LaRod Stephens-Howling: Updated Fantasy Outlook After Week 11

John RozumCorrespondent INovember 18, 2012

November 18, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (36) runs after a catch in the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

LaRod Stephens-Howling has immediately emerged as a great fantasy football option.

On Sunday, the Cardinals were provided with 127 rushing yards and one touchdown from their ball-carrier.

As a result, Arizona nearly upset the Atlanta Falcons on the road. Stephens-Howling averaged 5.8 yards per carry, didn't fumble and consistently gives some balance to the Cardinals' offense. And because of that production, we check out Stephens-Howling's fantasy value for 2012's remainder.


Proven Impact

Leading into the Week 11 matchup vs. the Atlanta Falcons, Stephens-Howling had fared quite well for the Cardinals.

He accounted for 145 total yards and one touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings, and then 59 total yards with a score vs. the Green Bay Packers. Arizona has finally discovered some sort of presence in the backfield with Stephens-Howling, because the rushing attack all season has been unreliable.

The downside is this current production mirrors what occurred throughout the 2011 campaign.

There, Stephens-Howling played in 14 games but only received 43 carries and 13 receptions. Still, he enjoyed nice performances against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks.

So we know the guy can impact Arizona on the ground and in the passing game. It does, however, need to be a right matchup because the Falcons are a susceptible defense against the run.

Cardinals' Offensive Need

With an offensive line that allows sack after sack after sack, it's impossible to field a balanced attack.

Defenses will T off on the quarterback which proves a line's vulnerability. Well, courtesy of a 100-plus yard performance vs. Atlanta, Arizona's running game is now of great assistance.

Stephens-Howling displayed the Cardinals' desperate need for an upfront attack, so the passing game can get set up. Entering Week 11 Arizona averaged a measly 76 rushing yards per game and a 3.4 per carry average.

Unsurprisingly, Arizona's offense was the worst in pro football and defenses had no reason to honor the Cardinals at the line.

The importance of Stephens-Howling, though, is the talent residing in Arizona's receiving corps. When an offense fields someone like Larry Fitzgerald, an improved ground game limits him seeing double coverage.

In short, the more Stephens-Howling can produce the more efficiently we'll see Arizona move the rock.

What the Remaining Schedule Dictates

Next week the Cardinals play the St. Louis Rams and thereafter are the New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers.

Gang Green is the weakest of the three vs. the run, although St. Louis has not been impressive as of recent. Detroit on the other hand, has proven to be suffocating up front at times, but not consistent enough to warrant concern.

Obviously the Bears and 49ers can stuff the run, so those are the only remaining matchups where Stephens-Howling has a tough start.

However, Arizona's sound passing attack is capable of thwarting most coverage schemes. Opposing defenses can't afford to stack the box. Yes, Arizona's pass protection remains weak. Nonetheless, quick developing pass plays complemented with Stephens-Howling on the ground can get opponents off balance.

Doing so enhances the appeal of Stephens-Howling and moving forward makes him a strong flex option at the very least.


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