The fantasy football season has entered the home stretch with Week 11 on the horizon. The fantasy playoffs will begin in a few weeks, which means these next few games could make or break many a season. Reinforcements are on the way now that the two big bye weeks are in the rear-view mirror. That doesn’t mean every team will be playing this week, however, as owners will still have to make do without the services of top scorers like DeMarco Murray, Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Justin Forsett and Ben Roethlisberger, among others, while also dealing with the myriad of injuries that have occurred this season.
Athlon Sports is here to help you sort through some of the potential free agent options. The players listed in our weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding on to all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may simply want to keep an eye on.
Teams on bye: Baltimore, Dallas, Jacksonville, New York Jets
Week 10 Recap: Mark Sanchez got off to a slow start Monday night against the Panthers, but he picked it up and finished with 332 yards and two touchdowns. Helping his night was the fact he didn't turn the ball over, although he did fumble twice on shotgun snaps (able to recover both). As long as Sanchez takes care of the ball, he's in the QB1 conversation while Nick Foles (broken collarbone) is out.
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings
Bridgewater and the Vikings are coming off of their bye, so the rookie should certainly be rested and healthy. And while his overall numbers (60.4 percent passing, 4 total TDs, 5 INTs in six games) don’t blow you away, the first-round pick has shown signs of progress. He hasn’t thrown an interception in each of the past two games and after bottoming out at 157 yards passing in Week 7, he’s increased that total (from 241 to 268) during this same span. He’s also yet to lose a fumble in 19 rushing attempts (95 yds., TD). Then there’s also the matter of facing a Chicago defense that’s been torched for 106 points over its past two games. Now may be the ideal time to invest or take a chance on this young, dual-threat signal-caller.
Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Somewhat surprisingly, Lovie Smith went back to McCown over Mike Glennon as his starting quarterback, even though McCown had thrown twice as many interceptions (four) as touchdowns (two) in his first three starts. But after missing five games with a thumb injury, McCown got the call on Sunday against Atlanta. The end result was the same; another loss for the Buccaneers, but McCown had his best statistical outing, throwing for 301 yards with two touchdowns and two picks. The turnovers are still concerning, but McCown has a pair of explosive wide receivers (Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans) to throw to and a fairly appealing schedule (at WAS, at CHI, vs. CIN) ahead of him. There’s still enough time for McCown to have an impact fantasy-wise before this season is over.
Drew Stanton, Arizona Cardinals
Carson Palmer left Sunday afternoon’s game with a knee injury, which was confirmed on Monday as a torn ACL. Palmer’s season is over and Arizona head coach Bruce Arians will once again turn to Stanton to lead his offense. Yesterday, Stanton promptly entered the game and threw a go-ahead, 48-yard touchdown pass to John Brown. Stanton has already made three starts this season while Palmer was sidelined with a nerve issue, and he led the Cardinals to two wins. He’s not as established as Palmer, but Stanton’s gotten the job done when called upon and he has plenty of familiarity with the offense and his playmakers. The schedule’s pretty tough (DET, at SEA), but there are probably worse options out there if you’re looking for a fill-in QB or some depth at the position.
Week 10 Recap: The Browns pounded the Bengals on the ground Thursday night with Terrance West (26 att., 94 yds., TD) teaming with Ben Tate and Isaiah Crowell to churn out 169 yards and three touchdowns. A week after getting more carries than Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson touched the ball just eight times (compared to Ivory’s 14 carries) and was basically non-existent (35 total yards) in the Jets’ big home win over the Steelers. Philadelphia attacked Carolina through the air Monday night, so Chris Polk (5 att., 11 yds.) and the running game (Eagles had 37 yards rushing) weren't really needed.
C.J. Anderson and Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
Is Denver’s backfield in motion once again? Ronnie Hillman had seemingly established himself as the starter following Montee Ball’s injury, but now he’s hurt (foot sprain) and could end up missing some time. Hillman’s injury (or ineffectiveness depending on your point of view) opened the door for Anderson, who rushed for a team-high 90 yards on 13 carries (6.9 ypc) Sunday in Oakland. He also picked up 73 yards receiving on four catches, including a 51-yard touchdown. Anderson led the Broncos with 163 total yards against the Raiders, while Hillman and Juwan Thompson combined for just 21 yards rushing. What happens with the carries this coming Sunday in St. Louis is anyone’s guess at this point, especially with Ball nearing a return. Don’t forget that Ball was the starter in Week 1 and he also was everyone’s choice to have a breakout fantasy season. It hasn’t worked out that way so far, but Ball could get another chance given Hillman’s injury. The Broncos’ practices this week will definitely be worth monitoring, as John Fox’ tendency more recently has to been to ride the hot hand. Right now that belongs to Anderson.
Alfred Blue, Houston Texans
Arian Foster tweaked his groin in the Texans’ last game. That was in Week 9, as Houston was off last week. Because of the bye, Foster said he expects to be ready to go this Sunday, but it’s not like he has the strongest track record when it comes to injuries. If Foster can’t go, Blue will get the call and the rookie from LSU has already shown what’s he capable of. Back in Week 3, Blue filled in for Foster, who was dealing with a sore hamstring. In his first NFL start, Blue rushed for 78 yards on 13 carries against the Giants. For the season, the sixth-round pick is averaging 3.4 yards per carry, but he hasn’t fumbled the ball in 74 touches and he’s caught a touchdown pass. Foster is the Texans’ undisputed workhorse, but he’s dealt with injuries before and if this latest one causes him to miss any time or limits his touches, Blue is next in line.
Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
Jackson was carted off the field in Week 7 after suffering a groin injury, and it was initially expected that he would miss at least a month. Jackson sat out Week 8 and then had a bye week to receive treatment and recover. Somewhat surprisingly, Jackson returned to practice last week and wound up not only being activated for Sunday’s game, but seeing action. He finished with just three rushing attempts (10 yards) and four catches (39 yards), but the important thing was the fact he played. As soon as he’s back to practicing in full, Jackson will resume the starting role in the Bills’ backfield. He was the team’s leading rusher before the injury and he’s also heavily involved in the passing game (37 rec., 300 yds., TD). Buffalo has a short turnaround for its Thursday night game in Miami, but it shouldn’t be too long before Jackson is leading the charge for the Bills once again. This is a potential opportunity to add a legitimate starting running back to your roster for the home stretch and fantasy playoffs.
Week 10 Recap: Kendall Wright was targeted a team-high seven times against Baltimore, but he finished with just four grabs for 53 yards. Kenny Britt was held to just three catches for 31 yards, as tight end Jared Cook (see below) made the big plays in the passing game for the Rams against the Cardinals. Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdown passes in the first half against the Bears, but Davante Adams (2 rec., 10 yds.) wasn’t able to join in on the fun. Josh Gordon has one more game to serve on his suspension before he’s able to rejoin the Browns and possibly play in Week 12.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City doesn’t exactly toss the ball all over the field and Bowe has disappointed many a fantasy owner in the past, but perhaps the tide is turning some? Bowe has strung together four straight games of at least 8.5 fantasy points (Athlon scoring), averaging six catches for 74 yards during that stretch. He still has yet to record a touchdown, but he’s getting the targets (35 over his last four games), which at least means he should see his fair share of opportunities moving forward. The Chiefs host Seattle this week, but still have two games with Oakland remaining as well as a Week 13 date with Denver. Bowe is not going to fill up the box score on a weekly basis, but he could be a nice option to round out a receiver corps, especially in PPR leagues.
James Jones, Oakland Raiders
Jones made NFL history yesterday, just not necessarily the kind he would like. According to Pro Football Focus’ Mike Clay, Jones set a wide receiver record on Sunday when he recorded just 20 yards on eight catches. It’s the fewest yards ever for a player with eight receptions in a game. That said, what shouldn’t be overlooked is the fact that Jones got a total of 12 targets against Denver. For the season, Jones has been targeted 71 times (25th among WRs), catching 47 of them for 463 yards and three touchdowns. That’s borderline top-30 fantasy WR production, despite playing with a rookie quarterback and for an offense that lacks in playmakers. Even with the Raiders’ offensive struggles, Jones is a viable WR3/4/flex, especially in PPR leagues.
Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles
Since catching two touchdowns in his third career NFL game, Matthews had been relatively quiet, until Monday night that is. The Eagles’ second-round pick clicked right away with new starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, as Matthews caught seven balls for 138 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers. Carolina’s cover guys were no match for Matthews operating out of the slot and Sanchez looked for him early and often. It appears that Matthews and Sanchez already have pretty good chemistry, so it’s not out of the question for success like this to continue. Matthews could serve as a functional WR3 or possibly WR2 from here out.
Preston Parker, New York Giants
By now Odell Beckham Jr. should certainly be on your radar, if he’s even available in your league, but Parker also is making a case for himself. While it’s pretty apparent that Beckham has passed Rueben Randle in the pecking order in the Giants’ passing game, Parker also put up better numbers than the so-called No. 1 wide receiver on Sunday. Parker took advantage of Seattle’s vaunted secondary’s issues defending slot receivers, finishing with a season-best seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. While it’s extremely risky to expect that sort of production from Parker on a weekly basis, his role as the No. 3 WR in an offense that’s been forced to pass a lot is pretty secure. That’s enough to at least add Parker to the watch list in deeper leagues.
Week 10 Recap: Mychal Rivera made it three strong games in a row with his eight-catch, 64-yard effort against Denver. He also caught a touchdown, giving him three in his last two games.
Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
Cook has long teased and tantalized fantasy owners with his talent and seemingly endless potential. And this season has been no different. Seventh among his position in targets (56), Cook is near the back end of the top 20 in both receptions (31) and fantasy points. He has just one touchdown so far, which came yesterday against Arizona. Cook hauled in just two passes on Sunday, but he still finished with 89 yards receiving and a score. Consistency is not Cook’s strong point, but he’s also one of the few weapons Austin Davis has to throw to. If Cook does ever put it all together, he could go from being a frustrating tease to a legitimate, every-week fantasy starter.
Austin Seferian-Jenkings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers’ second-round pick, Seferian-Jenkins has struggled with injuries and inconsistency in his first NFL season. However, he’s also shown flashes of his all-around talent and immense potential, including Sunday against Atlanta. Targeted a season-best nine times, Seferian-Jenkins hauled in five passes for 30 yards and a touchdown. It was his second touchdown in three games, as it appears that Seferian-Jenkins is settling in despite the fact Tampa Bay made a quarterback switch from Mike Glennon back to Josh McCown. The young tight end appears to have a bright future with the Bucs, and is worth TE2 consideration, at minimum, the rest of this season.
Week 10 Recap: Baltimore racked up five sacks, forced two turnovers and held the Titans to just seven points on Sunday, while Dallas collected four QB takedowns and three takeaways (15 PA) in its convincing win over Jacksonville in London. Unfortunately, both DSTs are on bye this week.
The AFC North-leading Browns (you read that right) have been getting it done in large part because of their defense. Taking its cues from head coach Mike Petitne, Cleveland’s defense has made a pretty good living on pressuring the quarterback (20 sacks) and allowing its talented and deep secondary to make plays and stop opposing pass attacks without too much help. The end result is a defense that’s first in the NFL in completion rate (56.9) and passer rating (72.2) allowed, and is tied for second in interceptions (13). It also produces a fantasy DST that has 12 takeaways (9 INTs, 3 fumbles) and nine sacks over its last four games. Next up is a Houston team that has a new starting quarterback in Ryan Mallett and could potentially be without the services of Arian Foster (groin injury). Perhaps it’s time to find out just how much bite this Browns defense has?
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.