The fantasy football playoffs trudge on. Perhaps you’re in one-week matchups, where great volatility reigns, and anything is possible any given Sunday. Many owners are playing in two-week matchups, a setting that curbs some randomness and more often yields the better winning team. In either event, your focus need remain on scoring points. Don’t get cute with safe plays. Over-thinking with unusual handcuffs could lead to the fantasy version of the Prevent Defense. And what’s the one thing the Prevent Defense does? It prevents you from winning.
Here are some thoughts on the top waiver wire pickups to add to your fantasy football lineup.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (owned in 27.3 percent of ESPN leagues)
Ryan Fitzpatrick regained the starting role in Houston Week 13. In the last two weeks, he has completed 71.2 percent of his throws for an average of 246.5 yards, 3.0 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Of his two straight wins, one was clearly far better. Houston beat the Titans Week 13 by a score of 45-21, when Fitzpatrick recalled the old Buffalo days of “Fitz Magic,” throwing six scores and completing 72.7 percent of his passes. Many jumped on the bandwagon quickly, seeing the tasty Jacksonville matchup for Week 14. They paid the price accordingly. The Texans won 27-13, but their quarterback threw just 19 passes for 135 yards, and not a single touchdown. Houston’s next two matches are against the Colts’ number 25 pass defense and the 31st ranked unit of the Ravens.
Shaun Hill (owned in 3.1 percent of ESPN leagues)
Since returning as starter Week 11, Shaun Hill ranks 15th among passers with 40.1 standard fantasy points (13.4 per week). His six touchdown passes are 10th best in the NFL over this time. Hill has gone 3-1 in the last four weeks, scoring a touchdown in each game. His only two picks since Week 11 came in the team’s 27-24 loss in San Diego, against the league’s seventh ranked pass defense. St. Louis next faces the Cardinals and Giants, who own the 27th and 19th ranked pass defenses, respectively.
Joe Flacco (owned in 48.3 percent of ESPN leagues)
Joe Flacco ranks 12th in the NFL with 3,258 passing yards, and his 22 touchdown passes are 11th best. This season, the Super Bowl XLVII MVP has recorded five games with a completion percentage above 70, including two the last three. The first four of these five matches came against the league’s 16th, 17th, 22nd, and 28th ranked pass defenses, before Week 14’s win over Miami’s number two pass defense. Since Week 10, Flacco has completed 67.8 percent for 226.5 yards, 1.5 touchdowns, and 0.3 interceptions each game. Baltimore’s next two games are versus the Jaguars and Texans, who own the 24th and 29th ranked pass defenses, in that order. Jacksonville’s defense is 28th overall, where Houston is number 27.
Honorable Mention: Blake Bortles (owned in 2.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
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Kerwynn Williams (owned in 0.0 percent of ESPN leagues)
It’s not often a relevant player is currently owned in 0.0 percent of leagues. What’s even funnier, when you find him in the ESPN list of top adds, he’s two spots above Cadillac Williams. It sure seemed like Tampa Bay had everything figured out at running back when they moved on from him, didn’t it? Similar to the situation in Arizona, who knows what the rest of season holds in this backfield. Arizona placed Andre Ellington on injured reserve Monday, officially ending his season. The Cardinals are now 10-3, with their two top players out for the year.
Head coach Bruce Arians announced Monday that Stepfan Taylor will remain the nominal starter, while the running game will continue a committee approach moving forward. In Sunday’s win over the Chiefs, Kerwynn Williams ran 19 times for 100 yards (5.3 yards per attempt), while Taylor got seven touches for 26 total yards, and Marion Grice ran three times for six yards. Grice got the team’s only two red zone carries, for a loss of two yards.
Jonathan Stewart (owned in 47.4 percent of ESPN leagues)
His value is entirely dependent on the game day status of his teammate, friend, and counterpart, DeAngelo Williams. Williams missed Week 14 with a broken middle finger, leaving the field to be Jonathan Stewart’s playground Sunday. He responded brilliantly, posting the third best rushing performance of the week, with 20 runs for 155 yards and a touchdown. Since 2008, when Stewart starts without Williams in the lineup, he averages 17.6 touches for 92.8 total yards and 0.4 scores. Head coach Ron Rivera said Monday that Williams is “day to day,” with plans uncertain for Week 15.
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Stedman Bailey (owned in 30.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
Since Week 12, Stedman Bailey has 236 receiving yards, which are 12th best in the NFL. His 9.9 fantasy points per week have been 27th among wide receivers during this span. The Rams are on fire as of late, coming off wins of 52-0 over Oakland and 24-0 over Washington. Since Hill has returned as starter, Bailey leads all Rams with 20 targets, 17 receptions, and 262 receiving yards. St. Louis next gets to face Arizona’s 27th and the Giants’ 19th ranked pass defenses.
Martavis Bryant (owned in 54.8 percent of ESPN leagues)
He has played seven career games. He has scored seven NFL touchdowns. He is Martavis Bryant, and at 6-foot-4, he stands a full five inches over any other Pittsburgh wideout. The rookie scored six times through his first four games, and just added to it in Week 14’s 42-21 win in Cincinnati. Bryant averages 5.6 targets for 3.0 receptions, 64.7 yards, and 1.0 touchdown. Since his debut Week 7, he has nine red zone targets, second only to Antonio Brown (17) on the team. In the red zone over these seven games, no Steeler has scored more than Bryant’s four touchdowns. Pittsburgh faces Atlanta next week, whose pass defense ranks dead last in the NFL.
Pierre Garcon (owned in 51.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
In Colt McCoy‘s three starts, Pierre Garcon averaged 8.0 targets for 5.3 catches, 50.3 yards, and no scores. In his ten other games this season, Garcon is on a clip of 6.4 targets for 4.2 grabs, 45.1 yards, and 0.3 touchdowns. During Sunday’s 24-0 loss to St. Louis, Garcon caught nine of 11 targets for 95 yards. DeSean Jackson missed Week 14 with a bruised leg, and is a question mark for Week 15. The final three games for Washington are the Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys, who respectively own the 19th, 26th, and 20th ranked pass defenses.
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Scott Chandler (owned in 19.7 percent of ESPN leagues)
Over the last three weeks, Scott Chandler ranks 10th among all tight ends with 17.1 fantasy points. His 17 targets rank 11th, and his 14 receptions are fifth at the position. This season, Chandler has 11 red zone targets, which are 10th best among all tight ends. In Sunday’s loss to the Broncos, Chandler caught eight of 11 targets for 81 yards. Buffalo hosts the Packers next week, along with their 11th ranked pass defense, who also allows the 17th most points to opposing tight ends (7.0 fantasy points per week).
Mychal Rivera (owned in 20.3 percent of ESPN leagues)
Kansas City allows the 20th most points to tight ends (6.3 fantasy points per game), and own the number one pass defense in the NFL. Since Week 8, Mychal Rivera ranks second among all tight ends with 52 targets, third with 35 receptions, fifth with 363 yards, and third with four touchdowns. In the red zone over this stretch, Rivera leads the position with seven receptions, and his four red zone scores rank second to Jimmy Graham (five red zone touchdowns).
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Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, spotrac.com, footballguys.com, fantasypros, myfantasyleague.com, and profootballfocus.com.
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