Christian Ponder, Marion Barber and Ricky Williams lead the way this week
It’s playoff time — for most of you at least. Now is the time of year where every move has to be the right one or your fantasy football season is over. Of course this late in the 2011 season, pickings are slim on the waiver wire. But there are a few names out there that could be beneficial as you make your way through the playoffs.
The top waiver wire of the week, as it was last week, is another running back. Washington RB Roy Helu was the top free agent pickup last week and came through with 21.2 fantasy points against the Jets. This week, it will be Chicago RB Marion Barber, who will replace the injured Matt Forte (knee) perhaps for the entire fantasy playoffs.
Matt Moore, Miami
This is all you need to know about fringe QBs and what they can do for you in a 12-team league. Moore was a top-10 producer despite throwing for just 162 yards. He also tossed a touchdown and ran for another for 20.68 fantasy points against the Raiders. It was his third 18-plus point day in the last five weeks. Now the Dolphins play host to an Eagles team that has allowed at least one touchdown pass in every game (11 total) and an average of 256.8 yards per game since Week 8.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota
Thanks to Denver, Ponder was a top-four fantasy QB in Week 13. The rookie threw for 381 yards, three scores and two picks and wound up with a 29.44-point fantasy day. It was Ponder’s third straight week over 14 fantasy points and second in three weeks over 22.5 points. Now he travels to play a Detroit defense coming off back-to-back 300-yard thrashings from Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Since we can’t compare Ponder to the two aforementioned studs, we can take their games out and the Lions are averaging 191.5 yards per game and .9 TDs per game allowed with 15 total interceptions. The Lions offense should have success against the Vikings defense, giving Ponder more chances to play catch up with Percy Harvin and Co.
Dan Orlovsky, Indianapolis
You’re reaching here, but he does have Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Jacob Tamme to get the ball to. Orlovsky is coming off a 353-yard game against the Patriots — New England’s ninth game of 300-plus yards allowed — so don’t base a lot of your hopes on last week.
Caleb Hanie, Chicago
A week after limiting Philip Rivers to 188 yards and a score, the Broncos allowed rookie Christian Ponder on an Adrian Peterson-less team to throw for 381 yards, three scores and two INTs. Hanie will be without his stud RB Matt Forte (knee) this week and still has a capable stable of receivers. You’d have to be beyond desperate here to start Hanie, but the Broncos have surrendered five 250-yard plus passers in the last nine games with 13 TDs and seven picks in that time.
Alex Smith, San Francisco
Sure the 49ers have clinched the NFC West title and they could just send Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter out there to try and get this game done in record time. But the matchup is decent for Smith if you needed him. He threw for 267 yards, two scores and one INT in Week 11 and the Cardinals have held just two passers under 200 yards this season (Tarvaris Jackson and Michael Vick).
Kyle Orton, Kansas City
He was looked to early against Chicago in favor of Tyler Palko, but Orton injured his finger and did not return after just one play. So he still has not seen significant game time with his new team and now he travels to play the Jets. It’d be a pretty risky pickup and start.
Rex Grossman, Washington
He threw for 221 yards and one pick in a terrible 5.84-point fantasy effort against the Jets in Week 13. Now he looks to be losing TE Fred Davis and LT Trent Williams to suspension. But Grossman has shown flashes this season — three 20-plus point days — and now he gets a Patriots pass defense that has been friendly to nearly every team they have played.
Josh Johnson, Tampa Bay
If Josh Freeman is out, then Johnson gets the start against cross-state rival Jacksonville. Johnson threw for 229 yards, one score, one pick and 45 yards rushing against a weak Carolina defense. We certainly found out we can’t rely on LeGarrette Blount (11-for-19) last week, and the Jaguars have a solid run defense. Philip Rivers, whose had his struggles, just carved up the beat up Jacksonville pass defense to the tune of 294 yards and three scores.
Marion Barber, Chicago
Boy this is one that hurts to put on the waiver wire list. The No. 1 reason this stings is I have Matt Forte in two leagues that I was the No. 1 seed in heading into Week 13. Now I’m the No. 1 seed in just one of the leagues and not nearly as confident going into the postseason. But back to what Barber can do for us.
Maurice Morris, Detroit
Kevin Smith injured his ankle again and it opened the door for Morris against the Saints. Now the Lions play host to a Vikings team that allows 4.2 yards per carry and 126.6 rushing yards per game over the last three weeks to running backs. If Smith is back, then the backfield is too diluted to depend on Morris. However, if the ankle continues to be a bother, then Morris is an OK flex.
Ricky Williams, Baltimore
Joe Flacco is struggling and the Ravens are going to run the ball. The Colts come to town with the third-worst defense against fantasy running backs. If you’re looking for the TD vulture that has a chance to be more than just that — like he was for 76 yards and a score against Cleveland — then a start against the Colts might not be a bad play.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis
The 12.8 fantasy points he got against the Patriots was more than I would have expected. Those are 12.8 points I would certainly be happy with from a flex position in this crazy NFL season. But now the Colts travel to play a Baltimore team that is a much, much stiffer defense. This could be a future pickup for Week 15. The Titans looked terrible against the quickness of C.J. Spiller in Week 13 and will now face the multiple backs that the Saints send out in Week 14. If Brown comes out of Baltimore healthy, he MIGHT be a decent flex play against the Titans in two weeks.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo
He looked good against a Titans defense that allowed gaping holes and were poor tacklers at the second level. Now he gets a Chargers defense that allowed 188 total yards to Maurice Jones-Drew in Week 13, 117 rushing yards to Willis McGahee in Week 12, 85 total yards to Matt Forte in Week 11 and 242 total yards to Michael Bush in Week 10. Spiller had 17 touches in Week 13 against Tennessee (102 total yards) and 22 (70 yards) in Week 12 against the Jets. He’s a decent enough flex in a game that could see a moderate amount of points.
Dexter McCluster, Kansas City
This offense is not consistent enough to make any of their players worthy fantasy plays, save for WR Dwayne Bowe. Maybe. And that is a big maybe. McCluster had 13 total offensive touches in Week 13 against Chicago and got a bulk of his 19.28 fantasy points on a 38-yard Hail Mary at halftime. But if he’s getting the 12 touches per game like he has averaged the last four weeks, he could be a deep flex against a Jets defense that allowed Roy Helu 142 total yards on 27 touches last week and 70 total yards to C.J. Spiller on 22 touches in Week 12.
Toby Gerhart, Minnesota
If Adrian Peterson (ankle) is back from his injury then Gerhart is useless in Week 14 at Detroit. If not, then Gerhart gets a run defense that hasn’t really seen a true run-based offense in quite a while. And if Gerhart is going to catch eight balls for 42 yards like he did against Denver in Week 13, then he would be an OK flex play in PPR leagues. The Lions have allowed 66 catches for 455 yards this season, including 20 for 220 and a score the last three weeks. Gerhart also had his best rushing performance of his career, carrying 21 times for 91 yards against Denver.
Ryan Grant, Green Bay
If James Starks (ankle) continues to be sidelined then Grant is the lead back. But he has rookie Brandon Saine to deal with and the Packers just do not run enough to make one of their backs a safe fantasy start. The one reason he could be safe this week is because the Raiders are very friendly against the pass and the Packers could get up very, very quickly. Your question would then be: is Grant going to help close it out or will Saine get the looks?
Johnny Knox, Chicago
The Bears head to Denver to play a Broncos team that has given up some big days in the back half of the 2011 season. Calvin Johnson went for 125 yards and a score, Jacoby Ford had 105 and a score and Percy Harvin had 156 yards had two scores and the Vikings’ duo of Devin Aromashodu had 90 yards just last week. Knox has been Caleb Hanie’s favorite target in their two weeks together — seeing 18 looks for nine catches, 198 yards and a score.
Nate Burleson, Detroit
He continues to get at least seven targets over the last five weeks; it’s just a matter of what he does with them. He tied his best game of the season with 93 yards in Week 13 after games of 39, 63, 83 and 23 over the previous four weeks. Minnesota’s defensive backfield is beat up, and Burleson is at least targeted. If you are struggling at WR and need a guy you know will be on a team that scores points, will score points this week and has issues at running back, then Burleson is worth a look.
Damian Williams, Tennessee
He was the top target for QB Matt Hasselbeck for the fourth time in five weeks when he had seven targets for four catches and 62 yards against the Bills. Now the Titans and their average defense play host to the high-powered offense of the Saints. Think Williams will have plenty of opportunities this week? I do too.
Brad Smith, Buffalo
He saw a team-high 10 targets against Tennessee in Week 13 and now has 17 in the last two weeks for 11 catches, 149 yards and a score. David Nelson and Scott Chandler are the red zone targets, while Smith and Steve Johnson (21 targets the last two weeks for 13 catches, 127 yards and two scores) are the ones to move the chains. The Bills play the Chargers and their bad run defense this week, but with C.J. Spiller as the lead back the passing options will still be there.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver
Seven targets turned into four catches for 144 yards and two scores. But if you couldn’t start Eric Decker with confidence, how do you start Thomas with any? He is a big target, but as far as his targets they are too inconsistent. His seven is a season high after games of 1, 6, 0, 2 and 3 since his return from a preseason injury.
Golden Tate & Doug Baldwin, Seattle
Both are talented young players for an inconsistent QB. With Sidney Rice on IR, the Seahawks will look to Tate, Baldwin and Ben Obomanu to move the ball through the air. Problem is: You never know which one it is going to be. Second problem, for this week at least: They get a juicy matchup against the Rams at home on Monday night.
Devin Aromashodu, Minnesota
It took 15 targets and just six catches for 90 yards for Aromashodu to get 12 fantasy points against the Broncos. Take what you would like from that. It’s just the second time this season, and the first for QB Christian Ponder, that a receiver has seen double digits in targets. Now the Vikings travel to play the Lions, who have faced the Saints and Packers the last two weeks. Against less powerful teams, the Lions have surrendered 122.5 yards per game to receivers and just six TDs.
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati
Houston is a top three defense against fantasy tight ends and running backs. Cincinnati needs to move the ball somehow, and a TE that has been targeted 22 times over the last three weeks could be that somehow — along with A.J. Green of course. Grehsam has turned those 22 targets into 11 catches for 153 yards and one score.
Ed Dickson, Baltimore
It’s a reach, but if the Ravens want to get Joe Flacco back on track why not give him an easy target to aim for? Dickson had four targets in Week 13, catching three for 47 yards. That comes on the heels of 1-for-15 and 2-for-21 days that followed his 10-for-79 and two-TD game. The Colts have been the sixth-worst team against fantasy TEs over the last five weeks.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh
Cleveland has Joe Haden on the corner to help shutdown the deep and outside passing game, so Miller could slide in and pickup a few catches to move the chains and a TD for a team that loves throwing in the red zone.
By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter