Week 13 of the NFL season means three things – a Thanksgiving tripleheader, no more bye weeks to worry about and the realization that the fantasy playoffs are just around the corner. Whether your league’s playoffs start next week or a little later, there’s no debate that these next few games will make or break many a season.
With that in mind here are 15 players that could be available on your waiver wire that could wind up being the difference between experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Note: Players listed below are owned in less than 70% of Yahoo! leagues.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
The interceptions are certainly a concern when it comes to Manning, but remember that five of his 12 picks came in one game. The appeal when it comes to Peyton’s younger brother is twofold. First, there’s the schedule. Of the Giants’ remaining five games, four of them are against teams that are in the top 12 of the league in terms of fantasy points allowed to QBs. It starts off with Jacksonville (10th) this week and includes a finishing stretch of Washington (fourth), St. Louis (second) and Philadelphia (12th). Even Tennessee (25th) doesn't seem like that difficult a matchup, at least on paper. The second reason to like Manning is the emergence of rookie Odell Beckham Jr. In the last four games, the Giants’ first-round pick has averaged more than 125 yards receiving. Not surprising, Manning has averaged 315 yards passing during that same stretch. Peyton’s got better numbers, but Eli’s more readily available and both Manning brothers could end up being difference-makers during the fantasy playoffs.
Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee Titans
Adding Mettenberger to your roster, let alone starting him, is definitely going against the grain. However, the rookie has shown signs of growth and improvement with each start. On Sunday, he threw for a season-high 345 yards and he has now recorded two touchdown passes in each of his past two games. The schedule (at HOU, NYG, NYJ, at JAC, IND) also isn’t daunting, as there are three top-10 QB fantasy matchups on tap for Weeks 14-16. The worst of this quintet is Indianapolis (17th), but that is the final game of the season and it’s possible that the Colts will have their playoff destination determined by then. There’s plenty of risk when it comes to relying on Mettenberger, namely his lack of experience and the uncertainty surrounding his supporting cast, but it’s also possible that youth will be served during these fantasy playoffs.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
By and large, Tannehill acquitted himself quite well on Sunday in his head-to-head matchup with Peyton Manning. Tannehill had one fewer touchdown pass (3 to 4) and the lone turnover (INT), but he still finished with 33.6 fantasy points on the road in his duel with the future Hall of Famer. Tannehill has been a top-five fantasy QB these past four weeks and he still has two games (Weeks 13 and 17) remaining against the Jets, who are giving up the most fantasy points to opposing QBs. Tannehill is well on his way to putting together the best season of his young NFL career. Perhaps this success will continue during the fantasy playoffs?
Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns
Ben Tate was released last week, which removed one mouth to feed in the Browns’ backfield. Terrance West is still around and will get his share of touches, but Crowell seems to have moved ahead of him in the pecking order. Crowell has gotten at least 12 carries in three straight games and he also has three rushing touchdowns during this span. He is averaging a healthy five yards per carry and has a knack for getting into the end zone (7 rushing TDs in 90 att.). In Weeks 14-16 Crowell will face three teams (IND, CIN, CAR) that are among the top seven teams in fantasy points allowed to RBs. It doesn’t get more playoff-friendly than that.
Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams
Mason continues to get the call in the Rams’ backfield, as he’s averaged nearly 20 carries over the past four games. From here out his schedule shapes up pretty well, starting with Oakland (fifth in fantasy pts allowed to RBs) and including a Week 16 date with the Giants (second). The only matchup that’s not that appealing is a Week 15 home game with Arizona (No. 3 in NFL in rushing defense). That said, the key with Mason moving forward is opportunity and it certainly appears that he’ll see more than enough carries to at least put him in a position to be a reliable fantasy contributor.
Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings claimed Ben Tate off of waivers last week following his release by Cleveland, but there’s no reason to not think that McKinnon will remain a big part of the game plan. For starters, Adrian Peterson’s uncertain future means it’s even more important for the team to evaluate McKinnon, its third-round pick, to determine if he’s a potential long-term answer at running back. So assuming McKinnon will continue to see consistent touches, it should increase his fantasy potential moving forward, even if Minnesota’s closing slate (CAR, NYJ, at DET, at MIA, CHI) features a couple of not-so-appealing matchups. Remember when it comes to fantasy RBs, opportunity (i.e., touches) is an important part of the puzzle.
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders
Talk about making the most of your opportunities. Murray picked up 112 yards rushing against the Chiefs Thursday night on just four carries. His 90-yard TD run in the second quarter was highlight material and who knows where his numbers would have finished had he not departed with a concussion before halftime. The good news is that the extra days between games should give Murray plenty of time to get through the league-mandated concussion protocols. As long as Murray is cleared to play you can pretty much count on seeing a healthy dose of him moving forward.
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals
Name the most-targeted Cardinal this season? It’s not Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd or even Andre Ellington. Instead it’s Brown, who head coach Bruce Arians has already compared to Marvin Harrison. Brown, Arizona’s third-round pick, is just another product of what has been a stellar rookie WR class. He leads the Cardinals in targets (71) and touchdown catches (5), and trails only Fitzgerald in receiving yards (529). Brown has caught at least two passes every game and while his fantasy production has been up-and-down, he could have a bigger role moving forward with Fitzgerald dealing with a knee injury that caused him to miss Sunday’s game (first since 2007). Brown has been flying under the radar, but that may soon change.
Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are coming off of their bye, presenting a golden opportunity to snag Bryant before his ownership rate goes back up. All the rookie has done in his first five games is haul in six touchdowns. After missing the first six games because of a hamstring injury, Bryant has taken advantage of an inconsistent Markus Wheaton and emerged as a big-play target for Pittsburgh’s offense. Antonio Brown will continue to be the lead dog in this pack, but Bryant has already shown that he doesn’t need many opportunities to cause some major damage.
Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill (see above) has been among the most productive fantasy QBs over the past four weeks and one of his favorite targets during this stretch has been Landry. Mike Wallace is the Dolphins’ No. 1 receiver, but it’s Landry who leads the team in receptions (49). Twenty-four of these catches have come in his past four games, as have four of his five touchdown grabs. The second-round pick out of LSU has not only been a reliable (75.4 percent catch rate) target, but he’s also developed into a more productive one, setting the stage for what could be a strong finish to a solid rookie campaign.
Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints
Brandin Cooks, the Saints’ first-round pick, went on injured reserve last week because of a broken thumb. Prior to the injury, Cooks was second only to Jimmy Graham in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. Stills replaced Cooks in the starting lineup Monday night against Baltimore and responded with a season-best eight receptions (on nine targets) for 98 yards. As the Saints' No. 3 WR for most of the season, Stills' numbers (39-529-2) are similar to those of Marques Colston (38-618-2), despite the fact that Colston has seen more targets (64 to 51 for Stills).
Mychal Rivera, Oakland Raiders
Rivera didn’t do much of anything (rec., 8 yds.) last week against Kansas City, but otherwise it’s been a nice stretch of production for the second-year tight end. He is second on the team in receptions (38) and all three of his touchdowns came in back-to-back games (Weeks 9-10). Rivera carries plenty of risk, but it’s not like Derek Carr has a bunch of established targets to throw to either. Depending on your TE options, you may at least want to consider taking a flyer on Rivera.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
Sports hernia surgery cost Rudolph seven games, but this was a guy considered to be a top-10 fantasy TE entering the season. After going target-less in his first game back two weeks ago, Rudolph made good on three of his five looks Sunday against Green Bay, finishing with 50 yards. The more important development is that Rudolph played just about every possible snap, so he’s clearly the Vikings No. 1 TE moving forward. The question now is how soon until he starts producing like a TE1?
The Ravens DST has produced double-digit fantasy points in four/five of the last seven games. This unit can get after the quarterback (21 sacks during this stretch), which usually leads to the potential for forcing some turnovers (5 INTs, 6 fumbles). There’s also the matter of Baltimore’s Week 15 home date with Jacksonville. The Jaguars are giving up the most fantasy points to DSTs, making it a tailor-made, playoff-friendly matchup for the Ravens DST.
St. Louis Rams
This DST currently ranks n the middle of the pack in fantasy scoring, but it also has produced 12 or more points in three of its past four games. One of those was against Denver’s high-powered offense, as St. Louis picked off Peyton Manning twice, sacked him twice and held the Broncos to just seven points. The Rams have rediscovered their pass rush (16 sacks in last four games) and the highest-ranked offense they will face the rest of the way belongs to the dysfunctional Redskins (11th in total offense). And that Week 14 game is preceded by a home date with Oakland, the NFL’s worst offense. The Rams call the Show Me State home and this DST may be primed to show plenty of fantasy production from here out.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.