, my money would be on Rice. His fantasy stock for next season sways heavily on his production from Week 14 until the play clock shows four zeros in Week 17.

Anthony Dixon

Two things remain constant when talking about Frank Gore. The first is that he is one of the best overall backs in the NFL. He’s a workhorse rusher and a top option as a receiver. The second is that Gore will get hurt each season. The only question is how much time will he miss? Even during his huge 2009 season, Gore missed multiple games due to injury.

Owning Gore is like owning a vintage Ford Mustang. It’s incredibly fast, fun to own, great to brag about, but it’s only a matter of time until you need to bring it to the mechanic for repairs. Driving that Mustang too much is like what the 49ers do with Gore. They run him so much that it’s not a matter of if he’s going to miss time, it’s how much will be missed? That being said, Brian Westbrook is kind of like an even older model Mustang. He’s still just as great, but has an even higher chance of needing repair.

With five weeks left in the season, I’d put my money on Dixon emerging as the lead back. Dixon absolutely abused people in the preseason. I know, it’s the preseason, it’s not the same. But there are a few teams approaching on the schedule whose defenses are probably relatively equal to the defenses Dixon saw in the preseason. There are three big weeks coming up where Dixon could put up huge yardage. The upcoming contests against Seattle, St. Louis and Arizona could turn out to be big days for the young back. I can’t say that I trust him against Green Bay or San Diego at this time, but the other three games offer a ton of potential for Dixon’s stock to shoot way up going into 2011.

Let’s see how he’s used this week before inserting him into lineups during playoff time. If you make it past this week and are devastated at the position playing Dixon could be a huge payout.

Sidney Rice

Minnesota
’s No. 1 wide receiver could bounce back in a huge way over the next five weeks as long as his hip holds up to the abuse. If the Vikings go easy on Adrian Peterson, given that his ankle is still healing, the passing game may see an uptick in the offensive game plan. If Rice is truly healthy and you need a high upside wide receiver, look no further. It’s amazing to me that Rice missed his time due to injury and Vincent Jackson missed his time due to contract, and now in Week 13 Rice is healthy and Jackson is out with injury. That serves you right Jackson! But I digress.

In addition to Rice being back and what should be added emphasis on the passing game while preserving Peterson, how do you think Brett Favre would like to end his career? As the guy who came back and stunk it up, taking what could have been a championship team to the dump? Or as the quarterback who played well enough at the end of the season that he’s being begged by teams to return next year? You best believe that Favre will want to go out on top and the best way of doing so is by reestablishing his connection with Rice.

There isn’t a single game remaining in 2010 that I would second guess starting Rice in. The upcoming matchups of Buffalo, New York Giants, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit all offer high-scoring chances, especially if Asante Samuel is playing hurt and is matched with Rice during the Eagles game. Having Rice in your lineup as your third receiver could win you a trophy in Week 17.

Michael Vick

The next four starts from here until the end of 2010 will cement Vick’s ranking for 2011. Expectations for Vick will remain high with games remaining against Dallas twice, the New York Giants and Minnesota. Vick has the potential to be the No. 1 quarterback for the entire fantasy playoff picture. Not only that, but if Vick keeps his production at this elite level he could begin to be mentioned in the Top 5 quarterback rankings for next season.

If Vick comes out and dominates these lackluster defenses, he could be positioning himself for an even bigger season in 2011. I’d recommend starting him for the rest of the season (duh!) and expecting Top 3 stats from the quarterback position each time you do so. The pick up of Vick may have vaulted your team from complete obscurity to playoff hopeful. But after the production that Vick finishes off this year with you better believe that he’ll cost you more than a waiver wire claim next year. If I had to guess which player finishes 2010 on a hot streak the likes of Jamaal Charles in 2009, I’d be putting my chips on “Green 7.”

Two more players that offer a couple of favorable matchups are the Miami Dolphins’ Chad Henne and the Carolina Panthers’ Mike Goodson. Both have a couple of games a piece where their play could drastically change the fantasy landscape for next season. Henne has favorable passing chances against Cleveland, Detroit and New England. He’ll also be getting Brandon Marshall back, who is an automatic stat inflation in cleats. Goodson has a game this week against Seattle and a future game against Arizona.

If Henne impresses he could become the starting quarterback again for 2011. If Henne falters then the Dolphins could be looking at a free agent to bring in or perhaps a rookie from the draft class. In Goodson’s case, if he impresses it may ease the Panthers’ worries about letting DeAngelo Williams go via free agency. If Goodson doesn’t perform well the Panthers may be forced to re-sign Williams for huge money. I won’t trust a single one of my playoff games to either of these two players. That being said, I really wouldn’t want to be the owner this week that got matched up against them with Henne taking on Cleveland and Goodson running against Seattle. But whether you start them, play against them or leave them on the waiver wire, their play will dictate several players’ values in 2011.

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