We’re at the last of the bye weeks and for many Fantasy owners its win now time. Sure, there are plenty of teams that have that coveted asterisk next to their name indicating a guaranteed playoff spot. And there are some teams that are mathematically out of getting into the playoffs. (why isn’t there a double asterisk for that designation?) But for many teams, the next week (or two) is critical. A win and you could get that playoff berth. A loss and you may be out of it completely. When it comes time to make roster moves, you need to think about winning this week. Play the matchups. Get rid of the guys you drafted because you thought they might have a breakout year. This just in: if they haven’t had their breakout game yet, they aren’t going to. Drop them for someone that can help you now. The waiver wire might be thin, but there is usually some value to be found. Let the pink football guide you to the true value and not the fool’s gold.
1. Injured guys can come back and make a difference on your Fantasy team.
Let’s preface this: Not all injured guys are going to come back and help you. However, we all saw what Andre Brown did in his first game back from his stint on the short-term IR: 30 carries for 115 yards, one rushing touchdown and one reception for four yards. Not too shabby. In his first game back from injury, Shane Vereen made an impact in the passing game. He only had one rush for seven yards, but he added eight receptions for 65 yards; also, a pretty good start.
I know, you’re going to point to Percy Harvin next. In his first game back, he had one reception for 17 yards. He did add 58 yards on a kickoff return, but that doesn’t help those in standard leagues. However, Fantasy owners should look at that game as a positive sign for their Fantasy team. Harvin was on a limited snap count, so you can’t judge the performance as if it were a regular game. He looked good on the kickoff return. He responded well following the game and now has the bye week to rest. He should be back in Week 13 playing a full complement of snaps. Last season, in the eight games he played before he was injured, he had 60 receptions for 667 yards and three touchdowns. He added 96 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown as well. Used out of the backfield, as a receiver, and as a punt/kickoff returner, he can get owners Fantasy points in a number of ways. He’s a good player to have on your team for the rest of the season.
Another guy to look at that is coming off injury is Nate Burleson. He is on track to play in Week 12, and will likely step back into his old role as the No. 2 receiver in Detroit. Matthew Stafford has the most pass attempts in the NFL through Week 11 (419 attempts) so you know they are going to keep throwing the ball. Sure, Reggie Bush gets some of those passes and Calvin Johnson is always targeted, but when Johnson is double and triple covered, Stafford does look to other guys on the field. He’s played with Burleson and trusts him. Prior to his injury, Burleson was averaging six receptions and almost 80 yards per game (through three games this season). In PPR leagues, he’s certainly worth grabbing and using as the Fantasy season starts to wind down.
2. Look ahead to the playoff weeks if you can.
I know this is a must-win week for many people. If that’s the case, you’re playing the matchups. You’re looking for a defense; you’re playing boom-or-bust guys if you find yourself trailing after the Thursday night game. You’re playing the best possible lineup as you can manage regardless of who you need to drop to get to that.
However, if you are fairly confident in your playoff position, look ahead to those weeks, especially when it comes to defenses and kickers. Sure, pick up the running back handcuffs, but don’t neglect the other positions. For defenses, look at the teams that are giving up the most points to opposing defenses: New York Giants, Jacksonville, Houston, New York Jets and Oakland. Teams to target for a defense are those that are playing these teams in Weeks 12-17. The Miami Dolphins face the Jets twice in that span. San Diego faces both the Giants and the Raiders; Indianapolis faces both Jacksonville and Houston. Tennessee faces Jacksonville, Oakland and Houston, and looks to be a sneaky Fantasy pickup if the Titans D/ST is still available in your league.
I know talking about kickers isn’t sexy or cute, but this is the time to grab a kicker you are happy with for the rest of the season. After this week, there are no more byes, so look at available kickers and make sure you have one that is performing well. Steven Hauschka is currently the highest scoring Fantasy kicker (although he’s also played in more games than most as his bye is this week). If he’s been dropped because of the bye, pick him up. Dan Carpenter is the fifth-highest scoring kicker, but he does play in Buffalo, a team with three home games in the last four games of the season. Graham Gano, who is un-owned in over 80 percent of leagues, has made the most field goals of 50 yards or over (five). If your league rewards long kicks, look at picking up Gano.
3. An overreaction and an underreaction: Bobby Rainey will win you your Fantasy league and Michael Floyd’s breakout game was a fluke.
Reality: Everyone wants to pick up Bobby Rainey in their Fantasy leagues thinking he’s the golden ticket to a Fantasy championship. His Week 11 performance will likely be the best of the season – by far. Sure, Tampa Bay has looked better running the ball in recent weeks, and Rainey put up great numbers – 163 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, two receptions for four yards and a receiving touchdown. However, now defenses have film to watch on him. He’s not going to play a Falcons team that has given up on the season each week. His schedule through the Fantasy championship week isn’t great – Detroit, Carolina, Buffalo, San Francisco, St. Louis and then New Orleans in Week 17. Out of that group, only San Francisco and St. Louis would be considered decent matchups (in the top half of all teams in terms of Fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs). He’s worth a pickup, don’t get me wrong, but don’t expect him to change your season.
I know the passing game in Arizona has left a lot to be desired. Carson Palmer has been hot and cold all season (mostly cold). However, through 10 games this season, Floyd has averaged 4.3 receptions per game (with a low of two receptions and a high of six) for 67 yards. He has three touchdowns on the year as well. The schedule is favorable for the rest of the season for Floyd, and over the past four games, he’s tied Larry Fitzgerald for targets. Clearly Palmer is looking for him. While he’s not going to have another 193-yard game again this season, he is someone to look at for Fantasy purposes. He’s likely owned in most leagues, but he should be started in more than he has been started in. Don’t chalk this one up to a fluke.