Really, guys, Week 1 is Too Early for a Waiver Wire

Some of you may have wondered why I didn’t post a waiver wire this week. I tried…but there just wasn’t much for me to get excited about in Week 1.

I covered my favorite waiver wire pickups in my late sleepers column. If you paid attention to that, you already knew about Aaron Hernandez. (See? I told you he’d be good.)

As for the rest of my sleepers, I’m still waiting on Ingram to have his big “coming out” game, but I still expect it to happen. I’m starting to keep an eye on Delone Carter, despite the Colts suckitude so far, as well. The only one of my sleepers I’m truly concerned about is Austin Collie. Kerry Collins under center for the Colts just looked terrible.

Now, one place where the Week 1 did provide a few juicy pickups was at the quarterback position. Rex Grossman, Chad Henne, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and even Cam Newton showed they could have some fantasy value this season.

Of all the likely undrafted quarterbacks who shined in Week 1, I’d have to say Fitzpatrick seems like the best bet for fantasy success. And it’s not just because he has his own theme song. Music, please…

He’s the most interesting Bill in the world. The Bills won’t win as big as they did in Week 1 every week…but when they do, Fitzy will have a big game. To me, he seems least likely to fall apart of all the quarterbacks that impressed in the opening weekend of NFL action. Plus, we know his track record from last season when he had a few games of fantasy relevance.

Grossman’s another good bet for now, but I have a feeling we’ll see John Beck start games for the Redskins this season, too. If you claimed Sexy Rexy, consider packaging him in a trade before we get too deep into the season. He’s got a nice matchup this week.

Henne seems like he’ll be another long-term, matchup-play QB2 if you miss out on Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins’ offense will have to produce some points this season if Tony Sparano wants to keep his job, and it looks like they’ve unleashed Henne to make that happen.

Reggie Bush, the lead running back in Miami (at least for the moment), is better when he catches the ball out of the backfield than when he tries to run it up the middle. So there’s a chance Henne gets credit for almost every yard the Dolphins get this season.

Cam Newton, while impressive, is not going to put up 400+ yards every week. He might not put up 300+ again this season. But he benefited in Week 1 from a Steve Smith reawakening in Carolina. Pick him up if you want a boom/bust guy at quarterback, but don’t expect him to become your weekly starter.

But, like I said, there weren’t many players to go crazy for on the wire this week. Sure, go get  Cadillac  Williams if you lost Steven Jackson in Week 1 or if you’re desperate for a running back, but I don’t love him against the Giants, especially with a banged up Sam Bradford under center. Caddy’s a starter, yes, but don’t go nuts to get him.

If you were unimpressed by your starting lineup, don’t get caught saying anything like what  I mocked on Monday. For a greater tale of woe than I can offer to persuade you to give your current roster some time to emerge, I suggest this Fantasy Douche reading. It’s a horrifying tale, and it makes the point well.

Take a deep breath, and we’ll see what Week 2 holds.

On the defensive front, some of you may be looking for waiver wire defenses. I like the Cowboys this week, and John Paulsen at 4for4.com has more recs. I think it’s a little bold to roll with the 49ers or Broncos this week, but if that’s all you got, that’s all you got.

On the Waiver Wire: Brian Westbrook LIVES, Week 13 Pickups, and a Massive Collection of Advice to Get Your Team Right for the Fantasy Football Playoffs

I hate handcuffing. I always feel like handcuffs are a waste of a roster spot, and I’d rather have a starting running back from another team than carry a guy who doesn’t play just in case my starter goes down. The backups are rarely as good or as big a part of the offense as their starting counterpart anyway. At least that’s what I told myself until this week.

Apparently, karma chose to teach me a lesson this season. My top picks in two leagues, Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson, were both hit with the injury bug this week just before I start my playoff runs in Week 14. I don’t own either handcuff.

Obviously, I drafted these two teams on Indian burial grounds. My two starting tight ends in these leagues were Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finley.

Beyond snagging the fantasy fallout from these two studs’ injuries, waiver wire pickups for the rest of the season depend on matchups more than ever. You’d be surprised how many owners don’t look ahead and decide which players they should cut ties with and which ones they should stash for the playoffs. As we round out the regular season, you should fortify your roster for Weeks 14-16, assuming that’s your fantasy football playoff.

Regular season wins don’t matter anymore. It’s all about the playoffs.

I’ll hit the highlights on a few guys I like the most that are readily available this week. As a side note, this post will be our last traditional waiver wire post for the rest of the season. If you’re in the playoffs, I assume you’ve strengthened your roster. If not, look back the last few weeks of “On the Wire” posts.

If you’re not in the playoffs, I’m guessing you don’t want to hear anything more about players that could have made your team better, but you can look back at the archives all the same. It’s always nice to play spoiler at the end of the year, even if you have nothing to gain but pride and a new in-season rival. In-season rivals are the best.

Brian Westbrook, RB, 49ers – He’s obviously the most high-priority add to come out of Week 12. With Frank Gore done for the year, Westbrook will become the engine of this offense. Troy Smith hasn’t been able to learn the full playbook since joining the 49ers, which has forced them to feed the ball to their running game. You’ll hear some warnings out there that Anthony Dixon has more value as the rookie with fresher legs to replace Gore, but I’m still choosing Westbrook over Dixon if given the choice. They went with Westy all night against the Cardinals until the game was out of reach, and I think they’ll continue to do more of the same. San Francisco would rather play it safe with Westbrook and his experience than hand the majority of their offense over to a rookie.

Anthony Dixon, RB, 49ers — That said, Dixon isn’t a bad add if you miss out on Westbrook or get Westy and want to make sure you lock up the 49ers rushing attack. Dixon will at least see some goal line looks, and he’s the better North-South runner at this point. Westbrook, while impressive against the Cardinals, hasn’t seen much playing time and is injury prone late in his career. We’ll know more about how these two runners will split the carries after we see them face the Packers in Week 13, having had a full week to practice together and work on the game plan, but I’m betting Westbrook gets as much as he can handle before Dixon gets his chance.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings — He’s next on the list even though I don’t believe he’ll have much value. The last reports on Adrian Peterson’s ankle injury say it’s only a sprain and that the Vikings fully expect to have him Week 13 against the Bills. Gerhart might see more work to give A.P. a light workload his first game back, but by Week 14 and 15, you won’t want to be relying on a backup running back. If you own Peterson, Gerhart is a must add. Otherwise, put him behind all the other backs listed as a stash in case Peterson’s injury ends up being more serious than what we’ve heard so far.

Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys — Choice is the running back of “choice” in Dallas now that Marion Barber will be out for at least two weeks. Fantasy veterans will remember how he exploded late in 2008 when Felix Jones and Barber both missed time. While Felix hasn’t shown any signs of slowing, Choice has talent and could carve out a portion of the running game for himself even if Jones continues to start for the Cowboys. He’ll at least see the goal line looks for two weeks with Barber out, and that makes him worthy of being added to rosters this week. You might hit the jackpot if Barber has a setback and if Jones is injured in the next two weeks. The Cowboys’ schedule is inviting with Indy, Philly, Washington, and then the horrible, horrible defense of the Cardinals in Week 16.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers — Like a brokeback cowboy, I just can’t quit The Daily Show. Mike Goodson’s been an awakening for the Panthers are running back, but Stewart was more effective with his carries in Week 12. Maybe some of Goodson’s workmanship productivity will rub off on Stewart. He wasn’t able to do much of anything prior to his concussion, but The Daily Show should earn back more and more of the running game as the season winds down.

Goodson will stay involved and has some value since he’s been so productive during Stewart’s absence, but both Stewart and Goodson are interviewing for jobs next season. DeAngelo Williams will be gone, and it’s probably going to be a split backfield with Stewart taking the lead duties and Goodson providing a burst on third downs and catching passes out of the backfield like Williams used to do. The schedule isn’t too kind in Week 14 or Week 16 for either Carolina back, but you’ll definitely want to start either Stewart or Goodson in Week 15 against the Cardinals.

Chris Ivory, RB, Saints – People keep saying that the Saints touchdown vulture is about to fall off the fantasy value cliff, but he’s stuck around. Even with Reggie Bush back on Thanksgiving, he got the touchdowns where it counted and put up decent yardage. I’m sure he’s owned in most touchdown-heavy leagues, but I’d consider picking him up in standard leagues for the fantasy playoffs.

Pierre Thomas may come back in the next two weeks, but with Thomas’ injury taking so long to heal, I don’t think they’ll want to put him in harm’s way near the end zone when they have a proven weapon like Ivory, who hasn’t disappointed. The Saints’ remaining schedule through Week 16 has them facing the Bengals, Rams, Ravens, and Falcons. Those last two are tougher than most, but I’d snag Ivory for this week against the Bengals and next week against the Rams. If the Saints’ offense can deliver him to the goal line for multiple scores in those two, I might even consider giving him a chance in Week 15 against the Ravens as well.

Danario Alexander, WR, Rams — I went on and on about Alexander when he had his first breakout game earlier this season. I loved his potential, and I still do. In his first game back, he was the leading receiver, even though he was only playing 20 snaps. He added that spark the Rams have needed. Outside of PPR leagues, he’s the Rams wide receiver I want to start, and if you look ahead at his matchups (Cardinals, Saints, Chiefs, 49ers), he’s not looking so bad outside of that Week 14 in New Orleans.

Take Alexander’s schedule, add that the Rams like to throw the ball, that Bradford emerged for his first 300+ yard game in Week 12 (with Alexander leading in yards and tied with two other receivers for most targets), and that the tight end Bradford loved the most, Michael Hoomanawanui, is now out with a high ankle sprain, and you have a recipe for another fantasy breakout for the young Rams’ talent.

I’d play him this week against the Cardinals, but all that said, I do have to caution that he is playing on borrowed knees–literally. His injury risk is red on the advisory system, but I’ll still give him the green light if you need that extra something for the playoffs at wide receiver.

Earl Bennett, WR, Bears — When Jay Cutler first got traded to Chicago, Bennett received a lot of talk as a sleeper. They were teammates at Vanderbilt, and Cutler, in a way, made Bennett into a star. In the NFL, the two have not connected as often. Bennett has been the second or third wide receiver on the Bears’ depth chart for some time, but the passing game has never been reliable or explosive enough to make Bennett a fantasy star. It looked like it was getting there in Week 12 against the Eagles.

Mike Martz may have finally settled into a playbook that suits the Bears. All of their weapons, including Devin Hester and Greg Olsen, got involved. Bennett scored twice. If you look at the remaining schedule for the Bears (at the Lions, Patriots, at the Vikings, Jets), they have a nice road ahead until Week 16 against the Jets. And even in that game, Bennett is less likely to get shut down as the No. 3 guy in many sets. If I’m short a wide receiver for the playoffs, Bennett is my second choice after Alexander. Johnny Knox is more reliable, but Bennett should get his looks, too.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders — If no one picked up the speedster in Oakland, you should make a run at him this week. His playoff schedule is nice (Jaguars, Broncos, Colts), and he seems to be the only receiver who can inflict massive damage for the Raiders. As long as Jason Campbell looks his way in Week 13, I’d consider starting him in the playoffs as a WR3.

Blair White or Austin Collie, WR, Colts — Whichever one of these Colts’ receivers starts in any given week will have value. A very angry Peyton Manning will be suiting up against a decent but not formidable schedule in the fantasy playoffs (Titans, Jags, Raiders) and trying to destroy the world to get into Indy into the  real NFL playoffs. I wouldn’t want to stand  in his way. Both of these receivers have a nose for the end zone, and Manning will go to them without hesitation. The only issue I have with them is that they could just as easily have one catch for 7 yards and a touchdown as they could have five catches for 70 yards and three touchdowns.

Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins — Bess is very reliable as a PPR receiver as long as Chad Henne is the Dolphins’ quarterback, but his matchups are tougher than they look for the fantasy playoffs (Jets, Bills, Lions). I’d still consider starting him down the stretch if you need someone consistent, but as  a Marshall owner, I’m still hoping Marshall’s return will steal some of Bess’ thunder and production. Bess outperformed Marshall for a good part of this season, but the Dolphins best matchups in the playoffs (Bills, Lions) could become statement games for Marshall to prove trading for him was not a waste of the Dolphins’ draft picks–fingers crossed. Still, there could be scraps for Bess regardless of the matchup or Marshall’s contributions.

I dug deep for fantasy football advice all over the Web this week since I was trying to turn a dead but playoff-bound team (the one that just lost Frank Gore) into a fantasy zombie for Weeks 14-16. Now 21 waiver wire claims later, I feel pretty good about the team.

Below is my compiled list of waiver wire pickup recommendations, fantasy football playoff advice, and matchup analysis. It’s all worth a read if you have the time, but pay special attention the analysis previewing playoff potential and which players are getting hot at the right time, especially Fantasy O Matic’s look at defensive trends over the last five weeks, which I found especially interesting. H/T to FF Librarian for bringing it to my attention.

  • If you’re looking for something along the lines of an add/drop for the fantasy playoffs, SI’s Fire Sale column by Thomas Casale is it. It’s a great read, and you know I believe in Alexander’s and Bennett’s potential. It also may be time, as Casale notes, to give up on Vincent Jackson. He’ll miss two games, which puts him back to Week 15 as an effective start, and that’s assuming that his injury will heal right back to 100 percent. There are too many targets in San Diego, but if you have the room to keep him on your bench and wait, you might as well see what you have in him.
  • The FF Geek Blog hammers out another spreadsheet this week that lists more quarterbacks than most of the other waiver wire posts I’ve seen. If you’re in need of a playoff passer, take a look at their thoughts.
  • FF Toolbox touches on several of the big name adds, but I imagine most of these guys are taken in competitive leagues.
  • I think he sells a few of these guys short, but Lester’s Legends offers up his Get ‘em or Don’t Sweat ‘em for Week 13.
  • I like everyone Fanhouse and The Hazean tout as an add this week.
  • You’ll always find great links from the Fantasy Football Librarian.
  • NFL.com has some risky quarterback adds but, otherwise, presents a solid lineup of pickups.
  • Hatty Waiver Wire Guru talks through the week’s top pickups and players to watch if you’re still left wanting.
  • To think, last week I almost dropped Jay Cutler, and this week, he’s among the top adds on the waiver wire at Razzball. Glad I didn’t make that mistake.
  • I doubt most of SI’s “Decision Time” players for Week 13 are on the waiver wire, but a few like Jonathan Stewart might be available. Get them on your roster if you’re still trying to make the playoffs this week. SI’s waiver wire column also has some names to target.
  • Be aware that those “Points Against” rankings you’ve been looking at all season may not tell the whole picture. Fantasy O Matic broke down the defensive performances over the past five weeks and compared it to the season-long rankings to give a more accurate picture of who should flourish and who should suffer in the fantasy playoffs. It’s a must read for anyone playoff bound alongside their previous post on the best playoff matchups.
  • Rotoworld’s Chris Wesseling loves him some Westbrook this week and believes he’s capable of RB2 numbers the rest of the way. I missed out on Westbrook, so I’ll have to hope Dixon gets a piece of that.
  • The Fifth Down thinks Sam Bradford is ripe enough to start. I can’t really disagree with them this week as he faces the Cardinals.
  • Matthew Berry, ESPN’s TMR, pays tribute to Leslie Nielsen and plays back all the pickups he’s recommended over the last several weeks as well as the new guys like Westbrook and James Davis.
  • Pro Football Focus runs down all the hot prospects down to the sleepers and ones to watch the rest of this season.
  • The Scores Report may have covered every player that’s out there on waivers right now. Impressive.

Believe it or not, Peyton Hillis is the Juggernaut and More Scoring Leaders from Week 12

I believe it was Andrew Garda who started the #Juggernaut campaign for the Peyton Hillis’ nickname. Once again, it held true this week as Hillis ran over the Panthers for three touchdowns in brutal fashion. Nothing stops that guy. Nothing.

The proof of how great a nickname this is for Hillis is in the Wikipedia:

A juggernaut is a term used in the English language to describe a literal or metaphorical force regarded as unstoppable. It is often applied to a large machine or collectively to a team or group of people working together, or a growing political movement led by a charismatic leader, and often bears association with crushing or being physically destructive.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: 131 rushing yards and 3 TDs, 6 catches for 63 yards vs. Panthers

Hillis crushed it in the first half of this one, and he didn’t have to do much the rest of the game to keep his fantasy owners happy. If you have Hillis, rejoice. If you don’t, well, at least you’re not Josh McDaniels. Not even a fantasy novice would trade Hillis for Brady Quinn. Complete fail there, Joshy Boy.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: 13 catches for 170 yards and 3 TDs vs. Seahawks

Bowe does. That’s the only thing I can say at this point. Just like those DROID commercials, Bowe DOES. He’s getting open against even stingy opponents (this one, for the record, not so stingy) thanks to the powerful run game that the Chiefs have put together. There’s no reason not to start him the rest of the way. I’m just as shocked as you are. I honestly didn’t think he, or Cassel, had it in him.

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: 341 passing yards, 4 TDs, 1 rushing yard vs. Lions

Brady put together one of those classic Brady games against the Lions on Thanksgiving. He made all the throws and had a fire raging inside of him both on and off the field. The offense is certainly clicking, but remember: this was the Lions. I don’t know if Brady will be able to produce these stats against the Jets, Bears, and Packers in the next three weeks. But if he gets you to the championship, he faces the Bills.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: 233 passing yards, 4 TDs, 28 rushing yards vs. Seahawks

Cassel lucked out when Bowe broke out this season. He should have continued to look overpaid and overstarted, but instead, he’s putting up multiple touchdown games like he’s the less mobile Michael Vick. Will you ride him into the playoffs? Other than the Chargers in Week 14…it seems reasonable to expect you can.

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears: 247 passing yards, 4 TDs, 17 rushing yards vs. Eagles

Now THIS Is the Cutler I drafted, ladies and gentlemen. This week he gets the Lions, and I expect this streak to continue. If he could just start blowing people away like I thought he would all season, that’d be great, especially since I just lost Frank Gore.

Sam Bradford, QB, Rams: 308 passing yards, 3 TDs vs. Broncos

The rookie finally reached great heights, 300+ passing yards, even though it was just barely 300 passing yards. And there should really be a deduction when all the scores go to tight ends. Do you know what a wide receiver is Sam Bradford? Those things that can’t stay healthy for you. Well, there ARE still more on your team.

The rookie’s got a pretty nice schedule the rest of the way, if you’re daring enough to believe that this Week 12 performance was the start of his rise. I think this is a spike in his production, but it could carry over into Week 13 against the Cardinals.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: 59 rushing yards, 5 catches for 104 yards and 1 TD

Matchup proof? Just maybe. He was phenomenal when he last held the starting gig down in Buffalo, and he made it work this week against the Steelers rough defense. He’ll be tested further against a rejuvenated Vikings’ defense, the Browns, and the Dolphins. But if he’s the guy you have to lean on, I think you can count on consistent, if not spectacular, production.

Maurice Morris, RB, Lions: 55 rushing yards and 2 TDs, 5 catches for 20 yards vs. Patriots

Best really is done for the season, and Morris showed us what a healthy back can do in this offense. He was delivered to the goal line twice by the Lions offense and took advantage with his two scores. But now he’s really done for the year. There’s nothing pretty about the rest of his schedule.

Mike Goodson, RB, 55 rushing yards and 1 TD, 8 catches for 81 yards vs. Browns

The lone bright spot in this offense in recent weeks, Goodson looks like a future star. He shared time with The Daily Show John Stewart this week, but he should not lose more carries than he has already to the fellow runner. Goodson’s earning his spot for 2011, when DeAngelo Williams will probably be out-of-town. He’s not a bad start against the Seahawks in Week 13.

Deion Branch, WR, Patriots: 3 catches for 113 yards and 2 TDs vs. Lions

Branch’s precise routes and nose for the end zone made the Lions secondary, and especially Alphonso Smith, just look baaaad. Too bad you’ll never know which Patriots wide receiver not named Wes Welker is going to show up in the stats column in any given week.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders: 13 rushing yards, 4 catches for 108 yards and 1 TD, 1 return TD vs. Dolphins

Ford looks like the only wide receiver worth trusting in Oakland. He had these numbers with Gradkowski at quarterback, but he have Campbell for the rest of the season. That’s still good news since Campbell was the one who “found” him a few weeks ago, but the Raiders would prefer to keep the ball on the ground if McFadden gets back to action. He still might because the Oakland schedule is pretty nice in Weeks 14-16.

Ben Obomanu, WR, Seahawks: 5 catches for 159 yards and 1 TD vs. Chiefs

The Chiefs were missing their best corner and let Obo break loose for a long score late in this one. Otherwise, his fantasy points wouldn’t have been nearly as generous. Still, he’s got significant value as long as Big Mike Williams is sidelined and retains some value even after he returns. It looks like Williams will be back for Week 13.

Earl Bennett, WR, Bears: 4 catches for 56 yards and 2 TDs vs. Eagles

Is this chemistry between the two former Vandy stars? Cutler sought out Bennett twice by the goal line, and while we can’t say it’s going to continue, Bennett isn’t a bad grab as the second wide receiver in this offense that finally seems to be clicking.

Billy Bajema, TE, Rams: 3 catches for 32 yards and 2 TDs vs. Broncos

Bradford loved his tight ends on Sunday, but Bajema is no great talent. He’s the only tight end in St. Louis with Hoomanawanui sidelined, but I still wouldn’t trust him in the fantasy playoffs.

Nate Kaeding, K, Chargers: 5/5 on field goals and 3 XPs vs. Colts

Not a bad game back for the recovering kicker. If your team is getting held back by a sub-par kicker, go snag Kaeding now that he’s back in action.

On defenses: The Chargers D/ST feasted on Peyton Manning’s interceptions in this one as he uncharacteristically turned the ball over a whopping four times. Don’t expect it to be so easy the rest of the season, but the Chargers D/ST has certainly come on at the right time for fantasy owners.

On productive Bills wideouts: Steve Johnson was not a winner on this list in Week 12, but I expect him to bounce back. As long as God doesn’t smite him for calling him out on Twitter, that is.

On the Waiver Wire: Mike Goodson, Scraps, and Sleepers for Week 12 Pickups

I think I covered almost everyone I would consider picking up from this point forward in the Week 11 waiver wire. So rather than try to dig deep and come up with a whole new list of names, I’ll just touch on a few impact players that impressed or failed to impress me this weekend.

Mike Goodson, RB, Panthers

He was productive against the Ravens, even with nothing else going on in the Carolina offense. The Ravens haven’t been the force they were in the past on defense this year, but they’ve still been among the top defenses in the league at points allowed to running backs. They’re certainly capable of stuffing a runner on a team like Carolina unless said running back’s got a little bit of talent.

That tells me he’s bound to do something else good down the stretch, and it doesn’t seem like Jonathan Stewart is going to get back to the field at 100 percent in time to do any damage anyway.

So Goodson is more of a pickup than I made him out to be last week, but he’s still not the greatest add for running back depth.

If you’re desperately seeking a flex, he’s not a bad call, but if you have a need for some serious running back help, you’re probably better off grabbing him and trading him away as part of a package for someone you can count on, maybe even someone in an offense that has a fully functioning quarterback.

Kevin Boss, TE, Giants

The New York Giants lost Hakeem Nicks on Sunday, which leaves them dangerously thin at wide receiver now. And to think, we thought they had too many good receivers on the roster back in Week 1.

Boss should play a larger role in the passing game until Steve Smith returns. That’s just a few weeks away, but that’s enough time to make him worth a fantasy play against the Jaguars this week. They’re terrible at tight ends. It’s one of those positions that their secondary doesn’t realize is on the field.

Troy Smith, QB, 49ers

You may have been scared away by his complete failure against the Bucs’ defense, but Smith still holds the starting job. He’s got a nice set of matchups down the stretch. There’s no reason to give up on him if you’ve got him on the roster now, and I’ll give him a pass for Week 11 if he gets back on track this week.

SLEEPERS

Danario Alexander, WR, Rams

I’m still a fan, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do when he takes the field in Week 12. (Or should I say IF he takes the field in Week 12.)

Arrelious Benn, WR, Bucs

He didn’t do much damage in this one, but it was also a blowout that the Bucs were winning right from the start. I’d wait to see what he does in Week 12 before moving on. His playoff schedule, if he gets hot at the right time, could make him worth the investment.

Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers

He’s no longer worth as much with Vincent Jackson returning for the Chargers and Malcom Floyd back from his injury. But Crayton did get hurt on Monday night and Floyd re-tweaked his hammy, leaving the door open for either Naanee or Seyi to step in and produce. I’d bet you can find a more reliable option to take into the playoffs rather than a sink-or-swim No. 3-4 wide receiver, but if Ajirotutu becomes a part of this offense again during the fantasy playoffs, he could have some upside. It might be smart to play a speedster in the passing game to keep double teams from keying in on Vincent Jackson.

More waiver wire for your Week 12 wire waivering:

Believe it or not, Scoring Leaders for Week 11: If you don’t have multiples, you’re just not trying hard enough

Your fantasy studs only scored once? Well, that’s just child’s play. The real studs scored twice or more on Sunday, and they should easily do the same a time or two before the fantasy football playoffs are over. Start ‘em if you got ‘em.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: 275 passing yards and 3 TDs, 55 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Raiders

Much like a high school girl at her prom, Big Ben hates it when other teams dress up like the Steelers. The Raiders have been wearing black and putting teams away with a running game and a defense. That just won’t fly. So I guess Big Ben was trying to make a point when he exposed them on Sunday.

The Steelers walked all over the Raiders all day long. Roethlisberger benefited from the absence of Nnamdi Asomugha. When this offense is firing on all cylinders, as it seems to be now, they’re hard to stop.

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: 7 catches for 152 yards and 3 TDs vs. Vikings

Aaron Rodgers reminded all Jennings’ owners why they drafted him: He’s the No. 1 wide receiver on a highly explosive offense. They got rolling against the Vikings in a blowout, and Jennings was doing damage in both big and small chunks.

It was good to see him targeted in the red zone in addition to his targets from long-range. He should continue to produce down the stretch since he is Rodgers’ most reliable target for now.

Steve Johnson, WR, Bills: 8 catches for 137 yards, 3 TDs vs. Bengals

I thought this Bills passing game would have cooled off by now, but just when you think they’re done, they come roaring back. Steve Johnson absolutely destroyed the Bengals in the second half.

Johnson’s probably going to end up being the waiver wire pickup of the year. He’s scored in almost every game he’s played in with Fitzpatrick under center. Those numbers are going to be hard to beat as long as this passing game stays red-hot throughout the playoffs, even as Buffalo freezes over.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: 301 passing yards and 4 TDs, 21 rushing yards vs. Vikings

A big fantasy day for Jennings means a big fantasy day for Rodgers, but you know this. He’s one of the top quarterbacks in fantasy. This stat line is what you expected out of him in easy matchups when you drafted him. He poured it on the Vikings, led by the man he replaced, Favre.

This game was like watching a little kid jump up and down on Brett Favre’s sandcastle, all while Brett had to watch his creation go to pieces. I kind of enjoyed it.

Without a doubt, we can say that the Packers made the right call in moving on from Favre to Rodgers when they did. No team that’s tried to make it work with Favre has succeeded.

The Packers have turned into a very scary team just at the right time as fantasy playoffs (and the real NFL playoffs) approach.

Jon Kitna, QB, Cowboys: 147 passing yards and 3 TDs, 40 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Lions

I played it safe this week by starting Shaun Hill out of fear that the Cowboys would concentrate on their running game after establishing an early lead. They didn’t, unless you count that late rushing score by Kitna as the running game. Jason Garrett’s perfectly comfortable calling passing plays the whole game, and that works for Kitna’s fantasy owners.

Kitna ended the day without much yardage, but he scored a ton, making him the better play over Shaun Hill. It seems they’ll both be great plays down the stretch, as both the Cowboys and Lions love to throw the ball.

Kitna should be owned in all leagues and has a great schedule in Weeks 15 and 16 of the fantasy playoffs as long as Romo doesn’t return.

This part is the place where I would list Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, but I’ll skip them. I assume you know the drill when it comes to those guys.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills: 316 passing yards and 4 TDs, 2 INTs, 11 rushing yards vs. Bengals

What looked like a quiet performance turned into a fantasy explosion late when the Bills mounted a comeback. I don’t know whether to be impressed with how overpowering the Bills were in this one or to just acknowledge how absolutely horrid the Bengals are. No one wants to win badly enough in Cincy. Too bad.

Fitzpatrick has had a few rough patches along the way, but if he keeps playing this aggressively, it’s hard to say he won’t produce another fantasy day or two like this one in the next few weeks.

Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets: 7 catches for 126 yards, 2 TDs vs. Texans

Another week, another come-from-behind victory capped off by a Holmes touchdown pass from Sanchez. The Jets’ unpredictable performance in winnable games has become predictable again. And you can count on Holmes to remain the focus in the passing game from here on out.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: 116 rushing yards and 2 TDs, 3 catches for 13 yards vs. Bengals

Even Jackson got in on the fantasy field day to be had against the Bengals. His schedule isn’t so easy, and he faces the Steelers this week after they just completely stuffed Darren McFadden…but if you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, Jackson has a game like this left in him.

He still has matchups against the Vikings and Patriots on the schedule, and I’m not too worried about C.J. Spiller cutting into his production when he returns later this season.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: 315 passing yards and 3 TDs, 1 INT, 22 rushing yards vs. Texans

The Texans are horrible, and Sanchez took advantage. Moral of the story: Always start the quarterback playing the Texans. Enough said.

A note on D/STs that did well…

If you were looking for an impressive D/ST performance, you got it out of the Browns and Ravens. If they’re not owned, the Browns make for an intriguing play the rest of the way, and they face the Panthers this week.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: 6 catches for 109 yards, 2 TDs vs. Cardinals

Okay, okay. I keep saying he’s going to fade down the stretch, and yet, here we are with another huge fantasy day and multiple touchdowns for Bowe. I guess you have to start him until he cools off. That’s not such a bad problem to have, is it?

Believe it or not: Scoring Leaders from Week 10: Congrats on your win, Michael Vick owners

What’s this? A blast from your past? Well, since we didn’t get a chance to get to the top scores from Week 10, we’re giving it to you now. Maybe watching your team march towards victory in Week 11 will dull the pain of these performances that killed you just seven days ago.

Michael Vick, QB, Eagles: 333 passing yards and 4 TDs, 80 rushing yards and 2 TDs vs. Redskins

I had clearly lost going into Monday night of last week by just four points. It was a bad week. But as a looked at my score one last time Monday just before kickoff, I saw that my opponent had done the unthinkable, the unfathomable, the un-understandable. He started the Redskins D/ST and Ryan Torain with a victory clearly assured.

Now, if you were a thinking man, you’d probably have a hard time comprehending any reason to do this, but my opponent, in this case, was actually working with some unusual, but logical reasoning.

Our dear commish had put in his head that he needed as many points as possible to compete in the total points scored race, the tiebreaker for playoffs spots in this league. So seeing that he had won, he still felt the need to start the Redskins D/ST because they had never scored negative points and because he’d also have Ryan Torain playing in the game anyway.

As we already know, that reasoning dissolved quickly. Torain struggled to loosen his hamstring before the game and was held out of the Monday night festivities, despite being declared active just minutes before the game. And Washington’s defense collapsed early and often against Michael Vick.

I needed 28 or more points from the Eagles to get to a tie. I got that much and more in the first half alone.

The 59-28 Monday night performance was one for the ages for Vick. It’s hard for me to understand how any team starting Vick could have lost Week 10, and if you didn’t start Vick…man, I bet that hurts.

That said, I don’t think we’ll see Vick perform like this again this fantasy season. After all, he’s done playing the Redskins this year. But Vick certainly established himself as one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the game. I wouldn’t consider benching him for anyone except the top quarterbacks in fantasy  (Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees).

Oh, and I won my Week 10 matchup with the tiebreaker. Thank you very much, Vick.

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: 350 passing yards and 3 TDs, 3 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Steelers

We’re used to seeing this kind of stat line from the Brady of old, the Brady that had Randy Moss, but this game caught most off-guard. The Patriots have traditionally performed well against the Steelers, and Belichick once again had their number in this one.

Brady dissected the Steelers’ usually stout defense and made Rob Gronkowski look like a superstar. But just like everything Belichick and the Patriots do, this fantasy production was a product of the system, and that system changes every week. You never know when Brady will go off for big points, but when the matchup is right, he’s still got it.

Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: 469 passing yards and 4 TDs vs. Broncos

There’s a common theme developing in these top scores this week, or at least the ones I chose to highlight. Cassel did most of his damage during garbage time in a high-scoring affair as the Chiefs got blown out by the Broncos.

He rallied the troops to score four touchdowns, but it was all because they had to abandon the run. I’d expect Cassel to cool off as the season progresses. He just had a nice run of easy defensive matchups in recent weeks.

Keiland Williams, RB, Redskins: 80 rushing yards and 2 TDs, 4 catches for 50 receiving yards and 1 TD vs. Eagles

Shanahan could probably start himself at running back and score two touchdowns. Williams was just the latest guy to get the call. That doesn’t mean he won’t have another great game in his future.

He could as long as Ryan Torain and Clinton Portis don’t cut into his time, but with Portis back this week, I think Williams is on his way back to the shadows. Most of these points came in garbage time with the Eagles D/ST cruising towards a victory.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: 13 catches for 186 yards and 2 TDs vs. Broncos

As I noted under Cassel, Bowe’s dominance these past few weeks has been a result of easy passing matchups for the Chiefs. The schedule gets a little tougher down the stretch. So if you can  unload Bowe in a trade for someone like Darren McFadden, DO IT! I’m not sure you can rely on Bowe during your fantasy playoffs.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: 133 rushing yards and 1 TD, 6 catches for 37 yards and 1 TD vs. Lions

C.J. Spiller went down with an hamstring injury, and he left all the work to Jackson against the Lions.

When he’s been  given the chance, Jackson has impressed in the past. Remember his 2009 campaign? At one time, he was the top back in fantasy last season. But his matchups aren’t too pretty. We’ll have to see how much the Bills rely on him now that he’s the guy for the next few weeks.

If he really does become the unquestioned rushing force in Buffalo and if he gets plenty of targets in the passing game, he could be a great flex start for the rest of the season.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: 5 catches for 72 yards and 3 TDs vs. Steelers

The Patriots had the perfect game plan to attack the Steelers. Gronkowski was a big part of what made that plan so successful. But once again, the system is the only thing you can count on when it comes to the Patriots, and we may never see Gronkowski so involved in the offense as he was in Week 10.

Aaron Hernandez is likely to retake his role in the offense in Week 11 against the Colts, and Gronkowski, in that case, would return to being a all-or-nothing play at tight end, depending on whether he scores or not.

Don’t expect Gronkowski to get on the field this much in every game. He was part of the formation that the Patriots used to beat the Steelers, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be the answer to what other teams try to do to stop Tom Brady and his crew. There’s also a good chance that the next team the Patriots face will choose to cover Gronkowski more closely.

On the Waiver Wire: Remaining Week 11 Pickups, Fantasy Football Playoff Sleepers, Stashes

It’s getting to be that time when you just have to roll with what you’ve got, and there’s not much talent left on the waiver wire. So I took a few extra hours this week to peruse all the latest and greatest analysis to recommend just a few guys who I think should be owned in every league as we head down the stretch.

Some of these guys might help you in the playoffs. Some might help you right away. But the important this is that they are far more valuable than a backup kicker, second tight end or platoon of defenses at this point in the season.

If you have concerns about whom you should drop to claim these guys, leave your questions in the comments.

And don’t miss my roundup of waiver wire links at the bottom of this post. There were some great contributions this week from around the Web that offer up even more players than the ones I have listed here.

High Priority Adds

I bet these guys are on your radar, and in all likelihood, they’re on someone’s roster already. But if not, you need to make sure you get your hands on them because they should make an impact in the next few weeks.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers

I’ve mentioned Jackson the last several weeks as a player to add if someone dropped him while he was sitting out the season. By all accounts, he’ll be ready to go and in Pro Bowl form in Week 12 when he finally takes the field, and he’ll have Philip Rivers throwing to him plenty during those juicy fantasy playoff matchups. Get him while you can.

Mario Manningham, WR, Giants

As long as Steve Smith’s injury keeps him off the field, Manningham will be a true stud at wide receiver. His stat line in Week 10 with Smith out was no fluke. Make sure he’s on a roster.

Louis Murphy and/or Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders

Murphy should return from his injuries this week to play the Steelers, but Ford was the wide receiver Campbell made into a superstar in Week 9, just before the Raiders’ bye. With Campbell remaining the starter, he could look to Ford again since he showed such trust for the speedster when the game was on the line. Ford could cut into Murphy’s snaps, but if the Raiders know what they’re doing, they’ll start Murphy and Ford at receiver, and push Darrius Heyward-Bey into the third receiver spot.

The Raiders have some great, GREAT matchups in the fantasy playoffs in which their explosive rushing attack with Darren McFadden will open up opportunities for these receivers. I’d stash one on your roster and see what develops. They should start quietly this week against the Steelers. I’d assume Ford is no longer on waivers after his big week last week, but if so, I’d choose him first and Murphy second.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills

C.J. Spiller went down with a thigh injury in Week 10 and gave Fred Jackson the stage to show off his skills against the Lions. He didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t too long ago that Fred Jackson was making a name as one of the top backs in fantasy. Remember that? His schedule isn’t fantastic, but if Ryan Fitzpatrick uses him in the passing game like he’s used Steve Johnson, Jackson will produce enough to remind us of his 2009 production. He’s a startable option this week against the Bengals.

The Ones I Have to Mention

I don’t love them, but these players made a splash in Week 10, and I have to mention them. Otherwise, I have to give up my fantasy football blogging license, and that cost me a whole $5.

Keiland Williams, RB, Redskins

Shanahan has never played fantasy football…or does he? Did his team need some points from Rex Grossman when he decided it was time to bench McNabb for the two-minute drill?

Was his opponent starting Ryan Torain going into Monday night when he decided Torain couldn’t see the field if his hammy wouldn’t loosen up? Sure, this decision might have been out of his hands, but maybe Shanahan kept the team’s locker room a few degrees colder to make loosening that hamstring that much more difficult on his prized runner.

It sounds like something a guy in my league might do.

In reality, I think it’s safe to assume he just doesn’t care about how his coaching decisions affect fantasy teams, and so we saw a huge helping of Keiland Williams on Monday night. His final numbers were impressive, but he was about the only thing working in the Redskins offense after a miserable defensive showing allowed the Eagles offensive to have a record-setting first quarter.

He could start in Week 11 against the Titans, but by Week 12, I would suspect that Ryan Torain and/or Clinton Portis would be back in the mix and taking away from Williams’ value. There’s always the chance that Shanahan takes a liking to Williams and makes him his new favorite, but Torain has always had Shanahan’s eye. When he’s healthy, I think he’s the best back to own in this offense.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

Don’t go nuts about his three-touchdown performance in Week 10. The Steelers weren’t stopping him, so the Patriots kept going there. Aaron Hernandez is still there and will get catches too as long as the Patriots don’t shift their offense in Gronkowski’s direction.

Gronk got so many passing plays (with a nod to Sigmund Bloom for pointing this out) because it was a package designed for Gronkowski, not Hernandez that kept beating the Steelers. I trust that the Patriots will continue to adapt and move away from that package as the season continues.

But if you’re in a touchdown-only league or a deep league with so little on the waiver wire that you’re taking chances at tight end, Gronkowski is not a terrible play. I just don’t like the idea of betting on Patriots to win me a championship.

Mike Goodson, RB, Panthers

I don’t love any Panthers as long as Jimmy Clausen remains their starter. The offense just won’t move well enough until he’s matured as an NFL quarterback. But Good son remains the starter this week against the Ravens.

The Panthers placed DeAngelo Williams on IR today, which means Goodson’s probably the guy until Sutton or Jonathan Stewart returns from their injuries. So he’s a starting running back, but there isn’t much to go with here. His schedule is brutal down the stretch. Other than two soft ones against Seattle and Arizona, the Panthers face the Ravens, Browns, Falcons (twice)  and Steelers the rest of the season.

Overlooked Playoff Quarterbacks

So you’re still holding onto Brett Favre? These quarterbacks could produce top 10 numbers between now and your fantasy championship. Don’t let them waste away on the waiver wire.

Shaun Hill, QB, Lions

The Lions throw the ball plenty, and Hill is the likely start the rest of the way. The schedule isn’t so nice once the fantasy playoffs start, but it isn’t too shabby right now. If you’re outside the playoff bubble, Hill might be able to get you in there.

Jon Kitna, QB, Cowboys

Don’t love the idea of betting on any Dallas player in these critical weeks, but we have at least one week of evidence to support a Jason Garrett revival in Big D. You can’t go wrong stashing Kitna on the bench and seeing what he’s worth. Plus, this week’s matchup with the Lions could be a great time to use him.

Troy Smith, QB, 49ers

You may not be convinced of his talent, but his schedule is something to believe in: Bucs, Cards in next two weeks; Seattle, Chargers, Rams during the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16). He’s one sleeper quarterback I’d try to put on my bench if there wasn’t much out there.

Jason Campbell, QB, Raiders

I’m digging a little deep with this one, but he does have a fantastic playoffs schedule. With Louis Murphy and Zach Miller returning to the field, he could be that extra push you need to make it to a championship. In Weeks 14-16, the Raiders face the Jaguars, Broncos, and Colts — the last two of those at home in Oakland.

Lottery Pick Wide Receivers

These are the high-risk receivers who make me wish I had enough bench spots to hold onto them all…

Danario Alexander, WR, Rams

Alexander was a favorite of mine when he finally got his chance to start for the Rams. I loved the guy. Not only because of the opportunity in that offense but also because of his work ethic.

He went down with injury, and that may have forced some owners to let him go during the byes. But now that he’s back on the practice field, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to grab him. He could shine again if he gets back on the field against the Broncos, Cardinals, Chiefs, or 49ers in the coming weeks.

Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers

Vincent Jackson’s the sure thing in the Chargers passing game, and Malcom Floyd is your second best bet. But if you can’t land either one of those receivers, I don’t think taking a chance on Ajirotutu is such a bad idea.

What if he stays on the field as the third receiver? We all know Naanee could stand to have someone push him for playing time. And the Chargers passing game is far too valuable to overlook with the Chiefs, 49ers, and Bengals on their playoff schedule Weeks 14-16.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Bucs

Benn was drafted higher than Mike Williams this year, even though it’s taken him longer to get on the field. He’s got plenty of talent, and he’s shown it through his efficiency.

I don’t believe he’s dropped a pass yet, and he’s gotten a touchdown for two weeks straight. If you take a chance on him, you could cash in when he faces the Redskins, Lions, and Seahawks in Weeks 14-16. He just needs to get more passes his way from Josh Freeman.

Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings

Sure, he’s talented, but Brett Favre is falling apart on the field. So Rice may just go onto IR rather than risk further injury in a lost season for the Vikings. Besides, that playoffs schedule is not kind.

Tight Ends to Tie Up Loose Ends

I fell victim to the double tight end curse this season by drafting both Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finley. I’ve managed to make it as far as I have with the likes of Marcedes Lewis, Tony Moeaki, and Brandon Pettigrew. If you’re hurting even worse and need some help at that position, here’s a list of names I like. I don’t necessarily have any favorites, but I’ll list them in order of my trust of them and their potential.

Benjamin Watson, TE, Browns, looks like Colt McCoy’s favorite target the rest of the way.

Anthony Fasano, TE, Dolphins, could be emerging and was once an understudy to Jason Witten when he was a Cowboy. Thigpen could show him some love throughout the fantasy playoffs.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals, one good week does not a stud make, but he’s got plenty of wide receiver talent around him that should prevent him from getting any defensive attention.

Delanie Walker, TE, 49ers, not quite the talent level of Vernon Davis, but Troy Smith has given him plenty of love lately. He’s got a chance to steal some of that production. (H/T to The Audible for bringing Walker to my attention)

More waiver wires I liked from around the Web:

  • The FF Geek Blog: One spreadsheet to rule them all.
  • The Scores Report: Goes deep at every position, including a few tight ends that could save you at that position for the playoffs and a great list of wide receivers ranked in the order you should pick them up.
  • Pro Football Focus: So many names, you’re bound to find an answer to your roster woes.
  • ESPN’s Matthew Berry: A great look at the players with playoff potential and whom you need to use to get you there.
  • The Hazean: Gives us a list of names that might be there to help you these next few weeks.
  • NFL.com: Hits the highlights.
  • Sports Illustrated: Scraping the barrel on running backs, and don’t neglect to check out the Fire sale, a hidden gem of players who are rising, falling, and the ones who could win for you this week.
  • Fanhouse and  Razzball suggest some names that may still be out there, even as teams start to strengthen their bench rosters and drop those bye week fills. (You should be doing the same!)
  • FF Librarian is boycotting Vick and compiling even more fantasy waiver wire links to enjoy.
  • Hatty Waiver Wire Guru: Building suspense by listing your waiver wire targets in video form.
  • FF Toolbox: Most of these names will be snatched up or were snatched up last week, but there’s always a chance, right?

On the Waiver Wire: Week 10 Pickups and Shots in the Dark

I gave away a victory this weekend, and I blame Antonio Gates.

With my tight end, Marcedes Lewis on a bye, I was forced to go to the waiver wire. At first, I tried to grab hot free agent Jacob Tamme, but I was outbid (FAAB league). Next, I tried for Visanthe Shiancoe but missed out again because of my priority. So I settled on Randy McMichael with most expecting Antonio Gates to sit this week out.

Jump to Saturday night, as I’m going over last minute news, I start to see reports of Antonio Gates as a “safe bet” to start in Week 9. Everyone who watched him is saying that he looked good. Since my league doesn’t allow for any roster moves after the final FAAB period on Saturday night, I had to decide right then and there whether I would take a chance on Gates starting and roll with Randy McMichael or whether I would grab another free agent.

Seeing Owen Daniels was available (but also questionable), I decided, for some reason that escapes my logical thinking in hindsight, that taking a chance on Daniels, a starter, taking the field would be a better bet than banking on McMichael to do anything for me.

So I started Daniels and, since I’ve been moving for the past week into a new apartment, I slept in a bit on Sunday until the first set of games had begun. What do I wake up to on Sunday morning? “RANDY MCMICHAEL…TOUCHDOWN!” And the nightmare began…or did the dream become a nightmare since I have just woken up?

Wait…was Randy McMichael “incepted” off my roster? This just raises more questions.

Even with botching my tight end, I had a 31-point lead going into Monday Night Football. My opponent had Big Ben, Mendenhall, and the Steelers D/ST, but I still had a very good chance. Unfortunately, that chance was dashed as soon as Mendenhall went to work. I lost by 7.7 points. Owen Daniels’ point total? 0 points. (He didn’t play.) Randy McMichael’s points for Week 9? 14.3 points.

The lesson? I broke a basic rule of fantasy football: Don’t second-guess yourself. You can drive yourself insane by treating your lineup decisions like a hostage situation, but second-guessing yourself based on limited information and rumors after you’ve already made one educated guess? Terrible. I should have never backed off of Randy McMichael, and you shouldn’t make the same mistakes either.

When it comes to your roster, it’s time to make the tough calls and stick with them. Leave the players you don’t want in the free agent pool. At this point in the season, if you don’t feel like Cadillac Williams or Ryan Mathews is going to help you win a championship, ditch them and invest in someone more promising. Hesitating will only cost you a chance to patch up your team’s weaknesses with some of the best free agents out there — and the fantasy playoffs are just a few weeks away.

So knowing that. Let’s get to some free agents that you may be able to take a chance on and ride into the playoffs. Not all of these guys are worth picking up outside of deep or highly competitive leagues, but if you’re searching for a filler or a desperation play at WR3, some of these might catch your eye.

If you need a quarterback, consider Shaun Hill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Troy Smith. I’d lean toward Fitzpatrick if you need a starter this week, but for the long-term, go with Hill. The Detroit quarterbacks have been putting up great numbers all season long, and now that Stafford’s out again — and probably for the rest of the season — Hill could be back in the driver’s seat.

Fitzpatrick continues to put up respectable points for a Buffalo quarterback even though his good days are likely behind him. Buffalo will only get colder and less friendly to the passing game.

But he’s done so much this year, and he’s made Steve Johnson look so good, you just have to give him the nod this week to see what he can do against the Lions.

Keep in mind that Troy Smith just joined the 49ers at the beginning of this season after the Ravens cut him loose. He’s had no offseason to prep for this offense, and he’s had to learn the playbook between snaps with the scout team.

Now that’s he’s gotten one official start under his belt and had a full bye week to prepare with the first team, Smith should truly be tested this week against the Rams. With his mobility and Frank Gore, he should be able to produce some fantasy points. He almost cracked 20 fantasy points in his first start for the 49ers, but I view him more as a prospect for the stretch rather than a fantasy starter in Week 10.

If you need a wide receiver, I recommend going after Jacoby Ford. He’s on a bye, but he holds the most value out of any of the recommended free agents this week. Ford showed his speed and gamesmanship on Sunday in fighting for the ball, something Darrius Heyward-Bey has never been caught doing.

Don’t spend any money on Ford if you have a FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) system, but he’s worth the speculative grab after the oodles of targets he received in Week 9. The Raiders return from their bye to play the Steelers in Week 11. Ford’s value should be reassessed after that game.

And don’t forget the injured and left for dead. Search your free agent pools for Louis Murphy, Sidney Rice, and Vincent Jackson. Jackson would be my first choice to acquire, but he won’t do anything until at least Week 12. Rice is a close second, but Favre is hardly the quarterback he was last season. He may not be able to get it done even if Rice can hit the field anywhere close to 100 percent.

Murphy, injured for several weeks, may have been dropped by one of your competitors, but he was Oakland’s one consistent weapon in the passing game besides Zach Miller until Murphy’s bruised lung forced him to sit a few out. While Ford has big-play potential and the trust of Jason Campbell, Murphy could do just as much damage when he gets back on the field.

If you need a running back, you’re probably going to have a hard time fishing for one of the waiver wire, but do make sure Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are snatched up. BJGE, or “Law Firm,” disappointed in Week 9, but he should get back in the mix. Woodhead’s the most consistent of all the Patriots’ running backs right now, but he’s limited by the Patriots’ offense as a whole. Neither back is worth starting as anything more than a third running back or flex option.

There also may be some free agent blood on the Redskins’ running back depth chart. Ryan Torain should get the start this week, but Keiland Williams and James Davis should both be watched in case Torain is hurt again or falls out of favor. Maybe someone gave up on Clinton Portis? If so, grab him. Washington might not give him his job back, but he’s sure to have some part of the pie by the time Shanahan is done.

At tight end, if Jacob Tamme is available in your league, GET HIM. That guy is going to be Dallas Clark, Jr. for the rest of the season, and you can buy him on the cheap off the waiver wire. He’s probably more productive and value than the tight end you’re currently starting. Christmas come early!

Need more? Here are a few of my favorite waiver wire folks from around the Web:

Believe it or not: Bad franchises, big fantasy points with Peyton Hillis, Matthew Stafford, and Jacoby Ford as Week 9 Scoring Leaders

This week’s high scores include members of teams you wouldn’t expect to produce fantasy powerhouses. The Browns? The Lions? The Raiders?  Parity is the name of the game this season, as even these recently terrible franchises have produced fantasy gold.

Hillis looks like a top back the rest of the way. The Raiders continue to put up points no matter who has to catch the ball and clear the way for Darren McFadden. And the Lions continue to scare teams who don’t take them seriously.

If you had one of these scoring leaders on your roster, you should have won this week. If not…well, at least there’s hope for the future.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns: 184 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 3 catches for 36 yards vs. Patriots

You have to wonder how former Patriots coordinator Josh McDaniels felt watching Hillis destroy the Patriots on the ground for another former Patriots coordinator’s team. Eric Mangini certainly looks like he won on this trade. The Broncos have no running game, and the Browns are all running game with Hillis.

Now that he’s fully healthy after their bye and with Colt McCoy starting for the Browns, Hillis should continue to grind out these tough yards. As long as he can get in the end zone, he’ll produce at a high level. His schedule poses few challenges.

Next week he gets the Jets, and the only other two teams who might stand a chance at slowing him down are the Dolphins in Week 13 and the Ravens in Week 16. He also get the Steelers in Week 17 if you play your fantasy championships the last week of the year — but why, WHY are you doing that?

Green Bay Packers D/ST: 7 points against, 2 INTs, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 TDs vs. Cowboys

The Cowboys gave up this game before the kickoff, and the Green Bay defense took advantage of Jon Kitna, who seemed like the only player other than Dez Bryant who had any interest in playing.

As many have stated throughout recent weeks, somehow the Packers manage to put together a great defensive game plan no matter how many players they lose to injury. But they hardly had to try against the Cowboys.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals: 10 catches for 141 yards, 2 TDs vs. Steelers

The fact that T.O. is good this year still puzzles me. He stepped into a team with a proven wide receiver and replaced him entirely (and with more success). Those who drafted him will continue to benefit from Palmer’s force-feeding of the ball to T.O., especially late in games when the Bengals are down. That happens often.

Michael Vick, QB, Eagles: 218 passing yards and 1 TD, 74 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Colts

Those owners who held onto Vick throughout his injury should reap the rewards now. He stepped onto the field and right back into his previous form. Other than two matchups against the Giants, the Eagles schedule should be a big bag o’ fun for the Eagles.

Circle Week 13 if it’s the first week of your fantasy playoffs. The Eagles face the Texans very terrible defense at home in Philly.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: 240 passing yards and 2 TDs, 1 INT, 11 rushing yards and 1 TD vs. Jets

Stafford surprised many by dismantling the Jets defense right up until he got hurt again. That’s right: Hurt. AGAIN. Stafford could have been a savior for many a fantasy team late in the season, and this showdown against the Jets only proved how talented he is (and how good he can make the Lions). But it looks like he’ll go back on ice for a few weeks.

Stafford’s fantasy owners have to hope that Shaun Hill is healthy enough to start Week 10. Drew Stanton just doesn’t cut it as a Stafford stand-in.

Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Chargers: 4 catches for 111 yards, 2 TDs vs. Texans

Yeah, you try to say that. I’m glad I just have to type it. But Seyi Ajirotutu showed up big for those who took a chance on him as a sleeper.

After the Chargers bye, he’ll probably be relegated to a lesser role with Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, and Legedu Naanee likely to return to the field. Vincent Jackson will also soon be in the mix. But those who benefited from Ajirotutu’s big Week 9 should hold onto him if possible. Philip Rivers might not soon forget his big play potential.

Brett Favre, QB, Vikings: 446 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs vs. Cardinals

Does the old man still have it? I don’t think so. But he showed signs of life this week against the Cardinals in willing the Vikings to a win in overtime. The rest of his schedule shouldn’t be so kind — other than possibly the Bills. It’s hard to trust Favre as a fantasy quarterback down the stretch as the games matter more than ever.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders: 6 catches for 148 yards, 1 kickoff return TD vs. Chiefs

Jacoby Ford is proof of one thing: ANYONE is better than throwing to Darrius Heyward-Bey. With every receiving weapon for the Raiders out due to injury, DHB still managed to catch nothing.

On the other hand/side of the field, Ford emerged as a great deep weapon, which could mean he keeps the speedster role when Louis Murphy returns to the lineup. He’s on bye but worth a pickup this week, for sure. Other than against the Steelers in Week 11, the Raiders could make good use of Ford throughout the rest of their schedule.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers: 42 rushing yards and 1 TD, 4 catches for 26 yards and 1 TD vs. Cowboys

The Packers defense created so many turnovers that the Packers had to run the ball, and Jackson proved his worth in the short-yardage situations he was given. Those who paid a high price for him early in the season (as I did) can only hope that the Packers look to develop their ground game as the weather turns cold late in the season.

Clearly, Jackson will put points on the board when he’s given a chance, but this game against the Cowboys was not the norm. Let’s see what they do against a real opponent (if you can call the Vikings that) after their bye week.

On the Waiver Wire: Week 9 Pickups Blount If You Want

It’s already Week 9. Week 9! That’s just four weeks away from the fantasy football playoffs for most of us. It’s time to start tightening up those rosters. As you exit your bye weeks, consider picking up extra running backs, wide receivers, and maybe a bang-or-bust fantasy playoff quarterback. These players could be the extra push you need to win in the playoffs, or they could do absolutely nothing for you. At least you’ll use your bench spots wisely.

When picking up free agents, you should also consider whether their current hype could get you a proven veteran with a great schedule for the fantasy playoffs. MJD, anyone?

Could Steve Johnson and your backup quarterback steal — if you got Big Ben at a discount, for example — land you MJD and a lesser receiver for Weeks 14-16? If it can, consider that deal.

If you’re a lock to make the playoffs, start planning your wins for Weeks 14-16. It’s that time. Now, on to the pickups.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Bucs

Get him? Got him? Good. I hope you’ve been listening to all the Blount I’ve been talking for weeks. He’s a starting running back the rest of the way on a winning team and getting a hefty, at least in Week 8, amount of carries with more than 20 touches.

Steve Johnson, WR, Bills

He’s legit, and he seems to always find his way to the end zone. His size makes him the best Buffalo’s got when they get deep into enemy territory.

Jacob Tamme, TE, Colts

Is it fair that the Colts have a mini-Dallas Clark just waiting in the wings for a chance to play? No. But it is nice for Dallas Clark’s former fantasy owners.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts

He’s working his way back into the offense in Indianapolis, but the absence of Austin Collie leaves the door wide open for him to contribute in a big way each week.

Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings

There’s a slim chance he’s available in your league since someone probably drafted him and held onto him all season, despite my best efforts to convince them to let him go. But if Rice is out there, he might be able to make an impact during the fantasy football playoffs now that Moss is out of Minnesota.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders

It’s unlikely that he’ll repeat his Week 8 performance, but in a way, he’s all the Raiders have in the passing game. McFadden’s challenging the defenses to use additional blockers to stop the run, which should free things up for DHB if he can break the big one AND catch the ball. It’s harder than it looks for DHB.

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Vikings

Without Randy Moss, Brett Favre could turn back to his tight end. Shiancoe started off the season with two strong performances before falling off the map and becoming completely irrelevant after Moss’ arrival. If Favre can still be effective with his injuries, both physically and to his ego, Shiancoe could become the Vikings best red zone target. But that’s could become, not will, until we see the Vikings passing game come back to life post-Moss.

Troy Smith, QB, 49ers

Maybe the 49ers just started the season with the wrong Smith under center. Smith threw for one touchdown and ran for another in his London debut. He’s on a bye this week, but as long as he keeps the starting job when he returns, he’ll face the Rams, Bucs and Cardinals before he hits a harder stretch against the Packers, Seahawks, and Chargers.

Brandon Tate, WR, Pats

It was Tate, not Deion Branch, who made the big plays on Sunday. Branch was dealing with an injury, but the spark that Tate provided won’t go unnoticed. Maybe those who wrote off Tate after the Patriots acquired Branch spoke too soon. While unreliable, Tate should be owned in deep leagues. But until he gets more attention from Tom Brady, I’d hold off on starting him.

Derek Anderson, QB, Cardinals

Arizona turned to the veteran again on Sunday after Max Hall failed to get the offense moving. With Anderson under center, the Cardinals looked a little bit like a shadow of their former selves — just a little bit. Assuming Anderson gets the start next week, he’d be a fine stash. The schedule gets much brighter for the Cardinals the rest of the way. They play the Broncos, Panthers, and Cowboys in Weeks 14-16, typically fantasy playoffs.

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