On the Wire: Week 15 Pickups and Waiver Wire Grabs for Playoffs

Congrats, fools. If you’re still following pickups at this point in the season, you made the playoffs. I guess there are some of you out there who may be seeking out ways to beef up your keeper or dynasty team for next year but for the large majority of you, playoffs. Good work. I hope our posts helped you make a call at least once, maybe even twice, during your season.

Now that you’re here in the playoff circle and gloating profusely in front of all the less fortunate owners in your league, you probably don’t want to change much. I’ve been shifting the pickups posts to later in the week in large part because I don’t want people to immediately rush out and grab the “so hot right now” player. More than ever, it’s important that you make really informed choices about who you put on your roster and kick to the free agent pool.

The recs I have for this week are slim because you obviously have a good enough team to weather the playoff storm if you made it here. You don’t want to drop your studs for a fluke of a wide receiver. These guys are options if one of your backups is worthless or injured — or maybe if you lost Peyton Hillis, Joseph Addai or Frank Gore this week. If they’re still available on the waiver wire, they’re some of the only players I could see being able to provide good numbers for you in the playoffs.

Antonio Bryant, WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers — I still haven’t quite decided whether he is the Britney Spears to Jeff Garcia’s Kevin Federline, but Bryant had a huge, two-touchdown performance last Monday night. I’m not pegging him as a superstar because the Bucs like to run the ball all day, but Bryant has as good of matchups as anyone in the next two weeks — Atlanta and San Diego. Unfortunately, you might have to back off of him in Week 17 as he plays the Raiders and is likely to be covered by Nnamdi “Not Going to Catch Anything” Asomugha. Don’t trust him as more than a low-end WR2 or WR3, but Bryant could be worth a plug in the playoffs.

Davone Bess, WR Miami Dolphins — Yes, Bess makes for a strong WR3 start these next few weeks as the Dolphins face the 49ers, Chiefs and Jets. He’s been the top receiver on offense since the departure of Greg Camarillo, and he’s more reliable than Ted Ginn Jr. One can only hope that that reliability translates into his use in the red zone. I’d only trust him as a WR3, but with the juicy matchups, he could surprise up to the level of a quality WR2.

Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints — The little Frenchmen looks to be blowing up much like his predecessor, Aaron Stecker, did on the Saints last season during the fantasy football playoffs. The Saints end the season with the Bears, Lions and Panthers, so there’s plenty of opportunity there for Thomas to succeed. Unfortunately, a sort of returning Reggie Bush and sort of suspended Deuce McAllister make it hard to know what the Saints will do in the running game. If there was one to start and hope for the best though, it’d be Pierre. Oui, oui. Thomas is a low-end RB2 this week against the Bears but should be one hell of a RB2 during Week 16 against the Lions.

DeShaun Foster, RB San Francisco 49ers — You thought Foster was a name you could forget? Well, for the most part, it is, but he’s also the backup to Frank Gore. If Gore sits out after being carted off with that ankle injury in Week 14, Foster would get the most carries at Miami. Now, a slower, veteran running back is not who you want to be starting against a strong run defense like Miami during your playoffs, but you might consider picking up Foster just in case he also gets the call in Week 16, against a St. Louis team is just thankful not to be the Lions. No recommendation for foster this week, but consider stashing him to keep him from the competition and for his potential in Week 16 if you don’t have a solid RB option that week.

Tashard Choice, RB Dallas Cowboys — There’s not an easy day in sight with the Giants and the Ravens coming into Big D these next two weeks. Choice would also suffer a drop in value if Marion Barber returned this week or next week, which is very likely. But, regardless of the matchups, if Choice can run that well against the Steelers, he shouldn’t be shut down by the Giants, Ravens or Eagles these next three weeks. Watch the news about Marion Barber before you burn a decent roster spot for him. Of course, if you own Marion Barber, you should already have choice on your roster. If you don’t, slap yourself and pick him up. For everyone else, take a long, hard look at your roster, and if someone on there won’t be starting for you in the playoffs, swap them out for choice. I’d recommend him as a low-end RB2 or flex with a great deal of upside.

Tatum Bell and Selvin Young, RB Denver Broncos — Now that Peyton Hillis is done for the season, Shanahan is down to Tatum Bell and Selvin Young. Young’s never fully returned from the hamstring injury he suffered earlier in the season, and I’d have my doubts about him moving forward. Tatum Bell is still the same ol’ Bell. Neither player jumps off the page, but their playoff schedule does — Carolina, Buffalo and San Diego. Even though the Broncos will continue to pass first, all these upcoming defenses are around the middle of the league and, besides San Diego, show more weakness against the run than the pass. While Young is obviously more talented, it’s hard to recommend him when he can’t seem to stay on the field long enough to score. I’d conservatively recommend picking up Tatum Bell first and plugging him in as a weak RB2 or flex play. Very weak.

Cadillac Williams (a.k.a. Carnell Williams), RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — A touchdown vulture who could see more carries as the season goes on or if Warrick Dunn suffers another injury? That’s potential. Make sure you own Caddy if you have Dunn right now. He may even be worth a start over a full-time stud with games against Atlanta, San Diego and Oakland. A Raiders team with nothing to play for in Week 17 could make for a very lucrative Week 17, but unless his situation changes, Caddy will remain a low RB2 or RB3/flex start. I’d rather have a guy that starts.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — He’s been a solid start since he replaced JTO, and as much as I liked JTO before he became “Mr. Turnover,” I like Shaun Hill more. Hill has one of the best schedules for any quarterback as he faces the Miami, St. Louis and Washington to end the season. Unlike many playoff-bound starters, he probably won’t see a single sit during these last few weeks either. Expect a hard-fought and less-than-explosive game this week against the sack-happy Dolphins to be followed by a huge day at St. Louis in Week 16. If you need him in Week 17, he’s likely to be facing a Washington squad that’s out of the playoffs and done caring about it.

Seneca Wallace, QB Seattle Seahawks — Wallace has the potential to put up some numbers against the Rams, Jets and Cardinals these next three weeks. My gut is telling me that Matt Hasselbeck doesn’t get rushed back into the lineup with the season over and his back pain. As long as Deion Branch, who should also be owned in most leagues by now, is on the field, Wallace has potential as a sneaky play for a couple of touchdowns and 200+ yards. Wallace is a low, low, low-end start simply because he’s as likely to bust as bang, but if you need a quarterback during the playoffs, like slapping yourself to feel alive or have faith that a desperation play will save you, go for it. (As always, if you can’t decide whether to start Wallace over your stud/starter, you can always comment or contact us. There are certain starters that I would rank Wallace above these next three weeks.)

Steve Heiden, TE Cleveland Browns — While he won’t be spectacular, Ken Dorsey is definitely going to need his help if Dorsey survives the next three weeks. As long as he doesn’t spend all his time blocking, I like Heiden’s chances for a solid handful of points. If you made it to the playoffs, I suspect that you already have a decent tight end on your roster unless you are unfortunate enough to be a Kellen Winslow owner like me. Heiden is a low-end starting option against the Eagles, who have issues covering tight ends, and the Bengals, but a terrible option in Week 17 against the Steelers.

Indianapolis Colts D/ST — The Colts defense has Bob Sanders back, which always raises their stock, but they also have one of the easiest playoffs schedules out there as long as you finish in Week 16, not Week 17. In Week 15, they face the Lions. In Week 16, they face a very stick-a-fork-in-them Jaguars squad. In Week 17, the Titans actually pose a challenge, but at least you know that the Colts offense will be fired up for that one. A defense focusing on strong cornerbacks is always a nice thing to have on your fantasy squad, but the Colts should be especially good these next two weeks after coming off two straight 15+ point fantasy weeks. They are a must start defense these next two weeks.

Droppables: Anyone you won’t start in the next three weeks. Purge away unless you’re in a dynasty/keeper league.

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Free-for-all from Week 9

It’s time for change, America.

Bring me your injured, your underperforming, your studs gone duds. Together, we can reshape your fantasy team for the future into a team without injustice, without phantom starts (see: Willis McGahee) and without any of Shanahan’s running backs — well, maybe just one.

Yes, we can. Yes, we can. YES, WE CAN.

And on that very original campaign note, Fools in 2012.

I hope you all voted yesterday, but while you were busy at the polls, I was busy collecting a vast array of pickups that could help you make it to the playoffs. In fact, this might the largest waiver wire column I’ve ever written, and upon finishing it, I just wanted to call my friends in to look at it before I unleashed it on the world.

This week in fantasy football, we have another free-for-all on quarterbacks as injuries took the fantasy lives of several recent stars. Going with our theme of “change,” a handful of very bad teams had quarterbacks show promise this week, and there’s no pork in that.

With all the turnover and surprises, we’re going very, very in-depth with a long list of names and fantasy fortunes because, short of a few quick fixes, I wouldn’t expect many fantasy studs to emerge for your playoff run. Gather the depth you need and take a few chances if you can afford the roster space.

There are four more wins to be had, and these guys could be the ones to get you there and keep you there through Week 16 or 17.

It could happen in ’08, people. You can still write yourself in on that final fantasy playoff spot ballot — that is, unless you already lost Ohio.

Worth Claiming

Ryan Torain, RB Denver Broncos – I said he might be the last man standing last week, but now he really is. Michael Pittman and Andre Hall were both placed on the IR after Week 9, so Selvin Young and whatever RB depth Shanahan finds in a back alley this week are Torain’s only competition.

Don’t be scared off by Torain’s one yard on Sunday in three carries. Shanahan wants to bring him along slowly, but if Selvin Young’s hamstring is still holding him back, Torain should get the start against the Browns this week.

Of course, after one series, Shanahan will probably make sure that 75 percent of the touches go to Peyton Hillis so that Hillis looks like the best fantasy back in Denver. Oh, how I hate you, Leatherface.

Ray Rice, RB Baltimore Ravens — McGahee hasn’t been healthy all season, and after disappearing off the map, Rice exploded in Week 9 with 154 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving.

In Week 10 against the Texans, Harbaugh says that both McGahee and Rice will carry the football, but I’d bet Rice sees more looks. The schedule is unkind to Baltimore running backs after this week, but we know they’ll run the football until the very end.

Jamaal Charles, RB Kansas City Chiefs — Much like Torain, Charles is the one and only for the Chiefs…until Larry Johnson returns at least. Charles had 100+ yards against the Bucs, a very tough defense, on only 18 carries.

Johnson remains suspended for Week 10, so Charles could handle a majority of the load against the Chargers. While the Chargers are right in the middle — 16 out of 32 — as far as run defenses go, many a team has had a problem containing Charles. I saw him play at Texas, and when he’s making the right moves and holding onto the ball, he can be deadly — “Let Booby spin!”

When Johnson returns in Week 11, it’ll be interesting to see where the Chiefs want the carries to go, but the rock could stay in Charles hands for a good while with a strong showing this week. We know L.J. is lacking in the gold stars and brownie points.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots — He’s a lock for a score at least once in every Patriots game until Sammy Morris’ or LaMont Jordan’s return. If both continue to sit, “Law Firm” is a decent option in week 10 against Buffalo.

After that, his production against the Jets, Dolphins and Steelers will probably trail off until Sammy Morris or LaMont Jordan make him irrelevant. For now, he’s a solid depth option, and he’s got such a cool nickname.

Maurice Morris, RB Seattle Seahawks — It’s a split, but I like his half better than Julius Jones’ half. A few good matchups still to come for the Seattle run game, and the passing game doesn’t provide much competition.

Ted Ginn Jr., WR Miami Dolphins – He’s still not reliable enough to put all your hopes in after his low-scoring Week 9 performance — that’s why I ignored you last week, Ginn — but don’t take him off your radar just yet.

He doesn’t play a solid secondary for the rest of the season, so Chad Pennington might find him again and again and again. You’ll probably have to get him on your roster now to have him when he goes off again, so add him for some depth if you can or if you’re desperately seeking a WR to stay in the hunt.

Just try not to start him until he has another good game.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — Hill’s actually my top QB rec this week if you lost one or need a filler for a few more weeks. He’s a Mike Martz quarterback, and he faces the Cardinals, Rams, Cowboys and Bills before playoffs. Only two of those teams rank in the top half of passing defenses, and those same two (Cowboys and Bills) currently have banged up corners. In the fantasy playoffs, Hill faces the Jets, Dolphins and Rams again.

He showed good ball control last season in giving just one interception in three games, and with Martz backing him, he could more productive than he was last season. Maybe he can break the 200-yard mark more frequently, which he almost did in the last half of the game in Week 8.

Brady Quinn, QB Cleveland Browns — Yeah, so that happened. The Browns are making the switch to Brady. I am sure the Browns female fan base is excited, but frankly, I don’t like Quinn anymore than I like Derek Anderson. In fact, I might like him less.

Quinn looked iffy in the preseason, and I couldn’t quite form an opinion on him versus Derek Anderson. He’s not exactly a rookie with almost a full two seasons in the Browns system under his belt, but I expect him to make mistakes, force the ball to Braylon Edwards and maybe even lean on the tight end. Fortunately, the Browns have a pretty good one in Kellen Winslow.

Seems like this move is just one of those “okay, fans, we’re trying” efforts, and I don’t like it. Still, if you had Anderson on your roster, Quinn should produce similar numbers after overcoming growing pains in promising games against the Broncos, Bills, Texans and Colts.

Tyler Thigpen, QB Kansas City Chiefs — When you’re a young quarterback, you just have to hope you end up landing somewhere with a dependable tight end and a dominant wide receiver to target. Luckily for Thigpen, he’s got that, and it’s done him well the past two weeks.

He’s also got a few trick plays up his sleeves and some nice matchups over the next four weeks: Chargers, Saints, Bills and Raiders with fantasy playoffs against Broncos, Chargers and Dolphins.

It’s hard to recommend him with any certainty because he’s no lock to put up points, but he hasn’t turned over the ball and has Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez. I think he’s a sleeper to keep it up through the end of the season, but at least you know that he won’t hurt you too badly if he falls in production.

And for some reason, it disgusts me less to recommend young Thigpen than it did to point out Kyle Orton’s success this season. Is it all in the neck beard? Only time will tell.

Sage Rosenfels, QB Houston Texans — Matt Schaub was knocked out for a month with a knee injury. Now Texans fans can finally get that Sage they’ve been looking for this season?

What? They don’t WANT him to start after he helicoptered his way back in the backup role against the Colts?

Rosenfels takes over one of the most potent offenses in fantasy football this weekend, but he also faces the Ravens, Colts, Browns and Jaguars before Schaub returns. That’s not exactly the stretch you want to see for a guy who is known to lead big drives only to end them with a fatal mistake.

It’ll be risky picking him up and expecting studs like Andre Johnson to produce for him in tougher games, but at least the Ravens secondary isn’t at full strength for Week 10.

Claim him if you have Schaub and don’t want to chance other options, but if you are already a lock for the playoffs, why not take chance on someone like Thigpen to produce for you? (Wow, now I’m cheerleading for the guy. Someone virtual-slap me.)

Daunte Culpepper and/or Drew Stanton, QB Detroit Lions — I think the best part of Dan Orlovsky’s current thumb injury is that he had “zero” doubt about playing in Week 10. Maybe Orlovsky’s struggles are due to his misunderstanding of math and percentages? Perhaps he thinks the Lions 0 percent win percentage is a good thing.

Regardless, a thumb injury has him out for Week 10 and possibly much longer. We don’t really know how long at this point.

Drew Stanton knows the system but doesn’t have the confidence of the coaching staff, which is probably why they signed Daunte Culpepper. But Culpepper, a week into the job and almost a year removed from playing football, will be a shaky start in Week 10 against the Jaguars. Marinelli expected him to pick up the offense quickly but not this quickly.

If I had to choose one, I’d take Culpepper for the possible start in Week 10 and the more likely start long-term. Culpepper could develop into a nice No. 2 QB during fantasy playoffs. He plays the Vikings, Colts and Saints, and he has “Megatron” (Calvin Johnson) to throw to each week.

Rex Grossman, QB Chicago Bears – See how that happens? All this outpouring of Kyle Orton love coming out before his game against the Lions, and then a fat Lion takes out his ankle.

With Orton out for four weeks, Grossman is your starter. He’s a shaky start against the Titans, Packers and resurgent Rams defense with his tendency to throw interceptions, but he’s not a bad desperation play.

At least he’ll be able to lean on Matt Forte outside of this week against the Titans.

Kevin Boss, TE New York Giants — Two touchdowns in the past two games, and even though he’s a little banged up with a bad ankle, he faces a Philly defense in Week 10 that’s admitted to having a problem covering tight ends. How’s that sound?

Dan Carpenter, K Miami Dolphins — He’s not on many radars, but Carpenter has put up 29 fantasy points in the last two weeks with seven field goals made and four extra points in that span. The best fantasy sign is that the Dolphins are lining him up deep. Three of his attempts in Week 9 were more than 40 yards out, but he hasn’t been asked to kick one longer than 50.

If he continues to get this many long field goal chances or more extra points once the Dolphins’ offense starts scoring left and right against a bunch of weak fantasy defenses (Seahawks, Raiders, Patriots, Rams, Bills, 49ers, Chiefs), then he could be one of the best kickers to own in the second half.

Guys you probably should have already picked up:

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE Minnesota Vikings — Three touchdowns in his past four games.

Derrick Mason, WR Baltimore Ravens — PPR monster with 130+ and a score in Week 9, but a rough schedule from here.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR Indianapolis Colts — Two TDs in Week 9.

Greg Camarillo, WR Miami Dolphins — More reliable than Ginn and 100+ yards in Week 9.

Kevin Curtis, WR Philadelphia Eagles – Finally showing up with 83 yards, but tough schedule the rest of the way.

Tim Hightower, RB Arizona Cardinals — Now starting and eating touchdowns for breakfast.

Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons — Not blasting you out of your seat, but good QB2 production and getting better.

Marc Bulger, QB St. Louis Rams — He’s sort of back and has an easier schedule in the second half.

Ones to Watch

Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker, RB New Orleans Saints — We’re getting close to Deuce McAllister’s appeal, so we’ll know soon enough whether he’ll be leaving the Saints’ services. If so, both are likely to produce numbers until the return of Reggie Bush, who might throw things out the window again.

Week 11, the Saints have the Chiefs followed by the Packers, and if for some reason Bush isn’t back by Week 14, then the Saints backs have Atlanta, Chicago and Detroit. Playing the Lions in the fantasy championship game? Check and mate.

Selvin Young, RB Denver Broncos — If he’s healthy, the starting could be his…or Peyton Hillis’…or it might belong to the guy that guy in a cubicle next to you. Regardless, he has value when healthy, and if someone was silly enough to drop him, he could fight for you in games against the Browns, Falcons, Raiders, Jets, Chiefs and Bills.

The playoff section of that run isn’t great, but his return in Week 11 could help you get there. Keep in mind that the Broncos are now a pass-first offense, and pick him up as you see fit.

J.J. Arrington, RB Arizona Cardinals — The speedy back has taken the No. 2 spot in the RB depth chart now that Tim Hightower is the starter. Edgerrin James is not likely to get more than handful of carries in any game, and on Sunday, Arrington was involved in 11 plays with 62 rushing yards and 57 receiving yards.

As long as he’s being used as the compliment to Hightower, Arrington could post similarly impressive numbers, but he’s boom or bust as a third-down, big-play back. Let’s see what he can do against the 49ers in Week 10 before he goes on a roster.

Sidney Rice, WR Minnesota Vikings — The Vikings have been more productive passing the ball, but Rice is just now returning from injury and might not have a chance to make an impact. Even though he caught a TD on Sunday, that was his only catch. Still, if you are preparing for the playoffs, he gets the Lions, Cardinals and Falcons in Weeks 14-16. That’s promising if he gets back in this offense by then.

Mark Bradley, WR Kansas City Chiefs — A former QB and emerging star in the Kansas City offense. He’s been a big part of Thigpen’s success and might be worth jumping on now if you can afford to chance it. Bowe and Tony Gonzalez can both pull double coverage at times to leave Bradley open for a play.

Byron Leftwich, QB Pittsburgh Steelers — If Roethlisberger misses any time with his bruised AC joint, Leftwich should be a capable filler QB in Week 10 against the Colts. Don’t underestimate the Colts passing defense, but to win, the Steelers might have to put some points on the board.

An even better matchup looms large in Week 11 against the Chargers, but I doubt fantasy owners can expect Big Ben to miss that much time. If you just can’t find a QB this week or want to take a chance, keep your eye on the QB situation in Pittsburgh.

Joe Flacco, QB Baltimore Ravens — If you need a quarterback, there are plenty of options this week (see above), but Flacco should be one of the best. He has put up a very good two weeks, and he faces the Texans.

After Week 10 though, he’s probably not worth a roster spot with an intimidating run against the Giants, Eagles, Bengals, Redskins, Steelers and Cowboys.

Yeah, if you don’t need him this week, just keep an eye on him in case miracle juice starts spraying out of his arm after Week 10.

Brent Celek, TE Philadelphia Eagles — So he’s more than just a backup…maybe? Celek, much like Billy Miller, now makes an intriguing fill as long as L.J. Smith is hurt. Smith is expected to make his return in Week 10, but he is currently still listed as questionable.

If he doesn’t go, Celek could get the start against the Giants, ranked second against the pass, and even if Smith is healthy, we’ll have to see how much the Week 9 franchise record-setting performance helped Celek’s stock with the Philly coaching staff.

Consistency is hard to find in the Philly offense, but Celek is worth keeping an eye on if you need depth at the tight end position.

Desmond Clark, TE Chicago Bears — Greg Olsen is to Kyle Orton as Desmond Clark is to Rex Grossman. Rexy just likes the big guy better, and word on the street is that the Chicago passing game might move back to using the tight ends more as short-range options.

Keep your eye on Clark to see how much he factors in. We know Rex will have to escape quite a bit against the Titans in Week 10 and the Vikings in Week 13 until Kyle Orton comes back under the helm.

But even if he finds success with Rex, Clark’s not a playoff depth option when Kyle Orton returns.

Derek Fine, TE Buffalo Bills — Fine is one “fine” tight end (Forgive me) if you just look at his 43-yard, one touchdown stat line from Week 9, but the rest of this season, he’s put up blanks.

If Buffalo involves him in the offense more frequently than the other TEs now that they are lacking a dependable No. 2 receiving threat, Fine could continue to be “fine.” (Sorry, again — they flow out like candy.) Keep your eye on him in Week 10 against the Patriots.

Defenses to watch for the fantasy playoffs:

Arizona Cardinals D/ST — STL, MIN, @NE for a defense that has been deadly at home.

Miami Dolphins D/ST — @BUF, SF, KC with a sack machine coming on strong and an improving secondary.

Ignoring

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — 100+ yards?!? And a score? The saddest part of Benson’s Week 9 performance was that it was only the third 100+ yard game of his career. THIRD. That’s just crazy.

Unfortunately, unless your playoff bound, he probably won’t ever do it again for you. He faces off against the Eagles, Steelers and Ravens after returning from a bye in Week 10. Sad but true.

The only good matchups remaining on his plate are the Colts in Week 14 (who just got back Bob Sanders) and the Browns in Week 16 — come on, you playing Benson for your championship game. If you have a Week 17 championship game though, he does face the Chiefs, and that could be a worthy start.

Unless you’re going to the playoffs, you can probably safely drop this one-week wonder or wait to see what happens against the Titans. Geesh.

Peyton Hillis, RB Denver Broncos — He caught a lot of passes in Week 9 (116 yards and a TD), but it’s hard to see that happening again this season.

Then again, I guess I said the same thing after Leonard Weaver had his day for Seattle. Shanahan could use his evil force powers on this one and make Hillis the feature back in Week 10, but I still stand by ignoring him as a waiver wire pickup.

If Shanahan makes him worth something, he’s likely to be gone as quickly as he came…I hope. Torain is the guy I would grab from Denver.

Koren Robinson, WR Seattle Seahawks — I think that was a miracle play for the Seahawks, and lightning is not likely strike twice in the same spot. That’s a fact.

Droppables

Rather than make this article cross any further into the 3000+ word realm, I’ll end here, but if you have any questions about who you should drop to get any of these guys, you know what to do!

Hint: Drop them in the comments!

On the Wire: Waiver Wire Winnings from Week 8

There have been many injuries this season in the NFL. Unfortunately, that’s not really anything new to this sport. Some fans might call for increased player protection, more fines or more pads, but it’s hard to see that making any difference.

In truth, the waiver wire in fantasy football exists as a result of the casualties in football. More often than not, it’s the guys that aren’t on the field that open the door for new faces and stat lines.

In my moonlighting gig as the fantasy football community leader for Bleacher Report, I was sent one particular article on the rampant injuries this season, and I thought my comments on this article summed up my view of the game well enough to present here for my foolish Fools readers. Enjoy.

Injuries happen. Such is the NFL.

It may seem like there are more this year, but it’s not really that much different from last year…or the year before. Just last year, we had players like Trent Green, Ronnie Brown, Larry Johnson, Cadillac Williams and Jeremy Shockey all go out with injuries.

Sadly, we don’t even notice when supporting cast members get hurt, but many more names we don’t know are cut or moved to IR everyday.

The NFL can fine players all they want, but accidents do happen. It’s a tough game to play. You can’t fine someone for every play that goes wrong. Sometimes freak things just happen and people get hurt.

For example, if you go to make a tackle on a QB at his waist and the RB (Sammy Morris) lurches onto your back, you’re going to sink down and hit the QB low (on Brady’s knee). It happens, but you can’t fine anyone for playing the game the way it is meant to be played.

You can strap bubble wrap and padding around every joint of a players body, but at the end of the day, they’re still going to be flying at each other at best-in-the-world speeds and trying to bring each other down. That’s the game. That’s how it’s played, and in a game like this, you’re going to have a player twist the wrong way, hit the wrong spot or just have a fluke fracture or sprain alone in the field.

To get even more deep on you, I think part of what makes football so electrifying, so inspiring and so breathtaking is that every game might be a player’s last.

Every time they step on that field, football players know they are going to leave it all out there. It’s why they are emotional when they leave the game and why they will have a finger removed just to stay out there.

We are watching the best in the business compete at their peak performance level every second of every quarter, and that’s what makes football so special.

Now, how about we see if you can get some of the best on your fantasy football team?

Worth Claiming

Marc Bulger, QB St. Louis Rams — If you gave up on him earlier this season, you might want to reconsider as he heads back into the soft part of his schedule. Donnie Avery is his new love child.

Chad Pennington, QB Miami Dolphins — He’s efficient, and he’s got playmakers around him at last. If Ted Ginn Jr. emerges as a legitimate deep threat, Pennington could find himself in the top end of fantasy QBs during the second half. He’s no Drew Brees, but he’s had at least 15 fantasy points the last four weeks and put up 250+ yards and at least one TD in the last three weeks.

Shaun Hill, QB San Francisco 49ers — JTO oh no! Shaun Hill is now Mike Martz’s QB Voodoo doll, and he’ll take over things in Week 10 after the bye. He was decent in relief of Alex Smith last season with five touchdowns in that three game span, and Mike Singletary hopes he’ll be less of a turnover machine than JTO. Be cautious with him; JTO might be back sooner rather than later.

Ryan Torain, RB Denver Broncos — He’s back on the field, and with Michael Pittman suffering from bruised ribs and Selvin Young/Andre Hall still banged up, he might see a significant amount of carries in Week 9. Leave it to Shanny to figure out how to screw you for picking him up down the line, but as the last man standing, Torain could actually be reliable for at least a few weeks.

Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas, RB New Orleans Saints — If Deuce McAllister misses any time because of this water pill controversy, Stecker and Thomas would share the load for New Orleans. Stecker was a stud filling in for Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister at the end of 2007, and I like him to be the power back if anything were to happen with Deuce. Both backs are seeing some limited touches with Reggie Bush out. The Saints are on bye in Week 9.

Kolby Smith, RB Kansas City Chiefs — If Larry Johnson doesn’t stop assaulting women, Smith might be the starter for the rest of the season. For this week at least, he’s the only RB that Kansas City has, but I wouldn’t expect him to do much.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB New England Patriots — Kevin Faulk is seeing most of the work, but Green-Ellis is the short-yardage workhorse for the Patriots. He could vulture a touchdown or two but his value will be squashed when Sammy Morris and/or LaMont Jordan return.

Nate Washington, WR Pittsburgh Steelers — Santonio Holmes is back from his “high” time as an inactive player, so Washington is back to being the No. 3 man in Pittsburgh. He’s good for the occasional long score, which he’s gotten in each of the Steelers’ last three games. Take a chance on him if you need him when he faces a weaker secondary several times in the second half of the season.

Mike Walker, WR Jacksonville Jaguars — He is practicing with the team this week, and while Matt Jones is suspended, Walker should reclaim a significant portion of the receptions for the Jags.

St. Louis Rams D/ST — In the last three weeks, the Rams have gotten more turnovers than any other team in the NFL, and they are getting to the quarterback as much as the top handful of teams. That’s fantasy value right there even if they do let teams get a lot of yardage on them. Just don’t start them this week against the Cardinals.

Quick fixes for this week:

Warrick Dunn, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The best way to recover from a loss to the Cowboys is to run all over the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Earnest Graham and Dunn are bound to take turns running laps to the end zone in this one, and Dunn might even be able to get a score.

Ricky Williams, RB Miami Dolphins — If Ronnie Brown has another slow week, Williams could get to run the good runs against the Broncos, the silk curtain of run defenses.

Antonio Pittman, RB St. Louis Rams — He had 83 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving in Week 8 but only because Steven Jackson was injured. If you own Jackson, Pittman should probably make your roster for next week as the Rams head into a rushing-friendly portion of their schedule unless you’re deep at running back.

Guys you should probably have already picked up:

David Garrard, QB Jacksonville Jaguars — The Titans are going to win the division, and the Jags are passing. The world has flipped. If Garrard can tear it up against the Browns like no other QB has and set season highs in every category, he’s definitely going to be able to rip into the Bengals and Lions for the next two weeks. His playoff schedule guarantees that the Jags will have to put points on the board.

Donnie Avery, WR St. Louis Rams — Eventually, teams are going to figure out that they need to cover Avery too instead of just swarming all over Torry Holt. Until that happens, he’s burning everyone with at least one long pass for 40+ yards.

Kevin Walter, WR Houston Texans — How many times does he have to score two touchdowns in a game before you pick him up? How many times?!?

Greg Olsen, TE Chicago Bears — Anyone is nuts to drop this guy. Olsen has become one of the primary targets for the Bears, especially in the red zone. In the last two weeks, he’s had more targets than every Bear outside of the running backs; Forte is still a beast in the receiving game.

Ones to Watch

Leon Washington, RB New York Jets — He continues to make big plays for the Jets, but it’s hard to trust him to keep it up when he gets less than 10 carries per game. If he ever becomes more involved, he’s worth acquiring.

Chaz Schilens, WR Oakland Raiders — Since taking the starting job from Ronald Curry, Schilens has just been chizilen. He had his first big-sizzle game in Week 8 with one long 60-yard pass from JaMarcus Russell. We know JaMarcus can pass-izzle ‘em deep standing on his knees, so if Schilens becomes the deep threat in this unpredictable offense, he’s got our blessing, fo shizzle. I, for one, really hope he makes it big so I can keep saying his name.

Mark Bradley, WR Kansas City Chiefs — He scored! That’s the best way to get noticed in the Chiefs’ offense, and if Thigpen can hit him when Dwayne Bowe is getting doubled, the Chiefs might just make a fantasy player out of him. For now, he looks to be a developing deep league option at best.

Ignoring

Ted Ginn Jr., WR Miami Dolphins — Okay, 175 yards. Where the hell did that come from? He’s come on strong these last few weeks with a good portion of the receptions, but I am not buying this fantasy candy you’re selling, Ted, until I see another performance like that. If you are hurting at WR, he’s worth getting now before some other rookie does, but I won’t hype him until I see him in the game plan for next week.

Droppables

Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati Bengals — I’m afraid the good days are gone for Benson. His only remaining game to circle on the schedule is a Week 14 game against the Colts, but is Benson really the best thing you have in the playoffs? He’s a starting running back, but he hasn’t proven to be very useful even in his easier matchups.

Carson Palmer, QB Cincinnati Bengals — If your team is really hurting and you need the depth and “play now” guys, I think you are okay leaving Palmer on the wire. Obviously, he’s got huge upside, and it’s likely that some other team will stash him on the bench. But we don’t know when he’s going to play again right now. More than likely, you can find someone who’ll do enough for you now to make up for any value you lose down the road. Feel free to debate who to replace Palmer with in the comments if you are struggling with this one.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB Seattle Seahawks — Hasselbeck is an anchor of this offense, so Seattle’s struggles are to be expected without him. They still aren’t a terrible team. His schedule is very easy to end the year, but you probably won’t need him in the playoffs unless another quarterback can get you there while Hasselbeck is banged up. I’m going to go out on a limb and approve dropping him for now, but I’d actually try and hold onto him if you are a playoff-bound team.

Balance saves you on low-scoring fantasy weeks

Hopefully, your team wasn’t counting on Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Randy Moss or even Peyton Manning this week. In some sort of crazy upside-down week, the top fantasy performers were horrible–besides LT–while the worst teams in the league took home victories.

Strangely enough, this week both the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins won. I think I might go buy a lotto ticket or something. Today, a Dolphin loss would have actually gotten them something–locking up the first pick in next year’s draft. Despite the win, I doubt they are in danger of losing that coveted achievement when they face the Patriots next week.

The Patriots were stuck in horrible weather and learned how to run again–congrats Maroney owners, you got one good game this season. The Cowboys looked completely harmless against the rival Philadelphia Eagles with Romo throwing no TDs. Manning threw just one touchdown against the Oakland Raiders with one INT, and Joseph Addai didn’t even get one TD against the defense that has handed them out like Halloween candy all season. Worthless.

On a lesser note, the Bills were completely shut out by a Cleveland team that put up just 8 points in a frigid showdown. The game could have been a high-scoring showdown for the playoff wild card spot, but instead, it was two teams bumbling around in the snow. No one besides Jamal Lewis put up decent fantasy numbers in the showing that could have saved your season. Thanks a lot, Mother Nature. Don’t expect a Christmas card.

The takeaway from this whole mess is BALANCE. When your studs have bad games, you must have the depth to back them up with quality production from your supporting staff. Weeks like these are where kickers and defenses can make the difference and where paying attention to weather conditions can save your season if they are going to be as severe as they were this weekend.

On my own team, I was led in scoring by Tony Scheffler (TE DEN) and Mason Crosby (K GB) while getting just single-digit production from Ryan Grant, Joseph Addai, Wes Welker and Lee Evans. I picked both these position players up on the wire in the last four weeks. Yes, there wasn’t really a way to see their great performance coming this week, but sometimes you just get lucky by having some great support in a week where studs are duds–or maybe I got skills.

You just might be looking across the scoreboard at huge numbers put up by Fred Taylor and Aaron Stecker or maybe the first kick return ever for the Tampa Bay defense and special teams. You probably had just as good of a chance of grabbing these players as your opponents did. The waiver wire can be the great equalizer. Next season, draft your studs then look for balance and support throughout the season–just like after happy hour.

Week 15 Wire: Sneaky pickups to save your playoff run

petrino yell

Don’t run out the door like Petrino when your team takes an injury late here in the playoffs–or just stinks. There’s a few sneaky plays this week that could still save you and win your championship.

RB Help

Darius Walker, RB HOU
Word is that Ron Dayne will be out week 15. If that happens, there will probably we a running back committee setup, but Darius Walker is likely to be the head of any committee. He got close to 100 yards in his relief role after Dayne went down this week, and the match up for week 15 is the ever-tricky Denver run defense.

Samkon Gado, RB MIA
With Jesse Chatman hurting, Samkon Gado will take the hand offs from Cleo Lemon. Unfortunately, even if Chatman doesn’t start, he is up against Baltimore, who could shut down the running game of Miami even if it is the only offensive weapon they have.

Aaron Stecker, RB NO
If no one grabbed him when Reggie Bush went down, you should have by now. Stecker will be starting the rest of the season since Bush broke down. Get him while he’s hot coming off a 100 yard performance on Monday night.

WR Help

Jabar Gaffney, WR NE
I don’t know if anyone has noticed that Gaffney is really the third receiver in the Patriot offense, not Stallworth. While Stallworth hasn’t been dancing to the goalposts much at all this season, Gaffney has been scoring TDs in the Patriots games. Look for him to continue to be a risky WR but a great play if you need a potential upset sub in a 3 WR roster.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR IND
I think he finally woke up and realized he was in Marvin Harrison’s shoes. He should be a nice sub until Harrison comes back–wait, who am I kidding? He will play out the rest of the regular season. Don’t expect 2 TDs, but he can put up yardage and possibly a TD every week with Manning throwing the way he is. As a cautionary note, the match up for this week is not that great since Oakland should let Addai take an express train to the TD every time he gets the ball.

Reggie Williams, WR JAX
The butterfingers of Williams have gotten a better grip with Garrard at the helm. Look for him to have a big day whenever Garrard does, but don’t start him over a stud since he is risky except for 3 WR sets.

QB Help

Trent Edwards, QB BUF
Edwards is the choice pick coming off his 4 TD performance against Miami. He now faces Cleveland’s pass defense, so grab him if your stud has a HORRIBLE match up or if you just like taking chances for big plays this week.

Sage Rosenfels, QB HOU
Sage is a wise one. Even in tough match ups, he tends to perform well. He does get to throw to Andre Johnson. While Edwards is the better grab. If you miss him, Rosenfels could help you out at QB this week.