Wow. Week 16 is here. Can you believe it? NFL playoff scenarios are swirling about, but there’s only one thing on your mind: how can you turn your fantasy juggernaut into a legendary champion? Only one name gets engraved on the trophy each year, and it all comes down to these last few critical decisions. Be sure your fantasy team is insulated from disaster over these final games. But also remain focused on the real goal, to score the most points.
Here are some thoughts on the top waiver wire pickups to add to your fantasy football lineup.
Derek Anderson (owned in 4.4 percent of ESPN leagues)
Derek Anderson has started two games for Carolina this year, completing 66.2 percent of his throws for 250.0 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. He has thrown passes in five games this season, and has yet to toss an interception. Anderson’s record as starter is 2-0 as well. With Anderson starting Week 1, DeAngelo Williams ran 14 times for 72 yards, and last week, Jonathan Stewart had 23 touches for 79 yards. Anderson was once a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Browns (2007), leading his team to a 10-5 record, throwing 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. In his career, he’s completed 53.7 percent for 58 touchdowns and 55 picks. NFL’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday the Panthers are hopeful that Cam Newton can return next week. Newton has two fractures to the tranverse processes in his back, which is exactly how Tony Romo‘s injury was described earlier this season. Romo missed one game in Week 9 with his injury.
Eli Manning (owned in 41.2 percent of ESPN leagues)
Last week, Eli Manning threw 250 yards, three touchdowns, and no picks, against Washington’s 12th ranked pass defense. Up next is the Rams’ 14th ranked unit, who is also number 14 in scoring defense. In the last four games, Manning has completed 68.0 percent for 273.8 yards, 2.0 touchdowns, and 0.5 interceptions per week. Since Week 9, Odell Beckham Jr. leads the NFL with 61 receptions and 866 yards. St. Louis’ surging defense will be put to the test against these two.
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James Starks (owned in 14.9 percent of ESPN leagues)
Through Week 13, Eddie Lacy averaged 17.2 touches for 93.5 total yards and 0.8 touchdowns, while James Starks had 5.8 touches for 24.3 total yards and 0.1 scores each game. Over the last two games, Lacy has gotten 17.5 touches for 107.0 total yards and 1.5 touchdowns, compared to Starks’ 8.5 touches for 65.0 total yards and 0.5 trips to the end zone. Much was said this past week about the condition of Lacy’s hip, and how the Packers will handle the workload moving forward. Starks is an important handcuff, if not a valuable committee or vulture back, on the league’s top scoring offense.
Chris Johnson (owned in 36.3 percent of ESPN leagues)
Over the last three games, the Jets have recommitted to the run, with both backs getting double-digit carries each week. Chris Ivory has averaged 15.3 touches for 55.0 total yards and 0.3 touchdowns, while Chris Johnson has posted 15.0 touches for 75.3 total yards each game. Johnson has scored only twice this year, once on the ground, and once through the air. Both touchdowns came in the first month of the season. Within the opponent’s 5-yard line this year, Ivory has 11 carries for four scores, where Johnson has one scoreless attempt.
Branden Oliver (owned in 18.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
Last week without Ryan Mathews, Branden Oliver led the Chargers with 16 touches for 70 yards of offense. Though he failed to score in the game, it was against the league’s number two run defense after all. Next week is San Francisco’s seventh ranked run defense, and Ryan Mathews’ (ankle) status is still unknown. Keep an eye on Mathews’ practice status throughout the week, as Oliver could earn another start in his absence.
Andre Williams (owned in 35.3 percent of ESPN leagues)
Starter Rashad Jennings re-injured his ankle against Washington, and has three carries combined over the last two games. In his stead Sunday, Andre Williams came in with 19 touches for 53 total yards. For the season, Jennings has 11 carries for three scores within the opponent’s 5-yard line. Williams has nine attempts for five touchdowns in the same space. The G-Men travel to St. Louis to face the league’s 10th best run defense this week.
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Jarvis Landry (owned in 31.1 percent of ESPN leagues)
Since Week 10, Jarvis Landry ranks fourth in the NFL with 41 catches, 12th with 54 targets, and 25th with 371 yards. Only 11 receivers have more touchdown catches than Landry over this stretch. Last week, Landry caught eight of 11 targets for 99 yards, against the Patriots’ 17th ranked pass defense. Miami faces the number six pass defense of the Vikings this week, and then will finish the year against the Jets’ 16th ranked unit.
Harry Douglas (owned in 14.2 percent of ESPN leagues)
Harry Douglas has two 100-yard games in the last three weeks, averaging 9.7 targets for 7.0 catches, 86.0 yards, and 0.3 touchdowns during this span. Julio Jones missed the last game with a hip injury, and may return this week. Head coach Mike Smith said Monday that he expects Jones to return Sunday after showing improvement already. Atlanta will travel to the Superdome this week to square off with the NFL’s 29th ranked pass defense.
Charles Johnson (owned in 17.4 percent of ESPN leagues)
Good luck searching online for Minnesota’s Charles Johnson. A name this common can be virtually “un-googleable,” as some might say. It’s why an establishment in Brooklyn, New York recently learned that the name, “The Bar,” was indeed a terrible idea. Find your way to 245 S. 1st Street for more. In the last two weeks, the Vikings’ Charles Johnson has caught nine of 15 targets for 175 yards and a touchdown. That score was a 56-yard bomb against the Jets, where the receiver obliterated Darrin Walls in coverage. Minnesota faces Miami’s third ranked pass defense this week, before Chicago’s 30th ranked unit will come to town. If you have time, check out a picture Charles Johnson and his haircut, which are anything but anonymous. Since Week 11, Johnson leads all Vikings with 37 targets, 20 receptions, and 355 yards.
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Jared Cook (owned in 45.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
Jared Cook is the 14th best tight end this year with 5.5 standard fantasy points per week. He ranks seventh at the position with 84 targets, 15th with 44 catches, and 11th with 556 yards. In the last two games, Cook has caught seven of 14 targets for 83 yards and two touchdowns. This week, St. Louis gets to face the Giants’ 11th ranked pass defense, who also allow the 10th most points to opposing tight ends (7.8 points per game). New York just gave up 236 yards and one touchdown to Robert Griffin III, without an interception.
Heath Miller (owned in 35.3 percent of ESPN leagues)
Among all tight ends this season, Heath Miller ranks seventh with 56 receptions, ninth with 652 yards, and 12th with 76 targets. Pittsburgh’s tight end averages 5.4 targets for 4.0 catches, 46.6 yards, and 0.3 touchdowns each week. Over the last three games, Miller has caught 4.3 of 7.3 targets for 50.3 yards and 0.3 scores per game. Pittsburgh will host the Chiefs’ second ranked pass defense this week, who allow the 20th most standard points to opponents’ tight ends (6.2 points per week).
Honorable Mention: Jordan Cameron
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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.