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Felix Jones is the must pick-up as you hit the playoffs
So you made it to Week 15. Congratulations. That either means you won a quarterfinal game or your league’s playoffs begin this week.
This time of the year there is not usually that much to find on the waiver wire that will be of that much benefit to you — you would like to play with who got you here. But injuries, bad matchups and other unfortunate circumstances might have to scouring the wire to see what’s out there to help you advance.
Easily, the No. 1 waiver wire pick of the week will be Dallas running back Felix Jones. It is very rare that a player who was the team’s starter when the season began, loses the job and comes back to be the starter for you in the fantasy playoffs. So consider it a gift if you have No. 1 priority this week. He was never a back you could consistently count on, but with Dallas having to win, perhaps Jones hoping to prove he’s the top back and two easy matchups against Tampa Bay and Philadelphia the next two weeks this is about as good a scenario a fantasy player could have.
After that, the wire is full of matchup quarterbacks and a few receivers that are favorite targets that could pay some dividends in Week 15. So enjoy 3,200 words that will hopefully keep you moving along in the fantasy postseason.
Rex Grossman, Washington
Did you see how wide open Miles Austin, Laurent Robinson and Dez Bryant (at least on his 50-yard catch) were against the Giants on Sunday night? Now Grossman gets to try and duplicate Tony Romo’s 321-yard, four-TD 36.84-point game with Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong and Brandon Banks. Not necessarily the same trio, but he also has Roy Helu as a shifty pass-catcher out of the backfield. Grossman racked up 19.08 fantasy points on just 19 completions and one interception against New England’s terrible pass defense in Week 13 and now he gets the 29th-ranked Giants pass defense that has allowed more TDs and less interceptions than the Patriots (24-15 to 21-18).
John Skelton, Arizona
He stepped in for an injured Kevin Kolb (head) against San Francisco last week and threw for 282 yards, three scores and two interceptions. Monitor Kolb’s status for this week, but Skelton gets the ball down field better and could remain the starter. Up next for the Cardinals are the visiting Cleveland Browns and their No. 2 ranked pass defense that kept the Pittsburgh passing game in check until Ben Roethlisberger’s late 79-yard touchdown hook up with Antonio Brown pushed Big Ben to 280 yards on the night. Skelton has Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet to get the ball to for big plays the 46- and 60-yard scores he connected on with those two receivers against the 49ers.
Jake Locker, Tennessee
If Matt Hasselbeck (calf) is out or the Titans feel it’s time to turn to the rookie, then Locker could be a decent play at Indianapolis. Locker can certainly get it done with his legs, but also has shown the ability to stay in the pocket in the limited time he has played this season. Hasselbeck scored 14.86 fantasy points the last time the Titans played the Colts, and Locker should be good for at least that against an 0-13 Colts team that has allowed 23 touchdown passes to just six interceptions.
T.J. Yates, Houston
The Panthers’ run defense is ranked 23rd in the NFL, so this could be an Arian Foster-Ben Tate kind of day in Houston. However, Yates can push the ball down field and could have Andre Johnson (hamstring) returning. Yates led the game-winning drive Sunday against Cincinnati, connecting with Kevin Walter in the end zone to get the Texans into the postseason for the first time in franchise history. He finished 26-of-44 for 300 yards and two scores for a 24.6-point fantasy day. The Panthers are ranked 19th in pass defense, giving up 236.5 yards a game with 22 touchdowns allowed to 10 interceptions.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati
Only because it is St. Louis would I recommend Dalton outside of a two-QB league setup. He continues to be the 12-point quarterback — only dipping below it in Weeks 1 and 3. Problem with St. Louis, much like Cleveland, the reason the pass defense numbers look so good is because teams can run all day on them as well. The Rams are ranked 8th against the pass at 208.4 yards per game with 18 touchdowns allowed against 10 interceptions. Against the run, they are ranked last in the league. But Dalton does still have A.J. Green, and he could be worth two long balls and two TDs alone to give Dalton a quick 15 points.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota
This would be the type of play you know you’re hoping for garbage-time production. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier says Ponder will return to the starting role after being pulled for Joe Webb last week against Detroit, and the Saints do have the 30th-ranked pass defense in the league at 268 yards per game with 20 touchdowns allowed to seven interceptions.
Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh
If Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) is out then it’s Charlie Batch time against a 49ers defense that is average against the pass and No. 1 against the run with no rushing touchdowns allowed all season. Rashard Mendenhall’s chances of success are nil, so it could go to the arm of Batch. It’s not the arm you want to be relying on in Week 15 of a fantasy football season, but he does still have Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Hines Ward, maybe a healthy Emmanuel Sanders as his receiving corps and TE Heath Miller as a safety valve. Again, it’s not who you want to trot out there in your semifinals, but if you are desperate you can look to John Skelton having a 26.78-point day off the bench against San Francisco and see some glimmer of hope.
Felix Jones, Dallas
Easily the No. 1 waiver wire pickup of the week after DeMarco Murray fractured his ankle early in the Sunday night game against the Giants. Jones was out four games himself this season with a high-ankle injury, ineffective in five others and had no shot at grabbing the starting role back from the rookie. However, he is back as the starter and there is pretty much no one behind him. He finished with 106 yards on 16 carries and six catches for 31 yards Sunday against New York.
What a fun season to have Cowboy backs. We thought this would be the year Jones would emerge, then Tashard Choice is kept on, Murray is drafted and Phillip Tanner showed some flashes. We had a three or four-headed backfield for a bit. But it all washed out and Murray was the clear-cut starter. Now here comes Jones to save us in the playoffs. He gets the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their 28th-ranked rush defense to start off with, followed by Philadelphia’s 18th-ranked rush defense. Jones was never great when he was the clear-cut starter, but we look at him differently now that so many backs have either gone down with injuries our been busts themselves. Now he’s here to be our playoff savior, and the two matchups he has make that a likely scenario.
Ryan Grant, Green Bay
I was completely wrong about Grant in Week 14. He hadn’t done anything all season, the Packers’ backs haven’t done anything all season and Grant busts off a 47-yard TD run in the first three minutes and then scores on a 6-yarder in the middle of the second quarter. Grant finished with 85 yards on 10 carries. James Starks’ one TD in Week 1 was the only other TD a Green Bay feature back had scored this season, and the Packers, despite beating teams by an average of 13.2 points per game coming into the Oakland beatdown, were 22nd in rushing attempts per game at 25.7 and 29th in rushing yards per game (96.5). Guess that philosophy changed against the 28th-ranked Raiders.
Now after beating down the Raiders in a rematch of Super Bowl II, the Packers get the Chiefs in a rematch of Super Bowl I. The Chiefs just allowed Super Bowl III winners, the New York Jets, to rush for 159 yards on 42 attempts. Grant got his shot and saw his carries increase because second-year man James Starks (ankle) was out and rookie Brandon Saine (concussion) went out with an injury during the game. If Starks and Saine return, and John Kuhn (10-46) gets carries like he did Sunday, one would have to think Grant’s value goes right back to where it was before Sunday’s kickoff — back on the bench.
Toby Gerhart, Minnesota
If Adrian Peterson is back this week from his ankle injury then Gerhart is of no value. But if he isn’t then he gets a Saints team that had been terrible against the run until the Titans made them look like world beaters to the tune of 59 yards on 17 carries, including 11-for-23 from Chris Johnson. Gerhart has put up fantasy days of 13.3, 17.3 and 19.4 points in his three fill-ins for Peterson. I wouldn’t expect this one to stay close, but it is in Minnesota and the Vikings have shown a commitment to the run with Gerhart as he has games of 17, 21 and 19 — all losses.
Marion Barber, Chicago
You can’t hold grudges that he fumbled on the last offensive play for the Bears or that he went out of bounds when he wasn’t supposed to; the only affect it had on you was minus two points or one for the fumble. Other than that, he had 27 carries for 108 yards and scored the only TD for Chicago en route to a 20-point fantasy day. He does have two things going against him in Week 15: he could be in the doghouse with the coaches for the bonehead plays and the Bears play host to the No. 11-ranked rushing defense of the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle allows just over 100 yards per game and have surrendered eight rushing TDs. But there is not much left on the waiver wire, and the Bears can’t just step away from a back they gave the ball to 27 times a week earlier with a QB like Caleb Hanie at the helm.
LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets
He played through a knee injury in Week 14 and put up 13.4 fantasy points against the Chiefs. Now the Jets travel to play the 18th-ranked rush defense of the Philadelphia Eagles. Monitor his health and that of Joe McKnight’s, who missed the Chiefs game with an elbow injury. But LT could be a viable flex play as a change of pace for Shonn Greene. One big problem that has emerged is QB Mark Sanchez stealing goal line TDs. There’s nothing you can do about that, but LT’s going to get 10-15 touches (12 against Kansas City) and that’s what you’re looking for from a flex.
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco
Frank Gore isn’t 100-percent and the 49ers have already clinched the NFC West. He had just 10 carries against the Arizona Cardinals. He gets until Monday night to rest for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their No. 6 rush defense that allows 97 yards per game and just six TDs this season. Hunter is a wait-and-see play, and his matchup is terrible, but he is quick and can help in the passing game.
Ricky Williams, Baltimore
I’d like to say he’d be a decent play against the 25th-ranked rush defense of the Buffalo Bills, who give up 130.7 yards per game and 15 scores. But a week after Willams got 76 yards in a win over the Browns, he did nothing in a blowout over the Colts. If you are really desperate then roll the dice.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver
So instead of wondering whether Tim Tebow can complete enough meaningful passes to Eric Decker, we now have Thomas to contend with. And it has been Thomas as the favorite the last two weeks. He had 13 targets for seven catches, 78 yards and a TD against Chicago; six catches came in the fourth quarter. A week earlier, he had 144 yards and two scores on four catches and seven targets. If there is a favorite receiver, it seems to be Thomas. And now the Broncos travel to New England, where everyone not named Tyler Palko has had success in the air. Thomas is probably the No. 2 waiver wire pickup behind Felix Jones. And with his good back-to-back weeks and the terrible Patriot pass defense, if you get him you might as well play him.
Titus Young, Detroit
The rookie has been on this waiver wire report a few times this season, alternating with Nate Burleson. It would be great if it was set in stone who was going to benefit the most playing opposite Calvin Johnson, but it’s rarely the right week; we miss it either a week before or a week after. Young made a big splash early against the terrible Vikings pass defense with a 57-yard score — the majority of his, seven-target, 4-for-87 day. But Oakland is coming off an Aaron Rodgers torching and Matthew Stafford was looking good on Sunday. The Lions keep getting running backs injured, so it might have to be just the air attack that they go with to try and dispose of the Raiders.
Kevin Walter, Houston
Well of course it wasn’t Jacoby Jones who had a decent day against the Bengals, playing the No. 1 role with Andre Johnson out. Instead it was Walter, who received 10 targets from rookie QB T.J. Yates and caught six of them for 76 yards and the game-winning score in the closing seconds. The Texans play host to Carolina this week and they might not need the passing game as Arian Foster and Ben Tate get their chance to tee off on the 23rd-ranked rush defense. But if Yates has built a rapport with Walter and the Texans released Derrick Mason on Monday, then he could be the pass-catcher not named Owen Daniels or Joel Dresseen to see some action in Week 15.
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis
He continues to be Dan Orlovsky’s favorite target, leading the team the last three games, and he’s had success against the Titans during his career. The question will be: Does he draw Titans CB Cortland Finnegan in coverage or does Finnegan go to Reggie Wayne? If Finnegan goes Wayne’s way, then there could be some success in a game the Colts should likely be behind in. Garcon had 12 targets for seven catches and 63 yards in a loss to Baltimore. This comes a week after he had 12 targets, nine catches, 150 yards and two scores against New England.
Damian Williams, Tennessee
If Matt Hasselbeck is out and Jake Locker is in then it might be hard to know what kind of rapport Williams has with the rookie QB until we see it on Sunday in Indianapolis. We know Williams can get open all over the field and we know he can score. It’s a good matchup against the pass, but a better matchup against the run. The Colts are ranked 30th against the run, so Chris Johnson should conceivably have a good day. But he just laid a 23-yard egg against the Saints’ 15th-ranked rushing defense in Week 14, so it’s hard to say what you’re going to get. Williams would be the best passing option for Tennessee. He had 10 targets to lead the team against New Orleans — his seventh week to tie for or lead the team in targets since Kenny Britt’s Week 3 injury.
Jabar Gaffney, Washington
Gaffney was targeted eight times, catching six of them for 92 yards and a score against the pitiful New England pass defense. Santana Moss was also targeted nine times, catching three for 81 yards and a score on a pass from fellow receiver Brandon Banks. This week, the Redskins get another pitiful pass defense in the New York Giants. Gaffney and QB Rex Grossman surely are familiar enough with each other from their Florida Gator days and Gaffney can be a good flex play against New York this week.
Donald Driver and James Jones, Green Bay
So the Green Bay Packers’ receiving corps situation loses its leader right as the fantasy playoffs are in full gear. Greg Jennings is out for the rest of the fantasy season and we have to figure out will it be James Jones or grizzled veteran Donald Driver to pick up the slack. Driver had six targets for four catches and 75 yards, while Jones had two catches for 29 yards on three targets. Jones, after three double-digit days in Weeks 4-6, has had just one since then and four games under four points — three under 1.4 — in the last five games. Driver has not been much better. He had 17.4 against the Giants two weeks ago and 9.5 against the Raiders. It was Driver’s fourth game of at least 9.5 points since Week 6, but there were three games under three points in there as well. The Packers spread the ball around so much that Jordy Nelson might be the only dependable play at receiver this week against the Chiefs’ solid corners, while tight end Jermichael Finley, a fter a ZERO against Oakland, might have success against a team susceptible to the tight end position.
Darrius Heyward-Bey was targeted 11 times, catching five for 78 yards in Sunday’s loss at Green Bay. He injured his heel in the game, and his participation is dependent upon the health of Jacoby Ford (foot) and Denarius Moore (ankle), who both went through workouts on Monday. The same can be said for Louis Murphy, who was targeted nine times, catching four of them for 70 yards against the Packers. If Moore and Ford are out once again, then both Heyward-Bey and Murphy could be decent plays against a Detroit team the Raiders should probably be trailing early. If Moore and Ford are healthy, Heyward-Bey and Murphy are not playable and probably only Moore becomes a decent play.
Joel Dreessen, Houston
Young QBs love the tight end and Houston has two of them in Owen Daniels and Dreessen. Daniels is certainly the one that he goes to more often — 10 targets for 7 catches and 100 yards on Sunday — but in the red zone all bets are off. The Texans have become synonymous with the backdoor play where the QB rolls one way, the TE releases the other and boom, he’s wide open in the end zone. Dreessen caught a TD like that on Sunday, his sixth TD of the season. Consider this a type of play like a goal line vulture, or how tight ends used to be — three catches, 22 yards and a score: Dresseen’s line from Sunday.
Anthony Fasano, Miami
He had a season-high eight targets Sunday against Philadelphia, pulling down three of them for 56 yards. It was his second straight game with at least 56 yards and third since Week 10. Now the Dolphins get a Bills team that is the worst in the league against tight ends and allowed a TD to Fasano in Week 11.
Kevin Boss, Oakland
The Lions have allowed at least 10.8 points the last two games against tight ends — Jimmy Graham and Visanthe Shiancoe. This would be a giant reach for the former Giants TE, but the Raiders are out of receivers with Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore still not back in the lineup (at least as of Week 14) and Darrius Heyward-Bey injuring his heel in Sunday’s debacle at Green Bay. Boss had a season-high seven targets against the Packers, catching five of them for 43 yards and a score. The Lions could come in and beat the Raiders up just as easily as the Packers did, and Boss could be a good source of GTP — garbage-time production.
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati
He had seven targets on Sunday against the Texans, catching three of them for 45 yards. The Bengals travel to St. Louis in Week 15 and the Rams have only allowed one TD to a tight end this season — Jason Witten in Week 7. The Rams have allowed 18 passing TDs this season, so obviously TE is not getting the love against them in the red zone. But Gresham continues to be a target all over the field for rookie QB Andy Dalton, and has not dipped below seven targets in the last three weeks and has only done so four times all season.