Five games remain in the NFL’s regular season, but for fantasy leagues it’s almost playoff time. Depending on your league, Week 13 could be the last or second-to-last game before the postseason, meaning time is running out to either tweak your roster to make that last playoff push or reinforce it in your quest for a championship. The latest injuries alone reflect why the waiver wire can mean the difference between sitting out your league’s postseason or potentially finishing it second to no one. Here are some possible options worth considering as you get ready for Week 13.
Week 12 Recap: Chad Henne tossed two more touchdowns (six in the last two games) in Jacksonville’s win over Tennessee. What’s more, the starting job is clearly his for the rest of the season, if not beyond, as Blaine Gabbert was placed on injured reserve with an elbow injury. Nick Foles didn't turn the ball over against Carolina, but he also threw for only 119 yards on 16-of-21 passing in the 30-22 loss Monday night. Byron Leftwich didn’t play in Pittsburgh’s loss to Cleveland because of two cracked ribs, leaving Charlie Batch as the Steelers’ starting quarterback. Batch threw three interceptions in the loss, so Leftwich could get another chance this week against Baltimore, provided he’s cleared to play and Ben Roethlisberger (ribs, shoulder) isn’t ready to return.
Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals
Kolb didn’t play against St. Louis on Sunday because of his ribs, but he was able to return to practice in a limited basis. As bad as the quarterback play has been for the Cardinals this season, someone’s going to start. Considering rookie Ryan Lindley got the call against the Rams in place of John Skelton, he appears to be the only competition for Kolb to get his starting job back. And since Lindley tossed four interceptions in the 31-17 loss to the Rams, it appears that Kolb’s chances of regaining the job, when he’s healthy, are pretty good. That said, it’s up to you to decide if it’s even worth having a Cardinal quarterback on your roster.
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Locker was back in the saddle for the Titans against Jacksonville after missing the previous six games because of a shoulder injury. Locker also had the Week 11 bye to help him get ready to return to action, and, for the most part, he didn’t look too rusty. He passed for 261 yards and a touchdown, but also threw two picks – one coming on a tipped pass, the other coming late in the fourth quarter with the Titans trailing. Regardless, Locker is the Titans’ starter as long as he’s healthy and his ability to make plays with both his arm and his legs (averaging 7.3 ypc) and an upcoming schedule that includes Indianapolis and the Jets should make him an intriguing option down the stretch, depending on your team’s quarterback situation.
Week 12 Recap: Bryce Brown made the most of his first career start, on "Monday Night Football" no less, rushing for a Philadelphia rookie record 178 yards on 19 carries (9.4 ypc) and two touchdowns. He did fumble the ball twice, however, in the Eagles' 30-22 loss to the Panthers. Ronnie Hillman got a total of three carries as Knowshon Moreno (see below) carried the load and dominated the backfield touches in Denver’s win over Kansas City. Mark Ingram got the most carries against San Francisco, but he only managed 27 yards (on 10 attempts, 2.7 ypc) as the 49ers held the Saints to just 59 yards rushing. Jalen Parmele gained a respectable 5.6 yards per carry against Tennessee, but he left the game early with a leg injury, which sent him to the sidelines in the fourth quarter too, as Rashad Jennings finished with the most carries (16 to 8) and scored the Jaguars’ lone rushing touchdown. Bilal Powell basically split the carries (12 to 14) with Shonn Greene, but saw more targets (3 to 1) out of the backfield and added a rushing touchdown to his stat line.
Michael Bush, Chicago Bears
Ever since Matt Forte returned from injury, Bush has been relegated to nothing more than spot work. That changed on Sunday as Forte went down early with another ankle injury, leaving Bush to carry the load. Even though he had just 60 yards rushing on 21 carries (2.9 ypc), Bush scored two touchdowns on the ground. With quarterback Jay Cutler returning from a concussion and pass protection continuing to be an issue, the Bears will continue to run the ball to limit the number of hits he takes. That task will fall to Bush, especially if Forte misses any time with this latest injury.
Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
In his first game action since Week 2, Moreno got 20 of the Broncos’ 24 rushing attempts and finished with 85 yards (4.3 ypc) on the ground in the win in Kansas City. Moreno also added four catches for 26 yards and seemingly put himself in position as the Broncos’ lead back for the time being with Willis McGahee out until at least the playoffs. Even though he’s been a disappointment for most of his career, sometimes opportunity is all a player needs to have an impact. If Moreno continues to get the bulk of the carries, he may not be a bad addition if you are hurting at running back or in need of some depth there.
Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals
On injured reserve since Week 4, Wells made his return to the field on Sunday against St. Louis and promptly took back his starting role in the Cardinals’ backfield. Wells got 17 of the team’s 23 rushing attempts, finishing the game with 48 yards and, more importantly, two touchdowns. LaRod Stephens-Howling, who was coming off of a 100-yard game against Atlanta, got one lone carry. The Cardinals’ quarterback issues could result in the team running the ball even more, which bodes well for Wells, if he is the starter moving forward.
David Wilson, New York Giants
Wilson was mentioned here back in Week 6 and since then he has rushed for a grand total of 50 yards in six games. So why bring him up now? Because Andre Brown went down with a broken leg in the Giants’ win on Sunday night against Green Bay. Before getting hurt Brown had more carries than starter Ahmad Bradshaw, meaning the coaching staff isn’t afraid to spread the wealth. Bradshaw himself has a well-documented history of injuries, meaning Wilson is just one misstep or hard tackle away from being the main guy. Even though Wilson has yet to put up big numbers, his explosiveness and big-play ability is tantalizing, as he’s averaging 25.3 yards per kickoff return. If anything, he’s now the must-have handcuff for Bradshaw owners as Brown is done for the season.
Week 12 Recap: T.Y. Hilton and Mohamed Sanu each scored two touchdowns on Sunday, albeit in different ways. Hilton was responsible for the Colts’ two touchdowns in their win over Buffalo, as he returned a punt 75 yards for a score and added a touchdown reception later. Sanu caught two scoring strikes from Andy Dalton in the Bengals’ victory over Oakland, bringing his total to four touchdowns in his last three games. Golden Tate didn’t score, but he did lead the Seahawks in receptions (4) and yards (56) in their loss in Miami, while Jarius Wright hauled in a team-high seven catches (49 yards) in the Vikings’ loss to Chicago.
Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys
Miles Austin left in the first quarter of the Thanksgiving game against Washington with a hip flexor and didn’t return, opening the door not only for Dez Bryant (8-145-2), but also for Beasley. The diminutive (5-8, 177) rookie from SMU finished with seven receptions for 68 yards (9.7 ypc) and was second only to tight end Jason Witten in targets (15 to 13). The extent of Austin’s injury is not yet known, but if he misses any time, Beasley could be in line for more games like the one he had against the Redskins, as it appears he and quarterback Tony Romo have a good rapport. Another Cowboy wideout to watch is Dwayne Harris, who averaged 17.8 yards on his four catches against the Redskins.
Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars
The No. 5 overall pick in April’s draft appears to finally be settling in. Blackmon has touchdowns in three of his past four games and has a combined 12 receptions for 298 yards in the past two contests. These two games are also the ones in which Chad Henne (see above) was the one pulling the trigger. Henne will remain the Jaguars’ starter the rest of the season, which only increases Blackmon’s fantasy potential and upside. If he continues to produce like he has been, Blackmon could pay off big down the stretch.
Ryan Broyles, Detroit Lions
The Lions suspended Titus Young for the Thanksgiving game against Houston for conduct detrimental to the team (in other words, for being a knucklehead). Broyles got the start opposite Calvin Johnson and the rookie responded with six catches for 126 yards (21.0 ypc) in the overtime loss to the Texans. The Lions have been down this road before with Young, who can’t seem to get out of his own way, so it should surprise no one if Broyles replaces him on the depth chart. If that happens, Broyles becomes an intriguing option, especially considering how much the Lions like to throw the ball (61 pass attempts vs. Texans, averaging 45 per game over last five).
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
Edelman left the win over the Jets after receiving a helmet-to-helmet hit, so his status for this week needs to be monitored. That said, he has seven catches for 122 yards and two scores in the last two games combined and also scored a touchdown on a fumble return on special teams against the Jets. The Patriots don’t lack for weapons, but the door is clearly open for someone other than Wes Welker to establish themselves in the passing game with tight end Rob Gronkowski sidelined by a broken forearm for at least several weeks. Fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez (2-36) didn’t take advantage of Gronk’s absence against the Jets and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd has seen his numbers decline in recent weeks. It’s hard to trust a part-time player like Edelman, but he’s shown what he can do when given a chance and everyone knows that Tom Brady is not shy when it comes to spreading the ball around.
Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins
It has been a frustrating season for Garcon owners, at least those who have had the patience to stick with him this long, but if his Thanksgiving showing in Dallas is any indication, he’s still worth owning provided he stays healthy. Garcon scored his first touchdown since Week 1 against the Cowboys and finished the game with five catches for a team-high 93 yards. His foot has been the issue for him this season, causing him to miss six games and limiting him in three others, but he looked pretty healthy on his 59-yard catch-and-run to the end zone in the second quarter against Dallas. You could do worse by adding a potential No. 1 wide receiver at this point of the season, if he’s available on your waiver wire.
Week 12 Recap: Garrett Graham had three catches for 17 yards on Thanksgiving Day against Detroit, while Marcedes Lewis went four for 56 on Sunday against Tennessee.
Dallas Clark, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It has taken some time, but Clark has become a fairly reliable target for quarterback Josh Freeman over the past month or so. He has at least two catches in five of his last six games and has caught three touchdown passes during this span. He has a total of 11 receptions for 123 yards in his last two games and has scored 6.8 or more fantasy points in each of the last three contests.
Rob Housler, Arizona Cardinals
Housler caught a season-high eight passes for 82 yards in Arizona’s loss to St. Louis on Sunday. He still hasn’t posted a touchdown catch, but he’s scored 7.9 or more fantasy points in three of the last five games. It’s really hard to trust any Cardinal pass-catcher right now — this includes Larry Fitzgerald (sigh) — but when it comes to tight end, any sort of consistent fantasy production is a welcome sight.
Week 12 Recap: Carolina gave up 22 points to Philadelphia and 178 yards rushing to rookie running back Bryce Brown on "Monday Night Football," but the Panthers also forced three turnovers and held Nick Foles to 107 yards net passing in their 30-22 win.
The Browns forced eight turnovers (5 fumbles, 3 INTs) and allowed only eight points to Pittsburgh’s offense in their 20-14 win on Sunday. For the season, Cleveland is a borderline top 10 fantasy DST that’s done a good job pressuring the quarterback (28 sacks) and generating turnovers (13 INTs, 12 fumbles). The Browns’ upcoming schedule is also appealing with Oakland and Kansas City (league-leading 32 turnovers) on tap the next two weeks.
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.