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Working The Wire: Week 9

Darrius Heyward-Bey

I’m writing this, banking on everyone having some semblance of an Internet connection by Wednesday or Thursday. Frankenstorm, however, might destroy your fake football preparations.

These, friends, are First World Problems.

There’s still decent value on the waiver wire, so don’t ignore unclaimed players this week. I’m not going to tell you to grab Jonathan Dwyer because, if you’re in anything but a six-team league, he should already be rostered. If not—if you’re playing with morons—get him now. He could be the Steelers’ starter as soon as this week, barring Todd Haley’s deathly whimsy.

Quarterbacks

Carson Palmer, QB, Raiders – Don’t be fooled by the Bucs’ pass defense last week against the shockingly ineffectual Christian Ponder. Ponder has entered Oh-my-God-I’m-afraid-to-screw-my-otherwise-decent-team mode. He looked awful, and that had little to do with the Bucs’ 31st ranked pass defense, which has been pummeled to the tune of 310 yards a game. They’re allowing 8.1 yards per pass completion, which bodes particularly well for a Raiders’ squad that sports two lovely little downfield threats. Palmer threw for 209 yards and two scores against the Chiefs in Week 8 — numbers that could have been more like 300 and three scores in a competitive game. Even if Palmer tosses his traditional pick or two, I think he’s a fairly low-risk play against Tampa’s swiss cheese secondary.

Running backs

Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins – Thomas has had concussion issues, he still looks slow and burly, and he has very limited long speed. Still, the Dolphins’ coaches are feeding him a healthy portion of pigskin, and I think you’d be foolish to ignore him as a deep flex option over the next few weeks. Thomas got 15 carries for 43 yards and a touchdown against the Jets in Week 8, and not because Miami had a healthy second half lead. He has taken the goal line back role from Reggie Bush over the past month, as Bush owners have cried angry tears over the emergence of a genuine touchdown vulture. He has plunged in for a score in three of the six games he’s played this year, and if his usage against the Jets—an admittedly cushy run defense—is any indication, Thomas could be in for a fairly reliable role in an offense that may lean on the run with rookie signal caller Ryan Tannehill hobbled with a leg injury.

Joique Bell, RB, Lions – This is where the wire gets a wee bit thin. Bell isn’t a reliable options by any standard, serving — until last week — as a third-down back behind Mikel Leshoure. Well, things changed in Week 8 against Seattle. Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz, the league’s most Nixonian figure, said Leshoure wasn’t hurt in the second half against the Seabags, but I saw the Lions’ featured back gimping on and off, and Bell took the lead role shortly thereafter. Bell totalled 11 touches for 58 yards — nothing spectacular, but serviceable for desperate fantasy owners. Bell, who has caught 20 passes this season, is a replacement level talent. He’s not going to carve out an every-down role. Still, probably he should be owned in 12-team leagues, especially for fake footballers reaching for some running back depth.

Wide receivers

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (85) runs in for a touchdown as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Stanford Routt (26) misses the tackle in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Raiders won 26-16. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (85) runs in for a touchdown as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Stanford Routt (26) misses the tackle in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Raiders won 26-16. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders – You’re picking up DHB for the same reason you’re considering Palmer this week: Oakland has an irresistible match-up against a gougeable Tampa Bay secondary. Like any guy with a fairly limited tree route, Heyward-Bey isn’t going to provide unquestioned consistency, even against terrible defenses. Palmer though has proven more than willing to toss jump balls to the Raiders’ speedster, as he did a few times at Kansas City in Week 8 (DHB finished with a single catch for a 32-yard touchdown). Heyward-Bey finished second in team targets the week before, racking up 85 yards on four grabs. DHB is owned in a mind-bogglingly low 59 percent of ESPN.com leagues, so please, for the love of a home run fantasy threat, snatch Heyward-Bey this week and consider him over wide receivers with ugly match ups.

Santana Moss, WR, Redskins – This hasn’t been uttered since about 2006, but here goes: Santana Moss is Washington’s best pass-catching option, and it’s not close. It comes down to the wiley veteran’s hands, which seem all the more reliable as Robert Griffin III’s picture perfect passes slip through the butter-slathered fingers of Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson. RG3 trusts Moss—that’s become clearer since the beginning of October—and it’s shown. Moss has three touchdown grabs over the past two weeks, even while playing limited snaps and running even more limited routes. I expect him to see more looks from his rookie phenom as other receiving options lay weekly eggs. The Skins, as you may know, dropped 10 passes against the Steelers in Week 8, shortening the lives of RG3 owners but up to three years. Moss leads the team in targets, and is averaging 10.2 fantasy points over the past four games. Washington gets the Panthers in Week 9. Most teams have abused Carolina on the ground, but they’ve proved exploitable through the air too. I think Moss is a solid flex play in 12 and 14-team fantasy leagues.

Tight ends

Logan Paulsen, TE, Redskins – My condolences to those who bought into the Chris Cooley hype. The guy has been on his couch for four months, and even in the preseason, before he was unceremoniously cut, Washington beat writers agreed that Cooley looked slow in game action. Paulsen is the guy in D.C., and after snagging four passes for 43 yards against Pittsburgh—a defense that has limited tight ends all year—he’ll face off against Carolina, which has given up 7.5 points per game to tight ends. RG3 seems to trust the big caveman. Just don’t expect Paulsen to do anything after the catch. He makes Brandon Pettigrew looks downright fleet footed. Paulsen might look mighty appealing for snakebitten Kyle Rudolph owners in fantasyland.

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