Oliver Macklem

olivermacklem

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Forget about the watch list for a second – if you need help at running back you should be heading to your waiver wire for William Powell of the Arizona Cardinals. Ryan Williams was uninspiring (14 car, 33 yds) before exiting Thursday night’s game with a shoulder injury. Beanie Wells is out for another 5+ weeks with a toe injury, so a serious opportunity has presented itself for Powell. Even if Williams is not out long term, Powell showed off some qualities that Williams does not possess.

Powell only got one carry (for 7 yards), but he showed the coaches he isn’t afraid of contact, by throwing a couple devastating blocks. He also reeled in 3 catches for 20 yards in less than a half of football. Despite a horrendous offensive line in Arizona, starting running backs are at worst a good trade asset for your team.

On to today’s watch list:

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The quarter mark of the NFL season is a good check-point for fantasy owners. It’s a time to analyze your roster and cut bait with players who are dragging you down. Waiting until the mid-point of the season may cost you a playoff spot, so for those hanging around the middle of the pack or worse, it’s time to get aggressive and upgrade your roster.

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Ed. Note: I’m not sure if Oliver Macklem ever sleeps, because he has seven fantasy teams, or at least that’s as many as he’s told us about. But when he does sleep, he dreams or more than just sleepers. He dreams of really, ridiculously deep sleepers. I asked him to write down his dream visions every Friday morning.

The key to creating a useful watch list is to identify players who have the opportunity to see an increase in playing time. Many people get caught up trying to figure out the most skilled backups, and that’s a flawed system. Rashad Jennings might be the best backup RB in the league, but playing behind an all-pro in Maurice Jones-Drew means he won’t see many touches.

To figure out which backups have the best chance of increasing their playing time, we must first identify situations where the incumbents are struggling or injured. Which leads us to our first watch list candidate.

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He's aging, he's brittle, he's being targeted less, and he's in a run-first offense. Need more?

After claiming that it was time to cut ties with Darren McFadden and subsequently trading him from three of my teams, you can imagine how ecstatic I was to see him rattle off 113 yards and a touchdown last Sunday. I’m going to go ahead and blame the replacement officials for this aberration since that seems to be the trendy thing to do this week. I won’t back pedal from my statement, as Run DMC picked up 64 of those yards on this TD run where a zone block opened a highway to the safety. Without that run, McFadden had 49 yards on 17 carries for 2.2 yards per carry.

This week, we take a look at a veteran running back and a young quarterback that you should be targeting. We also contemplate the end of an era with one of the NFL’s greatest receivers.

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It’s a quarterback driven league, and three of the top signal-callers lead our late game first-half stars:

1. Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) – 22-31, 207 yds, 2 TD

Without their top running back in the fold, Pittsburgh continues to operate as a pass-first offence. Armed with a partially torn rotator cuff, Roethlisberger is somehow off to one of the best starts of his career. He had 520 yards to go with 4 TD’s and 1 INT through the first two games of the season and he’s looked great thus far against Oakland. The Steelers sport one of the best receiving corps in the league which ensures Roth will have plenty of options throughout the season. He’s also renewed his relationship with tight end Heath Miller, who caught both first half touchdowns. Miller now has 4 touchdowns in 2.5 games. Roth appears to be a lock to finish in the top-10 quarterbacks fantasy-wise this season, meaning if you don’t already own one of the elite QB’s you should target Big Ben.

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Ryan Mathews headlines the late-game actives as he returns from a broken clavicle. Mathews figures to be a feature back this year as Mike Tolbert will no longer be leaching his touchdowns.

Mathews has the reputation of being somewhat injury prone, so his ability to stay on the field will be an intriguing storyline going forward. Meanwhile, John Skelton is out again, which is bad news for Larry Fitzgerald owners. Kevin Kolb has been far less friendly to Fitz, opting instead to use Larry as a decoy. And it appears as though Knowshon Moreno’s tenure in Denver may be reaching an end. The highly touted 25-year old has never fulfilled his potential and today the Broncos made him a healthy scratch.

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1. Reggie Bush: 10 car, 61 yds

Bush continued his torrid pace in 2012 by going for over 60 yards on just 10 carries in the first half against the Jets. This season he has continued his ascension into the elite running backs of the NFL. Bush has transformed from a 3rd-down back/return man into a featured back by adding weight and strength. Early in his career he didn’t have the ability to run between the tackles and he was prone to fluky injuries. The added strength has allowed him to break tackles and become the all-purpose back New Orleans thought they drafted him in 2006.

The price on Bush is likely too steep to consider trading for him right now. However it is worth your time to put out some feelers for him, because the improvements he has made are long-term and there is no reason to believe he won’t continue to improve as he runs behind a fantastic offensive line in Miami.

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