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:

On the Wire: Week 6 Waiver Wire Pickups to fix your Jermichael Finley, Mark Clayton and Aaron Rodgers woes

So Deion Branch is now a Patriot? That’s exciting for Bill Belichick and all — that man knows how to swing a three-way trade while moving up in the draft. But I don’t think the trade changes Branch’s fantasy value much.

Branch wasn’t that useful as a Seahawk, and they are hurting for playmakers. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will work their magic and integrate Branch into their system, but don’t expect Randy Moss-like numbers out of the Patriots’ new acquisition this year.

Oh, and did you hear that Brett Favre threw his 500th touchdown? And it was to his own team, no less.

Even less exciting, the presence of Branch in New England will muddy the fantasy waters for Brandon Tate, who was Week 5’s hot waiver wire pickup. Let’s see what we can do to fix that.

First, the guys you’ll need if you just lost Jermichael Finley this week:

Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars

You may not have noticed, but Lewis has become the only person David Garrard throws touchdowns to this year. I’ve heard a legend about a man named Mike Sims-Walker who used to be targeted more often, but that man could just be a ghost. He has been for at least two games this year. Meanwhile, Lewis has two games with two touchdowns and only one really miserable fantasy performance, 15 yards receiving and no touchdowns in Week 3 against the Eagles. He trails only Antonio Gates (so does everyone), Dustin Keller, and Zach Miller in total fantasy points this season among tight ends. Yes, I’d say it’s safe to bet on him to fill the void left by Finley if you just lost your starting tight end. It also might not be a bad play to trade him out for the guy you’re currently starting unless you have one of the elite.

Tony Moeaki, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

Lewis may already be off the board, and in that case, Moeaki is not a bad consolation prize. He’s got great hands, and he’s one of Matt Cassel’s favorite (read: only) targets. He comes it as the No. 12 tight end in total points even after sitting out for his Week 4 bye. Don’t hesitate to rely on Moeaki.

Brandon Pettigrew and/or Tony Scheffler, TE, Detroit Lions

Both Lions tight ends have had off and on weeks throughout the season while without their starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, but Shaun Hill has proven to be a strong replacement, if only we knew which tight end he liked in any given week. At this point in the season, we can’t tell, but if forced to choose, I’d take Pettigrew over Scheffler. Pettigrew currently ranks No. 10 in total tight end fantasy points while Scheffler comes in at No. 16. If Calvin Johnson’s shoulder injury keeps him out in Week 6, both of these tight ends would receive more attention than usual…as long as they’re not too busy blocking the Giants’ attack.

Wide receivers you should grab now before they go off big time:

Obvious ones to grab before these guys: Kenny Britt, WR, Titans and Danny Amendola, WR, Rams

Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

A hot sleeper this preseason, McCluster hasn’t carved out a role in the Kansas City offense just yet. But Todd Haley finally came around on Jamaal Charles in Week 5 and gave Charles the majority of the carries in the running game. Surely, Haley will soon realize what he has in McCluster and find a way to get him on the field more frequently. Thus far, McCluster has just 7 catches this season, but he’s shown hints of his big play ability. You won’t be able to get him on the cheap if you wait for him to breakout.

Anthony Armstrong, WR, Washington Redskins

I almost listed Armstrong last week when he made a big catch downfield for McNabb, but I thought I should probably wait until he had more than one big catch in a game. Last week, he went out and got three of them, including one for a touchdown. So now he’s on a lot of fantasy radars. If you’re looking for a WR3, he just might be the guy you need. He could soon be the No. 2 receiver in Washington, replacing Joey Galloway, who turned 200 this preseason for those keeping a tally at home.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills

I wouldn’t call the Bills’ offense “good,” but when they do score, they’ve been looking Johnson’s way ever since he moved from the No. 2 receiver role to the slot position. Lee Evans may be the big play threat, but Johnson’s just in the right place at the right time. That has value. Take a chance on Johnson if you have the space on your roster.

Those who will benefit from trades and injuries:

Mike Hart, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Addai got hurt on Sunday and left the running duties to Hart, who filled in nicely. If Donald Brown can’t get back on the field in Week 6 and if Addai misses some time, Hart is the starter in Indy. Remember: you can never have enough starting running backs. Don’t be afraid to go after Hart this week, but check Brown’s status first.

Deon Butler and/or Golden Tate, WR, Seattle Seahawks

I care more about what the Deion Branch trade does to the Seahawks than how it affects the Patriots. Without Branch, the Seahawks will have more snaps for Butler and Tate. Golden Tate would appear to be more likely to take over as a starter since he’s the guy they drafted just this year to make an impact, but I can’t get over my sleeper love for Butler. Both have the potential to excel with more playing time, but if forced to choose, pick up Tate and just keep an eye on Butler.

UPDATE: Forget what I just said. Now I’m hearing that the starting job is Butler’s. I actually like him better than Golden Tate so make sure you go out and get him. He could be the big winner of the Deion Branch trade, and he has the speed that Mike Williams (SEA) lacks to make big plays in the passing game.

Laurent Robinson and/or Mardy Gilyard, WR, St. Louis Rams

Clayton’s injury comes at a bad time for the Rams. Robinson is still trying to come back from an injury, and Gilyard has been taking his time learning his way in the Rams’ offense. Both have a shot at the starting job and a chance to fill the void in targets that Clayton leaves behind. Brandon Gibson has sniffed the fantasy value charts this season, but I don’t see him becoming a dominant force anytime soon. Danny Amendola is one helluva pass-catcher (and he stands to gain the most from Clayton’s injury), but someone has to play Robin to his Batman. That leaves these two. Choose your own adventure! I loved Robinson before the Clayton trade (and before he got injured, which he seems to do pretty frequently), but time will tell whether he can make it back on the field at 100 percent. For now, I’d say the best bet to replace Clayton in the lineup is Gilyard.

Some speculative picks if you have some room for a stash:

Keiland Williams, RB, Washington Redskins

Williams rejoined the active roster after Portis went down with injury, and even though he’s only playing passing downs and half as many snaps as Ryan Torain, he’s one Shanahan-igan away from the starting lineup. Stash him now if you want to benefit for the few weeks (or snaps) that Williams remains Shanahan’s preferred running back in Washington.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I highlighted Benn in previous “On the Wire” items, but consider this your final reminder. He’s working his way into the Bucs’ offense, and they’re starting to impress in the passing game.

Defenses that might be an upgrade over your current squad:

New York Giants D/ST

At first they seemed like they’d fallen off the wagon, but the Giants D/ST has stepped up in the past two weeks. That’s enough for me to recommend you jump on them before the rest of your league. I wouldn’t say they’re an every-week start just yet, but as long as the matchup is right, the Giants will put pressure on the quarterback and fantasy points on the board. This week, they get the Lions.

Kansas City Chiefs D/ST

They somehow managed to slow down even the Colts’ offense. I believe. You should, too.

And some quarterbacks that might be available in your league for the bye week or if you are scared about starting Matt Flynn:

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers

Trust me, he’s better than David Carr. And this week, he gets to play Oakland, fun for the whole family.

Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs are better than expected, and Freeman is a big reason why. Mike Williams (TB) is another. He’s not a bad fill for an injured quarterback or a quarterback on bye. This week, he faces the Saints, which may not seem as scary as it should after they dropped one to the Cardinals last week. Even if they do show up to play against the Bucs, we know that Freeman will have to throw it a ton to keep up with Drew Brees. Hopefully, that’ll make up for his mistakes.

Moves that don’t excite me: John Carney released by Saints to make Garrett Hartley (woohoo, a kicker!) their starter, and the Saints signing Julius Jones (depth at best)

More waiver wire wonders from around the Interwebs:

  • TMR wants to help you find the best hot dog ever. No, really.
  • Just in case they’re still on your waiver wire, FF Toolbox reminds you about Vince Young, Ryan Torain, Brandon Lloyd, and a few more guys
  • FF Librarian has compiled a linkfest of waiver wire love both here and here
  • Fanhouse highlights Mike Hart’s potential and a few players you may have left on the wire a bit too long: Floyd, Hill, Gaffney and Kolb just to name a few. They also chatted it out earlier this week.
  • Razzball hits on a few names for Week 6
  • Pro Football Focus has you covered, even if you’re looking for Finley’s backup’s backup this week to fill in at tight end
  • The Hazean picks three important adds
  • The FF Geek Blog spreadsheets it up
  • Sports Illustrated runs down the list of pickups a few starters in the hot seat

On the Wire in Week 4: LeGarrette Blount, Ryan Torain Headline Best of Waiver Wire Running Backs to Stash

It’s been three weeks. Time to take a long hard look at your team and the “sleepers” you chose on draft day. If they haven’t woken up yet, chances are that they aren’t going to wake up anytime soon.

On the waiver this week, there are several running backs to take a chance on, but here are a few I think could have some real long-term value. Let these be your new sleepers.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If you want a shot at another starting running back, Blount is my pick this week. He’s big, he’s young, and he’s got burst. Those are three things that the Bucs’ current starter, Cadillac Williams no longer has. Blount is my favorite player on this list.

Blount started the season with the Titans running behind Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer, and there was talk of them keeping him on the team for the regular season. But when it came time to cut down the roster, he didn’t make it and, instead, ended up in Tampa Bay. We can only hope whatever he picked up from the Titans running attack came with him.

We know he came with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. You may have heard of him already because he kind of decked a guy in the face back in college at Oregon. So he gets a B- in discipline, but that checkered past could motivate him to prove that he can handle a starting role in the NFL and that those who overlooked him on draft day made a mistake.

The Bucs are saying all the things a fantasy owner wants to hear. Coach Raheem Morris has said that the team planned on using him more in Week 3 and that Blount has earned the short-yardage and goal-line back role on the Bucs. The team wants to work more running backs into the mix besides Cadillac. That all adds up to more carries for Blount and more chances to earn a larger role.

Kareem Huggins got all the preseason hype, and there was enough confidence in him as a runner for the Bucs to let Derrick Ward go this preseason. But a hamstring injury has kept Huggy sidelined all season. He’s also a smaller runner, not immediately seen as someone who could carry a full load for a team like the Bucs, a team that must run the ball with power in order to keep more explosive, experienced offenses off the field.

I am not one to immediately write a guy off for being a small running back, but just given the current state of the run game in Tampa, I’d rather bet on Blount than Huggy going forward. Blount is healthy and ready to contribute. Plus, he’s got one nice showing against the Steelers defense under his belt going into a bye week.

Earnest Graham can take carries here and there, and Cadillac won’t fade into the night. But the Bucs want to get younger at every position with a young quarterback and two rookie receivers. They’ll get young at running back, too, and right now, Blount is their best option.

Stash him on your bench now, and hope for the best when the Bucs come back from their bye Week 5 to take on the Bengals.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns

I mentioned him earlier this season on the waiver wire, and he makes this list today after having a historical performance, 100+ yards against the Ravens.

We heard about the Browns offensive line this offseason, but Jerome Harrison wasn’t able to take advantage of their skills during the early part of this season. Without him in the mix, Hillis proved he could.

He’s run well during his time and in Denver, and his skills as a rusher and pass-catcher have come to be appreciate in Cleveland as well.

No one can say for sure, but Hillis might have just earned himself the job as the No. 1 back in Cleveland for the rest of the season. That may not be a huge value, but a starter is a starter in this league.

Ryan Torain, RB, Washington Redskins

Shanahan’s prized, “prodigal son” prospect has returned to him, and he’s actually getting playing time.

In Denver, Torain showed promise in several games before a knee injury landed him on IR and then off the roster post-Shanahan. Lost in the shuffle of the 2005 All-Star backfield Shanahan brought together in Washington, Torain was cut alongside Willie Parker before the regular season, but now he’s back.

Rumor has it that the Redskins have more confidence in Torain carrying the full load than Keiland Williams, who was backing up Clinton Portis since the Redskins cut Larry Johnson. And the Redskins last-minute sign-and-play of Torain in Week 3 seems to suggest that the rumor is true.

Keep in mind that Shanahan is Shanahan, so this backfield won’t be reliable each week. But for now, it looks like Torain is the guy you want. He’ll be in demand on the waiver wire.

For the record, I haven’t given up on Keiland Williams either. So if you miss out on Torain this week and want to play the Shanny sweepstakes, Williams ain’t a bad bet either. He was, after all, important enough to stay on the roster when Torain got cut to start the year.

One thing I know for sure: Anyone could be the next big rushing star when Shanahan’s running things.

Other backs who could have an impact later this year:

Bernard Scott, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Benson’s backup should be more than that this season. The Bengals want to work him in more as a larger part of the offense and a speedy complement to Benson’s pounding style. Benson hasn’t been the dominating back he was last season, but don’t expect Scott to take the job over full-time unless Benson is injured.

Javon Ringer, RB, Tennesee Titans: The Titans have admitted that they need to get Ringer more involved in the offense so that Chris Johnson can remain healthy, happy and dominating all season long and for many years to come. It remains to be seen how many carries he’ll get, but in the right matchup, Ringer could be a flex play. For now, he’s simply a handcuff to Johnson and a long-term investment for the rest of the season.

Willis McGahee, RB, Baltimore Ravens: He’s no spring chicken, but McGahee’s been getting touches even while Ray Rice was healthy. No that Rice has banged up his knee, McGahee could have an expanded role, especially short-term but possibly long-term as the Ravens try to keep Rice healthy for the playoffs and maximize the stable of running backs they have on the roster, also including LeRon McClain.

If you’re hard up for a running back who could become a “smelling of rich mahogany” big deal by year’s end, these backs are my current picks. Stash ‘em now. Thank me later.

More waiver wire goodness:  FF Librarian,  The FF Geek Blog,  FF Toolbox,  The Hazean,  Football Jabber,  TMR,  The Big Lead,Razzball,  Sports Illustrated, and  Fanhouse.

Week 3 Quick Hot Hands, Cold Shoulders: Take a chance on Kyle Orton, Brandon Marshall, and Vick

No time for a full start/sit post this week, but if you’re struggling to make a call for you lineup this morning, I do have lots of wonderful links for you.

Fantasy Football Librarian’s Consensus Start/Sit: When it comes to Brett Favre, I’m firmly in the “sit him” camp until he proves that he’s worth starting on the field this season. That might never happen the way the Vikings have looked in the last two weeks.

Razzball’s Week 3 Schmidt/Schmart: But note that Knowshon Moreno is out this week.

FFXtreme’s Start and Bench Advice: Lots of love for Michael Vick, and I’m also picking up Keiland Williams in hopes that he gets a larger role soon.

USA Today’s Fantasy Joe Studs and Duds: Let them tell you why you should believe in Brandon Marshall this week.

TMR’s Love/Hate for Week 3: Giving Kyle Orton a little recognition and a recommendation for this week against the Colts.

Fantasy Football Nerd’s Where to Put ‘Em: Putting Jamaal Charles on the bench.

SI’s Start ‘em, Sit ‘em Week 3 and Projections: Breaking down each game’s starts and sits

FF Toolbox’s Start ‘em and Sit ‘em: Dwayne Bowe is going to be a risky start until Matt Cassel improves, and Josh Morgan is a lesser noticed gem that could be worth a start this week, especially in deeper leagues.