Tim Tebowing is half the Battle in the Week 6 Pickups

The big names are Tim Tebow and Jackie Battle this week, but it’s really all about Tebow. He was a stud when he got the chance to start last season. Time for him to do it again.

This week’s pickups are listed in the order I’d try to acquire them. Feel free to ask any add/drop questions in the comments below.

Tim Tebow (Broncos)

He was the top quarterback in fantasy through the final weeks of last season because of his role as both quarterback and goal-line back for the Broncos. Now that he’s been named the starter, we can safely assume he’ll be a fantasy factor in Week 7 when the Broncos return from their bye.

He’s not quite in Cam Newton territory yet, but he’s close. Feel free to add him as a potential QB1.

Not to oversell here, but Tebow might be one of the last “season saving” waiver wire claims we see emerge from the free agent pool this season.

Ryan Torain (Redskins)

In case no one grabbed him last week while he was on bye, Torain’s the latest pick in the Shanahan running back lottery. If he doesn’t take over the lead back duties this week, all bets are off, but he was impressive two weeks ago before the Redskins entered the bye.

Picking up Torain is trusting Shanahan to stick with the hot hand.

Jackie Battle (Chiefs)

A big back with little going for him until his Week 5 opportunity, Battle could be the answer for the Chiefs at running back in Jamaal Charles’ absence. He’s nothing spectacular as far as skills go, but he’ll get the job done for the Chiefs when they are moving the ball through the air like they did in Week 5.

Don’t rush out to snag him, especially because he’ll be on bye in Week 6, but Battle looks like the back to own in Kansas City.

I’d trade him in a heartbeat if anyone offered anything of value for him. The Chiefs just aren’t going to get a lot of rushing yards this season, no matter who is doing the rushing.

Victor Cruz (Giants)

If he’s been wasting away on your waiver wire, don’t let that happen again.

Darrius Heyward-Bey (Raiders)

For two weeks, he’s looked like the wide receiver the Raiders drafted him to be. I still doubt he is, but you can’t just ignore two weeks of production. Denarius Moore is still the receiver I’d prefer to own in this offense, but take a chance on DHB if you’re looking for help in that department.

Steve Breaston (Chiefs)

The Chiefs broke out the passing attack in Week 5 against the Colts. Don’t expect it to be that easy for Matt Cassel against many other opponents, but when it is, he’s obviously got an eye for Breaston this season.

Alex Smith (49ers)

Nobody’s calling him a starting fantasy quarterback just yet, but Smith turned in a nice day in Week 5 and has spot-starter value moving forward. He could have more if Crabtree gets back to 100 percent health. Without Josh Morgan, Smith’s fantasy prospects might take a dip otherwise.

STASHES

Greg Little (Browns)

A sneaky play this week, Little became a starter during the Browns’ bye week. He was already seeing the most snaps before being named a starter, so this move likely means they’ll be focusing more on him in the offense. He’s the only Browns receiver I’d feel the need to own in standard leagues.

Damian Williams (Titans)

Williams is starting opposite Nate Washington, and he’ll share in those touches Kenny Britt used to receive now that Britt is on IR.

Doug Baldwin (Seahawks)

He’s making plays for the Seahawks, and that should keep him on the field. But I like him better when Charlie Whitehurst is under center than I do when Tarvaris Jackson returns.

Delone Carter / Donald Brown (Colts)

It isn’t pretty, but if Addai misses any time, these two would split carries. I have liked Carter as a sleeper and as the goal-line back in Indy, but he hasn’t shown the coaches anything to inspire confidence in him thus far this season. On the other hand, Brown’s already underwhelmed the coaching staff on multiple occasions.

If given the choice, I’d stash Carter.

Bernard Scott (Bengals)

It’s starting to look more and more hopeless to hold onto Scott for a chance to benefit when Cedric Benson’s suspension is finally enforced. If and when that suspension comes, Scott will still probably split time.

Unless you’re really desperate for the help, I wouldn’t hold onto Scott. You can reconsider grabbing him after his Week 7 bye for a potential start in Week 8 if we know Benson’s situation by then.

Jonathan Dwyer (Steelers)

He looked good in Week 5 and broke a big run, but Dwyer won’t see the ball much once Mendenhall’s healthy. Mendy’s expected to return this week, and that makes Dwyer a deep stash at best.

Great Bernard Scott, the injuries! Week 4 Waiver Wire Pickups with Boomers, Blahs, and Stashes

Seriously, guys, what’s going on out there? Are all the Jamaal Charles owners still stepping on cracks? Did the Kenny Britt owners walk under 50 ladders on their way to work Friday? We just can’t have nice things.

It’s time to remedy this.

I’ve divided this week’s pickups with boomers, players who have high ceilings but could never be productive again, and blahs, players who aren’t as exciting but could easily have a few good weeks this year.

BOOMERS

This could be the greatest thing to happen to you…or it could be a horrible mistake.

Torrey Smith

You saw him on Sunday. It’s hard to pass on a guy that had three touchdowns in one quarter, and the Rams had no solution for him until he injured his hamstring. But don’t forget that the Ravens went out and got Lee Evans to make these plays, and it remains to be seen how Evans will do when he’s 100 percent. Evans could be just as productive if he’s still the guy the Ravens thought he was when they traded for him.

Meanwhile, Smith should be stashed on a bench somewhere in every league. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs now that the league has tape on him and how he recovers from the hamstring injury that slowed him down this week, but the speedster should definitely be owned.

Victor Cruz

Unlike Smith, Cruz was a preseason darling but missed all of last year with an injury and did absolutely nothing so far this season. After the Giants signed Brandon Stokely, who was sharing a hoveround with Kerry Collins this offseason, Cruz decided to show up in Week 3 with an explosive performance against some of the leagues best corners. Once Manningham and Nicks are at 100 percent, it’s hard to say he’ll have another performance like this, but the door is certainly open.

BLAHS

Their stars are on the rise, and, granted, they could surprise, but best not to expect too much from these guys.

Bernard Scott

With Cedric Benson expected to miss some time, Scott should get his chance to shine. I thought he was a better fit for this offense at the beginning of the season. Now is his time to show it. But he’s entirely droppable if Benson’s three-game suspension is successfully appealed.

Nate Washington

With Kenny Britt out for the rest of the season, Washington is now Tennessee’s acting No. 1. He was getting a lot of passes before Britt’s injury, but he’s no Britt. Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins should fill in for Britt to a lesser extent.

Titus Young

He’s had two solid performances, but he’s not getting the touchdowns that Calvin Johnson gobbles up like Pac-Man. The scores will come, but it’ll be very hard to predict. Matt Stafford is throwing the ball to everybody, but Young is not nearly the threat in the red zone that Megatron and Tony Scheffler are. He’s more valuable in PPR leagues.

Ed Dickson

He’s winning the tight end battle so far in Baltimore against Dennis Pitta, and as long as he continues to progress, the scoring touches should come.

And as a bonus, a few players to throw on your bench…

STASHES

If you’ve got an opening on your roster, these are some guys worth hanging onto for the long haul.

Steve Slaton

Cut loose by the Texans, Slaton could end up in a more favorable situation. There are several possible landing spots, but the best one for him might be Cleveland, where a change-of-pace guy could help Hillis and himself. Remember that the Browns had signed Brandon Jackson as a third-down back this offseason, but they had to put him on injured reserve before Week 1. Slaton’s worth grabbing now until we know where he lands. Just pray that it’s not Washington.

Kendall Hunter

Frank Gore should continue to get the majority of touches, but he’s not being very effective with them. As many have pointed out, he’s dropped off over the past two seasons. Hunter, as the pick the new regime in San Francisco used to bolster the running back position, could easily start to see more touches as the season wears Gore down. He won’t have an immediate role unless Gore sits in Week 4.

Jared Cook

He stands to benefit from Kenny Britt’s injury, but we haven’t seen much out of him so far.

Montario Hardesty

He’s bound to see some action in the future. Hillis is surrounded by bad mojo — the Madden curse, his running style, the worst case of strep throat ever — and just asking to miss another game or two down the line. Hardesty’s worth owning, at least in deeper leagues, this week until we find out Hillis’ condition for Week 4. Assuming Hillis returns to start, he’s just a stash.

Stevan Ridley

One of the Patriots’ rookie running backs had some important carries in Week 3, but the only person who could tell you who to start out of the Patriots’ backfield is the guy who directed Bill Belichick: A Football Life —  and only then if he kept Belichick’s mic on while he talked in his sleep. If you’re in a deeper league or just have no confidence in your running backs, you might consider taking a chance on Ridley here. He might be stealing the clock-killing role from BenJarvus Green-Ellis, otherwise known as Law Firm, in this Patriots’ offense.

Donald Jones

If this Bills’ offense is legit (and it seems to be), it might not be a bad idea to get in on a piece of it. Jones name came up quite a bit this preseason, and he’s been seeing a lot of looks. If nothing else, he might be your last chance to buy some Buffalo stock.

James Casey

A bit of a wildcard, but Casey set a record for receptions by a running back for the Texans. He’s versatile as the Texans’ fullback and occasional tight end (and in fact, eligible as a TE or a RB in many leagues), which makes him an interesting stash, especially now that Slaton is out of the backfield in Houston. If Foster misses any more time and/or Ward continues to sit, Casey could have another day like he did Sunday.

Laurent Robinson

Look deep on the Cowboys’ roster, and you’ll find Robinson, who did get some  important looks last night and do well with them even though the offense wasn’t running on all cylinders. He could climb up the depth chart quickly if the Cowboys begin to lose faith in their young depth at receiver.

Vince Young

Well, it would be unusual for a backup quarterback to emerge in Philly and have more value than any of us expect…right?

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.

Fourth & 1 Debate: Nine Moves to Make for the Fantasy Football Playoffs

At this point in the season, you might be more concerned with getting to the playoffs than succeeding once you get there. That’s okay. Take it one week at a time. I’ll wait…

But if you have the true heart of a champion, some good luck, and if you’ve been doing your research, you’ve probably go a nice spot on the mantel dusted and ready for this year’s fantasy football championship trophy. It’s okay if we block this photo of the in-laws, right?

In that case, it’s best to start planning for your future, and we’re not talking about your kids’ college funds or your financial plan to navigate this tough economy.

It’s even better. I give you a fantasy football roundtable of epic proportions. This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate was mine to rule, and I chose to look ahead at who might blow up or sink your battleship during Weeks 14-17.

By the way, if you have a playoff schedule that puts your championship game in Week 17, slap your commissioner, reschedule that game immediately, slap your commish again, and never, never speak of playing in Week 17 again. Week 17 isn’t NFL football. It’s just not right to win your league with Jim Sorgi. Not right at all.

This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate roundtable question:

Looking ahead at the fantasy football playoffs (Weeks 14-17), what one player would you want to own during those weeks and what one player would you want to unload before Week 14?

My answer:

Trade deadlines are approaching. Playoffs spots will be locked up soon. The chances to acquire players through “sell high” or “buy low” opportunities are few are far between. That being the case, I’ve chosen to focus on a couple of guys who might still be easily moved. You wouldn’t have to break the bank, and you might end up with a stud on your hands in Weeks 14 through 16.

First, I’d look to acquire Tim Hightower.

Kurt Warner has been fond of the check-down passes thus far this season, and Hightower has been the beneficiary. Even against tough rushing defenses, Hightower never fails to stay involved in the passing game and take advantage of short-yardage and goal line opportunities.

It’d be great to have both Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower on your roster to hedge your bets against any late-season shifts in Beanie’s favor, but I believe Hightower will remain the primary receiving back on passing plays, which the Cardinals should be running plenty of in the fantasy playoffs.

The Cardinals face San Francisco, Detroit and St. Louis in the fantasy playoffs. In Week 1 against the 49ers, Hightower ran just eight times for 15 yards, but he caught 12 passes for 121 yards. A similar performance in Week 14 wouldn’t surprise me, and, well, the Lions and Rams are what they are, great matchups for a team with a powerful offense. By the end of this season, one or both of those squads could have already given up for the year.

If you can’t get Hightower, Beanie Wells, Jamaal Charles and Jerome Harrison aren’t bad substitutions. All have a chance to succeed late in the season, and they all carry a fairly low price tag at this point. Bargain bin!

And, for those of you playing at home, I would try to unload DeAngelo Williams before the fantasy playoffs.

Williams finished the year as the No. 1 fantasy running back after a slow start, and he’s once again been inconsistent to start the year in 2009. It’s not just Jonathan Stewart stealing time and touches from him. This year, Jake Delhomme has developed a bad habit of throwing to players in other jerseys.

While Williams is come on strong the past three weeks, he should hit a slump starting in Week 11 against Miami and continuing, outside of a brief practice session against the Bucs in Week 13, into the fantasy playoffs. In Week 14, Williams faces the Patriots in New England, followed by the Vikings at home and the Giants in New York for the Giants’ last home game of the season.

If you’re a proud Williams owner, you should deal him away to the highest bidder this week or next before you get stuck in the dumps with him during the playoffs.

Smitty from Fantasy Football Xtreme says:

Every season, a grip of players step up during Weeks 14-16, while others shockingly disappoint. It’s a tough business predicting either, but I have come up with two names. I have talked a lot about running backs and wide receivers over the past few weeks, so this week I’m going to focus on quarterbacks.

One quarterback worth talking about before we even sniff Weeks 14-16 is Kurt Warner. The aging quarterback has been hit or miss this season, and he has thrown 7 interceptions over the past three games putting him at 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the year. He has also fumbled the football twice over the last three weeks.

You’re probably guessing that Warner is my “unload” recommendation for Weeks 14-16, right? Wrong.

While I will admit that I have concerns about the aging quarterback staying healthy long enough to see Week 14, he has a fantastic fantasy playoff schedule. The Cardinals face the 49ers (28th) in Week 14, the Lions (29th) in Week 15 and Rams (24th) in Week 16. If healthy, Warner should have a fantastic finish to the fantasy season.

As for my top quarterback to unload before we hit Week 14, I have to go with Carson Palmer.

The Bengals passing schedule isn’t impossible, as they have two decent match-ups in Weeks 14 and 16 in the Vikings (23rd) and Chiefs (29th), but they do have a rough contest against the Chargers (6th) in Week 15. I know Palmer had a monster 5-touchdown performance before his Week 8 bye, where he completed 20-of-24 passes, but before that Week 7 outing, Palmer’s completion percentage was under 60 and he had almost as many interceptions (7) as he had touchdowns (8).

On the year, Palmer has yet to pass for over 300 yards. His Week 7 stats are making him look strong, but I’m predicting that he and the Bengals struggle down the stretch. I say unload Palmer now and take a lateral step into a quarterback with less risk.

Trade Palmer for a Ben Roethlisberger or a Matt Ryan. Both quarterbacks probably have similar perceived value, yet I like both better than Palmer down the stretch (especially in Weeks 14-16).

Junkyard Jake from Junkyard Jake says:

Glancing ahead to the fantasy playoff weeks this year, it appears that Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing game could benefit from a very favorable set of defensive matchups. During Weeks 14 through 16, the Saints face Atlanta on the road and then Dallas and Tampa Bay at home.

As if Brees needed an additional advantage, all three of these games will be in a dome. Moreover, all three of these defenses currently rank in the bottom third of the league in terms of points allowed by opposing quarterbacks.

In contrast to Brees’s favorable playoff schedule, it looks like the Bears’ Matt Forte could have a tougher time. Forte is already having a slightly disappointing season, and it doesn’t appear that he will catch a break during the fantasy playoff Weeks of 14, 15 and 16 when he is slated to face Green Bay, Baltimore and then Minnesota.

Green Bay has been allowing only 91 rush yards per game, and they have yielded just 3 rushing touchdowns so far. Forte’s Week 15 opponent, Baltimore, has allowed just 79 yards per game on the ground. Forte then faces the Vikings in Week 16, a team that touts the No. 2 run defense in the league.

Hatty from Hatty Waiver Wire Guru says:

So essentially we are looking at a buy low/sell high for the playoff run. Having the right RB for the playoffs is a huge key to victory and health is a major consideration for playoff runs.

My sell high right now would be LaDainian Tomlinson. He is coming off a two-touchdown performance, but again is a huge injury concern. You just can’t afford to go into playoffs with one of your top running backs leaving due to injury.

The running back I would work hard to obtain for the playoffs would be a running back who receives a major workload on a team making a run for the playoffs. Cedric Benson helped me to win a fantasy championship in the past and is a stellar running back to go into playoffs with.  He is not prone to injury, doesn’t play in an RBBC situation and is on a team that has a solid chance at making the playoffs.

Ryan Lester from Lester’s Legends says:

Looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs, there are a couple of wide receivers that I would love to own and one that I want no part of.

The wide receivers that I love for the fantasy playoffs are Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. Aside from being two of the best wide receivers in the game, there are some other reasons that make them so valuable when fantasy owners need them the most.

First of all, neither team is running away with their division meaning they will likely go full tilt the whole season as they vie for a playoff spot. While wide receivers like Reggie Wayne and Marques Colston are in the driver’s seat of their respective divisions, Fitz and A.J. are not. It’s conceivable that Wayne and Colston get a reduced workload in your league’s championship game. You don’t have to worry about that with Fitz or A.J.

They also have favorable schedules in the fantasy playoffs. Fitz plays at San Francisco, at Detroit and finishes at home against St. Louis. Week 14 could be tough for him, but the final two games could bring the monster performances you expected out of Fitz when you drafted him.

Andre Johnson’s schedule is also a breeze. He starts off at home against Seattle, travels to St. Louis and finishes at Miami. Obviously, I don’t like his championship opponent as much as Fitz, but if he leads you to the title game, you’re in the money anyway.

On the flip side, the player I don’t want on my team come fantasy playoffs time is Carolina’s Steve Smith.

The Panthers start off on the road at New England. Weather is very much a factor in New England in December, which doesn’t bode well for members of the passing game. Next up is Minnesota at home. The pressure that Jared Allen and company put on opposing quarterbacks could make for a long day. Finally, he finishes up against the Giants on the road in the swirling winds.

Smith faces three of the best teams in the league, two in what are likely to be bad-weather games, during the fantasy playoffs. Not to mention he plays in a run-first offense. If I were a Steve Smith owner and had championship aspirations, I’d try to move him now that he’s coming off a pair of good games.

Eric Stashin of Rotoprofessor says:

One of the players I would like to own down the stretch is Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Fantasy football playoffs are tough because if you have a player who is on a team that is coasting into the playoffs, you just don’t know how much they are going to play. With the Falcons, they are three games behind the division lead already, but they are primed for a dogfight to take home the wild card.

In addition, the Falcons take on the New Orleans Saints (middle of the road in rushing defense), New York Jets (sans their big run stuffer, Kris Jenkins), the Buffalo Bills (currently allowing the most rushing yards per game in the league) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (need I say anymore).

That seems like the perfect set-up for a big way to close the season. He’s one of the best backs in the league, and if you are in a position to acquire him for the stretch drive, there is no reason to hesitate.

As for players to avoid, you almost have to look at the flip side: Which team appears to be ready to coast into the playoffs as well as having a tough schedule?

The Minnesota Vikings could be that team, as they have a lead in the division and have the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and New York Giants on the schedule over the final four weeks. Three of those four teams are likely to be in contention for a playoff spot. The easiest game (Panthers) is on the road, as is the game in Chicago, so you don’t know what will happen there.

The likelihood is that the team focuses on the run, as they’ve already shown that they will do, meaning Brett Favre and the Vikings receivers may struggle down the stretch.

Paul Greco from Fantasy Pros 911 says:

I love looking ahead. Why you ask? Well, if I’m looking ahead to Weeks 14 through 17, that means I have a shot at the playoff. Yup, I’m about to make it rain in the Greco household.

The one player that I’d like to unload, not only during the Weeks 14 through 17, but right now, is Carolina Panther’s running back DeAngelo Williams. Coming off a huge game on the ground in Week 8, right now is the time to look to unload Williams.

Starting Week 11, Williams has the toughest Strength-of-Schedule (SOS) the rest of the season. With games against the Miami Dolphins (Week 11), New York Jets (Week 12), New England Patriots (Week 14) and the Minnesota Vikings (Week 15), all four teams are currently ranked in the top 10 for rush defense.

Cedric Benson, running back for the Cincinnati Bengals, is a player you must look to add to your team now. C.B. has the easiest SOS of any running back starting Week 11.

With games against the Oakland Raiders (Week 11), Cleveland Browns (Week 12), Detroit Lions (Week 13), San Diego Chargers (Week 15) and the Kansas City Chiefs (Week 16), all five teams give up an average of 117 rushing yards a game or worse.

C.B. has shown he can carry the load for the Bengals, so why not your team? Look to make a move for CB now, and enjoy big gains the rest of the season.

Bryce McRae from KFFL says:

My pickup for the playoffs: the Kansas City Chiefs’ Kolby Smith (knee). He’s a deep sleeper, yes, but it shouldn’t cost much to get him, and he could pay huge dividends.

Starter Larry Johnson’s suspension ends after Week 9, but the team has given some thought to releasing him. At some point, they have to start looking toward the future.

Jamaal Charles, a third-round pick last year, is expected to shoulder most of the load this week. He’s more of a speedy change-of-pace back, however, and the Chiefs have utilized him as a rusher only 23 times this year. A lot of that has come out of passing downs, too.

This leads us to Smith; the third-year back has carried a full workload in the past (Weeks 12 through 16 in 2007: 100 carries for 387 yards and two scores), and he says he has confidence in his rehabilitated knee. Head coach Todd Haley says Smith is moving around well in practice, too. Smith has the bulk (5-foot-11, 219 pounds) that could help him hold up as a primary back over the speedier Charles.

Kansas City faces the Buffalo Bills (most rushing yards allowed per game to backs this year), the Cleveland Browns (third most) and the Cincinnati Bengals in Weeks 14 through 16, respectively. Cincy isn’t a great matchup, but Smith could be a beast during those two first games.

On the flip side, one player I’m looking to unload before the playoffs is the San Francisco 49ers’ Michael Crabtree. I don’t have much faith in Alex Smith behind center for the long term. I feel defenses might be able to shut down Crabtree, too, once they have more film on him and how the 49ers are using him. Remember: This is still a run-first offense.

Also, I don’t believe his value will be any higher after his first three games. Wait for him to burn the Tennessee Titans, a generous defense to this position, in Week 9 and then sell high on the former Texas Tech wideout.

The defenses Crabtree will face in the traditional playoffs weeks: the Detroit Lions (Week 14), the Arizona Cardinals (Week 15) and the Philadelphia Eagles (Week 16). Philly’s D has been one of the top against this position all season while the other two have shown improvement in the last month. Plus, Detroit’s run D has been bad enough that San Fran might opt to pound the ball.

Kurt Turner from Top-Fantasy-Football says:

Strength of schedule is key when planning for the fantasy football playoffs. Teams like Arizona, San Diego and Miami all have juicy matchups. FFToolbox.com has a nice tool you can use found here that analyzes matchups by position for you.

Here are my picks to own and unload: Kurt Warner and Roddy White.

Snatch up Kurt Warner. He should be a beast in the playoffs. Trade for him now and don’t be afraid to overpay, especially if you’re hurting at quarterback.

A guy I don’t like for the playoffs is Roddy White. White faces some tough pass defenses weeks 14, 15 and 16. If you can get Warner for White (and some change) and still have some other good options at wide receiver, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Good Luck!

That’s all for this week’s Fourth & 1 Debate. While I am largely a fan of riding hot hands into the ground rather than trading them away because of perceived slumps on the horizon, preparing for the fantasy football playoffs is a necessity.

Oh, and if you have a championship game in Week 17, slap your commish again for me.

As always, the comments are yours. Have a player you’re concerned about for the fantasy playoffs? Would you like to add more names to the hat of players to add/drop? Leave a comment to let us know.

Fourth & 1 Debate: Two running backs worth stashing

Last week’s Fourth & 1 fantasy football roundtable debate asked, “Which two players are you stashing for the second half? Why?”

I selected LeSean McCoy and Mike Bell as my stashes for the reasons outlined below in my entry for the roundtable. After seeing Brian Westbrook suffer a concussion in Monday Night Football tonight, I think my McCoy pick rings true. Mike Bell is more of a long-term grab that may or may not pay off before the end of the season.

For the second half, I’m stashing LeSean McCoy from the Philadelphia Eagles. While running back Brian Westbrook is back and healthy right now, it wouldn’t surprise many of his fantasy owners to see him miss another game or two down the road. In his absence, McCoy showed that he could be just as dynamic as a receiver out of the backfield and running back for the Eagles. In the short-term, his impressive play while Westbrook was recovering from injury has earned McCoy a committee share in the running game, which makes him a decent bye-week fill or desperation play through the rest of the season even if Westbrook doesn’t get hurt again.

The Eagles face some tough defenses down the stretch and in the fantasy playoffs, but stashes like McCoy are what fantasy championship teams are all about. If things break right, he could be a huge factor late in the season.

I’m also stashing the New Orleans Saints’ Mike Bell. It’s unclear how exactly Bell and Pierre Thomas will split the touches in New Orleans, but regardless of how they are used, all fantasy owners should want a piece of the action. The Saints have one of the easiest rushing schedules in the league from here on out. With a stout defense finally making plays and quarterback Drew Brees to keep defenses more than honest, the Saints running backs could lead the league in rushing, or at least fantasy points at running back, from here on out. Not to mention, the Saints high-powered offense gets them in the red zone at will.

Both Thomas and Bell have shown the ability to excel as a part of this offense. Thomas has the top spot at the moment and is in line for a nice second half of the season, but if he were to be injured or if Bell earns a larger portion of the carries, Bell would benefit from the easy schedule and powerful offense.

If you have the room to pack him away, Bell’s a great stash at this point in the season while things in New Orleans are still unclear.

I felt McCoy and Bell could be impact stashes, especially because running back saviors are so hard to find on the waiver wire at this point in the season. Maybe they’re out there on your waiver wires right now as teams adjust for bye weeks and fortify their benches.

If not, there are plenty more where they came from to hide away on your bench and hope for the best. To read up on whom else my fellow roundtable members selected as stashes, take a look at the full Fourth & 1 debate at KFFL. [Sadly, KFFL has removed this content from their site.]

If you have additional suggestions on players to stash at this point in the season, please drop them in the comments.