The home stretch for season-long fantasy football formats has arrived. Some of you are about to slide comfortably into the postseason while others—myself included—are scratching and clawing for every damn point in an effort to grab a lower seed for a chance at a glorious run to both riches and bragging rights.
In addition to scouring the waiver wire for any possible talent to aid in the championship quest, owners should start analyzing the schedule for Weeks 14-17 in an effort to get a jump on the competition.
Because sometimes it all comes down to that one additional point.
Eli Manning, New York Giants (at Jacksonville, owned in 54% of Yahoo! leagues): Inconsistent with a dash of unpredictability, Manning has an ultra tasty Week 13 matchup against a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that is permitting an average of 21.0 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (tenth-most in NFL). You can’t trust this guy on a week-to-week basis, but it’s worth noting that Manning has thrown two or more touchdown passes in three of his last five starts and is averaging a healthy 315.0 passing yards per game over his last four outings.
Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles (at Dallas, owned in 53% of Yahoo! leagues): While Sunday’s blowout win over Tennessee resulted in just one touchdown pass, the former New York Jet has thrown for over 300 yards in each of his three starts since taking over for the injured Nick Foles. Sanchez is currently quarterbacking the league’s fourth-ranked offense in terms of yardage and third-ranked unit it terms of scoring, so there’s plenty of upside here…especially when you consider the arsenal head coach Chip Kelly has surrounded him with.
Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee Titans (at Houston, owned in 4% of Yahoo! leagues): The rookie from LSU has notched two touchdown tosses in three of his four starts for the Titans while averaging a respectable 271.5 passing yards per game during that same stretch. Let’s make one thing abundantly clear: Mettenberger is not going to win you a fantasy championship. But Tennessee is consistently playing from behind, which means garbage time stats are a big plus in this instance. Recommended for owners in two-QB leagues or leagues with more than 12 teams.
--While he’s currently owned in 68 percent of Yahoo! leagues, if new Minnesota Vikings running back Ben Tate is available in your league, he’s worth an add.
Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns (at Buffalo, owned in 59% of Yahoo! leagues): It’s utterly astonishing that the rookie from Alabama State is still available in 41 percent of all Yahoo! leagues. Now that free agent acquisition Ben Tate has been dropped from the roster, Crowell has emerged as Cleveland’s top rushing threat with less competition to worry about. That’s a big plus for a power runner who has notched 149 rushing yards on 26 carries (5.73 YPC) with two touchdowns over his last two starts. Crowell currently trails fellow rookie running back Terrance West by 36 rushing attempts on the season, but has amassed just 24 fewer rushing yards than West with four more touchdowns. If this guy is still available in your league, make him a top priority.
LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots (at Green Bay, owned in 31% of Yahoo! leagues): Rookie running back Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns in Week 11 at Indianapolis, but overslept and was sent home from practice last week, which resulted in zero carries Sunday against Detroit. And while Gray was “learning his lesson,” Blount—who was dumped by the Steelers last Tuesday—carried the rock 12 times for 78 yards (6.5 YPC) and two touchdowns against one of the best run defenses in the league on Sunday. It remains to be seen how fantasy troll Bill Belichick will divide up the workload moving forward, but it’s worth noting that the Green Bay Packers are currently surrendering an average of 18.3 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season. Blount is worthy of an add strictly for his red zone value.
Dan Herron, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Washington, owned in 23% of Yahoo! leagues): The loss of Ahmad Bradshaw left a big void on the Indianapolis offense, which was filled by handing out 13 carries to Trent Richardson and 12 carries to Herron Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But that is where the similarities end, as Herron racked up 65 rushing yards (5.4 YPC) while Richardson recorded just 42 (3.2 YPC). Yes, T-Rich found the end zone in Week 12, but Herron made a far greater impact for the offense. It will be interesting to see how this rotation shakes down moving forward.
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders (at St. Louis, owned in 25% of Yahoo! leagues): First, the good news: Murray has turned just eight carries over his last two outings into 155 rushing yards and two touchdowns, providing the explosive element that is severely lacking in veterans Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. But the downside here is relatively large. To begin, Murray suffered a concussion in last Thursday night’s win over Kansas City and has to pass the league’s concussion protocol before he can be cleared to play. In addition, thanks to trailing in so many games this season, the Raiders currently rank dead last in the NFL in rushing attempts per game (19.5), so there may not be enough opportunities for Murray to rack up some serious stat lines. Lastly, Oakland travels to St. Louis this weekend to face a nasty Rams front four that is permitting an average of just 15.5 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (eight-fewest in NFL). The upside here is extremely limited.
Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints (at Pittsburgh, owned in 34% of Yahoo! leagues): After rookie wideout Brandin Cooks was lost for the season following thumb surgery, the big question surrounding the New Orleans pass-catching unit regarded which receiver would step up to fill the void. Marques Colston found the end zone Monday night against Baltimore (4-82-1) while Jimmy Graham was Jimmy Graham, but it was Stills who notched nine targets (second on team behind Graham), which resulted in eight receptions for 98 yards. Expect more of the same moving forward as the Saints continue to air it out for four quarters in an effort to offset the team’s hideous defensive play.
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (at Atlanta, owned in 32% of Yahoo! leagues): Larry Fitzgerald is dealing with a sprained MCL that kept him out of action in Sunday’s loss at Seattle, which means that if the ailment persists, Brown will see an uptick in targets. The rookie burner from Pittsburg State has caught just 37 passes on the season, but is averaging a healthy 14.3 yards per reception with five scores and five grabs of 25+ yards. But the best part about Brown is his Week 13 matchup against an Atlanta Falcons secondary that is currently surrendering an average of 26.1 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers (fifth-most in NFL). This guy makes for a solid WR3 in Week 12 thanks to a tasty matchup.
Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers (at Baltimore, owned in 51% of Yahoo! leagues): The fact that Floyd has stayed healthy and appeared in all 11 games this season for the Bolts is reason enough to celebrate. However, the 33-year-old from Wyoming isn’t exactly setting the league on fire with his 36-604-4 stat line, so owners shouldn’t view Floyd as an every week starter. But that doesn’t mean the 6-5, 225-pound target isn’t worthy of a roster spot, as Floyd has notched six grabs of 25 or more yards this season and takes on a Baltimore secondary on Sunday that is currently giving up an average of 26.2 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (third-most in NFL). Consider Floyd a WR4/5 with starting potential for leagues that start three or more wideouts.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans (at Houston, owned in 40% of Yahoo! leagues): While Hunter has yet to top the 100-yard receiving mark in any game this season, the second-year receiver out of Tennessee has found the end zone twice in the four games since rookie Zach Mettenberger took over as the Titans’ starting quarterback. In addition, during that same stretch, Hunter was targeted a staggering ten times twice. The upside here is relatively minimal, but Hunter makes for a nice WR4/5 who is worthy of a starting roster spot when faced with a favorable matchup.
Jarvis Landy, Miami Dolphins (at NY Jets, owned in 20% of Yahoo! leagues): Landry has found the end zone in three of his last four starts and has an excellent Monday night matchup on deck with a New York Jets secondary that is currently surrendering an average of 24.2 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts this season (ninth-most in NFL). The rookie from LSU shouldn’t be considered an every-week starter, but he’s a nice value play in Week 13.
Steadman Bailey, St. Louis Rams (vs. Oakland, owned in 0% of Yahoo! leagues): The West Virginia standout is coming off the best performance of his two-year career after hauling in seven receptions on nine targets for 89 yards and his first professional touchdown Sunday at San Diego. This showing will no doubt cause fantasy owners to take notice, as will the fact that Bailey takes on a shaky Raiders secondary in Week 13. But be advised that St. Louis is highly inconsistent when moving the football and currently ranks 28th in the NFL in total offense (313.3 yds/gm). This may have been a flash-in-the-pan performance.
Charles Johnson, Minnesota Vikings (vs. Carolina, owned in 1% of Yahoo! leagues): The relatively unknown 2013 product from Grand Valley State has stepped up his game as of late, hauling in nine passes on 18 targets for 139 yards and a touchdown over his last two outings. As crazy as this may sound, Johnson has actually been more valuable to the Minnesota offense over the last few weeks than 2013 first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson, who has caught more than two passes in a game just once over his last eight outings. However, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been struggling to find any semblance of consistency and, as a result, the Minnesota offense has gotten bogged down for lengthy stretches of time. There isn’t much upside here.
Tim Wright, New England Patriots (at Green Bay, owned in 15% of Yahoo! leagues): The ultimate boom or bust prospect. Wright has posted his fair share of dud stat lines this season (six in 11 games), but has found the end zone in five of his last seven outings and is seeing more and more snaps as the season winds toward December. If you aren’t lucky enough to own one of the Big 3 tight ends (Graham, Gronkowski, Thomas) and have been hit hard by the injury bug that has plagued the tight end position this season, take a good, long look at this guy.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings (vs. Carolina, owned in 47% of Yahoo! leagues): Limited upside due to the inconsistent play of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but Rudolph is coming off a decent Week 12 performance against the Chicago Bears in which the Notre Dame product caught three passes on five targets for 50 yards. Rudolph is a serious red zone threat, but the only problem is the fact that the Vikings rarely make it inside their opponent’s 20-yard line.
Mychal Rivera, Oakland Raiders (at St. Louis, owned in 38% of Yahoo! leagues): Rivera has scored three touchdowns over his last four games and has seen eight or more targets in three of his last five starts. In addition, the 24-year-old from Tennessee has operated as a consistent security blanket for rookie quarterback Derek Carr. Unfortunately, due to the Raiders’ never-ending struggles on the offensive side of the football, Rivera can’t be counted on as a week-to-week starter. But we advise all of you to remember this kid’s name because he’s going to be a player once Oakland gets it all sorted out.
New York Giants (at Jacksonville, owned in 10% of Yahoo! leagues): For as bad as this team has been in 2014, Week 13 offers up the tastiest of all matchups in the form of a Jacksonville Jaguars squad that currently ranks 31st in the league in total offense (304.1 yds/gm), dead last in scoring (14.6 pts/gm) and 30th in turnovers (24). For those of you who love to stream defensive units, look no further.
St. Louis Rams (vs. Oakland, owned in 42% of Yahoo! leagues): A nasty front four that has accounted for 22 sacks so far this season, St. Louis plays host to an Oakland Raiders team on Sunday that currently ranks dead last in the league in total offense (283.2 yds/gm), 31st in scoring (16.0 pts/gm) and 26th in turnovers (21). Not only is this one of the best matchups on the board for the D/ST position, but the Rams are still widely available on waivers in most league formats.
Cincinnati Bengals (at Tampa Bay, owned in 52% of Yahoo! leagues): This is Cincinnati’s third road trip in as many weeks, so exercise a bit of caution with the Bengals this Sunday. Still, the Buccaneers have been absolute garbage this season, ranking 27th in total offense (318.2 yds/gm), 26th in scoring (18.8 pts/gm) and 30th in turnovers (24).
Joe Fortenbaugh, worked as an NFL Agent from 2003-2006 at JB Sports, Inc. Follow Joe on Twitter @joefortenbaugh, and check out his website at NationalFootballPost.com. You can reach him at [email protected].